Russ Howell, the "grand daddy" of the skateboard professionals is an engaging and muscular Mr. five by five, but none of it is fat. He is, in a word, muscular; not to be redundant. Although only five foot three inches in height his physical development is such that he is a great natural athlete and fast becoming recognized as one of the leading skateboarding professionals in the United States.
Howell has won national coverage in recent months on network television on such shows as the A.M. Good Morning Ameria Show on ABC Television and on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show on NBC. Prior to that he had taught Bill Cosby to skateboard on an equally prestigious network TV showcase, on NBC. Although there were several other talented professionls competing at the Nassau Coliseum on June 19th and 20th, Russ Howell, was clearly the star of the First World Masters Invitational Skateboard competition.
To win the Freestyle event at the Masters a contestant had to show a clear margin of applause (noise) on the applause meter. For that reason, there was no single champion but a three way tie which included Howell. Of the three, Howell, Kocot and Cathey appeared to be the most finished performers, but that was on one session, and there were six in all. Clearly, for the time being, all three of the Freestyle winners display immense enthusiasm for the sport, as did their admirers at the Nassau Coliseum.
Howell is due to get a degree in physical culture soon from Long Beach State, which he has worked his way through while traveling around the world winning money prizes in skate boarding. Howell has acted as an unofficial diplomat-sportsman in Australia where he is now highly respected because of his expertise on the skateboard.
Howell's reputation has grown so much in the last year or so that he is the victim of increasing jealousy and hostility directed at him by little known surfers and skateboards. An interview conducted with Howell by Brian Gillogly, and published in "Skateboard Magazine," revealed in detail what had been happening to him ("...I've even had my life threatened...") and set forth his philosopy in simple and direct terms. What emerged is the picture of a remarkably decent, fine human being, a fierce competitor, but a man with a generous and an understanding spirit.
Gillogly, who has written brilliantly on the subject of skateboarding, is a recognized authority on the sport, and clearly is an admirer of Howell's. Howell made the point that he is going to continue skateboarding competition as long as he enjoys himself. If the time comes that he cannot enjoy himself he will quit.
The diminutive man from Long Beach State is regarded as a giant in his home state and in Australia, where his popularity has been rocketing in recent months. A book he wrote entitled, "All You Need To Know About Skateboards" is to be published soon in Australia, by the Hamlin Publishing Company, and he has accepted contracts with many gilt-edge firms for product endorsement such as Levi's, Pepsi-Cola, Golden Breed Sportswear, a department store down under, a car manufacturer and a travel agency.
A few days before the Masters Invitational at the Nassau Coliseum Howell took part in a demonstration staged at a schoolyard in Harlem. On hand was Earl Monroe, of the New York Knicks who dutifully took a few uncertain steps on a slow moving skateboard. CBS Television News was on hand for the event and filmed Russ Howell bounding about on the board and doing his thing. However, he did score as an evangelist of skateboarding.
"Bicycling is a really dangerous sport," said Howell. Ten thousand kids -- and that's quite a lot are killed every year on bicycles. Football is a rough sport. It was too rough for me. I never played it. To his credit Howell sounded sincere and is a convincing speaker.
Howell also published a "Handbook of Free Style Skateboard Tricks," as a special edition of Skateboard Magazine which has been very well received by skateboarding enthusiasts. And as interest in the sport has grown "Russ the Brush" (look at that truly magnificent moustache) has been called upon to take part in four films, three made in this country and one in Australia, and he made a commercial some time ago for GT skateboards. He was associated at one time with the Hobie Skateboard Team, the Skateboard Magazine Team and designed skateboards for Bengel & Grentec.
Last year in competition Russ placed first eight times, came in second twice, and showed but once. Here is the run down on those
R.A.C.O. is one of the more progressive manufacturers of skateboards and has undertaken a major role in educating young skateboarders in the do's and don'ts of the sport in an attempt to eliminate the risks to novices. The company has produced brochures, film commercials and short subject films on the subject in an effort to promote interest in the sport and at the same time emphasizing the need for safety and sensible precautions. This approach dovetails with Howell's thinking and so the marriage is, at the moment, highly compatible.
Howell told Gillogly that skateboarding has become so popular that "...every day there's something on television, in newspapers, or in magazines." Howell said that the Australians had organized their skateboard contests, nationally and regionally, in an extremely efficient way. So, it is very evident that the Long Beach Flash and Australia, the United States, and the world at-large is going to hear a great deal more about Russ Wayne Howell, the King of the Skateboarders.
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