Fortunately for skate rats, historians of California's coastal culture and those intrigued by the aggressive grace and summertime soul of skateboarding, Todd Huber gave up cigarettes. "I quit smoking in 1989, and I needed a hobby," Huber explains. "That's how I got into collecting skateboards." For years, Huber scoured swap meets, thrift stores and yard sales, haggling over any make and model with the dough he once dropped on Marlboro Lights. More than a decade later, his board count tops 2,000, and his museum, at the Skatelab park in Simi Valley, is listed by the Associated Historical Societies and Museums of Ventura County as the world's only skateboarding museum.
Huber's two-story space in a warehouse at the 20,000-square-foot Skatelab showcases skateboarding's short but rich history. Rows of makeshift pre-1950s models fashioned from two-by-fours and metal roller skates grace one wall. Fiberglass decks with clay wheels from the 1960s adorn another. Boards sporting the revolutionary urethane wheels and sealed bearings of the 1970s are lined up beneath a ceiling collage covering the last 20 years. Visitors can also see gimmicky action figures, vintage lunch boxes, team jerseys, contest banners, a framed 45-rpm recording of Jan & Dean's 1964 hit single "Sidewalk Surfin,' " and legendary pro Steve "Bulky" Olson's favorite pair of padded shorts (unwashed) from the 1970s.
Huber's most-prized item? Former world champion Henry Hester's White Lightning, a 9-foot, 67-pound, fiberglass-shelled skate car that, legend has it, rocketed headfirst at 72 mph down a San Bernardino mountain pass during an outlaw speed run. White Lightning cost Huber $12,000. He's still paying it off, but could easily come up with the balance, he says, by parting with a few rare pieces, such as his Alva Splatter board. "But I don't think I could sell any of this stuff," he admits. "I guess that's why I'm known as 'The Hoarder.' "