Skip to main content
Learn How to Start a T-Shirt Business using RedBubble, Society6 and TeePublic - Click Here
Affiliate link - Thank you for helping to keep this site free.

Jim Thiebaud, SMA, Sanity, Giraffe Skateboard - My Grail Deck

TET. Frontside Ollie out of the extension.
Jenkinson Street Mini ramp. 1990-ish?
I'm not a skateboard collector but I do have a 'Grail' deck. A favorite skateboard that I once owned and have fond memories of riding. A skateboard from the 1980's and 90's that is, these days, generally referred to as an 'old school' deck. My Grail is a 1990, Jim Thiebaud, Santa Monica Airlines, Red Wood Stain, Sanity, Giraffe deck with Red, Powell-Peralta, T-Bone Wheels. That's the deck I'm riding in the photo above, on the backyard mini I designed and built, back in 1990.

Skateboard collecting has become a thing. Generally more popular with skateboarders, who actually were skating through the 1980's and 1990's, seeing the transition from fairly flat, 'fish tail' style decks, through to the modern standard, Popsicle decks that phased out nearly every other deck shape in their wake.

From my point of view, the noughties resurgence of Penny boards with millennials (which are based on the 1970's fore runners to the bigger and wider boards of the 1980's) seemed to inspire a renewed interest in the shapes and pro-models of the 80's and 90's. This period is arguably skateboarding's time of most rapid growth and innovation in every aspect from board, truck, and wheel design to tricks, ramp design, and the merging of freestyle into street and ramp skating. Not to mention skateboarding's influence on other sports like BMX, Snowboarding, Scooters, and even its own origin sport, surfing.

Some of the sports biggest stars shone brightest throughout the 80's and 90's with pro-model decks being more of a thing than they seem to be today. (Though that could be just because I'm out of touch with today's stars). Back in the day you didn't just buy the deck of your favorite pro-skater, you also had to consider if the shape of their pro-model was right for you.

When I started skating (1988), skateboards didn't have any nose kick. When nose kicks started to become a thing, it felt like I was going to trip over the front of my deck. Now, riding anything without a full, tail-sized nose kick is a very odd experience indeed.

Whilst I wouldn't call myself a collector, it's not uncommon for skateboard collectors to have a 'Grail deck'. A skateboard that's no longer in production, and generally very hard to find, from the 80's and 90's they'd like to own for whatever reason. Maybe it was there favorite board, maybe it's part of a set of team rider boards etc.

Jim Thiebaud,
SMA Giraffe Deck
1990.
As I said at the start, my grail deck is a red, wood stain, Jim Thiebaud, Santa Monica Airlines, Sanity, Giraffe deck from 1990. If you click the link you'll see that not too many red stain ones show up in a Google search. In fact, for years, this was the only image I could find (see image right).

It's not that this design is rare, but finding a red stain one is (the green stain one seems easiest to come by).

So how did this deck become my grail deck?

The short answer is, there are many photos of me in my hey day of skating. Our skate crew had the benefit of my sister's growing interest in photography and willingness to point the camera at us. In the best photos of me, where I'm doing something at least half way impressive, the red, Thiebaud is the deck I'm riding.

The long answer...

I remember buying my original Jim Thiebaud, Sanity, Giraffe Deck from the Edge Skate Park shop. The Edge, a large indoor skate park, was like our second home on the weekends by 1990, so I bought a lot of my decks there.

Prior to this deck I had owned an SMA Natas Panther Deck. To be honest I'm not sure exactly which one, as I know I owned at least two in succession. A wood stain one, and a red one, possibly like the one on the right.

I was looking to buy another Natas deck but the Edge didn't have any in stock. At the time, I'd never really heard of Jim Thiebaud, except for his brief part in Powell Peralta's Public Domain Video that we watched many times over in the late 80's.



I must have been determined to buy a board that day. Taking a closer look at the Jim Thiebaud, Sanity, Giraffe deck, I decided it was pretty much the same shape as my Natas, with the Missile II Concave, and bought that instead.

TET. Front Side Disaster
Metal Mini, The Edge 1990-ish?
I suspect this was the last deck I bought between when the Edge Skatepark closed down and we finally tore down my back yard mini ramp, as these two locations are where the best photos of me and the JT deck were taken.

Back in the day, by the time I replaced my decks with a new model, the old one was usually pretty thrashed. Proper worn out with full on chips out of the top, tail worn down etc. They usually weren't worth saving, so I have none of my original decks from back then.

The oldest deck I have, that I actually skated, is the equivalent of a Walmart or Target deck, which I bought around 1999 to try and get back into/remain in skating (I've been trying to get my skills back for at least 17 years!). That deck is a good example of how thrashed my skateboards used to get.

Jim Thiebaud, Sanity Giraffe, decks are so hard to come by now. He wasn't with SMA for very long and wasn't as high profile as his contemporaries (despite being one of Tommy Guerrero's oldest skating buddies). I suspect, people who bought his pro-model decks back in the day skated them rather than held onto them. As well, ever since co-founding Real Skateboards, with Tommy, back in 1991, he seems more of a behind the scenes guy. 

I also think Jim became more known for his deck graphics than his skating due to his earlier Joker, pro-model deck being pulled from production after receiving a cease and desist order for copyright infringement with DC Comics. Then there's his more politically charged graphics at Real where Jim's Hanging Klansman deck is also highly sought after and extremely rare. Both decks infinitely more collectible than the SMA, Sanity deck.



One thing about the Sanity, Giraffe deck is that no one seems to know who did the graphic. It's generally thought that maybe Natas designed it but why no one seems to have ever asked him is beyond me? He isn't dead... neither is Thiebaud for that matter. Somebody ask one of them!

Original Ebay Auction photo.
I've been looking out for someone selling Jim's Sanity, Giraffe deck online for years. Finally it happened. A collector in Spain put an OG one on ebay for EUR 400.00 (AU$560.00) complete with Variflex trucks and wheels.

The board wasn't in mint condition. Someone had clearly skated it briefly, resulting in a bit of a scratched tail edge and at least one wheel bite mark. Neither a big issue for me.

My main concern was price. For me, it's a lot of money to spend on a nostalgia, display piece. More than six times the cost of a modern Popsicle deck.

I messaged my Brother, who knows a bit more about skateboard collecting than me, for his thoughts on whether the price was too much. I explained, the last time I saw this specific deck sold was in 2009, still shrink wrapped as NOS and nearly half the price.

He seemed to think it was some-what expensive but the real issue was how often this specific deck comes up for sale. I was thinking the same thing, I just didn't want to pay far more than what the board is worth.

In the end I decided the deck wasn't going to get any easier to find the longer I waited. Plus, at the moment, I'm way more back into my skating than I ever have been in years. Why not buy the deck and enjoy owning it while skateboarding is at the forefront of my mind. So I placed a bid.

Fortunately no one else seems to be looking for this particular deck, or they just weren't prepared to spend so much for one. I'm now the proud owner of my Grail deck.

I posted the new set up to my Instagram. The Variflex wheels that came with it looked like they'd seen better days and had the cheap (and totally shot) bearings they used to put in toy skate boards back in the 80's. I swapped them out for proper skateboard bearings (still shot, since this isn't a deck for riding, but cleaned up look presentable) and put on my mini-logo wheels that I originally bought for my Cage Monster deck but decided they were too large - making them perfect for a 1990's rig.

I kept the Variflex Trucks because they looked new-ish and, to the untrained eye, have a very similar profile to the black, Gullwing Pro III trucks I used to skate - though not on my Thiebaud deck, which had heavy Aussie, Bonzer Trucks.

As I mentioned, some red, 1990's Powell-Peralta T-Bone wheels would make this deck complete for me. Those are equally hard to come by. I've seen NOS sets in people's collections but they rarely come up for sale. I'd be happy with re-issues but sadly, that's yet to happen.



Comments

Buy Gifts and Apparel featuring art by TET.

Popular posts from this blog

Guest Post: MY SOOPER DOOPER NEW CONSERVATORY/ART STUDIO!

Jo's new Art Studio/Conservatory. Today's guest post is by Artist, Writer, and Mental Health Advocate, Jo B Creative who writes for her blog,  Creating My Oddessey . Y ou should see our (almost) brand new conservatory, half of which is my art studio. 'Lucky me!' I think to myself. Not every creative bod can boast that. It's HUGE! Like a giant greenhouse. We first moved to our pleasant cul-de-sac house - great for raising kids - when our son, who's on the cusp of thirty-one, was four. One of the main reasons that we wanted it was that, apart from its location on the fringes of a historic market town in rural Hampshire, UK, it had a sizable conservatory looking onto the back garden. It was brown wood framed and had a corrugated transparent roof sloping down from downstairs ceiling height. On the face of it, it doesn't sound that glamourous, but we loved the idea of a conservatory. Luxury! I even liked the red brick walls which it was built against -

How to Transfer Any Line Art to Your Griptape - Easy Skateboard Griptape Art Tutorial

Dog Star Griptape Art by TET Griptape art is once again gaining popularity amongst modern skateboarders. For those of us who have tried to create our own griptape art, using paint pens, you'll know reproducing your design onto the grip, without making any mistakes is incredibly challenging. Mostly because you just have to go for it and draw the design freehand, with paint pens, directly onto the griptape. You can make the odd mistake here or there but if you get the proportions of the design completely wrong, it can be very difficult to fix. Often you just have to live with the mistake. To address the problem I've come up with an easy way anyone can transfer a line art design to their griptape, removing almost all the anxiety of getting the proportions wrong. In fact, you could do this with any line art design, even if you have no drawing skill at all. Watch the video below to see my technique in action and/or skip past the video where I highlight the basic steps to get your de

The Braille Skateboarding App - How it Changed My Mind on Switch Skating

My Profile on the Braille Skateboarding App. Braille Skateboarding launched it's new Skateboarding App worldwide on November 23rd, 2020. About a month prior to that they did a 'soft launch' via email for anyone living in Australia. I'm guessing this was to give the app a final test in the real world before launching it proper. Rather than explain what it is, watch Aaron Kyro, founder of Braille Skateboarding, run you through the app in the launch video below.  In a nutshell the app is virtually everything Braille has to offer accessed right from your phone, from tutorials to the Braille Army Community. The app is free but you can unlock more features if you upgrade to a paid membership. Braille App Trick List. One of the apps unique free features is keeping track of the tricks you've learned and giving you an overall score so you have some way to measure your progression. There is an extensive list of tricks, covering all types of skateboarding, categorized by diff

Course Review: YouTube for Bosses - Sunny Lenarduzzi. How to grow your YouTube Channel into a Business

YouTube for Bosses Free Mug...  or the most expensive mug  you'll ever buy? I've been subscribed to  Sunny Lenarduzzi's YouTube channel for a few years, learning a lot on how to grow a following on sites like YouTube and Instagram. If you have any interest in growing your own YouTube channel I'd highly recommend watching some of Sunny's videos on the subject.  Definitely explore her 2019 back catalogue for the most useful information. This year she's been on a bit of a 'being authentic' pivot that, personally, doesn't resonate all that much with me (but probably speaks volumes to anyone with similar experience). I'm not saying she shouldn't or isn't being authentic, it's just I didn't subscribe to hear stories about her life journey. To get back on track, Sunny runs a successful online business with her flagship course, YouTube for Bosses , a stand alone paid course that does act as something of a gateway to further paid (but opt

Update on my Cheap Skateboard Weeks Later

TET with $20.00 Mambo, Department Store Skateboard. In my previous post and video titled Can You Learn the Basics on a Cheap Skateboard? I began an experiment to see if basic, department store skateboards are at least good enough for beginners to get their first taste of skateboarding without spending a lot of money. (Spoiler - they are). Grrr Dog Popsicle  Skateboard See more deck shapes Just to reinforce my point I decided to film a follow up video a few weeks later showing that my cheap skateboard is still holding up to learning the basics. Admittedly I'm not the most hardcore of learner skaters when it comes to hours spent on the board. On average I manage around thirty minutes to an hour, five days a week. The point is that the board is still holding up to the tricks I've been learning despite my weight being about 16 kilos heavier than the maximum weight recommended for the board (50 kilos). Unlike those Youtube skaters that almost seem like their

Elon Musk's Tesla Bot, Boston Dynamics Atlas, and Disney Imagineering's Baby Groot, Need to Get Together

The Tesla Bot. Elon Musk recently launched a robotics concept, the Tesla Bot, that would've been amazing except it was little more than that, a concept. As of writing this there is very little information on Tesla's website about the project, and Elon himself didn't really elaborate much in his very awkward launch presentation. I'm pretty sure he was winging it given how bad it was. However he did say they expected to have a prototype in about a year. While the concept definitely has its critics (who see humanoid robots as highly inefficient), the general idea is to create a robot that can adapt to and perform any task an actual human could do. Not unlike the robots in the movie iRobot . I don't doubt that, if anyone can make something that looks like the Tesla Bot concept, it's Tesla and Elon Musk. Tesla has been working on artificial intelligence (A.I.) systems for quite some time, most notably in their development of self driving cars. While their autonomous

One Week on Light n' Easy #lightneasy

My partner, Enigma, and I recently decided to try Light n' Easy to replace all our daily meals in an effort to eat healthier (and not have to think at all about cooking evening meals). Enigma is about to embark on her third week of their full menu but I caved after one and opted just to get the dinners.