Let Us Roam is a new film series produced by the German camera maker Leica. It profiles artists talking about their passion for creativity. The first installment documents “a jack of all trades, master of none,” legendary professional skateboarder Ray Barbee. Repping San Jose, California, the former Powell Peralta skateboarder talks about his photography, making music and the importance of taking time to work on your craft.
If you were a person of color in the suburbs pushing a board around in the 80’s, you had Barbee, Tommy Guerrero, Steve Caballero, Ron Allen, Lester Kasai, and Christian Hosoi. The first time I ever saw Barbee, let alone a black professional skateboarder was Powell Peralta’s 1988 flick Public Domain. “Steve Saiz, Eric Sanderson, Ray Barbee and Chet Thomas,” said the ring leader of “the rubber boys ” as he stood in front of a spinning farce wheel. That image was seared into my memory. The collage-stream-of-conscious flick that introduced this smiling kid doing 360 big spins, ridiculous variations of no-complys, kickflip to 5-0 grind had me rewinding that black and white scene over and over again. Barbee had style. When the frame focused on his feet effortlessly doing combinations on flat ground, he could’ve been breakdancing and it wouldn’t have made a difference. When it seemed like he was off balance he’d just lean into it as if to shuffle.
Keep in mind, this was before “double tail” aka concave boards. The average board width kids were pushing back then was over eight inches and it had a cobra-head snake shape. Doing flip tricks on those boards today would seem impossible.
Public Domain is below in full. No pushing up to Blockbuster or 16,000 Videos to rent the VHS tape for $1.99-$3.99 depending on if it’s a new release. Barbee’s ensemble skate part is about at 4:57, including the introduction.