If the articles in this 30th Anniversary Issue teach you anything, it should be that skateboarding has evolved leaps and bounds over the past three decades. It should also make clear that key individuals—pioneers—served as central catalysts to these massive advances. Ray Barbee’s addition to the Bones Brigade in ’87 and subsequent appearances in Powell Peralta’s Public Domain (’88) then Ban This (’89) represent some of the most critical junctures in our short history. On the heels of Steve Steadham, Ray cracked the façade of what had been more or less up to then a white-bred pastime. He also showcased some of the first conscious line-based flatground street skating ever. And unlike the neon glam beach volleyball styles of the ‘80s vert scene, Ray’s casual attire and cruising lines through LA sprawl set the table for city kids of all stripes and colors to make skateboarding theirs in the two decades and change since.   

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Moonlight Sonata »

Postscript: Article in Transworld Skateboarding Magazine, May 2, 2007:


Moonlight Sonata

by Mackenzie Eisenhour

For reasons that are difficult to pin down, skateboarding has lost an abnormally large number of its finest practitioners in the most untimely of fashions. People as diverse as Jeff Phillips, Keenan Milton, Phil Shao, Tim Brauch, Kit Erickson, Harold Hunter, Mike Cardona, Pepe Martinez, Justin Pierce, Joe Lopes, Sean Miller, Mike De Geuss, Ruben Orkin, Curtis Hsiang, and so forth-all greats of skateboarding who were lost all too soon. This article will focus on one such loss-that of Pat Brennen-but more so will celebrate what he did bring us during his life on a board in the form of two landmark video parts, most notably his incredible series of lines in Powell’s ninth video, Celebrity Tropical Fish (’91).

After riding for Motobilt Airtool and then a revamped Alva team alongside Ronnie Bertino and Adam McNatt, the Pasadena, California born and raised Pat Brennen wound up on Powell Peralta by early 1991. According to Lance Mountain, “After he skated my mini ramp, I might have talked to someone at Powell. He might have got on through Adam McNatt and the Quartermaster contests, or a little of all of that.”

Almost immediately after earning his spot on the Bones Brigade, Pat made a huge impact with his standout part in Eight (’91), which included a whole Rose Bowl Parade worth of raw street combos, including an impossible over a fire hydrant in a line and a casual manny to 360 flip out. His part showcased his local homegrown spots and stapled him in as one of Powell’s fastest-rising stars and their best hope of fending off the impending war with street-skating-based competitors H-Street and World Industries.

Later that year, with his Eight part still fresh in people’s minds, Brennen put together his masterpiece part to the tunes of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and simply drew circles around what was considered cutting-edge street skating at the time. Nollieing up to and noseblunt sliding ledges when most were still on curbs and mixing laser flips, Rick flips, and front-foot impossibles into ten-trick lines involving multiple benches and sets of stairs fittingly to the song-skating for the most part in the dark Pasadena nights-Brennen’s CTF part is a must-see to this very day. Closing out with a banger of a late backside 360 shove, Brennen seemed poised to become the reigning street-tech and ledge champion along with the likes of Jason Lee, Mike Carroll, and later Eric Koston.

Friend and later Firm teammate Keith Gruber sums up Pat’s approach to skating: “Pat was generally very focused in his day-to-day skating. He liked to be pushed and benefited from the camaraderie.” However, by Powell’s next video, Hot Batch (’92), Brennen’s part contained only a dozen or so single tricks, and his dominance on a skateboard seemed to have hit the brakes slightly. Lance elaborates: “After his VW van’s engine burned out, he bought a new black Honda Prelude. Slowly, he started to modify it as his interest in street racing began to develop and as his budget permitted. In the early portions of his ‘transition,’ he just had a modified exhaust. In the later days, he removed the passenger seat to eliminate weight.”

Bitten by the bug and adrenaline rush of street-car racing, Pat gradually spent less and less time on his skateboard. He returned briefly to the public eye in a segment of a Firm 411 Industry Profile section in the mid-90s after joining Lance’s company, but that footage would be the last glimpse the collective skateboard world would get of Brennen’s still-impressive talent.

After suffering a car crash in his Prelude in ’96 that resulted in a hospital stay, Pat crashed again in a new car nearly a year later-this time fatally. At 4:00 a.m. on February 1, 1997, Pat Brennen died of head injuries sustained, and one of Pasadena’s all-time greatest gifts to skateboarding was forever lost. According to Lance, with Pat a hometown hero to nearly every skater and friend in the area, after his passing many now proudly wear an Irish clover “Brennen” tattoo in his honor. Rest in peace, Pat.



Pat Brennen by Sherman, TWS Sept. 1991, Vol. 9, No. 9

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