RetroFocus catches up with Bob Hastie, the skateboarding postie who built a ramp in his Manly backyard
Bob Hastie returned to Australia after a two-month trip visiting skateparks in the United States with just 10 cents in his pocket and an idea in his head.
The 21-year-old “skateboarding postie” and his friends had few spots where they could practise in 1977, so he decided to build his own ramp behind his mum’s Manly home.
“There was nothing in Sydney at that time. I just thought we’ve got this backyard — let’s go for it.”
Bob was interviewed that year by ABC’s short-lived TV show Flashez, the clip of which was unearthed as part of the broadcaster’s new project RetroFocus.
These days Bob is teaching English in Osaka, Japan, and has fond memories of his skateboarding years.
How did you become the ‘skateboarding postie’?
I started skateboarding in 1966 and my first board was a Midget Farrelly skateboard, which if you’re a collector they’re the Holy Grail of skateboards in Australia.
My best friend lived next door and we just saw skateboarding and fell in love with it.
I was working as a postman and I’m not a good saver.
I would put up postcards [of America] while I was sorting my mail to motivate me to keep saving.
I went there for just under two months on a super budget. I bought a car in Santa Cruz, which is just south of San Francisco, and just went to every skate spot that I knew and ended up living with a couple of skateboarders.
I came back with 10 cents in my pocket.
What did your neighbours think of the ramp?
I don’t think it was noisy but maybe they did.
The funniest thing was when somebody was new to skateboarding they’d have a go on the ramp and often the board would go flying up in the air and land on the roof next door.
[My neighbour] would come running out just laughing her head off, she just thought it was the funniest thing.
She’d lean over the fence just laughing. And I’d always apologise “oh, I’m really, really sorry”, [and she’d say] “oh, it’s okay”.
I’m a little bit older now so I don’t know if I’d like to have a skateboard ramp next to my house.
Bob Hastie and friends building a ramp in his Byron Bay backyard, sometime between 1986 and 1987. (Supplied)
Did you ever build that skate bowl?
After that [ramp in the RetroFocus video], two skateboard parks were built in Sydney. One was the Manly Skate City … I had nothing to do with it financially, but I went up and worked and we laid up the fibreglass and then we installed it.
After that there was a concrete skatepark built at North Ryde, I worked on that too, then just continued to make ramps whenever I had a chance.
I always had one for my kids, either a small one or a big one.
The last one I built was in 2002 I think, and that was probably my best one; it basically folded into itself, really cool design. It ended up in a skateboard park in Byron Bay.
Do you still skateboard?
The last serious skateboard that I had, I tried a trick — it wasn’t a ramp but it was a transition — and I went up and did a pretty standard trick. I fell onto my knees and I swear every bone in my body hurt.
I just thought “wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever experienced that”. And now my knees are just gone.
I still love skateboarding, I love watching it. I don’t skate anymore — I mean I can roll down a hill and look pretty stylish — but I don’t want to do tricks any more.
I ride a motorbike now, that’s what’s fun for me.
A lot of guys I used to skateboard [with] are still skateboarding.
There’s a huge old man sort of skateboarding world that’s happening. I think we’re having a reunion in March.