Herb Neumann: Low-Key Legend

Herb Neumann might not be a guy that most skaters know, but anyone who knew the man knows how important he was to skateboarding. Herb was more than just a low-key local legend in North Jersey, he was a great skater, innovative creator, and most of all a friend and mentor to myself and others. Herb passed in November 2014 after fighting cancer for many years. The news was tough. Without Herb, skating would be different and so would be my life, and the lives of my friends. He gave us all a lot and for me, that keeps his memory alive in my head every day.

I bought my first skateboard from Herb. I bought my first longboard from Herb. For years I went to his shop, called Skatewerks, and bought stuff from him. Over time, we became friends just through talking at the shop. My friends also got to know him better and soon we would all go there together, buy some wheels or something, and just talk about boards. One day Herb let us join him for a little skate session. The hill was small and only a few blocks from the shop, so like he would do, Herb simply closed the store and went skating. We followed him down the hill. At the bottom you have to turn 90 degrees either left or right, and we decided on left. All of a sudden there was a pickup truck in front of us. My friend and I both tried to slide but didn’t have the skill at the time. His board got totally run over and mine ended up stuck under the truck’s rear tire. Herb meanwhile had gone through the corner with no issues and skated back over to us worried that our parents would never let us near him again. I will always remember this day because it scared the shit out of me, and it made me realize how bad I was (and how good Herb was) at skating.

A while later (when we had more skill) Herb showed my friends and I a massive, smooth, consistently car-less hill close to our hometown. Since then we have skated this hill almost as our go-to, and have even held slide jams there. This hill is a dead end from the top, so at the bottom is the critical 90 degree turn onto the cross street. I will never forget driving Herb’s car down the hill behind him as he bombed it carving deep, then stuck the chicane and smoothly made the critical right turn at the bottom. His style is something I’ll never forget. He inspired me to try his line a few weeks later – full bore bomb, through the corners, then to the right at the bottom. I slammed on my head hard trying the final turn, to the point where my full-face chipped and cracked a little. I have never tried it again, but something tells me I need to now. This memory of Herb is just another reminder to me of what a great skater he was, and how much he loved to do it.

herb board

This photo is of a commemorative board that Stimulus made in Herb’s memory. Only 50 were made I think, but I’m still gonna ride mine. The board’s graphic is one of the steezy-est photos I have seen. Herb could shred like nobody else. This board is just another thing to remind me of Herb and what he gave to me. Lately I’ve felt more inspired. I’ve had more of a desire to skate, surf, snowboard, and to push my limits in general, and I know that comes from Herb’s memory. He was always pushing himself and skating no matter what, and that will stick with me forever.

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Why Your Gear Doesn’t Matter

This is something that has continually pissed me off for a long time. Especially in snowboarding (because lots of fools do that one) I feel like it’s impossible to go ride without seeing someone who can barely stand, let alone ride, with a setup worth upwards of $700. That is the perfect illustration of why gear doesn’t matter, and I could stop there. But I won’t.

Gear does not make you better whatsoever. The reality is, if you don’t know anything about something like surfing and you buy a fancy step-up board with crazy design features, you are cheating yourself. Same goes for snowboarding. If you buy a stiff ripper of a board with some crazy camber/rocker combo and you’re a beginner, you might as well ride a plank. You won’t be able to tell the difference. Not only are you wasting money on stuff that you don’t need at a low ability level that won’t help you, you might actually be making it worse for yourself. Surfing is a good example because a thin, skinny step-up will be tougher to ride than a longboard in pretty much any scenario.

Gear can’t help you until you have the skill to notice the differences between the top-end shit and the basic shit. Personally, in longboarding I find that wheels and bushings have the biggest effect on how a board feels. Fact is though, I couldn’t notice differences in how wheels slide until recently. It takes time to get comfortable enough in a boardsport that you begin to notice the intricacies of your equipment. Then, when you change your equipment up, the differences are obvious.

Bottom line? It takes a bit of skill to even notice the fancy features of a board, or fins, or wheels, or bushings, or whatever. Once you have that skill, feel free to go crazy customizing your setups. But until then, do yourself a favor and buy something basic.