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Kevin Reed’s radical ride: Legendary anti-hero of Santa Cruz surf and skate scene

Born into a troubled home life, the Santa Cruz legend dubbed ‘Mr. Radical’ threw himself full speed into the natural playgrounds that surrounded him in the 1970s and 80s. His acumen and fearlessness gave him early notoriety, but he says that fame, fortune, and accolades were never what he sought. Nonetheless, he was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame on Thursday night. He and his wife drove to the ceremony in the van they live in near Steamer Lane.

“I can still do it,” says Reed, at 63, still slight and sinewy even if the lines on his face reflect those of a man 10 years older. “I just don’t like the cold anymore.”

Kevin Reed pushes back the thick, long hair that was once part of his famous look, takes a drag off his cigarette and stares out over the railing at the overhead waves pouring into Steamer Lane. It’s the first northwest swell of the season and the time of year Santa Cruz surfers live for.

Reed ponders the last time, about a year ago, when he paddled out on one of the classic 1980s-inspired twin fins he designed, shaped and airbrushed by hand — back when surfing was still an obsession.

The 1975 cover of Surfing Magazine that launched Kevin Reed’s aerial notoriety.

Instead, the person credited with inventing aerial surfing — an essential component of the sport’s modern competitive form — is only a fixture at its iconic surf break these days by virtue of where his weathered tan mini-van is parked on any given day.

And whether or not he and his wife are getting hassled for the less-glamorous version of van life they are living as part of Santa Cruz’s unhoused population. Reed, arguably the most innovative surfer and skateboarder ever to emerge from this board sports mecca, has remained largely an enigma. Because he was never one to chase after the spotlight, or stay connected to many, even most longtime staples of the surf and skate worlds don’t know the real Kevin Reed…. read more >

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