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Friends Remember Skateboarding Pioneer Don ‘Waldo’ Autry

The 55-year-old Seal Beach resident, who grew up in Long Beach, is credited with inventing the kickturn on a vertical wall.

The feeling you get when you see a kid pull off some outrageous stunt in the X-Games?

Don "Waldo" Autry was giving people that thrill 35 years ago, said longtime friend Dave Heady.

“Once you watched Waldo skate, you realized all things were possible after that,” said Heady, a Seal Beach resident.

Family and friends are remembering the 55-year-old Autry – who was found dead in a van in Seal Beach on Jan. 24 – as a “pioneer in skateboarding” and a kind and happy guy.

A co-worker discovered Autry’s body in the vehicle on the 200 block of Main Street, near Upstairs Downstairs, the hair salon where Autry worked as a stylist, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Gail Krause. The coroner has performed an autopsy and is waiting for the results of several tests to determine the cause of death. 

Autry leaves behind two daughters and a son.

'The Pioneer'

Growing up in northern Long Beach, Autry rose to skateboarding prominence in the '70s. He graced the covers of magazines and was featured in the film Five Summer Stories, introducing America to the "magic rolling board."

“And there are dreamers,” the narrator says as the film goes into slow motion to capture Autry riding the walls of a concrete tunnel. “Waldo Autry’s imagination takes him beyond gravity and common sense on a truly magical ride.”

Waldo is credited with inventing the "kickturn on a vertical wall," a move in which the boarder rides up a curved surface onto a shear wall, spins the board 180 degrees on the wall and goes in a different direction (see him do the move in 1972 in the accompanying video starting at the 9:23 mark).

“He was the pioneer in skateboarding,” said Heady, who skated with Autry on the Tunnel Skateboards' team in the late '70s.

“If it wasn’t for Waldo, there would be no Tony Hawk,” Heady said. “He was the Tony Hawk of his generation.”

According to friends, he was also an accomplished luger, surfer and motorcyclist.

To read an interview with Autry by Tunnel Skateboards, click here.

'A legend'

Friend Keith Thompson, who met Autry when they were both in their early teens, said he was “somebody you could always talk to.”

“He always had a smile on his face,” Thompson said. “Don was always a happy guy.”

A memorial service is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 23 at Bolsa Chica State Beach at the north end parking lot, according to Heady. The date is subject to change. 

“It’s a loss to the world really,” said Debbie Hogan, mother of his son. “He’s a legend and was an awesome guy, and talented in everything he did."

Waldo's friend February 01, 2013 at 05:28 AM
Don was committed to keeping the good times rolling , he was the life of the party, bright ,funny , sweet, cute, adorable, talented in every way, yet he chose to spend his life with his many friends, Like in the song Moonriver, he is and always will be my "huckleberry friend" he smiled when I called him that. An icon of the era ; he is greatly missed by many.
Shelly G February 01, 2013 at 06:42 PM
RIP Don. You were a great guy. You had a big heart. We will miss you, Seal Beach will miss you!
shawna schoch February 01, 2013 at 08:18 PM
I am so shocked and I feel so sad. What a gorgeous, sweetheart of a guy. Never a mean word. HB will never be the same.
beergut February 03, 2013 at 08:04 AM
I was lucky enough to meet Don about six months ago setting at the park bench in front of Seal Beach Safety Center, He was so friendly and telling his story to another gentleman about his skateboarding experience. I have never met a more friendly person. Seeing him later around town and he always had a smile on his face.
Waldo's Friend February 03, 2013 at 07:41 PM
Hi beer gut , He was unforgettable . Glad you had the chance to meet him , I can see him smiling at us and like to think he is with me in spirit. Thank you for the kind words, one thing about Don was his generosity of heart , he Really loved people. He suffered many hardships and like many artistic people, had times when life was difficult for him but he always had a kind heart and a smile and made me laugh..omg ... The stuff he did.. So many memories flooding back now..He will always be remembered as "The Amazing Waldo Autry"
Debra Ortiz October 02, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Don, I will never forget you & your daughter will always know who her father was & what a great dude you were & what a great time we had. xoxo

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