Waaaay back in the late 80’s when skateboarding was in one of it’s earlier boom periods, pro skaters were somewhat rarer beasts than they are today. Their graphics weren’t cycled anywhere near as fast and certain pros came to be associated with their board graphics. Hawk had the Chicken skull, Natas had the Panther, and Frankie Hill had the Bull Dog. Ray Barbee had the Rag Doll.
The varying iterations of their graphics were like a Game of Thrones style house sigil (yes, I know, this is a nerdy comparison but if you got it you are a nerd too, so we are all good). If you had a deck with the Ragdoll on it, you knew it was a Barbee deck.
I don’t think it would be overstating things to say Ray Barbee is one of the forefathers of modern street skateboarding. His Ban This part oozes style, crammed full of no-complies, shuv-its, kickflips and front boards on handrails.
Check out his Ban This part here:
The best known Ragdoll is the original Powell Peralta from 1989. According to artofskateboarding.com, there were 3 distinct runs of this deck. The first run in early ’89 was with a yellow/red/green color scheme; the second in mid ’89 was the grey scheme; the 3rd in late ’89 was the blueish green doll. Good to know if you are planning on picking one up.
Powell first reissued the deck in 2005 and it has been repeated several times since then – there’s a lot of love for this deck!
Next up in late ’89, early ’90 was the Ragdoll Hydrant deck, a personal fav of mine, screened onto a longer nose deck as boards made their 3 year evolution to American football shapes and then on to the popsicles we are all (mostly) riding these days. Check out the double drill holes so you could mount the front truck further back for a longer nose.
These are the two Barbee boards produced in Powell’s heyday and definitely the most memorable – another tarot card deck featuring the Ragdoll was produced around 91’ when Powell was seriously on the decline and then the Ragdoll didn’t reappear until Lance Mountain’s The Firm produced a sitting Ragdoll in 2004 (featured on Grindforlife.com).
Ray’s Ragdoll graphic is now over 25 years old and is emblematic of a skater with a loose, relaxed and super smooth style.
This brings us full circle to this Element Skateboards Ragdoll. Element runs their Legends division and occasionally they issue decks from guys like Ray.
I don’t think decks have to be ancient to be collectable, they just need to mean something to the collector, so when this deck came out, I had to have it. Sean Cliver, who created the 1989 graphics had done this board too. The colours are crisp and the red dip finishes it perfectly. It nicely brings Ray’s 2 worlds of music and skating together in one graphic.
I also like the fact that this isn’t a reissue but a continuation of a 25 year theme, unique to Mr Barbee, who is still killing it on his board to this day, if you are out of the loop then the new Vans film Propeller is definitely worth a look.