If someone jumped a car with their skateboard, Donald “Waldo” Autry would be right next in line to try it. Then, he’d go try to jump a garage.
“He would just go one or two steps further,” said friend David Hegstrom, of Seal Beach. “These kids like to do huge stunts these days – he was the first stunt man, he was the first extreme skateboarder.”
Autry, 55, was found dead in his van outside of the Upstairs Downstairs salon where he worked in Seal Beach Wednesday, Jan. 23. Friends say no foul play is suspected, though the Orange County Coroners is conducting an autopsy.
A memorial service is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 24 at Bolsa Chica State Beach at the north end parking lot. Organizers are asking attendees to bring food or drink, and in lieu of flowers donations can be made in his name.
Hegstrom said Autry was a pioneer of extreme skateboarding, featured in movies back in mid-70s when the sport was in its infancy, about the same time the now-famous Dogtown crew hit the scene. His early pool and pipe skills were featured in the iconic surf film “Five Summer Stories.”
“Waldo was pretty much like the Elvis Presley of skateboarding. He was the first. There wouldn’t be Tony Hawk, he was a key figure of taking things to the extreme,” Hegstrom said.
Autry was known for skating in pools and reservoirs, growing up in Long Beach but spending the past few years in Seal Beach. He was famous for his all-around skateboard talents in freestyle, downhill, pools, and pipes, as well as luge in the late ’90s. He was the first to kick turn on vertical walls, in a time when everyone was still carving around the bottom, Hegstrom said.
Skateboarder Steve Olson wrote in Juice Magazine: “This was one of my favorite skateboarders, and influenced me more than I can put into words. His spirit and all out wild-man attitude was beyond most.”
He was featured recently in a documentary called “Signal Hill Speed Run,” that premiered at Cal State Long Beach recently. He was also an avid surfer who could be found near the pier in Seal Beach or Huntington Beach.
“He was a great man, I can’t emphasis what an influence he had on the ground level to all these extreme sports,” Hegstrom said. “He’s an icon of this culture that has become such a huge part of our way of life.”
His clients at Upstairs Downstairs salon in Seal Beach, where he worked since 2006, were a mix of skate fans and customers who sought his skills with the scissors, said shop owner Matt Clark, who was friends with Autry for 15 years.
“He was a humble, straight-forward guy. Happy, nice, and everybody loved him,” Clark said. “He was an icon in the skateboard world, he was a legend.”
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