Lee Ralph basically pulled ‘The Tom Penny’ well before Tom Penny was known. Want to know what the hell “The Tom Penny’ is? Well ‘The Tom Penny’ is when you rock up out of nowhere, stamp footprints of innovation all over the joint and fill the skate tabloids with radness and catalyze rumours laden with eccentricity. Overnight you become a living legend. Cult status gets reached effortlessly. You are a household name. Then suddenly at the peak of your fame and notoriety you pull a phantom and disappear from the worldwide skate media. You have gone but your name and it’s associated tales will forever echo in the halls of skateboarding. Sure Tom Penny came back from his disappearing act, which made it far less effective. But he still pulled ‘The Tom Penny’. Who else has done 'em you might ask? Well, firstly I can tell you that in the early 90s Matt Hensley pulled an effective Tom Penny and at the end of the 80s so did Lee Ralph.
Around 1986 Mark Gonzales uncovered Lee on a trip to New Zealand and subsequently revealed him to the international skate community. This quote from Thrasher's 15 All-Time Most Beloved Skaters List pretty much sums it up: "This Grizzly Adams stormed American vert skating in the 1980s, invented ten or so tricks (many with his shoes off), and then disappeared as quickly as he'd arrived. People have been talking about it ever since."
The reason I picked this 1988 Corio photo of Lee for this episode of Flashback is because it was an ad for his debut (and only) Vision Pro Model, it was shot at the legendary Corio paint tray and it is one of the best smith grind photos shot of Lee (except for maybe this one). This along with many other images of Lee helped install a ferocious legend whose bark is still felt today. Love ya Lee!
Want more Lee?