There was Gonz, there was Gino, there was Hensley and there was Carroll. But there was something unmistakably unique about Tom Penny that left anyone who saw him skate in person in the mid-90’s completely mesmerized. If a caveman somehow stumbled into a busy modern city he wouldn’t have been as dumbfounded as I was when I first saw Tom skate at the Skatepark of Tampa in 1996. Nobody but maybe Mark Gonzales has ever made skateboarding look so effortless, but there was some sort of blatant disconnect between Tom’s conscious mind and his body while he floated through trick after trick. He wasn’t trying to skate. He was skateboarding. It was an epic thing to witness. I have had this raw footage sitting in my archives for 17 years and finally figured it would be only fair to dump it all into a sequence and share it all with the rest of the world.
When Tom Penny showed up at the Skatepark of Tampa I watched him like a hawk. If he walked to the mini-ramp, I would follow with my Sony VX-3 Hi-8 camera in tow. If he walked to the vert ramp I would push kids out of my way just to be sure I was there to capture anything that he might accidentally do on his board that was better than anything anyone had ever done. It was probably the only time I just said “fuck it” and didn’t care if I was annoying or creepy. I just had to capture anything the dude did. And fortunately I captured a lot during his short trip to Tampa nearly 2 decades ago.
One insane moment that I haven’t managed to dig up was during Tampa Pro when he walked upstairs into the bleachers and tried to nollie backside flip into the vert ramp from the deck with no pads and land fake into the transition. He kicked it away at the last minute and ran out of it casually. Barely anybody noticed this go down and he was just doing it by himself. Amazing. It’s a bummer I can’t find that footage. But I did find a bizarre clip from San Diego in 1995 when Tom dropped into the 13 foot vert ramp at Missile Park and did caballerials over the lip padless.
If you listen closely to the very beginning of the clip you can hear someone walk up and ask me “who is Tom Penny”. He was still that fresh on the scene that people were still finding out about him. Enjoy.