Reading todays post over at BSNYC, and seeing a picture of 80’s freestyler and Dee Schnieder wannabe, Dizz Hicks, started jogging my memory about something I hadn’t thought about in a long time…what the hell happened to Dave Vanderspek? Dave was a hugely innovative rider during the 80’s era, as part of the San Fran crew Curb Dogs, and double dutied it as a skateboarder as well. Most people knew him from his trick, the Vander-Roll, which involved bending over the front of the handlebars , grabbing the front wheel, and doing a forward roll/flip with the bike. But what me and my friends got from Vander, and the Curb Dogs in general, was sort of a “post-pink uniform squeeky clean bmx image” type of scenario. These guys came off as bad boys in a time when organized trick teams with manufacturer sponsorship were trying to cultivate an almost yuppie-like image. The Curb Dogs seemed more like straight up soul riders, which we could identify with much more easily than the flashy big teams on bikes we could never afford riding on ramps we would never have access to. They came across as STREET riders…using objects occurring along the way to launch off of, balance on, grind across, and generally find a way to incorporate into a trick…then move on down the road to the next piece of infrastructure to session on. That was what me and my cohorts were doing by this point…our bike riding now being heavily influenced by the early Powell Peralta Skate videos. So we could relate to the Curb Dog vibe.
Towards X-mas 88, BMXA, Freestylin, and BMX Plus magazines all reported that Dave Vanderspek had died.
It was kind of strange because while they all made mention of his passing, none of the little blurbs in print ever talked about the how or why. I found this kind of odd and expected to see some letters or something inquiring as to what happened. Mainly we wanted to know if he had somehow been killed WHILE doing a bike trick. To have someone die doing a trick at that point in time would not have been good for the freestyle -industry- which was rapidly losing ground to the big skateboard boom that happened in the late 80’s. Since we never heard anything else about it, we figured that this MUST be the case…why else would the big mags be so hush hush about the whole deal?
Well, seeing a pic from Freestylin magazine today got me wondering again, 20 years later, about Vanderspek. This being the digital age and all, I figured maybe I could find out something by digging in to the ol search engine. Sure enough there is an entire Dave Vanderspek/Curb Dogs memorial site, which has an excellent history of his whole story…including his death. Turns out it was an accidental suicide via auto-erotic asphyxiation. Whoa, I didn’t see THAT coming. Apparently Dave was no stranger to the drug scene as well, but it was not evident whether or not drugs played a role in his death. No matter what, the world lost a great rider and a force that moved the sport lifestyle into a new direction when he left this world.