Alan "Ollie" Gelfand

Skateboarding icon Alan Gelfand now manages German Car Depot in Hollywood. (Nick Sortal/SouthFlorida.com / May 20, 2013)

Before skaters recorded tricks on their phones and ESPN began airing the X Games or "extreme sports on TV," a Hollywood Hills High kid so slight that he looked more like a sixth-grader leaned back on his board and popped it into the air — without using his hands — then kept right on skating.

It was 1977 and the kid was Alan Gelfand, nicknamed Ollie.

He called his maneuver "the Ollie Pop," which later became shortened to "the Ollie," and skateboarders everywhere use it as the foundation for skating today.

"I'm the world's most famous skateboarder that no one knows. Not bad for an 80-pound kid," says Gelfand, 50, who now runs German Car Depot, an auto shop in Hollywood.


Pictures: Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

The move is more famous than the man. The question "Who invented the Ollie?" appeared on Sugar Pops cereal boxes; the term is in the Oxford English Dictionary (as a noun and an intransitive verb) and has been an answer in a New York Times crossword puzzle.

Inducted into the national Skateboarding Hall of Fame in California earlier this month, Gelfand will talk about the physics of skateboarding this weekend as part of the opening of the "Tony Hawk: RAD Science" exhibit at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Discovery and Science.

Back in the '70s, Gelfand practiced at Skateboard USA, a long-extinct skatepark in Hollywood. Others there saw and mimicked the Ollie. Soon after, professional skateboarder Stacy Peralta saw Gelfand do it, and invited him to tour with him, doing demonstrations and festivals. (While out West, he sometimes mailed his homework back to Hollywood Hills High.)

But by the 1980s, Gelfand got tired of the skating scene and turned to racing Volkswagens, winning the World Karting Association Grand National Championship in 1987. He resumed skateboarding in 2001, and also developed his auto shop, where he buys, sells and repairs Volkswagens and Audis. To know his stuff, he visited the manufacturing plant in Germany.

"I wanted to know every little thing about how they were put together," he said. "It's that craziness to be the best I can be at just one thing."

His shop has been open 17 years.

Meanwhile, he built a skate park of his own, next to his previous shop location. It started as an all-comers venue, but crowds grew too large, so he now limits it to close friends, most of whom still call him Ollie. The nickname emerged because of an affinity for the comedy of Stan Laurel/Oliver Hardy — as well as the Ollieburger at Lum's Restaurant.

These days, his hair is short, his wardrobe is single-color T-shirts and jeans. He doesn't sport a single tattoo, and never smoked a cigarette — much less anything else — or even taken a drink.

His longtime friends remain from his skateboarding days.

"I tell skaters the friends they make today are the ones you'll be talking to 30 years later," he says.

And they're still talking about the day he created the Ollie.

NSortal@tribune.com

If you go

The Museum of Discovery and Science will have a SkateFest from Saturday through May 26 featuring skateboarding activities, skate clinics and contests in connection with the opening of "Tony Hawk: RAD Science," a new exhibit.

The SkateFest outside the museum, 401 SW Second St. in Fort Lauderdale, is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. May 26. Admission is free.

The "Tony Hawk: RAD Science" exhibit is included with museum admission: $14 for adults; $13 seniors; $12 for ages 2-12. Info: 954-467-6637, mods.org

Paul Schmitt, of CreateAskate, will help skaters create their own boards from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and May 26. Cost is $40 and includes museum admission. Info: 954-713-0930, CreateAskate.org