Everything I learned over my early years about San Francisco came from television. Streetcars, sunshine, friendly smiles, large, sloping hills, Full House and Rice-a-Roni—San Fran looked completely different than what I had imagined—then I saw a skateboard magazine. Places like the Pier 7, Hubba Hideout and China Banks graced the pages of every major skate publication.
My desire to move West can be attributed to such images, through the opportunity the landscape provided for those of us looking to pursue a career in skating (or something like it). I never made it all the way to Cali (due in part to Salt Lake’s dynamic landscape), but fortunately, some of the other East Coast dreamers out there did. In particular, Rob “Magnethead” Collinson, who went out to the promised land to make his mark in the skateboard industry.
Collinson was introduced to skateboarding in 1984. Like most skate rats growing up, he spent most of his time kicking around the streets, building shitty ramps and skating as much as possible. “I started skating when I was 11 on a plastic board. I got more into it, asked my Dad for a big board, and it was on from there,” he says. When he wasn’t busy flaking off with his friends, Collinson began to express his artistic side. “I started doing zines in high school. My first one was called Broken Bolts,” he says. These DIY publications were a way for Collinson to share funny stories and “shitty photos” with his buddies, and just laugh about what they did. With a knack for entertaining, and a ton of support from skaters and friends, these bare-bones pamphlets began to grow. After high school was over, Collinson decided it was time to move away from his small town in Maine and pursue life outside the confines of home. “I moved out West in 1993 with Jay Marsh,” says Collinson, “He [also] helped out a lot with Lowcard.” With a small amount of cash, a skateboard and a few friends, Collinson would eventually land in San Francisco.
The skate history in San Francisco is rich and the scene plentiful. With pros and distribution centers nearby, the area seemed to make sense, especially with the support of up-and-coming skaters. “I had been friends with Dan Drehobl since middle school. I think when I skated Embarcadero back in the day, I was [referred to as] ‘T-dog,’ which means I wasn’t cool,” says Collinson. It was through these outlets that his zines began to build an identity. While working odd jobs to pay the bills, Collinson continued to skate and establish roots in the community with local shops and other business types.
In 2002, while playing lottery tickets, his slap-happy pamphlets would unofficially become a mag. Ironically enough, the name for Lowcard came to Collinson while he was scratching away on a lotto ticket titled “High Card.” The object of the ticket was to reveal the highest card and win some cash-ola. However, Collinson confesses that, “I always got low cards on the tickets.” Bummer that Collinson didn’t win the big bucks on the scratch-offs, however, a formidable name was established, and his luck was changing for the better.
More people were starting to take notice of the small zine, and asking for the next installment. “People were psyched on the content and style, and in 2005, it really started to take off,” says Collinson. “The first issue I did all by myself. I think it was right around Issue Two that I met my then girlfriend/now-wife, Reija, who began to help with the mag.” Reija began to assist Collinson in the production of the mag, and would eventually become co-owner. Neither of the two had any real experience or formal training in what they were about to delve into. “Reija went to college at Bates College [in Concord, Mass.]. It’s the college that you go to if you can’t get into a real school. I took Judo at City College,” says Collinson. Back then, it was Collinson’s connections, witty banter and the help of his girl and her sister that really brought Lowcard to life. With an extra set of eyes, ears and hands, plus a connection for cost effective printing (thanks to Reija’s sis), the mag began to further produce Collinson’s insight, “crappy photos” and stories about life in the industry.