The 4 Wheel BackScratcher Story
Baby Brodela Cultivating Deep Roots at the Blood bowl in Oakland – circa 1978
What the Hell is a 4 wheel backscratcher? In the practical sense, It’s when you have an itchy back and your skateboard doubles for a sweet backscratcher. However, in the case of this website, the answer would be that it was the name of the first and only zine I did in my younger years. My late buddy Tim Mulgrew and I had the brilliant idea to create a skate zine where every cover had a naked person scratching their back with a skateboard. In our youthful exuberance, we decided the content of the zine didn’t matter as much as the photo on the cover and as long as the photo on the cover always had an interesting (nude) image of a someone scratching their back with a skateboard we were going to be super successful publishers of the worlds hottest skate zine………….
"Almost as quickly as our wonderful plan was hatched
it was brought to its death."
Our venture into the zine world was much easier said than done though. Whether 4WBS would have gone on to be a smash hit or not would ultimately never be fully realized because after our initial offering we called it quits and sadly 4WBS never made it to round 2. Making zines back in the late 80’s was a whole helluva a lot of work that we weren’t prepared for and our true passions were better served to shred on a skateboard than writing and taking photos of other people doing it. Almost as quickly as our wonderful plan was hatched it was brought to its death.
My Early Family Life Was a Bit Weird At Times
As the years advanced though I developed "somewhat" of a yearning to be a skateboard photojournalist and I embarked on what would ultimately be a half-hearted attempt for about a decade. I was eventually truthful with myself though and admitted dealing with editors wasn’t my strong suit so a career at a “real” skate mag never quite fully materialized for me either. Safe to say handling creative differences weren’t my strong suit during this period and I felt as long as I could still skate at a certain level my carreer of shutter bugging and verbal diarrhea would never be taken to an earnest place……….. Strike 2 at-bat for my 2nd journey into photojounalism.
"the act of riding my skateboard during this period just took
precedence over everything else"
Phil Shao: Thinks Skateboards AD sometime in the late 90's
However this second run was very productive, I did quite a bit of ad work for various NorCal companies and produced freelance articles for most of the major mags. I ended up compiling a boat load of photos during this era that I still consider some of my best work to date but the work I gathered over these years just sat in negative and slide boxes collecting dust. Then a few significant things happened as more years flew by: the internet grew, digital photography advanced dramatically and Instagram came to be......... and lastly my skate worn body started to fail me, and any pipe dream I had of becoming a pro was long gone.
"and lastly my skate worn body started to fail me, and any pipe dream I had of becoming a pro was long gone….."
Big BROdela Can Hit The Coping Now! Smithgrind at St Helena circa 2011
Combine the aging body with the ease of modern-day digital photography and my passion has grown immensely over the past few years to accept the inevitable role of skateboard documentarian. While creating content doesn't fully take the place of a good sesh it does keep me close to the culture and is most definitely the best placebo for the act of skateboarding. It was now time to create something like that first ill fated zine of my youth but with a modern-day crew of rippers and ease of digital publishing. A website built on a little skateboard history and our future chalked fresh with articles, videos, photo galleries, the latest news, and some smack talking to keep you honest.
So with much delight, I present to you the modern day evolution of a kids lofty ideas...... the Mighty 4 Wheel Backscratcher is back!!
Yours (Mostly) Truly
Bruce Rodela • The 4 Wheel Backscratcher • FOTO Skateboards • 11:11 Distribution