228: “What about the Captain?” Bernie O’Dowd writing about Team Steam’s Capatain John Ballon and good ‘ole’ En-Jay.

“What about the Captain?”

Why did Team Steam have a Captain? Why not? Ours was none other than my
life-long best friend John Ballon of East Brunswick NJ. He had no official
duties, he wasn’t voted into position and didn’t enforce any rules.
(Although there was one official rule of Team Steam and that was to write
Team Steam on your board.) He just had a certain power of Captain-ness
about him. To Tag, Rick, and Darren he was a bit of a scary authority figure
who ripped. He was older than them, tall, and had the driest sense of humor
ever which was confused by many to be no sense of humor at all. Imagine Star
Trek’s Mr. Spock skating and you’d be pretty close to that of the Captain.
Super alien nerve-pinching strength pulled him through many a Wheel Barrow,
Andrecht, Indy air to back truck and other ramp shaking maneuvers.

John Ballon 1985 Barn NJ The House of Steam

Captain John Ballon The Barn in Ole En-Jay!

Photo Irene Ching

He has Captain-like smarts too, the kind that led to him quitting college after
three years of being on the Dean’s list because they didn’t get his ideas or
his own alphabet that he could fluently write in. He wrote a letter to
Thrasher after seeing Tom G. on the cover saying we’d like to skate his ramp
sometime which led to Tom’s dad looking John up in the phone book and
inviting us over.


click to enlarge

Tom met us at the Brunswick Square mall in a Camaro.
That’s so New Jersey, we probably went for Pizza afterwards. Shortly after
meeting Tom we built our own training facility in the woods behind John’s
house. Made of all stolen wood she was a grand 4 feet tall, with 4 foot
transitions, 8 feet wide and adorned with world-class PVC coping. It was
there that the Captain learned many a trick which would then be applied to the
slippery Lexan behemoth in Tom G’s backyard on fabled Saturday sessions.

Captain John Ballon Bside air the house of steam

The Captain John Ballon NJ 83 BackSide air

photo Bernie O’Dowd

Capatin JohnBallon Invert the house of steam
The Captain John Ballon En-Jay 83 Invert

photo Bernie O’Dowd

captain john ballon ollie the house of steam

Captain John Ballon NJ 1983 Back side Ollie (ZORLAC!)

photo Bernie O’Dowd

captain john ballon layback 83 the house of steam

El Capitan laback NJ 1983

Photo Bernie O’Dowd (taken from what looks like a tree?, jason)

Looking back at these pictures of a young John Ballon tearing it up on that
tight little ramp in 1983 it was clear he was headed for greatness. I
remember J.T. Murphy, John The Rubber Onion and Dan Bay (Groholski ramp
locals) being impressed with our progression after not seeing us for a few
The Captain and I have been away from NJ for 20 years now, it’s hard to


Bernie O’Dowd Invert to Fakie OC Captain John Ballon on deck

We went from Jersey to Ocean City MD. to Daytona and then finally
split up in the early 90’s. John headed up to Philly for a stint and then
out to Seattle where he still resides. He’s got a lovely wife, a house, and
a job that utilizes his creativity and smarts. John never gave up on
skateboarding but his body did. He’s just too worn out he says. It’s a sad
thing to not have you’re best skate-bud ride anymore but he skated harder
than most in the time that he was shredding. Hard enough to earn the rank of

Bernie O’Dowd 2007

Captain John Ballon 2007

El capitán del vapor John Ballon 2007

Jason Oliva The House of Steam

Nice one Bernie!!!

I think “ramp shaking maneuvers” or RSM’s as they will now be referred to sums up The Captain best. I can remember him (The Captain) busting out a random act of air walk and everyone on both decks at The Barn going ape . Those where the days.


Here is one last RSM of The Cap from Power Edge Magazine:


Post every and all Captain John Ballon story or recollection in the comment section…dont be shy, I am gonna leave this one up for a bit.

Dont forget to checkout the Team Steam Media Archive too.





Team Steam’s Media Archive

YouTubeSkate (Videos)



East Coast Pride by Tom Groholski

Remember The House of Steam is looking for Sponsorship, Submissions and Suggestions!!! Send all to jasonoliva@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “228: “What about the Captain?” Bernie O’Dowd writing about Team Steam’s Capatain John Ballon and good ‘ole’ En-Jay.

  1. John Engels

    I can’t say I remember ‘The Captain’, but I do remember Bernie. It was just a typical Saturday afternoon at Tom’s (early 1980’s), skating with JT Murphy, Dan Bay, Tom, and Chuck Treece. Then here comes this skinny kid with a bright green helmet. If I remember right, he could hadly get to the coping. He seemed like a cool kid though, so let him ride.

    Then, it was only about a month later, he’s doing axle stalls, rock and rolls, and backside airs above the coping. (WTF?)

    Now I know your secret, Bernie. You had a private training ground in John Ballon’s yard that you never invited me to. Thanks a lot!

    Oh and the name “Rubber Onion” was actually given to me by JT Murphy. When learning Layback Airs (at Tom’s of course), I used to land them real sketchy. JT said I looked liked a Rubber Onion. I guess the name stuck.

    Ah memories (I love this place)

  2. jasonoliva Post author

    Hey John

    I received your pictures of Bernie skating at Tom’s I will post them soon.

    Have any more pictures? yourself maybe? Send em to us.



  3. Steve Silver

    I got to know Captain John down in Daytona Beach in the early 90’s along w/ Backwards Bernie, Chris H , and Gene G as they all shared a house around the corner from me . We also lived across the street from Stone Edge in apts. before that .
    I remember Bernie sk8ing Tom G’s ramp doing every trick in the book , backwards , while saying aloud that he couldn’t skate well that day ! He was ripping it up !
    Their house in FL was like a sanctuary and I always had a great time hanging and joking around . The Captain was one cool cat , always fun to session with at Stone Edge. I visited Stone Edge , Kona and Ocala w/ Tom G and Bill R @ 1989 during the Swamp Fever Tour.
    Tom moved there and put me up for an extended stay in 1990 [ Thanks Tom !) and I moved down shortly after that . Everyone was killing it and I think Stone Edge had over 3000 people on their member list . I eventually brought my Blue Fiber Rider half-pipe down from Havertown ,PA and did a few demos on the beach w/ Bands that were fun and set it up in 4 different places.
    The Team Steamers were all great people to skate with and all those past sessions are fondly etched in my memory . Eventually I will post old videos from Stone Edge , Kona , Altamonte , Reading PA and other hot spots at myspace.com/smokinglens when time permits . Those were the glory days of backyard pools , vacant closed down skateparks , backyard ramps , and friends in every state that would put you up and take you to underground spots and show you the inside line .
    Thanks to all whose path I crossed !
    Steve Silver


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