Category Archives: Photos by Bernie O'Dowd

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.





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East Coast Pride by Tom Groholski

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