Skate Culture

The History Of The Awesome Lester Kasai Oak Leaf Skateboard

The Lester Kasai Oak Leaf 1980s Skateboard Deck

Lester Kasai, designer of the 1986 Oak Leaf Deck designer, was one of the top pro skaters of the 1980s. 

The 1980s were the days of pools and vert, and the wider “pig deck” reigned supreme. 

With its 38.1 cm wheelbase and 26.35 cm width, the Oak Leaf Deck truly did live up to the name of “pig deck”.

Its heavy hard maple deck, flat nose, and mellow concave made for a very stable ride.

Kasai’s name was on one of the most popular decks of the day, with Sims, but his deck with Tracker was truly special.

Lester Kasai Oak Leaf 1980s Skateboard Deck
The Lester Kasai 1986 Oak Leaf Skateboard Deck

Who is Lester Kasai?

California native Lester Kasai was born in Anaheim in the summer of 1966.

Eleven years later, he found a Black Knight skateboard in a trash can near his house and hopped on his first skateboard.

Five years after that, sixteen-year-old Lester turned pro at the Rusty Harris Pro-Am Skate City contest in 1982, alongside friends Tony Hawk and Chris Miller.

Kasai had already landed his first sponsor before turning pro, leading skateboard truck brand Gullwing, but it was an invitation to skate for Team Sims that put him on the map. His first pro model—the first deck with his name on it—was the immensely popular “Sims Splash/Splatter” deck in 1983. Stop any random pack of skaters—at least in my town—and there was as good a chance to see a Lester Splash as there was a Rob Roskopp Face Deck.

The innovative big air master, Lester Kasai is credited with inventing the Benihana and being the second person on earth to land a McTwist. 

But it was Kasai’s second pro model that is closest to my heart. It’s what I consider my first real skateboard—the Lester Kasai Oak Leaf. He made the deck with Tracker, a company best known for giving the world the modern skateboard truck.

My First Real Skateboard: The Lester Kasai 1986 Oak Leaf Deck

My first skateboard wasn't actually mine...

… but an abandoned hand-me-down that my older sister had lost interest in.

It was like a tiny toy version of the Z-Flex board made famous by Jay Adams

The wobbly yellow banana board had a wheelbase so narrow that the trucks could be have been used for roller skates. 

But when my sister finally noticed my surreptitious acquisition, she promptly reclaimed the board, thus compelling my parents to buy me a board of my own. 

My first board wasn’t much bigger than my sister’s board, but at least it was wood. However, it wasn’t long before BMX consumed every ounce of my interest, and my board joined a yellow banana board that had once again found its way into a dark corner of our garage.

Three years later, my cherished chrome Skyway TA with CW handlebars began inching toward that corner as the resurgence of skateboarding captured my focus, fascination, and passion. And I got what I considered my first real skateboard.

My first encouter with Kasai Coat of Arms...

… was when I was on my way back to my own family

Granted, I’d only been gone for half a Saturday morning and was heading home for lunch with my friend in the early days of summer.

I remember being in a foul mood for some teenage reason, but that mood quickly changed when, swinging open the door with a growl, I was greeted by a chorus of people cheering, “Surprise!”

I looked up to see a dozen or more friends on our curved staircase stacked like a cheer squad posing for the yearbook. It was my birthday.

Unlike previous birthdays, nobody brought a present...

… because they’d all pitched in to buy me a Lester Kasai Oak Leaf board, complete with Gullwing trucks, Slime Balls wheels, and neon pink rail guards (which were standard back then), I felt like I’d just won “A brand new car!” on The Price Is Right.

The rest of that birthday party was pure torture. I couldn’t wait to slip back into my weathered blue Chuck Taylor high-tops and hop on my new board.

We lived at the top of a lazily winding hill in the suburbs, and even though it had been a few years since my last skateboard, I rode that Lester Kasai down our street like I was born with it glued to my feet.

My new Lester Kasai Oak Leaf deck was a lot bigger than my previous boards...

A few weeks after receiving that incredible gift, my friends and I built an eight-foot quarter-pipe. Despite the chagrin of my neighbors, it lived at the end of our driveway for the rest of the summer.

While the ramp got a lot of use (and abuse), we spent most days roaming the suburban landscape, skating everything from curbs to banks to concrete culverts.

From sunrise to sundown, we were on our boards, like a pack of wolves in search of new skateable earth.

As a testament to the awesomeness of this beloved classic deck, Tracker reissued the Oak Leaf board three decades later as part of their 80s retro skateboard collection.

I just might have to get one for my wall.

The 1986 Oak Deck Skateboard by Lester Kasai

In a world of splatters, screamers, and skating skeletons, the Oak Leaf graphic came across as pretty tame.

In a full-page magazine ad for the deck, Kasai explained that pride in his family heritage was behind his choices for the design:

"Back in Japan around the 10th Century, the Kasai family was selected to be Samurai Warriors to protect their Emperor and fellow countrymen from evil forces. …My family coat of arms is the oak leaf. The mighty old oak tree symbolizes strength and wisdom. …Flowing behind the oak leaf you see the ankh or peace/love symbol. To be at peace with oneself and one’s surroundings will leave you with more strength and a clear mind to achieve your goals. The Japanese writing above the oak leaf means “Happy ever after”, which is the way I live my life."
Lester Kasai
Lester Kasai
Oak Deck Skateboard Designer

Lester Kasai Oak Leaf Skateboard Deck Design

With the deck’s 38.1 cm wheelbase and whopping 26.35 cm width, I may as well have been standing on the ground.

With so much hard maple, the deck was relatively heavy, which, combined with its mellow concave, made for a very stable ride. It was like driving in the backseat of my best friend’s dad’s Lincoln Continental Mark VII—pure luxury and comfort.

With a shape influenced by Christian Hosoi’s seminal Hammerhead deck, the Oak Leaf had a flat nose, as was standard with boards of the day.

The kicktail had a reasonably relaxed angle, so it wasn’t hard to pop, but it was hard to pop big. (At least that was my excuse when I couldn’t ollie higher than my friends.)

Lester Kasai Oak Leaf Skateboard Deck Spec Summary

  • Length: 30.125″(76.52 cm)
  • Width: 10.375″ (26.35 cm)
  • Wheelbase: 15″(38.10 cm)
  • Nose: 4.25” (10.80 cm)
  • Tail: 6.75” (17.15 cm)

1 thought on “The History Of The Awesome Lester Kasai Oak Leaf Skateboard”

  1. Keith O’Donnell

    What a great story man. Well put narrative of your first real pro set up. Mine was a Lance Mountain Furure Primitive after a Variflex Vectra. Still can’t find that color anywhere on the web 🤷🏻‍♂️
    Loved that deck w six tracks n 90a rats. No plastic but sick thick gorilla ribs 😃
    Cheers my brother in Skate 👊🏻🤘🏼

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