Paul “Baby Paul” Cullen, a surfer and skateboarder who was one of the famed “Z-Boys” of Santa Monica in the 1970s, passed away on July 18.
Nicknamed Baby Paul because of his youth, Cullen was, at fourteen, the youngest of the Z-Boys. “Who’s Hot,” a section of Skateboarder Magazine, featured Cullen in a 1977 issue, where he was described as having “one of the most radical, vanguard, and spontaneous approaches around.”
Cullen was born in Canada in 1962, to parents from Dublin, Ireland and Belfast, Northern Ireland. They came to Santa Monica a year later. Cullen’s brother Brian, four years his junior, told the Mirror that he and Paul were “very, very close.”
“We grew up in Santa Monica and my mom used to take us down to the old P.O.P. site,” said Brian Cullen. “That’s where he started surfing when he was a kid. From that, he met Jeff Ho and everyone at [Jeff’s] surfboard shop and they all started skating back then.”
The brothers both lived in Santa Monica and Venice, although Paul lived for a time in Hawaii, as did some of his Z-Boy pals like Jay Adams “who was like our adopted brother,” said Brian Cullen. Paul eventually returned to Southern California, worked in the construction business, and fathered a daughter, Brianne whom Brian describes as “the driving force, the light of his life.”
Paul Cullen is survived by his mother, who still lives in Santa Monica and was, according to Brian “the matriarchal mother of all the little hooligans who used to run in and out of our house,” by Brian, his wife, and their two children Kevin and Emma. “Paul adored [his niece and nephew] as much as his own,” says Brian. ”He taught my son how to skate.”
The cause of Paul’s death is unknown at press time. “His death was very much a shock, very unexpected,” says Brian.
A memorial service was held at St. Monica’s Church on July 25 and a “paddle-out” was held in Paul’s memory at the Venice Pier on July 26.
Admirers have also written graffiti in “Baby Paul’s” memory on the wall of the Horizons Surf Shop at Main Street, where Jeff Ho’s original surf shop was located and where a 14-unit apartment complex with a commemoration of the Z-Boys is to be built around the landmark shop.