RIP "Baby Paul" Cullen: Dogtown, Z-Boy, youngest member of the original Zephyr skate team.


Note: this blog post has been updated, and some material has been redacted at the request of the submitter.

Today on the way to my office in Venice Beach, I saw the following words spray-painted on the wall outside of a local skateboard shop: "RIP, Baby Paul."

Skate/punk/hip-hop photographer Glen E. Friedman last night posted the very sad news about the untimely passing of an early skateboard culture icon: Paul "Baby Paul" Cullen is reported by various sources who knew him to have died this week of causes related to a long struggle with drug addiction. His surviving family have not confirmed cause of death, but stated to Boing Boing that Cullen was in recovery at the time of his death. He leaves behind a child and a loving family.

He will long be remembered as an early pioneer in the art, culture, and sport of skateboarding, and his influence will long be felt in the music, the style, and the iconography rooted in "Dogtown."

His brother, Brian Cullen, sends word that those who mourn his death are invited to attend a memorial service at Saint Monica's Catholic Church in Santa Monica, CA, this Saturday at 1030am.

Friedman photographed "Baby Paul" in the 1970s as the young skater ascended to fame. He describes what it was like to see Paul in New York a few summers ago, some 25 years later. He was not well.

He was here for only a few days with his girlfriend and new baby, and he was in sad shape. [redacted] We spent less than 15 minutes talking on a street corner. When I got home, i told my wife that night i'd probably never hear from him ever again. I never did.

He was several years younger than me. He was like a mascot for the original Zephyr team, he was a shredder, the original mini-shredder (before Bella Horvath, before Eric Dressen, before "Mini-Shred"). Photogenic, energetic, and a pure menace to society (I say that in the most admiring way).

We talked off and on over the years, like you do with people you've known for a long time that you do remain in touch with even if it's only rare. Particularly after the DogTown documentary came out but also a lot since i included a photo of him across the title page in The Idealist. [redacted]
Read the [updated] blog post, with comments from friends and family, and view more early photos of Paul Cullen by Glen Friedman.

Related thread at surfermag here.


  1. @1 “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it”

  2. So very sad to hear of several high profile people dying of heroin overdoses recently. And damned stupid that many more will die because of stupid drug laws.

    So very, very sad.

  3. Sorry to see that people are posting how he died before any toxicology results have been received. People just assume things, when you have a past….that it has to be this. But we all know what happens when you assume….So putting out that message, before the truth is told, well if you did really care a shit or whatever, or were a true “bro”, well you just wouldn’t do that. State the fact, that he died, he was an awesome shredder…he was Baby Pau.

  4. Sad to hear of his passing. I bought a board recently, first time in 20 years (why?), and was generally ill at ease with many of the brand names and graphics in current use. “Heroin”, for instance.

    Heroin is insidious and hateful, and gives addicts no respite. It tears their soul apart and leaves room for nothing more than the next fix. And they forget everything – dying mothers, lost families, education, love.

    So I’m mournful for his passing, but fearful of the glamourising of the narcotics going on. Every millimetre we give to these drugs, is a group of kids on their way to be junkies.

    @2 I’m in some kind of agreement – viz Portugal drug laws and the Economist – the way to suffocate the plague is to legalise globally, educate globally, and watch the criminal apparatus collapse.

    But please, in memoriam, stop putting money into the narcotics system, even if it is just a board with a “label”.

  5. we in new zealand knew of him from the old daze .a legend to the end . we will catch ya later bro ,rip

  6. i knew paul from way back. its funny cause by the time he was a teenager he was already a big partier, and i didn’t realize he had skated for zepher until later, but always knew him as a real local with heart and a screwed up drug problem. i’d see him frequently at the rose parking lot with guys like snapper, who also sucumbed to h.
    i am also an old school sm local skater and have been fighting my way through this desease myself.on or about the night paul passed i decided enough was enough without yet realizing that paul had overdosed and decided when i found out for sure, i really did need to do this to save my life. although i havn’t had much contact with pc in several years. i will miss him.

  7. Baby Paul was put to rest on Sunday July 26, 2009. Many locals from past and present participated in a epic paddle out service. Over two hundred people show up to pay respect to this legend of Venice/Santa Monica surf culture. Seventy five to one hundred surfers paddled out after eulogy’s of the late surfer were shared in front of the Venice pier. I will always have fond memories of PC. He had his share of problems but his smile had a way of letting you know that life was fun. His brother brian led the services and his Mother,Daughter and friends circled around sharing stories of this bad ass ripper and Close friend. I remember skating Paul Revere, Kenter, Man Hole,Rabbit hole and any other empty pool we could drain.
    Ray Mickshaw

  8. Not to long ago I be-friend Kathryn, Paul’s Mother and we attended a mutal friend’s birthday party and sang when Irish Eyes are smiling, after wards she spoke of her sons in such a loving manner that I felt that I knew Paul and Brian personally. I had no idea Paul was so famous and talented. Regardless of why or what he died of the fact remainds that he did. Lets be kind and pray or chant or what ever it is for his eternal peace. Lets respect his mother’s pain and remember that death does not give us reason to air addictions, it just doesnot matter now. Kathryn I pray that your Irish Eyes are smiling soon. Fondly, Linda

  9. Awesome photos of Paul Cullen in my early Skateboarder Magazines…the one with the bird was a personal favorite..and of him crouched low and closed to the banks and pools…ripping with substance and style..The scene in Dogtown and Z-Boys where Paul talks about watching Larry Bertleman surfing, touching the wave..and Paul says “When I saw Larry a a cutback..I wanted to copy that.. more than anything in life itself..on a skateboard..if I couldn’t do it in the water I will do it on a skateboard…” I couldn’t have said that better myself..I wasjust getting into skateboarding @ the time 1970’s in rural south Georgia..and Paul described exactly how I felt learning to skateboard..2000 miles away..and as a recovering alcoholic/addict myself (10 1/2 yrs sober)..I empathize and share his frustration and pain..Much love goes out to Paul and his family and close friends…Rest In Peace..see ya @ banks and bowls in the sky..100% SKATEBOARDER FOR LIFE..Cosmic Calvin peace and namaste’

  10. A dogtowner he always was
    A dogtowner he always been
    A dogtowner he always will be

    R.I.P Paul Cullen

    from France,Paris

  11. i really hated to see this about baby paul, he was really someone i looked up to in the skateboard world,
    i also have a similar issue with drugs, baby paul R.I.P.

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