All photos by Ben Colen
B.A. already had an Epicly Later’d series, so we set aside history and spoke with him about more recent happenings — namely moving to New York, filming for Pretty Sweet, bonelesses into grinds, and his next full part.
When did you move to New York and what brought you here?
I moved to New York in October 2011. I was in San Francisco on and off for 11 or 12 years. I love it with Thrasher, Deluxe and all my friends there. But I grew up three hours from New York in Groton, Connecticut and a lot of my family still lives there. My sisters’ kids are growing up, so I wanted to be around. It’s also cool being back and having some seasons. San Francisco is beautiful, but it’s a hoody every day, all year around. In New York, you get the nice hot summer and the cold winter, and I love that.
You mentioned in an older interview that you were trying to get more into design work. Was that part of the move back east at all? Is that something you’re trying to pursue more or are you still fully focused on skating?
It’s a bit of both. I’ve been fortunate to have a few projects since I’ve been here. One, for example, is Four Star contacted Moleskine and I went over to their offices in Manhattan, brought some art and we figured out a way to lay some stuff out. For the past year, I’ve been flying to Portland quite a bit and Nike has been showing me the ins and outs of footwear design. I’ve been focussing on making a sneaker which is going to be released in the fall, so I’ve been trying to plan for all of that.
I’m still trying to skateboard. I got to skateboard a lot in the fall with William Strobeck. I skate for CCS, but I’d like to have some stuff in the Supreme video he’s putting together. I’ve been doing a little of everything: sketches, trying to keep my legs warm with skateboarding, and designing the sneaker.
Are you focusing on any video projects aside from the Supreme video?
I might give a few more things to Bill for the Supreme video. I really want to have some stuff in the Trunk Boyz video, but the next big thing is the Nike SB Chronicles 3 video, which is about two-and-a-half years from now. They’re working on the second one now. I’m getting older — not old — I’m just stoked to have a project to work on. I want to stay pro for another four or five years, so I’m psyched to be in it.
Do you film the most when you’re traveling?
Luckily, I get to leave for skateboarding or design stuff with Nike or Four Star. In the year that I’ve lived here, I noticed that I really like the winter because I can stay home and everything slows down. I’d like to spend more time being here and not flying around if I don’t have to. I would like to film a lot of stuff for this Nike video in New York, Philly or Boston. It’s not like “Oh, I want to represent” since I grew up around here, but I’ve never set out to try and film a cool east coast part before.
In the past fifteen years of doing this for a job, you go from a contest to another project, and it’s hard to stop when you’re fortunate enough to be this busy. I’d always be doing a little Four Star trip or filming a clip. I would love to skate Philly every few days for a month, but we’ll see. There’ll always be those moments when I learn a new trick at a skatepark and will want to bring it to a handrail or schoolyard. California’s a great place for that since the ground is so incredible. I’m sure I’ll always have Cali stuff, but I’m going to try and skate the east coast more.
What was the process of filming for Pretty Sweet like? Were you intent on filming a full part and stuff just got cut out due to editing decisions? It seemed like you had a good bit of extra footage when they were releasing all the B-roll.
We were lucky to get that Beastie Boys song, so we picked the best stuff that I had. Part of it was due to how the song goes with the skating, another was because you want your best stuff to go in it. I also got hurt. In those two years leading up to it, I’d go on Four Star tours, get ads and photos, and then I hurt my back. And eventually, I had to get knee surgery right around the last six-to-eight months that everybody had to film. I tore my meniscus skating on a tour. In that line at Clipper Ledge, I had a torn meniscus, and I really felt it after that. I got the surgery in San Francisco last May. I tried to film in July and August, but didn’t get anything else extra.
I’m fortunate to have had a long career, so I have a lot of other parts. It was frustrating, but given that I have this Nike Chronicles video to look forward to, it’s alright. The video still felt cool for me because it was about the kids that never had parts. Malto’s never had a Girl part, plus Stevie, Elijah and Raven had their first parts. It would’ve been great to have a four-minute part, but it was already long as is.
Is there a specific reason that Alex, Carroll and you shared a part? There are obviously all the jokes about Alex skating like an older dude.
It started in Australia. Alex and I filmed that clip where I kickflip the handrail and he smith grinds it right after. We thought it’d be sick to have us go in and out of Alex’s part. When it came time to put it together, Mike got his tricks in China at the very end and it worked out.
How’d the bonelesses into grind tricks come about?
I guess it’s being a product of the eighties and then finding a new trick to do. It felt cool because I’ve never done a boneless onto a handrail. It’s kind of a dangerous, rewarding trick. A lot of kids seem to be bonelessing into noseblunts and stuff now, so they got psyched on them. I’m probably gonna leave those alone for a couple of years though.
Has your non-skate lifestyle changed living on the east coast at all?
A friend of mine actually just helped me find an art studio. I’m gonna paint a lot this spring and summer to figure out how to decorate the venue for the release party of my Nike shoe. I’ve been buying more books on how clothes are put together and everything. Maybe down the road I can help design more clothing. A good friend of mine works at Vogue, and you get interested in learning how a business like that works as you get older. It’s good to be here and observe everything. I got a lot of raging and partying out of my system, so I don’t go out.
You seem to think ahead a bit in terms of life after skating. Do you think skaters in general lack the foresight to see beyond pro skate careers a lot of the time?
I think there are plenty of people who have other interests. Someone like Wade Speyer, for example, has a trucking thing going on in NorCal. I think some people will find a new path. There are definitely a handful of kids who won’t. You like to think that somebody who didn’t save their money throughout their time in skating would have their sponsor help them get a job with the brand. Skateboarding is growing so much that a lot of newer kids do have parents and people around them to help manage their money better. Back in the day, the paychecks weren’t the same, so kids didn’t live too lavish and when it was over it was like, “Well, now I’m working back at this coffee shop.” People who make the most money like Sheckler and Nyjah seem like they’ve been pretty smart about it.
It’s definitely changing. There are people doing skate coaching for jobs and that’s all cool. You can’t make something not grow. You can’t change the fact that more kids skate, so all you can do is show them the way. Teach them how to slappy.
You grew up on the east coast in an era that people are very nostalgic about. What was it like skating here before moving out west?
Besides everything I learned in Connecticut from the local dudes, my favorite thing was the classic scene of me and my friends driving to Stamford and taking the train to Grand Central. Just going to to Banks with one backpack and everybody only having $5. It’s pretty typical, but I remember seeing Harold at the Banks when we were kids. That was fun, trying to buy a 40 when you’re 15, you know? I’m psyched I got to see that time period. Even aside from skating, New York was a different place then. I remember being really scared of Times Square and having to hold your pockets because of how sketchy it was.
I never thought I’d live here. I always only wanted to live in California. It’s cheesy, but I even enjoy the smell of the subway. I love walking far, taking the subway, shitty snow and all of that. I got waterproof shoes and and a cruiser board I take to skate through the snow.
Anything else you’ve been hyped on since moving back?
I want to go skate the Groton skatepark again. I can visit Donny Barley in Rhode Island. It’s cool to be around him and his two daughters. I skate with Stefan. I like those slanted ledges in Battery Park. I can skate over the Manhattan Bridge to the L.E.S. park, which is pretty awesome to have. I’m stoked to just rip around Manhattan.
Aside from filming another full part, is there anything you’d like to accomplish skating-wise that you have yet to do so?
I want to try and have street contests for over 30 dudes, similar to how there are “masters” contests for vert. Let’s have a contest with cool obstacles and no energy drink sponsors on the ramps. We could invite all the people from the nineties era and it’d be sick.
(Special thanks to Will Campbell and Ben Colen.)