Photo by Sam Muller
A conversation with one of the most talented and versatile skaters from out east — or anywhere really — about his new board sponsor, New York and the Gram, obviously.
P.S. Static IV is really good and full of surprises ;)
You went without a board sponsor for a pretty long time, especially for someone who still got a lot of coverage. Were you ever worried that you might not be able to skate for a living anymore?
I wasn’t too frustrated, I still kept skating. Skateboarding is in a weird place right now, where things are changing and evolving quicker than ever. It’s easier for a lot of companies to put on AMs because they don’t have to pay them up front and it’s sort of like a trial period. There aren’t many board companies out there making tons of money and able to pay pros a whole lot. I understood everything was about timing. Being on the east coast is another thing, since you’re not in people’s eyes every single day like you would be in California.
I’ve been blessed with so much other stuff in my life. Whether being a pro comes or goes, I knew that I still loved skateboarding, and that I still have a lot more skating I want to do in my life.
How did the Organika situation come about?
I talked to a few companies prior to that and nothing felt right at the time.
Karl Watson hit me up out of the blue and asked if I was down and I said “Let’s do this.” Expedition was a possibility a while back, but I think they were more hyped on having me on Organika since it’s a smaller knit crew. They have some young dudes killing it, and legends like Quim and Karl, so they needed someone to bridge that gap. I feel like I’m getting a second wind right now and I still got a lot left to give.
What’s an example of changes you alluded to from these past few years? For instance, P-Rod just had that new interview where he talked about how some skaters have more social media followers than skate magazines, and it really changes how their coverage gets out there.
Instagram changed it. Every skater is their own magazine now. What P-Rod was doing with his gold board thing wouldn’t have been able to go down the same way, say, five years ago. There are all these cool small brands at a level that wasn’t around just a few years back. A lot of what’s been around for super long is getting dry, and skaters want to do their own thing and have their own vision now, since they have more ways to promote it.
It is still hard times for America out there though. There aren’t tons of jobs up for grabs or many skate companies raking in millions of dollars. Only a handful of skate companies out there are making any real money to the point where they don’t have to always ask themselves, “Why are we paying so-and-so this amount of money?” if they don’t see coverage from them all the time.
Photo by Sam Muller
You mentioned that being based on the east coast is still a detriment. Do you think that’s gotten any easier over the past few years? Every company flies pros to New York, and tries to do events and videos here more than ever.
Most companies or skaters just come here for a few months, get what they need, and break out. That’s fine, everyone should come here, it’s the most amazing place in the world. I understand not wanting to deal with the winter. For me, it’s where my heart is, which is why I choose to be here almost year-round. I feel like if I stay here, and do enough traveling and legwork on my own, I can make up for not being in L.A.
You definitely notice the differences though. I was in New York for a lot of the winter working on other projects, and then I decided I had to go to L.A. and get some skating in. I’m there for a month-and-a-half and all of my sponsors changed. I got on Ace, Grizzly, and Organika. After just over a month, I’m back here rolling around with a new complete.
There’s also a difference in how much of a role social media plays. Instagram isn’t as big of a deal in New York like it is in L.A. because there’s so much real life shit going on here. In L.A., people live on Instagram. You get more followers because the network is bigger; there are more pro skaters and more companies. And that translates into better managing your own coverage, which is a positive thing. People in New York are definitely on it a lot, but it’s not as much a part of their life. I’ll go to L.A. and get thousands of followers just off people constantly posting while they’re with you.
You’re still sober, right?
Yeah, for two years.
New York has its reputation for people partying their way out, did you choose to be sober for skate-related reasons?
It depends on the person. A lot of people don’t get affected by it. I’m more of an all or nothing guy. My decision to be sober was more based on my personal life and the relationships I had with people. It never affected my actual skating because I’d be a raging bull after drinking. Me and Zered partied across the world during the Zoo years and would still go skate each and every morning. Drinking can just get out of hand and I don’t want to be that dude. I want people to look at me as the same person 24/7.
Do you think companies are less inclined to trust their riders living here just because of how easily so many skaters end up falling into that trap?
A lot of skaters do come here and it is a huge distraction for them. Most of them figure it out eventually. But yeah, there are dudes that don’t live even here, who will visit and you won’t see any clips from them because they fall into it.
Alex Olson mentioned in an interview that there’s always a backlash when he displays interest in anything that isn’t skate-related. You put your other interests out there a bit and have a company that isn’t strictly about skateboarding, do you ever get the same vibe?
Alex in particular is different from a lot of skaters since he doesn’t really Instagram himself skating. He’s inspired to skate by things outside of skating, be it music or art, more than a lot of other people are. Kids don’t always understand that.
For my stuff, I try not to force feed it to people through social media since they know me as a skater first and that’s what they want to see. But my brand is a part of who I am too, so I’ll throw it out there occasionally. I wouldn’t be on Thrasher or whatever plugging my brand and where to buy it. There are different times for everything.
You and Quim have a slightly similar history in being from the east coast, going from a Zoo downsizing to later getting on Organika. Do you ever skate with that dude?
There actually may be this thing coming out for Organika of me and Quim skating together. Growing up on the east coast, you know how influential he is; he’s like baby Gonz. There’s no one in skateboarding that moves his legs, flicks tricks or is able to get up on walls the way he does. He’s just one of the most original dudes ever. I’m super hyped to be on the same team as him.
Have you been working on anything in the downtime of not having to give everything to a board sponsor?
I was just in L.A. shooting a bunch of photos. Most of my recent footage will go to a “Welcome to Organika”-type part, which should be out in a month or two.
I also flew to Japan twice in the past year trying to make an all-Japan part with the VHS Mag guys. I went out there on my own originally, started filming with those dudes, and then it hit us, like “What if we did a part like the Silas thing?” That place is awesome and I love being there. I might go out one last time this summer to finish it up. It’s definitely not like a hammer video part, but more of an emphasis on just cruising mellow, cool-looking spots.
Thanks to Karl Watson and Matt Daughters. Have a good weekend everyone.