An Interview With Daniel Kim, the 2016 Q.S.S.O.T.Y.

January 4th, 2017 | 8:40 am | Features & Interviews | 8 Comments

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Intro and Interview by Zach Baker. Photography by Will-Robson Scott.

Will R.S: “I’ve never even thought to, let alone wanted to do a switch Japan Air.”
Daniel Kim: “You need to empty your mind, Will.”

Let’s talk about influence. Here, in this beautifully flawed American society that we live in, we delight in the idea that we’re all unique. Supported by our convictions that never on Earth has there ever been anyone like ourselves, we (as skateboarders especially) are quick to call out the bandwagoning of others; the adherence to trends that we ourselves, whether we recognize it or not, are also influenced by.

Whether it be “Yo, I ride 8.5 because everyone rides 8.5” or “Yo, everyone rides 8.5, y’all biters. I ride 7.5, I’m different and lit” — we are all borrowing from the same pool of small board brands, nostalgic IG handles, and tricks done in Trilogy. It’s tough to stand out, and perhaps the less a person cares about doing so, the better they are at it.

Turn to Daniel Kim who, within the past year, has gotten what some might call “weird.” Prior to now, he had built a reputation for banging flip tricks, remarkable pop, and thoughtful Pulaski lines. He was on 10 Deep back when German Nieves was the team manager, got boards from DGK for a while, and later worked at Nike for a couple years. Then, his hat started falling off, he grew his hair out, started wearing fur vests, and introduced to us his mysterious new undertaking: Stingwater.

Sparking endless laughter from many and bewilderment from many more, Kim, throughout 2016, threw up all kinds of cryptic promotion for what is maybe a water company, maybe a skate company, maybe just a platform for trolling his favorite skaters. What can be certain, as reinforced by his part in Spirit Quest, Colin Read’s trippy opus, is that Daniel, both as skater and individual, is evolving — no, groeing. I’m entertained by whatever the hell Stingwater is, and I’m still not sure that I even totally get it. Maybe my mind’s not empty enough.

Regardless, in our eyes, Daniel had done some of the most unique and remarkable skateboarding in 2016, earning him the title of Quartersnacks Skater of the Year.

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Some of the readers may be wondering: did you lose your mind?

Nah man, I just found it.

You worked at Nike for some time, and then in the past year or so, would you agree that you’ve had much more right-brained approach to skateboarding, than say, a few years ago?

I think I just got more psyched on skating. I saw that once you have a regular job, you can’t skate as much. So I started to appreciate skateboarding more. Once the Nike thing was over, I started skating a lot more, and I started realizing that i could just have fun with it.

You recently included street grabs into your repertoire. Is that part of having more fun with it?

I don’t know, I think grabs are just sick. I was watching old videos of Mike Vallely and they got me really hyped. Then I saw footage of the Donger and it got me more hyped. Then I watched footage of Quim — it all started to come together. The first video I ever watched was a trick tip video from Blockbuster. It was all early grabs off jump ramps, so I’ve always been into that shit.

I feel like you’ve been reborn as some sort of a motivational guru. What is your outlook on life? What are some words of wisdom that you can impart upon the readers?

Empty your mind. When people are feeling stuck, sick of the same old grind every day at work, you’ve got to empty your mind and realize that you don’t have to be that person. You can recreate yourself. That’s what I mean by empty your mind. You can keep growing. When you’re stuck like that, you’ll never grow.

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What the hell is Stingwater?

It’s growing.

What does it do? Is it actually water?

It stings the face.

What makes it stand out though? What is it?

It’s for the gods.

Fine. Moving on, what’s up with the Stevie thing on Instagram?

I guess you guys have seen that photo of him on a surfboard. I thought it was a really sick photo of him. This dude’s really changed a lot since the last time I saw him, you know? He was wearing super baggy jeans and whatever, then the next time, he has these really tight jeans on and a v-neck on. Then the next time I see him is in a magazine riding a surfboard, and I’m like “damn, this dude’s really grown. Man, I should make a tribute to this dude. He’s growing.” The homie Brad hit me up, he thought I was trying to diss him, like, “Yo, you should take that down.” But I wasn’t. I was like, nah. People need to know that he’s growing.

How did you come across skateboarding?

When I was like five, I went to New York City. I was in Central Park…I had these little shitty ass rollerblades on. I saw this dude and he was stacking up trash cans in a row. Everybody started making a little crowd around him. This dude had six trash cans in a row, and he had a skateboard. He jumped off his board, over the six trash cans and lands on another board, and ever since then, I was just blown away. I’ve had a skateboard ever since. I never knew his name, I never knew who he was, but he had this old school board, he was so sick.

Were you pretty much seasoned at Pulaski? Is that where you grew up skating?

After I started skating, I moved to another part of Virginia and that’s where I met my buddy Brad. He would drive me into D.C. and pretty much pick me up everyday. We’d go skate, film some shit, then he’d drop me off. It’s crazy actually, the second time I ever went to Pulaski was actually Pepe Martinez’s — not funeral — but his goodbye. His family was there, a bunch of people flew out, the park police actually let us skate there for like thirty minutes, just in the memory of Pepe Martinez. But yeah Pulaski, I grew up skating there forever and I still skate there to this day.

Buy Spirit Quest on DVD here, or buy/rent digitally here.

Did you have any sort of vision for Spirit Quest or did that just come together organically?

Nah. Basically, Colin and I found out that we worked like a block away from each other. After work he’d be like, let’s skate. We would link up, and we kept doing it. It wasn’t a planned out thing. He wouldn’t tell me anything about his video until like 90% of it was done. I would come over to his house and try to go upstairs to see where he was, and he’d be in his room editing. He’d hear me walk up the stairs and just slam his laptop. He wouldn’t let me even listen to the soundtrack. I gave him three of my mom’s songs that she recorded in the seventies. I was like can I at least know which song you chose? He told me “nah man.”

You skate to your mom?

Yeah, my mom used to be a singer. She had all these songs, so I thought I’d skate to her.

You work with your mom, right?

Yeah, my mom makes tea and stuff. She makes this old, Korean, very traditional style health drink. She got a recipe from my grandma. It’s been a family business and she’s been doing this forever, so when I’m back at home, that’s pretty much my job, helping her with that.

She was born in Korea?

Yeah, she came here when she was 30-something. She went to Chicago first and did every single odd job you can think of. She worked at a piano store and sold pianos, she used to go to bars and sing for a little bit. She told me that she used to work at one of those small little kiosks on the street, like one of those stands where they sell hot dogs, cigarettes, Coca-Colas and shit. She was doing that in D.C., and she was straight from Korea so if you didn’t speak proper English, she wouldn’t really understand what you were saying to her. She’d have these dudes coming up to her like, “lemme get a Marlboro.” She’s like “what?” “A Marlboro.” She remembers dudes getting really pissed off at her because she couldn’t understand what they were talking about.

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Can I listen to her music?

No, because it’s all recorded in Korea. None of it is online. She wanted me to put it online, and I told her I’d do it for her, but I haven’t gotten to transfer the record to an MP3 file.

Was she popping in Korea?

Supposedly. She lived pretty comfortably.

What’s coming up in the future for you as far as Stingwater and otherwise? What would you like to see, accomplish…

I would like to establish the United Planet of Stingland for Real Human Beings Getting Ready to Evolve. I want to establish this organization that will help build and maintain these meditation centers all around the world. Anyone, all people, can just come to this place and meditate, relax, chill, do whatever it is they need to do to escape the crazy world that they’re in. That’s my mission, for real.

That’s ambitious.

Yeah, I know. It is a little out there, but, fuck it.

Running water never goes stale.

Hell yeah man.

Follow Daniel on Instagram via @vertgod.

8 Comments

Comment by art hellman
  • this interview changed my life.

    January 4, 2017 @ 2:20 pm
  • Comment by im gro3ing
  • thank uu :)
    keep groeing

    January 4, 2017 @ 3:09 pm
  • Comment by word
  • very good vibes coming from the vert god… thank u

    January 4, 2017 @ 4:32 pm
  • Comment by groewth mode activated
  • one of my fav skaters for sure

    January 4, 2017 @ 6:39 pm
  • Comment by what does it do?
  • it stings the face

    January 4, 2017 @ 7:32 pm
  • Comment by mike carroll
  • i like the qs soty more the the thrasher soty

    January 5, 2017 @ 4:24 am
  • Comment by 90's tourist trap
  • so random for me at least since im from the west coast, but my uncle went on business all the time to NYC in the mid to late 90’s. Was going through some old photos and found that exact trash can scenario going on. uncle took a few photos but I couldnt get a good shot at who it was skating. was there a known guy back then huslting, or was this just a spot? anyone know? care?

    signed – bored enough to ask.

    January 5, 2017 @ 5:41 pm
  • Comment by George Stenhouse
  • Stingland is the future

    January 10, 2017 @ 4:00 pm
  • Leave a comment