An Interview With Ross Norman

November 30th, 2017 | 7:23 am | Features & Interviews | 6 Comments

Photo by Corey Rosson

Words & Interview by Frozen in Carbonite

The American archetype of The Cowboy as a metaphor for an “outlaw” lifestyle is around 150 years old. The New Jersey classic, “Wanted Dead or Alive,” which just flat out states “I’m a cowboy” is probably the least subtle example of this. Ross Norman’s 2008 Last of the Mohicans part, on the other hand, is more cerebral. The juxtoposition of the Highwaymen classic “Silver Stallion,” and Norman’s technical-yet-relatable #lowimpact skating stood out in a sea of women’s jeans and Modest Mouse edits.

Through the sands of time, the Mohicans part developed a cult following — devotees including Hjalte Halberg, who stated on the record that he stole all his tricks from Norman. Recently, the dude made a comeback of sorts, going pro for The Vacation and branding himself as a North American plaza specialist, an almost impossible job description. Indeed, based on the current state of North American plaza skating, one could even call him a desperado or some shit.

So we caught up with one of your favorite skater’s favorite skaters to, A) get into what he’s been up to for the past decade, and B) shed some light on one of America’s last standing organic plaza spots.

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Where are you from, and how did you get into skating?

I was born in Torrance and then moved to the Santa Ynez Valley, which is near Santa Barbara, CA. That was when the Powell SkateZone was open. I started going there in 1992 when I was twelve years old, and saw some contests that got me stoked on skating. Kinda started from there, and skating street after that place closed.

How did you link up with Joe Perrin and all those Florida guys?

I skated for Status Skateboards back in the early 2000s, and Mike Rosa was on the team. He’s from Orlando and skated for Westside, so he knew John Buchanan, Dowd, Renaud, all those dudes. I met Rosa on the first Status tour — it was a two-month tour that Van Styles talked about in that Nine Club interview. We went through Florida, so I met Renaud and Nix when they were like fourteen or fifteen — like, tiny little kids. And Josh Dowd skated for DNA, which was the sister company to Status. Dowd moved to Hollywood, Rosa and 80s Joe were staying at his place, and I’d always go and stay with them. Rosa and 80s got their own apartment, and I basically lived on their couch for years.

Who was most influential on your skating coming up in Santa Barbara?

The Church of Skatan guys were the local rippers. Dylan Gardner was kinda like the hometown hero dude. He skated for Neighborhood and was in magazines. He was super sick in the mid-to-late 90s before he got all hesh. I learned nollie flip nose slides just because he did them. But I grew up on 20 Shot, Trilogy, early 411s — all the classic mid-90s videos. L.A. was really close, so I Iooked to that kind of skating as being influential. Gino, Pupecki, Pepe, Welsh… those dudes were and will always be my favorites.

Same. Total World kid.

When I grew up skating, all we would skate was this basketball court with metal picnic tables and I’d pretend it was Lockwood, you know?

How did you become a part of Joe Perrin’s Last of the Mohicans?

I guess I never really met Joe until the mid-2000s when he came out to Hollywood. I guess in 2006 or ‘07, whenever they decided to make Last of the Mohicans and they were hitting people up to do parts — Dowd just called me and said “Hey we’re making this video; we want you to have a part.”

What was the filming process like?

Extremely casual. There was way more partying and drinking involved than actually trying to film a video part. It all just came together organically; I wasn’t like “I want to, like, do this or that.” Maybe it kinda happened like that towards the end, but a lot of it was just whatever I got on whatever day. I’d go months without filming anything.

The song you skate to in Mohicans is iconic as fuck. How did that song choice come about? Do you still fuck with country?

Yes, I absolutely still fuck with country. I probably listen to country music 90% of the time — country and reggae. I was jammin’ that song a lot at the time. I actually had another song in mind to skate to, but I was putting the footage together with my friend Ryan one night, and we tried it with “Silver Stallion” and we were like, “We have to use this song.” People always comment on the song more than the actual skating; it’s pretty funny.

What brought you to Nashville?

Me and my now-wife were living in L.A., and we were just tired of it. She has some family there, and I have a half-brother that lives there. I knew there were a couple spots, and I didn’t have anything else going on, so we said “screw it.” We packed it up, drove cross-country, and went for it. We lived there from 2009 to 2013.

What’s the bust factor like on a regular day at Legislative?

Like any skate spot, it’s cyclical throughout the years. When I first got there in 2009, you could pretty much skate there on Sundays and in the evenings if you played your cards right. You can’t skate there during the weekdays because there’s people working and the museum is open. You can’t skate there Saturdays because the museum is open. It was pretty much hit or miss on Sundays. You could skate there when that whole “Occupy” movement happened and there were people camping out everywhere. The cops went in and tried to kick them all out; there were some assaults or whatever. So there was a period where the state troopers weren’t allowed to go in there and fuck with anyone due to legal issues. At that point, there were people living there for months and you could skate there all the time; it was a free-for-all. When people got burnt on the whole “Occupy” thing, it kinda went back to being a bust.

Now, I went there three times over this past summer, and they’ve installed cameras, so it’s pretty much impossible to get any decent amount of time there now. It’s a pretty quick bust nowadays.

Why do you think more skaters didn’t migrate to Nashville to skate it?

It’s such a fringe kind of spot, you know? When I moved there, I knew that it was there, but I had no idea how incredibly good it is. It’s in Tennessee, so it’s not a big skate destination. The other weird thing is that, when I was living there, I’d see teams roll through on tour and they’d skate right past the ledges and the manual [pads] and that whole area to go skate the rail into the bank. Then they’d leave. I was like “these dudes are fuckin’ tripping. Do you see this spot right here?” It blew my mind. I’m not saying everyone did that, but I saw it a few times and I was just floored, like “Seriously? You’re not gonna skate this?”

It’s not Pulaski, it’s not Love, and it never had that much exposure. Even some of the local skaters would treat it like another spot — hit it and move on. But I’d always go there and be like “I’m staying here all day ‘cause this place is amazing.” That’s why I tried to skate it as much as I could. All that footage is from 2010 to 2012 and Nashville has changed a lot since then.

Who are some lowkey Nashville or Legislative rippers that people might not know about?

Quel Haddox lived there before he moved to California and got on DGK. We used to skate Legislative together all the time. That kid’s amazing. He 360 flipped over the rail into the bank, and that’s fucking ridiculous. Bobby Newell and Terence Williams are the two local rippers nowadays.

Along those lines, whose footage do you check for these days — on the internet or physical media?

I’m not on Instagram, so I don’t keep up with what everyone is posting, but I do check friends’ stuff, certain skaters and brands. I search out old stuff more than new skaters. Like, I’ll check Richard Angelides’ Instagram, and if he’s skating flat or something, it gets me stoked. I’m a big fan of Memory Screened and Manolos Tapes. The Bob Shirt interviews get me more hyped than anything.

Tell a little bit about your sponsorship history between Mohicans and getting on The Vacation.

I skated for Status from ‘99 until 2004 or something like that, and then I got Kayo flow for a little while. Then my buddy Kimathi started a little brand called Civilized; me and Aaron Snyder were the pros. He gave me a couple of pro models, and that’s what I was skating the whole time during the Legislative stuff. Then we just kinda lost contact after I moved up to Pittsburgh.

Then, I guess it was in Nashville when Steve Durante and Andew Petillo came down and stayed with me to go skate Legislative. That’s how I kinda got introduced to Damon Vorce [runs Politic, The Vacation, etc.] because Steve skates for Politic. Damon sent me a box and he was like “any time you want Politic stuff, hit me up.” So he was flowing me stuff for years, but I never really asked to be on the team because I wasn’t really into skating at the time.

Then earlier this year, I had been skating and filming a lot. I was getting really hyped again and getting some stuff on Politic’s Instagram. I was like “I’m just gonna ask him if I can be on the team or whatever.” Damon was like “Yeah sure, I would have asked you years ago; I just thought you didn’t care.” Then Spivey quit, which opened up a spot on The Vacation. I think the brand is super sick, and I’m grateful to be part of it.

Photo by Richie Zuczek

What other jobs, hobbies, or side hustles do you have besides skating?

Nothing. I’m a stay-at-home dad. I have two kids under the age of two, so I’m just full-time baby life. Trying to find a couple hours to skate every month is my hobby.

There are four currently active plazas in the US: Eggs, Municipal, Legislative, and Pulaski. Tell a little about the pros and cons of each one, based on your experience skating there.

I’ve never been to Eggs, but it looks really fun. I never really skated Municipal; I rolled through it, but I never spent hours skating there. It looks fun too, and it seems like you can skate there all the time.

It’s fun just to hang out at Pulaski, because of all the history, but it’s hard to skate. It looks really fun on footage, but doing stuff there is a whole ‘nother story. The ledges are kinda big and don’t grind well, but you can pretty much skate there all the time — at least in the last few years.

Legislative is just perfect — polished marble ground, the ledges are the perfect height, there’s manuals, it’s shady. There’s gap to manuals, into the bank, small stairs — there’s just everything there. But it’s hit or miss…more miss than hit nowadays.

What’s the scene like in Nashville in general — not just Legislative or skating, but partying and shit like that.

The skate scene is really small there, or it was when I lived there. I lived there for about four years, I was never really in it; I worked full-time and I lived with my wife. I’d pretty much just go skate Legislative, skate downtown, then go out to the bars by my house with my wife. When I was there, there wasn’t even a real filmer. I’d just go [to Legislative] with my camera and whoever I thought could film. It’d be like: “here, follow me around.”

But now, there is. My buddy Corey, who filmed a lot of that [Legislative] stuff is the main filmer there and doing his own videos. Check out nolonashville.com.

But Nashville is a fun town. It’s a really fun place to party if you don’t mind the country vibe. When I lived there, it was kind of a sleepy little city but it’s grown like crazy in the past five years. So many people are moving there, there’s construction everywhere, traffic has gotten really bad, real estate prices exploded.

Beer of choice?

Heineken.

Any thanks, shout-outs or plugs?

Thanks to Damon and Matt Creasy at the Vacation, my wife and family, and all my friends old and new.

6 Comments

Comment by Scooby Snackman
  • No mention of Western Edition? Maybe I’m tripping but I’m sure he rode for them. LOTM is the best video from when I was a kid, and he had the ill part. Vest game ridiculous, plus the bangin back heels

    November 30, 2017 @ 8:40 am
  • Comment by Lil Frontside
  • Just peeped that Nolonashville link. Fucking sick.

    November 30, 2017 @ 1:05 pm
  • Comment by Pete M
  • Ross has always been the best! Here is his part from the Status video
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uCdZ-bzNifs

    November 30, 2017 @ 3:02 pm
  • Comment by psyched floridian
  • Epic post. Huge fan of his since LOTM. The fact that Hjalte has seen that part makes him ever sicker, if that is even possible.

    December 1, 2017 @ 12:31 am
  • Comment by ND
  • one of the best plazas in america is in seattle called red square

    kids there don’t even know

    December 2, 2017 @ 4:24 am
  • Comment by T.A.
  • ^^ Ey, Scooby, are you thinking of Brad Johnson?

    Norman is great – too slept on, but glad he’s getting a little shine nowadays.

    December 2, 2017 @ 8:46 pm
  • Leave a comment