We had a chance to speak with Gino about filming for the new Girl/Chocolate video, music in video parts, 360 shove-its, tennis and some other things.
As an older dude who’s still a pro skater on the east coast, what is an average day for you?
When I’m in Long Island, I wake up at five or six every day. I usually play tennis in the morning with a friend of mine from 7:30 to 9:30. I’ll hang out for a bit after that, but it’s mostly a lot of skateparks in Queens, Manhattan or out on the Island. If I have a clip in mind that I’d like to film, I’ll try to link up with R.B. [Umali]. For the most part, it’s a lot of parks, and trying to keep the legs warm. It’s kinda boring, you know? I’m in early, I go to sleep early, I’m up early.
Do you have any kind of crazy stretching regiment or does the tennis take care of that?
Every time I skate, I have to stretch nowadays. I do go to the gym pretty often because I had a knee injury about a year-and-a-half ago. I just go to ride the bike, do some weights for the legs to put some strength in them. As you get older, they get a bit weaker. That’s another part of the day, usually after tennis.
How does it work when you want to go film something?
I could be aimless for days, but then I’ll come up on a spot or get motivated to do something. I usually hit up R.B. the night before and we wing it from there. When I feel it, I feel it, and try to take advantage of it.
You’re mainly focusing on the Girl and Chocolate video that’s coming out, right?
When it comes to filming, yeah. I’ll do little things here and there. I did a clip for DQM and another one for Nike. But when I come up with tricks that are film-worthy for myself, they’re going to Chocolate for the next video.
Is there a certain level of pressure you feel since you haven’t had a part in a while?
There definitely is. When I used to have the shop, kids would come in and they’d always ask if I was filming for a new video. People would always tell me they want to see a new part. I don’t want to let anyone down, but at the same time, I got to keep it real with myself, and with what I’m capable of doing and how I go about the process of skating as a career. I’m not out there getting clips every day, but hopefully there’s enough time with this video that I’ll be able to put a little part together, and satisfy myself along with people who want to see one.
Has there ever been any pressure from the Chocolate side, like, “You haven’t been getting coverage and you gotta do such-and-such” or is it more of a homie vibe?
It has always been a “It’s on you” vibe with Girl and Chocolate. You do you, and if you’re out there on the right track and things are going well, you’ll have boards out and get your salary. But if you disappear and you’re not really doing your thing, then they won’t hesitate to take boards away or cut pay, but they’ll always be there for you when you come back around. It’s amazing, because they’re not like, “He’s not out there, let’s let him go.” I’ve been through it, and that’s the way it is, which is cool. It’s more of a family vibe than business.
Have you been on any trips with those guys to film for the video?
I just went to Barcelona with them last month for a couple of weeks. That was the first trip I went on with those guys in a long time. The last one was three years ago, down south to Atlanta.
Photo by R.B. Umali via Instagram
Beyond skating and tennis, are there any other hobbies or things that you spend your time on?
To be honest, not really. I’ve always just tried to stay active with sports or skating. I’m not a painter, I’m not a sculptor, I’m not a wood-worker. I just try to stay busy with skating and tennis.
What ended up happening with the shop?
I was at a point in my life where I was going through some shit and I figured I needed something to back myself up with besides skating. The only thing I felt I could do at the time was open up a shop. I did that with a partner, and we had it open for almost two years. It was just a small boutique. It was a cool shop to be at, but as far as producing an income and paying the bills, it just wasn’t worth it, so we decided to pull the plug on it.
To what extent do you follow what’s going in skating nowadays, be it with new skaters, spots, trends, or any of those sort of things?
I have a few sites that I go on. Mainly, I check out Crailtap because those are my friends and I like to see what they’re doing. I’ll surf around a little bit, but I try not to get too wrapped up in what’s going on. For where I’m at with skating, it’s not going to do anything positive for me to see what’s going on. It’s going to be impressive, but it’s not going to be motivating for me to go out and skate. It’s going to be more like I should step away. There’s so much gnarly shit going on, and I’m tied between people telling me that people just want to see me skate, and me telling myself that has never been my motto growing up. It was always about trying to do the things that weren’t done, or something new, so it’s kind of a tightrope of what I should do.
I’ll come across certain things and I won’t even look at them because I know they’re going to be too insane. The sad thing is, there is so much amazing skating you can see, that it just turns into seeing it and letting it go for the next thing. I still have a part of me that believes if you can make skating look good, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what gets people psyched to skate. It’s a hard thing to figure out what’s not cutting it nowadays.
You’ve always kind of been the “Wu-Tang guy.” Since there’s so much impressive skating coming out and quickly being forgotten these days, what role would you say music plays in skateboarding now? I don’t mean necessarily in regards to someone’s “image” or whatever, just in how it makes things more memorable. It sounds nerdy, but if someone who skates hears “Publicity,” they immediately think, “Oh shit, Gino’s part.”
I’ve always thought that music is fifty-percent of the video part. There’ll be the most amazing video parts with the shittiest music, and you won’t even get that hyped to watch it again. It’s never been a big plan with the tracks I’ve used in my past video parts. For instance, the “Publicity” instrumental, at that time I was running GZA and Wu-Tang real hard. We all knew you could not touch those tracks, so it was easy to see they’d go well with skating.
Is there any reason you guys used instrumentals instead of vocal versions with a lot of hip-hop songs back then?
Sometimes I feel like I should’ve used “Publicity” with the lyrics. I guess just on impulse I thought the instrumental would go better. “Motherless Child” from Trilogy was also the instrumental, but there are times when I look back and wish I used the lyrics. It was all impulse.
Skating always has its “safe tricks” that everyone does. In some of your parts, you’ll do something like a tre shove or a fakie varial flip, and then kids will start doing them. Is there ever a conscious effort to try tricks that people don’t normally do?
I’m not that alien to what’s going on in skating. There are certain tricks that I’ll do or someone else will do, and then I’ll notice a lot of other people doing them. A lot of times, you do try to do tricks that you don’t see a lot of. Like with a 360 pop shove it, I know that not a lot people were doing them, and then I just randomly started and they came easy to me. Now I see everyone doing them, which is awesome. I’m not saying I set it off, but it’s a timing thing I guess.
The new Nike commercial with you and John McEnroe just came out. Are you actually big McEnroe fan?
I’m a McEnroe fan, but I’m not going to sit here and say I grew up watching him. He was from an era before I was into watching tennis. I got into it right around the time he was on his way out with retirement. If you like tennis, you have to be a McEnroe fan. Just from seeing highlights and knowing the history of what he’s accomplished. He was before my time, but I know enough about him to where I was legitimately hyped to have him involved with promoting that shoe.
I don’t follow tennis, but I know that dude’s notorious for his temper. I thought it was cool they had him in a skate thing because he threw rackets like we throw boards. Are there any parallels you’ve noticed between tennis and skating?
The one thing is that it’s one-on-one game. It’s just you and your board. You’re battling yourself, trying to get this clip. With tennis, it’s battling the guy on the other side of the net. There is nobody coaching you, it’s just you and your mind trying to stay sane and not stress.
What gets you hyped these days? Any specific music, old videos, new videos, or whatever else to get you motivated to skate?
On the music side of it, I’ll come across older tracks that I’ll know I want to use for a future video part. I have a few in my head right now. As far as skating, like I was saying before, I don’t get too wrapped up in it. It’s hard, because then you can’t feed off of skating.
I guess what motivates me is seeing the guys on Girl and Chocolate out there really pushing themselves. In Barcelona, a lot of the guys from my era were out there killing it and skating hard. That motivates me. Other than that, I don’t really watch old skate videos to get myself motivated anymore. If I feel it, I feel it. There are a lot of days where I’m not feeling it, and just forcing myself to skate so I don’t lose a step. It’s a lot of keeping myself in check. It could go from every day to once a month. It’s not like the old days where I pop in the Tim & Henry video or Questionable and am just like, “Let’s get the fuck out there.” Actually, Hokus Pokus was the most motivating video back in the day. Now it’s just from myself.