Milestone: Sierra Fellers
Words: Rob Brink
The Skateboard Mag, December 2009
It may sound boring to some of you jaded and cynical folk out there… but Sierra Fellers is happy. You know why? Because he’s living a life of skateboarding; he’s pro for a company he loves that supports him; he just got married; he’s got great friends and family; and he’s completely comfortable with himself being a dork in the skateboarding industry.
Sounds simple enough, right? Just peachy. Except you’d be amazed by the amount of people in skateboarding, or the world for that matter, who aren’t nearly as happy, appreciative or have the piece of mind that Sierra possesses at only 22 years old... despite the fact that he’s had a few setbacks. Setbacks that might have caused any lesser-willed man to go running back home to Montana with their tail tucked between their legs. Wanna know what really happened and how he’s achieved and maintained this skate-nirvana-esque mind state? Well, the story goes like this:
Most of the skate community came to know Sierra when he, kind of out of nowhere, won Tampa Am Street and Best Trick in 2004. Although he was already getting flowed boards from Jamie Thomas at the time, shortly after, Sierra’s first Mystery ad came out, he was officially on the team and he’d secured himself a spot on the Circa roster as well.
Pretty dreamy huh? Indeed. Until you consider the fact that about a year later, Sierra was kicked off Mystery and nearly canned from Circa in one fell swoop.
“Sierra never really got along with the Mystery crew very well,” says Jamie Thomas. “But he was really motivated and had a lot of potential, so we tried to make it work. Shortly after he got on, he started spending a lot of time in Montana and Canada. When we went to put together the Mystery section for New Blood, the footage we had of him wasn't up to his potential. Since no one on the team had gotten any closer to him in the time he was on, everyone agreed that it just wasn't working.”
“Yeah, that was a weird one,” says Sierra. “I was young and I’m from Montana, which is a completely different place. I didn’t really know how to relate to them all I guess. I just wanted to skate and have fun. I was a nerdy little skate kid. I didn’t really make an effort to hang out with them and I didn’t know how to gauge hanging out with people in general at the time. I was like a home-schooled skate nerd.”
According to Sierra, he really had no clue the team wasn’t into him, as none of them ever made mention or told him about it. When the time came to cut the cord, it was Jamie who did the deed.
“It was seriously a week after my second ad came out for Mystery. And he was like, ‘Yeah, the guys aren’t really feeling like you mesh and that first ad was actually an accident. It wasn’t supposed to come out yet.’ And in my head I was like, ‘Okay that’s weird. But if you’re in control of a company how can you have an ad come out as an accident?’ I was really confused. I was like, ‘Sick. This is how the industry is. All of a sudden it’s an accident that I was even on.’ The way Jamie talked to me, it was almost like a girlfriend breaking up with me. It was like, ‘Seriously, you’re doing everything right. You’re ripping. You’re getting footy and photos and you’re killing it, but we’re not feeling it.’ Kinda like, ‘It’s not you, it’s us.’ It worked out better in the end though because all the footy I had went to my Circa part.”
But Mystery weren’t the only ones who didn’t feel Sierra was meshing with the team at the time. Turns out Circa shared the sentiment.
“Everyone was kind of over me in the exact same way. Because I never really made an effort to hang out with anyone,” says Sierra. “I didn’t care a lot about relationships and stuff like that. I was just trying to skate. Circa was going to kick me off too, but Ryan Reese [then Circa team manager] wanted to give me one last chance. So he sat down with me and talked to me about how it all worked. After that, Circa became like a family. I’m closer with them than I am with my aunts and uncles and stuff. I was so psyched to have more relationships with people and hang out. I had a way better time too.”
In late 2006, Sierra got a phone call from then-Foundation team manager, Josh Beagle, asking if he’d like to be part of the team.
“He was like, ‘Hey, do you wanna ride for us?’” Says Sierra. “And I was like, ‘I dunno, are you guys cool? Honestly, I don’t know anybody on the team but I’m down to try.’
“At first I thought of Duffel and Gareth, and I was like, ‘I don’t think I really fit in if that’s what they’re looking for. I’m just a random white kid who skates.’”
And with that new, fresh opportunity bestowed upon him, Sierra, the random home-schooled skate nerd white kid who skates, had a chance to learn from his past mistakes and experiences and move upward in skateboarding.
And by July of 2007, his first Foundation pro model was released.
“I’ve been treated so good at Foundation. Foundation seriously hooks it up better than I could even imagine. When I first got on as an am, they sent me 20 boards with all different shapes just to try out, and I wasn’t even fully on yet. They still listen to me and I have creative input there.”
Despite taking a while to find a home and having some trouble “fitting in” during the early Mystery and Circa days, Sierra never felt insecure. He never felt obligated to conform or be something he’s not. He’s comfortable being flair-free and letting his skating carry him where it will. And if you’ve ever seen Sierra catch a switch heel, you know his style can be really easy on the eyes… subtle yet unique.
“I feel like I fit in skateboarding just because of the fact that I skateboard,” says Sierra. “If you love it, it doesn’t matter if you’re just wearing a white T-shirt and jeans like I do every day. Like, if you wear crazy bracelets and dye your hair and wear tight jeans… we’re all still skateboarders. In my experience it’s about talent and style. If people like to watch you skate, then that’s what kids are gonna be psyched on. Not cause you punched the security guard out.
“Honestly I’d just rather skate and try and be the next whoever. If I tried to dress differently, I’d feel like some kind of gimmick just trying to get attention, you know? Us pro skateboarders are just the biggest dorks who people think are cool. People think I’m cool and I’m such a dork. Like I’m as dorky as they come.”
“Sierra is a great compliment to the mix on the Foundation team,” says Foundation founder/owner, Tod Swank. “I look forward to seeing him get crazier and crazier on his board and enjoying skateboarding and travelling the world while doing so.”
“I'm psyched he found his groove and has grown into his own,” says Jamie Thomas. “He's a good dude and he rips, so it's good to see him doing well.”
“Sierra brings stability to a company that has seen tons changes throughout the years,” says ex-Foundation team manager, Eric Wall. “He brings a personality that attracts other skaters, kids, fans, etc. to Foundation. He’s a great building block to any company. He's a positive professional skateboard role model without having to be labeled as one. He appreciates everything he's been given and tries his hardest to give back to the skateboard community. He understands the responsibilities of doing autograph signings and skateboard demos and showing kids that show up the respect they deserve. He had an uphill battle from the start of his skateboard career, but pushed through and came up on top. He's a kid with a great head on his shoulders who looks further down the road into the future than most skateboarders do.”
Speaking of role models… over the years, Sierra has constantly been typecast as “religious” due to his upbringing, affiliation with a few organizations and a part in Stephen Baldwin’s Livin’ It video.
“Every interview I do,” says Sierra, “I tell the dude, ‘I’ve had four of these interviews talking about me and religion. I don’t want kids to read it and have it be a monotonous thing.’ Like, ‘So you believe in Jesus? So you’re from Montana? What’s it like growing up there?’
“I honestly hate the term ‘religious.’ ‘Religious’ is just such a pile of shit to me. It’s more about relationships and having a positive impact on people. I’m psyched when people see my skating and get fired up and see my life as a positive message. I back that. There’s so much shit in this world that sucks so bad. I’m just psyched to be alive. The fact that I can skateboard just makes life even better.”
Happier than a pig in shit and a new wife on top of it all. Jealous yet? Or at least happy for him? Sierra requested we keep the marriage talk to a minimum, as he knows, when he was a kid, he preferred to read interviews of skaters that dealt with skateboarding, not the peripherals. He also prefers to keep work and personal life separate, but speaks of married life more positively than most people you know… to the point where you’ll find yourself a bit envious and wishing you’ve found your soul mate too.
“Just knowing that someone has your back no matter what,” says Sierra, “It’s like getting to hang out with your best friend every day. You get to have a teammate in life now. A lot of people talk about marriage like, ‘Oh, she ties me down… the old ball and chain…’ But as far as skating and hanging out, when she’s around I probably skate more. This whole interview… I got all these photos while she was with me.”
Aside from Sierra’s new married life, wife and family inspiring him, so do his true friends and Circa teammates like Windsor James, Tony Tave, Peter Ramondetta and Dennis Durrant.
“When I see them it’s always awesome to be around ‘em,” Sierra says. “We don’t have issues. We don’t fight. We all have the same sense of humor. If I can have a great time and have people that I can rely on and trust and know that they love me and I love them… then that inspires me. As does just knowing I have someone that I can go to if I have an issue or problem in my life, instead of bottling up inside and getting depressed. Lately, too, I’ve honestly been way more psyched to go film stuff because of HD. I’ve been filming with these guys that make the footage look so sick make the colors pop out. I get psyched! Like, ‘Let’s go film a line because it looks so sick!’”
As for the future… well, Sierra’s not too concerned. What person who is as content as he is right now would be? Ask him where he thinks he’ll be in 10 years, apart from most likely still being a pro skater, and he’ll tell you he doesn’t have the slightest idea.
“I honestly wish I could answer that. But I don’t know what’s gonna happen next month, so I don’t even like to worry about what could happen in ten years.”
Should he and his wife decide to have children, one thing Sierra knows for sure is that he’d rather raise the kids back home in Montana.
“Just because that’s what I knew growing up. Me and my friends would ride our bikes everywhere and do whatever we wanted. We’d skate and we had the wildlife and the mountains and stuff to explore. In my experience in southern California, you’re in an apartment. A kid can maybe play on the patio outside. I miss the summertime back in Montana when I was young… not doing anything but playing the whole summer with my friends. Going to the river and floating down it in tubes and fishing and shooting guns. But it’s funny… now that I’m older, I can still do all that stuff I did as a kid… and I don’t have my parents saying ‘No you can do that. It’s too late. You gotta be home.’”