In an attempt to avoid the seemingly popular "I'll snarkily rant about a new skate video ad nauseum on my blog" thing that's been all the rage lately... I'll just say that Marisa ripped and Garrett Hill has come a long way. Can't wait to see his part again. Oh... and here's a warehouse video part worth noting before you see Strange World...
New Jack: Jake Johnson
Words: Rob Brink The Skateboard Mag, December 2009
Admit it. You like Animal Collective now. Why? ‘Cuz Jake Johnson’s part in Mind Field is amazing. Jake is to Animal Collective what Duffy is to Primus... what Mariano is to the Jackson Five… and so on. It’s the stuff legends (or future legends) are made of.
Don’t worry. You aren’t the only person who wasn’t into the band before the video came out. Millions of others listen to it now while they skate and get just as stoked as you... wishing they could be cruising around NYC on a skateboard. Jake actually needs no introduction, so enough of this… let’s just get on to knowing the kid behind the most breakthrough video part of the 2009.
So you were just in Rotterdam for the am contest?
Yeah, my first contest. It was pretty nerve racking. It’s funny… there are European doubles of American skaters and they look just the same… like the European Lutzka.
Is there a Euro Cole?
Not yet. European Jamie Thomas needs to get a hold of one of those kids and then there’d be a good European Chris Cole. But there’s some gnarly dudes for sure. It was pretty wild.
What’s changed for you, post-Mind Field? Do people recognize you more or expect more from your skating?
The most strenuous part was probably before Mind Field and getting on Workshop. It’s been strange having that much exposure around the world. But more so, it’s just made better opportunities for me.
So you’re into the all travel?
I’m getting better at it. I broke down on a couple of trips. But that’s what I mean about things being more intense before the video. I just had no idea what to expect.
Maybe its better that you started your career with the pressure of Mind Field… the hardest might be behind you already.
Yeah, but any filming is stressful in it’s own way.
Are you working on a Gravis video now?
Yeah, Greg Hunt is doing a video with Gravis. I’ve been pretty psyched.
Alien has a deep history, but Gravis is newer and you can help mold it. Is it exciting to be part of something new that you can contribute to?
That’s the reason I wanted to ride for them. I’ve looked up to Arto my whole life. To have an opportunity to start something new with him and Dylan is pretty cool. Making shoes is something I’ve always wanted to do. My feet are beat up from all these vulcanized shoes. I’ve got plantar fasciitis… liquid buildup in my fascia between the skin and the tendon that stretches across your foot. It’s like gnarly heel bruises that come and go as they please depending on how many stairs I’m jumping down. I have to massage them out and shit. I’m just trying to eat right and make sure I’m supporting my feet and shit… wearing good cupsoles again.
Tim O’Connor said of you: “Jake’s shoes are choked out. He ties his laces so tight but I’m backing it for ankle support”
I didn’t know he was taking notice. But I’ve needed the ankle support since my ankle got sprained.
He notices everything. Have you ever skated Dylan’s shoe? That thing’s gotten so much attention and hate.
I tried them on and they were really comfortable. I didn't skate them though. Light as a feather and you can impossible ten feet high. Goddamn… Dylan can fucking skate good in those things.
Did you move to New York for the skating opportunity or to escape your hometown?
It was a combination of the two. I got accepted to Penn State in my junior year of high school. But that was the year that I met Greg Chapman and reunited with some of my old friends in New York. I ended up filming some footage and Greg saw it, wanted to get me boards and was willing to pay my health insurance if I moved to New York to work on their video. So obviously I was psyched. I got school to hook me up with some online classes my senior year. So I finished that up, got my diploma and moved to New York.
Who from Alien found you and helped get you on?
Jason Dill introduced himself to me, introduced me to Chad [Alien team manager] and got me started. But Joe Castrucci sent me my first box because Tim told him about me. Thanks Tim. Thanks Jason.
How do you view the education you’ve gotten in the world you’re in now versus what you would’ve learned at Penn State?
No matter what situation you’re in you can choose to learn, be involved and take what you can from it. But for me the most important thing is being passionate about what you do so you don’t take anything for granted and are thankful. If I was at school I would’ve learned differently, but traveling the world and being able to organize yourself and your time and meeting people… it’s something you can’t compare a college education to. I feel like it helps you see so much more of what’s actually going on.
Anyone can sit through a college program and learn the same information, but not everyone is gonna learn what you know.
No way. The best choice I ever made was deciding to live in New York. I’m so fucking thankful.
Tim told me about some circuit board you play with.
Radio Shack has this circuit board electronic learning kit and I thought it was kind of cool. It teaches you basic electronics. I read a few of the lessons and pretty much haven’t touched it since. I guess that’s one thing I’m not doing ‘cuz I’m not in school… sitting down with a book and learning. But you can make a button light up or you can make numbers appear. It’s funny because Andy Henry [Nike SB team manager] was at my apartment and saw it and starts rifling off all this stuff. I guess he went to school for electronics.
He just busted some moves.
He schooled me on the circuit board. I was psyched.
I heard you eat really fast.
Yeah, I can eat a lot. I fully recognized that when I was in Amsterdam and went to this falafel place three times in a row and got three monster falafels. I’ve really never had a falafel that I was down for, but for some reason these got me psyched. I’m not a pig though.
When I was your age I would eat a whole pizza. Now I can only eat two or three slices.
Eating a lot is tight. You get to shit a lot too. Everybody loves that.
Shitting is always fun. It’s a sport.
It’s interesting studying something that comes out of your body.
What’s something that bothers you about the skateboarding industry?
People are taking skateboarding so seriously because too much money is involved. It’s become about what we can produce, how fast and how many people can see it. People don’t take as much time to just enjoy it. It’s not that people aren’t enjoying skateboarding; it’s just that because of the Internet, the speed of things is so gnarly.
I think people are over-thinking and over-analyzing skateboarding lately. It’s not biology or some shit.
Exactly, it’s becoming more formulated. Everything just seems so planned and you can tell that you’re being sold skateboarding from so many directions.
I was told to ask you about Matt Reason and Lenny Kirk.
I’m gonna find those guys one day. They’re legendary. If I could be around in any era, I’d be skating around in Philly with those guys. I don’t know either of them personally but I look up to them.
Do you think you’d be able to hang with the huge setups they were riding back then? 60 mms and prototype boards that were 34 or 35 inches?
I think I’d be down. I ride a pretty long board. Have you ever skated a board that was uncut?
No, but when I was young my dad would buy me uncut boards for Christmas we would trace pro shapes that we liked and go cut ‘em out in wood shop.
Where did you get those from?
Shops used to sell them. We’re talking 1990. So you actually skated an uncut board? It seems so dangerous. The shiners would suck.
Yeah. Last month in DC this kid had one. No grip on it and he was doing switch tres.
We were playing games of S.K.A.T.E. in front of the White House with Billy Rohan announcing. The dude who was skating the uncut board was killing it. I think he won the game of S.K.A.T.E. he was in. It was a weird little event that Billy planned for some government thing. We got permits and there were cops escorting us. It was for skateboard awareness in Washington or something.
Billy Rohan is a skate activist. Building spots and shit.
A skactivist for sure. He’s doing a great job. I’m definitely enjoying the bounty. Been skating at 12th and A all summer for sure. I’ve probably said “for sure” a hundred thousand times during this interview.
Nah, but I usually edit out that kind of stuff out.
Yeah, we talked as long as a high school couple… like, two hours.
Damn, I forgot about those phone calls.
Yeah, those were kind of the worst.
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.’”
This was supposed to be for etnies.com but then etnies and Fletcher broke up. Also found some old sequences and threw 'em in here. Enjoy.
Fletcher! How you doin’, man?
Watchin’ Cops. What are you doing?
I’m just sitting in the office hoping you were gonna call back.
[Laughs] Yeah. I’m not calling you back.
So can you talk a half hour?
It’s gonna take a half an hour? Damn… do I hafta do it tonight?
Yes. I’d hate to interrupt your Cops.
[Laughs) It’s cool.
When you’re not skating in Cedar Rapids, Iowa what do people do for fun?
Shit… party. Go to movies.
Are there cities there or is it a lot of farms and shit?
There’s not a lot of farms. It’s not really how you picture it. There’s cities and shit… just a bunch of little towns. And there’s farms in some places but that’s not unless you go out far in the country.
Are people weird? Like, hillbillies? Or are they pretty cool?
Nah. You meet a lot of cool people out there but some of are just like, pretty stoops.
What do you like best about being in Cali?
The weather, hot chicks, food, Jamba Juice.
When you’re out here, what do you miss most about home?
Probably friends and family and shit.
Do you keep in touch with a lot of friends out there?
Yeah. Talk to them about once a week, usually.
2007. KF 50-50 to fakie 50-50 to 180. Total innovation.
Is there anything about Cali you don’t like?
Rich white people. There’s not really too much to hate. I mean, cops. Probably the cops.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?
[Laughs] Uh. I don’t remember. Probably tried to quit smoking or something stupid. I don’t know. I don’t really think I did. I never really make any.
It kinda seems like you don’t give a shit when you’re skating. You look like you’re not even trying. I don’t know what kind of question that even is, but like… you just always look like you don’t give a shit…
I don’t, really [laughs].
Do you think skaters talk too much shit on one another?
Oh yeah. For sure. It’s funny. I don’t wanna make any examples, but… Toy Machine dudes! Haha. We talk shit a lot.
It seems like, no matter where you are, you end up in a situation where everyone’s talking shit…
Yeah I just laugh at that shit…
So how did the thing with Flip end? You were on there for like two or three years?
Yeah. I don’t know. I guess they were saying I didn’t have enough footage… or good enough footage. I don’t really know.
They thought you weren’t working hard enough?
I’m a slacker.
So you know you’re a slacker? You know you’re lazy?
Does it feel weird going a long time without a board sponsor like this? Are you ever nervous?
It’s pretty tight actually. You get to ride a bunch of tight boards… different ones.
So, who are you livin’ with now? John?
Bradford, yeah, for right now. I’m gonna try to get a place or something.
More innovation! KF BS nosegrind to backside 180 up top! I hope you realize this is a joke, by the way.
Do you have and funny stories from living with Johnny Layton?
Shit, which one can I use? So many… I don’t really know like what I can put…
Is he a chill dude to live with or is he hyper?
He’s not hyper; he’s just crazy. He’s cool though. I don’t know. I don’t have any stories really… I mean, I do, but…
Okay forget it. What was the last book you read?
Oh. Man… Fuck knows. I don’t know. I have no idea. I can honestly say I have no idea.
What’s your favorite TV show? South Park, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Family Guy.
What’s your favorite place to eat?
I don’t know.
Is that a hard question?
Yeah, mental block. I don’t know… Chuck E. Cheese? Is that allowed?
Really? How do you feel about green tea and cheese and fruit platters?
I could be down with that [laughs]. Cheese. Random question…
No because that one day we were skating and I showed up with the cheese platter and some nuts. And you guys all made fun of me. So I was just wondering… thought you’d call me a fag or something.
No… you fag. [Laughs].
Mariano, Rick Howard, Mike Carroll.
If you could skate like anyone else for a day, who would it be?
Probably Daewon. Daewon would be tight.
Daewon on mini ramp or Daewon tech?
Mannys… Fakie manuals.
KF BS nosegrind to eat shit.
What’s a trick like that you fuckin’ suck at?
Regular varial heels? I could get you on that in S.K.A.T.E. That’s like my old reliable.
I can’t get those, man. Suck at it. Looks sketch.
What goes through your head when you’re dropping in for your Tampa Am run?
Fuck this shit, I’m out after this. [Laughs]. Nah, I don’t know.
Nah, that’s the best answer ever.
Probably “Damn it!” Probably “Fuck!” Actually, just “DAMN IT!”
You know you got 59th place, right?
That was only on your day though. So I guess when you combine the two days and all the skaters it makes it lower. Do you know what you’re actual place is?
In the hundreds probably.
I think that kid Jimmy Marchand, on the crutches, got higher than you.
Good. He deserves it.
I actually have an interview with him I’m gonna put on the site.
He’s tight. That dude is tight. I was looking for weed down there and he was looking too. He was having withdrawals.
He’s definitely sick.
Where’s he from?
Rhode Island. That was his first contest.
That’s crazy. He’s super tight.
Tell us about your beanies. Do you collect beanies? You have lots of beanies…
Um, I try to. I don’t now, but, one day, hopefully I’ll have an entire rack full of limited edition beanies.
Are you a fan of the pom pon ones? Are those better than the regular ones?
Yeah. Oh yeah. Gotta have a ball. Gotta have one of these guys. [Shows off his new Snoopy pom pon beanie]
I’m so down with Snoopy. Is the Snoopy one your newest one?
Down with Snoopy.
What’s your favorite beanie?
The Steve Zissou one.
Oh from Life Aquatic?
Yeah, the red one.
How come you barely wear them on your head? How do they even stay on?
Because that’s how it is. That’s how it just goes. I don’t know.
Have you ever had any really weird, lame sponsors?
Well, Ollie Pop gum… nah. [Laughs].
Are your parents cool with you being out here and not being in school and shit?
As long as I’m doing something you know, they support me.
What’s the best place you ever went on tour?
What do you hate most about skateboarding? Besides this interview?
You meet a lot of stupid people, but definitely the rumors. I’ve had somebody think I was like Danny Cerezini at a Flip thing
Really? Have you ever been mistaken for any other skaters or just Danny?
It sucked. Hell yeah. In France.
Was it girls?
Some French dudes. And they were following me.
Were they all psyched?
I was doing this signing and I didn’t really wanna do it, so I kinda skated away. This crowd of people was following me. I was like, “What the fuck are these people doing?” They come up to me and were like, “Are you Ryan Sheckler?” I was like, “No.” They got my autograph anyways and just left.
Were they bummed you weren’t him? They got your autograph anyway?
It was weird. Yeah, all bummed. They were like, “Is he coming?” I’m like, “I don’t fuckin’ know.”
Nollie nosegrind. Backside. And long.
Anything else you wanna say? Once your mouth’s not full of food?
Is that it?
Yeah that’s it, man. Not too bad, huh?
Didn’t even take a half an hour. You were like “It’s gonna take a half an hour.”
I thought it would. It was 17 minutes. You got lucky.