(Almost) Everyone Loves Lowry
Words: Robert Brink
SBC, Fall 2011
“This is probably so boring,” says Kevin Lowry, halfway through our interview.
“Well, the Internet likes you and we’re having fun,” I say encouragingly, “so nothing else really matters does it?”
“True I guess, ” he replies.
Prior to our phone call, all I knew about Kevin was that he’s a 23-year-old Calgary resident and a skateboarder. Existing interviews and weeks of reaching out to his friends and teammates produced very little intel, so I resorted to the world’s most reliable source of factual information (insert facetiousness here)—the messageboards.
And they didn’t let me down one bit.
Dozens and dozens of threads with mentions of Kevin and some devoted entirely to him. Oddest of all—no one really talked shit on him. Is that even possible?
When your skateboarding is as relatable as Kevin’s … sure it is.
Cruising the streets and hitting everything along the way, making use of your surroundings, regardless of how crappy or obscure they may be (à la Oyola, Puleo, Barley, Busenitz, Fowler, Gonz and so on) is understandable and attainable for the average skateboarder, who, although most likely respectful of the ability of say, Danny Way, Torey Pudwill, Figgy or Daewon Song, has trouble processing their levels of gnar.
As admirable and impressive as they are, quadruple ledge combos, manual 900s, big five blocks, Mega Ramps and 21-stair rails aren’t on most skaters’ daily agendas.
Kevin Lowry is a normal kid, just like you. He lives in the middle of nowhere, just like you. He works a regular job, just like you. He might never be a big time pro driving a Benz to a private indoor TF in Southern California, just like you. He struggles with simple things, like trying to quit smoking, just like you. He isn’t jumping down El Toro, just like you aren’t. And because he’s just like you, well … that’s exactly why you like him.
“Kevin uses his mind with his skating,” says his friend Russ Milligan. “He's not trying to go to the new ledge in town and brainstorm what trick is left to do on it. He has a good eye for spots, a good trick selection and he skates really fast. That's what makes anything he comes out with so fresh.”
“I like to stay close to the ground,” Kevin says, only half joking. “I’m trying to take after Paul Shier. I still wanna be skating when I’m 36.
“I just always liked skating in back alleys and stuff,” he continues. “I’ve never seen someone backside flip a 14 in Cali—so that never really computed with me. I never really thought I would ever do or try that. Watching Torey Pudwill’s new Big Bang part, for example, doesn’t compute with me because I’d never try a kickflip back tail 360 flip out. I can’t even do frontside bigspins. I can barely switch heel. Fuck it.
“But watching something like Penal Code and realizing, ‘Oh, he 50-50’d the curb … ’ it makes sense to me. It’s not out of my realm. It’s more down-to-earth. You don’t have to go to those spots in the videos to 50-50 the curb; you can just skate like that wherever you want.
“What I find with skating,” Kevin continues, “is that if you just do what feels good it’s usually pretty spot on. There’s no way a fucking front foot flip feels good. You know … where you donkey kick the board? There’s just no way that feels nice, so why would you do it?”
But sometimes a trick feels a little too good. We’ve all been there. A while back Kevin was there too. He went through a pretty intense back smith phase. In fact, he had so many photos back smiths come out, that he performed a self-intervention.
“I banned myself from that trick and now I can barely land one anymore,” Kevin laments.
“I used to skate for éS and my team manager would bug me about it like, ‘Another back smith, eh?’ And I’d be like, ‘Fuck.’
“It’s fucked because I’d go skating with a photographer and they’d always be like, ‘you should back smith it.’ Then other times I’d get coaxed into doing tricks that I didn’t wanna do … not because I don’t like the trick but because I just had a back smith photo three months ago and I need to do something different.”
But no one else seems to be complaining. Hell, 10 years from now, Kevin might be one of those people we can watch back smith all day long. Kinda like a Reynolds frontside flip, a Kalis tre flip or a Malto front crook.
Lowry’s “Internet darling” status primarily consists of anonymous skate rats gushing over his video parts, pronouncing him “Calgary’s best skateboarder” or bitching about the fact that Kevin’s yet to be officially added to the Blueprint roster—many seemingly outraged that Tilt Mode’s Jon Nguyen was granted a slot first. This sort of backing might be flattering for many, the way a young schoolgirl might secretly enjoy seeing two boys fight over her, but not so much for Kevin.
“That is so awkward,” Kevin admits. “It’s like, ‘Man, Jon’s welcome ad and video come out and people are bringing me up in the comments.’
“I’ve never met Jon but Nestor [Judkins] and all those dudes tell me he’s the best and I’m sure he is. But it’s such a ‘fuck you’ to him.
“I’ve been skating for Blueprint for four years. I don’t know how long he’s been on there, maybe a year or something, but the guy’s the fucking best. He’s out there in Cali skating with Shier all the time and he’s fucking way better than me. I’m out of sight, out of mind. I’m some dude in Canadian videos that no one sees. He’s got sick full parts in Tilt Mode. People know who he is and that matters these days. I’m nothing but psyched for him. He’s fucking dope.”
Obviously Kevin’s humble tendencies are part of his charm, but for the people who don’t know him—why this devotion? Where does all the Lowry love come from?
“I’m paying ‘em all off,” Kevin laughs. “I’m giving up blowies.
“No, honestly, I don’t know. When I see my name pop up on the Internet, I cringe. I’m just waiting to read, ‘This guy has a small dick and he’s the biggest asshole and his push sucks and he can’t skate switch and this and this … ’
“Like, who are these Internet bandits? I’ve seen a few cool things on there but most of the shit is retarded. Like, ‘what’s your favorite truck?’ Why do people even post this shit?
“Give it a couple months and I’ll do something wrong,” Kevin foreshadows. “‘Yeah, we can no longer forgive Kevin for that for that fucking neon green t-shirt he’s wearing in line number four.’”
As cliché as it sounds, and as you may have noticed from the aforementioned back smith intervention and the Jon Nguyen incident, Kevin’s definitely his own worst critic and “constantly making mistakes.”
“I’m blowing it a lot,” Kevin admits. “You name it, man. I quit smoking cigarettes for two years and recently went to Portugal and started again. What the hell was I thinking? I quit drinking and smoking weed eight years ago because I was pretty bad when I was young—now I’m completely clean, so I don’t know why I would ever start smoking again.”
“Pretty bad” might be an understatement. Kevin took a liking to marijuana at age eight and began selling it at 10.
“I was drinking, smoking a ton of weed, doing mushrooms and skating all the time. I couldn’t afford boards or anything so I would sell weed to buy boards. But pretty soon I was skating less and less, then got arrested with weed on me a few times.”
Then, at age 15, Kevin got arrested again, for the last time. He had a half-pound of weed and three grand in cash on him when it happened. Because of his prior offenses, the court gave him the option for rehab, jail or a foster home.
“The thing is,” Kevin explains, “my parents never smoked weed, so they had no idea what the hell was going on, other than that they kept finding tons of weed and tons of cash. I was like, ‘Well, I’ll go to rehab because I’ll get there, show everyone that I’m clean, get out, be inconspicuous, still smoke weed and go on with my life.’
“But once I was in rehab I realized that there’s more to life than smoking and selling weed and harming people and my family. So I got sober. Withdrawals were pretty shitty. Not being able to see my family for weeks and not being able to skate was shitty. Being monitored day and night was shitty. I was in there for 10 months and when I got out I was so happy to be clean. Everything in my day was so simple now. I couldn’t even kickflip but I had nothing to do with my time, so that’s when I really started skating.
And at age 16, Kevin moved to Calgary and started skating non-stop.
Fast-forward eight years and Calgary is still home. But is that the most strategic move for a fledgling skateboarding career? Especially when the bulk of the industry is in Southern California and you ride for a British board brand?
“Dude, I have a new part coming out with them online and I don’t know anything about it,” Kevin says, “ I don’t know when it’s coming out, if it’s done … and I know it’s not a personal thing. Shier lives in LA and he’s so busy. But yeah, I would say my biggest fear is just not being present with the Blueprint dudes. I just spent five weeks in England with them, and being there, you feel a lot more a part of everything. If I could be am for Blueprint, get a check, skate and go on trips, I would be ecstatic. I don’t have any other passions in life and I’ve poured a lot into skateboarding. Life’s pretty short, so for me to just throw in the towel and not even try to go further is kind of silly. I’m not out there trying to make a mil. I know Nick [Jensen] and all those Blueprint dudes and they’re not rich. They don’t make that much money off Blueprint or even Lakai. They’re not in it for the money. That’s not why they started skating and I like that. I picture myself working a job come age 35 or whatever anyway. I know that. I’m not stupid.”
Kevin currently works at his local skate shop, The Source. Luckily, they allow him to come and go when he needs to skate and travel with his sponsors, a blessing compared to a past janitorial position he held or hunting for oil in swamps with crackheads …
“The worst job I ever had though,” Kevin explains, “was working at Seismic. It’s a company that finds oil in the ground. You put studs in the ground and carry huge cables through swamps and stuff. Then you shoot electricity into the ground through the cables to find the oil. The money is okay but you live in a tent or a hotel. You never get to leave, you work 12-hour days and all the guys out there are just like, ‘When I get paid, I’m gonna buy so much crack.’ They’re high-class crackheads that work their ass off for two weeks, make two grand and then spend it all on crack.
“There were times I was skating in downtown Calgary and a crackhead would come up to me like, “What’s up? I know you! We work together!”
“And I’m like, ‘Who the fuck … Oh my god, you look so shitty.’”
“I only held that job for a couple weeks until I realized I’m way to weak to carry cables all day. I didn’t have that ‘crack strength.’”
“Kevin is a good kid,” says George Cutright, Adidas team manager. “I’ve only been on one trip with him but he was the most responsible of the whole crew—barely drinking, going to bed at a reasonable hour and killing every spot. He’s got tons of pop.”
So how does a Canadian kid in the prairies of Calgary fall into the arms of a British company like Blueprint anyway?
“I went to London on a skate trip and met Tuukka Korhonen, Nick Jensen and Danny Brady,” says Kevin. “I was like, ‘Damn, these dudes are sick and this company is sick!’
“So I was starting to get halfway decent at skating and my friend was like, ‘Yeah that distributor just got Blueprint. You should try and get on there through them.’
“And I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m good enough to get free boards.’
“He was like, ‘No, seriously, go for it.’ So I did and couple months later I got some boards from the distributor and I just ran with it. It was so fucked up too because I was trying to contact Blueprint to be like, ‘Yo, thank you for the boards’ and stuff like that but the guy at the distributor was like, ‘We don’t have an email address for them ... blah, blah, blah.’
“So I just emailed info@Blueprint.com and was like, ‘Look, what’s up? I just wanna say hello and thanks for the boards.’ And I finally got a reply, which was cool. Then I went to England with a photographer from SBC and we did a Blueprint article for the mag. I stayed in touch with them all, went to Spain a couple times and skated with Chewy Cannon, who rode for them at the time, a lot.
Then Blueprint went out of business. I didn’t know Shier at the time so I didn’t really talk to him or anyone about it, And then one day I got an email from him like, ‘Hey what’s up? We’re still gonna do Blueprint. Would you still be into it?’
“Everyone on the team is so nice. I’m just so psyched that I’m even affiliated with them. Lost and Found has always been my favorite video of all time. I’ve met a lot of pros and I just find that with these dudes, hanging out and skating is so natural. It’s not like you’re in a van and they’re all wearing headphones and stuff—pretending to be friends because they have to be. It is a business at the end of the day but it is real proper and all those guys hang out all the time—not because they can all kickflip really well, but because they’re actually friends. I think that’s real important and I relate to them really well.”
Ironically, despite all the love Kevin gets in skateboardland, many people outside our bubble who cross paths with him don’t immediately share the sentiment.
“One time, a few years ago,” says friend Jeff Thorburn, “a group of us, including Kevin, went out to skate the Warped Tour ramp in Calgary. Somewhere near the entrance, we had a bit of a run-in with security. Kevin hadn't said anything, but it turns out the guard just caught his eye and said to him, ‘What the fuck is that look all about?’
“I have huge eyebrows and my eyes are always half closed,” explains Kevin, “so I guess everyone always thinks that I’m really pissed off. And I’m totally not. When I was a bit younger I remember hanging out with Jeff’s friend Kelsey one day and we were talking about the worst stuff. I’m pretty opinionated so I guess I was hating a lot—I was on my period that day. And Kelsey, who I didn’t really know back then but I know now, was telling Jeff, ‘Who’s your friend that doesn’t like anything? I bumped into him and he looked all pissed off. He doesn’t like mustard, doesn’t like frontside flips, doesn’t like anything …’”
“Another funny incident, Kevin continues, was a while back when I got a job with my ex-girlfriend and I had just shaved my head. For the first few days no one there would talk to me and I had no idea why. She later told me that everyone was scared of me and thought I was about to snap. I guess I just looked mad.”
I dunno what it is. I’m just sitting there with my coffee and doing my thing. I’m really calm. I don’t really like anyone to bother me so I’m so confused at how I can come off like that. If I don’t have anything to say, I don’t talk, but I guess that makes a lot of people think you are mad.
“You have angry eyebrows,” I reply.
“Yeah,” Kevin says. “You should definitely put something about that in the interview. It’ll make it a little less boring.”