December 6, 2012
September 19, 2012
Fred Gall: Professional skateboarder; guardian angel.
Words: Robert Brink
Photo & Video: Dave Smith
ESPN.com June 2012.
“When I was a kid my uncle Johnny was a fireman,” says Habitat pro and X Games Real Street 2012 contender, Fred Gall. “He used to take me to the firehouse and I wanted to be a fireman too. I dunno why. I have an instinct to … well, I guess I just don’t wanna see people die or get hurt.”
It was approximately 3 AM on February 28 when Fred saw a building across the street from his hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia engulfed in flames when he decided to check it out.
“I was out there filming for my Real Street part with Dave Smith and Andrew Patillo,” Gall explains. “I wanted to get some crazy footage that no one else is gonna have—to have my part be different. So we skate down the street and it turns out to be a monastery. And this is a serious fire—a blazing inferno.
“At first, we had our digital cameras, like, ‘Film me doing a no comply in front of this fire.’ Kinda laughing about it. Then I realized that on the second and third floors there were monks trapped on the balcony and no one was doing anything about it—people were just staring.’
“Something about Freddy,” says longtime friend Dave Smith, “is that he’s seriously like an angel cast to Earth to guard the misfortunate. Somehow or another, these people always tend to be within Freddy’s vision. He could be at his worst and then into his best in a matter of seconds. At the Cambodian airport, a lady forgot her passport at the counter and he ran full steam through the airport to return it.”
“So I scaled the side of the building next to the burning one,” explains Gall. “And up top there are these long bamboo sticks that just happened to be the right length, so I made a bridge. The monks were scared to cross because it was so ghetto-rigged. Basically, you took two steps on the bamboo and someone would grab your hand and pull you in. But I got two monks down then went inside and shit is blowing up, it’s hot as hell and monks are just standing in the pitch black. I don’t know if it was for their religion or what. One was just throwing buckets of water on the flames but it wasn’t doing shit.”
“We tried to make it a little more serious to them,” says Smith, “Like, ‘Hey you gotta, get out of here.’ It seemed like they didn’t know what to do or where to go. Maybe they couldn’t see or were in shock but no one seemed scared about what was going on but the potential for disaster was right in their face.”
“I found a bucket and I put it on my head because shit was falling all over the place,” Gall continues, “and I’m screaming, ‘Where’s the women and children?’ But there are no women and children because it’s a monk monastery [laughing]. I was just in hero mode— just trying to save lives, dude. And Dave had made his way up and he’s like, ‘we gotta get outta here!’
“I walked into the stairway and it was engulfed in embers and smoke,” says Smith. “The only way to see was with the flash on my camera. That’s when I noticed all the monks just standing around, not knowing where to go because they couldn’t see anything.”
“I got down before Freddy,” Smith continues, “and I looked up and he’s crossing the bridge he made and helping three or four monks over to the safer building.”
“So after we make it down,” Gall continues, “the fire department shows up, puts out the fire and straight-up leaves. The fire engine number was 666. Not even kidding. Then I just went back to the hotel and had a beer. Like, ‘Wow that was fucking crazy.’”
“He gets pretty emotional after stuff like that,” explains Smith. “We got back to the hotel and he was in tears. He gets emotionally involved because he really cares.”
“Halfway back to the hotel,” says Smith, “Fred realized that he didn’t have his board. We went back to get it and sure enough this monk was standing there with it waiting for Fred. They all thanked him dearly. They were very honored that an American went for it like that.”
Throughout the years, Fred has been notorious for a lifestyle some might consider “sinful” or “wrong” or whatever the word might be. I asked him if he ever considered that his good karma for the times he has saved lives (yes there are many) balances out the bad karma that might send him straight to hell one day.
“I’ve definitely thought like that,” Gall replies, “but I would say I’ve definitely done more good than bad. Some people don’t believe in karma but I believe if you help someone, good things will come to you. And I’m really going for this Real Street thing—I wanna win something. I tried really hard. I busted my ass today getting footage. There are gnarly dudes in this contest but the way we’re going to edit it, I think we have a chance. I hope people are stoked.”
September 7, 2012
Contenders: Kevin Terpening
Words: Robert Brink
The Skateboard Mag, May 2010
In the beginning of Markus Wyndham’s segment in H-Street’s Hokus Pokus, a narrator says, “This is Markus. You do not know him now, but you will someday.” At which point Markus proceeds to pop shuv-it 5-0 grind down a small rail. That was 1989.
Today, in 2010, there’s not a lot to say about Kevin Terpening. Not due to lack of talent or personality, but simply because he’s at that point in his skateboarding career where people are just gonna have to see for themselves. He’s the sleeper. The quiet, yet strangely quirky and mysterious fellow who, when all is said and done and he’s gone on his way, you think, “Damn, Kevin is fucking rad! People are gonna love this dude!”
This is K-Terps. You do not know him now, but you will someday …
I hear there’s some life drama going on?
Yea. I woke up and my old roommate called yelling at me. I didn’t pay the bills and his power and water got shut off. We had to scrounge some money up, so I’m kind of stressing.
At least you don’t live there anymore.
I feel bad for them because it’s my fault. I knew it was going to happen. I’m just an idiot.
Have you ever checked your credit score?
Fuck no! It would be fucked because I had a credit card once and a taxi driver stole it. He went and spent $2000 on it.
Do you have a checking account?
Yeah, but there’s no money in it because it’s all going to the $1,200 DWP bill. I went in all sad like, “I only have half the money. How about I just pay you half.” Trying to negotiate but they weren’t having it, so I told ‘em I’d be back soon.
Was this the same house where you had no toilet paper and you used the paper from your éS shoes?
Yeah. There was always a bunch of empty shoeboxes lying around, you know? We ran out of toilet paper and started using that shit, but then our toilet got clogged a bunch of times.
Is the good paper the piece that’s wrapped around the shoe or the part that’s crumpled inside the shoe?
The better part is what’s inside the shoes.
Oh. It’s softer?
Yeah, it doesn’t hurt. You know the other shit is like, wax paper. It’s all fucked up. You don’t want to try to wipe your ass with it. It depends on the shoe, though. Sometimes they have actual paper and sometimes it’s like tissue paper.
Like cheap toilet paper versus the expensive kind?
Exactly. It’s like the toilet paper in the stall in the gas station or at your high school.
You live in Scuba’s garage now?
Yeah. It’s pretty tight. We put up drywall and insulated the walls and I got a whole setup in there now. It’s pretty legit. I mean, it’s still in a garage, but it’s pretty tight.
Do you still owe him rent money?
It sucks. I just owe him one month right now and then maybe like, some bills. But I don’t have any money right now.
Have you tried to barter with him?
Like, “I’ll just mow the yard or plant some fucking flowers, you know, be the pool boy and shit.” We were talking about that but then it all just fell apart. Now I have to pay a bunch of rent money. It’s fucked up.
Ok pool boy … are you still working at Huf?
Yeah. I work there a few days a week. Just sit there and hang out with my friends.
Who are you riding for?
Alien Workshop flow. éS flow. Shit, I feel like I’m at Tampa Am right now. Val Surf skate shop in North Hollywood and Spitfire.
How did you get hooked up with Alien? Obviously being from Ohio …
When I was living there, my friend Scott got stuff from them and we skated together all the time. We made a video and then somehow they started hooking me up. I was psyched because in Ohio that’s a really big deal. It’s pretty sick to get hooked up from a company like Alien that you actually like.
Tell me about the Jet Black Crayon music video you’re in. I love it.
Me and Greg Hunt did it. Tommy Guerrero’s band had a new album come out and he picked 10 or so people all over the world to make a video for one of the songs. You could do whatever you wanted. I called off work for a few days and Greg would pick me up super early and we’d just go around skating shit on that thing. It was super fun and turned out pretty cool.
You can’t tell it’s a new video at all.
Yeah. It looks like it could’ve been an actual VHS from back in the day. We watched old videos and got ideas from them. Greg definitely knew what he was doing.
Does anyone still call you Grandpa Terps?
There were people who called me that?
Yeah. It’s your nickname.
Oh. I guess I’ve been called that. I used to be crabby but I’m not that bad anymore.
And you like sitting on stoops doing nothing?
Stoop Life! The old house we lived in had a nice little porch that we called “the stoop.” We would just sit there and drink beers all day so it kind of turned into the Stoop Life. There’s something about it … I’m backing it.
Do you have any awesome final statements to make?
Yeah. I just want everyone to stop waxing the fucking ledges so much. Because today at Marsh Park, straight out of the car, I tried to do a manual trick on the top of the box and the whole entire top was waxed and I ate shit. My fucking hip is all fucked up now because I tried to do a manual. Whatever.
And now you don’t even have a stoop to sit on with your broken hip.
I know. What the fuck? But I do have power and water so I’m psyched.
December 4, 2011
(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.”
December 3, 2011
Joe Brook By Joe Brook and éS Footwear
Words: Robert Brink
SBC, Fall 2011
To celebrate the release of the éS / Joe Brook Square 2 colorway, a new photo book, showcasing the many years of éS and Brook’s friendship and work together, has been pressed.
There’s not a lot to say that Mark Whiteley didn’t handle in his introduction to the book, however, something needs to coax you to actually go get it so you can read that Whiteley intro, so here it goes:
Limited in quantity, but certainly worth the quest to acquire, “Joe Brook” is a collection of photos that, almost more than any other collection of skateboarding photos to date, accurately represents life on the road as part of a skateboard trip and life on the streets as a skateboarder—raw, unpolished, grimy, frustrating, beautiful, scary, bewildering, liberating and fun.
If you’ve been there, then you know. One look at any of these photos brings you right back. Whether it’s a dead bird similar to one you’ve ollied over while cursing the streets, or the random pedestrians who ask to try your board or inquire about how high you can ollie.
It could be a sideline view of a trick about to be landed, the collaborative tour van stench of cigarettes, beer, weed, musty carpet, street grime, sweat, dudes and body odor or the over-it-ness of your homie who’s sitting on the ground having a smoke next to his focused board after he didn’t get his trick. Regardless of the visual, Brook’s images effortlessly and unpretentiously capture the essence of it all.
Color, black and white. Portraits, action. Nature, city. Bangers, dorkin’. Life, death. Rain, shine. War, peace. Shoes, Joe Brook, skateboarding. Yeah, that’s what this book is all about—skateboarding.
October 30, 2011
Words: Robert Brink
Thrasher, September 2011
Trevor Colden has been in your face lately. It’s his time to be. He’s 17, really good at skateboarding and under the wings of Jamie Thomas, Chris Cole and Heath Kirchart. You can try to deny him or make fun of his beanie or whatever you want. But the reality is, when dudes like those three step up and back a kid you never heard of, it’s inevitable—we, collectively, have been offered the opportunity to witness a next-generation ripper and his skateboarding come to fruition.
So how's the response been to your Emerica welcome clip?
Dude, people seem so psyched on it. I was super blown away. I didn't even know I was coming out with it until a few days before. I texted Miner asking if he needed footage because I’m filming for a legit Emerica part and he told me that my welcome thing was coming out and I was like, “Whaaaaat?”
How soon after did the shit talking follow?
I saw a couple comments on Hella Clips, but I don't give a shit. Sometimes it gets super harsh, but it definitely wasn't as much as I thought it would be. The only one I really heard about was after my Mystery part … that I'm a “Tom Asta clone.”
Because you wear a beanie and have long hair …
I guess. And the other one was, “The kid showers with his beanie on.”
Well that’s funny. It’s your lucky beanie, huh?
Dude, it WAS my lucky beanie. I lost it in Philly. I’m gonna get another one.
Can it still be a lucky beanie if it’s a new one of the same kind?
I hope so. I'm gonna wear it regardless.
How long did that triple set hardflip take?
The one where I eat shit in the video was the first time I went there. I got like six tries before we got kicked out.
So me and Mike Gilbert, the Black Box filmer, kept going every weekend after that and kept getting kicked out before we even got out of the car. I was kinda over it at that point but we went back a month later with Rhino and a couple other guys and it took me four tries. I was super excited.
What is it like having the entire Emerica team waiting for you to land a nollie crooks?
Oh man, I was nervous as hell. I thought I wasn't even gonna make it because there’s this huge crack and you need to pop like six inches earlier than normal and everyone’s just down there looking at you. I was like, “Damn, I better land this.”
Did you finish high school?
Nah. My family moved around a lot and it just got really complicated. I tried getting home schooled in eight grade but that didn't work out so I just started skating a shit ton and thank the lord it worked out.
Give me a quick timeline as to how you got to where you are now with your sponsors and living at Black Box.
My first legit sponsor was DC flow from a rep in Virginia Beach. Then I started getting Toy Machine boards from Mike Sinclair. At the time, the economy was super bad and they could only send me like, a board a month.
I met this Powell guy at a contest I won and he sent me a box with five boards in it. I was freaking out because I never got five boards in a box before. So I told Sinclair I was gonna ride for Powell and thanked him for everything. I went to California like a month later and stayed in Huntington Beach for a week. On the last day I was just like, “Dude, I’ve got nothing going for me back in Virginia, I’m staying here.”
The Powell TM was down so I called my mom. She wasn’t happy, but she understood where I was coming from. Maybe eight months later I sent my footage to Black Box and they were down to put me on Mystery, give me a place to live in San Diego and help me out with a little bit of money, so that’s how I started living at Black Box.
Is that when you began filming your Color Theory part?
Yea. Like a month after I got on. I was on Altamont flow and would always go up to Sole Tech. I started skating with Marquis Preston a bit and we talked about it and I sent in my footage. I got on Emerica flow in September—right after they finished Stay Gold.
Marquis told me your nickname is Carlos.
[Laughs] Those dudes call me that. They would always fuck with me because they thought I was Mexican. It used to piss me off, so of course they kept doing it. I was like, “Fuck you guys. I'm Hawaiian, Indian and white!”
Do you know you got on Emerica faster than anyone?
Dude, they told me that. I was so blown away—like in shock. My head was exploding. I remember they were telling me how Collin Provost was on the flow team for like four years. And I was like, “What the fuck, dude? He’s so good, so how the hell did I get on so quick?”
You wanna tell us the Cheesecake Factory story?
Oh my God. Yea, it was such a surprise.
So we went to the Cheesecake Factory after a long-ass day of skating in Denver for the Thrasher Skatepark Roundup. We all just got done eating and I was just chilling at the table and I see this guy bringing out this huge, awesome cheesecake with onion rings on the side. It looked like a birthday cake, so I just thought it was someone’s birthday. But the dude kept looking at me and I was just like, “What’s up man? That’s not mine. I think it’s probably for a dude at the other end of the table.”
And he just kept looking at me and sat it down in front of me. It said, “Welcome to the Emerica team Trevor Colden.” And I just … dude, I couldn't even talk for like ten minutes. Everyone was just clapping and stuff.
Dude, it was fucking awesome.
What was up with the onion rings?
Because I eat onion rings and fries all day. Like, wherever I go.
But you’re a vegetarian, right?
I used to eat fast food all the time and get these bad stomach pains. I got to the point where I just stopped eating meat and I felt better and liked it that way.
I thought it was a ploy to kiss up to Ed Templeton and get on the team.
And what’s with you and the chips?
I eat chips at every single gas station we go to. I try to eat as many chips as I possibly can.
But not candy?
I don't really eat that much sweet stuff. I eat chips mostly.
I’d say chips are more like a meal than candy is. Heath is managing your finances, huh?
Yeah, he's like a dad to me. I have my own bank account, but its under his name so if I overdraft I go straight into his account.
Watch out, he can cut you off!
Yeah, he probably could. He's the best dude ever. One time my debit card just kept fucking up and getting declined. I was going from state to state on a trip and at this one gas station they took my credit card and cut it up. I freaked out and called Heath, like, “Dude, I am so sorry. I think I just overdrafted. I don't know what the fuck happened.”
He was like, “Don't even worry about it. It’s your money,” and sorted everything out. I still had money in my account. I was just hitting too many gas stations and they thought it was fraud.
He told me all your charges are for chips at gas stations and never exceed $10.
Yeah, I never get a real meal.
What’s you're ideal gas station meal?
Two bags of spicy nacho Doritos and two Gatorades. Then I’m good for about an hour and I do it all over again.
You don't even get those pre-made cheese sandwiches or anything?
Nah those things are like five bucks!
When I was like 13, out skating all day and night, this one 7-11 by my house had two hot dogs, chips and a large drink for two bucks.
Dude holy shit!
I was killing it.
Best deal ever!
So how’s Heath as a second dad?
Dude, he's the best, I swear to God. I used to hear rumors that he was super strict, but he's the nicest dude I’ve ever met. I love going on trips with him because whenever we do a demo he's skating and fucking killing it.
Earlier you mentioned a new Emerica part …
A couple of the guys are filming full parts and Miner wants me to film one as well. I have a whole bunch of extra footage that didn't get used in my Mystery part and I'm gonna hit LA as much as possible so we can get it done.
Dude, I heard you re-grip your boards.
[Laughs] Yeah I used to re-grip my board every two sessions or so because I felt like there wasn't enough grip on it.
Once you ruin it in your head like that, you’re done.
If you think about it wrong, it’s just done. You gotta switch it.
Do you have a girl?
Should we also put out an announcement to get you a lady?
Nah. I don't want a girlfriend, but I definitely need to start hooking up with girls.
Don't worry, a couple more demos and it’ll happen.
So one day you’re a regular kid in Virginia and suddenly you’re living in Cali at Black Box next to a TF, on all these sick teams and making some loot from skateboarding …
It all just seriously came out of nowhere. It really did. I’m just so thankful and super excited.
September 23, 2011
Word: Robert Brink. Photos: Allen Ying.
Already Been Done, September 2011
Allen Ying is a Brooklyn-based skateboarder and photographer who discovered skateboarding at age 11. At 15, he borrowed a friend’s camera to take some pictures …
“At the time I was looking at skate mags a lot and was really impressed with the quality of the photos in them,” Ying says. “This was probably ’98 or ’99, when Philly was in TransWorld all the time. Seeing that stuff in the magazines kind of sold me on the idea of shooting skate photos.”
Shortly after came a leg fracture. With his newfound free time, Allen’s began shooting more. Then, at age 18, came the move to Manhattan to attend F.I.T. for a degree in photography.
Fast-forward to July of 2011. The entire skate community was introduced to the concept of Allen’s new baby, 43 magazine. And for the next month, we watched and donated in suspense as he, with the help of Kickstarter.com, attempted to raise a minimum of $20,000 to get the mag up and running.
305 backers and $23,583 later, on August 29, 2011—the mission was accomplished.
First off, congratulations on getting 43 funded.
Had you tried traditional funding for 43 before Kickstarter?
Yeah. I pursued all the advertisers. I spent a month in California visiting all the companies. I never knew this, but people plan their entire year’s budgets two months before the year even starts. It’s crazy. So I was coming in March trying to do something for mid-year and their entire budgets for the rest of the year had already been planned.
We got a couple advertisers in there but it wasn’t enough to put out an issue. I almost gave up, then decided to give Kickstarter a chance. That was a mission in itself, but it all worked out.
Before something like Kickstarter, if you wanted to start a business, you’d have to take out a big loan or find an investor, which, for one thing, who do you start asking? And the other thing is, what are they gonna want out of it?
Kickstarter lets you keep your vision and do it the way you want to. You don’t have to return the money, you just have to pay a percentage to them when you get funded and offer a reward or incentive for anyone donating.
Going into it, did you think you’d get the $20,000? It’s all or nothing funding, right?
Yes. If you don’t reach $20,000, you get nothing. I kept going back and forth in my mind. Some days I’d be like, “I don’t even know if this’ll work.” And other days, “No, this will work. People are gonna be psyched.”
People donated pretty generously it seems.
I’m pretty sure the majority put in $25 to have the first issue mailed to them. I think that’s pretty rad. it’s not just pre-ordering, it’s a donation with a pre-order. There were some prints were for sale as well so those got bigger donations.
So why a print magazine right now? Seems a bit risky.
I think it’s probably more important now than when there were too many magazines. Not to talk shit and not just referring to skateboarding, but there are so many magazines that are just terrible—they just shouldn’t even be around. And everyone looks at them anyway. But the ones that should be around should be a little more worth your while—worth keeping and having something decent to look at.
As far as I’ve seen, skateboard magazines play a huge role in the culture. It’s changing so much and a lot of the real essence that makes it awesome is kind of slipping away, skateboarding is so amazing, so to me, skateboarding deserves something better.
I think 43 is special. The minute you look at it and hold it you realize it’s more than just a monthly skate mag with the hot rider on the cover, the tour article, whatever dude with an interview inside because he’s promoting whatever video he’s in or just turned pro.
Yeah, that was just the media kit. A little 28-page thing we sent out with the photos we had available at the time. I really love those photos. There were only 200 of those media kits printed. About 100 were mailed out and the rest I gave to people that I need to show 43 to. Hopefully the copies that I sent out have an impact.
Reading the skate forums and stuff, it seems so many kids don’t even get magazines these days. Someone will scan a cover or interview and post it and kids will be like, “Oh sick, maybe I’ll go and buy that issue!”
Pondering buying an issue of a skate mag, versus having a subscription or definitely buying it, to me, is crazy. In my world you were supposed to have a subscription to every skateboard mag or somehow get it at the shop every month. Seeing this change was when I really began accepting the decline of print.
Yeah, it’s definitely sad. That’s a big part of why 43 is a free magazine. It’ll be there at the shop and you’ll see it and hopefully get a copy.
Mike Anderson’s recent interview in TransWorld was talking about how kids don’t have that experience of going to the shop and getting the local history from the older dudes and stuff anymore. It’s sad. And maybe that’s part of the problem.
I noticed a lot of skate footage in the Kickstarter clip. Is there going to be a digital component to 43?
My plan is to just focus on the print element and the gallery shows. So instead of a digital component, there’s an in-person component.
There’s definitely gonna be a website to let people know what’s going on, but it won’t be like a skate magazine’s website where they post about other stuff all over the Internet. It’s the kind of thing that I’m not just gonna force myself to do because that’s what other people are doing. I hate going to a site and seeing 20 things to flip through since the last time I was there. It’s like, “I’m not coming back here because I can’t keep up!”
You have on “old soul” mentality. You use film instead of digital; you started a print mag in 2011 …
[Laughs] Maybe. Obviously I use a computer for many things. A lot of things I see happening don’t really make sense, but everybody’s into it because it’s the new hot thing. But if you stop to look at it you’re like, “Wait a minute … this kind of sucks.”
To me, being on a computer all the time sucks. Computers are supposed to make everyone’s lives easier, but now most people are sitting in front of a computer all day in an office. In terms of life, that seems like a terrible way to exist.
Even in making this magazine—I’m not out shooting photos all the time like I used to be and it kind of sucks. Staring at a computer screen isn’t that dope.
Who inspires you in skateboarding photography?
Back in the day, Ryan Gee and Atiba really stood out to me. Probably because I only had access to TransWorld and they were covering so much of Philly. All that medium format film in those days—the 35mm and the square fisheye. I don’t know if I knew at the time that that’s what made it look so sick, but that’s what I think back to now. Like Wenning’s switch back 180 cover.
Does your affinity for that sort of thing lend itself to the very square nature of 43?
Yeah, that’s kind of a factor. I’m really into Mike O’Meally, Dave Chami, and Brian Gaberman. I miss when those guys were shooting film. But they’re doing a decent job with digital. It’s a new thing to get used to and I think it’s actually harder to have digital look as magical as film. Film is what made a lot of those photographers special for me.
Oliver Barton, John Bradford and Zander Taketomo are holding it down with medium format film. That extra thought process really helps a lot of photographers’ work and gives it a more magical feel and does the skateboarding more justice.
So is it harder to have your work stand out with digital than it is with film?
Probably. I don’t know. I try to not shoot digital anymore. I think it’s just a different thing; it’s learning it differently. I’m really impressed with all the European skate photographers. Generally speaking, I feel like European photos and magazines kind of make a lot of the American skate photographers look embarrassing. I look at their stuff and I suddenly don’t even like my stuff anymore, [laughs]. That’s why I hit them up to be part of 43.
There’s a strong eco-focus to how 43 is produced, correct?
It’s been this personal venture of mine—paying attention to things and making little life changes here and there to help the environment. So I was like, “Fuck, am I really gonna produce and pay for and redirect money towards this many thousands of pounds of paper?”
To me it’s kind of obvious to be conscious about and it’s another thing that hopefully shows that thought was put into 43. I’m pretty sure most of the people working at other magazines don’t really have the option to make those changes. They’d probably have to battle with some bureaucracy to do it. And there’s a certain amount of research that it took to figure out a lot of this stuff.
When can we expect issue #1?
I’m aiming for mid-October.
How do we get a copy? The local skate shop?
Yeah. It’s bi-monthly and going to about 500 shops across the U.S. and anybody who can’t find it can always write in and ask for a copy.
So you got this initial $20,000 to start 43, but what about maintaining down the line without another huge lump sum?
I don’t expect it not to be a challenge at this point. Everything worthwhile seems to be a challenge. But yeah, the $20,000 is to print a limited edition run of the first issue. I would have loved to do a lot more copies and everything but I think the $20,000 might be just enough to kick start the whole thing for the rest of the year or longer.
It’s funny you mentioned the “media risk” before, because in the art and fashion and photography worlds, I keep seeing new publications that are a lot more refined and people are super into it. And it’s sick. It’s not like you’re looking at W magazine or something full of ads. There are way thicker mags that seem fairly independent and people are paying $20 a copy for them, which is ridiculous. So I don’t know what part is a risk. It’s not like I’m the only one making an indie magazine in the world.
I’m referring to the shift from print to digital content. I think the gut reaction to seeing someone start a print mag right now is like, “Whoa! That’s sketchy.” We all have a special place in our hearts for print mags and we all want them to stick around, but there’s a reality to it as well and much of the industry is struggling.
That’s another reason 43 has to be extra good. To me, when somebody does something to please an audience or do what the audience wants … that’s a backwards approach to doing something. I think it makes a lot more sense to do what you believe in and what you can influence people with as opposed to just giving people what they want.
August 23, 2011
Already Been Done Presents: Ricky Webb
Words: Robert Brink
Already Been Done, August 2010
What are you up to, Ricky?
I’m at Starbucks. Just got some tea.
What kind of tea?
Orange chai something? I don’t know. I forgot.
I don’t drink coffee, only tea. So now I instantly like you.
I just wanted to come over here and get on the Internet because I don’t have it at my house.
Speaking of the Internet, your Facebook page lists your occupation as “private investor … ”
My homey’s trying to make some t-shirts and wheels and stuff so I’m gonna help him. It’s called “Take That.”
I saw the video part you did for them—pretty sick. So you loaned him some money?
You're a good friend. I noticed you’re way more popular on Facebook than Twitter.
I think I like Facebook more. I communicate more on Facebook. I don’t really communicate that much on Twitter.
Twitter is annoying.
Yeah. I’m about to delete my account.
What about all 500 of your followers? They might suffer without you.
They’ll have to follow somebody else.
You lived in a house that got foreclosed?
Yeah. It was a big skate house in downtown Long Beach. I guess our landlord wasn’t paying the mortgage. He didn’t even tell us about any of that. Then one of the housing people came by and was like, “Yeah, your landlord hasn’t been paying the mortgage so this house is about to be sold to the bank.”
And we were just like, “Damn.”
We got three months free rent until we had to be out, though. It was tight! But I miss it. It was cool with just a bunch of homies living there. Now I’m living with my parents at the moment.
I just saw the Will.i.am video you’re in.
I liked when Will is a black sperm.
Yeah and he comes out as a baby.
It was a cool video concept. I already knew they were gonna put his face over mine but I didn’t know it was gonna look like that. But I don’t know about that song. It’s crazy.
Then you slam doing a fakie manual on flat.
Oh yeah, I was falling on purpose. It came out sick though.
I heard you’re really into Auto-Tune music.
I’m not even sure what Auto-Tune is.
It’s the crappy robot voice in all the rap and dance songs nowadays.
Oh really? I didn’t even know that, but I’m not really into it.
How’d you get the nickname "Pretty Ricky?"
I have no clue. I think Paul Sharpe gave me that name. I was out at Phoenix Am in ‘08 and they suddenly announced me as “Pretty Ricky” before my runs. Once that happened they just started calling me “Pretty Ricky” all the time. It just stuck. I hate that name and they know it.
It’s usually never good when you get a nickname.
Yeah, I don’t like nicknames.
If you had to give yourself a nickname, what would it be?
Probably just Rick.
Can you tell the readers how to ball out on a budget?
Ball on a budget? Okay … first, if you don’t got an EBT card, go down to the county office, get one of those and stack up on some groceries. Make your own food and save you some money, rather than going out for fast food.
Also, just try to come up on beer from the homies. Get fucked up before you go out for sure.
Pre-gaming is cheaper.
Way cheaper. A lot of people can’t afford $15 drinks at the bar. I suggest you buy your own shit at the store.
You know how people get drunk and open up a bit? Like, I’m super scared to be on a dance floor at a club, but when I get hammered I start dancing and I look horrible.
I get more talkative with girls. I’m not shy or nothing, but once I have some drinks, I feel like I got more game with the ladies. I feel more smooth with it. I know a lot of people get more amped, but I just get more calm I think.
Why do you always go for white girls?
I’m not trying to just go for white girls, but I’m down for ‘em. I just think they’re more fun. I’m down for whatever. As long as they look good and are cool.
Jart is your first official board sponsor, right? You were a flow guy for a while before that?
Yeah, I was on Almost flow for about three years and nothing was really happening with that, so Jart was a good opportunity for me.
What’s it like nowadays being an am and trying to fully make a job out of skateboarding?
It’s really hard. I think it’s mostly about connects—the people you’re involved with. You need the skills too, but I think it’s just more about who you know. Just like with anything—like trying to get a good job or trying to make it in music, anything—you just gotta have that connect.
I just try to stay more focused on the skating rather than being in people’s faces too much. Sometimes I wanna just call my friends and skate. But when you start getting a little money, you gotta make sure you’re producing as much footage and photos as you can.
Photo by Big Rob
Did you know you have to go redo your switch flip at Hollywood High now that we saw how many times Andrew Reynolds landed his varial heel to avoid the gate?
[Laughs] I don’t know, man. I think I should probably just take it as is. I got beat up pretty bad before I landed it. That ground hurts. It’s really rough.
After the third try my heels really started hurting. They were taking a beating.
I actually got it pretty quick—like seven or eight tries. When I finally landed it, I was like, “Fuck this. I’m taking this one.” It was just a relief. I’ve thought about a few times, too, like, “I wish I didn’t run into the gate,” but the other tries took a lot out of me.
Was it more of a scary thing or just more difficult?
You know, my friend Derrick Wilson was skating it with me. He got the nollie heel that day. So it was cool to have somebody skate it with me. You’re just more amped, like, “Yeah, let’s get this shit!”
It was less worrying and being scared and more just cool to have a friend to skate it with me.
Your friend Dave Ashley told me you’re into the Boyz II Men look. Like fake glasses and cardigans?
Boyz II Men? Wow. That boy’s crazy. I’ve worn a cardigan before but never fake glasses. I’m about to bust someone up when I get over to The Armory. Talking hella shit.
He probably said that to me just to mess with you. Actually, a couple people told me your style reminds them of Jovontae Turner.
I’ve actually heard that before. I seen his part in Mouse. He’s dope.
You should look up his part in Love Child.
Yes. It’s an old World Industries video. His part is incredible.
I don’t think I’ve seen that. I’m gonna have to check it out. Is it on YouTube?
Yeah. He has a mean big flip in Questionable too.
Does he still skate?
I think he’s into fixies. I don’t know much about him, other than that I wish he didn’t retire from skateboarding.
Yeah, I wish everybody would just keep skating.
What else are you working on these days?
Trying to collect some HD footage because Bones is coming out with an am video.
Oh sick. You love the word “swag,” huh?
Oh yeah. Me and my homies always fuck around with it. We’ll be like, “swag, swag, swag” all the time. We just say “swag” to everything, but we don’t really say it seriously.
It’s funny how many people actually do say “swag” in a serious manner. If you look on Twitter or Facebook, everything’s swagged the fuck out.
I know. I just think it’s funny because everybody says it. If I’m getting off the phone with somebody, I’ll say, “swag” and I’ll be out.
Have you ever heard that Lil B Ellen DeGeneres song? They’re just like “swag, swag, swag, swag” every three seconds.
Swag, swag, swag! Yeah, Lil B is crazy, man. All his videos are super funny. You gotta check out “Suck My Dick, Ho.” He’s like, just straight up walking around the mall chilling and all he’s saying is, “Suck my dick, ho. Suck my dick, ho. Swag, swag, swag.”
I’m so checking that out right now.
Yeah, it’s some super ignorant shit.
Get back to your Internet and tea.
August 1, 2011
Ryan Sheckler: Paying it forward
Words: Robert Brink
Originally intended for 944 magazine in August of 2011, this piece never saw the light of day because the mag folded. Enjoy.
Sponsored at 6-years old and pro by age 13, it didn’t take long for San Clemente native, Ryan Sheckler (now 21) to reach the top of the game in skateboarding—and subsequently cross over to a mainstream success that 99.9% of his industry cannot fathom and most certainly won’t ever experience.
Sheckler was the youngest professional skateboarder to have a signature model shoe. He’s won multiple X Games gold medals, had his own reality show on MTV, achieved teen heartthrob status, sealed endorsement deals from Got Milk, Axe, Proactiv and more, scored roles in movies with the likes of The Rock and appeared on stage at a ‘Lil Wayne concert.
So what’s left when you’ve done everything there is to do before you’re even old enough to legally buy a pack of American Spirits?
Pay it forward.
And that’s what Ryan and The Sheckler Foundation have been doing for the last four years.
“In 2008 I wanted to donate my car to charity,” Sheckler says. “We held an online auction and raised $220,000. I realized in the process that we had a huge following who also wanted to help others. We knew if we started our own foundation, we could activate these followers and really make a difference.”
The Sheckler Foundation aims to create awareness and raise money to fund medical research that focuses on curing childhood disease and spinal cord injuries, as well as enrichment programs for kids in underprivileged communities.
“We want to let people, especially the kids of today, know that anyone can give back and that we all need to,” Ryan explains. “The world can never have too many people giving back.”
Since it’s inception, The Sheckler Foundation has partnered with organizations like the Rob Dyrdek Skate Plaza Foundation, Wings for Life, TACA, Road 2 Recovery, Bridger Hunt Fund, Tony Hawk Stand Up for Skateparks, San Diego Medicine Foundation, ARF, CCRF (Children’s Cancer Research Fund), A-Skate Foundation and Stoked Mentoring Foundation.
“We’ve done several different types of events over the years,” Sheckler explains. “The charity golf tournament and Skate for a Cause are two of our most successful and fun events. I really enjoyed our charity MMA fight as well. ‘Lil Jon performed and Jason Ellis turned pro that night. We are also planning on having a gala later this year, so I’m interested to see the outcome.”
Ryan is currently working on his Plan B skate video part, mostly likely dropping before the end of the year. It's got the lovers, haters and every online skateboarding forum lit up. But are there enough hours in the day to juggle the foundation and the skate career?
“Skating and giving back have always been a priority for me,” Ryan says. “At the moment, the video is the biggest thing on my mind, but I’m loving my life and doing what makes me happy—traveling the world and helping people through my foundation. It’s all a blessing so there really isn’t anything difficult to speak of. I don’t feel I’m juggling anything.”
Sheckler aims high. And with a track record of success like his, why not? “There are so many great foundations out there,” he says, “I’d like our foundation to go the route of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And my hope is that everyone gets to experience what it feels like to give back because the takeaway is amazing!”
The Sheckler Foundation will soon be launching the Passion Project, which gives the Foundation’s community an opportunity to nominate a need and the Foundation will mobilize to help solve the problem. For more information and to learn how to get involved with upcoming events, visit www.shecklerfoundation.org.
July 26, 2011
Hilliard Sulpher’s Pursuit of Happiness
By Robert Brink
SBC, Fall 2011
Prior to speaking with Hilliard Sulpher, his friends told me all sorts of quirky things about him to help make this article entertaining.
Things like how he’s nicknamed “The Hobbit” because he has hairy feet. About how he barfs a lot and how he’s into motorcycles. That he lived in the infamous Windsor Hut with his crew in Toronto. That he has a back tat of his last name (a-la Sheckler and TJ Rogers) that his parents bought for him as a Christmas present when he was 13. That his sister is a world-record holding professional jump roper and his mom makes the best nachos in Ontario and even parties with Hill and his homies.
But all that’s just fluff—the fodder you include when there’s nothing better to talk about—or when you’re filibustering—avoiding the large elephant in the center of the room.
Hill is currently residing in Windsor, Ontario. He’s 23 years old and knows what he wants from life—to just live and be happy.
Easier said than done. Such simple wisdom and aspiration always comes with a price. In fact, as Fight Clubbingly cliché as it sounds, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to know that happiness is all you really want or need.
Hilliard is blue collar—straight up. From growing up skating the less-than-optimal streets of Detroit, to working landscaping jobs while trying to build a career in skateboarding, to unemployment and sitting in garages building motorcycles—he’s a far cry from the droves of privileged, home-schooled southern California kids born and bred in perfect weather and skate plazapalooza.
“It’s nice I guess but I’m not jealous of it or anything,” Hilliard explains. “I’m glad I didn’t have everything handed to me. My dad is a woodworker so I’ve been around tools building shit my whole life. It’s pretty fun. I just went to a union meeting for carpenter’s apprenticeship so I’m waiting on a call for that. I was fucking hurt all last year so I had to work. I gotta make money. I gotta pay the bills.”
And part of those bills, despite being sponsored by a small company called Change for seven years, was sometimes buying boards.
“It was weird being on Change,” Hill says. “It was my good friend’s company, so I hate to say this, but I stayed on longer than I should have. He didn’t have boards for a year. I was buying boards and stuff, living on a real tight budget, fucking riding hand-me-downs. And I break a board every couple days. Finally I was just like, ‘Fuck, man, I can’t pay for boards anymore.’”
After Change, Hill had a brief stint at Black Label through a distributor with the help of his friend and then-team manager, Dave Ashley. Then, recently, when Dave jumped to the Spain-based, Jart, the same opportunity arose for Hill.
“With Jart, it seemed like I might be able to find a home—and not with a distributor,” Hill continues. “I feel like I’ve found what I had with Change again—only with more support coming from the other end. Another deal sealer was that Bastien rides for them. Bastien is sick.”
So, about that elephant …
I caught word that Hill is diagnosed as schizophrenic. Instead of springing it on him during the interview and catching him off guard, I first asked his permission via email to discuss it. To my surprise, considering what pussies most skaters have become as far as speaking openly about their lives on record, Hill was down and embraced the opportunity to tell his side of things. He even thought it might be good to put out there so that other kids like him, or going through a similar situation, might relate a bit and feel better about their situation—that perhaps he could actually help others by sharing his story.
“I’m sure there are some people out there who think I’m fucked because I have schizophrenia—or that I’m a fucking kook or whatever,” Hill explains. “But they don’t know me. They can think what they want. I don’t care.
“I moved out pretty young—at 19,” Hill continues. “I was smoking a lot of weed. I was doing acid and mushrooms all the time. Not having a steady job and being fucked up all the time is definitely what brought schizophrenia out of me. When I wasn’t high, I wasn’t a happy person. I was really edgy. They say it’s genetic or something but I don’t know. I totally could’ve brought it on myself. I was lying and shit. Fucking trying to be a different person. I realized that everyone knew something was wrong with me. Everyone knew I was on all these drugs, smoking fucking five blunts a day to be normal—but that’s not normal. Everyone was acting different towards me and I thought they were fucking with me. I actually thought people were out to get me. My family and my friends were trying to tell me what was up and I’d freak out and start crying. I’d go to my friend Chris Quick and be crying, like, ‘Why are all these people talking about me?’ And he’d be like, ‘Listen, man, it’s not like that.’ And I just had to take their word for it. I believed and trusted everyone close to me. They knew something was wrong.
“I was in Vancouver and freaking out over the phone to my parents one day. They knew it was bad and fucking flew me home right away and got me in the hospital for a couple weeks—a straight-up fucking mental institution, like a psych ward. I hated everyone in there. But now I realize it didn’t hurt me. It only did me good. Whatever, it was just two weeks out of my life and it sobered me up. The weirdest part was actually being sober for two weeks. But the thing I hated about the hospital is as soon as you get in there, they give you all these drugs to make you a zombie—like not even a living human being. I knew that was wrong right away. That’s not fucking how it’s done. I’m not supposed to be knocked out 18 hours a day and eating a lot of shitty food. So when I got out I realized I could deal with it on my own. I told them I wanted the lowest dosage possible of all my medication.
“And once I was sober and my head was clear, I started remembering everything I said or did in the last couple years when I was acting all crazy. It all came back to me and I was like, ‘Why would I do this? And why would I do that? Why would I say that to this person? Why would I fucking rip this person off?’ I knew I had to skate and fucking get back with my friends and back to reality.”
It’s been about four years since Hill left the hospital and got back to reality. And, like so many of us over the years, skateboarding is the thing keeping him on track and his absence from it while in the hospital only made his appreciation for it grow fonder.
“After everything that happened, I knew I just had to skate. It actually fucking made me go way harder than ever. It just fucking made me wanna skate and get shit done. I knew that’s all I had. Everything got better. I learned how to control my brain. I filmed the best video part I’d ever filmed in my life. I had my Concrete interview. I was on a mission. You know the feeling—you skate—skating and being with the homies … it’s like a filter.”
Then, the injuries came. Last year Hill did both ankles in pretty good. He dislocated one last summer and popped it back into place himself. “Which is the gnarliest thing I’ve ever done,” Hill recalls.
Next, Hill broke his wrist, then two bones in his hand, which required surgery and five screws to fix.
“Ever since then I’ve been so scared. I’m just trying to get back into it, you know?” Hill continues. “It was just a rough year but now, I feel like I look at shit differently. I don’t want to jump down something and not be able to skate for a week. I don’t want to be under too much stress anymore with skateboarding. I’m just gonna be more conscious about how I skate from now on because I don’t want to get hurt. I want to skate everyday, so I’m just gonna fucking go fast. John Cardiel … he’s the fucking best ever. His skating, the way he skates, his attitude and shit, just everything about him is fucking awesome. I don’t want to roll up to a spot and be like, ‘Okay, what’s been done here?’ Then shoot a photo of this and that. I just want to fucking cruise and go really fast. I love street skating, just cruising. I’m really into filming lines and shit like that lately. That’s Detroit and Windsor—there are no good spots really—it’s really just shitty ground and fucking choppy ledges but it’s awesome. It’s seriously like a hidden gem.”
Maybe it’s not a bad thing that Hill’s skating changed a bit, considering some of his footage is reminiscent of mid-nineties Sub Zero “Real Life” or “Eastern Exposure 2 and 3” Oyola, Puleo, Gall and Reason Philly lines—nothing to scoff at one bit. In fact, many would argue that skateboarding could use a bunch more of that right now.
Hill draws inspiration from a non-skateboarding realm as well. People like his motorcycle crew, the Slimeballs, keep him going in the ways that skateboarding sometimes can’t. And when he’s off the board, chances are, you’ll find him in the garage, Simeballin’ out.
“They used to skate, but now they’re all married and have kids,” he says. “They just hang out in garages and work on bikes. I look up to those guys pretty hard. They’re just living it—just everyday people. They talk shit about the good ol’ days and they fucking chill in the garage and drink beers. I have a Kawasaki Vulcan 500 and I’m building another one right now with a good friend of mine. It’s like a cruiser but I’m building a ‘70s British chopper. It’ll be done in a couple weeks. I’m just wiring it up, putting it all together. It’s pretty fucking badass.
“I want to learn new things,” Hill says. “I want to learn more about bikes. I’ve been reading books and shit lately. I really want to learn how to weld and fabricate. I’m trying really hard to learn patience too. That’s key with a lot of things. I never try and rush anything anymore because that’s when the bad shit happens—even little things. If I’m rushing in my car, I’ll run a red light or get pulled over or something like that, you know?
“I’ve learned from my past with drugs and the hospital and stuff—but it just has to happen. You’re gonna learn it one way or another and that’s how I learned it. The wisest Slimeball I know once said ‘No drugs are easy— they’re all hard.’ And he’s right. I got burned pretty badly, but I also feel like I’m the best person I could ever be now. If that’s what it takes—getting burned to make you a better person—then I’m saying it’s worth it. That’s just the way I learn shit, I guess. I think everyone who knew me before all that, during it, and knows me now is probably pretty impressed and happy for me because I’m smiling all the time. I don’t worry about shit anymore. I just want to live—that’s it—seriously. I just want to live everyday and do whatever helps make me have a better life. Working puts me into a routine so I’d really like to get a job going again, but I still want to go on skate trips too. So if I do get into the union, I could go on a couple trips a year.”
“No one said life was supposed to be easy,” Hill says, “but if you fuck up—bounce back and get it together. Live and learn. Thanks to everyone who has had my back over the years, and all the sponsors and my friends and family.”