June 15, 2011
June 9, 2011
May 18, 2011
Patinando con los Muertos:
Converse's Day of the Dead Tour
Words: Rob Brink
The Skateboard Mag, June 2011
Steve Luther is a proud Mexican man and the Brand Manager of Converse Skateboarding.
He had a simple idea: Plan a skateboarding trip around the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos.
But when the worlds of skateboarding, foreign culture and the deceased collide, “simple” quickly becomes “complex” and a myriad of events occur. Some expected, some fun, some frightening—but all worth telling stories about.
Paul Stanley, Banderas shots, a magical business card, parades, place settings for the dead, machine guns, Paco and a golden pistol—different tales and perspectives from different skateboarders—all on the same tour.
Learn the language and don’t forget to wash your face, gringo.
“There was this Mexican girl that Steve Luther knew—she’s a professional makeup artist who came along with us on the trip and painted our faces for a few of the cities we went to. It would take like 30 minutes per person each day. Pat was painted as The Joker for Day of the Dead and he did a hardflip backside tailslide off a shootout ledge in the makeup. It was amazing. I was the dude from KISS with the star on his eye. The girl did my makeup perfect. Nick’s face was all crazy too. They glued flower petals and all this tight, crazy stuff to his face.
“Some of the Mexican people were pretty weirded out on the face paint. They would stop and watch or just look at you when you were getting something from the store like, ‘Damn, this dude’s crazy.’ But for the most part, everyone was into it.”
“It was kind of weird sweating and not being able to touch your face, though. The makeup would run down your face and dry up and get super annoying. One day I just washed it off because I was so over it.
“For Day of the Dead, the Mexican people are celebrating the death of all their loved ones and shit, except it’s more happy than in America—it’s not like they’re sad. They think it’s a good thing.
“What I hear is they make all this bomb food and set up plates in front of empty chairs at their dinner tables for all the lost loved ones. They set up a whole meal for like, no one. Just for the lost souls or something like that. I thought that was pretty interesting, but we didn’t experience that first hand. That would’ve been cool though, man. I thought it was a waste when I initially heard of it, but when they broke down the reasons for it, I was like, ‘alright, that’s completely cool and understandable.’
“I think Americans often view death as a negative thing, and it’s not really. It’s completely natural. Everyone’s gonna do it. It’s just all a matter of time and what you pretty much wanna do before that happens is up to you, you know what I’m saying? And then after you pass away your spirit will always live on. When you are alive, your mind and body are here on Earth with your spirit, but when you die, your mind and body are gone but your spirit lives on. So I feel it’s completely natural. It’s sick, man. I wish I lived out there.”
“Just being out in Mexico and getting a little more in touch with their culture during the Day of the Dead celebration provided a little more of a storyline to the whole trip, so that was really cool. But even though it was a more culturally based tour concept, we still had to go out there and skate and try to film and get photos every day. I’ve never been on a tour in another country other than it being for a contest or something so I ended up having a lot of fun on this one.
“The Banderas shots are fucking great. You line up three … let’s see … it’s just like lemon or lime juice in the first shot, then the next one’s pretty much straight tequila. And the third one is like a tomato juice mixture or whatever. So you take the lemon shot first and then tequila shot and then the tomato juice all in a row. It fucking tasted great and just goes down so easy. That was a good experience for sure.”
“I think the cultural side of a trip like this is something the older guys like myself and Kenny were more into than some of the younger guys were. A few of them were like, ‘I don’t really know what we’re doing. Let’s go skating!’
“Me and Kenny were like, ‘We want to go take photos.’ Nick was all about it too.
“And I think back to when I was younger, being like, ‘What the fuck is this? I wanna skate!’ But the older you get, the more you start appreciating other elements of a skate trip too.
“When I was younger, going on trips to Barcelona and shit, I wish I went to museums and took time to look at the amazing architecture. I didn’t really do that stuff back then. But if I were to go back there now, I would fully manage my time better and take advantage of where I was and go check shit out when I wasn’t skating.
“Being older, you grasp onto that kind of stuff and appreciate it a little bit more. I think that’s one of the best things about going on skate trips—not only the skating, but seeing amazing places, eating amazing food and taking in the culture. Now that I’m older, I definitely see it and appreciate it more than I ever would’ve.”
“We went to the presidential palace in Puebla for a press conference because Steve was getting an award. It was pretty rad. He’s helping out with a skatepark being built there and doing a few other things I believe. So they give him a card to hold on to, like a special business card from someone pretty high up in Mexico, like the mayor or something.
“Later on we were rushing to get to a spot before sundown and our driver was just blazing through everything. He barged through a red light and there just happened to be a cop right there. Of course he pulls us over and is so pissed. He looks through the window and Luther jumps forward from the back seat, shows the cops the card and they end up telling us to hurry up and get to the spot before sundown. All Steve did was flash the card and say a couple words to him. It was crazy.
“The Day of the Dead parade was insane too. We got there kind of late and everyone was positioned along the streets to watch. I wedged my way through the crowd because we wanted to film something during the parade. And it was right before the parade started and I was like, ‘I’m gonna throw my board down and see what the cops say.’ I just wanted to skate like ten feet. But the cops didn’t say anything, so the filmer, Mark, went down to the end into the street and waited for me.
“I started skating down in the middle of this weird cobblestone street, and as I started, all the people on the sides started screaming for me. It was almost like they thought the parade was starting with me. It was like the Super Bowl or something when they do the wave in the crowd. As I passed by the people they got louder and louder. And by the time I made it to the camera, everyone was screaming. People were high fiving me and taking photos of me. It was so cool. Even though I just rigged my way in there, I felt like I was part of that celebration.
“The funny thing about the makeup, as annoying as it is, you kind of just forget it’s there, which I have a funny story about:
“There were some drunken antics with Nick and Jeff at the hotel and the security guards weren’t having it. So things got out of hand and they end up tying down Jeff and Nick.
“I was the only one who could kind of speak Spanish to security because Luther was in his room sleeping.
“So Nick’s getting carried out by the security and I go running out there, talking to them in my bad Spanish, just saying as much as I know. And things are slowly coming back to me. I was like, proud of myself for remembering a little bit of Spanish, but I just kept saying, ‘Sorry. I understand why you’re roughing him up. He’s been drinking all day at your bar. You guys fed him the alcohol. He’s a good kid.’
“Nick was just getting manhandled. They had him out front, cheeks pushed up against a stucco wall, just putting all their weight on him and I’m trying to talk, in my bad Spanish, to a guy who didn’t understand a lick of English.
“Basically, we found out the cops were coming no matter what. So I’m sitting there freaking out. We’re in Mexico during this time of drug wars and stuff and I’m picturing Nick going to jail. I’m the only one who can do anything and I’m so nervous.
“Then the hotel manager comes out and says, ‘You need to get a hold of Paco,’ who is the Converse guy in Mexico. ‘He’s the only guy who can go pick him up.’
“Now the cops show up and right away they grab me and shove me back. They didn’t even wanna hear my voice. Then Nick gets thrown into the back of a truck and they just take off. I’m just like, ‘Holy shit dude’ as he gets carted away in the back of a truck to a Mexican jail on this cold night.
“It took a while to find Paco and get everything going. We jumped in the van and head towards the jail. We see these orange cones, so we pull through them and onto this little dirt road. I’m looking out the windshield trying to focus on what was going on because it was kind of dark. All of a sudden I notice a machine gun pointed right at us. And I’m like, ‘Hey, there’s a gun pointed at us … wait there’s two.’
“And I see two machine guns pointed at us and as our headlights shine on the third guy, he’s got this golden pistol. Not even a normal gun, just this two-foot-long golden pistol. And he points it straight at us. And here’s the part about forgetting about how your face is painted:
“I’m wearing all black and my face is painted in this weird, Shogun warrior-slash-Mexican-style Day of the Dead thing. We’re in a white tinted tour van, and the golden pistol guy looks in the car and I’m just like, ‘Hey what’s going on?’
“Paco looks at me like, ‘Dude get in the back!’ And the guy comes up to Paco’s window with the gun pointed at him and Paco jumps out. They have all the guns pointed at him and he explains it all.
“They told Paco they thought we were like, some drug cartel coming in to do something gnarly because of the white tinted van and my painted face. So I think we were just seconds away from getting shot up if it wasn’t for Paco talking to them.
‘They made me get in the back of the van and told us where to go to find Nick and he just comes out of the jail screaming, all psyched, and jumps on Paco’s back like a piggyback ride—just so stoked to be free. I’ve never seen him be that thankful. It was rad.
“He was just getting smacked around in there. I guess they were like, ‘Hey what’s your name?’
“And he would answer, ‘Nicholas.’ And they would just smack him in the face.
“‘What’s your last name?’
“And different guys would just come up and ask him questions and then smack him. He was only in jail a couple hours, but for him not knowing we were coming, it was probably an eternity. Me personally, I’d just start freaking out. Maybe that’s why he was so hyped, jumping on Paco’s back and stuff.
“So I get back to the hotel lobby and I’m telling the bartender the stories, all straight-faced, and I get a glance of my reflection in a mirror with the makeup on and I’m like ‘What the fuck, man?’
“That was funny.”
May 11, 2011
TJ Rogers' Tall Tale
Words: Robert Brink
SBC Spring 2011
TJ Rogers has already blown it. At 19, he’s already got a reputation for having a shitty, cocky attitude. He films with his iPod headphones on while listening to crappy music that isn’t The Smiths or ‘Lil Wayne. His clothes are still too big. In his defense, they used to be Grant Patterson big, but have since reduced in size.
TJ allegedly has long-running beefs with a couple other up-and-coming Canadian skateboarders. One of the first Google search results for his name is a clip of TJ face planting into a pile of mulch. He has a Sheckler-esque “Rogers” back tatt between his shoulders. He has initials for a first name and the same last name as the infamous Jereme; aaaaaaand, are you ready for this ... he’s from Whitby, Ontario.
Stop right now. Just close the mag and log on to your favorite forum or twerpy little blog and get your jollies by talking shit on TJ.
I’m being facetious. Basically, everything I heard about TJ before I interviewed him made me assume I was about to embark on an interview with the quintessential Caucasian Canadian skateboarder.
Although, I suppose getting one of those stereotypical ghetto gown, fake-diamond-earring-in-both-ears wearing kids from up there would be the perfect foray into my first-ever feature in a Canadian mag.
In short, I was ready to expect the expected—then I dug a little deeper:
“One thing I know for sure,” says Blind Team Manager, Bill Weiss, “is that TJ is the only person I’ve seen make a trick [switch frontside 180] at El Toro and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Are there any other spots we can hit before it gets dark?’
“That about sums TJ up in a nutshell,” Weiss continues.
In skateboarding, people are always griping about “honesty” and “being real.” They bitch and moan and demand it from ams, pros and media.
You want honesty? You want real?
There’s not a person on this planet under the age of 19, or any age for that matter, who doesn’t kook themselves on a daily basis.
Dare we put the future of “hating” in jeopardy, but it’s called “life” and we’re all guilty of living it.
“It’s a part of growing up,” TJ says of his laundry list of “faux pas.” “For some people it just sticks with you and people talk about it.
“Weiss actually hit me up,” TJ continues,“ and was like, ‘Yeah man, it’s probably better that you don’t wear headphones when you skate—just so people don’t hate on you for it.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t really understand what you mean but I know I eventually will so I’ll just do what you say.’”
Pretty admirable, considering not many 19-year-olds are willing to take orders from anyone, much less comply with something they don’t understand.
“I called TJ out a while back because I was looking out for his future,” says long-time friend Cephas Benson. “The kid is extremely talented, but to go places in skating you need to be more then just amazing at skating—you gotta have a good attitude too.
“He was pretty much a little shit. He still kind of is but he mellowed out a bit,” Benson says, laughing.
“TJ was just too cocky and in-your-face as a kid. We got sent to Calgary together to skate in the DC Nationals one year and it was his first time flying, so his dad asked me to take care of him. We roomed together and I sorta took him under my wing and got know him. He's been like a little brother ever since.”
“I like getting advice from people,” says TJ. “It’s good to learn new things, especially in this industry. I’ve had a lot of hate growing up. You don’t want everyone hating on you. You wanna to be someone who everyone can be like, ‘no one hates on him.’”
TJ has lived three times the life of most kids his age, having already survived battles with drug abusing parents, poverty, life in a foster home, a deadbeat mom and an accident with a table saw which resulted in his father losing some fingers and then losing their house…
“I lived in that house my whole life,” TJ says. “My dad built half of it. He re-constructed the whole thing—put skylights in, built a pool and a hot tub—he did everything in it. I’ve always wanted to buy that house back. So that’s my goal.”
TJ and his father are tight. So tight, in fact that TJ gives him mild cardiac arrests with prank calls every once in a while.
“Dude it was the funniest thing ever,” TJ says. “It was me, Chris Ortiz and Jared Lucas [Bones wheels TM]. We’re skating at this set in Cali and I call him, like, ‘Dad … dad, I’m in fucking jail, dude. You have to talk to the cops!’
“And he’s starting to flip. So I throw Jared the phone, it’s in the air and Jared’s like, ‘No, what are you doing? I don’t know what to say.’
“So he gets the phone and he’s just like, ‘Yeah this is Orange County Police calling. We have your son in custody.’
“And my dad’s like, ‘What did he do? What did he do?’
“Then Jared just cracked. And we all just started laughing.
“And my dad’s like, ‘I’m gonna fucking rip your head off, you little shit. You fucking cocksucker! I’m gonna kill you!’ Just so bummed, but so stoked that I wasn’t in jail. It was actually one of the epicest things ever so funny.
“My dad’s definitely been through a lot,” says TJ. I gotta give him a break sometimes, but I also always gotta help keep him in line. I don’t want him to do anything bad again. I want him to be happy. As for myself, I’ve seen a lot of heavy drugs. I just know that’s not my scene. It’s not where I want to be in life so I always just try to keep to that mindset.”
But TJ is no stranger to caretaking. He wasn’t a typical foster home fuck-up. Instead, he ended up helping the foster parents and looking after the other kids.
“I was the best one out of them all,” TJ says. “I was the oldest in the group home so they kind of had me to show them the way. If all the kids were being bad or if they mouthed off to the parents or anything, I’d snap. It’s pretty hard and definitely respectable for the parents to take in those kids just off the street, you know? So you gotta try to be nice to them.”
Ironically, considering her absence later in his life, TJ’s first board was a gift from his mother when he was nine years old.
“Skating was the only thing that took everything bad away,” TJ says. “I didn’t have to really deal with anything. There was definitely an upside that I had a hobby and something that I loved doing to fall back on everyday.”
A decade later, TJ has landed himself a grip of sponsors and is in California for a while, escaping the harsh Canadian winter.
“I just came out to Cali to skate, film and hope for the best,” he says. “I always have mixed emotions about moving here. My plan is to become a professional skateboarder and try to make something out of it, but it’s all about just focusing, practicing everyday, trying as hard as I can and hoping my skating will do the talking for me. But until I have money or unless my sponsors help me a bit, I just can’t do it.”
Might be worth the spend, considering the last time TJ showed up in California he switch 180 ollied El Toro.
“I’ve always wanted to go there and skate it like every little kid who sees it in videos does,” TJ says.
“I went there in ’09 and wanted to do it but pussied out. In February I went back with my homey and a camera and I landed on it, kicked out and slipped out a couple times. On my seventh try I really fucked up my ankles. I couldn’t walk for a week. I went back a week later and did it second try with a photographer and filmers there.”
“Obviously one of the more naturally talented kids out there,” Elliot Heintzman, Circa Canada team manager. “He has a lot of drive to skate every day, even if he’s hurt. He’s super ambitious, which can come off as annoying sometimes, but at the same time he’s really honest and humble.”
Word is spreading to people who have yet to meet TJ too.
“I haven’t really gotten to shoot with him yet, but I know he’s gnarly and always wants to go skate” says Shad Lambert, Kr3w’s marketing coordinator and photographer. “I feel bad because he came to Cali and I was in the middle of finishing up catalogs. Dude was trying to skate every day and night—just a pure skate junkie.”
Jared Lucas sites TJ’s improvement in ability and style between his first and second sponsor-me tapes to Bones as one of the most impressive he’s ever seen. Not to say TJ didn’t always have it in him, but more that there were external elements holding him back all along.
“It all happened almost at once,” says TJ. “I left the foster home and went right to Slam City Jam and that’s when I started getting sponsored by Circa and stuff. My skating improved because I wasn’t locked up in a house doing homework or chores or this or that because I’m in a foster home. It’s really restrictive and it really sucked. So when I got out of there, I just fucking went loose—went all buck wild and shit. I’d say tenth grade … that’s when I sprouted. I grew a bit and started skating more tech.”
From that point on, TJ was on a mission. Of course, intermingled with the skating was all that stuff mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this piece. But, if you think about it, TJ is still here, still ripping and still being supported by a bunch of legit sponsors—people who believe in him.
Safe to say that worst is far behind him. If he could be guilty of all that “kooking” and still be where he is now, his skating has spoken for itself and the only place to go for him is up.
“I try to always look up and stay positive with anything I do—because I’ve been to hell and back, basically,” he says.
“Anything that I do now is just happy and definitely better than what I used to do. When you start getting recognized they’re gonna talk about all the worst things just to call you out. Then, if you keep at it, they’ll start being nicer and it all just all starts to come around. So hopefully it does for me too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I definitely have a lot going on in my life so I always keep it positive, not a negative.”
Oh, and remember that house TJ used to live in? The one they lost after his dad got hurt?
“My uncle owns that house now so it’s sick to have it in the family still! TJ exclaims.
“Man, that house is like a five story house. It’s so ballin’. It’s definitely sick to have something like that to look back on memories. I’ve had a lot of bad memories—more bad than good, but I try to always hold onto the good one, and I have a lot of good memories in that house.”
“TJ just loves skating. He has a gift,” Weiss concludes.” He is not worried about what people think of his ear buds as he is to busy pushing skating forward and having fun, so from me he gets a permanent pass on skating while wearing headphones.”
April 23, 2011
Words: Robert Brink. Photos: Gabe Morford.
Already Been Done, April 2011
It's rare that a kid from New Jersey blows up like Ishod Wair has. Don't hold me to this, because I suck at math, but it probably only happens like, once per decade.
In the best way possible, Ishod is a skate rat with skateboarding on the brain 110 percent of the time. Which probably explains why he didn’t know when he officially got on Real and postpones late night filming missions because he forgets to clip his toenails.
Easily forgivable offenses when you consider the reward is a bonkers part in Real’s Since Day One from one of the most notable ams of the last couple of years.
He's a kid you wish you could skate like. He’s a kid you wish you could skate as much as. Talking to him makes you realize you sweat the small stuff way too much. He even has a cookie sponsor. Curb your jealousy for the time being and enjoy a brief moment in time with Ishod Wair.
Hey Ishod, how long have you been on Real?
I started getting flow right after Tampa Am, like two and a half years ago. I was there passing out my DVD. I guess I skated well and they liked my footage and I officially got on last April. But I didn’t know that ‘til yesterday. I thought I got on when my first ad came out a few months ago. I just found out that I’ve been on for a year rather than for three months.
What? Weird. So then how did getting on Nike happen?
Same as with Real. I gave them my DVD at Tampa Am that year.
So one day you’re some skate rat from Jersey and all of a sudden you’re out here in Cali on Real and Nike and kids want your autograph and you win Phoenix Am and Maloof and everyone’s waiting to see your video part …
It’s crazy. Sometimes when I think about it too much I get dizzy. You know how you’re sitting down for a long time and then you stand up, and you get light-headed? I didn’t think it would come this quick at all.
It usually doesn’t.
It’s just shocking. I can’t even put it into words.
And you ride for Anthony’s Cookies?
Yeah. It’s a cookie store in San Francisco on Valencia and 24th. I like cookies and I’d always talk about how good they were. So Darin [Real Team Manager] happened to know the owner and got me sponsored by ‘em.
If I’m in SF and go to Anthony’s Cookies, what cookie should I get?
The cookies n’ cream cookie.
Done deal. Do they send you packages?
They don’t send me boxes but Darin will randomly go there and send a box to my house, which is awesome.
You moving out west to live the dream?
I like it here in New Jersey. I don’t think I’m gonna move any time soon. I feel like I’d be productive out west but my friends are over here and I still skate as much as I would be skating out there, it’s just that over there the spots are cooler.
When I moved out west, I was surprised how common it is to be a skater in Cali compared to back home in Jersey.
Yeah, I realize that so much. Everybody has skate shoes and knows about skating in some way. In New Jersey it’s all mainstream sports like baseball and football and basketball. But over here it’s really normal to be a skateboarder. I just see so many people skating down the street all the time.
I was one of like, five skateboarders in my whole high school.
Yeah, in my town it was like five, too … [starts screaming] Oh my fucking god! That was scary! Oh my god!
What just happened?
Dude, the biggest swarm of bees was just over me, dude. It was like, the whole entire backyard. I thought they were gonna attack me. I was so scared. Oh my god!
Is there a hive around? Are you okay?
Dude, I don’t even know, dude. That was insane. It was a hundred, maybe thousands of bees. There were so many. It was the biggest swarm. I was walking along the edge of the backyard and I just hear “bzzzzzzzzzz” and then I look up and maybe five feet above my head there’s the biggest cloud of bees.
I’m seriously like, so confused.
Have you ever been stung before?
When I was younger I stepped on one once. And it stung the bottom of my foot. I got stung by wasps a couple times. That sucks because it just hurts so long. They are like, toxic or something.
How about your nickname, “tails”?
Oh my god. I hate that, dude.
I think Pete Eldridge or someone said I was following him around the skatepark once. I wasn’t. I was in the skatepark first and I was just doing the same line that everybody does in that skatepark, always. He didn’t realize so he was like, “This kid keeps following me.”
Someone was telling me you’re hard on yourself despite being super consistent.
I’ve always liked to do things over and over. When I started skating I would always try to do a trick as many times as I could so I can do it always—so my mind knows I can do that.
If I fall or if I’m having a bad day I can tell right away. And it just pisses me off because I know in my head I can do it, but it’s just not clicking for some reason.
What’s your go-to when you get to a big set or rail? What helps you know if you’re gonna have a good day or not?
It changes. Usually it’s a tre flip, switch flip or kickflip. But sometimes it’s a hardflip or frontside flip. I randomly won’t be able to kickflip at all and then I’ll be able to hardflip good. And in two weeks I’ll be able to kickflip and I can’t hardflip anything. It’s crazy.
Do you ever get mistaken for anyone else?
Dude, I saw Theotis the other day, he got super tall.
Well the first time I saw him, he’s a lot taller from then to now—or from now to then —whatever.
Exactly. Crazy growth spurt.
Yeah. Theo’s awesome.
Tell me the story about not being able to skate a rail in Philly because your toenails were too long.
That happens a lot. Sometimes I forget to cut my toenails for a while. It sounds kind of gross. They won’t even be that long but it’s just the way my toenails are. If they get too long, they hit my shoe. If I’m skating the whole day it’ll start to hurt pretty bad. It’s not like they’re even that long but after I cut ‘em it just feels so much better.
But yeah, that was at this bump to rail and my toes were hurting me. Lately I’ve been real good with cutting my toenails because I know when they’re too long now. But back then, we were just skating and at the end of the day my toes were just so sore. I was like, “Dude, I can’t skate unless I cut my toenails.” So I had to go find a place that sold toenail clippers.
Probably better off to make sure your toes don’t hurt or your mind isn’t distracted while jumping down big stuff, right?
Sometimes I think about the worst-case scenarios … but that doesn’t bother me for some reason. I think about hitting my face and go like, “Okay, I don’t think this is gonna happen.” Usually the likelihood of that actually happening is really low so it helps me block it out.
What was one of the most embarrassing moments of your life?
I used to wear big shirts and I peed on my shirt in school a whole bunch of times. My shirt falls over my penis and I just pee on my shirt. I used the dryer to fix it up so no one really sees it. I dry it up.
Did you wring the shirt out over the urinal after you peed it?
Yeah and then I air dry it. No one ever finds out about that because I dry it out with the hand dryer.
You’re resourceful for sure. So you were in that van that got hit by the train, right?
Oh yeah, that was pretty crazy. I was in there but I didn’t see that happen.
The whole day sucked. It was raining and it sucked and we’re just waiting to get back to Double Rock because that’s where we’re staying. So we’re two blocks away and we really didn’t know where we were going so we’re listening to the GPS and the train system was kind of new. I guess the GPS didn’t know about the train so it told us to make a left where we couldn’t make a left. Then the train hit us.
Dude. Getting hit by a train, that’s like the one thing you worry about your whole life. Having a car stall out on the train tracks or something.
Yeah, dude. It wasn’t going that fast but it was really gnarly. It could’ve been worse, luckily no one died or anything.
Were you on the side of the van where the train hit?
Yeah, but I was in the back and the train hit in the front. It was really loud. The windows busted out and crashed so loud and then glass was everywhere, followed by screeching and then a train was halfway in the van window. It was insane. I don’t remember how long it was, but we got dragged by the train for a bit.
Speaking of crazy, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen done on a skateboard?
I can’t say it’s the craziest thing, but I can say that every time I see Tom Asta skate, it is insane. All those tricks that you see him do and all the lines and all the tricks he does in his parts, he does ‘em so easy. I’ve seen him nollie heel front crook a good portion of a box in one try. He’ll go up and do it so many times.
He’s one of those guys that’s better than most people know.
Exactly. He’s so good in footage, but you don’t realize how easy he does all that stuff until you see him in real life.
Is there anyone else coming up that we should know about?
My boy Ed Duff is good. He’s really good. He’s gnarly. Edward Duff from Doylestown, PA. He’s gnarly.
Ishod's toenail incident, as told by Dan Wolfe:
On a filming trip to Philly in August 2010, we end up at the bump to flat rail in the Italian Market that Anthony Pappalardo front boarded in 2001. Ishod wants to skate it so we set up the generator, the lights, get three video cameras going and Gabe sets up a few flashes as well. We even have a little metal sign for the weird crack just before the bump set up for him. Then Ishod mumbles something.
"What?" Someone in our crew asks.
Then Ishod speaks up: "My toes hurt, I think my toenails are too long."
Someone else asks, "Are you serious?"
Turns out there's a discount store on the corner where you start the approach to hit the spot so, Gabe says, "Go in there and see if they have nail clippers."
Ishod answers, "I don't have any money."
Someone gives him a dollar, either me or Darin—I forget. And there's an old Chinese guy out front sweeping because they are closing down but they let Ishod in and they have nail clippers. So after the purchase, Ishod sits on the curb, takes off his shoes and socks and cuts his toenails. Once the shoes and socks are back on, he takes a few ride-ups to the rail and then proceeds to rip it a new asshole:
Boardslide, boardslide fakie, backside 50/50, backside smith and backside lipslide ... each trick two or three times to boot. Weirdo.
Gap to lipslide
Ollie up, hardflip down. Click for sequence.
SSFSKF! Click for sequence.
Krooked grind. Click for sequence.
April 12, 2011
March 28, 2011
Storefront: NJ 4
Words: Rob Brink
The Skateboard Mag, May 2011
Chris Nieratko and Steve Lenardo had been waiting for something to open up in Princeton, NJ for over three years when an existing skate shop closed its doors in early 2010. Simply put, they jumped on the vacancy and NJ 4 Skate Shop was born.
“We’d never open in a town with another skate shop,” Nieratko says. “There are far too few mom and pop stores making it these days. It’s a small skate community out here. We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone's business or bum people out.”
Life long friends, Steve and Chris always open stores in the towns they used spend their youth skating in.
“We grew up skating Sayreville (NJ 1),” says Nieratko. “As we got older we'd take buses to New Brunswick (NJ 2). Every skater from Jersey from our generation started their NYC sessions at the Lackawanna ledges in Hoboken (NJ 3). Princeton was another great college town filled with spots that we used to hit.”
But taking over an existing business, like the shop in Princeton, can be a double-edged sword.
“You have an existing customer base that loves the old store,” says Nieratko. “But there are also those who may not have liked the vibe or products and you have to work extra hard to let them know that this is a different shop now—owned and operated by skateboarders.”
And “skater owned and operated” is an integral part of NJ … Nieratko doesn’t hesitate to stand up for independent skateboard shops like his own.
“The skateboarding industry is losing touch with its roots, where the top pros come from and where traveling pros go to first to find spots while they’re visiting. Nocturnal in Philly, MIA in Miami, FTC in SF, Cal Skate in Portland, Escapist in Kansas City, Faith in Alabama, Familia in Minneapolis, Stratosphere in Atlanta, Pit Crew in Frederick and so many others are the shops giving us our Maltos, Gilleys and Matt Millers. Hell, Stratosphere’s Thomas Taylor literally produced one of the sickest skaters ever.
“There’s a lot of people putting themselves in financial ruin because they love skateboarding,” Nieratko continues. “Even with four doors, my partner Steve and I still need to work day jobs to provide for our families. Our goal with NJ was never to get rich. It was, and always will be, to do positive things for skateboarding in New Jersey.
Nieratko believes that small shops humanize the consumer. Everyone that works in an NJ store also skates for the team. The kids coming in to shop or hang out need not wonder if the employees skate because it’s obvious that they do.
“The skaters that come to NJ aren’t dollar signs in torn shoes to us,” says Nieratko. “They have names and jobs and families. As we get to know them and their interests we can let them know, the minute they walk in the door, that we just got an order of Krooked decks, Leo Romero’s new shoe or whatever they’re into. Whereas some kook at the mall who doesn’t skate or know which way your truck goes on is going to try and sell you Grind Kings with dollar bills printed on them because the commission is higher. Five minutes after you leave a big chain store you cease to exist.”
And, speaking of existing, one of the most common questions Chris and Steve get is if they will ever open a shop outside of NJ.
“I love that question,” Nieratko replies. “We get it all the time but the name doesn’t exactly lend itself to being anywhere else. But I would like to open one in NYC so we can stop joking that New York’s Finest skate shop is in New Jersey.”
72 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08542
March 2, 2011
February 9, 2011
Photo: Dan Zaslavsky
Mark Whiteley Talks One in a Million
Words: Rob Brink
Already Been Done, February 2011
You might have wondered why, all of a sudden, this year’s One in a Million series from Slap was so much more awesome than past seasons. Not that previous years were bad, but 2010 seemed to have a little extra pixie dust sprinkled on it, a little more hype behind it and a lot more of an audience watching it.
At the end of every episode of OIAM, the credits read, “Created and developed by Mark Whiteley,” so he seemed like the man to pester with our fickle inquiries. And after hearing newly coined phrases like “the Forrest factor,” learning what happened when the cameras weren’t rolling and what Slap has in store for next year’s OIAM from the most inside OIAM insider there is, we were glad we asked.
Would you say this season was the most successful One in a Million?
Yes, by far. In terms of total viewership between all the different episodes and in terms of interaction, so far we got over a million views on the videos and 90 pages of comments between YouTube and Slap. Easily three times as big as it’s been before. It was great to see it grow. A lot of that had to do with the higher production value we had with Alex Klein and his film crew coming in. They really helped bump it up to the level it probably should’ve been at the entire time. We just didn’t really have the resources before.
Explain “higher production value.” Is it bigger crews? Better editing? Better cameras?
All of those things. Alex comes from a skateboarding background and is working on becoming a director, so he’s got cameramen he works with—some skate, some don’t. He brought in more state-of-the-art equipment than we had before and they had jibs and dollies and things like that. Simple, standard movie industry camera work went a long way in taking this from a hand-held production to a more legitimately produced thing.
In years past we only had one camera for most things. This year we had three cameramen and a skate filmer, so there was a lot more to work with. And if you watch, it’s got the real quick, fast-paced mainstream TV-style editing, which is kind of cheesy, but at the same time, it goes a long way in keeping the energy of it up.
Are any of the guys from this year hooked up yet?
Ruben is getting flowed from enjoi. When we went to San Jose that day Louie really liked him. I got those guys in touch and he’s on their program now. At only 16 years old, I think he’s got tons of potential to do something.
Matty is getting help from Deluxe. Mango has been buddies with all the Rasa Libre guys all along. I don’t think he’s officially on the team but I think they’ve been helping him out too. I don’t really know what Forrest’s deal is. The Selfish guys contacted me about him and I passed that along but he wasn’t interested. I would imagine, with all the exposure he got, how good he is and the new leaf that he turned over at the end, that it should happen for him.
Do you think that was a sincere new leaf though?
To be honest, I can’t say. I don’t know him well enough to judge that. I only spent one week with him. He and I had a really long conversation the day of the eliminations on the way down to LA. It wasn’t documented but it was pretty telling for me as far as looking at his view on reality and how he sees things. It seemed to me that he didn’t have any frame of reference for the way he’d been acting and it was all news to him, so I’d like to think his reaction to our conversation was a natural one, but at the same time, that’s a lot to process in 12 hours, especially in the middle of a contest when you’re on camera and everything.
I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. He is obviously super talented and I want him come up.
Photo: Mark Whiteley
Before this interview, you told me it was really hard choosing Forrest over Matty for the top three because, although Forrest was a nightmare, he made the show. How did that factor in to choosing John over Forrest as the winner?
I don’t want to come off like I’m dissing Forrest, but in the end we didn’t feel like the way he acted was something that should be rewarded in terms of putting him on a pedestal, which this contest does to some degree.
He’s obviously incredibly talented and did the hardest tricks of the contest, but the contest isn’t just about the hardest tricks. To me, skateboarding isn’t just about the hardest tricks. I didn’t feel like Forrest was gonna go as far with his attitude as some of the other guys could go with their attitudes and their skating. So yeah, it was a choice not to let that kind of view of skateboarding or view of interaction with people in general, be something that should be rewarded.
With reality television being so standard now, the “I like watching them because they’re such drama,” philosophy is more prevalent than ever. For example, the view of Jereme Rogers seems to have somewhat shifted from “This guy’s a kook and I hate him” to “I can’t get enough of watching this dude!” But in an ironic kind of way. Do you think Forrest became that guy too?
I think Forrest was more hated on than liked in the overall scheme of the contest, but it definitely seems more acceptable these days for people to entertain watching others behave badly or whatever. When that type of character first kicked in on reality television, maybe it became okay to accept that person for what they are and considering them a celebrity in some ways—sort of paving the way for viewers to think that watching people behave that way is cool.
I think that’s what’s changed since the dawn of the Internet too. It’s put people in this judging platform where they watch people and want to look down on them. It’s like people’s interest in gossip columns. They want to feel a little superior to people who are famous and getting themselves into sticky situations.
Was there ever a Forrest equivalent in an older One in a Million?
Not at all. Like I said, it was definitely a hard week hanging out with him, but having that character really made the show a lot more of a finished package because it provides the anti-hero type guy. I think his presence really brought the show to another level. If we just had another skater in the mix instead of him, it wouldn’t have been as big as it was. It would’ve still been our biggest year ever, but I think his personality, for better or worse, made a lot of people watch.
So do you fear that it might offset the new “formula” if in coming years you don’t have your Forrest in the show? Your “Puck,” so to speak?
To be honest, yes. There’s gonna have to be some personality component to it if it’s gonna stay at this level because it’s just so appealing. We’re probably going to ask people to submit their minute of footage as well as a minute of them talking—something that’s gonna show their personality. And that’s not to say we’re gonna let sub par skaters into the contest because of their personality, because you have to have a group of really talented skaters to keep it legitimate. But it’s definitely a big factor when thinking about how to plan ahead for future One in a Millions—the Forrest factor.
What are the most frustrating and most rewarding parts of One in a Million?
I would say the most frustrating thing was Forrest’s attitude. Not to keep pointing a finger at him, but just knowing how rare it is to get the opportunity to interact with companies, pro skaters and people who are there trying to do good for you, and having him not really appreciate those things, was definitely the most frustrating and really hard for me to understand.
The most rewarding thing was watching the caliber of skating. It was really amazing and continues to shock me. Also, seeing that the stuff that initially attracted me to skateboarding as an act and as a culture is still there and still meaningful to another generation of people was pretty cool.
The older I get, the more jaded I get and the more skating seems to have changed from what it was to me when I was a kid. So seeing those feelings alive with guys like Mango, John and Matty, who I connected with really well, was refreshing.
Something I’ve always wanted to ask you, and I should preface this by saying I’m not anti-Slap forum at all. I’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy it, but, in defense of the forum, I’ve often read and heard “It’s what happens in every tour van, in every skate shop. It’s the way kids talk.”
You could reference KKK meetings and things encouraging hatred like that all over the world, right? But just because some of these private conversations exist, does that justify giving it a public forum? I know that’s an extreme example, but do you get what I am saying?
Yeah, I do. That’s a really difficult question to answer and it’s something that I haven’t really thought of an answer for. I’m not a huge defender of the forum. It is what it is. I like it for some things and I dislike it for others. But I’ve used the defense you mentioned over the years. The Forum is giving a home to all those discussions for people to connect with like they do in a skate shop, but on a more global level.
I’m pretty big on being realistic, speaking plainly and speaking your mind and I respect the forum for those reasons.
Do you think it sometimes enables an unnecessary level of negativity?
Yeah. To be honest it does encourage people to feel like they need to talk shit in some ways because that’s what it’s known for. In that light I’m not that stoked on it because that’s not me.
People have the right to their opinions and they have the right to air them and that’s all part of it, but I don’t like encouraging people to talk shit. I go out of my way on there to be as upstanding as possible because I want to foster that and I want my reputation to be one of a positive character. In some ways it’s been hard because, for better or for worse, people have their ideas about the forum and I’m kind of lumped in with those thoughts.
There have definitely been some conflicts that I’ve had with people because they felt like I enabled them to get trash talked—simply by having my name attached to the forum and to Slap as I have been for 12 years. That’s been frustrating for me because Slap was always such a positive, creative outlet for me, and then to have it suddenly be an association with a negative vibe has been difficult in some ways. I do support it as a place for free speech, so it’s a mixed bag for me.
Do you ever feel like you’re just standing there watching your friends get beat up but can’t do anything about it? Not to say that you haven’t defended people, but I think that’s the vibe I would get if I were in your position.
Yeah, I’ve definitely felt that before and I’ve even gone on to threads about people that I’m friends with to say, “Hey, that’s not how this person is.” Sometimes it’s effective, sometimes it’s not, but I think at this point I’ve kind of learned to take it a little bit less personally. Everybody who is being talked about on there understands that it’s a public forum and it doesn’t have anything to do with me.
If I tried to control it all it would look nasty. It’s a little easier for me to deal with now, but yeah, it gets uncomfortable sometimes watching people have total misconceptions about friends of mine and me not really being able to do much about it without coming under fire myself. I don’t mind taking heat from people on there if I feel like the record needs to be set straight. I totally will dive in and do that but I guess I kind of have to choose my battles.
We noticed multiple discussions on the Slap forum about the Whiteley One in a Million piece that ran last week and thought some of the stuff edited from the original piece (mainly due to length) might be of interest, so enjoy.
It seemed like fatigue hit some of the dudes pretty hard after a couple days and the guys who eventually became the top three started pulling further ahead of the pack while the others dropped off. Did you notice that at all? I knew who the top three were going to be before you picked them.
Yeah, for sure. I think there’s something to be said for choosing your battles and doing one or two things that really stand out, as opposed to really trying to kill yourself to get as much stuff as you can at every spot.
For example, Matty could have stood out way more by doing less tricks but having them be the most stylish, whereas some of the other guys were really trying to fight off the fatigue and get as much as possible at each spot everyday.
It’s not like I’m shouting, “Perform now! Make or break!” at them but I kind of like that you have the fatigue factor because you see how people operate and handle it a little bit.
Do you think John overcame a gnarlier injury than Nik? To crack your head open, still skate all week, stay as positive as he did and then win is pretty crazy. Nik just had a swellbow right?
Yeah. It kept happening to him day after day. And I think after it happened a couple times, he realized he wasn’t all that psyched on the way it was going. He kind of let it get to him more than it necessarily had to. But at the same time it’s not for everybody and I don’t fault him for the way he skated or anything during the week. He just didn’t really enjoy the forced street aspect of it I guess.
Honestly though, he was so rad. Everyday when we got back from skating; he was the guy that skated the warehouse hardest. It’s too bad we didn’t have a real good place to include that in the episodes.
Could One in a Million be a two or three week contest? Possibly giving the contestants a chance to rest or take a few days off and recover from injuries or fatigue?
Well, in terms of Nik, for example, if he were here for two weeks, he probably would’ve gone home early anyway because he was hurt and bummed out. Not that he couldn’t handle it but he just didn’t want to be there at that point.
I wonder if any of it has to do with him being an East Coast dude? Weather-wise, there isn’t always the opportunity to skate street for seven days straight and you also come to rely on indoor parks for months on end some winters.
Yeah, culturally, it probably does have something to do with it. Last year we had a similar situation with a skater named Nick from Atlanta. He did one or two really rad things but just realized he didn’t really enjoy the format and kind of disconnected.
Would you say Jake Donnelly is the most successful One in a Million winner?
Jake was definitely the biggest post-contest success story by far. He’s probably the biggest name. Kevin Coakley won the second year and went on to ride for Blueprint. He got an offer from Krooked at the time but turned ‘em down, which was kind of a bummer.
I think Tom Karangelov, who won last year, is going to do really well for himself. The Zero guys all love him and it sounds like he’s gonna have a part in their next video. I hope this year’s winner, John Fitzgerald, does well too. I know Jamie Thomas is pretty stoked on him.
There are some people who’ve been in and didn’t win, like Tom Asta, who’ve gone on to do bigger things, but in terms of winners, yeah, Jake’s definitely the big story.
When we launched ABD, a few people asked us if we were going to have a “One in a Million-style reality series.” It seems a lot of people are using it as a barometer or metaphor now, which is pretty interesting.
That’s a cool comment and I’m stoked to hear that. It’s not totally original programming or anything like that—it’s just the standard reality TV format, but it’s cool that it’s actually taking hold of being that now. We finally got the way it should be run dialed a little better.
But also, it has to do with the transition of the magazine from being print to web-based, where the first four or five years we did One in a Million, it was made to be in print form and figuring out how to transition that into a more episode-based entity ended up being a really good thing and allowed it to grow, which is great. I’m really happy about it.