May 18, 2011
Preservation and Progression
Nieuport 17 Honors its past while embracing the present
By Robert Brink
944, May 2011
“We’ve become the finest photo, art and aviation museum in the country,” says former Naval aviator and Nieuport 17 founder, Bill Bettis. “There’s not a thing on these walls that wasn’t given to me personally by an aviation legend who walked into this restaurant.”
Founded over 40 years ago on the corner of Newport Avenue and Irvine Boulevard in Downtown Tustin, Nieuport 17 (also the name of a World War I airplane) began as a restaurant and accidentally evolved into a historical landmark and encyclopedia of aviation.
The entire interior of the restaurant features a unique collection of museum- worthy artifacts, photos and paintings from aviation history, many of which are autographed by world-famous pilots and decorated military officers, including the father of Nieuport 17 co-owner, Cameron Irons, who served with Bettis in the Navy. Even the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is trying to get their hands on some of the extremely rare and valuable collectables. “When I die,” says Bettis, “I told them they can have some of the pieces they are looking for.”
The main dining area is a Disneyland Haunted Mansion and old school hunting lodge hybrid. A myriad of antlers, elk heads and vintage fighter plane art lines the walls. The vaulted ceilings are grandiose, but not as grandiose as the banquet room that seats 100 guests ... at one table.
“There’s no other restaurant in Orange County that can seat 80 guests at a single table, let alone in such a unique and intimate setting,” says Rob Hallstrom, owner of 714 Media and public relations for Nieuport 17.
The fine dining menu is traditional, known for its steak, seafood, free sides and salads, along with its wine list and classically crafted cocktails. The clientele is equally traditional and has been loyal for decades. And loyalty like that doesn’t come without exceptional service—opentable.com recently recognized Nieuport 17 as “number one in service” for Los Angeles and Orange County.
For younger, hipper foodies, Nieuport 17 revamped it’s bar and lounge area, and appointed new executive chef Marco Collin. The Barnstormer Bar is now serving up local craft beer, signature cocktails and gastropub fare like flatbreads, mac and cheese, sliders, tuna tartare and truffle fries alongside nightly live music, including jazz, piano and acoustic performers.
There’s something delightfully relaxing and rewarding about sinking deep into a premium oxblood leather sofa in front of a 14-foot fireplace, with an all-antler chandelier overhead, listening to live jazz and sipping on Nieuport 17’s signature Old Fashioned on a Friday night, while droves of OC scenesters in fedoras, with chest tats creeping out of their V-necks, are out at Club X or Lounge Y, waiting in line for a shot of Jägermeister. If smoking indoors weren’t against the law, OC’s finest pipe and cigar smokers would be here in the N17 lounge, kicking back and having conversation that isn’t muffled by the mind-numbingly loud auto-tuned hip-pop played by a “DJ” with a MacBook Pro in the corner.
Nieuport 17 may not be for everyone, but thankfully it exists.
13051 Newport Avenue, Tustin
714.731.5130 | nieuport17.com
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.
Download Since Day One.
April 7, 2011
Chef Inspired: A new twist built on the success of Vine
By Robert Brink
944, April 2011
Almost as tired as Charlie Sheen sound bytes (but far less entertaining), the term “gastropub” gets tossed around a lot these days. According to Wikipedia, a gastropub refers to “a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food.” By that logic, for many, an Applebee’s is a gastropub.
“The term ‘gastropub’ sounds like a disease to me,” says Vine’s head chef and proprietor Jared Monson, who recently got the seven-year itch (literally, as Vine opened in 2003) and transformed Vine’s bar into St. Roy: a Chef’s Pub at Vine. “We chose ‘Chef’s Pub’ because it implies a chef’s take on pub food,” Monson continues. The name St. Roy is derived from four of his favorite wine country towns: St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville and Yountville.
“Culturally, our guests were looking for a more casual dining experience. St. Roy now gives them an opportunity to do so,” he says. “Seeing young customers pop in and start texting and calling friends to come down and to join them is great. The next thing you know, they’ve filled the communal table and are having a good time.”
The new pub boasts more seating with high-top wooden tables and a communal butcher-block bar table that offers a view of the exposed kitchen. Rustic and casual, it’s far from an Applebee’s — although the Dave Matthews Band and Goo Goo Dolls playlist is definitely comparable.
When Monson was looking to reinvent the Vine’s bar and expand the menu, he re-imported Chef Jared Cook from Crow Bar in Corona del Mar. “Jared was one of our sous chefs in the past,” Monson says. “He missed the experience at Vine and called me. It was great timing.”
The menu changes seasonally and guests are hard pressed to make a swift decision. From simple snacks like the olive and bar nut assortments, to small plates like pumpkin ravioli or mac and cheese; cheese and cured meat plates; classic and not-so-classic entrees and large plates; and even one of the best cheeseburgers in the region, there’s no way to try it all in just one visit.
Yes, there’s dessert too. Commitment-phobes should avoid the chocolate soufflé, which must be ordered 30 minutes in advance.
Monson personally suggests the duck confit salad to start, the West Coast paella with seafood as the main course and vanilla bean crème brûlée with fresh berries as an ender. Adventurous foodies should try the Mexicali burger (house ground burger blend, quasi fresco, roasted chilies, avocado, onion, cilantro, chile de arbol crème, brioche) and Fixin’ Fries (sharp cheddar mornay, bacon crème fraiche, scallions), as both are dishes that Monson calls out as “risky.”
“We’re branching out from our wine country cuisine and being influenced by our regional and cultural environment,” he says. Monson and crew go on walkabout to the Santa Monica Farmers Market every Wednesday and the produce they return with inspires the pub’s specials.
St. Roy also offers ten microbrews on tap, including local beers from Stone and Port Breweries. St. Roy’s new beer and wine-tasting bar faces a unique wine-on-tap system that houses 20 regional wines. For an enjoyable night out in San Clemente, whether for food or drinks, it’s winning.
211 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente
949.361.2079 | stroychefspub.com
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
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.
January 25, 2011
Carry On: Rob Dyer
Words: Rob Brink
Already Been Done, January 2011
Rob Dyer is gnarly. Like, “Danny Way” gnarly.
In the span of the last eight years, Rob (now 26 years old) has ridden his skateboard across the United States (most of the way with a fractured ankle), Canada, New Zealand and some of Australia (which got cut short after he was hit by a car). In total, approximately 20,000 miles—which, when calculated to actual on-board time, works out to about 18 months of solid pushing.
When Rob appeared on MTV Live in June of 2008 to promote his organization, Skate4Cancer, a record number of audience members came to see him. The producers said that Rob brought more people than any artist they’d ever had on, outnumbering even The Spice Girls in their glory days.
Apart from growing Skate4Cancer and opening the new Dream Love Cure Centre in Toronto, Rob’s planning on skateboarding across France this April.
In this world, very few people repeatedly pull off unthinkable. Rob Dyer is one of them.
You lost your mom, both grandmothers and a close friend to cancer … what was the time frame?
It all happened within roughly a five-month span. I was about 18 or 19 at the time and it caused a lot of frustration, which led to Skate4Cancer being born—trying to do something positive instead of dwelling on it.
Having all that happen in such a short time makes you realize that no matter what happens from then on, you know the bottom. Once you bounce back you become grateful for the little things—you realize what’s important in life, because you’ve been there and you’ve felt that low and that depression.
The original goal of Skate4Cancer wasn’t necessarily about raising money but more about education and awareness, right?
Well, in the beginning it was about raising money for a couple organizations, but we discovered our audience was mostly young kids who didn’t have a checkbook to make a big impact on cancer research with.
But they do control their bodies. So we realized we had more impact teaching them about cancer prevention—how to use their bodies to prevent cancer—eating properly, giving self breast examinations and other stuff they could do in their day to day life.
In the past six months, however, we developed the idea to open a cancer community center called the Dream Love Cure Centre—a support system for people who are going through it and a place for kids to come in and talk if they need some counseling if someone in their life has just passed away. Upstairs is going to be a couple apartments for families that are getting treatment at the hospital nearby. So we’re starting to fundraise for that through t-shirt sales. Element has a skateboard that just came out and Circa does shoes for us, so a percentage of those go towards opening the center too.
Also, when the kids do spend money, you can help educate them on making a difference with what they buy, like the Skate4Cancer Element board or Circa shoe … or something like a Product (RED) iPod.
Totally. It’s amazing how much kids are aware of causes these days. I didn’t know any organizations when I was in high school—I wasn’t concerned about it, but the generation underneath us was born knowing that they’re in a really unstable world and they have to step it up. And the fact that they have is incredible.
Am I correct in assuming the Internet has played a huge part in the success of Skate4Cancer?
Totally. I don’t think Skate4Cancer would’ve had the strength keep going without all social media there is now. We were just a bunch of kids who didn’t have a lot of capital to start an organization. The fact that there was a community supporting us through the Internet really helped us. Otherwise Skate4Cancer might not have ever reached people like you in California.
How many miles have you skated in total?
Do you have the strongest legs of any skater on the planet?
[Laughter] I don’t think so. After a skate I’ll be all muscled out, but give it a couple months and it goes back to normal. I love pushing more than anything. Ever since I was a kid, just pushing around the city at night, especially during my time of loss, really helped me vent and figure out what was going on in my head.
I’ve heard some people talk about meditating and it seems like pushing on a skateboard also clears your head. You just focus on one thing and one thing only. I’ve always loved long distance running and things like that.
Do you have a custom setup for these marathon skates?
Because I grew up with regular street boards, I just ride that with a bunch of risers because I use 71 mm wheels—really soft ones. It helps a lot more with the terrain. The only thing about those is we burn through them quickly because of the wear and tear on them. Some of the roads are not as nice as we’d hope.
I go through set of bearings a week. Element helps us out with all of that. There’s also a distributor in Canada called S&J and they’ve always been good to us.
So logistically, how does a cross-country skate work?
Depending on the weather, normally what happens is the van drops me off and then drives up about 10 kilometers and I’ll skate to meet the van, rest for a bit and do the same thing over and over for about 60-80 kilometers.
Wherever we stop at the end of the day is where we pitch a tent or pull the van over, cook some beans, wait for the night to fall, make a fire and sleep.
How do you prepare before you begin?
The best thing to do going into a skate is to not really think too much or over-prepare because if you do and things don’t work out, you’ll get stressed. Like, “Oh man, what we prepared for isn’t working out.”
It becomes negative really quick. Of course you have to make sure that you’re physically well-off and have food and stuff like that, but just getting into it and figuring out what you need as you go is the best attitude to have.
The roads are normally the most challenging and unpredictable aspect because in countries like the US—your highways are wild compared to ours! There’s not as much traffic in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
We’re doing France in April and one of the reasons we picked that country is because we’ve read so many positive things about their bike lanes. A lot of our web traffic comes from France too. Other than that, we really don’t know what to expect when we get there.
Where did the car hit you?
It was just outside of Adelaide in Australia. We were skateboarding down the road and the car came from behind me. I guess the driver dropped his phone or was changing the radio because he just gradually swerved into me. It wasn’t a bad hit, just a gradual push off the road. I didn’t get too badly hurt—just pulled muscles and I couldn’t walk for a bit.
Out of 20,000 miles that’s been the only major incident? That’s crazy.
Totally lucky. The amount of cars that pass us every single day for five months on a skate and the year and a half that we’ve spent on a skateboard, and that’s the only thing that’s happened? It’s pretty amazing.
How did the ankle fracture happen?
That was about three weeks into the first skate across the States, near Phoenix. It was from repetitive stress on my ankle because I wasn’t really used to pushing that much. The doctor was like, “Yeah, you’re not supposed to be using your ankle that much in a repetitive motion.”
But you finished it out anyway?
Yeah. It healed. We just slowed down for a couple days and eventually it didn’t hurt anymore.
That's pretty gnarly. I also read that you considered the first skate a failure?
Even though we started in Los Angeles, went down the southern part of the States, and then up the east coast of America into Toronto, we didn’t finish the way we hoped to. When we started Skate4Cancer, the concept was be able to skate from point A to point B and in the first skate we didn’t accomplish that. We were kicked off roads by police so instead of skateboarding directly from Los Angeles to Phoenix, we had to drive into Phoenix and skate those kilometers around the city.
It definitely felt like a failure, but everything in life happens for a reason. Failure is the farthest thing from how I feel about it now. I’m so happy it went that way because it forced us to do a Canadian one and do it right.
Have you ever been chased by a bear or anything?
In Australia a kangaroo followed me for a bit, which was really weird. I guess in that aspect, the skates are pretty boring. We’re not fighting for our lives against wild animals. We have a lot of people that pull over and offer us a place to stay or food or water. Our interactions with people are normally really incredible so I just knock on wood.
You were mentioning difficulties with cops. I even read that one spit chewing tobacco in your face. Is it surprising that you get resistance and drama? I would think when you explain to a cop that you’re skating across the country to raise awareness for cancer that he’d let you slide?
As you get older you begin to realize that if they say yes to you, they have to kind of say yes to everyone. We didn’t have one negative interaction with a cop in New Zealand or Australia. Cops pulled over and offered us Gatorade and things like that. Some countries are very into people biking from point A to point B, but there are other countries where the highway systems aren’t really set up for that, so it becomes a concern of safety.
We’ve also come to learn how to do it without getting in trouble from the police. Laying low and having the van drive ahead is important because if it drives behind you while you skate, it’s slowing up traffic and people get frustrated and call the cops.
Sometimes kids were trying to meet up with us on the highway. It’s a lot different when one person’s skateboarding on the side of the road, but 15 people? The cops freak out.
The cop’s job is to protect the people. Most of the time they don’t mind as long as we just lay low and do our thing and other drivers aren’t complaining.
Tell us about the girl who faked cancer to go to Disney with you.
Yeah, that was a heavy time for us. A friend approached me with a girl he met who supposedly had terminal cancer and she was on her way out.
Her last wish was to hang out with us. We figured, “If this is what she’s going through, it’d be awesome to make her smile a little bit more”!
So through the help of our skate sponsors, we organized a trip to Disney World for her.
We took her and had a great time. It was crazy because she had a shaved head and shaved eyebrows. She’d go to the washroom to throw up because of the chemotherapy. It was really thought out.
A couple months later I read on someone’s Facebook that some girl was faking cancer. I checked the story out and sure enough it was the girl that we took to Disney. It was upsetting, but I can’t understand her mindset. There’s obviously something more there. She obviously has different issues and needs help in a different way.
All for a trip to Disney World? Something similar happened to Bucky Lasek recently with his charity.
The media asked us a lot of pretty harsh questions. Like, “Why wouldn’t you check first?”
It’s like, “Come on, dude!” I don’t want to live in a world where you have to second-guess someone like that.
If your biggest mistake is trusting a girl who supposedly has cancer …
Exactly. It’s a bummer but you can’t necessarily judge or understand what is going on in her head or what she’s battling.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from all this?
Sometimes the heaviest things in your life—the tragedies or the hard times—teach you so much. Knowing that life can’t get worse really helps you battle the little things in life.
I’m very fortunate to have been able to deal with those things at a younger age. And I’ve been able to grow from them and take on more things that I love because that fear and second-guessing isn’t there.
I never would’ve thought that's what was gonna come out of all this. It’s incredible because work is like eighty percent of your life and if you’re not doing something that you love, you’re gonna be unhappy. There’s too much of a concern about money in our world. No matter how much you’re making it’s not worth it in my mind. Do what makes you happy and everything else will work itself out.
Do you have any advice for anyone else who might want to start their own non-profit of charity?
A lot of people look to the top of the mountain instead of just the first day of climbing the mountain. Keep your dream in mind and know it’s gonna happen one day, but make sure your focus is that first step. Just get out there and start doing it and don’t get overwhelmed by things that are happening along the way, because a big part of doing what you love or chasing your dream or fighting for a cause that you believe in is that there are gonna be struggles. It’s not gonna be easy and I think being aware of those hard times and accepting them while reaching your dream is a real important factor in getting to the top of that mountain.
For more on how to help and how to spread the message of Skate4Cancer, visit Skate4Cancer.com and DreamLoveCure.com.
January 23, 2011
Already Been Done Presents: Josiah Gatlyn
Words: Rob Brink
Already Been Done, January 2011
Josiah Gatlyn believes in God. Deal with it.
Now that we gotten past that, let's get down to business.
One day, Josiah happened to be near Los Angeles and was lucky enough to have a friend let him into The Berrics. The rest, as they say, is history.
No really, that was about 18 months ago. And since then, a lot has happened for Josiah. Including the fact that we all know his name and have seen him ride a skateboard.
He's landed a grip of sponsors (Stereo, RVCA, Theeve, Select, Ashbury), completed a graphic design internship, started his own headwear company (Usko) with his girlfriend, worked on multi-million-dollar yachts and gone from North Carolina to Missouri to Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where he's currently working, skating, being responsible and seeking the answer to one of life’s biggest mysteries: “Do Monkeys go to heaven?”
I hear you have a legit job in addition to skateboarding?
Yeah, I’m working part time with my friend Josh. His dad owns a boat repair business. We work on yachts and stuff.
Do a lot of super rich people come in?
Dude, it’s crazy. We’re working on a 31-million-dollar boat right now.
Jesus. Ever worked on a celebrity’s boat?
Actually, Josh’s dad knows Johnny Depp. I guess he’s from Fort Lauderdale or something. We were gonna go look at his boat one day but it never happened.
What’s the sickest Yacht set up you’ve ever seen?
This is the only boat I’ve worked on so far, but it’s a triple-decker with a basement and a Jacuzzi. It’s pretty much like a huge house. It’s absolutely crazy how a yacht works. There’s a crew of like eight people that live on the boat. The owners probably spend more than $100,000 a day on that alone.
So if you own a yacht like that, you’re spending a million dollars every few months just to have it?
Yeah. We’ve been working on this one for at least four months and I haven’t seen them go out on the boat once. It’s crazy.
Plus they have to pay for it to be docked, right?
Yeah and that’s probably the most expensive. If I had that much money, there’s no way I would waste it on just a boat.
Photo: Josh Friedberg
So most of the skate world came to know you through The Berrics, but I don’t think they all know how that started.
Around May of ’09, I sent my footage in for the Bang Yo’ Self contest and I got second place. At the time I was working in Joplin, Missouri for a skatepark company called American Ramp Company and me and my friend were doing this tour where we’d go around and film at all the parks we built. They were gonna put it all together as a promotional video.
I was near LA on that tour and contacted Jason King to maybe go to The Berrics and he let me and my friend Shawn in for a couple hours. I didn’t think anything of it. We were about to leave and Eduardo Craig came out and started filming some stuff. Long story short, I did a Text Yo' Self with him, started filming a few tricks and developed a relationship with the people at The Berrics and everything kind of fell together.
Did life change instantly?
Yeah, it was really crazy. The day I filmed the Bangin’ I couldn’t believe that it actually happened. I thought I was only gonna film one or two tricks. The blunt fakie I did on that wall was the first trick that I filmed. I was super nervous.
I guess Berra got really stoked and was like, “Hey, do you wanna film a First Try Friday?” So I did that then went back on tour with the ramp company.
Shortly after, I got a call from Berra. He wanted me to come back and film a Recruit and said that he was talking to Stereo and they were interested in putting me on the team.
Within a week I went from being in this really small town in Missouri, working at a skatepark company, to living in LA and skating for Stereo. It’s kind of crazy.
Oddly enough, right before I moved to Joplin I was living in North Carolina in the middle of nowhere—like, literally in the woods with my parents. There was a good month and a half where I didn’t even pick up my board because I had nowhere to skate.
And now you’re part of the catalyst for ABD, huh?
Yeah, actually it was on Twitter. I was randomly like, “Man I miss 411 so much. I wish it would come back.”
And I think Joe Krolick retweeted it to the other dudes who used to work for 411. Then Josh Friedberg said something like, “Yeah dude I’m down!” or something.
So I emailed him, like, “Dude, I really hope you bring it back. I would do anything for you to bring 411 back.”
This was before Josh Friedberg won the Nikon contest. I really wanted to help him win and he told me that if he won he would bring 411 back. So I got really hyped and made a YouTube video and posted it to my account and a bunch of kids voted. Josh got super hyped and contacted Berra, who posted it on The Berrics. Then Bam Margera Tweeted my YouTube video and it just spread. We got tons of skateboarders to vote and that’s how he won.
So here we are almost a year later and you have the first part in ABD …
It’s such an honor, man. So hyped to be a part of 411. You know kids these days wake up and watch The Berrics? When I was 13 and growing up I woke up every day and put in a 411 VHS tape and went out skating. I’m really, really hyped on this.
So are we. You used to have a pet monkey?
Yeah, when I was really young—maybe nine years old, my brother was super hyped on monkeys and somehow convinced my parents to buy one. There was this place in North Carolina … this dude literally owned a monkey ranch in his backyard—sketchiest thing ever. Back then it seemed normal, but now, thinking about it, what the heck? We bought a monkey from some dude that lived in a trailer.
We had him for like two years, it was rad. We had a pond at our house and he would go and swim in it and stuff but he ended up biting a neighbor and the neighbor threatened to sue us. At the time they had just made it illegal to own a wild species in Goldsboro, North Carolina, so my dad called all these different places trying to give it away—zoos, theme parks, anything—but no one would take it because it was such a wild monkey.
Eventually, we had to put it down, which sucked really bad. I miss him, but it was fun while it lasted.
I wonder how a dude like that gets into the monkey selling business. Did he have a lot of monkeys?
At least 10 or 15.
So it was a full-on monkey farm?
I guess. He probably bought a male and a female and just started breeding ‘em. I doubt he’s still in business now, but it was crazy.
So you have the yacht gig and you had a graphic design internship recently. I think it’s smart that you have a backup plan instead of just relying on skating carrying you through life.
At the end of the day, you have to do what you have to do. You’re a human being. Just because a lot of people know who you are doesn’t mean that you deserve … I don’t necessarily feel that I’m entitled to make a lot of money, but I would like to skate everyday and work really hard to be able to have skateboarding to make a living. But right now it’s not that way. All I can do is skate and film and try my best and see what happens.
I was in California for eight months and it was really hard for me to live. I was couch surfing everywhere and just barely getting by. I didn’t have a car or anything. I kind of felt that if I moved to where some of my family, my girlfriend and her family lives that I’d get more stuff done, rather than being out there and just hoping things work out.
I don’t plan on being out here for the rest of my life. I really wanna move back out there, but for now, I’m just trying to get as much stuff done as possible.
Where’d the name for your headwear company, Usko, come from?
It’s the Finnish word for “faith.” I thought it sounded cool.
Are you Finnish?
No, I’m actually not. I kind of like the culture. It’s pretty cool.
Yeah, they have a pretty good quality of life over there.
That place is awesome. It’s so much different out there. They’re all about family and about hanging out and being friends. There’re not rude people.
They’re healthier too.
Yeah, I didn’t see one fat person while I was out there.
Front shuv. Photo: Jon Spitzer
You know, I tried to add you on Facebook the other day before we did this, and you had too many friend requests so it wouldn’t let me.
Yeah. It caps you at 5000 friends. I don’t know why.
At least people like you.
Yeah. Not everybody.
Actually, the other day I was on the Slap forum and I saw this thread about you kickflipping a basketball net …
Yeah, I’ve seen it.
Good. So a thread about you kickflipping a basketball net spirals into a huge discussion on you being a “religious” skateboarder, which I didn’t know about you.
Yeah. I don’t think of it as a bunch of rules. I don’t view God as looking down like, “Hey, if you don’t do this, you’re going to hell.”
I feel God gives us freedom to choose to do whatever we want and I think everything happens for a reason. There’s a lot to get into, I don’t know how to necessarily explain it, but I do believe in Jesus.
As do many other well-respected skateboarders—Paul Rodriguez, for example. I think when a lot of people hear that someone’s religious; they automatically assume that person is an over-the-top weirdo. But you don’t have eight wives; you’re not preaching to me or sacrificing animals …
I’ve gone to church my whole life and if anybody should hate Christianity, or hate God, I would be the one because I’ve seen so much gnarly stuff in the Church. But I don’t hate anybody because we’re all humans, you know? I feel like I’m blessed to even be in this situation that I’m in right now.
What’s some stuff you’ve seen?
Just super prideful people that think they’re high and mighty because of what they believe in. There’s literally Christians who think they don’t do anything wrong. They think like, “I never sin” and that it’s possible to be perfect.
In my lifetime I’ve never once thought it was possible to be perfect. You’re always gonna make mistakes and you gotta try to learn from them. When a lot of people see something they think is “wrong,” and freak out or are so negative that other people don’t want anything to do with them. They point fingers and get so mean about it. That’s not how you deal with it, you know?
The psychology of covering up your own flaws by pointing out other people’s … look at Tiger Woods. Everyone was going berserk because he cheated on his wife, but I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t cheated at some point in their lives.
It’s funny that you say that. I thought the exact same thing when all that controversy came out. It’s so dumb. A famous person can do one thing wrong and he’s like the worst dude ever, but there’s people out there doing that everyday. It’s crazy.
So, before we wrap this up then, do monkeys go to Heaven?
[Laughter] I haven’t seen anything in the Bible about that at all so I have no idea.
Haven’t you heard that Pixies song called “Monkey’s Gone to Heaven”?
Oh really? That’s funny. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it.
You should look it up sometime.
I suppose I should.