That’s right. For some reason I feel like the first time I met you was at the Firestone Ditch. The first thing I ever filmed of you was that boardslide.
Oh, really? You filmed that?
That’s around when you first got swept up by Dill and AVE. All of a sudden you were with them every day.
Well, yeah, I think they were skating with Cody a lot and that’s who I started coming around with. But I mean, those guys went to that ditch every fucking day. And I was down to skate every day, so I’d be like, “Sure, I’ll go out with you guys again.” I remember that day at the ditch, though. Dude, that place is hell on Earth.
What’s the biggest challenge for you these days?
I don’t know. Maybe just keeping a balance. It has to do with skating a lot. Like, even if you’re not really getting shit done, just keep skating. If you let it get to you and then you don’t skate for a while because you’re over it, or whatever—maybe you’re not landing your tricks—then it just digs this hole where you’re so over it, and you hate skating, and then it takes like a week or two for you to get over it, and then you go skate again, but you skate like shit because you haven’t skated in two weeks, then you just get more mad.
Is that what was happening for that first period of time?
Yeah, I don’t know what was happening. I guess I hit the first long, dry spell of my career. It was fucking torture. It was ever since that session—for the commercial for my shoe—after that is when I think it all started. That was the closest thing to hell I think I’ve ever experienced. Ever since then, I don’t know, I’ve had some sort of PTSD, or something, when trying tricks.
What happened, for those who don’t know?
Well, it was just like the most unnatural experience I’ve ever had trying a trick. It was a huge commercial production, with policemen, there was a lot of pressure, and I was unsure if I could even land the trick. And there was risk: I had actually torn some ligaments in my ankle trying that same trick the year before. I didn’t skate for two weeks before that because the same ankle was hurting, so literally the day before the commercial I felt okay enough to go skate flat ground for a couple hours. But then I just dove straight into trying to kickflip into this massive bank for about eight hours straight. And it was not successful. And then everyone was like, “Wow, that really just happened? We didn’t get the trick and now it’s over?”
After that I could tell it was tough for you. I mean it doesn’t matter who you are, you have to click into this sort of mode, or state of mind, or whatever it is, to really make skateboarding work.
I was just feeling like shit, like mentally, and it was affecting how I skated. I just had to tweak that a little bit, fix my way of looking at it, and then it all started to untangle itself.
And what is it that clicked?
Getting a trick helps. (Laughs) I think that finally broke the long, dry spell of not landing stuff. But before that I would be so over it and angry with skating. Then I’d be like, “Whoa, I haven’t touched my skateboard in like two weeks.” And then I’d try to go film something and just feel so awkward.
Mentally not so much, because in my head I was like, “Oh, yeah, I know how to do this trick.” And then I’d go to actually try it, but even the simplest thing like a kickflip felt so weird. And then I realized I’m not the type of guy that can not skate for awhile and then be right there where I left off. I’ve got to keep it up every day, or at least every other day, just to feel normal. I also have high expectations for what I want to film. I’m not motivated to go out and do something if I’m not 100% satisfied with the trick that I’m going to try. I feel like progression is the coolest thing about skateboarding—or the best feeling thing.
I saw that in you. Even if you weren’t skating a lot, your expectations were so high for what you wanted. It’s hard to operate at that level if you’re not fine-tuned and skating every day.
Yeah, I know. I guess I am now realizing I might have been a little bit depressed during that time. But now skating every day and just being on my skateboard feels so good. I just had to break that barrier of feeling like shit and start to feel good and confident and like I was pushing my boundaries a little bit. And now it’s addicting. Like I don’t want to do anything else besides prepare myself for the next, I guess, battle. I’m so focused on what I want to accomplish for this project that I have shit planned out for the next three weekends. I would just feel terrible if I got through a video part just scraping by and didn’t try to put out the best thing I could. I feel like I would always look back and be like, “Fuck, what were you doing?”
Do you think part of that, you being in a slump or depressed or whatever it was, had anything to do with a new type of pressure? Like getting your first shoe? I see that happen a lot.
I mean, yeah, for sure. It’s like I just so happen to get a shoe, but then have the worst year of my life skating thus far? That was just depressing. It was a lot of pressure. And then other people around me, who were in the same situation that I was in were thriving. I was like, “Fuck, dude. These guys are all progressing themselves at the time that they should be and I don’t know what happened.” It was honestly so bad, I was thoroughly lost. I gave up. I was like, “Dude, there’s something wrong with me.” It was nobody’s fault but mine so I couldn’t really talk to people about it because I knew that it was all on me to fix.
I’m psyched that you fixed it. That’s a tough position to be in. Everyone around you supports you, but it’s one of those things where the only thing that’s going to make it click is you figuring it out. And I’ve seen it happen so many times: where it becomes so hard to skate because of pressure and then all of a sudden it’s not as fun. Everyone has to figure out their own methods and what they need to do to be able to function.
It was kind of motivating, I guess, to have people like that around me that would reassure me that you’ve just got to skate more and just power through it and you’ll be fine. It’s not going to last forever. But it really felt like I’d forgot how to skate at the most crucial time, when I needed to be skating my best. But, I don’t know, I feel good now and I’m glad that I went through that because now if it ever were to start happening again, I know better. I know what I need to do to get out of there.
I’ve seen people in that position and they start trying everything. They’ll be like, “Oh, maybe I’ve got to switch up my board shape? Or maybe I need to skate different types of spots?”
Oh yeah. I got there. I started messing with my board shapes, and my wheel size, and I was panicking, but then I was like, “What are you doing, dude? Skate what feels good and just skate, a lot.” Pretty simple.
Aside from the business of skateboarding, why do you think skateboarders keep filming these video parts?
For me, it’s something to look back on and be really proud of. I don’t know, I guess I grew up at the end of an era where videos were kind of the only way that you got to see skating. I’m not going to lie—me, personally—I don’t really watch that many skate videos anymore, but I don’t have to watch them all the time to appreciate and remember the impact that they have on me. Like, I’ve only seen the “Baker 4” video a couple times, but I know that everything in there is so meaningful and motivating that I have just as much respect for those guys as when I was a kid and I watched “Baker 3” every day. Especially when you’ve done it before and you know how much goes into it and everything. You fucking go back for a trick eight different times, and one day you try it for four hours, but then it goes by in ten seconds in your video part—that was like a month, two months, three months, a year of my life, of thinking about it the night before, waking up, trying to feel good, eating well that morning—but then the feeling of rolling away from something that you’ve been trying for months is incomparable to anything else. I can always look back, and maybe not feel that same feeling at that moment, but I can look back and remember the accomplishment. It’s something that makes me feel like I’m doing something with my job and not just like riding the coattails of it.
Is there anything else like it? I guess surfers do it?
It’s kind of different. They don’t sit there and try one trick for eight hours. They just kind of rip whatever comes their way. It’s almost like a one-try kind of sport, which is sick. Like, every wave is different and they just have to do the best they can with it. But skating is more about focus. Focus and patience. Surfing is more in the moment, like a rush type of thing. I don’t know.
Let’s switch to Gilbert. Tell me about him.
Gilbert never ceases to amaze me. He’s always into something new and he knows so much about everything that he’s into. I just never know what he’s fucking thinking, or what is going through his mind. But we get along really well. For the first five or six years I knew him I didn’t realize how well we get along. But I just love his humor and what he finds interesting, so it’s really fun to throw stuff at him and see how he reacts to it.
I feel like a lot of people think that about Gilbert. He’s easy to connect to because he’s open, but he’s also one of the most hot-and-cold people I’ve ever known in my life.
Yeah, totally. Like, I don’t know how to address him sometimes. And it’s so crazy because when he’s in his mood where he’s feeling funny and a little reckless you can kind of vibe with him off of it and make fun of each other or whatever. But if you said that same thing to him when he was on a dark one, he would just—fucking the world would explode. With skating within the first three tries of a trick I feel like I can see what direction he’s going in. Either he’s going to be really focused and patient and see it to the end, or it’s going to be like a UFC fight, where you’re like, “You got close? You only tried it five times.”
I feel like I can tell as soon as he gets out of the van.
And he’s so opinionated. But I love and I respect his opinions. I don’t always agree with them, but I love to talk to him about how he feels about something. And it’s just insane to witness how talented he is, and underrated, almost like he can do anything he wants. And he’s probably the most springy person I’ve ever seen in my life. I remember we were trying to jump up on this ledge at a spot. We hadn’t even touched our boards yet. This ledge was like chest high and I was like, “Dude, do you think you could jump on this? Like standing still?” And I was thinking, there’s no way. So he bent down—and it was like a foot over his head—and, BOING!, he sprang up like a cat all gracefully. I was like, “Oh shit, you’re made out of rubber.”
What about travel, how do you handle the downtime?
Well, I used to go down to the bar at the hotel, or get a case of beers and go chill somewhere, but then I was kind of noticing it wasn’t really benefiting my skating at all. (Laughs) So now I just do what I do at home: I might have a beer at dinner with everybody, but then I’ll just kick back at the hotel and take a shower and stretch and drink water. It’s so cliché, but, yeah, I try to get a good night’s sleep. And it works, I feel a lot better. Even if I don’t try a trick that day, I just feel better. Especially on trips when you’re specifically there to film for a project it’s important for me to take advantage of every day because the days are precious. A few times lately I’ve gotten three tricks in one day and that’s just like—dude, I remember a point in time where I didn’t get three tricks for six months. So you never know. It’s just good to be sharp and feel good.
When you look back at this project as a period in your life—it’s been two years now—what do you see?
I honestly see it as a pivotal moment of maturing. I don’t know if it’s because it’s been so tough, but I definitely feel wiser, or more grown up, just because it’s kind of been like fucking hell.
But the last few months have been remarkably different.
Yeah, and I don’t know really why it took so long to figure it out. Maybe finally something just clicked? I’m just a lot more confident in myself now, which is helping me want to skate more. I just feel like I have something to bring to the table.
It seems like you’re a lot happier.
Yeah, for sure. I’ve definitely gone on trips where I’ve gone out the night before and then you wake up the next day and you’re just hung over and not able to skate on a trip that people paid for you to be there and get things done on and it just sucks.
I mean, from all the trips I’ve been on, when everyone gets a lot done and you’re skating the whole trip, people are always so much happier when they come home than any party trip. We’re skateboarders.
It’s just maturity, I guess. I have more control over myself now and I don’t feel as pressured to be like, “Oh, I can drink beers all day and still get a trick,” to feel like that’s what it takes to be a part of the crew. I think I’m just older now and I don’t really care about being a part of the crew. I’m more motivated to chase what feels good for me personally. Whatever. I just wanna leave behind stuff that I’m proud of and not look back and be like, “Ah man, I probably could have done a little bit better there,” or, “I could’ve probably taken that a little bit more seriously.” I don’t regret the old days at all, but I just feel better now.
Well, it’s interesting because I think video parts are very much a chapter of your life. If you ask anyone who’s had multiple video parts over a long period of time, they would probably break those down into where they were in their life then and what they learned through that process. So it’s not just tricks so much, I feel like it’s more a period of time. You know it might be, “I was young, I was crazy. I didn’t give a shit”. or “That’s when I was coming around”. With a lot of people I’ve known, you can see that progression, as they’re maturing and figuring out how to navigate the world. All a sudden, it’s like you have more responsibility both within skateboarding and outside of it and you’re trying to figure out how to balance it all.
Yeah, it feels good to be productive. And I realized I can’t have both.