I just wanted to know a bit about your back-story to skating. How did you go pro?
“Well, I started skating when I was eleven, here in San Jose and I just kept doing it and now I'm 29 hahaha and I dunno…
I just kept doing it and it all kinda worked out. Like I wasn’t trying to go pro or anything, it all just happened, and fast. Like once I started getting sponsored, it all just happened so fast. And now I’m 29 years old and I’m like, “Holy sh**, where'd all that time go?!” It’s almost like you’re having so much fun that time just flies by. Because in many ways, I never had to grow up you know? I haven't had to grow up yet. So it all just went by so fast. I've just been playing this toy for 18 years.”
Ya wow! I never thought about it like that. They say time flies when you’re having fun. Well I mean, are there any challenges that comes with this lifestyle though? Like are there any stresses or struggles that come with traveling so much?
—Daryl points up at the current issue of Oak Street Magazine that’s sitting in the display window at our coffee spot.—
“That guys a pro skater. That’s Tony Alva. It’s crazy, like skaters, they’re almost looked at like figures or idols. Like they’re musicians or something. It’s weird.
Ummm ya, all that is true about traveling so much, but what do you wanna know? Like if there is a downfall? I mean everything has its downfall. Too much of anything is not good you know? So you gotta learn how to balance it all out. Like sometimes I get burnt out and so I have to just take a break for a couple weeks. Just ride my bike around, do little errands; kinda like what I’m doing now. Handling some adult things. Paying bills, opening up life insurance policies hahaha I’m just kidding. No I dunno, I just get burnt out sometimes and so I have to take it slow. That’s when I start doing a lot of photography actually or like working on my company. Cause it keeps my mind going, but also gives me a time to relax.”
So is there anything that you have to sacrifice for this sort of lifestyle and all that comes with it?
“My time maybe? I mean, even though I have a lenient schedule, I’m pretty busy. Because half of the job is traveling.
Like I have a son and I gotta make sure I see him as much as possible. He lives in LA. So ya, sometimes it’s hard to see certain people or do things I wanna do, like normal things. But you just have to make time for it and you just make time for everybody and all your responsibilities. You just make time for it. You have to.”
So if you can break it down, how do you get paid as a pro skater? How do you make a living off skating?
“I have sponsors and they pay me every month. And uhh as long as I’m doing my job, and I guess, like representing their brands, then they'll keep paying me. Umm I dunno I just gotta skate and don’t get lazy. Because when you get lazy that’s when you kinda start to fade away. And then when you fade away, then it’s just like, “Alright well….thank you.”
It’s like a job you know. If you start slacking off, then your boss is gonna be like, “What’s up man? Like whats going on?” But also there’s kind of a statute of limitations. Cus when you get to like a certain age, some people become legendary, like Tony Alva. And if you become one of them, you could be around forever and get paid by, you know, he gets paid by Vans. Or there’s a guy named Lance Mountain, he's like his age. He gets paid by Nike still.
Like if you can figure out a way to transition into an icon, then you could do it for your whole life. I mean some people might get over it, the lifestyle, at a certain point and maybe want to work a desk job or something, or you know some people want that hahaha I dunno. Personally, I wanna keep skating for as long as I can. Obviously I’m gonna skate for as long as I can walk hahaha because that’s kinda, like that’s all I know. I dunno, it’s weird. I’m gonna grab some water really quick.”
So when you travel for skating, how do you get to do that? Do you get sent to make a video? Or why do skaters travel so much?
“So sometimes, whichever company, like one of my sponsors, whatever they want me to work on, they usually plan the trips and they’ll send us. Like, “Hey, we planned a trip to Spain for two weeks, these dates.” And then you can either ya, you can go, or you can’t.
Ummm but then there are times that you don’t really have any projects to work on and actually that’s what freaks me out the most, cus I always need something to do and I always need something to work on and like a goal to accomplish. So that’s when I sort of create my own trips.
Or like I’ll work on my own video or I’ll work on an article for a magazine with a photographer. Like I’m gonna go to Toronto at the end of August with my friend who’s a photographer, and we’re gonna try to shoot an article in Toronto, in a week, for this magazine. And then just little things like that, little projects like that, that you create to stay relevant and to keep you out there. So your company will see it and be like, “Oh he’s staying busy.”
That’s sort of like the proof. Like, “Alright what’s he been doing?” And then they see an interview in a magazine and like, “Oh ok, he’s been working.” So it’s like you constantly just have to figure out little things to stay relevant in a sense. It’s like free lance work, essentially.”
So then, where have you travelled to for skating? It seems like you’ve been all over, ya?
“Pretty much everywhere but like Africa. And I wanna go to Africa.
I've been to brazil, Australia, all over South America, Chili, China, Japan, all over Europe… I've never been to Russia, never been to New Zealand. I’ve never been to the Middle East because it’s dangerous. But I've literally been everywhere else.”
What? And this is ALL for skating?
Wow! So then, you’ve sort of grown up as a pro skater. How has this shaped who you are? All the traveling?
“I mean, just being taken out of your comfort zone and seeing what else there is in the world. it kinda opens your mind and opens your eyes to reality and you're not sheltered and you're not being raised by MTV. You're sort of raising yourself on the road, and learning how to live life everywhere. I mean everybody is pretty much the same in a sense, but everybody just has a different routine…What was the question again? I got lost.”
Hahaha just ya, I was saying how this profession, what has it taught you or how has it made you a better person?
“I dunno if it’s made me a better person, but I mean there are kids and people who look up to skaters, and I guess just making those kids excited to skate keeps you conscious of your actions. Kids idolize skating and pro skaters and so just being a good role model to them is an important thing, and essentially that makes you a good person, you know? Because these kids admire you and look up to you and you just hopefully do things that they CAN look up to.”
What are the best things about being a pro skater? I mean, I think you kind of mentioned it a bit already, but if you can elaborate.
“The best thing….is the whole thing haha I mean I dunno, not to sound corny or whatever, but just like everything about it, is the best thing to me. I honestly don’t know what else I would do. I mean its a lifestyle you know? It’s kind of like a religion in a sense. As corny as that sounds, but it’s what keeps my head on a positive direction and I don’t wander off and turn into a drug addict or whatever. It keeps me focused on something.
I think that’s the thing in life, people get lost because they're not focused on something, they're not passionate about something. Skating is what keeps me passionate about waking up in the morning and wanting to go live my life because I have this thing to do, and for some reason it never gets old to me. I dunno its weird.
Like some days I wake up and I’m like “uhh I don't feel like skating today..” but its not like I’m done, or I can’t do this ever again. You know? I just wake up like “uhh I don't feel like doing it today” and then I wake up the next day with an itch, and I’m like, “Ohh! I wanna go skate today cus I didn't skate yesterday!”
Like I dunno it’s a reason to wake up in the morning, sorta.”
Ya, well you’re constantly working though it seems, like you love what you do, but you’re also working really hard at it.
“I feel like a lot of people do things in life just to make money. Some people do things in life, just to enjoy it and be happy. I mean it’s also really hard to do something you really enjoy doing, like a hobby, sorta like skating. But I think if you're driven enough or passionate enough then it will work out. If you're passionate about it and you put all your effort in it, something has to happen. And if it doesn’t, then you might be doing something wrong because it’s just like anything else in life. Anybody can be a doctor, you just have to work really hard to be a doctor. You gotta go to school, you gotta learn, you gotta be really focused for like ever."
It’s just all about being really ambitious and working your hardest at achieving your goals.
"I have ADD too, so like I have to constantly be doing something and I think that actually fuels me. I get distracted a lot but it’s kinda like a burning inside me that needs to constantly be doing something. I can’t just like go home and lay on the coach and watch tv for 6 hours. It just doesn't make any sense to me. Like that’s not life. Life is doing things that make you happy and being around people who make you happy.”
There’s just so much to do, right?
“Ya, there’s so much to do! Like if you're bored it’s because you're a boring person. There are so many opportunities in this world. And like you'd rather go smoke crack or end up under a bridge? But like maybe they're passionate about that. I dunno. I don’t understand. I think I kinda went off hahaha I took a turn, but you can probably edit that.”
Ya hahaha well speaking of having so much to do, what are your other passions and interests?
“My other passions… I mean I like cooking a lot. I actually really like shopping haha I have a spending habit. I like taking photos, of course. I like making designs and drawing and making clothes and t-shirts and hats and I like to paint sometimes. Not too often, but I do it. I like riding my bike hahaha listening to music. I dunno just standard stuff.”
Ya pretty standard, but you’re definitely an awesome photographer! I love how candid your photos are. You seem to be drawn to the humorous moments in life and capture them very well. Like perfect timing! Very detailed and you can just tell that you’re constantly observing and documenting life around you. Can you speak to that a bit?
“I just try to have a camera on me most of the time and if I see something that attracts my eye or whatever I’ll take a photo of it. It’s weird like sometimes, I take some photos and I forget that I took them and then I’ll develop a role like two months later and then I'm like, “Woah! I shot that?!”
You know what I mean? I’m like, “I shot that? When was that?” That’s why I like shooting film because you get surprised when you get your stuff back. Because that moment, it was just something that happened so quick and so fast, you forget about it. But then when you get your film back, you get to relive those moments that we’re just so fleeting and temporary.”
That was beautiful! I feel like there were some deep metaphors in there on life hahaha. Alright well just to conclude, is there anything that’s coming up or you have planned in the near future?
“I mean, I have a gallery show coming up in the fall, in Tokyo. I wanna make a book, a photography book and I don’t even care how much it costs. I’m gonna make like a really expensive photography book. Probably make a couple hundred copies. Hopefully try to get it published.
Obviously keep skating and making videos. I’m gonna keep working on my company, Castle. Make some videos for it with my team. Keep pushing forward, keep doing what I’m doing, but just try to do more and better.”