While I was compiling this list, the first thing I thought about were the commenters who will say, “Uhmmmm, so-and-so did one of these things and he’s the fucking MAN!” It’s true. Gifted people get away with crazy shit, that’s the nature of genius. When I see Mark Gonzales wearing pink pants and some weird hat, I don’t see an eccentric older person, I imagine a mobbed the fuck out kickflip over his gap and how much he’s done for planet earth, let alone skating. He’s an original and that’s why he’s a legend.
Despite the outliers (which I will detail for you), I’m confident in saying that everything below is at least a 51% bad idea–majority rules. Sure, you can even do two or three of these things at once and become a legend, but I can say with conviction it’s probably not happening.
You might be composing a comment already, bashing me for shitting on skateboarders’ originality. No, I’m not scared that if people take my advice we’ll be left with a bunch of really good, but not marketable vanilla dudes. That’s going to happen as long as skateboarding exists anyway and it’s not a bad thing. Not everyone gets on a skateboard to create some “persona,” some are just really good and fun to watch. I’ll always watch a clip of Ronnie Creager, but I probably wouldn’t buy a Creager Skateboards deck if he started a brand or go out of my way to hear him DJ. He’s just really fucking good.
I’m not running a new boutique brand, identifying emerging market trends, hoping to create cool. I’m just here to save your asses from totally kooking it. Originality and expression are essential to enjoyable skateboarding, but you have to find your own shit. Take risks if you believe in them, but don’t follow a cliched blueprint, and whatever you do don’t….
This rule isn’t exclusive to white people. It’s actually reverse racist for a white person to think only black and people of hispanic descent should rap, even though most white rappers do suck. Getting good–even really super good–at skateboarding doesn’t mean people want to hear you brag over your friend’s terrible beats. If you have money and want to buy a bunch of good ones from the Heatmakerz or some shit, that’s a different story, but you don’t and you won’t and you still can’t really rhyme.
History has shown us this never works. Henry Sanchez is a legend, but not because him and Pat Washington walked around with a cheap CD boombox rhyming during their shared part in Got Gold. Have you watched that one in a minute? Talking shit about waffles and stuff? Don’t do it. J Cassanova? Whateverthefuck that shit from 1281 was?
The lesson here is ego and restraint. You worked your whole life to be noticed for skating. You’ve been “rapping” on and off for a while sure, (big wink) but don’t mistake knowing the words to songs you’ve heard a bunch of times and a few rehearsed freestyles as signs you’ll be signing to Def Jam in 2014.
Black Dave because he plays clubs, works as hard at rapping and promoting as his skating, and he’s a New York MC, and we always want a NY native on Hot 97. I’m not going to explain this if you don’t listen to Hot 97, it’s like the most important thing in the tri-state area, regardless if the rest of the country could give a shit.
Quim Cardona’s freestyle in Eastern Exposure 3. Reach for the javelin, Quim’s rhyme was a snapshot of his personality to many, and showed him as more than just an insanely talented skater who could bend his legs in ways that would make Olympic gymnasts say, “What the fuck!”
BAD SHOE DEALS
There really aren’t any major shoe companies left to crack skateboarding at this point, but that doesn’t mean random ones won’t try. Are you telling me that somewhere, in the newly downsized Tretorn North American office they aren’t reviewing some presentation about a proposed skate team? Don’t be the sucker that thinks getting your name on a shoe from a company mainly known for rain boots and walking shoes is a good concept.
I get it, it’s tempting and you need to make money, but do you really want to design a shoe for Reef? Oh, speaking of, what the fuck was Epik other than not epic? They’re going to talk a big game and convince you that they have the best people on board and and they might, but the second it tanks, those talented people get fired and you’re the dude who got dropped by Skechers or whatever. Not good.
If you are going to be defiant and sign on for Ellesse’s new skate brand run by former Santa Cruz and Planet Earth pro Caesar Singh (I made that up but it sounds believable right?) at least make sure you’re getting super paid and then invest that money immediately into something high yield because it’s not going to last, I swear.
Greg Lutzka. Once your actual headspace is rented out to Rockstar, nothing is really a bad idea, so in a way Lutzka COULDN’T have turned down K-Swiss money even if they wanted him to wear a signature velour clog.
STARTING YOUR OWN NAMESAKE BRAND
It’s tempting to do this as there’s a tradition of skaters that have felt the need to take control of their “brand” by starting their own namesake company. Your name is on the board already, why not name the whole shit after yourself right? Wrong… always.
Let’s look at the success rate of name sake companies–the ones that stuck around. What’s that? You can’t name one right? Is this clicking yet? Hosoi, Alva, Sims… there’s plenty to name (or self name) in the conversation, but none of them stayed steady since their creation. Part of that is because the entire industry was in flux in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, but there are several companies that lasted, because they’re just named after stuff, not people. Even Powell Peralta–who went by Powell for a minute–had to survive off two names.
Also, you need a cool fucking name like Alva or Hosoi for it to even be a conversation. Who the hell would ride a Ortiz or Taylor skateboard when a cool name like Kasai can’t make it.
OUTLIERS: None. Please don’t do this.
TALKING SHIT – ESPECIALLY ON “THE INDUSTRY” – IN AN INTERVIEW
Being opinionated is a good thing for a skateboarder, as the last thing you want to do when given the chance to do an interview is give some pedestrian responses like Derek Jeter or Tom Brady. Tell crazy stories, brag about how many drugs you do, talk about what music you like, praise other people, tell us about how your dad is a Freemason. Anything like that is cool and will make you sound endearing. If you want to ramp it up, make fun of corporate sponsors, big shoe deals, HD video, or an ex-teammate, but don’t talk shit on the actual industry.
History has shown us that when you try to do this in the style of Adam McNatt, Todd Congelliere or Tom Knox, you’re fucked. Sure Cong and Knox were right in thinking it was fucked up that the industry only cared about flip tricks and skinny boards or whatever, but all they had to do was stay the course and eventually things would come around. Sure, Knox ended up back on Santa Cruz, but there could have been more than Sonic in between if he didn’t pull the Thrasher call out. McNatt was on shaky ground already using jump ramps and benches to get on rails, so calling people out probably wasn’t a good look.
Don’t be the “jaded” guy who “hates how the industry works.” Re-read that sentence: it IS an industry. It’s the best industry when you’re young, paid, and productive. It’s “so fucked up” when you’re older, putting out less footage, and skating for some kooked out company instead of the big name sponsors who dropped you for blowing it. See how that works? Once you put your name on something–a board, a shoe, a wheel–you become a product sold by someone. What you do with that brand is your choice, but when it starts to suck don’t blame anyone.
Lastly–and there’s not much we can do about this one–try to be aware of your possible offensive views, such as being sexist, racist, or homophobic. I mean, it’s skateboarding and as time has shown, all that shit is tolerated unfortunately, but it doesn’t mean it’s cool. Anyone who decided Corey Duffel got cooler when he called Stevie a “trashy nigger,” is a straight up loser-ass-loser, and you don’t want those types buying your boards. They have a name for them: NAZIS.
OUTLIER: Steve Rocco. He made an empire off calling out the entire industry, because he was a creative genius. If you think for a second you could possible pull what he pulled while being pro, you’re not only delusional, you’re probably brain damaged from all those free energy drinks in your fridge from your sponsor.
One of the oldest paths associated with success is over-partying. You finally achieved whatever the hell you wanted to and are fake rich, so now it’s time to go harder. That’s an awesome concept in music, but a terrible one for an athlete. Let’s be real: if you’re paid to ride a skateboard you are essentially an athlete. Now that doesn’t mean you’re taking roids (wink wink) to ollie higher or streamlining your diet like Kobe. You could just be that creative guy who people like to see do weird shit or have a stylish push, but you have to be able to do and sustain that. That’s way different than being some rock dude. A bass player just needs to look cool and kinda do something. You know who Michael Anthony is right? He basically sucked at bass for decades and made crazy money in Van Halen because he could sing back ups and played a Jack Daniels bass.
I’m not saying you need to become straight edge, just follow these simple guidelines: stay away from pills and hard drugs. That’s it really. Drink if you want to drink, smoke weed if that’s your trip, but once you start sniffing too much at that hot party or really blowing it by injecting ron ron, you will lose. Regular dudes can get skiied out–even at their jobs and shit–but you have to jump off things and use your body. It’s not going to happen.
And why am I saying that drinking is OK? Let me explain. If you’re not doing hard drugs, you can handle drinking and use common sense. If you’re all doped out, playing guitar poorly in bed with some girl that thinks you should paint your nails, you’re going to have to go to rehab which sucks. Just be a dude that has some drinks. When you have to get footage, be a guy who rewards himself with those drinks, but AFTER YOU GET THE CLIP.
I already know what you’re going to say, so I’ll address it. Many of the Baker dudes who got strung out still kill it and guys like AVE, Dill, and Mariano beat addiction as well. Here’s a few things: those guys are better than you, some of them own their own companies so they can’t get kicked off, and years on a bar stool or couch saves your knees. Also, do you know how fucking hard it is to give up something you’re addicted to, change your lifestyle forever, and then go film a part you deem worthy only to have some internerds rip on you? Better to not find out and just use common sense.
OUTLIER: Fred Gall. Fred rages in the most All American way possible and comes through. That’s his thing. You don’t have a thing yet, so you have to find yours. Shitty spots, pony tail, crushing beers. That’s Freddie. If you bite that, it’s the same as shooting the same trick as someone that already got the cover of Thrasher doing it, straight up.
PULLING A FABRY
If you don’t know what “Pulling a Fabry” means ask an older dude, or just think of the number one line you don’t cross with a good friend.
OUTLIERS: Ryan Fabry, because he actually got chances to redeem himself, it’s just that no one gave a shit.