While 2018 has returned to ’90s street skating to bring out countless product reissues, throwback aesthetics, and comebacks, one legend among this influential generation, Jaime Reyes, is not talked about enough.
Twenty years ago, her legacy was forged in the subversive pages of magazines and encapsulated in the ribbons of VHS tapes. Her parts in Real’s “Non-Fiction,” Zoo York’s “Heads”, and “Vicious Cycle” should’ve cemented her status as an icon. She is also one of only three women with a “Thrasher” cover, and is arguably the only one pictured skating street.
Although skateboarding is becoming more visibly intersectional, and more female skaters are rising to prominence (thanks in part to the democratizing power of Instagram), Jaime’s name has been curiously left out of the discussion, almost to the point of erasure.
A quick glance at her account, @_jaime_reyes, shows she still skates, has a new backyard mini-ramp, and recently went to Woodward as a visiting pro. While she’s been out of most people’s minds since the late-2000s, it was clear during our interview that her story is more relevant now than ever.
Back in the day you and Elissa Steamer were the only women competing at the Tampa contest, is that right?
Yeah, it was me, Steamer, and Lauren Mollica competing with all 300 dudes. [This was] sometime in the mid-’90s. There weren’t really that many girl skateboard contests back then. Not like it is now. You got everything now—Street League, Dew Tour, X Games, Copenhagen and shit…
And I’m glad the purse is finally up there. Back then our first place was like $2,000 and second place was half of that. I remember getting third place at whatever contest, maybe Slam City Jam? I got $200. Fuck that. [Laughs] Spend that in one night. Easily.
What was it like growing up skating in Honolulu in the early-’90s?
It was awesome. I didn’t really get picked on by other skaters when they actually saw me skating. When they actually saw me skating the dudes were super supportive. And I grew up at this park called A’ala park. It’s one of the most recognized skateparks in Hawaii out of all the islands. It was actually a roller derby rink and skateboarders took over it. Of course years and years later when I don’t live there anymore, they redid the surface and made it all nice and smooth.
What’s the story behind your 360 flip at A’ala that made it to the cover of Thrasher Magazine?
My first photo ever published in a magazine was the cover of Thrasher. Jim Thiebaud, Tommy Guerrero [co-founders of Real], and Ruben Orkin were like, “Yo, so and so is in town, go shoot a photo with them.” I totally cut class and shot a photo with the dude and maybe two months later it turned out to be the cover of Thrasher.
My homies were stoked for me. I remember going to this place, Long’s Drugs. It was this big chain store. They always had the magazines right by the register and I just looked and then holy shit that’s me! It was fucking weird, but it was awesome.
You are 1 of 3 women to have ever been on the cover of Thrasher. First was Cara Beth Burnside in 1989, you in 1994, and Lizzie Armanto in 2017. Between you and Lizzie, that’s a 23-year gap. Do you think representation has ever been a problem in skateboarding?
In my opinion, no. I got photos. Actually, I’ve been in a lot of mags to be honest. I think there were over 20. I got work done. But I don’t know how people feel. People still don’t know who I am, but I don’t care.
What I mean is the representation of women in general, not just your own.
I think there should have been more representation. There’s a ton of good girls that should have gotten covers. I think Steamer should have gotten a cover, I think Alexis Sablone should get a cover, I think Lacey [Baker] should get a cover. They kill it. I don’t know why they don’t have a cover.
Last year Hawaii News Now wrongly reported that 22-year-old Hunter Long made history in 2016 by being “the first athlete from Hawaii—male or female—to compete in the coveted X Games.” Can you tell me how you came across that article and your reaction to it?
Sean Kelling [Rookie teammate] asked me, basically, If I had ever been in the X Games. I said yeah, “I got DFL in 2003.” And he was like, “I guess you weren’t considered an athlete.” I was in the X Games in 2003, everyone! And yes, I got DFL, dead fucking last. But whatever, I tried my best.
I believe Vanessa [Torres] won it. I don’t really remember it because it was 15 years ago. It was when X Games was starting out and I remember you had to wear helmets on the street course. I got disqualified from the X Games because I didn’t put on my helmet when I was skating my run. I got 8th place.
How did you get on Real Skateboards?
[In 1993] there was a skateboard contest, I think it was Town and Country Hawaii. They brought the Real and Stereo teams to judge a contest. And at that contest in my division, I beat out all the boys, so Tommy and Jim came up to me and said they wanted to flow me some boards. Stoked! Now I don’t have to buy any boards and beg my dad for money. That day changed my life forever. Got to see the world through skateboarding and I appreciate every second of it.
“I was kind of shocked that someone I looked up to, I saw at EMB selling everything off his back for fucking crack.”
Any crazy stories from being on Real that you want to share?
When I was on Real I went out to San Francisco for a few months. And I was kind of shocked that someone I looked up to, I saw at EMB selling everything off his back for fucking crack. It was just mind-blowing for me.
You eventually became known for your street skating on the East Coast, what led you to New York?
There was a point in my life I had to make decisions. I quit Real. I will always appreciate them, they were the ones who first believed in me. From there I rode for Rookie Skateboards. I was already going out to New York a lot and I pretty much never left ever since. And in New York, I just got way more footage, and way more photos, I just got work done out here.
Your part in Zoo York Heads is probably one of my favorites–that switch 5-0, switch b/s tail line at South Street Seaport ledges. There weren’t many women skating as technically as you were in the ‘90s. Who influenced your style of skating?
Well, I think everyone influenced my style of skating. There were certain tricks back then—pressure flips, late shove its and the late flips, all that shit I could not do to save my life. Salman Agah was doing switch flips. I couldn’t do pressure flips so I was like, I’m going to learn switch flips. I can’t nollie pressure flip, so I’m going to learn a nollie heelflip. That’s kind of how I looked at skateboarding. Some tricks just feel really awesome to me and some feel really awkward, like I’m going to die. So I stuck with the best feelings instead of awkwardness.
“People still don’t know who I am, but I don’t care.”
You have a really funny story about a guy approaching you for something you were wearing while you were traveling, right?
I was on an Alphanumeric trip in Shibuya, Tokyo. After a day of skating and shooting photos with Josh Stewart, I was finding my way back to the hotel. The translator was with me. Some dude stopped me and I was like what is the dude saying? And the translator said the guy wanted to buy my shirt. And I was like what shirt? He said the shirt you’re wearing.
I just skated all day in it, it’s dirty as shit, cigarette burn, sweat stains, but it was a Louis Vuitton Supreme Box Logo. They always looked out for me and I totally appreciate what Supreme has done for me over the years. I was like, “This dude really wants to buy this nasty ass stinky shirt?” He offered a shit ton of money. I took my shirt off, gave it to the dude, and he gave me a shit ton of yen–like $1,000 American money. I had spent all my money on ramen and curry ’cause I ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in between snacks. And I went back to the hotel in my sports bra and my skateboard. The concierge was looking at me fucking weird like, “Why isn’t this girl wearing a shirt?”
Speaking of Rookie, you eventually went pro for them. But what happened after that?
After 9/11, it seemed the business was hurting a lot. A year-ish later, I didn’t have a board sponsor. Alphanumeric was going through some crazy shit around 2003 because a guy at Mecca was going crazy. International News owned Mecca which owned Alphanumeric so I kind of lost all my sponsors at the same time. And I had problems at Gallaz [shoes]. Got kicked off/let go.
I kept skating until about 2009. I didn’t have any sponsors. I wasn’t traveling as much. 2009 changed my life. It hurt in the biggest way that I gave up skateboarding. I quit skateboarding when my dad died, basically. It was a stupid way to quit. I dealt with grief in a different way, I just partied my ass off. I stopped skating completely. And a couple of years ago I realized that I needed to skate because it was the one thing that always made me happy, so I’m back skating again.
Why were you getting let go of all your sponsors all at once?
It was a different time back then. As I said, Alphanumeric was going through some shit, I’m pretty sure. They owed me a full year salary. I was still getting checks from them, and then all of the sudden it just stopped. Pretty sure I have the contract from that year that they still owe me money from.
How did you get kicked off Gallaz, even though you had a pro shoe?
A week before Christmas, the checks and shoes stopped coming. Then a few months later, I’m just hanging out with the homies at the old Max Fish, and who had the nerve to tap me on the shoulder to say what’s up? Mr. Gary Valentine. He was the president or CEO or whatever of Globe, which owned Gallaz. He had no explanation for why he kicked me off. He got down on his knee and begged for forgiveness and I’m almost 5000% sure Fuj [Spencer Fujimoto] was gonna punch him in the face while he was down on his knees. I just looked at him like I was so pissed, like that’s all you’ve got to say is forgive me? For letting me go slash kicking me off…
And running a Reyes 2 pro model shoe without giving you royalties.
No shit. I didn’t even know about the Reyes 2’s until the following year. I knew we were in the process of making it but it was never released, and then they released it without me getting paid. Crazy. You know when you get so fucking upset and you start tearing up? That’s how I was. Like, you have the nerve to come to me at my happy place while I’m trying to hang out and you’re asking for forgiveness? Like, what am I forgiving you for?
I should’ve listened to everyone. Alphanumeric was looking out for my best interest at the time and they heard some shit about how Gallaz was shady, and how they kick people off, and how they treat people. They buttered me up until I said yes and then look what happened, it came and bit me in the ass. They buttered me up like a goddamn prime rib, and I love prime rib.
“I quit skateboarding when my dad died, basically.”
Hope Solo, a US Women’s Soccer goalkeeper, recently described soccer in America as being a “rich, white kid sport,” adding that the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup because it’s become too expensive for Hispanic, black, and rural players. Do you think with the growing mainstream interest in skateboarding, this could happen to skating?
I think skateboarding is kind of a rich sport. I don’t really know how to articulate this but fuck, boards cost money! Boards are $60, grip tape is $7, bearings are $40-50. I was privileged to ride a [new] board every other day or week being sponsored. But for kids who are not sponsored, buying a board is expensive. So I guess it is heading towards that way. Skateboarding isn’t cheap. Buying shoes, depending on how much you skate… In three days I wanted to ride another pair of shoes. [Skateboarding needs to] have more foundations like the Harold Hunter Foundation. There’s more than before, but I think they need more.
Is there a need for this many pros and companies to begin with?
There are so many good people everybody can’t be pro, right? There’s a shit ton of board companies now and there’s a shit ton of pros, way more than back in the ‘90s or ‘80s. Back then I think you could name all of the pros and what board companies they rode for. Now, there’s no way you can do that unless you’re some crazy smart kid.
Overall, were you able to make a decent living off skateboarding back when you were pro?
Yes, I did make some money. Not a lot. I’m poor obviously. You all can pay me now if you want [laughs]. I made enough money to pay the bills and live a little. And when I was a kid, nobody told me to save my money. I didn’t have an agent. People these days have an agent. There wasn’t anyone looking out for my best interests. I was a stupid kid. I hope it’s easier for [women] to make money these days.
I hear you are getting a guest board soon for the brand Together Together. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
Mark Oblow and Yong-Ki hit me up and said they wanted to do a guest board with me. I know Mark and Yong-Ki from Hawaii and I said yes because those dudes are solid. I’m excited and super honored to have a guest board, hand painted by Mark Oblow, just saying.
I saw that Jason Jessee is part of the line up too. He recently came under a lot of fire for some problematic behavior. Specifically, as a woman of color who’s skating has been more influential to me than someone like Jason Jesse’s, what do you think about that whole controversy?
In my opinion, I think people make mistakes. I’m sure I’ve made a lot of mistakes and said some bad shit back then. Maybe it will come back to bite me in the ass. I think he was just young and stupid just like everyone else. I don’t think he intended to be that way. I don’t know him. But I would like to think he has a good heart. I read his apology. He’s really good friends with Steamer and I think if he was racist in any way he would be against Steamer and her wifey.
Well, that would be homophobic.
Yeah, it would be.
Have you ever experienced any racism in skateboarding?
Yeah. It depends where I am I guess. You get called something and you’re like, “What the fuck?” I mean, whatever I don’t care. When I grew up skating, I got small tits, I can’t help it. I was born that way. Everyone thought I was a dude because of the way I dressed. Or called me butch. So I don’t fucking care.
“I love dudes, I love girls. I’m a fucking equal opportunity hoe.”
Why do you think people don’t like to talk about racism, sexism, or homophobia in skateboarding?
I think they do now. I don’t know back then. I think everyone was more closed-minded back then. It’s fucking 2018, you gotta come out with an open heart and an open mind. Just my opinion. No time for that. No bullshit. All that should just stop. We’re all humans, aliens, whatever, something. All living together, just fucking deal with it.
Nowadays there is a lot of accessible language when it comes to nuanced gender identities and expressions. Knowing what you know now, how do you identify?
I’m just me. I’m a fucking lover. I don’t player hate. I love dudes, I love girls. I’m a fucking equal opportunity hoe. Can’t help it.
Up until the early-2000s, I was always with dudes. One night I got wasted and then homegirl busted a move on me and that was that. That was my first experience with a girl. I wasn’t looking for it. And I was boning dudes after that too. I think at the time it was different. I knew a couple dudes that were gay, and I wasn’t going to blow up their spots. It’s up to them to say something. It’s not like now. People were kind of closed-minded then. People just need to learn how to love, goddammit.
While a lot of younger skaters may not know your skating, your pro model board and select memorabilia are being featured in the sports collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. How does it feel?
I’m beyond stoked. No words for it basically. Doing cartwheels in my head all the time. Excited and really honored. I did something and accomplished something. I met someone from the Smithsonian and they asked me if I could donate a few things of mine with my name on it. It will be the cover of Thrasher and a pro model board right now. It’s a pretty amazing honor.
Do you ever think that you were in the wrong generation to become a female pro?
No, why would I? I skated when I skated. I can’t help that the market wasn’t the same back then. I just skated. I still wanna see a girl do a switch back tail someday [laughs]. Just kidding, I wanna see someone replicate my line. That would be rad.