Most of the time bails elicit a quick laugh or entertaining cringe. But rarely will there be a slam that is truly disturbing and makes your stomach turn sour. In his young career, Gabriel Summers already escaped death with two of these gut-wrenching clips, and we’re just hyped he’s still living and skating.
His most recent “Hall of Meat” came out this week and I might be overreacting, but I think Gabriel would be much safer if he was train surfing or free climbing the Empire State Building. Jamie Thomas even told him not to go back to try it, and that’s saying something if you know anything about The Chief.
To learn more, our Australian contributor Nat Kassel hit him up to find out the backstory and aftermath of the traumatic slam. Be aware that if you’re not one for gore, or didn’t grow up on rotten.com, this interview might not be for you.
You’re probably sick of talking about it, but can you tell me about the slam?
I was trying to skate this famous double set in Encinitas, an eight-flat-ten. Jamie Thomas tried to ollie it and I think Chris Lambert ollied it. I was trying to gap to 50-50 the rail there. I’m not trying to sound cocky or anything, but I wanted to take that gap to rail thing to the next level because no one had really done anything that big before. I knew that that rail was perfect for it and it was only three or four more stairs bigger than what I’d done before, so I was pretty confident that I could do it.
But I kind of had a feeling that day that something bad was going to happen. I was like if this doesn’t work out, I’m going to have to clear an 18-stair and my body has not really ever jumped down anything that big before. I thought in my head, “This is unchartered territory. If it goes wrong, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The day I went there, I had a pretty heavy crew. Jon Allie was there and [James] Brockman, [Michael] Burnett and [Mike] Sinclair. I tried three or four and I knew I could do it. I got really psyched up. But it was the middle of winter and it got windy all of a sudden. Right at the last second, when I was about to pop, the wind picked up and I didn’t think I had enough speed to clear it so I bailed. Instead of bailing properly and kicking my board down, I missed it with my foot. The whole time I was thinking, “My board is underneath me, I need to get away from it.” And then that was it.
That’s the last thing you remember?
I kind of remember the whole thing, it just got pretty weird for three minutes or something. I was pretty out, I didn’t remember who anybody was. Everything went dark and I thought it was nighttime but it was the middle of the day.
For some reason, I thought that I was in high school and I’d fallen off the top [of a roof] while drinking at the school at night. I just had a glitch and thought that’s what had happened. And then all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh shit, that’s Mike Sinclair, I’ve definitely been skating.” It was pretty shitty. It didn’t really hurt that much, it was scarier. They thought I was going to lose my eye. I’m glad I didn’t.
“They thought I was going to lose my eye.”
Holy shit, you nearly lost your eye?
Yeah, it was really fucked. I hit the side of my head really hard, and I saw an eye doctor because my eye was really fucking bad – you’ve probably seen photos of it. The eye doctor comes in and goes, “Oh, you can see?” and I’m like, “Yeah, why?” and he’s like, “Oh, we thought you were definitely going to lose your eye.” That’s a win for me I guess, not losing my eye. It turned out all right.
Is it true that Jamie Thomas had to talk you out of going back to get the trick?
Yeah, that is true. I wanted to do it. I knew that it was just a freak accident because I hesitated. This was before Milton [Martinez] had done the lipslide so in my head I was like, “Fuck, I want to do that, I want to be the first to skate that big gap to rail.” I knew that I could do it, so I wanted to go back when I was better.
Jamie was just like, “If you go back and you try it, who are you going to take? You’re not going to be able to get Burnett to go. You fucking scared everybody to death. Everybody thought you were actually dead. They’re not going to want to go there and sit at the bottom of the stairs and go, ‘Yeah, this try. You got it.’”
It completely makes sense. I bet if I made the call to go back and put pressure on myself to do it, I’d get there and be so fucking terrified of it. So he just told me to get it out of my head, which was fair enough. And then Milton did it anyway, so fuck it. As soon as Milton did I was like, yep, I don’t want to do that. Good for him, glad that got done.
Did you have travel insurance in the States?
Yeah, I did and it all worked out. They tried to get a private investigator to investigate me. It was actually really fucked. The dude hit me up and took me out to Starbucks and he sat me down – this was three days after the accident so I was pretty out of it – and he tried to make me sign this piece of paper which would mean that he could prolong the whole case. This document would allow them to go into any of my personal information. I almost [signed it] because I was still kind of out of it and didn’t want to deal with it. But I’m so glad that I didn’t because it probably wouldn’t have worked out in my favor. They were just looking for ways of getting around [paying for] it.
“Honestly, if I’d stuck any sooner, like at the first kink, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. I would be 100% dead.”
How many “Hall of Meats” have you had? There was that heavy one in Melbourne a few years back?
This one is my second. That first one, the boardslide, was silly, but I didn’t think it was silly at the time. That was in my range of being able to do it. I probably shouldn’t have tried that, but fuck, I almost did it.
At that spot, you only get four attempts before you get kicked out because it’s in a mall. I was trying it every weekend; I tried it so many times. Every single time I would lean to the left-hand side of the rail, the stairs side. It was working fine and I almost did it. I slid it to the bottom and everything.
But then the time I nearly died on, the security guard was in my way so I couldn’t take the normal angle I would take. I thought that I could go for it anyway and lean more on the danger side. Mate, honestly, if I’d stuck any sooner, like at the first kink, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. I would be 100% dead. No word of a lie. I would have been the first person to actually die from skating.
You see in the footage that I hit my foot on the top of the stairs. Those stairs are granite or marble and they’re sharp stairs. I touched my foot on it – it wasn’t even really that hard of a hit and through my shoe, it gave me six stitches. That took me out for a month and a half. Touching it split my foot open. If I went full body weight into that, I would have completely died, 100% dead. To this day, it still makes my stomach feel weird because that is the closest to dying I’ve ever been, for sure. Pretty fucking dark shit.
How do you come back from slams like these?
It’s still hard to this day with some things. I’m already pretty superstitious of stuff. It just depends, but I have to really be feeling it. I just have to want to do it and I can’t force myself into doing it. The type of skating that I do is all confidence and if I don’t have the confidence and I’m not feeling it or the vibe’s not right, there’s just no point.
Coming back from the Encinitas double set injury, I went to Spain a month after and we went on a Zero trip. It was definitely hard. I got the “all clear” to start skating the day that I got there and I definitely wasn’t keen to jump on anything. I definitely took my time and tried not to stress too much about it. But we were working on Damn It All so it was definitely still stressful. But it’s all confidence. Shit will just happen and before you know it you’ve done a trick that you’re really hyped on and you’ll just feed off that.
On a much lighter note, how did you meet Ron Jeremy?
[Laughs] We were actually at the airport with the whole Zero team – we were going to Barcelona to film for the video and he was just there. We looked over and we were like, “Oh my god, that’s fucking Ron Jeremy”. He notices us noticing him and he gets on this piece of shit burner and he pretends to talk on the phone. I’m pretty sure he was just pretending to be on the phone and that’s his go-to. But you should have seen the phone, it looked like it hadn’t worked in years, it was so funny.