Austyn Gillette is a pleasure to interview, because no topic is off the table. Dick jokes, girls, drugs – the stuff that skaters shy away from in interviews, Austyn seemed more than happy to chat about. But beneath the dry humor and the cool breeze exterior, there’s also a really shrewd, hard working, calculated guy that many people might not know about. Since he was a kid, Austyn has essentially raised himself – working at Liberty Boardshop, paying his own bills, feeding himself and figuring out his skate career all on his own. If it wasn’t for some of his early key sponsors like Habitat that helped guide him, we definitely would have had a different Austyn Gillette today.
I need some advice from you.
What outlet is this again?
Seems like you do pretty well with the ladies. What’s a good way to find and meet quality chicks?
Fuck… I don’t know man, I don’t have the recipe for that. I recently just met someone that I’m actually really excited about but it wasn’t like a bar thing, it wasn’t anything like that. It’s so hard to meet someone wholesome in a shallow world. I even find myself being shallow, like, “I don’t even like the way you look.” You know, it’s kind of fucked up, I don’t even know where you meet anything wholesome. I don’t think it’s in California, at least not in LA, sorry.
It depends what you’re into but if I met a really pretty chick at a Home Depot, that would be pretty cool. A girl that has work ethic, doesn’t mind sweating and camping, you might find something there. But you’re definitely not going to find something at Black Bar that’s for sure. Shoutouts to Black Bar, love the dance floor, but you’re not going to meet them there. You’re not going to meet them on Tinder either.
What’s the best way to conceal an unwanted boner?
You can always do the tuck depending on the size of your dick. Tuck it into your belt and put your T-shirt over and hope that the crease doesn’t show. Flick your balls, that works. Distract your mind. You can think of an old grandma shitting but sometimes that doesn’t work. Whatever you gotta do, because you don’t wanna end up on Megan’s Law. My mom used to go on that site because she would be worried about where we lived and had to check to make sure no one would get finger banged on the way home from school. It’s basically a Google Maps where you type your address and it shows all of the sex offenders in your neighborhood.
What do you think of Dylan Rieder’s recent HUF shoe commercial?
Unorthodox. That’s the only word . Good skating, but I don’t fuckin’ know, it’s what he likes. It’s exactly what he likes!
Do you ever tell him to not take himself so seriously?
He doesn’t! That’s the weird thing, he’s portrayed to be this guy.. Maybe because I know him so well, but we joke around all the time. I’ve seen it happen where we will go out, and he’ll have a serious look then he’ll be laughing then he’ll go back to the serious look… But he’s hilarious. Who knows, that could’ve been a dark era for him, while he was filming it.. There was a chick thing, the music, I was drunk that whole time so I didn’t really notice. I have never seen any skate video like it before.
”If you go to Berghain not on ecstasy, you are a fucking creep and you should not be there”
When you were living with him in Berlin did a lot of people think you were gay?
Probably. It’s not even a big deal. I tried to get into Berghain the first time I went to Berlin when I was 17 and got denied. I cut out nipple holes in my shirt but still couldn’t get in because they smelled the hetero on me. You can’t put a smile on your face, you need to look sad and gay. That’s a fact! I can’t hang with that shit, I’m not going to be out doing ecstasy, I can’t do that shit. Isn’t that why people go there? Or because you’re gay, or you’re a group of girls and you’re dancing all night and have a private room to have sex in? If you go to Berghain not on ecstasy, you are a fucking creep and you should not be there.
I’ve been there a couple of times, and I was never on ecstasy…
You are a creep! You are a fucking sicko. You are a sicko! I haven’t been inside though, so maybe I don’t know. I picture it being like a carnival.. a drugs and sex carnival, everyone dancing and you can’t see anything and the windows are blacked out… and you’re blacked out. That’s everything I’ve heard from people who have gone in like, [german accent] “Oh no! It’s crazy party rolling, dancing for 10 hours!” To me, nothing about that seems inviting.
Have you done any recreational drugs recently?
Halloween… It was psycho, I took mushrooms at like 3pm and went to Target. I ended up talking to this pumpkin for a little bit, and stayed up until 8am the next day. Two years ago on Christmas eve, I did mushrooms and went to Walmart because I always wanted to do that. We got kicked out, we tried to ride the elliptical on the second shelf. I like those places they’re interesting to me – they’re just overwhelming. Like you go in with the intent of buying a toothbrush but you don’t get a toothbrush, you get a swiffer sweeper and a banana peeler, only things that you don’t need. The superstores, I’ve had a good time tripping in them.
Superstore tripping. Is it a thing you do during holidays?
Yeah, superstore tripping. Now that you mention it – It’s going to be a holiday tradition now.
Before you got on HUF, I imagine you had some other big money shoe offers. How did you stay grounded and ultimately decide to just go with HUF?
Not really, that was the weird part. You would think that’s how it goes, but it didn’t actually go like that. I think a lot of companies, because of my skating reputation, knew I wouldn’t ride for them. I wouldn’t fit the part, couldn’t change their image and wouldn’t want to do that. I don’t really know, but skater owned is always preferred and I know everyone always says that, but that’s just it. It’s skater owned. I talk to Keith [Hufnagel] like I talk to my good friend. I tell him to fuck off, lets hang out, lets grab a beer, lets talk shit on weed socks. We do that. It’s more of a friendship, it almost makes you want to grow with the company and watch it progress because it really is not the biggest shoe company in the world. There are those giant shoe companies with the biggest teams, but with HUF there is more opportunity, you don’t get pushed aside.
Those other companies have A list teams, B list teams, and C list teams. They actually have that. I don’t know if anybody knows that, but they they do. They have their guys that fly first class and they have their guys that fly coach and the guys who don’t even get to come on the trip except for maybe once a year. They categorize the team. With HUF, that is not the case, we all fly coach. That’s how it goes. We fly fucking coach, HUF takes middle seat, maybe exit row, maybe, if he’s lucky, but we’re all equal, which is important. It’s communal.
Early in your career you were riding for Quiksilver, how was that?
They were great. I was teammates with Kelly Slater [laughs]. Just the travel and everything, I wasn’t getting paid a shit load of money but I was just like, they do everything for you. You need to go somewhere, you want to go film? They send you there. Right on the spot, they will give you a ticket that day. I could just be like, “Hey, I need to go to New York, Jenkem wants to do something,” and you already have the ticket. I didn’t get to experience the times when Arto and Stefan and everybody was on, I heard crazy stories, flying their own private jets and stuff. I think I missed that era when skating was doing really well. I missed it by a cunt hair.
”We’re breeding these kids that feel like they have to be these fucking elite skaters without anything really happening naturally”
What’s the hardest thing about being a pro skater for you?
I guess the most annoying thing is just trying to keep up with it. Like I know what I can do on a skateboard and what I can’t do, and I feel like now more than ever, I can’t fuckin’ keep up. That’s the hardest part. That’s kind of why I did Street League, it kind of puts you into this next level where you’re like, alright I have to be almost like a athlete now cause that’s where skating is at and trying to fuck with that stuff. I mean everybody knows that I’m not any of those guys. I’m not as good as Chris Cole or whoever else is in it. I’m not as good as any of them.
You know what’s another hard thing? How much fun has been taken out of skateboarding. That’s not even a hard thing, that’s a sad thing. You just notice it. We’re breeding these kids that feel like they have to be these fucking elite skaters without anything really happening naturally. For me growing up, I was on the cusp of the internet generation, but I never got sponsored through Youtube or anything like that. It was just through a hi-8 tape and word of mouth. I guess it happened more naturally for me and now I see people that are 10 times better, but not having fun. It’s kind of fuckin’ sad. But that’s where the bar is set. That has an effect on me just like anything in skating.
In high school you did an independent study program. Why?
In 8th grade I was filming for my first Habitat video part and I missed 6 months of the school. So when I was entering high school, I had to talk with my counselor and told him that I was going to continue to be gone half of the year. He was like, “Well, you’re probably going to be making more money than I am,” he actually said that, and to go do it. It was great, and he signed me up for independent study. So I ended up just trying to plow through high school as quickly as possible. I skipped 11th grade, but for my last year all the guys at Habitat and everyone was telling me, I should goto high school. I needed to experience it. They told me I would regret it and they all wanted me to be there. Because things were moving so quickly in my life, in general, I guess it was because of the way I was raised. What I didn’t have as a kid and what I had to do for myself. Not growing up wealthy and having to pay for stuff like insurance when I was fucking 13. Everything just sped up, it was so weird, so they wanted me to slow down – slow everything down for a bit and not get too ahead of myself and act like I’m 30 when I’m 17. That was the best advice. I fucking hated high school but I did do the last year and complete it.
What was so difficult about your situation growing up?
I didn’t have a traditional family. My parents divorced when I was 4, it was really ugly situation. There was a lot of stuff going on, drugs and a lot of tension. My dad was well off before I was born, but once my mom divorced him, stuff went to shit. I lived with my dad from 13 to 18 and we were just living in a tiny shitty apartment and he couldn’t really afford anything so I started working at a skateshop, Liberty Board Shop. I was 14, not even legally supposed to work there but we were all friends. At 14 I was paying my own bills, feeding myself and taking care of myself. But I liked the feeling of that, I liked gratification that you get out of working and seeing a result and seeing a product. I learned that early on.
It worked out, at that age I was able to understand work ethic and that if I didn’t do anything, I wouldn’t get anything. I learned very early on that if I wanted something to be done, I was going to have to do it. It was weird, I’m pretty grateful for it but it makes me a little hesitant to ask for help from anybody. I think that resisting help from people, you can lose friends like that too. Just by not letting them into your life. I guess that’s how it affected me, where I’m like, “I can do this on my own. I can be by my own, I’ve done it for 10 years already.” All I ever had was like my brother and I. That was it, my brother is my only family really. My dad passed away when I was 19. It’s kinda all I know. Anyway, not a traditional upbringing and sometimes that could have gone either way. I could have turned into a druggy or a stoner that sits on the couch and does nothing and spends all his money on weed.
There’s a lot more to my upbringing that’s fucked up that a lot of people don’t know. Because I don’t really put off, “my life is fucking hard, my life is crazy.” Because right now, it’s not. Life is good. It could be way fucking worse. You could have Ebola or something [laughs]. I feel bad saying that but things could be so much fucking worse.
Did Habitat help you and kind of be a family for you?
Yeah, a lot of those Habitat guys, like Brennan Conroy, he was definitely one of those figures that helped me out. I had Danny Garcia, throughout my upbringing since I was 13, he has helped with everything. Just having those people around was always really good. Luckily through skating and riding for the right team too… like if I would’ve skated for Baker at the time, I would probably be fucked! But I picked Habitat and I’m grateful for that, I don’t know how that all worked out, but it did.
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