The skateboard world is filled with unheralded heroes and madmen, and often, the maddest of men make for the raddest of heroes. Such is the case with Matt Schlager, or, as you probably remember him, “that crazy guy who ate shit trying to ollie a 13-flat-13 set in the pouring rain.”
Does it matter that he didn’t even get close to landing the ollie or even clearing the set? Of course not! In fact, that sort of maniacal disregard for common sense is what makes him one of the most amazing humans on a skateboard. When faced with the impossible, Matt Schlager never hesitates to hurdle his hefty frame head first, and for that he should be revered.
In an effort to shine some light on one of the most enigmatic viral skate clips to ever surface online, we tracked Matt down and had him explain what the hell he was thinking. Turns out, this hessian has stories for days, and was cool enough (and somehow not too perpetually concussed) to share them.
Ball’s out, Matt, you’re a skateboard legend.
Give me the run-down on that infamous 13-flat-13 clip. I heard a rumor that you did it during lunch break at school, is that true?
That stairset was at my high school. And my first year at that school I met all these dudes that were like super good at skating, well I thought they were good, and all they ever talked about was that set. They’d be like, “Yo, if someone were to try this 13-flat-13 stair set, man, their name would be known, their name would be infinitely known.” So I said something like, “shit, well I’ll give it a try one day,” you know. And then they’d make fun of me saying things like, “Matt, you’re too fat to jump that 13-flat-13! You can’t do shit! You suck!”
So one day, it was in like the middle of December so I hadn’t skated in like two weeks and was having those skateboard withdrawals where I just had to do something gnarly. I brought my skateboard to school, and I didn’t know if it was going to rain, you know, it was decently dry up until the first lunch break. And then it started sprinkling so I was like, well we just got to get this over with before it’s completely wet.
“They’d make fun of me saying things like, ‘Matt, you’re too fat to jump that 13-flat-13! You can’t do shit! You suck!'”
When I rolled up the first time, there was like 6 or 7 people down at the bottom watching, then I roll up to it again and there’s probably 20 people there, and then I do my final roll up and there’s probably like 60 people there, the whole damn lunch crowd was out there.
My friend was like, “Don’t be a pussy! Balls out! Jump!” And so I just got as much speed as I possibly could and just went for it. Right as I was rolling up to it, at the last few feet before I popped, I thought, well this was probably a bad idea, I don’t even think I’m going to make it!
So in the middle of the air, I was like shit, if I don’t make it, I’m just going to try and roll it out. So I rolled down those last 7 or 8 stairs or whatever, and I just laid there thinking, oh my god, I tried it, I can’t even believe I tried it. And then one of my best friends came up to me like, “Dude, are you alright?” And I was just like, “That was tight!”
Wow… so you got up from that and sat through the rest of the school day?
Yeah, I had to finish the rest of the day. And I guess the principal heard something about it, and they started calling all the skateboarders into the office asking them who it was, and they eventually got to me and asked if I knew anything about it, and I was just like, “Yeah, some dude showed up out of nowhere, it was crazy, he jumped down that big ass stair set and ate shit, it was awesome!”
How bad were your injuries from that?
I had a bruised hip for about a week or two, and I had a couple of dislocated fingers. But nothing really went too bad considering how gnarly the footage looked.
A little later I even got this message from “Scarred” the MTV show. I talked to this producer who was all like, “Tell me how bad it was? Was your arm broken?” And I told ’em, “Actually, I just got up and walked away and went back to school.” And then they were like, “Well, your story’s good, but it’s just not the “Scarred” we’re looking for.” But fuck it, I think I’m lucky not to have gotten scarred, you know?
Speaking of MTV Shows, you were on Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness one time, right?
Oh yeah, so fast forward like 5 years into the future, and I get this real short email from some producer, who’s like, “I’m doing this show about internet videos, and we want to get you on it, give me a call.”
So I call her up, and she’s like, “This is for a legit MTV show, it’s hosted by Rob Dyrdek.” And I didn’t believe her, you know, the show hadn’t aired yet. So she was like, “no, really” and she put him on the phone, and I instantly knew it was him. Rob was like, “Yooo, I watched all your YouTube videos, that shit is crazy, how are you even still walking around!?” And then he flew me and my friend Nick out to Burbank, where they film the show, first class, put us up in some nice ass hotel there too.
We did the pilot episode or whatever and then Rob asked me what I would want if I could have anything in the world. I told him, “Shit, I don’t know, a million skateboards?” He said, “Yeah, that’d be awesome, but how about something a little more realistic?” So I was like, “How bout an awesome leather jacket, you know, like the Ramones used to wear.” And on our last day there Rob pulled out the sweetest leather jacket I’ve ever seen. An artist painted this picture of one of my slams down this double kink all across the back. It is so cool. So that was the first time we flew down for that show.
The next summer Rob flew us down there again for another episode. I met up with Rob and he’s like, “What do you want to do?” And I was like, “I wanna go skate!” And he’s like, “You want to go skate the Fantasy Factory?” And I was like, “That’s cool, but I’d rather go jump down Hollywood High, I wanna huck down that 16 sooo bad.” He was like, “So wait, I fly you down here to do my show, invite you to skate my Fantasy Factory, and you’d rather jump down Hollywood High?” But I told him I could 5050 that shit.
So after we filmed the episode, Rob had an assistant drive us all out there, and I did the tricks I wanted to do, and I asked Rob if he was going to skate it or what? And he was like, “Man, fuck no! Why am I gonna hurt myself when I got to get back in the studio tomorrow?” And I was like, “I don’t know, shit, this is just what I do – it’s what skaters do.” And he was like, “Yeah, well I don’t need to do that anymore.” And I was like, “DAMN! You a boss, aren’t ya? You about that money!” And he was like, “Yep.”
You were on the Ridiculousness episode with that airheaded Miss America contestant, right? Y’all flirt?
Ha, yeah, before the show she was going off on the dumbest shit. Complaining like, “I was in the makeup room for over an hour! I didn’t have lunch until 3 o’clock!” and all this shit. Eventually I let her know like, “Daaamn bitch, you’re lucky you’re even here!” And then she said, “I don’t like you, you look like you’re a hobo.” Yeah, she was rude.
Has your fame caught up with you yet? Are you getting laid off of Youtube subscriptions?
Ahh man, yeah, well, you know, it comes and goes. Like, when I’m at the skatepark it’s at its max. I wanted to get my name out there when I tried the 13-flat-13, but I had no idea it would get this big. It’s pretty gnarly having little kids follow you around at the skatepark, being tested all the time.
If I go to a skatepark, the best dude there will always instantly come up to me like, “You want to play S.K.A.T.E.? And I have to be like, “I’m not that good.” I mean, I like to do my basic shit down some big shit, but I can’t laser flip, you know? Kids are getting hella good now-a-days!
”I like to do my basic shit down some big shit, but I can’t laser flip, you know?”
There was this one time where I was skating this downhill ledge in downtown Tacoma. And these cops start trying to kick me out, but then this other cop car rolls up and one of the cops gets out and is like, wait, a sec, you look like that 13-flat-13 kid! My son skates! He loves your videos!” So we watched some of my videos on his phone, and then they decided not to give me a ticket, and told me I could come back and skate the spot later if I promised not to get caught. It was pretty weird.
Oh, and this summer I got to meet some of the pro guys I’ve always looked up to, and they wanted their photo with me! It was so wild. Like, when Tommy Sandoval thinks you’re gnarly, it’s kind of just hard to believe.
How much do you weigh?
Right now, probably 240, 250.
Damn, does it hurt more when you fall, or is your body just naturally built for the roll?
I get asked that question a lot actually. When I started skating and I’d eat shit, I’d do like a David Gravette scorpion slide, but I quickly learned that that wasn’t going to work for me. So I started doing what I like to call a gorilla roll, where you just tuck in your shoulder and roll it out. I even have a tattoo that’s like a quarter of the way removed because I slide on my shoulder so much.
It might also be because you’re always wearing tank tops when you’re doing these gorilla rolls…
Well, even if I had sleeves on my shirt, when I’m going 20 miles per hour, they’re not even going to help me.
Why do you jump down crazy shit all the time? Why don’t you just skate some flat or hit a curb?
I don’t know, man. My first video I ever had was Zero’s Dying to Live, and in that whole video they were just doing the biggest rails, the biggest sets, the biggest heelflips… I mean, I do skate flatground and little curbs sometimes, but that’s just how I get my kicks, the big shit.
”Growing up, I’d watch WWF wrestling and shit, and Mankind was one of my biggest inspirations”
Are you a masochist? Do you get pleasure from pain?
Haha, actually, I get inspiration from things outside of skating. Like when I was growing up, I’d watch WWF wrestling and shit, and Mankind was one of my biggest inspirations. He was a big dude, but he’d go like headfirst off a 16 foot cage to his back. And I was like, oh my god, if there was a skater who was just like this guy, like a long-haired, scruffy-ass looking homeless dude, which there are a lot now, I mean, shit, half the Baker crew looks like that. So that’s maybe where it comes from.
Getting hurt is just part of skateboarding, you know, at least the way I look at it. And plus, I live in Washington, so I get maybe 2 days out of the week to go skate, so when I do skate, I want to make it worth it, I don’t want to skate the curb, I’d rather jump down 10 stairs a couple of times and then be too broke off to skate for the rest of the week.
Have you ever thought about trying the 13-flat-13 again?
I’ve been back to it a few times, but I don’t know, man. I’ll probably try to go off to the side over the rail. It’s pretty tall, but it’s really the length that gets you, so I don’t know. We’ll just have to see in the next couple of years…