Geoff Rowley is a good communicator. Writing and sharing this Cosmo-ish thought with you kind of makes me embarrassed, but I only mention it because, from my experience, most professional skateboarders aren’t.
When you spend all your time touring, filming, and traveling, it can be pretty hard to keep up with plans or schedule an interview or send that photo you’ve talked about sending for weeks. And I understand it. I mean, just think of how hard it is to get you and your skate crew to meet up for that morning sesh on time.
But Rowley’s not like that. He’s traveling and juggling gigs just as much as the next guy (hell, even more than the next guy), but is always responsive and takes the time to fulfill his promises. It’s commitment. He brings that same kind of commitment it must take to ollie into the LA River to the more mundane side of being a professional skateboarder. He takes the time to chat with you over a drink. Takes that extra photo with you and makes sure it gets there by the time he said it would. He takes the time to remember your name.
It’s these little things that stand out to me about Geoff as a person. He takes his job as seriously off of the board as he does on it, and it’s just one of the many reasons why he’s not just a professional skateboarder, but a true ambassador and spokesperson for our great band of misfits.
I heard you always make sure to take a shit before you skate a serious handrail or big gap…
Is that true or just a joke?
That’s kind of real… that’s just a matter of getting prepped. If I’m gonna skate this giant rail and jump 10 – 15 feet down to the flatground, I need to eliminate everything. Take the belt off, maybe take off the shirt…
Any time I was skating with no shirt and little Vans it wasn’t because I was trying to get hurt, it’s because I had more freedom to move. The less that’s there, the less that’s stopping you from moving.
Imagine a boxer getting into a fight with a hoodie on, or jeans and sweaty shoes on. He’s gonna get the crap beaten out of him because he can’t move properly, and sometimes I felt like that. Especially in southern California or Arizona where it’s 100 degrees, filming a trick for 3 hours – take it all off. Leave your pants on, but let it all free.
You grew up in Liverpool, where you’ve said before that people like to fight a lot, drink a lot, and talk trash on people. Do you still think it’s like that?
I wasn’t talking about myself or the skaters I grew up with. I was talking about the rough side of the city I grew up in. Every area has that right? Like the bad side of Detroit or Chicago… Liverpool is predominantly working class with a low employment rate and high teen pregnancy rate. It was a run down, struggling city when I was growing up there. We skated and no one accepted us.
People would laugh at my skate shoes and point at me and call me a “skateboard dickhead.” They would laugh at us! More than laugh at us, guys would just come up and rip your shirt off and just treat you like a dog or steal your board, even though they couldn’t sell it because they wouldn’t know where to sell it and there were probably only 100 skaters in the entire city. You’re a product of your environment, and where we grew up it was rough like that. We also have the best people and the best humor and social structure in Liverpool. Amazing people with so much character and history.
It’s not much different now, but back then it was hard to take, so you just didn’t respond. Guaranteed almost every single night when I was growing up somebody would shout out of the window laughing, like what you’re doing on a skateboard is a joke. When you’re 14 years old and you’re super insecure and sensitive and you hear that crap it hurts, but you deal with it. “This is what I do, this is what I love doing, but the community is treating us like dogs”
”People would laugh at my skate shoes and point at me and call me a skateboard dickhead.”
That all sounds a bit ironic now that we are the guys that do that to longboarders, pennyboarders, and really to anyone that doesn’t skateboard just like us…
There’s truth to that, there’s huge truth to that. That’s not okay, that’s persecution – it’s nasty, it’s lame. I have a 4 year old son, if he starts rollerblading and turns out to be the best rollerblader ever or the worst, good for him, he’s my son and I love him to death, whatever he wants to do. And if I had a friend who just started rollerblading, I wouldn’t treat them like a piece of crap because they like to ride around with different kinds of wheels than me. In Liverpool when we grew up we were so attacked by the drinkers and footballers, that’s all they knew. Friday night they’d go out and watch a game, get drunk all night, try to get a girl, try to take her home, boom, that’s it. You do anything else on a Friday night, you suck! You do what everyone else is doing or you’re an outcast. I don’t like it when skaters shout out of vans and say negative things about girls or women, I’m not down with that.
Is there anything you personally feel is overlooked or misunderstood about yourself?
Growing up being a vegetarian and what I do now with hunting is difficult for a lot of people to understand because they don’t know my full story. It’s self exploration – if you knew me well you, would know I was into reading books on wild animals and stalking deer when I was 15, 16, 17 years old. My best friend growing up worked for the forestry commission and he influenced my skating more than anybody. He started skating in 1972 and he was also vegetarian when he was younger. Today he shoots and kills lots of deer year round for game management practices in England. He’s a natural outdoorsman and introduced me to predator hunting and calling also.
I became a vegetarian when I was younger mostly for dietary reasons. I was exposed to a load of what now I can see as total propaganda written by somebody with a direct agenda, not based on science or research or anything like that. I stopped eating meat having seen that and I had no one else around to tell me any different. But I felt good and I was growing fine. I was healing from slams and things like that. I didn’t preach, that was my diet and I tried to stick to it.
I did that for many years, but later on, I started to not recover when I really should have been really strong. I was physically fit but I wasn’t recovering from slams. Minor sprains in my muscles, all of a sudden I would be skating for four hours a day and then I would come home and I couldn’t feel my legs for two weeks.
”I was exposed to a load of what now I can see as total propaganda written by somebody with a direct agenda”
I had a really amazing chiropractor at the time that told me to get my diet analyzed. So I got a full background check, nutrition test, allergy test, all that stuff, and it all came back and I didn’t lack anything. Not one trace. Apparently I was fine, but I still was not feeling good. Something was going on, so I switched up my diet and started eating fish and two weeks later, all of a sudden, those muscle issues started to disappear.
This is me looking at things from both ends, I’m different now, my body at this stage as you grow older requires different things. I’m not going to have diet hold me back from skateboarding. So I started eating fish and it felt good. I recovered from all those muscle injuries and then started eating dairy a little bit again, which felt good as long as I didn’t eat too much of it. Eventually I slowly transitioned into eating a protein based red meat diet, and now I feel stronger, fitter, and healthier than ever. I can skate for longer periods of time now than I could ten years ago, and my muscles function and recover at a faster rate.
What about being vegan? I remember hearing you were vegan for a while?
I wasn’t ever vegan in the ‘real’ sense of the word. I had leather in my car, had leather boots. What really was tough was when vegan started getting labeled on shoes and stuff like that. My initial first shoe used synthetic fabrics because it was more consistent and durable than suede, the material always wore out evenly. That’s why I used that material, because it was better at that point, not because I was vegan.
I’ve been actively shooting photographs and filming people hunting and stuff like that for forever, but I never talked about that much because what’s that have to do with skateboarding? If someone is asking you in an interview about your skateboarding should I say, “actually I’m going to Colorado tomorrow to stay with elderly gentlemen and we’re gonna run dogs in the mountains?” It’s a beautiful thing to see animals that intelligent and that in touch with their environment that they’re able to pursue game with their senses and push themselves physically to the brink of exhaustion. They love it and it shows in their faces, dogs with a strong sense of smell were meant to trail game. I honestly believe you couldn’t run a marathon and get the same kind of exhaustion that you get when you run dogs through high elevations after big predators. You learn so much, it’s a crash course on the whole ecosystem, and I love that. Like skating straight to the deep end of a pool for the first time and then trying to figure out how to get out.
Do you feel like drinking and drugs ever took away from your skating?
No, I didn’t drink from the ages of 18 to 22 when I moved to the US. I’m 39 now. I’ve had periods where I didn’t have a drink for 9 months or a year just because I didn’t feel like it. I never had any issues with drugs or anything like that. I experimented very lightly compared to what a lot of people do.
I grew up in a city where you’re walking down the street and people are literally trying to give you drugs when you’re 12. I had seen speed heads and meth heads all over the streets with scabs all over their faces when I was 7 or 8 years old, dragging people down the street, beating people up, pulling knives out. Crazy stuff like that. I was chased around the city of Liverpool by some guys when I was 13. It was two speed heads in their late 20’s, early 30’s that pulled a knife on me and my friend and chased us all around the city. We were terrified, these guys were like demons or zombies. I don’t wanna be that person. I’m not going to let anything like that take me down. I got a beautiful mother and father who taught me you’re better than that. I was fortunate.
At 38, what do you still want to do in skating?
I wanna start skating a lot more transition again. I’m not going to go out and keep jumping 20 or 30 stairs. I’ve broken my left ankle twice, right ankle once, had left knee surgery, right knee surgery, fractured my collarbone twice, broke my arm, broke my hand in two places, smashed my teeth a few times, had black balls a couple of times…
I’ve always enjoyed skating mini ramps, backyard pools, and old skate parks. I’d like to film something like that. I just started putting together a project with Vans that’s along those lines, I’m excited about that.
You’ve had black balls before from slamming? Were you pissing blood? Do you go to the hospital for that?
I went one time because I was worried. I never pissed just straight red blood, but recently with my kidney problem I was peeing brown sludge. Like a weak black tea [laughs]. But no, the first or second time I got a full slam on my nuts, the whole thing turned jet black. I had it checked afterwards just thinking, “well maybe it doesn’t work anymore,” not that I knew 100% if it worked before, but maybe it would be nice to know that it could work for the future. The hospital took a sperm count and it was fine, back on the rails, boom! I had a photo of my black sack too, but I gave it to Ed Templeton because he likes that kind of stuff.
So balls are pretty resilient… I always thought you could ruin your reproductive future if you fall on them a bunch of times, but, you’re the proof.
You ever slam on your dick?
”I don’t wear boxers or underpants when I skate because you get so sweaty and nasty, I just go freeball. I recommend it.”
I have not.
I slammed one time so hard that it moved on top of my thigh and got crushed between my body and the floor. It was so painful, like taking your dick and throwing all of your weight on it. A nasty, horrible slam. My pants may have been too loose… I don’t wear boxers or underpants when I skate because you get so sweaty and nasty, I just go freeball. I recommend it.
Do you like pain?
For me, to learn a trick I have to fall over. That’s just me. I’m not the most naturally talented skateboarder there is, but the kind of stuff that I like to skate on, it requires some falling. The city I grew up in was rough, the spots rough, pain was just a necessary part of slamming on those broken streets. That probably molded who I am. Sometimes I just wanna go skate and I just wanna slam with nobody there. I wanna black out there on the floor. Because that’s what you would do if you’re skating by yourself, and that’s how I grew up skateboarding. We all need a good slam once in a while.