Besides giving you the flexibility to put your face in your own crotch or fart with ease, yoga is a way to experience life in a much more peaceful way. For example, there are many ways to cope with the frustration when you’re skating, you can stop trying your trick and just take the loss, you can drink a case of PBRs and forget you were even trying a trick, or you can step aside meditate and eliminate the sensation of frustration altogether. That’s what Kevin Coakley preaches, along with yoga, a healthy diet and a few beers with the boys.
Kevin has a bit of a cult following here in the east coast skate scene, but he has been relevant on the west coast, the UK and even Florida from riding for Blueprint and Think in the past. So we sat down to talk about his psyche, his diet, and his upcoming video part in the new Traffic video that drops this month.
As a yoga instructor, do you think there’s a stigma about men doing yoga?
Like how it isn’t a “manly” thing to do or whatever? Actually, when it began in India, women didn’t really practice it, it was sort of a men’s thing way back when. There are definitely more women that practice it in the West, but now it’s starting to become more and more 50/50. Guys are catching onto it, now in my classes, it’s almost half and half. So it’s cool to see a little bit of a shift.
What do you do when someone farts in your class when you’re teaching?
[laughs] I’ve only been teaching a short time and I haven’t heard that yet. I know it happens though, maybe I’ll hear one soon.
When did you get into yoga?
It’s been like 6 years now. My mom and my sister took me to one class in Florida. The teacher was really amazing, and from there I was just hooked on it. I was living in San Francisco at the time and I was going through a transitional phase. I was kind of looking for something to inspire me and meditation and yoga really helped with that. Now I try to go to classes at least 2 or 3 times a week and I stretch every day and even if it’s not the full sequence, I do a few poses and stretches. After years of practice I also did the 200 hour teacher training program because I knew I always wanted to teach and now I lead 2 classes a week at Stanton Street Yoga and Bhakti Center.
A lot of pornos start out in a yoga studio, have you met any chicks through yoga yet?
[laughs] No, not yet. I put a barrier up and keep it as professional as I can. So I haven’t run into anything like that, that’s not what yoga is about.
Does yoga and meditation help you approach a spot differently?
I don’t know if it helps with how I look at a spot. It helps me clear my mind. It also helps me not go insane when I’m trying a trick [laughs]. It helps me after I skate as well, but as for how I approach a spot, I don’t think so. I think yoga helps with my skating. I stretch my body and clear my mind. It helps me avoid muscle injuries. I feel warmed up quicker, for sure.
At what point did you know you wanted to try to skate fulltime and skip out on college?
Skating was always one of those things that I kind of knew it was what I wanted to do. I put it in my head and it manifested that and whatever I could do to support myself and skate and go on trips, I just did that. I never had any desire to go to school. I wasn’t a bad student, but my dad always pressured me to go to college, and I kind of just put it off. After highschool I moved from Cape Cod to Boston and at the time I was kind of getting hooked up because I had just won SLAP’s One In a Million online contest and I was getting boards from Blueprint.
How did you win SLAP’s One In A Million contest? How old were you?
I think I was 18. I had just graduated high school. At the time it was just like send in a minute of footage, and I sent it in, I didn’t think too much of it. Then I got a call from Mark Whitely [SLAP’s former editor] being like, “Hey, you won,” and I got interviewed in the magazine with Dan Zaslavsky, who worked for SLAP at the time and I shot some photos. It was crazy I wasn’t expecting it but yeah, that was like the jumpstart of my career.
I got to pick a board company to have a guest board on and I chose Krooked. I had Gonz do the art for my guest board, and I chose Lakai for the footwear hook up. Eventually, I stopped getting boards from Krooked, mainly because Blueprint started showing interest and I felt more connected to that kind of style. I kind of thought Deluxe was too hardcore for me at the time. I just felt more connected to Dan Magee, the filmer and the guy who did all the artwork and creative stuff and Blueprint’s style of skating. I was with Blueprint for like 6 years, and that was probably the prime of my skating. Without Dan Magee, I wouldn’t have done half the tricks in my part in the Blueprint video.
There’s a Brixton ad of you doing a back tail on a hubba in Boston, but apparently you never landed it and some people even talked shit about it. Can you tell me the story about that trick?
Yeah so basically, it was one of my first Brixton ads about 6 years ago, I tried for a while, and I was sliding down the whole hubba and coming super close, landing but falling off. A couple times, I got stuck at the top and flew down the stairs and just ate shit. I had to give up at one point but we had the photo and Brixton was down to run it. I knew I still had to go back and land it though.
So I went back two more times after that, and I couldn’t get it. It just kept getting harder and harder each time.
Now years later, I just filmed a whole part for the upcoming Traffic video and it was getting towards the end but that trick was still in my head. Like, “Fuck, what if I go back and try it again. I’ve been doing my yoga I’m in a better space mentally, my skating feels good, it might be different this time.” I was like fuck it, we have one more trip, one more weekend to film before the deadline. After a bunch of tries, one of them just worked and I just like rolled away and I came off the curb. I couldn’t believe that I was rolling away. Even days after I was like, “Did I actually do that?” That was the last little thing I needed to get for my Traffic part and my life, like mentally.
Were you obsessed with landing it because you felt like a poser or just because you thought you could do it?
It was a little bit of both. I always want to land the trick if it gets ran as a photo. Some people have certain views on photos like it doesn’t matter if you land it or not, but I think you have to land it, so it did have something to do with that. At the time there were dudes on the message boards like, “Dude you didn’t land this what the hell,” and all this shit. I’m happy now that the footage will come out, even though it’s years later but it will be cool because I went back and I did it, I didn’t completely like write it off.
Also, mentally, knowing how close I got and that shit just like building up in my head, on top of my friends giving me shit for it. I actually had a dream, too. Weeks before we went there, I had a dream I landed it and rolled away and this was like before I booked the trip. I was like, “Fuck I have to try it now that I dreamt that I rolled away from it.”
Do you have another job? Do you consider yourself a pro skater even though you work other jobs?
I’m also an art handler, my friend is one of the managers there. But yeah, I get checks from skate companies but it hasn’t been enough to sustain me. I knew I could probably get by with the smaller amount of pay that I got from skating, but I always wanted to have a side job so I wouldn’t be broke. I knew it wasn’t like, I’m gonna get on Nike and quit my jobs, it’s always been balanced with skating and work.
I think it’s important to have real life skills as well, I think it’s important to have more responsibility – to have a job that you have to wake up for. More of a structured schedule, I think that’s valuable, I never wanted to be a skater that just wakes up whenever.
What the most expensive piece of art you ever had to transport?
It’s in the millions. I don’t know the numbers but it’s not cheap. There are million dollar pieces. It’s crazy that I don’t think about it, but it’s way better if you don’t know the cost so you treat it all the same way as a cheaper piece and just as carefully. If I knew what I was moving that might freak me out a little bit more.
What do you do, just glue it back together if something breaks?
[laughs] Things get damaged and people drop something, or something falls, but I haven’t personally messed anything up, knock on wood. We do everything sculptures, paintings, and the job is different, we have to go to private collectors and we have to go in and set it up. Sometimes it’s art fairs and we set up booths for galleries, sometimes we just have to wrap something and transport it. We also have a place where we store art and we move it back and forth from there.
What is one of the more intense things you’ve done through yoga and meditation?
I did this Vipassana retreat which consists of 10 days of silence. You just sit and watch your body and observe yourself. You pretty much just hear your breath, That’s pretty much the most exciting sounds you’ll hear [laughs]. After the first few days I thought I’d get mentally clear so the rest of the days would be like bliss, but it ended up getting more and more difficult as time went on. Which was a great lesson, that was the whole point of the trip, it was an observation of sensation. After several days you don’t react to sensations in the body, whether it be a pleasurable one or painful one, you just observe them. That changes the thinking pattern in your brain and as a result you are more balanced, you are more centered, and not always running away from things. The whole point is to take everything as is, whatever is happening at this moment is supposed to be and perfect in every way.
Those 10 days were probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, so it’s had a huge impact even years later in my life.
How would people communicate with other people on the retreat if you can’t speak?
It’s silent the whole time but it is guided. There are teachers that guided it, they speak but the students don’t speak. You get to talk on the 10th day. It’s crazy. You let everything out and it’s wild.
Would you ever do it again?
Yeah, I would. It’s one of those things where you have to be in the right place. It was a pretty tough discipline. 10 days is nothing compared to my whole life and if it’s going to change my whole mental state, it’s nothing.
I’m doing some kind of different techniques now, though. I’m practicing with mantra meditation. I can do it on the train or walking down the street. You don’t have to be sitting in a secluded peaceful space like vipassana. You can be anywhere, you just the same chat over and over again. The chant has power, the vibration of the chant is not like, “pizza pizza pizza,” over and over again. The vibration is meant to open the heart and purify the mind.
Was there anyone there who broke the silence? Did they get in trouble?
If you’re there you know what you’re getting into, you sign a contract that you are down for 10 days of silence. There are people that leave early that can’t handle it but they really advise you don’t do that. It’s kind of dangerous because there are people that say that you’re doing surgery on the mind, so you’re opening up the wounds of your mind. So if you leave during surgery it’s obviously pretty bad. Each day means something in the process that’s why they have 10 days.
Do you have a diet that goes along with your practices?
Yeah, I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or anything. The only thing that I do eat that is a product of animals is a little bit of cheese. I’m not vegan yet, but I’m trying to cut that out gradually.
The first principle of yoga is ahimsa, which is living a non-violent life. There are a lot of principles of yoga and meditation that help not reacting to certain things and remaining present. Shaucha is another principle that is cleansing, so not letting shit into your body. It keeps my body in shape to go skate and my mind present when I’m doing anything.
Does that mean you don’t drink or smoke weed?
I do drink. I cut back, but I still have a beer with boys, you know? When I was in my early and late 20’s I drank a lot and partied [laughs] but I have seriously cut down. I’ll just have few beers here and there and it’s perfect for me, right now.
I don’t really smoke because I feel like it’s a falsehood. It puts people in another state of mind while trying to reach something else. It’s also just another poison into the body. I’m not saying weed is bad, everything is good in moderation.
How much would someone have to pay you to eat a McDonald’s burger? A few grand?
I just wouldn’t, you know. I’ve gone so long now, It probably would have to be a lot of money. Whatever they put in fast food, it’s like crack. Sometimes I do crave the shitty burger from Mcdonald’s. It’s that drug, that addicting scent, whatever they put in there. I don’t ever crave any meat, it’s just that industry and what they put in the meat. That horrible cheeseburger is amazing… But not enough for me try it anymore.
Closing up, what’s the most gratifying thing you’ve gotten out of skateboarding, looking back on your career? Any regrets?
Now I’m 30 years old and I’m like, “Oh shit. I’ve been doing this for a while.” It’s been like over 10 years. But it’s been good and I don’t regret anything. I don’t regret not going to school. I get to see the world and travel. I’ve gotten to put together some pieces and some video parts that I’m proud of and happy to eventually show my kids one day. I’m just happy that I kept doing what was in my heart, and skating was in my heart.