The lifespan of a pro skater has always been short. There just aren’t enough slices in the industry-pie for every skater to eat good for decades. Some guys fade out, and others get phased out.
For Nick Trappaso, it was a little of both.
Seemingly without explanation he parted with Toy Machine and Cons and started a board brand, Life Extention [sic], with Pat “Sinner” Pasquale. And then… nothing. What happened next? Did he lose himself in booze and drugs? Was LE the death knell signaling some bitter betrayal by an industry that was ready to let him loose? Did he mean to misspell his own company’s name?
After some light detective work we jumped on the phone with him to discuss the events that led to his departure from the major skateboarding spotlight.
I remember years ago when you were one of the biggest riders on Cons and had a pro shoe. What happened?
Steve Luther [former Cons brand manager] was the man and the team was sick as fuck with a bunch of homies. Then, I got the boot. They waited until the very last day of my contract to tell me. I didn’t know it was up and it was a complete surprise. They were like, “It’s September 30th and your contract is up today and we don’t want to renew it.” [Laughs] That was that. I was like, “What the fuck?!”
How did you not know your contract was up? You weren’t forwarned?
No, most of the time people get like a one-year thing, like they’ll tell you that you’re not really killing it and they’ll give you a one-year extendo to see if you could step your shit up. But no, they didn’t do that. I was pretty pissed. I never checked my contract papers really because they were just sitting in a drawer somewhere, and then it came up out of nowhere.
Time flies by and then it’s like, “Oh shit, four years went by,” and then your contract is up. Steve Luther used to always help me with that super ahead of time, like, “Your contract is going to be up, go do something.” When he left I just got super paranoid and I was like, “Oh fuck, I’m screwed.” And when you’re not going on all the trips and all the other things you can feel it [laughs].
Did they tell you why they didn’t want to renew you?
They didn’t have a reason, but they definitely didn’t want me on the squad [laughs]. They were cool about it. They gave me all the photo incentives they owed me and the royalties stuff. I think they might have even given me a severance package type thing. A new dude started running it and he completely switched up the team.
Did you try for another shoe company after that?
No, I’ve just been skating whatever shoes I could get since then. I knew I wasn’t going to get a shoe sponsor when I got kicked off so I didn’t really attempt to get one. I was just like, “Well, this is the end of the line.”
Why did you think it was the end? You were pretty young and still skating a lot, right?
Yeah, but I just knew how hard it was getting. I just didn’t want to get my hopes up or anything. We had just come out with the Theatrix video when I got kicked off, so I was like, “If I just came out with a part and still got the boot, there’s no way I’m getting on anywhere else.” It was just easy to know that with the state skating was in, even if you were to film some crazy shit, they didn’t want the older dudes. There are kids doing some crazy shit. I wouldn’t even want to be at a demo right now, it would be a joke. I’d be doing a crooked grind on a ledge and that’s it.
What kind of royalties were you seeing when you had your pro shoe?
The royalties were super nice. I know some people never even get to see their royalties for some companies. I’d get a fat check like a couple times a year or like once a year maybe, I can’t remember, but they hooked it up. Luther always made sure I got my royalties.
Was it weird going from being a big name in the industry to becoming just another old pro?
It was nuts, you just don’t know what to do with yourself. You just feel like you’re missing something and you worry about not having an income in the future. I thought about that a shit-load and had no clue what to do. I’m still lost and I don’t know what to do. All I wanted to do was skate for my whole life, then suddenly you can’t and that sucks, so you try to morph into something you’re not really quickly.
Financially, were you ready for life after skating?
I was saving a shit load of that money. I’m still recycling money from skateboarding. I’ve bought like three houses so far, and I’ve been flipping them and buying new ones. All the money from that is from skating. I was able to get a step ahead of having an average job. I put some money away because you don’t need that much money to live.
What’s the state of LE right now?
It’s just me, Sinner, Mikey Hayward, Andrew Lutheran, and Blue Heady. That’s the state basically, out of my garage and super small. We should be out of business, but it’s super easy to keep it going. We just do like small runs of boards and shit. Sinner and I do everything, like sales, invoices, running the web store, calling shops, fucking attempting to be relevant [laughs], all at the same time. It’s hectic.
Did you expect this kind of responsibility when you started your company?
We knew it was going to be hectic, but we had no clue what we were doing. We had to go to a few different distributions to figure out how that stuff works. But you could feel the responsibility before it was a company that even existed. All the people we met with before starting [the company] were just like, “No, do not do this.” [laughs] We just took that as them not wanting us to do it or grow up or something.
I was thinking super far ahead, like everyone else that I saw growing up like Reynolds and stuff, they all started their own companies and it worked out. So we were like, if they could do it we could too, because they were fried at one point too. We thought it was a good time before everyone else starts a company like they did. I swear I felt that coming, that’s why I wanted to start it. I didn’t want to be the last person starting a company because that’s not a good look. We thought it was going to be a big success, we were like, “We got this!” [laughs], but yeah.
How has your role changed as you’ve gotten older?
I’m definitely one of those people that without skating I have no clue what my future entails. And when you go out street skating, you start thinking, “Damn, this is hard. This is super gnarly, sales isn’t so bad.” [laughs] My skeleton is already starting to break down so I want to have something to do. Sales is not nearly as hard as skating.
It gets super annoying. Everyone gets mad about everything to me. I’ll do one thing and they’ll say, “You need more content!” and then they’re like, “You need to help me with this.” I’m like god damn I can’t do fucking everything [laughs]. It gets insanely confusing and frustrating. Like, do you want me to be an office person or skate? I do not know what to do.
How is your body holding up? You’ve had a few surgeries, right?
My knee just never healed. Sometimes you just get jacked surgeries. I ice my knee, I ride my bike, and all that stuff. But still, I watch my knee blow up like a balloon. You can’t drink 100 smoothies and just be okay. I believe in strengthening and all that, but it doesn’t stop my nerves from pinching or the sharp pains and gnarly swelling. Lift all the weights you want, but that’s not going to help.
I can’t even go to physical therapy anymore because that shit is like $50 for the bootleggers discount and then $75 for like a half-hour without it. It’s too much money for a physical therapist to not give a shit if you get better or not and then just put you on an exercise machine. You can just get a pass to LA Fitness and it’s the same thing besides their fancy bullshit equipment that doesn’t do anything.
How do you avoid getting bitter with injuries and the pressure of running a board company to make a living?
I don’t know, just to be like somewhat a part of [skateboarding] and be able to help people a little bit. At least the people on our team don’t have to buy boards. I just think that at least I’m helping someone a tiny bit, instead of helping no one [laughs]. I never get vexed about it because I’m the one that never wants to give up on it. I’m always the one that’s like, “We got this, it’s not a big deal!” If I stay positive then good things will happen.
You seemed to go from having just a few tattoos to being completely covered from one part to the next. What sparked that?
I was on a mission, my goal was to just get a shit ton of tattoos. Me and Neen [Williams] would go back and forth giving each other tats when we were living together. It was an every night thing and it went on for years [laughs].
You once said that you would never get a neck tat, and now your whole neck is tatted!
Someone just showed me that video. I do not remember saying that at all [laughs]. Now I have a big Jay Strickland graphic. I don’t know what it is. Just a bunch of evil stuff and humans and animals and shit all gathering. It goes around the whole neck. It fit perfectly around the neck and I was like, “This is essential, let’s do it.”
Do you still smoke nearly 12 joints a day?
[Laughs] I think so, probably like 10 or something. Any time I don’t know what to do with myself or get a bit of anxiety, I just smoke a spliff. I get aggro if I don’t smoke a joint every few hours. Then once I do smoke I notice that I’m like a completely different person. It sucks when you go to hang out with someone and they’re ripping bongs though, like, “Oh fuck, he’s a bong guy.” That’s way to hectic.
Do you know who the current president is? A few years ago you did a skate trivia video with Sinner and they asked who the president was before Obama and you got that wrong.
Yeah, dude, it’s Trump, you fuck! [laughs] I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know that because I asked everyone in the park and you could hear it like, “Oh my god!” in the background. That was so fried. My parents know about that one too, and they’ll never let me live it down. That was fucking way too classic. I need to get back to that level of being completely out of it and fried, it’s kind of good [laughs].
Do you think skateboarding has changed for the better or for the worse?
Oh, definitely for the worse. It was so much more solid when I was a little kid. You could grasp it and there were just a couple of tight pros. Now it’s just a fucking mess of a lot of people that shouldn’t even be sponsored, honestly. I’m not going to say names, but there are people that shouldn’t be pro, sponsored, or even getting free shit, but somehow they are getting to travel the world.
Couldn’t you argue that all the companies growing is a sign of skateboarding being healthy and expanding?
Let me rephrase that, I don’t think too many people are sponsored, I think some of the wrong people are sponsored. I think it’s super strugglesome right now for a lot of skaters. There are tons of people that are super gnarly that don’t have sponsors. Everything is just cutthroat now and only the best of the best of the best have “actual” sponsors.
I guess there are a lot of people sponsored but they’re not making any money to live off of it. There are way fewer opportunities. Shoes, for example… you only have like those three corporate shoe sponsors. There are a couple board sponsors too that are legit, but that’s it. If you don’t have one of those, then you’ll be pro for some bootleg company and make like $500 dollars a month and try to live off that.
So you’d say it’s harder to live off skateboarding now than it was when you were in it?
Oh, definitely! I’ve watched it first hand. Tons of people used to be living just fine, and then they had to move or get a crazy job once everything started to change. Even people with bootleg sponsors, like Dekline and shit, were living fine like six or eight years ago. That company doesn’t even exist today [laughs].
What do you think sparked the change?
It’s probably just how popular it got. It’s way too popular right now. Maybe it’s the way people are and they just want to follow whatever is cool at the time. People are starting to skate, not to just skate, but to be cool and get sponsored. When I was younger the only thing we wanted to do was skate. We hung out at Cowtown every day and didn’t think anything of it. Now people are thinking about how their socks are showing or whatever the fuck. I don’t know what they’re thinking about… How tight their wife beater is [laughs].