One of the weirdest parts of being an adult is seeing pro skaters who I used to look up to moving on from skating in one way or another. Some pros have gone on to start a business in skating, a weird amount of them have become real estate dudes, and some are just regular-ass parents. Jimmy Carlin, on the other hand is taking on the one career more daunting than professional skateboarding; middle school teaching.
In the late ’00s and early ’10s it was hard to avoid seeing clips of Jimmy getting half-naked or a photo with him making a ridiculous face. In that time he also dropped some notable parts in Color Theory and Perpetual Motion. Then after a while, clips of him in his boxers were nowhere to be seen.
Currently Jimmy is working on his schooling and preparing to be in front of a room full of 13-year-olds. Thankfully we were able to talk with him after a day of sitting through class to catch up.
How was class today?
Dude, I’m in school taking this crazy-ass class called “Death and Dying,” it’s so weird. It’s a child development scenario class that I have to take for my major. I had to fill out a sheet that talks about how I want to be buried and how I want my death process to be. It’s almost like a will, but it’s not.
Have you ever thought about how you want to be buried?
No, not any more than anyone else has. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have no interest in that.
It’s the worst class in the morning. We had to watch this documentary called Alternate Ending. It talks about this different way that people are starting to do non-traditional death ceremonies. For example, they have this company that will take your ashes and shoot them into space in a rocket. There were other wild ones.
This one guy was dying of lung cancer, and there’s a law in California called dignified death, or something. It’s basically medical help to commit suicide. The doctor makes this toxic drink, and the person themselves has to mix it up and drink it, nobody else can touch it. The dude actually takes it and dies. The weird thing is, I don’t judge, but it’s kind of hard not to be like, “Dude, what?” He threw a party for his end of life, went home, and then said he was going to drink the drink in the morning. Seeing that at 10 am? Come on!
When did you realize that you were going to transition away from pro skating?
I want to say that all happened in the last year of my pro career. I was already going to community college. I wasn’t able to keep skating at the level it was going at, and my sponsors weren’t all there. I just started thinking about things I wanted to do outside of skating to mentally prepare myself for when my career was over.
My career actually lasted longer than I actually expected. I was 32 when it ended, so that’s a long time of having the same job. I kind of had to be obsessive to keep the skating career going. But once I started doing well in school I was able to build confidence in that. It became a nice transition.
I was kind of freaked out though because I was in school and taking these classes, and then it was exam time. I aced one of my psychology exams and I was so dumbfounded that I was like, “Okay, I can do this.”
Did you just move your obsession with skating to an obsession with school?
Yeah, and it has a similar formula. I wasn’t the strongest high school student because looking back, I was so hyper-focused on skateboarding. Now that I’m older, it’s become a building block scenario where you just keep progressing from the last exam.
Before you hit your stride with school, was it hard to grapple with the fact that your skate career was ending?
It was kind of like Peter Pan leaving Neverland, but still having a huge group of friends, the lost boys, and they’re having the time of their life being pro skaters. It wasn’t this thing where I just flicked a switch and was ready to transition to a new career.
I constantly went through that thought of, “Should I try to film another video part to see if I could get a few more years out of this? I don’t have any backup plans right off the bat.” That was scary because you just feel like the day has come, and you knew that day was coming, but you just didn’t know when it would be.
I always thought that I would fizzle away and work in the skate industry. But, I think by the time of the last year of my skate career, I realized I didn’t want to work in the skate industry at all. I saw what it was like for certain team managers and their stress.
Did you ever feel pressured to put on the “Jimmy Carlin” goofy character?
That’s just who I am. A lot of the time these things I was doing would just happen and someone would catch it naturally. But there were also these expectations of me because of it. I would meet people at demos or contests and people would expect me to be more toned down. I was like, this is how I am, I just get excited like everyone else.
But there was never any pressure-pressure. I remember one time I had to film a shoe thing for Fallen and I had done something that made the filmer laugh. He wanted me to somehow reenact it and I was just like, “No I don’t want to.” It wasn’t a big debacle, but like, I know he wished he caught what I did the first time [laughs].
“My dad went to a video premiere, he didn’t know I was doing all of that street stuff. He thought I was skating vert.”
How did you figure out that you were going to try to become a teacher?
The funny thing is, everyone in my family is, or was, a teacher. I think it was a natural thing to be interested in. When I was graduating high school and my parents asked me if I wanted to go to school to be a teacher I was like, “No, absolutely not. Why would I want to be a teacher?” Now it’s like, I really wanna be a teacher [laughs].
My dad was a naval commander who flew rescue choppers, and he taught at the Naval Academy, and then he taught high school. My mom was a teacher. My sister is a teacher. My grandparents were teachers. So when I was like, “What do I want to do?” and they all brought up teaching, I was like, “Yeah, I guess that sounds good” [laughs].
Did they support your skating when you were younger?
It was kind of a shock to them. I wasn’t the type of person to run to my parents and tell them about my skateboarding. The funniest thing was when my dad went to a video premiere, he didn’t know I was doing all of that street stuff. He thought I was skating vert. He thought all skating was like Tony Hawk and half-pipes [laughs]. When it all happened for me in skating they were happy and supportive, but the cool part was when it was coming to an end they were more prepared than I was to emotionally give ideas.
Can you tell me where your passion for early childhood education stems from?
One memory from Woodward during my time as a pro really stands out. There was a contest on the mini mega ramp, and these kids were like 11 or 12. When they announced the awards there happened to be this kid who didn’t get first or whatever. Later, the same kid was skating the street course with his dad, and the dad was yelling at him for not boardsliding the handrail. He was calling him a little ballerina princess and super gnarly sexist stuff. He was doing everything he could to make the kid feel crappy.
The father left and said, “Okay, you’re not going to do it? You’re wasting my time.” The kid was sitting there at the park just all sad and stuff. I had this moment where I held back on yelling at the father. I decided that wasn’t good because what if that backfires on the kid and this becomes a whole thing.
I went up to the kid and I was like, “Hey man I’m a professional skateboarder and I don’t want to skate this handrail. Only push yourself as far as you’d like to go.” Then I started telling him that the tricks he was doing on the mini mega were sick, because he was doing all these grabs and I was trying to cheer him up.
Then I told him I had this idea, and for him to go back over to his dad and family and hang out and I’ll be over in ten minutes. I walked over and was like, “Man, that mini mega contest was NUTS!” And I was putting on a show as if I had never met the kid before. I was like, “Holy shit, you’re the kid who was doing this on the mini mega!” The kid looked shocked but I think he got where I was going with it.
I looked at the dad like, “Is this your kid? He’s so amazing. I was really impressed.” He was all, “Hey man, thanks, that’s my boy!” And he started morphing into this positive guy. Then I was like “The stuff he’s doing up there, I could never do. I’m a pro skater and that’s the most impressive stuff I’ve seen a kid do.” I can’t remember what else I said, but I put on this show so at least the kid had someone backing him. In a sense, I was bringing control to the kid’s realm. If your parents or guardians are like that to you, that’s going to really mess with your identity.
“I’m an adult but I feel like there’s that inner child that you have if you’re a skateboarder. Skateboarding literally keeps you young in that sense…”
Would you handle the situation differently today?
Children have to feel safe and not hungry. If the child is hungry they won’t learn at all. It will lead to them falling behind which has other negative outcomes. Personally, I had such a lucky upbringing. My parents are and were so supportive, and I thought that if I could teach young children, I could be a role model for a kid going through issues. I’m an adult but I feel like there’s that inner child that you have if you’re a skateboarder. Skateboarding literally keeps you young in that sense and it’s easier to find that connection to the youth, even as an adult.
What was it like riding for someone like Jamie Thomas during your own formative years?
It was intense. That’s the best way I could put it. The amount of talent that Blackbox had at that time was incredible. I was like, “You want me?” I would walk into the Blackbox park and it would be anything from Jon Allie and Ben Gilley grinding the 11 rail on BMX bikes [laughs], or seeing Chris Cole do a fakie 540 down the eight stair. Personally, I wanted skating to work but I was never sure if I was at a level that I could be considered legit or whatever.
Jamie really helped though. He was like, “We’ve been working on this Mystery video for a while so you have nine months to film.” I was working in the warehouse at that point too. He said if I could film a part I could be in the video. He was very particular. Things had to be filmed a certain way, you had to do the trick a certain way – not so much the tricks, obviously it had to be clean, but it was more the footage stuff. It was like, if I filmed with the two people that work here at Blackbox I knew should be good. If you tended to film with someone who wasn’t filmed by someone in the Blackbox domain, then it wouldn’t be filmed the way he wanted. He was just a really calculated guy.
He gave me a trick list two months before the video premiere. It was like ten tricks and ideas like, “In your Sponsor Me tape you had a nollie double heel down a set of stairs, if you could do one of those now with Mike Gilbert, then it can be in your part.”
“I wanted skating to work but I was never sure if I was at a level that I could be considered legit or whatever.”
Were there any tricks that he asked you to refilm that you refused?
We had a week until the Mystery video came out and it was my first video part and I was terrified. At the time, there was this whole scenario about blank boards being this huge threat to skateboarding companies – like shops could sell blanks for like $20 cheaper than brand boards. It was becoming competitive for a lot of these brands. The last clip in my part, I double flip the Carlsbad gap on a blank board.
Jamie was kind of laughing because he knew it was a big ask, and he was like, “Go back and redo the double flip down Carlsbad.” I was like, “No way, what did I do wrong?” I was in shock. He was telling me the scenario about the blank board but I was so bummed. He was like, “If you can’t do it, it’s okay, but Mike Gilbert isn’t going to be happy about it” [laughs]. So Mike went in there and had to edit the Mystery logo on the blank board. I think he did a pretty good job because not too many people know this. There were two angles and the board flipped twice, so he had to edit the graphic on it so many times [laughs].
Did you know that your part in Oververt was going to be fast-forwarded?
Kind of. I had a little over a minute and a half of a video part ready to go. I tore everything in my ankle during that time, so I couldn’t skate for six months during the filming of it.
They told me they had the expectation that I was supposed to have the crazy ender part for this video. So they had all of my footage and Shockus, who was the TM for Circa, was stoked on it. Then, a day or two before the premiere, Roger Bagley [former Enjoi filmer] had this discussion like, “What if they got the video part they wanted from me after the video? What if they treated my video part like the vert button?” He was saying, “You know, like when a vert part comes on you fast forward through it…” Then they gave me another year to finish it up the way they wanted it. They wanted an ender video part. I didn’t want that. I wanted to skate and film, but I was just like, “I’ll try my best.”
I wasn’t really sure if it was a joke or not and turns out it wasn’t a joke. I never knew what to make out of it. If anything, I got more people coming up to me at the premiere like, “Dude, sorry that happened.” But I was like, “It’s cool, I have a year to film a part.” I had this opportunity to finish a product that isn’t cut short now.
Did the part ever come out?
I had a deadline and it kept getting extended; “Actually we’ll have it come out in a month,” “Two more weeks,” “Next week.” I was giving them the footage, and then around the time the video was supposed to come out they came to an agreement that they just didn’t see me as worthy of riding for the brand anymore. It was shocking to be told that, but it was one of those things where you realize this is real life.
That’s when things started to go downhill in my career. I was talking to Louie [Barletta] about getting into sales for Enjoi and he got all stoked on that idea and he gave me the footage to keep. So I pretty much had this video part but no sponsor to run it with.
I talked to someone at the Berrics and I was like, “I have this video part, I would be more than happy if you guys would want to put it on the site or something.” Steve Berra got excited and he told me about two brands that The Berrics was working with, SOVRN and The Friend Ship. The Friend Ship stuff looked okay, at the time, and I thought it was a great opportunity because they were probably going to start something up. I wanted to get some other people hooked up too.
I told Louie I’m not going to do the sales thing and I went with The Friend Ship thing. There was an agreement with The Friend Ship about monthly pay and that stuff, and that’s why I didn’t choose to work as a salesperson. But there were a lot of things that were supposed to happen with them that never did [laughs].
I felt like I was in purgatory. I knew I had to move on from skating. I would rather just be let go than get led on.
At what point in your career were you making the most money?
Financially, I had a year in like 2012 or ’13. One of those years I was in Street League – which was paying like $5,000 just to enter the contest, and there were three contests that year. Chris Cole also started this brand called Omit and they were investing good money into that. Plus the Circa money.
But it was funny you ask that because I had a year where it was the best financially and then the next year was like the lowest I ever made. I made a fraction of that top year [laughs]. I wasn’t in Street League, Omit went out of business, and all of these random things started happening.
Were you ever approached by Nike or Adidas?
No, but you wanna hear an even crazier story? I got approached by KSwiss [laughs]. Greg Lutzka himself hit me up and was like, “Great time playing SKATE yesterday, I’m doing something at KSwiss and we’re building a team if you’re ever interested.” I was so confused. I was very thankful, but I was already committed to riding with Fallen. I told him I was riding Fallen shoes and they were talking about putting me on, but he was stoked for me.
Then he said something to me that was so funny that will always stick with me [laughs]. He was like, “If you ever want to come hang out, I throw ragers on Wednesdays at this club.” After the phone call ended I was like, “Woah, I got offered to ride for KSwiss and apparently Lutzka throws ragers on Wednesdays!?” [Laughs]
What would it take for you to film a full part in 2021?
I would have to be way skinnier to film a full part, but I did just start losing a lot of weight recently. I’m still busy with school and I was doing the tutor thing, too. Skating is easiest when you’re super light on your feet.
How are you losing weight?
I cut sweets out for the most part. I gained a bunch of weight when I gave up smoking. Then, a few months ago I went to the doctor to get a check-up. He told me my weight and I was like, “Dude, I haven’t been able to lose weight? I don’t drink, I don’t party.” He said my sugar levels were really high. I’ve always been a candy or ice cream guy. I’ll easily eat a pack or two of the movie theatre candy things. I also love sugary drinks, so what helped me get rid of those was drinking sparkling water. I lost like 25 pounds in two months.
I don’t know if there is anyone out there who is reading this who gave up sugar and is having a hard time but start eating fruit. I swear that turns into dessert. If I have a thing of strawberries I swear it’s like the sweetness of the fruit is way more heightened because I’m not throwing Sour Patch Kids on my tongue [laughs].
Did drinking become a major problem in your career?
For me, there’s nothing wrong with drinking at all. I just remember having a few mornings where I woke up feeling so crappy. I get such bad anxiety when I’m hangover. It’s like I’m about to have a panic attack and I’m stressing out. I just sit there and watch Netflix like, “This sucks!” I also have celiac [disease], so I can’t really drink beer anymore anyways.
There was a story of you getting kicked out of a Transworld Perpetual Motion premiere. Were you drunk them?
Oh yeah. I was having a fantastic time. The Transworld videos were my favorite videos growing up. So when I got chosen for that video, I was so thrilled. That was always a childhood dream.
Then it became reality and it was Jon Holland’s [videographer] last video and they brought on Chris Thiessen [videographer]. It was basically just a big celebration and I definitely started drinking as soon as I got there. Chris Thiessen had to announce the video and I was sitting next to him. He was getting nervous and he was like, “I don’t want to get up in front of all these people and introduce this.” Then, I said, “Oh, I’ll help you out.”
When he got up to announce, I got up there and I just decided to be an obnoxious ass hat. I think I was in my boxers. I was trying to throw stuff at him to mess with him from off-stage but kept missing. I took off my shirt and threw it and missed, then my pants. The pants hit him, so I just ran out and gave him a hug and security pulled me off stage. I just stood there in my underwear.
That was just one of those things that was pretty obnoxious. I had a good time but I wouldn’t do that now. I always heard like, “Oh dude, Jimmy got naked again!” But, I never got naked. I always made sure I had my boxers on because that kind of bothered me. Unless you’re streaking or something. I just felt comfortable in my underwear. There were scenarios on trips where I would just run into one of the teammates’ rooms, naked, and jump on their beds and run out. Just something like that.
What percent of the skate industry do you think saw you naked or in your underwear?
I don’t know. I mean there were a lot of people at the Transworld video [laughs].
“I just felt comfortable in my underwear.”
So that nightmare of being in your underwear in a room with hundreds of people, you’ve lived it.
Oh yeah. That’s not a nightmare. The recurring nightmare I get is that I’m 36, my age, and I’m sitting in high school having to retake a class with kids at my old high school and I’m just so uncomfortable. I think, “Damn it! I can’t believe I’m back in high school and I’m in my 30s!” I’m walking to my next class and it just totally sucks. It’s like something weird where I never got my high school diploma and I have a Billy Madison scenario.
Were you getting naked so much because you were trying to show off your junk?
[Laughs] I can’t really explain logically. It could be a genetic thing because later in life I heard of some family members partying the same way when they were younger.