March 18, 2024/ / INTERVIEWS/ Comments: 7

Skateboarding has always had a funny relationship with health and wellness. In the past, it wasn’t unusual for sponsored skaters to opt for fast food, cheap beer, and nightclubbing over healthy diets and strength training.

The only skaters practicing such discipline and self-care were considered jocks or kooks, unless they were old or injured. Fast forward to today, take one look at your IG feed, and there’s a good chance you’ll find one of your favorite skaters – Grant Taylor, Nicole Hause, Mason Silva – working out in the gym or recovering in an ice bath.

Much of this shift in attitude towards wellness in skating can be attributed to athletic trainer Jessika Alexander. Born and raised in Atlanta’s skate and hardcore scenes, Jessika worked for five years as a trainer for Nike with athletes in the NFL, NBA and MLB before focusing her efforts on skateboarding in 2018. Through her work with Nike SB and the US Olympic team, she has been pushing the importance of care and fitness for a healthy, long-lasting skateboard culture.

On the eve of opening a new facility in East LA with physiotherapist Amy Schultz, we sat down with Jessika to talk skating and working out, how the industry can better support their riders, and most importantly – who is the most jacked skater.

Besides recovery, what types of goals would an pro skater come to you with?
Sometimes skaters will tell me big tricks they want to attempt, so I know like, “Ok, we gotta be able to get your body ready to do this.” Like [Alex] Midler and the Car Wash, we got him ready for that. He was like, “Jess, I might die,” and I was like, “Fuck, you might, so let’s make sure you don’t and can nail this.”

Wait, you’ll actually work with skaters on specific tricks?
Yes absolutely. With that trick he came to me and said, “This is my pinnacle trick. I want to do it.” So we got him ready for that. I start looking at a bunch of factors and adjust accordingly – how often are you skating, what does the spot look like, what movement patterns do you have to do to get there and how do we make sure you can achieve that as safely as possible?

And he landed it – I was there that day and it was fuckin’ epic to witness.

I feel like when people think of goals, they don’t think of skaters sharing their aspirations for a hammer with you.
And they do – those are the things they care about. Forever the message has been “Contest skaters need training,” and I’m like, “Why don’t we think street skaters need it too?” It’s the same thing, maybe just a different way to get there. Whether it be SOTY or an Olympic medal, one might weigh heavier to someone than another and both are valid, and both have different paths to get there but that’s still their goal.

How is it being along for the ride on a street mission?
It’s one of my favorite things. There are a lot of times when they’ll have me pull up to the spot. Someone had me pull up to Hollywood High with my table! I went with one of my athletes, and they’re like “Bring the table out!” just being funny but they wanted to have me there. I’ve been out in the streets with Ant Travis, Hayley Wilson, Atiba, Nicole Hause and Jake Anderson. I think it’s really fun to be able to go to spots with them and just hang. First, because it’s natural. We’re friends hanging out and I get to watch them do what they do. Also, I’m a fan of skating myself so it’s great to watch.

“Someone had me pull up to Hollywood High with my table!”

When you’re on those sessions are you just chilling, or have you had to spring into action?
I have. One time one of Curren’s homies was on a trampoline and he had a previous ACL tear; he jumped and twisted badly and I had to go check him.

It’s funny, whenever I’m there even out at a bar, any little ache or pain they’re like “Jess, fix me!” We’re at the bar, and they’re like “I’m hurt, help.” I’m always on the clock [laughs].

How do you determine when someone’s ready to get back on their board after injury?
The challenge with skaters is that they don’t know how to hold back, so anytime someone comes back from an injury and they’re “cleared to skate”, they’re like, “Cool, I’m gonna go back out and be the monster I’ve always been,” and that is not how it works. It will mostly be something like, “You’re cleared to come in here and do flatground tricks with me. Here are the four flatground tricks you can do for the next 30 minutes.” From there, they might be cleared to go push around, and then now they can go to a park. It’s something we call “board contact” in rehab – let’s get you feeling back on the board because you’ve been away from that for however long.

Is weed ever part of your recommended recovery process?
[Laughs] Yeah, I would have to say no. I’m not going to prescribe weed for recovery. Weed is not going to enhance your healing whatsoever y’all. But I would have to say if you’re a skater that takes any substances such as weed, alcohol, or tobacco, weed is gonna be the last one I take away most of the time. Alcohol is usually the first as it’s a huge inflammatory. So when you’re trying to heal, I would limit your alcohol or take it away completely. The second one I take away is tobacco. When you’re intaking tobacco, it impacts your body’s healing because it inhibits collagen synthesis. So between the three, I would say weed I don’t worry about as much. It’s not prescribed. [laughs] But if you got to do it, it’s the one I’ll leave in there the longest.

How do workouts for skating differ from other sports?
They only differ a little bit. We have to make sure they can produce force and absorb force, but basketball and football players have to do that too. The thing I struggle with most is definitely that with other sports you have an in-season and an off-season. Like this is gym time, we have all these weeks to make sure we’re focusing on all the things we need to do to get you ready for your season. There are protocols for each of those seasons and changes to what your training looks like in both to manage the volume on the body.

With skaters, it’s been a really interesting challenge to create the right program to manage volume because they’re skating every day. It’s harder to manage that, to make sure we’re not overtraining them or undertraining them. That’s the neverending dance with skaters for me.

Although you’re the dedicated trainer for Nike SB, you also work with skaters who ride for other shoe brands. How does that work?
Nike covers all their athletes. For skaters from other brands, it is out-of-pocket. One of my biggest pushes behind the scenes is to get more sponsors to cover care for their athletes. It’s not like the NBA or MLB where when you get injured, you go to your team and you’re on a path to proper care. If companies are asking these athletes to put out video parts and go to contests at this volume, injury is inevitable – they’re smashing themselves against concrete all day. So I’m trying to get the industry to see the value in training and care, as Nike does.

Why do you think it is not standard practice for brands right now?
Up until this point, it hasn’t been a part of the culture. If you’re a football player, you would have been in the gym training your whole career – you know that they go hand-in-hand. I think it’s just going to take some time for the wheel to turn because there’s a lot of people from an older generation that still don’t have education as to why this is important and why this isn’t “sporty” or “bro” – it’s just a whole health thing. If everybody wants to be able to skate forever, the reality is your body isn’t invincible and these protocols are what will allow you to do that long-term.

From a body mechanics perspective, what’s the best way to take a slam?
I would say just knowing how to roll – knowing how to roll yourself out of something. Rolling out of it is the best way – you want to tumble out of whatever you’re at and roll in whatever direction you can rather than being stick figured. Nakel Smith has the best roll – he knows how to get the fuck out of shit.

“If companies are asking these athletes to put out video parts and go to contests at this volume, injury is inevitable.”

In terms of self-care, what are skaters really good at?
I think skaters are good at… playing with massage guns [laughs].

What skater were you most surprised to see wanted to get into training?
I guess I never get surprised because I know skaters deep down want to better themselves – they always want to be better and be taken care of. They wanna do what they can to skate forever. They just needed someone to take the “jock stereotype” out of the gym. I guess for that reason, I’m never really that surprised by who comes in.

But I have to, I would say maybe Grant Taylor is someone that the general public might be surprised by. He’s one of my most consistent people. He’s in 2-3x per week, and he’s very much improved in the gym as a result.

Are skateboarders jocks?
[Laughs] No! Of course, there’s gonna be some jocks somewhere in the mix, because jocks exist everywhere, but no I do not think skateboarders are jocks at all.

In the last few years, there seems to be a shift in skater’s attitudes toward self-care and fitness. Do you think the Olympics had a role in opening skaters up to training like this?
When I got the job at Team USA, it was the same thing as Nike, I was kind of pushing for change. In the early days of the Olympics, there were too many competitions worldwide, excessive travel and I noticed skaters were traveling with no care. No one was looking out for these athletes. I insisted that someone had to be there, whether it was me or someone else. It was that old mindset of “it’s fine” without considering the increase in volume and stress.

Fortunately, I managed to secure that position and traveled with them. It was challenging because there were a lot of athletes and just me. The Olympics provided me with a platform to reach more skaters, provide care, build bonds, and offer the support they deserved during this highly stressful period.

How focused are contest skaters when you’re traveling with them? Do you guys party in between contest days?
It depends on the contest. Obviously, the Olympic stuff is more serious – there are still fun times but less partying than other events. Something like CPH Open, I mean c’mon [laughs] – we know what’s going on there. We are heavy revving for sure. However, regardless of the seriousness of the event, the skaters still want to perform well.

With an event like CPH Open, how do you personally balance fun & work at the event?
For me, I’ve always been able to do that pretty well because athlete care comes first. If someone needs me and I know they’re gonna need me in the morning, I might hold back a little at the bar. But I’m still gonna have a good time. It’s an important balance because we all have very fun, close relationships and I think going out and having those times only helps us understand each other more.

What is the pre-contest hangover protocol?
[Laughs] That’s top secret. I can’t share that with you.

You mentioned you’re often working alone at these events. What’s been the most hectic experience you’ve had working with skaters at a contest?
My most heavy, hectic experience was the Olympic Qualifiers in Rome in 2021. There was a huge lack of support – it was only me for all of the American athletes. At that point in the season, most of the athletes were injured in some way because the volume they put on schedule prior to the Olympics was way too much.

There was more travel than any of those athletes ever experienced at once; more contests than they had ever experienced, as well as more overall mental and emotional stress. And so all and all came to a head at that contest. It was the last stop, and everyone just was breaking down.

“If someone needs me and I know they’re gonna need me in the morning, I might hold back a little at the bar.”

Understanding you grew up with skating & hardcore both being major influences in your early life, how has hardcore specifically impacted how you approach the work you do in skateboarding?
Hardcore is in my veins. I was a hardcore kid through and through and beyond. Growing up in a very volatile and unsafe environment, and finding music that spoke to how I felt about the world, society, and what I was going through was huge. I think the first time entering those venues was the first place I felt like, “Oh shit, these people get me” – the energy in the room and everything about it. I’ve been drawn to it since I was young – I started going to shows at 12.

I always say hardcore and skateboarding was the first part of my journey and healing, then finding training and getting into therapy would be the final. So those are three really big pillars in my life that helped shape who I am. The ethos behind the hardcore mentality is always always in me and what I do.

Knowing you’re pretty connected in that scene, who are some regular faces from the hardcore community that maybe some people reading this might be aware of that you work with and train alongside skaters?
Lee from Trash Talk comes in to see me all the time – that’s my boy! Toby Morse is in there – he’s my family and a fuckin’ legend! I’m also friends with the guys from Turnstile. Fun fact: they used to sleep at my house in Atlanta whenever they came through. A bunch of other homies too in Backtrack. It’s sick for all of us to be a bunch of little hardcore kids and to watch a lot of us grow and become who we are now. Especially Turnstile – Grammy’s! C’mon, that’s epic and makes my heart so happy.

Last question. Who is the most jacked skater?
[Laughs] I’ll say in my roster. The most jacked skater in my immediate realm is definitely Dashawn [Jordan]. Dashawn is ripped.

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  1. Leon

    March 19, 2024 3:20 pm


  2. James

    March 19, 2024 4:52 pm

    How do I sign up with her if I’m in LA and wanna her to train me?

  3. olympicxhustlerSB

    March 20, 2024 11:58 am

    its over

  4. Bigbiz Liz

    March 20, 2024 12:27 pm

    Raven tershy was smashing her forever 😂 dude dropped the ball hard

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