1.) East Coast Skates and Capital Skateboards did something risky. They started a freestyle line under their brand when freestyle was small. How did you end up skating for Outlook?
I fail to see the connection between the statement you just made and the actual question because they’re completely unrelated, but I’ll answer the question that relates to me (Ed: I was trying to explain how small the scene was at the time you were skating). Around the time The Casper Video came out, there was only a small handful of companies actually producing freestyle decks. Anyone looking for a sponsor didn’t have a lot of choices. When Casper Industries started, Bobby Boyden wanted to sponsor everyone it seemed. But that turned into a big turd for most everyone, myself included. So one day I worked out a trade or sale of a freestyle deck with Vince from Outlook and he basically said “Come ride for me”. So I took him up on the offer. I told him from day one that I never wanted to be a pro and he was okay with it. Then he announced on a forum a few months later that I would have a pro model and wheel coming soon. That was news to me. I didn’t want it, still don’t. I never viewed myself as a pro and never will. I never earned it. I’ve never skated at that level and still don’t. Just because my name is painted on a deck doesn’t mean I deserve to be a pro. In my head, from the history I grew up with, pro status was earned and I never earned it. So it’s all cute and nice when there’s a deck with my name next to some silly graphic, but lets’ be honest, I’ve probably quit Decomposed about ten times because I didn’t want to continue putting out models I don’t deserve. I guess the mind of a stubborn friend is hard to change, so you keep doing it.
2.) You started a lot of wild 50/50 and pogo variations when no one was really doing them. Do you have any 'dream' tricks you haven’t executed and do you intend to do so in the near future? At the time, you were skating a bigger freestyle deck (almost street size). What were you considering when designing your pro model on Outlook?
Do you realize you just asked me two unrelated questions disguised as one? You really like to squeeze a lot of juice out of this orange. Anyway, to answer the first part of your question, I always have tricks in mind. I actually have a list of trick ideas that I’ve thought of over the years. Some of them may never be possible but I may try a few of them at some point. A lot of them tend to be truck tricks. The fingerflip truck to truck tricks I invented in the early 2000’s were dream tricks since the 80’s. I thought I was all cool for like 8 years because I was the only one who had done most of them. Then Sean Burke and a couple of others came along and ruined the party. They smashed the cake and took my only gift to the world of skateboarding. And I was seriously happy about it. Freestyle was meant to grow and that meant it was growing at least a little. And now I have to try and tie in the second unrelated part to your question. Thanks for making me think. So….when I was doing all those crazy 50/50 tricks, I often rode a larger size deck than a traditional freestyle deck. I think that was just evolution. It was more for feeling comfortable on the deck than anything else. If you look at the last freestyle decks from the late 80’s and early 90’s, they were starting to get bigger. Bill Robertson’s Walker pro model is probably the best example of that. It’s a rare deck but probably the first real hybrid deck. He had the right idea back then and it was something I had in mind as well. When you feel comfortable on your board, you skate better.
3.) You had an impressive freestyle deck collection from the 80s through the early 2000s. You then sold almost all of them. Do you regret any of this today? There is an infamous story about you scoring a stack of TITUS 'Gunter Mokulys' freestyle decks. Please tell us about this. Also, since you have test driven a lot of freestyle boards, what were some of your favorite graphics and shapes?
You seem to be the king of the mega question interview. Yes, I had an amazing collection of freestyle decks. When I started collecting, people weren’t really collecting old decks and they definitely weren’t looking for freestyle decks. So I was able to score mint unused decks for $20 or $30 on eBay. As cool as it was to have a buttload of vintage decks, I realized that I became addicted to the thrill of the hunt and didn’t really care about what I had once I got it. Then prices started to climb and there was a rising interest in freestyle decks primarily because me and three or four other guys started competing for them. Because of this small group, it gave the impression that freestyle decks were valuable to collectors. When I realized I could sell high and get rid of decks that really didn’t mean anything to me, I let them all go. I pretty much stopped collecting after that and only have decks that mean something to me now. During the collecting days I did manage to score some cool decks though. I was always on the hunt for a Titus Gunter Mokulys because I remembered seeing it in an old ad and could never get one in the 80’s. So on a whim I sent an email to Titus to see if they had any Gunter decks lying around. They said that they had a stack in the back of the warehouse that had been sitting there forever. I asked how much they wanted for all of them and I think it was like $200 for about 25 decks. So I bought the entire lot. I was so stoked because I figured that I had not only scored as a collector but also as a rider. I figured I would sell some and ride some. When the box came I opened it and discovered that the model was the Rasta model with that horrible graphic. The deck was also larger than a traditional freestyle deck. At first I was bummed, but after riding one, it was a pretty cool shape. I just stickered over the graphics on the ones I rode. This was a time when I was transitioning back into freestyle and had only really rode traditional shapes and sizes. The Mullen Chess was always my favorite deck in the 80’s so I favored any shape that was like it. I thought I was getting a Mullen shaped deck but got a large brick shape with a reefer smoking Rasta dude that was a rip off from a record cover. Needless to say it wasn’t my favorite deck. In the old days my favorite decks were the Mullen Chess, Madrid Bob Schmelzer and Walker Tim Morris. But Terry Synnott turned me onto his symmetrical design years ago and I favor that nowadays.
4.) Over the years, your body had been beaten down from MMA training and skateboarding. Is this why you don’t skate as much as you used to anymore?
I’ve definitely been beaten up over the years. I’ve probably taken more abuse than I’d like to admit. I did 20 years of hard MMA training with some ridiculously tough people. I trained at a place that had an environment where hard sparring was encouraged and welcomed. So there was some negligence with respect to my body. It definitely took its toll and I’ve had some nagging injuries. But that’s not necessarily what keeps me off the board. Life does. Things come up and I can’t fit in the time. But I also spend more time playing music these days. And if my band has a short tour or a show coming up, I won’t skate until those dates are done. Music is as important to me as skateboarding. So I don’t want to fall and mess up my hands, wrists or fingers so I can’t play drums. I still skate when I can but I plan on making more of an effort once the weather gets better.
5.) The way, I see it, there are different stages of freestyle in the timeline.
1: Ty Page, Russ Howell,.....
2: Rodney Mullen, Steve Rocco,...
3: Tommy Harward, Keith Renna,...
4: Francis Lavallee, Joe Flemke,...
5: Mike Osterman, Isamu Yamamoto,...
How do you feel about freestyle's current state and do you have any predictions for what's to come?
I’ll probably get some heat for this from freestylers, but I don’t see much growth at all. Maybe a little, in small waves. It’s really been the same with every wave since the “new era” began. The current members of the community talk amongst themselves about how freestyle is growing and people are finally seeing it and kids love it, blah blah blah. But it’s like minded people talking to each other. Freestyle hasn’t grown much. It’s still a select few in the world of skateboarding who think it’s cool and find enjoyment in it. And that’s awesome. We will always have that little community. It’s always been there, always will be. When a Kilian Martin or Isamu Yamamoto video goes viral or there is a small news clip for the Round Up or some freestyle trick shows up in a movie or whatever it is, that doesn’t mean freestyle has grown very much. That means there was a blip on the radar of a ship that passes and quickly gets forgotten. If you asked any random skater who the current freestyle champion is, they will probably say Rodney Mullen. Nobody is going to say Connor Burke, Mike Osterman, Isamu Yamamoto or even Gunter Mokulys. Those names don’t mean anything to anyone outside of the community. If you don’t believe me, try it. But on the positive side, we have the freestyle community and we are supportive of it. That’s important for the future of freestyle. There will probably always be small clusters of kids drawn to freestyle videos and will give it a whirl. So I’m waiting for the next wave….