The Follow Up: Corey Duffel
I first met Corey 20 years ago. He was driven, passionate, sensitive and curious about everything—and he was a little punk! He had something inside just burning to get out, no half-lifer here. We became instant friends. He was respectful and kind with people he knew, but had a hard time fitting in with groups. Actually, he still does. While his career grew he never forgot his friends. Always stoked to skate a chunky curb in a parking garage at night, this guy is! Over the years I watched this kid from the 'burbs become a world-class skateboarder, but I've also watched him make a lot of mistakes. Dare I say loyalty being one of them? After a long bout of career-threatening injuries (and some growing pains) the kid is back: healthy, happy and shredding just like we were 20 years ago. He is still a loudmouth, though. And a sweetheart. Yeah, Corey's a loudmouth sweetheart. What's wrong with that? —Adam Stoiber
Give us a run down of the injuries, disappointments, loss and bad luck you've had over the past six or seven years.
Fucking hell! Has it been that long? The past few years have been super hard on me and for people that were around me. I had some really bad injuries, ones that doctors said I would not recover from. They put me in a downward spiral. I was in a really dark place. I was suffering from severe depression and had suicidal thoughts daily. I became a recluse and I was becoming scared of going outside. My dog, Crash, was paralyzed and incontinent, also making me a prisoner in a weird way. The idea of putting him down made me sick, so I stayed at home taking care of him for nearly two years. I was very unhealthy and just a miserable person to be around. But no need to talk about this shit! I don’t want to waste time ever again. Always move forward.
Kickflip into crust mountain—always move forward indeed! Photo: Seancho
So you got your groove back! How did that come about?
Fuck yeah, baby! First things first, totally from the heart right here: Kevin Rodrigues is one of the best people in the world. If not for him and the support of my wife Rachel, I don't think I would be here today. Kevin invited me to stay with him for a month in Paris, and that adventure helped me find my path again. To have someone give me confidence and some support was what I needed. I thought what I was doing wasn't good enough because I allowed sponsors and a shitty paycheck to dictate what was happening in my life. But fuck that! Dictate your own destiny. Kevin’s support made me believe in myself again and he helped me out more than he'll ever know. A huge hug to him and Ben Chadourne for one of the best trips of my life, so far. Those two really helped me find that jazz that I'd lost. I was utterly miserable riding for a brand that I didn’t respect or love. I sold my soul for a paycheck that was not worth the pain I endured. I was embarrassed for many years, but I'm wearing different shoes that don’t hurt my feet now, and finally putting an end to that free-meal ticket was the best thing for me. My feet feel great and the smile on my face came back. Funny how that works. I was proud to film clips again. I have to give a huge thanks to Converse for sending me shoes, because wearing the shoes that I love changed everything.
What type of injuries were you battling?
I had a Lisfranc injury that took 15 months to heal and I never thought I’d skate again. To physically not be able to skate for that long really disoriented me. I was in really bad shape, mentally, but once I found my happy thoughts and escaped the stuff bringing me down, I was walking on the sunny side of the street again. There were a few years I was trying to be someone I am not. I’m a fun and happy dude that loves skateboarding, not some tough guy. I was having a personality crisis—and then I started skating again! This was after I stopped caring about what anyone thought of me, when I stopped reading comments, stopped answering phone calls and stopped letting the people who were bringing me down affect me. I spent a few months just skating every day and not worrying about filming tricks, shooting Instagram photos or getting an ad. I had to learn all my tricks again and get my confidence back. It's been a bit humbling but it's really helping me out. I’ve gone eight months now without any injuries, and I've been skating a couple hours every day possible. I stopped thinking about skateboarding as a job and I started skating with some old friends who would go out every Saturday just to skate. My homies from Vallejo really helped me get back into the swing of going out and taking chances, being uncomfortable, scared and meeting new friends. Luis Arnold really helped me get me groove back; he’s the one that filmed and edited my new part. Without his help, this part wouldn’t be here. I seriously just got sparked on the idea that there are no rules and I’m going to be true to myself and be me again: a 100-percent skate rat who isn’t ashamed to be an aging weirdo.
When you get sick of the flatbar at the skatepark, make one of these. Backside 50-50 with no pad nannies in sight Photo: Pires
How do you balance the rebellious, outsider, punk-rock side of skateboarding with growing up?
The rebel without a clue. I’m 33 now and I've been skateboarding for 23 years. I'll always feel like an outsider and I never want to be like everybody else. Growing up, however, is actually quite great, just as long as you know how to stay in touch with your inner child. You need to remember that glass elevators fly. I'm very happy with the adult I’m becoming. I never wanted to accept the fact that I was growing up, but right now I'm very happy and feel utterly lucky to be alive and to be sharing these moments with everyone. I love that you and I will always be outsiders and romanticize about skateboarding in suburban parking lots and offending people that don’t understand why two adults are having so much fun skating a garbage can or a wooden pallete. People that have lost their dreams—or have lost their soul—get so agitated seeing grown men having fun. They don’t understand and they want you to be as miserable as they are. Powerslides and ollies will always make us smile and feel like kids.
You're kinda known for jumping down things, but your parts always have plenty of lines, too. Seems like that's important to you: having tricks dialed and flowing.
Lines and random tricks are what tie parts together. You can’t only have hammers. When there's no filler or pushing, hammers start to look boring. You need to break that shit up and show some surfing. It makes the gnarly stuff stand out more. Otherwise, the viewers become immune to the gnar and get bored. My friend Shockus use to always preach this. But the most important thing is a good song. The best skateboarding in the world can look fucking awful with a bad soundtrack.
Keeping in touch with your inner child means hopping a fence now and then—pole jam Photo: Zaslavsky
You've been married for three years now. How does that affect your job as a professional skateboarder?
Rachel rules! She has always been completely supportive of my skateboarding. Unfortunately, because of sponsor budget cuts, I haven't done much traveling since we've been together, but when there's an opportunity to hit the road she's stoked I'm out skating with my mates.
I love the new video part, mostly because this is the skating I've been watching you do all these years when there's no camera or agenda—just jazz, baby! What made you finally decide to document this side of your skating?
This part is all about me falling in love again and remembering that I am not alone. I was so caught up for a few years, feeling like I needed to prove that I could grind something bigger or huck off something taller. You and others encouraged me to film a part of me just skating on the average day. This is something I’ve always wanted to film, so I finally did. Skateboarding is in a really cool place right now because there are so many different things about it that people love—there's something for everyone right now. This is where I'm at in my life and I wanted a part to show my happiness and show me organically skating with no destinations and no distractions from sponsors. And that's why I asked Thrasher to put it out. This is not a video part for a brand. This is me being myself. I filmed this part in a couple of months skating on Saturdays with my local homies, and everything is filmed around my hometown. Don’t get me wrong, though. You can see me having fun and being myself in all of my parts. I really enjoyed pushing myself and going bigger, but I never stopped skating around town with my local friends. That will always be what skateboarding is to me. This is my first part that really shows just straight-up skateboarding—no rules and all smiles. Sponsors weren’t always supportive of me putting out skating without all hammers, and I've been told before that my part isn't good enough and shouldn’t be in a video. Hearing stuff like that is so disheartening because my skating has always been what I want to do. I had a mini part in the Foundation video, Oddity, last year and was super stoked on my footage and would have loved to to keep filming for a full part. Everyone else had enough footage so they didn’t want to wait for me to heal up and get footage. Whatever, there are always more parts to put out, so I’m not tripping anymore. Video parts are whatever the artist wants to put out and I believe in personal growth and change.
Saturdays are for blasting with the homies—ollie Photo: Pires
You've been geeking out and investigating all these dudes who've added chapters to the ever-changing artform of sidewalk surfing, many forgotten or unknown. Who are some of the skaters that have reignited your love for the useless wooden toy?
I've been really digging Mike V parts lately, especially the mid-'90s Mike V: Suburban Diners and Scenic Drive. That dude is pure skateboarding. He does what he wants, and doesn’t conform to any so-called rules. He has an entire part of just pushing! To me, that is so inspiring. Skateboards have four tires and are meant to take you places. When I'm riding my skateboard I want to cruise and to never stay in one location. I don’t like to be locked in a schoolyard or a skatepark all day; I want to go fast and explore. Mike really captures the essence of sidewalk surfing. I missed out on so many smashing parts and I'm now just getting heavily into them. Fucking hell, how did I not watch Video Days more often? As a kid I just didn’t understand it. I was 13 and it was 1998 when I first saw it so it didn't make much sense to me. Now I love it. Rudy Johnson, Guy’s lines and flow, Jason and Mark! So sick! Danny Sargent in Useless Wooden Toys is another classic that I never watched until recently. Damn, that is some mighty fine screeching and shredding. I've just discovered that I can watch YouTube on the TV, so I’ve been watching skate videos a lot again. I went, like, a decade without watching skating unless I had it on VHS. Some of my favorite videos growing up are still to this day the most influential to me: both Stereo videos, Real's Non-Fiction, Eastern Exposure 3, Welcome To Hell and Thrill Of It All. Stereo was all about sidewalk surfing! Matt R, Ethan, J-Lee and Greg Hunt have some of the best parts ever in those videos. Fucking hell, there's not one bad part in either of those videos. If you’re reading this and don’t know what I’m talking about, track down Tincan Folklore and A Visual Sound. And remember how sparked we were when Eastern Exposure 3 came out!? Barley and Ricky—so sick! I don’t know if there is footy online, but Adrenalin dudes like Jaya and Toad, Jon Miner and Manzoori—Adrenalin and Think in the '90s were so sick! SF skateboarding always looks rad. And Wade Speyer! I love watching people who skate fast and are individuals. Jeremy Klein is another one of my favorites for that reason. Individuality is so important in skateboarding. Be yourself; everyone else is taken. I've pulled out all my old VHS tapes from the past 23 years and those videos have really helped me out. I love old videos because there's so much improvising going on. There weren’t deadlines or after-black hammers. Skateboarding was just skateboarding and capturing the moment. It was very pure and youthful, a lot like punk rock.
Out of the downward spiral and onto the horizontal plane, wallride ollie out Photo: Alvarez
What about the new generation?
The two younger skateboarders that have really stolen my heart and inspired me are Kevin Rodrigues and Ben Kadow. They have so much soul and passion. They're for sure my two favorite skateboarders of recent years and I'm very lucky to have become close friends with both of them. Kev and Ben really helped me get sparked on skating again. Their passion for the art and fun of skateboarding is so pure and noble.
How did you meet those guys?
Bill Strobeck texted me saying that his friend Ben was in SF and that I should meet him. He said I was Ben's favorite skater and that we should meet up. Joe Brook was with Ben and he told me I should roll out with them. Unfortunately, I was hurt that day and couldn't skate, but I showed up to hang out. Our love for Jawbreaker and The Sugarcubes made us instant friends. Meeting Kev was similar: he was in SF with the Converse crew and Joe Brook told me there was this kid in town from Paris and he wanted to skate with me. It was Kevin’s birthday and I was told he was feeling blue and wasn’t in the mood to skate. Lee Berman, the Cons TM, told me they needed to get a trick of Kevin and he thought he would be hyped to see me roll up to the spot. I had seen him wearing a Psychic TV shirt in a photo, so before I headed out to the city I found one of my Psychic TV records and wrapped it up in some of my art. When we met, it was really amazing and we both were just laughing and enjoying each other’s vibes. I gave him the birthday present after he landed that fucking insane drop in at 24th and Mission. I was really stoked to give him a record that I bought in the UK on my first trip there. That record is a great memory for me, and it makes me so happy knowing it is now in Paris with one of my best friends.
Corey clocks in for his desk job with an ollie over to 5-0. Pay the man Photo: Robles
When you were a kid, you were traveling to the SF to skate Pier 7 a lot. Who were you skating with back then?
I met Drake Jones on my 12th birthday at Hubba Hideout. I ollied it and wanted to kickflip down the stairs. He told me he would give me a dollar if I could do it first try. I still have that dollar. Drake, Karl, Lavar, Cairo and some others were always so fucking cool. Their good attitude rubbed off on me when I turned pro. I still remember all the pros who were cunts and I still love the ones who were cool to me and my friends. Drake obviously had the best pop shove it and he's probably why I started doing them. To this day he remains one of my favorite skaters because of his individuality and his cool, calm and collected style—and the fact that he was so friendly. So much love to Karl Watson as well. He has so much love for Bay Area skating and has really helped a lot of us out over the years. I'm from a city 20 miles outside of San Francisco and it's a 30-minute train ride. There were a couple of years where almost every weekend I would take BART out to the city to skate with my brother Stephen and friends—and obviously you, Loren and Nick J. That was our crew for a couple of years. We usually took BART and the buses and would just skate around for hours—Wallenberg and up in the avenues and bomb back down towards the Bay after. It was always more fun than driving in and just going to one spot, and I'm so lucky that I grew up so close to the City. In my first sponsor-me video there are a few clips of me skating Hubba and around the city. That's the video that would get me sponsored by Think and Venture a few weeks after my brother put it together. I was 12 or 13 at the time. I'm stoked to say I ollied the Gonz gap in 1997 as a 12-year-old kid!
Skateboarding has grown so much in the past ten years and its agenda, or intention, seems so vastly different from person to person. What does skateboarding mean to you? Do you have any advice for people starting, quitting or confused about it all?
Skateboarding has taught me patience and understanding, and it allows 100-percent self-expression. My advice is that if you’re not smiling, laughing, screeching, pushing or having the best time of your life, then you're not skateboarding! Seriously though, don’t get upset or worry about who you think is better than you, or that you’re not good enough. Skateboarding is a way for us to express who we are. It's not a sport, nor is it a contest. Skateboarding is the best damn thing in the world, and if you aren’t happy doing it, maybe you aren't doing it for the right reasons. There are no rules. Put your heart and soul into your skateboarding and it will show. Watch a Lance Mountain part or an Ethan Fowler part and get inspired. You can see their soul when they skate. To me, that’s so important. If I don’t see soul, surfing or jazz in skating, it looks beige as fuck. Young or old, male or female, whoever—have the best fucking time and be yourself. Take out the headphones, put down the phone, fuck Instagram and fuck a skatepark. Go be free and socialize with some friends and make some magic!
Sittin' on the pier of the Bay, watchin' the one foots sail all day… Photo: Pires
Skateboarding is moving in so many different directions right now. Do you still have a particular sort of skating you want to see, or do you follow it all?
I'm so happy that new board brands have started up and that people are stoked to see pros expressing themselves. Skateboarding was stuck in a fucking mold for so long. It was getting very stale and I think it needed to go a bit backwards. Progression is absolutely amazing, but when it turns into nothing but stunts and loses the creativity and flow, it makes skateboarding feel like there are rules we're suppose to follow. I know I didn’t start riding a skateboard to be told how to do it. The very reason I was so bored with organized sports was being told I had to practice a certain way and being told that there is an objective: to be competitive and win. With skateboarding you’re always winning. There isn't a score and it isn't about who's better. Just because someone can do a nollie 180 heelflip down Wallenberg doesn’t make it cooler than a mute grab down it. Some people might say the flip trick is harder, but is that true? We're all good at what we do. Skateboarding is constantly evolving and all sorts of skating is inspiring. I do feel like if people want to be pro, there should be a certain personal standard, though. But a turn around or a push can look just as magical as a crazy trick. As long as it looks good and people want to see it, there is room for all sorts of skateboarding. At the end of the day, I just love skateboarding and I like that it can be enjoyed differently by different people.
Being a pro skateboarder, how do you balance the two opposing forces of freedom and creativity with skateboarding also being your job? I mean, it's now seen as a sport with rules—it's going to be in the Olympics.
Straight up, this is going to be a very honest answer: personally, I fell out of love with skateboarding more than a few years ago. The industry side of professional skateboarding started to haunt and bore me. For the first time, skateboarding became a job and I lost my spark. Once team managers and brands started telling me how to skate, or that what I was doing wasn’t good enough, I stopped caring about what I loved most. It was the first time in my life I started questioning what I was doing, who I was, what I needed to do and so on. I had never felt that way before. I was always proud and never concerned with what anyone else thought. When someone tells you that your skating is not good enough, it hurts. Instead of doing what I always did, which was go out, skate and have fun, I began to only think about hammers. I never acted that way before. All my biggest or best tricks were never planned out. I was just skating and shit worked out. Once I started thinking about video parts or ads, I started getting hurt and getting stressed out. It was the worst time of my life and it put me into a slump that would last for years. Lance Mountain has shared some amazing knowledge with me over the years, about how being a pro skateboarder is about inspiring people and making them want to ride their shred sleds. It's so fucking true. I lost that for a while and thought I needed to just keep going bigger and doing more stupid stunts just to get people off my back. Skateboarding is subjective and there is no best. We all have our own personal favorites. I’ve realized I was only hurting myself by having personal beef with people that I could have avoided. I began to disappear from skateboarding. I do feel bad for some kids getting into skating now, though. Their parents are coaches, they go train and a lot of young sponsored skaters don’t even know how to go to a parking lot and make a shitty ramp, wax a curb and spend hours with other skaters talking shit, laughing and just being a skateboarder. They don’t know what it's like to be made fun of for being a skateboarder. They think they deserve recognition because they ride a skateboard. There's nothing better than being with friends anywhere other than a skatepark and getting creative. Skateboarding opens up a realm that most people will never understand or see. We're in Neverland when we skateboard! The poor kids that only do it for fame or money—what a bummer. As far as skateboarding in the Olympics? No thanks. Skateboarding is not a sport and it never will be. As long as we have GX1000, Atlantic Drift and all the other little crews inspiring the younger—and older—skateboarders, we'll always be in the streets. We'll always adapt and continue to create. We'll always be pissing off techies and old ladies on the sidewalk. Skateboarding will always be about getting outside and exploring. I just want people to know that there's so much more than only trying to get sponsored and making money. If you're good and rad, people will take notice.
The graffiti says "KEEP OFF" but Corey was only on the bank for a split second. Tail drop to rocket man; the slam in the vid is straight gnar Photo: Robles
Is there anybody you'd like to thank?
My first skate photo was in Thrasher in 1998. In 2018 Thrasher still has my back. Thanks for 20 years of support. Thanks to Devium, Tod Swank and all my sponsors, friends and family for being loyal to me all these years. Thanks to Bernard Butler and Wax Idols for the tunes. And thanks to all my friends in Paris, Glasgow and Manchester for all the inspiration. Keep on rolling.
Never Photo: Rea
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