David Gravette "I’ve always gotten hurt since I was born, I guess."
Interview by Joe Hammeke
So, yeah… We hated him at first. Looking back, how could you not? Drooling, marble-mouthed, premature maggot. But just like any parasite, it grows on you. He’s been feeding on our traditions and laws for so long now that I almost forgot about the runt in pink shorts we tortured in Australia. His torso’s grown about a foot since then, and his skating’s grown some serious balls. I’ve seen him put his neck on the line for his homies and Creature in these recent years and it makes us proud. Although he still geeks now and again, he’s got our respect and we got his back. —Sam Hitz
Are you ready? Let me fill my pockets with beer.
Where are you right now? I’m at NHS going through Hesh Law footage. It comes out at the end of October, I believe.
How long has it been since your last Thrasher interview? What’s changed since then? Two years, could be. No sponsor changes. A few more surgeries, a few more tattoos, I drink a bit more.
Have you learned any new moves? Possibly. I forgot a whole bunch so I might have learned a couple.
Crooks pop-over Photo: Brook
What did you have on lock then that you’ve lost now? Oh wait, did I ride for Duffs in the last interview?
There’s a sponsor change. What trick did I do then?
You haven’t lost anything since then. After Phoenix Am ’07 you got offers from a lot of shoe sponsors. Duffs wasn’t working out. What made you choose Vox? I just knew most of the people on the team; some of the other riders were calling me saying they’d be hyped to have me on. I always try to choose my sponsors based on what feels like it’ll be a good place to stay for a bit, because I don’t like dealing with quitting and all that shit. I like to think I’ll work hard for my sponsors so they’ll stick with me in the long run, so they won’t kick me off if I get a gnarly injury or have to go to rehab for a few years.
You have a reputation for slamming hard. I’ve always gotten hurt since I was born, I guess.
Do you even think about bailing, or do you just go for the make? There are times when I know the first try is going to be a bail, but sometimes they don’t work out like that. I’ve never been able to figure out that technique where people can ollie out and barely touch the rail and jump off—like on kickflip maneuvers—and get out of it. It’s got to be, like, all. Especially now, when falling is such a pain in the ass. When ollieing up to something that’s way long, I’ll try and wait ’til I’m mentally prepared to land it first go.
Kickflip footplant. Sequence: Rhino
Why don’t you like to scope spots before you skate them? It’s never a fun time when you’re in the car driving out to something that you know is scary. You use up all your adrenaline in the car thinking about it. You’re trying to listen to gnarly music, your adrenaline is pumping on the ride over. But if you just show up having a good day of skating and you see something, your adrenaline starts pumping right then. I think every skater will agree that they enjoy coming across something rad and skating it, as opposed to seeking it out and having a trick in mind with people expecting shit of you.
You’d be surprised how often I hear, “Can we come back to this tomorrow?” I don’t think I’ve heard that from you. It comes out, but lots of times I’m more motivated right then. I can do this and just feel good about it right now—go back and drink with a good conscience knowing I don’t have shit to do the next day—instead of stressing on it all night and over-preparing.
If you don’t make a trick first time around, are you down to go back? Oh yeah. I’ve been back to a trick in San Francisco three or four times, full days of getting to the same point I’d been at the other days—getting too weak and tired as before—but it finally worked out in the end, so I don’t have to go there anymore.
What do you think of contests on big terrain like Bust or Bail or Wallenberg? Is it torture, or does it represent what professional level skateboarding is? I really like them. I love watching them. I don’t know how many more of them I can go to. My normal procedure of skating a rail isn’t going there with a shitload of people. I’m not the fastest. I’ll roll up to a trick for a while. And that doesn’t really happen at those contests—you just have to go.
Is that why at Bust or Bail you jumped on the rail 15 minutes early? That one was a little different. I can jump on that rail and know I’ve got a 50-50. I hadn’t skated for a bit before that because I had gotten a tattoo on my leg, so it was my first day of skating in five days or so. I was pretty rested.
5-0. Photo: Hammeke
Would you train for an event like that? Definitely. Protein shakes in the morning, burn every muscle, tear ’em up. Drink nothing but water the week before. Definitely all the stops. Red Bull is on my ass; I got to keep up on this contest level.
Why don’t you ride for a drink sponsor like Gatorade or Red Bull or Monster? ’Cause what if I got an offer from a beer sponsor? I couldn’t do it because that damn Gatorade contract says no other drink sponsors. I’d feel like a damn jackass, right?
You’ve been spending some time in SF. What brings you there? I got a lady friend there. As a skater you’re obliged to be where the media is, otherwise you aren’t really doing your job, and California is media central. Southern California isn’t on my list of rad skating. It’s fun to party there, but it isn’t too productive for me. People just take me to big rails that have been blown out already. You have to drive all day. There’s so much stuff in SF that’s still un-skated somehow. There’s really good people to skate with. Go out with P-Stone for low-pressure filming. Driving around drinking beers and coming across good shit. Filming with P-Stone, skating with Guzman.
How does filming for Prevent this Tragedy compare to your everyday sessions? It’s super-good, man. We just skate. But sometimes P-Stone makes you handle your own shit—take the bus to meet up with him. The other day he made me take the bus, and by the time I got there the session was over. If he would’ve come to get me I could have skated.
Are you satisfied with your part? The first half of the year, right after I turned pro, everything went to shit for me. Kept getting hurt every trip I went on. Saints and Sinners trip was the nail in the coffin for my shitty-ass six months. It got better after that. I’ve been getting a lot of stuff I’m stoked on. Hopefully we can get the rights to a song I’m stoked on.
Jack-knife big rig. Photo: Rhino
Is it going to be a good representation of your skating? Some people think you’re just a handrail guy. Yeah, it’s my skating for the last eight months, or however long. It’s got to be a good representation of my skating, whether it’s handrails or whatever.
Would you rather be on a fly-in, fly-out specific trick mission, or just get in the van and go wherever with the homies for a month? I’m always down to get in the van. You can bring weed. No airplanes.
Are you the type of guy who’s more productive on a month-long, go-anywhere trip as opposed to the specific mission? The month-long trips are rough unless you’ve got someone in charge who understands the need for some days off. You’ve got to have some recoup days. Go to the lake. On some demo trips I’ve almost lost my mind, forgetting how to spell my name. We did a Vox trip with demos everyday and I was so burnt by the end that I was just in a daze.
Does Navs ever call and ask what you did that week? Does he let you do what you do, and trust that you’ll get it done? Does he try to control the trips you go on? No, he keeps it super mellow. A lot of the guys are filming for other videos as well. Not just for Hesh Law, but they’re all really good skaters. That’s why P-Stone is down at NHS right now, trying to sort out what footage goes to Prevent this Tragedy and what goes to Hesh Law. Devin and I both have parts in each.
It’s hard to come up these days, but you did it. Why did you make it while some others can’t? Dude, I think I slipped in right before it started getting gnarly. I feel like I caught the last bit of really rad skateboarding. There really wasn’t the soccer mom getting raised on skateboards when I started. Wait—what? —I just spaced what this question was about.
Nosegrab 360. Sequence: Brook
How did you make it while others can’t. Shit, every kid on YouTube can do everything in your video part, but legend has it if you spend a week with those kids you’ll see why they aren’t coming up. What’s your advice to them? If he was killing it at the time maybe I’d try to hook him up, but I’ve only encountered one kid like that recently. The Norwegian Creature ambassador. He’s 13, ripping, living at this house in Norway with a bunch of 18-year-old dudes, learning the roots right.
Live with the older guys. That’s always good ’cause they’ll keep you in check and let you know when you’re fucking up. My first trip was a Duffs trip and I got handled really badly. I’d never been on any skate trip before, and had never even shot a photo with a photographer, besides a trick on El Toro. That’s a good one, shoot a trick on El Toro. Everyone’s set in their ways and I was trying to be a part of everything on the trip. The team manager pulled me aside and said I had to chill. Rakestraw pulled me aside and said, “All you got to do is get photos and don’t act stupid.” The Creature Australia trip got even more punishing. That still goes on, but it’s pretty necessary. I think I caught on pretty fast.
Hitz likes to torture. Sam has given me the least amount of torture of anyone on Creature.
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought? Paying taxes. Serious, by far. Three times the cost of my car.
Do you think you make enough money from skateboarding? Yeah. If I took a different route I could make more, but that’s fucked.
50-50 around the corner. Photo: Zaslavsky
What about a guy like Jereme Rogers? He’s a couple years older than you. Do you see yourself in a few years owning a $300,000 car and retiring? I don’t know. He’s doing what he wants, but I wouldn’t really trust the rapping thing. I don’t know if white people can rap. That one dude’s got it. Dirt Nasty is kind of pulling it with that “Gold Chains” song.
Do you have plans once skateboarding no longer pays the bills? Drop in on a skyscraper. Call a bunch of photographers and put a piece of wood at the bottom for a little bank. Dropping in on a skyscraper would be really fun. Maybe find one with a slope to it so you could ride it more than 20-feet down. Maybe it would get me on the cover.
Where have you been in the past year? Anywhere you want to return to? I was pretty hyped on Portugal. On that first leg of the Vox Euro Enduro we had really good guides, good spots—but that would soon change. Portugal was the only part of the trip where my body was functioning.
Anywhere you hope to never return to? Germany. Stupid-ass trade shows. It sucked. Two Nazi experiences in a row. I never had a Nazi encounter before. After shooting the shit with some locals for a while they would lean in and ask, “Can I trust you guys?” “Sure.” Next thing you know they’re spitting Nazi shit. “All right! See you later!” I thought it was pretty common knowledge that Hitler was wrong. They don’t even fucking know. They’re a bunch of cocksuckers. There are some cool Germans; I got to shout out to my man Lennie over there. You know Lennie.
Lennie Burmeister! He’s the shit. He’s not a Nazi.
Natas pole dance. Sequence: Rhino
If Volcom called and said, “We want you to go to Germany,” would you go anyway? It would probably be for a mini-ramp contest, so no.
Tell me about trashing the RV on the side of the road in Colorado. I had no idea what I was getting into. I hang out with Danny Kass in Portland a lot. He likes to go skating with us. He called me, saying he’s taking Silent Mike, Devin, and our friend Willis on a cross-country trip for his show, Danny and the Dingo. He wanted me to go as well and offered to pay for everything. Next thing I know I’m in Los Angeles filling out release forms for Fuel TV. They kept feeding us beer, and soon our crew became known as the Shitbags. The RV started shooting flames out of it on the way up the mountains in Colorado. The headlights started flashing so the driver pulled it to the side of the road. Willis took over driving—and he was in no condition to be driving—but the filmers didn’t care. They just kept filming the antics. Soon after getting back on the road the headlights shut off. We made it to a rest stop and got out and started trashing the RV. Broke out all the windows, smashed everything. I ripped out the bathroom door and threw it out the window. We were waiting on a taxi to take us the rest of the way to Denver when seven cop cars showed up. They passed over me, but when they got to Mike they took one look at him and gave him the Breathalyzer. We were all underage so they came back to me and I just admitted to drinking. I wasn’t going to pass the Breathalyzer. I got a shitty MIP ticked two months before turning 21. I had to pay a $250 fine, do 24-hours of community service, and take an eight-hour drug and alcohol class at 7:00 am that cost another 80 dollars. Damn Colorado.
Where do you go to chill? Issaquah or SF? Either or. If I haven’t been back home for a while it’s always good. It’s way, way cheaper to kick it at home.
Anywhere else? When was the last time you took a personal vacation? What would I do on a vacation? I’d do the same stuff. If I went on vacation I’d still want to skate.
SOTY, who do you think has got it this year? Shit, Phelps asked me that one yesterday and I didn’t have an answer. It’s not going to be the winner of Thrasher Skater of the Year—it’s going to be my Skater of the Year. I really don’t keep up to date enough to know what’s going on. I look at the mags but forget it all.
Who isn’t on any of your sponsors—Creature, Volcom, or Vox—that you’re really stoked on? Dude, there’s tons of them. Shit, Chris Pfanner. I like skating with that guy.
He’s on Volcom. So are you. Oh yeah.
Who’s one guy that you’ve never been on a trip with but wish you could? Jason Adams has been one of my favorites for a long time. I never met him while I was on Duffs. Never had a chance to go skate with him, but that guy is the shit.
What’s next? Try to buy a house. It’s a good idea. Get one in Portland. Sometimes in this line of work you feel like you’re not doing it. God damnit, I just get drunk every day. Smoke weed, sleep in, and once a week I do something gnarly on my skateboard. It would be nice to feel like I accomplished something like buying a house. I’ve never really lived anywhere other than at my parents’. I lived on the couch in the NG house while I was 16.
50-50 down the wire. Sequence: Rhino
Got any words of wisdom? Don’t ever buy Zig-Zags. Get king-size rice paper. All Americans should learn to roll better joints.
That reminds me of your Tom Penny experience in Rotterdam. Tom Penny. If Tom Penny asks for your weed to roll a mega joint, you’ve got to do it. He was wasted trying to roll on a post. Baby-arm size, six grams, plus eight grams of hash and five cigs. He dumped it all on the floor and everyone jumped down and got a pinch—but I missed. It’s cool, though; Adam Dyet and Appleyard smoked me out later. I would have liked to smoke a big joint with Penny, but I guess it’s just as good to have what he spilled.
In This Issue Classic power meets innovation on the March front as AVE goes over the back to switch 5-0 in NYC. There's 14 more pages of Van Engelen inside, so don't sweat it; Cyril Jackson talks about skating the streets (and sleeping in them), the Naawwsty Crew rolls deep from ATL to FL; Krooked krushes Korea; the Deathwish team spreads some love on the East Coast and Shane O'Neill has a killer ten-page feature. You heard what he did at Wallenberg, right? Add this one to your collection.