Erick Winkowski Am Scramble Interview

ew1aEasily the most interesting man in the van, Erick would go entire days without speaking only to break the silence with incredible tales of skating from Vancouver to Tijuana (actually skating, not riding in a van from spot to spot) and other equally cosmic adventures. He chugged Chef Boyardee raviolis straight from the can and would grind massive rails by himself with nobody watching. By the end of the trip we all had a new favorite skater. —Interview and photos by Michael Burnett

What makes you reach out and grab a Chef Boyardee can?
I don’t know. I’ve been eating those my whole life. On the Great Skate, when we skated from Seattle to Mexico, one of my friends was eating them a whole bunch and then there was a part where I collapsed to the ground and didn’t know what was happening to my body. He threw me one of those and I ate it so fast and after I ate that I immediately began to feel a little better. Then I was able to get to a Motel 6 and I passed out. When I woke up I was all sick and throwing up ’cause I had not been eating for a day and I didn’t sleep for a day and we had skated, like, 50 miles. Plus, I didn’t drink any water. I just collapsed and my body was going through some crazy stuff, then I ate one of those and felt better, so ever since then I feel like those make me feel good if I’m hungry.

Do you always go ravioli or do you sometimes go Beefaroni?
Always ravioli. I never really had any of the other ones. I’m too scared to try them. I already know I like the ravioli one so I get them every time.

Yeah if it ain’t broke—so you told me that you started out like any other kid, kickflipping, jumping down stairs, all that kind of good stuff?
My friend Glen Garcia, who is Aldrin Garcia’s brother, I skated with him all the time. He’s older than me and I would watch whatever videos he watched and skate whatever he skated. He watched a bunch of old videos and stuff. I always skated stairs but I appreciated ramp skating. I just never got into it too much. But I hurt my knee so I couldn’t really jump down shit for a while and I kinda started taking psychedelic drugs and getting really into skating pools. I was just carving for a while, just having a board with no nose and just doing really aggressive carves and not even tricks. That was all I would do for a couple months.

What’s the connection between psychedelics and bowl skating? What’s it feel like?
It just makes me feel very awake and concentrated. You have no fear. I feel like a dog and a ball. I’m like a dog and a ball but it’s me and a skateboard and it’s so much fun I can’t stop. You just keep going and going. That’s like what a pool is.

It’s crazy ’cause when you think about it, when you’re in a bowl or a pool everything’s going. There’s no down time.
And then you get out and you’re just panting, but then you still want to get right back in. You can’t stop. You stop, you go crazy.

ew2aLipslide pop over, fueled by mini raviolis

Speaking of not stopping, you told me a story about doing something so intense that your leg wouldn’t stop pushing even after you fell off your board and laid down. What happened?
Oh, that was when I stopped drinking. I used to drink every day. I would drink bottles of liquor. Well, it started off with beer but then it progressed and turned into liquor. I just started doing a lot of stuff, a lot of drugs and alcohol and it got to a point that I figured out that I didn’t want to do it anymore. Then when I stopped drinking, because of how much I had been drinking—I think I was supposed to slowly stop drinking and I didn’t because I was so spooked about alcohol from a Salvia trip that I didn’t want to touch alcohol. Not even a beer. Even though I probably should have. I didn’t realize the withdrawal was gonna be so crazy, and the next day I went and skated a pool with Rhino. It was a pool party and there was all this alcohol everywhere and I was just over it so I left. I told Rhino I was skating home and it was, like, ten miles from my house. I sweated so much and I pretty much passed out before I got there. I woke up and hallucinated a little bit, continued up the hill and then when I got to my front yard I was pushing and I saw my girlfriend and my dad and I was, like, “Okay, I’m good.” So I just dropped to the floor and when I dropped to the ground my body was still doing the push. I was laying down on the floor just trying to catch my breath but my body was still doing it and I couldn’t stop and it was freaking me out. It was so scary; I hated it. My girlfriend knew exactly what to do: she went in the house, she grabbed my pipe and loaded it. I immediately smoked some weed and passed out. Then when I woke up I was just so weak and sick. God, it was hell for the next ten days.

So you had ten days of harsh withdrawals?
Yeah, ten days of the worst shit ever. It was three or four days of feeling like I was actually about to die and then three or four days of just feeling miserable. I didn’t want to go nowhere or do nothing. Then around day ten it was, like, “Okay, it’s all over.” I still felt really shitty and I wanted to drink every day but everything was over. But I still didn’t feel like doing anything. People would ask me, “You wanna go skate?” And I’d just be, like, “No.” And I would sit home all day and just be confused in my head and not know what to do—not skating, not doing anything, not drinking either, but not motivated to do anything because I was so confused. I felt like that for almost three months. Then I started to eat mushrooms and those started to make me skate every day.

So you’ve been lucky enough to figure out some things that work for you and things that don’t. Do you ever want to be at a place where it’s just fresh water and sunshine, nothing else?
Does that mean being sober?

I don’t know. I think that I’ll always smoke weed. Every once in a while I feel like maybe I’ll start smoking blunts again and then I remember that it’s such a bad idea and I don’t. I just get confused sometimes but for the most part I think that I’ve been trying my hardest to not even eat mushrooms anymore or take acid or do anything. ’Cause I do want to just be able to run off of food and water. I don’t see a problem with weed, so I think exactly like you said, but with weed. I’ll just probably always smoke weed. I always take breaks too. I always take a couple month breaks where I don’t smoke. If I get hurt or something, fuck taking pain pills; I’d rather smoke some weed.

ew pq1

You’re one of the most physical people I’ve ever met. You would skate 16 miles into town. When we’re at a spot I know you like to take off into the woods. Have you always been like that, where you just always want to keep moving?
Yeah, I feel like I can’t stay put no matter where I’m at. I try for as long as I can and then when I start to feel kind of crazy or bored or something I’ll get up and get interested in something, the clouds or whatever. I’ll see some train tracks and think, like, “Where do those go?” I always find a way to get occupied. When I was a kid I used to get angry a lot and I’d have to find ways to help me not get angry. So I’d always find things to just keep me going, keep me occupied, keep my head going.

How’d you like this trip?
Oh, I loved this trip. I’ve been telling everybody about this trip. Now I just look at huge rails so much differently. Every rail in Seattle, I’m, like, “Oh shit, I wanna see that one. Let’s go look at that one.” Before, I didn’t really. They hyped me up to skate big rails.

Who made a big impression on you? What did you think of Ducky?
Oh shit, yeah. That’s funny. I was talking about Ducky today. I was telling one of my friends today about how Ducky was trying that pop shove it 50-50 and just getting smoked then just running up there and doing it again and getting smoked! Then went up there and did it again and landed it. It was so sick. Then I was telling him about how he split his eye open then did the gnarliest boardslide ever a few days later. Yeah, Ducky is the best. I really liked Zion too. Zion will skate everything, just get out the van, whatever, and there he is skating.

ew3aWicked cut back through the corner on a dusty slam wall. Surf’s always up with Winkowski

What’s the smallest thing you can do a handplant on do you think? ’Cause on this trip you did an egg, a ho ho and a sadplant on a 16-inch-high lump.
I’ve inverted a little tiny bank to curb before, so that’s probably the smallest thing.

What’s the secret to handplants?
Fuck, I don’t know. I’ve just been doing them for years and I think just doing something over and over and over for years just makes you better at whatever you’re doing.

Just repetition.

On this trip we had several weird incidences where we made old white guys really, really angry. Where do you draw the line as far as when somebody’s losing their mind about skateboarding? There was one spot where you basically did a boardslide almost into the cop car as they were pulling up. What’ll make you stop skating a spot?
I guess the gun is where you draw the line. I guess a cop has a gun, too, but a cop is less scary with a gun. I mean, maybe a cop isn’t less scary with a gun, but the guy coming up saying, “I bet y’all voted for Hilary,” and showing his shit, that would make me stop skating in a second. I wanted to throw his gun on the roof.

That’s what I was thinking. I was thinking if we were really bad dudes—
I was so close. You don’t even know how close I was to grabbing it out of his holster and throwing it on the roof of that building. I was so angry.

I was so annoyed and outraged by it. Then I was just thinking, if we really were the kind of people that you needed to pull a gun on, we would have taken the gun away from that guy so quick. That was lame. On a happier note, how did it feel to have the guy at Jersey Mike’s in North Carolina be excited about you and want to give you free sandwiches?
Oh, that’s awesome. That feels great to go anywhere and have anybody recognize me at all.

ew pq2

Do you care about being a pro skater? Is that something you want to do?
Yeah, that would be great. I do care. That would be awesome. It would be cool to just inspire other people and make them want to skate.

Fuck yeah. What did you think about Mike Sinclair as a team manager?
Oh, he’s funny as hell. Mike’s the best.

What about Tyson? Did you get a good read on him?
Yeah, Tyson was cool too. I liked him a lot. He seemed a little similar to me: just smokes a bunch of weed. We were hanging out and talking. He’s really cool.

What’d you think when he came out of the thrift store in that fantastic outfit?
And then 5-0d the craziest rail ever? Yeah, that was the best thing he could have ever done by getting mad. He went in that store and then came out a whole different person. He was in such in a good mood after. Had a great attitude, great suit.

I forgot about that, because right before he seemed pretty bummed out. We were eating breakfast, he didn’t touch his food and then he went in there and came out a new man in that outfit.
He went in, got an outfit and that’s all he needed. Tyson did not need any pancakes; he needed some new gear.

ew4aAlways down for an invert

What’s your living situation right now? It sounded pretty interesting.
I live in an alley in Seattle. But off the alley is a warehouse. There’s a ramp outside that’s three feet with a four-foot extension and then there’s a ramp inside that’s nine feet with a ten-foot extension. Underneath both of the decks there are rooms and then I live on top of the deck. I built a little room that’s literally the size of a bed cause it’s the only thing that’s in there. You walk in my room and there’s just one bed and a bunch of shelves that go over the bed with all of my stuff on them.

So the first thing you see in the morning is coping?
Yeah. I wake up, walk out the door, and then there’s the vert ramp.

Yeah, it’s pretty sick. I just installed AC in my room too. I had to decide if I was gonna buy myself a new phone or AC cause it was my last 150 bucks and it was so hot and I was, like, “Fuck it, I don’t need a phone right now. I’ll just get an AC.” So I went to Lowe’s and carried an AC all the way back and set it up. It was so worth it. It was the best 150 bucks I ever spent.

What’s your summer looking like?
It’s gonna be great. I’m gonna be in Germany.

ew5aStalled out ho-ho to fakie over a 16-inch high lump of concrete. Nobody else can do this

What else you got? Are you doing any other real big long distance skates this summer?
Nope. I skate every day kinda far. I don’t have a car anymore so I just have to mob it everywhere so I just put the soft wheels on. I’ll start off in my head thinking, like, “Today I’m just gonna go to this place that’s close by,” and then I end up going there and then I think, “Okay, I’ll go to this other place.” So then before I know it, I’m like 15 or 20 miles away and I’m, like, “Oh shit, how did I get so far?” It sucks to go so far sometimes and not realize it and then you look back at how far you’ve got to go back and it’s, like, “Ah shit.”

What do you think about when you’re out there pushing?
Damn. I think what it is is that I’m not thinking about anything. And I think that’s what I like ’cause I think a lot about a lot. I’m always thinking and some of the only times I’m not thinking is when I’m skating and that’s why when I wake up the first thing I want to do is go skate and then just stay skating all day and then go home and be too tired to think about anything other than skating. Then if you think, you’re just thinking about skating. That’s all I want to do.

ew6aSlicing through a harsh wall kinker with 90-degree run up. Erick was trying this for fun when we caught up to him