John Gardner Interview

John photo1 750pxHi, John, where are you at right now?
Currently, I am in Brooklyn. It’s really nice out here.


And how are you doing?
That’s a great question. I’m doing great today.


Did you get your morning yoga session in?
Yes, I’ve been trying to meditate every morning. I miss some days occasionally, but each day that I meditate, it makes the day that much better. 


When did you start meditating?
I started meditating January 25th, 2011.


Oh, so you know the exact day.
Well, I remember the exact day because I was having a really profound panic attack and my mom had just gotten back from a rehab facility that specializes in meditation. She brought me a meditation CD. When she came home, I noticed a huge difference in her state of mind. She had a level of calmness I had never seen before, so when I was in the midst of this panic attack, I finally put it on and was able to calm my mind. It was very memorable for me so I remember the exact moment.

John photo1.5 750pxZen-like switch back 5-0     Photo: Heikkila


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So would you say you’re a very spiritual guy?
I would say that we are all spiritual beings, but yes I am.


Are you a very neurotic person without meditation?
No, I wouldn’t say so. I’m relatively quiet but I do have my own anxiety, self-doubt and low self-esteem. Those are things in my life I have been working on, with meditation and reading seeming to help.

John photo2 750pxThis was only possible by John Gardner. If anyone bigger had put their weight on top of that roll gate it would have came crashing down on all these kids fresh out of school     Photo: Blabac

At what point do you know you have to start meditating?
That’s a good question. Honestly, even when you’re happy is a good time. What I’ve come to find in doing this practice is that all emotions are very temporary. They come and go. The mind, to me, is like a blue sky; the emotions are like clouds. They come in, happiness, sadness—they’re temporary. So I’d say any time is a good time to meditate.


Would you recommend it to everyone?
Yeah, everybody could benefit from it but it’s very hard. It can bring up a lot of things within one’s self that maybe you don’t want to deal with. It’s much easier to ignore those things.


Have there ever been times where meditation hasn’t worked for you?
Yeah, but the way I like to think about it is that each time I try is a success. Even if it doesn’t work out the way I would like it to it’s all beneficial in one way, shape or form.

John photo2.5 750pxPhoto: Blabac

Did you always have a positive mindset or was it something that just came to you at some point?
I would say that the way my mom raised me was to always look on the bright side, but with the flow of life you can’t always be positive. I think life would be boring if you were positive all the time. I think we all need suffering to keep us in check and make us stronger. There are certainly moments that the tide changes and I gravitate towards not being so positive, but that’s the nature of life. 


Were you a way different person before you started meditating?
I wouldn’t say way different but meditating definitely changes your mind and it certainly changed who I am. I would say I’m less self-critical than I used to be and more self-aware. I’m more self-aware when I’m being self-critical, if that makes sense. I feel we all have this issue, not only with the relation we have with ourselves, but the one we have with others. We put conditions on the acceptance we have for ourselves and others. We say that I will only accept myself if I’m this. I will only accept this person if they’re like that. That’s conditional love and that sucks. 

John photo3 750pxYou don’t usually catch Gardner on big kinked rails, but that was before he found one he could slappy into     Photo: Heikkila

Along with the spiritualism, are you a relatively healthy guy? 
Yeah, I eat a plant-based diet and do other things that are healthy. I try to drink a lot of water, stretch, cook and do simple things like that.


You said plant-based, so you’re not totally vegan.
Well, I am vegan-ish.


Did you always eat like this or was it something that came along with meditation?
Now that you say that, I guess they did come hand in hand. I started by not wanting to eat animals and didn’t want to support that process. The last time I ate meat was in Costa Rica. I was staying on this farm and the woman who ran the farm cooked this amazing chicken dish. After I ate the meal, it realized it was the best chicken I’ve ever had in my life and that it was a good place to stop.


So you reached a pinnacle of taste in your life and no longer needed it.
It was the best I would ever have so I was done. I went out with a bang.

John photo3.5 750pxWonder if John remembers the date he did this frontside wallride grab?     Photo: Heikkila

When did you start playing the flute?
I started playing the flute on Christmas Day, 2014. 


Christmas Day makes sense but you have the exact days of these moments in your head.
They’re pretty significant dates. You remember the date that you meet the girl you love. I fell in love with playing the flute. My mom got me the flute and I really like the sound of it and the history of it. It’s one of the oldest instruments. I got really into it.


Why did your mom get you the flute? Did you ask for it or did she just get it for you?
That’s the crazy part. She got it for me, thinking I would like it.


Your mom must know you really well. 
Yeah. But I’ve always had a love for music.


Does that mean you’re self-taught? How did you learn how to play it?
Trial and error. I also learned from watching people play. YouTube videos, once again, are very helpful.

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It’s crazy. I’ve learned how to work on my motorcycle because of YouTube.
The Internet is so cool.


It sucks but it’s amazing. It’s a necessary evil at this point.
That’s a great way of putting it. 


So you make your own flutes, right?
Not as much as I used to but I still make them sometimes.


What do you do with them?
I used to sell them but now I just trade things for them or give them away. I went to a Native American sweat lodge with my mom a couple months ago and had a really intense experience/hallucination. In it, I had this gentle Native American voice come to me and said I was not authorized to sell flutes, so I shouldn’t do that. So I stopped selling flutes after that and decided to just give them away. I don’t try to promote them but if someone is attracted and gravitates towards them, I usually give a flute away.


For a while you were living in your car like a gypsy.
Well, on and off for the past three years I was living in my custom-built mobile home, aka a Honda CRV. I am no longer doing so. I somehow managed to fit a bed, cooler, stove and storage space in it. It was quite convenient.

John photo4 750pxRunning on the wall like an assassin, Gardner strikes with this hippie jump into the brittle concrete     Photo: Heikkila

Did you enjoy it?
I loved it. I loved that I could go to sleep wherever I ended up at the end of the night. I might have to drive around for a little while before I find a place to sleep but for the most part I could just wing it—find a place to sleep and then do it all over again. 


Why do you no longer do so?
I just don’t want to be in the car anymore. It got a little cramped. It served a purpose in my life but it came to a point where it was no longer serving me so I had to move on.


Your style of skating is vastly different than the rest of the guys on DC. Where does your approach come from?
I used to skate really aggressively and try really dangerous things. To a degree I still kind of do that, but I would say my skating is inspired a lot by surfing and Tai chi, which is moving meditation. 

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Tai chi? How so?
Everything in Tai chi is about flow. Each move flows into the next move, so when I’m skating, it’s a lot about the flow of things. If you come to a point where you’re not flowing anymore you do something else. That’s another way of saying, if I’m not having fun I stop skating. I can’t remember where I saw the quote, but someone once said, “Sometimes skateboarding involves not skating.” I think if I was skating all day, every single day, I would get a bit burnt out. I need other things such as yoga, meditation or playing music to feed that creative fire for me.

John photo5 750pxPhoto: Heikkila


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Yes, it’s your job, but at the same time it’s a passion. If you’re heart’s not in it, why would you do it?
If you’re not having fun then what the hell are you doing? I feel like people who stress a lot on their skateboard—to a degree I understand that skateboarding could be a great outlet for that stress, but skateboarding is about having fun. Bottom line. 


I mean, you’re just playing with your friends, you’re in the streets. All you’re doing is hanging out with your boys and doing something you all love.
It’s honestly as serious as you make it. You gotta do whatever you have to to keep that fire burning. If that fire goes out, then it’s such a shame.


You just got on DC last month and you’re going to have a part in their upcoming video Street Sweeper
That is true.

John photo6 750pxThis is John’s spot. He built it and lovingly patches it for every session. Big air into the hip     Photo: Heikkila

Is this a full-length video?
I’m not sure how long the video is going to be. I think there’s only a couple of parts so I wouldn’t say it’s a full-length.


Are you excited?
I am very excited. I feel very blessed.


Did you get everything you wanted for this video?
I’m going to say yes because I got everything that was meant to be got. I think when you work on a video part, you want to get more stuff. But at the end of the day, what you get is exactly what you needed to. 


So you’re saying you can’t look back and be bummed on the things you didn’t get.
We captured everything in the moment that we were supposed to capture and what we didn’t get wasn’t meant to be got. Save it for another time.

John photo7 750pxFrontside 5-0 on the A/C box is exactly what John needed     Photo: Heikilla

Who are you most excited to see in this video?
John Shanahan. He’s unlike any person I’ve ever met. He’s a very unique and an all-around nice guy. I’m really excited to see his footage. He’s a great skateboarder. He’s his own person. Whether or not people want to compare him to Kalis, he stands on his own. 


You can see the inspiration but I don’t necessarily think it’s imitation.
I like that. 


I noticed that neither of you talk very much. Why are you guys so damn quiet?
I think we both listen more than we speak.


What about the third eye, always keep that open?
I would say try to have it open as much as possible. Sometimes it closes, though.

John photo8 750pxLooks like those yoga classes are paying off     Photo: Heikkila