You’ve been on the road for how long, Brian? After two of my friends and I graduated from high school, we decided we were definitely going to see California. I wasn’t really skating that much at the time—I brought a board with me, but I just had my dog, who was like six months old, and my two friends. I was 18. We ended up going to Eureka where my sister was going to school at Humboldt; got a shitty little shoe box house and lived there for a couple months. I did some roofing work and I’d usually eat my lunch before it was lunch time, and that always sucked. Then I delivered some pizzas for a while, and then I said, “Let’s go back home to Connecticut.”
You drove straight-shot all the way back home? Yeah. My friend Alex never drove in his life and my friend John had a DUI, so I drove all the way to California and all the way back.
When you first came out to skate, you went to Sacramento? Yeah, this was after that first trip. I went to Sacramento to stay with Judd. We’d been friends since we were 12.
"I look down at my board and there's not one sponsor who isn't fulfilling"
Connecticut skate mafia. Yep. His mom was super cool and let him take off. I wanted to finish school. I almost quit, but I stuck it out. Then when Judd asked me to stay with him in Sacramento, I said, “Alright, I’ll go there and skate and see what happens.” It was really hot. I didn’t get a job in Sacramento, though, ever.
You just lurked. I’d saved money. When I started getting boards, I’d sell one here and there.
From who? Toy Machine. They gave me a couple boards when I was making my sponsor-me tape. I filmed with Mike Rafter and sent the video to them—just some footage from around Sacramento, the best I could come up with, and the frontside bluntside at Hubba. They saw that and said, “Come down to San Diego.”
Ed called you? Probably. I can’t remember if it was Ed or Donny. I think Donny told me they wanted me to come down, and then Ed or Jamie called me with the ticket information. I stayed at Jamie’s house on the floor and skated with Steve Olson, Chad Muska, Donny Barley, Elissa Steamer… Adrian Lopez would come on the weekends and sleep in the corner.
When he slept, because he doesn’t sleep. Do you think about those times as being the salad days? What does “salad days” mean?
The days of wine and roses. I guess it was that time. It was a beach house in Pacific Beach. People would come in and out. There was a busted pool table, some dogs, and roaches everywhere. I was still calling my parents and they were hooking me up with like 300 bucks Western Union here and there, because I wasn’t really getting paid yet. I paid them back.
Hurricane. Photo: Morf
That was the height of Muska mania. The beginning. The height would be the C1RCA days, but that was the beginning of the dude with the beanie with the bill on it and Dickies.
And Steve Olson, too. They were both tag-teaming it. Yeah. It was sick.
Was it weird being with those people who you’d seen in the mags? Yeah, it was weird. It was weird going to Tumyeto, going to a warehouse full of boards and seeing people screening their own stuff. Then we’d just skate the mini-ramp whenever.
I think of those days as everybody going crazy. Chad Fernandez, all the freaks out there. They’re still around now, but you’ve had a remarkable shelf-life. You stuck with it for 10 years, and now you’re getting a shoe finally. I’m lucky. I don’t want to say that I waited for people to come to me necessarily, but I’m glad I didn’t accept some sponsor that I wasn’t into. Luckily, I’m with the people I’m with now, and that has something to do with longevity, too. Being involved with every sponsor I have. I look down at my board and there’s not one sponsor who isn’t fulfilling. They’re all satisfying to look at. Like, “Cool. Spitfire is awesome.”
Was it easy going from Toy Machine to Girl? It wasn’t really easy. It’s Ed’s company—he was really great, and I was really grateful for everything that he did for me, but I wanted to be a part of something bigger, because the initial Toy Machine team that I had gotten on was gone. People do things like this, they make changes in life, and I wanted a change. When I went on Girl, I was around a bunch of established people who weren’t going to go anywhere. So I figured, “I’ll go there and stay there.” It’s a great place to be.
"I try to Jedi through there"
It’s kind of like working for the mafia with Girl. You’re set for life. Once you get there, you’re hooked up. I wasn’t really looking at it like that, but now that I’m a part of it I see that. With Girl, no matter how numb you get to our situation as skateboarders, it’s still really cool and you feel really lucky. They’re really good people. They skate all the time, they have fun, they film. It’s a good balance.
I remember when I was at the Opera House and Sam told me that they’d “made” Malto last night. It felt like Goodfellas kind of shit. I told him that was the way you gotta go. He’s another one. It’s really cool to be around younger guys on the team, and Sean deserves it all.
He’s got such a good attitude. What do you think about the new kids all being from stable families? They aren’t the same dysfunctional freaks that we were. I know you were from a stable family, but the things that we saw back then were different. It’s cool—you see them go out on the road and learn to live, compared to playing video games all night in their parents’ living room. It’s awesome seeing Cory Kennedy and Mike Mo go around the world, like, “Sushi?! What is this?!”
“We can have whatever we want!” Yeah. Mike Mo didn’t even know what hummus was. I’m like, “Dude, just try it.”
Ollie. Photo Morf. Click to enlarge.
Name three top places you’ve been on your skate travels. Australia. It’s really cool to be able to rent a car and go to five or 10 skateparks in one day. You can BBQ outside and drink beer, and because kids grow up around that, it’s not some bad thing that makes them want to go and be bad. There are really nice people there. I’d also probably say the old contest trips to Europe. Riding the trains, having to be on time, always looking for your passport, no cell phones—those were really cool trips. The third? I’d say China, because it’s such a massive country; you see how people behave and function after years and years of being crowded and pushing and shoving each other. No offense, but people really move like cattle there. You see it when you go on the busses in Chinatown. Two bags of produce; “Back door! Back door!”
When you think about your video parts, what’s your proudest accomplishment? Jump Off A Building. I’d already done Welcome To Hell, so it was cool to do a second real pro part. I liked that one a lot. It has footage from all over—Oakland, Benicia, San Francisco—and I have good memories of when I first started hanging out with Gabe Morford and Brad Staba all the time, shooting photos. That one has a cool variety of tricks, but I’m proud of all my other ones too.
That Nike video’s pretty sick. In that one I ended up getting hurt, though, so it wasn’t as long as I had wanted. But what can you do?
That’s the price you pay for being a pro ’boarder. I’m really proud of those lines in the Nike video. They’re really tricky and rewarding.
Have you met the guy who owns Nike? Phil Knight? No, I’ve never met him.
"I want to make hats"
Have you ever flown in a Learjet? No, but after we flew around the world promoting the Nike video we flew home from London to New York on a plane. It was a 747 converted to like, 55 seats, and it was really cool. I had breakfast with a gigantic tablecloth facing Reese, and I just looked at him: “God, some of these kids don’t even know.” I was not going to sleep on that flight. I’m enjoying every drop. So many drinks. It was great.
Flying in the air is harder now when you’re drinking. I know. I try to Jedi through there.
What are you working on now? Is there a Girl video in the works or are you going to have parts in the Chocolate video? We are working on a joint Girl/Chocolate video. There are a couple of guys who have a ton of footage. It’s going to be good. I’ve got some stuff filmed, and then we’re going to tour and film this summer for it, just around the US. We’re going to do two trips. One van for the guys to go to the cities and skate the ledges and stuff, and then we’re going to have one van going to all the skateparks, so we can have a mixed skateboarding video.
Is there a skate photo of you that stands out in your mind? You know what, the first thing that comes to my mind is the hurricane grind down the handrail at Irving. John Humphries shot it; it’s just a really nice picture. I had on one of my favorite shirts from when I was a teenager and it made it all the way out here. That’s my favorite picture.
Boneless lipslide. Sequence: Morf
How many other people made it from Connecticut? Donny, Jim Greco, Tim Upson, Jim Gagne—forgive me if I can’t think of other people right now, but those are the major guys that stick out.
Jim Gagne nollie flip. Noseblunt nollie flip. Ed Templeton called him “tech-burl.” Because he would get burly with some indy grabs, but he could nollie flip out of a manual.
How long are you going to be in this? You told me the other day that you wanted to be, like, a coach. You want to be in skating forever. Not like that. I don’t want to drive a van around forever, ’cause I’d probably lose it, but I would like to keep doing it as long as my body holds up. I’m 34 in June. I like to skate transitions and stuff that’s forgiving. If I could just skate stairs and transitions to do my parts for videos, then I’ll go as long as I can. I want to learn how to use more computer programs so I can work for Fourstar or Nike and do design and freelance stuff. I want to start my own little company eventually. I want to make hats. It’s easy and fun, and I can hook up all my favorite skaters without bumming out their board or shoe sponsors, so that’s my next plan.
Have you got any designs yet? No, I just write my favorite letters all the time, look at them and think about it.
Did you ever tag when you were a kid? I did. My first tag when I was little was “Zero.” And now it’s “Shart.”
"We can't live with the internet"
What’s Koston’s? It’s “Cock,” right? Yeah, I guess so. He draws a dick. Rick’s is a woman, spread-eagle, with her hands around her thighs. That’s Rick’s tag. He does it everywhere.
Rick was so excited. I could see it in his face. Everyone was skating and having fun. Which Girl guys do you room with when you’re on the road? The last trip I roomed with Alex Olson. We get along really well.
Fashionistas, you are. We both have a liking for clothing and photography. Sam is usually my roommate, and that’s always cool ’cause he gets me up early and we wake everybody else up, but pretty much I roll mostly with Carroll and Biebel.
Backside Smith 180 out. Sequence: Colen
That’s hard wheels right there. Two or three days out of the week, I can do it.
High-maintenance? No, he’s just a big ride.
Your shoe comes out in June. Yeah, on my birthday, June 12th.
Thirty-four-years old and you’ve got a shoe. I did two colors: One’s the Giants’ black and orange, and the other one is navy and gold stitching, because I made a military hat to go with it. And a polo shirt. I’m stoked.
Do you check out skateboard websites? Honestly, I just go to Crailtap. I don’t really surf too much. I’ll look at a couple things and then turn the TV back on. Back to Law and Order. No, Science Channel.
Could you swim to Alcatraz? I could probably stay alive. I can tread water pretty well.
You’re one of 12 kids, right? Fourteen.
Wow. Your mom was pregnant for… Eleven or something years of her life. She’d quit smoking for every baby and then…
Back on it again. She doesn’t smoke anymore, but yeah, my mom’s a trooper. She’s great.
Did you want to say anything else to the Thrasher readers of the world? Keep reading Thrasher and buying it, because we need to have this magazine on every bathroom floor and we can’t live with the Internet. It’s my favorite magazine and it needs to be out forever.
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.