Leo Romero Interview “I just want to charge it and party with the bros!”
Words & Photos: Michael Burnett
I’ve noticed that you often try to get a trick before the filmer and photographer have time to set up properly. Why do you do that? I don’t know. Sometimes I get excited and like to see if I can get a trick before the photographer’s even ready.
How do the filmers and photographers feel about it? They aren’t psyched. But I figure if you guys don’t get it then we all lose. And if you do get it, then we all win.
Are you trying to keep things more authentic? I think I’m trying to keep things more interesting. Miner, he got kind of mad the last time—like, “What the fuck am I even doing here, then?”
Is waiting on people to set up a drag? I don’t see it as a drag. It’s just the business part of it. The photographer wants to get the best photo and the filmer wants to get the best angle, but sometimes it’s just like—fuck these guys. I just want to go for it.
I’ve noticed that every so often you just start hot dogging when we get to a spot. You start charging around, trying all these wild tricks in a row. What makes you want to do that? There’s no set reason why one spot is more hot-doggy than the other. I get more like that when I’m on a trip. You figure, “Well, I’m not going to be here too long. I should try to skate while I can.”
It’s all uphill from here. Kickflip over and out. Click image to enlarge.
Does seeing other people rip make you want to hot dog? Do you feel competitive? I’m not competitive at all. It depends on who’s skating. If it’s a friend of mine, it’s like, “Yeah! Let’s party together!” But if it’s someone I don’t know, I don’t really feel like I need to join in.
Do you still have the same enthusiasm for skating that you had when you were a kid? I don’t think I’m as excited as I was before. I can’t go out skating every day like I used to and go, “Yeah!” ’Cause before I was ditching school and skating with my friends. Nowadays it’s more like I’m going out skating with a filmer and a photographer. They’re my friends, but it sometimes has that element of, “We’re going out to shoot something.” So I guess the only time I have that authentic feeling like when I was a kid are those times when I’m like, “Fuck it! I just want to charge it and party with the bros,” you know?
How many of your friends from five years ago are still your friends? They’re all still my friends. I wouldn’t give them the cold shoulder, but growing up, you get older and get into different things. People get into dumb shit and people get into other shit.
“All this fantasy of skateboarding and going on trips with friends could end at any moment”
Did you have the growing pains of being the most successful skater out of your bros, where people got jealous and stuff like that? I don’t know, ’cause I never really worried about anything like that. Not to sound selfish, but I kind of knew what I wanted and I didn’t really let anyone bother me.
You’re in the rare position of being able to tell your dad “I told you so” at a really young age. What’s that like? Some people work their entire lives just to be able to show their dad, “Look! I was right! You were wrong!” Yeah. I really don’t think I’m in that position yet, ’cause I could break my leg tomorrow or break my back and be right back to, “Fuck, well, here I am.” All this fantasy of skateboarding and going on trips with friends could end at any moment, so I don’t think I’m able to tell anyone “I told you so” yet.
Supreme levitation on a backside nollie heel in Denver.
Weren’t you telling me that your dad has some revisionist history as far as your success in skating? Oh yeah. He thinks he’s the reason why I made it so far. He’s the one who gave me all the inspiration behind my career.
What did he used to do that goes against that theory? Basically me coming home with Matt Allen, and him telling me that Matt couldn’t stay over and he’s kicking me out of the house, too, so we both can’t sleep there. Throwing away my flatbar and saying, “Oh. I thought that was trash. I didn’t even think you used that anymore.” Just fuckin’ lame shit like that.
Has your success been an opportunity for you to have a different relationship now, where he sees that you aren’t just a dumb-ass kid wasting time? I think he sees that in the money I make. He sees there’s some value in it. There’s some sort of career, that it isn’t just dipshits hanging out at the park. I think he sees that and wants to be a part of it, ’cause my mom and brother were a part of it. Like, “Yeah. I remember when I took him to the skatepark that one time.” I don’t hold anything against him for how he raised me.
“Our plan was foiled by the ice cream cake”
What was it like moving out of your parents’ house at 18 and in with your RVCA team manager, Jimmy, who was a 30-year-old man? I was just thinking about this the other night. It’s funny to think that a 15- or 16-year-old could get along with a 30-year-old man just making fun of people at a Damn Am contest, but that’s what it was. We’ve been friends ever since. It was funny when we lived together. We’d have Otter Pop-offs. I didn’t really drink then and Jimmy has never drank, so we’d go to Denny’s and watch everyone who’d come in from the bar all wasted and check chicks out. We’d kind of be part of the scene, but just watching all the jacked people.
What about the ice cream cake? Oh yeah. One day Jimmy and I had a hankerin’ for some ice cream, so we went to Baskin-Robbins and got this ingenious idea that instead of getting some double scoop we’d get an entire ice cream cake, and that would solve all of our problems for an entire week! So we went and got this cake and brought it home, cut the first piece out, and cut the second… “Alright! Let’s do this!” We took the first bite, and we’re all, “Damn. This fuckin’ sucks.” It was completely gross. Our plan was foiled by the shitty ice cream cake.
Order up! Switch crooks! Order up! Click image to enlarge.
How did you guys become friends with Hulk Hogan? Just another stupid thing. My friend Steve invited me to go to the American Gladiators taping and I asked for another ticket for my bro. So I immediately asked Jimmy and—us being dipshits—we made all these signs for every athlete in the Gladiators. One of them was like, “Titan!” I can’t remember the names. The Hulk was the host, so we’re all, “Let’s make a ‘Hulkster Rules!’ one.” We made the sign and got there and there was this huge line. So we’re walking around looking for another entrance, and we see this trailer that says “Hulk Hogan” on it. “Fuck! The Hulkster’s in there!” We’re basically hanging out like some Hulk Hogan groupies, like, “Fuck yeah! Let’s just hang here and wait for the Hulkster!” So the security guard rides his golf cart over and says, “Yeah, the Hulkster’s really in there. You want to meet him?” We’re all, “Fuck yeah!”, holding up our “Hulkster Rules!” signs. He comes out and is all, “What’s up, brothers?! You guys are Hulkamaniacs?” We’re like, “Fuck yeah!” He’s all, “What are you doing?” and we tell him, “Oh, we’re just here for the show but the line’s real long so we were looking for another way in.” He’s all, “Really? Well, if you can get over this fence, you can come in with me.” We look up and the fence is like 12 feet high with arched spikes at the top. “How the fuck are we gonna get over this?” Jimmy’s all, “I’ll fuckin’ hop this shit! Hold this!” So we hop over and get in the little go-cart thing the security guard was driving, and then this other guy comes out of the trailer, and says “Who the fuck are these guys?” and Hulkster’s all, “They’re fuckin’ Hulkamaniacs, that’s who they are!” So we were on our way to the main event. As we were going there, we get off and take a few photos with the Hulkster, and as we’re getting out, Wayne from The Wonder Years is there. Hulkster’s all, “Hey. Do you guys know Scott?” or whatever his name was, and Jimmy looks at him and goes, “Wonder Years!” Wayne’s like, “Yeah, whatever.” So then we go in and watch the show. The whole thing was fucking awesome.
“We were hanging out like some Hulk Hogan groupies”
Wow. That’s a great story. I know that rather than try to hang out with all the coolest dudes in skateboarding, you enjoy hanging out with some of the maniacs. What is it about dudes like Sean Peterson or Cricket or Conway that you enjoy? With Sean Peterson, he was always just so motivated and hyped up to go skating and shoot photos. It was only after hanging out with him for about a week that I was like, “Whoa. How come you’re so crazy?” and he’s all, “Well, dude, I’ll tell you. I once did acid for a week straight.” I was like, “Fuck. That’s fucked up.” With those dudes, they’re really excited about going skateboarding. Cricket was crazy, but he was always talking about spots and wanting to go out. We took that crazy SOB Conway on a few trips and he was wasted in Corona surf trunks the whole time, but once someone wanted to shoot a photo he was right there, ready.
As long as people are enthusiastic, you like having them around? Yeah. Plus, I’m a little fuckin’ crazy myself.
Under what conditions did you “boop” Caswell? The best part of this story was that I didn’t even remember doing it until Westgate told me about it later. The way he tells it, and I kind of remembered it after he told me about it, is that I ran into Jose Rojo at a Transworld premier and was talking to him for awhile; Caswell was standing there the whole time and I never said a word to him. So I said goodbye to Jose and then, using the tip of my index finger, I touched it to the end of Caswell’s nose and went, “BOOP!” I guess that pissed him off for some reason. I think if someone did that to me I’d think, “Wow. That guy was pretty fuckin’ cool,” but maybe I’d just like to think that about myself.
You used to be shy as a kid. How’d you get over that? With a six-pack in your hands? Nah, I think you just grow up and get over it. You can’t be a 16-year-old closet weirdo your whole life. Some people are, I guess.
The more challenges, the better. Backside grind to concrete Twinkie jump. Sequence: Brook
What’s it been like to meet some of your idols? I know you really liked Jamie Thomas, for instance. What was it like getting to meet him? It’s kind of weird. Growing up in skateboarding since I was 16, you hear things that water it down. You hear the insider’s info on dudes, like, “Oh, he’s fuckin’ crazy,” or “he’s a fuckin’ asshole,” and then you still think he’s awesome. It’s weird meeting someone who you looked up to when you were younger and weren’t so fuckin’ jaded. When you hear stuff about a dude, it doesn’t really change your opinion until you actually get to know them. I love Jamie. I still think he’s fuckin’ awesome. Some of the stuff he’s doing now is kind of weird, but whatever. I like him as a skater.
Is your Emerica team manager, Jeff “Jet Ski” Henderson, the nicest man you’ve ever met? He’s up there. He’s up there with the Harmonys and the Daniel Lutherans, I’d say.
Wasn’t there some incident in Tampa where you scared him when he was sleeping? Me? Motherfucker, don’t blame this on me! Are we going to have to run that photo in my interview just to illustrate? In the middle of the interview? I think it was actually your idea—you and that dude you met in the lobby. I remember going up in the elevator, and I’m like, “Is this your bro?” and you’re all, “Yeah, I just met him in the lobby.” Then we scared the shit out of Jet.
“I touched the end of Caswell’s nose and went, ‘BOOP!’”
Have you ever made Jet miss a flight? No. That was his fault. We had a flight going up to Nashville. I told him to come pick me up—I’d had a great time with some friends the night prior. He shows up at my house and he’s calling my phone and I’m not picking up ’cause I’m over-sleeping, drunk. He’s trying to call Dan Lu and he’s throwing rocks at my house. And he’s calling Jimmy to see if there’s a secret entrance or passageway in. I don’t know why he’d think Jimmy would know that. Jimmy’s telling him, “Dude. Fuckin’ leave him. Don’t wait there. Fuckin’ leave him.” I wouldn’t have batted and eye. It was my fault. He should have just left me. So I finally woke up to another call, and it’s Jet telling me, “Dude, I don’t know, we left your house over 20 minutes ago. You’re gonna have to take a cab or get to the airport on your own. If you don’t make it, you’re gonna have to pay for your own flight, dude. You’re fucked!” Basically rubbing it in my face that he left me. I was like, “Son of a bitch! I fucked up!” I scurry around and get my shit together, call a cab, the cab gets there, and I tell the dude, “How fast can you get me to the airport? I’ll give you $20 extra.” Done. I get in the cab and the guy is driving crazier than any driver of a cab that I’ve ever been in—the dude is thrill-seeking, swerving, crazier than any of us on a motorcycle Wild Ride—he’s thrill-seeking crazy! Get to the airport. I have a bag to check but the self-check-in thing tells me the 45-minute limit is closed, so I go see the attendant. The guy’s all, “What do you need? Oh, you can still make this flight.” He gives me my ticket, walks me up through security, and I’m at the gate with time to spare. A breeze. I look around. No bros in sight. I board the plane and there’s no bros on there, either. I sit down and get a text from Jet, “Missed the fuckin’ flight by five minutes because of you!” So the plane is practically empty. I take a photo of myself on my phone and send it to him. I just write to him, “I could really use some bros on this flight right now!” As soon as I send that photo I get a call from Jet all, “Are you on the fucking plane right now? We all missed it—’cause of you! We all missed our fuckin’ flight!” He got so mad at me, but I still don’t feel at fault. He fucked up. I think he took too long parking the car.
Noseblunt slide, out past the knobs and over the bumps. Sounded like a zipper when he did it. Click image to enlarge.
Josh Harmony is known for being a hypochondriac. What’s the worst medical emergency you’ve ever heard him talk about on a trip? It was probably when he asked, “Hey guys, can you die from a spider bite? ’Cause I don’t feel so good.” On that one Jimmy had to tell him, “Josh. You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you,” and he snapped out of it, all, “Oh yeah. You’re right!” At the same time, I’ve also seen him slam in a gutter, get up, and say, “Next try!” He’s crazy. But I love him.
Is Stay Gold the last skate video? I don’t know, it could be. I can’t say. The way it’s going all digital or Internet, it’s kind of a drag, ’cause videos are awesome. Magazines, too. I don’t think it will go away too soon. Chocolate’s working on a video right now, and I’m sure that’s not going straight to the Web. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other people planning videos. It can’t be completely done, right?
How will you manage in a straight-to-Web world? I think that’s when I’m done. I don’t think I’ll do too good then.
“I still think Baker’s awesome”
Is the Internet forcing the legends out of the biz? I don’t think so. Maybe. It could be, if kids don’t watch videos anymore. It’s hard to say. I know people around me would rather watch a skate video as opposed to going on fuckin’ Berrics and watching some dipshit have a Battle Commander.
Has grinding up a rail been a curse as well as a blessing? Not really. When it first came, like at demos, it would be like, “And there’s the rail. Maybe we’ll see him grind up it!” That kind of happened at first, but no one really mentions it. A few people just said, “Hey, it’s crazy that you grinded up that rail.”
Have you ever been trapped in an elevator? Yeah. That was cool. It was me, David Reyes, Jimmy, Ethan, Josh, Cricket, and maybe Kevin, too. It was fuckin’ hilarious. We were in China and we tried to go to McDonald’s, but I think we took a service elevator. We got to the floor we thought was going to be the McDonald’s floor and it opens up and there’s this Asian man yelling at us. The door slammed shut and it went pitch black! We tried to call for help and they answered in Chinese. Ethan was all, “We need help! Help us!” Cricket was scared that there wasn’t enough air, but Josh thought he could fix it and ended up getting us out. David was holding Jimmy’s hand the whole time.
Nashville gap to front feeble smash. Photo: Brook
What? I’ve never heard that part. Remember how we all ran out? Jimmy said, “Someone was holding my hand.” I’m pretty sure it was David.
Okay, here’s the tough question. What made you want to get on Baker and then off of Baker? I don’t know. It’s the same reason, I think.
What was that? I thought they were cool?
“You can’t be a 16-year-old closet weirdo your whole life”
Then why’d you want to get off? I thought they were cool? I’m joking about that. I just felt like I didn’t fit in with those guys.
Were they partying too much for you? It isn’t the partying. I drink, too. I just felt like I didn’t fit in, you know? Those guys are awesome. I still think Baker’s awesome. I just don’t think I fit in with that crowd. It’s not really my bag.
I know you aren’t afraid of a rebel outfit. What makes you see an Indiana Jones outfit on the shelf and think, “I’m gonna wear that on my next crooked grind!”? I never really thought of it like that. I think I dress pretty normal most of the time. The boldest move I made was with this stupid-ass hat. I think that’s what fuckin’ ruined me with the The Rebel Skater of the Year article. I think I was self-conscious about my hair on that trip and I just thought, “I’ll wear this hat. That’ll make up for it!” Then it screwed me in the end.
Frontside half-Cab, front board fakie, aka The Bennett Slide.
Would you wear a leather vest? Nah.
Leather pants? Nah.
Not even out to the bar? Nah.
“You kind of have to be masochistic to be a skateboarder”
What about a full-length duster jacket? What’s that?
One of those Desperado things. No, no. I don’t think so.
Jumpin’ streets and haulin’ balls in the Hollywood hills. Click image to enlarge.
What do you dislike most about your job? I don’t really dislike many things about it. It just gets irritating from time to time. I could say traveling too much, but that sounds lame, ’cause most people don’t get to travel. It’s different things at different times. Having to skate can be a drag, like, “Okay, we gotta go get this photo, bro!” I don’t want to have to go get a photo. There’s nothing really bad, but there’s things that are occasionally irritating.
I know it’s sort of a pro skater cliché, but what do you like about playing music? That’s sort of a hard question to answer. It’s sort of like asking, “What do you like about skateboarding?” It’s just something to do. Some dudes shoot Polaroid pictures of the sky.
But you play a lot. Just because I have so much time on my hands. If I’m not skating, I’m at my house hanging out with my friends or playing the guitar.
What are your favorites? Old blues musicians, mainly. Like John Fahey’s acoustic guitar work. I know that every pro skater out there is like, “Let me tell you about my guitar!” And you’ve got Bad Shit out there playing, like, shitty punk rock music. It seems stupid to talk about.
High-speed nosegrind to nollie flip, uphill all the way. Check out Leo's Five Sequences here. Sequence: Hammeke
I’ve noticed that you aren’t too worried about taking a slam. Is it that you don’t think about getting hurt, or you just don’t care if you get hurt? I don’t really think about it if it’s a trick I wanna do. Then it’s just part of the fun.
Yeah. I was going to ask, is there a masochistic side to it? You kind of have to be masochistic to be a skateboarder—unless you’re, like, a fucking guy dancing on a ledge, then you’re not really worried about falling real hard or scraping up your leg, you know?
My favorite of your slams is the forward-leaning scorpion where you slide on your shoulder with no hands down. You seem to slide on your collar bone. Yeah. That’s a common one. A lot of times on my shoulder, too. My shoulders take a lot of it on that one.
Always faster, always farther. Leo pushes skateboarding. Gap to crooked grind. Click image to enlarge. Photo: Hammeke
It seems like it wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t skating so fast. Why do you prefer to go real fast when you skate big stuff? It’s more fun that way. There’s no real big insight to it.
What’s a perfect day for you? Every day is different. A perfect day is waking up, revving the Harley, drinking a 40! Nah, I don’t know what the perfect day is. You can’t really plan for a perfect day. If it happens, enjoy it.
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.