Zack Wallin Interview
Blessed with natural talent combined with speed and power, Zack Wallin is a badass. He’s a quiet guy whose actions speak louder than his words. Growing up with a tough-as-nails father who instilled a never-give-up work ethic in him, Zack has grown into the powerhouse he is today. Nestor Judkins, Ben Raemers and I sat down with him (and a few cases of beer) to talk about working construction, the fine art of sandwich making and sacking on the job site. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Wallin…
Louie Barletta: Enjoi is a brand that’s based around a lot of team vibes—it’s all of us together—so I figured let’s all get together and talk about Zack. Ben Raemers has the first question.
Ben Raemers: So I’ve noticed from when I was staying at the mansion, you’re really good at making sandwiches. What would your dream lunch sandwich be?
Well thank you, Ben, for noticing the craftsmanship. I’m gonna have to go with an avocado veggie sandwich. There we go.
LB: Get deeper. You gotta go deeper.
Alright if it’s in the morning I’m going with wheat bread, cream cheese, avocado, tomato, onion and spinach. There you go.
LB: That’s a great sandwich by the way. I’ve lived with Zack for many a year and I would have to attest that he also adds hot sauce to it, which he did not mention.
Nestor Judkins: Not only is Zack a great sandwich builder, but he has also been working construction on the side before, after and during his storied professional skateboard career. Can you tell us about that, how you got into that?
Well, I started off as a labor worker and then moved my way up to a carpenter, more finish work. And now that I make a living off of skateboarding I kinda just do more woodworking. Every once in a while I take on bathroom remodels and whatnot.
Not only can he construct walls but he can ride ’em too. Frontside wallride yank out Photo: ZASLAVSKY
NJ: So Zack lives at Louie’s house and I have to wonder: have you done any work at Louie’s?
Well, oddly enough Louie actually hired me to remodel his bathroom, which we just finished. We just finished it up maybe six months ago. It is odd, though—
LB: Yeah, after three years. I know your dad does a lot of construction. Let’s talk a little bit about your childhood, because I feel like everyone’s childhood kind of like molds them into who they are. As a kid, did seeing your dad do construction lead you down that path?
My dad working construction or just being a carpenter in general definitely led me in that direction. My first memories were hanging out in sawdust and two-by-four cutoffs and ever since then I’ve loved building stuff.
LB: I know when you look at spots you definitely have a formula. Do you think that’s because of your background in construction where you think of the trick and you see a blueprint? Because you definitely have a madness of how you go about finding a skate spot and filming a trick. Is it related to your background of building shit?
Yeah, I think you’re totally right. I think it goes back to my dad being in that line of work where it’s very step by step. If you build something you gotta do it step by step and with preparation. That’s kind of how I was raised. So when I go skating, it’s very much how you explained it. It’s almost like a curse but it’s a blessing in a way. If I know I’m gonna try and go film a trick I’ll have a regiment setup for the next day and if it’s thrown off I feel like my chances of doing that trick are less if I didn’t follow the formula.
No micro hubba for Mr. Wallin! Zack attacks the stack with a switch front heel Photo: ZASLAVSKY
BR: What’s your funniest construction story?
We were remodeling a restaurant and we were working 12-hour days, because if we worked just eight-hour days the job would take forever. And if a restaurant’s not open they’re not making money. It was about ten o’clock at night and I was on an eight-foot ladder. I was trimming out a window and the ladder was set up on a piece of plywood between joists. And then when I was coming down, the ladder slipped and it tilted the plywood so it was like a teeter totter and I fell off the ladder and dropped about six or seven feet and straight sacked it on the floor joist with a tool belt on and my tools went fuckin’ flying everywhere. And everybody was there, the owners and everything. The only thing I could do was just get up and like play it cool like nothing fuckin’ happened. Just picking up my tools in shame.
LB: How were your nuts and bolt afterwards?
My nuts and bolt were not too hot.
NJ: So would you say you’ve gotten sacked worse doing construction or skateboarding?
I got sacked worse doing construction than skateboarding. It was fucking insane. I can’t believe it happened and I walked away. It was fucking nuts. And below the floor was another ten-foot drop, I was so lucky.
Off the ledge into the wedge, Cards would definitely approve. Nollie Photo: FERRERO
LB: What’s up with restraining orders, Zack?
Ah, man. This is fucked, man. You guys put me in a corner here. Okay, we were out skating one day at an abandoned building. We’re maybe with ten people and we’re all hanging out. We’re on our way out and the cops show up and you know it’s just the standard, “Sit on the curb; what’s your guys’ names; hand over your IDs.” And they were kind of dicks, you know, they were just, like, “What are you guys doing? Full-grown men skateboarding?” Just kind of pricks. And the cops keep taking us away and asking us questions individually, and then he pulls me up and out of nowhere he’s just, like, “So what’s up with this restraining order?” And I thought he was joking. I was, like, “What? What are you talking about, man?” He’s, like, “Yeah, this restraining order you have.” I was, like, “What are you talking about?” Then everyone starts laughing and I’m, like, “Come on, man. Really, what are you talking about?” He’s, like, “Yeah, you have a restraining order. If you don’t know about it you should go check it out.” So, fuck, I’m tripping out. Everyone’s making fun of me. I fuckin’ take a day off work and I go down to the courthouse and all that bullshit. I run around for a couple hours asking people about this restraining order and at the end of the day I found out he just fuckin’ made it all up. Yeah, he just made some fuckin’ joke in front of everybody and I took time off work and basically spent a whole day running around the police station and the courthouse and all this bullshit and wasted all my goddam time and I was embarrassed.
LB: But for the record, you do not have a restraining order, correct?
I do not have a restraining order. It was all bullshit.
LB: I feel like you’re one of those guys where photos don’t do you justice. You push like you’re fucking on fire; you grind like the shit shouldn’t grind. You have this kind of powerhouse style. How does that happen? Because I do not have that style. Do you look at spots and go, “I think I could go higher. I think I could go faster?” When you look at a spot, what do you see?
From my perspective, I honestly don’t even notice it. I personally don’t notice it and a lot of times I go faster because I feel like it’s a safety thing. If I can clear something and I bail, I’m bailing past the whole thing. But when I first started skating I had a really shitty fuckin’ skateboard. It was a Nash board with the worst fuckin’ bearings and wheels and all my friends had these dope-ass boards and basically they would all skate around and they would fuckin’ fly past me and then I would have to push twice as hard to keep up with them. And that was for, like, a year. Then when I got a regular board it just felt like I should keep pushing like that.
High-speed ollie over everything. Try that on a Nash Photo: ZASLAVSKY
NJ: You do have your own style of skating and I think speed is something that’s natural. You can’t fake that. You can’t fake being a fast skater. It’s a natural thing. When you were a kid getting into skating, who did you look up to? Were you into freestylers or were you into John Cardiel?
You just fuckin’ nailed it right there; it was fuckin’ John Cardiel. And it was weird, too, because when I was a kid and I was watching videos, my friends didn’t get it when I watched his parts. They liked it but they weren’t completely psyched on it and I was, like, “No, this dude is the fucking man.”
LB: So you’re a little kid, you started to film with your buddies. At what point did you actually feel like this could be something real? Where was that point where you felt like you were on another level than your friends?
I think that personal point was when I went—actually it’s fucked up because we’re in Spain right now and it was exactly ten years ago when we were on a Tilt Mode trip to Spain. At that time I was on flow for Real, Spitfire and Thunder and I was super fuckin’ psyched but I didn’t know them so I didn’t know if they noticed anything. Then when I went on that trip there were amateurs and pros and all this stuff. I took independent studies in high school to go on a homie trip to Spain and then once I was on that trip and in the apartment with everybody and seeing how everything works—actually filming and meeting photographers and just making connections—I was kind of, like, “Oh, this could be something.”
LB: I was on that trip. That was in 2007 and Zack was just one of the little kids from San Jose and it was a total homie Tilt Mode trip. We were, like, “If anybody wants to come out, we got this apartment.” I’d never even met you. You can see when somebody has the magic. Everybody’s good at skateboarding but you had that extra magic thing. And I don’t know if you knew you had it, but we saw it and that was kind of the beginning, that Tilt Mode trip.
It was really weird. I literally did not know anybody on that trip.
NJ: How long after that trip did you get hooked up with Enjoi?
I think after that trip it was a couple months later that I got hooked up with Enjoi. I don’t fully remember how it happened. I think someone said something to me and I just kind of like blew it off, like, “Oh yeah, that’d be sick.” But I think I had friends at that time that reached out to certain people and it kind of worked out. But at that time I was working a full-time job and I didn’t think it was gonna be anything. I thought I just made good homies on a memorable trip. I didn’t really think I would be in Spain ten years later, a professional skateboarder, drinking with my friends.
Zack rips through a lipslide like a circ. saw cutting through a sheet of quarter-inch plywood Photo: MATRENO
BR: Did Jamboree exist back then?
NJ: Jamboree is a very famous night club that young girls and a bunch of skaters go to.
I’m not sure if Jamboree existed but I do remember one particular place, and it was nasty Mondays with fuckin’ Nestor Judkins over there.
NJ: So your favorite skater was John Cardiel, right? Who’s your favorite construction worker?
That’s pretty random. I don’t have a favorite construction worker. But oddly enough, I think we could all agree here, I think we get pretty burnt out on skateboarding. So after I started skateboarding full time—for a living or whatever—I started to follow all of these random woodworkers and tool reviewers and shit on Instagram and I feel like such a dork when someone fuckin’ notices it. I’ll be in the tour van and they’re, like, “What are you looking at?” And it’s a saw going through some wood or a new tool review.
NJ: I’m gonna admit, I’m the most tool unsavvy. I don’t know how to do shit and it sucks. So I’m impressed when people know how to make stuff.
LB: I’m with Nestor on this one. I don’t sit in the van looking at how to drywall. I look at Kyle Walker grinding that fucked-up handrail. So ten years ago you were in Barcelona; you were on flow back then. Ten years later, now you’re pro; you’re on Enjoi; things are fucking going your way, dude! You’re one of the dudes now and you’re on this Enjoi trip with a couple ams and dudes who aren’t there yet. Ten years later, how do you reflect on the journey?
It’s something I could never fully grasp in the time period. Every fuckin’ thing is, like, I can’t believe it’s really happening, you know what I mean? When I think all the way back then, when I think about it that way, it’s amazing. But you’re always thinking about what’s gonna happen in six months or a year. So it’s always very easy to forget your last steps. But I have obviously appreciated it every second.
NJ: You have a plan with your skating: you know how to do tricks and get photos and what it takes to do the sponsored bullshit.
I think there’s definitely a formula and anyone who is sponsored and makes a living off of skateboarding kind of gets it. I mean it’s a job, you know? It’s a fuckin’ formula, for sure.
LB: Do you feel like when you’re working on a video part, is it a complete piece of your life or is it just you compiling clips here an there?
Usually when I start, like when you came at me, Louie, and we had this whole idea for this video part, my first thought is as one full idea or project. But it’s always something I’m never satisfied with. I feel like it’s never fuckin’ finished. I always feel like I could do better, always wish I had more time. There’s always one piece that’s missing. You know, I want to find the best song, all that, and hopefully one day I can do that.
LB: Do you blueprint out your video parts? Do you think, like, “I need three handrail tricks; I need four gap tricks; I need a big line that ties it all together?”
Usually after a video project that I’ve worked on is done, I just go out filming with my friends thinking something’s gonna happen again. But as soon as I get word that there’s an actual part or project or something is gonna happen on a set date, then I start thinking in my head that I need a blueprint for what to work on. I’ll have an idea, like, I want to go fast, I want to grind long, I want this song, I want this many lines—stuff like that.
Switch 180 to front feeble. Remember when this was called a Sieben grind? Nobody else does either Photo: ZASLAVSKY
LB: When you’re getting photos, like for this interview, do you have specific things in mind that you see as a finished product? Or do you just go out and shoot and see what happens?
For this particular interview I felt completely fuckin lost, honestly. I felt like I was in San Jose the whole time, in my hometown, and I felt like I’d been to every spot 1,000 times and I did not know what to fuckin’ shoot the whole time, to be fuckin’ dead honest.
LB: So I feel like this is a monumental thing for you, Zack. Thrasher magazine. You nollie backside 180d Wallenberg; you landed; you turned pro. Take us through that because I feel like I don’t know too many people who just turned pro with that much oomph. I mean, the significance of it. No one had ever even straight nollied it. And for you to be the one to basically break the cherry of the Wallenberg nollie—
NJ: Yeah, tell us what went through you mind. I know you tried it several times, so when you landed you were probably euphoric as fuck. And then you see Louie jumping out from behind a bush with a board that says Wallin on it.
I went multiple fuckin’ times to try it. And we built the ramp ourselves. We had my friend Eric come over, put it in his truck, we had to meet up super early in the morning, we had to drive multiple cars, it was a whole fuckin’ dumb ordeal. And at the time we had a deadline for the Enjoi video and I said, “Fuck that. Two days after I’m going to fuckin’ Hawaii.” So at that point I had gone and failed two times and then it was the last day. It was windy as shit, I dragged my friends out there for the third time, loaded up this dumb ramp, had them drive an hour to San Francisco to set it up. Screw guns, all this bullshit. I wasn’t getting anywhere close and then—out of nowhere—the first one I put down I landed. I rolled away and the only thing I was thinking was, “I’m gonna be in Hawaii in two days.” And then I turned around and Louie had the pro board and all of this was before 11am. I was, like, “Holy fuckin’ shit. This is fucked!” It caught me completely off guard. Right after that I went straight to a bar, I got fuckin’ hammered, then I went to Hawaii. It was the best week of my life, without a doubt.
It ain’t Hawaii but it’s a pretty tasty wave. Off the lip to fence bash. Aloha, Mr. Wallin Photo: ZASLAVSKY
LB: So your career is still in the early stages. You have the Wallenberg nollie 180—straight to going pro. Pretty heavy. You kickflipped an actual street. Those two things are kind of high watermarks you could say. I was there when you kickflipped that street. I was at the bottom making sure nobody was walking up the sidewalk. When you landed, the look in your fucking eyes—you had the eyes of a fucking demon on fire. You landed and then just fucking bolted right past me. What the fuck was going on? What possessed you to do that?
Fuck, I don’t know. I think it just builds up from the first time you try something. That took me seven or eight tries of going back. And it’s not like something where I had to go and do it. I feel like you guys can relate to this because you guys all skateboard. It’s not like you clock into work and then you do some bullshit and then you clock out. It’s all personal, you know? It’s a personal challenge and I feel like when I get personally defeated I automatically want to go back and fuckin’ try and see if I can do it. I’m not competitive at all but if I try something 100 percent and I don’t do it, I automatically just want to go back and land it.
LB: For sure, so you’re just battling yourself. When you finally land it, is that the best feeling ever?
Yeah. Now let’s go to Jamboree.
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