A SOTY Goes Home: David Gonzalez Interview
David González is probably our most controversial Skater of the Year. The horns, the headbands, the unabashed enthusiasm—not everyone’s cup of tea, especially in the same year as Guy Mariano’s triumphant Pretty Sweet comeback. His 2012 Possessed to Skate video part blew doors off anything else we’d ever had on the Thrasher site, and his claim of “I don’t care if I die!” was music to the Phelper’s ears. Watching it again, the danger level is still shocking, with famous kill-yo’-self spots in SD, LA and SF sliced and diced while Judas Priest wails in the background. He blasted big air for his SOTY cover, and though he never really fell off, David’s brand of rock ’n’ roll skating hasn’t really aged that well. Add to that some serious injuries and the same problems many other former child stars face, and you’ve got a potential True Hollywood ending on your hands. Thankfully for him, a global pandemic shut down the world. And that’s where we pick up, in a modest home in the hills of Medellin, Colombia. As seen in the May '23 issue. —Michael Burnett
Back on board and flying around his hometown, David takes you on a tour of the stompin' grounds
FSO on the hometown hump
Okay, so the big news is you moved back to Colombia. Why did you decide to move home?
The main reason I moved back to Colombia was because of the pandemic. I came here for like 15 days and had a return flight. Ten days later they shut down the border. The airport was shut down and literally I was freaking the fuck out. I was like, Holy shit, okay, maybe it will be shut down for a couple of days but then a month went by, two months, three months and then they said it was gonna be closed for a whole year. Like, You cannot go anywhere for a whole year and I was like, Holy shit. And it was really hard for me to adapt again because I didn’t live in Colombia for almost 15 years. I lived in America for most of my life at this point. So I was so used to living there; I had my house; I had all my stuff. Dude, it was crazy. I was losing my mind just by thinking I couldn’t go back. So I kinda had to adapt to the roots here again, and that was literally through skating. I started skating again every day like how I used to skate when I was younger. It was like, Okay, then I guess let’s just go skate as much as possible since I don’t have to take care of my lifestyle like my house or taking the trash out. I didn’t have to do any of that stuff ’cause I live with my mom here. I don’t have to cook food every day. I was like, Okay, well then maybe I just go skate and then that’s it. And that’s what I did. I just went skating every day. I just started filming and going out with my homies. I kind of fell in love with the skateboard again. ’Cause the last two years I was living in California I wasn’t really feeling it. I was still skating a lot, but I wasn’t skating every day and I wasn’t really motivated. So I kind of fell in love with my board again when I moved here. So COVID ended up saving me.
Slingshot vibes with the backside flip way up
Was there a whole new generation of kids skating that you’d never even met before?
Yeah, exactly. I still have some friends from the old days, but they’re grown up, doing their thing. So I met some of the younger dudes. We started skating and yeah, it was like a full new generation. They knew who I was and everything and it was like, Yeah, let’s go skate. And they were stoked ’cause they knew me as David González the skater in America—and obviously they knew I was from Colombia, but when I started skating with them they’re like, Holy shit, he’s actually from Colombia and he’s actually skating here all the time. It was really fucking cool. I’ve got a couple of good homies that I can trust and they got my back so that makes it easier for me to motivate myself to go skate.
Kickflip bean to fakie? What’s not to love?
And your brother Sebas, where’s he?
He’s here. He still lives with me, but I don’t know why, but he’s distanced himself a little bit from me. We were super cool before and when I moved here he kinda like—I don’t know. I don’t know what his vibe is. Maybe he got older and got more grumpy. He’s always been really grumpy. We’re still homies, we’re still good friends when we get together, but he’s kind of doing his thing and I do my thing. I try hard to get him in the program with me, but he wasn’t really feeling it, so I let him do his thing.
What’s it like skating in Colombia in 2023? Does it feel like the old days?
It doesn’t really feel like the old days, because in the old days we were the only ones, basically. There was only a couple of skateshops, and two of the shops were like the dudes who would go out and film and make videos and go out to America and buy products. ’Cause before you used to go to a skateshop here and it was only American stuff, but now you go to skateshops and it’s like half American or not even half and the rest is all companies from here. Like, board brands from here, shoe brands from here, wheel brands, trucks brands from here. So the scene is a little bit bigger, I think. I think more people skate now. When I used to live here it was only like three parks but now there’s probably ten skateparks and you go there any day and it’s a lot of people skating. So the scene is really different. It’s a little bit bigger, but it’s still not big enough to make it an industry that works where people can get money from it and buy their own stuff. Not really. I wish it was kind of like Brazil, which Brazil has their own vibe. It’s a huge sport in Brazil. Here it’s a huge sport, but there’s not much support.
People in America think of Colombia as a very dangerous place. Is it as sketchy as people think? And is it dangerous to be somebody who is famous like you?
Yeah, dude. I mean, I’ll say it’s really dangerous, to be honest. Like being famous here, people know I have money. I have to keep it really low key. I feel like there’s always people watching what you’re doing or what you’re up to—like where you go, what you buy, so I kind of have to keep it really low key here. But since I’m from here I know how it is—I know how to move, where to go, what time not to go somewhere, when to leave. I have to really watch out. Chris Gregson and Tim Aguilar came over here. It’s not like somebody’s gonna come over and steal our cameras. It could happen, but not really. So at the same time it’s really safe, but you kinda have to be watching out because it could turn the other way at any second.
So has anything happened to you since you got back? Anything sketchy?
Here? Oh, hell yeah. Many things. One time some people tried to poison me.
What? Why would they try to poison you?
Exactly—why? I think they were just trying to rob me. I think he wanted to rob me and the way to do it is to like get close to you and kind of like throw some sort of smell to your face or some sort of poison and that way they can literally steal your shit. But because I have a strong mind, as soon as I realized it I was feeling super weird. ’Cause I went to a mall one time and this dude asked me to take a photo and I was like, Sure. It was out of nowhere, Hey, David González, can I take a photo with you? And I took a photo with him and when he was holding the phone I started feeling crazy weird. Like I started shaking super hard and feeling like I was gonna pass out—feeling dizzy, feeling like I was gonna throw up. And then right away I knew, I didn’t even shoot the photo, I was like, Dude, forget about it; I’m out. So I kinda just left running. I was in a mall and I started running. I was with a girl and she was like, Are you okay? What’s wrong with you? I was like, I don’t know. I feel super weird. Let’s go to my house. Then next thing you know I ended up going to the hospital and staying there for ten days!
So yeah, that was super sketchy.
You can’t poison fun! Over the rail and into the hill with a healthy kickflip
How did that affect you? That must have made you fearful of strangers.
So after that I was really scared of people coming to me asking for a photo. I mean, anyone would be scared after something like that happened. But you know, I’ve kind of learned how to react. Sometimes I have to say no. Like if some weird dude comes over I’m like, No, dude, sorry. Another day. But yeah, I kinda learned from that to watch out for people. But in general if people ask me for photos it’s pretty chill. There’s not a day that I go out skating when nobody asks me for a photo. I could be anywhere and people are like, Oh my God, let me take a photo. It’s really cool. But after that experience, I got sketched out a little bit.
I would think so. You live pretty modestly, right? Nothing too fancy?
I do, I do. Definitely.
What about street skating? Is it easier to street skate in Colombia or is it much tougher than the US?
I think it’s much tougher. After the pandemic, there were spots that you could skate before and the security didn’t really care, but now they care about it. They’re like, No, you cannot skate here at all. So at some spots it’s very chill, you can skate for as long as you want or whatever, but other spots are pretty sketchy. And at the same time people here kind of don’t really get it about the skating thing, because here is all about playing football or being like a singer. It’s kinda like if you’re a skater they’re looking at you like, Who is this weird dude? What are you doing? I have to tell them like, Dude, this is how I live, this is how I get food for me and my family, this is my job and I’m just doing my job. But a lot of times, too, you go out and people are super hyped to see you. So for the most part it’s pretty rad. It’s pretty fun going out skating here. It’s just like going to Mexico or like Brazil or some sort of South American country. It’s kind of similar. You know how it is.
So now there are some pretty amazing skaters coming out of Colombia these days like our friend Jhancarlos. Who are the up-and-coming Colombian skaters that you’re psyched on?
Yeah, I think Jhanca’s killing it. I really think he’s doing a good job of just going out there and destroying spots and skating the biggest rails and being consistent. You know, he’s good at contests, too. He’s very good at switch. So I think he’s the best one right now. There’s other kids, too. They do pretty good, but not on that level where you’re like, This dude’s good for an American skate brand. This kid can be in a Thrasher Magazine. I think he’s the only one, to be honest.
Revisit the blockbuster part that cemented David as one of the gnarliest to ever do it
You had a pretty incredible rise—you were this tiny kid who the dudes from Flip found, they brought you to the US, took you to all these contests and then it seemed like you just got better and better. When you won Skater of the Year there was no doubt in Phelper’s mind that you deserved it. The Possessed to Skate video was the biggest video we’d ever had at the time. But like a lot of people, you had some setbacks after that. What happened after you won SOTY?
I was very proud of myself to be Skater of the Year. That’s what I wanted to be. That was a dream come true. Because when I came to America for the first time, my dream to go to America is to be a professional skateboarder. That was the main thing, I want to be a professional skateboarder. I wasn’t thinking like, Oh, you can get money from it; you can be rich and get your own house and get your family in a better lifestyle. I wasn’t thinking like that. I was thinking, I want to be a professional skateboarder ’cause this is what I love and growing up I watched all my idols on videos and I wanted to be like them. Then when I did it, when I was a pro skater, then my next step was like, Well, I would love to be Skater of the Year just like Arto, Geoff Rowley and Mark Appleyard. Because they were on Flip and everyone had a Skater of the Year trophy so I wanted to have my trophy at my house, too! Finally I got that, which it was my main thing. It was like, Whoa, I got a cover of Thrasher Magazine, I got a full video and then I got Skater of the Year. And that was just huge for me, for my career, just for my life in general—more for myself, ’cause that’s what I wanted to get. I was really young, too, when I got it. I had just turned 21, so I was very young and I was getting a lot of money. I also was living on my own. I didn’t have my parents or any of my family.
Crail for life…to fakie!
I didn’t have the support of people telling me, Oh, you shouldn’t do this; maybe you should do this; maybe you shouldn’t do that. I had nobody. So I literally was doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do. It was that simple. I had a lot of money. I was hooking up with any girl I wanted to. Because before that, I mean, I had some girls, but like I couldn’t really get the girls that I really wanted. Then when I got that famous, that popular, that much money, that much hype, I started getting a lot of girls and so I was like, Whoa, this is awesome! This is what I wanted to do. So I started hooking up with so many girls, partying so hard, smoking so much weed and literally just fucking living life like a rock star. Like, Whoo, fuck it; this is awesome. And I wasn’t really thinking long term—I didn’t really have someone to tell me like, You can’t just be all about partying and girls, you gotta still go kill it. You still have a lot of years to go. This is just the start of your hype. I wasn’t even thinking like that. I was so used to my lifestyle like, Yeah, we go on trips, we film, we go back home and we party again. Spend money on this, spend money on that, and then through that time my career was kinda going a little bit downhill because I wasn’t thinking about my career. I was just thinking like, Oh, I made it—in an immature way, I think. And next thing you know, two years later after I got SOTY I broke my left ankle really bad. And that was a good wake up for me of like, Dude, you gotta slow down. You gotta start thinking about the future. You can’t spend all your money. I was out for a full year pretty much. So a whole year of being off my board was a gnarly lesson of like, Dude, shit can go wrong at any time and your career can be over with one injury—you can never skate again. It was hard for me to get back to my normal roots or what I was used to. I was still partying, I was still not 100-percent focused on doing my rehab and getting back to skating and forgetting about girls, forgetting about all the party stuff and just focus on your board, you know? Like I did, but I didn’t really. I got a girlfriend and she was living with me full time. It got to the point where I was still skating, but I wasn’t skating that hard because I was kind of scared—I didn’t have that quick reaction. I was kind of slow, a little bit, trying not to get hurt. So that went on for maybe two years. I still skated, but I didn’t have the fire that I used to have after that injury. I can say that. And then I got kicked out of Volcom, which was a huge thing for me, for my motivation. After I got kicked out of Volcom my motivation was really down, so I was kind of like, not fully depressed, but I slowly kinda was like, Fuck everything, in a way. When I rode for Volcom they did everything for me. They were amazing with me. I had the best times going around the world, going all around America. It was the best thing ever. It was a lot of work, but they also pay you good to do that. So it was always, Go, go, go, it’s go time. But when they let me go I wasn’t really traveling that much, so I was stuck at home a lot. I was playing guitar and I didn’t care that much anymore about going out there and shooting a cover or going out there and doing the gnarliest video part. There was something missing. But it was all my fault. I’m not blaming anyone. If my attitude at some point changed and I started acting like an idiot it was all my fault, you know what I mean? I’m not blaming anybody. I didn’t have my parents or my brother or some of my close friends from here to tell me like, Dude, you should just focus on skating. Ewan was always telling me, All you gotta do is skate. But at the same time I wasn’t listening. Then in 2016 I got a big boost when Rockstar energy reached out. They were like, We wanna sponsor you as a street skater. Back then, all the energy drink sponsors were mostly for the contest killers. I could do kind of good at contests, but I never was like the typical contest skater where I’m winning and focusing on contests. I wasn’t like that. So for me to have that opportunity, I was like, Dude, I’m so down. So that was the start of the change for me to motivate myself, like, Fuck, let’s go again. And then when I started riding for Rockstar I started getting more hyped about skating and doing more shit. I filmed the Spirit in Black video part with Ewan and Gregson and a couple other filmers, which was cool. It wasn’t Possessed to Skate II, but it was still pretty good. Obviously I wasn’t trying to be Skater of the Year with that video, but I had a lot of fun doing it. Just having a company interested in me and wanting to help me make something cool like that was a huge motivator. I started feeling more like myself. Like I said, I was very young when I got all this success. I was on my own and probably could have used someone to tell me sooner that I was blowing it.
For a lot of people, it doesn’t even matter if people are telling them. Sometimes the hardest lessons you can only learn by yourself.
I know a lot of people who’ve had a lot of injuries and surgeries, and a big problem are those pain pills. Did you ever have to deal with those?
Oh, yeah. I also had a problem with the pain killers, too. Because I have so many injuries.
They’re so sketchy.
I mean, in America they give you them like it was fucking water. I didn’t know, dude. I was a young kid getting hurt all the time, going to the hospital all the time and they’re giving you Norco pills. And I had no idea that they were bad for you. Not at all. I was like, Yeah, I’ll take this and I’m fine. And then next thing you know you’re in big trouble because you’re stuck. You’re addicted to those things. So that was really bad for me, too, out of nowhere getting addicted to that. ‘Cause I partied, but I was never really addicted to anything. Like I was never a crazy alcoholic or coke head or addicted to something. You can stop smoking weed pretty easy, coming from me. I haven’t smoked weed in two years and I’m pretty chill. It wasn’t that hard. I never had that addictive personality.
Five-O on the edge of town
So did you have to get some help to get off opiates or did you figure it out by yourself?
No, I had to get help. Of course! I did a detox. I had to go to the hospital and do a whole process and literally go through the whole shit where you’re fucking losing your mind. Then next thing you know you stop doing all the shit and you’re like, Holy fuck, what the fuck was I doing? Oh my God, wasting so much money. Just crazy—put my family through hell because of that. But yeah, dude, it’s just lessons in life and you learn what to do or what not to do.
Dave ’n’ Greggy
I’m glad you figured it out. Some people never do. How was it to have Chris Gregson and Tim Aguilar out there for a whole week with you recently?
That was like the best time ever. I’ve lived here for almost three years now and that was the best week I’ve had. That was fucking amazing. I wanted to have people come over here and skate with me with real equipment—real camera, real photographer. I was doing my best. I mean, it was a short time. We didn’t have that much time to skate all the spots, but I did the best that I could do and it was a blast. We had such a good time. Chris Gregson, he is the fucking best. We’ve known each other since we were little kids, since Tampa Am days, like 2002 or something when we were 13. It’s just rad that we still know each other and get to work together. It’s fucking awesome.
Yeah, he’s great. I’m glad you guys got to link up.
Yeah, he’s just a good dude. ‘Cause he also skates. It’s just fun. Tim too!
Everybody keeps up with all their favorite skaters on social media these days. I gotta ask you about it, because you have some of the craziest social media in all of skateboarding. The funniest one I saw was like where you were shopping for a new girlfriend. You’re like, Hey, chicks, I’m looking for a new girlfriend, and you were in some weird shorts. Does that really work?
Dude, you have no idea. Right before the pandemic I broke up with my girlfriend. We lived together for six years. So I broke up with her, then at the same time when the pandemic started I came here just ’cause I was feeling so bad, I needed to be with my family and friends. So then the whole time I was living here I wanted to find a girlfriend. So I was doing whatever it took. Dude, I was taking photos of like—taking selfies in the mirror with boxers, really trying, like, Something’s gonna come out of this. Yeah, I did everything. It was crazy. I would go shopping and take photos shopping and maybe girls were like, Oh, he’s gonna take me shopping and buy me clothes. Literally, I was desperate to find a girl—a real girlfriend. I met so many girls, too, and it just didn’t work out. Like a month or two and that was it. Then I finally got a real girl that I’m hyped on and she’s mature enough to kind of keep up with my shit and down for my style. Like, she’s down for it. She’s down for the crazy David González. Now it’s just rad. I finally got a girlfriend, dude. It’s a miracle. Thank you, God!
Back off, chicks! David’s got some kinks to handle first
I always like your Pizza Hawaii posts, too. “The best part of the day!”
Exactly! With the funky song. With the song that the mall is putting over it, that’s pretty sick. I love Pizza Hawaii.
Yeah, that was the other question: how come you’re always at the mall?
‘Cause here it’s cool being in the mall. It’s not like America; it’s a different vibe here. The mall is like—they always have really good food; it’s just easy to go eat and have a bunch of options. I just like the mall ’cause there’s hot chicks everywhere. It’s just fun to have girls everywhere. I mean, I have a girlfriend and we’re pretty serious right now, but I’m just saying it’s fun to go out there. And it also is safe. Like when you go to the mall here it’s a safe place to go eat. Because you’re inside, there’s security everywhere. So I think that’s one of the main things, for safety too.
So are you pretty set up? Are you gonna stay in Medellin for a while?
This year I’m planning to go to America a lot, like more than this past year. I will never say that I’m just gonna live here forever because I still own a house there in Long Beach. I still have my place, so anytime I want to move back I can. So I’ll never say never. I still have a green card. I can live there and work.
But what do you prefer right now?
Right now I prefer living here. It’s cheaper to live here. I can have a better lifestyle here.
After Pizza Hawaii, the best time of the day has gotta be busting fat gaps
Are you still pretty much taking care of the whole family?
Yes, I do. I still take care of my family, yeah. But the good thing is they have jobs—my brothers, they now have jobs. But still, they don’t get paid that much. Not on my level, so I still help them a lot. The money that I get is to help the people around me. I don’t really act like, Oh, it’s my money. I’m rich. I don’t really see it that way. I see it like, Okay, I’m getting money. This is for everybody. I help my girlfriend; I help her family a little bit; I help my family; I help my cousins; I help my friends; I can help a lot of people. That’s the best part about having money, I think.
What about Ewan’s balls? Do you think anyone cares about his balls?
I don’t think so. I think the only one that cares about saggy balls is him. I’m thinking if you want to do some kickboxing you can just hit his balls.
In your first interview, Jake really loved it ’cause you said, I don’t care if I die.
Do you care if you die now?
I think so. I think I do now. I’m older now; you look at things differently.
Looking past an early death and into the future
10/29/2012In honor of David Gonzalez' ripping video part, Flip released this Possessed to Skate board.
10/24/2012Outtakes and randomness from the entire Dew Tour weekend, all wrapped into one Yardsale with Zered, Weezy, Bingaman, Curtin, Manny, Gravette, and more.
10/23/2012One of the fastest, gnarliest contest courses ever. This is some insane terrain. Sheckler, Gravette, Merlino, Rattray, David Gonzalez, and others face down a wild ride.
10/21/2012David Gonzalez takes you for a ride down Harrison Street in SF where the Dew Tour is about to turn it up to eleven.
10/19/2012Manny Santiago walks you through the Dew Tour street course that features some legendary SF spots.