Darren Navarrette: People I've Known
Darren's left his bite marks on skateboarding for the past 25 years. He's seen vert skating die and come back to life three times over and remained true to the game. No wonder people think he's a vampire.
Growing up, Chad was the elder statesman of my neighborhood. First he had throwing stars and nunchucks, later BMX bikes and then all of a sudden—a halfpipe! He took me under his wing and even brought me on my first skate trip. I was only 13 years old and told my mom I was spending the night at a friend’s house. Little did she know I was crossing state lines into Milwaukee, WI. We slept in Chad’s car that night. I was cold and scared and the next day we went to the Turf where I met Sam Hitz.
I used to go to SF and stay with Dan and get into so much trouble. Let’s just say we’d partake in way too many shots of stupid. It was a great time until the sun started coming up. But even then Dan always had a cure—the sausage stand!
Woody was a god to us Minnesota vert skaters. It was crazy to actually see somebody flying over our heads; he was the best. I remember getting my dad to drive me to this private indoor skatepark called P.I.S.S. Woody was on top of the vert ramp, huddled in the corner by a wall. I told my father, “See that guy up there? I want to be like him.” It turns out Woody was smoking a bong. On the drive home my dad said, “Son, I don’t want you going there again.” I took a deep breath and said, “You know I’m going to go there.” I thought to myself, Shit, are you kidding me? I wanna skate with that dude. I’m definitely going back!
He once said to me, “Darren, ego is a survival mechanism but keep it in check or it can kill ya.” Good advice.
We were in Germany eating bratwurst and Titus the demo organizer started yelling at us, “Demo now, bratwurst later!” Tim just smiled and said, “Fuck off, ya goonga,” and kept eating. Titus was furious, but in the end we all got to witness the demo of a lifetime. Beans forever!
We were skating his park in Dallas in ’93 and out of nowhere Jeff asked us if we wanted to go eat chicken wings. A few months later he was gone.
Daf could wheel any team van in the biz but he chooses to drive the Creature van. He taught me how to do a “dry run.” That’s where you walk to the bar from where you’re staying and then immediately walk back without having a drink. Then when you go back to the bar, you’ll always remember how to get home. Quite a valuable life lesson.
He got me so high before a session one time all I could do was stand there, fully padded up. I ended up just watching the Viking shred.
Leroux is a true master of his board. Overhead to disaster, Rip Grip all over his deck, shitty shoes, the best style around and money had nothing to do with it—he showed us that being radical and unpretentious was the route to go.
Gregg was a maniac. In his youth, he had his own warehouse with a vert ramp in Winona, MN, and we would regularly make the two-hour trek to learn how to get reckless. Shit, many a young man lost their virginity in that town. Without him, I would have never jumped in a van to go exploring. He’d pick the crew and we’d roll—from skate rats to wannabe gangsters to rollerbladers, it didn’t matter; just get in. I experienced the Northridge earthquake with Gregg. Two hours before it hit we were driving over the exact bridges that collapsed. I’m honored to be in the Hesh Crew with him.
I was always a bit starstruck by Wade. Before one contest, I decided to get a little liquid courage and dipped into a bar. The only other customer in the place was Wade. I was scared. What do I do? Do I pretend like I don’t see him? I decided to pull a stool up next to him. He looked over at me and said, “Darren, you wanna see a picture of my pride and joy?” He pulled out a photo of his brand new dump truck. I was like, What? A dump truck? The funny thing is, I had a picture of my pride and joy in my wallet, too, so I took it out and showed it to him. It was literally a photo of Pride dishwasher soap and Joy hand soap. Turned out neither of us were exactly rock stars.
Dove is one of my best friends. I first met him in ’93 at the NSA Am Finals in Houston, TX. He won the contest and I think I got second to last. Six years later there was a heavy rainy season in San Diego. I was basically trapped in my house for weeks on end. The day it stopped I was walking to the store and ran into Matt two houses down. “Matt Dove?” I said. “Darren?” he replied. “What are you doing here?” I asked. “I live here,” he said. Turned out we were neighbors.
John is a man’s man—he hunts, he fishes, he rides a motorcycle and he flies airplanes. He became a bush pilot in Alaska and we flew with him for a Thrasher trip. We were departing at 6 AM and Al Partanen and I stayed up all night before—not a great idea. Halfway to our destination, alarms go off in his plane: “Low fuel, low fuel…” John handed me the controls and said, “Here, you fly!” He pulled out a book and got on the radio and we made an emergency landing. It could have been a Buddy Holly story.
Mike, or the Nollie Lama as we call him, was my best friend during my transitional turning-pro stage. He got me into so much trouble and could somehow party like an ’80s vert skater. Oh yeah, because he was one! I once saw him push a Marine down an escalator in Vegas. Crum is responsible for me getting a paycheck from Emerica and could nollie over your head. Thank you, Crum!
Max always seemed real to me—like a real working-class man. I was fortunate enough to get to ride his ramp a few times. Once we brought Jeff Kendall and Bod Boyle along and Max and I got to watch two ‘80s legends battle it out. It was glorious.
I was walking down the street in Pacific Beach one day when this dude asked if I knew were he could sell some clothes. I pointed him in the direction of a resale shop. Later that same day, I saw him at the vert ramp. “Hey, you’re that dude who was selling your clothes. And now you’re doing kickflip mutes!” Yeah, Jake.
We once had a battle over the definition of a lien judo. Do you kick up or do you kick down?! Well, for me I say Up!! It’s a judo! And he said, No, you kick down! Turns out we were both very stubborn with things like this. But in the end I’d always let him have it. You’re right, even if I still think… well, you’re right. Grosso will always be a god to me. Thank you for becoming my friend and being in my corner. I know you’re still with us.
I’ve probably traveled the globe three times over with him. One time we were on a train in France and I kept asking him, “Is this next stop ours?” Finally, Pete yelled, “Yes! This next one is ours!” We jumped off and I remember seeing Pete staring at us from out of the window as the train sped away from the station.
Al has always marched to his own beat. He skates his own way and does his own thing. He’ll switch up his flair kit on a dime—from baggy corduroy pants to all-denim to skinny jeans, Al can run ’em all. He ain’t scared of the flair. I first witnessed the power of the Parts at the Turf skatepark. Frontside blunts on the highest wall of the capsule. We’re talking 1993 shit. Hesh Crew all the way!
I put Ryan on Creature when no one else seemed to like him. They even had secret meetings trying to figure out how to kick him off. Was it because he did his own unique tricks? Or maybe because he carries his own eating utensils? Or was it just because they needed to learn that true individuality is a gift? Who cares? He’s on the team! I love the dude.
Mike can be intimidating. One day he asked me where I lived. “Mission Beach,” I told him. Weeks later I was laying low at the house when there was a knock at the door. I heard Mike’s voice and I froze. Then I heard him yell, “Darren, I can see you in there! You’re with Mike Smith now!” So much for laying low.
My first trip to the Turf, I see this young kid roll into the keyhole and shoot up into a very strong eggplant. After that, we became brothers. When vert got thin in the early ’90s, we shared a space in an asbestos-filled warehouse just to session the ramp. There was no TV, no radio, no outside communication. I got sick once and Sam told me to drink as much water as I could. If we’d been listening to the news, we would have known NOT to drink the water. The local water supply had been contaminated from cattle waste runoff. I love those painful times so much.
Chet listened to The Cranberries, which was never considered cool, but he didn’t care. That always seemed cool to me.
In the beginning, Gravette was so green and made so much noise that Sam called him the Baby Lamb. I called him Marble Mouth—he would talk and bubbles would appear around his words. He would ask so many questions—questions nobody had the answer to. “Ask the front desk, kid!” I’d tell him. Ah well, he’s the experienced one now.
Once P-Stone asked if I wanted to drive to Texas to skate. I didn’t know we were going to be sleeping in the car the whole way there, though. It was winter and freezing when we arrived. I had on as many layers as possible and I look over at P-Stone and he’s in his boxer shorts, sweating bullets. We both got deathly sick. “All we have to do is eat garlic,” he told me. He was right. Love you, Preston.
Eman was underage so I gave him my passport to get into the bar. I cruise in, show them my ID and he follows right behind me with my passport! Not exactly a foolproof plan, but somehow he pulled it. Eman once told me he fights bears—a true warrior champion.
We were riding the Combi a bunch and if Grosso wasn’t there first, I’d set up my music. The younger dudes would get annoyed. “Why do we always have to listen to your music?” I pointed over to Lance and he was dancing. “That’s why!” I told him. With Lance we simply enjoy the session—playing on a skateboard. Lance is the one; he’s our leader. Thank you for just being you. (That’s me getting Lance’s autograph above! Overland Park, Kansas, 1988)
He thought it would be funny to put gum in my hair. He’s my brother, but I’ve always hated him for that.
I’ve seen Wes around for years but never really gotten to know him… and now we’re practically roommates. I’ve had one hell of a hard year and then—boom—Wes comes along and shows me the way again. Shit, I’m going street skating. Hi-yah!
Complete your course on Navs' epic tenure, courtesy of the CreachTube
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