Ishod Wair's "Eyes On The XP" Interview
On the heels of a hit Spitfire part we get Ishod to dish on the science of skating, his love of the streets over contests and how he racks up all those experience points. As seen in our March '23 mag.
Photos by Sam Muller
Ishod puts on a masterclass of flow set to the iconic sounds of MF DOOM. Tap in
What’s an average day like for you right now?
Pretty random, honestly. Some days I want to skate but don’t know where, so I link up with some people and see what happens. It also depends on how motivated I am and what type of time I have. If I know that, I’m going to be able to focus for the next couple weeks, then—boom—I’m over here; I want to hit this spot; I want to be on a roll. But if I’m feeling sluggish then I’ll meet up with people and maybe I’ll get a clip that way, too.
I feel like in the past you’ve never really planned spots out, but you’ve been doing that a bunch recently. Why is that?
Because I don’t have the time that I had before. When I do have time I have to make it count. If I’m not hurt, if I don’t have other things going on other than skating, if I’m not traveling, then I’m going to be like, Alright, let’s go specifically do this.
The real competition has always been in the streets. Fakie flip in SF
Why did you recently decide to stop doing Street League contests?
Same thing—time. There’s Street League and all the other contests, and around the time of the Olympics you had to think about all of them. You had to worry about getting enough points and making sure you weren’t getting hurt. That took up a lot of street skating time because you’re flying into the contest on a Thursday and you leave on a Monday, then if you have another thing the next weekend you’re only home for two or three days in between. The time wasn’t adding up. I wasn’t doing good enough in the contests to even be like, I should keep doing these. If it’s not fun for me and I’ve done it for awhile, I would rather go skate street with my friends and actually get something that people care about.
I remember you telling me that it was a lot different at the start, though.
It was way sicker at the start. All the homies were in the contest and you’d travel together and get paid at every stop. We’d get paid just to show up, and if you did good in the contest it was like a bonus. So it was like, I’ll just come skate with the homies, do the damn thing and then get on. There also weren’t as many contests at that point. Now there’s this whole schedule. And street skating is what I really care about, what I think is the sickest and what I think really matters so I’m like, I gotta chill on these contests. It’s not fun for me like it used to be.
So now that you’re back in the streets full time. Do you go into a new project with an idea of what you want it to be like, or are you just skating and seeing what comes of it?
I think both, but nothing really set in stone. I don’t go into it like, I need these tricks. I just go out and see what I can get. I’ll go to a spot, try to do whatever I think would be cool and then after a few months of doing that the timeline is usually looking pretty good. That’s just how it goes. That’s all I can hope for organically.
When you quit Street League you hit me up and were like, I need to be in the streets. We went out the next day and you got four clips.
I was motivated! Contests were fun for me and then once they stopped being fun I was like, Alright, I’m good on this. But maybe I’ll go back to contests at some point. Everyone has different feelings at different times, you know? So maybe I’ll go back to doing them at some point, but at the moment I’m good.
Switch frontside as good as it gets...
You skate more than probably anyone I know. Do you do cardio or endurance training or anything?
I guess it’s conditioning over the years, because once you skate more you just condition yourself to get to a certain point. It’s like if you get hurt and you’re not skating for a month or two, when you come back you’re kind of rusty; you get tired easy; it’s hard to fall; it’s hard to roll. That’s all because you’re unconditioned. You have to condition your body to get back there. So once I start getting to a point, I guess I just try to push it. Oh, I’m tired as shit. I think I’m about to fall over. I’ll skate for ten more minutes. That’s just a metaphor but that’s basically it. You skate for a certain amount of time and then next time you skate you’ll be able to do it longer.
I’ll never forget that time you ate shit on that big hubba in LA. We thought you were going to be out for awhile but after the session you skated a skatepark.
Yeah, that sucked. I just be skating, though.
Do you stretch or anything?
Yeah, I definitely stretch. I try to ride around for ten minutes first and not really do anything. I just ride around and hit a little nollie crook maybe.
That’s the warm-up trick?
Nollie noseslide is super fun to me right now, too, so I’ve been doing those a lot cruising around. I’ll do that routine and then after ten minutes of riding around, then I’ll stretch after I’ve kind of moved around a little bit. You’re a little warmed up now, too, after you’re cruised around and stretched a little bit.
Do you think those hours on the board add to consistency?
Well, this is a term that you’ve probably been hearing lately—XP.
Yeah, do you get your XP out of it?
Yeah, I actually came up with that just because I play video games and shit.
Infinite experience points gets Ishod a poised overcrooks
Oh, that’s from you?
Yeah, but other people use it more than me so you might think it’s from other people. I was saying that shit and people were like, What the fuck is XP? I was like, Bruh, experience points. If you’re just riding on your board, eventually just from riding it how you would normally ride it you’re going to learn how to do some other stuff just from time on the board.
How do you feel about SOTY these days? Most of your parts have been in the middle of the year. Do you ever think about making another run?
The timing has just never been right. I mean, not never—obviously—but recently. Last year when I put the REAL part out, it was five months into the year. That part was supposed to come out on January seventh. Licensing music is a pain in the ass. I thought I was sitting kush. I kept getting told that my part was going to come out the next month, then the next month and then next thing you know I eat through half of the year just waiting for my part to come out. Meanwhile, I’m moving around doing this and that, going to fashion week, going over here. I’m chilling because I think every month my part is going to come out. I’m chilling just waiting to start fresh when my part comes out and then next thing you know it’s halfway through the year and my part finally comes out and I have no footage to put towards the next project.
I hear you. It’s just bad timing
Yeah, and I also don’t like to rush, so it’s just like it wasn’t meant to be. Personally, I just be doing shit and I’m not trying to jump off of a fucking building to win SOTY. I’m going to skate how I skate and do what I like and then if I have enough footage to come in the runnings for it and people like the footage, that will tell you if you’re going to be SOTY or not. Obviously people have ambitions straight for it, but I just want to do sick shit and get footage and I don’t want to rush. There are variables. If the footage is all there and I just happen to film all this stuff and it’s the right place/right time then let’s go. But I’m not trying to stress over it.
That year that you got it, was that your same mentality?
At that point I didn’t even think about it.
180 switch crook on an ATL hotspot
You were just skating.
Yeah! I was already blessed in the position I was in—getting last part in the Nike video and skating for all my favorite companies. I had just turned 21 a few weeks before I got Skater of the Year. I turned pro at 18 and during that time everything was so new and Skater of the Year just wasn’t even something I was thinking about. I knew I was in the running for it but it wasn’t on my mind. It was just different at that time. Not that it’s better or worse now, it was just different.
What are you filming for currently?
A Spitfire part. Hopefully the music stuff doesn’t hold that up and I can get it out and focus on the next project. I kind of have OCD in the sense where I’m not going to film for one part and then work on another part before the first one drops. It all depends—if it’s a different filmer or I’m in a different place then I can seclude it. I can put this footage over here and this footage with these other people over here, but once I have a part finished with these people I’m not going to start filming with the same people on a second part before the first one drops. I’m just going to keep adding to it until the first one comes out and then once I have no footage I’m going to be like, I need to get fucking clips. That will make me gassed to start the new thing.
Bringing the gnar to the mall with a buried backside noseblunt slide
Do you watch every skate video that comes out?
I mean, I try to but shit be coming out quick. Everybody’s putting out all them clips! I’ll go back if I have to, though. There’s always shit on the timeline. I’m on Free Skate Mag, I’m on Pocket Mag, Thrasher, obviously. Then you gotta go Quartersnacks top ten to figure out if somebody does some beast shit in a video you normally wouldn’t see.
Who are some of your favorite skaters right now?
Kyle Wilson is really fucking sick. Heitor is beast. Erik Herrera is sick. Bro, there’s so many. The homie Nikolai Piombo, I love his skating. There’s literally so many. That kid that does crazy ledge tricks—Kai Kishi.
You had some footage come out recently skating Philly. Do you skate differently when you go back there or do you approach it the same as you would skating in LA?
Yes and no because it’s such a different city. You just move different than you move here. Like, you can literally just move around and go to a shit ton of spots in one day in Philly because shit’s so close. But there’s also shit in the suburbs, too. If you go outside of the city you’re going to find some shit. You can just hit shit differently in Philly. In LA you gotta drive. You could be going two miles and that shit could take you 30 minutes to get there for no reason.
Are you hyped on the Philly scene?
Mike Ward, he’s beast. I feel like Philly has been slept on outside of the downtown scene. Every time people would come to Philly they would come for a day from New York and they would only try to come skate Love, City Hall or Municipal. I think since things got exhausted and there’s only Municipal left, it’s just natural that people would start branching out more. I’m not talking about the people that live there, but I’m talking about the people that go and visit because there’s a lot of sick spots outside of downtown.
Do you still skate a lot of transition?
Yes, but I would like to skate it more. I didn’t grow up naturally skating transition—I grew up skating flatground outside of my house. Sometimes when I don’t skate transition I need to kind of get my legs back a bit. The only place that’s really good transition to skate in LA is Garvanza. There’s that park in Glendale, too, but you have to wear a helmet. I feel like pre-COVID I was just traveling so much and I wasn’t settled at home. I was just always in a different city and it was fun skating different transition all the time. Now I’ll be at home kicking it and I don’t want to go to Garvanza over and over. I just want to skate different parks—it’s just more XP. I’m trying to skate different shit. Sometimes it’s easier or harder to learn on different transitions and tightnesses and how high it is and how much vert there is. It really depends on what you’re trying which obstacle will be the easiest to learn on. For example: If you’re trying nosegrind tailgrabs, something with more vert will be easier because of where you hit your vertical point. You can launch up from the bottom and hit the coping when you’re weightless.
You’re pretty scientific with your skating.
I mean, the fact that all the parts of a board come in such small increments of measurement tells you that skating is way more intricate than you would think. The little things matter. Everything is in millimeters and you can feel the difference. If you skate some 52s and then you go to 54s you’re going to feel that shit. Those details make such a big difference, that’s why I think the way that I think.
For sure. Even when you try to film a trick you go off of make percentages. If I can kickflip 50-50 this curb 100 percent of the time, then I can for sure do it on this hubba.
It’s never 100 percent, but you want to think like it is. There’s variables, too. You want to be approaching it with 100-percent confidence, otherwise that changes the whole formula. I’ve just always been like that. When I was a kid skating flat and I did something once I’d do it again and again. The more I do it the easier it’s going to be. I realized that there were points where I thought I’d never be able to do something and then next thing you know it’s second nature. You don’t even have to think about doing it. When I was 13 a nollie heel was like, Holy crap! A nollie heel! And now it’s a second-nature feelin’. From that thought, anything can be like that. That’s literally the basis for XP. If you can get enough experience doing it then eventually muscle memory is going to take over and you’re going to be able to spank tricks with consistency.
Heelflip crooks on an LA GTWYC-type spot
Earlier this year you got a Nike shoe. How involved were you in the design?
I was definitely very involved with making it. I’m not drawing it up or anything, but they came here, we went around and got a bunch of insights from all sorts of shoes, then we went to the drawing-up process. They kind of gave me something and I was like, Nah, I want to see all of the drawings. I saw all of the drawings, narrowed it down, told them to draw more, told them, I like this, this and this. You eventually get to a point where you pick one that you like and then you build from there. It was a really fun process.
You have a ton of hobbies outside of skating. Has your skate career helped open doors with those other interests?
Yeah, of course. I’m into cars and a million people are into cars. I’m into fashion and a lot of people are into fashion. Since I can skate, people recognize me to a point where I get to do things with these brands and companies. It’s a blessing that I’m able to get to do that kind of stuff.
It has to be pretty sick having these hobbies and being able to do them at that level.
Yeah, you know, I started skating when I was seven and I was completely immersed by it my entire life—and I still am. I’m 31 now, and obviously at a certain point you start getting different interests. It’s kind of sick to just be able to have this other stuff going on. Skateboarding is a thing that’s not going to last anybody forever. I love this and I wish I could do it forever, but that’s not the reality, you know? If you want to take time to do some other stuff, why not? That’s what I would say to anybody—you can like skateboarding and like other stuff, too. Just live your life.
Skating’s premier scientist unlocks a nollie backside flip off of Wilshire. Thank you for your service, Dr. Wair
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