John Dilo's "Boss Fight" Interview
After putting on a hell of a display on the Scramble, Dilo powered through the pandemic, taking advantage of vacated schools in Florida and burying barhop hatchets. In his first interview since leveling up to the pro ranks, Dilo dishes out the secret to his relentless work ethic, the true meaning of boss fights and a grip of tiger facts. See all his savagery from our November 2020 mag.
It’s the eye of the Dilo, it’s the thrill of the flight, risin’ up with a kickflip that’s unrivaled. Photo: Papke
Remember not too long ago when I told you that I thought a tiger was just a female lion?
Yeah, how could I ever forget teaching a grown man the difference between a lion and a tiger? That blew my mind.
Why the hell are you so obsessed with tigers?
It goes way back. Honestly, so far back I hardly remember certain instances. My mom told me stories when I got older about how I thought I used to be a tiger in a past life. Until I was about 12, I had every single birthday party at the tiger exhibit at the zoo. I would say that tigers wouldn’t hurt me because they knew I was one of them. During that same period of time, I was a tiger every single year for Halloween. Even now after all this time I’m still fascinated and inspired by them. I’ve just always felt drawn to them like they are my spirit animal or something. At the run up of spots, if I’m scared or irritated or just fed up with a situation, in my mind I’ll be like, Fuck it, I’m a 500-pound tiger right now and I’m about to fuckin’ eat.
Skateboarding is one big boss fight. Watch John emerge triumphant in his new Almost part
Just to be clear—you’re not a tiger, John. They will eat you.
Yeah, I’m not a tiger, at least not in the physical form.
Whatever you say, crazy. We’ve known each other for a while now. My question is, who is Jake?
You are Jake. You have evolved into your purest form from Steak to Jake.
I don’t know how I feel about all that, but I do feel like we should talk about how we met and drove across the country to California with basically no plan at all.
I have this memory of a session at Boynton skatepark. It had to be about 2009. My friends and I kind of thought you up to be this elite filmer who only filmed pros and I remember being intimidated. We were all skating flatground at the park and you were friendly with us and not at all what I expected. I think you invited me to come skate sometime and it just snowballed from there. Looking back, the move out was nuts. I was 18, just graduated, never had a thought of moving to California to pursue skating before. You just asked me to come with and I rolled with it. I remember my parents were super worried. Somehow we are both still doin’ it, though.
Not gonna lie, I don’t remember that at all but that’s pretty normal for me. Somehow we managed to survive, but you didn’t plan to stay at first.
Oh yeah, I flew home for court. I got arrested for skating a school in Florida. Once all that shit was said and done I flew back and we were roommates for a few years.
I couldn’t get away from you! I got an apartment with Nick Zizzo, Matt Militano, Joey Ragali and Blake Carpenter, then you came back and slept on my bedroom floor. Eventually we upgraded to a studio and stuffed four different bodies inside.
Yeah, shit was hectic and full skate house for a while. We didn’t know what the fuck we were doing except skating and filming. We left Long Beach, though. We were posted up in San Diego for a while before I moved in with Jamie and those guys.
Yeah, we filmed your entire part in my video SICKhead before you left back to LB. How many parts have we filmed together? I’ve lost count.
A lot. I think seven or eight.
No wonder my shoulder and back are giving out. In all that time, I got to experience all the phases of John: tight-pants John, I-don’t want-to-be-the-nose-manual-nollie-flip-guy John, Can-we-go-somewhere-that-accepts-EBT John. But one thing that never changed is your approach to skating. You always give it 100 percent and you always know what you want. Where did that mentality stem from?
Holy shit, you’ve seen every shade of me. I really couldn’t pinpoint a time I learned to be that way. I’ve always valued having a strong work ethic and respected others who had the same view. In a way, I like to think of skateboarding as this giant historical piece and we all get a chance to be a part of contributing and etching our names in somewhere, big or small. It doesn’t fall on your lap, though. You have to bleed for it.
Switch pounce from the skies, the tiger’s gotta eat! Photo: Burnett
I feel that. How many parts do you plan on putting out this year? You’ve already had one but there’s still a few months left in the year. With your track record, I’d say you got about four more to go.
I’ve been giving 100 percent to this Almost video. I want it to be really special, not just for me but for all of us. I want to represent these dudes the best I can. They are the first people to really support me and have my back.
These guys are my family, you know?
For sure. As someone who has seen the footage, I think you’ll do just that. Can we expect any guest appearances in this one? I’m dying to see some Youness footage but I guess I could settle for a Rodney clip.
Everyone’s planned to have something—Youness, Yuri and Max might just have a couple things. The two new kids are gonna have a strong presence, though, Aaron Kim and Mikel Vidal. We call Aaron AK. He’s got a real cool, unique style and quick feet. Mikel is from Barcelona. He’s this lanky, suave ledge magician. They’re great kids. I love ’em both to death and I’m glad they’re with us. Probably no Rodney clip, though. Sorry.
Damnit. Guess I’ll have to play the new THPS to live out my fantasy of a Rodney clip. Speaking of video games, you told me something about Max and a boss fight? What’s that all about?
Max and I were skating this manual spot together in Spain and we were trying a trick into manny, then hop over this gap in the middle of the manny, then a trick out of the manny. We were just alternating tries and saying dumb shit like, “Fuck, man, I can’t get passed level two.” Once we were both getting to the end part most every try we would just say, “Made it to the boss fight.” From then on anytime we tried a trick together, Max would turn to me with a smirk and say “Ah, boss fight.” It’s kind of my mantra now. We are always trying to level up; skating is one big boss fight. Every new trick is a new boss and you always gotta fight for it.
It really is, isn’t it? I’ve lost many boss fights in my day. That’s why I’m the filmer. How is it skating with Max and the rest of the squad?
They are really cool dudes. Everyone just sort of does their own thing, none the same as the others. I haven’t skated a ton with all of them. We are all trapped at home. I miss them, though, and talk with them a lot through Instagram. Youness gives me a lot of helpful advice. He has been in skating a long time and has experienced so much. Max has also given me guidance. It’s real inspiring seeing Max do something all his own with Gronze Island, getting to plan his own trips with his friends. Not a lot of skaters could handle organizing all that and still be ripping so hard.
Yeah, man, it’s not an easy thing to do. You have any trips planned whenever all this chaos finally calms down? I know everyone is itching to leave.
Nothing too planned. I just wanna go back to Europe for a while, one-way-ticket style. Go see those boys.
That sounds beast. I was supposed to go to Europe this spring but that got canceled and I’m still bitter about it. Let’s talk about this Almost part. What tricks gave you the most trouble?
The ones I haven’t landed yet! Seriously, though, I’ve been burying a lot of hatchets filming this part; it feels good. Like, remember how many times I dragged you to the blue bump to bar for the switch backside flip? Finally worked out after like two years of trying.
Do I ever. That one was a pain in the ass, for sure. You took some Florida trips to film for this part, too. Wish I coulda been there for those. Didn’t you fakie flip Cobra two times?
Yeah, I always thought it would be cool to do a straight fakie or nollie trick down that set ’cause the run up makes it so tough. That trick and the NMB hubba trick definitely gave me a lot of satisfaction. Like, Wow, I went all the way back there and what I wanted worked out; that was a trip. None of that settling-for-something-less kinda shit, which I was terrified of.
Two years later, John reeled in the switch backside flip. Quitters suck Photo: Spitzer
Yeah, the run up to Cobra is bare minimum for what you need to skate it. I also can’t even believe someone made NMB skateable again. I used to talk to this girl whose dad was the principle there and one time I pulled the, “Call the principle. He’ll let us skate” card on a teacher and it worked.
That’s fuckin’ crazy. I don’t even think they know it’s skateable again yet with the pandemic going on.
I hope they don’t notice. I’m trying take a trip to Florida and film another trick on it someday. That spot looks so good on camera. How about some rapid-fire questions? What are your five favorite manuals you’ve ever seen?
Fuck, on the spot? That’s gnarly. Okay, in no particular order and off the top of my head: Tyler Surrey, nose manual to nollie noseslide a handrail in a New Balance edit. Youness, kickflip manual back Smith the same spot in the Nike Chronicles video. Max Geronzi, manual to back lip a handrail in the Gypsy Life video. Dennis Busentiz, alley-oop back 180 manny 180 out on a curb in The Cinematographer Project. Taylor Nawrocki, nose manual nollie flip straight up a curb in Spirit Quest.
Hot damn. I noticed three of those were manuals to handrails. When are you gonna do one of those? I’m trying to see you evolve into handrail John.
Just takes the right spot to make it happen, really. I’ll most likely never go full-handrail John, though. Mad respect to Foy and all those gnarly dudes leading the pack. It’s just not for me. I’m okay with that.
Leveling up with a boss battle fight at Cobra—fakie flip Photo: Spitzer
I feel it. Next question—favorite thing/place to eat when back home in Florida?
Pollo Tropical. Final answer.
That is a damn solid answer. I would have accepted Pollo Tropical, Publix Sub or Havana. Next question—give us a random tiger fact.
A single tiger killed 436 people in India. It’s in the Guinness Book.
Wow, I did not expect you to have an answer for that one! Top-five favorite video parts?
Another off-the-top-of-my-head lineup: Ryan Lay in Fetish, Gilbert Crockett in Mother, Dennis Busenitz in Since Day One, Stefan Janoski in Subtleties and Chima Ferguson in Spinning Away.
Why so much switch?
I started skating with a kid down the street out in Jupiter Farms, Florida, who had been skating for maybe a year or so already, so he was beast. I had been skating for maybe a couple of months at this point. I could kickflip, or at least I had landed a few. I couldn’t do anything else aside from maybe shove its and a frontside 180. Skating with him always felt like a game of catch up because he could do so much. Anyway, he was at my house one day and was telling me about switch skating and how people can do kickflips switch. I was like, “Wait, you can’t do it? Let’s try it.” So that whole day we went back and forth down my driveway trying switch flips and I fucking landed one and he didn’t. He didn’t believe me when I told him but I did that shit. It felt so exciting to have learned something unique and someone else couldn’t do it. From then on I remember I would always ollie stuff, then I’d just try it switch until it became super comfortable. So just to summarize, I learned to kickflip, then switch flip, then everything else. Weird how that worked out.
Alright, you don’t gotta rub it in. I’ve never done a switch flip in my life. Next question—what’s your go-to music playlist?
It’s forever changing. It depends on my mood and what I’ve got going on that day. I’ve been listening to Blink-182 a lot lately, though. The nostalgic shit just hits sometimes.
Switch 180 nose wheelie, nollie flip out. You knew there’d be a manny in here somewhere Photos: Spitzer
What’s your favorite spot to skate?
Like a skatepark or a spot?
Lets go with both.
I hate most skateparks, but if the homies are there any of them can be fun as long as it’s fired up. I skate Cherry the most, I suppose. My favorite spot is probably just any place with good flatground—parking lots, maybe with some curbs to manny or a trash can to skate over. That’s the icing on the cake.
Who are the homies you skate with the most?
Lately while on mission mode for the video it’s just been AK, myself and Devin Lopez filming. I’ll get park sessions with Ronnie Kessner, Christian Dufrene, Patrick Praman, Chris Wimer, my roommate Mike Mag—the list goes on forever in LB. We all live so close but are just all on our own shit most of the time now. It sucks that it is hard to skate with my close friends as often as I’d like to. We all understand it’s just part of growing pains and we are doing what we gotta do to level up in this skate game and life in general. I’m very stoked and proud of all of them.
Solid squad, except Duf and Ron. I don’t know about those two. Next question—what’s your Social Security Number?
Wish I knew your phone number off the top of my head.
That’s more precious than any SSN#, for sure. What’s this wave/eyeball-looking sticker I keep seeing on all your boards?
Just an idea I had with some friends. It has no name, at least not yet. It’s not a brand; it’s just a concept inspired by all of the homies and the desire to get out and travel with them and create content. I hope to be able to travel and skate with my friends the way Max does with Gronze, or the Atlantic Drift guys do. That’s the dream and I believe we all have the ability to make it reality. I’ve been handing the stickers out and saying, “This isn’t just a sticker, it’s an invitation to something I want you to be a part of.” We gotta start somewhere and are planning some stuff out now. We will see what happens and where it goes.
You didn’t give me any stickers. I see how it is. Any weird superstitions or OCDs with skating?
I’ll get you some stickers! Everyone has their madness; every situation is different. Sometimes I get in ruts which sucks—try one, roll up, repeat. I lose it when random people stop to spectate when I’m scared. I just feel like a circus monkey on display. I’m not really superstitious about anything with my skateboard, though. I’ll fuck with a red top. Fuck it.
NBD at NMB, switch flip 50. GTWYC Photo: Spitzer
Snuffleupagus is a real animal. Change my mind.
You’re an idiot. We are all playing 20 questions on this road trip. Everyone was stumped far beyond the 20-question mark because no one could think of the mystery animal you were describing and when you told us it was a Snuffleupagus, we were all just pissed. It’s a made-up Sesame Street animal.
I dunno, man, I’ve seen one. What trip was that on, Vegas?
Yeah, I think so. That trip Kevin Love and I made up the game where whatever song was blasting on Pandora radio when we landed a trick, we had to give it a thumbs up. When you do that the song pops up more frequently, so our mix was so fucked up. I remember Kevin doing a fucked-up heelflip with “Free Fallin’” blasting and he was all, “Fuck, I hate Tom Petty, but rules are rules.” He thumbed up that shit. That trip was so fun and super productive.
Yeah I remember that. You guys wouldn’t stop playing that “Ganja Farmer” song. I was so off it. At least no one went on strike on that trip. Can’t say the same for all our trips, though. Remember when I may or may not have accidentally deleted your trick in SF? Sorry about that.
It’s all good. That SF trip was nearly the polar opposite. I think everyone got hurt except for me and then the one trick I got that I was really juiced on got deleted by mistake. Luckily we had another angle to salvage, but still the morale was just low. It can be a domino effect on a trip—one bad or good thing can instantly turn into another of the same and so on. Whichever direction the dominoes fall is just out of your hands.
It’s never fun losing a trick, for you or the filmer. Speaking of blowing it, what’s one trick that you’ve gone back for countless times but never landed? Any tricks you just gave up on or still want to go do?
Dude, I do manual tricks. I’m definitely holding more Ls than Ws. There are loads of tricks that are just lifelong works in progress.
How about this—I won’t make you claim anything but is there any spot you’ve always wanted to film a trick at and haven’t had the chance to yet, like a dream spot?
There’s this barhop that I think is in Athens, Greece that looks so sick. I’ve always wanted to skate it. Jake Johnson nollie backside flipped it in Purple. Maybe I’ll make it one day.
All the way to Greece for a barhop? That’s commitment. Speaking of, I always get flack from people when I call it a barhop. Is that a Florida thing?
I’ve always called them that, too. When I hear bump to bar, I think bump to grind the bar. If you call it a barhop, there’s no second guessing. I’d say it’s a FL thing.
Anybody wanna go barhopping? John’s nollie sure as hell does Photo: Spitzer
Yeah, I feel like a barhop is something you hop over. To each his own, I guess. How the hell are you so comfortable skating them anyway? I’ve only ever ollied one in my life and it was that tiny one in Fort Myers everyone used to skate. I don’t even think it counts.
I guess from growing up in Florida. There’s a lot of them. Most of them suck and are super tall with no bump, but it’s all we had to work with. I remember this indoor TF the homies threw down on called the Mancave, it had a super sick one. I learned a lot of tricks over that one and then took it to the streets. Number one rule with bump to bars—when you throw down about to try it, no matter what, always at least jump over it. Don’t do that hesitation-step-off-and-nearly-chest-the-bar thing, or God forbid something worse. That will put the fear in you.
That tiny one was enough for me. I’m past my prime anyway. Listen to me, acting like I ever had a prime. You on the other hand seem to be in your prime now. Most people have had full reconstructive knee surgery by this point but you seem to be doing okay in that area.
I’m managing. Things hurt sometimes. It’s always something new, but it comes with the territory. A body in motion stays in motion, I hear.
Frontside half-Cab flip while the crew socially distances on the balcony Photo: Spitzer
I guess that’s how guys like Reynolds keep killing it after all these years. I think taking care of yourself is just a part of being a successful pro. What do you think makes someone worthy of that status?
Taking care of your body is part of being responsible, I’d say, which goes hand in hand with pro skating. It is a job, you know? Why blow it drinking and partying your ass off? Being a pro skater is a combination of a ton of things. The perfect mixture of that is a rare find, at least ones like Reynolds.
True that. All of the most successful and memorable pros I can think of had more than just skateboarding skill—they had personality and individuality, they brought something special to the table and when you saw them you were drawn to be like them.
Yeah, that’s a huge part of it. You want to be like, Wow, look at him. I want to be just like him. I still get like that with dudes. Gilbert Crockett has me convinced I’ll look better if I get full tattoo sleeves.
I’m trying to get a tattoo from Gilbert. His stuff is sick. Well, I think we covered more than anyone might have wanted to know. Any last words or extra tiger facts?
Thank you, everyone. There are too many people to mention, but I seriously wouldn’t be here, in this mag, without countless people I’ve met who have helped me out immensely. I love all of you. Also, tigers are the only large cats known to hunt humans, at least from what I’ve read.
Clearing the tile by a mile with a switch heel—we wanna be like Dilo Photo: Spitzer
5/20/2021Ishod, Lil Dre, Christian Henry, Jahmir Brown, Pedro Delfino and many more draw blood and soak the streets with style from coast to coast.
3/22/2021Ish brings the vibes to Miami’s fresh parks and iconic spots with Dilo, Foy, Kevin White and the squad.
2/09/2021Jake Ilardi, John Dilo and Maria Rojas Benavides and more wreck Lot 11 to score some cash at the first annual Miami Open.
1/05/2021Last year was the worst, which means we’ve got an extra-stacked pack of T-Eddys for the skate world’s gaffes and god-awful moments. Plenty of praise in there, too! Don’t get pissed if you made the list.
10/08/2020Arto Saari captures his Flip bros Penny, Rune, David and Luan as they bond with the newcomers and run a ruinous course through Spain. Take in all the street carnage and steak cutlets from their savage ride.