Lizzie Armanto Interview

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Just ‘cause you’re skating vert doesn’t mean you can’t be glamorous. Beyonce would love this!     Photo: BURNETT

Let’s get some basic stats, Lizzie. 
I’m 24 and I grew up in Santa Monica and now I’m living in Encinitas. 


What age did you start skating?
I didn’t really start ‘til I was 14. We had the crappy boards for awhile, trying to roll down the hill we lived on in Glendale. It was kinda steep so it wasn’t ideal at all. Then we moved to Santa Monica and my brother wanted to 
try it. Plus, it was the culture there too. You’d see people skating around. My mom took us both to the park and I wasn’t gonna have my brother be better than me. That’s what started it. 

Were you good from the beginning?
I definitely had to work for it. My mom was a single parent. My parents had just got divorced and we moved to Santa Monica and I was changing schools again and it was a whatever time. My mom would let us come home from school, clean the house, do chores and then do homework or go to the library. So once we started going to the skatepark she was, like, “You can do that whenever you want.” So since it was way better than any 
of the other options we just started hanging out there. 


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This was The Cove in Santa Monica?
Yeah, it’s pretty good. There’s, like, a pool, two bowls and a street/flow course. There’s someone at the front who works there. You have to pay so there’s nobody lurking there doing anything really dumb. It was kinda like after-school care, which was good for my mom at the time because she felt like it was safe for my brother and I to hang out there. 

Was your mom excited about you skating?
She got us the boards. I think she was super into it because she knew it was an outlet for us. And it was super safe. And when she was younger she used to skate to get around, though she didn’t go to the park to try to do tricks or anything. So she got it. My grandma though… when my mom told my grandma I was skating she was, like, “Elizabeth? She’s too fragile!” For awhile she was really concerned about that. But later on I took her to a contest and once she saw it in person I think she understood. 

Were there other girls at the skatepark?
At that time, no. There was this woman, Melissa, she’d come skate there but other than that I really didn’t see any girls.

Lizzie Photo2 750pxRaised on round wall, Lizzie crails with ease in East LA     Photo: BURNETT

Were you cool with being around all dudes?
I mean, I didn’t really talk to anyone. I’m shy and back then I was even more shy. I just talked to my brother and the people who worked at the park. Eventually my neighbor started doing it and she was a girl so I’d go with her. I wanted someone to try stuff with so I’d try to get her to try stuff with me. 

So was it normal for you to start doing handplants and airs?
That came later. I just liked carving around and being at the park and messing around and being a kid. I started learning tricks when I started going to other parks. I learned basic tricks at The Cove, but when I started skating the Vans park in Orange and saw people skating the Combi I was, like, “I want to 
do that.”

So you were a teenage girl but skating pools and bowls you ended skating with a lot of grown men. What was that like?
I think even at my home park I ended up skating with a lot of older guys. They’d be off in the corner trying to do their own thing. It seemed like a safe place. Kids my age were acting wild and I was kinda shy so I’d go to the place that wasn’t crowded. And that’s where all the old guys ended up skating so I made friends with them. I skated with Pat Ngoho 
a lot. 

Were they encouraging to you?
Yeah, for the most part. I’d ask them about tricks that I was trying to figure out and everyone was nice to me. 


Lizzie BSsmith Burnett 750pxBack Smith at the Academy     Photo: BURNETT

How was high school?
Whatever. I went to SaMo high. There were 4,000 people at my school. You could be in a sea of people and not talk to anyone. I just kinda got through high school. My mom, as long as my grades were good she’d let me do whatever I wanted. So I’d just go to the skatepark and focus on that. My senior year I turned 18 so my mom was cool with me going on trips, going to contests. I got to go to Australia and miss a week of school and she didn’t care. 

Dream come true. 
I was, like, “I don’t want to be here. I’m done.”

But you’re in Santa Monica, California, and you’re a sponsored skater. Didn’t that help you at all? Didn’t people want to know you?
I didn’t talk about it. I was, like, “Everyone here is dumb.” Even to this day if I’m in Santa Monica and I see someone I went to school with who might want to talk to me I’ll turn the other way. It’s just some strained conversation, like, “It’s great to see you. We should totally hang out.” It’s some empty promise. It feels like a lie. I don’t want to start things I can’t finish. I’d get way too mental about it. 

So you didn’t go to prom?
No. Everyone’s an idiot. Why would I want to spend money to try to be a part of this social scene I don’t give a shit about?

Are you and your mom still really close?
We are. She helps me with a lot of things. She’s definitely super supportive and proud of everything I’m doing. All the people I’ve met in skateboarding and the community of it, my mom ended up meeting a bunch of people and making friends herself and she ended up skating herself, at The Cove. She’s super into it. 

Nice. What kind of moves she got?
Right now she just carves around and has fun. Actually she told me, “Help me drop in.” It’s just a matter of figuring it out. 

Lizzie Photo3 750pxNice girls don’t hang around under bridges, they do finger flip lein to tails under them. WSVT piano keys     Photo: RHINO

Her being a single parent, are you guys more than mother-daughter? Are you guys friends too? Is it different than what you see with other people and their parents?
I don’t know. My mom got remarried so now I have a stepdad. 

 

“You’re not my dad, Randy!”
Yeah, his name’s Larry. Larry the stepdad. So for awhile the relationship was strained because the way we work is different. I’m a lot like my mom. I don’t like structure or guidelines. If I’m going to do something I’ll do it at my own pace. But my stepdad is very calculated and thinks things have to be done in a precise way. I remember one time, a long time ago, we went to that Crossroads trade show and he was upset with me because I wasn’t handing out resumes. Like, “Hey, here you go.” I was, like, “Oh no. It doesn’t work like that.” He got really mad. Like, “Noooo!”

So if you didn’t hand out the resumes with Larry, how did things start happening as far as sponsors?
Well, I got my first sponsor SMA just hanging around the park. That was a local thing. 
Then they asked me if I wanted to do a contest. I was, like, “Sure. Whatever. Sounds fun.” Then after that contest is when I decided I wanted to pursue this besides just skating. I met all these people and everyone was insane but I liked it, ‘cause everyone was eclectic. It doesn’t matter what you do or where you’re from or your status to be a skateboarder. I really liked that. So I started to do more contests and met people through contests. And eventually you make relationships through certain people and they flow you things. I’d made all these friends and gotten on flow. I was getting free product, which was super cool. Then in 2013 I had gotten hurt at the end of the year. I tore my PCL completely so I was going to be out for a couple months. I was going to college at SMC; doing college because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was skating but it wasn’t the kind of thing where I’d be, like, “Oh yeah. I’ll just do this thing for real.” I wanted that; I just didn’t see it. When I got hurt I was all, “Okay, this is the time. I can go to school later but I can’t do skateboarding later.” So I got hurt and my mom was, like, “You’re hurt. You need to take more classes. You can’t skate.” And I was, like, “Nope, I’m just going to focus on skating.” I got better and I did therapy. Around then I got a manager and he helped solidify all my relationships with companies. After that. I don’t know. When you’re done being hurt you kind of have a fire under you to skate. I was, like, “This is what I gotta do.”

How are these contests? It gets heated sometimes, right? Were you there that time the lady jumped in the pool and choked the other lady?
No, that was before my time. But I’ve definitely felt some animosity towards me in skating. People in skateboarding are crazy, which is cool, but because they’re crazy anything can happen. I remember this one time someone didn’t like me and they peed on my board. I found out weeks later and I was so disturbed. 

What? A man or a woman?
A woman. I was, like, “This is disgusting; 
I’m not skating this board,” and I threw it away. It was so gross. I mean, who does that?

 

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The Daggers!
It was like, “Oh my God. What are we, animals? You have a problem so your way of dealing with this problem is peeing on my board?” 

Sounds nuts. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever peed on?
The forest? I don’t now. Not someone’s board. 

So what you’re saying is it gets heated in those girls’ contests? 
That wasn’t a contest thing, that was just someone being crazy. 

Back to you and the older skate buddies, what’s Jeff Grosso really like?
I think he’s a teddy bear, to be honest. He’s big and people might see him as menacing; he definitely has his own opinions. But he’s nice and I appreciate being friends with him because there’ll be things that I’m dealing with and he’ll be, like, “Oh yeah, don’t trip over that. You’ll be fine.” He’ll help me out with my life like he’s my friend. I got on Vans and he helped me with that. He’s definitely always backed me. It feels good to have him on my side. 

I know there’s a big push to raise the visibility of women skating because then it shows girls that it can be done, but were there any women skaters you looked up to as girl?
When I finally met some girl skaters, I assumed they could do everything the guys can do, like, “Oh yeah. She’s pro; she can probably do a 540.” I naively assumed that ‘cause you don’t know. When I started skating with them and knowing them as people I definitely looked up to them, but I didn’t research them or anything. 

Well, typically it’s not a matter of researching. 
I know I’m in a special place where I get to see people skate firsthand and the people I get to skate with are the best in the world. I’m influenced by that rather than watching other stuff. 

For this interview we did the crazy dress-up thing at the ramp. Do you like getting dressed up like that? Was that painful for you?
I definitely like getting girly. There’s definitely a time and place for it. It was kinda scary on the ramp because there was a bunch of fringe and I thought I could roll over it and take myself out just dropping in. It was fun. I like having fun and doing things like that.

Lizzie Photo4 750pxFearless, elbow padless and heavily boneless—Lizzie’s power approach is the envy of HB     Photo: BURNETT

How would you describe your personal style? I remember you were at one contest in an R2-D2 singlet. 
It was a bathing suit. 

Oh, okay. Are you a little nerdy?
Yeah, I’m a nerd. That’s a weird thing to label yourself, but I like arts-and-crafts projects. 
I used to really be into Runescape, which is an online game with really shitty graphics, it’s like a roll-playing Medieval-times themed game. 

That doesn’t sound nerdy at all. 
My style? I like to wear what I can skate in. For that thing, we were at the beach. It just made sense. I pick and choose from whatever Vans has coming out. I’m really into textures. Like jeans, if they’re stretchy but real thick, that’s the best. You feel really safe in them ‘cause you know they’re not gonna rip. 

What’s it like to be a semi-famous woman in the age of social media?
Some days it’s really cool. Actually, it’s totally awesome. Social media has been a huge tool for me to have a job and skate and make that a thing. At the same time, since it’s taken off I feel like I can’t just post whatever. It can’t be complete bullshit. But then at the same time, you can post complete bullshit. I end up thinking about it and it almost makes it not fun in a way. Before you could post whatever and it didn’t matter. 

And now it feels like a job? You have to be strategic?
Not strategic, but people take things you say the wrong way and take them out of context and so I recently turned off my notifications, like, “This is bullshit.” People hide behind the Internet and talk shit. People can be totally lame and I don’t think that’s good for you. 

 

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Lizzie plus Vertkeley equals invert over the channel     Photo: DAN Z

I was gonna ask. Are there creeps coming out of the woodwork constantly?
Totally. I’m sure if I search my messages, there’s a ton of dumb messages. People think I don’t see it, like, “Oh, she gets a ton of messages,” but I’m on there. I read it. 
It’s on my phone. My manager doesn’t know my password and post stuff. It’s me. 

So what’s the wildest DM’s you’ve gotten. Is it just dong city?
Actually, I don’t get too many dick pics, which is cool. I try not to put myself in that category of wanting that kind of attention. It’s a conscious effort. Most of the time it’s people trying to talk to me, which is cool, but it’s the same as someone you don’t know trying to talk to you on the street. “I don’t know you. I don’t know what your intentions are. I’m not trying to put myself in a bad situation.” I think the weirdest ones is sometime’s there’s crazy people. On Facebook there used to be insane ones, like delusional people who I think are sick, who think we’re friends or something. There’s been people I’ve been nice to and they think we’re friends, just ‘cause I was nice to them at face value. I’m not trying to be rude, but some people try to talk to me like I’m their best friend. They want to tell me how they’re depressed. It’s kinda gnarly. If you are sick like that, you need help. And you’re reaching out to me. I want them to get help, but I’m not the right person for that. 

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So as far as not wanting to put yourself out there for that kind of attention—this is uncharted territory here, but what do you think about some of the women skaters who have gotten into bikini modeling and semi-naked stuff like what Leticia is doing? What’s your take on that kind of stuff?
I mean, to each their own, and if that’s what empowers you, run with it. There’s definitely power there. It all depends on your demeanor. If you’re just trying to get attention and that’s the way you think you’re gonna get it, if they think they’re empowering themselves all they might be really doing is trying to fill a void. And then they just end up hurting themselves. Hypothetically, there’s some people who do things for attention. It rarely ever pays off. That doesn’t make you feel good at the end of the day. I don’t know. You should just be a good person and if you’re going to do something, do it ‘cause you want to do it. People are going to have their opinions, but you shouldn’t let a stranger’s opinion, who doesn’t matter, who doesn’t have a background in what you’re doing—
that doesn’t matter. That gets back to my social media, about turning the notifications off. There’s totally cool stuff on there, but they’re not my personal friend, they don’t know my background. Even if it might be some huge compliment, there’s no weight to it. Whereas if someone sees you in real life 
and talks to you—

I’ve heard a rumor that in pro surfing all the girls with the best deals are all the super cute ones and have their butts out. Not sure if that is true or not, but have you ever had any pressure to tart it up to help your skate career?
Not in that sense. I’m trying to think of a way to explain it. If I’m going to a contest, you dress up, kinda. If there’s an event going on, you can dress up. So I’ll change how I’m dressed depending on how I feel that day. 

I remember we were shooting photos and you were, like, “Should I smile? Am I smiling in the photos?” I doubt Jaws would ever worry about if he’s smiling in a skate photo. 
It totally makes a difference, though. It’s a personal thing. I care about how my face looks when I see a photo. I don’t want to see a photo of myself where I look constipated. I guess, hypothetically, if I was working on something for weeks on end or had to come back to some trick and I looked constipated in the photo or was making some awful face, at that point I don’t care ‘cause I worked so hard for it. But if we’re shooting something where I can do it and we’re playing with it and there’s room for play, I don’t know, I’ll put on a smile. 

But nobody’s telling you you gotta smile, right? You just don’t want to have the gnar face. 
Yeah, I’m sure if you were a dude you might think about it too. I’m sure if there’s a bunch of people ogling over photos of Ryan Sheckler and he looks like, “Aahhhh,” …

Have you had boyfriends who skated before Axel? Can I ask you about Axel?
Yeah, I just don’t want it to be a huge part of it. Yeah, most of the boys I dated before have been skateboarders. 

So this isn’t some new weird thing?
Well, each one is a different thing. It’s not like I’ve dated a bunch of people. There’s not some long list of skaters that I’ve dated. 

Lizzie Photo5 750pxPhoto: BURNETT

Is it ever like, “Okay, I’m going to skate.” “Can I come?” Is it fun to skate with your boyfriend?
I know what you’re talking about. Sometimes. There’s definitely times where I don’t want to skate or I’m not really feeling it. It’s still new, so there’s only been so many times. But for the most part, I don’t really care. I think it’s cool. ‘Cause most of the time it’s going to skate vert and you can see his wheels turning trying to figure it out. But when it’s the opposite, like he’s street skating and I’m rolling around on the street course being an idiot I totally get self conscious, like, “Damn it.” And he’s just doing laps because everything’s easy. But it switches around when we’re at the vert ramp. 

Would you want him to be there at your big contest to support you?
If he wants to, yeah, I’m down. The way I 
look at contests now, it’s just 15 minutes. 
I guess sometimes I could be in a weird spot in my head, and I can usually get past it, but I could totally be like, “Hey, you need to go away for like ten minutes ‘cause you’re messing up my head.” But if he wants to be there I’m totally stoked. 

So you ride for Birdhouse and you’re not just some token vert rider off on the side; you get to go on the trips and everything. How is that?
It’s the best. The Birdhouse team is so cool and I still think it’s crazy that I’m a part of that. It’s, like, they’re up here and putting myself up next to them is like, no. Everyone gets along and they’re all insane and they’re all a mess but they’re all very lovable. And you know that everything they’re doing, even when they’re shitheads, in their heart they mean well. I’ve totally cried on trips ‘cause my feelings were hurt. 

By your teammates?
Yeah. Then they realized what they said wasn’t cool and then they apologized. 

So are you just one of the guys in the van or do they hold back? Or do they only hold back when you start crying?
It’s always regular programming with them. 
I don’t think they hold back.

So you’re getting farted on and beer spilled on you?
I don’t personally get farted on. Or not that I know of. And I definitely have been in the splash zone. Pretty much if you’re not in the front of the van. The front is the safe zone if you want to be away from the bullshit. And then the further back you go it gets more chaotic. And then the back row is probably the messiest. I’m usually in the middle or the one before that. I’ve definitely made it to the back row but I can’t live there. 

 

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Over the channel to back nosegrind Photo: BURNETT

Was going on tours with them and being with dudes a culture shock for you? ‘Cause that’s very different from being at the contest and going back to the La Quinta. 
Oh yeah, it was completely different but I know that they make it better for me. If I need to go to the bathroom, we’re stopping. I’m not trying to go to the bathroom in the back of the van like all of them. They look out. They’re cool to me. They even take advantage of that, like, they want to stop somewhere so they’ll be, like, “Yeah, Lizzie has to take a shit.” They’ll use me as an excuse to stop. It’s just really fun to be a part of that mess. 

On King of the Road last year, Clint was made out to be kind of a villain. Is he a villain in real life?
No. He’s definitely not a villain. He’s the opposite of me. He’s very outspoken. He’s open about a bunch of different things and at first I was, like, “Oh my God, this guys’ crazy.” He’s very outspoken and I’m kinda shy. But I’ve definitely warmed up to him and I think he’s a pretty good guy. 

You’ve helped us a bunch of times on King of the Road over the years. You were Leo’s skate date and you appeared on the finale. I always worry if some of the stuff is sexist or too gross. What’s your take on King of the Road?
It’s all in the name of fun. I don’t think you guys are trying to put down women. King of the Road is kind of a joke. It’s not real life. Nobody acts like that in real life. For the most part those guys are normal humans. If you talked to them you’d never guess they’d be part of that. On King of the Road it’s almost like they’re in character because it’s, like, “Oh my God, everyone’s against each other. Everyone’s trying to win.” It’s a competition so it gets heated but it’s all in the name of fun. 

I know you just did a Tony the Tiger Frosted Flakes commercial. Is there anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting your name on or putting skateboarding’s name on? Would you have a vape sponsor? Where do you draw the line? 
Nah, I wouldn’t have a vape sponsor. With the cereal thing, if you’re a kid it’s something you think is cool. I’m not trying to appeal to some core skater. Everyone who knows me, it’s funny. I think it’s cool because I grew up eating Frosted Flakes and now I get to hang out with Tony the Tiger. There’s totally some people who are weird about it, but they don’t know me and they’re probably talking shit ‘cause they’re not happy with their lives. Their way of getting that out is yelling at me. 

Okay, where do you draw the line? When do you say, “These people are such dicks I’m not gonna lend them the cool of skateboarding and my image?”
I don’t know. I definitely have a line. 
Playboy wanted me to do some interview. They didn’t want me to dress up, they didn’t want anything like that, it was just going to go to their viewers. I’m not against Playboy. It’s out there in the world. I don’t care, I just don’t need to be there. On the whole business side, if you want to make sex sell, “Fuck it, let’s do it.” But that’s not what I’m going for. 

Lizzie Photo6 750pxThe saddest girl at Prince Park, Lizzie torques one out for NS Krüe, Shep Dawgs and all the good fools. O’Side or no side, Elizabeth     Photo: BURNETT

Are you gonna learn 540s?
Maybe. I’m not gonna say I’m not gonna learn ‘em. I feel like if I say I’m gonna learn something it’s going to make it that much harder for me to actually do it. If I say I can’t do it, I’m stumping myself. These things exist in my brain. I don’t consciously think about them but I know they’re there. 540s are probably one of those. 

How’s it going?
It was going good. I kind of slammed on one and it tweaked my hip. I started to get this dumb rotation going where I kept going to flat. I was, like, “Yeah, I better figure out this rotation before I try to put one down.”

What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were 16?
I don’t know. Just because someone offered me advice doesn’t mean I would’ve listened. I’m still going to have the same hard head. If I was able to take it in, probably just a “good job” and a pat on the back and “everything’s gonna be just fine,” would’ve been nice. 

Just a little more encouragement?
Yeah. That’s always nice. Everyone should be told “good job” when they’re doing good once in awhile. 

How’d you knock your teeth out?
Oh yeah. That’s a good one. I was skating Combi and in the square side on the wall with the peninsula I aired out too far and when I went to bail I fell and I compressed too much and I tapped my teeth and they were gone. 

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On the ground?
Yeah, in pieces. I was totally freaked out about it. I knew exactly what had happened. It was weird ‘cause it was one of the hardest slams I’ve taken but breaking your teeth doesn’t really hurt that much. It’s not like opening flesh. It’s not like I was bleeding. Actually, my lip was bleeding. That probably hurt more than my teeth. What hurt was that my teeth weren’t going to come back. Mentally that was probably the hardest slam. I had to go the dentist and I hate going to the dentist. Everything in my mouth hurt and they had to go in there and everything was swollen and not good. They’re, like, “Relax,” and I’m sitting in the chair trying not to have a panic attack. And then I was trying to go to my happy place and so I’m thinking about the Combi but then I fell in the Combi and that’s where I ruined my face. And so I was, like, “I don’t have a happy place; I’m gonna freak out! Get me out of here!”

What’s the most common question you get? Then you can answer it here and you’ll never have to ask it again. 
If people could never ask me if I could kickflip again that would be nice. 

Can you kickflip?
Yes. Or people ask me if I’m me. “Yes, I’m me!” That’s such a weird one. It’s fun to say, “Who’s that?” They get so baffled. You’ll see people looking at their phones, doing double takes. 

Who would you be impressed to meet?
Beyonce! I feel like I’ve been around famous people and have a pretty good idea of what fame is like, but for her, she must be a machine. I can’t imagine what her life is like. I cried at a Beyonce concert once. I’m not one to fan out. When that happened I’m, like, “What am I doing? Get ahold of yourself!”

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