Milton Martinez: Born and Bred to Rip and Shred

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Milton Martinez likes to go as fast as he fucking can. “Speed is not a problem,” he’s said famously, and he caps most of his big tricks by pushing towards the nearest hill, as speedily as his rapid-fire legs will send him. Recently we were driving down a steep and windy road when Milton demanded to be let out the car. 

 

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Hombre Araña, wall walking a 17


He had to bomb it. As we followed him on his treacherous path it soon became clear that the chunky surface, a mix of asphalt and concrete, was not going to be conducive to powerslides of any kind. Also, that Milton was coming dangerously close to drifting across the lane into oncoming traffic. Then, as we watched in shock, he was pitched forward at top speed, half-running, stumbling and straight-legging into a massive crack, his ankle seeming to clothespin beneath him as his board shot out like a rocket. “I broke my leg,” he announced as we ran out to grab him, “take my shoe off!” I struggled to unlace his football-tight Chucks but 45 seconds later it seemed that he was fine. “Maybe it’s just a little sore,” he said, rubbing his shin. Pretty sure he skated the next spot. Heart attack averted. 

 

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Asking Milton why he likes to go fast is like asking a pitbull why they like to bite toddlers or asking P-Stone if he wants a cold one. He looks at me as if it’s a trick question. “Like Thrasher is from San Francisco,” he explains, “And that’s what it’s been about for awhile and that’s what got my attention—these dudes going fast as fuck. Bombing the gnarliest hill and not giving a fuck about cars or anything. I just want to do that. It’s how I have fun, I guess. I get inspired to see all these gnarly motherfuckers doing these hills. I’m like, I want to go fast too.” 

 

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It would be hard to find a spot any faster than the mountain-like roll in off the Sydney Harbor bridge that Milton somehow pulled off on the Indy Scabs for Slabs trip earlier this year. “We got to that roller coaster in Sydney and everyone started chanting, ‘Milton! Milton!’” photographer Chris “Rhino” Rooney explains, “He just starts running up the hill. He does it from 3/4 of the way up and then there was no way he wasn’t going to do it from the top. He drops in and he was flying!” In the footage he rides through the kinks like a cowboy on the back of a bucking bronco and then narrowly misses a sign in his path as he fires through the intersection. “I think that’s one of my favorite things that I ever done,” Milton says with a grin, “Because I didn’t thought I could do it and I was scared as fuck!”

 

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The Martinez family lived in their skateshop in Mar del Plata, Argentina when Milton was a kid. “Move the bed in every night. Close the shop and move in the bed and we’re sleeping right in the shop. And then my grandpa and grandma were sleeping in the back. It was good times.” Everyone in Milton’s family skates—his two brothers, Ezekiel and Manuel, his dad and even his mom. Milton has photos of her cruising a mini-ramp while pregnant with one of his brothers. His dad Tatu still has a pro board for local brand Woodoo. Surrounded by skateboarding and his dad’s skate friends since birth, Milton treated it as a toy, not really paying attention to videos or pros, just having fun and rolling around when he felt like it. Later, his attention to skating faltered but never left altogether. “I was playing soccer and when I started going to the streets by myself it wasn’t just skating, you figure out everything—getting in fights, trying to drink beers, smoking cigarettes and doing kind of bad-kid stuff, you know? But then you figure out what you really like to do is skating, that’s what you want to do.” 

 

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This kickflip down the Dompierre Gap was so epic they tore the entire building out immediately after. Go check

 

His father took him to contests throughout his childhood and was stumped when he figured out pressure flips. “He was like, Yeah, my kid learned a flip or whatever and his homies were like, No, that’s a pressure flip,” Milton remembers. He also started actually paying attention to the videos that played in the shop, especially Tom Penny and Arto Saari in Flip’s Sorry and Toy Machine videos featuring Diego Bucchieri, the only Argentinian skater to turn pro for an American company. Soon Milton had multiple sponsors including Red Bull who would pay for him to travel to contests. At 16 he had to decide whether to start at a new school towards a college path or hit the contest circuit. The choice was easy. “I went to Europe, skated the contests and then got to street skate in Barcelona. I was with my friends, skating the streets every day. It was amazing.” A Dew Tour event gave Milton and his dad the chance to visit the States for a month, but by then his focus was not 100% on making the podium or doing the Dew. “Red Bull gave me the opportunity to travel for the contests but I was always thinking, I’ve got to be street skating and film a video part. That’s what I always loved to do and that’s how I grew up—skating the streets.” He also wanted to get a better board sponsor. 

 

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Milton is short, somewhere around five-foot-four or five-foot-six. He has a compact frame and his most pronounced features are his large, sleepy eyes and a single dark eyebrow which disappears beneath his hats and beanies. A smattering of tattoos cover his arms. Charlie Chaplain, a favorite of his grandfather’s, was his first and gets prime placement on his right forearm. On the other side: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” He’s seldom without a lit joint in his fingers or in the process of rolling one up. When Milton smiles he looks almost goofy or gleeful, but the several times I’d seen him out skating in the last year, he definitely wasn’t grinning. “He’ll pretty much lose it,” Rhino says of his intensity, “Milton’s a pretty mellow dude, he doesn’t hardly drink, just smokes weed and he’s really calm. When he can’t do his shit, though, it’s like you look at this little guy and nobody wants to go near him. He just seems like he’s gonna fucking kill somebody.”

 

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Home is where the gnar is. Lipsliding a 25 in Mar del Plata

 

There are plenty of insane tricks and terrain in this interview, but besides the car wash, the other spot that is truly legendary is the massive, eight-flat-ten double set at San Dieguito which Milton gaps out to lipslide. Barely ollied up to this point (Jamie Thomas tore his knee and Geoff Rowley got smoked before Chris Lambert finally rode away from the ollie, getting the cover of Transworld in 2000), this is also the same location (though at a different rail, long gone) where Arto’s horrific head injury is documented in Flip’s Sorry. Three month’s before Milton’s trick, Gabriel “Gabbers” Summers suffered a similar fate, which I unfortunately witnessed firsthand. Going for a gap-to-grind, he missed the ollie, only to plant his feet on the lower rail, tossing him headfirst into the concrete. A puddle of blood appeared instantly around his head and I ran to flag down the ambulance. In my 22 years of photographing skateboarding, I’ve never been more scared or less certain that a dude wasn’t going to die from trying a trick.  

 

“This is a skatepark rail!” Milton will announce while checking a 20-stair—more to talk shit to the handrail than anything else. At San Dieguito not only did he skip any sort of warm up prior to the spot, he ollied it first try and then landed the gap to lip on the second. As Taylor Kirby tossed trash cans into the stairs in disbelief, Milton seemed dissatisfied that it had gone down so quickly and easily. “I should do the nosegrind, right?” he asked, to which everyone replied with a unanimous, “Dude! Chill!” 

 

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Milton tackles a lot of epic terrain in this thing, but none so tainted with bad juju as this hellish So-Cal double set. He not only broke the curse with this gap to lip, he may have unlocked the next level of gnar, possibly even setting the apex for years to come. Like Pat Duffy, Danny Way, Heath Kirchart, Dane Burman, Jaws Homoki and Nyjah Huston, Milton’s entering uncharted territory here. But whatever he decides to tackle next, rest assured he’ll be charging like a bat out of hell  

 

Milton was an established pro in Argentina when he decided to start over again in the States. Not only did he have a comfortable home in Mar Del Plata and checks coming in from the Latin American arms of Red Bull, Converse and Independent, he and his girlfriend had a newborn baby girl, Isabelle, Isa for short. But the desire to see how far skateboarding could take him kept Milton restless. “I thought, I don’t even know how it’s gonna work. I don’t even know if I’m gonna turn pro ever. I don’t know shit!” 

 

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When told to watch his back in an O’Side neighborhood, Milton replied, “They are not esketchy, I am esketchy!” Sketchy back 50 in the cuts

 

Milton had met globetrotting Thrasher videographer Preston “P-Stone” Maigetter when he was in Argentina on a trip with Diego Bucchieri years earlier and had kept in touch. After a few weeks in Southern California, Milton showed up in SF in the middle of the night, sleeping at the Potrero park before calling P-Stone in the morning. “He said it might be sketchy to sleep there but it was chill. I wake up at Potrero! I was hyped to have the skatepark right there.”

 

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Born and bred to front board off the shed

 

P-Stone along with friends Sean Gutierrez and Roberto Aleman started taking Milton around the Bay Area, getting clips and introducing him to the Hellride lifestyle. Before long they were unofficially working on a video part. Milton had a connection at NHS through the South American distributor, but was hesitant to just show up. “My English sucked. I’m speaking Spanish with Preston and Roberto all day. What am I gonna do? Go there and ask to be sponsored? I thought nobody could understand me and would be like, ‘Who is this dude?’” he says. Eventually, through P-Stone, Milton got a more casual introduction to Lee Charron and Noah Quale at Creature, who had noticed him the week before after he had ollied off the roof of a full-sized school bus at a contest in SF. “They were super cool to me. I’m just this kid from Argentina and Lee was super nice and breaks down how the Creature team works. I found out later he called P-Stone and he was like, ‘Yeah, I got his back for sure.’ That’s how everything started, ‘cause Preston got my back.” 

 

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Check another one off the terrifying spot list—kickflip boardslide down the middle

 

Milton was riding for Dogtown at the time, and they wanted to turn him pro and pay him $800 a month. “I was tripping. I went to Creature Lee and he was like, ‘Yeah, we’re not gonna pay you or anything, 
we’re just gonna give you boards.’ I was like, ‘Yeah give me the boards, let’s go!’”

 

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P-Stone and Milton continued to film. While his girlfriend and child were staying in Brazil (where his girlfriend is from), he tested himself daily on the streets of SF, even getting hit by a car, as seen in an infamous Hall of Meat, after the traffic spotter let one slip by. “My daughter was three months old and I’m going to skate and eating shit every day! I never eat more shit in my life than skating in SF with P-Stone!” Milton says. His hard work and steady punishment paid off with a breakout part in the Creature Fiend video. If you have not seen it before, definitely look it up if only to witness Milton grind a double-set out ledge that appears to be two-stories tall. 

 

 

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Finally, a landing fast enough for Milton. Frontside flip, North Shore shit

 

English lessons were an added benefit once he started jumping in the Creature van. His catchphrase “Smoookes!” comes from Peter Smolik, in a roundabout way. “Gravette told a story about how he was on a trip with Peter Smolik and the only thing he’d spend his per diem on was cigarettes. Gravette would yell, ‘Smoookes!’ from the back of the van. When I got on Creature I didn’t speak English at all and we were smoking weed all day. So it was the only thing I was able to say, like, Smoookes!” Milton explains, “But smoking, it’s not that I’m proud of it, it’s just the way that it is. I like to smoke. I don’t want my daughter to smoke, I don’t like the smell of cigarettes either, but I love weed. Yeah, so we were screaming it. It was almost my first word of English.”

 

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Was the pole bent before or after Milton jammed it?

 

 

From there Milton became a reliable player for any and all of his sponsors’ trips and projects, with major moves in Volcom, Cons, Creature and Thrasher vids. Soon he was able to bring his family to the States, just as he prepared to wrap up his part in Volcom’s under-appreciated Holy Stokes. It was then when I first met him, most memorably at the Hollywood car wash in April of 2016. I’d become a car wash regular in the months leading up to that having chased the kickflip dream with Dustin Dollin a few times—early-morning, pre-traffic missions often ending with Dollin’s head connecting with the pavement. The metadata on my photos of Milton says 6:43 AM but I don’t really remember much of the attempts. A warm-up ollie went wildly wrong, ending with his left foot bent backwards at the base of the bank. I shot the aftermath dutifully at the time, but looking at the photos now, Milton’s eyes rolled back in his head as he clutches his twisted appendage, they’re sickening. We stuffed him in the van and I didn’t see him again for over a year. 

 

Milton carwash BURNETT

Photo: Burnett

 

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Ollie from the top rope at an old HK spot. You BETTER go fast

 

Milton was on an absolute killing spree in 2018, but his footage, heavy as it was, was scattered around a bunch of different projects of disparate filming styles and quality. He was in the SOTY conversation that year and won several awards from various Instagram accounts, but considering he was one of the gnarliest skaters going, he didn’t really have the big video or project to showcase it. “I remember Creature made like a 2018 recap video and you’re like Where the fuck was half this shit?” Volcom filmer Lannie Rhoades explains, “It was all sprinkled around, like some Creature tour video and like a couple friend’s tricks. And you’re just like When is someone gonna make something that’s just focused on this guy? Like his own piece?”

 

 

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Marble wall’s just begging for a kickflip ride

 

At the beginning of 2019 Milton made a deal with his sponsors: keep him off most of the tours and let him have one year to work on a serious part and his first ever Thrasher interview. He had just moved to Oceanside, 45 minutes north of San Diego, and Rhino was on board to shoot photos and share his impressive wealth of spots. Lannie was over the moon to film and edit. “I started thinking how it was gonna work out and everything just came together,” Milton says, “I started filming with Lannie and skating a lot with Collin and Figgy and they’re skating gnarly every day so everyone is just pushing each other. It’s super sick!”

 

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The return to the car wash started as an afterthought, as Rhino explains. “We were in LA one day skating with Henry Gartland and after he got his trick Milton asks, ‘How far away is the car wash?’ He’d seen that someone had spray painted Jake Phelps on the bank and was super hyped.” As it was getting dark, Milton climbed up and popped a quick ollie off the roof, snapping off the gummy surface, and riding away clean down the bank. Then he tried one kickflip, kicking it out. “Milton comes over and says, ‘Last time I didn’t even get to make the ollie, I broke my ankle third try.’ I hadn’t even realized that.” Rhino says, “He ollied into it like it was nothing! Imagine doing that after breaking your ankle at the same spot.” On a second trip Rhino snapped a few photos of kickflip attempts, showing them to Milton after he got super frustrated. “He was like ‘I can’t do it!’ and then I showed him one of the stills. He looks at me crazy and asks, ‘Is that me?’ I tell him, ‘What do you mean? Well it’s not me! It’s not Lannie! It’s gotta be you!’ His eyes just lit up.” The cops showed up on the third trip but after some strategic cat and mouse, Milton sailed a massive kickflip off the roof, flattening it out like a magic carpet before dropping and rushing down the bank into Sunset Boulevard as the homies screamed with excitement. “It was like a big party in the street!” Lannie says, “Like Argentina had just won the World Cup!” Milton went crazy and threw his shoes. His board was covered in blood from punching it so many times. “You could tell this one was sitting on his shoulders for awhile.” Rhino says, “He had the biggest smile on his face.” 

 

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Ever since Cardiel made the drop and Gonz scraped his eyebrow off, there had been talk of a kickflip into the Sunset car wash. Milton broke his leg on the ollie in 2016, but fought back to sang one of the heavies moves of all time. Smoookes! 

 

“I was bummed the Jake Phelps paint was gone,” Milton says, grinning, “but in my mind he was there all the time. So that’s one more thanks to him.” The night ended with someone tagging “SMOOOKES!!!” in huge letters across the bank. 

 

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Ditch-tech, kickflip nosegrind fakie between trains

 

Milton’s mom is in town when I meet him at the well-kept home in Oceanside he shares with Creature team manager Jake Smith and Jake’s wife. His mom is young, wearing a Thrasher shirt and Indy hat and she takes photos and beams as I interview him on the couch. During a break they chat happily in Spanish, laughing often. You can tell they’re very close. Off the session, Milton is easy with smiles and jokes. The ferocious creature of the triple sets is gone. He speaks freely, his English much better than I’d thought, and he shares some of the personal issues he’s been dealing with. His relationship with the mother of his daughter has been on the rocks for a long time, but he’s happy that they are both in Southern California now and can share custody of Isa, who is seven, and according to Milton, speaks better English than him already. 

 

1500ojmilton

 

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I ask him if the drama has been distracting, making it harder for him to do what he wants to do with skateboarding. He shakes his head smiling. “Having my daughter actually helps me because it’s what I live for. That’s my daughter. I do the best I can for her every time being on a skateboard, being a person, you know? I’m gonna try my best. Sometimes I’m trying a trick and eating shit and thinking Tomorrow I’m gonna be chilling with Isa, hanging out, going to the park. That’s what I love. There is a bunch of things going on, but it’s life, you know? You gotta figure it out and try your best.”

 

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‘Bout to get this rail pregnant! Extra potent 5-0 at the Fertility Center

 

I’ve always been skeptical of this kind of Don’t Worry, Be Happy optimism some people espouse, especially someone seemingly so hellbent on destruction, but he explains more as his mother looks on. “I think I gotta thank that to my mom right here because she’s the one that—because I’ve always been kind of negative when I was younger and she was like, ‘Why are you so negative? You’ve got to think positive and you gotta figure out a way and think the best things.’ Yeah, she really was the one that helped me a lot with that.”

 

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Gap to crooks, more Heath territory

 

Noseblunting the towering Staple’s Center hubba was high on Milton’s wish list for this video, but he was putting it off until the end out of fear of getting hurt. When he found out Clive Dixon did it (delivered via mysterious sniper footage from someone in a parked car) he became manic. “He asked me for the pin to the Jeremy Wray water towers,” Rhino says, “an hour later he’s sending me photos from outside the fence.” “There are people inside, should I wait?” he wrote, “I’m like, yeah, probably not a good idea.” 

  

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“I wanted to put my fist through the wall when I found out, but I’m not mad at Clive,” Milton says now, “I’m just mad at myself because I went there and didn’t try it when I had the chance. That’s what it’s all about, having fun and everyone trying their best.”

 

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Another spot you maybe didn’t think was a spot. Boardslide double-overhead drop, then push off into sunset

 

On the last week to shoot photos for this interview, Milton got tossed into the grass on a hefty 20-flat-seven boardslide, separating his shoulder. He’s shown up on numerous sessions since, cruising around with his arm in a sling, occasionally taking it out to apply ice packs. Between physical therapy appointments he continues to ask Rhino and Lannie to see more photos of crazy spots.

 

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Kickflip front lip, on that positive tip

 

“My part is bammer weed,” he’s told them despondently, although when I ask him about this quote, he laughs. “This is some of the gnarliest skateboarding I have ever seen in my life,” I assure him, “People are going to shit their pants.”

 

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“Maybe, but there’s always one more,” he says, “That’s how skateboarding goes. I’m even thinking about the next video. I want to keep skating as long as I can and have fun while I can. Nothing lasts forever, but I’m just doing it and living day by day.”

 

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Lannie Rhoades puts it more succinctly… and Thrasher-ly. “The dude is literally born and bred to rip and shred,” he says intently, “His mom skates, his dad skates, his brothers skate, they all rip! His daughter fuckin’ skates, his daughter’s mom skates. I swear he was just fuckin’ made to do this shit. He’s here to skate and fuckin’ get it done. If he’s not fuckin’ going full speed he’s wasting his time. I honestly think that’s what he thinks in his head. It’s pretty awesome, it’s like the full gladiator story. Sometimes you’re just born for it.”

 

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