Ryan Townley: The Thrasher Interview
Five down + three up = 360 over Photo: Papke
In addition to being one of the best board yankers we’ve got, Ryan’s also a skilled collage artist and a world-class dog dad. Catch up on the renaissance man’s missions, meltdowns and makes from his recent Layers part as he talks with fellow teammate Nora Vasconcellos—from our Feb ’21 mag.
He's got a new place and new part to go with it. Townley's on the up and up
What’s up, Ryan? What have you been up to during these end of times?
I’ve been skating; I’ve been doing the resin thing. I actually got into that during quarantine so that’s been cool. And I’ve been hanging out with my dog. Delaney and I got a dog so it’s been great to have good company around. We also recently moved into a new place.
That’s amazing. So you’ve got a new spot in LA and a new dog. You’re one of those people who is making the most out of the situation.
It’s kind of crazy that we moved during COVID, but I felt like people weren’t really moving and rent was going down. We lucked out finding a place that we wanted that had a yard and was a bit cheaper than it would have been if it was normal times.
I find that the quarantine has been something different for everybody, and I think people who are starting new chapters in their life are doing really well because they’re taking advantage of all of this time. You’ve had time to invest in a dog, getting your new house ready and time to experiment with your artwork.
What made you start incorporating resin into your collage work?
I’ve always been drawn to collages and I wanted to figure out a way to make a collage feel like an actual piece. It’s cool that with the resin you can have a depth to it. You can layer it and kind of give it a 3D effect. I saw people messing around with resin and making jewelry or random things online and I was like, Oh, I think I can incorporate that into the collages. It has definitely been a learning process. And getting a new place where I have an area to do it is good because in our last place the interior was falling apart and it was bad for our health.
A little toxic.
Yeah, exactly. So I’m stoked that I have a zone to do it in now.
New dog, classic trick—boardslide yank into the cut Photo: Burnett
Totally. I’ve always been interested in resin because I love how it looks, but I’d be so scared of messing up something I’ve done.
It’s very tedious and that can totally happen. Like I’ll be on the third layer and something will go wrong and then it’s just like, Fuck, that’s just trash. There’s no way I’m going back. Once you pour it it’s kind of like, Alright, well, there it is. Hopefully it didn’t get all fucked up or melt or something. I’ve definitely ruined projects in the past. Like I’ve painted things and used the wrong ink, so then when I did watercolor it bled.
I’ve had so many things like that happen, so resin still freaks me out to this day. I applaud you.
You could get it. I feel like I could show you—just pouring a layer over a painting to seal it.
Layers and layers
That’s all I really wanna do. That sounds so sick. So you got your first tattoo recently, right?
Yeah, my first legit one. I have a terrible stick and poke—a bunch of us got them on that Europe Welcome trip.
Wait, what did you guys get?
We all got a euro and a pound sign. We were drinking and everyone’s came out fucked up. One was backwards; my pound sign has an extra line in it so it’s just wrong. But I think the cool part about it is just that we got these terrible tattoos in Europe. But yeah, I got my first legit tattoo recently. Delaney, she’d been asking to do one for like three years since she’s a tattoo artist. It’s kind of ridiculous that I hadn’t gotten one yet.
I love that, though. I think it makes it ten times more meaningful that your chick did it and it was your first one. That’s insane.
Yeah, and it was mellow. We just did it at her spot, just hanging out drinking a beer.
What did you get?
She would always point stuff out on her flash sheets, but one day she drew out a rose and I was like, “Fuck it. Let’s do that one.” It doesn’t have any symbolism or meaning. I just liked how it looked. She hadn’t been working since all of the shops were closed due to COVID, so I was a bit nervous since she hadn’t tattooed anybody in a few months. But it was like riding a bike. She nailed it.
Are you filming anything right now? Are you trying to wrap anything up by the end of the year or do you have any projects coming up that you’re really stoked on?
Yeah, I’m wrapping up the video part that this interview is for. I’ve just been filming a part slow and steady during COVID. It comes out when this magazine comes out, so around the new year. I’m stoked on that. It’s finally nearing an end, which is good ’cause it’s been the classic freak out when you’re filming for something.
Yeah, when you’re fully invested and obsessed. So how long have you been filming for it?
Probably since the beginning of the pandemic, which has been kinda crazy, you know? There was a while where nobody really knew what this virus was so I wasn’t really going out and skating, so that kind of put a hold on it. But then once everyone kinda knew how to handle it and be careful about it, it got kind of easier to go out with a small crew. There were definitely a lot of places that you couldn’t really skate beforehand and then you were able to skate them because everything was shut down. But it was also hard trying to skate house spots ’cause everyone is home all the time.
Gap to nosegrind, hope nobody's home Photo: Peters
Isn’t it weird? I’ve noticed that a bit.
We were jumping over someone’s fence last week and just getting yelled at in the middle of the day when you wouldn’t even have thought about it. Like, It’s the middle of a weekday. I know. That’s been kinda hard ’cause I feel like usually we’re skating people’s zones or whatever.
Yeah, we’re always sneaking into spots and doing our thing.
That’s definitely been harder. But yeah, I’ve been filming since the beginning of quarantine and I’ve had to deal with two injuries in the middle of it, so that kinda pushed things back.
What were the injuries?
I rolled the shit out of my ankle—classic skateboard injury and it just took so fuckin’ long to heal. It was months of just trying to do everything to get it back. It took forever. I had to get a cortisone shot in there and then I was good. Then I was shooting a photo and I just bailed. It wasn’t even bad, I just kicked my board out but it landed primo and karate chopped my toe and broke it. It wasn’t even a fall.
I think I saw your broken toe.
Yeah, when we went on that camping trip. That was when I was just starting to skate again.
And you had your Crocs.
No time for slippin'—plenty of time for lip to lippin' Photo: Peters
I have to say, though, after we went on that little trip, somebody else also had some slipper-style shoes and I was like, Dude, I need to invest in some wide shoes so that I can take my skate shoes off and put something on and give my feet a break. I went on the adidas site and was looking at all the slides and then saw that they had a Croc knockoff.
Yeah, a perfect Croc knockoff and I got ’em. I wear them all the time. I get frustrated because I’ll go skate and I’ll have them in my car, then I’ll go home and I like to put them on when I get out of the shower, but they’re still in the car. I need three pairs so they’re just scattered around.
Well, you’re sponsored. Get that box.
Just stash adidas Crocs everywhere. They’re super good for your feet ’cause they let your foot get all wide and relaxed.
Yeah, Delaney kept buying different colors and I was just like, Dude, what is the deal with Crocs? Everyone’s raving about them and I was kinda clowning on them and then she bought me a pair. When I put them on I was like, Wow, these are amazing.
They’re practical; they float.
Yeah, so maybe if they wanted to start a skate team I’d be down. We can get you on, too.
Let’s go, Crocs. We’re waiting for our moment. But yeah, dude, injuries are not prime at all.
They’re not but it’s all part of it, which sucks.
Has your routine stayed the same? For instance, I’ve had this thing where if I’m going to LA, coming from San Diego County, I’ve been much more relaxed because I haven’t been hitting traffic. That’s been the biggest blessing of the whole thing—I feel like I can get to LA in like an hour and a half.
Which is insane.
It’s pretty epic. I mean, I haven’t really left LA, but I’ve noticed that driving around here. It’s starting to kick back on, though, ’cause people are going and doing things again. But yeah, that was pretty awesome. My parents are in Orange County and it was cool that I could get down there in about half an hour.
Ryan's shadow looks like a muppet. Nothing funny about this no-comply pole jam though Photo: Rhino
That’s such a game changer. You guys go out to Glamis Sand Dunes a lot, right?
Yeah, we’re actually going next week.
I’m so jealous. That’s so sick.
Yeah, I grew up doing that. The whole family goes out there and rides our bikes.
What’s your lineup of sand toys that you take out there?
My dad has a Jeep, we have two quads and two dirt bikes, my grandpa and my uncle have dune buggies, my other uncle, he has one of those Razors and then all of their boys and girls have their bikes and stuff. So we go out with a pretty big crew and I always bring my friends. It’s a good time; it’s sick. But it’s also just very Republican.
Yeah, you probably have the dune buggies with the Trump flags, the Confederate flags, the we-hate-women flags.
I know. And that part’s hard; it’s just shitty. It’s just like, Fuck all these people, but it’s so fun when you’re out there with your friends and family. You know, you’re having a good time but then you see all these fucking ignorant, racist white people.
Dude, it’s a trip. I mean, we see it in California; we have such a variety of communities. Oceanside alone, where I live—South O, I would say is very diverse and you have so many people who come from an arts-and-culture background. Then you can literally drive down the street and it’s just like Trump mania. And it’s the same on my street; it’s the same in every little neighborhood. And it’s so bizarre. It’s just crazy. I’m glad we’ve made it through.
Yeah, I’m glad I’m not that way.
Bendy boardslide, skate always trumps hate Photo: Rhino
Dude, no thank you. It’s just embarrassing. People are still rocking their flags and it’s just hate. It’s just too much hate.
I know, it’s fucked up. Growing up in Orange County I definitely saw that, for sure. It’s pretty gnarly.
I think that if you can survive living in Orange County and can become your own person, somebody who isn’t sterile, super religious and ignorant, I think you deserve a special award. The state of California should just present you with one.
I should get a little stamp on my license or something.
Yeah, you should get a little stamp. You’re alright. The kid’s alright. It was wild because I came back from seven months in Maui and was here for a bit, like not very long, and then we did that little Fairdale bikes trip with the homies. That was sick, but it was so strange to be on a road trip again. When was the last time you were on a trip?
That was my first trip since COVID. Yeah, that was awesome and that’s what also sucks—not going on trips has been pretty frustrating and hard. You just get burnt out where you live. I’m just so fried on LA, you know?
Oh, for sure. I definitely get that way and my deal was the opposite because I wasn’t somewhere where there was tons of skating around, but I could do it. But I go through these little bouts where I get so paranoid that people don’t think I’m skating or doing my job. I get so hyper sensitive. I’ve had breakdowns where I’m just skating or trying to do something because I’m trying to compensate. Like I’ll be trying to film something for Instagram and it’s not working out how I want it to and I’m like, Yeah, because I’m forcing it. We’re all pigeonholed in such weird ways. All of our anxieties are so different with the layout of things.
I know. And especially when you were stuck on an island.
Ollie to frontside wallride, hands-free like Bluetooth Photo: Peters
Yeah, that was such a trippy thing, too. We went with a month’s worth of clothes and then a month turned into three which turned into seven. It’s super nuts. But it’s still one of those times where you’re like, Oh, I’m pretty stoked to be a skateboarder.
No, totally. That’s been cool.
I’m very happy to be a skater. Pizzle showed me your OJs ad for this issue that he shot. It’s a really sick photo—a crazy wallride hippie-jump situation.
Oh yeah, that was just hell.
Was it one of those?
Oh yeah. I think it was five trips back.
Damn, that’s awesome.
I don’t know; it was pretty miserable. We had to Bondo the wall ’cause there was a hole in it and then I had to Bondo it again further back ’cause I had to figure out how to do it—like wallride further. But it was kind of just a shot in the dark. It’s weird—if you’re trying a trick and you’re jumping down a stair set trying a flip trick, you’re like Okay, I just need to stick it. With that one, I was just throwing it through the hole and hopefully one of them was gonna work.
Full roll of the dice.
Yeah, so I was stoked that it finally worked out, but I was stressing on it.
Lady luck lets Townley ride, wallride hippie jump
When you can picture it working a certain way and then you go to do it, sometimes at the end of it you still don’t know how you got yourself to do it but you do it. Those are the best ones.
The fourth time back I landed it and my toe kinda dragged but I was just like, I did it. Then someone was like, “Dude, you can do it better,” and that’s the last thing you want to hear. But I very much appreciated the honesty. But I just kept watching it and was like, I think it’s chill. And then the fifth time I went I was having a mental breakdown. I was like, This just isn’t gonna work. I’m gonna have to settle for the toe drag. But I just kept going and it finally worked.
Do you have any routines for a day when you’re gonna go battle something? Let’s say it’s your fifth time, like you were saying—what does that routine look like from the time you wake up to landing the fuckin’ trick?
I think it’s just a standard day—you wake up, do your stretches, I go and walk the dog and then I just go straight into it. Just throw myself at a fuckin’ wall.
Yep. That’s what we do.
That’s all you can really do except to try and not completely lose your mind.
Boardslide, straight into it Photo: Peters
I think having a pet makes all the difference.
Oh yeah, I’m fuckin’ stoked on this dude. He’s been a bit of hell but I love him.
His name’s Blue, right?
And how old is he?
He just turned a year old. We rescued him. They thought he was about ten months old when we got him, so he’s still a puppy. He’s a border collie flat coated retriever, so he’s just full of fuckin’ energy.
Hell yeah. He just wants to run and play. You sent him to a little boarding school, right?
Yeah, we sent him to a boarding school for three weeks, which is very expensive but at the same time there’s nothing worse than a shitty dog, you know?
It’s your child’s education. It’s the most important thing.
I know. We had to send him to college.
That’s right. I’m proud of you. You guys are very good parents, you and Delaney.
Yeah, we’re stoked. We had a vet scan recently ’cause he ate a whole corn on the cob. That was pretty crazy ’cause it could be lethal for them—it can cause obstructions. So we took him in and it was a $600 X-ray. They were just like, “Okay, monitor it.” We were like, Okay… He was constipated for a few days and then he was just normal. Then two months later he’s running around at the park and he looks up at me and just throws up a huge chunk of the cob. It had been sitting in him for two months. It was all black.
He probably felt so much better after that.
Oh yeah. He literally puked and then just ran off.
I hear grapes are really bad for dogs.
There’s so much shit that’s bad for dogs.
It’s really scary.
It really is. We had dogs growing up but I didn’t really think anything of them ’cause they were my parents’ dogs. But now that I’ve got my own it’s like there’s so much shit that they can’t eat. Or like fox tails—I didn’t even know about that but fox tails, like in weeds, those things are super fucked up for dogs. They’ll get lodged in their paws and then they have to get surgery. One of my neighbors, that happened to their dog and it had to get surgery just ’cause it ran through a field.
That’s so terrible. I think poinsettias are really bad. You know the red flowers that people put out at Christmas? Those are super lethal to dogs and cats. It’s a weird one ’cause they’re your babies. You just wanna protect them.
Yeah, and you’re responsible for them forever until they die.
Fur children that you have to pay for.
Yeah, you just have to monitor them, pick up their poop, feed them and do everything for them. We are dogs' slaves.
It’s so true. I listened to this insane podcast about how dogs have evolved to be cute. They have evolved from the cute pick of the litter so that humans choose them to be their dogs. It’s insane.
Top shelf nasal scrape on home turf Photo: Peters
Yeah, it’s fully a thing. Over hundreds of years, dogs have evolved to be cute.
I mean, it’s true. They’re pretty fuckin’ cute. It’s pretty hard to get mad at them.
They’re nailing it. So in terms of the holidays, you’re going to Glamis, you’re wrapping up this part. What’s gonna be your big celebration going into 2021? That’s the real question. Have you thought about it? ’Cause I’m very invested in this year ending.
Probably consume some alcohol with my friends and flip 2020 off. I don’t know. It was just a shitty-ass year. It’s terrible.
We’re doing it, though. We’re prevailing.
Yeah, there’s also great things that came out of it, so you can’t complain too much.
Hell yeah, Ryan. Well, thanks for chatting with me.
Yeah, thank you. I hope to see you in person and hang out soon.
Off the roof and onto the wall, Tonwley's had enough of 2020 and he's apparently over gravity, too Photo: Burnett
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