The Follow Up: Sammy Montano

SammyMontano OpeningPortrait LosAngelesCA photoPAPKE 750px
Words & photos by Papke

Hey, what’s up, Sammy ?
What’s good, dude? I’m sitting in the parking lot of Peak Park, spending my Monday at the skatepark.

That’s a day-to-day thing for you, eh, Just kicking it at Peak?
Yeah, basically. It’s just a good meet-up spot for all of us; it’s right in the middle of everything. I live in Lomita, but most of the time we’re skating around Fullerton. Appleyard lives in Huntington and Aaron, our filmer, lives in Yorba Linda, so we usually just meet here.

You’ve been working on this project for a minute now with Aaron. What is the part for?
It’s for my colorway for Globe. It’s coming out soon and I thought it would be a good idea to film a part to go along with wearing the shoes, so we’ve been filming for it for a good eight or nine months—almost a whole fucking year. It’s not gonna be that one marvelous part that everyone is gonna trip out on but I hope that it gets people hyped to go skate. That’s all I want, basically, is for people to get hyped and want to go skate after watching it.

SammyMontano kickflipCrook LosAngelesCA photoPAPKE 750pxThe vines crawl the wall while Sammy scrapes the ledge—kickflip crooks in the LA jungle

What else do you need to do to wrap this project up?
This interview was definitely one of them. Basically with filming I feel like it never ends; we’re just filming to film. The video could be done right now, but the more the better until you’re out of time.

Did you get an ender already?
Fuck, I guess so. I did that noseslide in LA, the one with the hubba off the drop. That’s the only thing that I have right now that I feel would work for that and would be somewhat impactful going along with everything else that I have. I haven’t seen anyone skate it like that; that’s kind of my thing. I love skating stuff that hasn’t been skated by everyone else, especially in a city like LA. It’s hard. Hopefully no one has skated it like that! You never know here.

Where did you grow up? You’re from Southern California, right ?
Yeah, I’m from California. I was born and raised here but when I was 13 I basically got into some trouble and got sent to Costa Rica for eight years.

Straight up exiled.
Yeah, and the crazy thing was I didn’t skate before I moved out there. There was always a board around me but I was never really into it. I rode a mountain bike and just cruised, just being a little sketchy kid.

SammyMontano bsBluntTransfer fullertonCA photoPAPKE 750pxBluntslide transfer—try that on a mountain bike 

That’s crazy that it took moving to Costa Rica to get you into skating.
So what happened was I couldn’t bring my bike but my brother had this skateboard. It was a Powell Angel Boy deck. Since I couldn’t bring my bike I thought I would just bring that with me. I took that skateboard and it came a little easier to me than I thought it might. I found a skatepark nearby, started skating and getting really into it.

Was there a big scene out there ?
There was a set crew out there called CHEPE-sent. And that was just basically the dudes that taught me everything that I know now. They were older. Some of them were in their 30s already, really into old-school skating. The way I met them was my uncle found this contest going on. It was a wallride contest. So I went—I was a little kid—and I remember it was the first time I ever saw anyone smoking weed. He was smoking out of a roach clip; it was super crazy to me back then. My mom’s not hyped and is telling me, “We gotta get outa here. We gotta get outa here,” but I really wanted to go in. They enrolled me in this contest and somehow I ended up winning it and all the dudes there, without even knowing me, were like, Oh you’re the new dude on the team! I just kept going there every day, skating there. And I was with those guys almost every day from that point on. From there it just evolved into all these other things, taking it kind of serious, you know? I learned everything from them. I didn’t know shit about skating before they came around. I just thought skating was fun.

Why’d they go with Costa Rica when you got in trouble? Is that where your family is from?
Yeah, I got some family out there. My mom lives out there still. It’s an amazing place. It’s where I see myself after all this shit. It’s so mellow, peaceful, the beach is nearby and there’s a ton of nature. Just a lot of things that I feel like I need in my life that I don’t get as much here.

Sitting on the beach relaxing in a hammock doesn’t sound that bad.
Basically all we do out there is skate bowls, try and skate street, go to the beach and relax. And you know, when you see monkeys in their natural habitat and you see all that shit going on it’s the craziest thing. You get so hyped to be there, I’ve never gotten that feeling anywhere else.

SammyMontano bsflip photoPAPKE 750pxThe only thing that could make this backside flip any better would be some monkeys in those trees

How do locals who aren’t familiar with skateboarding take it out there if you’re trying to hit the streets?
It’s so hard to skate street out there, even to this day. It’s still super third world, you know? I remember playing SKATE on the most brutal ground. It was all we had to learn with besides the skateparks. You just have to get used to it because you love it so much. It’s just like here, though—they have a ton of security that doesn’t want you doing it. The cops will take your board and you have to go to the police station to get it back. And back then, before sponsors were even a thing, a deck costs 80 bucks, grip was 10, trucks cost 50 bucks, the wheels cost 40 bucks. It’s pretty fucking expensive, especially when you’re younger. I was lucky with my crew and would always have hand-me-downs. The homies were way older than me and they were somewhat established, like in Latin America. One of my best friends, Miguel Castro, he rode for Volcom and I remember getting Volcom because of him. I got to sometimes go on Volcom trips with some of those dudes because of him. I met Appleyard when I was 15 years old. It was crazy—small world.

Being more of a third-world country, what were some of the craziest things that you would see out there on a day-to-day basis that might seem normal for people who live there?
There were a lot of scenarios where you’re more than likely to get robbed. I’ve been robbed with a screwdriver before; I’ve been robbed with a gun. Stuff like that, you know ? It’s just a different world. People are more hungry and they’ll do what they have to do to get what they want. And even just seeing snakes, crocodiles, monkeys—all of these crazy animals that you would rarely see out here. I remember one time we were driving down the freeway by the beach and we had seen a few dead monkeys on the side of the road—they didn’t catch their branches swinging and landed in the street and died. There would always be crocodiles eating surfers. They would swim into the ocean because they weren’t getting fed properly and would go after the surfers. Shit like that was crazy.

What happens if you get hurt skating out there? Did anything bad ever happen while you were living there?
I broke my shoulder at the skatepark once. I was trying to 50-50 drop off this ten-foot ramp. Somehow went into back disaster, flew back and fell on my arm. My shoulder was down to my nipple. I remember I panicked and freaked out. It didn’t even hurt; I just remember it was stuck. I freaked out and tried throwing it back into place, thinking I could pop it in. I broke my rotator cuff doing that. At this point, I’m screaming, people are calling the ambulance, they finally get there, they get me in the car and shoot me up with morphine and take me to the hospital. They tell me that for the wait time they have to go in alphabetical order, so if your last name starts with an M you gotta wait for awhile to go. So they said I had to wait there three months to get my surgery. I was stuck in the hospital, couldn’t leave, just had to wait around ’til it was my time. If I left I would lose my bed there. And on top of it there was no space for people with broken bones, so they had me staying with people that had actual sicknesses. This one guy had a hole in his ear that was infected and it would just spray puss all over the wall and everything. This one girl’s boyfriend cheated on her so she drank some crazy chemical trying to kill herself and her mom found her before it was too late. Now for the rest of her life she has to have a UV pumping calcium into her bloodstream to keep her alive. All I would do while I was there was sit in the church—it was the only peaceful zone. I ended up meeting this dude who is one of my good friends now. He was a nurse there and he would take me into the morgue to hang out with him and his coworkers and play cards and shit around dead bodies. I ended up getting my surgery, got out, eventually got back on my board, tried a tré flip, fell back down and broke my shoulder again. Went back for another three months and after that I was good.

Holy shit!
That was a long six months.

How old were you when you moved back to Lomita?
When I turned 18 I went to college and I decided that it was pretty wack and not for me. I just wanted to skate. It sounded crazy because my parents thought I was nuts. I told them I just wanted to move to California and work and skate as much as I could. So I moved back here with my dad and I’ve been here ever since. But I’ve been going back and forth. I used to go twice a year, but ever since I started with Globe and was busy doing this I haven’t been able to go back for awhile now. It was two Decembers ago, I think.

SammyMontano fakieOllie LosAngeles photoPAPKE 750pxFakie ollies are great but playing cards around dead bodies is gnarlier  

Did you move back here because you wanted to get sponsored or did you just want to have fun with it?
I had a bunch of friends here that were skating a lot, some ’til this day. I was skating a lot in Costa Rica and was doing pretty good. I just kept progressing but never thought about trying to really do it as a career or anything. I came back here and kept to it while working. You know in the back of your head you always think, Oh, I want to progress; I want to excel. It was never in my head that I wanted to make it as a pro skateboarder. I just wanted to keep skating and have fun with it. So moving back here was obviously the best thing because there are skateparks everywhere, there are street spots—California kind of has everything if you want to be skating a lot. It’s a lot more motivating being here than anywhere else.

Was there anyone in particular you met when you moved back that helped you get to where you are now?
Yeah, one of my best friends Ian Drummond would skate with Aaron Brown and James Craig and I would always tag along. I just kept skating with them and eventually things worked out. Aaron kept filming for me and always had my back, so it helped a lot.

Is that how you got involved with Globe?
I used to get shoes from Converse. It was going good and then I got an offer from Aaron at Globe. So I went on a meeting with Herb and Aaron. We talked about it and it was kind of a weird topic because I really wasn’t down at the time. But at the end of the day, you think about your life. Do you want to keep skating for a long time? I thought, Am I gonna be a cool guy and just wear this shit or am I going to skate for someone that’s going to be able to support me? So when I felt that they were super down and supportive of me I went with it. They’re a family. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life and I love all of those dudes. They gave me the open door to keep skating and let me do my thing.

Who do you skate with most on the team?
Probably Appleyard. Definitely an OG.

It was kind of crazy for me, because a few years ago I went on a trip to Portugal with all of you guys. Burnett hit me up and asked if I wanted to go on a trip, but wouldn’t tell me where or with who at first. I was into it and a couple weeks later he told me I was going to Lisbon with Globe. I didn’t even really know Globe still had a skate program that was doing trips, let alone go all the way to Portugal. After a couple days I realized that these dudes were cool and did it because, like you said, it’s a family and it’s not a million dudes on one program.
Yeah, that’s the best part. You think about all these other shoe brands that people really like and they’re amazing, but they have such big teams and it’s hard to be that person that is getting some attention. But when you have a team that’s just six dudes it just feels like a family. Everyone gets along and we always have fun on the trips together.

And everyone lives pretty close to each other here in California.
Yeah, It’s me, Appleyard, Ryan Decenzo, Paul Hart, David Gonzalez, and Rodney. We all live really close.

You ever skate with Mullen?
Nope, never. But one time we took a team photo and he was there. I was pretty hyped.

It’s probably pretty crazy being where you are from and being on the same team as someone like that.
Dude, the craziest thing, though—the first video I ever watched was the Globe Opinion video. My favorite part was Gershon Mosley. I would always turn that video on and fast forward straight to his part and watch it back-to-back all of the time.

SammyMontano overNoseGrind Rincon photoRHINO 750pxGershon-approved ollie over to nosegrind at Rincon. Congrats on the new kicks, Sammy!     Photo: Rhino

And now you get to skate with him.
Yeah, it trips me out every time. And I get to ride for Globe so it feels like everything came full circle.

Did you contribute a lot to the planning of the colorway?
They were super down for anything that I wanted to do, really. I basically wanted something simple—something you could skate and go out in. Dion Agius’ shoe is a slimmed-down high top shoe so I chose that one. Crazy thing is that it’s a surf shoe so at first it had a really small insole, so first thing was to improve that for skating. I picked an all black leather with silver gun-metal holes, you know, something simple. I have a drawing that I did in there, too. I’m pretty hyped on it.

Have they ever taken you on a surf trip before?
Nah, never. But I definitely want to go on one. It was crazy—growing up in Costa Rica, I always had surf friends and a lot of my skating is influenced by surfing. All the dudes out there that surf also skate, so I’ve always been hyped on surfing. When I saw that shoe and it was Dion’s shoe I knew it was the one that I wanted to skate. They were super down for it so it all worked out.

I’m hyped you were able to make something that you were stoked on. When does this part come out?
It comes out this Monday, February 18th. We’re doing a premiere on the 13th at this bar in LA called El Dorado.

I’ll see you there. Anyone you want to give the classic thank yous too?
Big thanks to Aaron Brown to driving me around, taking me to spots, filming me and putting up with me for the last few years. And all of my sponsors, family and homies that have helped me do what I love to do. It wouldn’t be possible with any of you.

SammyMontano ClosingPortrait photoPAPKE 750px
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