Tom Karangelov Interview

TomK alexpires thrasher web DZPhoto: Pires

By Lui Elliot

Tommy! How are you doing?
Good, how are you?

I’m good. What are you doing right now?
I’m in Portland. I’m shooting photos for a Poler Stuff look-book thing. Some of my friends work here, so they asked if I could help.

Where are you living now?
I live in Long beach.

What’s the situation like? How are you liking it?
I’ve lived there for four years but I stay really low key. A lot of people don’t know that I live there.

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Should I not print that?
Nah, it’s funny. I just live there, but I don’t really skate there too much. I don’t go to skateparks there.

Do you still skate in Huntington Beach a lot?
Sometimes, when I’m meeting up with Matt Bublitz or some of my other friends. I’ll meet them at the Whole Foods or something. But I don’t go down there to skate much either.

TomKarangelov fish fiftynocomplyjam alexpires thrasher web DZRide-on 50-50 no comply polejam in a low-key alley     Photo: Pires

Why not?
I feel like I’ve already done that in other video parts and I thought that going into San Pedro or parts of South Central would be easier to find things that I’m into. I don’t feel like people really skate those areas as much as you’d think. They also look a lot cooler than Huntington.

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Tell me about Charlie.
Charlie’s my pug, one of my best friends. He’s four years old and a cancer survivor. We found out that this lady had two pugs that she absolutely loved and they were having puppies. She was giving them to her family members but we ended up taking one. His original name was Thumper because he has one white paw. I changed his name to Charlie.

Where did you get the name Charlie from?
My girlfriend Cristina named him. There was a video at the time that was going viral, the Charlie bit my finger one. So, he’s named after that but he’s got a lot of names: Chuck, Steve, Charles Xavier because he looks paralyzed sometimes. Steve is a common one when he’s being bad. He’s got a lot of names.

Around a lot of people, you have a deadpan, serious look on your face. But when you’re with your bros, you have a smile the whole time. Do you have a sort of social anxiety? Is it hard to let loose around a lot of people?
Yeah, I would think so but I feel like a lot of people might feel that way. Do I have a serious face? I didn’t even know that. I guess I try to figure everybody out, so that’s the face that I give off. Every skateboarder is different so you think, “I wonder what this dude’s vibe is?” before you say, “What’s up?” or something. That’s what makes me anxious to be around people. Sometimes you’re stoked on a person and you would like to say the right thing before you come out swinging with your personality. You want to make sure you’re not going to trip them out or something.

TomKarangelov gapfiveo alexpires thrasher web DZDefinitely a spot that’s overlooked on the daily, gap to 5-0     Photo: Pires

What qualities in a person freak you out?
In a non-skater, I think being really normal. Having a 9-to-5 or talking about normal stuff trips me out, because as a skateboarder you’re always around people that are really creative and fun but then when you get dinner with someone, like your girlfriend’s friend’s boyfriend, they’re into things that you’re not. They might be like, “Oh, you’re into skateboarding? That’s cool. I use to do it when I was a kid,” so you just get tripped out being a skateboarder. You kind of just want to be around really creative people. It’s pretty awkward sometimes because you tell them that you’re 27, 28 and you still skateboard. They usually respond with asking if you do contests or skate the halfpipe. I usually tell them that I skate buildings around my city and people get tripped out by it.

Do you feel like you can be kind of standoffish sometimes?
I guess so if I don’t know you too well. It just depends on the situation. If we’re at a skatepark I’m pretty mellow and nice but if we were at a video premiere, I could see how I could seem that way.

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What do you like to do to relax? Do you have any vices?
I don’t smoke or drink. If I had to say I had a vice I would have to say I’m just super into skateboarding. Not every second of my life but I’ll be on a date, driving to get food and I’ll ask Christina to look at a spot, so then we’ll U-turn, or we might be sitting at the restaurant and I’ll see something that looks like a potential spot across the street, so I’ll ask to check it out and to remind me to not forget or something. It’s always on my mind. But I do other things that are fun: I surf, hang out with my dog, I kind of like to go shopping. I’m a normal skateboarder.

I mean, I wouldn’t say that—
I do it all the time, but I like to tinker with stuff. A few months ago, I found this cool lamp at a skate spot in the trash and I spent a lot of time, taking the lamp apart, replacing the wires and putting a new light bulb
In—fixing it. I’ve taken apart locks, broken a lot stuff taking them apart. I like to do it late at night. I learned how to lock pick, just dumb little things. I have my hands in a lot of hobbies, so that keeps me busy. Having a dog and girlfriend is a full-time thing. Not that drugs or alcohol are a bad thing, but I’ve seen a lot of people do a lot of dumb stuff on them and I don’t want to do that. There’s also so many good examples of people who party who do great things. I think at an early age I was just tripped out by it, so as I got older I just kept doing my own thing.

tom nosegrind 1 joe hammeke DZThis nosegrind is a better vice than any nose candy     Photo: Hammeke

If you had to choose to be addicted to meth or crack, what would you choose?
Probably crack because I feel like I’ve seen people come back from crack but meth seems like you’re gone if you get super involved in that. Both are fucked but I’d probably pick crack.

What gets you hyped to go skate?
What gets me hyped to film, or just skateboard? Those are two different things. To film, my peers get me really hyped and to just skate, watching really old video parts. They are the two motivators. I want my footage to look really rad, just like my friends’ did. I think of times when I went skating with friends or teammates where their footage turned out really sick. I always think that that’s what I want to film, something that’s just rad. I want my peers and the people I look up to, people who I would watch their video parts, to get hyped, I want them to have that same feeling that I felt. Ed Templeton in Jump Off a Building is one of my favorite video parts. Old Jamie Thomas parts or Geoff Rowley’s part in Sorry or Really Sorry. When I was younger and I learned about them, I would just watch them so much, just the way they skated and the music, it was inspiring. You’d watch their parts and they’d just be superheroes.

tom karangelov nail slide photo bublitz DZDream move, Nailslide     Photo: Bublitz

I know you’re pretty picky. What do you look for specifically in another person’s skating?
The coolest thing ever is when someone finds their own thing. They’re not shown it or told to do it. They have an idea and they find a spot that that idea might work on—when it’s organic. For someone that’s not filming, what I like is just style. That’s the most important thing. Now that anyone can watch anyone else skate on Instagram, they can copy anything that they see because everyone is so good. It’s really rare to find someone that’s really genuine. I don’t care about who did what, taking people out or who does the biggest rail. I don’t care about any of that. I think it’s rad and I respect it, I grew up loving it, but I just care about how they do their own thing.

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Who is someone you’re recently pumped on?
Probably the WKND dudes: Trevor Thompson, Alex Schmidt, Jordan Taylor, Taylor Caruso and Johan Stuckey. I think it’s cool that they all have ideas and they all just look for things. It’s genuine and you can see it in their footage. When you see the end product of what they made, I know how hard it is and I can relate to it, so I respect it a lot. Everything WKND puts out I love.

What are your feelings on working a part-time or full-time job and trying to skate?
It’s fucking hard. Another thing about those WKND dudes is they all work and skate. That’s just so fucking cool. It’s just a lot of commitment right there. A lot of skateboarders when I was growing up would get a lot of help from their parents and I would be almost jealous, thinking that they got to night skate and they didn’t have to wake up early and go to work when I had to do so. But it’s cool too because it gives you time to think about what you want to do or where you want to skate and when you finally get the time, you make the most of it. I respect that. I think it’s still cool, though, when you can just skate and you can take advantage of that as well. There’s a lot of people who are good at both, but I’m sure working a job will fuck a lot of people’s lives up having to work and skate, if you’re trying to pursue a career as well.

What was the last job you had?
About three years ago I worked at a company that made solar-powered batteries. I was filing paperwork. It was pretty mellow and lenient. I could go on skate trips. It just sucked because I had to work during the summers and stuff. I had to work all the time and go to school.

Was this during college? Did you graduate?
No, I had two classes left and then I dropped out. My mom was bummed.

TomKarangelov ollie 1 lb alexpires thrasher web DZTom graduates from flight school on this bump to pole     Photo: Pires

I heard that you treat skateboarding like a 9-to-5 job: wake up in the morning, look for spots—
Yeah, I guess it’s like a 9-to-5 but it feels more like 24/7. I’m on this little trip here, not really skating and I’ll find little stuff. I’ll text whoever if I think they can do it. Like I found an ollie and I texted Brass telling him he could do it—sent him a photo and a pin. I feel like it’s neverending. There’s days that I know I’m not going to film so I’ll drive around and look at stuff or I’ll hop a fence and tinker with something like a chain-link fence to figure out what needs to be done to open it. I think I also treat it that way because I’m sick of seeing the LA hotspot that someone switch or nollie nosegrinded. Seeing refreshing stuff is rad and not as many people really have respect for it. There’s so many talented skateboarders that can go to the hotspot and fuck it up, as to where some of the stuff my peers do just get overlooked. Some of the times we’ll literally dig the spot out of the ground, Bondo it, take a pole out, skate it and it’s not even a good spot still. There’s just so much stuff you can’t capture on film. But it can go as well with the stuff that all the gnarly guys might do. It’s kind of the mindset of finding you own spots. What I’m trying to say is that lots of work and the things that gets put into a spot gets overlooked.

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You have a very interesting trick and spot selection. What goes through your head to skate the kind of spots the way you do?
I physically can’t do a really gnarly trick on a hotspot, so what I think I can offer skating is looking for my own shit and skating it the way I think would be cool. Sometimes it’s hard, it doesn’t work out or look the way you want but it’s a cool rewarding feeling when it does.

TomKarangelov fsfiftyfsboard alexpires thrasher web DZNo anxiety rolling up to this grind to front board     Photo: Pires

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Okay, so you filmed a part for the website. What made you decide to get this thing together and put it out?
I feel like I’ve just been filming for eight years straight. I just film and collect footage with ideas that I have and Matt puts it together. We both kind of put it together.

So, this was a collection of footage rather than setting out and filming a specific part?
Well, we’re supposed to be working on a Skate Mental video and I’m lucky to live pretty much next to Matt so we can skate whenever he’s not on a trip. I’ve just been collecting footage with him for the Skate Mental video, which was supposed to come out on Monday, but everyone else wants more time to film. They pushed the deadline back but I had enough footage for a part so Brad told us to release it, which was sick. That’s what this part is.

Is the Skate Mental video ever going to come out?
I think it’s supposed to come out this year—but later. Everyone has good footage. I’ve seen a lot of it and heard a lot, so there will be one. The team is so sick as well. I just want Brad to show the world how cool he and Skate Mental is. I think he wants time to edit it exactly the way that he wants.

Noseblunt 2 Joe Brook DZBrad wants to show the world his radness. Tom wants to show the world how to skate an old spot in a new way     Photo: Brook

I saw Dan Plunkett skate this DIY spot recently and he’s kind of a one-man demo machine.
It’s crazy. He’s one of those skateboarders that when you see him in real life, it’s just like—wow! That’s a fucking pro skateboarder. He’s so rad, down-to-Earth and a good dude. He’s the best. I’m happy to call him my teammate.

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What’s your favorite thing in this part?
Probably just the fact that I have some manual tricks. Manuals are the worst thing in skateboarding; they’re so hard. I didn’t grow up doing manuals. I didn’t do any crazy ones or anything, but I’m proud to be able to have some in my part. I’d be looking for spots and find something that would be perfect for something like a nose manual hippie jump. If you tinker with it long enough, you’ll eventually get lucky. You have no idea how many manual tricks I’ve tried and thought, “Fuck this.” Props to the manual skaters out there.

TomKarangelov doublette bcn alexpires thrasher web DZFisher price: my first manual trick. Manny wallride out     Photo: Pires

A clip in your part shows that you literally broke a rail in half. How’d you do that?
That spots been sitting in Santa Ana forever and I’ve always wanted to do that trick there. It lines up really well to do it and the bottom stair is metal. It’s super knobbed and there’s always a security guard that parks in the parking lot a night. He’d make his rounds around the building, I’d go and attempt to take a knob off. They were these three weird plastic knobs. My dad got me this axe that was one part axe, another flathead. I would pop one off slowly and the security guard would show back up. He would leave and I’d take the next one off. I had to wax and rub brick it. One of the tries I got stuck, maybe on the knob, and flew forward into the rail. I fully broke the rail out of the ground with my neck and chest. In the part, I do it kind of sketchy and I wish I could’ve done it better but I broke the rail out of the ground. We taped it back up so it looked like it was supposed to be there and left. Six months later, we went and checked it out and it was fully knobbed again and they had fixed the rail.

tom wall portrait bublitz DZPhoto: Bublitz

What’s the process of choosing the song that you’re going to skate to?
I have ideas of stuff I really like and music is like skate spots to me. I try to find really weird songs that I like that not too many people that I hang out with know about—maybe finding music by someone who isn’t that famous. Or it could be someone who’s famous but a weird album they’ve made. There’s something in the music that’s catchy or cool that you like and I end up stockpiling five or six songs to show Matt. I’m not a skate editor, so he’ll tell me if a song will definitely not work because it’s too weird. But I’ll retort that weird is sick. I don’t want to have part like everyone else with normal music. But there’s always the issue with music rights, like, no one gets the rights to Neil Young. I really wanted to skate to a song off of this electronic album that he did. I like the band Kraftwerk, and Neil did this album as an inspired response to them. His son has this medical condition where he can’t talk, so he sings this whole album through a vocoder and he sounds like a robot. Sonic Youth covered the song. I wanted to skate to as well. I know a music lady so I’ll call her and she’ll tell me that I won’t be able to get the rights and it’ll be too expensive. For this one, however, Matt told me that the part had this vibe to it and he was going to try to find something that had the same feel, and he found the Kelly Stoltz song. I did a bit of research and I found out that he’s the guitar player for Echo and the Bunnymen. In one of the songs he talks about being stuck in the Aqua Net and I know he’s talking about hairspray, but I pretended that the Net was the ocean. For the last few years I’ve been surfing, but I thought that I was stuck in the Aqua Net literally, as a joke. However, it takes all connections I just mentioned. I can’t just skate to some random song. It has to be something I’m into or something I know a bit about. In the past, I skated to Tracy Bryant, who’s a musician from LA. We ended up becoming friends after I skated to him. I’ve never really heard that happening in skating. It’s cool that using his music, we made a connection. Everything is really personal. Going back to it, growing up and watching Ed Templeton skate to Sonic Youth, you know he loves Sonic Youth. You’d see him grinding a rail with a Sonic Youth sticker. In high school, you know he probably listened to them 24/7. Throughout his career, Ed and Sonic Youth have a connection. You can just relate to that and it always stood out to me. It’s all personal and I think that’s kind of what’s missing from skating these days.

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Phelps said you have the nickname “Special K” and “Dr. Strangelove”? Why?
Special K? I don’t know that one. I’m special to Phelps or something. Dr. Strangelove is a Burnett joke. There’s a movie called Dr. Strangelove and my last name is Karangelov. I don’t see the relevance but if he likes it and it sticks, cool.

TomKarangelov fsng grass long alexpires thrasher web DZSpecial K goes long on this wavy nosegrind     Photo: Pires

Have you ever seen that movie?
I haven’t. Have you?

Yes, not for ten years or so, though. You should watch it. It’s fucking incredible.
I haven’t but I wonder why Phelps calls me special K. That’s sick he has a nickname for me.

Did you read Puleo’s interview recently where he talks about wallies and wallrides?
Yeah, I did. I actually Insta-storied it.

He said people should stop doing them because they’re easy. How do you feel about that?
I might mess it up because I don’t remember it that well, but he starts it off by saying, “I’m not mad or bitter or anything, but…” and proceeds to have a 3,000-word interview on how bummed he is on them. He never once mentions how fun they are either. They’re the most fun thing ever. However, it’s funny to me. I like his skating and he is entitled to his own opinion. I don’t take it seriously and don’t care what anyone says. I’m going to do what I want.

TomKarangelov nollienosewheelinghippiejump alexpires thrasher web DZNose manual to hippy hop. Trip on that     Photo: Pires

What’s next?
I signed up for SCUBA-diving classes, but I broke my hand. So when that heals I’m going to go do that. I haven’t had any friends that know what it’s like. I want to see what that’s about. As far skating, just some New Balance trips and keep filming for the Skate Mental video. But I’ve already paid for it, so I’m definitely going SCUBA diving.

What is your favorite thing in the world?
Wallies, because Bobby Puleo told me not to do them.