INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY BRENDAN KLEIN
E-man. The man…something out of the ordinary…From the streets to trannies. It seems that the kid digs what he does. So dig it with the best of ’em, and do something for yourself, try and dig it… E-man has and does, so should you….“WE WERE STARTING TO VENTURE INTO THE DANGER REALMS OF SKATEBOARDING, BOMBING HILLS AND STUFF. WE STARTED TO PUSH EACH OTHER. IT’S FUN WHEN YOU HAVE A BUNCH OF POOR, GHETTO KIDS THAT ALL HAPPEN TO HAVE THESE RICKETY TOYS THAT ARE ALL FUSED TOGETHER, JUST GET TOGETHER AND PUSH EACH OTHER IN DIFFERENT WAYS.”
How are you?
I’m good, man. I’m just chillin’.
It’s on. I want to talk to you about who you are and why you do what you do.
That rips. I’m down, dude.
Where did you come from?
I was born in Santa Cruz, CA.
You’re straight Santa Cruz loc?
Straight up, holmes. I’ve moved away a few times for a little while, but I always end up moving back.
How did you ever start skateboarding?
I started skateboarding because my brother and some of his buddies that were five or six years older than me were doing it. I was probably eight years old at the time.
Did they have an influence on you?
Yeah. They were sick. They were badass renegade type dudes. We grew up in a sketchy neighborhood at the time. It wasn’t sketchy for us, but it was to the rest of the community.
Why was it considered sketchy?
There was just a lot of gangbanging and drugs going on. It wasn’t a place that most parents wanted their kids hanging out. My family and a couple of other families that we knew found our little nook and managed to stay away from that stuff. For my brother, it was skating. He knew a lot of the surfer guys that skated. He also met some guys from around the neighborhood through the party scene. So there were ties to it already for me. There was also the separation of it like, “This is our thing.” We all knew each other for what we did, and this and that, but skating was our thing. My brother never really hung out much with guys in the neighborhood, so that was his way of doing what he wanted to do and still having fun. After I saw that, I thought, “That’s a cool deal. That’s what I want to do.” So I just picked right up on it. I saved money and bought a little skateboard from a friend of mine. I bought this shitty complete from him for like $30.
I think it was a Live Oak skateboard. A long time ago, Santa Cruz Surf Shop did this little company called Live Oak Skateboards. The Live Oak complete had these generic trucks on it with little 50mm wheels. It was super shitty. I remember it had fluorescent green wheels. I rode that thing until the end. It was sick. It was a board that I could ollie on and everything.
Wasn’t there a park in Live Oak?
There was a park there a long time ago, but they tore it out.
No, the little one, not the newest one.
Oh, yeah. There’s a little teeny skatepark that we call the Bed Pan. It’s on the east side in Live Oak. It’s tiny. It’s maybe 4,000 square feet. Aside from Derby, that was my hometown park when I was growing up. For the kids my age, that was the new shit at the time. That was what we got. It was like, “All right. Here’s your encouragement to keep doing it.” It was teeny and it sucked, but we burned a lot there.
That was your park.
Yeah. It was close to where I lived and it was by the beach.
Do you surf?
I haven’t in a long time, but I grew up surfing.
You have a surf style when you skate. You have that more fluid style.
Wow. Thanks. That’s cool. Fuck, yeah.
So you surfed before you skated?
I got into them both at the same time. I tried surfing for the first time when I was nine or ten. I got broke my first time surfing.
I thought it was sick, though, because of that. I was thinking, “Oh, this isn’t as easy as it seems.” I wasn’t scared of the water; so going surfing was never a scary thing. This guy Matty took me out and I rode my first wave right into the rocks. I didn’t know that I could do it. I didn’t know what to do. I was like, “What do I do? I can’t bail.” That was the first wave I ever caught. I just dove into the rocks and tried to kick the board away. I ended up getting pummeled, wave after wave, until finally this guy reached in and grabbed me out. It kind of sucked because I was all cut up, but it showed me that it was pretty gnarly. I thought it was sick, and it may be something I wanted to pursue. So I did that for a little while, but the water was super cold, and I got lazy and just fell out of it.
Did your brother surf too?
A little bit. I have two brothers. My oldest brother is a ripping surfer. He’s in Albuquerque now, so he hasn’t been out in the water in a while, but he surfs really well.
So you have this little Live Oak skateboard and you’re cruising around. Were you learning tricks?
We had a hill that we bombed from school. It was pretty gnarly. Kids would get all fucked up there. This was in the third grade and kids were breaking their collarbones on it. We were starting to venture into the danger realms of skateboarding, bombing hills and stuff. We started to push each other. It’s fun when you have a bunch of poor, ghetto kids that all happen to have these rickety toys that are all fused together, just get together and push each other in different ways. It was like, “We can all get each other to hurt ourselves doing this.” None of our friends had surfboards or wetsuits, but we all had skateboards.
Was the whole gang thing happening around there?
It was, and it was just one of those things. It was a pretty solidified neighborhood. There were only a couple in Santa Cruz at the time, and it was. Everyone just crossed their fingers that everything worked out. That’s how it was for me, for us, for my family. It was pretty rad.
When did you start to get good on your skateboard?
It was pretty soon after I found the thing. I’ve always been gung-ho with everything I’ve ever done. Before skateboarding, it was soccer and I was huge into soccer. I was never very big or anything, so I was just crazy. I was the little maniac dude trying to one-up the big guys at all times. If it wasn’t that, I was at school doing school sports.
So you’re an athlete?
Yeah, totally. I’m not a jock, but I definitely love playing sports.
Jocks are jocks, but sports rule. What other sports do you play?
I grew up playing soccer and baseball.
Then you rolled on into skateboarding. Did you ever go away from skateboarding or did you stick with it?
I have never gone away from it. I’m deep into it. Except for one summer, I got my skate jacked on my last day of school in eighth grade. My board disappeared from my classroom. I couldn’t afford another one because I was just a broke kid. Then my friend that was into BMXing had this old beat up GT BMX bike. He’s like, “I have this bike you can have if you want.” I was like, “Yeah, why not? Something new.” So my buddy got me into BMX for a couple of summers. It was rad. We would steal a bunch of shit from behind this K-Mart near my house and stash it at these little bike tracks. Then we’d have sodas and snacks and build jumps all day.
And just launch.
Yeah, we could launch. It was super gnarly. We rode every day until the sun went down. For that whole summer, we were into it. Then I got my hands on another skateboard.
But you can get broke the fuck off on a BMX bike.
Oh, dude. I remember thinking to myself, “All right. This is too much. I’ll have fun with it for a little while.” But I could already foresee two or three gnarly slams in the future, and then I’m going to want to go back to falling differently.
[Laughs] Like onto concrete?
Yeah. Not all twisted up onto metal. Even if you pull it on a bike, and ride away from it, your feet could be all tangled up in the spokes or your arm could be all wrapped around the handlebars.
Or you could take a handlebar to the nuts.
It wasn’t for me. Then when the bike breaks apart, it costs as much to repair as a complete skateboard. I was like, for the same price to fix it, I could have a new skateboard.
So you bounced back into skating.
I got back into skating as soon as I was able to. Skateboarding is way more where it’s at. I’ve never left it other than that. I’ve always been stoked and fortunate enough to be able to skate.
So you got back into skateboarding, then what happens?
I started taking it to another level. I got a shop sponsor.
Who was your shop sponsor?
Bill’s Wheels. It was funny because Bill has been around forever. He’s like part of the local skateboard establishment. I’ve known about Bill since I was super grom. I tried to hit him up all the time. I was like, “Check me out. Check out my tricks!” And he’d give me a little pat on the head. Finally, one day when I was older, he gave me a chance to come and try out. He said, “We have this little demo at this school, so come and skate it. We’ll see what happens. If you rip, we’ll hook you up.” So he ended up hooking me up. He said, “We’ll start you out with one board a month and some t-shirts.” He was super cool about it. That sparked a whole new interest in it for me. I was like, “What? No way.”
Boom. Now you’re getting free boards.
Yeah. I was like, “I can get free shit if I do this really hard? Rad. I’m going to do this as hard as I can, as much as I can.” Of course, you never expect anything going into it. Half of the people that get into it never did. The more photos that I would give him the more he would give me another privilege or bonus like, “Now you get two t-shirts instead of one.”
And you were just hyped out of your mind.
I was like, “Yeah, this is really turning into something.” Not only that, but now my mom doesn’t have to buy me shirts and I get deals on my shoes and free skateboards. It was a little burden off of her. Everyone was happy. I was like, “This is cool.” Everyone was happy, except for the fact that my mom and family weren’t dummies to the fact of what skateboarding was at the time. Because we’re not talking about how it is now, where it’s all accepted and glamorized. Skateboarding was some renegade shit then. In a lot of cases, it was something the bad kids were doing. So my mom wasn’t about to take her eye off me just yet and let it slide. She knew there were dangers ahead in the skateboard business. It was good times for everybody though, so I thought it was a good thing. I was really going to go for it.
So your mom was hyped?
She was hyped. She’s always been supportive of it, but she’s not a dummy. When my brother and his buddies were getting into it, they were fucking off. They were being a bunch of knuckleheads. She obviously knew that these guys didn’t find each other at a candy store. These guys are likely to get together and do this with something else in common. It was still good times for everyone, but she would just always stress, “Don’t turn into one of those park rat burnouts that ends up at the park faded all the time. Be the one with the wise head that’s working towards something.” I thought that was good advice. So Bill hooked me up and then I started getting boards.
What kind of boards was he giving you?
I was getting Dogtown boards, actually. Check it out. I’ve always been super down with Suicidal Tendencies. I’m like their biggest fan.
Why were you a fan of Suicidal?
My brother listened to Suicidal and he got me into it. I thought it was sick. It seemed like a similar story to ours. I’m half Mexican and all my brothers and sisters were born in Mexico except for me. I always got shit growing up. All the Mexican dudes would call me “white boy.” I was like, “Whatever.”
Did that piss you off?
No, because I knew where I was coming from. They could talk shit, but I couldn’t change my color. It happens on both ends of the spectrum. I could also be the ambassador for the poor little fuckin’ white kid, I guess.
[Laughs] So you were into Suicidal and Dogtown.
I just thought they were sick. The music, of course, was rad. I was already into Slayer and all that stuff. I was like, “Suicidal is sick.” Then I found out that they had ties with skateboarding and I was like, “Oh, that’s it. These are my people. Suicidal.” Then I found out about Dogtown. I was like, “That’s it. That’s the only company that I want to get shit from.” I remember writing in my little journal. “I got a new Dogtown board today. My shop sponsor talked to “Red Dog,” AKA Jim Muir. He lined up some boards. I’m so stoked.” So I started getting flow from Dogtown. They were sending a couple of boards to the shop for me every now and again. That was insane.
That was like a dream come true, or what?
That just sent me over the edge. I was hell bent. I was like, “If I can make it this far, doing what I want, anything can happen.” I didn’t try and go after a particular company because of their popularity. I just rode the boards that I liked. That’s what I was about. I thought the boards and graphics were sick, so when I started getting those boards for free, I was like, “I’m really onto something.” Then it sparked from there. I pursued it more and more. I asked a lot of questions to my friends. I was like, “What can I do to help better myself?”
Who were you asking these questions to?
Ron Whaley gave me most of the good advice that I’ve gotten. He told me what to do to get to where I wanted to be. He was a vet already at the time.
What kind of advice did he give you?
I’d ask him about how to deal with people and stuff like that. I was super bad at keeping contacts because I just didn’t know how to go and schmooze or deal with people that I didn’t know or like. I wasn’t used to that whole side of the industry where you had to present yourself as a sociable person if you wanted people to like you. So I’d ask Ron. I’d be like, “Fuck dude, I don’t know how to deal with these people or talk to them. They get bummed because they don’t hear from me for months at a time. I don’t know what to tell them. I’m out filming and shooting photos and that kind of thing. Do they want to know that or do they just want to wait and see it come out in the magazine? I don’t know.” He was like, “Just let them know what you’re doing, at least. It’s cool. If they know what you’re up to, they can help you out more.” I generally applied what he helped me with and he was usually right. He knew what he was talking about. If I had a question and I went to my mom, she’d be like, “I don’t know skateboarding. Why don’t you go ask Ron?” I was like, “Yeah. I’ll go ask Ron.”
So you were riding for Muir for Dogtown?
I was getting flow from Dogtown. It was a trip. It really was a dream come true. All my friends at the time were just tripping. They were like, “Suicidal! Dogtown! That’s so rad.” That’s where I was going. Unfortunately, the company went under soon after. I was just some grom on the flow program, so it was over.
How old were you?
I was 13 or 14.
You were super young.
I was a super grom then. That was a long time ago.
What do you think they saw? They thought you were down with their scene?
I was in my Suicidal phase. You should have seen me. I was all Sui-ed out. I wore the cut-off Dickies with my socks pulled up, white tee and a Suicidal hat flipped up every day. I had all the flannels, for sure. I was this little junior cholo Suicidal dude. It was funny. I see old photos and I’m like, “Fuck. I was loc.” Some people saw it and thought it was funny and some people thought it was rad.