OMAR SALAZAR

OMAR SALAZAR

INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY BOBBY PLUMB AND MIKE O’MEALLY

 

Attitude, commitment, loving life, and skateboarding… The party’s going on, with or without you… Push it, and push a little more, and you still won’t catch Omar Salazar, and that’s an understatement… Throw yourself in the mix for what? Something most don’t get, get it, for the love of it… then you’ll get Omar Salazar’s reasons for being it…

“I remember the first time I stood on the board I got this crazy feeling, because your feet aren’t used to skating the first time you skate. I remember rolling down this cobblestone driveway on my feet for the first time and I just started cracking up because it was tickling the bottom of my feet. That tickling feeling was unbearable, but I kept doing it.”

What’s up, Omar? What’s been going on?
I’ve just been chillin’, man. We just finished the Workshop video. I actually have an injured foot right now. As soon as I was done with that video, I was able to do whatever I wanted, so I went to the skatepark and this kid asked me to play SKATE with him. I’d never played SKATE really. I was like, ‘Fuck it. I don’t have shit to do.’ So I was playing SKATE with this kid and we were on the last letter and it was a tie. I’m really horrible at flat ground stuff, but I was actually doing all right and then this kid throws up a 360 flip maneuver. I was like, ‘I’ve got that.’ So I landed one and my foot slipped off. I had one more chance, so I tried really hard. My back foot just landed primo and I tore a bunch of muscles in my foot and jarred the shit out of my ankle, so I’ve been out for four months. It’s been really shitty.

Four months? That’s a tough game of SKATE.
[Laughs] Yeah. It was the week before the Workshop premiere in Los Angeles.

What did you think of your Workshop premiere?
I was psyched. That was the first time that I saw my video part. I’d never seen it before that, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that Greg Hunt was going to do a great job on the video, but it was still pretty nerve wracking, not knowing what it was going to be like. I knew it was going to be good, but I was still tripping balls.

Was that your first real video part?
No, I was in other videos when I was younger. My first video part, which I don’t really count because I was a little kid and didn’t know what was going on, was my Foundation video part from back in the day. Then my first major video part was for First Love for Transworld, which was cool. I was able to do what I wanted, after all the years of having someone telling me what to skate and how I should skate. After I had the opportunity to skate the way I wanted, it was awesome. Jason Hernandez and John Holland from Transworld just told me, ‘Skate however you want and we’ll just film you. Do whatever you want.’ I was like, ‘Sick.’ After that, it was the Nike video.

What did you think of that whole scene?
It was different. I had other ideas for what I’d like the video to be, but the whole experience was cool. Going on trips with the whole team and the skating was cool. Everyone had amazing parts, but it was a different thing. I guess a lot of people expected a really crazy video, especially with having the premiere at the Kodak Theatre. People were like, ‘Whoa. This is insane.’ That’s the place they have the Golden Globe Awards and all that. People were like, ‘Whoa. This is going to be crazy.’ When people saw the video, I think they were expecting a little bit more. For a while, people would come up to me and go, ‘What’s up? You’re not going to throw up on me now are you?’ I was just like, ‘Oh, dude. C’mon, man.’

Really?
Yeah. It was a different video, but everyone worked really hard on it, no matter what the outcome was. It was cool. Even though it may not have been what a lot of people expected, I know for a fact that everyone put a lot of hard energy and traveling into it.

Do you think that people outside of the video were thinking it was going to be some crazy, wild video?
Yeah.

Do you think they had that expectation because of what Nike does with all their other products is super gnarly?
I know that for a fact. A lot of people were really excited to see it, but then the outcome was different. The good things that I heard about it was that the video was kind of crazy, but the skating was great. There was some good positivity, which was the skating. I think the only people that were really psyched on the other bullshit were probably the young kids. The young kids were laughing. It’s entertaining for kids.

What did they think about it up there at Nike?
I don’t know. I know a lot of people at Nike worked hard on it, and were excited about it, but a lot of us had doubts and questions. A lot of people were excited, but some people just didn’t understand certain aspects of it. That’s just how it is. It was definitely a learning experience. They always listen to us and that’s why I’ve always been really psyched on Nike. They stepped it up after that. It was a learning experience. It was definitely a good way to learn and see what we could do better next time. I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. It’s all about the skating most importantly. One of the really rad things that those guys gave me an opportunity to do was that I got to pick my own song out. I originally wanted to use Van Halen for my part, but the dude wouldn’t give me the rights to the song, so I ended up using Thin Lizzy. One of the other things we got to do was to go to Mark Mothersbaugh’s house, from Devo. We got to make music and watch him and his orchestra do all this stuff. That was awesome. He would tell me about all of these people that used to skate in front of his building. He would totally let the skaters skate on the building, but in the last five years, he had to put up a fence because some lady was walking by and tripped on the curb and broke her arm and sued them. She was on the city sidewalk, but he still got sued. He was bummed he had to put up the fence because he was so down with the skaters. It was cool to hang out with that dude. He was super rad.

He’s excellent.
Yeah. I gave him a board, too. This was right when I got on Workshop. I brought him a board and he went to his office and grabbed one of his platinum records from Devo and pulled it down from the wall. He pulled down his own platinum Devo record and hung my board up right where it was. I was like, ‘Dude, are you sure you want to take down your record?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, this board is sick!’ He was so rad. He was such a cool dude. I was so psyched on that. It was totally unexpected.

Nice. All right. So where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sacramento, California.

Cow town.
Yeah, Cow town.

I just know it a little bit.
[Laughs]

Are you part of the N-Men crew?
I grew up skating around those guys and had the rad opportunity to be able to see those guys, like Ricky Windsor and Randy Katen. They were always super cool. I didn’t know too much about them when I was younger because I was from a different era, but I quickly learned about them because I was skating with older dudes that watched the N-Men when they were younger, so I got educated. Now I know all those dudes. I’ve seen rad videos and all that stuff is definitely timeless. They had this N-Men reunion party here in Sacramento, which was really cool. They played all these old school videos. It was super sick to see what they did and how they held it down. It was rad.

Sacto produces some good skaters.
Yeah, it’s cool. I had the opportunity to be able to be around that scene. I’d always see John Cardiel skating around when I was younger. I’d see Matt Rodriguez and all these locals that always kept it real. Every time I’d see Matt, it would always be super positive. It was never a situation where I was getting judged for how I skateboarded. It was just like, ‘What’s up?’ We’d just feed off each other. It was rad. Now, being able to hang out with them and go to the bars is awesome.

How did you get into skating?
I went to Catholic school for nine years here in Sacramento. I remember these kids that were into skating and they had these boards. Skateboarding actually started out for me when I moved to Roseville, which is 20 minutes away from downtown Sacramento. My cousin from Chile came to visit and he went to a garage sale and picked up this old school board. He’d skate everywhere. That’s how he got around town. When he left, he left that board in my garage, and it was sitting there for a while. One day, it was raining, and I grabbed the board and rolled down the driveway, sitting on my ass the whole time. I started evolving from sitting on my ass to standing on the board. I remember the first time I stood on the board, I got this crazy feeling because your feet aren’t used to skating the first time you skate. I remember rolling down this cobblestone driveway on my feet for the first time and I just started cracking up because it was tickling the bottom of my feet. That tickling feeling was unbearable, but I kept doing it. I’d move it on down the street and push around, and then that tickling feeling in my feet started to go away. My feet started breaking in, so it didn’t affect my feet anymore. Then I started seeing people skate and doing ollies. I was like, ‘Whoa. There’s so much more that you can do.’

How old were you?
I was about 11. That’s when I started skating heavily and grew my hair out. I got really into the whole skate scene. That’s when no one really skated.

How old are you now?
I’m 25 now.

So that was around ’95?
Yeah. I got really into skating. From there, I was the only kid that stuck with it though. Kids either stick with it or they get over it. I just stuck with it. The kids that I used to skate with did other stuff. From there, I didn’t have any other buddies to skate with at school, so I started skating around town. I started seeing these other dudes doing slappies down the street from my house. I was like, ‘That’s sick.’ So we started skating a lot of curbs. From there, I started skating around town. That’s when I went to the local skate shop and met all these locals. They were super rad. They would take me around, and they were way older than me. I was 13 and they were 24. They were super cool. I always hung out with older people because we seemed to have the same kinds of things in common. The other kids at my school were super immature, dumb kids. I just wanted to skate the whole time, so that’s how it came around and I never left it.

Could you skate by that point?
Yeah. I was learning. I was doing a lot of bonelesses and 50-50s on curbs. I was trying to learn to do back tails on curbs. I was ollieing dirt hills, bombing dirt hills, doing bonelesses, 50-50s and ollieing up curbs. I was doing hippy-hops through whatever I could hippy-hop through. I was just doing my own thing.

What was the main thing that made you dig skating?
It was the culture and how cool the people are. At that time, when you’d skate around, the regular people just looked at you like you were a dirt bag, but I’d just keep skating. I was keeping myself out of trouble as much as I could. I was actually a good kid. People just gave me the eye like, ‘You’re a punk.’ I liked that, because I was just a skate rat. I was going to soccer practice, but I also had my board and the coaches would treat me like shit. They would say, ‘You skate? That’s bullshit.’ I’d be like, ‘Man, whatever.’

What would they say?
They would say, ‘There’s nothing in that for you. That’s all trouble.’ That was all from the fact that I would bring my skateboard to soccer practice. As soon as I was done with practice, I’d push around on my board. I was showing the other dudes my ollies and 50-50s. Because of that, the coaches wouldn’t let me play. They’d say, ‘Oh, you’re into some other bullshit and you’re just trying to get all these other kids into it too.’ I was like, ‘Whatever, man.’ I tried to do that sports shit, but it was always just these dudes yelling at you and telling you how to do what and when to play.

They were telling you how to do stuff they couldn’t do.
Yeah. That’s what really took me away from all that other shit. It was the fact that I could do it on my own. I learned my own shit. The closest thing to having someone explain how to do some tricks was learning from the bigger bros that I’d hang out with. They’d never hate on what I did. They’d just give me a hand. That’s what turned me on even more to skateboarding. It’s funny because the bigger guys would come and pick me up from my house. My mom was cool with it, but she’d always be worried.

She was like, ‘Why are these older dudes picking up my kid?’
Yeah, she was like, ‘Are they giving you drugs or what?’ I’d be like, ‘No, you’re tripping.’ It was pretty funny. I was going to Yuba City in Sacramento because that Yuba City Park had just opened up. That was the first major skatepark in that area in my time as a young kid. That was the closest skatepark there was. We’d have to drive two hours to go to Yuba City. I would always lie to my mom and tell her that I was going to downtown Sacramento because we lived 20 minutes away from there. I’d lie to her and tell her I was going downtown. It was the same when we went to San Francisco. One time, my mom was like, ‘Where are you?’ I was actually in the San Francisco. I was like, ‘I’m in downtown Sacramento.’ She was like, ‘Get your ass home right now.’ I was like, ‘Mom, I’m with my buddies. I’m skating. It’s cool. You’re tripping.’ She knew I wasn’t downtown. I don’t know how she knew, but she did. Moms know everything. She was like, ‘Get here in 15 minutes or else I’m taking your board away and you’re done.’ I ended up coming home six hours later and she was tripping out. Then she saw that the older guys were helping me out and she sat me down and said, ‘Why do you hang out with those boys so much? What do they do?’ I said, ‘Mom, it’s great. They’re always taking care of me. Whenever I’m somewhere sketchy, they’re always there making sure I’m all good.’ She goes, ‘Do they ever give you drugs?’ I was like, ‘No! Mom, you’re tripping! These are the dudes that I confide in. I can’t do that with other kids that are my age and doing bullshit.’ It was pretty funny. I remember cracking up.

[Laughs] As a mom, she had to check out what was going on with her kid though.
Yeah. She was a great mom. That was the whole thing. It was the same with my dad. When he would come and pick me up from skating, they would have these ramp jams at this old skate shop called The Shop in Roseville. It would be a four-day skate fest with music. At the time, my dad was trying to be supportive because he knew how much I loved skating, but he wasn’t always into it. At first he was like, ‘This is bullshit. This isn’t going to get you anywhere.’ I understood why he felt that way though. My parents come from a different culture, straight from Chile. I’m the first generation in the whole family to grow up here in America. They thought that my future should be going to school and then working for some big ass company, and working behind some desk, but that wasn’t my deal because I was always bad in school. My dad tried to be supportive, so he’d pick me up from the skate jams. One time, I was in this cage thing where they had all these ramps. I remember rolling in on this bank and doing bonelesses. It was rad. People were being really supportive. So my dad comes in to see me and it was cool, but on the outside there were all these punk rock bands. It was a bunch of skinhead dudes rocking out and punking out. My dad saw that and was like, ‘What are you doing? Look at these people. Look at what skating brings. Look at these skinheads. Do you want to be like them?’ I was like, ‘No, dad. You don’t understand. That’s their deal. Music and skating mixes up, but that doesn’t mean that’s what it’s all about. That’s just their deal. I’m here for the skating.’ My dad was like, ‘Come on. We’re out of here.’ I was like, ‘Dad, what do you mean?’ It took him time to figure out what it was, which is totally understandable coming from their end.

You can skate everything, right? You ride pools and all that. You say you don’t do flat ground that much, but you’re a diverse skater, right?
Yeah. I was always skating different things when I was a kid. In Sacramento, at the time, there weren’t any skateparks, so I grew up skating really rough shit. I was ollieing dirt hills. I skated everything. Whatever got me going, I was into it.

Why do you skate so fast?
I’ve always enjoyed going fast. There’s something about it. When you haul ass, it gets your blood going. It feels good. It gets your adrenaline going. It’s fun. It goes back to when I was standing on my board for the first time and getting that tickling feeling. It’s that same unique feeling. Skating fast feels really good to me. If I’m going really slow, I can eat shit easier than if I’m going fast. I love being able to feel that, where it’s all under your feet, and you feel the wind going in your face, and your eyes start watering. You don’t have time to think or blink. It’s like, ‘Woohooo!’

[Laughs] You’re just flying.
Yeah, it feels good.

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