Rhino

RHINO AKA CHRIS ROONEY
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTO BY DAN SPARAGNA

Chris Rooney grew up in the Northeast where hardcore skateboarding survived through cold winters with a dedicated hardcore skate community driven by the passion to ride whenever, wherever, rain, sleet or snow. That hardcore drive brought him westward where backyard pool sessions in SoCal brought him into the underground hardcore skate scene. His passion to document his crew through photography became the medium where Rhino’s skills got him into the world of skate mags. It was his good-hearted personality and hardcore roots that eventually landed him the job as the Independent trucks team manager, and I can’t think of a better person for the job! No ego and all about the love of skateboarding and his skate family. This is Rhino!!!

What’s going on, Rhino? Are you ready to rock?
Yeah, Murf, let’s go.

Okay. Name, rank and serial number.
Rhino, Independent team manager and Thrasher staff photographer.

Let’s get down to where it all began. Where were you born?
I was born in Ayer, Massachusetts. It’s 30 minutes west of Cambridge and Boston. It’s straight out Route 2 West from the C Bowl, towards Acton and Harvard before you get to Fitchburg.

There you go. You were growing up when skateboarding started going down in the mid ‘70s, so when did you start picking up a board?
It was ’76. My friend James Powers, who is one of the owners of Eastern Boarder, never even asked for a skateboard but his parents went shopping one night a week before Christmas and then we raided his parents’ bedroom closet to see what kind of gifts he got before they wrapped them and he pulled out a skateboard.

Sick. Do you remember what kind it was?
It was a metal skateboard. I don’t remember the brand. It was nothing too classic, but it was metal with urethane wheels, some skinny trucks and some grip tape on top.

What did you think when you saw that?
I was like, “What is this?” I had never even stood on a skateboard before. I think it might have had something to do with his brother who was older than us. He had moved down to Florida and he might have told his parents to get James a skateboard. We waited around until Christmas day and then it was time to just start rolling around on it.

Were you guys just skating around in the streets because, at that point, there were no skateparks, right?
Yeah. We lived across the street from three schools so we were skating there every day. There was a little covered area called Echo Hall that we used to skate in the wintertime. When it rained, it was dry. It was shaped like a “T” and it went downhill through a set of cones.

Was it just you and James or did things start getting more popular where you had more kids riding with you?
At first, it was just James and I. The neighbor who lived between us had some older kids that had moved out and she had an old wooden skateboard with metal wheels from the ‘60s. She used to let me borrow it and I had to return it every time I used it. At that time, skateboards were like toys. James would let me take a couple of runs on his board, but he didn’t want it to get chipped up or scratched. I had this relic until my sister bought me a plastic GT board that was like $12 at K-Mart.

When did the ramp thing come into play?
At the time, we were just skating downhill and carving around. We didn’t know what was going on. His brother, Thomas, sent us Skateboard World magazine and we got to look through that and we were like, “What is this? This is crazy!” There were photos of skateboard parks, so we started building little bank ramps. Then his brother came to visit and he built this 1/4 pipe ramp in the basement that we’d skate every night. It was like bank to kink to bank to kink, so we learned cess slides on that. Every night we’d be in there for hours trying to emulate whatever photos we saw in that magazine.

So that magazine opened your world up. Were you then trying to get mags every month and cruising around looking for them? I remember the convenience stores used to have skate mags.
Yeah. It was on our radar. I remember seeing skateboarding on TV in the Rose Bowl parade. They had a half pipe on a float and T.A. was skating it. If you saw a photo anywhere of a skateboard, you were glued to it. The closest shop we had was a bike shop 30 minutes away and they only had a couple of things. My parents weren’t taking me to the store to buy a new skateboard like kids these days. If you got to go there, you might buy a sticker. I’d just use the equipment I had until it wore out.

When you were looking at the mags, what did you think of the whole concept of the bowls and half pipes that you’d see? Did it make you want to do it?
It made us want to do it, but it didn’t really seem feasible because there was nothing around. You’d go outside and there was a parking lot and a sidewalk and you made do with that. To get up the driveway, there was a little bank, which was two feet high and it was slanted and we used to skate that. That was our skate spot.

Did you guys talk about the possibility of going to a skatepark or road tripping or asking your parents to take you places?
It took a little bit. Our town was next to a military base, so a lot of military kids went to our school. Eventually, there started to be other skateboarders in the school. We started meeting those dudes and then we heard there were a couple of skateboard parks around.

What skateparks were around?
Zero Gravity was in Boston and there was a fiberglass skatepark in Newington, NH. We started going to Shooting Star skateboard park in Malden MA. It was an unreal, indoor concrete skatepark. We had never seen one other than in the mags. It was like walking into Disneyland. It was mind blowing!

Newington was the blue fiber rider ramps, right?
Yeah. Our friend Tabor (Coates) skated those. The park that we went to was Shooting Star in Malden. We’d try to go once a week with our friend’s mom because she was always down to drive. Jake Phelps, Kevin Day, Frank Lannon, Tony Perez and Gluehead and all those dudes were there. They were the locals and Shooting Star was the newest up-to-date park.

What was at Shooting Star?
There was a snake run that had vert in it. In the middle, you could skate it like a half pipe. It had a bowl that was somewhat of an egg with extensions on the ends. There was a bowl called the Toilet Bowl with five feet of vert and minimal transitions. There was a downhill slalom course that went into this bank with a freestyle area at the bottom. There was a keyhole. It had everything. It was a rad park.

It had pool coping?
Yeah. The keyhole had pool coping and tiles.

So that’s where you started seeing more skateboarders and the skate scene?
Yeah and we saw different skate gear. Before that, once we got a magazine, we’d look at the Val Surf ads and study those. I’d be like, “I want that Alva 8” and those Tracker Midtracks and green Kryptos.”

It’s like looking at candy at a candy store. You’re seeing all the colors and tripping out like, “How do I get a piece of that?”
I was thinking, “If I had that board, I’d be so good.” You felt like, if you could get one of those boards, you’d be set for life.

When you were looking at the mags, were you a Bones Brigade or a Sims guy? Then you’re seeing Lannon and those guys skate concrete. What was your first impression of that?
The local dudes were like the pros in the mags to us. They were the dudes we were hyped on. I’d see Kevin Day there with his ponytail ripping the keyhole. Freddie was there. Lannon was there. You’d see those dudes at the park and your mouth would drop. It was like, “I want to do that.” In the magazines, we’d see dudes like T.A., Jerry Valdez, Wentzle Ruml, Stacy Peralta, Salba, D.P. and Jay Smith. All those dudes were insane. They were like movie stars, like dudes you’d never be able to see in your life when you’re growing up in a small town on the East Coast. We were studying their kneepads, shoes and where they put stickers on their boards. I was looking at photos from California and they all had blue skies in the background.

Did you have all of those photos up on your walls too like me?
Oh yeah. Salba’s whole interview from Skateboarder was on my bedroom wall. He was “Le Machine”.

Was it the frontside wheeler with the double conical Kryptos?
Yep, in the gnarly square bowl. It’s one of my favorite photos.

I remember he was wearing Molly shorts and he had Indy copers with the double conical blue Kryptos, right?
Exactly. That was the sickest wheeler. I was like, “How did he do that?” I got that Kryptonics board with 151s and the green double conical Krypto wheels. I had the same board with black copers.

Were you riding that at Malden?
When we first started skating Malden, I was riding this black plastic Makaha complete. We met this kid, Mark, who skated and his mom would drive us there on the weekends to skate. Somehow he’d get new boards every week or two, so he was like, “You can borrow this Santa Cruz five-ply.” He had the Kryptonics foam core. He had a quiver of decks. Everyone else just had one board.

Was that the one with the beam through the middle?
Yeah. The K- Beam. Steve and Micke Alba both had Pro models. The other Kryptonics board was the P-tex foam core that was white on the bottom. I borrowed that to go to Malden and I was like the idiot little kid that wanted to wrench on things and I took a wrench to tighten down the bolts. I kept tightening them and the head of the bolt started going through the foam core.

Oh, no. How did those boards ride?
They felt stiff. It was like a ski on the outside. At the time, it was probably the most expensive board. It was Kryptonics and that thing was sick. I remember going to the park with that board and people were like, “Oh, you got one of those?” I was like, “Well, yeah, you could say so.” One time I bailed and the board went into the keyhole and Kevin Day was skating and slammed. He tossed that thing into the snake run and put a dent in it.

You were pimping it.
Yeah. I was pimping it on somebody else’s dime.

What kind of trucks were you riding?
Indy’s. Before that, we were skating Bennetts and Trackers. The kingpins broke a lot, but Tracker was the best truck at the time. I remember being at the park, when Indy’s came out in ’78, and my buddy James and I were like, “Oh, that guy has those Indy trucks.” Some dude had those 151s and we were just staring at them because we had seen them in the mag. Product was different then. There wasn’t a pro shop that had a thousand sets of different trucks. It was just a couple. We were like, “Those trucks look rad.” We got hooked.

Was he riding copers on it?
Yeah. Copers were in.

We’d see guys like Duane in the mags riding copers and we’d be like, “We gotta get copers. I’m gonna grind them down.”
Yeah. I wanted copers. I wanted a helmet for the skatepark and my mom took me to the bike shop and they had Norcon helmets. It was just another part of the uniform. I had my Chuck Taylor’s and my Mad Rats or Op shorts.

It was Mad Rats or Mollys. I went with Mad Rats because Gelfand rode them.
That’s how it was. You’d see someone riding them in the mags and you’d want that. You also wanted kneepads and elbow pads. You wanted the whole kit. You wanted to be part of the whole scene with all the accessories. If you couldn’t get a t-shirt, you’d make one. I could draw that Dogtown cross, so we’d make our own t-shirts and sweatshirts. We’d draw up a Wes Humpston, Jim Muir or a Biniak cross one night and wear it the next day at the skatepark because there was nowhere to buy a Dogtown t-shirt. You’d have to mail order it and I couldn’t write a check. My parents weren’t into writing checks and waiting 4 to 8 weeks for something to show up in the mail.

Those graphics were so rad. It was fun to draw them, especially that Biniak one.
Yeah. I really liked that graphic. It was just like the Alva logo. I can still draw that Alva logo and I probably haven’t drawn it in 30 years.

Totally. Do you remember your first drop in or the first time you hit round wall and started carving?
I remember carving. The older dudes were always in the keyhole so, occasionally, we used to be able to get in there, if they were outside drinking beers or whatever. When they were in there, you just stayed back. Some of the other bowls had rounded lips, so you could roll in and carve around and kickturn and do little tail blocks and slides. They were kind of like lip slides, but they were more like power slides on the edge. It was a lot of that. If you’re skating a park every day, you learn fast. We only got to skate there maybe once a week, so it was kind of hard. We were just kids learning.

At that point, were you addicted?
Oh yeah. I quit playing baseball and organized sports. I was like, “I want to ride a skateboard.” It was cool. There were only like 10 kids within a 20 mile radius that skated, so we were sort of like outcasts in a sense. Skateboarding was the shit!

What were your mom and dad saying?
They didn’t mind me riding a skateboard, but they were kind of bummed when I quit playing organized sports, because my dad was a coach at the high school. They knew we were somewhat serious about riding a skateboard because we were on it all the time, having fun and staying out of trouble.

What sports were you into?
I played baseball up until tenth grade. Growing up, I played football, basketball and baseball. Skateboarding was something you could do by yourself or with a couple of friends. Nobody was telling you what to do or what not to do.

I did the same thing. I quit all organized sports. I was like, “I’m skateboarding.” So did you start road tripping? When you saw Lannon and those guys, did they have ramps you would be allowed to go skate?
At the time, we were 14, so we didn’t have driver’s licenses yet. We had a small ramp in the driveway and that kid, Mark, had a ramp. Some kids at Fort Devens had a 1/4 pipe or a 8’ wide half pipe, so we’d ride that. Fort Devens had an abandoned road that got blocked off, so they let us take three quarter pipes up there. On the weekends, there would be 12 of us there all day trying to learn tricks.

Skateboarding was getting huge in ’79, and they had the Gold Cup series in California. Did you see that in the mags?
We’d follow that through the magazines. That was our outlet to know what was going on in the world of skateboarding. There weren’t any videos, but Skateboard Madness came out in 1980 and we had to go to the movie theater to see it. It blew our minds.

Were you into photography at that point?
No. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I wasn’t. Back then it was expensive and I didn’t really have money. I’d look at the magazines and get so hyped on the photos.

You weren’t thinking, “Oh, that’s a Friedman shot or a Cassimus shot.” You were just looking at it and going, “That’s rad.”
We started paying attention to some of the photographers, but cameras were like foreign objects to us. Maybe we’d get film for the Polaroid and shoot some blurry photos and that was about it.

Do you remember what the feeling was when the skateparks started going away? In ’80 or ’81, you’re still in high school. All of a sudden, stuff starts changing. You had Action Now with the horse jumping over the rocks. Do you remember that whole scene? That’s right when skateboarding was starting to die for the first time.
We were still skating, but the park in Malden was gone and the other skateparks in the surrounding areas were gone. I never made it to Cherry Hill, but we could tell that all the parks were shutting down. People were still skating, but some of our friends quit. You could see how it affected the magazines as well. We kept skating because we were into it and then people started building ramps. Around ’82 and ’83, that’s when we started making it down to Rhode Island to check out contests. That’s when we heard Sean McLean had a ramp, so we went to his contest. Some dudes in New Hampshire had some half pipes, so we caught wind of that. You’d hear about a ramp an hour away and you’d drive over there and try to find it and skate it. You’d knock on the door and meet the kids and then you became friends with them. That’s when the backyard scene came alive.

Did you realize how underground it was then? What was it like hooking up with Sean McLean and traveling places to skate? Describe the bond skaters have.
Well, Sean and those dudes were always the dudes that we looked up to. Those were the dudes who were ripping. We were skating a ton, but Sean McLean, Fred Smith, Frank, Jake, Gluehead, Tony Perez and all those dudes were hitting the ramps and traveling. James and I built our own half pipe in his backyard, so we were just skating that with our friends. Occasionally, we’d go to contests and watch those dudes skate. Those dudes were getting around way more than we were and they were a couple of years older. They were doing it.

Were they cool to you when you guys showed up?
It was cool, but there were different cliques. There was Freddie and those dudes from the South Shore. There was the New Hampshire dudes and the Acton crew. There was also the Boston Inner City dudes like Jake, Tony, The Wrecka… We always got along because we were all skateboarders. Nobody was like, “Get out of here.” It was like, “Cool, yeah, skate.”

That’s the way it should be. In ’83, you were graduating from high school. Were you planning to go to college?
I planned on going to college because that’s what my parents expected me to do. It was the same with my friend, James, who was a year older than me. He went to school 20 minutes away and I went to school 20 minutes the other way. We had that ramp in his backyard, so we were like, “I don’t want to go live in a dorm with a bunch of college kooks. We have a ramp. We’ll just go to school and then come home after school and skate and then do homework and do it all over again the next day.” On the weekends, we’d go and try to hit someone else’s ramp.

Were you guys thinking about getting sponsored?
We didn’t even think you could get sponsored. We saw that Freddie was riding for Alva and Jeff Thompson was getting Santa Cruz boards, but it didn’t really enter our minds. We just skated and drank beer and had a good time.

During your college years, did you ever road trip down south or head north?
No. I went to Florida on Spring Break and I ended up skating a backyard pool, but we never drove to Ocean City or New York or anything. We went to Rhode Island or New Hampshire. I think we were working or didn’t have that much time off or we didn’t have that big of a travel itch. We were content going into Boston and skating the Cambridge pool or ditches or somebody’s ramp before going to a punk rock show. That was standard operation. Devo was my first concert in 1980 and, when they dropped the screen, all these dudes were skating. We’d go see Devo and you’d look for people who skated. If we were going to go see Black Flag, it was like, “Let’s leave here at 10 and go skate for four hours. We had this pool called the Mole bowl in Acton, and then we’d hit the Cambridge pool and then go see the show. It was always about skating and then going to see the bands. If you were going to go see a punk rock show, you’d go skate before.

You were probably seeing Gang Green and those kinds of bands in Boston?
Yep. We’d see Phelps, Sean, Tony Perez and Gluehead at shows. You’d go to a show and see all the dudes that skate in Boston. They were all there. That’s what you did if you skated.

In ’87, you’re graduating college and skateboarding was blowing up and there were more vert contests going on. What were you planning on doing next?
Well, I wasn’t on the four-year college plan. I started fucking up in school because I didn’t really want to be there. It was like, “Oh, you guys are skating at four today? I’ll skip class and go skate with you guys.” Eventually, I was like, “I’m out of here. I want to move to California.” For whatever reason, maybe from reading the magazines back in the day, California looked like the raddest spot in the world.

Did you have any connections out there?
There was Blair Borden who we skated with in the 80’s. He was a military kid we met in eighth grade. He moved to L.A. and I hit him up and ended up moving in with him in ’89.

What was the scene like in L.A.?
I was trying to meet anybody who skated. I’d go hit the Bronson ditch and then I met this dude from South Bay, James Lang, who owns South Bay Skates now. He had a vert ramp in Jake Piasecki’s backyard, so I’d go skate that. Mike Smith, Howard Hood and Lonnie Hiramoto would be there. I was skating Upland skatepark, McGills, ditches and I started skating some pools. When I moved to California, I had a Mike Smith board and, when I saw Mike Smith at the ramp, I was like, “I look like a chump.” I was blown away because Mike Smith was rad. He had rad style and he skated backyard pools. I started hitting pools around L.A. with my buddy, James, and I was meeting random people and trying to skate different spots. I moved out here six months after Del Mar closed, so I never made it to Del Mar, but Upland was still around, so I was hitting that once a week. I’d cruise out with James Lang or I’d just hit it solo. I just wanted to go to the skatepark.

Did you ever see Salba there?
Yeah. I saw Salba there.

Here’s a guy whose photo you had up on your wall as a kid. What was that feeling to see someone like Salba riding Upland?
I was just studying him. I was blown away because he was my favorite skater. I never talked to him. I just saw him show up with this blond chick, Julie, who is his wife now. I was like, “This dude is killing it.” He’d cruise the banked course and the bowl and warm up and then he’d go skate the pipe and then come over to the combi and skate the 15-foot bowl. He had a regimen. He still does. I was just blown away. I kept going there and I was like, “Oh, there are bowls in the back too. It’s not just the combi?” I’d go home bloody, with holes in my palms, from slamming because the ground was kind of rough. It was a brutal park.

Did you ride the combi? Did you try to acid drop the hip or anything?
Yeah. I didn’t acid drop the hip, but the combi and the full pipe was the main attraction.

Did you ever see Miller there?
I saw Miller there once. I remember seeing Bill Dorr there with his dog and I was psyched on that because that dude blew me away. I was like, “Who is this old dude skating?” It was towards the tail end of the Upland park, so it wasn’t popping off like it used to. Someone told me that Miller lived across the street in some apartment, so I was stoked on that. Then that place shut down and I started finding out about pools. I had a couple of pools on lock down in L.A. and then I’d drive down and skate McGill’s ramp on the weekends. I was so clueless. I had no idea Mt. Baldy was even in the area.

What were you doing for work?
I was finishing up school at Cal State Northridge, and I wasn’t working. I lived out in the valley, so I didn’t have a ton of friends. I’d go skate curbs or go street skating at night. On the weekends, I’d go down to San Diego and skate McGill’s skatepark.

You were there in ’90 and ’91 when vert started dying and street skating was taking over. How did you perceive how the world of skateboarding was changing?
Well, I somewhat street skated. If you weren’t skating the vert ramp, you were hitting curbs or cruising around the streets or bombing hills. When I moved down to San Diego, I had been skating McGill’s for a little bit and a couple of dudes started telling me about pools. I had only skated a few pools back East and a few in LA. I ended up at the Valley Center pool, where Gator used to skate and Danny Way skated. I didn’t get to see those dudes skate there, but that’s when I met Keith Lenharr, Gary Anderson and Terrill Schmidt. They worked at Tracker and Blockhead. They turned me onto the pool scene in San Diego and in the desert.

Sick. You must have met Delgado too?
It took a while to meet Delgado, but Keith Lenharr (KL) and those dudes were dialed in. They were skating pools every weekend. They took me to four pools one weekend out in the desert in 1991. One of them was the Nude Bowl and the other one was the Salton Sea bowl. I was like, “We’re skating four pools in one day. This is insane.” I started shying away from the vert ramp and street skating because I found this whole other world of pool skating. It was just crazy skate missions getting directions to pools all over Southern California and barging them.

Describe what the Nude Bowl was about.
The Nude Bowl was a big left hand kidney on top of this hill looking over Palm Springs. Eventually, we started going to parties there and skating until five in the morning. That was always fun. I got to see Reese Simpson skate there. It was a great spot. It was like a skatepark in the middle of nowhere. I had seen Duane and the Santa Cruz Speed Wheels video and Salba, Eddie Elguera, Malba and Allen Losi. That stuff was great. I started going out there every other weekend, just to skate it, and it was a rad mission to go skate there.

You’re from the East Coast and now you’re hanging out in the gnarly backyard pool scene. Even though skateboarding was changing, you were hanging out in the underground pool scene, which was even radder.
It was kind of mind blowing. There were pools popping up all the time. If you had a pool, then you’d meet three or four other dudes that had pools and then you became friends with them and they knew other people that had pools, so pools were constantly flipping over. I was meeting cool people like Tony Farmer, Delgado and Germ, and I’d go up to L.A. and meet a bunch of L.A. dudes. Big Al in L.A. was the guy! It was a rad underground scene.

Were there any pool missions that stick out in your mind from the early ‘90s?
It was rad going to Salton Sea with Buddy Carr, Terrill Schmidt, Tyco, Gary Anderson and Keith Lenharr and seeing KL do an invert in the deep end in ’91. I had seen inverts in pools in the mags, but KL just planted a few in the deep end. I met Mark Hayes in San Diego and he had so many pools going. He was the raddest dude. He worked the night shift and hunted backyards all day. Fucking legend! Nude Bowl, Sign in Bowl and I saw some insane sessions at El Cortez by ’92 and ’93 during the trade show. Hosoi was killing it and there were about 40 people there. Jason Jessee, Sid the Package, half of the OG Alva team, all the SD locals and SF dudes. It was insane.

What was the scene for that pool?
It was an abandoned hotel in downtown San Diego that was built in the ’40s. Swank, Lance, Jason Jessee and Gator and a lot of dudes skated it for a while. Then it was full of water and it was all boarded up. I used to drive by it all the time and I wanted to skate it, so I initiated it like, “Okay, we’re doing it Saturday morning at 9 o’clock.” Nine dudes met down there all hungover. It was KL and his crew. We got out of the car and they were like, “Okay, how do we get in?” I was like, “I don’t know. I’ve never been in there.” They were like, “What?” We finally busted into it. It took us three hours to bucket it and we got to skate it for about two hours before the security guard showed up. We got it going again and Hewitt and all those dudes started skating it. It had so much water in it and no one really had pool pumps then. Everyone knew that the El Cortez was there, but it was full of water and there were guards there. I saw insane sessions go down there with Matt Gorman, Jon Hobbs, Peter Hewitt, Twista, Andy MacDonald, Matt Moffett, Eddy Alioto, Jodie Royak and a lot of the San Diego dudes.

So the pools just kept popping in the mid ‘90s. What were you doing for work?
I was just working random jobs because I couldn’t find a real job after college. I was making enough money to live and I was skating all the time. Keith was working for Tracker. He was the TM, at the time, and I thought that was insane. I was like, “Dude, you get to go on trips with Groholski and Omar Hassan.” He was going to Europe and working on their video and I’d get to see ads before they went to TransWorld. Carroll and his roommates were working at Blockhead and they always had extra wheels and stuff. I’d occasionally meet them there and think, “You guys are killing it.”

Were you riding Trackers at that point?
[Laughs] No. I’ve always rode Indy’s since ‘78. KL would say, “We’ve got to get you on some Trackers.” I’d say, “No. Never but you can hook me up with some A-1 Meats wheels.”

Did he get it or not?
Well, he was the Tracker team manager and they had a good team with Omar Hassan, Groholski, Tony Hawk and those dudes. He’d say, “Let me know when you want to ride some Trackers.” I would say, “Never.” That was the joke. Now Keith is riding Indy’s.

[Laughs] So you were around for the Blockhead ramp that Omar and those guys used to ride, right? It had all the mini bowls and half pipes.
Yeah. It was ahead of its time. The shape was rad and the hip was insane and they added to the back bowl and they were constantly changing it up. That bowl was awesome. Dave Bergthold had one of the raddest backyards back then.

Would you see Omar just kill that thing?
I never got to see Omar skate that. I did see Tony and Mike McGill there one day and we skated with them. Tony lived pretty close to there. He had his vert ramp up the street.

Did you ever ride Tony’s vert ramp in his backyard?
No. I never knew how to get in there.

Fillion and I rode it.
[Laughs] Yeah, well, you’re Jim Murphy, Alva posse. I was just a bottom feeder out here skating pools and taking whatever I could get.

No way, man. You’re Rhino. They owe.
Hey, at that Del Mar vert contest, you and Craig Johnson were selling Alva shirts and drinking Budweiser. You had no idea who I was. I bought a shirt had a few beers with you guys and I was psyched. I still have that Alva shirt.

That was the contest where Reese almost won it and Salisian was doing overhead body jars.
Yep. That contest was so rad.

Reese Simpson was the man. Did you have some good underground pool sessions with that dude?
I used to see him skate at McGill’s and one time he was out at the Nude Bowl. I was psyched on him because he had that surf/skate style. He could skate pools and he could skate vert really good. He was a great skater. I was skating a bunch of pools, so I was into those dudes that had good surf/skate style.

Hell yeah. I got to tour with Reese and that dude just kills everything. So you were in heaven in California. After vert skating died, I went out and got to ride Chicken and Kelly’s pools. I remember getting some backyard pool sessions with Delgado and that was the life to have. That was the ultimate. You were getting fresh sessions every weekend at some pool that you hadn’t ridden yet, so that was killer.
When Chicken and Kelly built their bowls, I thought, “I’m going to get in there one day.” As a bottom feeder, I got in there when I could. It was hard at first because, when they finished their bowls, everyone wanted to go there and skate. I’m sure it was hard for those dudes to regulate sessions in their own backyards with all the people they knew and all the skaters in the O.C., L.A. and S.D. area.

In the mid ‘90s, it wasn’t like there were a lot of guys skating pools. Everyone was street skating. It never got super crowded in the pools, so it was super rad, right?
Yeah. It only got crowded if someone got wind of it. Mostly, people would go to the skateparks. The pool dudes would be driving to L.A. and linking up with other people and trying to hit as many pools as they could in one day. It’s somewhat like street skating, but it’s more of a mission because you’re trespassing and it’s more low-key to find them. If you got away with a couple of pools in one day, you were killing it.

You weren’t caught up in any magazine stuff at that point, so you didn’t care if you were getting any coverage, right?
No. That’s when I started taking photos. I had a little point-and-shoot camera when I moved to California, just so I could document where I skated. I’d send photos back to my buddy James, who I grew up skateboarding with and put them in my photo album. I’d take an overview of this pool or a picture of a ditch. I wanted to start shooting photos, but I didn’t know how to get into it.

At those El Cortez sessions or any of the underground pool sessions, did you want to start photographing those sessions too or were you going strictly low profile?
Well, I started meeting people that were doing zines. This guy Tommy Cooke from Virginia was going to Brooks Institute up in Santa Barbara and he’d come and stay at my house on the weekends and he was starting to get photos in the mags.

What year was this?
This was around ’91. I was still just documenting for myself. I saw Tommy getting a couple of photos in the mags and he had a lot of camera equipment. His grandfather owned the Redskins and he was going to photography school. I went on a road trip around the U.S. for a month after the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1991. We skated so much stuff like the Turf, Stone Edge and the Hanger. He was shooting photos on the trip. I didn’t really start picking up a camera until ’96.

What made you want to do that?
I was working in Philly for a month with Pstone and we were skating Cheapskates Skatepark one night and I blew out my knee. I quit my job and took a photography class down at City College in San Diego. At the time, I was skating vert and going to all these pools and seeing people do rad stuff. Swift and Grant were shooting photos at the vert ramp of people that I knew like Hewitt and Moffett. I was like, “I can probably do that.” I took some classes and figured it out and that’s how it all came about. In one TransWorld issue, there were three photos that Grant and Swift shot and I had shot the exact same photos of the same dudes at the same spots. I was still learning, but that’s when I figured out it was time to step it up.

That’s rad. Obviously, you’re a skateboarder, so you knew when to shoot the shot, so then you just have to start thinking about angles and trying to be original and trying to get your own style going. Is that how you were approaching it?
Yeah. Plus, I was shooting with slide film, so you have to be a little more on top of your game exposure-wise and you have to start figuring out extra flashes and stuff like that. I would skate the vert ramp for awhile, then shoot some photos if it was a heavy session. If we were skating pools, I would skate for awhile and then shoot some photos.

So you were thinking you might be able to get some photos in a mag?
That’s what I was thinking, but I still didn’t know how to go from taking the photos to getting them in the magazines. I knew Phelps a little bit, but not really. I was like, “What do I do? Do I send photos in or do I have to meet someone first?” The first photo I had in Thrasher was in ’97. Salba was doing a pool article called “Behind the Orange Curtain”. He said, “Do you have any photos of this pool?” I had a shot of this dude named Tyco (Sean Fleming) that ended up making it into Salba’s article. I was like, “Rad.” Nobody at the mag really knew who I was, but I was psyched to get a photo in Thrasher!

So you were charging even harder to get more photos and go on more missions?
Totally. At the time, I was skating a lot of pools, so I was just documenting what I was doing and the guys I was skating with. I wasn’t going out in the streets yet. I was still skating vert ramps, so I was shooting photos of vert ramps and pools. That’s how I learned.

At the time, the mags weren’t really printing a lot of photos of vert and pools, so how could you get your photos in the mags when most of the mags were mostly about street skating?
Even though Thrasher was putting a lot of street skating in the mag, they were still down for pool and vert shots too. Skateboarding was in the streets at the time though.

When did things really start to happen for you photography-wise?
I was living with Preston and he started filming for Thrasher around ’98. I was out of town and Joe Brook from Slap Magazine was in San Diego and he stayed at our house. Preston let him crash in my room and I had photos hanging around my room. He was like, “What’s up with your roommate? He shoots photos?” Preston said, “Yeah. You have to meet Rhino.” Joe was like, “Have him send me some photos.” I started sending photos to Joe and a couple of them ran in Slap. Then I met Luke Ogden through Preston. Ogden was the photo editor at Thrasher. Michael Burnett had gotten Preston the job at Thrasher and I’d see him around at a vert ramp or a pool or the photo lab and he was like, “If you have some photos, let me know. I’m down to check them out.” I got my foot in the door with Thrasher through Michael Burnett and Luke Ogden.

They were mainly looking for street stuff, but you were the underground pool guy?
Yeah. I was seeing what other people were shooting and I was like, “I’ve got to start shooting street skating if I want to get more photos in the mag.”

Was it a weird transition for you, since you weren’t into street skating as much?
I don’t jump down handrails or gaps, but I’m down to document it. I started hopping over school fences and looking for spots and it was rad. I was still skating pools when I wasn’t out shooting street skating. Before that I was just skating and following the skateboarding that I liked.

Were street skaters and pool skaters still that divided then?
I don’t think they were that divided, but they didn’t really mix. Occasionally, at a skatepark, if there was a street course and a vert ramp, the street dudes would see the vert dudes skating, and a couple of the vert dudes were crossover street skaters. Other than that, the vert dudes weren’t hopping schoolyard fences and the street dudes weren’t dropping in on the vert ramp, so it was definitely divided. Nowadays, it’s different because skateboarding has changed. Some of the street dudes have such good board control and they can skate transition. They can skate everything and hop on a vert ramp, so that’s a bonus.

You were witnessing some gnarly street skating, so it probably gave you more respect for them because you saw some gnarly skateboarding go down?
Yeah. It was still hard. I had to branch out more and start meeting different dudes and try to get on street missions. The more photos I got in the mag, the easier it got. It wasn’t like there was a ton of photographers then either. The more photos you got in the mag, the more that people were like, “Oh, you work for Thrasher? I saw that photo you shot.” That would open up doors and people started calling me up and saying, “Are you around on Saturday?” There were not that many photographers in San Diego. It was me, Burnett, Swift, Grant and Atiba. There were only two dudes down here that worked for Thrasher.

So you were freelancing from the early ‘90s through the late ‘90s?
Yeah. I was pretty much showing everything to Thrasher and trying to get what I could in there and then I’d hit up Skateboarder or TransWorld or other mags and try to get photos in there and I was shooting ads. It was starting to pay the bills a little.

Hell yeah. Since Preston was filming for Thrasher, did you ever get to go along with him on road trips to shoot photos?
I started getting on some 151 trips with Childress and Hitz and those dudes. I went up to Canada on an Illenium trip with Al Partanen and his crew, and we did a mission to Arizona. Contests were big in the magazines then, so I’d go to the Tampa contests and Am contests and shoot those. I’d meet people there too, so it was a good way to network.

Are there epic stories from the road that you can expose that won’t put you in jail?
[Laughs] One of my favorite trips that I got to go on then was a Black Label trip. We went to Europe for a month with Ben Gilley, Jason Adams, Preston, Chet Childress and John Ponts. Back then it was different. We didn’t have all the social media stuff to do. We would go skate, do a few demos and party and come back with an article, so it was pretty loose. We just had good times on the road!

If you’re working for a mag, they don’t expect you to post your photos online, right? They want you to save it for print?
You always try to get them in the magazine first. Then maybe something works out for an ad, but it’s always good to get the extra photos that didn’t get used in the mag on the Thrasher website as a blog since now the videos of the trips usually come out with the print.

In the 2000’s, the Vans parks had started getting built and now you have pool coping in parks. What did it feel like when skateparks started coming back?
It was cool. It was more epic spots to skate. Pools are always fun. Occasionally, they get a little stale because some are steep and there are a lot of slash grinds going on and not the biggest airs. It’s more about lines. Once the concrete parks started popping up, like the Vans Park in Orange, we had something really good to ride where people could go big and have a good time on big transitions.

At that point, skateboarding looked like it was being accepted. Did you think it was going to continue to rise the way it did?
Yeah. More people were getting involved. People that weren’t even skateboard companies were starting to get involved with skateboarding, so you knew it was just going to keep growing, which is good and bad. You have these big sponsors that want to be a part of skateboarding dumping money in and feeding people’s bank accounts. They’re not going to say no but, on the other hand, it’s becoming more mainstream.

Do you think it’s corrupting the scene at all or is it just about making a living?
I think it’s corrupting it for sure but, when they are tossing around that much money, skaters are not going to say no. They are buying their way in for sure. Some of it is good and a lot of it is bad.

I’m interested in your perspective because you’re in the backyard scene and you come from the East Coast and skateboarding in the 2000’s is blowing up and it’s fully commercial. Did you become a full-time employee at Thrasher or Slap?
Burnett offered me to get on the Thrasher staff in 2005. I was getting a lot of photos in the mag and I was out shooting a ton, so it probably made sense to put me on some sort of retainer. I was super hyped because that’s the mag I wanted to work for. It was awesome when Mike called me up and asked me. I was psyched.

How did they break you in? Was there a hazing ritual for working for Thrasher? You were in San Diego, right?
Yeah. I was in San Diego. There was no breaking in routine, but I started seeing Jake around more and I went on some trips with him. I never really hung out with him as a kid because he was older, but I’d seen him around Boston. Once we sat down and talked about where I grew up and I knew where he grew up and I knew all about him, he was kind of like, “Oh, now it all makes sense. You were around all these spots, but I never really met you.” I had some awesome times on the road with him. Mike Burnett was pretty much my middleman to the mag. When I was shooting film, I’d go to Mike’s house once a month and show him photos I had and he’d send them up to the mag. Now everything is digital, so I can email photos and write stuff and email it in and it just gets plugged into the mag. I go up there a couple of times a year, but I don’t have to go into the office. I just have to handle my stuff down here or wherever I am.

When you’re on staff for Thrasher, does that mean that you’re on call? They call you and say, “Hey, Rhino, we need you to go to Australia next week.”
There’s no format. If a company calls up Burnett and says, “Hey, we want to go to Australia. Can you run an article in the mag?” Mike is like, “Yeah, sure. Who do you want to take?” They might say, “I want to take Burnett or Rhino or one of the other photographers.” That’s pretty much how it works. Other than that, I check in with Mike every week and I just go on little missions with different skaters and see what photos I have that can be used for the magazine.

Do you have an expense account if you need to drive somewhere or are you just getting paid a salary so you cover it?
If it’s something beneficial that’s going to be used for the magazine, I do.

You have to produce because if you don’t, they’ll be like, “What are you doing?”
Exactly. You never want to come back from a trip without an article. Every once in a while it might happen but that’s either because of the weather or some dudes getting hurt on the trip.

In 2005 and 2006, when you were going to Europe, what kind of travel expense budget would they put you on?
Well, usually, whatever company takes you on the trip takes care of you.

Were you just going to Europe?
We went to Japan, China, Australia and Europe.

What was China like?
China was cool. I went with Zero and we were out there for ten days. It was a cookie-cutter skate mission where you have this guide and he has all the spots and they line it up ahead of time. They have a driver because no one can speak the language and no one knows how to get around. You wake up in the morning and you get in the van and they cart you around to all of these spots, almost like you’re at Disneyland. You get out of the van and it’s like, “Does anybody want to skate this rail? Does anybody want to skate this gap?” It’s not my ideal trip. A lot of skaters like to go there because there are really good spots, and the tour guides are awesome, but it’s some hired driver just carting you around to spots, and you kind of want to do that on your own. It’s cool though. It’s skate mecca for the street dudes. There are not a lot of tranny spots, but it’s cool.

You didn’t go to that big concrete park in Shanghai when you were there?
No. I was with a street crew. I was with Keegan Sauder and he can skate tranny, but he rolled his ankle the first day, so my dream of going to the skatepark in Shanghai with all these street dudes was a waste of time. They would have been like, “Oh, you want to waste half a day because you want to go see this skatepark?” If it was close, I would have gone by myself, but I heard it was an hour or two away, so that’s half the day right there.

What does it feel like being an American when you travel and you’re around skateboarders? What vibe do you get from people in those countries?
Skateboarding is pretty big throughout the world, so people are intrigued by it and it’s usually not a problem. People are usually pretty welcoming. Generally, most all skateboarders get along, no matter what country you are from. Occasionally, in Europe, you start getting hassled with political questions.

What are some of the tours that you went on with the pros back in the 2000’s that are memorable? Did you go on any road trips with Trujillo or Hewitt? Is there anybody that stands out in your mind that was just ripping?
I went on a lot of trips with Chet Childress in 2000. I met him through Preston and he used to stay at our house. I was psyched on him because he grew up skating vert and he crossed into some street and mini ramps and then he started skating a lot of pools with us. He’s always fun to go skate with. He can go skate a ditch or whatever. In mid 2000, when he got on Nike, he was fun to go on the road with because he can skate everything. Trips with Chet were always fun because he likes to find spots. We’ll roll into a town and he’ll say, “Let’s just drive around this town for 20 minutes and find something.” You might find a killer spot, or you might not find one, but you tried.

Killer. Did you take many trips to the Northwest?
Yeah. The Northwest is awesome. It’s rad up there because there are so many skateparks. You can’t even go the wrong way and not bump into a skatepark.

What can you explain to people about the Northwest vibe? How is it different from California?
It’s full of greenery and mountains. There are mountains down here, but it’s just different. There are more rivers and good swim spots and great places to camp.It’s cheaper up there. You can get out of the city and you’re out in the woods driving through the mountains and there are just skateparks all over the place. There’s a lot of street stuff too in the cities like Seattle and Portland. There are concrete skateparks galore and they just keep being built. Grindline and Dreamland just keep building them.

Have you seen the locals up there evolve with guys like Kowalski that are younger and just killing it?
Yeah. There are definitely some kids that started going to the big skateparks that Red built and, the next thing you know, they’re just killing it. Kowalski is a perfect example. That dude is really good and now he’s got a park in his backyard.

That’s what I heard. Did you get some early days shots of the locals up there? Would you go up and shoot at Burnside and some of the other Northwest parks?
When I was going up there in the early 2000’s, we’d go skate the West Seattle bowls and Burnside and the indoor vert ramp and a couple of the parks. I have some good photos of some of the locals at the West Seattle bowls. I went up there with Partanen, Omar, Duffy and Berard. I went up there this year on an Indy trip for two weeks and we skated so much stuff it was insane.

Let’s talk about Indy. You were staff photographer at Thrasher and how did that transition into you being the Indy team manager? What year did that go down?
That went down six years ago in 2009. I shot some Indy ads over the years and I shot some stuff with Creature, so I had my toe in the door a little bit and I knew some people up there. Lance Dawes, the previous team manager, took me on the Indy 30th anniversary tour, which was a six-week tour. That was one of the best trips I have been on!

What was that like?
It was awesome. Lance called me up to do half of it because he said he could only do half of it, so we were going to split it. At the last minute, he said, “I’m doing the whole thing.” I was like, “Where does that leave me?” He said, “You’re doing the whole thing too.” I was like, “Yeah!” It was awesome. There were so many dudes on that trip, like Grosso, Lance, Cab, Alex Olson, Grant Taylor, Chet, Hewitt, Partanen, Hitz, Omar… People were flying in and flying out. Rowley flew in for two days. We did a bunch of demos and then we’d go to a park or a spot with two van loads of dudes and open the doors to the vans and all these dudes would pile out and the place just got annihilated. Hosoi was on there right after he got out of jail. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. Chris Haslam and Kenny Anderson were like, “When are we going to do another one?” It was cool because we had younger street dudes with some of the older street dudes and then we had legends like Grosso and Lance and we’d go to a spot and everyone was getting some. Navarrette and everyone were just having a good time. Grosso was blown away by Haslam’s skating and Haslam was just watching Grosso doing inverts like, “I want to do that.” There was a lot of bonding and cross over. A bunch of dudes that never got to hang out together got to hang out together for weeks on the road.

There was genuine respect for the older guys and from the older guys for the younger guys.
Yeah. It was rad. People watched other people do tricks and everyone was trying to learn different tricks and skate stuff they wouldn’t normally skate. We’d go to a backyard pool and some of the guys were like, “I haven’t skated a backyard pool in like ten years.” They were in there getting it.

The reality is that there isn’t that much of a divide between street skaters and vert skaters. When it comes down to it, everybody respects each other.
Yeah. They just don’t get to hang out all the time because they’re skating different stuff.

Were there any good stories from that trip? Any psycho sessions that went down?
We went to Skatopia and that was insane. Everybody was geared up to go there and, once we got there, it was a crazy party. Some dudes were dropping acid and they started partying and trying to skate. You’ve been to Skatopia. When there’s a big party, it’s hard to go skate. Brewce was like, “Hewitt’s here. We have to go skate.” Hewitt was like, “I’m not skating. I’m hanging out.” There was some acid going down. Brewce was like, “I can’t believe Hewitt finally made it here and he didn’t even skate.” I’m like, “I would have put money on it.” He’s down to check it out, but do you think he’s going to go up to the big bowl and try to get gnarly in front of all these hillbillies? It was cool though. It’s always a blast there.

What about the guys that hadn’t been there before? Were they tripping on it?
Oh yeah. Sammy Baca, Olson, Grosso, and most of those dudes hadn’t been there. It turned into a big party. I don’t know if anyone skated. They just piled out and had a good time. Other than that, just going to demos, there were Indy fanatics coming out of the woodwork with old trucks and paraphernalia to have dudes sign. There were old cars showing up at the skateparks. It was like a car show skate demo.

Were you blown away by the variety of ages of people that would come out and show respect for Indy trucks? Was that something that you expected?
I kind of expected it, but I was more blown away as we went to some of the demos and there were families coming out wearing Indy stuff and showing us patches and t-shirts that they got in ’78. There were lots of Indy tattoos! It was cool. There’s a lot of history there. There are a lot of people that are attached to it.

How did things transition to where you became the Indy team manager?
Two years after that trip, Navarrette called me one night and said, “Hey, do you want to be the Independent team manager?” I was like, “What?” He said, “Lance doesn’t work there anymore. They’re looking for a TM.” I was like, “I don’t know. I never even thought about it. It’d be kind of cool.” Then Darren was like, “Would you move up to Santa Cruz?” I said, “Definitely not. I’ve been down in San Diego for so long that I don’t really want to move. I’m set up pretty good down here.” Darren said, “Okay. I was just checking.” A few nights later, Keith Wilson, the brand manager for Indy, called me up and said, “We want to interview you for the team manager position. What do you think?” I was like, “I don’t know. I haven’t actually thought about it.”

Did you know what that job would entail?
Well, I had the basis for it, but until you get in there, you don’t really know. I said, “Yeah. I’m down to interview for it. It can’t hurt, whether it goes good or bad.” I was supposed to fly up there and then they got too tied up, so Keith and Jeff Kendall and I did a three-way phone interview.

What was that interview like?
They were asking how I felt about Indy and how the image is and how the ads are and all that stuff. They knew it would work out pretty well since I shot photos for Thrasher. Jeff Kendall had a lot of different questions, which I kind of figured on, so I had done some research the night before. Social media was getting big at the time and he was asking me what websites I follow and how much skateboarding I pay attention to and I just told him that I’m out in the streets every day skating with all the younger kids and the older dudes and I pay attention to the message boards and all that stuff, so I have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on in skateboarding. A couple of days later, Bob Denike called me up and wanted to ask me some questions, so I spoke with him for half an hour.

What kind of questions did Bob Denike ask you that Kendall didn’t ask?
He was just asking me about Independent and why I would want to work for Independent and would it interfere with my Thrasher job. When Bob called me, I had a feeling that I had a better chance and he was just calling me to follow up and maybe I was going to get the job. It was cool because I never really got to talk to him much before. I had met him before, but talking to him on the phone was pretty rad. A couple of days later, Keith called me and said, “Dude, you got the job.” I was kind of nervous like, “What happens if I don’t like it?” I was like, “Wait. I’m signed up?” There was no backing out now. Keith said, “Can you come up here next week? We’ll get you situated.” Once I got in there, it was a little overwhelming at first, but it didn’t take long to get it all figured out and stay on top of things.

How many guys are sponsored by Indy nowadays?
It’s probably 150.

You have 150 dudes that could call you at any time and say, “Hey, Rhino, I need a set of trucks.” Is it the kind of thing where you have to be on call?
Yeah. Most of the dudes will call and say they are on their last set of trucks and then I try to get them out in a week or two. Some of the dudes hit me up once a year. Some of the dudes hit me up four times a year. Sometimes there are dudes that haven’t called me in two years. Some dudes just know how to get trucks and they’re not worried about it. They’ll trade a board at a shop or something. With 150 dudes on the team, the pro list is pretty big, but probably half of that list is actually dudes that are out there really killing it you know, like Reynolds, Rowley, Leo Romero, Grant Taylor, Figgy and those dudes. They are out there producing every day. Then there are dudes that you don’t have to check in with all the time.

Are you also responsible for the graphics? Are you the guy working with the artist and saying how you want the logos to look?
We all have a say on the stuff that goes out. Our Art Director, Mark Widmann, has been working there for a long time and he’s awesome. He does a great job. He knows Independent and he’s the one that cranks out the t-shirt graphics and stuff. When that stuff comes out, he shows everyone and most of the stuff is really on point. Keith is the Brand Manager and Mark is the Art Director and I’m the Team Manager, so we are the three dudes in charge of the brand.

Over the years, there was always a weird vibe when people would see Independent in malls or Pac Sun and everyone and their mother was wearing an Indy t-shirt. What was your view on that?
At the time, I wasn’t working for them, so I don’t know if I actually paid any attention. I was just running the gear because I’ve always run Indy stuff. From what I heard, Pac Sun wanted to carry Indy and it was a deal that you can’t pass up as a company. On the flip side, when they did that, a lot of the money that they were making, they put back into skateboarding.

I’m just asking because it’s interesting to see how Indy gets marketed. It’s global. When you’re in New York, you see people wearing Indy shirts and you know they don’t skate. Indy is that big.
Yeah. The more money they make the more they put back into skateboarding. I don’t know any other truck brand that pays photo incentive or video incentive or social media incentive. I talk to a lot of pros that ride for different companies and they don’t get paid for wearing a company shirt or having a sticker on their board. Team guys get stoked on the incentives, but would still wear the shirts and put stickers on their boards no matter what.

When you first started running Indy as the team manager, after the first year or two, was it tougher than you thought? Was there more responsibility that you didn’t think you’d have?
No. It was more work, but I just wanted to have the right photos for the ads and all that stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to track down a good photo or shoot a good photo for an ad. Certain dudes could take months to get a good photo. Other dudes it just takes one day. Other than that, once I got my feet wet and got in there, the ball was rolling.

Are you the guy that would have to let a guy go off the team if a guy is messing up?
Yeah, occasionally, I have to deal with that. For the most part, nobody really fucks up because they really want to ride for the truck company. Occasionally, there is another truck company that starts and the grass looks greener over there, but it’s not.

Is that the deal? Once you quit Indy, that’s it? You’re not allowed back?
There have been some exceptions, depending on the rider and what happens.

Tony Hawk riding for Indy, how did that go down?
Well, the truck company he was riding for promised him a bunch of money and I guess it was false promises and he just hit me up to see about getting on Indy. He basically said, “I want to ride for a truck company where I can get trucks and be a part of something and not have them turn their back on me.” That’s how Tony got on. Tony is an awesome skateboarder and a legend and he is still learning new tricks. A few people were tripping out at first but that’s about it. We are stoked he is riding for Indy!

Well, he used to ride for Indy.
That’s the backstory that a lot of people do not know about, so it’s pretty funny.

Was it some hardcores that didn’t want him to ride for Indy?
Initially, a couple of people were shocked, but then it was fine. He wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes. It’s rad that Tony and his son Riley are on the team.

He just wants to be part of something cool.
Exactly. Tony is that dude that goes on a trip and gives his board away. He puts on a set of trucks and drops into a vert ramp and then gives his board away to some kid. Every week. I send him ten sets of trucks and, if he’s doing some kind of hospital giveaway for Make-A-Wish or something, I send him trucks for that. He just likes the stability of riding for a team like Indy that backs him and he gets to skate the best trucks out.

I can’t remember a time when Indy wasn’t the number one seller. Even through the recession, sales are still pretty strong, right?
Yeah. We’re still number one and that has a lot to do with the image of the brand, the quality of the trucks, NHS and their sales force and their distribution. I think they are the biggest skateboard distribution out there. They treat all their employees well and they run a tight ship up there.

Do you go up there often?
I go up there every couple of months and meet with Keith and Mark, the Art Director. I go up to the sales meetings a few times a year, so I get to talk to the reps and introduce new product and tell them what we’re doing and get the reps hyped.

Since more skateparks are getting built and bigger tranny and vert is back, are you selling more 169s than ever before?
I think so. The 139s probably sell the best because that’s what fits the decks most skaters are skating. It seems like kids are riding bigger boards lately. We have a lot of street dudes riding 149’s. Riley Hawk is riding 159s and 169s in the streets and it’s the same with Jon Dickson, Taylor Kirby, AJ Zavala and some of the younger street skaters. These kids are flipping their boards and skating big rails with 169s on. That’s what Navarrette and Grosso ride on vert. It’s kind of mixed.

What about the Mega Ramp guys? Are they doing the 215s and 169s?
Jake Brown, Danny Way, Burnquist, Tom Schaar and others are skating the 215’s. Seems like the standard for Mega Ramp, because they want stability and the strongest trucks under their feet.

That’s sick. It’s a crazy world. You’re the Indy team manager and you’re traveling the world. Does it get better than that?
It’s pretty good right now, working for Thrasher and Indy. Obviously, there was a pretty good list of Indy TMs before me. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last, but it’s definitely a good ride while I’m on it.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #74 AT THE JUICE SHOP…

1 comment

  • john lind February 16, 2018

    Didn’t James have a dog named Devo….

    Reply

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