INTERVIEW BY CHRISTIAN HOSOI
INTRODUCTION BY TONY HAWK
PHOTOS BY DAN LEVY AND MIKI VUKOVICH
If you want to make an enjoyable career out of skateboarding, then you should take examples from Sergie Ventura. No matter what situation he’s in, he makes the best of it and his enthusiasm is contagious. You will often find him dancing on the deck, joking with other skaters and landing 540’s with the same level of excitement that he had on his first successful attempt – all of this in the middle of a high-pressure demo with thousands of people watching. Sergie truly enjoys skating and has been on his game even when the game was nearly dead in terms of popularity. He has managed to make a career out of enjoying himself; something many skaters claim, but few actually do. Take a cue from Sergie and enjoy the ride.
“OVER THE YEARS, WE’VE COME TOGETHER LIKE A BIG FAMILY. THERE’S MORE CAMARADERIE THAN EVER. IT’S AMAZING. WE’RE NOT COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER. WE’RE COMPETING WITHIN OURSELVES.”
I am kickin’ it with Sergie V. What’s happening, bro?
What’s happening, Christian?
I’m stoked to be able to do this interview with you. We’ve been trying to set it up for a long time, but we both have busy schedules.
I’m just stoked to be hanging out with you. It’s just like back in the day, man.
I know you were doing the Boom Boom Huck Jam tour. You told me about the double routines that you were doing with Rune, and how you had to adjust your speed. It’s a pretty big show. Is there a lot of pressure for you guys?
No, not at all. There’s always a little bit of pressure at the first show. We still get that giddy, jittery feeling at first, but the group of guys that have been on the tour for the last three years have unbelievable camaraderie and teamwork. For instance, Lincoln [Ueda] was not in the show for a few nights because he got hurt, so we had to make adjustments to our routines. Before the show, we got together. We were like, ‘Let’s go over who cues off Lincoln and make the adjustments.’ We only have an hour to practice, so we have to figure it out mentally. We have to visualize it. Since we’ve all been doing this show since the beginning, it’s easy to make changes when you have the trust that we have between the Boom Boom riders.
It’s like a choreographed dance routine.
Yes and no. Parts of the show have a set routine, but we change things when our confidence level goes up.
There are so many shows back to back. Does it get tiring or is it super exciting every night?
During part of the show, we have a 25-minute jam. It’s like a big demo. We just go off. As far as the routines, it takes a few shows before everyone is sync. If one of us falls, we know exactly what we need to do and where to go to the next spot. It gets better as we go along.
It’s like a contest run, where you just start getting it dialed in. You don’t have to think anymore.
Exactly. After everyone has the show down pat, we start doing gnarlier stuff than we’re supposed to be doing. I’ll do a kickflip over Andy when he goes under me, or he’ll do a 540 over me. I won’t even know, because he’s above me, and I’m going under him. He’ll go, ‘Man, did you see? I did a 540 over you.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ We get comfortable with each other and it just gets better as the tour goes on. There are times on the tour when it feels like a show. It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun. Other than that, the tour is just improving my skating.
Tell me about the Madonna tour. I remember, back in the day, you’d be dancing to Keith Sweat. You had your guitar on tour. You were doing your dance routines. We were going to clubs, cruising around with our vests on, no shirts on. We were like ‘Joe Cool.’ Then I heard you were on the Madonna tour. I was like, ‘How perfect.’ How did you get hooked up with that?
One of the producers of the Tony Hawk show is a guy named Jim Gernoit. Madonna was looking for a skater, so she called Jim. He called Tony to see if he knew anyone that could do it. He was looking for the type of person who could be on tour for a long period of time. Tony recommended me. Then Jim called and asked me to audition. I was like, ‘Yeah. I’ll come out for auditions.’ By the time that I got out there, they had already done the auditions. They were either going to pick me or the guy they got from the audition.
Who was the other guy?
I believe it was Benji Galloway.
Well, there’s no competition there, right?
If you say so.
You’re a dancer.
No. The auditions were strictly for skating on stage during one of her songs.
Oh. I thought it was for dancing.
[Laughs] Oh. I figured Benji is not a dancer.
Right. I don’t know if he has any dancing skills.
It was actually for skateboarding?
Yeah. They had a six-foot wide mini ramp they wanted a skater to skate for 30 seconds. The first day of rehearsal, I had to skate in front of Madonna. She was like, ‘Alright. It’s all good.’ In the middle of rehearsal, she decided that she wanted to add to her last song. She had me and another guy learn the dance routine. I ended up dancing in the show in the front row behind Madonna. I skated for 30 seconds in the show. I did a ridiculous fakie hang-up. At the end of the show, during the song ‘Holiday,’ I danced on stage for three minutes. You can go to the website and see me. I have a red Mohawk, a kilt, no shirt and combat boots. There’s Madonna, and there’s me right beside her.
I guess all that dancing back in the day paid off?
I guess so. It was cool because the routines were so simple.
What is Madonna like personally?
She’s very cool as a person. She’s very into her religion, Kabbalah. As a performer, she’s a perfectionist. She’s very caring, but there’s also the ego side that comes out of her that’s kind of mean, because she can be. She’s Madonna. She takes care of her people, thoroughly. We never rode on a bus. She flew everybody on one plane, first class, all the way. There are two sides of her that I saw. One was her ego and the other was her person as a human. She knows how to balance it out perfectly. Business-wise, talking to people, she’s pretty cool.
Where are you living now?
I’m still living in Virginia Beach, but I’m traveling most of the year doing demos and contests. I use that as home base.
Is there a big demand for vert demos these days?
I remember a time when vert skating barely even existed. All of the vert skaters were struggling. Tony Hawk told me that he was doing demos in amusement parks just to make ends meet. When did vert skating start to pick up again?
It’s been good for a while now. Ever since 1995, when I broke the World Record, things started picking up for me.
What World Record did you break?
I set the Guinness Book World Record for the Highest Air on a Skateboard. I was in Amsterdam on a 10-foot ramp. I went 13-feet on that thing. Ever since that, things just took off.
It’s rad for me to hear stories like this, because I wasn’t there. In ’95, I got heavily into drugs and left the skateboarding scene. In 2000, I went to prison for five years, so I only saw skateboarding through the magazines.
I’ll tell you one thing that’s changed in the skateboarding industry is all of the riders, especially the vert riders. Back in ’95, we were really competitive with each other. Over the years, the skaters started to figure out that the corporate sponsors were trying to use skateboarding as a marketing tool. We were all getting the short end of the stick. Over the years, we’ve come together like a big family. There’s more camaraderie than ever. It’s amazing. We’re not competing against each other. We’re competing within ourselves.
I remember when Cab, Tony and I were skating, we’d be cheering each other on and helping each other out with our lines. The only competition was in the finals, when it was me, Cab or Tony. There really was no other competition. We were just having fun. The media made it a big rivalry. I see it coming back to where people are really having fun. There’s so much opportunity.
It’s cool to see how skateboarding has evolved. We’re one big family. All thirty of the vert guys have been doing this together for 20 years. It’s a brotherhood. We’re really tight.