JAKE WOOTEN INTERVIEW BY ERIC DRESSEN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GLENN JOYCE
There is nobody on earth like Jake Wooten. I first met Jake as a little guy at a Damn Am in Atlanta. He was the perfect Santa Cruz rider. Cool bag of tricks, amazing transition skills and a style that made me feel like I was watching one of the greats in their youth. After getting to know Jake, I immediately wanted to see him succeed. Coming from rural Tennessee, he was oozing with southern charm and a big heart to match. I talk about how smart he is or how he’s one of my favorite skateboarders I’ve ever seen, but what I want anyone reading this to know is that Jake is one of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege of getting to know and I really hope you will all have the chance to meet him too. – INTRODUCTION BY ANDREW CANNON
ERIC DRESSEN: Hey, Jake. How’s it going?
JAKE WOOTEN: Good. I’ve been skating a bunch and working out and trying to wrap up some projects.
Okay. Let’s go. Where were you born?
I was born and raised in Gallatin, Tennessee.
When did you start skating?
I started skateboarding at age five. My uncle Phillip took me to Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam and it was unreal. It was in Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. My uncle wasn’t my legal guardian at the time, but he knew I was in a rough situation at home, so he’d take me out. He took me to that Huck Jam to get me into motocross because he got me a little 50cc Honda racing bike. I got there and I was like, “Tony Hawk! Andy Mac!” It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. My uncle used to skate when he was younger, so he had some boards around the house and then he started taking me out skating.
What was your first board?
It was a Mike Vallely with the elephant graphic.
“I grew up watching GT, Cardiel and Ishod Wair. Every one of those dudes can rip everything and that’s why skateboarding is so sacred and beautiful. Why would you not want to go skate everything? I want to be able to skate quarter pipes like a ledge or skate a rail like quarter pipe or vice versa. The possibilities are endless.”
What year was that?
Gnarly. Did you start going to parks first?
Yeah. My uncle would take me on Sunday mornings to the concrete park in Nashville. He would drive me 45 minutes to Nashville at 5:30am so we could skate for an hour or two before anyone got there, so I wouldn’t get in the way. I was going back and forth for 45 minutes on the quarter pipe, just a little kid hogging up the ramp. We did that and then randomly we would go to Gallatin park or Sixth Avenue.
When did you start entering contests?
My first contest was right when I started skating. The Gallatin skatepark had opened in late 2004, and they had an event the next year. Imperial Skate Shop was a shop in our town that threw it, and I ended up winning the Peewee Division because I was the only one who entered. I was the only one to enter my division, so they made someone bump down a level to skate with me. We had a pretty chill skate scene when I was young, and I started skating in contests right off at Gallatin and Sixth Avenue.
Your uncle and aunt were big supporters in your skateboarding, and they took you everywhere to all the contests. When did you start traveling to other contests?
The first contest I traveled to was King of the Groms at Progressive Skatepark in Canton, Georgia. That was in 2008 and I brought my friends, Damian and Bryce, with me from the skatepark in Nashville. I ended up skating in King of the Groms for a few years and then I also did Georgia Bowlriders and Florida Bowlriders Cup. I got to meet a lot of unreal transition skaters through that. Then I got to meet a lot of unreal street skaters through King of the Groms, so that was cool because we had a good skate scene. Besides Dee Ostrander, we had a lot of good street skaters, but they just kept to themselves. There wasn’t a lot of park rippers where I lived, so whenever I’d go to these different parks and events, it was an opportunity to see how good people really were and I was able to learn all these things from these people.” Every time I’d get to go to an event, it was pivotal in transitioning my skating.
That’s sick. Your uncle is such a rad dude.
My uncle Phillip saved my life.
Yeah. The first time I got to see you skate was at the indoor park when Santa Cruz was on that Midwest tour. You completely destroyed the park and I was blown away. You ollied so high frontside on the quarter pipe to wall ride there and made it look so easy. That’s how I always wanted to skate.
That’s insane for you to say that. I appreciate it. Thank you so much. It means the world.
Were you just on flow back then?
Yeah. In 2015, I was on the flow program. I’d been getting flowed boards for about a year from Andrew.
How did you get on Santa Cruz originally?
So I was skating for Elephant Skateboards. Mike V was running it and Kyle Berard was team manager. Then I got a call from Mike V and he goes, “I quit Elephant. Best of luck.” Then Kyle called me like, “Hey, Mike quit, so there’s no reason for us to stay together, so we’re gonna all go our separate ways, but I think I know someone who will be interested in you. I’m gonna make a few calls.” I was like, “Thank you so much. You’re awesome.” Kyle and Mike were amazing to me. Kyle is still killing it with concrete work and Mike moved to Iowa. Then, on January 23, 2014, Andrew Cannon called me from Santa Cruz. He was like, “I’d love to get you some product.” I thought, “Dream come true.” I was like, “What? Really? I’d love that. That’d be awesome.”
I wondered how they discovered you.
I literally left this dinner with my family at the local Longhorn’s steakhouse and went outside. As I got the call, it said “Andrew Cannon” and my uncle saw it was like, “You gotta take it.” You never answer a phone during dinner where I’m from, but I was like, “Okay.” So I went outside and Andrew was like, “I’d love to send you a package. I’d also love to send you some bearings, wheels, trucks and grip tape.” I was getting NHS flow forever and it was all companies that I wanted to ride for, so I was stoked to be a part of it. I was on flow for a few years and then I turned Am in 2018. Henry, Mario, Justin and I all turned Am together in (“Til The End) Vol. 1. I’ve almost been on Santa Cruz for a decade. That’s nowhere close to you. What are you running on Santa Cruz?
I’ve been on since 2004, and then I rode for them from ‘89 to ‘93 the first time.
When did you turn pro?
Dogtown was my first pro model, but I was kind of pro when I was a little kid. I was getting paid and I entered pro contests when I was 12 or 13.
That’s so sick.
I never had a pro board until 1987 with Dogtown. Those were the original street contest days. How did you get so good? That first time I saw you skate that indoor park you were ripping so hard. You were just plain simple gnarly. You were the gnarliest dude I ever skated with.
Thank you. I was very blessed. Skateboarding was my outlet and my way of trying to deal with baggage I had as well as emotions and everything else. A lot of it I didn’t deal with, so I dealt with it through my skating. I couldn’t blame my skateboard. I couldn’t blame other skaters. I couldn’t blame the weather, unless it was raining out or 40 mile per hour winds. Now that I have moved to Southern California, I can’t blame the weather. It was a very humbling process.
You had goals and ambitions and wanted to be a pro skateboarder?
I did have ambitions, and a few goals as soon as I started skating. I wanted to learn new tricks every time I skated. It doesn’t matter if it’s the stupidest trick ever. I have to learn at least one thing every time I skate. It used to be three tricks, but, after a while, that was a battle. For me, I try tricks that I have absolutely no business trying. I’ve done that since I was a kid. I would spin a 900 and I couldn’t do a 540. I’d try backlip to fakies. I tried invert reverts mceggs. I’ll try anything as long as I know it’s possible. If someone can do it, then I try to figure it out. Sometimes I don’t ever figure it out, or I just haven’t figured it out yet.
The first time I saw you in a contest was at Tampa Pro at the bowl contest. You were skating so hard in practice and the contest, it scared me. You were in beast mode. I’ve seen you at a few Tampa Pro Bowl contests, and you’re so focused. Do you have a game plan or do you just go for it?
I’m not trying to focus on making a run for a contest or even trying to win the contest. I’m just trying to have the best session and I know I’m gonna get the most fired up when I’m skating with other people trying their hardest. When you get that energy, you’ve got to milk it for every penny you got. We need more open jam contests. They do all this quarter jam bullshit now where everyone does the same baby runs in every bowl. No. Let’s get some jams going.
You’re definitely a good jam skater, and you’re always first place in my book. We’ve traveled quite a bit and been around the world together. When we were at Perth at that bowl on the beach, there were all of these Australian groms and I looked at them like, “Oh, they don’t know what they’re about to see.” I always look at the reactions on the kid’s faces and see their faces melt after your first run. It’s sick.
That means the world, Eric, seriously. I’m constantly trying to push the envelope.