RONNIE SANDOVAL INTERVIEW BY CHRISTIAN HOSOI
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANTHONY ACOSTA AND SAM MULLER
HOSOI: Ronnie, I have my favorite skaters that I get inspired from and you’re one of them. You’re a humble cat and your style of skating and how you live your life is inspirational. It is truly an honor to do this interview with you.
SANDOVAL: Thank you. That means a lot, Christian. It really does.
I know a lot about you, but some people won’t know where you grew up and how you got introduced to skateboarding.
Growing up in Pedro as a little kid, I got my first board when my older brother, Chris, came across a board in this front yard and pretty much stole it. It had a stripper on the grip tape, and my stepdad, Mike, wasn’t really feeling the grip tape because I was super young and he was trying to be like a dad figure like, “No. You don’t need that on your grip tape.” The board was kind of shot and trucks were rusted and the wheels weren’t really spinning that well because the board had been left outside for a while, so my dad, Mike, took the board apart and WD 40ed the trucks and lubed up the bearings and cleaned off the wheels, and put it all back together. He ripped off the grip tape, and put on new grip tape, but it was crazy because when he ripped off the grip tape, he sliced his wrist super gnarly and had to get stitches. He went and got stitches and came home and finished the board for me and that was my first board. Then I was skating with a bunch of the homies around the neighborhood jumping off walls and bombing hills and learning how to ollie and kickflip. I was just going through that fun phase with some good people.
Where did you grow up around Pedro?
I’ve moved around Pedro so much. I lived in the projects area of Pedro at one point. I lived up on 25th Street and then on 24th Street near Busy Bee sandwiches. I lived a town over in Wilmington for a while, with my parents, and then moved back to Pedro and then I lived in Carson with my biological dad, Felipe, for a year. Then I moved back to Pedro. We were always living in different spots and just getting by in life. My mom was always working and my stepdad was always working and my dad was always working, but that’s what happens when prices go up in apartments and houses. We had to look for something a little cheaper or more flexible because there are a lot of kids.
Did you have brothers and sisters?
Yeah, I have six brothers and sisters. Ernie is the oldest and Chris is the second oldest. I’ve got my brother, Frankie, my brother, Phillip, my brother, Andy, and my little brother, Daniel, and my sister, Amber, my sister, Haley, and my sister, Angelina.
Wow. You’ve got a huge family. That’s amazing. I’m an only child so, whenever I hung out with friends that had brothers and sisters, I lived vicariously through them and I got a lot from those feelings of love, loyalty and commitment. I’m sure your family has a tight-knit connection.
Yeah. It’s sick because, even if you’re pissed off at your brother or your sister, you’re gonna be cool with each other because you’re blood. You can’t push them to the side. There are some people out there that push their relatives to the side and don’t really talk to them that much. Sometimes they get busy and grow up and have their own lives. When you find that relationship in somebody that you’re not related to, you get the feeling like, “This feels like a brother to me.” They love you unconditionally and always have your back, even though you’re wrong sometimes, but they will call you out on your shit when you’re wrong. That’s what it’s like having siblings. I was the youngest at one point because Angie, Haley and Daniel didn’t come until 10 years ago. I was the youngest of all my siblings, so I would get the tail end of some weird shenanigans getting brought up to be tough, with my brothers. I learned so much from my older brothers that, later on, when I came down to Channel, I hung around all older people. If you want to hang out with the older cats, you’ve got to act and talk and be how we are. I grew up a little bit too fast when I was teenager, but it molded me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing. Being on the streets and learning about the code of the streets, I feel like that’s much needed.
We have a lot in common because I also grew up quickly being in the culture of skateboarding. Older skaters become like your big brothers and they regulate you and teach you. I grew up in Venice and, when I went to the skatepark, Jay Adams and Shogo Kubos would heckle me. They raised me to get it right and it was mandatory that you have style and a good attitude and an aggressive attitude. It made me who I am today. Your mentors helped make you who you are too and you are an amazing success story.
Growing up with Robbie and Oscar, I had humbling friends. If you’re being a dick or you’re acting big headed, you would get checked quickly. With my friends outside of the skatepark, hanging out with one of the gangs in Pedro, I was always skating and they knew me as a skater. Being a kid, getting into trouble sounded like fun. I feel like a lot has changed now when I see kids complaining about small fry stuff like iPhones and technology. I remember when the iPhone came out and it was nuts. My friends Jacob and Johnny and Joe and Fidel used to be in the 9th Street Nina boys crew and I learned a lot from them. I learned what to do, what not to do, what to say and what not to say. I was drinking and smoking weed and just waiting for something to happen. I would talk here and there, but I was pretty quiet most of the time, even at Channel when I was young. I was listening to older people talk. You stay quiet, when you’re a young age, and you listen and embrace everything that’s being said in front of you.
“I’m grateful for everything that has ever been done for me in skateboarding. I can only keep moving forward and progressing on board and getting positive words out in the world telling the next generation that nothing is impossible.”
I love how you paid attention when you were young, because I paid attention too. I wanted to honor the code and respect my elders. I had a father that told me to embrace those people and learn from them, but also push it to a whole other level with my own flavor and style and ideas and dreams. Now I want to be a stand-up man, like the veteranos who tell kids, “You can still be cool and ride a motorcycle and get tattoos, but you don’t have to participate in illegal activity.” It’s a hustler’s life and it’s hard to give it up. I got into it and I was thrill seeking for 10 years, running from cops, and I thought I was having a great time. That’s the romance of criminal activity. Now I’m a dad to four boys and I want them to dream dreams and succeed and not get peer pressured into living a hard life. My prison experience taught me respect. It’s the code of dealing with the streets. The Nina boys raised you and that was kind of like a school for you and taught you a lot.
100%. Growing up in Pedro, I remember one of the older homies telling me, “Fear will fade. You can’t be hesitant.” If you feel the need to do something at that very moment, do it. The minute you hesitate, and somebody sees that, it goes bad. When I was a young kid, there was really no hesitation in doing anything. Even now, there’s no hesitation. If you hesitate doing something, other frictions happen. I catch myself telling my little brother, “Don’t be hesitant about doing something. That fear will fade as you get older. Just don’t push it too fast. You’re still a kid. Enjoy your life. You think school is the hardest thing in your life right now, but that is the easiest thing you have to do in your life. Listen to what mom and dad tell you and just have fun right now. Don’t let this life slip through your fingers.”
Yeah. I grew up in a skatepark and that’s where I got my friends and that propelled me. It’s similar to you and the crew at Channel Street because there’s so much pride and investment into a DIY. Now it’s accepted by the city and it’s amazing what you all have done to push it through with all of the hard work and dedication to your spot and community. That’s a huge story not only for San Pedro. It’s huge for all of skateboarding. Now you and I are teammates on Vans, so we get to travel together and I got to watch you grow up. I saw how you have approached competitions, sponsorships and your community. I noticed Robbie too and he’s a cool kid and he’s always respectful. One thing about Robbie is his style. It’s so refreshing to see. I bet you got some of your style from Robbie Russo.
Yeah. My style and skating came from Oscar Navarro and Robbie Russo. I always liked skating pools and I’ve always been a fan of Peter Hewitt and Pete the Ox too. I had a lot of dudes that I looked up to, but the way that Robbie flowed on his board and the way that Oscar flowed on his board and the way that Peter Hewitt and Pete the Ox rode their boards, it’s nuts. It’s so trippy. I think Channel Street creates different skateboarders. I believe, if you can skate Channel Street, you can skate literally anything. I’ve seen some of the best skaters in the world come here and have a hard time skating this park. They don’t know the lines, so it’s hard to keep speed. Every wall is different and the coping is different. Watching Robbie’s lines and the tricks that he does and how he flows through this park, it’s really a blessing to the eye. It’s the same thing with Oscar Navarro.
“My style and skating came from Oscar Navarro and Robbie Russo. I always liked skating pools and I’ve always been a fan of Peter Hewitt and Pete the Ox too.”
Yeah. We grew up going to backyard pools and riding shallow ends and gnarly coping and the challenge was who can rip. It was heckling and pushing each other to be able to ride the worst terrain. When we were down in Venice building quarter pipes to walls with eight or nine feet of vert, our deal was to try to get to the top. We grew up in a park where we had perfect pools and we were entering contests and we were skating vert ramps with perfect tranny. In between that, we were going to skate ditches and jacked up ramps. Those were the places we honed our skills and skated something difficult. I can totally relate to what you’re saying. If you could skate Channel Street, you could skate anything. I remember us going into arenas where they had set up jump ramps and wal rides and then Gonz and Natas and Guerrero came in with street tricks and kickflips. Tom Knox did the kickflip wall ride and I was like, “This is the future.” It was rad because it was a whole other way of skateboarding and it was a challenge. I may have won a lot of Streetstyle competitions but, I could see the innovation of the skaters coming up after us and bringing the future of street skating tricks to the streets. You’re one of my favorite tranny skaters, but I watched a video where you said, “Everybody thinks I’m just a tranny skater.” To me, that’s the challenge. We push ourselves to go beyond what we can do. I see what you guys are doing at Channel Street, and I may not have the quick muscles that I used to have, but I want to go down there and try some lines and see what you guys do in person. Channel Street is gnarly.
Yeah. I take my hat off to street skaters too. They are in a whole other world. I find myself pumping on the flat if I’m about to boardslide a rail. I pump the flat right before I try to hop on a rail and that makes it much more comfortable for me, like I’m skating tranny. It reminds me of getting ready to go for a trick.
I totally relate with that because I get connected with the board when I do that little quick turn into position. It’s like I’m getting ready to attack and I have to make sure my feet are in the right spot.
Exactly. I’ve skated some hard-to-skate parks. Washington Street is definitely not easy to skate and FDR is not easy to skate and Burnside is not easy to skate. The fact that I see some heavy hitter skaters coming down to Channel and having a hard time that actually makes me happy because we’re falling into the category of DIY skateparks that are hard to skate. Once you get it down, you can find good lines. I think that’s what’s so unique about all of these DIY skate parks.
Those places are proving grounds. Hats off to Red and Monk and all of the guys who paved the way. It is so inspiring what they’ve done for skateboarding. It kept tranny skaters going and careers were revived because of guys like you and Tony Trujillo and all the hardcore tranny kids. It made transition skating really exciting, and kids and companies recognized that this is a category of skateboarding that we need to honor. Give it up for the DIYs that made a platform for you to express yourselves, and congrats to you all for pushing through and making it happen. Pedro Barros was a huge part of pushing transition skateboarding too with the no pads generation. That brought a whole different flavor of skateboarding. I’m so stoked for Channel Street and its influences of Burnside, FDR and Washington Street, and the guys that built those DIYs and invested hard work. The guys at Channel Street put in work and poured the cement and did it for the love of what they love to do because I’m sure there was not a big payday in it for them.
No. It was just a love for skateboarding. They just wanted to build their own spot where they can skate and do their own thing and be in their own element and invite people to join them as well. You get your kooks here and there, but kooks gotta skate too. I come across some crazy people under the bridge, and there are unique human beings in our domain, but that’s what this atmosphere brings. It’s like Grosso said, “It brings the freaks and geeks of the skateboarding world.” It’s rad that it brings people together. You see the hard work in these guys’ eyes and in the words that they say and how they say it. Parents are bringing their kids under a bridge under the 110 Freeway to come and skate this park. When the skatepark wasn’t here, it was just a parking lot and it was the last place you’d ever want your kids to be. It was an illegal skatepark that has been made legitimate and now you see families down here having a good time and creating memories.
It’s where dreams are born and made. There came a point where you had a gnarly knee injury. When that happened, all I could think about is how calm you were. You said, “It’s okay. Don’t worry. I’m good. Just call an ambulance.” That clip resonates with me because of your tenacity of dealing with stuff. What were your thoughts when it happened and how did you overcome that?
When it happened, I thought I smacked my face. I was like, “Damn. I really took a slam.” When I tried to stand up, my knee kind of caved in and I’m like, “I’ve never felt that before.” That’s when I rolled up my pants and saw my knee caved in and you can hear my buddy Alvin going, “Oh, no, no, no! I was like, “Damn. I broke my kneecap.” In my head, I was like, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it right now. I’m not gonna freak out. I’m just gonna relax and let this day pan out and we’ll just see what the doctor says. What popped into my head is that the same thing happened to Omar Salazar on a Spitfire trip years earlier. I remember seeing his reaction and he was in so much pain. He was screaming, “My career is over!” When I did it to myself, I remember Robbie Russo coming up to me and I told him, “Hey, man, if this is the end for me, and I can never skate again, just know that I gave it my all. If I’m going out, this is exactly the way I would want to be going out – doing a trick that I love.” Little Rob shut me down 100%. He was like, “Bro, don’t even talk like that. Don’t trip. This is just a chapter that’s beginning and you’re gonna figure it out. You’re gonna write your own path. You’re going to be good.” I was like, “Fuck it.” Everybody was freaking out, but Robbie kept me calm. I’m like, “Everyone please just relax and chill out.” The ambulance gets there and the paramedic guy falls down the quarter pipe trying to get down to me. I was like, “Somebody call an ambulance for the paramedic too.” Everyone started laughing and he got back up. He’s like, “No. I’m okay.” He smacked his face and it was gnarly, but he got up and he was super calm. Then they got me on the gurney and took me to the hospital. The day before this I got in an argument with my lady and we didn’t talk at all that day. When I was on the way to the hospital, I texted my mom, “I broke my kneecap. I’m on my way to the hospital and will explain more when we get there.” So we get to the hospital and the two people that I see as we are pulling in are my mom and my girlfriend. I looked at my girlfriend and I was like, “I’m sorry about the argument that we had. I’m so happy to see you. I’m glad you’re here for me and my mom too.” Then the lady came in and I was like, “What’s up doctor? What are we looking at?” She’s like, “Well, you broke your patella in a couple of places. You snapped it in half, and you have two more pieces that are broken in half and then you have a couple of little shatters around the kneecap, but those are going to be hard to put back together.” I was like, “All right, well, that sounds horrible.” She said, “I think it’s gonna take you about a year to heal.” I was like, “Oh, that’s not that bad.” In my head. I’m like, “Damn.” Then I was like, “All right, it is what it is. I can’t change anything. I have to move forward and roll with the punches.” So they got my leg straight and I went home and just sat there in silence. A bunch of my friends came over for an hour and then left. My lady was like, “Do you need anything?” I said, “I’m just going to sit here and think for a while and calm myself down.” I sat there for probably three and a half hours in silence thinking. From there, the doctor was like, “We’re going to do surgery in two days.” So we did the surgery and the doctor was very good with my knee. She was like, “We’re going to put some metal on your kneecap and run some bone tape as an x. We’re going to lay it on your kneecap so that it holds it tight and we’ll put it back together.” After the surgery was over, we’re heading home and I’m like, “When do I start physical therapy?” They said, “You’ll start in a month or two.” Immediately after I messed my knee up, it was on social media, and everybody was calling me. Phelper called me and was like, “How are you doing? What’s the doctor saying? How long is it gonna take to heal?” I said, “They said a year.” He goes, “That’s not a year. Don’t trip. You got this.” I said, “I’m not worried. I’m just looking forward.” Then I completely changed my whole demeanor. I stopped drinking alcohol and quit smoking cigarettes two months prior to that. I was smoking weed and I stopped everything. I stopped eating bread and rice and red meat. I completely cut off all these things. I was thinking of anything I could do to heal myself quicker. They gave me a year window to heal, but I came back in four and a half months. My lady would wake up before she went to work and make me a smoothie with all this crazy stuff in it like bone broth and greens and I would drink that every day. Omar Salazar said, “Take glucosamine for your knee. Take BoneUp for your bones. Take fish oil to reduce swelling.” I still take those to this day and I take Turmeric now. I changed my life completely. I remember, when I had first started to walk again, I sent Phelper a video and I was like, “I’m walking, old man.” I had a brace around my knee, and the brace helped me with the degrees I could bend my knee and would stop me at a certain point. Jake was like, “That’s right. Keep that strong mentality. Weak-minded men don’t heal as quickly as strong-minded men. Keep your mind in a strong, positive mindset and you can overcome anything.”
“I think Channel Street creates different skateboarders. I believe, if you can skate Channel Street, you can skate literally anything.”
The story of how you overcame your injury is powerful. I’ve only broken one bone in my body and it was in 1983 on a Thrasher tour. I broke my arm and I healed quickly, but I had a pin in my arm. A year later, I went back to the same ramp to do that trick. I remember climbing up the ramp and my knees were shaking and I fought through it and did it first try. Then I threw my board and kicked the side of the ramp and said, “Take that!” Did you have that feeling when you did your first air on that wall?
When I started skating, the first thing that I did is I went to Peck Park and did that backside air that I fucked myself up on. I wasn’t supposed to, but they said I could start rolling around and learn how to find my balance again. Immediately, I threw on a kneepad and went to Peck Park and did the backside air and then I skated home. My intentions were to go do this backside air and call it a day and go home and relax and watch some TV and that’s what I did. I was so tired of being hurt. Before I went and did the backside air, I was watching Cardiel on Epicly Later’d when he got hurt and what he had to go through. I would listen to the way that Cardiel spoke and I was putting myself in a totally different mindset. It’s so hard to explain. I was a completely different person. I was not giving up. I had a Vans video part that I had to finish with Geoff Rowley and Pedro Barros and there were some comments on the Internet like, “This fool isn’t going to finish his part. He’s giving up. He’s done.” In my head, I’m like, “Fuck that. I’m not giving up on anything. I’m not giving up on myself.” I wanted to prove people wrong. I wanted to prove myself wrong. I wasn’t gonna let this destroy me.
Naysayers fueled the fire for you to go and accomplish your goals.
It turned me into a different person. I don’t try to let pride blind my eyes because pride is like the hardest thing you could have and the hardest thing you could lose. I think it was more coming from my soul. I was like, “Fuck these negative comments. That is not going to change me!” If it didn’t change me before I got hurt, it’s not going to change me after. I’m going to show everybody that this is what I can do and I’m going to do it 10 times better than I ever thought I could. That was the drive. There’s a certain negativity that you drive off of and there’s certain negativity that nobody likes to hear. When people talk about your abilities and what they think you can do, they don’t know anything. They don’t know what I go through on a day-to-day basis. They don’t know my mindset, but I’m going to show them what I’m capable of doing after this injury. That was the whole drive that I put into that part.
The heckling that we would do with each other on the ramp or at the pool or at the skatepark always motivated us. Today, I look at skaters skating with each other and you don’t see a lot of heckling because they think it’s disrespectful. If I see somebody has something going and I can help them refine their ability to learn a trick, I’ll interject. That kind of heckling can help. I grew up with that kind of push. It was encouragement in our day. That was how the fire was and it continually stoked our lives to not stop pushing it.
Yeah. I got that from little Rob and Oscar and Phelper too. Rob and Oscar would destroy me if I didn’t land a trick that they landed. I’m like, “Fuck that. I’m going to show you that I can do it.” I remember when I was trying to do this trick and Jake was like, “We’re not in San Pedro anymore. Let’s see what you got.” I remember hearing him say that, I was like, “Fuck this. I’m gonna land my trick.” There’s a gap to noseblunt that I was trying in Ecuador and Phelper was talking so much shit to me. He was like, “We had to drive two hours here for you not to make it and blow it.” I was like, “If I land this, I’m going to punch you in the face!” That’s the one that I made. We all know Phelper. Rest in peace to the master. He was trickling his way back to the van, and I saw him and he was like, “What are you gonna do now? You gonna punch an old man in the face?” I was like, “Oh, now you want to use your age as a cop out. Of course not, but thanks for being a dick and helping me out. I appreciate it.” He goes, “Always, kid. You know what we live. You know what we do.”
At the end of that video, Jake says, “It’s about skating with your friends. If you don’t have that, go to fuckin’ Best Buy and shop for a shovel and go out there in the bushes and dig a hole and get in.”
Yeah. He was such a heavy personality. Little Rob is the same way. I still heckle from time to time. I’m not trying to psych my friends out, but I don’t want my friends to punk out either because I know what my friends can do. It’s amazing what skateboarders can do. Don’t take it as disrespect. Take it as fuel for the fire. It’s tough love.
Stoke the fire. This is extraordinary stuff.
I tried to hug Phelper and the dude punched me in the chest. He’s like, “Men don’t hug after you land a trick. That shit should not be happening.” He punched me in the chest hard, and I was like, “Okay.” Years later, I landed a trick and he came up for a hug and I gave him a good shot to the gut. I was like, “Remember grown men don’t hug. Just pay respect and we’ll move on.” He was like, “Yeah, right. Kiss me.” [laughs] I’ve had so many altercations with Phelper like that since I was a young kid. A lot of dudes shied away from him. The Hell Ride crew was different. It was anarchy and that fire is still there. I was so young when I started coming around Phelper, Raney, Pat, Grant, John Alden, Preston and all those dudes. It was different and people shied away from Jake like, “He’s being an asshole right now. He’s always drunk these days.” I would never push myself away from Jake. I would ask him questions and I was so curious and I wanted to know how he grew up and the things that he had to go through. He would tell me crazy stories and it was sick because Jakehad no filter. I loved that. He didn’t care what he said or how he said it. One time, I remember, we were deep in a conversation and one of the sickest tranny skaters comes up and goes, “What’s up, Jake?” Jake said, “Hey, man, I’m talking to Ronnie. Go fuck yourself. Get out of here.” It was like raw skateboarding back in the day where you could say and do whatever you wanted without repercussions. I’m not saying that we were saying anything like hatred or putting people down or discriminating against anybody. It was just that raw skateboarding mentality and that tough love type deal. I’ll give you your props when you earn your props. You let your skateboarding do the talking for you. That stuck with me, because that’s how it is. If I meet a skateboarder and they rip and their style is insane and they do the gnarliest tricks, but they have bad morals or an ugly heart, I do not give a damn about how good they are. That’s how Phelper was, even though he was such an asshole. He weeded out those people. It’s funny. He had this crazy radar. Everything that he told me about how he viewed skateboarding and where we need to be and what we need to do has stuck with me. He didn’t hold back and he had a vision.
There is one thing for sure. He loved skateboarding.
100%. He loved it with a passion. He would never stop and he would never give up on it.
Yes. Rest in peace, Jake. It was tough to deal with Jake’s loss, and the loss of Grosso and Mark Hubbard and P-Stone. I watched the P-Stone Cup and I saw the love for those guys. You were skating for your fallen soldiers. When people pass on, we get together and love each other and that’s what you guys did at Lower Bob’s. That was special.
That event is always magical every year. My friends know me well and I will literally destroy myself for those who can’t do it anymore. When you get put in that mindset, you’re skating that park for Monk, and Jake and Preston and Hammeke. It’s for all of our fallen soldiers. It’s a session that you can never duplicate. You can only take it in as much as you can while you’re there and watch the skating and then wait until next year for the magic to happen again. It’s trippy and it’s a totally different vibe. Whenever I go there, I’m like, “Damn, this person is here and this person is here and this person is here. It’s about to go off today.” I get super hyped and I can’t wait to skate. Then you take your runs and you get tired, but the vibe of all these guys keeps your energy up and your blood pumping super gnarly. That’s what hypes me up 100%. It doesn’t even feel like a contest. It feels like one gnarly session. They’ll call it at the end of the day, like this person got this and this person got that but, in my eyes, due to everybody there supporting Preston and his family and Jake and all of our fallen soldiers, it’s more than just getting a trophy. It’s all love and respect. I’m hyped on the people that make the trophies too. The first time I went there I got first and I got a trash can trophy with a skateboard in it, wheels spinning. Pedro Barros got the Widowmaker and I believe Max Schaaf made that. I was like, “I love my trophy, but I will trade you my trophy for that Widowmaker because it came from Max, and it was him and Phelper’s ramp.” I was like, “That’s a one in a million piece. Don’t ever lose that. Keep that close forever.” I’m a weirdo like that. Even skating pools, when a piece of tile flies off from a grind, it’s a trophy I keep.
Yeah. I feel sentimental about a lot of things. I’ve kept so much stuff, like boards I’ve ridden. I’ve got tiles from Marina, and all the local spots that we cared about, and everything reminds me of moments that I never want to forget. It sparks memories, like seeing a photo. I’m so glad we had photographers like Hammeke, rest in peace. He was an amazing guy. Mark Waters was another guy who took photos and supported skateboarding. Those guys are definitely included in the fallen soldiers. We loved Grosso too and miss him. I saw him loving guys like you and really fighting for the underdogs. At the end, he really did speak out to make things happen like the Vans Park Series. Tell me what you thought of Grosso. I know you guys had a tight relationship.
Yeah. Grosso was a different type of human with his outlook on skating. We had great conversations skating together. I was thinking about that the other day too. He always fought for the underdog. He was always the one to say, “There’s something special about this dude, and you guys need to take the time to figure out what that is.” I was bummed when I heard about his passing and I know that his spirit lives on through his son. Oliver looks just like him and it’s nuts hearing him talk. I feel like he’s gonna grow into that voice that his father had. I’m glad that the Love Letters are still around, because those will live on. Jeff and I would laugh about the stupidest things. I could be myself around Jeff and say anything with no judgment. He was always real about how he felt and how his life was. He’s like, “You could do this, but the outcome is this. Do you want that outcome? Live through my mistakes and take my word into consideration.” There was no holding back with him and I loved that about him.
Your My War video was an insane battle to see you go through. I always look at the tenacity that it takes to overcome battles. It’s not just the landing of the trick. It’s how you work to get to that moment. I loved when you said, “If I don’t do this, I’m gonna quit skateboarding.” You went from level to level of confidence to never giving up. Watching that battle and then hearing comments from Roman Pabich and Geoff Rowley, it was icing on the cake. You’ve been through so much and you’re doing it. Phelper said, “If skating gets too scary for you, go do something else.” You mentioned that and it says a lot about how you’ve learned to dig deep.
Yeah. Honestly, I wasn’t sleeping at all because I went and checked it out. I jumped down it and I was like, “I really just fucked myself. This is nuts. I don’t know how I’m gonna do this.” I was just dwelling on this trick. I told myself, “If I don’t do this trick, I’m gonna quit.” I told Rye and he kind of laughed. I was like, “No. I’m serious. If I can’t get myself to do this trick and get past it and put it behind me and conquer it, I’m honestly going to quit skating. I’ll just get a regular job and figure it out.” He was shocked.
That means you are making it because you’re not quitting skateboarding.
Yeah. Being up there on that rooftop, I had so many different emotions, trying the trick and bailing and going back up there. I was like, “What am I doing wrong? Should I ollie into it? Should I just do a boneless?” I was having a mental breakdown on top of this rooftop on a church. I was like, “What the hell did I get myself into? It was nuts. It was such a crazy feeling. I didn’t want to quit skating, so there was only one way to get it over with and that was rolling away. Finally, after 20 some slams, I tightened my trucks a little more. I thought, “Maybe this will help.” Then I ran back up there. I remember telling them, “You guys, I’m over it. I don’t want to do this.” I’d heard that somebody else wanted to do it. I’m like, “That guy can do it. I can’t beat myself up anymore.” I tightened my trucks and I ran back up there. I was standing up there like, “This one is for Phelper.” I thought, “I’m going to give it my all and I’m just not gonna fall off my board.” It was heavy. It was a different mindset being in it. It’s hard to explain when you’re past the point of no return. All skateboarders know when you’re at that point where it’s all or nothing. It’s a crazy feeling, I cried after that because there was so much emotion and I was in so much pain. Rye didn’t put that in the video thank God because that moment was just for me and the people that were there. It was a full cry session after. There was so much air falling off that roof. Every time, rolling off that roof, it was like, “I’m on the bank now and I am coming towards the bottom. I’m going so fast. Now I’m on the floor, just sliding.” You know what trips me out? What I felt after rolling away from that bank is that most people in this world will never feel that feeling. It’s nuts. It was the best feeling I ever felt in my life at that time. It was insane.
That should encourage people to seek that feeling, especially skateboarders that are gifted at skateboarding, but don’t push through the battle. People can be great skaters, but never have that sheer determination and then accomplishment.
Yeah. It’s one in a million. Whatever feeling you get on your board battling a trick, once you land it, that reward is not getting the trick. It’s that feeling after all this weight got lifted off your shoulders. You’re like, “Oh my god, I’m so glad that is over.”
I loved that moment. This interview has been awesome. I’m sure you’re proud of your community, and pushing through to get Channel Street legal. You also put in blood, sweat, tears and broken bones at Peck Park. Are there any words that you want to say about those spots and your family and friends and sponsors?
Yeah. Thank you to everybody that’s ever supported me and thanks to Channel Street 100%. Thanks to my parents, my dad, Mike, my dad, Felipe, and my mom, Martha. Thanks to my brothers and sisters and all my friends. Thanks to my friends from the neighborhood on 9th Street. You looked out for me when I was younger and always had my back. It was the same thing with Oscar Navarro and Robbie Russo. They always looked out for me and always had my back. Thanks to my sponsors for believing in me and letting me travel the world with you, and showing me all this love and respect. I’m grateful for everything that has ever been done for me in skateboarding, on and off the board. I can only keep moving forward and progressing on board and getting positive words out in the world telling the next generation that nothing is impossible. Don’t give up on your dreams and don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. Everybody has talent. You literally just have to dig, dig, dig and dig and dig until you find it. Sometimes people find their talents super easy and, for some people, it’s a journey. Thanks to all my TMs too. I’m super grateful for the life that I live. God bless them all and God bless the unfortunate too that are going through hard times. As much of a hardass as I come off as in person, I do have my moments, but I’m hoping that everybody out there is thriving and moving forward and doing good by yourself and your family. Treat your body as a temple because you’ve only got one body and you’ve got to love yourself more than others love you. There are so many words that are unsaid nowadays. I don’t want people to get soft, but I also don’t want the love to die out because love is everything. Love, compassion, dedication, common courtesy, respect and loyalty is everything. Before I go to bed, and when I wake up, I thank God for the days that I get to live and the nights that I get to sleep. Thank you to everybody I’ve ever had a good moment or a bad moment or a weird and awkward moment with. Thank you for giving me the time of day in this life. Thanks to all my sponsors too. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to get these words out to the world and provide for my family. At 26, I’ve seen places in the world and I’ve done so many things and I wouldn’t change anything. Just keep that fire lit. I don’t ever want to miss out on anything. I’m happy where I am today and who I am today with my daughter and my girlfriend and my family. I’m happy to have all of it right in front of me.