I can remember when I was in third grade, back in elementary school, they used to bring in this nutritionist lady to speak to our class about healthy dieting habits. Unlike most of the other kids, I always tended to welcome the occasion. Anything was better than sitting in those brutal hard plastic chairs, trying to crunch your way through busy work the teacher seemed to just drum up on the fly. The hilarity behind all of this lies in the fact that this trollish woman, with greasy black curly hair, would constantly restate the phrase to us, “You are what you eat”. She had even concocted this moronic little song to go along with it, where we would clap our hands and repeat the phrase over and over. Oddly enough, this woman, who you would think would have been a shining example of the health food community, was grossly overweight. I’m talking-sweating-while-sitting-still overweight… Thinking back about it now, maybe she was purposefully sought out for this position. Employed with the idea that the striking mistreatment of her own body would scare us into maintaining our own. All I know is that this woman left an impression on me and the phrase has always resounded in my mind. So I guess in some regards maybe their plan worked? Whatever the case, I’ve found myself reapplying the expression in another way: “You are what you skate”. Maybe not with the same childish song or rhythmic clapping, but none the less, I find it applies.
I spent my early childhood years in the heart of Los Angeles. I grew up in downtown, just a few blocks from what we Los Angelinos call skid row. Skid row has attained world wide fame as being one of the gnarliest areas in Los Angeles. Laden with homeless people and crack heads, skid row today is nothing like what it used to be in the 1990′s. Yet somehow it still managed to retain the title and some of that world wide status. When I hit the 3rd grade my parents decided that homeless people and warehouse living had worn out their original appeal, and we moved from inner city metropolis living out into to the hilly suburbs of Malibu. Not exactly what you would call a smooth transition. It was then that I was introduced to the area’s overwhelming beach and surf culture that seemed to be more of a religion rather then a lifestyle. Oh how little I knew at that time just how big a role all that waterborne heritage would play in my life. Over the course of the next eight years, I was transformed into a beach-going adrenaline junkie. Longboard surfing evolved into longboard skating, and my waves solidified into snaking asphalt ribbons. 4′ to 6′ with an occasional 10′, became 35mph to 40 with an occasional 50. And so my days of downhill skateboarding were born.
I live in downtown now. Just a few streets away from where I grew up. I’ve been here for almost four years now in my dusty little warehouse studio. I’ve traded my Pacific for parking lots, my A-frames for asphalt. I like to compare it to the journey of the sea turtle. It has always been in my blood to return to my original home. You can move a thousand miles away, but you’ll never forget your roots. It’s just how it is. Which leads me to my next point. How has this affected my ability to skate? How has my style advanced as a result? I’m getting biology class flashbacks of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Suddenly the sound of rhythmic clapping seeps back in, the chanting, “You are what you eat”. Maybe I’m not as fast as I should be at downhill, but living flat for the last four years has taught me a lot about creativity. You learn things about your environment. You learn how to make use of walls, open flat spaces, banks, curbs. Your style changes in regards to your versatility. Everything becomes something to skate. Driveway edges become launch ramps, electrical boxes become footplants. Your environment forces you to create, to skate differently. So while downhill may not be my main squeeze anymore, it hasn’t been hurt at all by my time spent learning the ways of the flatlander. Because at the end of the day, the statement holds true, you are what you skate.
A special very thanks to Trevor Baird for being my subject and photo assistant on this project.
Now go outside, get creative, and skate.