How Birling Skateshop Helped Organize Free Indoor Skateboarding in Ottawa
As told by Adam Wawrzynczak Photos by Aaron Cayer This past February, the city of Ottawa launched a free weekly indoor skateboarding...
You and the Emerica team are back in Canada once again. When was the last time you were north of the border?
Well, in customs they said 2015, and again back in 2013. It’s really weird, but honestly, I don’t remember that happening.
Is there a best or worst part about coming to Canada?
There aren’t any worst parts. It’s really clean, it has great skate spots and cool people. It basically just feels like the closest thing to America.
Besides RDS, Mark Appleyard and Rick McCrank, when you hear “Canadian Skateboarding” what comes to mind first?
I think of Colin McKay skating a 10-foot vert ramp in Virtual Reality, as well as Rick Howard in the Plan B video skating some of the classic spots. The times Moses (Itkonen) and Danny Way would be up in Canada—they just made Canada seem like a cool place, like San Francisco or something.
This year you turned 40. Ten years ago you were working on Stay Gold—at any point did you think you would be where you are now, being able to film parts like in Made Chapter 2?
I was 31-32 when we were just finishing Stay Gold and I was feeling pretty good. 40 didn’t seem too far off. I thought I’d still be skating.
I’ve heard you say before that as you age it gets harder to skate, and you have to do a lot more maintenance on your body. Are there any specific things, diet or physically that come to mind that promote prolonged youthfulness?
I mean, it’s hard because you have to be disciplined and for me that comes and goes. Like on this trip right now, I’m not really doing anything. I stretch and warm up a bit before skating, but that’s kind of it. Since I started being proactive with my body, the most benefits I’ve seen were due to drinking a lot of water, stretching, and using an exercise bike. There’s a ton of different things you can do work-out wise, but an exercise bike is easy to use, you can use it for just 25 minutes a day. These types of things will go a long way.
About six and a half weeks ago, I had an injury from skating resulting in a minor surgery. Do you have any advice for individuals like myself or any other skater coming back from an injury?
I guess just be patient and do whatever the physical therapist says to do, because that’s their job to know. There’s exercises that physical therapists get you to do that just feel ridiculous, but I’ve just learned to listen, stay out of it and just trust that what they’re recommending is going to work.
Do you think that the stereotypical image of a skater not “treating their body well” when it comes to partying and tossing themselves down things is going to change with how skateboarding is becoming more mainstream and going into the Olympics?
So far, no. Honestly no. I guess there was a Street League thing that happened recently and I saw through people’s Instagram accounts that it was regarding the rules around drugs. People were like smoking weed in the conference! Nobody cares—maybe there are like ten dudes that care, and only two people from each country can go anyways, so it will most likely be the two people everyone imagines it to be. Some of the other guys out there right now, if they had to choose between weed and the Olympics, most of them are going to probably choose weed.
Where do you think Emerica fits into the grand scheme of skateboarding today?
Emerica just makes great shoes. A lot of stuff comes and goes in waves—just look at the Lakai and Emerica wearing skaters of the early 2000’s compared to the presence of Adidas and Converse today. Just look at Zach (Allen), he’s a new kid who follows some of the trends and stuff, but he wears Emericas and always has. Ultimately what it comes down to is that they’re good shoes—we aren’t trying to chase anything.
Right now, whose skating visually appeals to you the most?
I mean, I could go on, but just to name a few I’d have to say: Grant Taylor, Kader (Sylla), Erick Winkowski, Tristan Funkhouser, and Ronnie Sandoval. Grant’s number one though; he’s the sickest skater.
What type of skater skates for Emerica?
The guys that I notice that really like it, grew up being influenced by Baker and all the early Emerica stuff—it’s stuck with them. At one point I could say that it would be people that love handrails, gaps, and that kind of skating would be attracted to Emerica, but now skating’s so wide open that I can’t even think like that. You’ll have people on Emerica like Winkowski, or Zach, or Victor (Aceves) with the classic huge rail skating—skating’s just so cool and unique right now, it’s kind of just whoever’s ripping. Jon Dickson’s one of the greatest skateboarders of all time. I was reading the comments on his last part of Deathwish, and I don’t think people realize he is really one of the best.
What in skating isn’t visually appealing to you?
In my younger years I would’ve been like “ah fuck that, that’s wack, this is lame,” but now I can’t even spend my time thinking like that. I don’t even know, and even if I did know, I wouldn’t care to say it, or put something like that in my mind. In the early 90’s you couldn’t get away with shit. If someone came along with the wrong clothes or style or wack shit, they were done. I feel like it’s a lot less like that now, you know what I mean? People can be different. You can be a contest skater who wears their sponsors all proper, and be taken in just as easy as someone who’s a total freak.
Why do you think so many of the styles from the 90’s have come back with such force? From the way people dress to their trick selection, it’s been the trend for quite a while now.
Obviously, it seems like all fashion stuff just goes in cycles, but it won’t come back exactly the way it was—it’ll come back in some new tweaked way. But I honestly think that all the really gnarly skateboarding—hammers—almost takes the fun out of it. Cruising around your city, slapping and wallieing off shit, a lot more people can do, and have fun skating with their friends like that. It’s more accessible. Nobody wants to go jump 16-star rails—like, who can do that? If that’s all skaters can do, then skating will be over, that’s too hard. It’s also just a trend. It’s like parachute pants or bell bottoms or something—trends come and go. One thing that’s never going to change though is when somebody does some shit that’s so hard, like Nyjah’s new video part. I don’t care if it’s not the trendiest, coolest, or whatever. When I watch that I’m like, “that was absolutely amazing.” For me at least, pure talent will always be the best.
I grew up 10 minutes down the road in this very rural environment. For the longest time, I got my exposure from free Concrete mags, and eventually watched Stay Gold as one of my first videos—and that’s how I developed what I thought was cool in skateboarding. In North America, I feel like a lot of kids have been in the same situation. What do you think about the kids who haven’t had any exposure and haven’t developed a sense of what they think is “cool” yet?
It’s like music, some people are going to like country music and some are going to like hip-hop. I grew up in a time where there was a lot of vert skating to be exposed to, but I saw Matt Hensley, and I was like “that is exactly what I want to do.” There’s nothing wrong with being trendy. I like trendy stuff. You just want to fit in with your skate crowd, its normal and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
What’s up with Baker 4? I heard whispers it was being released early next year?
I honestly don’t know right now. A lot of different people are on different schedules for getting footage, and some have more than others. I’m going to take a look where everything’s at in a few months and just base it off that.
Is there a new vision for Baker 4, or is just more Baker?
I mean there’s a lot of people on the team right now, and I really want to just show off the people that are just killing it. Like T-Funk and Zach, the young dudes. I just want to put something together that looks like Baker. Beagle has a way of capturing the personalities and funny little things that happen when we’re out skating. I think it can’t not look like Baker. It’s hard for me to edit now and just sit at the computer. I used to stay up all night and drink coffee till two in the morning. Now it’s tough, after ten minutes I’m like, “I wanna get out of here.” I’ll find a way.
Can we expect full parts? Or more montages than anything?
Full parts! Everyone wants to have full parts. Some montages of course, but there’s seventeen people involved so it would be hard for everyone to have a full part.
What else is new with Emerica other than Figgy’s new shoe?
I’m stoked we have Erick Winkowski on the team. He’s going to be working on a part, and we’ll put out an edit from this trip. I really want to push the shoes and get a lot of people who are skating—like Neen Williams for instance, he’s not on a shoe company right now and he loves my shoe. Anyone that’s in that type of situation, I’m down to just hook people up. Zach said the coolest thing to me. I thought he might be one of the kids who wanted to wear Chuck Taylors or whatever, and he was working something out with Emerica. I was sitting down talking to him one day and he said, “real skaters just know they’re just good shoes.” Simply put, but a lot of smaller brands like us have fallen off.
Is it getting harder for Emerica in today’s industry?
I don’t know, I just do my thing. I’m just trying to be like Cab and have my Reynolds shoe. All brands have ups and downs. I remember back in the early 2000’s Vans was garbage, and now its good. You never really know, things can change quick.
With those last words, Alien and his employee Shawn Michaud walked into the basement where we were talking. When Alien found out the Emerica team was coming to his house, he instantly started work on a one of a kind “Riverboard” to give to Reynolds. He used EcoPoxy to spell out “BAKER” within the wood, and even created the outline of the state of Florida where Reynolds was from. Andrew was extremely stoked.
Interview and photos by Spencer Legebokoff