Ambush with Ryan Siemens
Interview by Cole Nowicki
Photos by Sam Fidlin
I’m newly old. Newly out of touch. My level of skateboarding comprehension doesn’t grasp the level that current generations of kids, some I could technically father, are skating at. This is a strange understanding to have of one’s self at only twenty-six. Ryan Siemens is of that current generation. At seventeen he grinded a seventeen-stair handrail. At seventeen I had this one zit on my nose that I picked at until it became infected. He is seemingly well adjusted, kind, and gracious. He’s had the hard earned luxury of growing up in a time when skateboarding is the least jaded it has likely ever been. It’s more accepting, encouraging, accessible, and its technical progression has been expedited ten-fold by the advent of social media. I like Ryan. I’m happy Ryan exists. I want to see more of Ryan, and judging by how fucking hard he shreds I’ll get my wish, but I’m also jealous. Jealous, jaded, and newly old.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. What’s your age, who are your sponsors, and what’s your favourite breed of dog?
I'm 19, I ride for Etnies through Timebomb, and Coastal riders. I like those dogs that are always smiling, I think they're called Shiba Inu's, the Doge dog. I heard they're a lot to handle, though.
I was told you used to travel internationally to compete in gymnastics, can you talk about that a bit; why’d you stop? Spandex allergy?
(laughs) Yeah, when I was a lot younger, like twelve. It was really fun at the start, like travelling around with my friends and just messing around and feeding off each other. But I think it just got too serious, like to the point where if you didn't place in a competition you would have to do a handstand on a wall for ten minutes. And I just had no time to myself, I was just going to school and training, and then I started skating and was like, damn this is way doper. (laughs)
Do you think your abilities as a gymnast translate into your skating?
Yeah maybe when I first started, I think it helped me fall properly, which made me less scared of things and try more stuff.
Ollie over to Feeble grind.
You just moved to Vancouver from Abbotsford, can you go into detail about what I imagine was a hellish commute back and forth for you to skate in Vancouver? Did you ever think about quitting skating just so you wouldn’t have to smell any more stale bus farts?
Usually I would have to wake up around 7am if I wanted to get a full day of skating in, and either get a ride or bus out to Aldergrove which was like a 20 minute drive, and then catch a bus from there to Surrey where I would get on the Skytrain and head downtown. I would usually get there around 10am, maybe a little sooner. At the time I didn't think much of it, I was just a stoked little kid down to do whatever to skate in the city, it was when I started driving I realized how crazy that was. (laughs)
What’s the skate scene like in Abbotsford? I know a host of rippers come out of there. Did you look up to any of the locals growing up? Did Rob Rickaby ever teach you Sal Flips?
The scene in Abbotsford right now kinda sucks, I don't even think there is one anymore. When I was growing up it was tight, though! You could just go to the park whenever and already know all your homies are gonna be there. And we would just skate all day everyday, and then see people like Chad Dickson and Jamie Maley roll through and just destroy everything. I guess you could say I looked up to them and all the other older guys shredding. Mike Bald was like an Abbotsford legend; he could do anything.
Is it true you did a seventeen-stair rail when you were seventeen just so you could say you had? And as a follow up, is it more impressive to grind a seventeen-stair rail at seventeen or a four stair at four?
I always thought it would be insane to grind a rail with the same stair count as your age, and I wanted to skate that seventeen ever since I first saw it, It's like right by the Cloverdale skate park, and one day I was just feelin’ it, so I told the homies at the park I was down to skate it. We just mobbed over, and yea, shit went down. It was tight, haha. A four-rail sounds pretty hard by itself, so yeah, if a four year-old could get down on that I would be a lot more impressed.
I hear you tempted fate on a skate trip in Seattle a little while back, claiming that since you had health insurance you were “down to get fucked up.” What happened after that?
Oh damn, this. Yeah, so it was my first time buying health insurance for a trip to the states and I was joking saying since I was covered I was down to get fucked up, and then we went to this crusty over rail into bank with a little pot hole in the landing. We all ollied into it, it was pretty chill, and then I was just warming up and forgot about the pot hold and landed directly in it and just flew to flat on my head. I got to use my insurance though and I was fine just a bump on the head and a broken finger. I actually ended up getting a clip I was stoked on the next day! So no complaints, could have been worse for sure.
You’ve been doing a bit of acting/extra work on the side. Work on any cool projects? Have you met M. Night Shyamalan?
Yeah, I was doing extra work for a while, nothing too crazy. I did randomly get picked to skate in an astronaut costume for this Macy's commercial, haha, that was sick! Only person I've met was Owen Wilson; he was very chill. I just wish I could have asked him about his back blunt down that rail in Yeah Right! Guess I got star struck.
Kickflip Frontside Boardslide to fakie.
Everyone I’ve talked to about you for this interview says you’re a great guy, which is nice and all, but nice guys make me suspicious. Share an anecdote about your more nefarious side with us. Have you ever punched an elderly person or anything?
(laughs) Nope, never punched an old person, sorry. Off the top of my head I can think of when I first moved into Vancouver with Stacy Gabriel and he didn't have a door for his bedroom, and it was an older style house so it was hard to find one that was the same style and would fit, but he found a house a couple blocks down that was about to be demo'd with a door that was the same style/size that he needed for his room so we broke in at night with like iPhone flashlights and unhinged the door and just carried it back home, probably looked so sketchy.
Your Zone 3 part was bonkers, are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Thanks man, nothing right now just filming with my friends. Hopefully a project in the future, who knows.
Any shout outs, last words, confessions, etc.?
Yeah, I just wanna shoutout the whole Zone 3 squad for holdin’ it down, Sam Fidlin for always shooting amazing photos, my dawg Angelo Fajardo for comin’ through to film all the time, Tyler Holm for being the best TM out there, all my Abby homies, especially my Shog boys, my roomate Sagen, and of course King Shit for supporting the Canadian skate scene. I think that's it, sorry if I forgot anyone.
Backside Smith grind.