Where did you grow up?
Brooklyn, New York
How did you get into skating?
This is a pretty long story. I got into skateboarding my freshman year of high school. One of the guys in my homeroom class, who also lived in my neighborhood, was a skateboarder. Back in those days, we used fight pretty often as kids. I happened to get into a fight with the skateboarder the previous summer and discovered that he was in my homeroom class as I walked into my freshman year of high school. He was like my archenemy. After two weeks of mad dogging each other and not talking, I came across him in my neighborhood riding a skateboard with a bunch of his friends. I asked him if I could use his skateboard and from that day on we became really good friends.
What was your first proper setup?
This is pretty embarrassing: 1986, Billy Ruff board, Gullwing trucks, 1/2" riser pads with wheels and bearings off of my roller skates. Everything was used; I think I got the entire set up for about 20 dollars.
Who was in your skate crew growing up?
Skate crew in the beginning was just a bunch of people from the neighborhood. After two years we started venturing to the Brooklyn banks on weekends. Peter Huynh was the main connection, Michael Hernandez was also another person l would roll with a bunch.
What skaters (pro or not pro) do you think influenced you when you were a little kid coming up?
Wow, there were so many. Jerry Henderson, Mark Gonzales (of course), Natas, Mike V, Jason Lee, Julian Stranger, Aaron Lenox (NYC ripper), Peter Huynh, and Michael Hernandez
How did you get hooked up with Underworld Element?
Andy Howell came to New York City to stay at Jeremy's house. He was actually the first professional skateboarder I had ever met. Well, besides Jeremy. After skating with them for a couple of days, he said that he was starting a new company and wanted me to be one of the team riders. Shut Skates was already out of business and I was making living as an electrician. When Andy told me that he still wanted me to be a part of the team I told him I was pretty much just into work and not really riding my skateboard as much. He said don't worry about it and there was going to be a package from Atlanta at my house the following day. In the box was a skateboard with a hand drawn graphic by Andy as well as a plane ticket down to Atlanta. Within a couple of days, I was on my way to Atlanta to meet up with Julian Stranger, Chris Hall, Rick I, and Andy. Chris Ortiz was there to document everything and that's how we did that first promo video.
In SkyPager you shared a song with Pepe, did you skate with him much back in the day?
Unfortunately, I didn't skate with him as much as I would have liked to. My first memory of him was meeting at Freedom Plaza in Washington DC. He had the most amazing style and was dressed in an all white T-shirt and denim. The kid was a powerhouse and was doing tricks that I had never seen before. He was so far ahead of his time.
In your SkyPager part, who was the guy who did an underflip at the Banks?
That guy is the New York City legend/godfather Jeremy Henderson!
How did Cream come about?
At the premiere of the first FTC video I went out to dinner with Rick Ibaseta and this guy Roger. It turned out that they were working on a new company called CREAM (named by Peter Huynh). They asked me if I would be down... and this was back in the days when Zoo York wasn't paying anybody. Zoo was so small back then that they couldn't afford it.
Did you have much input on the design of CREAM?
I had a lot of input, but Peter Huynh (UXA) designed pretty much everything ever done for that company.
What is you very first memory of the banks?
Actually, my first memory of the Brooklyn banks was on a Friday night when I used to ride BMX. My crew from Brooklyn would ride over the Brooklyn Bridge to cruise around the city on the weekend. The first time I made the trip, we went underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and I could not believe that there was a brick wave hidden below the roadways. It was such a strange feeling place, almost Gothic. Super grimy and dark. Especially back in the 80s when NY was a really dangerous city.
What is your most vivid/best memory from the Banks during the 90's?
My best memory of the banks back in the 90s was just the comradery off all of the skaters from every Borough in the city as well as New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Connecticut. It was a meeting ground for everyone who wanted to get together and share their passion of skateboarding.
What is your most vivid memory from Astor Deck?
Wow, I guess hanging out, drinking 40 ounces of beer, and skating flat ground. I had no idea that we were probably the coolest crew of people in all of the East Village during that time. Nowadays, I can't believe that I actually nollied over a garbage can, standing up, during one of those late-night sessions. I'm pretty sure I can't do that anymore? You never know!
What's the best trick you've seen done over the Banks' wall?
My backside flip? Me bailing a switch backside flip? Chris Vidal, tre flip backside grab? Harold Hunter's backside heel?
Best out-of-towner to skate the Banks?
Jason Lee blasting tre flips at high speed over the hip.
Who was the most random pro you saw roll through the Banks back in the day?
John Lucero and John Grigly. They couldn't really hang on the small part of the banks. They could only roll around on the big banks and hit the wallride. Actually, they were the first people I ever saw do that. We always use to focus on doing wallrides on the low banks where it was more challenging and you would have to do an ollie to wallride. Over their at the big banks you could just ride right up the pillar.
How long did you film for Zoo York's "Mixtape"?
That's a very good question. I would just hang out with RB from time to time. It wasn't like we were really filming for anything in particular. By the time those guys were putting together mixtape, I was surprised that I even had enough footage to have a full part. So basically, I have no clue.
Did you guys get to pick which song you skated to?
I didn't. I didn't see the video until it was all finished. I definitely wouldn't have chosen any music with lyrics talking about child molesting there little sister? But back in those days I was "bad ass" and was like, "who gives a shit anyway".
When you left the pro ranks, it seemed like you were still on top of your game. Why did you decide to have an early 'retirement'?
I'm the type of person that is super critical of myself. I didn't feel that my skateboarding was up to par for what the younger kids were doing at the time. I really didn't understand that if you have a fan base of people who want to see you, all you gotta do is do your thing. I thought I had to keep up with everything that was going on in skateboarding then, and that would give me the right to call myself a professional. So, basically, I was really hard on myself and didn't think of my skating at the pro level anymore. Luckily, I easily transitioned and into the roll as team manager.
Did you hold onto any of your old pro models?
Not enough. If you come across any of them please let me know!
1997. photo courtesy of Chris Ilaria
What's your favorite graphic out of all your pro decks?
I would have to say the one that was drawn by my friend Stephan. It is a man/monk with wings on his back and flames behind his head. His hands are covering both his eyes. I don't have any tattoos and this would be the ideal drawing to use for my first, but that remains to be seen.
Who are your top 3 favorite skaters from NYC (all boroughs)?
Harold Hunter RIP
Keenan Milton RIP
Justin Pierce RIP
What are your top 3 skate spots in NYC (Surviving or gone)?
Top five best styles in skateboarding?
Peter Bici "he hams it up"
Top five best skate sneakers of all time?
1. Match, this is the best shoe I have ever skated. I know it’s not a classic but this shoe just feels good on a board.
2. I probably skated 100’s of pairs of Half Cabs when I skated for Vans. That shoe is such a classic but ugly as sin, the construction is archaic and provides no support or protection. The Smith 2.0 is the Cab’s good looking, healthy, little brother. Thin rubber wrap cup (not medieval cookie cutter vulcanized), reinforced medial board (so you wont break your arch if you land Premo), Super Suede (lasts 50% longer) and its got much cleaner lines and proportions.
3. Jordan 1 Animal Chin?
4. Adidas instinct, I did some of my craziest skating in these bad boys.
5. Chuck Taylor, I just picture Hosoi shredding in a pair of these kicks! We all skated these cripplers in the 80’s.
What do you feel are some of the biggest differences between skating now compared to 1993?
Back in those days every one was down for one another. We were all skateboarders. Now there are a bunch of cool guys who think that they're from New York City, but they're actually from where ever they fucking came from. People claiming New York City when they didn't live here then; it's embarrassing. I'm not going to say any names but it is pretty pitiful. Not saying that we need to have a local's attitude because New York has never really been that way with skateboarding. We embrace every one for what they are. Unfortunately some people who reside in the city think they own this fucking place. Back in the days everybody respected who they were and understood their boundaries. There's a bunch of people living here nowadays that can suck a fat one for all I care. Wow, do I sound bitter?
Gino Iaunucci once said "I miss the times when skating was hated on." Back in the early 90's, because skating was so hated on, I think it took a genuine interest to get into it. As a result, skating in the early 90's felt more genuine than it does today. Do you agree? If so, why?
I totally agree. Nowadays, if you're a skateboarder, you're the mainstream. Back in the day you were hated on because nobody understood what you were doing. Now it's publicized on MTV and ESPN. Skateboarding is now sought-after by the "jock mentality". The guys who would have been messing with me in high school are now the guys who are attracted to skateboarding because they want to be the next heartthrob with a show on MTV.
......... ................ 1998. Scan courtesy of www.chromeballincident.blogspot.com/
It seemed like Joey Alvarez had a ton of talent, whatever happened to him, and do you know what he's up to now?
What happened to Joey is what happens to way too many skateboarders in New York City. This being the center of the world everything good and bad is at your fingertips. A lot of skateboarders are tempted by all the free (bad) goodies that come their way. Of course I'm guilty of these same things, but in Joey's case, it happened really fast. He was definitely one of the most talented skateboarders that this city has ever seen. Now Joey is living in Brooklyn with a couple of children. He is rather large in stature and I doubt he has ridden a skateboard for some time now.
Do you know what's up with Ivan Perez these days?
I love Ivan to death but he's out of his fucking mind!
If you can remember, what is your very first memory of Harold Hunter?
First time I ever met Harold was at a Brooklyn banks contest. This kid was ripping so hard. He needed to borrow my skate key and I lent it to him. He then lent it to this guy that was New York City's first crack head skater. When I came back from Burger King, I asked Harold where my skate tool was and he said that he had lent it to the crack head. That was our first meeting and Harold's memory of me for some years. He was scared of me because he thought I was still mad at him for losing my skate key...five years later. That's basically the premise of our relationship. Love and fear for over one decade, haha.
What made Harold so different and liked?
He was an amazing talent on a skateboard and a comical genius. He had the biggest heart.
What's your last memory of Harold?
My last memory of Harold was the night he passed. It was at some party and I remembered Harold being so happy and full of life. It's pretty strange because I thought to myself that Harold was looking really good, even better than usual. The next morning I received the call from Dave Ortiz from DQM crying about the news of Harold passing. It was unbelievable! RIP HH!
What's up with UXA?
UXA is still going strong. Right now we are in the process of booking our fall/holiday collection. It's an amazing tribute to our lives in skateboarding and New York City. Please visit our blog to download the catalog and press release.
What are you up to these days?
I'm skateboarding more than I have in the last decade. I'm currently the northeast brand manager for DC skateboarding and have been with the company for the last three years. I'm married with a brand new baby and happier than I have ever been. Skateboarding saved my life. It's unbelievable to think that I have come all this way from riding a skateboard. I would have never thought that I could make a lifelong career out of something I just had to do. Skateboarding was better than going to college and could not be replaced by anything else. So far I feel I have made all the right choices in my life to get where I am this day. Skate or Die!