Arian Chamasmany: Gel Shark

Ari shares stories of gnar crashes, skating with OG’s in Malibu and how longboarding changed his life.
Why Sharky?
Shark was the DJ name I came up with for myself way back when. People began calling me “Shark” as a nick-name and it’s stuck ever since. So I’ve used it as a moniker for various projects and such I’ve been involved in.

Are you also a skate shark?
If you could for a moment, imagine a great white shark, with like… skate trucks mounted to the bottom of it with downhill wheels, that’s me.

Redefining wheel bite. 
Ooooooh. I like that, “Wheel Bite”. You should be in advertising.

When did you start skating?
Oh man, the million dollar question. Well, in the beginning I was actually really into BMX. I got into riding bikes pretty seriously, so I decided I needed to work in a bike shop for a while to get closer to what I was doing. After taking this job in the bike shop at a sporting goods store, this kid came in one day to trade in a long skateboard for some quick cash. The owner offered him a bogus amount, so when he walked out of the store, I chased him down in the parking lot and offered him a higher price for the board, and that’s how I got my hands on my first longboard.

What was it?
It was a Sector 9 pin tail of some sort. They change up the names so often. I believe back then it was called a “Jay Bay”.

Where were you skating those first days?
Well, truth be told, we had always been into surfing and beach culture and such, growing up in Malibu. So I had always wanted a Longboard skate to pass the time when there were no waves. It was just a matter of time before we came up with the idea to try to skate them down all of Malibu’s delicious canyon roads.

Who is ‘’we’’?
There were always around 5 or 6 of us back in the day, circa 2003. We were always doing something adrenaline related. We started out on Bikes, Surfboards, and Bodyboards, and then branched out into new things. The core group really consisted of Bobby Henderson, Brandon Taylor, Matt Elliott, Ryan Galgas. I’m trying to think of who else was out there getting themselves hurt along side us.

Has the rest of the shark pack stuck with it?
Bobby Henderson got into downhill skating for a minute, but his main squeeze is BMX. He still rages and it’s a pleasure to watch him ride. Brandon Taylor gave downhill skateboarding a shot awhile ago, but it wasn’t his thing. He still rides bikes too, and also kills it. Matt Elliott got into electronic music along with me, and we’ve been DJ’ing and producing together for a number of years. Ryan Galgas got really heavily into underwater photography, and now works on a Lobster / Dive boat out off the coast of California. The crew is still pretty much together. 3 out of the 4 are participating members in our creative collective, The Gel Lab.

Downhill is your poison?
I’d say downhill is one of my poisons, yes. Flatland is my zen, Hah.

What sort of skating does Malibu lend itself to?
Serious downhill.

Serious because of the velocity?
I’d say serious because of a number of reasons. Speed is one thing, 45, 50mph, I’m not sure what the Kilometer rating is on that. But after the speed are the lovely corners, and the cars, and guard rails, and cliffs, and… yeah… Malibu is gnarly.

Was there a community back in ‘03 when you started?
If there was a community back in ‘03, we didn’t know about it. We all thought we were crazy for trying to skateboard down mountains, but we were also young, and invincible of course.

When did a community start to emerge?
Honestly, I don’t even remember. We started skating as a small group years back on Wednesday nights. Initially, it was just the 4 of us, and it was totally just word of mouth. We went and cruised around parking lots and bombed parking structures. Just something to do mid-week. Then slowly, over time, more and more people started showing up. Until one day, we decided to skate parking structures over by the airport, and stumbled upon a healthy sized group of Longboarders. Upon conversing with them, we discovered they rode for Loaded, and well, the rest is history.

What’s your role in the community?
Well, currently I write and shoot photos for Skate[Slate] magazine. I also host our Wednesday night sessions still, and just generally dispense stoke where I see fit.

You’re a writer by profession?
I went to college for Photography for 2 years. Then I switched my major to communication arts and studied graphic design and advertising for an additional 3. After that I started working at advertising agencies as an Art Director. I’ve worked around writers for a while, but never ventured to give it at shot. It was only recently that I tried my hand at writing.

What is Skate[Slate]?
Skate[Slate] is a rad longboarding publication based out of Northern California.

What’s your role in the SS team?
Well, apart from doing Writing and Photography, I’ve been doing a fair amount of graphic work for them. So that’s been great. I’ve also been working as their Southern California representative/distributor. It’s lent itself to getting me more plugged into the scene.

How did you get involved with the magazine?
I got a call from Peter Eubank one day and he told me about a position that had opened up over there. I sent in my portfolio and a resume, and well, here I am.

Who is Monsieur Eubank?
Peter is a writer for Wheelbase magazine, and the owner of Yeehaw Apparel. He’s a permanent member of The Gel Lab, a big playa in the West Coast scene, and can shoot dice better then you.

In England mate, the only shots we do contain ethanol.
Hah, have you ever tried Makers Mark? I’m pretty sure it can make coins shine again.

Sounds like rocket fuel. I’ll pass!
Haha, it is exactly that.

Do you have a favourite skate fuel?
I don’t believe you guys have Elle Pollo Loco in London, I would have found one while I was there last November if you did – But they have these awesome little burritos for a dollar or something. You get your hands on two of those suckers, and you’re good to go.

Where exactly is Malibu?
Malibu is Southern California, where the ocean meet the hills. Malibu is basically a small coastal community of hippies and movie stars, butted up against mountains, laden with ribbony noodles of tarmac that snake their way down to Pacific Coast Highway.

Do any of the latter skate?
I believe Woody Harrelson skates, and I know the guy from Hi My Name Is Earl rips as well.

How does Malibu fit into the West Coast scene?  
Malibu is the place to be. In my mind, it’s the holy land for downhill skateboarding. In relation to everywhere else, Malibu is #1, if you can shred there, you can shred anywhere.

What is wheelbase?
Wheelbase magazine is primarily an online source for skate related content founded by long time skater badass, Marcus Bandy. I have nothing but respect for those homies.

Why are there so many magazines in this relatively small area?
I think it’s because California is where it’s all happening in regards to skateboarding. I don’t want to exclude anyone else by saying that, but in regards to the amount of skate companies that call this place home, and all the professional skaters that are gathered here, it only makes sense that there would be multiple media sources gathered here to cover all of it.

Has this so-called holy land of downhill skateboarding produced any world champs?
James Kelly!

When I spoke to James, he said something about NorCal style. Does SoCal style differ?
Yes. I’m not specifically sure of the NorCal style characteristics, but SoCal dudes are known for throwing their hands in the air while sliding. We just like to get posey.

What are your favourite poses?
The T-Hawk, like the OG street fighter character. Just go and google his victory stance, and you’ll understand what I’m on about. You also can’t go wrong with the disco point. Made famous by the likes of Barry Gibb and John Travolta, it’s timeless.

What does the manner the hands are thrown signify? 
I think hand gestures when you slide communicate a lot about the kind of style you have as a skater. Some people tend to float their slides, while others really lay into them, the hand gestures tend come when you really lock down your stand-up slides and get into it.

Are there many OG longboarders in your parts?
Yeah, there are quite a few. Venice (Dog Town) was the birthplace for so much of skateboarding’s roots, so you get a lot of guys who were locals in the scene back in the day who show up at events, or give you props on new tricks. They’re really the true shepherds of the sport.

That must make for rather surreal events.
I myself find it so interesting to talk to the older generation about the sport. You get such an interesting insight into how it all came together, and how the world views the sport now. Just the other day I was skating in downtown and had some homeless man come up to me and tell me about skating Venice in the early 70’s. It was one of those moments where you just want to sit and listen. The guy was rather rugged looking, but just based on the way he talked, you could tell he knew what he was talking about. It’s moments like that when you know you’re in the birthplace of the sport.

What’s the O-est of G’s you’ve skated with?
I was at Venice skatepark one time when Alva was crushing the bowl. Can’t say that I skated with him specifically though. Jimmy Flint is a serious OG (national champion), and so are both of the Roger Brothers, and I’ve skated downhill with them a few times. I’m always extremely humbled when I get to skate with veterans of the scene.

Any pearls of wisdom you’ve gained?
When I first started skateboarding, I knew I wanted to skate, but I had no idea at all how to do it. And initially, it all seemed so daunting. The tricks, standing at the top of the hill, the speed. But I’ve learned that persistence in this sport really does pay off. I’ve slid into guardrails at 40mph, I’ve been hit by cars, I’ve gone off the road and fallen off the sides of cliffs, I’ve tumbled in gravel at high speeds. I’ve been so damaged that I couldn’t move or sleep, BUT, I’ve never stopped, and I feel like that has gotten me to some places I never thought I could ever go or be. Persistence is the name of the game in this sport.

What makes you get back up?
Call me a masochist, but the thrill of it all makes me want to get back up. I remember this one time when I was laying on a hospital bed, and all I could think about was getting back on that damn hill and sticking the line. You learn to love it, for better and for worse.

You’re a sadomasochist.
That’s the one.

What’s the most damage you’ve done to yourself?
Surprisingly, through all of my travels, I’ve never broken a bone, (knock on wood). But the worst, or most shocking, was getting hit by the car. I was bombing down a famous one way road we have out here in Malibu, and a lady and her kids in a Jeep decided they were going to drive up it. She just happened to be right on the apex of a blind corner, and I was just in the wrong spot when I came around the turn. I split my knee pretty bad, and I was out for 4 weeks with stitches. So not totally gnarly, but still shocking none the less. I’ve been pretty good up until this point about getting myself out of sticky situations.

Do you have any trouble with locals trying to stop you skating?
There’s always someone out there with a grudge against people having more fun then they are. Downhill skateboarding is against the law here in Malibu, and if you get nabbed by a copper, you’re looking to receive a hefty fine and a court date. But most of the time, the cops don’t care too much unless someone complains. In most cases, we’re either going too fast for them to catch us, or they’re giving us high fives at the bottom and telling us to go somewhere else.

Since when?
Since the people of Santa Monica county decided it was against the law to ride your skateboard down a grade steeper than blah blah blah. I don’t really care too much to listen to people who don’t know how to enjoy their lives. Yeah, I’m well aware it’s dangerous, but I don’t need a city council of twats to tell me just how dangerous it actually is.

Council of twats needed to counterbalance the fellowship of Gnar. Otherwise too much light in the force.
Hahaha, ying and yang my brotha, ying and yang.

What do you ride?
I ride a unicorn on the mountains, a dervish on the hills, and a fattail in the streets.

You ride for Loaded?
It’s been almost 2 years now I think? A lot of their support lends itself to part of the reason why I’ve been able to do and learn what I’ve learned. Everyone over there has really become more of an extended family rather than just a sponsor.

What’s your role in the family?
I’m the story teller.

How soon after you started riding did you get sponsored?
It was a while. I never really thought of myself as sponsorship material, and all through highschool Loaded boards were like, the ferrari’s of the longboard scene. Loaded / Orangatang veteran Dustin Hampton began to show up at our Wednesday sessions, and took an interest in what I had going on, and passed the stoke along to Darren and Don over at Loaded. However it was only after a year or so that I really began to find my place within their ranks.

Do you have any other sponsors?
I do indeed. GoPro cameras kinda, they sponsor our creative collective, so they’re kinda a sponsor. Ojoom slide pucks, Orangatang Wheels, Riptide Bushings, S1 Helmets, Skate[Slate] Longboarding Magazine, Yeehaw Decals and Apparel, and Kennedys Board Shop.

What’s your creative collective?
A long while back, the homie Matt Elliott and I wanted to start a music label for house music. We were both huge house heads and we had been doing the DJ thing for awhile at the same time, so we felt like we needed something to ground all of it. Well, it really didn’t go anywhere when we first came up with the concept. Fast forward to my senior year of college and Matt and I, now older and wiser, decided to revisit the whole thing. At this point we had gotten into a myriad of others things apart from just house music, so we decided to create a platform by which we could exhibit all the cool projects we were doing. And so, The Gel Lab was born. Once the framework had been set up, we went back to our initial group of friends and asked everyone who had been with us from the beginning to be apart of it. So now the Gel Lab is comprised of primarily, Matt Elliott, Bobby Henderson, Ryan Galgas, Trevor Baird, Peter Eubank, and myself. We’ve been at it since then with the Wednesday Night Shred Sessions, and we just recently started up our own live internet radio show broadcast that we do on Thursday Nights from 10-1am.

Is music a bigger passion than skating?
At this point, skating takes up more of my time then music and DJing, but I hope that at some point in the near future I can have it where I split my time evenly between the two.

What sort of stuff will we hear if we listen next Thursday?
You’ll hear the best three hours of Disco, House, Techno, Soul, Ambient, Hiphop, and Funk, you’ve ever experienced in this lifetime or the next.

Where would you like to be in 3 years? 
I’d like to be happier then I already am, which is going to be a challenge. Geographically, I want to be here, and then everywhere else. The world is a big place, and I want to see it with my own two peepers before my ride is up.

How can Malibu locals reading this who want to get involved with one of your sessions find you?
Go to TheGelLab.com and click on the “Facebook” link. Our site is currently getting a facelift, so the most up-to-date section of our collective is probably the Facebook page. Or, if Facebook isn’t your steeze, email us at Info@TheGelLab.com.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
My plans are to focus on expanding upon all the facets of my existence that I have going on right now. Persistence is the key to life, so maintaining that drive by producing relevant and interesting content is my focus for the rest of the year, and beyond.

Pick 3 numbers between 1-37.
1. 2. and 3.

1 – What do you take with you when you go for a skate?
When I skate I try to remove as much clutter as possible. So I try to leave as many things as possible at home when I head out the door. In most cases it’s just my keys, my iPod, and my board. But if I’m downhilling, it’s always gloves and a helmet.

2 – Would you rather have a hook for a hand or a wheel for a foot?
Hook for a hand. If Dustin Hoffman can make it look steezy in “Hook”, so can I.

3 – What impact has longboarding had on your life?
Longboarding has changed everything. For the longest while my perception of my future was that of a corporate suit and tie at some large scale advertising agency. I wanted the big house, the six figure salary, and the fast car. But I feel like one of the things about getting older is learning to simplify things. Longboarding has changed the way I see my life, and the way I enjoy it. It introduced me to the idea of simplicity. And for that reason alone, I am forever grateful to have happened upon it.

Ari, Sharky, Dj Masochist. It has been super fun talking to you tonight. Come back to Europe soon!
You can be damn sure of that! It has been a pleasure sharing all the nic-nacs of my beginnings with you and your readers. Come skate with us on Wednesdays in LA, or allow us to take over your speakers on Thursday nights.

Thank yous?
I am forever grateful to have been blessed with a loving mother, father, and a sister. Thank you guys for always being so wonderfully supportive of my creative process and everything I do.

Links
http://www.thegellab.com/
http://mixlr.com/the-gel-lab/ – Thursdays from 10-1am.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Gel-Lab/288073412301 – Facebook

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