Justus Zimmerly: Skate[Slate]

Justus is at the helm of arguably the best magazine in the galaxy. He tells about skating in Canada, moving to the West Coast and his favourite bacon.

Alejo Sanchez photo - in Bogota
Alejo Sanchez photo – in Bogota

JZ! How are you doing?

I’m doing great thanks, just another warm, sunny day in California.
Where are you from?
All over, kind of. Born in Chicago, moved to BC as an infant, grew up in Saskatchewan, went to school in Ontario, lived in Winnipeg for a minute, and now I’m in Oakland.
Why did you move to Oakland?
Because I hate winter! And also because of work. I started as Editor-in-Chief of Skate[Slate] Longboarding Magazine back in February. I worked online from my apartment in Waterloo, ON for a couple of months, but that got tedious and I decided it was time to get out to the West Coast. There’s a lot more happening out here.
Why the long name?
Me or the magazine? Haha. I don’t know really, I wasn’t involved when it got started. I think it was important to incorporate our brand name (Skate[Slate]) with a descriptor that sets us apart from every other skate mag out there. We are covering more than just longboarding though.
Vanessa Kauffman Portland - Don't talk to me till I get my coffee
Vanessa Kauffman Portland – Don’t talk to me till I get my coffee
Your name isn’t long… is it?
Justus Lane Martens Zimmerly. Any longer and it wouldn’t fit on my ID.
When was Skate[Slate] started?
Back in 2009.
What’s special about the West Coast?
It’s warm! All the time! And the hills are killer. Plus, most of the skate industry is based out here, so it’s easier to connect with people.
When did you start skating?
I started skating back in grade 5, which was… 1998 I think? I started skating longer boards in 2005, and bombing hills very shortly after that.
Unkown photographer - Waterloo
Unkown photographer – Waterloo
Did you have any breaks between ‘98 and ‘05?
Kind of. I wasn’t super serious about street skating, I just didn’t have a lot of talent. But I was always doing it to some degree. 2005 is when it started to get pretty serious.
What changed in 2005?
I discovered soft wheels and the joy of going fast. Growing up skateboarding in Saskatchewan, the pavement was so shitty that I’d just walk to the spot half the time anyways, it was not at all an enjoyable way to get around town. Soft wheels and longer wheelbases meant that it was actually fun just to push around. And I was suddenly living in a place where there were hills, even if they weren’t huge.
How does going fast give you joy?
I’ll try not to get too cliche here, and just say that it clarifies your mind. It feels good to do something that is so demanding of your attention that you have no choice but to forget about everything else. I am always, always nervous to go skate. Until the moment I drop in, I’m just struggling to convince myself to do it. Once I start rolling I find myself wondering why it took so much convincing!
Scott Harrison - Ontario
Scott Harrison – Ontario
Who were you skating with back then?
A buddy of mine was part of the Escarpment Surfers and he got me into it. Then I started rolling with a local crew in Waterloo where I was going to school. We called ourselves the Skitch Monkeys after a while, but it was always a pretty informal group.
Who are the ES?
They’re the OG hill bombing crew in Ontario. Famous alumni include Patrick Switzer, Andrew Chapman, Dasha Kornienko and a number of others.
How did you feel after riding your first hill?
Amazing, mostly. It’s cliche to say it, but it was a huge rush. Especially when I started. I mean, I didn’t know how to stop! It was a crazy feeling to fly down a hill and not know if you were going to make it or slam hard.
How did you avoid death?
I took a few really gnarly spills, but I could just shake them off at that point. It didn’t take long to see the merits in wearing a helmet and learning how to slow down; footbraking in the early days and then sliding later on.
Paulo RFd'O - Waterloo
Paulo RFd’O – Waterloo
What did you ride back then?
I started on a flexy S9 and quickly moved to a Kebbek for bombing hills.
What was the community like in Waterloo?
It was really small, but it was a lot of fun. We had weekly sessions and we’d skate garages a lot too.
Who organised sessions?
They were organized through the Ontario Longboarding Forum. We’d meet up every Wednesday evening behind McPhails, a local bike shop that carried some longboard stuff. A guy named Jamie Merrifield worked there as a mechanic and convinced the owner to carry skate stuff. He was pretty instrumental in my early growth as a longboarder and helped supply a lot of gear to the Ontario scene in the early days.
What was your role in the community?
Never anything official in the early days, but I was super fired up on skating and did a lot of evangelism, haha. I got a lot of people into skating garages and hills and drove a lot of business to Jamie over at McPhails! He started calling me the Jonny Appleseed of longboarding. Some stuck with it, many didn’t. I’d organize sessions and some small events. Then I started Slasher Skateboarding as a way to highlight rad downhill skate media later on.
OSL - Montreal
OSL – Montreal
What is Slasher Skateboarding?
As much as I was into skating, I’ve always been a bit of a nerd too. I was watching hours of skate videos every week and many of them sucked, so I created a website to showcase the stuff that I thought was decent. There wasn’t really anywhere to go back in ‘06 or ‘07 to see good stuff without sifting through hundreds of Silverfish threads and terrible YouTube videos.
Why was there a need for it?
We needed our own media outlets to strut our stuff. No one outside of downhill skateboarding was paying attention or realizing how rad it was because it wasn’t really visible. I just wanted to run a rad site that would get people stoked and show downhill in the best light possible.
What response did you receive?
It didn’t get a ton of traffic, but a lot of people who were into downhill really got into it and it eventually got me a job with Skate[Slate]!
Micki Leslie Quebec
Micki Leslie Quebec
How does outside interest benefit the community?
Everybody starts as an “outside interest” at some point. No one is born a downhill skater, everyone was a noob at some point. And it all starts by seeing a video, or a photo, or just some guy flying by while walking to the grocery store and thinking, “That looks incredible, I want to try that.”
What’s your favourite kind of skating?
I really love flowing down fast hills. I’m not so great at freeriding, and not terribly competitive at races. Keeping a loose tuck down a long, winding hill is where it’s at. Also, props on the proper spelling of ‘favourite’, I miss that now that I live in the US!
One of the myriad American crimes against the English language!
I know, eh?
Do you also miss Canadian bacon?
I SAID NO QUESTIONS ABOUT BACON! Haha, we don’t even call it Canadian bacon back home, it’s just peameal bacon or back bacon. I’m just fine with regular bacon, to be honest.
What skate media did you enjoy back in the day?
SkateHouseMedia was obviously pretty huge when they came on the scene. And there were a few filmmakers who were starting to make high-quality videos and push things on that front.
Max Dubler photo - Maryhill
Max Dubler photo – Maryhill
Do you do any camera work?
Yeah, a bit. I haven’t really made any videos for a while, but I was doing freelance video work for a while.
How did you hook up with SKS?
I had signed up for a user account on the site shortly after it went live. Tim, the publisher, saw that I had Slasher listed on my profile and got in touch. We started talking about my potential involvement. In autumn 2010 I was travelling around for a few months and met up with him and I decided to start working for SKS shortly after that, first posting videos a few times a week and then growing from there.
How has your role evolved since those early days?
I started writing some more original stuff and then became the Web Director in November 2011, overseeing day-to-day operations of the website. Then in February the position of Editor-in-chief opened up and I fell into that role too!
What does the EIC do?
I had that same question when I started! I basically oversee the production of the magazine and give it direction. I work with Jon Huey and Max Dubler to develop article ideas and figure out where to go with different articles. I also find freelancers to fill in the gaps and I do a fair bit of copywriting, for article introductions and odds and ends like that. I also do a lot of work with Jon figuring out the best design approach for the magazine. I’m the one who’s ultimately responsible for making sure the magazine is the best it can be before it goes off to print.
living the California dream! (Jon Huey credit)
living the California dream! (Jon Huey credit)
Who are the other people involved with the magazine?
Tim Cutting is our publisher, then there’s me, and Jon Huey as Art Director. Max does a lot of photography and writing, and then we’ve got a bunch of other people involved in a variety of other ways.
How can new people get involved?
You mean ‘how can people steal my job?’
Since you put it that way…
Haha, you have to be ready to do it for peanuts for a long time before anyone is going to start paying you to do it. There are a lot of people who want to be working in skateboarding, and a limited number of jobs.
How does one become a part of SKS?
We always want to get people involved. Email us your stuff. We get a lot of stuff submitted though, and we’re committed to maintaining our quality standards, so we’re not going to publish most of what comes in. It’s really just a matter of keeping at it and developing a good working relationship with people so that I know what they’re capable of and what they can bring to the website or the magazine. Once we have a good working relationship, the conversation about further involvement can begin.
JM Chadillon Kitchener
JM Chadillon Kitchener
How is SKS different from other magazines on the market?
Well, we were the first to really focus on downhill skateboarding. We were also the first to put a big emphasis on quality photography in covering downhill. There were other magazines who were doing some coverage, but not really on the same level. I know when I started skating hills, there wasn’t any print media that really resonated with me. Skate[Slate] is different because it’s made by young guys who are plugged into the scene and know what’s up. We’re not a bunch of outsiders, you know? Jon and Max especially, they’ve been documenting the growth of this little corner of skateboarding for a long time now.
What is at the heart of the magazine?
We just want to cover the scene from our perspective and put together a rad skateboard mag that shows the kind of skating we’re into. We’re focussed on telling skaters’ stories, visually and with our articles.
What’s the hardest thing about being in this business?
It’s a balancing act for sure. When you have a bunch of people trying to make a magazine, you have a lot of different desires and you get pulled in a lot of different directions.
Why does the community need magazines?
Newspapers have been telling everyone that print is dead and everything is going online, but there’s definitely still a demand for a magazine that people can hold in their hands and show to their friends. It lends a certain legitimacy to the scene and to the riders that get featured. Print still works, it just requires a different approach these days and I think we’re making it work.
Heather Driedger Winnipeg
Heather Driedger Winnipeg
What is the approach you take?
Well, our website isn’t just a billboard trying to sell magazines, it’s a news source of it’s own. Web and print each have their own strengths, you just have to play to them.
How different is the online and print content?
Online is really fast paced. Articles don’t have as long of a shelf life, so it’s great for getting quick news out, or talking about gear or event results. People don’t want to wait for news. Print allows us to go high quality and really in depth, so we can get really into the heart and soul of the topic.
Where does Skate[Slate] fit in the ecosystem?
We’re doin’ it all! Our web and print work well together by doing what they do best. I think we’re pretty well regarded as the premier print magazine for downhill. On the web, we try to be a one stop shop for quick news and videos, as well as longer event reports. Are we pulling it off? You tell me!
How do you use your position as EIC of the premier downhill magazine to influence the future?
I think about that sometimes. And then I remember how much work I have left to do just to make sure that the next issue is ready for print! I really do want the magazine to have a positive impact on the sport though, and I think we can do that by creating a well balanced magazine telling the stories of the community and showcasing the amazing riding going down. I just want to inspire readers to get out and travel to events and new spots.
Dave Schulz photo - Waterloo
Dave Schulz photo – Waterloo
How do you think this new chapter of DH racing develops?
That’s really hard to predict. I think it’s going to keep growing steadily. It went from a high profile, X-Games, Mountain Dew kind of thing to a very small underground sport in a very short period of time when sponsorship fell off. Now I think it has grown up as a much more grassroots scene, which is a lot more sustainable. It exists now because of the riders, and that can’t be taken away because some energy drink company decides it doesn’t fit their budget.
Did you see the IGSA revolt coming?
I’m not going to say that I predicted it, but it wasn’t hard to see that something had to give. The sport is just seeing some serious growing pains, some of which were unfairly pinned on the IGSA and others which were likely deserved.
Where do you see the sport in 5 years?
Skyhooks are definitely the way of the future. Rapid flesh regeneration will become a reality, making nude skateboarding a much more common pastime. Localized gravity alteration devices will mean that any street in the world can suddenly be a hill.
For real though, I think we’re heading towards a more holistic approach to skateboarding. We’ve proved, to ourselves at least, that it’s OK to ride shapes other than popsicle sticks and wheels that aren’t 99A and we’ve started having fun. The next step is to start bringing everything together so that skateboarding is just skateboarding. Lots of events in the early days of skateboarding included street and freestyle and downhill competitions, that sort of thing is due for a comeback.
Aaron Enns Maryhill
Aaron Enns Maryhill
What do we do to help it on its way?
I don’t even think it really needs any help. Skateboarding has always been such a freespirited thing that you can’t try to control where it’s going. It just happens every time we go out to skate and try something new. All that’s left to do after that is put it out there for other people to see and build off of.
What’s the most fun thing about being in skate media?
Meeting rad people and going skateboarding! I’m fairly certain that there’s no such thing as a boring skateboarder, you meet some pretty interesting characters. And it’s pretty far removed from a boring office job or flipping burgers. Everyday is something new and fun. I have to remind myself sometimes that I could be doing something much more mundane.
What makes a good skate magazine?
Good photos. That’s basically it. Beyond that, an identity and voice that skaters can connect with.
Do you have any favourites?
‘Color’ is one of my favourites. Great photos and design, and it’s Canadian, in spite of the spelling of the title. SBC Skateboarding is another Canuck favourite of mine, and Thrasher is always a standby. Heelside down in Australia is doing some rad stuff too.
Scott Harrison PEC
Scott Harrison PEC
When did you first travel to skate?
I was marginally employed after graduating from university because I wanted to enjoy one last summer free of responsibility. I started driving to Montreal on weekends a lot with friends to skate, which was really fun. Then, at the end of the summer I started to get more serious about finding a job. One day a friend called me about this crazy airline seat sale that was going on where you could fly as much as you wanted around North and Central America for the month of September. She bailed 30 minutes later but I decided to go travelling instead of looking for work, despite the fact that I was already broke before I even left on the trip! I checked out the East Coast a little bit and then flew to Colombia, where I spent two weeks riding with the locals in Bogota. It was so much fun. Then I went to SkateHouse for two weeks and started hitching rides up the coast to Portland, getting a ride most of the way with Casey Morrow. I spent a few days in Portland and then started hitching back to Ontario for the Prince Edward County Gravity Fest. It was a rad two months! After that, I was deep in the red, so I moved in with my parents in Winnipeg and didn’t see a hill for a year.
What was the highlight of your travels?
Without a doubt, the skate community in Bogota. Everyone was super rad and welcoming, they took me to some of their best spots, the girls were beautiful, and they taught me all the Spanish I needed to get by! One night after skating the Parque Nacional (home of the Festival de la Bajada), Camilo Cespedes took me up above the city for one last run. The sun had set and you could see the twinkling lights of the whole city of 8.5 million down below. I had no idea what I was getting into, but we kicked off and suddenly we were passing taxis while going across rumble strips! Just a cultural difference, I told myself. It was one of the most memorable runs I’ve ever taken. We were mobbing through huge, banked corners in the dark and then suddenly we were riding down a cobblestone street in the middle of the city and we ended up at his doorstep in La Candelaria, the heart of the old colonial section of the city. Amazing.
Aaron Enns photo - Maryhill
Aaron Enns photo – Maryhill
How is the Central American scene different?
It’s not really all that different. Or it wasn’t back then, anyway. Just a bunch of awesome people who loved to go skateboarding, some of whom were very good at it!
What do you ride?
In celebration of living in Northern California, I have the most “NorCal” setup possible: Topmount deck, Caliber trucks, and an assortment of wheels, most recently Volante Serratas. That’s my hill setup, anyways.
Have you learnt the ‘’steeze wrist’’?
Ha, I think I’ve been fairly successful at avoiding it.
How is NorCal skating different from your cold homeland?
In Ontario we mostly have fast, straight hills, so skaters get really good at tucking but everyone is always making fun of us for not knowing how to corner. NorCal has it all, from fast, winding downhills to all the crazy city skating happening in San Francisco.
What’s JZ style?
My style is probably a distinct lack of anything commonly referred to as “style”, haha. Maybe that’s being a little too self-deprecating. Like I said earlier, I just like flowing down hills in a loose tuck and surfing corners, I don’t get too fancy.
Tim Weber Ontario - Moving across the continent
Tim Weber Ontario – Moving across the continent
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Work! I’ve been exploring the Bay area a lot with my girlfriend, going on hikes and bike rides. I like riding and working on my motorcycle, but I’m in the process of selling it. I’ve been riding a scooter lately and it is way too much fun around the city, despite being significantly slower and less badass.
You ride a fixed gear don’t you?
Ha, well, it’s actually a singlespeed, I like to coast sometimes.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-40!
18, 29, 30
18- What is/was your favourite Cartoon?
Definitely ‘Clone High’, I wish that show would make a comeback.
29 – Is there anyone dead/alive you’d like to skate with?
My buddy Hilton Byrne, definitely. RIP dude.
30 – In a Zombie apocalypse, what would be your weapon of choice?
A crossbow sounds pretty awesome.
It’s been really really fun interrogating you JZ, super stoked on bacon and skating. See you and your big eyes in Europe someday?
Haha, it’s been a blast. And yes, definitely hoping to make it to Europe sometime soon. Take care!
Any thank-yous?
Big thanks to everyone else involved with Skate[Slate] for making my job so awesome and fun. Shout out to Niko for getting me into hillbombing and all the Waterloo homies. I should probably thank my family, it feels like the right thing to do. And Vanessa, of course.



One Comment

Comments are closed.