JO tells us about his home planet, being the new mom of the Landyachtz team and some pretty weird aversions. Enjoy
Hey Justen, how are you?
I’m pretty good thanks, what about you?
Where are you from?
I was born in California but I moved to Vancouver when I was 5 years old so I consider Vancouver my home.
When did you start skating?
Street skated on and off when I was a young teen. Got my first longboard and started taking it seriously in 2009.
What sort of stuff did you do before you went long?
Nothing crazy at all. Super simple stuff like ollies and kickflips and skating in the skate park. Never got into anything crazy like handrails or big gaps.
How did you get into longboarding?
A friend of mine got a longboard and that peaked my interest at first. After that, I saw a video of Andrew Chapman freeriding and I couldn’t believe the stuff I saw and what could be done on a longboard. After I got mine I started trying to learn how to slide and I was hooked.
Where did you start skating?
At first I didn’t really know anyone else that skated so I started by myself on some streets around my house. I’d check out videos on the internet and then go out and try the stuff I saw. I didn’t start meeting other people until I heard about these things organized by coast longboarding called saturday sessions, which was a weekly session held on saturdays for people to get together skate some cool spots. That’s where everything started for me.
What is coast longboading?
Coast longboarding is what started the whole scene here on the west coast. It was started by Bricin ”Striker” Lyons and it is pretty much just people who got together to bomb hills and it grew /into a community of longboarders and kept growing and growing.
Where would Canadian skating be without Striker?
That’s a good question, he definitely has paved the way for the entire scene. I think he is the one who is mainly responsible for what we have today in the longboard commnunity.
What did the stuff in the videos stir in you?
I saw people sliding to control speed and it kind of looked like snowboarding on the pavement. Watching videos of freeriding and sliding was what got me stoked to go out and try and learn that stuff. I used to go out everyday by myself just practicing and practicing trying to learn new stuff.
That’s how I rolled haha, lone wolf style.
Do you remember you first Saturday Session?
Yeah, it was quite the adventure haha. It was January of 2009 I believe. I came into the landyachtz shop one day and one of the employees told me about it and that it was about to go down in about an hour or so. Apparently where they were meeting was on my route home so I figured I’d stop by and check it out. When I showed up, I saw the group of skaters skate off somewhere and wasn’t sure where they went. Looking dazed and confused a creepy van showed up and popped the door open and the driver said, “Hey man, you looking for the Saturday session?” So I said, “I think so.” After I hopped in the van I met the 2 people which were Matt Grizz Kroetsch, and Katie Neilson. Who now are fellow landyachtz teammates. I’ve never really gotten into a van with complete strangers before but I guess I trusted them. I remember Grizz driving like a maniac and I was flying around in the back of this van that didn’t have any seats. After we got to the session I met everyone else. I sucked so bad that first session.
What if they stole your kidneys?
It was a good possibility but I felt adventurous that day haha.
Have you had any other interesting experiences in strange vans?
I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences in one particular van actually. The landyachtz EH team van. We would all pile into this van and take it on road trips every weekend to go to events. Every trip is filled with crazy adventures and stories. Some of the best times of my life. Nothing better than packing a van with 8 of your friends, a bunch of skateboard gear, and just taking off to go on a rad road trip.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened in the EH team van?
That’s a tough one for sure. I can give you a list of some notable memories in the van.
Nick crashing the van into a deer was interesting, Kyle surfing on top of the van without even holding on going 130km/h, fireworks inside the van, shotgunning monsters and throwing up out the window, picking up 10 Korean hitchikers when every seat in the van was already full. We got a PA system installed in it recently that made lazer sounds and other cool stuff, that was really fun.
What did you enjoy most about that first session?
It was rad to meet other longboarders and it really forced me to push my own limit and even though I slammed and fell a lot. I felt like being in front of a lot of other people pushed me to try harder and not be afraid to fall.
How did life change after that first Saturday session?
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for those sessions. I had something to look forward to every week and started to make some really good friends. We got to go around to cool new spots every week. It was every beginners dream. It was perfect.
What were you riding back then?
My very first board was actually a 2008 landyachtz drop speed.
When did you first go fast?
One of the saturday sessions was being hosted at a spot which was a local hill coming down from a university called Gaglardi. It’s just straight but you can get going pretty fast. I just bought a cheap leather suit and and evo, I was ready. You can get up to about 85km/h if you’re fast but I wasn’t. It was really fun though.
What other events did you attend in 2009?
My very first race ever was Vernon DH 2009. I also went to Maryhill that year and the salt spring slasher I believe.
How did you get ready for your first race?
Watched the videos from previous years a lot. I found a spot near my house that seemed like it was pretty similar to the left corner at vernon, so I practiced that a lot. I thought I was ready and my very first run down I came in so fast and slammed my face straight into the hay bales. Eventually I started to get the hang of it though and I even made it through a few rounds of the race.
What did you enjoy about the Vernon?
I have a lot of friends in the Vernon area so it was fun to go up to see them and hang out and then go to the race as well.
Did you have a crew?
Yeah it was me my friend Taylor Riley and my other friend and now teammate, Graeme Hystad. We rolled to a lot of events in Taylor’s dad’s rv.
How would today’s Justen be different if he didn’t start skating in Vancouver?
I don’t think I would be where I am right now. Everything just kind of happened like it should have and I became more and more integrated with Landyachtz as I continued to skate. Now I work for them full time. I get to skate and go on rad trips and have adventures with my friends. That’s all I want.
What was Maryhill like first time?
At first it was really intimidating, I took it pretty chill the first few times but then worked my way up. It was awesome though it is a really fun course. The corners feel like you have so many g’s pushing on you as you go through them, it’s all grip.
What’s special about Mary?
It’s just a super fun road. There’s no others like it. It almost seems like it was designed for downhill skateboarding. It’s a pretty small town where it is held and once a year all the longboarders come in and we take over the town.
What were you riding at the end of that year?
I had a drop 2009 Landyachtz drop speed I think I raced maryhill on Rayne Avenger though.
Did you do many races in 2010?
Yeah I did a lot of races in 2010. That was the first year where I started to attend most of the BC races.
Who puts on the BC events?
There a a bunch of different race organizer that put on events in BC. Bricin Striker Lyons, Lee Cation, Mischo Erban, Blake Sonneff, Wes Sampson, Jody Wilcock and more.
Which is your favourite race?
Definitely Kelowna. It is a wicked race course which is super fast and technical. The corners feel so weird and aren’t what you would expect them to be like. Giant’s head is my other favorite. Even though it’s more about the freeride days than it is the race. It is a super wicked event to kick it with your friends and just have fun runs down the hill. Then after you’re done, you can jump in the lake to cool off.
How are they different from events in the rest of the world?
A lot of the races put on in BC are organized on their own and don’t need a long list of rules like IGSA or this new IDF stuff. Races like the Sullivan put on by Jody Wilcock are pretty laid back. You show up around noonish and Jody just gets everyone together to race. No tech inspection or racer numbers or timing system.
Do you prefer non-sanctioned races?
Yeah definitely, way less formal and just more fun.
How do rules and timing systems and whatnot affect your race experience?
I prefer race to qualify. When you make 200 riders wait for each person to do individual runs. It takes up way too much time and is just so boring to watch and wait for.
What do you enjoy about competing?
Any sport I’ve ever done I’ve enjoyed the competition aspect of it. Using your skill against someone elses to determine a winner. It’s fun to compete, even if it’s just a friendly competition. It gives you the chance to test out the ability you have and not hold back. There may be hairy situations like doing a local run with some friends and you see a really sketchy opportunity to make a really risky pass that could end up horrible. Chances are you’re gonna play it safe. When you’re in a race, you would go for it. Racing pushes your limits.
What other sports do you do?
I’ve played baseball growing up mostly. I also used to be an amatuer MMA fighter believe it or not before I got into longboarding. I only had a few fights but I won, so I can say I have retired undefeated haha.
What is your favourite kind of skating competition?
At first I was really into slide jams and slopestyle contests. That was my biggest strength. Freeriding and sliding is still super fun but now i’m super stoked on going really fast and doing fun runs with friends.
What do enjoy about freeriding?
Going really fast and doing big standup slides and stuff that scares you was really fun for me. I would have ideas for tricks in my head and I would go out and practice them until I had them down.
When did you first get sponsored?
I first got sponsored in 2010. I was winning a few local slide jams and I started getting noticed by Blake who was the old team manager for Landyachtz. They offered me some boards and gear and then it kept growing from there.
What was your winning combo at slide jams?
I was a big fan of doing really fast really big slides. I had a go big or go home kind of attitude. I also had some tricks that not a lot of other people could really pull off like a no handed coleman slide with just the side of my knee on the ground.
You were ‘’that grom’’?
Haha nah I never had the grom status. I joined the game late. I was 21 when I started longboarding.
How did getting support for something you’d do for free change skating for you?
I was stoked. It really gave me the opportunity to continue doing what I loved. It also felt like I had more responsibility at the same time. I felt like I wanted to prove to them that they made the right choice. I worked really hard to rep my sponsors and make them proud of me. Like I had something to uphold. It was nice encouragement that pushed my skill even more.
Who are your other sponsors?
Landyachtz boards, Bear trucks, Hawgs wheels, Steveston Tattoo Company
How many tattoos do you have?
7 maybe. I don’t know haha. I have some pretty big ones though.
You’ve stayed on the same teams since day one?
Yup, I have a loyal heart. I was riding landyachtz stuff before I got sponsored by them. I’d rather ride a companies product that I want to ride, rather than something I feel obliged to ride.
Why do some people have a long list on companies on their CV?
Maybe they feel like they need that status of being sponsored by having a long list of companies. I have all the support I need.
Who is the longest serving LYer?
I think Bricin was the first person they sponsored.
What was your role in the LY family when you first joined?
Originally I was just a team rider for a few years. I’d skate and race and do my thing. Then I got offered a job to come in and work for the company as the team manager. Blake Startup who was the previous team manager was going to focus more on sales and they thought that I would be a good fit for the position.
How has your role evolved through the years?
At first it was a little weird because everyone was my friend and I wasn’t sure how stepping into the role of team manager would affect a lot of that, but it was alright. For the most part it is a lot of fun but sometimes it feels like I am a babysitter. For some riders more than others but I’m not gonna name names haha.
Did everyone have to call you ‘’coach’’?
Nah, I wish they did. They used to call Blake “Mom”.
What’s the hardest thing about being team manager?
Landyachtz has a very large team. Making sure everyone has what they need and keeping in touch with everyone isn’t that bad though. The hardest part is when people change plans last minute and stuff. Playing babysitter for a bunch of drunk people on van trips gets annoying as well.
Who is responsible for sending out bacon in care packages?
Haha I’m actually not a big bacon fan believe it or not. I also don’t like coffee, cookies, and peanut butter. I can make sure you get a bacon care package though.
Weirdo. Are you in a cult?
Nah, but i’m not really from this planet either. Once I get my spaceship back up and running I can return home.
You’re mintberry crunch?
What races did you hit in 2010?
Danger Bay, Jakes Rash, Britannia, Vernon, Kelowna, Maryhill, Giants head, Cathlamet, Salt spring slasher and more but I forget.
What is the essence of the BC events?
I think the essence is just how laid back and informal they are. That’s changed unfortunately but it was nice back in the day. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
How has it changed?
Too much waiting around and not enough skating. A few years ago you would get more runs than you needed. You would end up wanting to take a break to chill for a run or too just to rest.
When did you notice the changes creep in?
Seems like just last year. 2012. I’m really excited to see how 2013 goes now that this IDF has moved in. Things may be better or they may stay the exact same and the IDF will just turn into the new IGSA.
How will things change under the new regime?
Only time will tell. Hopefully for the better. There’s high expectations so the pressure is on for them.
If you could organise an event, what would it be like?
Lava and fire pits you need to dodge, and jumps over chasms of crocodiles. Wolves chasing everyone and coming out from the sides of the road. Each rider gets to choose weapons like chains and stuff. I think that would be pretty fun.
How does one win?
When did you get to skate outside North America?
I haven’t skated outside of North America yet. I’ve done a lot of travelling for skating but it’s all been in North America.
Where did skating in 2012 take you?
2012 was my busiest year. We did an East Coast tour from New York to Florida in the spring. In summer it seemed like I was going out of town every single weekend for races and stuff. Then in fall we did a Mid West tour for a month and a half all over the states. 2012 was a good year.
Which tour did you enjoy most?
The first tour we did was the most adventurous. We had an RV that broke down every single day and we got stranded in the desert and stuff like that. It was always an adventure trying to make it to our destination, not even worrying about how we were gonna get back. The East coast tour was the most fun I think. So many good memories. The midwest tour was fun too but we didn’t go to the most exciting states like New York, Texas, or Florida. It was cool to check out some places I never thought I would end up travelling to like Wisconsin and Minnesota.
How did you grow as a person in 2012?
I think I’ve stopped growing actually. I wish I was a bit taller though.
What was the highlight for you?
The tours we did were definitely a highlight. Travelling around in an RV across the United States was a blast. Not a lot of people get that opportunity.
Where do you hope the future takes you?
Back to my home planet Gliese 581d.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
I do a lot of yoga. I try to practice yoga 4 or 5 times a week. I ride my motorcycle a lot too in my spare time.
How does yoga help your skating?
It has helped a lot with my flexibility and balance. Keeps me centered not just on my skateboard as well.
Pick 3 numbers between 1 – 10!
3 – what crime are you most likely to go to prison for?
I’m ready to die, I’ll go out in a shootout.
6 – if you could have any super power what would it be?
I already have a super power, dogs notice when I point at stuff.
9 – what would you choose as your last meal?
Pizza, energy drinks, and 5 cent candies.
It’s been really fun going down memory lane with you coach! All the best with your yoga, come skate Europe!
Thanks a lot it has been a blast! I will come to Europe one day.
Any thank yous?
Steveston Tattoo Co.