”Slighty surreal” and ”thoroughly candid” are just some of the phrases critics are throwing about in reviews of this conversation we had with the poster boy of distance skating last year. We promise it’ll make you laugh…Hello Paul, great to chat to you!
Likewise GB”emi! (Does this count for a gC”ookie?)
Not quite gPaul!
How about a Eurasian Badger baby?… Huh?
Where are you from?
I hail from the Western Hills of Canada, where the Rocky mountains meet the prairie wheat! But I was born and raised in Eastern Canada, near Toronto. That’s where I began longboarding. In Cambridge and Dundas.
Did you skate before that?
Actually no, I used to be an observed trial cyclist and I was really into Chinese martial arts. Both of which carried over into my skating rather well. I immediately began skating every genre I could though.
How deep were you into martial arts?
I became one of my Sifu’s star pupils in a very short time. I had a few refer to me as a prodigy, but It was really just due to my obsessing about it and practicing insane amounts per day. I was prepared to move to China and Taiwan with my Sifu to continue studying. That’s when Longboarding came into the picture.
How does one observe a cyclist on trial?
It’s a judged sport. We have a judge who sends you to jail if you suck… that’s worth 5 points. More points equals more bad. The bike is like our lawyer and it helps us navigate and negotiate a crazy obstacle course. I was more nimble on a bike than I was my feet.
Did you go far?
I had lots of recognition from the guys in my local community. But I was usually the only one in my town to be working on pure technical handling. I rode by myself for usually 9 hours a day 6 days per week. I spent everything I made but I never asked for anything. I was just riding my bike. It was purely out of love. I only did a few competitions. I did well.
You gave it up for 4 wheeled adventures?
Yeah I did. I get really into things I like. Music, cycling, martial arts. My hobbies engulf all of my spare time and attention. This was why I initially tried to avoid longboarding. It looked like fun, I knew it was dangerous. Not physically as much as it was to my goals.
You gave up being Bruce Lee to become a n00b skater?
I know! I’m an idiot! Bicycle Bruce! But it was fun. My Sifu had already left. My band broke up, My girlfriend of 4 years and I split up, and I had a few deaths in my family. I needed a change and I didn’t have anything holding me accountable with my other activities. Just my friends at the local Skate shop.
Could you move things with your mind?
Is there a pencil on your desk?
What discipline of skating did you start with?
I began carving with my friend Marcel Robert who got me into this longboarding mess (by force). But I found videos of sliding. The whole premise was fascinating. I actually had made my first pair of slide gloves about 4 months before I got my first board. I’d say downhill freestyle very quickly became my main gig. Hard wheels on 35 inch pool skates. Trying to do standup 360’s and all those crazy slides Mark Short was inventing at the time. The Canadian slalom master, Mike Civindino, introduced me to slalom and speed-boarding. From there I got carried away.
When did you start skating?
I’m not entirely sure anymore. I can’t remember if it was the summer of 2003 or if it was earlier. I remember Danger Bay 4 was about 7 months after I finally got my first proper longboard. It was my first race. I guess I started riding a good ¾ of a year before said first board.
What about longboarding got you hooked?
The puzzle that was sliding, and that has kept me busy. The feeling of going fast, and interlacing that sweeping turning feeling with breaking traction. It was new, and during a time when I felt I needed something new.
Do you still dabble in all that crazy sliding?
I dabble. I’d like to return to it. Time is my only constraint.
What is danger bay?
Danger Bay is a longboard festival/speedboard race that happens on the Sunshine Coast of BC Canada. It’s kinda like longboarding’s Woodstock. The event has been running for 11 years now.
How was your racing career?
I feel I was progressing steadily. I was doing better at every race, I managed 5th place at Vernon one year and I won a few outlaws. I might have been good if I kept at it, but around the time my first daughter was born I started getting worse. I realized I wasn’t practicing any more because I didn’t have the time. I would show up to races and that was it. No other practice. I realized this wasn’t sustainable. If I didn’t practice it was going to get dangerous. I left downhilling and had to fill my time running with a baby stroller. Way less exciting but at least I was doing something. (I don’t own a television.) I do practice many aspects of downhill for my push races nowadays. Things like taking good lines are important to winning these events.
When did you last race?
Downhill? 2006. But I go downhilling a few times a year and I can keep up. Sometimes to a fault. I don’t want to be as fast or faster than people who charge a hill regularly when I do so rarely.
Where do you skate nowadays?
I skate some tight windy pathways around my home, or I skate along a huge river that bisects Calgary. Every so often I’ll head to the mountains for some tougher training. And I seem to travel a fair bit.
What is the community in Calgary like?
The community in Calgary is awesome. We, like most communities, are one big family. Every meets up every Wednesday for a huge group ride managed by the local shop and its team riders. We are always thinking of fun and creative ways to have fun with the sport as a group. But we can be fairly competitive. Kinda in between the super fun loving Toronto and Montreal scenes and the super hardcore and competitive Vancouver scene. But definitely more united than Van.
What’s your role in the community?
I had adopted a leadership role pretty early on, almost immediately after moving here. I was always ready to teach others whatever I had learned, and I hung out with some really ambitious people; Aaron Christensen, Ross Baradoy, my wife Rachael. Together we have been involved in organizing tons of events – slide clinics and sessions, weekly clinics with Royal Boardshop, Critical Mass events, outlaw downhill races, and more well-known events such as the Paskapoo Downhill Rodeo, Greenskate and more. One of the biggest things we did was start the Speedboard and Longboard Association of Calgary, a non-profit that would be the umbrella organization for many of these smaller events, but more importantly we worked with the media and Government (or sometimes lawyers) to help the image of our sport in our community. We are part of the reason while it still isn’t illegal to ride in Calgary.
We have Critical Mass here. It is my favourite event every month!
Got it! We do this one on the Saturday before Halloween. We all dress up in costumes and shut down the busy trendy streets in Calgary and we throw candy at strangers. Haha. Its called the “HALLOWEEN RIP”. We also do a giant slalom race around pumpkins called “Pumpkin ‘till you puke” afterwards.
What is the SLAC and what is your role in it?
We are kinda in a hibernation period doing events on our own. It’s sleeping for the next time the longboarders in Calgary need it; the next time the city tries to ban the sport, or when lawyers need help researching the legalities around the sport in defence of one of our kind. I have done many jobs within the organization every year we’ve elected new tasks for each other. I’m usually charged with coming up with wacky new events.
Is the Greenskate in Calgary huge?
It depends on the year. Some years we have missed the core group as we all migrate to race events in one huge mass. We usually get a showing of about 60-100 people. Last year was pretty small. We spend most of our time promoting other events, and our weather is some of the most random in the world so it can be tough. The first Greenskate was a small event started by myself and my room mates. I planned the route, made the posters, and helped with the name and branding. I then swept about 2 kilometers of gravel-covered (inch-deep in some places) pathway to clear it for us. We skated 21 km along our river pathways. From there Ross took it to the international level and contacted people he knew all over the world. He’s since taken the role of the Greenskate boss.
What led you to start Greenskate?
We wanted to promote longboarding as a viable means of environmentally friendly transportation, and to make light of its convenience. In Calgary you can’t bring your bike onto a bus or train, but you can bring your longboard. It was one part of our strategy to put our sport in a good light with the roads and pathway people here in Calgary. And we were all concerned with the wasteful and oil loving ways of our fellow Calgarians.
In other parts of Canada there have been very public spats between the mortals and the longboarders, usually about the threat/reality of banning our sport. Why so much agro?
This is a very complex issue. Much of it is due to others lumping the traits of vandals and punk adolescents in with us. (I used to do the punk thing in high school, haha.) They also don’t understand the sport. We do need to behave. We can’t be rude; in fact, we must be overly polite and cooperative. We also have to be viewed upholding safe practices. As long as we follow the same rules that cyclists are held to, we should be okay; no blowing stop lights, following the speed limit (haha), etc. We also have a responsibility to hold a certain level of proficiency, the ability to stop within the legal requirements laid out for cyclists, for example.
You married a skater! You made skate babies!
The first “Danger Baby”, Annika Danger Kent-O’Neill. She’s more rad (and clever) than I.
What have you been training for?
The Pamplona bull run! And the odd skateboard push race. And Picking things up.
When did you get into push races?
I was always a strong pusher. I used to skate up hills so I could get in more runs during a session. In 2007, we took a trip to New York and I tried the Central park race. I was late for the start, but I passed 110-ish people to get 10th place. I had no sleep or food before it either. It wasn’t until later that year when I decided I wanted to try my hand at King of the Forest. I was having dinner with some family and friends and I didn’t have enough money to take a bus to Vancouver, so I jokingly said “Maybe I should just skate there”. They didn’t get that I was joking and all volunteered to watch my daughter during the days I would be gone. Vancouver is 900km away through the Rocky mountains and two HUGE national parks. I asked “don’t you guys think its crazy?” They agreed but told me I was crazy so it was okay. We had a SLAC meeting the next day so I stayed for that, then I packed my backpack and left. When I arrived in Vancouver I did well at the race, and I was a changed man. I was stoked on travelling with a board and push racing.
How does your history of competitive sports reflect in distance?
I didn’t do much in the way of competition. I did a handful of cross country running and mountain bike races and I did well, but I wasn’t training properly in these sports to really excel. I was in the Canadian Military and I would run everywhere. I have never lost an obstacle course competition – haha. Actually, it wasn’t until after being in the military and realizing I could be good at stuff that I was able to excel at anything. That’s when trials and Kung Fu took off for me. But I wasn’t competitive about them.
How has your distance career progressed since 2007?
The following year I competed in a race in Edmonton named the Rogue Race. I think there were 163 people racing. I won, and my sister-in-law Anna O’Neill got 1st in women’s. From then I decided to travel to a few push races a year and I won all but one. I had a rough crash in one that set me back. I started getting invites all over the place and I always tried my best to make it, but my travel came out of my pocket.
Where was the gnarliest invitation you’ve received?
I’ve had invites to some super cool places like Puerto Rico or lots of crazy ones I couldn’t go to. The gnarliest was in my own back yard; the Egmont grind push race on the Sunshine coast. That race is a tad wrong. It’s not over publicized ’cause kids could die.
Aside from the competitions, what other distance endeavours tickled your fancy?
I did a few trips with some friends… you know, skating and stuff. And this other time I skated for a while, all at once.
Define ‘’a while’’.
23 hours and 13 minutes, if memory serves me correctly.
Trips with which friends?
My buddy Aaron Enevoldsen and a lesser known fellow by the name of Adam Colton.
Who are they?
Aaron I met at my race; the Paskapoo Downhill Rodeo, he’s a good musician and a funny guy. We don’t like each other at all though. Adam is just some weird guy I met on a New York Subway back in 2007. I thought he was on drugs. Turns out to be the opposite problem, He wasn’t taking his medication.
When did you decide to go honeymooning together?
January 2009, we fought the whole time so our counsellor told us to give a second crack at it. In 2010 we tried again, ending in divorce. (I was seeing someone else on the side who I later ended up marrying). Adam, Aaron and I still keep in touch from time to time. Sometimes we talk about the old days, and wonder what it would be like to try again. Maybe one day our old flame will reignite… but not for at least two more years.
Where did you go on your first honeymoon?
Peru, through some of the driest desert in the world, then over two ranges of Andes mountains. Our first hill of many was 4.4 kilometers high above sea level.
Had anyone done anything like this before?
Lots of people had done trips like this. Adam had 4, give or take, although all of the published ones used support vehicles. Myself and Robert Thompson were the only ones I know of (although I bet there were more) who had done this unsupported. This trip was brutal in a new way, it was chosen to destroy us in every way. I think in that way it may have been a first in the skating world.
Who is Rob Thompson?
He is the person who has the Guinness World Record for the longest man-powered journey. Two thirds into it he gave up his bike and got a longboard. He skated more than anyone else has in one trip: his skate leg had him in the USA, Europe and China! His site is at http://www.14degrees.org/en/
Rob helped us plan this trip – the most difficult route he could find. He also did the same for Adam. So Rob is kinda like a matchmaking cupid that wields agonizing road trips instead of arrows.
Were you destroyed at the end of it?
Maybe our sanity. We were destroyed many times over during the trip. By the end our bodies were impervious to destruction. We were wrecks when we had to socialize though; we lost our marbles.
What was the hardest thing about your long trek?
The part between Lima and Potosi.
Which of your honeymoons have you enjoyed the most?
Peru and Bolivia; everything was mysterious and new. We didn’t know if it could be done. And the majority of the expedition took place in highly remote areas. It was an epic adventure – a word I don’t use unless I mean it – the type of adventure that doesn’t come around very often. I doubt I’ll ever do another that could be the same emotionally.
Hmmm… But Maybe the real one with my wife was probably the best honeymoon for being a honeymoon. We did that right!
How did you push through the tough times?
With my feet… Tough was constant. It sucked, but it’s not like we could stop. In many situations if we stopped too often we wouldn’t have enough supplies. Honestly, after a while we existed within pushing through tough times. It was the only thing that was normal.
Is there anything about these trips you enjoyed?
Yes, the little things. Things that are taken for granted back home caused immense joy. A good meal seemed like Christmas from when I was a child. It also came with seemingly the same frequency. Taking a 5 minute break. Sleeping for a few hours. The scenery was amazing, but it became hard to appreciate. It was all so beautiful and HUGE! I wish the camera could do it justice.
How did you have the presence of mind to film while on this arduous trek?
We kinda didn’t. The video project was pieced together after the trip. There were times where we had nothing but creative daydreams happening in our heads. The climbs were tough to film. having to skate ahead of the group far enough to get a good shot,then starting again way behind to do it over again before the next nice shot. It was tough and unappealing.
I was the best at running these sprint intervals, so I did. I also had lighter kit than Aaron so I made up by carrying more communal gear. I carried most of the film gear. However, WHENEVER Adam wanted to film I let him. He has a great eye and I learned much of what I know of photography and videography from watching him shoot and seeing his framing.
Adam did most of the downhill and almost every shot with me in them. I did most of the rest. I would record things he was photographing, so he was kinda like the director of photography where I was the primary camera man. Aaron took some but I was mean to him about it. He would write music instead, which worked out awesome!
Was there anyone in the real world who knew if you had been eaten by bears?
I brought a satellite beacon with us. Everyday we updated it with our location and it relayed that to a list of ten people; our families, Don the boss at Loaded, and of course the lovely and awesome Laura Hatwell who would keep our followers posted with our whereabouts. She was usually the first to know.
Who is Laura?
She is my Sista’ from another Mista’ … and another mother too. She’s someone who gets the whole distance skating thing. And she’s the right amount of wack job and go-getter to fit in to our group. We needed a logistical ninja and Laura was seemingly engineered specifically for the task.
How did she end up in this role?
If I recall, I was flying from San Francisco to Peru in 12 hours and I hadn’t started working on our site yet. I had some content and a plan for our spot tracker to be integrated. In desperation I asked Laura over chat; we met online via skatefurther.com and would regularly swap advice over Facebook on how to deal with our respective girl troubles. She built something awesome, and she threw out my plan for the tracker and made it work better too!
When did you first skate together?
Last month, at the second Chief Ladiga silver comet challenge. It was strange meeting her. I instantly recognized her out of a hundred random people in a Georgian train terminal. It seemed as if we were good friends who had been apart for a short while. We both cried when we had to say goodbye.
What was it like meeting someone who had been such a big part of your life?
It was weird. In some ways it was like we weren’t meeting for the first time, but in some ways it was. We knew each other and we were already friends, good friends who knew each other fairly well. We have seen videos and had Skype video chats. We even once celebrated New Year’s Eve together via Skype. So it was oddly familiar, like a cousin that you get along with well and shared experiences but that moved to another country and you seldom see.
Do you plan to come to our side of the world to skate with Laura?
Yes of course. The trick has been getting the travel budget for a trip. I can’t work a regular job with my skate commitments, so saving is impossible. It is on my list to do a British push race, possibly a downhill race, and to spend some time hanging with Laura and Mark Short.
What is the Silver Comet Challenge?
It’s a skateboard race that has you cross Georgia and part of Alabama on skateboard. It’s 188 miles long and done in the style of a bicycle stage race; three stages, three days. The last was 94 miles.
Sounds like your kind of party. How was it?
Last year was heat stroke, this year was rain and almost hypothermia. I love it! I didn’t want it to end. (Although my legs were happy to be done). One year when the conditions are optimal I want to finish in just about 12 hours total riding time.
Who won last year?
Some weirdo wearing tights who didn’t eat any solid food the whole time. I don’t know who he was, but he was lame.
Did this weirdo do any better this year?
How does one train for such a gruelling push in competitive conditions?
Honestly, practice feeling terrible for sustained periods of time. Some skating and weightlifting doesn’t hurt either.
What other races have you done recently?
Race to the skate shop because I work in five minutes – haha. Saving my travel budget for later in the year, I suppose.
Royal Boardshop. I work part time helping people decide what bushings to use. It’s a new gig. I’ve been a team rider for years. And just officially started working for them this year. I also deliver Christmas presents for Canada post.
Any races with other skaters?
I did the Gamut last year. Adrenalina’s Broadway bomb, Rogue Race, but last year Adrenalina gave huge prizes and that helped make it affordable. I’m still deciding where to direct my budget.
What’s an Adrenalina?
It’s an action sports brand. They have a television show hosted by my friends Pablo and Zalman. They also have a bunch of skate/surf shops around the USA. They organized four huge push races as part of a series last year. It got all the fastest guys around in one place to race for our yearly wage. It was awesome! I got to race in New York, Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.
Did you take part in all their races?
So far yes! I may miss this next one because it happens to be the same week as the due date for my next child.
Yay! Skate baby.
Yup, The first has the middle name Danger in homage to Danger bay.
Haha. No! You didn’t.
Annika Danger Kent-O’Niell. She skates too, but she needs 60a bushings to be able to turn. (Thanks Rip Tide)!
You, my friend, are a champ!
[holds hands up in the air and jumps up and down while singing the Rockie theme].
Can you name the next of your offspring Clark?
My mom nearly named me that! She thought I would get teased. Haha. My wife was thinking naming “him” Kent as a first name and O’Neill or “her” Clarke Kent.
Is there an IGSA equivalent for distance?
Yes sir! The IDSA. Although they are not ran the same way as IGSA. They help organizers and athletes more than the IGSA does.
Let’s not get into it too much. All that needs to be said is that I am a Canadian, and my nickname is the Paskapoo kid for a reason.
I can picture you in your mounty outfit holding holding some bacon and saluting a maple leaf!
Vegan peameal Bacon! Sipping smooth maple syrup from Quebec.
What is a Paskapoo?
It is a geological formation in the west of Calgary. Named by cowboys or something. Canada Olympic park, home of the ’88 winter Olympics (think Cool Runnings) was built on it. A couple of friends and I started a race named the Paskapoo Downhill Rodeo. The events guy at the venue cheated us out of it and lied to the venue about how much money he lost doing so.
Who is top ranked according to IDSA stats?
I’m not sure. But last year it was me.
What do you ride?
I ride primarily two setups. For pushing it’s been a foam-core custom chopped Long Treks deck from Rayne longboards, extra light Aera trucks with titanium axles, and hollow titanium king pins. 38° rear plate 46° front, Orangatang Baluts, Hollow point ceramic bearings, Riptide chubby bushings board side and Otang Nips roadside.
I also ride a Rayne supreme with areas, riptides and Baluts for my free ride and day to day.
Are those your sponsors?
Some of them. My main sponsors are Otangatang, Rayne, Royal Boardshop, Vega, and Aera. I get some extra support from Hollow Point (bullet), Riptide bushings and Patagonia.
I can’t accept bearing sponsorship at this time but I love Jesse at Hollow Point, and I’ve had a dash of love from Bones too, which is amazing. For bushings, Brad at Riptide is a like-minded geek, and he lets me play with crazy concepts.
Why can’t you have bearing sponsors?
I may or may not be involved in the creation of a new, different bearing company. We’ll see.
Is there going to be a PK Rayne board?
We are talking. Only time will tell what the future has in store. And time rambles on like an incontinent, senile, old town fool.
Vega is a Vegan, whole food, nutritional suppliment brand. They make the healthiest and best-tasting meal replacements for vegetarian athletes. But their lineup has many products geared towards everyday people as well. The stuff is like a healthy supercharge, and it helps athletic types get better gains.
You’re really into your diet. How much of a difference does it make to your skating?
Pretty big. It makes up for shortcomings in my training and helps me recover faster. It reduces injury and improves my endurance over long distances. Ask any athlete.
What are your plans for the future?
Run my summer camps then get heavy into training, although I’ll miss most of my races. I plan to race Whistler, R.O.G.U.E. (best push race ever), Giro de Coloumbia, Puerto Alegra Race, hopefully a New York event. And we’ll see from there.
Next year I plan on hitting all the big races.
Why is it the best?
First event I ever won. Made me think about actually practice pushing. Its a push race that has downhill and even requires that I do some sliding to make a few corners. Pre-drifting a corner in a push race is the best thing ever. Haha.
Again, too close to the baby date to say. I went last year and had lots of trouble. Even took a minute (or longer break) to help another rider out. Still took 6th. It would be cool if a person from outside of New York won it. Robin McGuirk is close. I want to add to that outside pressure.
Choose 3 numbers between 1-33.
4.3, 12, 34
4 – Who is the best person you’ve seen skating?
Either Mark Short or Kevin Riemer.
12 – What’s your least favourite movie?
It was a crappy horror film made in BC. A stranger in a leather jacket killed all the teenagers. The kids worst behaviour was touching bums together in the swimming pool… freaking whack. (Cannibal the musical is my favourite bad movie)
34 – What’s the weirdest thing you ever put in your mouth?
I once liked this girl. To weird her out I picked her nose and ate it… I got the girl.
It’s been great talking to you Paul, thanks for all your time. Wish you the best with your new Gchild. Come play across the pond sometime!
Thanks Gbemi! I totally want to come visit soon!
Any thank yous?
My wife, daughter, parents and the great number of friends that helped me get here. of course Orangatang, Rayne longboards, Royal Boardshop, Aera trucks, Vega, Skanunu, Riptide, Hollow point, SGS, Learn2Longboard, you get the idea.
Photos by Adam Colton: flickr.com/fartinabag