Katie Neilson: The Early Days

In this chapter of Katie’s life, we talk about how she got into skating. Getting over injuries. Winning everything and spending time in Colombia. Part 2 next week!

colombia2012 Francisco  Contreras
colombia2012 Francisco Contreras

Hello Katie! How are you doing?
Great. Sitting at my house in Vancouver, digging in on a bag of jelly beans right now with my roommate. you?

I’m trying to figure out the antonym of purity.
Well, I guess that would depend on what you are trying to define as pure. Anything not with the best intentions or lathered with holy water must qualify as impure.

Do you live with skaters?
No. I used to, and have a lot in my past but this time around when I reclaimed my house I opted to go the craigslist route and just figure it out with some randoms…  So far so good! 2 girls.

…1 cup?
2 kittys.

“Have you ever had that feeling when you realize that pretty much nobody that doesn’t skateboard will never fully feel the full potential of this world?”

Why did you decide to live with ordinary people this time?
Ordinary… skateboarders have such strange lives. Have you ever had that feeling when you realize that pretty much nobody that doesn’t skateboard will ever fully feel the full potential of this world? Or at least just see it differently? Ordinary. I guess I just couldn’t find friends that I wanted to live with in the time frame and now I’m here with these girls which turned out dope, they aren’t your ordinary ordinaries, we get along and the house is slowly getting built together.

2012 big standups-carly richardson photo
2012 big standups-carly richardson photo

Where did you move from?
I didn’t really move from anywhere. I was born and raised in and around Vancouver and it has been my home base for the entire time. In the last couple years, I’ve done some travelling, with the most recent being the longest I was ever away from home. It was only 2 months ago that I had to find new room mates for an existing house I was already a part of.

Have you been part of any epic skatehouses?
The first house I ever moved into (around 19 years old) was on Fern St, I lived there for a little over a year I think. I started out in this one house and then we moved 2 doors down into a different one, and from there on people just kept rotating rooms and kept it going for years. At last breath, the house was Kyle Martin, Dillon Stephens, George Mackenzie and Tony Graves… and Mike McGoldrick living next door with his lady and a chicken coop, buncha aussies too. Fern St. was in North Vancouver and was right across the street from an epic snake run called Seylynn and over the years since the late 70’s/ early 80’s street and bowl skaters had been living on the road. It’s crazy how with no real association to one another, the block transitioned from the old school to the longboarders after years of existence. At first, and for me, it was because of Seylynn, but for the longboarders it was perfect cause it was at the berth of the highway where you could choose to go east to Seymour and Burnaby hills, or West to the British Properties and beyond. They leveled it. It’s gone now. Over. No more Fern St. thanks to town house developments. That block was a paaaarrrrrttaaaayyyyyy.

Will Royce photo
Will Royce photo

What’s special about Seylynn?
Seylynn is an amazing bowl. It is the oldest park remaining in North America right now (unless I’m an idiot!) and it’s this crazy snake run with amazing angles in it. I’ll hook up a photo skating it, I don’t really have many but I did a landyachtz shoot there before taking the South America Tour last year. It’s so hard to explain, but its got steep banks, challenging speed lines including an uphill pump to the top, only attainable by those with a tonne of flow.

How long were you away for?
Thats an interesting question, haha. I have been in this house for about a year and a half or so and in that time I bet close to a year of it I have been on the road. Between my World Cup 2011 season and spending almost 4 months in Colombia, most of the time I was just paying rent and hitting the road. When I went to Colombia this time around, I knew I didn’t wanna do that, so instead of trying to find a sublease or something I straight up quit the house and decided when I came home I’d just have to find a new one. Fortunately and unfortunately, my house became available but with the need to be filled with 2 more people instead of my old roommates. I have a cat, he likes this block so I snatched it.

Britannia win 2011
Britannia win 2011

You went to Colombia to sample local produce?
Something like that. I was in Colombia originally for Oct 2011 Festival de la Bajada, and after having knee surgery in January, I knew I had to be somewhere where my energy was good to recover. I maintained a few friendships after the first year and really took up an interest in learning Spanish so I just combined my need of a solid recovery with my peaked interest in Spanish and packed my bags for what was supposed to be only 2.5 months. I stayed almost 4, came home, reclaimed my house then went back for the Festival 2012.  I’d still like to go back again.

Que tal?
Todo bien niiiiiiño. Not many people said que tal to me where I was at, its crazy how different spanish is from all the different places. No matter where I was or who I was with, you could tell when people weren’t from the same cities, nevermind countries.

Newtons win 2010, still hold the track record at one of my most favorite tracks ever, pretty sure this is a budro shot
Newtons win 2010, still hold the track record at one of my most favorite tracks ever, pretty sure this is a budro shot

Seems there is a knee virus going around!
Yeah its horrible. My virus hit me good and hard originally Oct. 2010. I was in New Mexico at the Timeship Skate School and after straight legging a bullshit landing I snapped my ACL. I spent 3 weeks stuck in bed there and then jumped on a plane to Australia, raced newtons and continued to hang low the entire early spring. Obviously, I knew it was bad, but I did the May events in BC and then once it was World Cup Season, I got on board and just sucked it up with a brace on, it was my front leg so I had it dialled and my other were muscles strong enough to support it by the summer. I did the Eurtour and then continued on to South American Tour knowing that I would be returning home with Teutonia being my final race. I was through the surgeons office, MRI’s and operation within 3 weeks of returning home after the tour. I had a full ACL reconstruction and now I’m just chillin, nursing an entire body into a good condition, I rip around the streets still.
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Who did you meet in that first visit to Colombia?
A lot of people. The crew at Longboard Colombia was super accommodating to us from the get go and I think we were all just stoked to be in a place like…Colombia…to begin with.  The festivities pretty much went on for a whole week there just chilling at the hostel, skating, drinking our faces off and smoking blunts in the courtyard. I struck up a friendship with a couple of people that continued on outside of the festival, and to this day, I still talk to them almost daily, usually through Facebook or sometimes Skype. Usually, my friends want to be practising English so they type in English and I type in Spanish, it goes like that a lot. With my friend Jenny, I try and do 100% Spanish, her included. There are a lot of male riders so it was nice to find a girl who has an accent I would like to speak like. I have good energy with who I talk to, it makes learning the things I need to say that much easier.

We went to 4 countries on the first South American Tour and between that and driving all through Europe and travelling to Australia earlier on, I had crossed 17 countries in a calendar year.

What is special about the energy there?
I can’t really describe what’s so special about the energy there, you kinda just have to feel it. We went to 4 countries on the first South American Tour and between that and driving all through Europe and travelling to Australia earlier on, I had crossed 17 countries in a calendar year. I was amazed the entire season watching how bilingual the skate culture was and I knew I had to figure something out because I can only speak English. Spanish clicked with me. I like the culture, I like the way it sounds and I like waking up every day and learning something. I went to Colombia 3 times last year, the smart marketers there got it right. Their tourism slogan is something like ‘the biggest danger is not wanting to leave’ or something.

one of my favorite photos of all time, travis, kyle katie dillon, Sebastian Nino, bogota 2011
one of my favorite photos of all time, travis, kyle katie dillon, Sebastian Nino, bogota 2011

How does the the skating compare to Vancouver?
Colombia is a hidden gem. Some people skate like Vancouver 10 years ago and some people are really starting to get on a higher, noticeable level. I think it has helped having the Festival De La Bajada there, a chance for International talent to come in and show them what’s possible. The difference between the competition last year and this year alone was insane! They have the hills to breed champions there, it’s happening. Also, they have a really developed street skate scene that doesn’t seem to have too much of a hate on for longboarders. Obviously not everyone is gonna be down 100% but it is a market I could see adapting well to mixed media magazines and competitors from both fields.

Is your knee as good as pre surgery?
At this point I don’t know what a good knee feels like anymore but my surgery knee is doing fantastic. It is very strong, the doctors proud of it and I am just trying to stay active and have fun more than anything. My whole body took a good hit in 2010, and in compensation throughout 2011 and beyond, other parts of me started hurting too. For now I do stuff like push around the streets, go swimming, chase kids for a few hours here and there on weekdays and chill.


What’s the worst bodily damage you’ve done?
Dislocating my shoulder. It’s come out probably around 10 times now, usually these weird little slips where it just comes out and then goes back in almost instantly. Last time it came out was 3 times on the Calgary World Championships weekend. 1 time was moving my arms for balance footbreaking (me falling in the pushculture report! I think it had a lot to do with my tight suit), second was jumping across a table trying to wet willy Nick Dunmall at a pub, and the third was waking up with it out in the middle of the night in Creston and Heidi’s house. I’ve woken up with it out 2 times in my sleep, both times I’ve been by myself and just have to kind of sit there and discover how to move myself to get it back in again. It is the most disgusting feeling in the world having a limb dislocated, you feel it in your stomach.  It’s my right arm too, which sucks because I was totally a star baseball player and now I can hardly throw a pebble over-hand the distance of a parking stall. I would never wish a shoulder injury on anybody.

I don’t really have the need to compete and prove myself right now, I know that I can go down hills fast. I’d rather just have fun, skate when I wanna skate, keep getting my body stronger and stronger and develop other sides of my life outside of competition.

Will any of these mishaps ever stop you skating?
Well, they certainly have stopped me from skating in moments, but I don’t think I’ll ever actually straight up STOP. I don’t really have the need to compete and prove myself right now, I know that I can go down hills fast. I’d rather just have fun, skate when I wanna skate, keep getting my body stronger and stronger and develop other sides of my life outside of competition. I’m excited for this new chapter of chilled out skating. Don’t get me wrong though, when it’s time to get out of the van, I can get out of the van. I skated to a World Cup Victory with my shit snapped, when I’m ready to skate amongst risk with this new knee and all the other bullshit, I will.

What makes you get back up when you ‘’fall’’?
Being the type of person who gets up after you fall is a requirement to even be involved in this sport or you’re gonna quit early. I’m not really the quit type though, and like most skateboarders, I have a horribly high tolerance for recognizing and/or ignoring pain.

Katie Neilson. Kid chaser?
Katie Neilson, Nanny extraordinaire. It’s my part time gig, I haven’t been doing it for long.  I have a couple families I sit on kids for and it helps me get my kicks on the weekends and save some, it’s just a casual thing.

How do you get your kicks during the week?
I’m a relatively relaxed person, it’s easy for me to stick around my house and just lay low although when it’s time to go big it’s time to go big.

Skate cat?
Sure. He doesn’t actually know how to skate though, but he supports it. Cute little bugger I spam instagram with, his name is El Capitan.

You have a hipster cat!
He really is a charming little thing, I raised him from 8 weeks. (insert crazy cat lady photo).

spacecat- jen McGoldrick
spacecat- jen McGoldrick

Are you a hipster yourself?
Probably not. Maybe to some people cause I have a longboard or I wear vans, haha… it’s getting popular around here. Obviously most people aren’t gonna know who I am if they see me on a bus but sometimes I can see them looking at me like… fuckin hipster with your fuckin longboard. But no, I would not, and I do not think my friends would ever identify me as a hipster. I still wear and do the same thing I’ve always done.

“Obviously most people aren’t gonna know who I am if they see me on a bus but sometimes I can see them looking at me like… fuckin hipster with your fuckin longboard.”

How much more popular has it gotten since you started?
I started longboarding like 6 years ago or something, I was 19. I live in Vancouver so it’s always been somewhat big, but as soon as I got in, I was immediately exposed to this insane, developed scene. It was still at a point where I could spot someone with a longboard and probably know who they were. It’s not like that now. These days they are everywhere with every sort of person. Even those that actually bomb hills now, not just the fashionistas, are getting huge numbers. I go to events and stuff and there are so many faces I’ve never seen popping up all the time. Kids these days are starting longboarding. They are asking their parents for longboards, not just a regular skateboard.

What is it like riding in Vancouver?
Vancouver is beautiful and the hills are big, it’s nice. I haven’t really skated much in Vancouver this year because of my body’s situation and being away so much but I know what’s out there and it’s amazing. The reality is we’re heading into winter here so I also don’t feel that bad about not hitting the hills when it’s just wet and cold. Skating around the city is pretty fun, you can catch me ripping through the streets daily, usually as long as it’s not down-pouring.

2011 slipnslide-les robertson photo
2011 slipnslide-les robertson photo

Who did you skate with in the beginning?
In the beginning there was a few people. The old LBC crew had a big influence in my getting into longboarding. They were a cool crew and a few of the boys would take me to hills and get me started then it wasn’t before long that it was a BC event season and I got to see what the whole coast thing was really about. COAST defines my pre-school roots and upbringing.

Apart from Snoop Dogg, who else was in the LBC crew?
Rocky owned the shop, Benny Bailz was the first one to give me a board and take me to the hills and aside from that there was a tonne of names, it just depended on who was around for the week or weekend.

No girls?
Yeah Chiara, Haven, Brianne, a few girls for sure. That’s a long time ago, I’m worried I’ll offend someone by not giving the right names.

You started straight on hills?
No, not quite, well, actually maybe. I skated the bowl a lot, that snake run, Seylynn. When it started to rain we all started to go to LBC cause it had an indoor skateboard park in the back, it was there that I saw a movie or two that had people racing longboards and I knew right then and there that I wanted to do it. Within no time, Benny Bailz had me in his car at a spot called Chairlift in the British Properties screaming ‘MY GROMS NOT STINKBUG, MY GROMS NOT STINK BUG’ after successfully making the chicane on my first try. It all went downhill from there. I was probably bombing 80km/50mph within my first month of riding, fuck, if not close to my first week.

First time bombin a hill, 2006 with Benny Bailz, Jeff Budro, Hyato Tanaka. Photo unknown
First time bombin a hill, 2006 with Benny Bailz, Jeff Budro, Hyato Tanaka. Photo unknown

What is the BC event season?
British Columbia has a massive event roster. Thanks to Striker, the community of COAST LONGBOARDING, and independent event organizers all over, I can look at my calendar in March and know what I am doing almost every weekend until the end of summer. Obviously, over the years, the list has become much bigger, with events in more places than just BC, but I think the energy here really inspired people to do something good where they were from, whether that be Alberta, Washington, California, Colorado and beyond.

What is COAST?
Coast is a community, a Family.  Founded by Bricin ‘Striker” Lyons years ago, Coast was the banner which all the events were listed under. Punk show? COAST. Skateboard Race? COAST.  Charity Event? COAST.  It’s really just turned into an identification of where your roots are. Some people are pretty gnarly and some are preppy as fuck, but generally, I’d say it takes on the Punk Rock attitude of its pops, Bricin.

“Coast was the banner which all the events were listed under. Punk show? COAST. Skateboard Race? COAST. Charity Event? COAST. It’s really just turned into an identification of where your roots are.”

Where would you be without COAST?
That’s a good question, I bet a lot of different answers could come out of that. I would probably not be doing this interview with you about still skateboarding at 25, especially making a life out of it. Because the community hosted all these events, I was able to travel, have places to go to produce media, have so many experiences to help me grow and have fun, I was basically able to make a name for myself within events that were highly popular on their own. I would not be the person I am today without the solid backdrop of that family I know I came from.

Coast longboarding first aid with bricin lyons, heidi germann photo
Coast longboarding first aid with bricin lyons, heidi germann photo

When did you start to make a name for yourself?
I guess almost right away. Although the scene was quite big, in today’s terms, it was still small. There weren’t many girls competing and I came along and actually had a shot for some things here and there. I grew up racing go-karts so I knew race lines, I was fast and I was feisty but my problem was that I was stupid and a skateboard isn’t a go-kart. I had too many hero scenarios in my head on the race course and most of the time that just lead to me crashing. It took me a couple years to level my head a bit and slow down before I was going too fast, learn that consistency was key on the race course, and how exactly to do that. The people I am scared to skate with now are people that skate just like I did when I was figuring it out still. They know how to go fast but not necessarily how to slow down.

The people I am scared to skate with now are people that skate just like I did when I was figuring it out. They know how to go fast but not necessarily how to slow down.

What was your first race victory?
My first race victory was in Salt Spring Island, BC. 2010. Brianne Davies had continually handed me my ass up until that point, and continued to do so here and there when we met afterwards, but it was the first time I really thought to myself ‘slow down, not here, they are going to stand up before the corner and that’s when it’s time to go’. It worked out and I won the final. After that I would just win when she wasn’t around, then I won against her, unfortunately in the rain, at Newtons 2010.
My claim to fame at that race is that I still qualified 1st in the dry though. She stopped racing probably for the same reasons I don’t care to race right now and after that I just won everything. If she randomly showed up on a start line at any event she’d give whoever thought they were a hot shot a run for their money on muscle memory alone.

“If she (Brianne) randomly showed up on a start line at any event she’d give whoever thought they were a hot shot a run for their money on muscle memory alone.”

Are there many girls skating in Vancouver?
I’m sure there are plenty that I have no clue about, the last time I really looked into it there was a bunch. I never really skated with girls right from the get go so now that I’m older and I know who I roll with, I never really went and looked for anything new. I wasn’t around in BC this entire year so I wasn’t at any events to see their faces… I’m sure next year I’ll be shocked at the local female turnout, in both numbers and talent combined.

French magazine 2011
French magazine 2011

Is there anything special about skating with girls?
Sometimes, yes, a lot of times no. I always got pushed by the guys and in enjoying the chase, I never really looked behind me for those trying to catch up. These days it’s a little different though, girls are getting really good at freeriding and stuff and I am sure that if I was on a hill with some chick doing sick backsides I’d be more motivated to dial in my freeriding. When the energy is there and good, its amazing though, no guy could ever come between two girls on a board that are totally connected with one another. It’s so rare for me to meet those kind of girlfriends, ones where there is no competition and just nothing but love, respect and an interest to improve one another. Now, THAT is special.

“no guy could ever come between two girls on a board that are totally connected with one another.”

Do you have a favourite lady skater?
Totally. My friend Jenny, the Colombian girl that doubles as my Spanish teacher is great. She’s not the fastest, most aggressive downhiller or the techy-est freerider out there, but she just has this unmatched love for skating down hills I have hardly seen on another. Her and I have an understanding going on. We have this massive language barrier between us and I could just be getting played the fool, but I don’t take her as one to only have being viewed as the best on her mind. Of course its nice to win and all, and I’m sure she loves sitting in the Champion position, but I see so much good for her based on her enthusiasm and love for the sport and what we have to understand about each other without saying anything. She is ALWAYS trying to go skate. I leave Jenny with whatever I can, whenever I can.

With luisa and Jenny, los arenales colombia, giovanni photo
With luisa and Jenny, los arenales colombia, giovanni photo

There is a certain lady in New Zealand who would also like to occupy that position.
Hi Amy!

When do you feel happiest on a board?
The days I don’t feel pressured to skate. The days I wake up with not a thing on my plate to do, not a place in the world I have to be, don’t have to sit around anywhere and when I just know all is going to be fine and I don’t have to be the fastest, nor progress myself to be the best right now. Those are the days man. I’m starting to have a lot of those days, I think this year of not being allowed to really skate has shown me what its about in the first place, I feel like I have room for a 2nd prime.

Where does the pressure usually come from?
Well, before my surgery I was operating on a level that titled me the Fastest Girl in the World. When you have that, you wanna keep that, or at least protect it and live to the name. For a while I could keep up with the free riding, I had super huge standups dialled and I can still get down any road but I just don’t feel like I have to be that person that’s pushing the level higher anymore, I have other things to contribute. It’s getting popular and so many kids, especially some new girls are coming in that are really pushing freeriding to levels never seen before or finally really starting to get fast on the race course. You gotta fall to learn, thats that. If you’re properly testing the limits of your riding, you’re testing the limits of your body as well. I’m learning to respect my body, I’m only 25 years old and I know I have a lot of years ahead of me; taking the proper time to get back on my feet until my intuition tells me I’m ready is not something I am worried about. I know I have a super solid base of riding and muscle memory.  I’m not going to ‘forget’ how to bomb hills. Whatever, it’s life; fortunately I have a pretty easy set of ups and downs to deal with, but it is what it is.

Vaclav Kalivoda photo
Vaclav Kalivoda photo

What is skating about?
It’s about getting places faster, testing your ability to progress and really recognizing what your limits are…but mostly, its just about hanging out and doing stupid shit with your friends.

The moment when you equate racing with sitting around is a terrible thing surely?
Yes and no. At an event that offers timing for results as part of a series, you are bound to have to sit around a bit, some just have it more dialled than others. Often the best events in the riders minds are the ones that didn’t need that stuff, so naturally you’re gonna get more runs out of the absence of timed qualifying and paper work because they allow you to jump out of the UHaul, line up on gentlemans rules and get down the road. I think there are advantages to each take; 1 you get to skate more, and the other you get something to follow.

What part do the racers play in the smooth running?
Well, I think if the organizers are going to release a schedule they should do everything in their power to enforce that printed schedule. Once a rider misses a uhaul or a heat once, he ain’t gonna be late again. So I guess the riders responsibility is really to just make sure that they are following the schedule they have been told to and try not to do the fashionably late thing too often, even though it’s a habit that’s been created through instability in schedule enforcement.

What changes are coming next season?
No clue. I’m not really involved in any changes, I just know we got some new options, it will be interesting to see how it goes.

hardwheelslide2010-Heidi Germann
hardwheelslide2010-Heidi Germann

How does having options change the game from previous years?
We’ll see. It’s a new year next year, man!  There were gonna be changes regardless, we are in a period of constant growth! Seeing as how most the events listed in the option are already existing/established events, it will be how the event organizers execute them that determines the overall reputation of the new guys. So long as the hearts stay in the right places, I support them fully and, as should any rider, I will participate in my community and contribute where I can but I refuse to believe that a new organization name alone will be what makes you get more runs instead of waiting for qualifying.
A new time machine will do that, of course, which is expected in the release but, a sick as fuck shuttle plan from race organizers and dialled track officials, and riders ready to go will be contributing to it too. People need to remember it’s a shared responsibility.

Will you get involved with any ‘’side’’?
Nah. I’ll be somewhere smiling in the middle, perhaps involved in that way, so who knows. All I want is for all my friends to have a good time. As far as races go, I’ll go where I have fun, not to chase points anywhere. If I like the road, see you there… If I think the track or the organization is gonna blow as it’s proven in the past… I’m gonna stay home or find somewhere else to go.

If you like bacon, you can come hang with us.
Love it. Bacon everywhere.

maryhill 2011 with 2012 worldChamp rebekka G
maryhill 2011 with 2012 worldChamp rebekka G

In any situation where the race organiser and the sanctioning body don’t want to take responsibility for a poorly executed event who does the blame lie with?
Depends what the issue is, but man up! If there is a problem, work it out like the partners you should be. Sometimes it’s neither parties fault, sometimes its the fuckin cops shuttin down the road early, or saying that they need an unscheduled traffic break! I guess maybe Organizers and Organizations can’t do anything about that but at the same time, you have a permit! I know it sucks and I know ‘being an asshole’ isn’t really an ideal situation, but if you take on the responsibilities of hosting a World Cup Event, you should play that title to your advantage on one side, and stick to its responsibilities on the other. Make sure you submit a thought out traffic plan to your community so there are no unexpected road problems, make sure you have enough staff and volunteers, and make sure that if your job is to check in, organize and start all the riders into position, you have to be authoritative about it. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be 1 single issue at an actual World Cup event, that shit should be dialled by a regional level. If the event is ran like an amateur event then that is a reflection on the series as a whole and World Cup Downhill isn’t going to go where it’s capable of going.  If organizers are serious enough to bring in a sanctioner, then you should be working together as a team once the contract is signed. Do your part to fully understand exactly what is expected to be contributed and by whom and if a 3rd party, such as residents, riders or police are getting in the way, you gotta man up and share the responsibility; put your differences in opinion aside and work on a situation that will solve the problem immediately, for that moment, for the event.

We need to find a way to generate revenue for prize money, that’s about the only other issue I see and I think that some high rolling manufactures and shops should maybe start putting up a little more than equipment sponsorships to cover it.

What other improvements could be made to the way races are run?
We need to find a way to generate revenue for prize money, that’s about the only other issue I see and I think that some high rolling manufactures and shops should maybe start putting up a little more than equipment sponsorships to cover it; it’s happening here and there. In my opinion, these guys that race each other to the finals at the big races really put on a show and work hard, I know this cause I watch them all the time cheering louder than most moms and grandmas. The reality is Downhill Skateboarding is pretty much too hella boring to be a spectator sport so you can’t rely on revenue created by spectators to cover things like prize money for them. Unless you’ve got jumbotrons and alternate entertainment like bands and street skate/freeride courses that move to the track when the racers are being shuttled up (hint hint), you got nothing you can charge for, in fact, you should probably give them something just for showing up in the first place. The prospective ‘paying spectators’ aren’t the people that stumble across the race tracks, they are the kids at home stalking your Facebook. We need a travelling film team dedicated to the series so that we can sell advertising space and use our online reach to it’s full potential.

colombia 2012-nicholas devalle
colombia 2012-nicholas devalle

Will pro downhill skateboarders ever be able to live off their hobby like street guys?
We’ll see. There are a certain number living right now, but even then, it’s not a salary like those guys have seen… nothing close. It’s enough to eat and usually you need a gig on the side if you don’t wanna be completely broke. I think a big difference for street and longboard is that longboard seems to be in this 100% internet generation where stars come and go and video parts are being released left right and center and photos are being printed/posted without being that spectacular. Granted, the media is constantly getting better but it’s the nature of the game. We haven’t really started playing ABD with skate spots yet and aside from a little bit of street style coming into freeriding, there really isn’t that much new to see… it’s more just stuff and riders to follow.  Longboarding seems to have a lot of 15 minutes of fame riders because if you do something new and cool you’re on top then the next week whatever you were doing becomes the norm. I think there will be a few guys capable of making a buck here and there through skating and marketing alone for a longer period of time but if you actually want to succeed and buy things and you know, live in a house n’ shit… you’re going to have to create a working position for yourself within it as well.  The really successful ones are going to recognize where there is an opportunity to fit, whether it be working for a company that already exists or forming a new one for themselves.  I think a big difference in Street and Downhill paychecks is royalties, too; Street companies release seasonal DVD’s, put the names of their riders on clothes and boards and really market the character of the rider in their advertising so kids attach to them. If more DH companies start putting the names of their riders on their boards/wheels/accessories that they help them develop, I think they could earn money in Royalties, etc, that they are rightfully entitled to.
This is a young thing full of young owners and I could imagine it hard to be a skater yourself, have this hella successful business and give this homeboy you’re already flying around the world a killer salary as well but in certain cases, that rider is maybe getting taken advantage of a little more than he realizes. Even though everything is confidential it’s no secret that the industry is becoming big enough to give a little support to rightful people who deserve it, they really are the faces of the company for anyone that doesn’t just see a skateboard one day and buy it the next with zero research. Street skating is more visually appealing in still frame shots for the most part too. You can only see the same slide so many times or the same dudes in the same leathers turning left so many times, we need to find a new way to make it more visually appealing to the attention deficit world that doesn’t understand how cool it is. .Gifs might be a way to do it but you can’t print a .gif in a skate mag. Banner ads…go!

Lombard 2008, Haven Anderson
Lombard 2008, Haven Anderson

Do you have a long term skate-life plan?
Um, I don’t have a long term plan in place, no. I’m generally just someone that goes with the flow, it’s been working so I’m gonna let it work. I am trying to keep my body, my head and my heart in the right places and now that I’m getting older and still find myself here, it’s easier to believe it can stay this way. I’m not quite sure that I could just wake up one morning and never consider having anything to do with skateboarding ever again, I have too much love for it and a capability to do cool shit for my friends.

I’m not quite sure that I could just wake up one morning and never consider having anything to do with skateboarding ever again, I have too much love for it and a capability to do cool shit for my friends.

What has been the highlight of your skate career so far?
Last year was pretty fun getting to see all the countries on the World Cup Tour and coming out on top as Champion, I got exposed to a tonne of new things that year that really changed my outlook on things, especially my insistent need to learn a second language. Really though, I think the best, the so-called highlight, is yet to come.

Where is your favourite place to skate in the World?
uuuuuuuuufffffff good question, there are a lot. I like roads where I can just push in and go fast as fuck from top to bottom gripping all the turns, almost about to lose traction. I can obviously drift and love to but there is something about a road that just has the ability to hold you in like that. Wherever those ones are, and there are lots, I choose you.

“I like roads where I can just push in and go fast as fuck from top to bottom gripping all the turns, almost about to lose traction.”

What do you ride?
Right now for a fast setup, I am on a Landyachtz Switchblade 36, Precision Grizzlies and whatever Hawg wheel is good for the moment, I love it. For ripping around the streets, I’m on a sick stock Drop Hammer, I love it, too. My dinghy makes it out of the house a few times a week too. I actually probably skate my dinghy more than anything right now. Venoms always complete my sandwich.

tarma2011,diego Cardenas
tarma2011,diego Cardenas

Are any of those your sponsors?
Yep. Daddies Board Shop has been hooking me up for a couple years along with the crew at Landyachtz Longboards as well. I’ve been with both of them for 2 complete seasons now, and I am having a blast.

When did you first get sponsored?
I got sponsored the first year I started skating down hills. I was on Sector 9 for 4 years and had some great experiences with them but being from Vancouver and having them in San Diego was really hard for me because I was young and being bounced around a little responsibility-wise between SD and the Canadian Distributor.
The time came at the start of 2011 to really think about what I wanted to do with myself in the long run and what energy was the best for me to do it and in that moment, employment had to be a part of it. Daddies and Landyachtz just happened to fit perfect for my needs.
At the time, I was trying to find the balance of skating and working within the industry because I wanted to skate but I needed to work and Landyachtz, being from Vancouver, was capable of fulfilling my needs so I didn’t have to go get a new job at a sandwich shop and quit every week or something to go skateboarding then come home and find a new one. The Eh Team was also home base to many of the riders and friends that got me into this in the first place so it was a comfortable transition.

Tarma 2011-mphotography
Tarma 2011-mphotography

What was the work?
Initially, they offered me a full time sales gig which I knew I was capable of doing but didn’t really express 100% enthusiasm for. I loved talking to the customers at shops and stuff but when I went into the initial meetings with them I was pretty vocal about wanting to do more work within the team and online marketing stuff. I stuck around the sales position for a bit but I was travelling so much and then I had to get surgery so I just told my boss that I couldn’t handle it and he needed to give it to someone else that could be more dedicated to the customers.

What is your role within the DBS family?
Daddies totally underwent a major reconstruction this year and a position that rose out of it was a dedicated Team Management role. I signed on officially for that a couple months ago, stoked that I would be enabled to motivate, collaborate and work with a very International roster of riders coming from separate manufacture teams. I have a truly unique opportunity and I love it.

What does a Team Manager do?
Generally I am the voice for anything lost or pending between the riders and the office. The owner at Daddies is very nice and a super rad dude and he is also very involved with the riders on a day to day basis as needed. I think he and I get along, respect each other and see each other on a good level, and of course the team and I get along, respect each other, and understand each other on a good level as well. It’s a great balance for working together because I have the best interests of both the shop and my teammates in mind. I have years of experience being a contributing sponsored rider, even more years working in warehouses and skateshops and I fully understand the expectations and insecurities of both sides, I think this balance of experience is what is allowing me, and will continue to allow me be almost effortlessly successful in this role. I think I’m just old enough to handle something like this now too. When it comes to ‘work’, I really just want to see the riders do the best for themselves and work with them to find out how we can help them do that.
My approach is to gather as many projects they can think of to be stoked on, figure out which ones we’re gonna go with, make sure they have the tools to do them, track them, and help where it’s requested or needed. To summarize, I familiarize and facilitate both the riders and the office through the process of finally pressing the ‘post’ button on media opportunities.
Teutonia2011, unknown

Who else is on the Daddies team?
We’ve got a huge Am team, but the Pro Team as of this moment has an amazing representation of some of the best females on board (helps making my job a lot easier!) with myself, Marisa Nuñez,Amanda Powell, Ishtar Backlund and Pam Diaz on the team, and we have a couple new boys almost ready to be announced lining up with Alex Tongue, Robin McGurk and Tad Drysdale.

What do you like to do when you’re not skating?
Lately it’s been Spanish, it’s like I’ve entered myself in this school program that doesn’t actually exist, but it’s existing.  I’m constantly reading, writing, listening…anything, I can’t get enough. It’s not hard to catch me on Skype with a friend, or writing on Facebook to another, for the most part everything is totally in spanish till I get stuck and the english comes out. My floor is flooded in spanish textbooks and dictionaries right now, and has been since at least January.
YouTube Preview Image

What do you write?
A lot, Writing comes very natural to me. If I wanted, I could babble on for pages in random Spanish stuff but it would probably be conjugated horribly and only someone that speaks English, or really, really wants to know what I have to say would understand. I usually have a notebook close to my side where I scribble anything from work ideas and upcoming home expenses to any other thought that comes to my mind, I just like the feeling of pen to paper. I listen to a lot of hip hop in Spanish too, so often when I find myself repeating words in my head, I scribble them out. I usually look up the lyrics for albums I am listening to a bunch so I’m not going at it completely blind and I also have a pretty visual memory so if I read something I can kinda put a picture in my head and go from there. Obviously, hip hop is not how I should model all my lessons, but it does help because speed in the language doesn’t really shock me anymore. I am getting pretty good at hearing every word in a sentence instead of a mash of noise, even if I don’t know what’s going on at least I can determine where one subject has left off and another one is beginning. The only way I’m really gonna be able to pull this off though is by spending some real time down there, it’s a thought on my mind constantly. Reading and writing are good, but actually speaking is better. I don’t get to speak much here in Vancouver.

Where’s your blog?
I don’t really write in it that often but you can find it at www.mylifedownhill.blogspot.com. I’m gonna say its a relatively decent look into my mind, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Often, I go for months without posting but I think its just cause most the stuff I have to say isn’t really skateboard material and occasionally that shit just sneaks in there cause I need a place to verbally spew. Maybe I should start a separate blog that’s totally anonymous and straight up blurb everything out there. I write like I play guitar, usually its late at night, I’m in my room, bored or a little unmotivated. Doesn’t always translate well for a skate blog. Sometimes it’s more like a ‘problems a girls mind is gonna encounter on a skate trip’ or something, haha, don’t judge. I always forget I have it.

Truce with James Kelly, dawn moisanen 2010
Truce with James Kelly, dawn moisanen 2010

Pick 3 numbers between 1-40.
5 – What is your favourite skate video?
I don’t watch a horrible amount of skate videos but it’s funny you ask that cause I just told my friend I was gonna use his birthday as one of these numbers and that fucking guy would put out a BANGER of a video for street and downhill. That’s what we need, a real street skater that skates real hills combining the both for a part that could speak to both audiences.  I do like how there is a tonne of room for character development and story lines within longboarding though, as a result of it not being as visually stimulating (in a sense of it being a little repetitive) it’s nice you can make it your own using that style. I’m excited to see what’s coming up.

28 – What superhero would be best at skating?
I babysit a 4 year old boy tomorrow, I’ll ask him, I’m sure he has a more informed answer.

34 – lucacoleman asks: Whats the weirdest thing you ever put in your mouth?
I jumped on a bus and went to a skate contest in Colombia in this devil hot little town called Neiva so I could watch some friends compete at a street contest. Like pretty much everywhere there, you could get meat on a stick from anyone. Anyways, I’d had a couple sticks of meat and I went to go dig in for another one and picked one that I totally thought was a chicken in some spicy pineapple sauce, not super uncommon. A couple minutes passed, and I offered bites to a couple of the boys because everyone shares there all the time but they just kept refusing, I didn’t get it. Finally one kid managed to say enough in English to tell me I was eating testicles. I ended up giving it to a dog, just couldn’t do it anymore, I’m pretty sure I liked it before they told me, too.
The only thing I could say to justify it was that, hey, at least I’m a girl. I tell you, that taught me a lesson about turning down help when it’s offered (I had insisted on picking my own food, and as it would turn out, me ‘insisting’ on stuff somehow always gets me in trouble).

2006 jeff budro
2006 jeff budro

Katie buddy, you’re a trooper! It has been so much fun spending tonight with you, I look forward to breaking bread (and bacon) with you soon!
Mmmmm, bacon.  Goodnight!

Any thank yous?
Well, to the typicals of Daddies and Landyachtz…tonnes of thanks anywhere I can get it in for them. To my friends and family, thanks for being rad.  And thank you as well for the interview.


Go Karts:

Landyachtz College Tour:

Old but good draft battle: