We got to speak to stoked adventurer Levi about his early days of skating, shooting Greener Pastures Offshore, being a part of the Rayne family and plans for this year. Enjoy the beautiful photos by Agro!Hello Levi!
Hey there. How’s it going man?
Great. Stoked to be popping your interview cherry!
Let’s not make a mess now, ya’ hear.
Is this how you imagined you’d lose it, to a strange man on the interwebs?
I mean, I had high hopes for it. And this really reached my highest hope. If your mom told you not to do it, it must be the way to go, right?
Do the other 3 skate?
They’ve all picked one up before, but only one of them really stuck with it for a time. That’s how I was really introduced to skateboarding. There were always ramps being built in the front yards and curbs being grinded on my street growing up.
Did your bro lead you to skating?
Somewhat. All of my brothers are a lot older than I am (8 or 9 year difference between me and the next youngest), so I just got to watch them a lot and not really follow them around too much. It was more of a contact stoke that got me hooked.
When did you first try it for yourself?
I think right around 2nd grade or so, so like 8 years old. It’s been an on and off thing since then. I’ve always been into a variety of sports. Motocross, baseball, snowboarding, skimboarding, BMX, mountain biking, and really anything I could get my hands on. Things would grab my attention more than others depending on my friends at the time. Skating was always there though. Commuting, skateparks, street, mild hill bombing, whatever.
Do you still enjoy doing the same things on your skateboard as the early days?
Honestly, I wouldn’t say so. I used to push A LOT. That’s how I ventured around my town with my friends. I can’t say I enjoy pushing much anymore! I’ve got the hips and knees of an old man now, haha. I do still enjoy the lurking though!
Who’s in your skate gang?
I’m in between at the moment. Been “living” in a lot of different places lately and once things get settled and have a set groove, I find myself moving on to something else. Back in Sacramento, CA (where I’m from), it really started out with my buddies Nick Ronzani, Peyton, Adam, Clayton, Aaron, Hayden, Malachi and a few others. That’s all been dispersed these days. Now it’s the next generation that has sprung up in the area like Steven, Schardt, and Neil haha. Then there’s the Rayne family up north like Aidan, Ian, Les, Tommy, Mischa and the rest of the guys who find themselves in Van. Now I’m getting the feel for things in Costa Mesa with Cam, Dubes, and Schu.
Who is Nick?
Nick Ronzani is the guy who got me into downhill, took me to the mountain runs, and made the first skate trips happen. Basically made it possible for me to get where I am now. Many thanks to him for sure! He’s living out in San Francisco with the Caliber crew these days.
What’s Sacramento like for skating?
Flat for the most part. We have some short, steep, straights in town. But the good stuff is either an hour or so east, to the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, or west to the Napa Valley hills. NorCal backwoods trips were weekly affairs. Nothing but the clean air, epic views, and the homies in the middle of nowhere!
Is there a huge community there?
It’s by no means huge, but it was tight knit and quality for a while there. Now it’s a bit more spread out and clique-ey. Tons of grom getting into the whole sliding straights thing, but not many new guys going fast.
Who are the OG’s?
Jaimie Hart is probably the most OG for the area. But for my generation it would have to be Aaron Baygell, Nick Ronzani, Keith Henderson, and some other guys I never really got to know.
When did you first go fast?
My first trip out to the mountains was in the Spring of 2010 I believe. Out to the rad 10 mile leg burner with 2 gnarly drifting runs stemming right off of it. Still have some big scars around to show for that day, haha.
Did you fall in love?
Definitely. We were back out there the next weekend and then every other weekend until the snow hit. Addicted for sure.
What did you learn in those weeks?
If you’re going to bail, aim away from the 1,000ft cliffs and the skimpy gaurdrails that line them!
Are you a guardrail magnet?
Luckily not! Only one date so far! *knock on wood*
What were you riding then?
The Voodoo Doll D2 with some Surfrodz and whatever loaner wheels I could bum for the day. That board was awesome, and Kyle Chin inspired that purchase! ‘’Let Go’’ is what really got me interested in downhill in the first place!
How important is good media to skating?
Media shapes the generations of skaters for sure. It’s obvious! NorCal had the Blue Suit Bombers for inspiration on style and pack skating with friends. Canada had guys like McGoldrick, Benda, and Reimer to watch and learn from. And then came the early days of Skathousemedia to inspire riders all over with the style of skateboarding they were doing. It’s a trip to think about how much everyone shapes the future with what they’re just doing on their own.
“Once you go fast, you never go back!”
Why did you want to keep hitting hills?
Once you go fast, you never go back!
What skate media do you enjoy these days?
I really just watch friends doing their thing if I’m feeling like watching some skating. Can’t follow everything anymore. Plus, I’d like to step away from what’s currently going on and just do what I find enjoyable, so being cut off helps that happen more naturally.
On a scale of 1 – Ali Mehraban.
Less than Liam, but more than 3 is a safe range!
Do you enjoy skating alone?
I can’t say I do. I enjoy having at least one or two people to bounce silly ideas and feed off of. When I’m solo, I tend to just play it safe.
What was the skateboarding highlight of 2010?
Getting into it all and making the skate friends that I did. Those memories kept me stoked on skating through my hiatus later that year.
What did you set out to acheive once the snow melted?
Recover from a gnarly hip-er and play catch up with the rest of the crew. Then I was set on getting in on as many skate trips as possible to skate some new terrain!
What trips did you go on when you were healed up?
Spent a lot of time in the Bay Area, then made my way down to SoCal a few times, and topped it off with a trip to Colorado for Buffalo Bill for the helicopter spill!
What’s the skating like in SoCal?
The roads here are super flowy, filled with traffic, and littered with ocean views! Not a bad place to hone your skating. That’s for sure.
Was that your first ever race?
First event I actually raced in would be the winter Barrett Junction outlaw in 2011. Crazy road to have your first race on! The pavement there is like a puzzle with way too many loose and missing pieces! You really learn what you can and can’t run over with your skateboard there. Aim for the big chunks and nobody will stay in your draft, haha.
How did you do?
Went out in the first round. It was more of a race to survive. I was the only one without leathers, and you don’t want to fall on that pavement without leathers!
What’s been your favourite year of skateboarding?
2013 has definitely been my favourite so far. Met so many rad people while travelling to a bunch of awesome places. It’s one for the books and will be a hard year to top!
What would your chapter in the book be called?
Party on Garth. It just… works, haha.
Where did you year start out?
Got home from bumming on couches and floors in SoCal just in time for Christmas and New years only to take of on a 2 month island hopping trip! It started off in Puerto Rico, taking the long way to film Greener Pastures Offshore, hanging out there for a bit, and then taking the even longer way back to hang out in San Francisco. That was one hell of a trip, I learned quite a bit about travelling to foreign countries on. Rad people were met and great times were had. Z1 mon!
Are you a member of the family?
I’d say it’s come to that point for sure. Couldn’t be more stoked about it!
What does it take to join?
It’s different for everyone it seems. Groms get broken, bonds are formed when you answer the “telephone”, and RV life makes everyone get nice and cozy together. Ultimately though, you have to see Papa Les’ dick!
Did you have fun in PR?
Some would say I won, others don’t even think fun can describe the time I had. I embraced island times to the farthest point that this gringo could handle!
Was the pasture greener on the other side?
Fully! The island’s roads ruined a lot of skating for me (in a good, spoiled, way). It’s been hard finding the same feeling that those roads brought to all of us since. But I’m always on the hunt! Hoping to find some more epic roads on whatever adventures skating sends me on next!
Is the island enough to convince you to move to Europe?
I’m definitely tempted. Plans are bouncing around for an epic trip around for the 2015 circuit, so I guess that could spark something of that nature.
How did you get involved with the project?
A random trip to Laguna Beach got me and Patrick talking during a ride up the hill and it just took off from there.
Is the weirdness limited to FB or real life as well?
It’s branched out from FB and has been randomly finding me in foreign countries, haha.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened as a result of it?
Some things that shouldn’t be mentioned on the internet… Creepy and awesome.
“Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures are my favourite parts of this whole downhill skating thing.”
Why did you want to be involved with GP?
The opportunity to work with a diverse group of riders from all over the world and push ourselves collectively. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures are my favourite parts of this whole downhill skating thing after all.
Had you skated with any of the guys before?
I had skated with Ethan Cochard a few time as well as Kody, hung out with Max once or twice, kind of knew Tamara, and I’ve skated with Patrick of course. Everyone else was new and they were pretty damn awesome to get to know on and off the hills.
Were there any culture shocks?
A few popped up throughout the project. Island time, P-Swiss time, and Swiss time have a hard time coinciding. Also, apparently some Spanish guys love to crossdress for festivals and that can confuse some drunken Canadians, haha.
What was a typical day?
Wake up way too early after a late night, grab some grub and supplies from the gas station just below our base camp, and head any direction we choose to find another epic run! Finish off with a great home cooked meal from our hosts Martin Diaz and Marcos Costa before kicking back for the night. Good times on the island were had. Random ventures around the island happened. Trouble was often found.
Was there Island bacon?
If you would consider local salami bacon, then si. We plowed through a ton of that!
Is this the first time you’ve had to skate for the camera?
Not the first time skating around cameras, but yes, it was the first time I was purposely skating for the camera. I found it very difficult, but some of the other guys were naturals with it. I’m fairly spontaneous with my skating and can’t map out a run or anything. I just take things as they come. That makes it very difficult to work with a filmer who knows exactly what they want the shot to be. I used it as a learning experience and I’m trying to get better at it now.
What was it like shooting your episode with Max and Kevin?
Crazy, hectic, and fun. Max is a cannonball and Kevin is super dialed. I tried my best to fit in the middle of that combo.
Was working with Alberto different from filming you’d done in the past?
Yes and no. I had only filmed with friends I had been skating with for a while, so they knew how I skated and so it was easy for them to work with me. Alberto’s filming style was very similar, but without knowing exactly how I skated, it took a while to get used to. I did appreciated how his filming wasn’t so different in that it was non invasive and only there to capture it, not direct it.
Are you still in touch with anyone you met?
I’ve ran into a lot of the guys since the island, and we talk now and then. I’m really bad with keeping in contact, though. The problems of living day to day is what I’ve attributed it to. I’d like to come out and visit everyone and their local scenes as soon as I can though! I take a lot more out of that than small talk over FB and such.
Do you have any new perspectives on life & skateboarding as a result?
You could say that, but I’m young. There is still a lot more to learn about life. The key for me has been to take a step back whenever possible and absorb as much as I can from everyone’s point of view. Then I can understand why things are the way they are and respond accordingly. It’s helped me in plenty of odd situations.
Where was next after Europe?
I was in Ireland for a day and had a lot of fun with some new friends of the female variety that I made while in Dublin. A real night to remember, haha.
Did you skate?
Nope, the airline shipped my boards straight to Cali so I wandered the streets of Dublin by foot. Not a bad way to take the city in.
What were you riding last year?
Whatever the Rayne flavor of the day was, PNL Precision trucks, Abec 11 Wheels, Riptide Bushings, and Vicious Griptape. I could rarely stick to one deck for too long, but the rest of the setup was pretty constant.
Are any of those your sponsors?
They all were at the time, but things change and people move on. I’m still with Rayne and PNL though! They are my family and will be for a long time!
What is a PNL truck?
PNL, or Pretty Noise Lab, is one of the first truly “precision” trucks to emerge on the market. It started with Doug Owens, Peter Croce, and myself working with Surfrodz, only to feel the need for change and bring a different approach to the table. We couldn’t keep calling machined trucks “precision” without actually making the components interact in a precise manner, so PNL was born. Doug got in contact with his old surf/skate buddy Denny Akiyama and things were kicked into gear!
“We couldn’t keep calling machined trucks “precision” without actually making the components interact in a precise manner, so PNL was born.”
How do you make PNL trucks?
We are machining them on both CNC mills and CNC lathes for each component right here in Southern California. Even now we are having our own bushings made to our own specs to have everything work together the best way possible.
Are the interactions within your trucks unique?
You could say they are unique, at least for now. “Precision” was kind of a grey area for truck companies because the computer being used to program the machines were precise, but the end result didn’t always fall into that category. We took notice of that and tried to have the term blanket everything about the truck. The axles were precisely the size we wanted them, as were the hangers, baseplates, kingpins, washers, spacers, pivot cups, etc. With all of them sized properly, they would work together for the best possible performance. Skating at such high speeds demands that kind of performance out of your gear and will translate into your skating.
What is your role in PNL?
Right now I’m taking on shop management, design consultant, and of course, skateboarder
Who else is on the team?
We have guys and gals in North America, Australia, South Africa, Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands right now.
How do your trucks work for the kind of skating you enjoy?
The key for me is that they let me get away with things that I wouldn’t normally be able to pull off on most other trucks. But, as with most things, my skating has changed, and so will our truck options. We have tons of new things in the works right now and hopefully the rest of the skate community will be as stoked as I am for them!
What events did you hit last year?
I was all over the place! Too many to keep track of honestly! Most notable would be Guajataca, Catalina, Dangerbay, Maryhill, Giants Head, Central Mass, and Saltspring Slasher. Tons of outlaws and slide jams in between!
What is your favourite sort of event?
I’m a lot more stoked on racing now than I have been in the past, that’s for sure. Overall, I’d have to say freerides are my go-to events though. I’m hoping to make it out to some of the European freerides this year to change it up a bit! KNK looks epic!
What gave you the biggest smiles last year?
The Rayne Family will take the cake in the smiles department! Too many good times with a team that has grown to mean even more to me because of the times on and off of skateboards.
Will we see you at more races this year?
Fingers crossed! The Catalina Classic is going to be even more awesome this year from what I hear! I’m also looking forward to checking out the East Coast events too. Trying to see more of that side of the States for once, they keep telling me it’s good for a month or two a year, haha.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Working, driving, reading, or something new. Hoping to branch out a bit more off of my skateboard this year.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-17
3, 9, 15
3 – what crime are you most likely to go to prison for?
Not seeing the logic in a law would be a realistic guess, haha. I question the police more than recommended when I want to and they HATE that, haha.
9 – what would you choose as your last meal?
That’s a tough one. I’m way too into food lately! Give me a big bowl of Pho and I’ll be happy enough to move on.
Levi! Stoked we got to do this. It’s been fun getting to grill you. Hope our paths cross next time you’re in Europe!
Thanks for having me Gbemi! It’s been interesting. Definitely need to catch up on your side of the world sometime!
Any last words?
Big Daddy want egg-roll?
But yeah, haha. Some shout outs are deserved by a few people that have made this sort of stuff possible! My parents and family of course! They were always supportive of my passions and never stunted them, Nick Ronzani for getting me into this crazy scene in the first place, Les Robertson for giving me so many opportunities to grow my skating and myself, Doug and Denny for the radness that is PNL, and everyone else who keeps doing the do too! So many people to thank, and such little time!