Tomio is super stoked on skating and shooting videos. He tells us his early days in Piedmont, appearing in an Apple ad and his journey with sponsors. Enjoy.
HELLO TOMIO! How are you?
Hey I’m good man! Beautiful day here in NorCal.
Excited for the weekend?
Yeah. Going to go shoot with a local bay area skate crew later. You might have heard of Bay Sessions.
Everyone in the Bay is required to get hyphy sometimes.
What is a Bay Session?
Bay Sessions is a crew that shoots video for the local downhill scene all over the bay area. They have a bunch of videos, but have been out of the scene for awhile and just released their comeback video the other day.
Where are you from?
I’m from a town called Piedmont, which is a small city inside of Oakland, CA, and it’s covered with beautiful hills. Same town Byron Essert, and Blake Smith are from.
Nice place to grow up?
One of the nicest probably. Lots of rich folks and spoiled children come out of Piedmont.
Which one of the two are you?
My family’s not that rich but I might be a little sheltered just from living in Piedmont for so long.
“…skateboarding helped me break away from the very privileged and academics centred lifestyle that’s expected of a kid from Piedmont.”
Can skateboarding find one in the shelter?
For me, skateboarding helped me break away from the very privileged and academics centred lifestyle that’s expected of a kid from Piedmont. Don’t know if it was accepted very well though, they’ve recently started banning skating on some of the local hills here, and putting road turtles in the streets.
When did you start skating?
I started skating when I was about 14. Just living in Piedmont, with all the steep hills, got me into downhill skateboarding right from the get go.
Were you treated different because you skated?
Not really. I definitely wasn’t one of the “popular” kids in my little school, but I managed to find a group of friends who were doing the same type of stuff as me.
What did you call yourselves?
Haha our crew didn’t have a name or anything. Don’t think we were cool enough…
What adventures did you get up to in those early days?
We used to do a little bit of hardcore parkour, doin flips off of random stuff. We also enjoyed skitching cars and bombing hills on our Abec 11 Gum Ball wheels. A few of us used to ride for a tiny longboard company called Kracked Skulls. I don’t know if they still exist.
When did it get more ‘’serious’’?
It started getting serious when we realized that we live 5 minutes from some of the sickest runs in Norcal. We came across the Blue Suit Bombers video with Patrick and Noah and just had to go skate that run.
Were you ready for the hectic runs?
At first, no. Most people aren’t the first time they skate Berkeley. The pavement is legendary.
What kept you from dying?
Pacing yourself at first and learning every crack on every run will help keep you from dying. Oh and also my helmet. I’ve seen helmets save lives many times up there.
How did Blue suit bombers video encourage you?
That video is like what downhill skating is all about. It’s sketchy and fun and super intense, and just captures two crazy homies doing crazy shit. I wanted to be like those guys.
What were the hardest lessons to learn?
Probably to always know the conditions of the hill before skating it. Anything can happen on an open road. Anything!
Did you meet anyone skating Berkley?
Lots of amazing people. The Berkeley downhill scene is filled with some of the most OG riders ever. Cliff Coleman is always lurkin around. (You just gotta know where to look to find him.) JM and Noah have been cruising around too. Lots of characters. I also met Liam skating Berkeley haha.
Are you best friends?
Haha BFFFFF’s. Nah, that’s my boy though. I skated a lot with him when all my highschool friends stopped riding, back when he was a little shit-head problem child. We’ve been pretty tight since.
Did you have an MJ moment meeting the guys in the video that got you out there?
Meeting legends of a sport can definitely inspire you to get out there. I don’t recall if I had a moment though.. Probably.
How important was it to absorb stuff from the OG’s?
Quite. You can learn so much from those guys. They’ve been next level skaters for like 10 years. And their style is like no other.
Is style essential?
As long as you look natural, you’re fine with me. Don’t try too hard to skate with a specific style. Just do your thing and try to have a little fun.
“Don’t try too hard to skate with a specific style. Just do your thing and try to have a little fun.”
When did you get to attend an event?
I wanna say the first real event I went to was the Menlo Park Slide Jam. In 2010? That was crazy to have such a big, sanctioned event so close to where I live.
Did you have fun out there?
Of course. I love that event.
Did you go with your Piedmont gang?
No, a lot of my original Piedmont gang filtered off from skating as they got older.
What has kept you in it?
I just was more into it than my friends I guess. Now for me, skating has become a part of what I do every day to get around and to get active. It can be a very meditative process learning how to control your body to make your skateboard do new things.
Why was it important to venture out?
Well, mostly to have fun, and to skate new things. But travelling is an awesome way to meet new people in the industry and expose yourself.
What led to the decision to compete?
I always liked the idea of slide jams, because they don’t really feel like competitions. At least they didn’t back in the day. That was initially how I got into competing. Races are something else.
Do you enjoy racing?
Yeah. Usually. There’s a lot of anxiety that can happen when you have to leather up, and race against other riders who have been training to hit a specific course. I usually have more fun (at least in racing) at local events.
How did you do in those first 2 races?
Not bad actually. I qualified to race for Maryhill open, and made it a like 4 rounds in Junior II.
Were there any big lessons from those experiences?
From going to the 2010 Maryhill and Buffalo Bill races, I learned that races can get fucking crazy. There were fireworks battles, wrestling pits, fool injections and helicopter crashes at my first big events.
What did you hope to get from the industry exposure?
I don’t know really. Recognition? To grow the sport of downhill skateboarding?
When did you start getting recognition?
I feel like some people have recognized me since the beginning, especially locally, but probably more so when I made the switch a little over a year ago and started riding for Caliber.
When did you first get sponsored?
The first time I was ever officially sponsored was right after the first Menlo slide jam, when the title sponsor, Ladera skateboards picked me up. I then started riding for Gunmetal trucks as well and that relationship lasted until a little over a year ago.
Was landing sponsors important to you?
It was back then. I was 17 and fired up on downhill and didn’t have anyone supporting my riding.
Did it change skating for you?
Yeah. Getting free gear can really change your relationship with skateboarding. Sponsors allow you to take your riding to the next level because you don’t have to worry nearly as much about financial bounds.
Is there a dark side to sponsorship?
It just sucks seeing how relationships fall apart and people develop issues with one another. It makes for awkward encounters in the future and can put people in very weird situations. Sometimes I miss the old days when you could just go shoot a video of your friend and not have to worry about clashing interests.
Was there any pressure?
There’s always at least a little pressure with sponsors to perform.
What adventures did those relationships open for you?
Got to travel around and meet a lot of cool people. I actually became homies with Caliber on one of those trips haha.
What’s your favourite thing to do on your board?
Back 360 slide!
What years have you done the most travelling?
I spent more time traveling last year in 2013 than I had ever before, thanks to Caliber Trucks and the Sunset Sliders Bus. Got to ride around Canada and skate some epic roads with my skate family. Got to do some other things as well.
Do you do any camera work?
Yes I do. I’m a Media Arts major at school and would like to break into the production world in the future. I’m currently focusing on video production.
What’s your favourite thing to do with a camera?
Do you shoot stills?
Yes, a little.
“…shooting videos is just one of the ways I choose to express myself. I like that I can apply one passion of mine, art, to another passion, skateboarding.”
What do you enjoy about shooting skating?
I’ve always been very into art and now shooting videos is just one of the ways I choose to express myself. I like that I can apply one passion of mine, art, to another passion, skateboarding.
What media influences you?
I watch a lot of random lurky skate videos, Thrasher, Jack Boston edits. Anything I see in the visual world can influence me.
What is the formula for a good skate video?
I don’t think that there is one. If everyone made skate videos to a formula, everything would be the same. I like videos that have something in it besides gnarly skating, like an aspect of humour or some type of message. Then again, editing has to be clean, so that is a little formulaic.
Who’s videos do you enjoy watching?
I love watching skaters who can ride any surface with steez. Tissen, Fingerbang, and my boy Byron are some of my favourites.
Is there any crossover between video Tomio and racing Tomio?
Yeah, I’ve found that a lot of times when you have to get stuff done, like shoot a video or a commercial, you’re working on a schedule and can’t be as fun.
How did you hook up with Caliber?
I’ve been close friends with a bunch of the Caliber crew for years before I started riding for them. They’re based out of NorCal and have a HEAVY presence in the Bay Area, so it was only natural that I started riding with them. Also I had previously been riding for their rival company, and I found myself gravitating towards the way Caliber ran their brand as opposed to them.
Who are your best friends in skating?
I have met more people than I can name through skating but some homies that have always been with me are Liam, Byron and Miles, Blake, Big Dave, JM, Jesse, Squid, Evan, and the Bay Sessions and Sunset Sliders crews!
What adventures did you have in 2013?
Besides getting to travel for weeks and weeks with the Caliber and Sliders crew around the west coast, I got the craziest opportunity of my life to go shoot with Apple and some homies (Ethan Cochard, Alicia Fillback, Daniel Fissmer) in Utah for a downhill skating video.
And now you can say goodbye to being single!
How do such opportunities come about?
I can thank Brandon Stewart from Caliber Trucks and Arbor for that one.
Of all the pokemon in the world, why did they choose you?
I guess being a cute little diverse Asian boy helped me land the gig.
Was shooting the same as other videos you’ve been in?
Not exactly. We skated pretty much the same as we normally would have, except we didn’t have to worry about the dangers of an open road, and there was a crew of like 40 people and chase vehicles to capture it all. Unfortunately the video isn’t online and can only be seen at Apple stores.
Did you learn any tricks?
Yeah a few. I actually got to intern with the production company who shot the video and had the chance to go on some other big name shoots, and learn about large sensor video cameras, and that kind of fun stuff.
What’s your long term goal?
I’d really like to keep skating and to work with my sponsors Caliber and Arbor for as long as I can, but I also hope to get a job in the production world once I finish school. Eventually being able to do director of photography or grip type of work to support myself financially.
Tell your friends.
Is the mainstream embracing our kind more?
I sure hope so! It kind of seems like it to me but who knows.
Living in the birthplace and centre of stoke, what do you get to see that other mortals don’t?
I get to see some incredible skateboarding. That’s for sure.
Where were you skating in 2013?
Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Whistler, Giant’s Head, all over Utah.
Have you ever skated in the land of your ancestry?
No. I dream to get out and skate in Japan and China one day. One day…
Are you friends with Ayumi?
How did you get on Arbor?
Well, they started hooking me up with some gear after I dropped Ladera and Gunmetal last year and was left with no boards to ride. Arbor and Caliber had recently started collaborating as brands and I knew that I wanted to ride their boards so I just asked.
What setups are you loving right now?
I love my Shakedown 36”. Solid double-kick right there to skate just about anything. I also ride my Backlash and Highground for some of the faster roads out there.
How if this year going?
It has been mellow as far as skateboarding so far. Haven’t traveled much yet because I’m a full time student but summer is going to be rad. I’ve been skating a lot of park recently.
Where are you hoping to travel to this year?
Definitely want to make it back out to Giants Head this year. Also hoping to hit some events that I’ve never been to before like Central Mass and Catalina
What’s so fun about GHF?
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Slacklining, watching skate videos, straight Brucing. I’m in school most of the week too so there’s that.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-19.
2, 3, 19
2 – what weapons would you choose in a zombie apocalypse?
Katana, shotgun, skateboard.
3 – what crime are you most likely to go to prison for?
19 – Tommy Watson asks- Who would be in your dream race heat?
Liam Morgan, and some other people who are about my size and not super serious about racing. I don’t know. I’d race Mark Golter.
Haha. Tomio-san. This has been so much fun. Thank you for your time. Looking forward to following you…r adventures around the block!
O herro! Thanks Gbemi so much. That was fun indeed!
Any last words?
Fuck yeah Thane Mag. Shout out to my sponsors Caliber Truck Co. and Arbor Skateboards and Brandon and Max Myers! Sunset Sliders! Bay Sessions! Black Diamond Sports! And to all the homies, I love you.