Papa Les: Skate Slate President

Another day, another Papa Les interview. This time our bearded friend is wearing a new and very different hat at Skate Slate and he brings us up to speed on his plans for the magazine and 2015. Boom!

James Fast photo

James Fast photo

Happy new year bro! How are you?
To you as well, doing great. New Year, new job!

What was your old one?
This time last year I was headed to ISPO to represent Rayne and Vicious and eventually met up with you for some fun with friends in the EU! 

How did you keep busy between these jobs?
Over the last year I helped run events in BC like North Vancouver City Fest and the Whistler Longboard Festival Skate & Shoot, I was helping Switchback Longboards with their team and events, and I have been helping Mischa Chandler at Flatspot Shop in Vancouver. A bunch of similar things really, ha ha, but each has their own angle. Flatspot is heavily focused on being a small, local, community store and Switchback is more Canadian online, so while we hit Vancouver with Flatspot, Switchback really helped me travel across Canada and I got to go to my first Toronto Board Meeting back in September thanks to them.

WLF Skate & Shoot video thanks to Brock Newman: YouTube Preview Image

How can you only have been to one Board Meeting?
I know right? Honestly, it’s this Toronto thing. As a BC kid, you see and hear all these Ontario people acting like Toronto is the centre of Canada with gravity stronger than anything, so I always went to Montreal or NYC, had some great times in Halifax and so on… Leafs Suck and I am not a Beleafer. So I guess it just transfered to my skate travels and I was missing out on Board Meeting. It pulled the pretentiousness out of the Toronto I previously experienced and it felt like home with the skate family. But I still wouldn’t live there ; ) 

BC jams these days are lurk fests with a bunch of wankers talking about why they don’t skate the jam.

What was it like compared to BC events?
I’m not sure Board Meeting compares with anything really. The slide jam was legit ha ha… BC jams these days are lurk fests with a bunch of wankers talking about why they don’t skate the jam. The Onterrible crew definitely lurks, but it was a rad mix of lurk and skate with much less of the ‘why are we jamming a hill’. Might also be because the Poopchute is one of their best hills (and it is a dope jam spot) and BC is a lot more blessed in the mountains. I really appreciated the fun and camaraderie of everything at TBM.

J. Nuss Photography

J. Nuss Photography

How does it compare to the broadway bomb?
Haven’t been to a broadway bomb. Crazy, right? So many events, so many incredible people. But yeah, Bomb is a sore spot for me because I also hear its changing (changed) and it seems Board Meeting isn’t experiencing some of the same challenges. 

Are things changing because yesterday’s groms make tomorrow’s rules?
I think things change because of a lot things. People change, all the time and it is rare to find a rock that can hold it down for more than a 10 year period without actual consideration to succession to the next core. I read a bit about Burning Man and the challenges they face with their “organization” and that event and I can empathise with these “outlaw” events that don’t just get a literal desert to play in.

What are you looking for in your new adventure?
I guess I found my new adventure. At the Agenda Show in Long Beach we announced that I would take over as President of Skate Slate and start working with the dudes there – Justus Zimmerly, Jon Huey, Max Dubler, Blake Smith, Michael Alfuso and Dan Pape. It’s an uber talented group of guys… actually, it’s a little sick how talented they all are, I don’t know how I fit in some ways ha ha… I’ll have to work my butt off.

Restless Longboards Photo

Restless Longboards Photo

Sounds like a sick beard gang.
Lets just say we’re not sponsored by Dollar Shave Club and we could do a mean Full Monty if we wanted to. Probably not MIDS enough though… might not stay that way.

Who is Michael?
Michael Alfuso? One of the best filmmakers I know. Mike has been doing Abec 11 Media for years and is now helping lead Check Alfuso Film:

Was it easy switching from being Papa Les to Events & Shops?
For the most part, yes, and I really need to thank Switchback and Kelsey Crozier. A lot of the core Rayne and Vicious team guys are Coast and lots ride Switchback. Kelsey really gave me the opportunity to keep the team together even without Rayne as a reason to rally. I took Bussy to most of the events in BC. Add Washington State and Oregon within a few hours drive and a trip to the east to visit the NYCL guys, Ontario for Board Meeting and then Quebec to visit the guys at Restless and my year’s been pretty full.

I think Papa Les pervades any brand, it’s not a Rayne thing, it’s a lifestyle and relationship thing, it came from guys like Max Capps, Cam Frazier, Lonnie Lionelli, Andrew Schumaker and Cole Kurtz before it came to the Rayne team really.

I think Papa Les pervades any brand, it’s not a Rayne thing, it’s a lifestyle and relationship thing, it came from guys like Max Capps, Cam Frazier, Lonnie Lionelli, Andrew Schumaker and Cole Kurtz before it came to the Rayne team really. I have an open home and a phone that’s always on and I have been fortunate enough to build strong relationships with incredible people over the years. I am older than most in our community as well and I’m generally not very shy with words. I didn’t ask to be Papa Les though, people put themselves on the team – I’m not complaining, I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m just not recruiting either. Everyone is pretty open, candid, cares about each other doing better in life and will do most anything for the other – the family I choose.

Board Meeting with Aidan Lynds and Switchback:YouTube Preview Image

How long have you been cooking up the SKS role?
Consciously? For only a few months. When Rayne and I first parted, the Skate Slate guys and I got on the phone. It cooled off for a bit and then it fired up again about 3 months ago and has taken most of that time to come to an agreement and plan. I think it fits my life really well and gives me the opportunity to put my experience with my need for a community based role. I really get the most reward from being able to collaborate with the people that make our skate world go round. That starts with the team at Skate Slate, all people I have admired, but never actually got to work with. Rayne was amazing and I was very wide-eyed, but it was one brand and that’s extremely narrow. I want to explore skateboarding more broadly and see what kind of rad things riders, events and brands are doing without any tinted lenses for a bit.

I really get the most reward from being able to collaborate with the people that make our skate world go round.

Did you leave because of the tinted lenses?
Business. Pure and simple. It was a rad journey, but Graham’s the Rayne-man and we both like to steer. If you try and buttboard with a friend, it takes a lot to work together and not crash. You smile and laugh and enjoy the sketchy wobbly ride, but you can only go so fast and so far that way before you want to get your own whip and figure out what’s next. 

What experiences do you hope your new role opens to you?
I’m looking forward to helping everyone do rad stuff and get the word out to the community. As a single brand, you often miss a wide range of people. Monopoly might be a fun game, but eventually the game ends or you’re just playing with yourself. Lots of ideas died on the table because one brand couldn’t hack it and it is tough to find partners when they’re competing for market share. I’d like to play skateboards indefinitely and that means working together and helping each other along.

What does the president do?
He goes to the presidential washroom. Gold Key brotha!! ha ha. President is a fancy corpo title required by civilians… it’s my job to help set the tone and drive the delivery of the mag. Not sure how the potty humor helps tone always, but that’s me and dick and fart jokes work for our readers. In reality, tone is very important. Business calls it ‘strategy’ and ‘culture’, but that always sounds so divisive and canned. I spend a lot of time on the phone and email, talking with the team, helping keep everyone on the same goals with the same deadlines. The team isn’t just our staff at Skate Slate, it’s the riders, events, shops and brands that work with us as well. It takes a global effort of people to bring Skate Slate together and that’s what I help do, literally get us on the same page and try making it a fun, positive experience.

Get us on the same page. Punny.

Why is it important for you to have a community based role?
I don’t know. I ask myself that a bunch. I think it’s because I’m Canadian a bit, ha, but really, it’s a socialist country… that doesn’t mean ‘Communist’… it’s all that taxation leading to free medicare and subsidized education goodness, so community is important to how I was raised. My mom was also a pretty decent hippy at heart, lived on a Kibbutz for a while before she had me and sent me to summer camp my whole life. I think I’ve only had my own apartment once in my life, for a minute, always lived with a house full of people. No one is here alone and no one gets out alive. We can feign some hipster, loner, me and the road kind of attitude, but that’s bollocks. I want a pack of my friends, an RV, my skate and never ending Maryhill runs to be torn from my cold dead hands.

I want a pack of my friends, an RV, my skate and never ending Maryhill runs to be torn from my cold dead hands.

I also think skateboarding is innately social for how antisocial it comes off. The most rambling, scattered, soft spoken savant can still skate and have a crew of skate friends. I forget who framed it this way in an interview once, I think it was James Kelly; Street is about taking a turn, waiting your turn, so it’s not very communal in action, just in context. Downhill is about taking your turn with your friend and it creates unique bonds that are very different when you share success or failure together vs just celebrating or empathizing with the other person’s experience. 

Is there a SKS RV?
I still have Tiffany, maybe? I’m on Van life at the moment. As the season comes closer if that is something that we’re all into, it’s not impossible. RV limits us to a specific region really and we want to get out to more events than just within a driving range. 

Will SkateSlate run different under your regime?
Right, new boss means change for sure, but the goal here is to grow together. Everyone at Skate Slate deserves their role in my opinion. As a former advertiser with the magazine, I think I have a good perspective of where Skate Slate came from and that helps guide where it can go. I like to think I’m pragmatic and unpretentious as a person and I thrive on new experiences and travel. I hope if I bring any change to the magazine it is to make it more accessible and leave people wanting to get out and explore skateboarding and the world around them more as a result… that’s skateboarding for me.

Where can SKS go?
I think that will come from our team over the next few months and I know we have talked about it already. I don’t want to give away anything really. I would love to see skate slate become more of a “media house” than it already is. More video, better digital content and more fun ways to get people out skating. 

Are you doing more camera work these days?
Some and then not really. I drive a car and rally behind the crew and keep things safe for follow runs. I hit the tripod now and then. I’m really more a B-roll guy than a first camera. Just keep the camera rolling and get some color for the story.

Troy Yardwaste photo

Troy Yardwaste photo

What are your plans for the year?
Well, we have an editorial calendar and I am supposed to stick to it. So really my plans this year are to help Skate Slate in putting together content. I think I bring a fresh look and I really want to see more video connected to the print magazine. There’s already a few surprises with the next issue. 

There’s already a SKS Japan, when are we gonna see more localised SKS – SKS Aus/Africa/Europe?
That’s not a terrible idea, but we also want to do things right. It would be awful of us to step into a community and not be authentic and represent their community and skating improperly or blow out their community in some way. Japan is right from the heart of Dan Pape, who is living there now with his family. We’ll find the right organic path to growing regionally, in part by letting people find us. It’s typically more risky and expensive trying to do something forced than letting it it come more naturally. That doesn’t mean don’t take risks, but there are lots of great regional media crews that do a great job at home and we would need to be a considerably larger organization to do a better job than them at home. It’s better to collaborate with them and open the door to contribute. We’re going to support a global skate community as best we can by going doing what we love and sharing the experience with everyone.

What sorts of collaboration is SKS open to?
That’s really more a matter of looking at the opportunities and the people. I’m definitely doing some things with Will Edgecombe right now and that’s going to trickle into the UK on his end and the UK is going to trickle back into Skate Slate on our end. We’ll see where it goes naturally. 

What’s on your calendar this year that you’ve never done?
Well, there’s that Skate Slate thing… ha ha… and I keep hearing about how great MIDS is? I’ve been known to wake up every morning feeling like P-Diddy… you know, I’m talking pedicure’s on our toes, toes… every now and then. 

Always figured you woke up feeling like that K£SHA person!
Only at Danger Bay. Maybe Kona.

Anything in your heart you’d like to get out there?
Already doing it with Skate Slate. Anything darker than light is best to keep it close to chest anyways, ha ha. 

As always bro, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Hope our paths cross again somewhere sunny.
The shoutouts are nearly endless. Basically, thanks to Tim and Dan for giving me a chance with Skate Slate. Other than that, Team Papa Les, they know they are. Couldn’t do it without them, for real. 

Links of course, but SkateSlate.TV is where all the video is dropping and we’re really working to start bringing original content to the channel, watch for it coming real soon. 

Head to my insta-game! Help get my score up, ha ha – @the_papa_les! And if you’re a twerp on twatter, tweet at me @thepapales.