Canadian longboarder Tony Graves tells us about his love for the sport, the Sullivan Challenge curse, waking up duct taped to a mattress in Australia and his upcoming DH racing tour in Europe and South America. Good evening Tony, how are you doing?
Evening bro, I am doing great. Just doing some last minute preparations for euro-tour this year!
How do you prepare for the tour?
Well, I try and figure out enough wheels to race on, plan who I am traveling with and make a point of practicing lots before I leave. I don’t plan too much of where I go or what my exact plan is. I like to figure out a rough plan with the group I’m traveling with and let our travels develop organically!
Who’ll you be traveling with?
This year it looks like I’ll be travelling mostly with Jimmy Riha (as always), Connor Ferguson, Aidan Lynds And Victoria Waddington. But who knows what could change between now and then.
That’s a pretty neat squad. You don’t band together based on sponsors?
The last few tours I have been on were pretty sponsor based as far as who we traveled with. But this last spring, I traveled to New Zealand with a big mixture of riders from different companies; Rayne, RAD, Sector 9, Powell, These, Caliber, Arbor and Blood orange. I really enjoy being able to travel with a group of people I would call friends and enjoyed travelling with rather than just travelling with team mates. Felt we built some very meaningful relationships from it and skated better because there wasn’t the same pressure of being on a team trip.
So I got really stoked on travelling with the people I want to travel and skate with this season rather than just who my team mates were for one particular company.
What’s the most important item on your travel plans?
A lightweight tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. You never know when your plans are gonna fall through and you’ll end up sleeping on the side of the road at the top of a run.
Do you miss anything when you’re living out of your bag?
3G, I am pretty good at making sure I pack anything else I’ll need. Unfortunately can’t pack reliable cell reception.
How important are relationships to your enjoyment of skateboarding?
A big part of the reason I get such enjoyment out of skateboarding is some of the awesome relationships and friendships ive made through the downhill community. Your constently making new friends, seeing amazing scenery youd never get the chance to see if it wasnt for the new local friends you just made showing you where to go. I cherish the fact I can travel to any city in the world with my board, get looked after, have a floor to crash on and get shown all the local gems by the locals who are now my friends. The longboarding community is very special in that way; that we can see on Facebook that someone we’ve never met before needs a place to stay or a tour guide and be totally fine with meeting a stranger and treating them like a friend they’ve known for years!
“The longboarding community is very special in that way; that we can see on Facebook that someone we’ve never met before needs a place to stay or a tour guide and be totally fine with meeting a stranger and treating them like a friend they’ve known for years!”
What kind of pressure do you get on a team trip?
It’s not so much pressure, but when you have a company covering costs for you to travel, you’re fully aware that you need to perform, you need to produce media to make it worth their while. Not like it’s a bad thing at all. You just know that this isn’t a personal trip you gotta do something and be at your best to justify their expense.
Is there anything you’d like to change change about the relationship between skaters/athletes and their sponsors?
Well that’s a hard one. Like yes, I do wish sponsors were willing to cover more of racers travel expenses and compensate them for the amount of dedication it takes to race a full IDF world tour circuit.
On the other hand though I realize that the DH and racing market is a small part of every company’s profit and the majority of the market isn’t buying boards, wheels and trucks based off of race results. So, the fact we do get supported the way we do is awesome no matter what each individual is given. It’s kind of a catch 22. A full race season is expensive for the rider but it’s a big expense for a company vs the return of sponsoring that rider.
What’s the best thing you’ve woken up to on tour?
I think waking up to James Kelly flipping over the mattress I was sleeping on one morning, I just so happened to be duct taped to the mattress and had no idea what was happening, tried to resist but as I said, duct taped to a mattress.
Haha. Is this a post-kozakov morning?
No. That was the night after the first IGSA Mt. Keira race in Australia. It was the first time I ever made it into the top 8 at a World Cup race. I maybe took things a bit too far and maybe celebrated a bit too hard.
What have been your favourite seasons of DH skating?
I have fun every season no matter what, every season has fun times and different reasons why I loved every minute of it but if I had to choose, I think the 2011/2012 season.
I had moved to Sydney, Australia just before newtons playground, raced newtons had a blast. Then jumped over the New Zealand for the Ntenz d-centz tour with Jacko and Louis P. Skated amazing hill and had a lot of fun. Then, went back to Sydney, got a job in the Hopkin skate shop to support myself.
Lived with Gabe Gwynne and his family for a couple months, Then moved into Jackson Sheipera’s parents place. Skated a ton, went on some amazing trips and was able to get my name known in the longboard scene largely because of Hopkin skate and Jacko!
Where are you from? Always assumed it was Sydney!
I’m originally from a REALLY small town in British Columbia, Canada Called Kimberley. It only has about 4,000 people living there. It’s actually home to the 2nd longest running sanctioned skateboarding race in History, the Sullivan Challenge. I was able to learn the basics of longboarding from Legends like Jody (shnitzel) Wilcox and Jim Z.
I get asked a lot if I am Australian, I would say I am an honourary Aussie but I am Canadian through and through. Most people might think I am Australian because I was living in Aus when I made a name for myself in the longboard scene.
Dude. You’re Canadian!
Yup, I am a Canadian redneck. drove big trucks, hunted moose and lived in the bush my whole life growing up. I get asked if I am Aussie by people that arent involved in longboarding either. I guess I picked up the accent.
What was it like growing up in Kimberly?
Growing up in Kimberley was like growing up in any small Canadian town. I played hockey from the age of 4 till I was 17, had a paper route, learned how to work on cars just so I could take them into the bush and destroy them. It was pretty standard. I lived 5 minutes from a ski hill so I snowboarded a lot too.
Who is Jody Wilcox?
Jody Wilcox was one of the original top level pros in longboarding, won Danger Bay 3 times. Invented the downhill race boards and the ability to make drop boards. he was a mad scientist to revolutionised longboarding into what it is now.
How did learning from such pillars influence the skater you became?
I had Jody as my metals fabrication, computer drafting and CNC programming teacher in high-school. When I first started longboarding, I wanted to learn everything I could from him, but honestly he wanted nothing to do with me haha. So I did everything I could to get better and prove to him that I was good enough for him to skate with.
He let me do any project I wanted in any class he taught if it involved longboarding; in drafting he taught me how to 3D design a wheel and a street luge. In metal fabrication he let me build the street luge I designed in drafting. In CNC machine programming he let me CNC my own base plates. Him not wanting to skate with me made me want to prove to him I could understand longboarding and get good enough to be him. I basically have him to thank for everything longboard related.
Dude. He was literally your teacher!
Yeah he taught me for like 3 years in highschool, grew up in the same town as me and even dated my sister for like 2 years lol.
How did he include longboarding in his lessons?
He didn’t really, he was super cool about letting everyone design and pick what they wanted to do, I just knew who he was so chose projects that included longboarding.
What did you do to finally prove yourself worthy of his attention?
When I was in Kimberley, I helped him setup for the sullivan challenge by putting up posters andcleaning up the campsite. We actaully never skated a lot together but once I started to do well, he finally passed the Sullivan Challenge curse he had onto me which was a real big honour but also a bummer haha.
When was the first Sulli?
Did you participate?
No, I watched it from the sidelines and honestly though longboarding was lame haha.
Haha. When did your opinion change?
I think it was in 2004 when my friend Dan Moe got a board and let me try it out for the first time. I thought it was fun, got my own board and rode it for like 2 weeks before winter hit. Then just thought about it all winter and once spring hit and I could ride again I was hooked.
What in particular got you hooked?
I just liked going fast! I think it was 2006, I made the trip out to Vancouver to check out the DH scene in Vancouver. Graham Buska and Mike Benda took me to cypress mtn, my first run I was so scared. Next run Mike bump drafted me the whole way forcing me to go fast and yeah that was pretty much it.
Did you die?
No but for the first 5 minutes I was pretty certain I was going to!
Did it take long for you to decide to compete?
No, I was lucky there was a race in my hometown, so I just entered it and really enjoyed the people I met and the coast longboarding community and just stuck with it. Since I started racing when I was 14-15, I always thought I was pretty much raised by the downhill and coast longboarding community!
“Since I started racing when I was 14-15, I always thought I was pretty much raised by the downhill and coast longboarding community!”
How did you do in your first Sully?
2005, I got last place!
What does last place win?
Technically nothing, but I remember my first heat I came into the corner Striker was announcing that and I ate shit. I just remember him saying on the microphone “its not as easy as it looks” and that really motivated me. So I guess I won motivation and desire to get better.
What is Coast?
It was kind of the first organized group of downhill longboarders after the DI ended and downhill had its falling out with redbull and the X-games. Bricin ”Striker” Lyons started riding DH and didn’t have anyone to ride with, he eventually met Tom Edstrand, Mike Pereten and a few of the og Landyachtz founders. Started riding with them, created a website forum so they could keep in touch and plan sessions, then decided to host the first attack of danger bay which was a success and then just kept at it, and then coast (clbc) was born!
How did coast help you have more fun on your board?
Coast allowed me to connect with riders who were more involved and more experienced in longbording than I was. I always enjoyed learning new things from the guys on coast and having something to aspire to.
What did you get up to in 2006?
I managed to go to the coast for a push race that year, learned a lot about downhill, then went home raced the sully and then just rode a bunch and learned a lot.
Were there any hard lessons about DH for you to learn?
I think just learning how to ride on open roads safely was about the hardest thing to learn, then how to fall and not hurt myself haha.
When did you become more involved with Sully?
In 2007, I went out to the campsite, set up garbage cans and just prepared the site, went around town and put up posters all over. After the race, I went and cleaned up the campsite, collected any garbage bags, or any mess left over..
Has your responsibility grown over the years?
As time went on and as I got more focused on racing, I started to just focus on racing and not so much the prep for races. There were new kids coming into the scene so I figured it was their time to earn their turns.
Why has the race remained after all these years?
I think its because Jody is so stubborn and luckly he’s running a race in his hometown. He used to joke about how the year he won the race is when it’d be over, which he never managed to do. Then I started getting 3rds and 4th every year, so then he passed the curse onto me that when I won it was over. Ever since then I’ve come close but there’s been some form of bad luck that’s stopped me.
Who have you passed the curse to?
What did you aim to achieve as a racer?
I’ve always just wanted to be the best.
#Pokemon. How have you worked towards that goal?
I just put myself in the right environment, moved to Vancouver, saved up enough money to take the race season off from work, made sure to skate a bunch and paid to go to as many races as possible until I gained sponsors. Even now I don’t do much different, just skate lots and keep my goal in the front of my mind.
Can you be at the top of the Canadian DH game if you don’t live in Van?
You certainly can be but being in Vancouver will definitely help.
How important were sponsors to your master plan?
My sponsors are key, I coudn’t afford to travel around the world and chase my dreams without their support.
Who are you riding for now?
I ride for Rayne longboards, Vicious griptape, Rider approved design wheels, Skoa trucks, Venom Bushings, Darkspeed gloves and pucks, flatspot longboard shop, local 124 hardcorp, mypakage underwear, Chimney fish apparel and free rein designs.
Underwear sponsor. Are you a Davenport in disguise?
Did you Canada send you to Oz in exchange for Jacko?
Hah, Aus can keep jacko haha.
What did you hope to find on your journey down under?
I just wanted to be able to skate for an entire year, I knew Jacko was an awesome rider and could teach me a lot. And since getting a work visa for Australia is easier than Getting one for the USA it seemed like a logical choice.
What work did you do?
I worked in the Hopkin skate shop with Jacko, mostly just setting up boards and dealing with skate groms.
Did you meet any other skate-travelers in your time there?
I met Ville Hietala from Finland there.
Was the skating as awesome as you hoped?
It was everything i thought it’d be and more.
Any culture shock?
Nah Aussies are pretty chill, a lot like Canadians just with a weird accent.
Marmite or Maple syrup?
Maple syrup for sure.
Did you do any skating outside Oz that year?
I toured New Zealand for 3 weeks, I had been on a similar tour on the year before. But any chance I get to skate NZ, I’ll take.
Is it special?
New Zealand is the best place in the world to skate from my experience.
When did you get to do the euro tour?
Last year (2014) was my first year doing the euro-tour.
It was amazing, I placed in the top 10 at every race except Peyragudes. Got to skate some amazing hills I never thought I’d be able to. Made some amazing new friends along the way and made a stronger bond with many friends I already had. Euro tour is really unique because there’s plenty of other groups touring around the continent at the same time. You constantly run into other groups along the way to new hills, join up to skate some amazing stuff then go on your separate ways only to see them at the next race.
Is there anything you didn’t tick off your list you’d like to do this year?
The races in the Philippines. I really wanted to hit those but it was right after a 5 week tour I did to Hawaii and New Zealand, so I just really wanted to get home and relax.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Race Kozakov and Verdichio. Come back home, film some videos. Unfortunately I have to miss Pikes Peak this year because my older sisters wedding is the same weekend. So I’ll make up with it by going on the IDF South America tour instead!
Who’ll you be touring with?
No idea yet! Nothing like waiting till the last minute to figure stuff out.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Honestly, my life kinda revolves around skateboarding, if I am not riding then I am just chilling with my friends who are also in the longboard scene. Aside from that I really enjoy working on cars and trying to race mine when I have the time.
Bacon is best enjoyed on its own?
Pick 3 numbers between 1-20,
6, 14, 17
6 – if you could have any super power what would it be?
Ability to fly.
14 – What’s the hardest word to splel?
Mr Graves! Thank you so much for your time. It’s been awesome getting to know you. Have fun in Euro-Sudamerica!
No problem dude, thanks again.
Any last words?
I’m not a role model
Thanks to all my sponsors, Rayne, vicious, rad, skoa, venom, darkspeed, chimeny fish, free rein and most importantly my mom for getting me here
Instagram : StoneyCraves
Snapchat : StoneyCraves
Facebook. I’m sure you’ll figure it out