chrome ball transmitting live from outer space.
Alright Omar, let’s stick with the tried and true here: how were you first introduced to skateboarding?
It’s kind of a funny story. I was around 5 or 6 years-old in San Jose, where I was born before moving to Sacramento, and I was walking around downtown with my parents. I was always such a hyper little kid that my Dad would have to tie a leash around me so I wouldn’t wander off. But I remember this one time seeing a skater. He was this black dude with crazy long hair that and he was doing boardslides down this gold and silver rail. I didn’t know what boardslides were at the time… “jump and slide” was what I called it back then. But he was skating this rail and all of a sudden, the guy started freaking out. I don’t know if he wasn’t doing it right but he just started going crazy; yelling and throwing his board… but I was amazed! I thought was he was doing was so awesome.
A couple years later, after we moved to Sacramento, my cousin Rodrigo came up to visit from Chile. I was always super close to my cousins even though they lived all the way down there. They were like my idols. I remember him going on a mission one day to find a board to skate while I was at Catholic school. He ended up finding one at a garage sale and when I got home, he was out in front of my house cruising around. I thought that it looked so rad. He left me that board when he returned home to Chile and it evolved from there.
What was the first real board you ever had?
This kid next door to me also skated and he was so psyched that I was into it as well. He told me one day that if I’d help him pull the weeds out of his backyard, he’d take me to get a new board. I was like, “Fuck yeah!”
He took me down to the shop and I couldn’t believe he was actually going to get me a board because nobody had ever gotten me a board before. My mom didn’t have much money. I remember looking up at all these boards when I saw the Alien “Believe” board and was so into it. The one with the big Alien face? So fucking sick, man. That was the first new board I ever had, the first one I ever got to purchase. Best board ever.
Now growing up in the Sacto scene, I know you had to have seen your fair amount of pros back in the day. Who was one that made an impression on you as a young kid?
Cardiel. It was always so fucking awesome seeing that dude. He was the first pro I ever met that I was super psyched on. Always just super down.
I’d be skating these different places and he’d be there, too. I’d be this little kid, sometimes trying the same tricks for hours. Over and over again. And I remember this one time Cardiel just being like, “Hey! You gotta want it! You gotta fucking want it, dude!”
I’ll never forget that. At the time, I’d been trying and trying this trick, but when he said that, it just hit me. And it has stuck with me to this day. Forever. And not only in skating but for life, in general. If I’m trying something, I have to think to myself if I really want it or not… because if I don’t, what the fuck am I doing?
For me, it was like an ultimate lesson from a skate master.
I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like as a kid. Let’s talk a little about the “Omar style.” The hippie jumps, the bonelesses and the insane drop-ins. Who were some of your influences? Are those the type of tricks you’ve always been into?
Totally, man. When I was younger, I was always looking for weird stuff to skate, like smashing into garbage or skating dirt banks you could barely roll through. It was insane. But that’s what I wanted to do.
I’d see Cardiel and other guys from around Sacto and they were always a little different. They’re big influences on me. Donny Barley was another big one. I remember seeing him at the first demo I ever went to, this Toy Machine demo I went to after school one day. I didn’t know too much about skating at the time but it changed my whole life. Coolest thing ever. Donny was the first person I ever saw do a melon grab and I just thought it was insane. I have a photo of it and he’s seriously 15 ft up in the air. That’s my favorite type of skating.
Dan Drehobl was a favorite, too. I remember seeing Dan’s and Shao’s parts in the Think Damage video and thinking to myself, “Okay, this is what I like.” Shao was the best. Skater of the decade right there.
Was there ever a time while attempting to get sponsored that you kind cooled out on that stuff in order to get on somewhere? All that stuff is super accepted now but it wasn’t the case back then.
The way I was skating before was so crazy that I never even thought about getting sponsored. All I was into was skating through dirt or making trash explode all over the place. I never thought anything like sponsorship would ever happen, so I didn’t even try. It seemed impossible.
But I had a good friend named Billy who ended up getting a job at Tum Yeto. He used to work at a shop that hooked me up back then before he left. I probably hadn’t heard from him in over a year when out of the blue, he hits me up wanting one of the shop videos we’d made. I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t like a sponsor-me video or anything. It was just some stuff that I had filmed for them… just jumping stuff and whatever. But it wasn’t long after all that when I got a call from Josh Beagle, saying that he was psyched on my skating and that he wanted to send me some boards.
To be honest with you, I was a little bummed when he told me that it was for Foundation. I mean Foundation was great and all but I was so psyched on Zero when they came out. I thought that team was awesome. So in the back of my mind, I was a little bummed it wasn’t Zero. But hey, free boards are rad.
Do you think Foundation realized the full extent of your style going into your sponsorship?
I don’t know. I know I gave them some footage when I first got on and everything was cool. But after a while, they started saying things like, “Hey, do you think you could do a Smith grind on a rail?” I’d never done that before but I was like, “Sure, I’ll figure it out.” Whatever they wanted. I thought it was the right thing to do.
That’s how it started. I realize now that they were trying to mold me into something I wasn’t, into more of a handrail skater. Not that I don’t like skating rails, but at the time, they just weren’t really my thing. But I did what they wanted, even though it wasn’t the way that I wanted to be.
But then I fucked my knee up really bad. I went to a doctor and he told me about how he’d have to go in there and do all kinds of shit to fix it. Problem was that Foundation was getting ready to do another video (Art Bars). I remember telling them that I wasn’t going to be able to skate in the video and they said, “Well, fuck man. If you don’t have footage in the video, that’s not good. I think you know what that means…”
I was scared. I didn’t want to get dropped. So I ended up fucking skating for the video. I did everything I fucking could on my shitty knee. I skated up to the day before my surgery and managed to pull some shit out. But the next thing I know, I come out from under the gas after the operation and I wake up to the doctor’s face staring down at me saying, “What the fuck? You didn’t listen to me!”
He told me that I had made me knee so much worse and that I’d never skate again. They had everything planned for the surgery but when they got in there, they had to do all this extra stuff. I remember tearing up because all I wanted to do was skate. Skating was the only thing that I could think about.
I know you were super young during all of this. Is that a very common thing for kids to be told how to skate by tm’s and owners like that?
Back then, for sure. That’s all you’d see. They needed that certain style to cater to. One year, it’s the guy with the beanie and the next year, everybody’s punk. They wanted you to wear some tight pants and fucking taper that shit. I’ve seen that shit happen. I kinda was that product.
But they kicked me off anyway. I did all that stuff to my knee and still ended up getting kicked off. After everything I did. I couldn’t believe it.
So what happened next?
That’s when I got angry. That wasn’t why I started skating. I didn’t fucking start skating to get sponsored and it sure as hell wasn’t for people to take advantage of me. Skating was what made me happy and this bullshit was taking all that away from me.
An entire year went by after my surgery and skating was all I ever thought about. But I couldn’t do it. I mean, at this point I was learning how to walk again. My right knee would do this weird zig-zag thing so there was no way I could skate. At that point, I had to actually try and fool myself into thinking “fuck skating”. I was just so mad and I thought maybe that would help. I loved it so much but I couldn’t do it.
Is it difficult to go back and watch that Foundation stuff after everything that’s happened? I’m sure it stirs up some emotions.
Oh yeah. I haven’t watched that stuff in forever and I don’t like watching it. It was a very difficult time in my life. People could’ve cared less, but for me, it was fucked. I never really felt part of that whole thing, the only thing I see is a reproduction of something they wanted. I still put a lot of my heart and emotion into that part, but for me, it’s just a difficult thing.
I’m glad all that stuff happened, though. I think I would’ve grown out of all that eventually anyways and gone on to do what I wanted to do had I not gotten hurt but whatever. What ended up happening was I kept skating.
Do you think going through all those bad times ended up fueling your fire when you were finally able to get back on your board? Did all that stuff force you to make a conscious decision to go about things a little differently on this second try?
Fuck yeah! For sure. I remember thinking once I got back on my board that it was now my time. I truly didn’t give a fuck anymore. I wasn’t even trying at all to get on any companies after all that shit. It just ended up working out that way.
I ended up meeting Reese Forbes through Stefan and he started giving me boards for Rasa Libre. I was hyped but was honestly feeling a little weird about the whole sponsorship thing. I remember meeting the dudes at Deluxe after getting hooked up and the first thing I asked was what they wanted me to do for the company. What kind of ads did they want? Did they want me to skate rails? What did they expect out of me?
They didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. It was so rad. I remember them being like, “Dude, we don’t give a fuck. We got you on the team because we like what you’re doing. Just do whatever you want to do.” Them saying that meant so much to me. I was finally able to do what I wanted and not worry about the rest of all that shit. I knew right away that I was at the right place. That’s when I really started going ape shit.
So where does the “Woo!” come from? Is that something you’ve always done?
Yeah, I’ve always done that. I get that from my Mom. Whenever she gets really psyched on something, she does the same thing.
You know whenever you get really excited, that’s when it happens. Or when you try something for hours and you finally you do it. For me, it all comes out of being freed from the bullshit of how skating was “supposed to be” versus how I wanted it to be. Just bombing hills or crushing curbs… doing whatever the fuck you want to do.
Some people will ask me if I’m wooing myself but I’m not. I’m wooing that I didn’t eat shit! My brain wants to freak out and I’m letting it all out.
So rad. Do you find it typically gets other people more vocal at sessions as they feed off that energy?
Fuck yeah. It seems like the sketchier spots we’ll go to, if you’re screaming, “Oh my God! I’m gonna fucking do this!” it’s almost like your brain is creating a party of awareness. And it acts like a chain effect. Soon, everybody is screaming out shit!
Just like Cardiel, dude. When I was a little dude, I’d scream out, “Yeah!” about something and then I’d hear him from another part in the park screaming, “Yeah!” too! It would make me try shit.
Talk a little about your First Love part. Do you kinda feel as if that’s your real first part in a way?
Yeah, but that part was also kinda scary to film. I never felt comfortable saying it back then but I was scared of myself. Just with everything that had gone down, I still wasn’t sure if I should skate how I really wanted to. What if I got kicked off again? What if I fuck myself up again?
Fuck that. I was being a little bitch. I’m gonna do what makes me happy this time. That part is the first introduction of me and how I want to skate. This part was me doing what I wanted to do.
That part was like a breath of fresh air. What about that insane drop-in ender? That had to be one try, do-or-die, right? Was that a spot that you’d been looking at for a while?
Well, before I got on Rasa Libre, Matt Mumford flew me down to check out this company he was starting called Legacy. It was during that week while we were driving around that we saw that spot. That was the spot where Bam rolled in on. I remember climbing up to the top of that thing and thinking, “Dude, I think I can drop-in on this.” Matt just looked at me like, “Are you fucking serious?”
I don’t know if Matt thought I was full of shit or just trying to get on the team but I really thought I could do it. It ended up becoming this thing that I had to do. I went back with Lee Dog and a few other people. I climbed up that thing and rolled in a few times. The kink was really gnarly. But I figured that if I’m going to do it from the planter, let’s do it right now.
I climb up there and go for the first one: drop-in and commit fully. Going full speed, I hit the bottom of sidewalk and flip almost completely upside down. Holy fuck! But I went back up there. My hand was bleeding everywhere but it’s alright. I just don’t want to do that again, I want to make it. It ended up taking me two or three tries. I figured out the kink and it felt super fucking tight.
Now didn’t you turn pro for Rasa Libre shortly before you and Dylan made the switch over to Alien as amateurs? How did that work out? What made you leave Rasa and even take a demotion?
The reason we stopped doing Rasa Libre was simple. Jim said that he wanted to keep doing it but you can’t keep on doing a company when it’s creator, the guy who started it, wants to leave. You can’t bring in someone else. I mean we could’ve but it’s like when Mark Gonzales left Blind.
I totally agreed but was still bummed. Rasa was an amazing team and everything was going so well. I didn’t know what to do. I really liked all the companies over at Deluxe but at the same time, Stefan was positive he could get me on over at Habitat, which I was so psyched on.
The Habitat thing didn’t work out but the next day, Stefan told me there was a possibility of me getting on Alien. I freaked out! The Workshop? That’s super gnarly shit! All those dudes are fucking sick. I couldn’t believe they wanted some dirt-jumping weirdo on their team. But they ended up calling me! The catch was that it was an amateur slot but I didn’t give a fuck. I would’ve been man-am for as long as it took… forever, I didn’t care. So I got on.
I wasn’t supposed to get a board for another year or two but a couple months later, I guess shops had been calling to see when my board was coming out so Alien decided that they didn’t really have a choice. Fucking A. I was shocked.
They asked what I wanted my first graphic to be and all I could think of was back to the very first board I picked up off that wall. I wanted the “Believe” board as my graphic and they gave it to me. That was a huge deal for me.
I can imagine. How was it getting to know that crew at first? It’s a pretty intimidating group of guys.
A little bit. Naturally, since I’m the new kid. But those guys have always been cool to me. They’re like my big brothers as well as my idols. They’ve done so much for me.
Dill is such a huge influence on me. It’s funny because not too many people affect me. I usually just don’t care. But Dill is one of the only people that I think understands me. He’s somebody who’s opinion really matters.
You know what’s funny? One of the things that kinda slowed down the process for me getting on the Workshop was something Stefan told me. He was like, “Dude, I was talking to all those guys about you getting on Alien and Dill brought up the fact that you do pop shove-its. The only ones you do are the backside ones and he thinks the frontside ones are so much better. No offense, but Dill hates that trick!” I remember being like, “Really!?!”
That was just an easy trick for me to do but I got what he was saying. So I went and figured out the frontside ones and now they’re one of my favorite tricks. I don’t think I’ve done a regular pop shove-it in 5 years.
Filming for Mind Field has become the stuff of legend. How was that process for you?
Well, it worked out because I had just finished the Nike video right when I got on Alien so I basically didn’t have anything to film for at the time. Once I got on, it was on. Just skating and traveling around… a full-time deal. 100% crazy shit going on all the time.
It was probably the best experience of my life.
How long was all that?
3 years, I think. I’m happy with how it all went down but it definitely wasn’t easy.
Definitely not. How did you end up skating with J Mascis? That had to be pretty trippy.
It was so awesome. We went to his house the day after President Obama got elected so we were all pretty psyched. He showed us his board collection and he had an Alva board on his wall which was rad.
I remember he’d start humming songs and then he’d start playing air guitar and making notes and shit in his brain. I was basically watching his brilliant mind at work.
Skating with him was weird for a second, though. I mean… J Mascis, guitar master, just got on skateboard and went down the driveway and now we’re pushing down the street together? Insane.
He whipped out a daffy and we couldn’t believe it.
Did you know Heath was about to retire so soon after that part? Did he ever talk about it during the filming of Mind Field?
No, but I get it. The dude went out like a champ… even though he’s still skating. He’s still doing crazy shit. That 360 backside thing he did in Thrasher on that pyramid thing? Woo! Dude is a legend.
I remember when I first got on, Heath already wanted to put out the video. It seemed like he always had his part done but all these other people still needed footage. He’d been itching to put out that video for so long before it finally came out. A lot of Heath’s stuff you saw was probably footage from the first year of filming.
Filming for Mind Field was crazy. Everyone was just so mentally- and physically-drained. And the stuff Heath did was insane. I can only imagine the amount of energy and craziness involved to get some of those clips. Then for him to be filming for that Emerica part at the same time? Wow.
We’d have little conversations at the time and I could see the stress in him. He puts such hard work into every part but I could tell that he just didn’t want to film anymore. And it’s well-deserved for him to do whatever the fuck he wants to do.
Gotta ask about Dylan. Does it trip you out to see the little grommet you once knew out there doing his thing? And what do you make of all this “he’s so handsome” stuff?
Dylan’s like my little brother. He’s an amazing skater. I knew all along that he was going to be a top dude. Being on trips with him and seeing what he does, it’s fucking insane.
As far as all that “handsome” stuff goes, I think it’s funny. I mean, he is a good-looking dude, I guess. I think people should concentrate more on the skills and leave that other stuff up to the babes.
So the big news is that your new Nike model is about to drop. I know the first one had some things I’ve never seen before, like that zippered tongue. What’s going on with this new one?
Okay, I’ll be honest: I wasn’t all that psyched on how the first shoe came out. Not at all. A lot of people know that, it’s fine. It’s not a secret. It was originally supposed to be more like how this new one is but it went through some changes. You have to go through a process and that’s just the way it is. At the end of the day, you have to answer to someone. Unfortunately, that’s what they wanted.
In the beginning, I was all about it because I really didn’t much of a choice. I’m not saying that the first one was a total failure, it just wasn’t what I pictured. Nike knew I felt this way and came to me basically saying that we’d try their way first and if that didn’t work, we’d try it my way.
Now I’m stoked because they kept their word and I’m skating a shoe that I feel belongs on my feet. I’m psyched. It’s finally the way that it needs to perform. It’s vulc sole with really thin materials. It breaks in easy and is super breathable. It’s the shit.
A lot of people were telling me that I should change the entire thing but I believed in the shoe. I was so psyched on the opportunity and knew that Nike has the best technology. If we could figure it all out, with them listening to me and me being flexible with them, we could make something good.
It’s definitely been a crazy ride for you so far but I’m psyched that it’s all worked out. Skateboarding is much better with you in it. So at the root of all this, what is the best thing about riding your skateboard? What keeps you going?
Just landing something that people don’t think you can do. Or trying something that people can’t even believe you’re trying. The idea of skating something that wasn’t meant for skating and people being like “What the fuck?” That’s gets my psyched.
The thing is: if you want it, you can fucking have it. It only takes a split second to get it. You eat shit one second and then woah! ...you’re fucking cruising. It’s just so much fun, man.
I’d just like to say that the only person you need to believe in what you’re doing is yourself. If I listened to what everybody around me was saying, I would’ve quit a long time ago. You gotta have that drive. If you think and know what you’re doing is the right thing then you can’t go wrong. As long as you believe in yourself... If I can do it, you can do it.
special thanks to omar, mark whiteley, greg hunt and nike sb.