1.13.2021

chrome ball interview #146: robbie mckinley

Chops and Bob McCrooks with the fist bump.

So, the first time I heard of you was back in the Society days, was that your first sponsor? How’d you hook up with those guys? 

Actually, Grind King Trucks was my first sponsor… besides my shop sponsor, Blast Skateshop in Rancho Cucamonga. But yeah, Society was my first board sponsor, which was through Grind King. 


Back in the day, I was skating Chaffey pretty much every day and dudes from Fullerton would cruise over a lot, too. James and Jeremy Craig, Gideon Choi, this dude Rick Ray…those dudes would skate Chaffey a lot and I just fell in with them. From there, I started staying down in Fullerton over weekends and skating with Luis Cruz and everybody down there.


Mario Martinez happened to live in Fullerton and was team manager at Grind King back then. He was already hooking us up for trucks, so when they decided to start Society, they shifted some of us over to the boards, too. That was all Dark Horse Distribution. It was me, James and Jeremy Craig, Ryan Kenreich and Luis. That’s how I got on.


And you’re from the Inland Empire originally? Didn’t you live in Florida for a sec? Just setting up a timeline here.


Well, I was born in LA but moved out to the Inland Empire when I was in the 5th grade. I lived there through my junior year of high school, when all of a sudden, I had to move to Florida with my Mom. I’d just gotten on Society, too. That sucked.


So now, I’m in Springhill, Florida. It’s my senior year and I’m in this totally new place, at some new school where I don’t know anyone… I was fucking miserable, dude. 


The plan was for me to finish high school and get a job so that I could save up for a car and move back to Cali. That whole thing. But it just so happened that Society was filming a promo for this tradeshow coming up. Obviously, I wanted to have some stuff in there, and Society was willing to fly me back out. So, my Mom was like, “Cool, fly out for a couple of weeks and get this out of your system.”


…I just never got that flight back afterwards. She freaked out but I just couldn’t go back down there, man. Luckily, my Dad was still in LA at the time, so I moved in with him until my skate career started happening. 


So yeah, thank God for that promo or who knows what would’ve happened to me. I’d still be stuck in Florida, wrangling gators or something. 



Did you actually ride Grind King trucks back then? 


I remember trying to ride Grind Kings for a while, but I couldn’t do it. They were just too light. And they were just so different from a regular truck. It was odd. They turned weird and sounded funny, too. Like, they made a weird sound when you popped. 


Sure, you can get used to just about anything, but I always felt like trucks were the one exception. Once you find a truck you like, it’s hard to maneuver out of that. 


I ended up riding Ventures after a while. Luckily, you didn’t really have to ride Grind Kings for Society. Obviously, you have to ride the boards, but you can always kinda fudge your trucks in things. 


Did they hook you up with those Grind King Rims, too? 


(laughs) Where the nut goes on and it’s supposed to save your bearings? Yeah, I remember those! Fuck no, man! I wasn’t gonna ride those stupid ass things! Those were retarded!


How was riding for Society? Did you see that as something long-term or more of a stepping stone-kinda thing? 


Dude, I was just stoked to be getting free boards. Happy to not be in Florida. 


I mean, if I would’ve been thinking a week in-advance back then, that would’ve been amazing. But I was just on that day-to-day skate program. No cell phones, barely internet. Just get in the car and go skate. If you have a camera, let’s try to film something. That was about it. 


But I was content. Just kinda going with it, you know? 


Towards the end, Mario left and a few weird dudes suddenly got on the team, like Marcelle Johnson. The new team manager just wasn’t the same and you could tell that it was going south. Kenreich left and after that was when I started looking around, too. 


I was already filming with Tim Dowling a lot and was pretty focused on doing the whole skate thing. I could see the ship was sinking and had all this stuff filmed, which was basically a sponsor-me video. Let’s see what happens. 


But what about that Society Dogs posse ad, down in the Venice Pit? Do you remember that day? You gotta admit, it’s kinda funny.


(laughs) Yeah, we were just going with it. 


“Hey, we’re shooting an ad. Let’s meet at the Venice Pit tomorrow.”


“Alright.”


It’s not like they sat us down to explain the concept or anything. It was just whatever. We were out shooting photos and it turned into that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even see that photo until it came out. 


“Welp, that’s printed. Not much I can do it about it now.” (laughs)


I think Rick Kosick shot that. But it was more about us shooting skate shit that day. I’m not sure that a group photo was even in the mix originally. Maybe somebody just thought of that on the fly? Honestly, I was more interested in shooting something with Kosick that might end up in Big Brother. 


I was down for whatever. You want me to stand here with these dudes and take a photo? Cool. You wanna make it into a weird ad? Alright, I guess. (laughs)


So yeah, even as weird as that ad turned out, I was still in a magazine. I was stoked. 


You had some good ones for Society, too. Your switch frontside heel at UCLA really turned some heads and there was that nosegrind photo as well. 


The switch front heel was a good one. My friend Marco, who does Sugar Skateboards, we worked together to design that one. I remember telling him to use that weird “S” logo we had going at the time… I think it came out alright. Being able to have input like that was fun. 


Yeah, all that stuff was in the promo video. 


I didn’t even know there was a Society video. 


Yeah, it came out about halfway through Society’s run. Things were still on the up-and-up for us at that point. Kenreich had the last part, rest in peace. It’s actually a good little promo. Everyone had some sick stuff in there. 


…my last trick is a 360 flip over the Chaffey block and I land all fucking weird. Honestly, I was a little bummed they put that in there at all, let alone for my last trick. But again, I was still at that stage where I was just stoked to be in the video. So yeah, all good. 


You had footage at the Venice Pit, Chaffey, the Courthouse and Fairfax throughout your career. Which spot would you say was your favorite?


Probably Venice, because it was at the beach…


But it’s hard because Chaffey was like an entire segment of my life. Those were more of the early days for me, which feel completely different from when I moved to LA. I skated Chaffey every day with my friends growing up. Marcus Stroud, Sam Kim, Phelps Ines, Richard Mulder... all those dudes. Just meet at Chaffey and skate. 


I kinda had that same thing going on a little later at Venice, too. Meeting up there on the daily with Cameron Postferoosh, CRob and JB Gillet whenever he was in town. A totally different crew but that same kinda vibe. The daily meet-up spot you always fall back to whenever you don’t know where else to skate. 


Venice definitely smelled the worst, because you had all of those bums pissing and shitting everywhere. But aesthetically, the place looked sick. The ledges were fucking rad. If you wanted to skate a ledge, those were pretty proper down there. And you never got kicked out. 


I’m guessing that skating around pros became a pretty normal thing for you growing up at Chaffey, right? Any specific encounters you remember? 


Chaffey would get some pros every now and then, but probably not as much as you’re thinking. Because it’s kind of out there, you know? It’s not actually in the city. 


Jeremy Wray would cruise through occasionally. I remember talking to him back then and he was really nice. Amazing skater and smiles for miles, that dude just seems happy regardless of anything. 


The Girl guys would show up occasionally, too. I remember seeing Rick, Carroll and Koston showing up with Dowling once. I gotta admit, I was pretty starstruck on that one. Because you look at those guys, it’s almost like they’re not even real people… then they show up at your spot one day. It’s gnarly. 


Did you skate or just hang back? 


I probably sat down, to be honest. I was still pretty young, I’m sure I was intimidated. Plus, and I know this sounds stupid, but it’s almost like seeing a unicorn. These guys that only seem to exist in videos. You can’t help but want to watch what all they’re doing. When they show up, you couldn’t care less about your plans for the day. All the focus is on them


You know how Chaffey has those long three stairs… not the long slanted ledge but the other side with the straight ledge that only went down one? The higher one? I remember seeing Koston backtail that thing, first try, and I lost my mind. Because that was fucking crazy at the time and he did it like it was nothing. That was a definite clip and he didn’t even bother filming it. He was just fucking around. I was tripping, man. That dude has always been my favorite. 


How did Blind happen? 


Well, I was still riding for Society at the time and skating Fullerton a lot. And Creager would be around occasionally. James had started getting boards from Blind and Gideon by then. 


I ended up making what was essentially a sponsor-me video… which everyone and their mother was sending tapes to World back then. But somehow, my tape wound up in Rodney’s hands and I started getting boards from Blind, too. 


So, James and I are both getting flow for Blind when Creager calls me out of the blue one day. 


“Dude, I’d like to put you on the team.”


“Woah… Fuck yeah!” 


I was super hyped, obviously… But then I remember getting a little bummed about it, because James had been flow for longer than I had. I mean, James was actually from Fullerton and skated with Creager all the time. They were homies! So, it always felt like reverse order to me. It should’ve been James before me, 100%. Because James was much better than I was, for sure. 


Luckily, he was cool about it.


But what were your thoughts on Blind? Because while World still had great teams, they also had the Reaper and all that going on now, too. 


Yeah, there was that, but I was just stoked to be part of a World company. 


Of course, I wasn’t hyped on the Reaper. It was just like Flameboy and Wet Willy… well, it wasn’t that bad. I’ll take the Reaper over that shit any day, even though it’s all kinda the same. But still, I could walk into World and get whatever I wanted. A Reaper board, a Gino board… I could skate whatever boards I wanted. And the team was sick. Creager was dope. Lavar was dope. Kasper… I wasn’t so sure about it. Dude was wild, but whatever. I saw that guy do some amazing shit and he was always nice to me. Just a trippy dude. 


I always thought the Reaper stuff was stupid. It never felt like the real Blind to me, the old school Blind. It was definitely this whole new deal but I was stoked to be on the team. 


How was your relationship with Rodney back then? Because I know you didn’t like doing demos, I have to imagine sharing the stage with him being a nightmare. 


(laughs) Actually, guys like Rodney and Creager would take a lot of the pressure off of you.

 

“Hey, check these guys out! Don’t worry about me!” (laughs)


Like, I remember Creager at a demo once, out of the blue, nollie hardflipping this little trash can, first try. All these kids started flipping out. It was crazy to see. 


But Rodney was always rad to me. He’d always compliment people on their skating, which is cool. And talk about another guy who always seemed to be happy? I feel like he’s the happiest dude ever… except for that time I asked for a raise. 


(laughs) How’d that go down?


I was still just an amateur, but I think I was only making $350 a month at the time. I needed more money, you know? That’s not very much. So I walk into World and asked him for a raise. Breaking it down, point-by-point, to really sell it to him. 


…But I got denied! Like, really? I was honestly pretty bummed on that. Because I didn’t expect it, you know? I didn’t even know how to react at first. I was speechless! And it’s not like he gave me a straight-up “No”, either. He kinda squiggled it in there. 


“I’m sorry, Robbie. We just can’t really do it right now.” 


Meanwhile, he’s got Flameboy boards flying out the door. (laughs)


I was bummed, man. But dude didn’t budge. All I wanted was $500 bucks. Like, come on, dude. You guys are ripping us off anyway. $350 a month is a joke! 


But whatever, I got on Girl not too long after that. 


Were you asking before or after Listen? Because I imagine that could’ve made a difference.


Yeah, it was definitely before. You’re probably right, I should’ve waited until after Listen came out and then asked. Hit him up on the day it dropped, like, “Alright Rodney, give me my $500 bucks!” (laughs)


He would’ve done his Rodney thing, whispering, “Alright… alright, Robbie… alright.” 


(laughs) What about Lavar? How was he being a new member on the team? 


Oh man… it’s interesting. Because with guys like Lavar and Kaspar, it’s not like I really knew or hung out with them. It was always that same tour scenario. 


The first tour I ever did, we flew into Florida. It was A-Team’s last stop, Blind’s first stop. And I was just the mellow new guy, you know? Trying to get along with everyone. And obviously, a little worried about these demos because I’d never really done any before. 


I was never that dude who wanted to have a bunch of people standing around, watching me skate.… like, hey, look at me. Yeah, I skate and I’m okay at it, but I’ve never been one to perform for an audience. And demos were always a bunch of quarterpipes anyway. I don’t even skate quarterpipes… so, what do you want me to do? I guess I’ll go crooked grind a block or something, like a fucking idiot. 


So it’s my first demo, Blind and the A-Team, and MJ’s out there killing it. Chet Thomas and Gershon are flying around everywhere. And I’m just trying to get warmed up. I’m a little nervous, but I’m skating around. 


I roll up to this little box for a frontside crooked grind and I completely slip out. I fall on my back and the whole crowd does one of those, “Ohhhhhhhh!!!!”


I get up real quick and I’m just scrambling around. Totally shook. Finally, I go to the sidelines, where somebody taps me on the shoulder.


“Dude, your elbow is bleeding.”


I look down and it’s literally pouring blood.


“Fuck, dude!”


I just take off. I skate over to a CVS around the corner to clean it up in the bathroom. And that was my first demo. I actually remember thinking to myself, “This is going to be fun. I’m killing it right now.”


As far as Lavar went, I don’t know… I don’t want to put him on blast but I feel like everyone knows that he was smoking just a crazy amount of weed back then. 


Honestly, what sticks out most from back then was being in the van with him. Because the backseats faced each other, and I remember his seat facing directly where I was sitting. 


First off, he smokes this fat blunt to his head, all by himself. And Method Man was playing, so Lavar just starts rapping to me. Like, right at me. Along to the music, but directly at me. Full eye contact, for what felt like an unusually long amount of time. Like, to the point where it didn’t seem like how you’d typically do that kinda thing to someone. Just forever. And I didn’t even know what to do. Because I’m the new guy, I’m just trying to be nice. But he’s still doing it. This is super awkward! I try to look away but Lavar keeps on rapping Method Man at me. Like, why? 


So yeah, that was pretty weird. 


(laughs) What about your stuff in Rodney vs Daewon? Did you actually film for that or were those just random clips? 


They’d already been filming for a while when I got on, so it was a bit of a scramble to get footage. Because I have some Society footage in there, too. 


But you still got next to last in that montage 


Yeah, it worked out. 


Funny thing about that part, the backtail I did at the Courthouse for my last trick? I only got the idea to try that because I saw Koston do it the day before. And not only did dude do it first try, I saw him do it twice in a row. 


Same day, I saw him nollie flip into the fountain, too. Straight nollie flip, three or four times in a row. 


So, literally the next day, I learned nollie flips into the fountain… actually, it might’ve even been after they left. And then later on, whenever Soc was there, I did the backtail, which I chose as my last trick.  


How did “Bob McCrooks” come about? 


That was Dan Druff, the guy who used to run Hot Rod Skateshop. Because I would do a lot of crooked grinds back then, he’d always be like, “Fuckin’ McKrooks, dude. What up?”


Hot Rod was where we all used to hang out back then. And he was funny, man. Always making jokes and shit. He just came up with it one day while I was in the shop. 


“Fuckin’ McKrooks over here. You out there doing crooked grinds, eh?” (laughs)


And I hate the name “Bob”. So that came later as a nice little add-on in the evolution of McKrooks. 


I didn’t realize that I did so many crooked grinds at the time, but I guess so. They’re easy and they’re fun. Compared to a lot of other tricks, you can lock-in pretty easily. 


How’d you get involved in Tim Dowling’s Listen project? 


I feel like I first met Tim at the Santa Monica Beach Gaps or the Venice Pit, just through skating with Chris Roberts and a few other guys. We’re out skating and dude has a camera. You start trying something and next thing you know, “Hey, do you want to film that?”


That kinda thing was common back then.


This was way before Listen, and it just went on from there. We ended up skating a bunch together and became pretty good friends. My part in Listen basically started out as that. I wanted to skate every day, so we’d hit each other up. And after a while of doing that, you’re gonna have a lot of footage. 


At one point, we were clocking a clip a day. Always getting something, every time. And that feeds into it as well. It almost turns into a good luck-type of thing where you want to keep that going. So, it was a win-win for both of us. I wanted to get footage and Tim was down to film. And it was like that for a while. 


It went from us filming together all the time to now, our footage is going to a video that Tim’s putting out. And then, toward the last couple months of filming, it changed again when I knew that I was getting my own part. That’s when I started to feel like, “Oh shit, I really gotta film for this.”


Because I always knew that I was going to have footage in there, but I really didn’t know what the video was all about. Are people even getting parts? Because it was this totally different kind of concept. 


Yeah, when did the “listen” theme come into play? Was that during editing or while you were still filming?


It’s not like he sat us all down in the beginning, like, “Look, it’s going to be a video with no music and people are gonna have to listen to the sounds and all that.”


We didn’t know about that side of it. I just skated and got footage, but I’m pretty sure that was his concept from jump. Because he’s a filmmaker dude, he probably recognized how nobody had done that before. I mean, watching a skate video, the sound of a grind behind the music is always super cool. It adds another dimension that’s pretty specific to skate videos, to where if it’s not there, you notice. Tim played into that and brought it all to the forefront. 


And what’s strange is that after I quit Girl, I worked for the Captain and Casey Show as an assistant editor. Dudes would come in and give us their parts, but they’d always have music on them. We wouldn’t have the rights to any of it, so I’d always have to redo their parts with my own skate audio. Taking out the music and adding in grinding and sliding sounds. 


Foleying skate sounds?


Exactly. My job was to mute all their sounds and put in fake audio. Rolling sounds, popping, grinding… basically recreating the Listen of their parts. Pretty weird to think about. 


Total full-circle. Talk about that nollie hardflip line over the Adams Bump, because that was a doozy at the time but it looked effortless for you. 


I just frontside nosegrind the table and then started pushing like a maniac to hopefully make it happen. (laughs)


I was pretty comfortable with nollie hardflips back then, but I’d never done one over the bump before… I’m not even sure how that line came together. I remember flinging a couple over it and they felt pretty good. I guess I was already getting close, we just decided to add that nosegrind to the beginning and throw a Hail Mary. 


Certain things just came quickly for me. Like those Fairfax lines in there? I remember landing those both pretty quick, just messing around on my own. 


Dowling’s like, “Do you want to film that?”


… Because, again, fucking crooked grinds, man! (laughs)


But there wasn’t anything too outlandish in that part, either. Just some decent lines and ledge stuff. I was never one to really huck myself down shit, you know? There wasn’t too much battling, which was probably to my detriment. I should’ve tried harder shit, I guess. 


What about that switch front nosegrind 180 down the LA High Rail? I think that’s your only handrail clip, right?


Well, that was definitely a Hail Mary, for sure. I was going so fast because I didn’t want to sack… but that rail was so small and at an angle, it’s almost like a flatbar, to be honest.


It’s more of a switch nosebonk 180. Leading up, I think I boardslid it and feeble grinded it… and I’m sure that I crooked grinded the fucking thing. I remember switch tailsliding it, too, after Enrique Lorenzo did it. That was the first legit trick I did on it. 


That was towards the end of filming for Listen. I’d been wanting to try it, even though rails freak me out. So I warmed up on a few tricks and then, going as fast as I could, started switch ollieing and tapping into a couple. All of a sudden, I just landed it. 


“Holy shit! I did it! Sick!”


I was hyped on that one, because I didn’t skate rails. And it’s a pretty good trick, it wasn’t just some feeble grind. I was happy with it. 


Did you just not like rails?


Dude, they’re fucking scary! (laughs)


That’s why! I was fucking scared, dude! I couldn’t wrap my head around how people 50-50 round bars. I thought that was the scariest thing. I’d much rather crooked grind or feeble grind, because I feel like you can lock those into things… I would much rather switch nosegrind 180 down a rail than 50-50 one. No question. Because I feel like you could slip out of a 50-50 so easily and just get broke off. It didn’t make any sense to me. 


I remember being like, “I don’t understand how you all are doing that. You guys are weird.”


I mean, I know you have to lock your wheels in that crisscross thing. But it’s not like a ledge at all. You don’t have to go mach-20 to hit a rail. It’s a completely different type of approach. 


I remember York telling me that Guy Mariano preferred skating rails because he felt it was easier in his mind. Because you know it’s almost always gonna slide or grind and that you can pretty much always get out of it at a certain point. I guess it just comes down to how you see shit… and also, it’s fucking Guy Mariano. 


I just never got comfortable skating rails. I probably should’ve spent more time working on that. 



You didn’t feel any pressure to step up in the stair-counting early 2000s?


Nah, I never felt any pressure with that… but I was down with skating stairs. I tried to do the stair thing for a while, because I figured that was a little safer. 


Plus, I skated a lot with Daniel Haney back in the day, because he was part of that whole Hot Rod crew. Seeing what all he put himself through for that stuff? Oh my god. I would see that guy get smoked, dude. Smoked!


There was this spot in Westwood called Emerson. It’s this super flat rail that kinks down in the middle and goes flat again. I actually had a front crooks photo on the kinked part… which was kinda stupid. But one day, he wanted to back 50 the whole thing and asked me to film it.


“Oh yeah! That’ll be sick!”


So we head over there and he’s trying it, when boom! He slips out and lands on his shins. He fucking starts screaming. 


“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”


Woah, dude. He just got fucking served! I guess that’s it for that one. 


Nope, we end up going back the next weekend. And I’m down to film again, even if it is a little scary to watch. 


Again, he gets fucking handled. Falling straight to his back. He’s screaming again.


“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”


Dude, this is gnarly. I don’t know how much more of this I can handle. This has gotta be it for this, right?


No! We go back a third weekend! This fucking back 50! And this time, dude slips out and sacks on the rail. He’s screaming again, then he kinda goes off to the side. I don’t really know what he’s doing, but he comes back and says, “Dude, I cut my balls in three different places!”


“Alright. That’s it. I can’t film this anymore.” (laughs)


I think he did go back and try it some more, I just refused to film it after that. I’ll skate with you all day long but I’m not gonna film you die on this shit anymore. And I feel like that ultimately helped kill any remaining handrail motivations I might’ve had. 


Did you expect for people to respond to Listen the way they did? 


Oh, I was totally surprised it got people’s attention like that. For sure, dude. 


That video opened a lot of doors for me. I never would’ve got on Girl if it wasn’t for that video. Because I feel like that part made those guys see my skating in a different way. I mean, all of my skating was mimicking those dudes. I had watched Mouse so many times, it’s insane. I was just trying to emulate that the best I could. 


Listen was basically the apex of my skateboarding career. It was probably the best my skating ever was or was ever going to get. Even though that part seemed like the beginning for me… that my stock was only going to rise. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. 


I have to imagine Girl wasn’t the only offer you got after Listen, right? 


Well, while I was talking to Girl, Anthony Van Engelen came over to my house one day when I was living in Santa Monica. We were gonna go skate, and he says, “Dude, guess who Dyrdek wants to put on the team?”


“Who?”


“You! Do you want to skate for Alien?”


“What the fuck!?!”


I was definitely tripping on that one. But while I knew that Alien was huge, Girl was always the one for me. The absolute best team you could ever hope to get on. I know there was a lot of money at Alien, but my choice was obvious. To be on the same team as Eric Koston, Guy Mariano, Rick Howard and Mike Carroll? Who’s going to deny that? Because I was basically the first dude to come from outside those original guys and get on the team. The opportunity was too good to pass up. 

You talked earlier about being starstruck at Chaffey, now you’re actually on the team. How’d you get over that initial intimidation?


I don’t know if I ever did, to be honest. I got comfortable enough to where I could skate, but I do think that it was always something in the back of my mind. 


I felt comfortable skating with Koston, even though he’s this amazing skater. And I probably got along with Carroll the best, with his weird sense of humor. Carroll’s a rad dude. 


Looking back, I should’ve made myself more part of the family. I should’ve skated with Rick, Mike and Koston more, instead of just doing the same shit I always did. I was still skating the beach gaps with CRob and Castillo. Not that I should’ve switched friends or anything, but I should’ve made it a point to hit them up more. Because they’re always skating with photographers, it would’ve been good for me. I would’ve got more coverage and probably gotten a lot better, too. 


What about that switch 360 flip sequence over that Venice Street Gap for your “Welcome to Girl” ad? Was there ever any footage of that? 


No, I didn’t even land that. 


I’d gone out with Blabac and we’re trying to shoot photos. We went to the El Segundo double-set first and I tried to switch front heel that but couldn’t get it. Then we went to that street gap to hopefully get something else. I started trying switch 360 flips and it felt pretty good. I landed on a couple and slipped out, but no, I never did roll away from it. And I’m sorry, Blabac. I know we wasted a ton of film that day. 


…Hell, maybe he ran out of film? Maybe that’s why I never got it that day? I honestly can’t remember. 


But I didn’t know they were going to use it for my ad. I didn’t even know I had an ad coming out until I saw it. I remember seeing it for the first time, like, “Well, fuck.”


Obviously, I was stoked to have a Girl ad. And it really didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time, I’ll just go back and film it. No big thing. I don’t care if I have to spend the next year trying this thing, I’m gonna get it. But unfortunately, they ended up demolishing that gap right after the ad came out. So no, I didn’t get it in time, which sucks. 


Because there’s not even a rollaway frame. There’s one land frame but my legs are all weird. I’m not sure if it’s because I know that I didn’t land the trick or what, but I was pretty bummed on that. 


You had a couple of sequences that I wanted to ask about. Not saying that you didn’t land them, I just thought they were sick and was wondering if I possibly missed them in something. Like, what about the nose manual – kickflip – manual down at Dorsey?


Oh, I landed that one. I shot that with Yoon Sul, just me and him.


…I’ll tell you the shit I didn’t land. We just never filmed that.


Why not? 


Meh, I don’t know. It didn’t feel like a quality trick. It’s cool but nothing great, you know? It’s a fucking nose manual. You flip it, you land in a manual and ride back down the bank. It wasn’t anything special. 


I thought it was cool. A lot of people were hitting that spot at the time. 


Yeah, and doing way better shit than that!


Well, in your Skateboarder interview, you did that nollie nose manual - nollie flip out on the Courthouse stage. That was sick. 


Alright, so there’s a different one in the credits of the “Deluxe Version” or whatever of The DC Video, but I might’ve touched on that one. Regardless, I had done that trick before.


So, as we’re shooting photos for my interview, we went back to shoot a sequence of it and I’ll admit we completely fudged that sequence. That was Yoon and I again. I remember trying it for a while but I just couldn’t get it and got pissed. 


“Fuck this. I’ve already landed this before. I’m just gonna do a nose manual to nollie flip out and we’ll piece this shit together.”


Honestly, I didn’t make any of those tricks in that interview. There was a switch frontside 180 down that Sepulvada gap in there, I think it’s the first photo? I remember Wenning was staying at my house at the time. We went out and lit it up. I bailed a bunch of times and when I finally landed on one, I got demolished. So I didn’t land that one. The nollie nose manual to nollie flip out was pieced together with an ollie nose manual to nose flip out. And there’s a switch flip in San Pedro, I think. I didn’t land that one either. 


So no, I didn’t land any of that. Pretty fucking shitty… And not too long after that was when I left Girl.


I appreciate the honesty. 


I remember there being a question about one of my ads, but I actually made this one. It was frontside crooked grind sequence on a three-stair flat... I think it was a school called Robertson? 


I went there with this photographer, Frankie Galland. And I only landed one, but I definitely made it. We were only shooting a sequence, there was no filmer. And that’s actually a pretty scary trick, so I was hyped when I did it. But afterwards, Frankie’s like, “Dude, I don’t think I got the landing.”


“What? Fuck, man!”


“I don’t think I did. Can you do a 50-50 or something so we can piece together a ride away frame from that?”


So I did that, just in case. Again, this was film so we didn’t know if he got the landing or not. I still don’t know. He might’ve pieced it together or he might not have. But the point is that I did it. That one was on the photographer. 



Yeah, that’s not your fault. 


…Oh, and that DC ad. The switch backside 180 over that humongous gap? Nah. 


I went there with Blabac, Dyrdek and somebody else. Trying to huck myself for a photo. I think I landed on a couple of those but got annihilated. I could never roll away from that one, either. Sorry. 


What about your Chocolate Tour clips in that camera? I feel like that’s some of your best footage. 


Yeah, but I should’ve been filming my ass off for that video. Filming every day, every night. I mean, I was filming a lot, but I don’t know if I fully realized the gravity of that video. I could’ve done more. I should’ve had a part in that thing.


I remember seeing Rodney at the Slam City Jam right after that video came out. I go up to talk to him and I remember him saying, “Yeah, you didn’t have much footage in that video.”


That was a bummer. Like, why’d you have to say that, Rodney? Maybe he was just giving me a little jab for quitting, but it was true. I wasn’t as focused as I should’ve been. 


Is that a fakie heel 5-0 in the opening clip? 


Yeah, the camcorder clip is a fakie heelflip 5-0 down in the Venice Pit. And I was hyped on that. But the first time I saw the video, with York looking into the camera, I didn’t know why they’d put it in there like that. Like, what the fuck? 


The problem was that I filmed it on a shitty camera, so the quality of the footage was bad. Putting it in the camera was the only way they could use it. Had I known, I would’ve gone back to film it again. I just didn’t know. I thought it was a usable clip and they never said otherwise until it was too late. 


I don’t know how I got the idea to try that trick. I honestly don’t remember anybody else having done that before. It’s kind of a weird one but it’s a relatively safe ledge. There’s a fucking wall there so you can’t slip out. 


How was being the only amateur on Girl for so long? And how did that dynamic change when Biebel and Jereme Rogers got on the team? 


It’s different to look back on now, but at the time, it just was what it was. I was the only amateur, whatever.


I’m sure they expected me to stay on that same level of producing like I was during Listen. And if I would’ve stayed on that same program, I think I would’ve gone pro. It’s not like I didn’t skate or film as much on purpose, I was just living life and skating. Having fun and allowing myself to have other interests, too. Going from the laser focus of an 18-year-old, where it’s skating and nothing else, to being in your early 20s and having other things going on in life, too. Nothing crazy, but I do feel like I lost some focus back then. Wasted some time. Skating was always my number one priority, but the amount of fun I let myself have outside of that could’ve been pulled back a bit. You just don’t realize that at the time.


Talk to me about getting on DC, because I’ve heard there was some controversy there. Like, they were going to slow-track you after Listen, but when Rick and Mike leave to start Lakai, DC suddenly decides to put you full-on to block them from scooping you? Is that how you remember it going down? 


Well, Rick and Mike never talked to me about Lakai. Ever. 


I didn’t like DC shoes at all back then… the shoes, mind you. The company and team were amazing. But I want to be able to feel my board, you know? I was used to skating eS Accels, which I felt was the perfect skate shoe. No fuss, just a good, simple shoe for skating in. That’s what I was looking for. But all their shoes felt like fucking space boots.


It just so happened that DC was a much bigger company. They had more money and felt like something a little more prestigious to ride for. So, I went over there. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many pairs of those all-black Manteccas I wore, because that was the only low-key shoe they made. I think I wore those the entire time I skated for DC. 


Were you working on The DC Video and Yeah Right at the same time? 


Yeah, that sucked, as far as timing. I remember having to figure out a strategy of how I was gonna do it. I decided that Yeah Right was going to be my main focus. Because not only is that my board sponsor, I also knew that if I put together a good part there, I could maybe go pro. That felt like the bigger opportunity to focus on. 


The DC Video was slated to come out four or five months after Yeah Right… so yeah, there was a lot of fucking pressure there. It was a pretty shitty situation and I wasn’t super on-top of my game by that point, either. 


Did you know that you were going to share a part with Gallant and Greg Myers? Did you know those dudes at all? 


Barely. 


I had gone on a SF trip with Greg Myers and he was the weirdest, most spastic little kid. Honestly, it kinda sucked being around him. Because I was used to being around grown-ups, basically, and here’s this little spastic fuckin’ Johnny.


I mean, I get it. He’s 15 and on a tear. I understand. But I don’t necessarily want to hang out with him. Not that he was a dick or anything, just an age gap. 


Thank God that Greg Hunt was on that trip. He was always cool. I remember talking to him one time on that trip and he goes, “You know, you’re one of the only normal dudes on this team.” 


Because let’s face it, that team had a lot of psychos, dude… in a good kinda “psycho” way. (laughs) 


Yeah, some colorful personalities, for sure. Weren’t you tight with AVE and Wenning back then?  


Yeah, I was skating with AVE a ton when he first moved to LA. But whenever I started filming heavily for Yeah Right, he was still focused on DC and we just got on two different programs. 


But Wenning… oh my God. I love that dude. He’s the best. Full skate rat and just a filthy animal. Total Jersey-style, dude. 


“Yo, man. I’m just fuckin’ skating and fuckin’ banging chicks, yo!” 


So funny, man. I remember this one time when I went out and stayed with him in Jersey, he broke it all down for me. And I’ll never forget this. 


“Yo, man… I’m just gonna fuckin’ skate and when it’s all said and done, I’m just gonna work at the Meat Co.” 


The Wenning Family Meat Company. It was always the “Meat Co”, man. He basically had his whole life planned out at 18. 


“Fuck it, man. Just work at the Meat Co.”


Such a solid human being.


Who chose that song for your DC part?


Oh, man… I don’t know. Greg Hunt, maybe? I had zero involvement in how that video came together. I filmed tricks then I saw them on the screen. That was about it. 


I definitely wouldn’t have picked that fucking song. And I wouldn’t have been partnered up with Greg Myers, either. Gallant was cool. He was way better than all of us. But I guess any Greg Myers footage would’ve needed that weird rock music. 


I feel like if Myers wasn’t in the mix, we would’ve probably gotten a better song. But I guess they wanted to pump little Johnny up and felt that weird rock song was gonna be just the thing to do it. Who knows.


But how was riding for both DC and Girl back then? I’ve heard there was some friction there. Colin brought up essentially having to choose between the two, which is why he left Girl…


I never knew that about Colin. But I never experienced any friction between those two companies, either. I just assumed I got kicked off DC because I wasn’t skating hard enough. If being on Girl was at all a factor, I had no clue. 


I do remember being a little bummed when Lakai started, because I was basically the lone wolf left behind on DC. 


It’s funny, because JB Gillet was staying at my house at the time, and I remember him saying, “Hey, man, DC is way better. You’re better off there instead of Lakai.”


“…eh, I don’t know. It feels kind of like a diss.”


Then I got kicked off DC shortly afterwards and JB ended up riding for Lakai. (laughs)


How was working on Yeah Right for you? Was that with Ty?


That was mostly with Barrett, the Aesthetics filmer back then. I would say 80% of my Girl part was filmed by him. 


I only had a couple of clips that Ty filmed. Like the nollie nosegrind at Venice around that little curve… and that was totally out of the blue. Those guys just showed up down there one day. I started trying it and Ty was there, so we filmed it. Easy. 


I was hyped on that clip, which makes me think that if I was skating with those dudes more, I probably would’ve had a way better part. Because that was a random clip, but I got it quickly and thought it came out really good, too. What if there were 20 or 30 other days where that same thing happened? How much better would my part have been? 


Well, Ty is known for pushing dudes, and it sounds like you might’ve needed that. 


Yeah, I definitely needed a swift kick in the ass, for sure. 


And most of your part was filmed around LA? Except for that Barcelona opener with another bloody elbow. 


(laughs) Yeah, I was always more comfortable thinking of tricks at spots I know. Going there and trying those tricks, versus the guy who goes to spots he’s never been to before. I was useless on tours and at demos because I don’t like showing up at random spots and trying to do the gnarliest trick ever. That’s not my style. Occasionally, it would work out, but rarely. 


Did you finally get to choose a song for your part? 


I think so. There was a Jay-Z instrumental I also liked but we went with the Talib Kweli. Basically, we each gave Ty two or three songs and I guess it came down to whatever we could get the rights for. 


But I never sat down and watched my part to the music or anything… Actually, I don’t think I ever sat down in the editing bay for any of my parts. I just skated and let the filmers and editors do their thing. 


Was the camera fist bump your go-to move back then? Because you went double bump that year in both parts. 


(laughs) I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing there. No clue. It’s so fucking stupid. I don’t even know why I did that once, let alone twice! It’s not like that was my thing and I did it all the time, that’s probably the only two times I ever even did that and it happened to get used in both parts. And now, I’m the dude who fucking fist bumps the camera. I just didn’t know what to do there but felt like I had to do something, you know?


How’d you land on that double-set nollie for your ender? 


Because I didn’t have a last trick! That was probably my only clip that would’ve worked there. Not that it was a proper ender, by any means. Because I remember talking to Wenning about it and he goes, “Yo, man. Nowadays, you need three enders. You can’t just have one. You gotta have an ender, an ender-ender, and then another one!”


“Fuck… thanks for even more pressure.”


I suck at ollieing stairs. I’d rather nollie down them or do something else. And it sucks because a straight ollie is like the easiest trick, but I just get up there and freak out. So, I don’t even think I ollied those stairs first, I just went straight into nollies. Nollie down the first set at a decent speed and then start going for both… Total Hail Mary. Please let me make this. (laughs)


It kinda looked shitty, too. My front foot came off and I landed all weird, but I landed it. That thing was pretty big for me so I took it. 


You also nollie heeled that double-set in Torrance, too. 


Yeah, but that was whatever, especially at that time. It was just a nollie heelflip down a double-set. Whatever. Nobody cares. It wasn’t anything spectacular. 



I thought it was good. How’d you like filming the skits in Yeah Right? 


It was intimidating, to be honest. Because not only do you have P-Rod, Koston and McCrank there… which, those dudes land everything, on call. But you also had all these crazy production cameras and an entire crew there. Like, a gazillion people. It was gnarly. 


For the slow-mo stuff, they had this special camera that shot 1,000 frames per second. So, whenever they turned it on, you could hear it revving up with this crazy sound, like a racecar or something. Because it’s rifling off so much film so quickly. I remember having to do a switch heel for it and I kept fucking up. Just blowing it… All rocket and shit. It took me four or five tries. I was so mad at myself, man. What a fucking idiot.


I remember this guy there who was used to doing real movie production shit, not just skate stuff. And he’d seriously have to yell, “Action!” before every try, which only made me more nervous. Thank God they weren’t counting on me to make some extravagant maneuver. 


How many times did you have to “catch” your board before landing that nollie shuv manual on the Stage for the Magic Board skit? 


That actually came pretty quickly. It was just Rick, Ty and I. Rick was the one up there, throwing that board at me… that was probably the toughest part: catching the fucking board. Rick hucking this thing at me with a big smile on his face and then having to look at it, like, “Oh, a skateboard just fell out of the sky.” 


Trying to do some sort of acting thing before attempting to make a real trick. I remember throwing that thing so hard after I landed my trick, too. Like, “Fuck this thing!”


Weren’t you there when Keenan switch flipped the Sacto triple-set?


It was so gnarly, dude. Because he’d only been messing around on flat before that. Playing SKATE with P-Rod and drinking beers. Not that he was wasted or anything, but it definitely didn’t seem like he was about to step to a triple-set at the time. It just came out of nowhere. And four or five tries later, he’s rolling away. Like, what the fuck just happened!?!


We were on our way up to the Slam City Jam and I think Biebel was showing us some spots around Sacto real quick. We just ended up there, and the City Stars team happened to be there, too. Because Paul was still on City Stars at the time. But since we were there, we figured that we might as well see if anybody wanted to try anything. I think P-Rod kickflipped it first try and was about to try a switch heelflip when somebody told him that Koston had already done it. So, that’s when Keenan did his thing, because he’s a beast. 


I roomed with him on that trip, too. And I’ll always remember him ordering Room Service back in our hotel room. 


“Yeah, let me get three orders of bacon and a couple Bud Lights… Robbie, you want some beers?”


“Fuck yeah!”


30 minutes later, I’m drinking beers and eating bacon with this dude as he laughs his ass off at the tv. Because he was always laughing, man. It was great. I mean, who does that?


There were never bad times with that dude. Just a remarkable human being.


Were you happy with your DC and Girl parts at the time? 


Fuck no. Because I knew I could’ve done better. They came out okay. They were marginally decent… but not really. I knew that I was capable of more. 


If there was ever a point in my life where I should’ve dropped everything and just laser-focused on something, that was it. I needed to be out there, every day, on a fucking mission. Destroying myself in order to put out the absolute best parts I possibly could, so I wouldn’t have the regrets that I do now. 


It wasn’t a purposeful thing. I just wasn’t skating as much or as hard as I could’ve been because I was living my life. There weren’t any of those Jamie Thomas-type programs that I’ve heard about when Zero makes a video. And Rick would never do that anyway… because I’m sure they got that kinda shit during the Plan B days with Ternasky. That was the last thing those guys were going to do with Girl. But the thing is, I probably needed something like that. Buckling down in order to focus on turning pro somehow, and basically ignoring everything else for a while. 


I was just skating and whatever happened, happened. That’s my fault.


So, these videos come out and you’re bummed. What happens next? 


Well, I had filmed those parts in hopes of going pro afterwards. Because I felt like I was lagging and the “Man Am” label was getting thrown around. That, and I felt like if I had still been skating for Blind, they would’ve already turned me pro by then. But it was pretty clear that these parts weren’t going to be enough. Then they turned Biebel pro. 


I called Rick, like, “Dude, if Jereme goes pro before me, I’m going to be so bummed. That’s not cool, man. What the fuck!?!”


Obviously, this has nothing to do with Jereme or Biebel, and it has nothing to do with Rick. It has everything to do with me. I just wasn’t at the level I should’ve been. And I have nobody to blame but myself. If I was skating my ass off like I was in the early days, going pro wouldn’t have even been a question. I basically shot myself in the foot. 


Because Girl isn’t going to turn you pro just so they can put a board out. You have to earn it, and I didn’t earn it.  


When did it go from being bummed to something more permanent in your mind?


Probably after I got kicked off DC. That was a pretty big blow. It definitely kicked off a mid-life crisis thing for me. Like, “What the fuck am I doing here?” Because I was always bummed about not being asked to ride for Lakai, and now I just got kicked off DC. What does this mean? I’m not pro… and this is obviously not going to help with that situation, either. 


In hindsight, I should’ve brushed it off and just started skating really hard. But the problem was that it was now in my head. This was probably the first sign of it all being over for me. 


Then I ended up doing that interview for Skateboarder, which was really my giving the whole thing one more push. And that’s the one we talked about where I didn’t land any of my tricks. All of the photos are bails. It’s basically a false interview. 


Shortly after that, I literally woke up in the middle of the night, sweating. Totally freaked out. Wondering what I was even doing with my life, because I’m fucking up here. I felt like I had lost my window and was just beating a dead horse. I really gotta figure something out.


This was when I made the decision to move on. Skating used to be the most enjoyable thing in my life and now it only makes me feel guilty, because I’m not living up to my potential. And I’m not even that good at it anymore. Maybe it’s time to open up a new chapter?


It didn’t seem like the pro thing was going to happen, so what am I doing here? I’m wasting their time and I’m wasting my time. I didn’t want to disrespect my heroes by taking up space, and I definitely didn’t want to get kicked off, because that would’ve just been the worst. I’d much rather man the fuck up and quit, which I think they respected. 


How’d did you tell your sponsors? And how did they react? 


Well, the only person I told was Rick. I didn’t really have any other sponsors by that point. 


I just called him one day. “Hey man, I need to talk to you. I’m going to be down at Girl if you’re around.”


So I head over and we’re skating around the park. I forget exactly how I said it, but it was just that I didn’t want to bum them out. That I didn’t want to feel like shit anymore. 


He said something along the lines of “Oh, we’re not bummed at you!”


I feel like it was a bit of a shock to him. He probably wasn’t expecting that at the time. And I’m sure that I’d been way overthinking everything, to where I was already well past the point of no return.

 

But yeah, I told him and he was super cool about it. 


I read your Bobshirt interview from a few years ago where you felt like you possibly called it a bit too soon. Do you still feel that way?


I do feel like I walked away too soon. I should’ve given it one more go and really committed to another year, just to see what could’ve happened. I regret that aspect a little bit, but not the decision to walk away. Not at all. 


But you were still around skating in the peripheral. You mentioned being assistant editor at Captain and Casey for a little bit. 


I still skated every now and then… but honestly, once I was free from sponsorship, I was really trying to live that Tim Gavin-type of lifestyle. Drink beer, play golf and chill. (laughs) 


But yeah, I did some graphic design at Sugar Skateboards with my old friend Marco. And I got a job at Grind King, surprisingly enough. Dark Horse Distribution, doing the same thing while I was in school. Then, my buddy Matt at the Captain and Casey Show needed an assistant editor, so I took that as a part-time job. That was cool. 


Didn’t you invent Skate Dice, too? 


Yeah, that was back when I was working at Dark Horse. There was this dude, Kevin Lewis, who was Team Manager there. We came up with the idea together and then I designed it all out in Illustrator. Kevin had connections with some people to make and distribute everything, and I made up a quick little website to sell it on our end. 


They were selling pretty good for a while there. We even came out with an iPhone app for it, too. We just didn’t have the bandwidth to really make it grow. It peaked with the Berrics and then we didn’t really add anything onto it, so it kinda died after that. 


It was cool. We didn’t make a ton of money but at the same time, it’s just dice, you know? Probably the most money we ever made was when we sued Mountain Dew, to be honest with you… or should I say, we sued the marketing company that Mountain Dew hired. 


I vaguely remember that. 


They stole our idea! They came out with their own Skate Dice for some Mountain Dew thing. So we got lawyers and sued them, which we ended up settling out of court. It was nothing crazy but we did okay. 


When was the last time you talked to the guys at Girl?


I actually talked to Carroll the other day. I still have to call Rick and Megan, but I feel like I owe those guys an apology. I blew such a good opportunity… and I told Carroll that when I talked to him


What did he say? 


He said that it wasn’t like they were pissed at me. Nobody was mad.


“If anything, we were just disappointed.”


Oof. 


Yeah, but I kinda figured that already. I was disappointed in myself that I’d blown my chance like that. 


We were just so young. Carroll actually brought that up, that those guys were still basically kids at that time, too. They’re only four or five years older than me. And I’d never really thought of them like that before. He said that nowadays, they’re more willing to pull guys aside for those types of discussions. They just weren’t there yet. 


But calling Carroll was a good conversation to have and I’m glad I did it. Just talking about life, in general. No hard feelings or anything. 


There’s been some talk of regret in this interview, but is that really how you look back on your career? Because even though you never went pro, you were able to accomplish some amazing things in skateboarding. I hope you recognize the positives, too. 


Oh yeah, I think that I was able to accomplish a lot during my time. I got on the best companies and was able to put out some really great things… like my Listen part. And just being able to live as a skater. Traveling and seeing the world, that’s amazing. I got paid to do the shit I love. The lifestyle and accomplishing certain goals, I’m proud of that, man.


I mean, just getting on Girl back then was an accomplishment. That was huge for me. And then being able to travel with those dudes was awesome. Skating around and all the times we shared. The food. Just the whole experience. That’s something I’ll always treasure. You can’t buy something like that.


Yeah, don’t take any of this the wrong way, I’m happy, man. I’m proud of all I was able to accomplish over the years. 


Anything you’d like to add before we close this out? Thanks so much for doing this.


I’d just like to say for anybody in skateboarding… or with anything, really… if you want something, just focus and get it. Put your 100% into it. 


That, and thanks to everybody who has helped me out along the way.