chrome ball interview #16: justin girard

chrome ball sits down with bushwick for conversation.

Okay, roll the standard intro… how were you first introduced to skateboarding and what was your first real set-up? Everyone remembers their first board.

I grew up on the north central coast of California in various towns adjacent to Monterey, and for most of that time, in Salinas. In Monterey, there is a park called “Dennis the Menace Park” that my mother would take me to because, well, for a kid it’s a kick ass park. It has a full size, non-functional train engine car in addition to a “maze of shrubberies” and a multi-tiered metal slide that I would eventually ride down on a skateboard. Adjacent to that is (or was) a baseball field and when I was 8, out of nowhere, a plexiglass halfpipe with no flat and two “practice quarters” appeared on it. Seeing skaters ride it was blowing my mind, so I asked for a skateboard. That request eventually produced a red Jaguar (the car manufacturer) banana-shaped board, which then led to me stealing $2.00 in change from my mother’s purse a number of times to gain entry to the park. It’s funny how grown men in short-shorts have the confidence to make fun of small children, but they do, so I went as long as I could tolerate the abuse and then just started skating the wave shaped curbs that are common in that area of California, in addition to the assortment of hills in my neighborhood.

I happened upon my first real set-up a few years later when I spied a skateboard at my friend’s house that wasn’t in use. I asked him if I could borrow it, he said yes, and that was when I really became dedicated. It was a Variflex Vectra. I think the first proper setup I was given was a Town & Country something or other, then a Bob Denike Boomcat or a Madrid Rampage.

Who were some of your influences growing up? Favorite skaters nowadays?

We all stood on the shoulders of a lot of people in order to achieve some success, so really I’d have to say everyone. Interestingly sometimes the styles you don’t appreciate are just as influential as the ones you do. For me, there was a range because when I first became dedicated, street skating still hadn’t become dominant. So my influences would range from someone like John Lucero to Gonz to Chris Miller, Christian or Rick Winsor, and basically every street pioneer. For favorites, there are a million as well. Two of my all times faves are Randy Colvin and Mike Carroll. Today I like Motta and Malto on street, and for vert, I’d have to go with Alex Perelson. If Shaun White is the modern-day Holmes then Perelson is the modern day Miller.

You’re first sponsor was Circle A… correct? How’d you end up getting hooked up with them?

My first sponsor was actually Brand-X. I went to the first ever skate camp in Visalia when I was just about to turn 14. Ron Allen and Jim Thiebaud were there, both of them were very encouraging but were honest and told me I needed a year or so to reach a level where I could be properly sponsored. Sean Goff, a vert pro for Brand-X from England who was also there, saw fit to offer me a sponsorship on their “b-team.” Shortly thereafter I was receiving boxes of skate products for free, which was, of course, amazing. I think the Brand-X graphics ultimately inspired a lot of the Speed Wheels stuff.

I can’t remember what happened with Brand-X... they may have actually gone under... but my next sponsor was Fogtown. Carlos from Fogtown was living in Salinas at the time and offered me a sponsorship. I was also riding for Bill’s Wheels, the local shop. Fogtown bit the dust as well soon thereafter, but I was active in competitions by that point, and more importantly I had met Bob Schmelzer through riding for Brand-X, which brings us to Circle-A (Bob’s company). Bob had mentioned to me before that he might be doing something of his own in the future. Later, I heard from Rick Winsor, and he told me that all I had to do was wait three-to-six months, this company they were starting would be off the ground and I would have a sponsor. Until then, he sent me gear from the Go Skate in Sacto. I can’t remember how long it was but soon enough, Circle-A was official and I was teammates with Duane Peters and the Godoys... which was interesting to say the least. Rick and Lopes (RIP Joe) were my two of my favorites, both big influences.

Circle-A was the best company that never fully developed. We had a good mix of true classics and young bloods, and Bob created a brand that succeeded in bridging that gap. Hell, we had Ross Goodman! Ben Schroeder was bad ass, but Ross had that lanky style that gave you the time to appreciate what he was doing. Brian Ferdinand was a bad ass, too. Lopes. Lopes was like having Otter from Animal House as a mentor, he always knew when to shut you down if it was necessary.

I would have ridden for Circle-A for my entire career had it been possible. I was never sure exactly what happened, all I know is that times were “loose” and that starting a woodshop isn’t as easy as it might seem. Bob was and is the best. When he told me skateboarding is like rock n’ roll, he meant it... and it was true. I suppose now it’s more like hair metal. Motley Lüe.

Now I’ve heard that you were down with the Spike crew back in the day… which honestly took me by surprise. How’d you end up rolling with them? How would you describe that crew to those that aren’t familiar?

I have an indelible streak of Cali redneck in me. I skated as many backyard pools in my formative skating years as I did streets. I am more often associated with New Deal and Mad Circle but Circle-A and things like the Spikes are all about where I’m from, a more unspoiled time skating-wise and that will never change. I’m not from Sac so I suppose I was honorary, but for me, Spikes is something that represents a larger sense of what skating was all about during that time of my life.

Things like skating in Tahoe parking lots before a contest with snow on the ground. Front lawn keg parties until 4:00 AM followed by all-day backyard ramp sessions in the searing Sacto summer heat. It was about pushing as fast as you possibly could and laying down the longest, loudest smith grind you thought you could never do. Doggin, Snaggle and Troy Clower (RIP) ripping, Snaggle getting nuts... hand jobs in bar booths. Winsor refusing to wear pads riding vert even though his knees were sporting hardware. Drunken tire swinging into the Sacramento river. Responsible parties shall remain nameless but I saw a roadside stick enter and then exit a human foreskin. Breaking yourself, getting up bloody and jumping right back on. It was one of the best parts of an adolescence very few people have the pleasure of knowing. It was all about fun. I’m lucky to have been allowed to participate. So: thanks motherfuckers!

Troy will always be the absolute fucking best. I saw a photo recently on the Black Label blog that really took me back. I’m really glad I have these memories. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Give us your best Rick Winsor story.

To be honest there isn’t just one, and perhaps surprisingly, Rick was as much a mentor as he was a madman back then, at least for me. Rick was always really true to why I think he started skating in the first place. I suppose if I had to pick one it would be his Speed Wheels ad wherein he ingested some soaked cigarette butts, but Rick was always looking out for the younger cats, just like Lopes was.

Now after placing well in the am contests that year and getting some serious magazine coverage, you turned pro for Dogtown… how did that come about? Dogtown seemed to be in a pretty weird phase then… post Dressen and Malba but pre-Karma and Cardiel… was JJ on the team yet? How was it riding for Red Dog?

The story is that Circle-A had gone under right before nationals. Bob then started a company called Poor House that Max (Evans) and I were riding for, and I believe Ferdi as well, that he was funding with whatever means he had. Bob was doing everything he could to get Poor House off the ground but skating was going through some significant changes, including one of its classic cyclical downturns, so it was difficult.

At nationals, I received a lot of indirect offers from various companies. Really desirable ones if you were a street skater at that time. One, arguably not the most street-centric one, was Dogtown and since they were moving up north with High Speed taking over, Shrewgy thought it would be a good idea for me to consolidate and be riding for Dogtown, Thunder & Spitfire all under effectively the same roof. Dogtown was going to be making some changes and I could be a big part of that. In the end, the way I made the decision pertained more to the history of Dogtown and my appreciation for it, along with the prospect of feeling like I was part of a team which was always really important to me. I wanted to be part of that history. I knew most of the team, had met Jay Adams, and felt it was a pretty natural move. The shitty part was that I had to stop riding for Bob. I actually quit at nationals after the contest was over and I still feel terrible about it. I had offers the whole time I was riding for Circle-A but that was were I wanted to be. Poor House would have been awesome but I was facing some tough realities at 18 regarding employment and a roof over my head so I had to make a change. I told Bob recently that I always looked at my first DT pro model as the Circle-A model that never was.

Interestingly, and if I remember correctly, both JJ and Wade were already on. Karma got on very shortly afterward. It should have stopped right there because that’s all we needed, but for whatever reason someone tried to apply the H-Street team model to Dogtown and started printing cartoon graphics. It didn’t work. My first board royalty check was $72 and the only way I survived was to place well in contests, after which some of my sponsors would partially match. That’s how I made my money to live. I think Karma, Wade and I got lucky and managed to have a Dogtown cross graphic for each of our first pro models though. I know for sure Karma and I did. To this day, it’s the one board I’d save from a fire.

I actually lived with Red Dog at that time in Daly City. Because of the tension and struggles with Dogtown, our relationship wasn’t the best which is a bummer because I have a real appreciation for where he came from and what he contributed to skateboarding. I mean DT, ST, Venice... that’s some serious history. He took me and Karma drunk “lawn driving” in a Florida suburb once after a contest. Skateboarding was lawless and so was he. I’m better off for the experience. I don’t regret any of my decisions.

What was the most surprising thing you found about turning pro?

That I was still dirt poor. The sense of fraternity that I didn’t expect. Bearing witness to the debauchery. The politics. How incredibly cool to me Christian was. The real lesson of how everyone loves you when you’re winning and how they turn their backs on you when you’re not. I am better off having learned those lessons so early.

It was surprising that there was no proper protocol for turning pro. At that time, you had to make the top ten at nationals to compete in the pro contests, but other than that, no criteria. But I suppose the most surprising part was the real sense of being a time-sensitive commodity. “Skate Meat.” That was weird.

Now when did the Deal enter the picture? I remember that seeming like big step for you at the time to get on a more solid team as New Deal had really just started and was making a serious impact. And with such creative heads as Ed and Andy on board, was it a pretty severe departure from Dogtown and Circle A?

I was excited. D. Sarge and Rick I were on up north and the company was only a couple of months old. I had already ridden for Circle-A with Ed and I knew Andy and a lot of the other pros. I could barely scrape-by supporting myself as a pro at that time. What I had thought was a more stable move for me was ironically worse from that perspective. My girlfriend had given me a lot of support when I was trying to make it happen and I wanted to do the same for her.

I was scared shitless to quit but I had dedicated myself to Dogtown and I didn’t see an honest commitment returned. I was pulled into an office with the head honcho by myself at 19 or 20 `and had to gut up. There were veiled threats about my professional skating career... being blackballed, etc., but Dogtown was digging a hole for itself and I had some serious family responsibilities that entailed making skating my living or looking elsewhere.

After quitting, I went straight to Visalia skate camp to seal the deal. Paul Schmitt, Sarge, Rick I and Andy (I think) among others were there and it was final. I was really happy and I can look back and know it was the right decision. I would have liked to have stayed and had a real opportunity to carry on the tradition of Dogtown but I didn’t have much of a choice.

It seemed like after getting on ND, you really seemed to start making a name for yourself down at EMB. When did you first start going down there to skate? Is it a fair statement to say the crew really seemed to have a large impact on your skating? It definitely seemed to evolve quickly to reflect these new surroundings. The difference in styles between your Useless Wooden Toys and 1281 parts is pretty drastic.

Yes, that’s fair. I think if you look at UWT though, you’ll see part of that change already underway... and had there been a video prior to that, there too. In reality, it was more a matter of the way skating was changing and other influences than just EMB in particular. You could assign a hip-hop influence to EMB but that sells it short, and for me that influence came far earlier.

At that time, skating rode a relatively violent rollercoaster in terms of progression. Music and art as catalysts for creativity and the general desire to explore were evolving in the context of the sport. The influences were diverse. I can see from the perspective of the question, but boiling it down (from my own perspective) there might be an alternate take on whether the difference in style was all that drastic. I was still doing a diverse range of things on proper street, tranny and flat, but I was adapting some of the progressive element to my traditional approach. I think what’s really different in 1281 is simply the technical influence. I tried to mix it with my natural style and have fun at the same time. Skating is at least partially about pushing boundaries and I was pushing mine.

It might be an interesting question to ask someone that built a career in the relative safety of a box how they feel about never having tested the talent they had. I think these questions are fair. They should be asked more often.

Well said. Ok, I always ask this of EMB locals… did you have a sense that what was going down at those Bricks was some real historical shit at the time or did it just seem like just another scene? Fondest memory at EMB?

To be honest, no. There was a strong sense of belonging, camaraderie and team, which is something I always looked for. I’m not sure anyone would have predicted the historical influence. As a professional skateboarder, you have a strong tendency to live in the moment.

The stories are nice, endless and sometimes completely nuts. It was a real treat to see the development of so many great skaters, but the friendships and the talent it produced are the real legacy of EMB. That, and of course, Karl and Sam youth-perving on Brooke (my girlfriend at the time). Sam was a bit of a player about it but I think Karl couldn’t control himself and gleeked on her more than once. Haha! Classic.

What’s the story behind Susie Switchblade? I didn’t even realize that was supposed to be a real person. Where did the idea of using her for your graphics come from?

That was Andy’s idea. We talked about it and the character evolved from his original idea. Susie Switchblade is my first long-term girlfriend, Brooke Hickland, with elements of both our personalities, our relationship and how Andy saw her. I think it also represents a slight crush Andy may have had on her. Haha! H-Bomb was always a connoisseur of the forbidden fruit... I think he’d tell you the same thing. Andy was a big influence on me in those days because he was (and is) such a multi-dimensional person.

Those graphics always had real meaning behind them. For instance, the Pimpball Wizard deck was inspired by my infatuation with actual pinball, appreciation for The Who, my experience being effectively pimped as a pro skater and what I explained above with respect to Susie.

I had that Pimpball board. Alright, I always wondered this about you New Deal guys… did you guys really like the Odd Numbers that damn much? I always picture a bright yellow tour van with this Odd Numbers cassette playing over and over again. What was the connection with those guys… was Paul Schmitt in the band or something?

The Odd Numbers were featured heavily because everyone had friends in the band and they were part of the SJ skate scene. I was sort of ambivalent to it. In 1281, I began to assert myself a lot more creatively and that’s where I used Chris Deleon’s beat.

It is hilarious to picture Paul in the band though. Paul is one of the more talented people I have ever met but I’m not sure I could ever picture him melting faces!

So how did Mad Circle come about? Had New Deal just gotten too large to manage… giving way to Underworld and Mad Circle? What was the overall direction and goal you were trying to accomplish? What was the name in reference to?

With respect to how it came about, it had to do with all of what you’ve listed and more. New Deal was definitely too large to manage. I saw UE as the natural development of a faction within ND. UE was very much about hip-hop, the east coast and I think a desire people like Andy and Chris Hall had to assert that influence. Ed and Vallely had split (or were on the verge of splitting) to do TV. Mad Circle got a good push in that context.

There were a lot of creative ideas being exchanged at that time. I remember sitting in a room with Andy, Douglas, Josh Friedberg and others deciding on how to go about doing 411. That was when the idea of MC first came up in the context of an opportunity for me. I think Andy asked me if I wanted to do something and I already had the concept and identity defined. They may have been a bit surprised that I already had it worked out and that gave them some confidence. I got the go ahead and started planning with Gorm Boberg and Jose.

I wanted to create a company and team that gave everyone involved the same sense of belonging and team that I had always made a criteria of my decisions when choosing sponsors. That, I think, is what people saw in the brand that drew them to it. The name was meant to symbolize a fierce loyalty amongst team members, and the vision and direction were derived from that. The goal was to take the feeling you have of getting mobbed by your friends after landing a sick trick and turn that into a skateboard brand. I think we met that goal with “Let The Horns Blow”.

How did you meet up with Barry McGee/Twist? He and Jose Gomez were such an integral part of setting up the initial brand identity for the company with you… I hope for your sake that you have plenty of his original drawings leftover. Any recent contact with him?

I had seen Barry’s graffiti on the street and really liked it. I knew a writer named Mr. Element and asked him if he “knew the guy that did the oversized faces on the streets and in the subways” and he said yes; Twist. I convinced Mr. Element to ask Barry if he would be interested in doing some skateboard graphics and I got a call shortly thereafter from Barry and that’s where it started. That’s when I was still riding for ND.

I think people overassociate MC with Barry though, partially because he gained so much notoriety as an artist later in his career, and of course, because his work is so distinctive. On the art side, there were a lot of people involved. Jose as you say, Gorm Boberg in the very beginning and down the line, Jesse McMillin, and myself from a multitude of angles.

I have a lot of the original artwork. I think there’s more that’s either still floating in former Giant Dist. flat files or has been pilfered by someone in a position to take it. When team riders would ask for the artwork, I would give it to them... so some of those guys are in possession of one or more originals. For instance, I know Scott J. has his graphic of the fellow in the top hat. I don’t have any contact with Barry though. I saw him probably six or seven years ago at one of his openings in LA, but not since.

You were right in the midst of all that early 90’s crazy tech. I remember the innovation and exploration of all these tricks seemed really exciting at first… then got kind of ugly. The difference with you seemed to be that you never sacrificed style. Always clean and with plenty of speed. Was there ever a time where you were looking around at all this late-late stuff and wondering what the hell was going on?

This also pertains to the UWT/1281 question earlier. There was a lot of experimenting going on. Everything had to be new, new, new... from new board shapes every month to graphics to tricks. I tried to maintain a mix given that I was coming from a multi-disciplinary background.

You can run down the list: pressure flip, tuna flip, late shove-it, late flips of the any-footed variety. The influences were coming from all over the country if you take a proper look at it. Switch was just starting, which you’ll see the beginnings of for me in UWT. Some tricks got more difficult so people slowed down and lost a bit of control in the process, including me to some extent. Anything can be questionable if it’s not executed well. From my perspective, it isn’t the trick: it’s the execution. The keys to that execution are speed, control and style. It was those three things that really were partially lost in the context of the difficulty. I think I may have taken an external view at one point, but it’s usually all over by the time you do. Hopefully what you say is accurate, and I managed to balance it relatively well. Looking back, I think I did.

What I’d say though is that most people who bitch heavily about this couldn’t skate a backyard pool to save their lives, so they should probably just quit their bitching.

Speaking of which… Chris Fissell. You turned him pro for Mad Circle and then he vanished into thin air. What happened with that dude?

He moved to Oregon and had a child. He’s still there now. I’ve known Chris since I was about 14 or 15. For him, skating was always an exercise in experimentation. Even now, people don’t really know how good he was because they only saw the experiments.

Mad Circle is one of those beloved 90’s companies that will always be remembered fondly for doing its own thing. What are some things we might not know about it? Is there anybody that almost rode for it but didn’t? I’ve heard Jordan Richter was once in the mix…

Jordan was one of the original team members. Most people probably don’t know that. I always wanted a complete skateboard team and that meant having at least one vert-dedicated rider, although Jordan was good at everything. Coming from Blind, that makes a lot of sense. If you look back, you’ll see that when people joined Blind (if they weren’t already), they became multi-disciplinary. Clearly that was Mark’s influence. Later that skater became Tas, but I would have loved it had Jordan stayed around because he is an amazing skater. I still have his portrait illustration that would have appeared on the Let the Horns Blow cover. Most people probably don’t know that at the time, we were the only company I was aware of that provided health insurance to our pro team riders.

Let the Horns Blow remains one of my all-time favorites... and quite ambitious for a skate video back then. The animated intros were incredible and the dj mixes as scoring added so much to the overall effect. Who came up with all that? How long did it take to make that video and was the finished product comparable to your expectations? You really seemed to swing for the fences conceptually with that one.

A lot of people contributed in a lot of different ways, some if not only in inspiration, but it was primarily me driving it. Basically it was me driving the concepts, music choices and editing, Jose Gomez and others producing illustrations for the intros and providing input, and Paul Schmitt assisting with getting together (and keeping) the editing system. We used one of the first commercial non-linear digital editing systems to put it together. Suffice it to say, it was not easy... especially considering using computers in that way was all new to me. I was up more than one day successively finishing it.

Looking back on it now, of course, it looks rudimentary, but I think the execution and the feeling, overall, stand. The audio mixing (“DJ mixes") was just me trying to capture what the company was about using those mediums. I should have done more of that in 5ive Flavors come to think of it. For instance the Am segment; I wanted that to have a feel like you were hanging at Embarco, and that’s why I used “Live at the BBQ,” because that’s what it was like hanging down there. Really loose, fun and somewhat mischievious. For me, editing was the reverse of scoring something (developing music to compliment the video). What I did was try to choose music that I felt captured the skating and the person to the extent possible, and mix and edit to enhance that dynamic. Based on how people tend to perceive it historically, it seems to have worked. I went a bit over the top with Edward’s part and the photos... but other than that, I’m pretty happy with it. As far as meeting my expectations though, I’d have to say no. Nothing ever does, and the reality at that time for me was that with the tools available, my experience level with professional video and the money I had to invest were such that it couldn’t reach the level I would have liked. That’s more in reference to quality though, not from the conceptual or execution perspectives. It was 90% me making it happen, and there’s only so much one person can do.

Maybe you can shed some light onto this as main Circle honcho… how the hell did Scott Johnston manage stay so damn clean all the time? Dude was a straight-up ripper that never came as anything less than April Fresh…

From my perspective, Scott would pick and choose his battles. He wasn’t the type to try something a million times. If it wasn’t working, it wasn’t working and he moved on. I think he took the same structure he used in his everyday life and applied it to his skating.

How was it touring with the Red Dragon wildchild, Mr. Moses?

WEED. ;) Truth be told though, Moses may have been a bit wild but their was real method to that madness. Moses is a really smart guy.

Your Randy Newman-inspired Horns part was amazing… but after that, you tended to slide toward the background, still skating but not so much in the spotlight. Were you just over it or was running a company proving to be too much while maintaining a professional career? Why did you decide to step back from being a pro?

I always wanted to go out knowing that my skills hadn’t begun to erode. I knew that from the moment I turned pro.. probably even before. I really appreciate that it’s possible to have a career into your thirties or forties now, but from my perspective there’s a standard you need to keep with respect to your overall skill level and progression if you’re going to do that. You can't just sit around and milk it or you do yourself and the sport a disservice. It was more than just that however. I wanted to make room for other people. The business was taking more and more of my time, I had other interests and my perspective on my future was evolving. I could still skate, in fact I can still skate relatively well now, but I’m glad I made that decision. For me, it was time.

Now the team for Mad Circle’s 5 Flavors is still a top-knotch squad to this day… Puleo, Welsh, SJ, Karl, Alv… and the video dropped and killed it. But the next thing we knew, the Circle was gone. What happened? In all honesty, with such an amazing team, excellent art direction and quality product, I always felt the Circle should’ve been a runaway success. Not that it wasn’t successful, but I always felt it should’ve been huge… yet wasn’t it functioning out of your garage towards the end? What was something looking back now that you feel should’ve been done differently? Do you feel that Giant dropped the ball on this a little? What do you think, if anything, held it back?

My relationship with my partners was eroding, and there were people in Costa Mesa working against me and Mad Circle. Being away from the day-to-day business at Giant continued to be a detriment in the context of getting attention for the brand. I was obscenely overloaded with work... and given that I chose to reinvest the vast majority of the money we made back into the company, the team and the products, I wasn’t exactly living large. As I said, we provided health insurance to our pro team riders which was unheard of at the time. The point being that my approach was to sacrifice for the company as a whole. Perhaps not the best business sense, but that’s who I was (am) as a person.

In the end, I couldn’t be an effective-enough advocate for the brand where I was. As the relationships continued to erode, they asked me to move. I couldn’t relinquish the last thing that I had yet to sacrifice for the company and that was running it as the San Francisco brand that it was... from my comfort zone in what was effectively my hometown. Having thought it all out and knowing that even if I did move, I’d still have to contend with people working against me, I decided it was time to move on and dissolved the business. Similarly to how I always wanted to end my skating career before I was irrelevant, I didn’t want to spoil the brand to history, which was already beginning to happen with people trying to pull the brand identity in different directions. I believe I told team riders they were free to take it and run with it. Everyone made mistakes, not least of all me, and I really appreciate the efforts of everyone that helped get MC off the ground and sustain it. Steve, Paul, Gorm, Andy, Jose, all the sales guys, Carissa, everyone.

It was never in a garage though. It wasn’t even in trouble. It was doing fine. I just didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and didn’t have the energy to seek a new home for it. In the end, I think it’s better that it was never bastardized.

Agreed. How would you like the company to be remembered? Is it nice to see so many former Circle riders still out there in the game, doing their thing?

I’m fine with how it’s remembered now. 99% of the time someone mentions anything to me about it, it’s positive. As far as former riders, I am always excited to see any of my friends succeed, but given the closer relationships I had with most of the team riders, it’s nice to feel like perhaps they learned something during that period that is helping them now.

Most underrated skater of the 90’s?

Randy Colvin

One thing I remember from your TWS spotlight back in '92 is the value you placed on the importance of individuality in skateboarding… which was also an idea that came up repeatedly with Mad Circle. Fast forward to today, do you feel this sense of individuality is still placed at a premium or has this outsider’s sense of self gotten a bit lost in the face of how big the sport has gotten?

Oh man. Well, I was like 21 or something so who knows what was going through my head. The sense of individuality needs to be there because it’s part of what makes skating so unique and creative. I don’t think that will ever go away. The minute you think it might be fading, there will be a backlash. In the end and inherent within it, there are no rules. Someone is always going to imagine things differently and assert their idea of how things should be. Just this morning, Jordan Richter posted a photo of the current DC vert ramp. It looks like a thirteen foot tall street course. That’s what I mean. Someone is always writing a new chapter to the story.

I think there are some things going on now that have the potential to be real negatives in the context of what really makes skating appealing. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just dramatically changing, but I don’t think so. You can box it in but skaters are always going to bust the box open because boxes are boring. It’s the people who stick with it that ultimately define what it is, and by and large those are not your average joes.

The even more interesting aspect is that there is also a major team component to it, just not in the traditional sense. When we skate together, we share feelings and ideas collectively rather than coordinate toward an explicit goal. We identify around concepts and learn to appreciate different points of view. If there was no team aspect to skating, there would never have been an EMB, the Spikes, Red Dragons, Grave Diggers or Chrome Domes. We just do it different.

Very true. We usually just slide in the word “crew” where “team” should be in order to keep our street cred. So what you currently up to these days? Glad to hear you're still skating... Aren't you residing in Brooklyn now?

Well, having spent my entire life living in Cali and having always wanted to live in NYC, I decided it was time for a change. NYC has always been a bit of a second home because all of my father's family are here; in Jersey, BK and upstate. I've been in BK for a little over six years. NYC can be a challenge in some of the most mundane ways, but there just isn't anywhere else in the world like it.

After MC, I ended up in technology and outside of a one year return back to design in 2002, I have been a software developer since. I solve problems all day long... Perhaps Ray Meyer 2.0, haha! At current, I work for a company that, among other things, streams a very large portion of the video consumed over the internet. For instance, if you watched the World Cup, or The Masters, the MTV Awards or most any major event online, the company I work for was streaming you that media.

It's likely that, at some point, I will be directly involved in skating again, but at this point I can't say how.

I hope so. Alright Justin, anything you’d like to add?

Thanks to everyone that believed in me and apologies to anyone I may have harmed along the way. I’d like to give a shout out to all the guys I grew up skating with. Without those guys, I’d have been a solo cholo. Mr. Mayflower VanLines wishes you all the very best.

Special thanks to Justin, Jon Constantino, Susie Switchblade and Vert is Dead for the links.


chops said...

Again, thanks Justin for taking the time. I had 4 of your boards homie.

Really stoked on how this one came out.

Thanks to Mr. Keith Chan.

Congrats to Quartersnacks today as well.

Unknown said...

I have a Let the Horns Blow t-shirt, and it’s a favourite. Thanks for the interview :-)

E.RICKS said...

i still have my let the horns blow vhs tape in mint condition...lol..
such a good video!!!!

powell gave medical insurance to their riders back then as well...

Anonymous said...

Great interview, seems like a really smart guy.
Never knew about his "Cali redneck" roots!

Justin said...

This was a great read. It was cool to learn more about Circle A and the scene that Justin grew up skating in.

Keith said...

great interview e. I didn't know about all the Brand X/Circle-A/Poorhouse stuff either. I did rock a Poorhouse deck! Steve Ortega! Sick board. I sent them a sponsor me tape lol

pressure flip sequence at Fort Miley is awesome!

I wore glasses skating when I was a kid so I was always stoked on the pros who did as well.

I saw Justin Girard at EMB in the summer of 1991. He was just popping his board around with different foot positions on his tail. I had no idea what was going on. Then 1281 came out later that year and I realized he was fucking with pressure flips. I remember it well because it was right when Plan B was created and the first ad was out but the 2nd one with the actual team was not. Everyone in SF knew the team already. One of the sickest summers ever.

@ Ricks. Did they start the medical insurance thing after what happened with Frankie Hill's knee? Isn't the story something about it not being covered or something like that? Memory is fuzzy on it.

Tobin said...

I love the Randy Colvin comments. The ruler that never was.
-Tobin in AZ

Anonymous said...

rad interview chromeball.

Anonymous said...

JG was rad and Mad Circle was one of the best things about the 1994-1996 era of skateboarding but I've always wondered why his face is so brown in that drawing, I mean seriously he's darker than Mike Cao in that thing and practically looks like he's black.

Royce said...

Great stuff Chops! Justin, is Zeus still around?

E.RICKS said...

@keith-as far as i know they always had insurance..
check frankies facebook page he tell the whole story as to what happen to him...

good interview chops...
justin, bring back the mad circle!!!!!

dj twit said...

Interesting dude.
Not the biggest fan of his overall skating, but love his UWT section, and Mad Circle was great, very stylish. Good work on the interview man!

chops said...

thanks for the comments, guys.

ricks, email me.

Anonymous said...

My first board, new deal justin girard pinball

ciaran said...

Had his 3 Pigs board on New Deal back in the day, I was beyond stoked on ND back then, particularly Girard's part in 1281 and UWT. Still a shame that he found himself in a situation where dissolving Mad Circle seemed like the only intelligent option.

Great interview, thanks.

Anonymous said...

great interview!

one of my favorites as he was one of the only pros from my home town of Monterey.


Anonymous said...

what an interesting read. mad props to jg.

Anonymous said...

great interview. great read. thanks jg.

Anonymous said...

Brand X > Dethbox/Bash > Flip...Loosely.

Probably wrong, but I think Jeremy Fox was behind Brand X.

Cycle2Worker said...

RE Brand X - Flip
Jeremy Fox Mac and Wurzel all worked at Brand X in the early 80's with Bob Smeltzer etc mostly screening etc but it was Bernie T's company.(Read Disposible for full story) They came back to england and Set up Death Box in fox's mums garage it all went well (Understatement)
Sean Goff rode for Brand X as a pro (3 models) then jumped ship to Death Box just as or Because Brand X got stolen from bernie by Vision/Dorfman.Jeremy Fox/Death Box funded a side project called Bash with Ian Deacon. Skateboarding died again and there was a flood at the Death Box warehouse. Death Box/ bash regrouped as FLIP with DEACON and FOX in charge. it still had a mainly vert based Euro team at this time Alex Moul was the main street skater. Flip did OK but needed to go to the USA to make it big so part funded by Per Welinder/Hawk (Birdhouse Project) they brought as many of the team as they could some pros stayed in europe some went and didbn't stay (Andy Scott) and some AMs turned pro when thwy got to the USA most notibly Geoff Rowley.

But the reason I read this article is I have a Bustin Justin Girard Alva sticker and he never mentions being on ALVA anybody know that story ?

Anonymous said...

What happened to Frankie Hill then?

nope said...

@ cycle2worker

you are thinking of Justin Lynch, on Alva.
I don't think Girard was ever on ALva

zeb beall said...

That was dope, I met Justin and Ed Templeton at Andrew Morrison's house while they were on a New Zealand New Deal Tour, My friend and i knew Morrison lived next to our school so we went round there at midnight on a friday pretending we needed a wheel nut or something and Justin and Ed came to the door and gave us a bunch of stickers,signed our boards and were just generally cool guys, they skated a sick demo the next day too...Pretty sure they were the first 'street pros' i had ever seen..

Marcin said...

Thank you for these Interviews mr.Chops, they keep me,a skater nearing 40 years of age , happy and involved in Skateboarding.
Being from Europe, me and my friends loved seeing Thrasher and Slap skate magazines every now and then in the later 90'ies, and I remember that MAD CIRCLE was so legit and seemed to embody a true spirit of skating with your homies.Great Art, cool Ads, sick Skaters-just goes to show how tough it is to make it on your own as a true skater-owned brand.
Respect to Justin and the MAD CIRCLE crew!

Anonymous said...

I remember the Salas days, they were wild. Raging at tinkers house and skating his quarter pipe next to the garage. Salas and Prunetucky!