chrome ball interview #27: eric ricks

chrome ball sits down with e.ricks for conversation.  

So first things first: you were master of these for so long, please tell me you still got those 360 late-shuvs on lock. I don’t really care about what tricks are “in” or not, those things will always look cool to me.

I can still bring it... not on a First-Try Friday but gimme a 10-Try Tuesday (laughs).

(laughs) Sounds good. Well, you know how these things go... how were you first introduced to skateboarding and what was your first board?

It seemed like I always had a skateboard around the house but it wasn't until the summer of 5th grade that I really got into it. I went to stay out in Seattle with my family there and my cousin had a friend with a Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp. I’d never seen a board with concave like that before and when I actually jumped on that thing, I couldn't believe what was happening… it just felt so right and good. I had cheap swap meet boards before but this was just mind-blowing.

When I moved back to Hawthorne, I knew that I had to get a board for myself. My first set-up was a Hosoi Hammerhead with Venture Trucks and Vision Blurs.

Talk a little about Hawthorne. I've always heard that's a pretty sketchy area of LA… what was it like coming up there as a skateboarder? Is there a particular gnarly experience from back in the day that sticks out in your mind… like maybe getting caught skating somewhere you probably shouldn’t have been?

Hawthorne is still pretty sketchy. Friends getting shot and killed in front of you isn't fun. Hearing about friends getting gunned down is pretty lame as well… drive-bys next to my house: not too fun either.

I remember one time we were skating this car dealership on Hawthorne Blvd at 2 in the morning when we set off a silent alarm. All of a sudden, cops came out of nowhere with guns drawn and lights in our faces! I don't know about you but I don't like the feel of cold metal on the side of my head with some trigger happy cop screaming, "I'm going to blow your head off if you make one move!”

Damn. Weren’t Daewon and Daniel Castillo from around that area, too? Did you guys skate together much back in the day?

Daniel lived in Culver City and Daewon lived in Gardena, which is about 10-minute skate from where I lived. And yeah, I skated with those guys a lot back in the day. We’d enter C.A.S.L contests against each other.

Dude, Daniel even stayed at my house one time and I seriously had to save his life. Sorry Daniel but I have to tell this story (laughs). One night he and Anthony Oglesby were staying at my house the night before one of those C.A.S.L. contests. They ended up getting into some heated argument that turned into Anthony charging into my closet and taking out a wire hanger to make into this crazy wire weapon! He bent the wire up and put wheels through it and started swinging it around like a mad man! He was trying to take Daniels head off! I was able to defuse the whole thing before anything bad happened but it got intense for a few minutes (laughs).

That’s hilarious. So talk a little about your sponsor situation early on. I know you were on Liberty for a second... but you weren’t. How’d that all go down?

Powell was actually my first sponsor. I was on for about 8 months and all I received was 2 boards to ride. I just couldn't seem to get anything sent out to me. Shiloh Greathouse knew I wasn't getting boards and tried to get me on World but ended up talking to Todd Congelliere. They came to my house with the fattest package I’ve ever received: 8 boards, 3 sets of Ventures, 10 sets of wheels, bags of stickers, 10 t-shirts, packages of World grip and just a bunch of gear. You could imagine how I felt… struggling with 2 boards in 8 months to looking at this. Since Liberty was in the same distribution company as World and I wasn't sure if I was really on Powell, I was like,“Hells yeah!” (laughs)

I was there for about 2 weeks… even filmed a full length video part for them. Conge kept my footy and some of that was released in the Liberty Horror video.

But yeah, Mark Oblow was Vision TM at the time and he somehow found out that I was riding for Liberty when he actually wanted me to ride for Vision. He called up my team manager at Powell which led to the Powell team manager calling up Conge and basically telling him that Liberty wasn’t going to steal his rider. That really scared Todd so we decided that I should stay on Powell.

Did you ever get the chance to really hang out much with Todd or Mike Smith?

Yeah, I used to hang out with Conge and skate some street or go back and mess around on his ramps. I never really hung out with Mike all that much though… other than jumping on his trampoline every once in a while.

Those dudes were crazy in a fun way, though. They used to terrorize the World employees so bad that Rocco had to basically ban them to one side of the building to do sales and act a clown. (laughs)

So how did you hook up with Powell originally?

I was skating at Pioneer School with Daewon and a few of our friends when Tony Hawk rolled up and started skating with us. Of course, we were like, “Holy shit! It’s Tony Hawk!” (laughs)

We were just sessioning when Tony asked if I could do some tricks. I did about 5 tricks and he asked me if I would consider leaving Blind to ride for Powell. I was like, “Quit Blind?” He thought I rode for them because I was riding a blank with Blind stickers on it and wearing a Blind shirt with Ghetto Wear pants. I guess I looked like I rode for them… what do you expect, I'm from the South Bay.

Had Stacy already left when you got on?

I got to meet him once before he left. I shook his hand and he said to me so “You're the kid Tony keeps bragging about.” I just kinda stared at him in disbelief.

Did you ever get one of those Powell manuals they had detailing how you were supposed to behave?

I did receive my Powell manual but only by request. I heard about them and I wanted one...

I gotta get some scans of that. So when you got picked up for the squad, did you have any idea the company was about to go through such a metamorphosis?

I had no idea! Never in my mind would I have thought that was going to happen. When I was getting on, everyone was leaving. It was crazy to see all my favorite pros and friends go off to other companies.

Now Celebraty Tropical Fish was your real coming out party and you totally killed it. How long did you film for that one?

I think I filmed for 3 days. Again, I was kinda on the team but they didn't know if they wanted me in the video. (laughs)

You had one of the best parts! Did Stacy have anything to do with that video?

I don't think so. I filmed with Steve Sherman, the photographer. He told me "I've never really filmed anyone for a video." I just laughed and said "It's ok, I'm not really used to having anybody film me so it all works out!"

That video was kind of an odd one because while the skating in it is top-notch (McNatt’s, Brennan’s and your parts are all still amazing), it was just a completely different vibe with cheaper production value and the strange “Tony and crew” part at the end. Were you happy with your part and the video as a whole?

I didn't know what to expect from the video. It was kinda raw. I do remember when I played it for the first time and there was no music, I ejected the tape and blew in the vcr before I realized that they intended to make it like that (laughs). But I was just happy to have a part in an actual Powell video.

Do you think that video got its fair due at the time or do you think the Powell backlash had already started setting in?

I don't know if it got its fair due because of all the animosity between Powell and World kinda overshadowed the skating. I was just super stoked to be on Powell skateboards. I felt like I was living the dream so it was almost like I didn't really understand or even care that Powell was being labeled “uncool” by some… it almost made me want to represent for them even more. I guess I was too far in the forest to smell the trees.

One of the 90’s most pressing questions: who the hell is Jimmy and why was that backside kickflip “for him”? Didn’t Leigh Petersen quote that in the first 101 video?

(laughs) Jimmy was just some random dude that was at the spot I was filming at. It was the end of the day and we were driving home when Sherman asked if I wanted to hit that spot up. I had gotten the first few tricks pretty easy but this backside flip just wasn't coming around for me. I looked over at this dude who was there and I started rambling about how I was getting tired when he looks up at me and says, "Do it for Jimmy".

"Ok, next try will be for Jimmy… wait, who’s Jimmy?”

He starts waving his hands around as if he were taking out all his energy and says, "I'm Jimmy and I'm giving you my energy to allow you to accomplish your trick!” (laughs)

That’s amazing!

Yeah, and I knew Leigh a little bit so it didn't bother me. It was all in good fun. I was just hyped that people actually saw my part, let alone pull quotes from it.

So what made you stick with Powell for so long?

Loyalty. George and Julie are super good people and they treated me right. I was happy riding for them.

It must’ve been frustrating for the riders to automatically have everything discounted in a sense because of being on Powell. Like your Hot Batch part was one of the best parts of that year… even with the first nose blunt slide down a handrail. Do you think you would’ve fared a bit better had that part been on a different company’s video… and maybe a little less of that gruesome slow-mo (laughs)?

It seemed like I got it a little more because I lived about 10 minutes from World Industries so I was constantly hearing things like, “When are you going to come ride for World?” or, “Powell is still around? I thought they went out of business.” (laughs)

But Powell did do a good job of getting me coverage and providing me with everything I needed to skate. The funny thing about the noseblunt slide is that I had already done it on that rail on 3 separate occasions before. When I finally filmed it for Hot Batch, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. There was a lot of heads there, all filming at the same time for some last minute clips and nobody seemed all that impressed.

I don't know if it were to fare any better being in one of the World companies’ videos. Those companies had the best talent. I think it would’ve just been another rad trick in a video with 50 rad tricks from everyone on the team.....maybe that's why it stood out because it came from a Powell rider and not some other company.

So what made you finally leave Powell?

I was at the Powell warehouse for an am contest because my Powell team manager wanted me to come hang out… my new board had just been released. I was in the Powell skateshop changing out my old Race wheels to some new Bones wheels when this team manager came storming in. Apparently he had just been lectured on how he wasn't doing his job so he just decides to unload on me… just screaming all this crazy stuff.

"Change your fucking wheels to some Powell wheels! You’re the biggest ass for riding Race wheels in the first place!”

Keep in mind that this is in the skateshop and there were probably around twenty people in there for the contest with him screaming at me. I remember just smiling and motioning down to my board that I actually was putting Powell wheels on.

"Get out now!"

I walk out the shop not really understanding what just happened. 10 minutes later, he walks up and gets in my face saying, "I've been dissed by bigger people than you, you’re off the team!"

It was lame. He had a bad day and took it out on me. The crazy thing about that was, at that time, Powell was trying to get their new wheel formula right so they didn't really have wheels until that day when they got them in.

I know you were gonna have a part in Chaos

Yeah, it was all ready to go… edited and in the video. That's what a shock it was to be kicked off. I filmed a ton for that video for nothing.

I put that part up on my YouTube site if anyone wants to see it...

Let's talk a little about the infamous World Park. I know you lived pretty close by and skated there fairly often, what was the wildest shit you ever remember going down there?

I was never really part of the shanigans that went on over there. I just remember being there one day and it being just so nice in the offices and at the skate park and then coming back 2 days later and it was like it had been looted. It was crazy! Graffiti in the hallways, broken windows, holes in the walls, doors ripped off the hinges, computers ripped out of the wall… It was just crazy.

That is crazy. Well, was that place as fun to skate as it looked? Which place did you enjoy more: the World Park or the Powell Skate Zone?

For me, the Powell Skate Zone was the best, hands down. That was more my park because I skated for the team and people knew me there. I was allowed the perks that others weren't. Yeah, I lived only 10 minutes away from the World Park but it was their riders’ park, not mine. I was just lucky to get to skate the place.

So why you didn’t migrate to a Rocco company?

Things just never came together for me and any of those companies. I lived so close and was friends with most of their riders so it seemed logical but I'm a loyal person. I never wanted to quit a company to ride for another. There were several chances but never an opportunity when I was a free agent to get on one of those teams.

Like I said earlier, the first time I tried to get on, I ended up on Liberty. The next time came when I was still on Powell and Rodney took me out to lunch where we discussed my future in skateboarding. He basically told me that Powell was lame and if I turned pro for them, no one would want to put me on their team later because I would have burned my name out on a lame company that wasn't going to be around for much longer.

This obviously freaked me out but actually made me go the other way and not leave for World and instead want some security. I called Powell up and we had a meeting... I started getting paid, son! (laughs)

I know you've alluded to the fact that Prime was a very real option for you at one point while you were still on Think, right?

Yeah, there were these rumors swirling about me riding for a World company. It was more of a Big Brother magazine thing… I think they were just messing with Keith and Greg by starting rumors that I might ride for them. I was always around there so naturally I was on their minds.

Prime had just started up and Mark Oblow, former Think team manager, was part-owner. Mike Santarossa had also quit Think to ride for them. But the guys at Think treated me good and I liked being there so there was no reason for me to leave.

But these rumors just continued to persist. It seemed like a year went by and no matter what I said, they wouldn’t go away. Think didn't want to get burned again by another rider leaving so tensions began to mount and communication started to breakdown. I think we both didn't know what do about it so they just kicked me off.

Naturally after that, I hit up Oblow because I wanted to ride for Prime but apparently some of the other riders didn't like the fact that I didn't leave earlier to help start the company. They felt like Prime was now just a last choice option for me and took offense.

…That's the story I got anyway. (laughs)

And after all that, you end up on Acme. Be honest, do you think that riding for them ended up your hurting your career in the long run as you no longer had a board out with your name on it?

I have heard people in the industry say that but I never thought so. Acme had its own fanbase and they were a big-time player in this game at one time. They were known throughout the industry. Jim Gray and his crew knew how to get things done. They weren't small-time beginners.

Now I don’t remember really seeing you around much after Acme went out of business. That was a weird time in skateboarding in the late 90’s/early 00’s. What was going on with you?

It was and still is a weird time in the industry for me. They tried to put me out to the pasture but I wandered back (laughs)

Let's see, after Acme went out of business, I hit up all my so-called friends in the industry to try and get hooked up on a team but it turned out that I didn't have that many friends after all. I guess at that time there were probably around 10 or 15 smaller companies that also went out of business which meant there were now 30 dudes out there trying to get hooked up as opposed to just 2 or 3 of us. It turned out that they all had better friends and hook-ups than me because they all seemed to go on to other teams and I’ve struggled just to get someone to flow me a board to ride for about 10 years now. I’ve been on flow through a few teams here and there… just some friends doing what they could to keep me rolling. I still have to buy my trucks and wheels and stuff though. You know how that goes. But regardless, I'd like to send a big thank you to all those that have supported me over the years.

Yeah, I probably should’ve quit a long time ago but why give anyone the satisfaction of seeing that (laughs). I will leave when I'm not having fun doing the actual skateboard thing. The b.s. behind the scenes… yeah, its lame but if you can just skate sometimes, it makes things better.

What can I say? I'm a lifer. It's not about the money. For me, it's all about the love and having fun.

So I know you’re back in Washington these days and I saw that Legion Skateboards recently put out a pro model of yours which is really cool to see... you're just primarily having fun with your skating these days?

Yeah, I'm up here in Washington. I'm still rolling around and trying to have some fun while I still can. I film as often as possible and put it up on my YouTube channel just to show the people that I'm still out there.

Legion Skateboards did just release a pro model board for me which is nice to look at and rides good. I do find myself wondering if I deserve to have a pro model these days when I'm too old to compete with the new generation but not old enough to be in the masters division… but I see a lot people with guest boards and legends teams so I figure why not? I can still skate and not look like an idiot doing it.

Keep doing your thing, Eric. So I gotta ask… in your opinion, who was the most underrated skater of the 1990s? Many people would probably throw your name into the mix on this one, myself included.

Todd Congelliere, Danny Sergeant, Mako Urabe, George Watanabe and his brother Wes, Dan Peterka… and I won't argue about your choice as well (laughs).

Any advice for the young bucks out there trying to make it happen?

Respect your elders, skate for fun, stay in school and save your money! Oh yeah, and it wouldn't hurt if you had a filmer and a cameraman basically living with you.

Alright Ricks, that’s all I got. Thanks for doing this and always supporting CBI. Anything you’d like to add?

I need to thank a few people for helping me get here. First, my wife for putting up with me for the last 20 years. My 4-year-old and 7-year-old sons for making me feel old and realizing it’s time to grow up. And I’d like to thank my parents for the support.

I’d also like to thank Tony Hawk for getting my foot in the door, George Powell for turning me pro, Keith Cochrane, Greg Carroll and Fish for everything you guys did for me while on Think, Jim Gray for making it easy for me to just skate and have fun, Oblow for putting his 2 cents in when needed, Willy Santos and Bobby Hundreds for showing an old man a little love, my man Melloe for helping to keep me in the mix, Darrell, Nate Sherwood for helping me get my foot in the door a second time and Bart over at Legion skateboards for giving an old man a second life.

Special thanks to all the magazines and photographers for the love back in the day and Mike Colacino for shooting photos and filming over the last 10 years without any pay but just for the love and fun.

And thanks to CBI.

Thanks again to Ricks for everything. And Jimmy, that was for you.


jaydawg said...

Eric Ricks was always a fave! I have to say that this was a cool read and good to see that he is still doing it for the love. U gotta buy your own trucks and flying under the radar as much as he has, I got a lot of respect and love for that. For those of us that had to "grow up" and move away from sk8ing for a while, you will always come back just for the "love." The article got me hyped to sk8 in the morning! Thank you!

Matt said...

Great interview. It's rare to hear the Powell v. World saga from a Powell rider POV (Vallely doesn't count)

Skately said...

Thanks for another great interview Chops! I grew up in Downey which is just a few cities over from Hawthorne and Eric was a local legend. Rad to hear all those old Powell stories and super stoked to hear he's still skating for the fun of it.

Also stoked he mentioned Dan Peterka as one of his most underrated skaters. I used to see Dan a lot when he was a pro snowboarder for The Movement. I got flowed boards from another Movement rider Travis Wood and always looked up to Dan because he brought his smooth skate style to the hill.

Hugo Mandolin said...

Dude! I always loved Ricks! I always thought he'd go a lot farther than he did. In 93 he was KIng Shit of Fuck Mountain and then nothing. I always was a fan of this guy's and Karma's as well. It's like you have some sort of spy camera into my brain. I talk about some one and they end up on here. Thanks for making my 30's easier.

Giles said...

This was awesome! Brief nerd question: I thought Fabrey had the first noseblunt on a hand rail. Did this preceed Questionable?

Anonymous said...

This dewd was before my time but those photos and that Fish part are really really good.

i wish i said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
i wish i said...

Yeah Eric! Miss those C.A.S.L days skating with you, daewon and daniel. Keep ripping homie! Nice work Chops!

Keith said...

Bs flip photo down the double set is great and the ollie over the gonz gap sequence is nice as well.

I'll admit, I wasn't expecting this interview to be as good as it turned out! Great job Eric x 2.

I agree with Matt... you don't often get this perspective on Rocco vs Powell.

justin said...

This is another great interview. It's interesting to get the perspective on what was going on at the time compared to what you imagined it to be like from the mags and videos.

E.Ricks said...

jaydawg-thanks man and yes even today i still have to pay for trucks,wheels,bearrings,shoes,grip, no one flows me these things...i do it for the love and fun..same reason why i started..


skately-hahaha,downy is pretty close..lol..yeah man dan is awesome..he was way ahead of the game back then..super cool guy..

hugo-hahaha, thanks

giles-transworld gave me the credit for the noseblunt slide..
i think because ctf came out before the planb video..
just for the record i noseblunted a rail maybe a year and half before the photos and video...lol...

june- how have you been man...those were the daze...lol..

keith-thanks i owe the credit to chops..he had to do all the work all i had to do was answer the questions...lol..
i didnt know people wanted to hear about the world stuff..rocco was awesome he treeted me like i was on the team..dinners,catalina trips on his boat, riding his bikes up and down the beach...

justin-all that glitter aint gold...lol..

thank you to chops for going through all the trouble for people like me to have a nice read in the morning...good stuff chops..again thank you!!!!


stephen said...

man, that hydrant ollie photo is awesome. timeless.

Giles said...

Thanks for responding to all of us Eric!

Stephen is right, that hydrant photo is pretty great.

Melloe Won said...

I love this guy he saved my life, letting me eat hot pockets and drink pepsi at his crib when we were younger. This was a great piece and I'm glad that he is getting some love.

Dallas said...

So underrated! And legendary. that 360° late-shove over the bank-to-fence in Hot Batch would be an ender even today!

E.Ricks said...

WOW!!! That was quick...stephen-thanks..giles-ive got nothing better to do..thanks...lol.. melloe-those were the daze man!!!dallas-thanks man i appreciate it....cbi thanks again it was a blast!!!

Royce said...

Great one Chops! Eric is a fav.

Anonymous said...

Only 2 days this was up before they move on? Wheres the respect?

Every other pro that got an interview got at least the whole week...

I guess when Eric gets some real sponsors he will be able to get the whole week instead of just the weekend or is that how it works? The better the sponsors the longer it stays up...Skateboard politics for you!

Good interview none the less!

Always wondered why after Think gave him the boot he was never in Thrasher magazine again?

More skateboard politics i guess!

chops said...

To the maker of the last comment that is obviously looking for something to bitch about, chill out.

I don't always take the week off after an interview and whether I do or not has nothing to do with who the subject of the interview is with. It's more of a timing issue for whenever the interview is actually completed and how tired I am. I've posted many interviews on Friday and come back on Monday.

I am choosing to answer this query not for your benefit but for Mr Ricks'... as I wouldn't want him to incorrectly read as far into something like this as obviously you have.

H.M.C said...

great interview! it kinda ruined it for me though that he now rides for that shitty facebook co legion shit boards.

GUY H said...

great interview !!! always liked eric's skating growing up, tech skating with a great style. He was always the nicest guy when we ran into him street skating too, Eric keep rolling and doing your thing, you changed skateboarding for the better by being yourself. Good work - great interview, it made my day =)

Unknown said...

First time I heard Cypress Hill was in Eric's part in hot batch. I became a die hard fan of both of them after that. The skating and the song complimented each other perfectly.