chrome ball interview #66: jovontae turner

chops sits down with jovontae for conversation.

Alright Tae, let’s start off by going into this newest venture of yours, Jovontae Turner and Co. What can we expect to see?

Basically it’s all about my style and my perception of skateboarding. The stuff I grew up on and taking that into the future. It’s going real good so far. Just trying to stay consistent and keep it out there.

It’s gonna be completely different than anything you’ve ever seen before. My mind is constantly changing on some different shit. I’m always learning and I think that’s gonna show in the brand.

I know you’ve tried clothing before with Jovontae Jeans, is being a clothing designer something that you’ve always aspired to be?

Yeah, I’ve always said that after I quit skateboarding professionally, I wanted to try out designing clothing. My Mom was a model so I’ve been into fashion from a young age.

It’s good to see you back in the mix again. What have you been up to in recent years? I know you seemed pretty heavy into bikes there for a minute.

Basically I just took a long vacation away from the whole skateboarding world. I guess you could say the streets took me under for a little while. I was out there selling dope in San Francisco and it basically got to the point to where I was either going to end up in jail or dead. Luckily I was able to move down to LA and get myself together.

But basically, I lost my Driver’s License about 10 years ago or so because of that whole mix and that’s when I really started getting heavily into riding fixies.  That became a big thing for me while also helping to get me away from all that other shit.

 Are you still going through cars every other week like you were?

Oh hell yeah! That’s my other love. Clothing, skateboarding, bicycles and cars. I love cars. Anything with wheels on it, I’m feeling it.

What’s your favorite car you ever had?

Whew! Probably the GMC Typhoon… or I had this 240Z with a V8 engine. Both of those were a lot of fun. And the M5. The BMW E39 M5 was sick, too.

I just can’t pick one, man.

How many cars have you had by now?

Probably around 120 or so… something like that.

Every time I got a check, it was time to go out and buy another car. I’d get paid and it was on. Buying, selling and trading that shit… trying to hook it up.
I think I’ve owned or driven just about every damn car in the book by now.

So going back a little bit, let’s talk about your growing up in SF as a young skateboarder. How was it coming up in such a heavy scene surrounded by all of these legendary dudes? I know Tommy G and Jim really seemed to look out for you.

Yeah, Tommy and Jim definitely took me under their wings. They’re almost like my uncles or something. Those guys were such a big influence on me.

One thing that I always think about is how super-critical they were and how that got passed on to me. You have to be critical about how things are done. It can’t be no bullshit, you gotta make it clean. If you landed that trick sketchy, you gotta do it again.  They are the ones that got me into that mode of thinking and I tried to maintain that through my entire skateboarding career.

Tommy was always the shit to me. Talk about style! He was just the freshest, most flavorful dude. Always coming out with the latest shit.

But Jim Thiebaud was such an inspiration for me in skateboarding. I don’t know how many people realize who brought me up in skateboarding… that was Jim. He was such a good friend to me and he didn’t even have to show me love like he did. Jim’s the man.

Definitely. I have to imagine those dudes playing a role in getting you on Powell back in the day, right?

Actually I got on through Tommy and Steve Caballero. I was always down in San Jose with Salman and he was friends with Cab so we’d all skate together. That’s how Stacy saw us. I just remember him being like, “Ok, let’s do this! Let’s film a part!”

That shared part with Salman was actually your first bit of shine in Ban This… where they spelled both your names wrong. How long did you guys film for that? A couple hours?

Yeah, that was one day of filming in San Jose. Right when I first started landing 360 kickflips. I can’t even remember who filmed it all but it wasn’t Stacy. I just remember not knowing how long they were gonna be there to film so I was trying to make everything as fast as I possibly could. I knew we had one day but I didn’t know if we had all day so I was trying to make everything first-try.

But yeah, Salman was my best friend for a long time and we were always skating together so it was cool sharing a part.

Even though they misspelled both of your names?

(laughs) Ban This has to be the sketchiest video of all-time! How they went about filming that thing and putting it together was so unprofessional. I mean they spelled BOTH of our names wrong! How do you do that? They liked us so much, they spelled our names wrong. They were that into us.

So how did Blind enter the picture? What was your process like with getting on the team?

That was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  Those dudes were my favorite skaters growing up.

Basically it was from Jason Lee coming up to San Francisco with Jim to skate and it worked out to where I got to skate with them, too. That eventually led to Jason sending me boards. This was before I got on Powell. 

A little while later, after Ban This, I get this crazy random call from those dudes. It was like 10 o’clock at night. I was actually getting ready to go to bed because I had school the next day when my Mom tells me I have a phone call. I pick up the phone and it’s Mark and Jason on the phone, a 3-way call.

“Hey Jovontae, we’re starting this new company called Blind and we want you to skate for us.”

I couldn’t even talk! Holy shit! It seriously took me like 10 minutes to say anything. I remember Mark even started saying, “Hello? Hello?”

I was so blown away. I don’t think I slept for the next 3 days. To have both of my favorite skaters pick me for the team? Shit. Stuff like that doesn’t happen… I’ve got goosebumps right now just from telling you the story.

But yeah, it was going to be me, Randy Colvin and George Daher. I was into it. They flew me down to skate with them the next weekend and we skated all day and all night. It was the best time of my life.

Then I ended up quitting like an idiot…

We’ll get to that. But that must’ve been weird to be thrown into the mix with your two heroes, right? I know they used to bicker at each other a lot.

Yeah, they used to fight a lot actually but it was such a dream come true for me. It was just crazy being around those guys.

Did the dynamic change for you once Rudy and Guy got on? Did that put a sense of competition in the air?

Actually once Guy and Rudy got on, the whole situation got much more comfortable for me. Before that, I was so excited to skate with Mark and Jason that I couldn’t get on my program. I’d be so excited that skating actually became a lot harder for me.

I know they were filming for Video Days already. Were you ever supposed to be in that project?

I actually have a whole part! I filmed a whole Blind Video Days part before I quit and went to Planet Earth. But yeah, they had a whole part from me. Spike said he still has the footage somewhere. Just floating around. I’ll have to ask him about that.

I didn’t have a song picked out yet or anything like that but I filmed like crazy for that thing. I quit right around the time they started to edit.

So why did you quit Blind?

A lot of it had to do with Mark being Mark but at the same time, I was just so young. I didn’t fully understand Mark and his thought process back then. There are certain things Mark used to do just to push my buttons. He’d do it with everybody, just to get a response, and if you didn’t respond, he would go into crabby mode. I couldn’t deal with it. I was used to skating with Mike Carroll and those guys back in San Francisco. I didn’t have to deal that crazy-type shit. That’s a big reason of why I went to Planet Earth.

It’s weird because I was into Blind, but in a way, I wasn’t. It was a little hard because they were all from LA and I was up in San Francisco. I couldn’t get down there as much to really feel comfortable around those guys.

There just always seemed like there was some bickering shit going on. Jason and Mark being mad at each other. Those dudes arguing while Guy, Rudy and I are all sitting there, wondering what the fuck to do.

I remember Guy being like, “I just want to go home!” (laughs)

What would Mark do to press your buttons?

He’d drive on the freeway and do so much extra shit. I thought he was gonna end up killing us! Showing off for us but I wasn’t having it. I was already driving cars so I didn’t really care and plus, I wasn’t about ready to die with this dude. I know he’s Mark Gonzales and everything but my Mom will be pissed if this motherfucker kills me.

Honestly, he used to drive me crazy back then. I just didn’t get what he was about. I actually used to make fun of him back in the day for not being able to read or write… calling him a stupid motherfucker when he got on my nerves. Just as a way to cap back on him.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love that guy. So much of my problems with him just came from me being young. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to understand more of where he was coming from, but I was only 16-years-old at the time. I didn’t know if he was trying to kill us or what. Honestly, I just wanted to go home at times, too.

It’s like if you’re in a room with people and there’s some roaches crawling up the wall but nobody is trying to pay any attention to them. But you’re the only one freaking out, like, “What the fuck!?! Why is everybody ignoring the fact that there’s roaches on the fucking wall!?!”

That’s how I felt when I was down there. Guy and Rudy would be trying to ignore the shit and I’d be the only one tripping. So I got fed up with it after a while and left. You can keep those roaches, I’m outta here.

(laughs) So you went to Planet Earth mostly due to Carroll’s H-Street affiliation?

I was already spending a lot of time in San Diego with those dudes anyway, skating with Brian Lotti a lot. Chris Miller was always one of my favorite vert dudes, too. When they offered to give me a board on the spot and some money, too… fuck it, let’s do it.

One of my all-time favorite parts, your Now N Later part remains a classic. Is it true all that was filmed in a weekend?

Basically. Most of that was a Saturday and a Sunday morning, out filming with Mike Ternasky. He was a big part of that one. That dude really used to bring the best out of people. I remember he’d just sit there with you until you did something. Teasing you the whole time, telling you shit like what Matt Hensley did that weekend to get you pumped up. Ternasky and I got along real good. He used to call me “Mellon”, short for “Mellonhead”.

Who’s idea was it to include those Chris Rock/I’m Gonna Git You Sucka clips? So good.  And of course, “The girls”.

That was me. That was my shit. I loved that movie.

But that “Girls” shit was from Mike Ternasky. He made that up when he was editing the video. I was always into girls, definitely, but when I saw it, I didn’t know what the hell that was. He just packaged that shit together from me saying that.

But whatever, that shit’s classic. It was cool… though I would’ve definitely put different girls in there.

The stuff of legend: 2 shoes ads in one magazine. A full-page VSW ad and then your name mentioned in the Vans team ad… did you get any flack from either company? Anybody ever call you out on that?

Nobody ever called me out on that… but I got more shoes, though! (laughs)

Basically, back in the day, it was like a competition of who could get the most shit. I used to go to Mikey’s house and he’d tell me about having four boxes of shit he hadn’t even opened yet. But at my house, I had the real shit. All the shit from everybody: World shit, Powell shit, Blind shit, H-Street shit from Mikey, Planet Earth shit… everything. I was crazy with it. We were just fiending for free shit!

But no, no one ever called me about the double shoe ads. Honestly, I didn’t even know where I was with those different companies, whether I was on flow or on the team or what. So basically, I was just trying on shoes. (laughs)

You even had a few Now N Later clips where you’re wearing Airwalks and Vans at the same time…

Exactly! (laughs)

Honestly, I don’t know what I was doing back then. I think one of those I looked at as my ollie shoe. I felt like I couldn’t pop my board in one brand so I figured I’d try putting on the other. I’ll wear Enigmas on the front so I can still slide my one foots off the leather and pop my board with the Vans.

That was before I learned that you could actually wear nice shoes and skate. I remember figuring out that I could wear Wallabees and skate… I couldn’t believe it!

So what led you back around to World at this point? I know Plan B had just started… did you get along well with Rocco or was World just the place to be?

I was skating for Planet Earth but I still loved the World wood. I was a big fan of Jeremy Klein and everytime I’d see photos of him, I’d want a flat tail so bad. But H-Street boards were really big and had these super kicktails.

Rocco kept hitting me up to fuck with them… alright, I’m going back to World.  

Talk about Love Child. Being at home in SF with Stevie on the soundtrack, I always felt like this one was more true to your style, Did you explicitly filming for that video or were you just filming?

Basically, we’d just be out there filming. Aaron Meza would always film us and we’d just collect footage that way. Then, whenever I knew there was a video coming up, I’d just go out and try to skate as much as I could to get even more footage.

But honestly, I didn’t really film all that much for Love Child. That was mostly Socrates filming me down in LA. Meza and Rosenberg filmed some stuff Embarcadero but that was it.

Which part do you like better of yours: Now N Later or Love Child?

I like Love Child the best even though I honestly wasn’t even skating all that much back then. But when I skated, I had fun.

Like that manual pad footy I had at Embarcadero, I hadn’t skated in two weeks when I got that stuff. We had to film that day so I just said fuck it. I remember being bummed because I had a new pair of Shelltoes on and I couldn’t even feel my board but it worked out.

Were you a big fan of filming? It seems that even your longer parts were still put together in a matter of days…

Basically, when the whole filming thing was really going down, all of my friends and I were getting into not filming as much. We just wanted to go skating. There were people we knew who wouldn’t go skating unless they were filming and ours was a reaction against that. Fuck that. So it got to the point to when a camera got pulled out, it actually started to fuck us up. We’d want them to stop filming actually. You’re fucking my flow up.

I wasn’t uncomfortable skating in front of a camera, though. I always liked going back to watch my tricks after landing something.

How seriously did you take your career at this point? Granted, professional skateboarders were hardly making any money back then. I ask because you definitely seemed to head more underground after Love Child. You mentioned that you weren’t really skating all that much… were you just over it?

Throughout my whole skate career, I never had the mentality where I was only into skateboarding. I always had other things going on: bicycles, cars, girls. I always had my hands in something. I always loved skateboarding but I was always working on a car or something in addition to skating. I’d be doing that and lose track of time, all of a sudden it was starting to get dark and I’d just say fuck it. That would turn into a week.

Did you ever get pressure to produce more from your sponsors? I will admit that it was frustrating as a fan with you always ending up in the shared montages like that.

I used to get some pressure when I was on Girl. They were on me hardcore. Not to where it became a thing, they were my friends and we grew up together, but they’d keep after me. “Tae, we need a part.”

“Alright, let’s do it.”

But how I am, if nobody came to pick me up and take me out, it wasn’t going to happen that day. A day turns into a week and so on.  

At least you were able to make it for that Brothas From Different Mothas skit. So classic! Talk a little about that.

That was all Spike Jonze, man. He had everything set up already and just told us to go in there and do our own thing… and that’s what we did. Keenan, Shamil, Jeron and me. Super fun.

Spike is just so sick. It all got done so easily. Everything was one take and that was it. Bam, bam, bam and we were done. It was nothing. Maybe like two hours of filming and that was it. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. So cool. 

Switching up speeds a bit, let’s get into the graphics, specifically the more-political World stuff. From Black Radical to Jovontae at Night, both legendary and controversial. Where did those ideas come from?

Those were all me. Mark McKee would ask me what I wanted for a graphic and that’s the stuff that I’d tell him. Give me an all-black board with just teeth and eyes, playing off that old joke that people used to say about not being able to see black people at night.  Making fun of that with a graphic.

Same thing with the Napping Negro. I wanted to be in a cotton field taking a nap, just chilling. I was trying to make fun of the whole racism thing. It was just jokes… just like Django Unchained with the Ku Klux Klan. I was making fun of it. It wasn’t to be taken seriously. That was my whole approach back then: making fun of ignorant shit.

Because everything was so shocking with Rocco and his graphics, do you think you fully-realized just how gnarly your graphics could’ve been perceived? I got complains here years later after I posted an ad on CBI…

Yeah, I realized it but I honestly don’t think it was that gnarly. It was gnarly but it wasn’t more gnarly than the fact that people had to actually go through that shit in real life. I’ve got some photos for you that are gnarly. Some real shit that if I would’ve used for graphics, you would’ve thought I’d get lynched or something. Those boards are just cartoons. They’re light compared to the real shit.

If people take offense to it, they’re just bored. They need to go find something to do.

Well said. But I know McKee has kinda backed away from that stuff in recent years…

Fully. I think he caught a lot more flack than I did about that stuff just from being the artist. But he was just going after what I wanted. I had other boards, though. Like the little kid holding the sign that said “We will never forget.”

But I want to say that the Lench Mob board that came out, that was all McKee and Rocco. That one wasn’t me. I was kinda over it by that time but they wanted to bring that one out.

One story I’ve always heard about but have never heard your side of the story on was how things went down at Embarcadero with a young Ricky Oyola.

(laughs) I knew you were gonna bring this up. I always get asked about that and Steve Berra.

But the Ricky Oyola thing was crazy. He was taking photos down at Embarcadero one day while I was out skating. I didn’t even know who he was at the time. Nothing. But I remember he was trying to do the Gonz when, all of a sudden, I thought I heard somebody yell out the word, “Niggers!”

I thought I was tripping. I honestly didn’t even really pay any attention to it at first because there was no way that’s what was being said. But then I watched him try the Gonz again and when he bailed, I actually saw him screaming out the word, “Nigger!”

I was like, “What the fuck!?!”

But I still couldn’t believe it… and then he did it again!

That’s when I called him out. I walked him over to the other side of Embarcadero to talk and I ended up swinging on him. I swung my board straight at his head but he ducked. However, I just happened to be with one of my boys who had a pitbull with him… Ricky basically got chased out of Embarcadero. That was it.

I ended up seeing him a few years later at the Tampa Contest but he didn’t want to do anything. I heard he was talking shit but he didn’t want to do nothing when I saw him.

That shit’s crazy, though.

Yeah, Stevie was just telling me the other day another story about Ricky doing the same thing back at Love Park. Back when Stevie was a little kid and couldn’t do anything about it. He said that Ricky would do that all the time. Just punking people.

He couldn’t pull that shit in San Francisco. I think I was probably the last time he said that shit anywhere.

You touched on the whole Berra thing but honestly, that whole tour seems to be the stuff of legend. No team manager on a cross-country tour with a bunch of bratty teenage pro skaters is an obvious recipe for disaster. I know everybody brings up Berra but what about how the tour ended? You and Berra have it out and then someone puts sugar in the gas tank. Kareem ends up taking the blame and gets kicked off World but wasn’t it actually you?

Yeah, it was me. (laughs)

I know that played a large part in Kareem’s departure for Blue and eventually, hustling out in the streets for a minute…

We were both in on it but I was the one who actually did it. At that point, I was just trying to get home, man. That was the bottom line. Period. I was over that tour. The van was terrible, everyone was mad at each other, Berra was on my nerves and I’d just punched him and shit… the whole thing was a mess. I wanted to go home. So we dumped sugar in the gas tank.

But I don’t think Kareem was thrown off the team for just that. Probably something else, there was no shortage of shit going on, but I don’t think it was that. I don’t even remember us getting in trouble for the van. I never heard anything about it once I got home. At least, I didn’t anyway… but then again, maybe he did.

He never snitched on you? Was there beef afterwards?

Nah, he never told on me. He was solid. Kareem and I have always been good. There was never any beef with that.

So what did lead up to that altercation with Berra?

Basically he was just getting on my nerves that whole tour and by the time we got to Florida, tension was high. Honestly, like I said, nobody was getting along on that tour. It could’ve been any one of us getting into a fight at that point.

But I was laying on the bed and I could hear something going down but I wasn’t in the conversation. Berra comes and sits down beside me and I ended up saying something and he responds with, “Cool, black guy.”

In fairness, Kareem did say you called him a “white asshole”.

(laughs) Well, I was over it.

But I hopped to the side of my bed, put on my shoes, stood up and punched him. The next morning, he was gone. I guess he caught the first flight out. 

Even though you’d already sugared the van… Crazy shit, man. Have you and Steve ever spoken about what all went down on that tour? I know I saw your Now N Later part featured on the Berrics not too long ago.

I saw him this year at the Berrics, as a matter of fact. That was the first time I’d seen him in a long time and we talked. We didn’t talk about that specifically but it was good. We were joking and stuff. It was cool, man.

All that stuff is so long ago. We were all so young and we’ve all grown up since then. That was 20 years ago! Maybe he was going through some things back then, I don’t know… it’s funny now, though. (laughs)

Who has the all-time best 360 kickflips?

To me, Jason Lee has the best one. For sure. He did them the most consistently and always just a bit differently than everybody else.

Why do you think people still trip out on your tre flips to this day?

I think maybe because I did them kinda like a pop shuv-it and also because I landed with my front foot first. I think mine also went a little higher than most others back then, too. That’s what I hear from people anyway. 

So what’s up next, Jovontae? What can we look forward to in the near future?

Just more clothing. I’m working on this promo video right now and planning some more collabos with people. Just seeing what’s up with everything and seeing what all works out. Working on some stuff with Sal Barbier. Should be good.

Anything else you’d like to add? Proper quote or words of wisdom? Can’t thank you enough for doing this.

Just for the young bucks to do their homework and find out where certain tricks came from. The element of style is a big component that is missing these days. Nobody was pushing that style card on the next generation so now, nobody has their own style. It’s all a bit robotic. There are a few street skaters out there like Vincent, Stevie Perez and Raven that are pushing a hardline with good style but for the most part, the bar is set very low right now. Please everybody, get your own style. Make skateboarding enjoyable to watch again!

special thanks to jaime owens, aaron meza, steve berra, jon constantino, quartersnacks and most of all, jovontae for making this happen. 

long story short, this was originally supposed to be in skateboarder magazine (RIP) and never really seemed to make a proper fit anywhere else... so here you are. 

thanks everybody. hope you are well. 


chas one said...

Yes Chops. Stoked you've still got some gas in the tank for this blog. And something Tom Boyle in the works?

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Chops. Never gave up hope. Always appreciated.

BK said...

Chops, Thank you for this awesome interview with Jovontae!



Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. The best.

Royce said...


Anonymous said...

"please everyone get your own style" ? does he watch skateboarding or like 4 videos ? stevie perez's style isnt even that good so thats a weird person to quote in a style argument unless you're a total shill for crailtap.

Anonymous said...

chromeball is still my homepage. I was beyond stoked when I saw a new post! good stuff. maybe you could bless us again in the future?

mac katter said...

killer job chops. thank you for everything youve done with this blog! truly legendary

ERL said...

Two guys who decided to bow out were Matt Hensley and Jovontae Turner. I've nerded out fantasy league style wondering how good great could have been if they stayed the course. Jovontae should still have one board always in the Crail catalog simply out of respect to style. There are certain Pros who had such an impact that we just want to see a clip, one line, or anything that takes us back to that place. If the Berrics did a masters game of skate how refreshing would that be style wise? Get Interview!

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

Thank you for the killer interview with one of my favorite skaters..

Brendan said...

What a pleasant surprise!
Thanks so much,Eric.

Brendan said...

What a pleasant surprise!
Thanks so much,Eric.

Keith said...

Nice one Eric. Style king and imo best 360 flip out there.

Dave said...

Day made. Thanks, Chops!

Skately said...

Great interview Eric, sucks it never made it to print. Super hyped on the Blind, Ricky Oyola and product fiending stories. I remember flipping out on his Crail Couch when he mentioned walking out of World with over 100 sets of wheels. Crazy times.

Anonymous said...

Jovantae brought graceful athleticism to skateboarding. he is style

Loo Ganida said...

Awesome!! Thank you for posting this! One of thee most stylish!
Can't wait to see what Tae and SLB cook up!

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
"please everyone get your own style" ? does he watch skateboarding or like 4 videos ?"


Rza said...

Shhhh…the adults are talking.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

If Jovante considers his style good, then Stevie is doing something right. Plus, it's all subjective.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hans BCN said...

Thanks, I mean huge thanks 4 this blog and chat with the owner of one of the most steezy tre flips on the planet.Keep it up. Real good stuff on here,pretty much #1 sk8 blog. The Guy Mariano post was amazing just like many others, there's too many to name them all. Please keep this blog alive. You're THE shit.Much love from Barcelona.

Nattie Dap said...

wow, sk8 fans are total dickriders- ride that dick you bitches... Oh wow, dude left a legacy of bowing out of skateboarding just when skateboarding got good again. He was super good- but everyone else then were young and sucked.; 90-91.It was a giant transition in skateboarding. He's got some crappy last Girl part for which he didn't even tie his shoes. wooo weee- such a tough rap song in that part.

All you who buy into this celebrity skate crap are turncoat tools. Many of these skateboard people are about as admirable as actors or politicians or quarterbacks or whatever ... Californians couldn't help but conform to that celebrity culture.