chrome ball interview #87: gabriel rodriguez

gabriel vs. the chrome ball

So how did you and your childhood crew end up getting swooped up by Powell-Peralta, the biggest skateboarding company in the world at the time? I know you were the link there… weren’t you working on a sponsor-me tape at the time?

Yeah, I had a sponsor-me tape going. It’s kinda weird because I was actually going to send it to Santa Cruz the day I got on Powell Peralta. I was getting my letter together at school that day and everything. I mean, I’d always wanted to skate for Powell but honestly didn’t think it was possible. I figured I’d just try for Santa Cruz. I’d tried a few other companies before and didn’t really get a response… though I didn’t really have a video then. I was basically just sending out pictures and stuff.

Who’d you send stuff out to prior?

Oh man, remember Epic skateboards? I sent some stuff to them back in the day. And Rinalli Trucks! Remember them? I sent them some stuff, too. I didn’t want to go too big so I tried to play it smart. I wanted to get on!

I get it. Hedging your bets.

Exactly. But with how Powell happened, the timing was just so crazy. I was seriously planning on sending my tape out to Santa Cruz that day after class. I just happened to call my shop sponsor, Renee’s Skateshop, before heading over to the post office. Next thing I know, he’s telling me how Stacy Peralta wants to meet me. I was bugging out. I was always super Powelled-out so this was incredible to me!

“Come on, man! Stop fucking with me!”

But he was serious!  They were playing my tape at the shop when Stacy’s secretary happened to roll by and see it. She asked Renee if she could take the tape back to Stacy and he liked it, the backside 360 ollies and what have you. He called the shop that day to try and set up something to meet with me. I was beyond elated.

Unbelievable. But were the L.A. Boys tight before the Powell hook-up?

We all skated for Renee’s Skateshop back then but we’d known each other for a while. I mean, Rudy and I have been friends forever, man.

Yeah, didn’t you borrow his baseball glove or something back in the day?

Yeah, we used to play little league together from, like, age 8 to 11 until I stopped... my parents sent me back to Chicago, where I’m originally from. I stayed there for a year or so with my sister. When I came back to Los Angeles, I tried getting back to the baseball again but the love wasn’t there anymore.

While I was in Chicago, my friends that used to live next door to me had moved a mile or so up the street. When I got back and wanted to go visit them, I started rolling around on this cheap plastic skateboard I had as a way to get up there. After a while, they all started skating, too. They had some friends who skated as well and when I went to meet up with these other guys… BAM! I see Rudy! Rudy’s skating now, too.

“Oh shit! I think I owe you 5 bucks!” (laughs)

He’d given me a batting glove the summer before and I ended up going to Chicago so I never saw him to give it back. Kinda funny but whatever.

So we just start skating all the time. It was super fun. This is like 1987 and all I had was this real shitty $20 swap meet board but I worked it out. Of course, I wanted a legitimate board but I wasn’t gonna let that stop me.

From there, Rudy and I just kept at it, kept skating. He ended up moving to West Covina a year later or so, which separated us a bit but also meant more stuff to skate. My dad started taking me out to Rudy’s house to skate on weekends. It was a nicer, safer neighborhood so we didn’t have to worry so much about all that other stupid stuff.

We both got shop sponsors and started skating contests, which is actually where we started seeing Guy around. He was this little kid doing everything. He was just so tiny, man… destroying everything as an infant.

Shop sponsors were so important back then. All these contests were largely shop teams competing against each other. We were always sizing up the competition and you couldn’t miss Guy. He was skating for Val Surf at the time but we had some mutual friends so we started skating together. Even though Guy is from Burbank, we both had friends down in Glendale who skated and had a car to meet up. Guy and I just clicked.

Paulo was always more of a word-of-mouth type of guy. He was never much of a contest guy, even back then. You always had to track him down. When we used to skate Beneficial up here on Wilshire, we’d always hear these stories about this guy named Pablo. It was always Pablo this and Pablo that. We finally got to meet him and turned out the he’d actually already been on Renee’s. It was on after that.

So how did you manage to get everyone on Powell?

Basically by sitting down with Stacy. This was early on when we were just beginning to talk about working together… sending me boards and stuff. I was down, of course, but I also felt that if he liked what I was doing, he’s gotta check out my friends, too. We already had been in a Renee’s shop video together so I showed him that.

“Hey man, you should probably put these guys on, too.”

Just as a suggestion, you know? Like, if you like the way I skate, you’re gonna love these guys’ skating. And that’s how it worked out. We each got our own little personal “try-out” session with Stacy to try and get on the team. We’d just go skate Los Feliz or something with him and do our thing, which was pretty crazy. It was hard to believe it was really happening.

But yeah, I was first. Then we went and skated with Guy and he got on. Paulo was next and then Rudy. Next thing you know, we were all on Powell-Peralta. (laughs)

Were you aware of any hesitancy on his part with sponsoring Rudy back then?

Not at all. Honestly, Rudy did really good that day. He skated unbelievable for his try-out. I vividly remember that.

I was surprised to hear that come out. I honestly can’t see Stacy saying that because of how Rudy was skating. Maybe it was something more personal between Stacy and Rudy that made him say that? Something that happened later? I mean, Stacy always liked Rudy but it was Rudy that took Guy from Powell. I think that might’ve had something to do Stacy saying that. That’s what I think went down.

…fuckin’ Rudy. (laughs)

courtesy: vertisdead.blogspot.com

So when did you guys find out that you were all going to be in Ban This? Were you guys always going to be filming together? Those videos were huge!

Yeah, we were stoked. We always loved Stacy’s videos and the whole Powell team dynamic. It was great.

It was always going to be all of us together. Street skating was started to gain more attention and Stacy wanted to treat us like how he did Ray Barbee and those guys in Public Domain

Yeah, the Rubber Boys.

Exactly, just a bunch of kids running through, skating street together. We were down with anything he wanted to do. Whatever he said, for sure. All we were trying to do was skate, we trusted him with all that other stuff.

Was that just a couple days of wearing the same clothes? On film, too!

Yeah, it was 2 separate weekends in the same clothes. Just like the movies! Gotta have that continuity!

I remember us always call each other the night before to try and figure everything out. We just wanted to skate our best.

And it wasn’t even video back then, it was movie film. Not VHS. So it wasn’t as easy to film as it would be later on but we did our thing.

Were you guys allowed time to really try tricks or would Stacy want to move on fairly quickly?

It honestly depended on the trick. Sometimes he’d wait it out or even want to come back another time to try and get something.

The problem was that we filmed first for the video. Before everyone else on the team. What we filmed was good at the time but it didn’t come out until a year and a half later. So, in the meantime, we’re hitting up Stacy constantly like, “What’s up!? Check this out! We got this and that now! We need to film some more!”

It just seemed like forever for the video to come out and our stuff was so old by then. We were so much better by the time it came out. I don’t like blowing my own horn or whatever… and I understood and appreciated him telling us that our time would eventually come but it was a little frustrating. I don’t know if he thought our stuff was too good or whatever, we just wanted to do our best.

So were you kinda bummed on that part in a way because it was “old” footage in your eyes?

Oh no! My goodness, I was completely overwhelmed! I loved it!

What I was saying was just one small thing on my part personally. Everybody’s reaction to it was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t even know what to say back to all these people when they’d be complimenting me on it. All I could do was thank them in return. It was amazing.

What about that iconic Mini-Rats wheels portrait? Was that always supposed to be an ad? Was there a part of you that wished you were skating in it instead?

We had total trust in Stacy back then. We just skated and felt lucky to be part of the whole thing. Whatever he wanted to do was fine by us.

But yeah, it seemed like once Rudy got on, we began to take little pictures and things together. I don’t think we knew that was going to be an ad but when they put it out, my goodness! I couldn’t even believe we were being communicated by Stacy. Totally starstruck.

It worked. The breakup: did you see Guy and Rudy heading over to Blind? Did you know Gonz was in the mix like he was?

I think it was right after our second California Powell tour when Mark called Lance for Rudy’s number. Just to go skate and do their little thing. As their leaving Powell for Blind was happening, Rudy and Guy definitely kept it from me… and I felt betrayed! Damn right, I felt betrayed! (laughs)

Oh my goodness, it was just a terrible, terrible thing. Just out of the blue, I find out they left. They didn’t even tell me! I had to find out on my own! I understand why they kept it from me because I wouldn’t have had it but them not telling me made it so much worse. It was such a shock to me.

I mean, I wasn’t going to go looking for them to fight or nothing. People always think I’m some type of tough guy or something. It wasn’t anything like that. But I definitely wasn’t pleased about it at all.

Powell did seem more invested in you, though. Was there ever work on a Powell pro model before you defected?

It was definitely right around when those guys quit that Powell started working on my first graphic. I still have the t-shirt. They made the t-shirts up but just painted one board and silkscreened it real fast with the graphic.

What was the graphic?

You know those bar codes when you go to a supermarket and they scan your stuff? My graphic was one of those going down on the left side of the board with my name and “Powell-Peralta” where the numbers would be.

Honestly, I always felt like they were only doing that because they were nervous about me leaving, too. I think they thought they could use that as a way to make me stick around.

The ad had a feeble grind down a rail, right?

Yeah, that was it. That was the graphic.

But the fact is that I was still loyal to Powell. I didn’t even need all that. I was super upset with Rudy and Guy… like I couldn’t wait to see those cats. That was mentality. I wanted to give them a piece of my mind. I couldn’t believe they would leave Powell! (laughs)

Why the UPC code?

That wasn’t my idea at all. They just walked up with it but I thought it was cool. I was psyched. I mean, it’s a pro board on Powell! But like I said, I just think they didn’t want me to leave. After Rudy and Guy left, they wanted to turn me pro immediately after those Am Finals in Reno.

Where was Paulo during all of this? Because he stuck around with Powell as well. Did he feel betrayed by those guys, too?

Paulo was always off being Paulo, doing his own thing. Always. I really wasn’t sure where he was when all this was going down. He never went on tour with us or anything like that. I honestly don’t know why that always was.

We didn’t really go skating with Paulo all that much back in the day. We liked to go skate spots on our own, just us, without too many other people around. Paulo was always rolling around with 20 skaters following him. We’d be at the spot and Paulo would instantly blow it out with all these people. We’d just be standing there like, “Damn, fool! We’re gonna go over here, man. We’ll see you later.”

The more kids there are, the more likely you’re going to get kicked out. Plus, you can’t really focus with all those people around. But that’s how it always was with Paulo.

But yeah, he was always local. Always by the house. Innovating, for sure, but always around his own area.

You brought up those Am Finals in Reno… what were your thoughts on the “Kids that play with themselves go Blind” shirts?  I know you were pissed at them but those were your boys!

It was crazy, man. But honestly, that was part of the reason why I ended up leaving Powell. I was totally loyal to those guys but they were so afraid of me leaving that it worked against them.

We were all in the NSA Am Finals together that year in Reno. I had already seen Guy and Rudy at the Semi-Finals a few weeks earlier, after they had left for Blind. I was vibing them pretty hard at that one… Not that I was threatening them but they knew exactly what they did and how I felt. Definitely.

By the time Reno comes around, I was over being mad at them. So I see them over there and hit ‘em up like, “What’s up, fool!” Just that quick, it’s like old times again. We’re all hanging out together, kicking it.

I come to find out that my team manager for Powell doesn’t like me hanging out with those dudes, my friends. He said it made him nervous. These guys are all friends again? What the hell is going on?

It was weird because he actually pulled me aside to make sure that everything was still cool. Why? Because he saw me hanging out with my friends? I had done nothing wrong and was always loyal to Powell. I thought this was so strange and seemed like it came out of nowhere. I was sitting there talking with him but the more I thought about, the more I didn’t like it. 

“You know what, man? No, it’s not. This isn’t cool.”

They can’t try to keep me from hanging out with my friends. That’s just not right and was really upsetting to me. Even if we don’t ride for the same company anymore, we can still be social. They’re still my friends!

So out of nowhere, once it was all over, I remember thinking to myself, “Did I just quit Powell? I guess I just did!”

I didn’t think about any of this beforehand. I had no back-up plan at all. And Powell has now taken my pier-diem and kicked me out of my hotel. Suddenly, I got to figure some stuff out.

The way it ended up, I qualified for the contest under Powell-Peralta and the next day, I entered under World. It just so happened that at the time, Natas and Rocco were hanging around together at the contest… so, of course, everyone is whispering about how Rocco is stealing Natas now or whatever. (laughs)

So after all that went down with me and Powell, I called up Rudy at their hotel like, “What’s up, man? What are you guys doing?”

“Nothing, man. What’s up with you?”

“I just quit Powell!”

They were shocked. Super surprised and almost happy in a way, but shocked. They just started giggling.

I head over to their hotel and Rocco and Natas come into the room. Guy and Rudy are going crazy, “Oh shit! He quit!” (laughs)

“They took all my money!”

Next thing I know, Natas is handing me a $100 dollar bill. I wasn’t expecting that but I was cool with it. That was the beginning of 101.

Describe the early days of 101. Did you know Natas prior to joining the team?

Not at all. I remember seeing him around LA sometimes and just thinking to myself, “Wow, that’s the guy right there!” (laughs)

Those early days of 101 were incredible. He was skating so well when we first started meeting up. Way ahead of everyone else. Natas was the first dude I ever really saw doing nollie stuff. Nollieing into grinds, nollieing over benches… and this is way back. There was literally no nose on those boards back then but he could do it.

I was on 101 before it even had a name. Everything was such a slow process with the company, just getting stuff together. I remember going on World tours with all those guys and 101 didn’t even have boards yet. Natas would have to give me his old Santa Monica Airlines boards. I’m out there doing demos with the World guys and here I am on SMA boards… I guess that probably looked pretty weird, right? I never really thought about that until now.

I remember going to get the first shapes done. We were doing a bit of filming, too. I really felt things were going to work out great until he broke his ankle. It was just different after that… 101 was kind of just me for a while after Natas got hurt. I couldn’t believe it when it happened and I hated it for him but at the same time, I did need a bit of help, too. I felt totally alone on the team, which I was… doing the solo-flex by myself over here.

I was kinda young still and had just started drinking… it wasn’t an easy thing. I felt very alone on 101 after Natas got hurt.

But weren’t you around Guy and Rudy more after reuniting under Rocco? That was around the time they were filming for Video Days, right?

Actually I wasn’t around for any Video Days.

What’s interesting is that I vividly remember around the time my Gremlin board came out on 101, Rudy and Guy taking me inside some office and showing me their footage. It was all so under wraps. Nobody even really knew about it.  All of a sudden, it was like, “Check this out!”

Boom! What the fuck is all this? These guys have all this footage? I had no clue! And it’s not like I wasn’t around.

I appreciated the quick heads-up though. Guy was doing those crazy noseblunt slides… I definitely started doing them after that, too.

How much of a voice in the overall direction of 101 did you have as an OG? Were you consulted on riders and ads?

For sure. Natas was completely open to everything I had to say. He’d throw suggestions at me and when I made comments or decisions, he’d listen. He was completely open to everything I had to say. Natas was great like that.

A lot of people don’t know this but the third rider for 101 was Steve Berra. It’s actually kinda weird to think about now but you gotta remember that this was back when people were talking about how vert was dead at the time. Berra was vert skater back then, too. But Natas liked his skating and wanted to know what I thought. He showed me his tape and I remember telling him, “Fuck yeah! We need a vert skater! That would be excellent. Vert ain’t dead. Vert is dope.” (laughs)

Steve’s tape was sick, too. He was doing mctwists and shit… hell yeah, put him on! We weren’t going to listen to what other people had to say. We’re putting on vert riders because we like their skating. This is what we like and what we have to say.  

I was psyched when we got more guys on the team but even then, they still seemed so far away. Leigh Petersen was in Washington, Markovich was in Laguna Beach or something like that and Koston was down in San Diego. They were on the team but I wasn’t skating with them. I was still alone in that respect. I found myself skating with some of the newer cats around my way, the ATM Click and the crew around XLarge as opposed to other 101 riders.

Where did the Jesus graphic come from? Was that always the plan for your pro board and did that have anything to do with the crazy satanic one Natas came out with shortly thereafter?

My Mom used to have this humongous Catholic mantle in the house back in the day with all these Jesus pictures on there. Before Natas even turned me pro, he used to come over to my house to get to know my Mom and everybody.

I remember him walking in from the backyard one day and he just points to this huge picture of Jesus we had and says, “Hey, that’s gonna be your first graphic.”

On the inside, I was jumping for joy but I had to play it cool.

“Wow, man… okay. “

But no, my Jesus board didn’t have anything to do with that Satanic one he had later. It just worked out that way. That wasn’t planned.

Where did that quote about working at El Pollo Loco and tucking in your shirt come from?

(laughs) My friend worked at El Pollo Loco up the street and that was our spot. They had some great curbs and used to hook us up with free food all the time. That was just my spot up there, man!

It was one of those things where Natas asked me to write something for my ad. I didn’t know what to say so he asked me a couple questions about turning pro and that was one of my responses. As soon as I said it, he told me to write it down.

At the time, I was basically saying that if this skate stuff didn’t work out, maybe I could get a job up there. That’s how that came about. Basically, I just didn’t like tucking in my shirts! (laughs)

How did that classic Gabe vs. The Crusher graphic come about? Super advanced for the time.

That one came from Spike and Natas. I remember them coming up to tell me about this idea for a graphic they had. I figured that everything had worked out so far, why not? They honestly didn’t even have to tell me what it was, I was going to do it.

So basically we went out into the backyard and I got Natas in the Camel Clutch. I remember Natas and I tried a few different wrestling moves but that one worked the best.  Spike took the photo and they went off to CGI the Crusher into it.

I liked how that one came out but it was all thanks to those guys.

Have you seen the P-Rod homage with Scuba Steve?

Yeah, I have. That was really cool to see!

Who usually came up with your graphic ideas? And do you have a personal favorite? So many classics there: the bloody drill, the grenade, Superhombre…

Honestly, those ideas usually came from Natas and whoever the artist was. They were always so good that I basically trusted them with whatever they wanted to do. Whatever they said, I went along with even if I didn’t totally get what they were talking about at first. I was basically a “yes” man at the time. I’m sure if there was something I didn’t agree with, I could’ve said no but there really wasn’t any need.

As far as a personal favorite graphic of mine, I’d have to say the Gremlin. I loved that Gremlin board a lot… And the Andy Jenkins one. The Power of One with the grenade, I liked that one a lot, too.

For Chocolate, I’d have to say the Evan Hecox city series where we were all in there on the street. Each of the riders on a board out in the city. That was really cool.

Were you down with doing ads like that 902101 ad where you might’ve ended up looking a little silly?

Yeah, man! Who cares? I don’t take myself seriously and it was all fun. It was hilarious! Natas made a beautiful girl! I loved it.

Courtesy: vertisdead.blogspot.com

Talk a little bit about that banned 101 suicide ad you were in that inadvertently sparked Big Brother Magazine. Wasn’t it like you not making frontside 360 ollies and then a photo with a gun in your mouth?

(laughs) Yeah, we shot that in New York on a trip. It was Natas, Spike and I. We kinda just made it up on the spot. I couldn’t get this frontside 360 ollie that I wanted to do for what was supposed to be the ad. It just wasn’t working out for me that day. That part was real. But the next thing I know, Spike and Natas are both just laughing, talking to me about “Let’s be controversial!”

They went with it. They were seeking a reaction because magazines were banning so many ads at the time. World was always trying to do some controversial ads and magazines were getting tired of it. I can’t believe all that ended up happening as a response to that ad, though. It’s a trip. We were just goofing around.

I gotta admit that I always thought it was weird your 101 Promo part was so short after not having a video part in a while. What was going on there?

It had to do with how weird skating was at the time. Everything was so sloppy… all flippity-flop with boards bouncing off the ground and landing back on your feet. It was a mess! I wasn’t down with all that backfoot flip-flop stuff at all. I just couldn’t deal with it.

I honestly took a bit of a hiatus at the time because I was so turned off by it. I wasn’t feeling where skating was at back then.

Did you ever get pressure from Natas or Rocco to put out more footage? You were definitely known for having some of the shortest parts in skateboarding history.

No pressure at all. As long as my board was selling, what are you gonna do?

Tobin Yelland once told me about being at World one day right after the Plan B Questionable video had come out and Rocco was telling everyone how my board was selling the best, even though I didn’t even have a video part out. That’s crazy to think about, actually.

But as long as your board is selling, no one has any problem with short video parts.

Were you skating and not filming or just not skating? Did you like shooting photos and filming back then?

I didn’t mind that stuff at all. It was fun. Sometimes you have your good days and sometimes you don’t but I always liked it, especially if there was something you really wanted to get.

Honestly, I just wasn’t as into skating as much at the time. I was hanging out with Rudy and Guy so I was still skating some but it wasn’t really until I started skating with Paulo again around 1993 or so that I started to get back into it. I was basically at the point where I was just like, “Fuck all this flippity-floppity shit!”

This was right when Paulo got on Stereo and he’s switch ollieing picnic tables like its nothing. Nollieing tables, too. Nobody was doing that back then. He was just killing everything, first try: boom, boom, boom.

Skating with him again during this time was really good for me. He was obviously getting me psyched with his skating but it was also like reuniting with an old friend. That’s when I feel like I was really starting to get things rolling for myself again.

For me, I always loved picnic table stuff and this is really when I first started skating them. I was always more about the tables and grinds instead of that flippy stuff and I feel like Paulo and I were just feeding off each other.

How was your relationship with Rocco?

That’s a good question. It’s hard to say, actually. It’s a little more difficult for me to answer because I didn’t really deal with him that much, I dealt with Natas more or less. I didn’t really have anything against Rocco.

The Girl guys obviously had their suspicions.

My only suspicions would be hearing what Tobin said about my board being the highest-selling board but I’m only getting $500 checks. That was suspicious to me.

Were you bummed you weren’t in that original Girl mix? Were you even aware that Rudy and Guy were leaving again this time?

(laughs) They pretty much snuck out on me again. Yeah, they did. But I wasn’t mad at all about Girl. I was happy for those dudes.

Chocolate basically came about through Chico. He was the first guy. Paulo got on and through those two dudes is how I got put on. I was skating with Paulo all the time back then anyway. He said they’re gonna start a whole nother company with Girl… let’s do it then. Like I said, I had those suspicions that only made me more excited about this new thing.

Was the impending Chocolate plan the reason why you only had 1 trick in Snuff?

Exactly. That was basically the transition point. I had some other stuff but that was right at the cusp of leaving for Chocolate. Snuff was perfect timing right in the middle of all that.

How did the concept for Paco come about? And how did you like your first foray into acting, Mr. Deniro?

Oh wow. Yeah, it was either Spike or Rick who came up with the idea. I was down. It sounded like fun. Let’s have some more fun. They made it happen and it was cool.

As far as calling it “acting”… well, I guess you could call it that but not really. The thing with Paco is that there actually weren’t any lines for us to learn. They dubbed it all. Remember those old kung-fu movies where people would talk and the mouth would move totally different than the words you’d hear? That’s what they did for us. It was so funny. We really didn’t have any lines because they were going to overdub them for us with other peoples’ voices anyway. Total kung-fu style.

So I just went out there and had fun. It was great time, man.

What was it that got you so motivated for your Paco part?

It just felt good being reunited with Rudy, Guy and Paulo all together again on the same team. That’s pretty much what it was for me. It was a good time. Skateboarding was changing back to where all that flippity-floppity stuff was going away and we were all back together again. It got my juices flowing again. Let’s do it.

How much of an influence did your immediate crew had on your attitude towards coverage? Because it’s not like Guy, Rudy or Paulo were the most productive skaters back then either. Did that have any influence on your outlook towards producing?

Not at all. I never even really noticed those dudes’ coverage actually. I was just kinda off doing my own thing.

“94 and what?”

Basically, “94 and what?” worked out the same way that whole “Tuck My Shirt In” did. It was something to say at the time. It just popped out of nowhere. I’m sitting there and they asked me to say something… so I did. That video part was pretty much 1994 so it just came out. It was supposed to be funny but I keep hearing it. It just stuck. People kept on coming up to me and saying, “And what!” I’ve never really known what to say back. (laughs)

And yeah, I did that throw-up. I went by “Aya” at the time. Guy, Rudy and I were all doing that stuff back then but we didn’t really take it that serious. It was more just fun for us.

So what ended up happening with you and Chocolate in the end? You seemed to have some solid backing from DVS but no Chocolate Tour part and then your board went away not long thereafter. What happened?

Basically, I broke my ankle in ’97 so I was out for a little bit. I was still skating after all that but I honestly didn’t want too much of that footage in the video, know what I mean? Maybe I’ll be in next one. 

The problem was that my situation personally wasn’t that good. I was drinking a lot and that was pretty much the reason why things came to an end the way they did. I was just in a bad place and couldn’t get it under control.  

Did you try for any other sponsors or were you pretty much over it?

Hell no. No way. Chocolate was it for me. If I wasn’t going to ride for Chocolate, then nothing.

The LA Boys obviously share a special bond. Has it been difficult for you to witness some of the personal struggles your friends have gone through over the years?

We will always have that bond. Those guys are my brothers. We’re skate blood brothers and that is ‘til death. And yes, it has been hard to witness some of that stuff first-hand over the years. Definitely.

No one wants to see their friends going through stuff like that.

Did you ever try to step in and intervene? Or did they try to keep it hidden from you?

No, it was pretty out there. I will say that all I did was drink. I’m a drunk. That’s what I would do. But there would be times where I’d be seeing these fools doing that shit, I’d just be standing there like, “Damn, dude.”

I’d try to make them realize but after a while, you get tired of saying that. And at the same time, who am I? I was out there drinking my ass off at the time. Who am I to judge?

Why have the LA Boys run into so many problems over the years?

I think its mainly just that thing called “life”, know what I’m saying? Everyone goes through their ups-and-downs, when they’re pro and even when they’re not. That’s just life, in general. It didn’t necessarily have anything to do with success or money. People had personal issues going on and this kinda stuff can happen. Of course.

If you look at it, most of these breakdowns we’re talking about happened in the late-90s. It is what it is.

Why do you think that was?

I don’t think that it really had to anything to do with age or anything like that. It was more or less about skateboarding completely changing around that time.

I remember going up to kids at the time and asking them who their favorite skater was. They’d say Paul Rodriguez. It was always Paul Rodriguez.

I’d start to ask them questions like, “Who is Mark Gonzales? Who is Natas Kaupas?”

I’d ask them who Guy Mariano is.

They’d just be standing there, looking at me like “Who!?!”

Things were changing and we weren’t young anymore. That’s a tough thing for anyone to deal with.

But Guy is still able to hold it down after all he’s been through. His comeback must be inspiring for you to see as one of his oldest friends.

Of course, without a doubt. But the most important thing is that he’s well. Fuck the comeback, as long as he’s better and not where he was. He’s a changed man, a family man now. It’s good to see.

I’ve always said that Guy is the best skater in the world. It’s the truth.

What’s the gnarliest thing you ever saw Guy do that was never filmed or photographed?

Oh wow, that’s a good question.

You know that bank-to-wall in Hollywood that Natas used to do those frontside wallrides where he’d grind the top? I remember Guy doing a blunt to pivot, kickflip in on that thing. And I think we were drunk, too.

I don’t recall seeing that anywhere.

Looking back on everything, do you ever wish you would’ve filmed more during your prime?

Honestly, not too much. I will say that before that first 101 video came out, Natas and I were actually filming some stuff for a video that was supposed to come out before the first one. I had so many tricks from back then. I really did film a lot for that one but none of the footage ever came out. I think Natas might possibly still have it. I’m not sure why that footage was never used.

Do you think a comeback like Guy’s could’ve ever been in the mix for you?

To be honest, I’ve never really been interested in anything like that. I was done, man.

I stillskate, I’m just retired now… even though I’ve actually been skating more now than I have in the last six years. I had to take a break there as I was acting as caregiver for my mom but I’ve been skating a lot as of late. I’m just happy now when I’m able to get out there when I can.

Can’t thank you enough for doing this, Gabriel. Any thing you’d like to add as we wrap this thing up?

I'd just like to thank Rick Howard, Megan Baltimore, Mike Carroll and Spike Jonze for helping me out so much over the years. 


Anonymous said...

Love it. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Another gem. So good. Keep them coming!

Kris Gurley said...

So good Chops. Thanks for being the premier skate curator. This history needs a place.

Ravello said...

This interview was so good, lots of hidden gems on things going back then.
Many thanks to Chops!

Skately said...

Hyped on all those 101 stories, and the fact that Paulo has always done his own thing. Great job guys!

cousin harold said...

Amazing. My favourite.

todd brown said...

Somebody track down the unseen footage!!!!!

todd brown said...

Somebody track down the unseen footage!!!!!

isidro said...

another great one! thanks eric and gabriel!
that lost footage would be awesome to watch.
somebody get Natas on the phone!

Anonymous said...

That was unexpected, yet awesome. Love hearing from the older dudes.

Unknown said...

Bam margera for the next chromeball please chops!

ODG said...

The Thrasher cover with the fakie manual wasn't legit, right? No disrespect to Gabriel, I'm pretty sure I saw a sequence of it so I know he could do it, just wondering.

Sassberto said...

What a great guy. So humble, grateful, he clearly had a ton of fun and he didn't self-destruct. Good luck to you Gabriel.

─░slamda.org said...


Cosmonaut C said...

Rest in power legend

Ben Mabley said...

RIP Gabriel... Legends never die

uche FC said...

Wilshire Boys forever. Thank you Gabriel, you did really well here. Rest now fam

Anonymous said...

When I was little, Ban This was one of the first non-stop, on repeat videos my buddies and I watched. We each claimed one of the LA kids. "I'm gonna skate like him." "I'm him." Little kid kind of stuff. I claimed Gabe. Skill and style. Heart goes out to family and friends.

Anonymous said...

rest in peace gabe. you inspired me alot in the early 90,s. cancer is a cxnt.