Pro Spotlight – Jason Adams

Pro Spotlight

Jason Adams

Words by Kevin Wilkins

Pull quotes:

“Guaranteed, there’re people sitting around a magazine, flipping to a picture of me, and going, ‘Cool cowboy shirt, bro.’”

“It was like, ‘Our scene in San Jose is never going to be the same. This is the end of an era.’ And it was. It totally was.”

“The main difference would be that people from San Jose had pegged black jeans and the people from Sacramento had pegged blue jeans.”

“The Sacto guys all had the meanest backside Smith grinds.”

The funny thing about originality is when it finally rears its ugly head, it seems more familiar than you ever thought it would be. Such has been the case with skateboarding over the years.

These rare-but-recognizable originalities are what draw so many novel thinkers to the often-misinterpreted ranks of skateboarding, allowing it to grow and spread in ways no one ever thought possible, let alone thought of ahead of time.

Jason Adams is but one example of this phenomenon—a sore spot in a world of pain, a black sheep in a nocturnal flock, a flag waver in a semaphore state.

Don’t even have to tell you, “Get used to it.”

You’re already used.

How do you know when it’s time to get a tattoo?

I got the Black Flag bars when I was a kid. But it’s small, it’s on my leg, I never even see it, you know? But then Tim (Brauch) died—I’d always thought they (tattoos) were cool, but I had that voice in my head, “You’re gonna regret it.”

When Tim died I was 25, and I got the Tim tattoo. We all got Tim Brauch tattoos—the ESTE bird. After that, I met a skater named Justin who I just clicked with. He’s a really good tattoo artist and that kinda opened the floodgates, I guess you could say.

I was like, “You know what? Screw it. It’s not like I’m gonna go looking for some regular job someday.” I have this big Black Label flame up on my arm in the typical place—and when I got married, I got a traditional heart with my wife’s name. Then when my daughter was born, I got this baby rattle with a ribbon that says her name. It’s totally traditional looking, like “Sailor Jerry” style. And you know the Elvis TCB logo? I got that on the front of my shoulder, and on the opposite arm I have the same logo, but it says BMC (Beautiful Man’s Club). Meeting Justin Bell was the thing. I never wanted to just walk into some place and get something. After I met him is when I got the Label one and then my wife’s and daughter’s—I didn’t even think about it.

You seem to be pretty deliberate about the way you present yourself, and for lack of a better term, your costume.

My costume?

Yeah, the persona you put out there, the clothes you wear. I know you’re not trying to be something you’re not. You’re not faking it. But this is something we don’t see enough of in skateboarding—people trying to do their own thing.

I guess people just have certain personalities. I’m image-conscious, but not in a marketing-type sense. Things I like, I make it a point to bring them out. Anything I wear or do, like this Cadillac trip (see sidebar), I didn’t just do it because I thought it’s gonna help me sell skateboards. I like Cadillacs. Why not take what I like, mix it in with what I do, and make something cool? Because I’m bored as hell half the time with most of the people I see in the magazines or the videos.

Yeah, it is a little bit deliberate, but it’s not false, fake, or contrived. Probably planned, but it is who I am and what I like.

What’s the main difference between San Jose and Sacramento?

Well, this is like late 80s/early 90s era. The main difference would be that people from San Jose had pegged black jeans and the people from Sacramento had pegged blue jeans. And I think the Sacto guys like Chevys and the San Jose guys like Dodge.

Dodges?

Yeah, they’re like the Moparuys.

Up there it probably seems like the status quo, but the whole Sacramento scene and the whole San Jose scene and a lot of what goes on in the smaller California towns doesn’t have anything to do with the state’s more well-known epicenters—L.A. and SF. I mean, I’m sure you’re not going to find some kid in the city who’s like, “I’m down for Mopar.” Does that just come from geography? Is it a historical thing, or what?

Northern California, aside from San Francisco, just kind of has a mellower, more small-town feel. I mean SF is a huge city; it has more in common with New York City than San Jose. But as far as Sacramento skaters, San Jose skaters, and the majority of skaters I know from there, they came from lower- to middle-class working families. Their dads were probably into cars, Chevy, Mopar, Budweiser, and that type of thing. I think it’s your surroundings, too. Punk rock was huge in skateboarding up here, but we do have a bit of redneck in us, too. A lot of Northern California does.

Do you feel a responsibility to represent that?

Skateboarding-wise, I was always hugely influenced by Northern California, San Jose, and Sacramento as well. When I was a kid, I was more influenced than ever, and that’s what stuck in my brain. That’s what I liked.

It doesn’t seem like you’ve been a guy who was going to stop skating a certain way just because it wasn’t cool anymore.

I grew up skating street, but the guys I always looked up to were the vert guys. I loved Ross Goodman, he was the best thing ever, and J.J. Rodgers. Those are the kinds of guys I was influenced by. But we always skated street. I still look to that time for inspiration. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I still view skateboarding like that and try to apply it to today. I still think going out and doing slappy grinds on a curb is the best. That’s what I grew up doing. I remember the grocery store we hung out at every day, we would just do slappys for hours. Ricky Windsor had the best slappy grind.

So these were the older guys when you were growing up?

Yeah, Tom Knox and Eric Dressen, even though they weren’t from our area. Corey O’Brien, Todd Prince, and Curtis Staffer who never turned pro or anything, but one of the things that stuck to my brain for all these years was Curtis’ backside Smith grinds. The Sacto guys all had the meanest backside Smith grinds. I remember seeing him (Curtis) at the San Jose warehouse. He was piss drunk, could hardly stand up, and he just dropped in and slammed. Then he gets back up, drops in again, slams. Gets back on the ramp a third time, dropped in, and then he just did the best backside Smith grind across the spine, perfectly locked on the backside, came in perfectly, hit the next tranny, and looped. That’s one of those things like, “Ohhhhh, that’s the best-looking thing I’ve ever seen.” Anyone in San Jose, though, was a huge influence. ‘Cause at the time pretty much everyone was in the same crew, and they were into punk and street skating and mini ramps and vert and everything.

I want to ask you about a couple guys. First, Steve Caballero. Was he just bigger than life for you as a kid?

When I started skating, it was instantly Hosoi ’cause he was the best. But after a few months it was Caballero. He was the hometown hero, and he was one of the best at the time—I still look up to the guy. I loved Cab. Then I got to a certain age—I think I was fifteen or sixteen or something—and I started seeing more of the underground guys. I started noticing the Wade Speyers or even the Ricky Windsors and the local guys who were the underground rippers—Ben Schroeder. That appealed to be a little bit more. But on the flip side I was still into the Jason Lees and Mike Vallelys, ’cause we were street skating and we loved that side of it, too.

The other SJ skater I wanted to ask you about was Simon Woodstock. The guy was pretty much pure originality, but he came into skateboarding in an era that was not ready for him.

I’ve known Simon for years. He owned a Winchester skate shop when I was a kid that was my first sponsor. He was always kind of crazy. He had either a Mohawk, leopard-print shorts, or something. But he was good. He was really good back in the day. I mean, he pretty much got his following from his goofy outfits, but back in the day he was ollieing up picnic tables when only Natas (Kaupas) was ollieing up picnic tables, and he was a fat guy (laughs).

I remember the one Santa Barbara contest he came out in a clown suit and people just loved it. That pretty much sparked it. He saw, “Whoa, people love me in a clown suit.” Next thing you know, he’s got a carpet board and a clown suit. Then he’s naked. Then he was down for doing whatever for attention. I remember him giving me a tape one time, “Here check this out.” It was him skating the San Jose Skatepark naked. “Great, Simon, thanks.” (Laughs) He was just dead set on being a pro skater—whatever it would take. He tried to go the skateboard route, which he was really good at, but I don’t think it happened. He saw that doing this wacky stuff worked, and he just went for it, big time.

I was just talking to someone about that day (Kris) Markovich tried to kickflip the big four at Wallenberg.

And he landed on it and fell. Yeah, then Simon ollies the three on a skimboard (laughs).

The guy was good.

He was. And when he was doing that stuff, I thought it was the hottest thing ever. I thought it was so hot. And he was still skating a lot. But at some point I think he started taking it a little too far. He started relying on his costumes and ideas, started making money, and then people were just, “We’re not buying this anymore.” But when he was doing the skimboard, the wetsuit, and he would show up at contests, I thought it was great ’cause it was just taking the piss out of everything.

That was more punk than punk rock.

Exactly.

In you I see some sort of combo of Cab, Simon, and all those other locals you mentioned. People out of the way of skateboarding’s epicenters tend to be a little more original, like, “This is who I am.” Do you ever catch shit about that?

Not to my face. I mean, every once in a while I might hear a cowboy-hat crack or something like that. Nothing that has been straight-up shit talk, you know. But guaranteed, there’re people sitting around a magazine, flipping to a picture of me, and going, “Cool cowboy shirt, bro.” There’s always that group of people. But whatever.

I apologize for bringing up so many other people, I just think the things you rub up against can have a lot to do with who you become.

I don’t mind.

Well, at this point, we’re far enough removed from it that I think a lot of people might just see Tim Brauch as a guy whose name is on a memorial contest or a foundation. Tell me a bit about Tim and what he meant, not only to you as his friend, but to the scene up there in San Jose, and what you think he meant to skateboarding.

If you had to do it in a few words, Tim was the real deal, man. He was always positive, and he was always ripping. That’s what people don’t get and the one thing I would try to stress. Granted, besides the fact that he was one of the best guys I ever knew—you always hear that when people die or whatever, “Oh, he was the greatest person and a wonderful husband.” Well, he was.

But you see video or photos of him … what people don’t understand is that usually when you see video or photos of skaters, they don’t always skate like that. They went out to do something for the photo or video, and it took them a hundred tries. But Tim was always skating consistently like that. He was just filming what he happened to be doing. “Okay, you want to film, we’ll go film.” And he skated the same way he skated ture originality, but he came into skateboarding in an era that was not ready for him.

I’ve known Simon for years. He owned a Winchester skate shop when I was a kid that was my first sponsor. He was always kind of crazy. He had either a Mohawk, leopard-print shorts, or something. But he was good. He was really good back in the day. I mean, he pretty much got his following from his goofy outfits, but back in the day he was ollieing up picnic tables when only Natas (Kaupas) was ollieing up picnic tables, and he was a fat guy (laughs).

I remember the one Santa Barbara contest he came out in a clown suit and people just loved it. That pretty much sparked it. He saw, “Whoa, people love me in a clown suit.” Next thing you know, he’s got a carpet board and a clown suit. Then he’s naked. Then he was down for doing whatever for attention. I remember him giving me a tape one time, “Here check this out.” It was him skating the San Jose Skatepark naked. “Great, Simon, thanks.” (Laughs) He was just dead set on being a pro skater—whatever it would take. He tried to go the skateboard route, which he was really good at, but I don’t think it happened. He saw that doing this wacky stuff worked, and he just went for it, big time.

I was just talking to someone about that day (Kris) Markovich tried to kickflip the big four at Wallenberg.

And he landed on it and fell. Yeah, then Simon ollies the three on a skimboard (laughs).

The guy was good.

He was. And when he was doing that stuff, I thought it was the hottest thing ever. I thought it was so hot. And he was still skating a lot. But at some point I think he started taking it a little too far. He started relying on his costumes and ideas, started making money, and then people were just, “We’re not buying this anymore.” But when he was doing the skimboard, the wetsuit, and he would show up at contests, I thought it was great ’cause it was just taking the piss out of everything.

That was more punk than punk rock.

Exactly.

In you I see some sort of combo of Cab, Simon, and all those other locals you mentioned. People out of the way of skateboarding’s epicenters tend to be a little more original, like, “This is who I am.” Do you ever catch shit about that?

Not to my face. I mean, every once in a while I might hear a cowboy-hat crack or something like that. Nothing that has been straight-up shit talk, you know. But guaranteed, there’re people sitting around a magazine, flipping to a picture of me, and going, “Cool cowboy shirt, bro.” There’s always that group of people. But whatever.

I apologize for bringing up so many other people, I just think the things you rub up against can have a lot to do with who you become.

I don’t mind.

Well, at this point, we’re far enough removed from it that I think a lot of people might just see Tim Brauch as a guy whose name is on a memorial contest or a foundation. Tell me a bit about Tim and what he meant, not only to you as his friend, but to the scene up there in San Jose, and what you think he meant to skateboarding.

If you had to do it in a few words, Tim was the real deal, man. He was always positive, and he was always ripping. That’s what people don’t get and the one thing I would try to stress. Granted, besides the fact that he was one of the best guys I ever knew—you always hear that when people die or whatever, “Oh, he was the greatest person and a wonderful husband.” Well, he was.

But you see video or photos of him … what people don’t understand is that usually when you see video or photos of skaters, they don’t always skate like that. They went out to do something for the photo or video, and it took them a hundred tries. But Tim was always skating consistently like that. He was just filming what he happened to be doing. “Okay, you want to film, we’ll go film.” And he skated the same way he skated the day before. It was only right before he died where he was like, “If people are going to give me flack, I’m going to go out and start filming and doing some gnarly stuff ’cause I know I can do it.” Before, he was just having a good time doing the same thing he was doing when he was fourteen. I skated with him every day and was always blown away every single day—I couldn’t believe it. He was just a natural.

What I realized was that he was never really trying. He was just skating. Like, if you were to go to a mini ramp and just do a bunch of kickturns, well, he didn’t have to kickturn. He was doing airs, blunts, this and that, and all totally consistent.

He grew up right around the corner from the O’Briens (Corey and Gavin), skating the skurbs, and had Coca-Cola, slappy grind, punk skating pride. He didn’t really look like it, but he had it. That’s why we clicked so well.

How long has it been since he passed away?

(Since) ’99. It was gnarly. I’d never had anyone close to me die, plus he was so young, you don’t even expect it at all. He was born with some sort of heart condition.

He knew about it, right?

He knew, but it hadn’t been a problem. He never talked about it. He never went to the doctor for it. And I don’t know if it was two separate things, but after he died, they did an autopsy and found out that he had an athlete’s enlarged heart. But none of that ever seemed to slow him down. He had energy every day. We’d be out partying until four in the morning, and the next day he’s knocking at my door, pulling me out of bed, “Let’s go skate!” And I’m like, “I want to die. What do you mean, ‘Let’s go skate’?” Then we go, and I’m sleeping at the skatepark (laughs). He’s ripping, and I’m just like, “How does he do this?”

He died on Mother’s Day, and we were all just totally devastated. It was a huge hit. I was like, “Our scene in San Jose is never going to be the same. This is the end of an era.” And it was. It totally was.

Did it galvanize people there?

Oh, yeah. I got calls and heard from people. It was insane. The thing that blew me away was the people who came to his funeral. People came from down south. People came from Europe. People who were buddies with him through skateboarding but didn’t know him. Jamie Thomas didn’t really know Tim. Mike Vallely didn’t really know Tim. But I show up at the funeral, and there are all these people. The whole front yard where the funeral was at was filled with people ’cause they couldn’t fit inside. It was nuts.

I didn’t realize what an impact he’d had. Even people who didn’t really know him, he still touched them in some way. I was in Australia and these guys come up to me and pull their shirts up and they’ve got the bird tattoos. They’re, “He came out here, he hung out with us, and he was like our best friend overnight.” Everywhere he went he touched so many people. But it was crazy. It was on the news, it was in the newspapers, and I couldn’t believe it.

Seems like he’s still around, kind of.

Yeah, not just because he was my friend, but he was a special person like that. Tim’s name is not ever gonna go away. Granted, he was a good skateboarder, but I think it was more just who Tim was and how loved he was by everybody. It was a rough few months. I was just bummed. I lost somebody I loved. It was a huge loss. I’d never dealt with death. I didn’t know what it was like to lose someone you love like that. It was a slap in the face to the point where I was being kind of a jackass for years, and then I was just like, “Dude, you’re just wasting time.” Life is short.

I swear I wouldn’t have connected with my wife if it weren’t for Tim’s death. I had met her in the past, but it was like, “Hey, you’re Karin? Cool. See ya.” But there was a skate jam at Palo Alto Skatepark about a week after Tim died, and my wife was there with her friend. They invited us back to their house for

CATEGORIZED: Features, Features, Photos