Being a pro skateboarder from the East Coast of the United States ain’t exactly easy. Distance from skateboarding’s de facto capital (California) and horrendously cold and wet six-month winters force many professional skateboarders from cities like New York, Washington D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia to either move west or vanish into obscurity.
After riding for a half-dozen sponsors and migrating west in search of the illusive dream of making a living on a skateboard, Ben has returned home to reinvest his time and skill into the alive and rapidly growing East Coast skate scene. For all those interested in the thoughts and actions of a New Yorker who’s returned home, the following is an interview with a man who ain’t in the ground yet.
Reda: What’s your full name? Ben: Benjamin James Liversedge.
What nationality is Liversedge? English. I was born in England, lived there ’til I was five, and then moved to Long Island.
Did you move with your family? Yeah, my dad’s work brought us over here. We lived in different parts of Long Island ’til I was about seventeen, then I moved away from home.
Where’d you move? I moved to Boston for a little while, then out to Los Angeles, then up to San Francisco for an extended stay.
How is it out west? It’s cool. L.A. is too crazy for me, and San Francisco gets boring after a while, but the skating’s good.
You’ve skated for a lot of companies throughout the years, who was your first sponsor? My first sponsor was Jab skateboards–some company from New Jersey. Jab had a crazy team with some sick Long Island riders like Matt Thale. That fell through a couple months after it started, so I started sending sponsor-me tapes around and somehow got in contact with Renegade skateboards. They sent me a couple boards, but that didn’t last too long because I was living in New York; that was around the time skateboarding started dying. I was bummed on it for a while. The whole sponsor-me-tape thing didn’t work, so I went up to Boston and enrolled in school there for a little bit.
Around the same time, my friends from New York, Keith Hufnagel and Keenan Milton, were getting heavily connected with Fun skateboards, and it was going really well. They asked me if I wanted to skate, so I got on Fun skateboards. That took me out to California, and once I was in California, Fun started having problems. After Fun ended, I skated for Real skateboards for two or three years. I had some personal problems with those guys, so they kicked me off.
I didn’t skate with anyone for eight months to a year. Eventually, I got hooked up with ATM, because Rob Carlyon and Ed Devera–a couple of my friends from San Francisco–were skating for it. I rode for ATM for about a year, until the guy who owned it decided he didn’t want to work with me anymore. So, we parted ways. But it was for the better, because right now I’m starting a new company with Ryan Hickey and Mike Hernandez called Infamous skateboards.
How’s that going? It’s blowing up. We basically went from a small rumor to a huge company with a crazy underground following, and we’ll be in every skate shop by the time you read this.
Without mentioning any names, a lot of people in the skate industry think New York skaters don’t skate, that they’re chillers, doing whatever. What do you think about that? The thing is, when people come to New York they go to Supreme one of New York City’s most prominent skate shops and see people hanging out, so they instantly think New Yorkers don’t skate. But in reality, they don’t know when that person skates, where that person skates, or how that person skates. It’s a bunch of bullshit. If everyone in New York chilled and didn’t skate, how has New York produced so many good skaters? Don’t you think everyone from here would suck? Do you think Keith Hufnagel sucks? I don’t think so.
I don’t think so, either. In your opinion, what is a pro skateboarder?<>
To me, a pro skateboarder is someone who can skate anywhere, anytime, on anything. Someone who can perform under pressure, someone who can represent their sponsors, someone who isn’t scared to enter a contest. In terms of skill level, everyone skates so differently there would be no way to categorize someone as good or bad, because everyone out there does different things.
What about contests?
Contests are cool, I’m all for ‘em. But because I don’t really get to skate ramps too much here in New York, they’re not really my thing.
What about this whole East Coast versus West Coast thing? How does that fit into your mind-set? That’s a whole bunch of bullshit, too. Everyone in California is from somewhere else. A lot of people move out there and somehow get California pride. They start acting like that’s where they’re from and what they’re about. A lot of sick skateboarders have come out of the East Coast over the last five years or so, and now it’s turning heads. No one ever bought into the idea that the East Coast is better than the West–that was devised by the magazines as hype to get people interested.
What’s your normal daily routine? I wake up sometime between eleven and one, depending on the day and my motivation. I usually go down to Supreme at about 1:30 p.m. and meet up with some photographer and go skate with the usual fellows–Chris Keefe and Keith Hufnagel, or anyone who’s hanging around Supreme. We skate Manhattan or Queens mostly. I like to ride a smaller board–about seven and a half inches wide with 50-millimeter wheels, skinny low benches. Lately, I’ve been trying a lot of switch stuff, that’s where I think my skating’s taking me; that’s what challenges me these days.
Do you feel like skating in New York gets a little repetitious? Supreme, the Banks, Midtown … Yeah, it can get repetitious, but no more than San Francisco or San Diego. In those places you can look at a spot and remember from videos the ten or fifteen tricks everyone’s done on it. At least here you may have seen the spot before, but you haven’t seen it killed to the ground.
When you’re not skating, tell me about the video-game parties you have at your house? I don’t have video-game parties at my house! I don’t have any parties at my house. When I’m not skating, I like to relax, hang out with my girlfriend Sarah, do a little bike riding to stay in shape. Light workouts every day–I think that’s real important. Skateboarding is very bad exercise for your body–extreme amounts of impact on your joints, and the whole motion of skateboarding is bad. If you’re a little kid out there, you should try to learn to push switch and regular. Five years from now, you’re going to be hating it if you don’t.
How has skateboarding changed your life? It’s become my life, taken over my life. It’s ruled my life for the last ten years. I have no idea where I would be if I didn’t skateboard. Maybe involved in some kind of sport or something.
Do you have anything to tell all those kids out there who skate every day and want to be pro? Yeah. Keep going, you can make it happen. Anyone can be pro. Keep skating every day, keep pushing yourself.
What do you think about pros who get high, drink, and party? I think whatever anyone wants to do is up to them. If they’re skating and having fun doing it, and their lifestyle is not affecting the way they skate, more power to ‘em. I don’t think people should let partying take over their lives, that’s when they need to realize they have a problem. But if they’re still ripping and doing their shit, there’s nothing wrong with it.
Any last words or comments? Nah, no last words or comments. I ain’t dead, yet.
“If everyone in New York chilled and didn’t skate, how has New York produced so many good skaters?”
“I have no idea where I would be if I didn’t skateboard.”
“No one ever bought into the idea that the East Coast is better than the West–that was devised by the magazines as hype to get people interested.”
East Coast is better than the West–that was devised by the magazines as hype to get people interested.”