Living The Dream

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Living The Dream

Your new “career as professional skateboarder—what a charmed life it would be. Skating all over the world, meeting exotic women, driving fancy cars, signing autographs for crazed fans, and all this while wearing signature shoes with your name on them, of course. Everyone loves a rags-to-riches success story, but sometimes we forget about a little something called reality. We don’t really talk about those who are so passionate about skateboarding they’re willing to leave their hometowns, live on Ramen Noodles, sleep in cars, and do whatever it takes to pay the bills. And while some people might call this type of lifestyle a nightmare, a lot of us have chosen to call it LIVING THE DREAM.

DJ Chavez
Albuquerque, New Mexico

I’m from the middle of the high desert, Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s a hidden wonderland, and I love it, but unfortunately New Mexico breeds ugly. The summer sun fries people’s brains and then the winter freezes them—basically brain-fried/frozen ugly people. I was there long enough that I felt it happening to me, plus I saw some of my homeys in Cali getting shit done, starting to pop up in the magazines and videos. I knew it was time to get out of there.

I saved up exactly 1,000 dollars and broke out with my girlfriend to Hollywood. I didn’t have shit, but she had a job, so while she was at work I’d end up skating all day. Then I kind of started feeling like a mooch, and decided to go on as many trips as possible. I was like, “F—k paying rent, because I had no money, so I just couch-surfed everywhere.

Instantly it seemed like spots were everywhere in Cali. There was traffic to deal with and standard security-guard run-ins, but f—k, the convenience. I also realized was you could be the greatest skateboarder ever, but if you lived in a place with no one to notice or offer you opportunities, it just wouldn’t matter. Because you learn the way you thought the skateboarding industry works is completely different from how it really works. Because everybody comes out here with the California dream, and as skateboarders, our dreams are a bit odd and kind of naive.

As far as skating goes, it’s a lot easier to progress out here because you have so many different styles to learn from and feed off. You see people do things you didn’t think were possible, and it starts to make you think you can do it, too. Just meeting people and seeing different spots, those are the things I appreciate most about being out here. You meet all these people who are psyched on skating just like you.

A funny thing is that some kids think once you’re sponsored you’ve made it, and that’s just not the case. A lot of people like myself are psyched to get boards and shoes, but right now I don’t get paid any money. Because all I do is skate, I can try to make money by photo incentive. Get a photo in a mag, fill out the paperwork, play phone-tag, and just send it out to my sponsors. It’s actually really odd that there’s paperwork for skateboarding, but you gotta do it to try to pay rent.

There’s also this wonderland called the Buffalo Exchange, and every broke skateboarder knows about it. It’s a store that buys and sells new and used clothes, and the girls who work there will usually buy anything if you’re nice. Just make sure you’re not selling any scummy shit, always have everything out of the bag so they don’t have to search through it, make sure you blend the sketchy stuff between the really good stuff, and maybe hook the girls up a bit, too. Give ‘em some extra stickers, it’s like a sure shot. You should be able to walk out with enough cash to last you a couple days. I’ve also heard stories about the notorious Play It Again Sports in Huntington Beach. I’ve never been there, but I guess you get twenty bucks for a board, 30 for shoes, and they’ll even buy stickers and patches.

As far as advice for kids who want to move to Cali? Don’t do it, you guys will be trying to come up on my shit!ust kidding, the only reason I say that is because I know how it is being a hungry kid who only thinks about skating. Skating flatland for three hours straight in a cold-ass parking garage because there’s three feet of snow outside—those were the days. But now I’m at Hellrose, skating with all my boys. I just visited Albuquerque and in all honesty, I don’t think I’ll ever be moving back there. Thinking about being stuck back home scares me into skating some gnarly shit.

James Atkin
St. George, Utah

Mental breakdown, that’s how I ended up in California. Basically, my girlfriend broke up with me, so I just figured, “I gotta get the f—k outta here. I’m from St. George, Utah, it’s in the southern part, close to Vegas, so it’s really hot and has about 60,000 very religious Mormon people. Just looking around I knew there was nothing for me there. I threw all my shit into the back of my truck and drove to California.

It was crazy, I remember driving all paranoid and shaking because I had no idea where to go or what to do. So when I first got out here I couldn’t skate that much. I stayed in Encinitas, California with no money, just trying to meet people and find a place to live. Luckily, because of skateboarding, I had met R.P. Bess at Duffs and Joey Comstock. I barely knew these dudes and I’d call them up and ask if I could stay at their houses. It’s funny now, but back then they must’ve thought I was the biggest lurker.

It’s tough because your friends want to be nice to you, and they’d probably let you stay at their house all the time, but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. So I slept in my truck a lot, which wasn’t that bad because I had the technique down. Usually I’d stay up really late drinking, get myself to the point where I could pass out anywhere, then go back to the truck. I’d tuck shirts over all of the windows, over the sun visors, make it my own little private room, then just lay the seat back and crash.

Finally I moved into a two-bedroom apartment, and of course, there were always four to eight dudes staying there, even though only three of us paid rent. It was just a never-ending scene—had to party whether you wanted to or not, had to deal with grumpy roommates whether you wanted to or not. Plus the people who lived above us were a bunch of loud marine jarheads. These dudes all had biohazard tattoos on their chest and always had a bunch of strippers over, but that was kind of cool, actually. The strippers would come by and press their boobs against our windows—it also meant we never slept.

Paying rent meant I had to get a job in Del Mar busing tables. It sucked, being super tired from no sleep and having to get to work before eight in the morning. Plus, dropping glasses in front of 50 people is not fun. Everyone just looks right at you and makes some joke. Basically after rent, gas, and bills, I was always broke.

To make the situation worse, I got a bunch of skateboarding tickets and speeding tickets and never paid them off. As of right now they’ve suspended my license, and I have bench warrants all over the state. Recently I tried to be responsible by paying the Los Angeles one off and that cost me 800 dollars. A 50-dollar skate ticket went to 800 all because I didn’t pay it! F—k! The thing is, I still have warrants out in San Diego for skating, San Francisco for fighting, St. George for underage consumption, and Laguna Hills for speeding. I don’t have any money to pay the tickets, so next time they decide to run my info, I’ll probably just go to jail.

Nowadays I like going back home to see my family and chill for a day or two, but after that it’s so boring I gotta split. I’m used to living out here where there’s shit to skate and do. I just have too much fun living at Hellrose and skating all the time. Plus, my living situation is way better now. I guess you’ve got to tough it out and get on your feet, because it makes a huge difference if you’re around positive people who are into the same things you are.

If I could give kids some advice, I’d say don’t take it too seriously, there’s more to life than skateboarding, even though skating is the shit. You’ve gotta have the skills, but you also gotta be able to chill with people and have fun—personality goes a long way in skateboarding. I know I’m not the greatest skateboarder, I’m just really lucky because I met a bunch of people and have good friends who are all involved with doing things they love.

Paul Otvos
Toronto, Canada

Don’t get me wrong, Toronto is great. It’s a big clean, really beautiful city, but I slowly started to feel the desire to leave every year when it began snowing. So one time I saved up a little bit of money and traveled around California for about a month—basically did a lot of couch-surfing. I was lucky in the sense I already knew some people out here, so I stayed at Bill Weiss’ house for a long time. That shit was so fun, I was psyched on just being in California, able to stay up late partying. Plus Clyde Singleton would always come over and with Weiss added to that mix, it was hilarious.

As far as skating, I instantly noticed that the ground is way smoother and there with less cracks. I also remember thinking that the spot-knobbing and security was insane. I mean, security is bad everywhere, but here they’re on point and take their jobs so f—king seriously. It’s a whole new level of rent-a-pricks.

When I got back to Toronto it was so cold that I just wanted to get out of there again. I took a little trip to San Francisco, and that’s when I just knew. I called my girlfriend, told her I was staying, and she decided to fly out here, too. Now we’re both living here at Hellrose, the infamous skate apartments in Fullerton. I’m trying to concentrate on my skating, so I haven’t really got a job. My girlfriend is paying most of the rent, she’s just really supportive of me trying to get things going with skating. If we broke up I’d, probably be homeless and have to move back into Weiss’ house.

Making it in skating is hard, though—it’s dog-eat-dog. It has to do a little bit with who you know, but it comes down to how hard you want to work. It’s a bit frustrating right now because I’m on a couple flow programs—I get a few boards from Shorty’s and shoes from DVS. I guess I have to be patient—because it’s up to me to kind of take it to the next level and get lots of coverage, and hopefully get on the teams for real.

Basically I just skate, film, hang out with people, and try to hook up with photographers. Shooting photos is important, but the pressure is on because you have to land your shit. It’s way different than filming with your friends because some photographers get pissed if you waste their time by not landing anything. I’m not going to name any names, but some photographers put people on “probation, which means they won’t shoot with you for a while if you don’t land anything. That sucks, but it can definitely motivate you to land your shit next time.

Unless I can figure out how to stop it from snowing in Toronto, I don’t think I’ll go back. I mean, last night I got to play pool with Josh Beagle, this guy I used to watch in skate videos. I even won a hundred bucks. Of course I ended up spending it all on beer and pizza, but that never would have happened if I was still in Toronto. I’m probably the worst guy to ask for advice, but you’ve just got to figure out what you want to do and grasp the moment, don’t be scared to skate with people. There’re so many talented kids out there, and a lot of them are so nervous they won’t even try to skate with other people. Just don’t be a pussy, go for it.

Don Ngyuen
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

What’s Oklahoma City like? Well, when I was growing up, the skate scene was seriously only me and five of my friends skating around the streets. And instead of jocks, there’re groups of these f—king cowboys wositive people who are into the same things you are.

If I could give kids some advice, I’d say don’t take it too seriously, there’s more to life than skateboarding, even though skating is the shit. You’ve gotta have the skills, but you also gotta be able to chill with people and have fun—personality goes a long way in skateboarding. I know I’m not the greatest skateboarder, I’m just really lucky because I met a bunch of people and have good friends who are all involved with doing things they love.

Paul Otvos
Toronto, Canada

Don’t get me wrong, Toronto is great. It’s a big clean, really beautiful city, but I slowly started to feel the desire to leave every year when it began snowing. So one time I saved up a little bit of money and traveled around California for about a month—basically did a lot of couch-surfing. I was lucky in the sense I already knew some people out here, so I stayed at Bill Weiss’ house for a long time. That shit was so fun, I was psyched on just being in California, able to stay up late partying. Plus Clyde Singleton would always come over and with Weiss added to that mix, it was hilarious.

As far as skating, I instantly noticed that the ground is way smoother and there with less cracks. I also remember thinking that the spot-knobbing and security was insane. I mean, security is bad everywhere, but here they’re on point and take their jobs so f—king seriously. It’s a whole new level of rent-a-pricks.

When I got back to Toronto it was so cold that I just wanted to get out of there again. I took a little trip to San Francisco, and that’s when I just knew. I called my girlfriend, told her I was staying, and she decided to fly out here, too. Now we’re both living here at Hellrose, the infamous skate apartments in Fullerton. I’m trying to concentrate on my skating, so I haven’t really got a job. My girlfriend is paying most of the rent, she’s just really supportive of me trying to get things going with skating. If we broke up I’d, probably be homeless and have to move back into Weiss’ house.

Making it in skating is hard, though—it’s dog-eat-dog. It has to do a little bit with who you know, but it comes down to how hard you want to work. It’s a bit frustrating right now because I’m on a couple flow programs—I get a few boards from Shorty’s and shoes from DVS. I guess I have to be patient—because it’s up to me to kind of take it to the next level and get lots of coverage, and hopefully get on the teams for real.

Basically I just skate, film, hang out with people, and try to hook up with photographers. Shooting photos is important, but the pressure is on because you have to land your shit. It’s way different than filming with your friends because some photographers get pissed if you waste their time by not landing anything. I’m not going to name any names, but some photographers put people on “probation, which means they won’t shoot with you for a while if you don’t land anything. That sucks, but it can definitely motivate you to land your shit next time.

Unless I can figure out how to stop it from snowing in Toronto, I don’t think I’ll go back. I mean, last night I got to play pool with Josh Beagle, this guy I used to watch in skate videos. I even won a hundred bucks. Of course I ended up spending it all on beer and pizza, but that never would have happened if I was still in Toronto. I’m probably the worst guy to ask for advice, but you’ve just got to figure out what you want to do and grasp the moment, don’t be scared to skate with people. There’re so many talented kids out there, and a lot of them are so nervous they won’t even try to skate with other people. Just don’t be a pussy, go for it.

Don Ngyuen
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

What’s Oklahoma City like? Well, when I was growing up, the skate scene was seriously only me and five of my friends skating around the streets. And instead of jocks, there’re groups of these f—king cowboys who chased us around everywhere screaming, “Skate or die! The spots there were okay, but basically the weather in Oklahoma is what pushed me over the edge—really cold in the winter and hot as hell in the summer. I just reached a point where I wanted to skate all the time. So I saved up some money from working at Best Buy, talked it over with some friends, then we just drove straight to Huntington Beach.

Somehow we lucked out by getting an apartment right away, which meant I needed some money, so a friend hooked me up with a job at Jamba Juice. Working there wasn’t that bad except I had to wake up at six in the morning every f—king day, that was rough.

Looking back, I guess my girlfriend pretty much supported me back then, because my checks from Jamba Juice weren’t even 150 bucks a week. We paid 1,200 bucks a month for rent, split between three people, so almost all of my money went toward that. Plus the living situation was normal at first, and then everybody started moving in. Immediately it became a packed skate house, and you’d feel like a dick for asking for your friends to leave, so that was rough. But I was skating every day and was meeting a lot of people. I even started filming for the Amateur video with Mikendo, a.k.a. Filmbot.

Before I moved here I remember having this perception of Cali that you could skate all year, skate down the street and there would be other skateboarders everywhere, and guess what? That’s pretty much how it is. It’s crazy because everyone is wears skate clothes, and there’re skaters everywhere, invading the schools and shit. When I first started working at Jamba Juice, Heath Kirchart and Matt Mumford would roll in. I was so psyched I’d always hook ‘em up with free drinks, and they were kind of like, “What the f—k? but I told ‘em I knew them from skating, it was funny. I also noticed right away that it seemed like the main reason people skated out here was to get sponsored, that’s what they worry about the most. Growin’ up in Oklahoma people just skate to have fun.

Looking back I realize I’ve been really lucky because I went on a Foundation tour and became instant friends with Justin Roy and Ritchie Belton. From there I met Kris Markovich, and next thing I knew I was on Hollywood. I never thought it would happen with me—everything happened so fast it still seems weird. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that it’s definitely more about hooking up with friends and hanging with people you like—that’ll do you way more good than a sponsor-me video ever will.

ys who chased us around everywhere screaming, “Skate or die! The spots there were okay, but basically the weather in Oklahoma is what pushed me over the edge—really cold in the winter and hot as hell in the summer. I just reached a point where I wanted to skate all the time. So I saved up some money from working at Best Buy, talked it over with some friends, then we just drove straight to Huntington Beach.

Somehow we lucked out by getting an apartment right away, which meant I needed some money, so a friend hooked me up with a job at Jamba Juice. Working there wasn’t that bad except I had to wake up at six in the morning every f—king day, that was rough.

Looking back, I guess my girlfriend pretty much supported me back then, because my checks from Jamba Juice weren’t even 150 bucks a week. We paid 1,200 bucks a month for rent, split between three people, so almost all of my money went toward that. Plus the living situation was normal at first, and then everybody started moving in. Immediately it became a packed skate house, and you’d feel like a dick for asking for your friends to leave, so that was rough. But I was skating every day and was meeting a lot of people. I even started filming for the Amateur video with Mikendo, a.k.a. Filmbot.

Before I moved here I remember having this perception of Cali that you could skate all year, skate down the street and there would be other skateboarders eveerywhere, and guess what? That’s pretty much how it is. It’s crazy because everyone is wears skate clothes, and there’re skaters everywhere, invading the schools and shit. When I first started working at Jamba Juice, Heath Kirchart and Matt Mumford would roll in. I was so psyched I’d always hook ‘em up with free drinks, and they were kind of like, “What the f—k? but I told ‘em I knew them from skating, it was funny. I also noticed right away that it seemed like the main reason people skated out here was to get sponsored, that’s what they worry about the most. Growin’ up in Oklahoma people just skate to have fun.

Looking back I realize I’ve been really lucky because I went on a Foundation tour and became instant friends with Justin Roy and Ritchie Belton. From there I met Kris Markovich, and next thing I knew I was on Hollywood. I never thought it would happen with me—everything happened so fast it still seems weird. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that it’s definitely more about hooking up with friends and hanging with people you like—that’ll do you way more good than a sponsor-me video ever will.