Family Value – Matt Beach Interview

A dialogue about morals and ethics, this is not. Nor is it an attempt to reclaim the political bully’s definition of “family,” with all of its intolerant subtext.

Plainly and simply, the following is a conversation with Matt Beach, a professional skateboarder and strict undergrounder who—when handing out credit regarding where he’s from, who he is, and what he’s learned—generously reflects the bright beams of praise onto his family, onto those who gave him life and the space to live it, instead of tanning in the spotlight himself.

Value that.

 

“I never wanted everyone to know who I was, which is a bad idea if you want to be a professional skateboarder.”

“Everyone has their specialties—I’m just doin’ what I can do. I’m more in the mindset of ‘skate whatever you can find’—skate everything.”

“It trips me out that this is what I do for a living.”

 

Tell me a little bit about your family. What do your parents do?

My mom is a second-grade teacher. My dad is a microbiologist. He’s been working at the Portland State Health Division for 35 years. If they suspect a dog has rabies, they bring the head in after they kill it, and my dad is the guy who tests it. He mostly works with blood spots. He’s also been working on this one thing on the side for like 25 years. Have you ever heard of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Yeah. SIDS.

Well, he developed a test—a kit that can detect if a baby has it or not.

Wow. How does that work?

I don’t understand it ’cause I’m not a microbiologist, but basically, he kind of cracked the code. Now he needs to get a doctor to endorse his kit—just check it out—but no one will listen to him about it.

Was he doing SIDS research when you lived at home?

For as long as I can remember. He’s dedicated so much time to it because he believes in it. He’d always tell me, “I don’t know if this is ever going to work out, but if I can just save one baby’s life, it’s worth it.”

How old were you when you started skating?

It kinda happened on a whim. My grandma gave me twenty dollars for Christmas when I was nine. We all went to Toys R Us. I was into Transformers and M.A.S.K., so I was gonna buy one of those. I wandered down this aisle that had roller skates, baseball gloves, and all sorts of stuff. It also had a NASH skateboard for nineteen ninety-five. I just saw that, and I was like, “Wow! I wanna try that!” So I bought it. The rest is history, I guess (laughs).

You always wonder who those twenty-dollar skateboards are going to and what good they are, but that’s what got you started.

Totally.

How important has your family been to your skateboarding?

I think my parents are awesome. They just saw that I loved something, and they didn’t want to get in the way. I wasn’t good at sports—I wasn’t good at anything, really. And to find something that I liked, and I wasn’t causin’ trouble, they were just like, “Yeah, that’s cool, Matt!”

Your dad also built you a ramp in your backyard, but it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill mini ramp. Can you explain it to me?

I remember it was my tenth birthday, and I was super into skating. My dad I asked what I wanted for my birthday. I just threw out, “Oh, I want a mini ramp.” Just thinkin’, like, “Yeah, right, Matt.” Might as well have been asking for a car or something. My dad was like, “Well, what do those things usually cost?” I was like, “I don’t know, a hundred dollars?” (Laughs) I had no clue about money, you know? He was like, “Oh, okay, maybe we’ll do that ’cause you and your brother can both ride it.”

From there, the ramp was just built on and built on. For my birthday, they’d be like, “What do want this year?” I’d be like, “Oh, I want an extension,” or “Can you build me a spine or something?” (Laughs) It kind of turned into this crazy spine/hip mini-ra contraption that was amazing.

What’s your town called?

It’s called Aloha. It’s a suburb west of Portland, Oregon. It’s awesome out there—it’s mellow, but not much street stuff.

At what age did you start venturing away from your town to skate other stuff?

I always had older friends—when I was twelve, most of my friends were around sixteen or seventeen. I just got along with people that age. When my younger friends like Jayme Fortune, Rachman Chung, and I would go skate, we’d either get a ride from one of our parents or we’d ride the bus and go downtown. That started around thirteen or fourteen. Sometimes one of our older friends would come pick us up in their car, and they’d be nice enough to take us out street skating in Portland.

How old were you when you got sponsored?

I was twelve.

Did they see you skating at contests or was it a sponsor-me video thing?

I started going to these contests for fun. Someone from G&S came to one, and I qualified for a districts’ contest—it was like a West Coast-sponsored skateboarder thing. This guy came up and talked to me. It was Chris Carter who does Alien Workshop now. He told me that he’d start giving me some free boards—I was on cloud nine, you know?

Do you think the contest skating you did made you a better skater or made you skate a certain way?

Well, it wasn’t really like I was ever competitive about it; it wasn’t like I even wanted to turn pro or anything. I remember going to contests just to see my favorite skaters. I was so in love with skateboarding. I watched all these videos, and I loved everything about it. I was captivated. It was the only thing in the world that had anything to offer me. It was freedom almost, you know? It was a way for me to experience it—see rad skateboarding and be a part of it.

Did you ever get sick of contests?

Well, yeah, in a way. I still enjoy contests for the same reasons, and I always have, but … (sigh) I don’t know. There came a time when I just wanted to skate and not really have that pressure. I never trained for contests. I always just skated. I remember winning my first pro contest, and that was such a big thing to me, like, “Wow, how did that even happen?” It was ten years ago at the Back To The City contest in SF. I was fifteen. I just tripped out on it.

Who were you skating with there?

It was right when Girl Skateboards started. Koston was there, Mike Carroll, Henry Sanchez, Guy Mariano, Jason Lee. Christian Hosoi was actually there, if you can believe that. I remember when I won that contest, it changed the way I thought about it. It was almost like I attained something, and I didn’t know if I could ever do it again. It made me feel really weird. I mean, I’m from Oregon (laughs). I didn’t even know how it happened, it just kind of tripped me out. I had to just let it go and enjoy skating.

I never wanted everyone to know who I was, which is a bad idea if you want to be a professional skateboarder (laughs). I was just confused, it happened so fast. Back then, it was kinda weird to turn pro at fifteen. Yeah, I did the contest. I stayed on my board. But it was miraculous—to this day, I couldn’t do that run again. It was like I thought I wasn’t good enough to be even skating with those guys.

Were your parents there?

Well, it was weird, ’cause Birdhouse flew me down, I did the contest, left the before the awards, and I flew back. The night I got home, my mom told me that my friend had been killed in a car accident. I was devastated. His name was Brad Satler. He filmed some of my stuff for my first Birdhouse video part. I was tripping—I was fifteen and there was a lot of stuff happening.

The next morning, after I came home from school, there were like 50 messages on the answering machine saying, “Matt, that’s awesome! You won the contest!” I was like, “Huh?” I didn’t even know I won.

You probably didn’t know which way was up.

Yeah, I kind of didn’t. You’re supposed to be happy, you know, like, “I’m on the top of the world,” but you’re not. Right then I didn’t even care that I was even in that contest. It was weird for a fifteen year old to take in. And then right after that, everyone I was really tight with got into drugs. It was just the time—raves were big, but that single event made my other friends trip out a little bit. I didn’t want to get into acid and stuff like that, you know?

It seems like you’ve always had this good separation from the California scene. Even now, you’re renting an apartment in L.A., but you still maintain this outsider stance. Is keeping your distance from skateboarding’s epicenter something you’ve made a conscious decision about, or is it just the way things have gone for you?

It’s probably just my own insecurities. When I’m down in California, I can skate, but I feel so weird down there sometimes. Southern California is a different place from where I grew up at, so I start to get all tense. It’s weird. For me to stay motivated and psyched on skateboarding, I need to be able to skate down there and film and have fun and skate with rad people when the weather’s bad up here. But also, I need to come up here where it’s mellow.

How long have you been riding for The Firm?

I got on The Firm when I was seventeen, I’ve been riding for them a good seven years or so. Almost eight years.

How did that relationship begin?

Well, I met Lance when I was pretty young at a Christian skateboard camp up in Portland. Lance has been my idol—he was hands-down my favorite Bones Brigade member. Lance skated for the right reasons—he’s goofy, fun, and just ripped. He talked with me at the camp, and I didn’t really hear from him for a while. Then one day I got a call from Joe Gruber—he was a Firm rider at the time—and he was like, “Matt, we want you to ride for us.” I didn’t even really think about it—I was fifteen, had just won that contest, and turned pro.

Nothing really happened, and then a couple years later I needed something new. I needed something for motivation. I needed to be proud of what I was doing. Going with Lance was just a different thing—it was fresh, and I loved it. I’ve always dug The Firm, no matter what. I loved them from day one.

The Firm video is out now. Are you happy with it and your part in it?

To be completely honest with you, I never had a full, long video part. I’ve been pro for a long time, and the longest part I had was in a 411—Issue 32—and that was four or five years ago. This is my first long part. I worked hard for that thing—that’s two-and-a-half years of filming and doing the best that I humanly could. I gave it my all, and I can honestly say I’m happy about it.

There’s some amazing skateboarding going down right now, but its silhouette gets so familiar after you’ve seen it all like 30 or 40 times.

Everyone has their specialties—I’m just doin’ what I can do. I’m more in the mindset of skate whatever you can find—skate everything. Make something happen out of nothing. That’s what skating is.

Skateboarding is such a rad thing—it’s whatever you want it to be, but it’s a shame to see it get so uniform. And it’s a shame to see creativity lost. Not to be all arty and stuff, but I get bummed when I see that everyone has a front board on a rail. That’s awesome, but there’re so many standards that you have to cover on a video part nowadays. It’s almost like you could make a questionnaire and just check off the tricks you’re doing, you know, like, “Okay, I got the five-0; I got the big 50-50.” That’s amazing, and you know what? Some of that stuff I can’t even do—it’s not fun for me. If it’s not fun, then why would I want to do it? My fun is going to be something different than someone else’s.

Is there aven know I won.

You probably didn’t know which way was up.

Yeah, I kind of didn’t. You’re supposed to be happy, you know, like, “I’m on the top of the world,” but you’re not. Right then I didn’t even care that I was even in that contest. It was weird for a fifteen year old to take in. And then right after that, everyone I was really tight with got into drugs. It was just the time—raves were big, but that single event made my other friends trip out a little bit. I didn’t want to get into acid and stuff like that, you know?

It seems like you’ve always had this good separation from the California scene. Even now, you’re renting an apartment in L.A., but you still maintain this outsider stance. Is keeping your distance from skateboarding’s epicenter something you’ve made a conscious decision about, or is it just the way things have gone for you?

It’s probably just my own insecurities. When I’m down in California, I can skate, but I feel so weird down there sometimes. Southern California is a different place from where I grew up at, so I start to get all tense. It’s weird. For me to stay motivated and psyched on skateboarding, I need to be able to skate down there and film and have fun and skate with rad people when the weather’s bad up here. But also, I need to come up here where it’s mellow.

How long have you been riding for The Firm?

I got on The Firm when I was seventeen, I’ve been riding for them a good seven years or so. Almost eight years.

How did that relationship begin?

Well, I met Lance when I was pretty young at a Christian skateboard camp up in Portland. Lance has been my idol—he was hands-down my favorite Bones Brigade member. Lance skated for the right reasons—he’s goofy, fun, and just ripped. He talked with me at the camp, and I didn’t really hear from him for a while. Then one day I got a call from Joe Gruber—he was a Firm rider at the time—and he was like, “Matt, we want you to ride for us.” I didn’t even really think about it—I was fifteen, had just won that contest, and turned pro.

Nothing really happened, and then a couple years later I needed something new. I needed something for motivation. I needed to be proud of what I was doing. Going with Lance was just a different thing—it was fresh, and I loved it. I’ve always dug The Firm, no matter what. I loved them from day one.

The Firm video is out now. Are you happy with it and your part in it?

To be completely honest with you, I never had a full, long video part. I’ve been pro for a long time, and the longest part I had was in a 411—Issue 32—and that was four or five years ago. This is my first long part. I worked hard for that thing—that’s two-and-a-half years of filming and doing the best that I humanly could. I gave it my all, and I can honestly say I’m happy about it.

There’s some amazing skateboarding going down right now, but its silhouette gets so familiar after you’ve seen it all like 30 or 40 times.

Everyone has their specialties—I’m just doin’ what I can do. I’m more in the mindset of skate whatever you can find—skate everything. Make something happen out of nothing. That’s what skating is.

Skateboarding is such a rad thing—it’s whatever you want it to be, but it’s a shame to see it get so uniform. And it’s a shame to see creativity lost. Not to be all arty and stuff, but I get bummed when I see that everyone has a front board on a rail. That’s awesome, but there’re so many standards that you have to cover on a video part nowadays. It’s almost like you could make a questionnaire and just check off the tricks you’re doing, you know, like, “Okay, I got the five-0; I got the big 50-50.” That’s amazing, and you know what? Some of that stuff I can’t even do—it’s not fun for me. If it’s not fun, then why would I want to do it? My fun is going to be something different than someone else’s.

Is there a direction you want your skateboarding to go?

I’d like to be able to do a 540 on a halfpipe. That’s always been a goal of mine. I don’t have to go upside-down or anything—I just wanna make a 540 on a vert ramp. I just want to be able to skate everything.

It maybe sounds kinda weird, but I’ve always thought skating and music go hand in hand. There’re different styles of music and there’re different musicians, and that’s why it’s hard to judge. That’s why your favorite skateboarder might not ever do good in a contest, but he’s always your favorite skateboarder because he’s like a musician—you love the way he plays. Some guy might rip at guitar and yeah, he’s not the most technical, but when he plays, you’re just into it. It touches you in some way.

Do you have a favorite skateboarder?

I can’t say I have just one—I have a lot of favorite skateboarders. Ben Schroeder has always been one of my all-time favorites. The guy’s style, his flavor of skateboarding—just gnarly and raw, and he’s a big dude.

I want to skate everything and experience every type of feeling—like a skating a pool. It gives you a different feeling, it’s a whole different ball game than skating a bench. Or a halfpipe is different than a handrail. I want to know what it feels like for Wade Speyer to rip a spine ramp, you know what I mean? I want to know what that feels like, so I want to skate it.

When you sit back and survey your skateboarding, do you ever realize that you have a gift?

It trips me out that this is what I do for a living. Sometimes I think, “Wow, it’s crazy that this has happened.” The only thing I ever wanted to do was skateboard, and I feel like it’s god-given gift. I mean, I know that’s a weird gift—I don’t know. I just skate (laughs). I guess I don’t think about it too much. I was given parents who allowed me to do it. That’s a gift right there. And I was given friends who were into it as much as I was. People who support me and sponsor me—I mean, that’s amazing. I’ve been blessed.

This would probably be a good time to thank some of those people.

Well, obviously I’d to thank my mom, dad, and brother—they’ve always been there for me through hard times and good times. Dang it, they’re amazing people. My grandma for giving me the money for my first board. Chris Carter and Mike Hill for putting me on G&S back in the day. Tony Hawk—he gave me the ultimate chance in the world, getting to ride for Birdhouse and tour with him. Lance Mountain for sticking with me even though I’m a pain in the butt sometimes—he’s always been good to me. And Cal’s Pharmacy—Kyle Reynolds and everyone who works there have always supported me. Those guys are truly good friends. Kurt Hiyashi for filming with me and sticking with me, and Jon Humphries who took the photos for this interview—none of this interview would’ve been possible if Jon wasn’t into helping me. He’s awesome. I’d like to thank Independent Trucks—Joey Tershay. Monkey Grip griptape and bolts. adidas—they’re awesome to me, they’re amazing people. The Goetz family for helping me get sponsored. My girlfriend Janna—she’s always been there for me through thick and thin. I’d like to thank the Lord just because I honestly believe he’s lookin’ out for me even though I can’t see it sometimes. I’m truly in debt.

re a direction you want your skateboarding to go?

I’d like to be able to do a 540 on a halfpipe. That’s always been a goal of mine. I don’t have to go upside-down or anything—I just wanna make a 540 on a vert ramp. I just want to be able to skate everything.

It maybe sounds kinda weird, but I’ve always thought skating and music go hand in hand. There’re different styles of music and there’re different musicians, and that’s why it’s hard to judge. That’s why your favorite skateboarder might not ever do good in a contest, but he’s always your favorite skateboarder because he’s like a musician—you lovee the way he plays. Some guy might rip at guitar and yeah, he’s not the most technical, but when he plays, you’re just into it. It touches you in some way.

Do you have a favorite skateboarder?

I can’t say I have just one—I have a lot of favorite skateboarders. Ben Schroeder has always been one of my all-time favorites. The guy’s style, his flavor of skateboarding—just gnarly and raw, and he’s a big dude.

I want to skate everything and experience every type of feeling—like a skating a pool. It gives you a different feeling, it’s a whole different ball game than skating a bench. Or a halfpipe is different than a handrail. I want to know what it feels like for Wade Speyer to rip a spine ramp, you know what I mean? I want to know what that feels like, so I want to skate it.

When you sit back and survey your skateboarding, do you ever realize that you have a gift?

It trips me out that this is what I do for a living. Sometimes I think, “Wow, it’s crazy that this has happened.” The only thing I ever wanted to do was skateboard, and I feel like it’s god-given gift. I mean, I know that’s a weird gift—I don’t know. I just skate (laughs). I guess I don’t think about it too much. I was given parents who allowed me to do it. That’s a gift right there. And I was given friends who were into it as much as I was. People who support me and sponsor me—I mean, that’s amazing. I’ve been blessed.

This would probably be a good time to thank some of those people.

Well, obviously I’d to thank my mom, dad, and brother—they’ve always been there for me through hard times and good times. Dang it, they’re amazing people. My grandma for giving me the money for my first board. Chris Carter and Mike Hill for putting me on G&S back in the day. Tony Hawk—he gave me the ultimate chance in the world, getting to ride for Birdhouse and tour with him. Lance Mountain for sticking with me even though I’m a pain in the butt sometimes—he’s always been good to me. And Cal’s Pharmacy—Kyle Reynolds and everyone who works there have always supported me. Those guys are truly good friends. Kurt Hiyashi for filming with me and sticking with me, and Jon Humphries who took the photos for this interview—none of this interview would’ve been possible if Jon wasn’t into helping me. He’s awesome. I’d like to thank Independent Trucks—Joey Tershay. Monkey Grip griptape and bolts. adidas—they’re awesome to me, they’re amazing people. The Goetz family for helping me get sponsored. My girlfriend Janna—she’s always been there for me through thick and thin. I’d like to thank the Lord just because I honestly believe he’s lookin’ out for me even though I can’t see it sometimes. I’m truly in debt.

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