From our 10 Skaters Who Changed The Decade article in our February issue, here is the full-length Heath Kirchart interview we didn’t have the space to run. We edited a portion of the interview over his Sight Unseen part. Scroll down to read the entire piece.
For more TransWorld video parts and interviews from our list of 10 Skaters Who Changed The Decade, click HERE.
Words by Blair Alley
When you bookend a decade with the last parts in Sight Unseen and Mind Field, you'd think a guy would be proud. Well, the modest-to-a-fault Kirchart is simply too grounded in reality and plainly sees the world of skateboarding for what it is—an ever evolving enigma. Heath just happened to stick around longer than most, whether he thinks he's worthy or not. Silent for most of the last ten years, Heath spoke candidly and at length about all things post Y2K. Here's an insightful look back at the past decade with one of skateboarding's most dangerous.
Do you remember what you did for the millennium New Years?
I didn't do anything. I never do anything for New Years. I think New Years is the worst holiday.
What will you be doing for the 2010 New Years?
Same thing I did in 1999—nothing.
In 2000, you were on Emerica for a year, what, just on Alien for maybe a year? And were filming for Sight Unseen?
I think I was still on Birdhouse.
What was your life like then?
I was living in Orange County, I pretty much skated alone and just went out and filmed with Greg Hunt or Jon Holland and shot photos with either Swift or Atiba. I would just skate alone all the time—when I was training for tricks and when I was filming tricks—I didn't like to skate with anybody back then.
Do you still film like that—alone?
Back then, there was something more driving me. I was purely skating, there was nothing else in my life that I did. I was only skating, and I was skating alone. I was just focused on trying to be the best skater I could be I guess. Now it's harder to get inspired to go film alone. It's hard to get that hunger that I had back then. I think it just comes with being younger. I didn't hang out with girls—nothing back then. I didn't drink—that helps.
What did you think of your Sight Unseen part?
When it came out I was kind of disappointed. There were three tricks that I tried really hard to get that I never ended up getting and I was always disappointed and thought my part would have been a lot better if I would've gotten those.
What were the tricks?
In the credits I tried lipsliding this long handrail and kept eating sh-t. I went back four times and really punished myself on it. The kickflip front board down the hubba at UCI, I went there probably five times, ended up hitting my head and getting worked. I don't know what else.
Back tail kickflip out on the Monarch rail?
Oh yeah, I went there like eight times and never got it. I went there for the Emerica video (This Is Skateboarding) and did it first time out with their filmers.
Jon Holland said he got a late night voicemail from you saying, "I got it."
Yeah, I feel like when you're with a filmer and they're out there with you the whole time, they're trying it too. So when I made it I was psyched, so I told him right away when I got it because he went there so many times and went through so much agony with me.
See, if I would have gotten those things I felt my part would have been a really, really good part, but since it didn't have that, and I know it didn't have those tricks I wanted, which were major tricks, it was a let down for me.
How do you feel when people cite it as their favorite video of all time?
Do people say that?
Yeah, Corey Duffel said it's his favorite part of all time.
I've heard people talk about it, maybe people just like the music and the mood and all that. I don't know what to think of that.
In the early 2000s, the Baker/Piss Drunx explosion happened. You even had footage in Baker Bootleg and Baker 2G, did that scene have any effect on you?
Those guys’ whole scene was basically centered around partying, and I rarely partied with them. I'd go on trips with them, like Birdhouse trips—Baker wasn't really around, they were just making the videos. It was basically hanging out with J. Strickland, he was the man behind the Baker video before Baker was a company. I never really hung with them or got in their crew, I was just a skater friend.
What was it like in that era with skateboarding being so handrail focused?
I was right in the middle of it, I liked it. I was feeding in and feeding off it. To me it seems like a natural progression in skateboarding, if you're going to do a trick on a ledge, it's always better to do it on a rail so you're doing the trick as best as it can be done, and I don't know what's better than doing it down a handrail. That's always been my logic.
There's an interesting trend with you finding spots and getting the first trick there, then it becomes the hot spot to skate afterwards. What's your take on that? Does it piss you off?
I'm a lot more laid back now about it, but there were certain people that I really hated when they did it. There's kind of an etiquette in skateboarding. The thing I always reference is Geoff Rowley with Staples Center—it's Geoff Rowley's Staples Center, and people go there to prove themselves against Geoff Rowley. To me it's like, okay so you're only going there to prove yourself against one of the greatest skaters, that's why you're doing it down that.
El Toro is something different, El Toro was just a great rail that was right in the heart of skateboarding. Of course it was going to blow up and be a big spot.
I'm kind of talking in circles, but mainly I hated the amateurs coming after me. I had this one kid that went to like three of my spots and completely took me apart at them—he backlipped El Toro, he switch grinded this hubba that I regular grinded. Nutty, nutty sh-t, and I was like, this guy is after me. And there was another kid that I was really harsh about, he rode for Adio or something.
Where are those kids now, though?
They're not here, but when you're in it and heated and you're really passionate, it's hard seeing that it's just skating and it doesn't matter what these other people are doing. I've always been really protective of what I'm doing. Looking back I kind of regret how I've acted, basically.
When was the point when you realized you can make this last well into your thirties? Cause you're this generation of street pros that are the first to last like this.
When I grew up, Josh Beagle was my mentor and he retired or whatever at 22, 23, so I was like, that's when it's over. I was always like, I don't know what I'm gonna do with life so I'm just gonna follow whatever you do and see how it works for you. But right when he quit was when skating careers started getting longer and longer. I've always had the mentality that I'll be skating for three more years professionally, so that somehow has gotten me to 32, luckily. There's always like a three year horizon I feel when it's about to end.
Why three years?
I don't know, maybe it's anything after 22, and I'm like, wow this could go for three more years, 'cause contracts are usually three or four years, for the people that aren't getting the ten-year deals. So I kinda look at, well on paper they're gonna have to pay me this much longer, so I guess I'm gonna be able to do it this much longer.
What made you start investing so early? Did you have good financial advice when you were younger?
I bought my first house because Chris Ortiz said, "You should buy a house." I went to my dad and I was like, this guy says I should buy a house, and my dad was like, "Yeah, you should buy a house." That got me into investing. From there I had more money coming in, and my dad was like, "Okay, you have more money coming in, this is what you do with it. You start putting it into index funds and stocks and whatnot." I've always had a fear of what I was going to do, I never wanted to work at McDonald's. So I do whatever I can to not ever have to work a normal job. Early on, I always had that mentality, so I saw that investing in houses and stocks could actually grow my money to the point, if I was lucky enough with skateboarding, I could never have a real job in my life.
Looking back, do you feel like you've come out of a shell over the last 10 years?
Yeah, like I said, in 2000, I was simply alone, pretty much. I really skated with nobody. I would go train by myself, I would go skate for fun by myself. I would go film with just a filmer and a photographer. Now it's not like that.
Do you miss it being like that?
No, I don't miss it, no. I wouldn't change it back then, I think it helped me. It made me what people call me, which is like a weirdo and whatnot. I don't know, I wouldn't change it. I think it helped me be more focused at skating and is maybe why I'm still around.
What's been your best selling shoe?
Probably the first one. I've never had any luck with product. I've never been a high seller of decks or shoes. Anything with my name on it doesn't really seem to move product. But my first shoe, it was a golden time for shoes in skateboarding. It was at the beginning of the shoe craze and when it blew up. After that shops realized it doesn't sell and they stopped buying it.
What's your take on the state of skate videos right now?
As far as like you can't sell a skate video and kids don't seem to place the importance on them?
I think it's sad, but it's only sad because I'm older and I grew up when the video was king. I'm sure the era before me the magazines were king and they were bummed that this new video was taking it out. It sucks because it means I'm losing more and more touch with what skateboarding was when I was a kid and videos were this all-important thing. Now a kid would rather see a sh-tty YouTube-quality of a video part. It pains me to think that these skaters dump four years into a video part and kids not wanting to see it to the quality it should be seen at. But it's just a coming of the times and the end of skateboarding as I grew up with it. These kids have something else that I don't see the importance of whatever they see, just like the people before me didn't see the importance of videos like I did. Maybe it's a sign of how old I am. I'm the old guy going, "No! Skate video DVDs!"
Did you personally have to buy the rights to Morrissey for Mind Field?
[laughs] No. I've heard that rumor and I think Rob [Dyrdek] actually bought his song.
Were you stoked to win Best Street Skater this last year?
I am, but I think it's ridiculous to get awards. One thing it does is at least shows my mom that I guess I'm still relevant. Maybe she thinks I'm relevant because I won an award. It's definitely an honor to get it from the pros. I would have rather gotten it from the kids, but that's never going to happen.
I always thought the one I won was a popularity contest. I always vote for the guy I like, I don't really vote for the guy who skated best. So it was kind of an odd one for me to win, maybe.
What was the story behind your stunt double acceptance? Why didn't you want to get up there?
A. I just thought it would be funny and B. that just scares the sh-t out of me, like going up on stage in front of people. Especially accepting an award is just something I could not do. Something about accepting the award makes me feel big-headed, like I deserve it or something. The whole thing is too much for me. But mainly going up on stage in front of a whole bunch of people is a major, major fear of mine.
Thanks for coming on the red carpet by the way, the video with you ended up getting the most views.
I heard a bunch of people talking about how I was an asshole, but I was just kind of buzzed or drunk or in between the two.
Most of the guys in this issue are married and/or have kids. Is any of that in your future?
It used to never be in the future, it used to be like the worst thing possible. I guess lately, it's become more of a, not while I'm skating. When I'm done skating maybe, maybe, but never marriage, maybe kid.
What's the story behind the all white outfits?
The original idea was basically the Emerica video was going to come out really quickly after the Alien video, so I'm not going to go out and learn a bunch of new tricks in six months, I think was the spread between the videos. And also try to differentiate myself, have my part kind of look different than anyone else's. Maybe if it all looked like one outfit it would make it look different than all these people that are better than me at skating and had longer to film. Maybe I'd stick out a little bit more. But now I guess the videos are gonna be a year a part. That's like the idea I guess, some stupid gimmick.
Where do you see skateboarding ten years from now?
I like how skating now, there's all these really really really talented people that are way better than everyone else, but they're not really making it because aesthetically they're not there. You can't just be good, you have to be a natural at it to where you just look really good. Maybe it will get to the point where you have to be aesthetically pleasing and really really f—king good, and skateboarding will, I don't know, look better.
Is there one thing that stands out that you're most proud of over the last decade?
I don't know. I feel like I've been doing this for 20 years, so it's kind of hard. I'm not really that proud of anything. I'm kinda just old and jaded I guess. Photos are the one thing that come out where I like it. I look at them and go, wow, that's a perfect picture. There's certain photos I've had, where I was like, "That's cool looking." I feel weird saying that I'm psyched on my own photo. I don't know what I'm saying, I guess I'm not really proud of anything. Are people really ever proud about themselves?
Yeah, if you put out a good video part you're stoked on.
You're supposed to be proud about your girlfriend or your kid or something. I've never thought about being proud about yourself.
Have you been happy with tricks, or video parts, or interviews you've done?
Yeah, there's definitely stuff I've been happy with. I like the Alien video, I think that turned out really well. I guess that would be something that I was proud of, if I had to be proud of something.
What was the story in the credits, thanks to nobody?
There's a story behind that. Greg emailed everyone, "We're not gonna do individual thanks, we're just gonna do a big thanks column from everyone. So don't put 'thanks mom, thanks dad, thanks everyone,' thank everyone by name." So I was like, I don't want to thank anybody. Then it came out, and he was like, "Everyone put mom and dad so I had to do individual thank yous, and so I just put what you said." I was like, alright, well that's kind of taken out of context but whatever.
Do you skate as much as you did ten years ago on the day to day basis?
Maybe, I skate at Berra's a lot. I think I might. Maybe not going back fifteen years, but ten years ago, I was probably skating five times a week probably.
You once said your retirement plan is to buy land somewhere not in California, have a barn with maybe a mini ramp in it, and just retire from skateboarding. Is your retirement plan still the same?
No, I came up with the conclusion that I would go crazy out on a bunch of land. I just bought this building in Des Moines that maybe I'll build a mini ramp in and maybe part of it will come true.