Ben Gilley Roll Call


Easy Rider

Ben isn’t what you’d expect from a modern-day pro skater, especially not a Zero pro, but that’s pretty far back in his mind. Ben currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama where, in between training sessions at the local skatepark, he does the odd landscaping job because, as he puts it, “You feel like you’re doing something.”
Yes, Ben will tell you his career in skating was through, but when destiny knocks on your door-or better yet, Jamie Thomas-that’s a call you answer.
So Ben’s back, crisscrossing our great nation on his Fat Boy, and the wind is blowing him to several of his past haunts-Los Angeles, San Diego, Austin-all places he’s lived with and without sponsors’ help. Through it all, good friends have been the only support Ben’s needed. And it was Ben’s closest circle that spawned a peculiar phenomenon sweeping the skateboarding industry today-vroom, vroom.
When greeted with Ben’s disarming demeanor and warm smile, a nickname in reference to barbarism seems like some sort of marketing ploy dreamt up centuries ago. The real Ben Gilley is nothing but friendly nuances, positive vibes, and a grounded reassurance akin to a proper someone from the South. So, on a path forged by friendship, and blissfully chasing the legacies of Evel Knievel and Jim Greco, if this Southern gentleman’s home truly is where the heart is, it’s no wonder he’s welcomed everywhere the open road beckons.





Skin wanted me to ask about all the Alabama guys that are into pro wrestling.
I don’t really know anybody around here. I used to wrestle with a friend and now he’s in the WWE. He just signed a contract and stuff.
Does he have a stage name?
I think when they debut him he’ll have a name. He says when they debut people, sometimes they disappear depending on the fan reaction.
Is that the kind of wrestling you were doing?
He was my best friend at the time and that’s what he was into, so I was just around it. I got over being around it pretty quick.
Describe the connection with Zero and Alabama.
It’s just the line of mutual friendship. Jamie’s right-hand man, Wiggins, is from Dothan. Wiggins was out here in Dothan way after Jamie left and made all these friendships and just started blowin’ them out West. They would go and visit a lot and then just end up moving there.
How does that make an Alabaman like yourself feel at Black Box?
Well, even when I was still on Label, I would always go to Black Box because I was friends with those people already. Even the people that aren’t from Alabama are super cool there. It already felt homey, so now it feels like it fits. It’s exciting for me, honestly. It’s like I worked with a lot of the people, and then I didn’t, and now I get to work with them again-it’s just from a different outlet.
Jamie’s known as a great motivator, so how did he motivate you to come back to professional skateboarding?
He just hyped me up by telling me what he thought of me and what he thought my potential was. He said, “You don’t put out a part like you did in Reason To Believe and quit skating. You don’t grind a big rail like that and then just get a real job.” I never looked at skating that way, but from talking with him, it made me realize how much I missed it. I never planned to come back into skating, but Jamie put a spark into me, which was awesome. He definitely hyped me up on skating more than I had been.
A while back, you said that you felt a lot of pressure now that you’re on Zero? What were you feeling when you said that?
That those are some big shoes to fill being on Zero. I have people like Greco coming up to me telling me they’re psyched that I’m on Zero-these are huge vets, and that’s what I’m having to live up to. That’s the kind of pressure I was feeling. Zero has always had the gnarliest dudes.
Do you still feel that now?
No, when I’m around everybody I don’t. I always overthink everything. Everybody’s cool and it’s really like family-I didn’t know what it was going to be like going to a different company, because that was a lot of the pressure as well. Now that I’ve been on Zero for a while, it’s really the best thing ever. It’s really comfortable.
What happened with Dekline? You were in their ads then the next thing we know, you’re on the Emerica Wild Ride.
We just went our separate ways. It wasn’t a bad deal. Everybody thought that as soon as I got on Zero that Jamie made me quit, but it was all my doing. It’s funny how people perceive that-Jamie as a puppet master. It’s not like that. I went there in person, I didn’t send them an e-mail or whatever. I tried to do it completely proper.
Why is there a Harley craze in skateboarding right now?
I don’t know! I was thinking about that the other day, actually. That is a good question. I can’t answer that.
You and Heath have had them the longest though, right?
Yeah, and Mumford had one, Dan Rogers, Brian Young. We’re some of the first that I know of. I think it’s because a lot of us have mutual friends, so it just pipes down. Once somebody’s around motorcycles and they experience it, you kind of get this thing in you-you can’t really…I don’t know how to say it. That’s how it was for me. As soon as I rode one I had to have one. It’s the best feeling.
What advice would you give all those kids that saw you on the Wild Ride last summer that now probably want a Harley?
Get what you want. Don’t settle on what everybody else tells you, because in the long run you’ll be bummed if you do. Like I had people try to tell me what to get and I ended up getting the Fat Boy and I’ve never regretted it.
What about on the cautionary side?
I’d never tell a kid not to get one. I would just say don’t be stupid, don’t try to impress anybody. Sometimes you get around a lot of people and everybody has bikes and you get hyped up and you’ll start revvin’ ’em up and you do burn-outs and stuff. The next thing you know, you might be doing something stupid. I’ve been lucky so far. Just don’t be stupid on a bike. Have fun, but don’t be an idiot.
What were the circumstances when you shot Heath’s eye out?
We were roommates at the time. We were in our house in Van Nuys. I started shooting at him with a little Air Soft gun. Heath was ducking behind this wall and I was shooting the refrigerator because it was really loud. He would pop his head out and I would quit shooting, or try to quit shooting. And he just popped his head up one time, and it just caught him right in the eye. I didn’t think I’d shot him at first, but he was on the ground holding his face. I was like, “Are you all right?” And he wasn’t saying anything. “I don’t know if you’re playing or not, I can’t tell.” I went and put the gun up in my room and came back and Brian Young was like, “I think he’s really hurt.” I went over to check on him and was like, “Are you serious or not?”
And I remember he stood up and goes, “Does this look like I’m playing?” And he just showed me his eye, and it was blood red like he was possessed by Satan-the whole eye was red. I couldn’t see a pupil or anything. I just flipped, I thought I was gonna throw up. It was insane.
Wasn’t he blind for a couple weeks?
Yeah, he was pretty much bed ridden for a couple weeks because his eye had a hemorrhage. If he walked around, it would have made it worse and he could’ve lost his eyesight. So he had to stay in a dark room.
How’d you feel for those few days?
I thought my career was over then, I think that’s how I took (getting dropped from) Label so easy (laughs). I would’ve never been able to shoot a photo knowing Heath was blind. Like, “Sorry Heath, sorry I shot your eye out, but I gotta go shoot a photo for this ad I gotta do.”
What’s the all-time craziest motorcycle story you have?
I got some funny ones. We used to take our bikes to this parking lot down in Hollywood and jump ’em out of the parking lot (laughs). There was a bank that came up out of an underground parking garage, and then it went flat really quick, and then it went down a little bit, so you’re able to land into a downslope. We kept jumpin’ ’em, and it was kinda stupid (laughs).
I didn’t know you could jump those Harleys?
Well, that’s what Evel Knievel used to jump on (laughs)! He was riding stock Harleys, man-nothin’ done to them. So imagine trying to jump Caesar’s Palace on one of those bikes, and we have better suspension than he did back then (laughs)! It’s gnarly.
You ever f-ked up your bike from that?
Luckily, no. I’ve just scraped up my pipes dippin’ too low when I turn. It sucks at first, you’re like, “Ah, my pipes!” But then you do it a couple more times and you accept it. Then you enjoy it-at night it makes sparks, it’s kinda fun.
How is the riding in California different than Alabama?
I’ve had to lock it up a few times. When I’m out in California it seems like I always have to lock up my brakes from someone cutting me off. Out here in Alabama, you can’t split cars like you can out in California, they hate it out here. They’ll wedge you in when they see you coming in their rear-view mirror. They’re like, “If I have to wait, then you have to wait, too.” Like they’re back in kindergarten. I’m like, “That’s why I bought a motorcycle.” You go buy a motorcycle if you don’t want to wait!
Where do you see yourself in ten years.
Working at Black Box still. Still in skateboarding.
As a professional?
No, no, I don’t want to be a professional. I would actually like to do something in skateboarding. When my career as a professional is over, I’m not gonna cry about it. But I would like to stay in skateboarding, you know, I love it. I love skateboarding, so it makes me want to be around it. Whether it be a team manager or a guy in the sales department or maybe in the warehouse-I don’t care. As long as I’m in skateboarding, I’ll be psyched.
What about in twenty years?
Whew. I don’t know. That’s like a blank canvas right now. I don’t put thought into that far ahead. Maybe I should (laughs).
Skateboarding and bikes?
Yeah, that’s always gonna be there. I want to buy a house out here (in Alabama) for sure and own a house with some land. But I want to live out West again for a while, too. I want to live in Austin, Texas for a little bit. I made a lot of good friends there, and I love that city. Maybe I could get a good job and retire and just travel a lot in twenty years. That’s something I like to do is travel, so maybe I’ll do that.
out of an underground parking garage, and then it went flat really quick, and then it went down a little bit, so you’re able to land into a downslope. We kept jumpin’ ’em, and it was kinda stupid (laughs).
I didn’t know you could jump those Harleys?
Well, that’s what Evel Knievel used to jump on (laughs)! He was riding stock Harleys, man-nothin’ done to them. So imagine trying to jump Caesar’s Palace on one of those bikes, and we have better suspension than he did back then (laughs)! It’s gnarly.
You ever f-ked up your bike from that?
Luckily, no. I’ve just scraped up my pipes dippin’ too low when I turn. It sucks at first, you’re like, “Ah, my pipes!” But then you do it a couple more times and you accept it. Then you enjoy it-at night it makes sparks, it’s kinda fun.
How is the riding in California different than Alabama?
I’ve had to lock it up a few times. When I’m out in California it seems like I always have to lock up my brakes from someone cutting me off. Out here in Alabama, you can’t split cars like you can out in California, they hate it out here. They’ll wedge you in when they see you coming in their rear-view mirror. They’re like, “If I have to wait, then you have to wait, too.” Like they’re back in kindergarten. I’m like, “That’s why I bought a motorcycle.” You go buy a motorcycle if you don’t want to wait!
Where do you see yourself in ten years.
Working at Black Box still. Still in skateboarding.
As a professional?
No, no, I don’t want to be a professional. I would actually like to do something in skateboarding. When my career as a professional is over, I’m not gonna cry about it. But I would like to stay in skateboarding, you know, I love it. I love skateboarding, so it makes me want to be around it. Whether it be a team manager or a guy in the sales department or maybe in the warehouse-I don’t care. As long as I’m in skateboarding, I’ll be psyched.
What about in twenty years?
Whew. I don’t know. That’s like a blank canvas right now. I don’t put thought into that far ahead. Maybe I should (laughs).
Skateboarding and bikes?
Yeah, that’s always gonna be there. I want to buy a house out here (in Alabama) for sure and own a house with some land. But I want to live out West again for a while, too. I want to live in Austin, Texas for a little bit. I made a lot of good friends there, and I love that city. Maybe I could get a good job and retire and just travel a lot in twenty years. That’s something I like to do is travel, so maybe I’ll do that.