Words by Kevin Duffel, photography by Sam Muller
Vans and Chocolate‘s newest recruit (albeit flow for now) Elijah Berle has been busting out the gates lately by grinding up all sorts of shit and blazing spots at a thousand miles per hour. In the process, he’s not only won the first Tampa Am contest he’s ever entered, but he’s also grabbed the attention of just about every pro and industry barney out there. While you’d never guess he’s only sixteen from watching him attack any sort of terrain with the style of a grown man, thankfully he’s still just that—a kid who’s not afraid to be a kid. And by the way, it’s pronounced burr-url. The last name seems more than fitting.
What’s it like winning Tampa Am?
It was pretty weird because I never even qualify in contests. They said the top three and I didn’t even think I was gonna place. Then they called my name and handed me a big old surfboard. I still don’t believe it. You kinda just go out there and you get all nervous because there’s hundreds of people there and you get all shaky legged and you try to think of a funny little line to do and then it just happens and you think, “what the hell just happened?”
Did you have any expectations of winning when you got there?
Hell no [laughs]. I actually was supposed to skate on Saturday but I changed it to Friday because I was like, “There’s no way I’m going to qualify, so we should all skate on Friday so we can street skate on the weekend.” Then I ended up hurting my ankle, so I didn’t want to skate on Friday, so I skated on Saturday and hung out all day.
Tiny bump to man-sized feeble grind.
Were you throwing those grinds up the rail every try?
I was pretty scared to try it actually. I ate shit one of the tries. I hung up going up it and just kinda ended up on top of the stair set–it hurt, that’s all I know.
So you just made that one and the rest of the shit worked in the line or what?
I made a couple in practice, but seriously by the time I was qualifying for the finals, I was thinking, “Well I already made it this far. F–k, this is good enough for me.” So I kinda just skated around and had fun. I guess it worked out.
Why didn’t you decide to do any flip tricks or skate switch? Just over it, or what?
[Laughs] I dunno, dude. The park was just so fun to cruise around and go fast at. I’m not that good at flip tricks either and switch is a whole different level for me. People who can have a fluent run and do flip tricks and shit–like Ishod [Wair]–that’s so gnarly. I couldn’t imagine doing that. I don’t think I did one flip trick the whole time I was inside the Tampa skate park [laughs].
People seemed kind of divided about the results–like it was a tough call as to who should’ve won. Do you think Ishod should have?
I’m not trying to be the guy who’s like, “Oh, no. I should’ve lost. Everybody’s better than me,” but I really thought Ishod should have had it for sure. Also, he’s fun as shit to skate with. We were following each other in practice and stuff. I like him.
Elijah’s winning Tampa Am run.
A lot of kids were introduced to you through Foundation and Osiris ads but then you entered Tampa under Chocolate and Vans. Why the switch?
Some people are on the same companies forever, but me and my old companies, it was kind of a mutual breakup. But they put me where I am today, which I don’t know where is, but I’m more than grateful for everything they hooked me up with.
Well, now you’ve got a surfboard, which is sweet. So I guess that’s where you’re at–winning Tampa Am and owning a surfboard.
Yeah, but I haven’t seen it yet because they shipped it to Vans from Tampa. I haven’t been to Vans to get it yet, but I got to enjoy it for a few minutes at Tampa.
You psyched on all the new sponsors?
Yeah, dude. You get to wear your favorite shoes and you get to skate your favorite boards. It’s a rad feeling, especially when you look at the team and it’s all your heroes from when you grew up skating and watching videos. After I won Tampa, I got a picture text message of Mike Carroll drinking a Four Loko and Sam Smyth was in the photo posing. I was like, “Who sent this to me? There’s no way…” Then the next text was, “I’m celebrating for you homie–Mike Carroll.” I couldn’t take the smile off my face the whole day.
Yeah it seems crazy just to have those dudes even know who you are, let alone send you shit like that.
Yeah, dude. I would’ve never thought. Mike Carroll texting you–that’s insanity, it’s like a dream.
What’s it like living out in Simi Valley at Mike Mo’s house? How’d that come about?
It’s sick. I had met him a couple times and we’d always gotten along and then before I knew it I was just staying on a mattress in an empty room in his house, skating with him everyday. These dudes took me in and basically hooked me up with everything I’m working with now. I don’t know what I did that made them do that for me, but it’s the raddest thing.
Why’s there’s so much controversy about the way you look on message boards?
I guess skating is a fashion contest, but it doesn’t matter to me. I wore that shit, then I grew up and realized that that’s not what I want to look like or be about. I kinda just slowly got out of it and people weren’t too happy with it. They called me lame or something. But I dunno, I’m sixteen. Sometimes you go through phases growing up and look back like, “Holy shit, that was me?” I’m sure when most kids were fourteen or fifteen, they don’t look the same as they look now. And I know it’s weird to say because it wasn’t that long ago, but I guess I grew up a little bit. I definitely look back and regret it.
Well who cares? Why even regret it? It’s just clothes.
Yeah I guess I shouldn’t regret it. When you’re a kid, you look up to people and say, “I wanna be like them.” When I first started riding for Foundation, Duffel was my f–king hero so I just wanted to skate like him and be like him. Being able to skate with him and us becoming as good as friends as we are, that just kinda pushed it even further. But eventually you grow into your own person.
Lastly, how the hell do you skate like a man at the age of sixteen?
[Laughs] I dunno man. I’ve just always been, I guess, taller than everyone growing up. I think it’s definitely the drinking and smoking cigarettes that has something to do with it. But I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
It put some hair on the chest?
Yeah, but I don’t really have hair on my chest yet, dude. I might look old on the outside, but the chest hair just isn’t there yet.