OFF THE RESERVATION
By Sean Mortimer
Brian Lotti and Guy Mariano's departures from the skateboard reservation made them appreciate skating even more upon their return.
Historically speaking, the lifespan of a pro has been very short. Talented skaters would start as kids, turn pro as teenagers and flame out by their twenties. Today skaters shred deep into their 30s and beyond but that’s a long time to consistently stoke that skate fire. Finding that balance is a very personal deal.
Brian Lotti (legendary flatland technician, namesake to the bigspin after a California “lotti”-ery) and Guy Mariano (Powell mini-shredder, OG blind and Girl teammate), two street stars from the 1990s, are proof that even gifted lifers burnout. Old friends, they both took extended leaves of absences from skating. Lotti broke clean and joined a Zen Monastery to strip down and clean his mind while Mariano essentially joined a dive bar to fog his.
It wasn’t preplanned that they’d return, but both Lotti and Mariano’s breaks created a distance that provided a new perspective towards the role of skating in their lives. When they finally returned to their boards, it was with a sense of gratitude that they used change skating. Lotti focused on creating films that captured the feeling of being a skater (1st and Hope, Free Pegasus) while Mariano straight up killed it on a skateboard, winning a record three awards at last years TransWorld SKATEboarding Awards, inspiring people of all ages.
We met a few blocks from The Berrics to talk about breaking away and the unexpected results.
TWS: Where did you start skating?
Lotti: I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah and my cousin lived in San Jose and I visited him. He had banana boards and we'd skate the sidewalk and drop in on the driveways. That was the thing to do when I visited my cousin Jeff—ride the banana boards.
Mariano: I grew up in suburbs of the valley. I have an older sister and I had a bike and a skateboard from my sister. I never just skated. I rode BMX on a dirt track. It was just a form of play—baseball, soccer, I did it all until I started riding the bike a little less and I was on the soccer and baseball team and started missing practices. It started off slow and then went very fast. When people ask me when I started skating, I'm like, 'I don't know—five?' I was probably around nine or ten [when I really got into skating]. I've probably been seriously about skating for over twenty years.
We had a vert ramp in Burbank and a jump ramp in the alley. Back in the day, there were a lot of ramps, but not a lot of really well-built ones. Christian Hosoi used to show up, Gonz used to show up—a lot of pros used to come by. We'd play it cool and Hosoi was really cool. I was there every day.
Lotti: Dude, ramps were awesome! If you saw a ramp back then …
Mariano: People will say that I've been in skating for so long since the Powell days. But in my head I think, there's so much history [with me] in the public eye of skateboarding … but I had so many great years before that. There's such a difference between doing it in the public eye and out of it. There's so much you learn about it and so much battling that goes on in between there.
[As a kid] you're investing so much time and energy into skating. My father passed away when I was young, but my Mom was like, 'What do you want to do?' I wanted to be a professional skateboarder but no one had even given me a set of free wheels yet … you've never been in a magazine—essentially what I was doing was playing with my friends.
That was a battle. It wasn't like nowadays where parents can see all the benefits that a professional skateboarder can achieve. My mom was supportive but she was also like, “What about soccer? What about baseball?” Once she knew that I wasn't going for anything but skating, she was really supportive. Back then skating was grouped in with punk rock, dropouts, losers. …
TWS: How did skating seem to you at the time, Brian?
Lotti: To see a skater skate a ramp around '86 or '87 was a really big deal. Amazing. But all I had was street sh-t and parking lot stuff. TransWorld came out with a street issue and I was like, 'Yeah, you can be a street skater!" That was a big motivation for me.
TWS: Did you want to be a pro vert skater, Guy?
Mariano: Skating was a lot less labeled in the '80s. Christian Hosoi was skating Savannah Slamma. So was Cab. You know what? I think it's non-skateboarding people who like to drop the labels. I know there are people who just skate street and [others] who just skate vert but it's all skating. I'll skate a pool. I'll skate a ramp nowadays. I grew up on Bones Brigade videos. Every one of those guys had a street part in there.
TWS: How did you get on the Bones Brigade?
Mariano: Basically through Gabriel Rodriguez and a skate shop called Rene's. Gabrielle had a sponsor-me tape and somehow it got to Stacy Peralta. Stacy came to check it out and when Gabrielle took Stacy to some schoolyards I rolled along with them. Stacy came to Charlie King's vert ramp to watch me skate. He was like, “Okay cool. This guy is skating vert, skating street.” I was around 13.
TWS: Were you stressed? Did you think you could get on Powell?
Mariano: I'd see Gabriel skating and I knew he was better than a lot of the pros out there—just like nowadays there are street skaters coming up that are better than a lot of pros. So I thought I had a good chance.
Lotti: You guys were dicks. [Laughing] I remember your crew. You guys were cocky little f-ckers.
Mariano: [Laughing] What crew are you thinking of? Tim?
Lotti: You and Rudy [Johnson] and Gabriel.
Mariano: I think … nah, I don't know. You're just f-cking around.
Lotti: I do remember you guys at contests—you were a tight crew.
Guy: We were definitely tight and stuck to our own.
Lotti: You were a serious f-cker, though. I remember you'd roll up and it was 'Game on, f-ckers.'
Mariano: I don't think it was a competitive attitude—
Lotti: You want to do your best.
TWS: That was at a time when contests were still the main way to prove yourself.
Lotti: There was no way to film a video part and be in the good graces with the world.
Mariano: I wish I'd never lost that drive for contests. Nowadays I see them and the skill level is so high I don't think I'd be able to compete in them. There are no street 'contest' skaters—it's all the top street skaters. You can't watch the X Games and say, 'Oh, this guy is just a contest skater.'
TWS: How did you guys first meet—at a contest?
Lotti: I came up [to LA] with Jordan [Richtor] and skated with you and Jason [Lee], right?
Mariano: Was it you and Jordan? Did you come up with Ocean Howell when he had that wagon? We skated downtown and his car got ripped off? Maybe that was Alphonso [Rawls].
TWS: So this was close to 1990?
Lotti: I was on Planet Earth …
Mariano: What was I on? Blind? I think how we became friends was through Tim Gavin. He was on H-Street and you guys were pretty close and he spent a lot of time in L.A. I think Tim got you on Blind. We all started hanging out.
TWS: Blind was going through some changes then, right?
Mariano: From the original Video Days, [Blind] had really changed. Jason [Lee] was fading out from the company and Gonz had just left. When you're skating for Blind and then Gonz leaves—now we were just another company under World—it was up to us to make this thing work. That's essentially what we were trying to do—with not a lot of structure. We were all adolescences—mentally, physically, spiritually, we were just a wreck. We were a mess. But it was super fun. That time when me and Brian and Tim and Henry were skating for Blind never really got captured and viewed by the public, but it was great skating and great times.
TWS: Was it a big change for you guys to turn pro?
Lotti: You started getting money. That was a big thing. It was spring of '90. Guy was fall of '91.
Mariano: As I was turning pro I was on my first downward grade of my skating. I was kind of in a slump. The pressure flip days were coming in not too long after that. Maybe I was skating with a lot of friends but I wasn't doing it at the level I was capable of. I wasn't happy with my skating right when I went pro.
TWS: Because of where skating was at?
Mariano: It was just me too: You grow up doing it [skating] and investing so much time and energy, you drop out of school, you're not really chasing girls—you miss out on so much of your life. It's almost like a child actor and how they get damaged.
TWS: You get stunted as a teenager by skating.
Mariano: Yeah, mentally. Mentally, physically, spiritually—you're investing all this into skating and I think it caught up with me. Every summer I was with my friends, but I'm traveling—
Lotti: It's like a vortex.
Mariano: It caught up with me. I thought, This is all I'm doing. I was bored with myself. I was burning out at a really young age .
Continued in Part 2 coming soon