Paid Dues Overdue


Words by Mackenzie EisenhourWhat the hell do you when you’ve been the best ledge skater for ten-plus years and nobody has decided to give you a shot at the big leagues? If you’re Jesus Fernandez, you go to Rick Howard. Jesus will paralyze any skateboarder north, south, east, or west on a ledge. Seriously. The fact is, nobody ever gave him the gold mic at the big show, much less the podium (no pun intended), his crate of records, and the turntables. So he’s finally “made”-ten years later and with infinite trials and tribulations behind him. Would you call him out in a game of SKATE? I wouldn’t. Jesus is better than a video-game character. He’ll last about ten years longer, too. But that’s up to him to say.

1. How did Dani Lebron, your brother Alfonso, and you decide to move from Spain to Los Angeles back in the late 90s?
My brother and Daniel went first. They were the first to move out there. I had dislocated my elbow at the time and had pretty much stopped skating for a whole year. They decided to move and they didn’t know anyone out there. No one. Somehow, the first month they were there they met Socrates (Leal) and he helped them out a ton-filming them and showing it to Rodney (Mullen). Plus, Socrates spoke Spanish and they didn’t speak one word of English. Then they came back-because it was always like three months on the tourist visa, then you had to come back. So then they started to convince me like, “What are you doing here? Come with us.” So the next time I went along.

2. Was it pretty much a hustle at the time when you got to the States?
Yeah. Oh, for sure, man. Sometimes we had money to eat, other times we didn’t. But we were always safe because we always had the ticket back, you know? Sometimes Socrates would even give us some money to eat at Taco Bell or Burger King or something.
Damn, that’s pretty nice of him. And then what was your first sponsor out there?
It was flow. Basically flow team for Dwindle-or World Industries, like it was called back then. The three of us-me, Dani, and Alphonso-always had the same sponsors. It was pretty funny like that. But nobody wanted to take a chance and make us official riders-always because of the papers and visa hassles and all that.
Was Enrique Lorenzo already on?
Oh yeah, I forgot. He was the only other one there we knew. But he was traveling all the time, so we didn’t see him so much. It was right around the time before Rodney Vs. Daewon 2-the one with JB (Gillet) in it.

3. Did you guys pretty much live at USC?
Yeah, we lived two blocks from USC (laughs). The blocks are big in L.A. But we lived right near the old Adams bump.
It was the ‘hood, right?
Yeah. USC is super nice, and then you go two blocks and it’s the ghetto-like crackheads walking around and stuff. Crazy ghetto.

4. Run down turning pro for Neighborhood.
Basically, Rodney wasn’t going to put us on, and we knew Julio (De La Cruz) a little bit, so we all thought it might be a good idea to get on that. One of the times we were back in Spain, Julio called us up and was talking all crazy about how he wanted to start up a company and all this stuff-you know how Julio can be-and we were like “Okay.” We tried it and about three months later we all turned pro for Neighborhood. It was good. Socrates was so happy, too. Basically, that’s when my brother got caught for staying too long in the States and he was banned for five years, like what happened to JB with Deca.

5. While you were pro for Neighborhood, were you getting flowed by Girl and Chocolate?
(Laughs) You know about this. It was always our dream to ride for something like Girl or Chocolate, and eventually Neighborhood ended because of this whole thing. But we couldn’t help it. It was no disrespect to Julio. It was just one of our biggest dreams, even before going to the States. Then it pretty much became the same as the Rodney thing where the papers and the visas were the things holding us ba from getting fully hooked up. Rick (Howard) really liked us and everybody was down for us, but it just never became official. The last one on Neighborhood was Dani. Me, I kind of got kicked off because I was trying to get on Chocolate. I finally was getting flowed and it was normal for them to kick me off.

6. What was the biggest check Julio de la Cruz ever wrote you guys?
He paid okay. In the beginning, it was like 500 dollars. And then one time there was this lump sum of 1,000 dollars that he paid us. It was like a pack. You rode for Tracker, Stamina, and Neighborhood and got paid one lump sum for all of them. It was just enough to survive after we all paid the rent. It was not a nice apartment either. I never liked the area where we lived, but it was all we could afford. I love the memories, but I always wanted to live in a less ghetto neighborhood.

7. Did you pretty much live off selling product to the USC Mexican kids?
F-k (laughs). Without that, we would be dead right now. But sometimes we would give them stuff, and they were always super cool to chill with and talk to. So shout outs to all the Mexican kids at USC. They loved us and it was cool.

8. What happened after your part in Yeah Right? Were you still not fully on Girl or Chocolate?
Yeah. It was right then that I got caught with a bank card, and customs started tripping because I had a Bank Of America card and all I had was a tourist visa and I wasn’t allowed to work. So right then I got blocked.
You couldn’t even go to the premiere?
No. Even Rick was saying he would fly me out and I just had to tell him I couldn’t. So that’s why I wasn’t fully on after the part. I had to leave the States two weeks before the premiere.

9. After all these years, how does it feel to finally be getting the props you deserve?
Oh yeah. I’m so happy right now. I can’t go to the U.S. all the time, but I’m so happy for what I have now with Lakai and Chocolate. It’s my dream.
But it’s different now. You can finally live in Europe and ride for a U.S. brand.
Yeah, totally. This time around, it’s finally possible. It’s finally possible to live at home and live your dreams as a skateboarder.

10. When did you move to Barcelona from Madrid?
Well, it’s hard to say, because I moved back and forth almost the same as I did with the States-three months one place and then three months in the other. But I really made the move about two years ago. At first, I was staying with Dani mostly, but then I got my own place. Dani moved out here first, though. I’m still following him (laughs).

11. You guys pretty much stuck with ledge tech skating through the whole “jump off a building” and “slide that 75-foot handrail” phases. Did you ever feel like skating was going a direction you didn’t really want it to go?
Yeah, I know what you’re saying. For me, it was more about where we were from. Like, I never skate rails. Maybe little ones, but that’s more like ledge skating, you know? I have no problem skating everything, but for me a huge rail-like El Toro or something-this is something you cannot play with. On a ledge you can play, but on a big-big rail you can end your skating forever, and I love skating, so I would not really see the value in it. The way we skate too is ’cause of the city we first skated in-when I started skating there were no huge rails to hit up around Madrid. Maybe if we had more rails, we would be skating differently. Even ramps, too. We don’t skate ramps because we never had too many skateparks around when I was growing up.

12. Can a European-based skater make ends meet without any U.S. help at all?
Finally, f-k yeah. Plus, the European teams are doing so much more now. The magazines, the videos-it’s going to get to a point where California doesn’t matter as much.
Who do you think is the highest paid pro who lives solely off European companies?
Right now? Maybe (Javier) Mendizabal. Mendizabal is always in TransWorld and stuff.
Was Enrique Lorenzo the first Spaniard to make a run for it in the States?
Yeah, he was the first one-with the pro board and everything on a U.S. company.
There wasn’t some guy in the 80s or something?
Maybe Manuel Palazios. He was the first one. He was in a Tracker video back in the day.

13. In his prime, could anyone step to Chris Franzen’s switch ollies?
No way. He switch ollied that L.A. High thing. Man, that was huge. What’s up with him?
I don’t know. Last I saw him was at Lockwood a few years back. I know he does Web design for a few companies.
But he jumped the tables with the craziest tricks, man. Switch tre’d a picnic table. Switch frontside popped a table without a bump. Nollie frontside heelflip with the Timberlands-no bump. Mad switch pop.

14. When did Rick Howard tell you it was officially a go for Chocolate?
Not the last time he was in Barcelona, but the time before. Five months ago. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Yeah, anything you say, boss.” I was so happy.
Didn’t you and Lebron just sign with Alai, the Spanish company, like the week before?
I know they understood. My whole life I wanted to ride for something like Chocolate. Even before I went to the States. I loved the boards, the company, and the team. It was an impossible situation, but I think everybody understood. It was my dream.

15. How good was Lee Smith’s Spanish before he left, if he left for good?
He’s good, man. So good. He learns so fast. I know people who have been here for years and they still can’t speak, but Lee, he learned so fast. I think it’s because he always has an interest in new things. Even in the States, the first time I ever saw him, he’s never been to Spain or anything and he was like, “Hey, cabrone” in Santa Monica. He’s amazing. Lee is an amazing human.

16. What motivates you most about putting together a really complicated ledge combo?
Well, you start with a trick that you really have-like, I don’t know, backside tailslides, let’s say. You do it all the time and you want to add something to make you even happier that you made it-like you want the feeling of when you made your first back tail. So you think, sometimes at night, like, what can I add-a kickflip out? Maybe something else, but that’s how the process starts. It’s all about self-fulfillment. It’s about feeling good. Otherwise, why would you be skating? It just feels better and better. The question of whether you can do it or not makes you happier in the end if you pull it. It’s like upping the ante in poker or something.

17. What’s your favorite spot in the world?
Let me see-right now Milano Centrale. But I still got love for USC. And Lockwood. I don’t know why, I just love that spot.
Did you skate it before they took the hip out?
Yeah. Oh yeah, the hip was the best part. Gino-hardflip!

18. Do you believe in God?
Yeah. For sure. But no churchgoing or any of that. Just faith in God. I don’t disrespect people who go to church. But for me, it’s more personal. I believe.

19. What’s the easiest ledge trick you can’t do?
Noseblunt slides. Frontside or backside. I don’t know why. I just never do them. And nollie crooks-that one too is weird for me. Some people have fakie, some people have nollie. For me, nollie crooks-I can do it, but I never feel comfortable.

20. If Lakai gave you a shoe, what would you put on it?
Whew… that’s considering they would ever do that. I would be so honored. I don’t know. Not the flag. That’s a hard question right now. Maybe Chocolate logos. Or the bull. That’s the symbol for Spain.
But here in Barcelona they have the donkey against the bull.
I know, I was speaking with Dani about this because we keep seeing stickers on cars-first the bull, then the donkey. Then we have seen some with the donkey f-king the bull (laughs). And then we saw one with the donkey partying with the bull-you know with drinks. I TransWorld and stuff.
Was Enrique Lorenzo the first Spaniard to make a run for it in the States?
Yeah, he was the first one-with the pro board and everything on a U.S. company.
There wasn’t some guy in the 80s or something?
Maybe Manuel Palazios. He was the first one. He was in a Tracker video back in the day.

13. In his prime, could anyone step to Chris Franzen’s switch ollies?
No way. He switch ollied that L.A. High thing. Man, that was huge. What’s up with him?
I don’t know. Last I saw him was at Lockwood a few years back. I know he does Web design for a few companies.
But he jumped the tables with the craziest tricks, man. Switch tre’d a picnic table. Switch frontside popped a table without a bump. Nollie frontside heelflip with the Timberlands-no bump. Mad switch pop.

14. When did Rick Howard tell you it was officially a go for Chocolate?
Not the last time he was in Barcelona, but the time before. Five months ago. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Yeah, anything you say, boss.” I was so happy.
Didn’t you and Lebron just sign with Alai, the Spanish company, like the week before?
I know they understood. My whole life I wanted to ride for something like Chocolate. Even before I went to the States. I loved the boards, the company, and the team. It was an impossible situation, but I think everybody understood. It was my dream.

15. How good was Lee Smith’s Spanish before he left, if he left for good?
He’s good, man. So good. He learns so fast. I know people who have been here for years and they still can’t speak, but Lee, he learned so fast. I think it’s because he always has an interest in new things. Even in the States, the first time I ever saw him, he’s never been to Spain or anything and he was like, “Hey, cabrone” in Santa Monica. He’s amazing. Lee is an amazing human.

16. What motivates you most about putting together a really complicated ledge combo?
Well, you start with a trick that you really have-like, I don’t know, backside tailslides, let’s say. You do it all the time and you want to add something to make you even happier that you made it-like you want the feeling of when you made your first back tail. So you think, sometimes at night, like, what can I add-a kickflip out? Maybe something else, but that’s how the process starts. It’s all about self-fulfillment. It’s about feeling good. Otherwise, why would you be skating? It just feels better and better. The question of whether you can do it or not makes you happier in the end if you pull it. It’s like upping the ante in poker or something.

17. What’s your favorite spot in the world?
Let me see-right now Milano Centrale. But I still got love for USC. And Lockwood. I don’t know why, I just love that spot.
Did you skate it before they took the hip out?
Yeah. Oh yeah, the hip was the best part. Gino-hardflip!

18. Do you believe in God?
Yeah. For sure. But no churchgoing or any of that. Just faith in God. I don’t disrespect people who go to church. But for me, it’s more personal. I believe.

19. What’s the easiest ledge trick you can’t do?
Noseblunt slides. Frontside or backside. I don’t know why. I just never do them. And nollie crooks-that one too is weird for me. Some people have fakie, some people have nollie. For me, nollie crooks-I can do it, but I never feel comfortable.

20. If Lakai gave you a shoe, what would you put on it?
Whew… that’s considering they would ever do that. I would be so honored. I don’t know. Not the flag. That’s a hard question right now. Maybe Chocolate logos. Or the bull. That’s the symbol for Spain.
But here in Barcelona they have the donkey against the bull.
I know, I was speaking with Dani about this because we keep seeing stickers on cars-first the bull, then the donkey. Then we have seen some with the donkey f-king the bull (laughs). And then we saw one with the donkey partying with the bull-you know with drinks. It’s crazy, maybe I would choose the party. Because peace is the greatest way forward.




s. It’s crazy, maybe I would choose the party. Because peace is the greatest way forward.