Tony Cervantes Am Spotlight

Interview by Mackenzie Eisenhour

Ah, to be sixteen again-the glorious lack of responsibility, the absolute inexistence of accountability, the near animalistic distraction of flaring hormones, and a curiosity and lust for life like the fire in your eyes after staring into the sun-staples of an innocent age in our short lives. Yet, for some, this age of innocence carries a few extra shades of nuance beyond a first kiss or date for the dance. Tony Cervantes will be seventeen by the time you read this and engages in scheduled sit-downs (a.k.a. meetings) with his primary employer (a.k.a. Jamie Thomas) and his primary caretaker (a.k.a. Mom). He is certainly enjoying his premature thrust into adulthood after landing on Zero literally the second he landed his last trick in his video part for New Blood; however, the following interview seeks to determine the scope and sacrifice of being a Chief-endorsed soldier.

Is sixteen sweet?

I got another month. But, yeah, it’s got its little privileges |laughs|.

When was the first time you met Jamie Thomas? How did you feel?

I met him at an Active demo in San Dimas. I remember it was crazy for him to be talking to me or anything. He’s just a cool guy, you know? He called me up and asked me to do the demo with them. I saw Jamie show up and just walked up behind him, tapped him on the back, and was like, “Hey, what’s up? I’m Tony.” I had brought some footage for him, too. But I was in awe for sure. I mean, it’s Jamie Thomas. He put me on flow after the demo. He told me the deal was that I had to get a video part to get on the team.

That was the deal? You had to come through with the part to get on the team?

Yeah, the last day of filming, after the last trick, he shook my hand and said, “Welcome to the team.”

What was the last trick you had to make to get on the team?

He wanted me to get this pop shove-it down a five-flat-five. I remember making that and going back to him and being like, “Can I go home now?” And he was like, “No, you gotta get one more trick.” I went to this thirteen-stair and came back with that trick, and then the same thing: “You gotta get one more trick.” So I went to some eleven and tried to three flip it. I got close, but I was just too tired at that point. I had tried my best. I went back for the third time, and he was like, “Welcome to the team. Now you can go home.”

When was the first time you called him “Chief”?

Not too long after that. But I still call him everything-Chief, Thomas, Jamie, whatever.

Do you know who invented the airwalk?

Do I know who invented the airwalk? Rodney Mullen, man.

Do you know who took it to rails in ’89? He was well-known for throwing down airwalk boardslides on rails.

Damn, Jamie told me his name the other day. Is it Sal somethin’?

You’re close. Same team |H-Street| as Sal Barbier but the answer is Ron Allen.

Yeah, there you go. Ron Allen.

How old were you when the first Zero video, Thrill Of It All |’97|, came out?

Like one, I guess |laughs|. I remember I was about eight years old when Misled Youth was out. That’s when I started skating.

Who got you hooked on skateboarding?

I lived down in Whittier and my neighbors were all getting into it. My cousins got me super hooked on it, and it just seemed so much better then football or soccer or any of that other stuff. This guy who lived across the street from me was a little older, and he would take me to spots and show me how to skate, like teach me certain tricks and stuff. His name was Henry and he passed away, so I wanted to give him a shout out. He got the flu really bad, and it got to his heart, and he had a heart attack and died. I remember when it happened I was like, “Okay, well, I can’t stop skating now.” I got to do it for Henry.

Is it really the “Zero Army”?

|Laughs| Oh yeah. It’s the underground Zero Army. There’s about 10,000 of us.

Can you talk about “Permission to kill, sir”?

We’re just joki around and stuff. The crazier stuff is, Jamie will bet money on tricks and stuff like that when we’re filming. I never won anything from it, but I got close.

Is there anything in New Blood he put money on?

He put an iPod on me redoing this nosegrind on a gap to kink rail, but I didn’t do it. I had already landed one weirdly and he wanted me to do it over, but I couldn’t get it. The one I made is one of my first tricks in the part. He was right, too, ’cause I’m not really psyched on the one I made, either.

Do you still go to school?

Nah, I don’t go to school, man.

Do you home study?

Nah. I used to. Then I dumped school. I gave up.

Have you decided to make skateboarding your “career”?

Well, getting sponsored and traveling and all this stuff and getting paid to do it kind of makes you feel like, “Yeah, I could make a career out of this.” I’m super focused on it, man. After the video came out, I had this whole other wave of motivation. Either way, man, I took it this far-now I gotta make it work. I thought about going back to get my GED, but whatever, we’ll see.

What is your biggest hobby off the board?

When I’m not skating? I used to smoke a bunch of weed, but I gave that up. I like hanging out with the homeys. That’s pretty much my hobby.

What happened with your knee?

I tore a meniscus. I just came down on it wrong. It was like an eighteen-stair rail, and I jumped off like all the way to the bottom. I went and got an MRI after, and it was bothering me for a while, so they just told me I needed the surgery. I’ll be back really quick, though. It’s only like two months. I got two more tricks I want to get for my Fallen part. I was watching my knee-surgery tape right when you called, though. They give you a copy after you get it done. It’s crazy. You can just watch them go inside your sh-t.

In a dream world, what band would you be in and what would you play?

The Jimi Hendrix Experience. I’d play Jimi |laughs|.

Do you play at all?

Nah. I can’t say I really do. But I got a little ukulele right now.

Well, you almost got the hairstyle going at least.

Yeah, I haven’t cut it for a while either. It’s getting crazy again.

Are you naturally permed?

Yeah. It’s all natural, baby.

What’s your favorite country you’ve visited outside the U.S.?

I haven’t been outside the U.S. yet. I’m supposed to go to Australia in April, but I probably won’t be skating yet from the surgery. Traveling inside the U.S., I’m stoked on San Francisco-just the vibe is rad and you get a lot of skating done. Just bombing the hills is the sickest.

Sum up some of your fellow teamriders in a couple sentences:

Jon Allie:

F-kin’ sick as sh-t. Great skateboarder. Nah, that sounds kind of corny. I’ll pass.

Gareth Hill:

I could picture that fool in a death-metal band or something.

John Rattray:

Oh, Rattray? That’s like my favorite skater right there. Dope as f-k. Has a sick style. Can skate anything, vert, street, whatever. He’s like nobody else when he skates, and off his board, he’s one cool dude.

JT:

He’s full of useful guidance and advice. Like, he’ll kick it with my mom and talk to her about my future and stuff like that.

Tommy Sandoval:

Tommy |laughs|. I think he’s like my long lost brother-brothas from different mothas. We’re tight as f-k.

James Brockman:

He needs to talk a little more. When I first met him he was like the quietest dude. He kills like the biggest sh-t, though. Like first or second try he’ll just kill the biggest rail-it’s like, “Goddamn!” Chris Cole:

I’m gonna take him down, man.

What, get skater of the year?

No, no skater of the year sh-t or nothing. I’m gonna take him down for real. I’m gonna beat him up |laughs|. Drop kick him or something. He’s into some ninja sh-t.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you got “hooked up”?

Just to kind of keep your head straight about it. Skate and have fun, but not to get too carried away with it, you know? Just stay focused and do what you do.

How does your family handle skateboarding?

At first they were kind of weird with it. They liked skateboarding in the sense that it keeps me away from the usual teenage troubles and that sort of thing. But ever since they met Jamie and he talked to them, they realized I could come up and this could be some kind of legitimate thing to do with your life and time. Like, I’d straight be having sit-downs with Jamie, me, and my mom, you know? He explains the plans that he’s got for me and the responsibilities I’ll have and all that kind of stuff. He’s pretty good at it. It’s down to where he’s discussing my video part with her. My mom is psyched on it.

What was your first real sponsor?

Project Board Shop out in Whittier. The owner, Rick, helped me out with getting on a bunch of other teams. So thanks, Rick.

Favorite pro coming up?

Adam Alfaro.

What was the first video you memorized?

Welcome To Hell. I still love when they fall at the end. They got those flowers, and then all of a sudden dudes are just eating so much sh-t. Then Jamie grinds that long rail at the end. He’s skating to Iron Maiden in his part-I love that video.

All-time favorite magazine photo?

I had that Emerica ad of Heath Kirchart back noseblunting the UC Irvine rail up on my wall forever. I thought he did it so sick, so I’ll say that one.

What kind of changes do you think skateboarding can expect through the next five years or so?

I see fools getting downer and downer. A lot of the same stuff as now, but every time a new video comes out it just gets better and better. So I see it getting way rawer.

What do you feel like it takes for an amateur to become a professional?

Well, obviously, a couple dope video parts. You’ve got to have some sort of personality that people enjoy being around. I guess just get along with everybody and get a bunch of coverage. Eventually it will happen for you. You’ve just got to put in the work and be a little smart about it.

Who would play Jamie Thomas in the Zero movie?

|To friend| Who do you think would play Jamie Thomas in a movie, Dennis? |Pause| Chris Haslam |laughs|. Yeah, Chris Haslam, for sure.

What do you see as your greatest achievement in skating?

Probably getting on Zero. Skate-wise, I’d say my heelflip body varial down the San Diego Sports Arena double-set.

People claim that you always have a smile on your face. Is this conscious or does it just happen naturally?

That’s just me, man. I was born with a smile and I’ll die with a smile.

Best meal to sit down to after a long day of skating?

Lengua |cow tongue| burrito.

Being of Mexican heritage, how many generations have you been in California?

Well, I still have relatives in Mexico. My dad hopped the border when he was five. They did it in the middle of the night with, like, a flashlight. His parents were already here. So I’m like the third generation Tony-Tony the Third.

Would you get a Zero tattoo?

Maybe later on I’ll sign on for something like that.

What would you get-the skull?

Yeah, I’d get the skull.

I remember when it happened I was like, “Okay, well, I can’t stop skating now.” I got to do it for Henry.

It’s down to where he’s discussing my video part with her. My mom is psyched on it.

I was born with a smile and I’ll die with a smile.

too carried away with it, you know? Just stay focused and do what you do.

How does your family handle skateboarding?

At first they were kind of weird with it. They liked skateboarding in the sense that it keeps me away from the usual teenage troubles and that sort of thing. But ever since they met Jamie and he talked to them, they realized I could come up and this could be some kind of legitimate thing to do with your life and time. Like, I’d straight be having sit-downs with Jamie, me, and my mom, you know? He explains the plans that he’s got for me and the responsibilities I’ll have and all that kind of stuff. He’s pretty good at it. It’s down to where he’s discussing my video part with her. My mom is psyched on it.

What was your first real sponsor?

Project Board Shop out in Whittier. The owner, Rick, helped me out with getting on a bunch of other teams. So thanks, Rick.

Favorite pro coming up?

Adam Alfaro.

What was the first video you memorized?

Welcome To Hell. I still love when they fall at the end. They got those flowers, and then all of a sudden dudes are just eating so much sh-t. Then Jamie grinds that long rail at the end. He’s skating to Iron Maiden in his part-I love that video.

All-time favorite magazine photo?

I had that Emerica ad of Heath Kirchart back noseblunting the UC Irvine rail up on my wall forever. I thought he did it so sick, so I’ll say that one.

What kind of changes do you think skateboarding can expect through the next five years or so?

I see fools getting downer and downer. A lot of the same stuff as now, but every time a new video comes out it just gets better and better. So I see it getting way rawer.

What do you feel like it takes for an amateur to become a professional?

Well, obviously, a couple dope video parts. You’ve got to have some sort of personality that people enjoy being around. I guess just get along with everybody and get a bunch of coverage. Eventually it will happen for you. You’ve just got to put in the work and be a little smart about it.

Who would play Jamie Thomas in the Zero movie?

|To friend| Who do you think would play Jamie Thomas in a movie, Dennis? |Pause| Chris Haslam |laughs|. Yeah, Chris Haslam, for sure.

What do you see as your greatest achievement in skating?

Probably getting on Zero. Skate-wise, I’d say my heelflip body varial down the San Diego Sports Arena double-set.

People claim that you always have a smile on your face. Is this conscious or does it just happen naturally?

That’s just me, man. I was born with a smile and I’ll die with a smile.

Best meal to sit down to after a long day of skating?

Lengua |cow tongue| burrito.

Being of Mexican heritage, how many generations have you been in California?

Well, I still have relatives in Mexico. My dad hopped the border when he was five. They did it in the middle of the night with, like, a flashlight. His parents were already here. So I’m like the third generation Tony-Tony the Third.

Would you get a Zero tattoo?

Maybe later on I’ll sign on for something like that.

What would you get-the skull?

Yeah, I’d get the skull.

I remember when it happened I was like, “Okay, well, I can’t stop skating now.” I got to do it for Henry.

It’s down to where he’s discussing my video part with her. My mom is psyched on it.

I was born with a smile and I’ll die with a smile.