Danny Montoya Interview

Other than getting this interview together, I’ve only had one prior experience with Danny Montoya. We were in Vancouver, Canada for the Slam City Jam contest in May of ’98, and in between heats a bunch of us, including Danny, went skating downtown.

Vancouver is like a huge skatepark, and before long, we found a ten-stair rail Danny and some others wanted to shoot photos on. Being the 26-six-year-old puss I am, I proudly (but quietly) found a corner to watch from. After a while, contest exhaustion forced everyone but Danny to join me in spectatordom.

From our seats, we watched Danny skate that rail like he was doing a mathematical proof. Methodically and patiently, he paced himself. Though he became visibly upset on a couple near-misses, he never freaked out; he grabbed his board, apologized to the photographers, and ran back up the stairs to try again. Soon, he had worked his way into a perfect nollie noseslide.

It was the first time in my life watching someone do math made me cheer.¿Joel Patterson

Graham: Tell me where you live and your age.

Danny: I live in Garden Grove, California, and I’m 21 years old.

Who was your first influence in skating? Who got you into it?

My brother influenced me. He took me under his wing, basically. Took me everywhere he went. I looked up to him, you know what I mean? We went to skateparks. We went to Pipeline a skatepark in Upland, California open during the 1980s together.

Tell the story about how you got that picture in A Day In The Life Of California.

There was a photo of me and two other dudes in front of the Combi pool at Pipeline in a book called A Day In The Life Of California. I remember just sitting there, and this dude’s all, “Hey, we’re gonna take a photo for a book.” I didn’t really know what was going on, I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” I was a little-ass kid, dude.

Wait, didn’t you break your wrist there?

Let me finish the story, dude¿it’s crazy. So, this dude took a photo for his book. Then, a couple months later, Christmas came around, and my mom’s like, “Oh, you got some gifts.” One of the gifts was a book called A Day In the Life Of California; it sounded familiar. I was looking through the book, and there was my photo¿totally by coincidence. My mom bought the book, but she hadn’t really looked through it. She didn’t know I was in it when she bought it. It was crazy.

You’re viewed as a technical skater. Did you start out as a technical skater?

I don’t know. I was a mini-ramp skater. I had a mini ramp in my backyard. Do you remember that?

I never skated it.

I had a mini ramp in my backyard, and we skated it ’til it was just gone. We cut that ramp down and started street skating more. I wasn’t the go-big type who ollied big-ass shit. I guess you could say I was more technical.

What made you turn from mini ramps to street?

It was just whoever I was skating with. I started skating with Dennis Bellew and this dude Alex. Dennis was this total street skater, and I would skate whatever he skated. You were a street dude, too, and wherever you guys skated, I’d go.

Who were your main influences growing up, besides the people you were skating with?

When I was little, Chris Miller was dope. I was always a fan of Jordan Richter, too. He was like Mini-Ramp Dude. He had a dope style.

What videos would you watch before you went skating?

Which ever videos were around until Dennis showed me the Questionable Video Plan B’s first video, and I was trippin’ out. He would be all, “Oh shit! Look at all this crazy shit!” I didn’t really know what was going on. I was amazed.

So you were kinda like his little protégé in a way?

Yeah, I guess so.

You don’t want to say it, but that’s how it was. I remember how it was. He used to bring you around all the time.

He was older, and I looked up to him when I was growing up.

Was skateboarding yo top priority since day one?

Skating wasn’t a top priority when I was growing up. School was totally important. I wouldn’t ditch school to go skate, or whatever. I was into school, I liked it. In high school I got a 4.2 grade-point average, you know what I mean? Like, that might sound whack, or whatever …

It doesn’t sound whack at all.

I was down for school. And I was going to go to a university right after high school, but my family was kinda low on funds. So I was like, “I’ll just go to a junior college and transfer.” And that’s what I did. I still attend junior college, but I’ve done all my general education; I have my AA associate of the arts degree in liberal studies.

And since your parents are so big on school, what do they think about that?

They support my skating. They’ve supported me since day one. And now that skateboarding has gotten so much larger for me, I told them how it is. That I’m skating right now, and that it’s my job. Maybe when I phase out of skateboarding, I’ll go back to school full time.

I know high school played a big part in your life, and you developed some really good relationships. Talk about that.

A lot of my friends in high school didn’t skate, they were just normal dudes. They didn’t know shit about skating. So, I had friends I chilled with in high school, and friends who I knew from skating.

So, you basically had two lives?

Yeah, I guess so. At night I’d go out to high-school parties. Then I’d go skate with my friends who I knew from skating. It was kinda weird.

Talk about the musical side of yourself.

When I was younger, I never really bought music or had a passion for a certain type of music; I just kind of listened to whatever, you know? Like whoever’s car I was in, or my older brother, whatever he listened to, I listened to. And now I do have a passion for music; I have a passion for hip-hop, dope beats, whatever I feel. I always want to hear new stuff. I like searching for new underground music. Everytime there’s a new song, I’ll be like, “Oh, what’s this? Who produced this beat?” I get hyped on hearing new songs.

Besides skating and music, what are your other main focuses in life?

In school, mathematics was my class. I was into that shit. I’ll probably end up pursuing an engineering career. Electrical engineering. I know it’s hard, you gotta take physics, chemistry, and the highest level of calculus, but I’ll do that. I’ll just take it one step at a time. Right now, though, skating is key.

Since the engineering fields are all about calculations and tried-and-true methods, in a sense, technical skating is the same thing. You try methods, and if they don’t work, you adjust them. Do you think that’s where you got that from?

I don’t know. I’m the type of person who will try a trick for a while.

Until you figure it out?

Yeah. A lot of people try for a little bit and get frustrated. I just keep trying it. In a way, I guess it could be a mathematical problem.

What do you think about all these major corporations getting involved in skating?

I think skating has grown a lot. It’s a true business now. I’ve seen so many companies fold that you wouldn’t think would go under. Like Plan B.

And on the flip side, other companies go huge.

Yeah, exactly. You can’t look at it like it’s just a hobby anymore, it’s actually business.

Do you think the business side is good or bad for skateboarding?

In a way it’s good, because people are making a living at it. People can start skating, start their own business, and end up owning their own corporation, or whatever. They’re growing with it.

What about skateparks? Why are so many being built?

The reason why so many skateparks are around is because people get bummed that skateboarders ruin their property. They have to put knobs on their curbs and rails. And so, of course they’re gonna push for building skateparks and having kids go to skateparks rather than street spots. A lot of cities are outlawing skating, and if that continues, soon all cities will outlaw skating and just build skateparks. That’s gonna defeat street skating’s creativity and originality.

And the whole rebel thing, it will kill that for sure.

Yeah. Just skating down the street and doing your own thing will be illegal. That’s whack.

It would be like golf in a way.

Golf?

Yeah, you’ll have to pay.

Yeah, you’ll have to pay to skate. It will pretty much be like people telling you what to skate. And that will be f¿ked.

What were you doing for work, before you turned pro?

I just had half-ass jobs. At the end of high school, I was valet-parking cars. It was pretty cool, I made tips. After that, I worked at B.J.’s Pizzeria. It was pretty dope delivering pizzas, and shit. It was cool, because in the work environment you meet a lot of people. I made a lot of friends. It’s a social atmosphere.

So, when you got sponsored, how did your feelings about skateboarding change?

As far as determination, it pushed me. Once you’re sponsored, you wanna do more shit. Being sponsored made me want to progress. Watching other sponsored people progress made me want to, too.

Do you think it made other people look at you differently, like suddenly you had an ego?

Maybe people would think that. It doesn’t really matter. Being sponsored is just something to help you progress.

What lessons have you learned from the skate industry?

I learned by watching some of the people I hung out with. Like Jason Rothmeyer¿I was skating with him and watching how he handled being a pro. Then I kinda moved up in the industry. I learned you can’t rely on people to do stuff for you; you have to do stuff for yourself. You can’t sit back and let them call you, you’ve got to call your sponsors.

I think that’s one of the major factors sponsored skaters neglect. You’ve got to be a social person, and you’ve got to sell yourself.

Kinda. You’ve gotta make it work if you want to move up. You have to … not sell yourself, but …

In a way, you do, though.

Yeah, you’ve got to promote yourself. You’ve got to handle your own business; you can’t rely on other people to do it for you.

Skateboarding-wise, where do you see yourself in the future?

Career-wise, I want to progress in skating and see Rhythm skateboards become more than a skateboard company. I’ve been down with Rhythm since it started; I want to help Rhythm grow to be big, and I want to be a part of it.

Rhythm went through some tough times when two of the major riders left. Explain the impact that had on the company and yourself.

At that time, I guess money was tight for Planet Earth and Rhythm, and everyone had to take some pay cuts, and the riders weren’t too stoked on that. But the company was going through that, so we had to deal with it and wait it out. But Chany Jeanguenin and Richard Angelides ended up leaving the company. That was tragic, because they were two dope-ass skateboarders who made Rhythm. They built Rhythm. If you thought of Rhythm, you thought of Chany and Richard. You know what I mean?

It seemed kinda crazy to start with a company, help it grow, and then bail out. But in a way, they had to make that choice to benefit their careers. So that’s cool for them.

When you heard about them leaving, how did you react?

I was like, “Are you serious?” I didn’t believe it. Some companies are big, and a lot of their team riders don’t know each other, but at Rhythm, we were tight. We all knew each other, we were friends.

So was there a point when you thought about leaving? Maybe getting on a more-established company?

I never thought about leaving the company. I always just thought, “I just have to wait it out, everything will come through.”

We’re ending this interview with anybody you want to tha having kids go to skateparks rather than street spots. A lot of cities are outlawing skating, and if that continues, soon all cities will outlaw skating and just build skateparks. That’s gonna defeat street skating’s creativity and originality.

And the whole rebel thing, it will kill that for sure.

Yeah. Just skating down the street and doing your own thing will be illegal. That’s whack.

It would be like golf in a way.

Golf?

Yeah, you’ll have to pay.

Yeah, you’ll have to pay to skate. It will pretty much be like people telling you what to skate. And that will be f¿ked.

What were you doing for work, before you turned pro?

I just had half-ass jobs. At the end of high school, I was valet-parking cars. It was pretty cool, I made tips. After that, I worked at B.J.’s Pizzeria. It was pretty dope delivering pizzas, and shit. It was cool, because in the work environment you meet a lot of people. I made a lot of friends. It’s a social atmosphere.

So, when you got sponsored, how did your feelings about skateboarding change?

As far as determination, it pushed me. Once you’re sponsored, you wanna do more shit. Being sponsored made me want to progress. Watching other sponsored people progress made me want to, too.

Do you think it made other people look at you differently, like suddenly you had an ego?

Maybe people would think that. It doesn’t really matter. Being sponsored is just something to help you progress.

What lessons have you learned from the skate industry?

I learned by watching some of the people I hung out with. Like Jason Rothmeyer¿I was skating with him and watching how he handled being a pro. Then I kinda moved up in the industry. I learned you can’t rely on people to do stuff for you; you have to do stuff for yourself. You can’t sit back and let them call you, you’ve got to call your sponsors.

I think that’s one of the major factors sponsored skaters neglect. You’ve got to be a social person, and you’ve got to sell yourself.

Kinda. You’ve gotta make it work if you want to move up. You have to … not sell yourself, but …

In a way, you do, though.

Yeah, you’ve got to promote yourself. You’ve got to handle your own business; you can’t rely on other people to do it for you.

Skateboarding-wise, where do you see yourself in the future?

Career-wise, I want to progress in skating and see Rhythm skateboards become more than a skateboard company. I’ve been down with Rhythm since it started; I want to help Rhythm grow to be big, and I want to be a part of it.

Rhythm went through some tough times when two of the major riders left. Explain the impact that had on the company and yourself.

At that time, I guess money was tight for Planet Earth and Rhythm, and everyone had to take some pay cuts, and the riders weren’t too stoked on that. But the company was going through that, so we had to deal with it and wait it out. But Chany Jeanguenin and Richard Angelides ended up leaving the company. That was tragic, because they were two dope-ass skateboarders who made Rhythm. They built Rhythm. If you thought of Rhythm, you thought of Chany and Richard. You know what I mean?

It seemed kinda crazy to start with a company, help it grow, and then bail out. But in a way, they had to make that choice to benefit their careers. So that’s cool for them.

When you heard about them leaving, how did you react?

I was like, “Are you serious?” I didn’t believe it. Some companies are big, and a lot of their team riders don’t know each other, but at Rhythm, we were tight. We all knew each other, we were friends.

So was there a point when you thought about leaving? Maybe getting on a more-established company?

I never thought about leaving the company. I always just thought, “I just have to wait it out, everything will come through.”

We’re ending this interview with anybody you want to thank.

Most definitely. I’d like to thank my family, my brother Gonzalo Montoya, and everyone who influenced me growing up. Dennis Bellew, Alex Calkins, Graham Gannon, Caesar Singh, Mark Holman, Stephen Atardo, Rob Fields, Brian Paz, Rob Gonzales, Rich Colwell, Justin Reynolds, and everyone who has helped me to be where I am now. Thanks to Chris Ortiz and Atiba Jefferson for shooting photos, and to Mark Nizbet, Dave Hwang, Toan Nguyen, Colin Kennedy, and especially Ty Evans for filming me. Thank you to everyone at Rhythm and Planet Earth¿Chris Miller, Felix Arguelles, and Jeff Taylor, who always hook me up, and the whole Rhythm team. Thanks to all my sponsors for hooking me up: ATF, Furnace skateboard shop, Shorty’s hardware, Rhythm skateboards, Tornado wheels, and Venture trucks. Thank you very much to Rob Dotson and Dave Andrect at Duff’s Performance Shoes. Peace out.

thank.

Most definitely. I’d like to thank my family, my brother Gonzalo Montoya, and everyone who influenced me growing up. Dennis Bellew, Alex Calkins, Graham Gannon, Caesar Singh, Mark Holman, Stephen Atardo, Rob Fields, Brian Paz, Rob Gonzales, Rich Colwell, Justin Reynolds, and everyone who has helped me to be where I am now. Thanks to Chris Ortiz and Atiba Jefferson for shooting photos, and to Mark Nizbet, Dave Hwang, Toan Nguyen, Colin Kennedy, and especially Ty Evans for filming me. Thank you to everyone at Rhythm and Planet Earth¿Chris Miller, Felix Arguelles, and Jeff Taylor, who always hook me up, and the whole Rhythm team. Thanks to all my sponsors for hooking me up: ATF, Furnace skateboard shop, Shorty’s hardware, Rhythm skateboards, Tornado wheels, and Venture trucks. Thank you very much to Rob Dotson and Dave Andrect at Duff’s Performance Shoes. Peace out.