Steve Berra–On Fire by Dave Swift

I would hope most humans find a time in their lives when they get a chance to do something memorable–a time when they really pushed themselves to the limit of their talent. An example of a person who has done this on several occasions over the last few years is a professional skateboarder by the name of Steve Berra. Now, at a time when most would count him out as a top professional skateboarder, he’s come through with yet another amazing part in the new Birdhouse video entitled The End.

If you want to find out a little more about what it took for Steve to come through once again, read on.

Dave: Over the years, how many video parts would you say you’ve done?

Steve: Let’s see, at least ten. I know it’s more, I just couldn’t tell you without thinking.

And of those, which are you really proud of, and what made them special? Each video is special to me for different reasons. The first Birdhouse video, Feasters. I was proud of that. It was ’91, I just moved out here and we had a lot of fun back then. It was right when Birdhouse started, and we all the whole team hung out and went skating together. There wasn’t much stress involved. I think that was the last video part to actually be really fun for me. I’m proud of Super Conductor, Super Collider because I worked so hard on it. I quit Birdhouse in ’92 because I was young, misunderstood, and silly. I really wanted to prove something to Birdhouse after I quit so I just filmed with Eric Koston and my friend Joel for about eight months, really struggling, but when I ended up on Foundation I had a video part. I was skating as hard as I could to make a great video part, because it was either that video part or go back home to Nebraska. I was so broke before I got on Foundation.

It was kind of a do-or-die situation.

Yeah, I was pretty psyched on that part, because I did a lot of stuff I didn’t think was possible for me to do. I just ended up trying stuff I’d never been capable of doing before.

Would you say that’s when you proved yourself as a street skater and got rid of the “vert” label?

Yeah, definitely. The next video I was happy about was Rolling Thunder, which was the last Foundation video I was in. I worked really hard on that because I wanted it to be the best part of my career. I wanted it to be smooth, nothing sketchy, because at the time I thought it was going to be my last. Then I did a couple more small parts for different videos here and there, and now this one Birdhouse’s newly released video The End.

I know the whole team was pretty reluctant to even do it at first, but now that it’s over, how would you say The End came out?

I think it came out really awesome. The first couple months of filming were really hard for me, because I wasn’t skating regularly. I wouldn’t skate for a week, then I’d try to go skate, and I’d get really discouraged. Then I wouldn’t skate again for a while because my confidence was shot. I couldn’t skate the way I wanted to because I wasn’t skating every day.

Then I just realized I had to skate every day to get to where my skating was like I wanted it. After a couple months of nonstop skating, it got much easier. And because it was coming easier to me, I was able to do the things I wanted to do without going nuts.

Your plan was coming through the way you wanted it. Yeah, by just simply skating all the time. All it took was to be out there every day, really concentrating, focusing on what I had to do for the video. I dropped everything else I was doing, and concentrated on skating, because I knew that was the most important thing for me to do at the time. I think it came out good.

Was there any drama while filming that you’d like to talk about? During the process of filming, one of my best friends killed himself. That’s not only a huge loss to me but to the entire world. It’s not something you get over just like tha What it did was inspire me, if that makes sense. That was the biggest issue.

Then there was little stuff, the incident with a skate spot and a big misunderstanding, then all the stuff with the team–the team seemed to go separate ways. I thought it was because everyone hated each other, but I look at it now, and I think they just needed to be focused. Jeremy and Heath really needed to concentrate on their part, so I didn’t see to much of them. I was originally doing my part with them but I ran into some problems with my schedule and their schedule and the powers that be decided I should have my own part. I started skating with Andrew Reynolds, Jeff Lenoce, and Brian Sumner. Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve filmed the part I did if I hadn’t started skating with those guys. They kept me going. They just supported me and gave me their friendship. I had plenty of drama with my girlfriend because I was so stressed, but she was the key to it all, she’s saved my life a hundred-thousand times. There is no one like her.

Because it was kind of a mystery as far as what everyone was doing for the video, did that inspire everybody to do even better stuff? I think so. I know I was really worried. I would hear bits and pieces of what Jeremy and Heath were doing and I saw the stuff that Andrew, Jeff, and Brian were doing, and I really had to get my ass in gear, because I didn’t want to look stupid. I didn’t want to be the black sheep of the video, the guy who didn’t work hard, and brought the whole level of skating in the video down by not doing the stuff he needed to do.

It seems like most of the pros who came up from being amateur at the same time as you are now relaxing and just doing enough to keep their checks flowing. But you seem to be pushing your skating to another level. Why? I couldn’t live with myself. For lack of a better story I’m going to tell you what Jason Lee told me when he stopped skating; I respect Jason 100 percent. He told me he wasn’t the type of guy who sits next to the pool with one foot in the water while the rest of him was somewhere else. Jason is very wise. That’s where I am. I don’t want to collect checks and not feel like I deserve them. I don’t see anything wrong with that for a little while but even then I have too much pride in myself to just sit around and collect the money. That’s why Jason stopped.

Because he couldn’t push himself anymore? Not because he couldn’t, but because there’s a point in your life when you start something and a point when you finish. Jason was finished, there’s so much out there and he wanted to start something else. Some people don’t understand that, or they don’t want to. Eventually that’s why I’ll stop, but right now I’m in it, and I want to be really in it. Plus, I want to push myself as hard as I can to make Adio as big as possible. Then, in the future, all the hard work won’t be for nothing. Maybe I will sit back and collect checks. I don’t know, I’m stumped.

You don’t go on tour or skate in contests that often, but you’re always in magazines and videos. Is that what’s most important to your skating career? It has been over the last couple years. I actually wish I’d gone on some more tours. I haven’t been on tour in two years, and there’re a lot more people out there. I miss going on tour.

So you’re not really avoiding it. Last year I was doing a television show 413 Hope St., so I couldn’t go on tour. This year we were working on the video, so I couldn’t go on tour. I don’t really go to contests for the same reason. I think I want to go next year.

What really matters in skating, though? To me, it’s just whatever I put out has to be good. I don’t want to be someone who’s burning themself out. Like doing one trick everywhere. It works for some people, but I personally don’t want to do that. And I don’t want to burn myself out by going to contests. I’m not happy at contests.

What would it mean to you to win a contest someday? Although I don’t like them, I’d be psyched. A couple years ago, when I was skating in contests, I was doing well. I was getting some third, fourth, and fifth places consistently. I really wanted to win one. I still want to win one, but now there’re a lot of guys who skate the contests really good.

When you were coming up skating–living in Nebraska or St. Louis–whose skating did you look up to? Bucky. I remember trying to skate just like Bucky. I’d do method airs to fakie and ask my friends if they looked like Bucky’s. I remember watching Tom Boyle a lot. I broke my shoulder, and I’d watch Tom Boyle’s part in the World Industries video Rubbish Heap, every day. Him and Jeremy Klein. Jeremy has always been a favorite of mine. Rick Howard really got me psyched to go skating. When I rode for Blockhead and the Blockhead video with Rick in it came out, it was just awesome.

I liked the H-Street video, but I didn’t like it as much as the World video. When the World video came out, it was so much cleaner. It just seemed really smooth to me. Jeremy was incredible.

So nowadays, who or what inspires you to skate as well as you do? Well, the last World video. I forget what it’s called.

Daewon Song vs. Rodney Mullen? Yeah. Daewon–the dude is so good. I wish I could skate like that.

Then, obviously, just seeing Eric Koston on a skateboard.

Really, I can appreciate so much more now. I go back and read my last interview, and I’m like, “Man, where was I at then?” Now, really paying attention to skating and paying attention to all kinds of people. I like seeing Quim Cardona; he skates totally different than Daewon Song, who skates totally different than Chad Muska, and I like them all. So I’ve really been trying to not be so critical just because one person isn’t doing what I’m doing.

Does that help your skating get more well-rounded? Yeah, I want to do a little bit of everything when I skate.

You don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one type of skating. Right.

In The End, what was the highlight for you? Which one thing pretty much made it for you? The stuff at San Dieguito–kickflip backside lipslide, kickflip 50-50. The hardest thing for me was the frontside flip, which no one even cares about. But I’ve always wanted to do one in a video, so I did one. Actually I like the way everything turned out.

What makes The End different than other videos out there right now? The budget laughs. Well, the most obvious is that it was all shot on film rather than video. Because of the expense, when you’re shooting with film, you only want to film certain things, which would normally be like the last trick in your video part. You want to make sure every trick you do is really awesome. So all the skating you see is high-quality. We also did certain things, like everyone tried to have a story to their video part.

Did you script your own story? Yeah, it was real last minute except for the head chopping off. I knew I wanted that. I have these really awesome friends at KNB/EFX who do special effects for movies. They made a cast of my head, sort of like what they do with your arm when you break it but inside the cast is a special rubber mold. You sit with that stuff over your face for about twenty minutes, breathing only out of your nose, and I had to have the same expression on my face the whole time. Then they pop it off you and work on it for about a week, getting it all cleaned up, painted, and detailed. Then you have a head that looks exactly like you. They did it for me for free. which was good, because normally that would’ve cost a ton of money for something like that. They’re just really awesome guys. I wanted to get my head cut off, because my friends knew how to do it, but then I had to come up with this whole story of how I was going to get my head cut off. So I borrowed the theme from Evil Dead 2.

So what’s next? Before I startedtest someday? Although I don’t like them, I’d be psyched. A couple years ago, when I was skating in contests, I was doing well. I was getting some third, fourth, and fifth places consistently. I really wanted to win one. I still want to win one, but now there’re a lot of guys who skate the contests really good.

When you were coming up skating–living in Nebraska or St. Louis–whose skating did you look up to? Bucky. I remember trying to skate just like Bucky. I’d do method airs to fakie and ask my friends if they looked like Bucky’s. I remember watching Tom Boyle a lot. I broke my shoulder, and I’d watch Tom Boyle’s part in the World Industries video Rubbish Heap, every day. Him and Jeremy Klein. Jeremy has always been a favorite of mine. Rick Howard really got me psyched to go skating. When I rode for Blockhead and the Blockhead video with Rick in it came out, it was just awesome.

I liked the H-Street video, but I didn’t like it as much as the World video. When the World video came out, it was so much cleaner. It just seemed really smooth to me. Jeremy was incredible.

So nowadays, who or what inspires you to skate as well as you do? Well, the last World video. I forget what it’s called.

Daewon Song vs. Rodney Mullen? Yeah. Daewon–the dude is so good. I wish I could skate like that.

Then, obviously, just seeing Eric Koston on a skateboard.

Really, I can appreciate so much more now. I go back and read my last interview, and I’m like, “Man, where was I at then?” Now, really paying attention to skating and paying attention to all kinds of people. I like seeing Quim Cardona; he skates totally different than Daewon Song, who skates totally different than Chad Muska, and I like them all. So I’ve really been trying to not be so critical just because one person isn’t doing what I’m doing.

Does that help your skating get more well-rounded? Yeah, I want to do a little bit of everything when I skate.

You don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one type of skating. Right.

In The End, what was the highlight for you? Which one thing pretty much made it for you? The stuff at San Dieguito–kickflip backside lipslide, kickflip 50-50. The hardest thing for me was the frontside flip, which no one even cares about. But I’ve always wanted to do one in a video, so I did one. Actually I like the way everything turned out.

What makes The End different than other videos out there right now? The budget laughs. Well, the most obvious is that it was all shot on film rather than video. Because of the expense, when you’re shooting with film, you only want to film certain things, which would normally be like the last trick in your video part. You want to make sure every trick you do is really awesome. So all the skating you see is high-quality. We also did certain things, like everyone tried to have a story to their video part.

Did you script your own story? Yeah, it was real last minute except for the head chopping off. I knew I wanted that. I have these really awesome friends at KNB/EFX who do special effects for movies. They made a cast of my head, sort of like what they do with your arm when you break it but inside the cast is a special rubber mold. You sit with that stuff over your face for about twenty minutes, breathing only out of your nose, and I had to have the same expression on my face the whole time. Then they pop it off you and work on it for about a week, getting it all cleaned up, painted, and detailed. Then you have a head that looks exactly like you. They did it for me for free. which was good, because normally that would’ve cost a ton of money for something like that. They’re just really awesome guys. I wanted to get my head cut off, because my friends knew how to do it, but then I had to come up with this whole story of how I was going to get my head cut off. So I borrowed the theme from Evil Dead 2.

So what’s next? Before I started filming for The End, I was thinking that this was it–I wasn’t going to film another video part. But skating got so fun in the last couple months–especially as far as my control–I still want to do other stuff. I don’t know what.

But you’re not relaxing by any means. Maybe for a minute. I’m trying to just learn and read a lot. The world is in a sad state of affairs and I just want to use what I have to be a positive impact on anyone I can. I have a lot of work to do. There’s still a lot of skateboarding I want to do. A lot of stuff I didn’t think I was capable of until I realized that by just skating, you can do it.

rted filming for The End, I was thinking that this was it–I wasn’t going to film another video part. But skating got so fun in the last couple months–especially as far as my control–I still want to do other stuff. I don’t know what.

But you’re not relaxing by any means. Maybe for a minute. I’m trying to just learn and read a lot. The world is in a sad state of affairs and I just want to use what I have to be a positive impact on anyone I can. I have a lot of work to do. There’s still a lot of skateboarding I want to do. A lot of stuff I didn’t think I was capable of until I realized that by just skating, you can do it.