Ben Gore’s first experiences on a skateboard all occurred during hurricane warnings on the southeast coast of Florida. He and his friends would get the day off school, grab sheets, and wind-sail in the gale force winds through the empty streets. Maybe those early experiences shaped the type of skateboarder Ben is today. He has notoriously searched and found spots across the greater San Francisco Bay Area as rare as the windstorms of his youth. And he is constantly determined to buck the crowds to skate alone—still seeking the perfect storm. On the cusp of releasing his part in our 29th video, and following almost a decade of creative collaboration with master lensman Dave Chami, the two teamed up one last time—before Dave’s move back to New Zealand—to culminate it all in the most fitting way possible. Welcome to the Ben Gore Interview.—Mackenzie Eisenhour
Photos By Dave Chami
How’s your part for Riddles in Mathematics coming along?
It’s been good. It’s really been completely different from what I’m used to. I’m used to filming a part with somebody who lives in the same city as me. The only time I’ve been filming for this part has been mostly on trips. Chris came up here to SF I think twice for three days each. I’ve gone down to Long Beach a couple of times as well with him. Then we did the France trip, Atlanta, and New York. It’s just been a different vibe filming this part than I’m used too.
You can’t really go hunting for your spots and all that usual stuff?
Yeah. Exactly. I usually am just skating around San Francisco and let things happen naturally. But the majority of what I have for the part right now is from other places. So it’s different. It feels weird to me, but it’s been super fun as well. It’s cool to get to travel for this one specific part and it’s something that probably won’t ever happen again. It’s actually been easier to film in new places to some degree. Like, “Cool, I filmed three things today.” Usually in SF if I get one thing I’m super hyped.
Is it almost a relief to have the spots served up instead of having to do all your own scouting?
[Laughs] Yeah, maybe. It’s kind of a mix, too, with Chris when I go down there (Long Beach) he’ll have certain ideas with spots and then I’ll go and have a totally different idea at the same spot from what he was thinking. But it’s kind of cool to be out of my element. Even on the trips, people would show me a spot but then I would go find like three other spots around the corner. But Chris is really good with that. He’s super open-minded and doesn’t really give a shit about skating the famous spots.
You and Dave Chami had been partners for almost a decade right? Was it hard to lose him in the Bay area?
Oh yeah. I’m bummed on it for sure. He was definitely my go-to if I had something that I wanted to shoot. I also knew that if I took him somewhere he wasn’t going to bring a hundred people there afterwards. We just had a really good understanding.
I think his body of work from SF and the Bay Area in general will sit up there with the all time greats.
Definitely. Everything that he did, that I got to be a small part of, was just so creative. That was another thing that made it fun to shoot with him. He was always cool with me having a weird idea or wanting to try something different.
Let’s go back to the start. First board?
I remember certain boards I had in the beginning but not the actual first board. I kind of started almost by accident. I had a really shitty board that I didn’t use that much. I lived on this cul-de-sac in Florida, and when hurricanes would come, that was the only times we used our boards (laughs). We would get off school, because there was a hurricane warning, and then it would be super windy and so we would get like a bed sheet and use that as a sail. That was the only times we would use our skateboards.
Just waiting for the next hurricane. How did you end up on the Flameboy roster (World Industries circa 05/06)?
Mike Peterson and all these dudes came and did a demo at my local skatepark. I didn’t know much about skating but I just skated like the kiddie course while they did the demo. Apparently he saw me skate and asked me after the demo if I wanted to get stuff from Illenium. At that point I was sponsored by the indoor skatepark. It was inside the mall in Pompano Beach, Florida. Basically I got to skate the park for free. But next thing you know Al Partanen is sending me Illenium boards. It was pretty crazy. Then that ended or whatever and Mike [Peterson] hit me up and told me he was doing World Industries now and was going to get me boards from them.
Just boxes of Wet Willy and Flameboy boards?
No. They would send me those black boards with the white letters saying “World” on the bottom. I remember I would always spray paint the “L” black so it just said “Word” (laughs). I got a little older and ended up just quitting, even though they were paying me at the time which seemed pretty crazy. But I quit and just went sponsor-less for a little while.
How did you get to Stereo from there?
After World I just skated MIA (Miami Skateshop) boards a bunch. I was just filming and stuff. This guy Charley in Florida had some connections with Matt Field and he ended up sending my footage to Matt. Then I got Rasa Libre boards, the first ones out of Deluxe for a little while. And that was actually how I ended up out in San Francisco.
Damn. Was that when Dylan [Rieder], Omar [Salazar], and all those guys were on?
It was right towards the end of that. Basically, I started getting boards from Deluxe then two months later it was no longer through Deluxe. Matt said he was going to keep it going on his own. He kept doing it pretty low-key. But I actually drove out to SF in a van with Nick Matlin, ‘80s Joe, Ryan Nix, Brian Downey, and Brian Delatorre.
Bootleg era Ryan Nix?
No. It was right after, when that company Yellow started. But he was out of his mind for sure.
Then was Stereo next?
Yeah. I was living in SF at that point. My friend Evan randomly grabbed my footage and sent it to Hi-Fi Wheels (Stereo distributed wheel co.) They started sending me wheels and then I had a little part in one of the Hi-Fi videos and Chris [Pastras] hit me up after that and asked me to come down to LA. So I did that (Stereo) for a little while. Turned pro. That was rad. But it started changing and going a different direction. There were different people on the team than when I got on. So in the summer of 2013 I joined Magenta.
What’s going on with State Footwear these days? How is the whole thing progressing?
It’s going good. That’s another thing too, I’m also trying to film a part for State at the same time as this TWS part. I think we’re planning on putting out a video in early 2017. It’s such a cool team to be a part of. I’ve been a little stressed doing three things at once, but I’m sure that as soon as I’m not filming for three things I’ll be pissed that I’m not doing anything [laughs]. I love it.
Are you passionate about skater-owned? Can we take this back or is it a lost battle?
Obviously it’s tough to compete with the multinationals. It’s too easy for Nike, Cons, [and] adidas to just go in, whenever they see a threat to their monopoly—and just offer double the money to anybody they want to peel off.
They can strategically throw screwdrivers into the wheels of any emerging threat.
Exactly. They can afford it. And they might not even have plans to do anything with the people. But they know that some kid out there is attracted to what this person is doing so it makes sense for them to grab them. It’s smart from their perspective.
You need like a team of “Untouchables.” Dudes willing to turn down riches.
Yeah. It’s annoying. Even in Europe, we really wanted to get somebody on the team, but anybody that we can think of is already on one of the big shoe brands divisions there. The budgets they have are just so huge. Even if they don’t put them on the full team, like it’s a B-squad spot—that’s what I never liked—the divisions of like, “Okay, you’re on the Europe team but you’re not really on the actual ‘real’ US team.” It’s like, fuck that. Just put everyone on the same fucking team. That’s how Magenta or Polar is. They’re international. Everybody is on the same level. We don’t want to have a B-team.
All time best TWS video part?
It was a hand me down, but the first skate video I ever watched was Uno (’96)—the first Transworld video. I remember Marc Johnson had a part with hair [laughs]. But as far as my favorite, I remember really liking Modus Operandi (’00) when it came out. Especially since it had all the Miami spots. It was the first time I saw actual spots I had skated in a video. But I would say Mike Carroll in Modus Operandi is probably my favorite. That first line at the (SF) library is just one of the sickest lines ever done.
Catch Ben in Riddles in Mathematics premiering February 23 in LA. In the meantime, revisit his part from 2016’s Bright Moments: