Chima Ferguson Interview

(Photo above: switch backside 180. Sydney, Australia.)

Fresh off a four-year bachelor’s degree in Propeller production, Chima Ferguson finds himself back home in Sydney, Australia, for a pregnant pause between chapters. Wheels still spinning from first-part fever, and one day shy of his six-year-anniversary as a Real pro, I called Chima from West LA in hopes of finding out how one unwinds from half-a-decade’s work on one video. More specifically—if all that time, travel, and capital “E” Effort still pays longer-term dividends than the week-in-the-making iPhone edit. Along the way, we stumbled through pressing topics from the runaway scourge of the body varial, to the cool-kid trend of rebellion through conformity, then from the fall of the Australian OG street plazas all the way to the sweet nectar of Menace and City Stars nostalgia. Without further ado, here’s Chima.-Mackenzie Eisenhour
Photos By Andrew Peters

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Ollie. North Hollywood, CA. (click to enlarge)

What’s been cooking lately? How has life been since Propeller [’15]? Good. Pretty much finished that off. Definitely stoked on that. I had moved to LA to film for it, so after that was done everything kind of slowed down a little bit. I think I spent maybe another six months after that in the States and then figured I’d rather go back home again.

Is it weird unwinding from something that big? Almost like it ends and your wheels are still spinning?
Yeah. Jamie [Hart] from Vans [Global TM] was telling me that after the video everyone was going to have a weird period. You spend four years doing it, then suddenly there’s no trips for a while and you’re not seeing the same people as much anymore. It’s almost like going to school for college or something and then you just leave.

Yeah, going four years deep on a project is like the standard undergraduate degree.
Exactly.

“I think Vans is the only company that has actually been there in skating for that long and can honestly tell that kind of story.”

Well, you graduated with high honors—first-part valedictorian. Is it still crazy now to know you have the first part of such an epic video?
Yeah. I mean, there’s Kyle [Walker], Dan Lu [Lutheran], Rowan [Zorilla], and everyone who are my friends. I’m a little bit older than them, but they’re more or less part of my generation. But then AVE, Omar Hassan, [Geoff] Rowley, and those guys—I grew up watching them skate, so to open up a video that has all those guys in it is still pretty special. I didn’t know until the premiere either. I came on right away, and I was just sitting there like, “Oh shit.”

And you came on right after TA, Cab, Grosso, and these massive legends.
Yeah. It’s awesome to be a part of a video where every bit of the spectrum is covered.

There are only so many brands that can pull something like that off.
Yeah. People try to do that now, like Nike tries to do it—just getting whomever they want now. But Alva and Cab and all those guys have actually been on Vans since the beginning. Nike has come up and they try to create that after the fact, but I think Vans is the only company that has actually been there in skating for that long and can honestly tell that kind of story.

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Switch kickflip. Sydney, Australia. Photo / Mapstone (click to enlarge)

Do you think a big full-length production like this still has some longevity in terms of payoff? Like where you can kind of rest on a project like this for a chunk of time? Does it still have a longer staying power?
I think it definitely does. Also especially because it was Vans and Vans’ first video. I think people actually went and bought physical hard copies of it too. So it really feels like a more long-term product. In just two days on the Internet, there might be five or six heavy-hitting edits posted up, then they just disappear down the wormhole. You might go camping for three days, and if nobody tells you about it, you might miss three big things that happened. I think with Propeller, it’s already been over a year and people still hit me up with new feedback on it.

It still feels like it just came out. Like people would still be like, “Oh, Chima just put out a part.” You can chill for five years now, right?[Laughs] No. I mean, I know some people are into that, but for me, as soon as the video was done I was just kind of like, “Shit, what do I do now?” It really is just like college. You spend all this time just focusing everything on that and then one day it just ends. Plus it’s rare that you work on one single project with the whole entire team involved. So it’s like everyone just disbanded afterwards. But just to have been a part of it, especially since Greg [Hunt] made it, it’s pretty special.

I hear you have a new colorway on the way. Anything you can share about that?
I don’t know. The shoe has been doing really well since it dropped, so there’s always new colorways coming out. Like I’ll see people wearing them in the street in colors I haven’t even seen. But Kyle [Walker]’s shoe is coming out in the next month. Then we’re working on another project for later on this year—all of us will have footage, but it’s basically based around Kyle.

“In just two days on the internet, there might be five or six heavy-hitting edits posted up, then they just disappear down the wormhole.”

Let’s get down to brass tacks with the really important questions. Where do you stand on body varials?
[Laughs] I can’t do them personally. I used to do them when I was a little kid. Like I used to the kickflip body varial thing. And by the way, we called them sex changes out here.

Yeah. I actually had sex change in there and changed it to body varial because I didn’t know what the current incarnation was called.
Everyone calls it a body varial now, but when I was growing up it was always a sex change. I used to do the sex change ones because they were easy for me, but now it’s become—especially on Instagram—every time I look at it it’s some dude doing like a body varial in, body varial while he’s grinding, then body varial out. It’s like, “Come on.” It’s too played out. It’s become like some circus shit. I don’t know. Brad Cromer did that sick one. I think that he kind of opened it up.

Yeah, over the bump to bar in Outliers [’15]. He catches it super sick.
Exactly. That one was really sick looking. I remember being like, “I didn’t know anyone could make it look like that.” But that’s how it is in skating. It takes one person to do something proper and then everyone else just jumps on it. If Brad wants to do them like that, I’m down for it all day, but all these other weird circus freaks I’m not so sure about it.

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Varial heelflip. Los Angles, CA. (click to enlarge)

It seems like there are a bunch of crews now that really want to make skating their own. Like they really want to do it differently and differentiate themselves from the “norm” in any way they can.
Yeah. I mean at the end of the day, if you’re skating and you enjoy what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what anybody else says or thinks. But in my opinion it’s annoying to see these groups of nine-year-old kids all decked out in the cool-guy outfit. When I was nine I would just wear whatever I could get. But now it’s like everybody has to make a statement. Yeah, they’re trying to do their own thing, but then they all end up looking the same.

Rebellion through conformity?
[Laughs] Yeah, exactly. These people are trying so hard to change it that they end up all doing the exact same things anyways. One cool thing though is that people are into smaller scenes now versus bigger picture, which I think is cool. All these places have their own brands now and thriving little scenes. In that sense, it’s rad. People really are owning skateboarding again in a way. As long as you enjoy skating, do whatever you want. If that works for you, go for it. Who gives a shit?

Was Martin Place in Sydney your Love Park/EMB so to speak?
Yeah, definitely. I started skating there in ’98 or ’99. Then they changed it just before the Olympics were here in 2000. That was when they made all the newer steps and black granite. But I just heard the other day that I guess the nine-stair at the top will still be there but the double set and the three/three/three in a row is all going to be taken out. I think it will kind of be like a Love Park thing though, when they get close to bulldozing it people will be going for broke.

“I drink beers at the spot too, but I clean it up after myself. Why give them extra reasons to hate?”

Any thoughts on Lincoln Square in Melbourne getting ’dozed?
I used to skate Melbourne a lot more when I was younger. I probably skated Lincoln Square like eight times in my life. It’s really sad that they knocked it out. But then again, the skaters there—every time I would see photos—I personally don’t like it when people skate too close to pedestrians. That’s one of the biggest reasons that people kick us out of spots. If I skate in the street, I make sure everyone is out of the way because hitting a random person is just the worst thing. They would drink there every day, smash bottles, and all that and then they get bummed when the council wants to take it away. It’s like, “What did you expect?” It was a war memorial too, so even more reason to be courteous. I drink beers at the spot too, but I clean it up after myself. Why give them extra reasons to hate?

Last time you skated with your brother?
He lives in New York now actually. He moved to the States right as I was moving out. Last time we skated was maybe two years ago. I would always end up giving him a board once a year and sometimes he would skate it, other times not.

He got you started right?
Yeah. He used to rollerblade, then he got into bikes, then he finally got a skateboard. So I got a skateboard thanks to him.

That’s right. Yeah, you still owe him for life for switching out of the blades.
[Laughs] Yeah. He lets me know about that too.

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Switch backside tailslide. Orange County, CA. (click to enlarge)

If you could be pro in any era, which would you choose and why?
I’d say like being 20 in 1991. I grew up with Trilogy. That whole era and the whole Girl era—all the skaters from that time were the best to me. I didn’t know too much about the ’80s or ’70s. But from like 1991 through about 2003, that’s when all my favorite videos came out. Goldfish [’94], through Sorry [’02], and all that. I loved City Stars and Menace. So maybe pro for Menace in 1994. In ’01 when City Stars came out that was my favorite shit too.

Worst music for skateboarding?
I’ll say dubstep and trap.

Best music for skateboarding?
Bowie, Roxy Music, and The Smiths.

All-time Ozzy video parts?
Dustin [Dollin] in Baker 3 [’05], Shane Cross in Let’s Live [’07], and [Matt] Mumford in Misled Youth [’99].