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Roll Call: Windsor James

It's crazy out there for professional skateboarders these days. The Wild West is in full swing. It's lawless. It's divided. It's wide open. Valued clips are sacrificed daily for likes and shares. Interaction with fans is done via the keyboard of your favorite pros' smartphones. These social outlets have the power to easily measure a professional's "value" through analytics and reporting. And with corporate involvements at an all-time high in skateboarding, the times truly are a changin'. Fortunately there are guys out there like Windsor James who have been doing their thang for over a decade while remaining relevant through all the changes, trends, trials and tribulations. He's continued to do his thing day in and day out, and has stayed humble through all the ups and downs that come with making skateboarding a career. When it truly comes down to it, he's still just that ripping kid from Colorado Springs living his dream. From his early Darkstar days to his Black Box days to his current situation, we caught up with Windsor for our latest Roll Call to talk about the past, present, and future. —Brian Blakely

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Bennett grind. San Diego, CA. PHOTO / Gould (click to enlarge)

Tell me about the time Chad Muska smacked you in the face on that C1RCA trip?
Yeah, we were just partying. I think Chad thought I spit in his beer or something. We were partying with a bunch of people in a hotel room and he said, "Hey, come here," and he smacked me. After he smacked me I was like, "What the fuck did this guy just slap me for?" And after that he socked me in the chest super hard. My TM pulled me out to the balcony and just said, "Hey, relax, you can't do anything right now. This is your first trip. Muska's just on a hot one." I was furious and just had to chill [laughs]. He apologized to me recently, though. It's all good.

That's what I was going to ask next. I was wondering if you guys were going to need to break out the boxing gloves and settle the score.
[Laughs] No, it's not even a big deal now. It's just a funny story. I've seen him recently at the Supra/KR3W offices, and he apologized to me for the whole situation. He obviously didn't remember, it was just one of those times where dudes are partying super hard. We never had a problem or anything; it was just a crazy, funny story. Muska's the man! It's all gravy now.

I noticed you haven't been riding Mystery boards for a while. What happened with all of that?
Yeah, we parted ways in February. When they revamped I was there to help with creative control and put the team together and stuff. So at first I helped get all those dudes like Franky Villani and Logan Taylor and a couple other people on, but things just slowly changed. Times are hard. That's really what it comes down to. The industry is in a rough place right now, and I just felt like I didn't fit anymore. I felt like I didn't really have anything left to contribute to Mystery anymore, so I just had to get out and do my own thing. Shout out to Mystery and all that, though! It just got to a point where I didn't agree with where they were taking the brand, so I just had to get out of there. That's really it—just little things here and there, so I just decided to do my own thing for a bit and figure things out.

"WE WERE PARTYING WITH A BUNCH OF PEOPLE IN A HOTEL ROOM AND HE SAID, 'HEY, COME HERE,' AND HE SMACKED ME."

You were there during the prime days of Mystery, so I can imagine it must've been strange to see it change like that.
Well, also, the thing is, Jamie [Thomas] runs good brands, you know? So once that whole thing happened where they were splitting up all the brands into different distributions, things just went sideways. You're so used to the way these guys run the brands and things end up changing as soon as there's nobody there creatively. Jamie was there through the whole creative portion from the start. I mean, it was his brand that he started, so the whole creative part of it started to change as soon as the new distributions were there. Best of luck to those dudes either way! Shit just didn't work out.

Do you have a board sponsor right now, or are you just sort of floating around?
Actually, I do. I just got a board sponsor today [laughs]. I'm going to ride for LE [Life Extension]. [Ed note: Windsor was just announced on Zero this week at Agenda.] I just talked to all the boys today and we're giving it a go. I'm stoked. All those dudes are my best friends, so it only made sense. I grew up with all those dudes; we've been skating together for years. I was having problems trying to find a place where I would fit and there weren't too many places, but this is a good fit. So we talked today and started working shit out and agreed this needs to happen now. I'm stoked that we talked today. Perfect.

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Noseslide. Baltimore, MD. PHOTO / Gould (click to enlarge)

Yeah, that was good timing. How's everything going at C1RCA?
Things are going really good. My shoe is selling pretty well, and things are going good. It's just like, fuck, man, the skateboard industry is in a—I don't want to say a bad place, but…

Well, especially for shoes. When Fallen went out of business in April, I think it was a reality shock for a lot of people, despite whether they were huge Fallen supporters or not.
I had just talked to Jamie a few days before, and it was basically like it had to be done. It wasn't working out. But the thing about C1RCA is that they have really good international distributors, so the shoes are moving, it's just domestically things are slower. But we have a lot of cool projects coming out this year that will hopefully boost sales and our position in the States. So it's happening, we're stoked.

How have your philosophies or outlook on skateboarding and the industry changed since your Darkstar days? Your part in Battalion dropped in '03.
Philosophies always change, you have to change with the times, but in reality not much has changed. My philosophy is still the same when it comes to filming video parts and where we are in skating right now. When you get sponsored it kind of becomes a career, you know? So you should just try and get as gnarly as possible. Grow and progress and all that. But the whole aspect of it is obviously that we're here to have fun. This is supposed to be fun. So my philosophy has been the same: Just try and have as much fun as possible—because once the fun stops it kind of just starts being something that you're not going to enjoy. So I've just been having a lot of fun lately with it. I just want to go out and really push my limits. Just try and stay on the wave. We have to make sure these young bulls know we can still do it [laughs]. That's pretty much all it is. Nothing has really changed.

"You could have 90,000 followers and kids might not even be buying your boards."

Are you sort of always filming for something in a sense? How do you dictate which clips to save for bigger projects versus clips to blow out on social media and stuff?
I have no idea, man [laughs]. I'm the worst at social media. How I look at it now is if I did some shit in the streets that was an ABD or something, you can just throw that out on Instagram or whatever. I try not to put too much shit from the streets on Instagram, though. Instagram and all that social media shit is really just dumbing down people's skating, I feel like. That's kind of something I don't really like. These young kids are going out and skating spots and doing shit that's already been done and just blast it on social media. That kind of hurts the whole art and soul of when people were out street skating and realized there was this list of shit that's been done that you're not supposed to do. You know? But these kids go out nowadays and do shit that everybody already did at the same spot and don't even give a fuck. We, or the older dudes, knew, for example, when you went to Beverly, you abide by that list. I'm not going to go do all this shit at a skate spot just because I need social media clips or anything—especially at a real spot.

The temptation has to be there to just post all the time so your audience knows you're handling business and doing your thing, though, right?
That's the thing too. It just sucks because you have to blast all this footy out so fast and people just forget right away. That's why I'm not really even trying to ride that wave. I'd rather do my thing. I think sometimes you just have to chill on that shit, but that's just me. It might not be the best option for some of your sponsors these days because they see what's happening, they see what's going on, and they want you to be pushing the companies that you ride for as much as possible, so I understand that.

It seems like when people aren't posting on the daily, fans are quick to assume you're just sitting around doing nothing. There's definitely a lot more on your plate as a pro skater these days compared to, say, 10 years ago.
Yeah, you have to do so much shit now! It's crazy. But it's sick. Like I said, you just have to change with the times. Just stay in your lane and do your shit. But I understand.

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Frontside wallride. Los Angles, CA. Photo / Peters (click to enlarge)

How do you stay relevant as a pro in a world filled with gnarly 15-second video clips?
I mean, that's what I'm saying, you just have to stay in your own lane. There are people that have a huge presence in skating and their Instagrams aren't shit. They don't even give a fuck, which is sick. I don't think there's really a standard. If you want to be "that dude" or like a Nyjah or something, then by all means post all the clips you want in the park or in the streets as much as you want, you know? Do it every day if you want to. But there are people like Jake Johnson—I just started following him recently the other day—he barely posts any skate videos. He posts his art and other shit that he's doing. It's not a relevancy for him. It's not like you're looking for a Jake Johnson Instagram clip, but he has a huge presence in skating. Or people like Julian Davidson. He's huge but doesn't have some social media buzz. And that's tight. It's not all about Instagram. You could have 90,000 followers and kids might not even be buying your boards.

It's true. And even working in media or any other business to an extent, you're always tallying up all these little numbers, but they're not necessarily translating into direct sales or anything. It might contribute a bit, but it just seems like if people are down for it, they're down for it. If they support you, it goes far beyond social media.
I think of people like Rowan [Zorilla]. His Instagram is casual. It's your average dude's Instagram. He's not trying to get too crazy, and he's one of the best out there. But even in the past couple years, the kids coming up have to do so much more. They rely on Instagram and all of that, but I don't think it really matters as much for certain categories of people. I don't know how to necessarily explain it. But shit, if you're out there hitting it every day, posting up some Instagram videos, I love it. But I would never do it. That's just me, though. It's awesome for those who get to do that. It just widens their social media audience and you'll get followers who fuck with you, but yeah, I don't think it should revolve entirely around social media and all that shit.

Well, what's good for the rest of 2016? Any big plans or are you just going to keep doing your thing and stay busy?
I have a video part coming out midyear, so I'll probably be working on that and some other stuff towards the end of the year. But this whole year will be pretty good. I'll be busy and active. There will be some parts coming out for the people who enjoy my skating. And just continuing to push myself the next couple years, filming and all that, maybe get into some contest stuff within the next year or so. But really just a lot of street skating. I grew up on the whole street aspect of it, so I'm just trying to stay in the streets. Just trying to put out part after part after part.