Walker Ryan kicks off our new Interview Issue (not to mention an incredible cover) that just hit newsstands yesterday. Here’s an exclusive extended interview with quite a few more words and topics than we could fit into the April issue. We’ll be posting more of these with our other interview subjects.
Words by Blair Alley
Walker's unfadeable skill on a skateboard isn't news to anyone, but this dude's lifestyle and growing travel résumé would make Anthony Bourdain jealous—Walker could go toe to toe wine tasting with him as well. He's been globetrotting so hard in the paint, he hasn't had to pay rent in months, and he's not planning to for at least another year. Walker is truly getting more out of being a pro skater than most of these guys do. So read up on the 2013 of Walkdiggity@hotmail.com. If there's a single person that will solidify your faith in humanity, it's Napa Valley's own fine wine of a skateboarder. Skate Homies Underground Family For Life.
What are you doing right now?
Just kicking it at my mom's house drinking some wine with Eric Lesar and my mom's friend. Napa Vally life dude [laughs].
Where are you living right now?
Difficult question to answer—I'm not living anywhere per se. I moved out of San Francisco in July (2012), so I haven't had a spot since then. I'll come back and kick it with my mom for a week or so. I'm just floating.
Where have you been staying?
My girlfriend lives in New York, so when I have a lull, I'm out there in Manhattan. I stay with friends in San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, and then I'm trip to trip. I'm trying to not have a spot for at least another year.
What's your travel plans for this year then after the TransWorld part?
The week after the premiere, I'm going to meet up with (Patrik) Wallner in China and we're gonna do another video part for my (C1RCA) shoe release. I'm not gonna get a return ticket just yet. I'm gonna go out there for at least a month/month and a half. I want to visit some of those cities that haven't been explored too thoroughly by skaters yet. Patrik works a lot with Converse China out there and gets to go on all these trips to different Chinese cities. I'm really excited.
You've seen that crazy city that's in Mongolia?
Ordos! Yeah, Patrik went on that trip. He helped make that video. He was telling me it was so crazy. A city made for millions of people but only a couple thousand people live there. I want to know the details about that. Was it poor planning? Like "We have all this invested, we're going to build this city." "Wait, we can't get people here yet." "Just leave it for now, it's great, it's beautiful. We'll move people in later."
Would that be considered a study in Sociology?
Well there you go, further your education. Is that one of the places you're going to go?
No, it's off the beaten path. It's in the middle of the desert.
So that's the first couple months after I'm done with the TransWorld video, then we're gonna do a trip to Iran with Patrik. That's his next big one—Iran and through the Caucases. I'm excited, I've heard Tehran is very beautiful and the people are kind and welcoming. They have an incredible skatepark and a skate organization that we want to go check out. We want to do a demo and then get taken around by the person who does the organization if it all works out.
How would you describe the value of traveling to someone who has never left The States?
It's so important to gain a perspective of what the rest of the world is like, because any place you live, especially the U.S., you get stuck in a bubble. The worst result would be taking things for granted that you have here. The U.S. has its problems, but compared to a lot of other places in the world, it's remarkable what we have at our disposal everyday. I think that's just one crucial gain. As a skateboarder, it's cool to experience this global network and this global community. You meet people from all over the world and you meet once and maintain contact, you can go live with them in their country and experience life through their eyes. I think that's a great value in that.
How'd you go on international trips before companies sent you? Before they were free?
I inherited the travel appreciation from my parents. They were never wealthy, but they made sure we went on one interesting world trip a year. For example, The Dominican Republic when I was little. My parents moved to Paris just after I was born and my dad worked a wine making job there. He ended up living in Europe and the former Soviet Union for five years off and on when I was three years old, until I was eight. That instilled an appreciation for traveling, and I just feel like I can deal with it well. I dealt with all that when I was little, and I hated it, and now the stresses that come with travel don't affect me much. I was really fortunate to have parents that appreciate traveling. That's part of the reason that skateboarding gripped me too, you read magazines and you watch 411 Around The World and you just say, wow, that makes it that much cooler. Give me an excuse to travel around the world and I'll take it.
Financially, would you get the student airfares, or stay with people you know, or hostels?
I still gotta run it hostels and staying with friends. I make these trips happen out of my own pocket and then try and work it out so my sponsors will be psyched and I can maybe some reimbursement. I'll run it student-esque or just gypsy style if I have to—I don't care. I'll stay on floors anywhere. I'm not raw enough yet to just pull camp-mode travel, like just have a bag and a hammock, but maybe one of these days. Those are the gnarly dudes out there. Talking to Javier Mendizabal and some of the people that have done those Cliché Gypsy Tours—oh man those sound intense, I'd love to do it.
Have you seen the last issue with Julian [Davidson]'s cover?
No, I can't wait. I only saw a little glimpse on someone's Instagram. I'm so psyched on Julian, he's one of my favorite dudes out right now.
Do you have a banger for a cover yourself?
I don't know, I've always wanted something gnarly. I'd like to have something one of these days.
Where do you see yourself in your career right now? You're having a TransWorld part and then your first pro shoe is dropping this year.
I couldn't be more humble and stoked to be where I'm at right now. I still can't believe I'm getting a part in a TransWorld video. I still watch TransWorld videos everyday, they're still so sacred to me. Even up to The Cinematographer Project and the one Wes (Kremer) closed out. I can't wait to see this one finished. I don't know how to answer that question—I can't be happier but there's so much more I wanna do. Video parts are never a satisfying process, because you're left feeling you could've done so much more. I like that though, because there're still more video parts I want to film. I'm also down to do more contests. I feel like outside of Street League, there aren't that many contests, but those are so fun. It's like a different side, like if you're not in full filming mode, you should train or practice, but that's something I definitely don't have in my routine right now. Half of me just wants to keep filming video parts, going on weird trips, travel as much as possible. The other half of me wants to explore the contest world a little.
Have you seen any of the new Hollywood movies that are out right now?
I saw Silver Linings Playbook, that was amazing.
Really? Looks like a chick flick.
It's so not a chick flick, I mean it gets a little cheesy at the end. It's about a dude with bipolar, ADHD, just gets out of a psych ward for beating his estranged wife's lover half to death. I feel like we all know these characters, they can't deal with their emotions. We know them in skateboarding. The whole time I was watching it, I was like, yep, I know that dude, I know that dude. Bradley Cooper nailed it. Why do you ask? Have you seen any good ones?
Yeah, everyone in here has SAG screener DVDs or downloads, I watched Les Mis.
So good. And I got Django.
Is it amazing?
It's so sick.
I gotta go see them. The only reason I saw Silver Linings Playbook is because I was staying with the Chamis and I was the third wheel on a date.
That's a giveaway that it's a chick flick! So is it a good date movie?
I'd go on another date to see it. I'm keen as the Kiwis would say.
If you had the Back To The Future time machine, what year would you drive it to and why?
That's a tough question. Even though I've traveled a lot, I still think the U.S. is still one of the most interesting places just for what's happened in its short history. I think experiencing the U.S. when the Native Americans were running the land but there were also Western communities—not New England, but the West.
The Wild West!
Yeah, I think that would be something fascinating to watch. I bet it was so raw and gnarly and interesting.
Then you'll love Django!
Maybe that's what got it into my head. Only as an observer, I'd have to be invisible. I wouldn't want to be involved, I don't think I'm man enough [laughs].
You wouldn't be an outlaw? Go out into the street for a draw?
It'd be hard to be an outlaw then, it's nothing like skating in the streets is today.
You could be the real Walker, Texas Ranger!
Yeah, there we go. Maybe that's my calling.
Or Walker the outlaw, Walker The Kidd, "It's Walker The Kidd, look out!"
What about in skating?
You could go back to 1989 and be like the most revolutionary skater ever!
Yup, just show up.
Go back before Gonz ever slid a rail and just do everything in 1987 and then you'd be on the cover of our 30th Anniversay Issue. It'd be your face drawn by Shepard Fairey dude!
Yeah! Why didn't I think of that.
Have you updated your education recently? Have you gone back to school or taken any classes?
The last class I took was an online French class and I barely passed it with the help of my friend Charles. It was when I was in Kazakstan, he helped me out with that one, it wasn't entirely honest. If I had to choose a post skating career and it was academic, I think it would be cool to be some type of a psychologist. Work with kids or work with people with strange metal disorders. That's what I'm fascinated with the most. You know what's been cool about not being in school is I just read a lot more for pleasure. I try to read a book a week at least.
That's one of my questions! Last good read:
I'm reading this book called My Stroke Of Insight, about this neuroscientist who has a stroke. She has this incredible insight into the whole process of losing your sense of self from a really bad stroke. I'm also switching off between that and Doctor Jekyll And Mister Hyde. It's a classic, it's so good, it's so twisted.
Have you read American Psycho?
It's so gnarly.
Speaking of psychos, I read this book called The Psychopath Test. It's about this journalist who explores the idea that people in positions of leadership are what you'd call diagnosed psychopaths. He poses the question, "Well, what is a psychopath?" He starts off in mental institutions obviously, and goes through psychotic killers. There's essentially this checklist you can go through, and if you score high, you're a psychopath. The basis of it is that you have no ability to feel empathy for other people, so if you're the CEO of a major corporation and you're forced to fire thousands of people at a time, you can do that if you don't feel for people. He goes around to some of these CEOs and gets them through the checklist and they score high. I think we all know a few psychopaths [laughs].
Did you take the test on yourself?
Yeah, I didn't score too high. It's not that common, it's like one-percent of the population, but they're there. Gotta be careful.
What's 2013 got in store for Organika?
I just saw the whole clothing line, they're going to make a really cool apparel push. We're gonna have a promo coming out, me and Josh Anderson have a bunch of VX footage that never got used. Miles Silvas is gonna be killing it. He just got on Lakai, that fool's the future.
Were you bummed on the Niners loss in the Superbowl?
Truthfully, I'm not even gonna pretend that I care about football. I went skating while the Superbowl was on hoping that it would be like a ghosttown. My dream was to get a cilp while everyone was all of a sudden pretending they were jocks. That's what's so lame about Superbowl, people don't care about it all year. I don't buy into it.
What's the status on the SHUFFL crew these days?
[Laughs] They're sprinkled around the country! Dave Abair is in New York, hopefully gonna get on 5Boro. Ryan Harris is shuffling around the country doing a bunch of cool concrete work. He, David Cole, and Austin Kanfoush—they're as SHUFFL as it gets. It was Ryan's thing, and Austin embodies every element of it and then David was the first dude to get it tattooed on his chest. They went to North Dakota and worked the gnarliest concrete job. They were building foundations for hospitals and dormitories throughout the coldest winter you can imagine.
Dave's back, we're gonna go skate tomorrow. Paul (Sewell) and John (Lupfer) are still down in San Diego, it's sick that Tom (Remillard)'s in this video with us. It's so rad to have that SHUFFL representation in the TransWorld video. Follow @shufflcrew on Instagram.
Recommend a good wine for your video part.
[Laughs] Get some Malbec, but drink like a bottle. I like to keep it red. It's bomb, from Argentina mostly. There're some up here in Napa. It's kind of like a Cab.
Do they have it at 7-11? Because that's where I buy all my wine.
[Laughs] I think they will dude.
How often do you go skate UCSD just to reminisce?
I haven't been in so long. I kinda wanted to get a clip at UCSD for this part, but then I thought, as a point, I'm not gonna have a clip. It's funny you ask, because I was thinking the other day, what if I went back and filmed another video part there? Would that be okay?
Call it Old School. Go back to school, rent a student apartment, and be the old dude back on campus.
When I'm 30, I'll do it [laughs].
This is the last question so it's super important: What's the key to getting another full John Lupfer part?
[Laughs] Oh my God! Is this NC-17 rated? You'd have to seal off all the women in the world. You'd have to put him on an island where there're no females.
So you're saying there's a chance?
You find him an Ordos, one of these Chinese cities where there's nothing to do… It's just women, you can blame partying or whatever, but John can handle himself. But if you got some girls around: He. Is. Focused. The Jason Hainault quote is, "If John devoted the same amount of energy to skating that he does to girls, he'd be Koston."
Take him to Iran with you where all the ladies are covered up and then he'll just start stacking clips.
No, then he'll just go to jail. Like nothing's gonna stop that dude. They have to just not be there [laughs].
We got plenty of stuff here, anything else you wanna say?
I just can't stop saying enough that if this video was something that I was just watching without me being involved, this would be one of my favorite videos just from the line up. Silas is my all time favorite. Julian is the future of finesse in skateboarding. Jimmy is one of my favorite human beings and innovative skateboards. Tom is the most fluid tranny skater you could ever ask for. And Josh, I watch Josh's part in the Think video all the time. I just think that it's going to be a classic, and then to be a part of it—I'm just so honored.
Perpetual Motion will be in skate shops early April and on iTunes shortly after.