Pro Spotlight Chris Haslam
  • Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. But like water through a drain hole, so go the vast majority of professional skateboarding careers. While most come and go in a flash, riding high in April only to be shot down in May, a select few are able to perpetually levitate—maintaining their peak long enough to become permanent fixtures. Chris Haslam is one of those few individuals talented enough and lucky enough to have become an institution in his own right.
  • At the turn of 2015, Chris had officially notched 11 years as a pro, out of 21 years of riding a skateboard. Already linked to some of the most legendary and influential pros ever—Rodney Mullen and Daewon
  • Song via his decade-plus stint at Almost—Haslam has spent the better part of his pro paycheck-dom traveling the globe on a mission—carving out his signature niche of nomadic-bearded-Yeti-tech/gnar in his wake.
  • Grounded from international travel pending his transition from a US work permit to a bonafide green card, the following was the Almost Canadian’s take on his run to date, skateboarding as the fountain of youth, and his challenges at filming an entire video part on domestic soil for the first time since Deca. Welcome to the Chris Haslam Pro Spotlight. Dedicated to Axel Berny and the Invisible road to Perdition.
    1. What’s been going on lately?
      Not a whole bunch. I’ve just been skating in Watsonville and San Jose [California] with some of the enjoi dudes. Trying to accomplish this TransWorld Pro Spotlight part to go along with this interview.
    2. Were you having some sort of visa difficulties?
      I’m hoping that they’re not difficulties per se. But I’m just applying for my green card and am sort of in this no man’s land between not having my work permit and not having my green card yet, so I can’t leave the country. Everybody thinks that they know it all at the border, so they don’t want to risk me going up there and then trying to come back and falling on some wise guy.
    3. Is it just a renewal deal?
      No. I had a work permit for years, but this is doing the actual green card. Once you have the green card you can start paying taxes down here and I don’t have to renew it every two years. Damn thing cost me an arm and a leg, but if all goes well, I’ll be better off.
    4. I’m sure kids will love reading about the intricacies of immigration applications.
      Yeah. But for Canadians that’s just what we have to go through.
    1. Is your plan to stay in the US for good?
      I don’t know if I plan to stay anywhere permanently really. But for the time being, I have the funds for it and I need to be where the skating is. Right now that happens to be down there.
    2. You told me the story a couple of years back, but can you go back through your near-death experience in 2012?
      Yeah, luckily it was a one-time deal. I guess it could happen to anyone that doesn’t drink enough water. I had all that 5-Incher stuff going on, and I just wasn’t taking care of myself. I think I overdid it one day and just toasted myself. You never really think about anything happening from not drinking water, but I wasn’t hydrating myself enough and I got seriously fucked. I was in Torrance [California] that day and I started pissing blood. You have no more water in your system, so you start pissing blood. I waited three days thinking it would go away and then flew back to Canada, waited another three days because I still thought nothing was wrong and then tried to run across the road at one point and all of a sudden I just felt like that homeless guy in one of the old TransWorld videos. That homeless guy that’s dancing around near the three-up-three-down in San Francisco. You know what I’m talking about.
    1. Yeah. The guy in Free Your Mind [’03]?
      I seriously felt like that guy [laughs]. That was the guy that I was thinking of as I was running across the street, because my legs gave out. Right after that I went to the hospital. [Editor’s note: Chris’ kidneys had actually broken down from dehydration. He was immediately placed on dialysis at the hospital, and doctors explained it was a miracle he wasn’t already in a coma.]
    2. So when our lives flash in front of our eyes before we die, as skaters are we going to see skate videos?
      [Laughs] Yeah, maybe. But I hope that they’re good clips and not just some homeless guy dancing like I saw. I wish it would’ve been Keenan [Milton] switch flipping the Lockwood table or something. I wish that was the story but instead I had flashes of that homeless guy in front of the bondage porn/three-up-three-down [laugh].
    You have no more water in your system, so you start pissing blood.
    1. It’s a good public service announcement to drink water.
      Yeah. You don’t think about it. But if you don’t drink enough water one day, that will carry over to the next day. It seems obvious, but it was crazy to see how gnarly the repercussions were.
    2. You are 34 and Deawon is 39, but you’re both still pretty much unbeatable in your own realms. Is this the generation that sees pro skaters officially extending the norm to 40? Like not just still with a board at 40 on some legend tip, but actually inventing tricks and pushing limits at 40.
      Yeah. Well, I think nowadays people just want to skate longer. People don’t want to stop when they’re 30. That sucks. So I think we’re a little more aware of what we’re doing and trying to take care of ourselves. I think that kidney thing with me was sort of my wake-up call for all of that. I mean, I want to skate until I’m fortysomething. It might not be similar stuff, but look at Rodney [Mullen]. He’s still going.
    3. Totally. Or look at Ron Allen—he’s in his 50s and just ripping.
      Yeah. It’s crazy. I saw him in Oakland not that long ago. He doesn’t look a day over 35.
    1. The fountain of youth. I also wanted to ask: It seems like a portion of skateboarding is going back to the basics—slappies, no-complies, wallrides, and footplants—but they can still all do the tech stuff, too. What’s your take on the new hybrid and the way things are shaping up?
      I think it’s awesome. Then I don’t feel so bad that I’m not noseblunting a 15 or nollie flip crooking 10. I think it’s sick. I like variety. If everybody can do everything, then at least it will be a little more entertaining for me to watch.
    2. Top five most amazing/unknown travel locations you have been?
      Like everybody, I just like new spots. My favorite places are usually ones that I haven’t gone to yet. It sounds kind of corny, but it’s true. Obviously, though, I like going to Southeast Asia. They have so many spots that nobody has ever been to. Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, all that stuff is awesome and it’s fairly cheap to fly there and stay there. China is ridiculous of course, too.
    3. Do you usually roll solo?
      I usually have somebody that I meet there or maybe that is already going and I can jump on the trip with. In Singapore I know some people from when I lived there, so I can go there alone and do fine.
    4. Do you still know people from when you started skating there?
      The guy that ran the shop Go Sports there where I bought my first board in ’94 is still around. I always skate around out front of his shop when I’m there. He’s been there for at least 20 years. All the other guys that I used to skate with are still there too, but most of them don’t skate anymore.
    1. What board did you buy back then? What was your first?
      It was a Santa Cruz William Nguyen—the one that had like this guy with a silver face and then these rooftops in the background.
    2. He was a San Jose guy, I think.
      I think he was actually. But yeah, it’s been 21 years now, which is a trip. Eleven years pro and ten years not pro.
    3. Do you think there is anything left to explore on the tech front? Like, will triple-flip noseslides be a thing, or are we done for now?
      I feel like people could already go there if they chose to. Everybody has the tricks already. It’s so insane if you’re somebody trying to make a name for yourself these days. You have to do some insane shit. I’ll look on Instagram and see some dudes where I don’t even know what they’re doing—like a 540 bigspin double flip or something. I think all those type tricks though now, you sort of watch them once and go, “Holy shit,” and then that’s it. It’s not going to become like a standard trick or anything. I feel like because the tricks are so mind-bending now, it’s really going back to how well you can do the trick. That’s where the guys like [Mike] Carroll or Gino [Iannucci] used to be able to do new tricks but also make them look so good. Like Gino could just backside 180 a hip, like no ollie, just scoop it and make it look like the best thing ever. If I did that, I would get destroyed by Skate Talk or the Slap boards.
    Except that Daewon would make me look like a paraplegic on something like that.
    1. Hey, you never know. It might work for you, too.
      That’s true. Any publicity is good, I suppose.
    2. You could get like troll coverage. Just make people mad. Hop in a super nice car afterward.
      Just make people hate you.
    3. Can you give us an up-to-date report on all things Rodney Mullen?
      Seriously, only things that I know Rodney has been doing are the same things you’ve probably seen. That TED talk. He did the Ben Stiller skate-double stuff for The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty [’13].
    4. Does Mitty count as coverage?
      [Laughs] Well, I guarantee that a lot of kids probably saw it. The guy that skated for Spiderman, that William Spencer guy, got millions of views for his stuff. Seriously, though, Rodney is just doing his thing. I do want to ask him if he’ll put out another skate part.
    5. What’s up with your brand Leftover Hardware?
      It’s my friend’s brand. We’re still doing it, though. It seems like everybody is starting companies all of a sudden. But it’s not the easiest of things to do if you really want to make it work.
    1. The hardware game is rough. You need like a Rosa to match the Shorty’s strategy
      [Laughs] Yeah. And believe me, I’m definitely no Rosa.
    2. Was Wonder Woman your choice for the Almost DC Comics board series?
      No, actually. But to be honest, I think I would have chosen her anyways. There seems to be a hierarchy at Almost and it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Rodney and Daewon would get Superman and Batman. Then the rest were a free-for-all. I was stoked that I got Wonder Woman.
    3. Are you ever tempted to just go clean-shaven? Just buzz it all off?
      Yeah. Actually, if I shave it now, it would because I think that my hairline is going. I think it may be going relatively quick, so probably in the next couple of years I’ll shave it off just because I’m sick of looking at how thin my hair is.
    4. You can go for the shaved head/huge beard route.
      Yeah. Just the psychopath look.
    5. The Manson.
      Exactly. Just minus the forehead tattoo.
    6. Best memory from skating in Singapore?
      It was pretty straightforward. I lived there pretty much seven years and started basically right when I got there. I had seen some guys skating around. It looked sick, so we just looked for the skate shop and went and bought one. Then it was the typical story after that—quit all the team sports because skateboarding was better and have been doing it ever since.
    1. Is there a new Almost video in the works?
      I don’t know. If there is, then I’m seriously behind. I feel like there should be. Maybe after I finish this TransWorld part we can do something. Everybody is scattered all over the world, so it will take some coordination.
    2. What’s going on with Daewon’s manuals on mini-ramp transitions? Would you want to take him back on a Cheese & Crackers [’06] rematch?
      God, no. Yeah, those tricks are insane. We could do a manny on mini-ramp video. Mini Manny Mania or something. Except that Daewon would make me look like a paraplegic on something like that. He’s too good at that stuff. We should actually do a Cheese & Crackers on vert just so I could learn how to skate that shit. I tried skating Tony Hawk’s ramp not that long ago. I drove down there myself like it was a 1992 vert session, but I could barely get five-0 grinds. Vert is hard.
    3. Favorite Daewon era—Love Child Daewon, Korean import car/gangster Daewon, swishy tank tops and picnic tables, tree-tech Daewon…?
      [Laughs] I think my favorite is the Round 2 [’99] Daewon. That was sort of in the picnic-table zone, but I really liked the fast lines that he used to do just with garbage cans and benches or just cruising down the street. He was seriously flying. Love Child was obviously also super rad though. That hardflip. But then even his DVS part [Skate More (’05)], too. That one might be my favorite, too.
    I was actually nervous to see if I could make a whole part without traveling.
    1. Future plans?
      I have this part to finish, then who knows. That’s the thing with skating—it’s pretty much one part to the next. If I can do two in one year, I’m stoked. But this Pro Spotlight part, because of my visa situation, will probably be the first part that I’ve filmed entirely in one time zone since like the Deca video [2nd to None (’01)]. Usually I take the easy route—just fly somewhere sick and film it, but this time I can’t [laughs]. I was actually nervous to see if I could make a whole part without traveling. Especially in San Jose. All those guys have been murdering those spots for years [laughs].
    2. All time best mini-ramp part?
      I don’t know. I guess that mini-ramp part in Questionable [’92]. I mean, Danny Way is just retarded in that thing. Duffy is amazing, [Rick] Howard,
    1. Ryan Fabre, [Mike] Carroll. But then I also love just the old 411s with like Kenny Hughes skating mini ramp, Bam, Donny Barley, even like random Barker Barrett and Jeff King stuff. Mike Santarossa in Scenic Drive [’95] with Gershon [Mosley], Mike Vallely. That Penny line from 411 Europe! Oh my God. Just the way he skates that thing, it’s unbelievable. That whole era was probably my favorite mini-ramp stuff.
    2. All time best video? And you don’t have to say Video Days [’91].
      [Laugh] Yeah. No, that video was tight, but my best videos are really the ones that remind me of when I was skating as a kid. Not necessarily the best but really my personal favorites. Lavar McBride in Donut Duty [’95]—where it starts with him wearing the green Nikes and the cargo pants with the ’Fro. The Reason obviously, and that first Invisible video
    1. with like Jeremy Deglopper, Jamie Thomas, John Reeves—where Axel Berny films his whole part on that one road. The ’95 The Firm video, too, with Weston Correa. Those are the videos that I like the best because they just remind me of being a kid and skating in Singapore. Sometimes I feel like I need to watch those more now than I did then just to keep the inspiration alive. I really find it in those videos, though, and something good happens when I’m in that mindset.
    2. It’s crazy to me that it doesn’t change. Like you’d think you would turn them on one day and just be like, “Jesus, this is terrible.” But they don’t lose the magic somehow. Like they forever give us beer goggles.
      Right. But anyone else who catches you watching them is just like, “What the fuck are you watching?”
    See more from Chris Haslam in Print in Our March 2015 Issue
    Transworld Skateboarding March 2015 Issue
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