You’re lucky to be reading this interview with one of Australia’s finest skateboarders. He’s already survived one plane crash (a near-fatal landing caused by suspect landing-gear alignment), a shark attack (by a great white the size of VW bus while snorkeling in Byron Bay), plus two bites on the lower torso from the dreaded Australian black snake (one of the deadliest snakes in the whole wide world). It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good guy down.
What happened to your French accent?
I lost it.
Where did it go?
Down the drain, mate.
Did you have a French accent when you first came here?
Yeah, I did. I came to Australia ten years ago today. May 11, 1989.Where did you live before that?
New Caledonia, which is a French territory island about three hours away by plane from the east coast of Australia. I was born in Melbourne in ’74, then went to Tahiti for a couple years, then to France for a year, and the rest was spent in New Caledonia.
What was New Caledonia like?
It was pretty mellow there; all my best friends were natives of the island. That’s where I started skateboarding, there was a group of about fifteen who skated on the island. We used to order boards from Australia, and we built a vert ramp in the backyard. I used to make short trips to Melbourne to visit my grandmother, and that’s where I met Tas and Ben Pappas. It all just went from there.
So when did you get sponsored?
I moved up to the Gold Coast and got sponsored by Dave Bartie’s shop. It the team was me, Chad Bartie, and Andrew Currie. After that, I moved to Melbourne and did some work for Snakepit skate shop. I saved money for a year then flew with Ben to meet Tas in Florida. That was ’94.
Did you lived in the skatepark of Tampa?
Yeah, for two months, but it got a little crazy, and I had to move out. We’d wake up at five in the afternoon.
Did roughing it so much leave a bad taste in your mouth for America? Or were you stoked?
I had no money, but I was so stoked on skating that nothing else really mattered. It was all good.
You didn’t want to stay?
Steve Douglas from Giant Skateboard Distribution got me a ticket to California as payment for filming Tas and Ben. I ended up in San Diego after spending some time in S.F. and started to hang out with Kris Markovich. After a few weeks he asked me to ride for Prime, so I did and filmed for the video. I had the option of either going to Mexico for the working visa thing or going home and then coming back. So I went home. I was supposed to get boards, but they got lost. I guess it was a hassle for those guys to send me boards-way too expensive. After a while, me and Christian West talked about doing a little company Time skateboards, and so we did.
Do have any regrets about not settling in the States?
Getting the visa sounded pretty realistic, but it was a lot of effort.Are happier here, more so than if you lived in the States?
Yeah, definitely. Friends and family are here. America’s cool, but after being there for a little while I knew I didn’t want to live there. I get an uneasy feeling in some of the cities; I don’t really click there. New York is pretty sick-that’s the best place.
Why do skaters visit Australia?
Skateboarding is way more accessible here, there’re a lot of good parks if that’s what you’re after, and there’s a lot of good street stuff here, too.The cities seem to be clamping down on street skating a lot more.
Right now they are in Sydney because of the Olympics coming up in 2000.What do you think about the Olympics coming here?
It’s cool for a lot of people, but I’m not really that into it-it’s going to be chaotic for four weeks. Sydney’s going to be a nightmare. It’s good for Australia, though.
Explain the Hoon Run.
It’s just a bunch of hoons.
Who’d be a typical hoon?
A hoon is someone like Wade Burkitt or Clint Bond-someone who’s down to drink and skate. Friends go on the Hoon Run foor ten days to drink and hang out, travel all over the east coast, camp out, swim, fish, and barbecue. It’s not mellow. There’s rules you have to follow, too. Sean Gall made them up during the last Run: no shaving, no wingeing complaining, you have to drink at every stop … there were some other crazy rules, too. Anyone who broke the rules had to buy a carton of beer.
Why did you move from Queensland to Sydney?
Basically, Queensland was too mellow, the spots aren’t that good; it’s more like a beach town. At the time, Sydney had all the best stuff to skate; it still has, but the spots are dwindling. It’s faster paced and more mixed here. Plus, the beach is here, and the city is only ten minutes away.
How’s Time doing? Do you see yourself as a businessman?
At first it was more of a hobby-the runs of boards we did were small. It took a couple years for the name to get out there, then the demand got too high for our Australian woodshop. We got through to Paul Schmitt part owner of P.S. Stix and had a meeting with him at the trade show. They were down to help us out, and ever since then it’s done well-well enough for me and Christian to make a living.
Why did you open the shop Optimum skate shop?
We had the idea to do the shop about a year ago, but back then we didn’t quite have the finances to do it. Within the last two months we’ve been able to get things together and open the store with Andrew Currie. There’s a lot of good Australian guys riding for us, as well as some Americans like Ricky Oyola and Chris Keefe. There’s a good buzz about Optimum right now.Anything else you want to say?
Thanks to Andrew Currie, Christian West, Mike O’Meally, Lance at Slap, Joey and Bod at Independent, Globe shoes, Jeff Taylor at Tornado, Gio at Supreme. All the Time guys, all the New York guys, the people who’ve helped us out in the States, and everyone who supports what we do.
Is that it?
And never forget, she’ll be right on the day.