Check Out/Check In
Nov. 1997, Vol. 15, No. 11
Words: Mackenzie Eisenhour
Strap on your time machine and jet back to the quaint month of November 1997—Titanic has just opened in theaters nationwide, Ken Griffey Jr has just won the AL MVP, and Forrest Kirby has just landed himself a Check Out in Transworld SKATEboarding magazine. Cut to 2018 and F.O.R.E just came out as a gay man via Instagram selfie following a two-decade run as a professional skateboarder for Planet Earth and Zoo York. Here is how it all went down.
• This was the full interview from Forrest’s column in our Sept./Oct. 2018 issue. As an added bonus, I scanned Forrest’s 2007 interview that we reference in this text.
Is that the Huntington rail in the kickflip photo?
Yeah. I think it's at Huntington High. That wasn't my first trip to California but I had hit up Jeff Taylor and told him "Hey, I'm gonna come out and stay with you."
You knew him from back in Texas?
Jeff was like a Texas legend. I met him at the Skatepark of Houston. Whenever I went to Houston, he basically introduced me to RB (Umali). He was filming Jeff at the Skatepark of Houston and Jeff was like, "You should know this guy."
I just remember RB's Screw Skateboards 411 ad.
That's right, he did ride for them. I was kind of getting boards from them too. RB and Anthony (Correa) rode for them and I got a couple boards from them.
Do you remember shooting these photos? Did you know it was for a Check Out?
I think I had shot a photo before that with Jeff of like a switch back five-0 on a ledge. That came out before the Check Out I think. It was like my first photo in Transworld.
This one has the sequence of the switch flip into the switch back five-0. Heavy sequence for 97.
He didn't tell me he was going to do it either. Jeff was doing stuff for Transworld then and he was friends with all those guys.
Yeah, everything was sort of mixed together in that Climax dist. building. Encinitas and Carlsbad.
Do you remember the first time you saw it in the mag? Was it a big deal?
Yeah. It was huge. I figured if I wanted to make it happen I had to get out to California. At the time that was just how it worked. Jeff was my friend in the industry. He knew everybody and was pro. Also sort of making his way towards being a part of the company in a different way. I didn't realize that that was happening at the time but he was transitioning into more of a media role.
Did you eventually get on Planet Earth through Jeff? In the Check Out your only sponsor is listed as Shorty's Hardware.
(laughs) I was laughing at that when you sent me the Check Out.
Heavy sponsor line up Forrest. Wasn't there like 200 people on the Shorty's Hardware team too?
I used to get griptape and bolts and whatever else from them. It was amazing. I was getting flow from éS too. I was at a tradeshow right before that and I met Erik Ellington. I don't even know why he talked to me. I had my sponsor-me tape with me though. He was just like, "Hey, is that your sponsor-me tape?" So we walk over to the éS booth, he puts the VHS tape in the VCR and plays it and Don Brown is there and he's just like, "Hey, can we flow you some shoes?"
That's how it used to work right? Social media of the '90s was carrying your sponsor-me tape in real life.
(laughs) That happened a few months before the Check Out.
Was Planet Earth your first big board sponsor?
Yes. Maybe a year after that Check Out, I had made another video and sent it to Planet Earth. I was gonna send it to Jeff but then instead just sent it to Planet Earth and wrote "Planet Earth/Rhythm." I got a call from Kenny Anderson. He was the guy that would watch the sponsor-me-tapes.
Wow. For Planet Earth and Rhythm?
Yeah. So he calls me up and tells me, "We got your video. It was sick. I want to send a board." And then he sent a board—just one, in the box (laughs).
Just a full board box with one deck in it? You see it on the porch and you're all psyched. Then again you were still probably super stoked even on one deck.
I didn't know any different. I just figured I got a board. Rad.
It would have been a different reality if you had gotten on Rhythm in time for Genesis.
(Laughs) I got the one board, then I believe I made another video. Then I came back out to California. That time when I came out I remember going to the Planet Earth office and walking through the hallway and seeing Ty (Evans) editing the Genesis video. Chany (Jeanguenin) and Richard (Angelides), all those guys were there. On that trip I skated with them and Kenny (Anderson). The video was basically done then I think. I was out there for that trip and then all those guys quit. I ended up going back and forth from Texas to San Diego for a while. I was shooting photos with Jeff, skating with Felix (Arguelles) and Kenny and I remember Felix just being like, "This is my guy." I met Danny (Montoya). I think they were just seeing how I got along with everybody. They were tight. They worked together, skated together, lived together.
Did you get on Rhythm then go to Planet Earth? F.O.R.E and Friends was under Planet Earth right? I forget.
Yeah, that was Planet Earth. It seemed like a long time then but it was only a few years. It happened fast.
F.O.R.E and Friends was a big deal. You were one of the few people to have a whole video built around you.
We were filming. I think we were working on like a Rhythm thing. Jeff was kind of the ideas guy and he planned all the trips, he was the TM. Felix had a big role too on the creative side. But Rhythm went out of business so it turned into a Planet Earth video, and then I turned pro in maybe July or August of 2001 so the video was sort of timed for that. Cut to September and 9-11 happened. Planet Earth went out of business. I moved to South Beach (Miami) January 1, 2002. Ed (Selego) and I were both living in South Beach and they mailed us like a hundred boards from Planet Earth. We just had a giant stack of Planet Earth boards and neither of us had a sponsor. There was no skateshop in South Beach either so we just lived off of this board stack.
Then by 2002 I think you got on Zoo? Was that through RB?
Yeah. It was kind of through RB. If we traveled to any contest or skate event I was always hanging with RB and Anthony (Correa). Then I met Jeff Pang, Danny Supa and all those guys through them.
You guys seemed like a tight crew.
I might have hit up Jeff (Pang) or maybe he called me. But by the time I got on Zoo York I was already friends with all those guys. It worked out.
You stayed at Zoo for a while right? At least until like 2012 (Edit: Forrest had a sunset farewell ad from Zoo York in 2016)? I was trying to think, was the MIA video (2010) sort of your last big part? That part was still so good.
Thanks (laughs). Yeah, pretty much. I would say that was my last video part.
I'll jump to the obvious question, you just came out as a gay man in May 2018. Was there some time to step away and figure stuff like that out?
I was always trying to figure it out. Kind of during and after I was filming the MIA video I had some family stuff going on. Basically not letting me skate as much. Kind of dealing with family stuff and that pretty much took over my life. I kind of got burned out on skating. The inspiration wasn't there. You get to this point and it was like "Is the only thing that defines me as a person being a skater?" I remember feeling like, "Is this just my life? I'll just be hanging on to something even though I didn't really want it anymore." It was like, "Okay bro, you accomplished the things you wanted to do with that. You did that." Not to say that I don't skate still, because I skate all the time. I'm just talking about the doing it for a career part. I watch and follow skateboarding more now than when I was actually a professional skateboarder.
When you get to step away for a second you can re-fall in love with it.
Yeah. It's not that I ever stopped liking it. There was a short while where I didn't follow it at all. It's just so easy to follow it now though anyways. Go on your phone and get lost.
What was kind of the tipping point for coming out? Where you talking to other people? Obviously BA came out in 2017. Was their any kind of reason for the decision?
No. Not at all. It was just happened one day. Super random. There wasn't really that much thought behind it. It was just one of those things. I did it and that was that.
It must have felt pretty crazy. Right when you pull the trigger and hit post.
(Laughs) Basically. I shot a selfie. I hadn't really posted much on Instagram. It was sort of once every couple of weeks or so. I wasn't very active. I shot a selfie and was trying to think of a caption for it. I was actually babysitting my nephew—he's four. And then I typed that out, and I'm like, "Really? Fuck it."
(Laughs) That's so rad.
I turned my phone ringer off and put my phone face down and was gonna make dinner for my sister's family. This was probably at like 5:00 or 5:30 in the afternoon or something. I'm making dinner and I'm trippin'—now of course I'm tripping like, "Should I delete it?" What if no one says anything?
Right. Or no one gets it or reads the caption. Like "Sweet shirt Forrest."
(Laughs) Exactly. I think almost two or three hours went by and I was too nervous to look at it. Finally I was doing the dishes, basically doing everything but checking my phone. I finally got my phone to go home, got in my car, looked at it—crazy missed calls, all kinds of comments.
You probably spent the next hours/days fielding those.
It was a couple of days for sure. Then I went to a friend's wedding—flew to Cali then drove to Phoenix for a friend's wedding. My friend had told me like, "Don't respond to comments." But I just felt like I had to. If someone took the time to write something—I'm not going to be too cool like that you know. So there were already a lot of comments, then I noticed too—in the Instagram DMs—if somebody sends you a direct message, you have to accept to receive stuff from them before you see it. I didn't know it had that other little section in there. So like five days later, I noticed it and hit the button and like 400 messages poured out. Kids, friends, random people.
Yeah. There wasn't any type of hating. Just lots of kids saying basically, "Hey, thanks for coming out. This is basically my story."
Are their a lot more kids out there dealing with this than we might think? I speak of course from a position of complete ignorance and I apologize for that, but is this pretty widespread in skating?
There are a lot of kids all over the place dealing with it. There were a couple of people from the industry too. But these were people that were already out. But they were just like, "Hey, how are you? Are you buggin' out?"
Just giving support.
Yeah, and now I still talk to these people. People I've never even met but through that I became friends with. A lot of older people too who used to skate and have jobs now. People that are married now. I had people hitting me up on there like, "Hey I'm married but I think I'm gay. I don't know what to do."
Oh my god. That's heavy. I never even thought of that. Man, that's great though if you can help these people.
Yeah. I tried my best. I mean I don't have all the answers either. But it's rad to connect with all these people.
I guess my other question would be how you dealt with this the whole time you were pro. We went on trips together. I never would have thought you had that going on.
It was definitely my secret. And at the same time it was a different atmosphere in skating then. Someone told me really early on that no one would want to buy a gay athlete's anything. Especially not a skateboard that is viewed as primarily for kids.
It was pretty unenlightened too in skating. We all still used the slurs, like "Don't be a F__." Or "That's so gay."
Everyone was trying to be like super masculine. I was definitely always hearing all of that. It's offensive. But if you take offense to something, who is on your side? It's just you. And going on trips, those were the only friends you had. So if they knew that I was gay, would they still be my friend? Would they travel with me? Would they sleep in the same hotel room as me? You know what I'm saying. You could just break it down from there.
That's so gnarly.
Eventually something happened where somebody called me out of the blue. Someone I didn't really even know who worked at a magazine. They said, "Hey, this is so and so. I know you're gay. I know another gay skater. Do you want me to put you in touch?" And this was somebody just calling me out of the blue.
Was that helpful or scary?
At first, I was like, "Hey man, I don't know you. I don't know what you're talking about." Click and hung up. Maybe a week later he called me back. We talked a little more and I was like "fuck it" okay. I didn't admit to being gay but I was like "Okay, fine whatever. Put me in touch." So he told the other person, who was also a pro skater.
Was it someone we would know?
Yeah. It was Brian Anderson.
So did you guys talk from then on?
We talked and then ended up hanging out at a tradeshow. I had never really met him before. I knew who he was of course. But we hung out and just talked about stuff. The stuff we do in our secret gay life (laughs). And that was kind of it. He was all the way in SF at the time. I was way down in South Beach. We were friends but we weren't calling each other all the time or anything.
So you knew this throughout? You weren't struggling with this in the 2000s?
Yeah, I knew. It was my secret. It kind of started to bug me a little bit after a while. My good friend in skating—I was kind of being super secretive and weird—lying to him and stuff. Finally he hit me up like, "Yo, what the fuck is going on. Are you my friend?" Finally I just had to come out with it like, "Hey dude. I'm gay. I'm sorry." That was Ed Selego. So I told Ed back then.
Like it gets to a point where you have to come clean to keep those friends.
Yeah, then after I told Ed, he's like, "You have to tell one other person in our crew. I can't be the only one who knows." (Laughs) So then I told Kenny (Anderson). It felt good to tell people. If you're coming out to someone—it's liberating because you don't have to lie anymore. But at the same time you're not coming out to everybody, so now you have to create this selective group. You could tell the wrong person and it could go bad. For me, it was always like, if you don't know me—whatever your perception of a gay dude is—when you meet me for the first time, all you're thinking is, "This dude's gay." You already have a preconceived notion of a gay person, so I'm battling that immediately.
It's the defining feature of your entire existence immediately.
Yeah. And that's just anybody. Not even skaters, just a random person on the street. If my sister tells somebody her brother is gay, from then on, I'm the gay dude.
Forrest in F.O.R.E and Friends (2001).
Do you think that's changing? We've seen some rapid advances over the past decade, then of course setbacks as well. Are people becoming more open minded?
It depends were you are. I don't know. If you're hanging out in like Middle America—some places—they don't play that. And usually the people that are hating the most are gay.
(Laughs) Just confused themselves.
It's obviously way different now as well. You have gay pros, in New York they have like gay skate crews or whatever. The companies are sort of using gay stuff as marketing.
Like Olson and the Fire Island stuff. Is that cool to you?
I think it's cool. It's just funny to me because they're not gay. It's kind of like having a non-skate brand make a skate brand. That's how it looks to gay people. But I like it too. I'm not saying I don't like it. It's just funny to me seeing more and more of it. To me it's crazy because I can finally come out as a gay person and as a skateboarder I can finally have an opinion on it (laughs).
What's going on with you today? Do you still roll around a little?
Yeah. I had a bunch of injuries. I had that family stuff going on, I was kind of still trying to skate and film then I thought I tore my ACL. My knee was messed up for a little bit.
You look like you've been hitting the gym.
Basically after my injuries my leg was fucked up. I became super involved with my family. Once I got better I started going to the gym about two years ago. That sort of became my thing. All my friends live in Miami. I moved to Fort Lauderdale about two years ago and having access to your friends is critical. Now it was like an hour drive away. So my release became just going to the gym. Sweating it out, learning new things you didn't do as a pro skater. Actually now they all hit the gym (laughs).
Forrest in Welcome to MIA by Josh Stewart (2010).
It's funny too, I have to say. When we did your Pro Spotlight in 2007, I remember at the time somebody had told me that they thought you were gay. I can't even remember who. So I had all these questions kind of touching on it but it must have been one of the same people around that time. Anyways, it's kind of cool to finally close the chapter on that now. It all makes sense now.
(Laughs) That's crazy. A lot of people hit me up about that interview—just about that article. It was crazy how it all came together.
You had written a book, you had the Catholic stuff going on, the pivot fakie cover, then even the portrait (Shot by Ian) was so good in the church.
Ian and I went to the beach together a few weeks ago. He's busy. He's got a family. He's got a lot going on so we don't get to kick it that often. But we went to the beach two weeks ago and we're sitting there talking about me coming out. I had never really come out to him up to this point and I've known him since 2002.
You almost have to refresh every relationship with the new bit of information.
Yeah. Exactly. It was like we went through every weird moment and he could finally ask like, "What was going on this time, what about that other time you did this." So many things. It must be weird after all this time to find out this thing about your friend.
That's rad. Congrats on everything Forrest.
Awesome. Thank you so much. I follow you on the gram so I'll send spots if I see 'em. I like your posts.
(Laughs) Thanks. Yes please. All time favorite skateboarder?
Eric Koston. I grew up in the era of Eric Koston. He was definitely the person I tried to be like the most.
Last question, I need to know—what is a 'Cowboy-to-fakie'?
(Laughs) It was what my friends and I called a one-foot.