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The Am Issue: Cole Wilson

The first time I skated with Cole Wilson he crooked grinded a double-kink rail. The second time I skated with him he grinded up a double-kink rail that landed him on the cover of our April issue. While the current fads of pole jams, no complies, and slappies are jamming up your Instagram feed, Cole is still dying to live by jumping on the big rails and working on the new Foundation video, Oddity, coming out later this year. With a strong work ethic and great attitude, this Louisville kid is gonna make heads turn when they see what else he's got in store.
Words and Photos By Jaime Owens

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Frontside nosegrind. Tulsa, OK. (click to enlarge)

You're headed to Japan on an AYC trip right now—have you ever been there before?
Briefly, when I was a young boy. I lived in South Korea for a couple of years with my folks who were in the Army, so we went to Japan a few times.

So you grew up as an Army brat?
Yeah, I was conceived in Germany. Born in Phoenix. Then went back to Europe for a few years. Then lived in Oklahoma and Kansas. Then to South Korea for a few years. We finally moved back to the States and went to Olympia, Washington, before ending up in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was 12 or 13.

How was that transition moving to Korea? Did you stay mostly on the base in English-speaking zones?
Yeah, there's the main base where the majority of the soldiers lived, but my mom being an officer, we lived off post in a small American-community high-rise. I moved there when I was nine. My brother, who's two years older than me, we would raise hell out there. We would go off base and buy BB guns and fireworks. We would go to PC banks and pay to get onto computers and play games. Sometimes I would look over and see porno for the first time. Full-frontal nudity on other guys' screens and I didn't know what was going on [laughs]. Napster was super big at the time, and we would download songs constantly too.

Damn, nine years old downloading illegal music.
[Laughs] Born into this criminal lifestyle.

A young thug being raised by two military parents?
Yeah, both were in the military, but my mom outranked my dad by being an officer. My dad was an enlisted military police officer and worked in corrections.

“YOU KNOW, SOME MANUAL LABOR EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE DOES WONDERS FOR YOUR SOUL. IT BUILDS CHARACTER AND HUMBLES YOU.”

Were they super strict?
No, actually both of my parents were fairly lenient. They would ground us when we were stupid but nothing gnarly. They only cared about us doing good in school. Anything after that they just thought it was boys being boys.

Did you start skateboarding in Korea?
That's where my brother and I found skateboarding, out there in Korea. We found a couple of old boards—one was a little banana board and one big fishtail board from completely different eras—in an old tunnel. And that was all we cared about after that.

Tell me about the Band Of Horses / Crailtap contest you won?
Okay. When I was about 18 years old, Girl Skateboards and Band of Horses did a contest where you could send in your video parts edited to a Band of Horses song from their new album at the time. I guess the band members along with Girl dudes chose the winner, and I ended up winning it. So I got to bring my filmer, Matt Ballard, with me out to California. We won an all-inclusive trip to LA. We got to stay at the Standard Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, skate the Girl park, went to a live taping of the Jimmy Kimmel show when the band played. We actually skated the park with the drummer and the guitar player along with Guy Mariano, which was rad. It was all such a rad trip. The edit is up on YouTube if you search for it.

Did you think you were gonna start getting Girl flow after that trip?
No, I never thought I could get on Girl. I did end up befriending Guy Mariano there. He gave me his phone number. Once I got back home I would hit him up every couple of weeks and he would give me some insider info like, "Malto just nollie noseblunted this handrail for his next ad." And it would be his next Girl ad sure enough.

Rad, you must have been tripping out having that correspondence with Guy. Have you sent him a text lately?
Actually, I think I sent him a congratulations text when he got on Nike at the end of last year and he responded. I mean, he gave me a follow on Insta a few weeks ago too [laughs].

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Gap frontside wallride. Tulsa, OK. (click to enlarge)

Okay, fast-forward a bit. You moved out to Cali and got on Foundation and Dekline. Did you almost move back after Dekline went down? Did getting on AYC save you?
Yeah, I guess if it wasn't for AYC, I would have moved home, because I couldn't have lived on what I was making at the time. I definitely didn't want to move back, but Jeremy Leabres, Don Luong, and our other friend Stevie all let me live with them rent-free. Even after everyone moved out and it was just me and Jeremy, he refused to make me pay. He told me, "Don't worry, it will all come back around." So after Dekline went under, I was panicking. I didn't want to put the weight on my friend's shoulder. So yeah, within a couple of weeks of Dekline folding, [Mike] Sinclair hit up Jesse Fritsch and put in a good word and things just worked out.

That's rad they saved you from moving back?
For sure. It was lifeline, dude.

What would have it meant if you went back? Do you feel like you would have lost momentum in the sponsorship realm?
I could have made it work back home, but I didn't want to go back home and see all my friends where they would think, "Oh well, he made it out there almost a year. Now he's back." It wasn't like I'd be embarrassed if it happened. I just want to make my friends proud and put Louisville back on the map from previous guys like Chip Van Ham, Tony Cox, and Tom Horning.

Yeah, you were just trying to keep the dream alive.
Exactly, I was just trying to keep the dream alive [laughs]. I honestly wanted to do it for my parents. Not to show them up, but to just show them that I didn't need to go to college if I just worked hard and kept my head down. They knew I almost went to culinary school, so they just worried about me and just want the best for me.

Even being able to stay out here with a new sponsor, you're still working side jobs, right?
I've been working a few days a week at Happy Hour Shades. That alone can cover my rent, and I get to bring Walter my dog to work. It's fun and I really enjoy working with those dudes. They have passion for what they do.

“THE INSTA BUMP IS NICE, BUT THAT'LL COME AND GO. TO BE ON THE FRONT PAGE WILL LAST YOU A LIFETIME.”

Do you ever get jealous of the ams who make enough money who don't need extra jobs?
Nah, not one bit. I'm the happiest I've ever been right now. Working makes me happy. I've been working my whole life until I was able to skate. I feel like that's a big part of who I am. You know, some manual labor every once in a while does wonders for your soul. It builds character and humbles you.

Speaking of working for it, did you ever think of going up a double-kink before seeing your cover spot?
No, not at all. I never thought about going up a double-kink until we ended up at that spot. Dakota [Servold] noticed how low it was to get on and said, "Whoa, we could go up this!" Yeah, the dimensions were just perfect and HK [Heath Kirchart] was there.

How was it having HK on the sesh?
At first it was intimidating and nerve-racking, but it was fucking rad.

What's it mean these days to still get covers? Would you rather get reposted on Instagram by a big brand or get a cover?
It means a lot. Getting a cover is a major staple in anyone's career. The Insta bump is nice, but that'll come and go. To be on the front page will last you a lifetime.

How did joining the C1rca team come about?
Sinclair put in a good word for me to Ed Dominick, the new TM over at C1rca. Ed hit me up one day and it was a
no-brainier—of course I wanted to be a part of such a ripping team of individuals.

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Frontside Smith grind. Little Rock, AR. (click to enlarge)

Who were some of your in influences growing up? You're still a big-rail chomper, which seems to be dying out to an extent.
There's so many dudes I looked up to as a young kid. It started with Rodney Mullen and Daewon. They were mesmerizing. Soon after, I saw Dying To Live, In Bloom, Sorry, and This Is Skateboarding, so it was dudes like Jon Allie, Mumford, Adrian Lopez, Jamie Thomas, Ryan Smith, TNT—they did it all. Rowley, Arto, and the Boss fuckin' ruled my life as a kid. Then I saw young bucks like Spanky, Braydon, Matt Allen, and Hermdog, who I gravitated to, but being a Mexican skater, Leo Romero became the guy for me.

What do you think of all the new fads in skating, like body varials, excessive powerslides, et cetera?
It's all skateboarding. It's supposed to be fun, and watching people come up with weird and creative tricks is one of the best parts. Jumping off shit and big rails will always have their place. Do what makes you happy—just don't be a turd.

More Am Issue Interviews:

Bobby De Keyzer

Dane Brady