Sipping The Old Milwaukee

For a skateboarder growing up in the Midwest, especially in the less-than-skate-friendly Midwest of days past, the grass really is greener on the other side. Nowadays, there’s a bevy of skateparks scattered throughout even the smallest of podunk towns, but when Greg Lutzka first stepped on his skateboard at just ten years of age, the world-renowned, Milwaukee-located Turf Skatepark (and its mandatory coper rule)-pretty much the claim to fame for all of Midwestern skateboarding-was long closed down. Street skating was in full force, but in the northern Midwest, you’re out a good four months of the year if you don’t have an indoor park-or in Greg’s case, a basement-to skate during the winter months.
And for lack of resources, many kids in the Midwest do quit skating from November to March-for Greg, it was hockey, snowmobiling, and snowboarding that occupied his time away, but all those things started to fade once he really had the opportunity to skate year-round upon the opening of a nearby skatepark, Four Seasons. My first run-in with Greg was just a few years later in the fall of 1998 at a contest I was emceeing at The Pipe skatepark in Janesville, Wisconsin. With a mere three years of skating under his belt and at just thirteen years of age, he owned the entire place, easily taking first above established local Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee skaters well his senior. For an amateur MC, as I was that day, and given the popularity of Chad Muska at the time, it was almost too easy to throw a “The” in front of his last name when he frontside flipped well above the coping on the park’s massive slow-trannied quarter, but it was quite obvious that with the skills he possessed, he was more than going to establish his own name in years to come.
Now at 21 years of age, his establishment in skateboarding is well-defined through his ridiculously technical handrail tricks, consistent-as-all-hell contest runs, and no shortage of videotape logged. Of course, it couldn’t have happened without that all-or-nothing decision to go for it and move to California. And even though we Midwesterners hate to admit it, you’ve still got to come to California-to some extent-to make it in skateboarding.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t go back home, and for Greg, this skateboarding life has moved so fast that he forgot to partake in some of the great things his hometown had to offer. With the recommendation from Ortiz that a brewery tour and a Brewers game would make an ideal day, having never done either himself, Greg gladly obliged: “When you live in a certain place, you really take things for granted. And then you come back and you’re like, ‘Oh sh-t, all this has been outside my door all this time.'” And if he didn’t before, Greg now knows why Milwaukee was just voted the drunkest city in America.
On one of his “three or four times a year” pilgrimages home to see the fam, and while on a filming mission for the new Oakley video Our Life, Greg had the opportunity to hit up some of his oldie-but-goodie spots, as well as getting to some he always had his eye on. And he was kind enough to give us a little rundown of how everything came about. The following are his own words about making the leap, the appreciation for those who had his back, and not giving a f-k about what others think. If you want it, it’s yours to go get.-Eric Stricker

Bros Before Pros
“I think Welcome To Hell was the first video I ever saw, and I was hyped on Tom Penny-he was sick as sh-t, his style was so smooth and so natural, but overall I wasn’t influenced by many pros. I basically was influenced by my friends. I didn’t watch too many skate videos-I wasn’t that kid who sat there and watched every video I had over and over. I just learned tricks from my friends, and they learned tricks from me. We never took it too seriously. Kids take it seriously nowadays, throwing themselves down this or that, but we really just skated parking blocks-tried to stack ’em ando a lipslide. I never even got decent until they opened the skatepark and I would end up going there more and more, especially in the winter when there was nothing else to do. It’d be ten below-you know, when it takes you half an hour for your trucks to even warm up and you’re skating with a sweatshirt indoors.”

Kids’ Stuff
“I never really thought skateboarding was gonna take me places until I went to Tampa Am and did pretty well riding for Beer City, a local Milwaukee skate company. It was sick. I was stoked-they were giving me boards and supporting me to the fullest. Then my friend Al Partanen, originally from Milwaukee, moved out to California and started Illenium Skateboards, and I pretty much went on tour with them right after Tampa. I met Mike Peterson, got hooked up with Globe, and it all fell into place from there. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m sixteen years old and going to Australia with the Globe guys for the first time.’ That’s when I thought, ‘Wow, I can actually go somewhere with this.'”

Do Or Die
“After two years and just going pro for Illenium, I thought, ‘Man, if I really want to proceed in skating and make a career out of it, I gotta move to Southern California, be by the companies and be by the photographers.’ Luckily, two of my other friends wanted to move out here and we got a one-bedroom apartment on Warner in Huntington Beach. I had no money. After a year, I won some contests, met some people, and bought a house. Now that I look back, if it wasn’t for moving out here, I would never be where I’m at right now. And I could never have made that move without my friends. It was the best move I ever made.
Not to say anything bad about my friends back home, but other than going to school and working normal jobs, they haven’t really done much. They haven’t had that opportunity that I’ve had to travel-people work years to save up enough money to go to Australia for just a week, and here I am, being able to be there, skating with my friends, and loving what I do-it’s crazy. I’m very grateful-I feel like I’m living the life I always wanted to live.”

Big Ups To Big Al
“Al’s just one of those guys who always had a lot of good things he’d do for skateboarding. When he lived in Milwaukee, he was the one bringing ramps and throwing skate jams for all the kids at Cass Street. He had a thing called PUPIL-People Uplifting People In Life. Those were his skate jams. He’s always had this positive energy, and he brought me into the scene at such a young age to meet people like Rodney Mullen. There are a lot of people I have to thank. Sometimes it really is all about who you know, and there are so many good skateboarders out there who are amazing, but they don’t really have the connections and they don’t really get anywhere because of it.”

From Parking Block Dorking To Tech-Railing
“When I skate, there’s a feeling I get. I don’t think about tricks too much, I just do ’em. I don’t sit there and try to practice and practice and practice one trick-I just go for it. So when people ask me, ‘How do you do a frontside 270 noseblunt so easily?’ I don’t even know-I’m just skating, not even thinking about what I’m doing. I’ve always been like that-even when my friends and I were dorking around, they’d be like, ‘How the f-k did you do that so quick?'”

Nyjah, Sheckler, P-Rod, Jereme… Lutzka
“It really doesn’t matter what people think about me. I just skate ’cause I love to skate. And it happens that, yeah, I do pretty good in contests. But it’s not like I have this skatepark in my backyard and I’m training to win all these contests. Contests are fun-all my friends are there, and it’s fun to party afterward-but I don’t want to be labeled as a skatepark skater. That’s why I film video parts, and that’s why I try to get my photos in the magazines. I just want to be labeled as a skateboarder, not someone who just does contests or just films video parts, or is just hip-hop or just rock. I am who I am, I love what I do, and that’s why I do it.”

o I am, I love what I do, and that’s why I do it.”