To me you were apart of the first wave of Canadian skaters I saw go to the states. Tell me a bit about your first decision to move from Ottawa to southern California?
I’m not sure if I were one of the first but yeah California was definitely a goal for myself or anyone aspiring to make something of themselves when it came to skateboarding.
I know you spent a lot of years floating around Orange County during your career. Did you ever consider moving to LA?
Yeah I lived in HB and Orange County for almost 10 years. LA was definitely my number one option but it was hard to find a roommate etc.. Most skate spots are in LA and it would have saved a lot of gas and time spent in the car day If lived in Glendale or Pasadena.
In my opinion you’ve always had great video parts that seemed like you put a lot of effort into. Which video part of your own was your personal favourite?
Progression Video Magazine. One of my first video parts I filmed as soon as I started filming footage before I even got my first apartment when I was 19 in Huntington Beach.
I did it for Michael Adalpe (Hoops) because he was on salary as a filmer. It would have been dope to have a (wheels of fortune) am part for 411 video magazine because that was the big VM at the time. I think I tried to pull the part last min but would have been a dick move as I was also sleeping on his couch and he was my guy. He’s one of the best filmographers in the game.
After re watching a bunch of your footage I couldn’t help but notice a lot of head shaking after landing tricks. Do you ever think your own high standards slowly destroy your ability to keep putting out footage? Or is this an Ottawa centric thing? (ie. Wade Desarmo)
I set the bar pretty high for myself. I’m also very hard on myself when I put countless hours trying certain tricks at skateparks and it not coming out as I wanted it to on street. For example my video ender for Get Tricks or Die Trying (Nollie Heel Back Tail) got landed in really fast but I didn’t like it and tried for 2 more hours without ever landing it again. The clip was still great and it got used so no, having that mindset didn’t destroy the ability to make video parts. I pumped out like 6+ video parts filming from 1.5yrs to 2yrs of collecting footage and travel when the Baker guys or Girl would do it it would be 3-4yrs minimum. I skated a lot and produced at a decent rate if anything I should have held out on putting out so much for a better visual product like my peers.
I always saw you as an innovator in skateboarding. If it possible that you were the first one to do: Nollie bigspin lipslide (both ways) Nollie heel boardslide (both ways) and nollie heel tailside (both ways) on hubba’s and handrails?
I’m not too sure on who was first and whom wasn’t. At the time I was coming up everyone was kickfliping into everything so I decided to try things nollie. I don’t know I guess I wanted to be different.
From an outside perspective I feel like you never truly got the right sponsors behind you to really help keep your momentum keep going. Do you think that’s true?
At the time I was really happy that I had sponsors. I was really happy that people believed in me and took a chance on an African American kid from Ottawa with a super African name. At the time there were a lot of people that were really really talented and didn’t have shit for sponsors. When I look back yeah I was very grateful for the opportunity that was given to me. I got out of a bad situation in Ottawa and thank Skateboarding for that and the path I took out of there. Maybe I was too loyal to my sponsors at certain points and gotten taken advantage of yes. At the same time I am very proud of what I got a chance to do. Proud I was pro for 10 years when most companies don’t stay in business for that amount of time. I’m not bitter or jaded. I’m fucking proud I got a chance to do what I love and no one can take that away from me.
What do you think was the final straw when it came to you calming down or hanging up the gloves on your pro career ?
It was tough at times. I would have to beg to get flown out to best trick contests and win, place and or beat the crew they decided the fly out. This happened like 4-5 times.
There was a 10k purse at ASR trade show on last day one time and my ride didn’t want to wait so I stayed and won. That pissed me off but I used it as fuel.
When it came to the skate industry there was a point where there wasn’t really anymore money in skateboarding during the recession. Companies were flopping left and right. I got a call saying we were all good then the next week got a call saying the opposite. I hope things are better when it comes to the economic state of skateboarding for those who are in it.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Antwan Dixon cited you as one of his major influences. Who were some of your early skate influences?
Yeah man that was rad. Antwan is my brother for life!
My influences were the Mcbride Brothers, Eric Koston,
Daewon, Mark Appleyard, Rick Mcrank, OG Shorty’s crew.
Stevie Williams, Rodrigo tX. There’s too many to name.
After all this skateboarding you seem to have settled in Vancouver. How did that city end up feeling like a home for you compared to the other places you’ve lived?
Even though I was born in the states I still call Canada home. My roommates in California were mostly Canadian. Paul Machnau, Mike Hastie, and Dan Opyc. Both Paul and Mike lived in Vancouver and it was always pleasant to visit and skate scene not so bad. I definitely didn’t want to go back to Ottawa and really wanted to be in Van.
What are you up to these days?
I work for a hospitality management company called Blueprint Events. They own about 15+properties mostly Restaurants, Nightclubs and some liquor stores in Western Canada. I manage the Table Service department for the Nightclub division. The Company is an amazing company to work for and owners are very great people to work for as well. I am very happy.
by Jesse Landen
Photos by Brandon Alton