When technical skateboarding exploded in the early ’90s you chose your camp—hesh or tech. Next you would need to dress accordingly. For tech, this involved matching your DC Plugs and nylon Dub pants to your switch crooks at Courthouse. For hesh, it meant matching your Vans Old Skools and Dickies chinos to your slash grind at Burnside. Nobody crossed the divide. You were either Wade Speyer or Daewon Song. Fast-forward to present and everything has changed. In the ’00s, people like Anthony Van Engelen began blurring the line. The final nail in the coffin came in the form of Andrew Allen. By all ’90s accounts, the dude looks like a bonified NorCal pool ripper, except he can switch front crooks a 10-stair hubba and is actually from San Juan Capistrano (in Orange County, Southern California). A.A. is the perfect prototype for the post hesh-tech world. Currently starring in Propeller, he met up with us for a quick 20 (plus some follow-ups).-Mackenzie Eisenhour
PORTRAIT / COLEN
1. What’s been going on lately?
Let’s see. This Vans video will be out in May. I guess that’s pretty much been consuming a lot of people’s lives for the past couple of years. It’s been a while—six or seven years. But yeah, doing that, skating and going on trips. I did have two injuries in there that threw a wrench in some of my skating.
2. Last time we spoke you were recovering from an ankle injury. Is that all good now?
Yeah. I had to get an ankle surgery for that one, and then I had this other weird thing with my left foot. It basically kept going numb, and that ended up being tarsal tunnel syndrome. That’s been feeling a bit better now, so I’ve been skating more again.
How do you get tarsal tunnel? Is that carpal tunnel but for your feet?
Yeah. It’s basically just wear and tear. You get inflammation within this nerve that’s on the backside of your ankle and that just swells up and forms a blockage. It stops the nerve from flowing freely into your toes, so it was causing like half my foot to go numb. Then when I skated on it, it would get more intense—almost like it fell asleep, like pins and needles. I just had no feeling in it.
It probably helps to feel your feet when you skate.
[Laughs] Yeah, it helps.
Are you all good now though?
Yeah. For the most part I feel good. I’ve been skating a bunch over the past few months. At the beginning of the year we went on an Antihero trip to Israel. That was super rad. I had been there once before and I really like it. There’s good skating, and all the people are super friendly; the food is really good. It’s been cool to go out there and see over the course of the past seven years. Now they have like 10 skateparks or something. The first time I went they had one. And there’s like a full-on community of teenage to early-twenties skateboarders. They’re just super stoked on skating—trying to build stuff and they’re all just friends. No cliques or anything—just like, “Oh, you skate? Cool. Me too. Sick. Let’s go skate!” It’s pretty rad to see that these days.
Kind of the way it used to be everywhere.
3. Obviously Propeller is going to be out by the time people read this. From your perspective now, about six weeks from deadline, how are you feeling about your part/shared part or whatever it is?
Dude, to be honest with you, it’s going to be as new for me to see as everybody else. From what I know, it’s going to focus on some of the signature pros; Chima [Ferguson], [Geoff] Rowley, Tony [Trujillo], AVE, and Gilbert [Crockett]. But aside from that, there are some 20 other people who skate for Vans, including myself, and then they also wanted to get Ray Barbee, Jeff Grosso, Hosoi, and all the legends involved too. So I’m just excited to see what Greg [Hunt] does. I obviously respect his work, and I’m sure that the finished product will be awesome. I don’t think that I’ll necessarily have a full part, but I’ll definitely have a section of stuff. I’ve seen some of it and there are a few things I’m stoked on. You always wish you could have done more, but I’m glad that it’s wrapping up.
4. Are you still pushing now with six weeks left? Isn’t that when the big stuff goes down?
You know, the weird thing about it now is that these days the video has to be basically done a month before the premiere. The days of filming a trick the night before the premiere are over it seems. Because now you have to get everything approved by iTunes and all of that in advance. I think people are still trying to get last-minute stuff. But that window is smaller than it was 10 years ago. I’ve heard some rumors of things being attempted right now though. We’ll see if they go down.
I heard some Rowley rumors involving Jeremy Wray spots. All that came to mind was the Water Tower gap.
Oh yeah? I didn’t hear that, but that would be fucking tight.
5. How did filming for Destination Unknown [’14] compare to the Vans video?
Obviously a different process in terms of Antihero stuff being more like, “Just get in the van and we’ll film a video.” Just film a road trip and call it a day. That’s one style of making a video. Basically the opposite of something like Vans that you spend years on. Both ways have their place.
6. You finally moved up to LA. Was that a big move? You’re pretty much born and raised in San Juan Capistrano, right?
Pretty much. I lived down there for 26 years and then moved up to Silverlake here in LA two years ago. I did it I guess just to be closer to skateboarding. Just trying to film for this video, it made sense. All the filmers were up here, and most of the guys on the team live in LA. It made it easier. If I wanted to skate, it was right there. I could just jump in the van. Before I’d have to drive up for like an hour and a half, and some days you don’t even get to skate. You just look at something and wait.
Was it a hard divorce from the beach life? Silverlake isn’t exactly beachside.
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s been a little hard to be away from it. I still make it work. I go down to Orange County about once a month and try to get a taste of it. Yeah, it takes like two hours to get to the beach from Silverlake. It’s almost faster just to drive south to Orange County. I used to just go surf or hang at the beach just to kill an hour. Now it’s like a full-day mission.
7. Last time we spoke you also talked about being an AVE fan. Has that grown over the past couple of years watching him work on this part?
Anthony has always been somebody that I’ve looked up to. As a kid I always thought his skating was rad, then over the past few years we’ve obviously become good friends. I’ve been pretty inspired just by his work ethic. He’s one of the most determined people that I know. He’s crazy as hell [laughs], but when he sets his mind to something he’ll do it. I’ve seen him work for tricks so hard. It’s really admirable.
8. I wanted to ask about Chris Pfanner too. You guys are sort of double teammates with Vans and Antihero. He’s sort of been quiet lately, so I’m expecting something gnarly in this video. How has it been watching him work on this?
Yeah. He’s another super-focused person. He lives in Germany with his wife. I know he has one son; he might have another child on the way if it wasn’t already born. But he’ll come out and get on a trip with us and just handle some gnarly shit. He knows what he needs to do, and he knows what’s within his abilities. He knows what spots he likes to skate and where he can get a gnarly trick. He’s sick though. I wasn’t on a lot of the trips towards the end with him. I saw all of the photos, and now I just want to see the footage.
9. What about Jason Dill? Is he going to surprise people in this video?
I’m not sure. I know he was hurt at one point in time. But he’s also had a bunch of crazy photos and things over the past few years, so I really have no clue. I’m excited to see what he’s got.
It seems like every video Greg Hunt has made has been an instant classic. Mind Field, Sight Unseen, The DC Video, even like the Dylan single part.
For sure. I’m pretty sure that this video will be no different.
10. What’s next after this?
I’m not sure. I haven’t even thought that far ahead. I know Vans is talking about doing some shorter videos just focusing on a couple of guys. They’re supposed to come out with some stuff like that, which would be cool. I just want to keep it moving. By no means do I feel like this is it for me [laughs]. I just want to come out with more stuff that I’m proud of and push myself. Try to progress and keep having fun. Bottom line is that I still love skateboarding.
11. What is your overall take on skateboarding circa 2015?
I don’t know. I think there are so many different aspects of it right now. There’s the bigger side with the Street League stuff and the energy drink sponsors and all of that, and there’s also small companies where people are making what they love and doing exactly what they want to do. I respect the whole thing. Obviously I think that I fit myself into the smaller side of it. I know who I ride for; I ride for companies that I have respect for. But all in all, I think it’s good that there are different aspects to it. Different strokes for different folks.
12. I read that the first video you saw was Virtual Reality [’93]. What was your favorite part?
I liked Mike Carroll’s part a lot. He was my favorite skater for a long time. But I like the whole video. Tony Ferguson’s part was rad. Rick Howard was amazing. Everything in there is just so cool. The Blind part! Guy does the switch pop shove to fakie five-0 kickflip out at the World park. That was retarded. The Beatles song too… “What would you do if I sang out of tune…” and Jeron [Wilson] starts it off. Even the slam section to Offspring. I love that video.
13. Were you a big Photosynthesis [’00] fan?
Totally. I remember when that came out. It was like 2000. There was a skate shop by my house, and I remember calling to see if they had a copy. They said they had one, but by the time we got there they had sold it. I was so bummed. Then when I finally got a hold of it, it took me a little while to get it. At first I think I was too young. But after a while I learned to appreciate it, and now it’s one of my favorites.
14. Is it crazy to kick it with those guys now?
Yeah. It kind of comes full circle. You know, meeting your idols is always a strange thing. You trip out on people so hard at first, but then once you hang out for a while, you always start realizing they’re basically the same as you are.
15. What do you think attracts people to someone like Julien Stranger? It’s almost hard to find someone who genuinely dislikes the dude.
He’s just a staple of the whole thing. I think the whole thing is the mystery of it. He never put himself out there and really gave all of himself away. I think he just always keeps you wanting a little more. He never fully ends the mystery.
16. Have you watched his old parts—A Reason For Living [’90], Skypager [’92]?
What about Sick Boys [’88]!? Yeah. I’ve seen the Underworld Element part. A Reason For Living is a good one too. Him and Natas [Kaupas] ripping. I actually saw Natas out surfing the other day. I was like, “Holy shit! It’s Natas Kaupas!” I was going to talk to him, but then I just figured better to leave him alone.
17. Do you have a favorite early Antihero video? Fucktards [’97], Two Songs [’02], Cash Money Vagrants [’03] et cetera?
I like the Two-Songs one. They’re all cool, but that one is nice and short. When the Devo song comes in it’s just really good too. Fucktards is good, too, though. I never met Sean Young, but he seems like such a rad dude, just skating around Union Square in SF. The footage of Mickey [Reyes] when he’s in his cop car is pretty all time too. That could almost never happen in skateboarding today. Things are so different now.
18. Are you a student of the classic parts?
Yeah. Actually people always trip on me. I’m pretty much a skate nerd at heart. I’ve watched almost all the old videos. I remember all these random facts and tricks that got done. People are always surprised, like, “How do you know that?” I’m psyched on it.
19. All time best Vans rider? That’s probably a tough question.
Holy shit. Yeah, that’s pretty tough. So many people have ridden for them. Mike Carroll had a Vans shoe. He’s one of my favorite skaters. Wade Speyer is sick. That whole era of Vans—Alan Petersen, Ethan Fowler. I like Salman Agah. I like skating switch, and he’s credited with being the guy that kind of pushed that. I mean, fucking Hosoi, Alva, Jay Adams, Caballero—all of them. The list goes on forever. Van Wastell [RIP] was probably one of my favorite skaters of all time, and he skated for Vans.
20. Favorite shoe company full-length, outside of Propeller?
The Lakai video. I remember when I watched that. My mind was fully…
Yes. My mind was Fully Flared [’07]. Hopefully this Vans video has an impact like that.
Order Vans Propeller on iTunes now.