SKATEBOARDING doesn’t seem like the sort of activity that would take you very far – common sense alone dictates that a board under your feet isn’t going to get you further than your neighbourhood night market. However, for some of those who dared take their passion a step further, skateboarding has taken them all over the world, including our neck of the woods.
Pro skateboarders Matt Miller, 30 (USA), Wes Kremer, 25 (USA), Tommy Fynn, 26 (Australia), and Madars Apse, 25 (Latvia) – billed as some of the world’s best skateboarders – have reaped what they’ve sown. They were in town earlier this month for the DC Defy Convention Tour 2014.
Being the best is no joke, as hundreds of young skateboarders flocked the Mont Kiara Skate Park in Kuala Lumpur just to watch these guys flaunt their death-defying skills and meet them in person. R.AGE, too, had an opportunity to sit down and get comfy with the dudes.
Here’s what they had to say about the negativity towards the local skateboarding scene, skateboard fashion (including Miller’s new Matt Miller S pro model shoes) and what aspiring pro skateboarders should be doing.
“Skateboarding teaches these kids persistence. They can learn how to fall and stand back up again many times. It’s an everyday challenge – skateboarding. A really fun one as well. Much better than any video game.”
What is it like to be a pro skateboarder?
Fynn: It’s the most amazing feeling, kids coming up to me and saying they met me three years ago. I mean, three years ago I wasn’t even a pro yet, and now they come up to me and congratulate me. It’s definitely inspiring, having these people believe in you.
Kremer: Skateboarding takes you to places you’ve never thought of before. There are millions of skateboarders out there, and once they catch the light of a certain place, they wanna come out and try it. I’ve never heard of Kuala Lumpur, but skateboarding brought me here.
How do you find the skateboarding scene in Malaysia so far?
Apse: I’ve been here before. That time we didn’t do a demo for the locals. So, with our demo show this time, we actually saw how many people came and supported the scene here. It was really surprising to see how great the support here was! I think, the next big step for KL is for everybody to be open to the skateboard culture.
Kremer: It’s good to see that word is getting out about skateboarding. There are definitely tons of kids out there in certain countries that have no idea what a skateboard even is. They’re just not fortunate enough to have access to one. So it’s amazing for us to see a place like Malaysia have such a strong skate scene. It’s motivation for us, too.
Fynn: I grew up skating in New Zealand and Australia, and I feel like the scene here is similar but a little bit smaller. But it’s weird though, I went to the skate park here and it was huge. That means there’s government funding here. So, there is potential for it to grow to be the biggest thing ever because the government backs it, which is awesome for the kids!
“It’s all a matter of opinion. That’s the cool thing about skateboarding, it’s just so universal. It’s like, we accept all types of fashion. There’s no one classic skateboard casino fashion.”
What are your thoughts on the negative perception skateboarding culture has here?
Miller: That’s what happened in the United States, like, 10 years ago, too. You were considered kind of a punk if you skated, and that’s how people just judged you even if you might have been the nicest dude in the neighbourhood. Basically, in this day and age, skateboarding is more of a passion and expression for kids. And parents, at the end of the day, have got to realise that.
Apse: That’s how skateboarding is perceived in many places, actually. ‘Cos people usually look at the skaters and think: ‘What is that 30-year-old guy doing playing around?’ But, actually, it’s just a lifestyle. He’s actually moving between places much faster than anybody else and he has a different approach. He’s living on the run – while exercising and having fun.
What are some recurring issues you’ve noticed among young people picking up skating?
Fynn: A lot of my friends stopped skating after, like, six or seven months. I feel like you only really start getting good at skating after like a year. It takes time. After a year, when you start finding your style, reading magazines, studying videos and really start building your passion for skating – and you want to get to the level of sponsorships, it’s still about two years away after that.
Apse: Skateboarding teaches these kids persistence. They can learn how to fall and stand back up again many times. It’s an everyday challenge – skateboarding. A really fun one as well. Much better than any video game. Skateboarding is a small world, really. The skaters are connected worldwide through this one thing.
What’s the one thing about skateboarding that’s not apparent to the uninitiated?
Miller: In skateboarding, you’ve got to be very patient. You can’t expect to be sponsored right away. That’s the thing kids need to know. You’ve gotta learn how to skate for a long time before you start getting noticed. We were all nobodies once.
Fynn: Your connections are really important, too. You’ve really got to go out to build your name and gain experience and meet people from different scenes. That’s where you learn more, and that’s what happened to me – going on little road trips with friends. Travel is important.
“Basically, in this day and age, skateboarding is more of a passion and expression for kids. And parents, at the end of the day, have got to realise that.”
Matt, can you tell us a bit about your new line of shoes, the Matt Miller S?
Miller: Skateboarding is my life. Those shoes are not just something I wear when Iam on the board; I wear it all the time. How I am is my fashion, so they’re just tied together and that’s what inspired my shoes. We just started with a huge drawing board and began filling in pieces till it all came together like a puzzle. It took over a year to finalise.
Can you explain what skateboard fashion is exactly?
Miller: Skateboarding, in general, is more like an art form than a sport because you can do whatever you want and your style comes out naturally. It’s different for everyone and it all depends on how you grew up. Like me, I grew up loving hip hop and that lifestyle. So, that’s what feels like ‘me’. Even if there’s no one out there that has your style but you want to try it out, go ahead! Some people might try to hate, but who cares?
Kremer: There are all types of skateboard fashion, but skateboarders will choose whatever clothes they’re comfortable with. It’s all a matter of opinion. That’s the cool thing about skateboarding, it’s just so universal. It’s like, we accept all types of fashion. There’s no one classic skateboard fashion.
Apse: It’s the fashion from the streets. There are so many skaters in this world, so many different styles and fashion statements. If you go to London or New York, you can see that people there are inspired to look like particular skaters. A lot of it depends on where you are – different places offer different inspirations.
What’s the least cliche advice you can give aspiring skateboarders?
Fynn: I think if you’re passionate about skateboarding, being around like-minded people helps as well. So, getting a crew of, like three, or four kids, or even just you and another friend, it really helps. If you’re both passionate about it and are talking about it constantly, you learn and feed off each other.
Apse: First of all, go get yourself a skateboard and start skating. Then you’ll see where it takes you. It works by itself. I guess filming also does the job well. If you go out and make some videos and then your homies look at your videos and start talking about it, that’s how you’ll get inspired by each other in the local scene.
Kremer: Just don’t worry about doing it. Just find your crew, meet up, find your spot, go skate and have fun. Just enjoy it. Other things will come along the way. Eventually you’re gonna wanna have some skate shops and whatnot. The scene just builds from there.