Last weekend saw House of Vans London, with an entirely rebuilt street area, reopening with much fanfare. Events ranged from jams, to film screenings, to stalls where you could buy a selection of rad product from various London-based independent skate brands. The weekend also saw a visit from current SOTY Kyle Walker, who took a break from the skating and partying to talk to us about Tom Knox, trips down under, watching Ishod learn to skate transition, being sent photos of giant handrails via Instagram and more…
To start off and as we’re at House of Vans, how are you enjoying the new HOV set up? Have you been before?
Yeah I was cruising a little bit before everyone got in, it was good. I like the new set up – I didn’t skate the old one too much, but I’d say this is definitely an improvement. It seemed last night like all the kids were digging it too, going crazy.
Being in the UK, are there any spots in London or in other cities that you might not have a chance to hit this time around, but you’ve always wanted too?
I don’t know too many spots specifically…I know there’s a ton of buttery flat gaps because I’ve seen them everywhere. There’s one that Nick Jensen backside flips that looks good, but I don’t know that many. When that Tom Knox dude drops a part it looks so sick, but I don’t think I can skate any of those fucking spots, they look so crusty!
You've been over to Europe a few times now right? What have been some of your favourite parts of the continent to visit?
I love Copenhagen, so Denmark for sure. Berlin is cool, there’s art everywhere, spots everywhere, good food, nice people. I love Paris, but I need to learn a little French. Barcelona…I dunno, there’s too many cities. Barca, Copenhagen…I haven’t been to the Basque Country, but I’ve heard it’s really good. I think I’d say Copenhagen and Barcelona, those are my favourites so far.
Do you keep up with much in the way of Euro and UK skateboarding?
If something drops video wise you know, but I don’t follow any blogs or anything. If Tom Knox drops a part, I’ll watch that. Occasionally Southbank videos…
How did it feel to be given the SOTY title? And who are your top 3 former SOTY's?
It’s funny, every time someone says that it still doesn’t feel real you know? I’m walking around the house and see the trophy and it’s like, whoa! It’s pretty mind-blowing, but I’m super thankful. And my top three Skaters of the Year? I’d definitely say AVE, but it goes back so far. Cardiel, Reynolds, Trujillo… [Calls over to Chris Pfanner]. Hey, you know how old Trujillo was when he got it? 16 or something?
Chris Pfanner: He was super young.
So those guys, ol’ Cobra got it twice…Danny Way got it twice? Hats off to that, that’s heavy. There are too many!
After writing that question, I thought about it and realised I couldn’t answer it.
I don’t know if I can…but I guess off the top of my head, Cardiel, Reynolds and AVE. But then Ishod…there’s no answer!
What decided you on Australia as your celebratory trip destination?
It was just Sydney. That was a wild one, party mode and skate mode from breakfast to dinner. It’s kind of funny, Elijah throughout the filming for No Other Way was joking, “You’re going to get SOTY and we’re going to Oz" and I was like ‘that’d be sick, but yeah right, but if it happens, yeah it’s on’. We’d been a few times and it’s amazing; the weather, spots, beaches, food. Somehow I got it and was like yeah, let’s go to Sydney – then he was the only one who didn’t go! Motherfucker…[laughs].
Oh my god, it was seriously ridiculous. Burndog, the first day was like, “You should just get the cover out the way, then keep it mellow," and it didn’t seem like a bad idea. Then Zion back overcrooked that big rail and Ishod back tailed that rail - that was first spot, first day. Then we went around the corner and found this other rail, the one that I front blunted. So thankfully I just got that out of the way…I didn’t chill too hard for the rest, but my kneecap was kind of messed up to begin with so I kept it mellow. Ishod and Daan just went apeshit…
Did they hype you to get stuck into Bondi, or any big transition missions?
Every time I see those dudes, when I skate with Ishod at a park or something, I’ll try and get a scratch or two, try some airs…but they’re magicians straight up. That nollie heel Daan did over the channel? He can do inverts on three foot high quarters and stuff, it’s insane. I’d love to learn that stuff, I just have no patience with it. Watching how Ishod decided to learn to skate tranny and now it’s there overnight, it’s pretty respectable.
It’s sick...and inverts on tiny quarters make so much less sense than on vert or something…
For sure! You know, I forget his name, homie that skates the old school board but skates street as well?
Yeah, Erick Winkowski! He is insane – that recent Thrasher trip from North Carolina to Atlanta, finishing at Bust or Bail? I saw a clip of him doing an invert on the smallest quarterpipe – shit like that is crazy! I’m stoked to meet that dude. And with that board too, rails and everything? It’s so sick.
Your first major video project would have been Real's Since Day One, a fairly major release. How did the Real hook up come about? It's always seemed like a very close team, how is it being part of Jim and Tommy's crew?
Yeah definitely – you go into Deluxe and it’s all family. Jim will hit me up on the daily, he hits everybody up on the daily. I don’t know how he does it, he still skates every day too, runs the dopest distribution. It’s pretty wild. I don’t kick it with Tommy too much, but we’ve definitely been tipsy at the bar and bro’d down. Just to see the two OG’s holding it down in the Bay and starting that, it’s sick. Sorry, what was the main question? I kind of steered off.
How the Real hook up came about in the first place.
Oh yeah, well I was at the Goofy vs. Regular contest and I rode for Zero flow at the time. Dan Howard was there, who worked for Deluxe at the time and hooked me up with Spitfire and Thunder. Two months later he was like, “Hey, do you want to ride for Real?" I was buying their boards before I got Zero flow so there was no hesitation – yeah, let’s do this! So they started hooking me up, I was so young too. I don’t know exactly, but probably about 15. Actually my first part was the Volcom ‘In Colour’ part.
Over 2015 and 2016 you managed to film parts for Propeller and Holy Stokes, as well as the No Other Way promo with Elijah Berle. How do you approach filming a big video part?
Really it’s all timing. Obviously you plan certain stuff, but I like keeping it natural. Not taking it too seriously, but kind of having a little drive for specific stuff. You know when you’re at the park, you learn a certain thing and then you think of a spot to go where you want to do it. But there’s no specific tactic really, I just try to skate and stay motivated.
Since No Other Way, do you find people want you to be 'the handrail dude', dragging you to ridiculous spots?
It’s kind of funny, on Instagram so many kids will DM me the craziest rails. Some are straight up not possible, they’re just in it to be funny, but some send through sick rails and sick spots. “Hey, this is the biggest rail in my town." [laughs] I ain’t Muska, but I’ll try and hold it down for the Muska, you know?
I would definitely hope not. I mean I guess I’m not as old as the dudes who experienced VHS, but I was thankfully at the end of the DVD era. I’ve got a booklet with Yeah Right, 16 Below, everything, so I got the end…but it’s crazy, I talk to some kids and all they know is internet parts. I mean you can’t hate because they’re young and it’s all they know, but it’s crazy. I hope it doesn’t come down to single parts. I know teams will still do full videos, but it’s definitely not as DVD based now.
I feel like Dylan Rieder’s Gravis part, his first internet part – you remember that? I feel like that was the main solo video part which went online and set it off. That was cool, I still watch that one. But I think people will still want videos. There are pros and cons to anything – with Instagram, kids can talk to their favourite skater now, which you or me could never have done.
To finish up, what's next on the cards video-wise?
I know Vans are trying to get another video together - they want to do what me and Eli did, every year. I don’t know who exactly is doing it this year, but I’ll try and maybe film a part. There’s nothing specific, this year I just want to try and skate and see what happens, see where it goes.