Birmingham's finest treks over to LA with Almost Skateboards
Kris Vile in LA for Almost Skateboards. Kris Vile is probably one of, if not the most productive sponsored skateboarder in the UK.
When he’s not traveling around the country and popping up at every event possible, he’ll be out filming with Callun Loomes for the never-ending Get Lesta project, and if he’s not doing that, he’s just as likely to be ripping up local spots with the This is Birmingham crew, filming for the in-progress Vans Europe video and/or coaching skaters at the Stourbridge Unit3Sixty park.
In short, Kris is a sponsor’s dream – driven, down to travel at a moment’s notice, constantly progressing and able to rip on pretty much whatever you put in front of him. He’s recently just returned from a 10 day jaunt to Los Angeles at the behest of Almost Skateboards and Dwindle Distribution who flew Kris and a crew of global Dwindle stable mates over to the Promised Land to shoot photos and video and to welcome them all into the fold as recognised and respected ambassadors for their respective Dwindle brand sponsors.
We caught up with Kris on his return to shoot some photos and find out a little bit more about his time in LA.
Peep the video part he put together over the ten days below and read on to find out what being sponsored in this day and age actually entails. No free rides…
So Kris – you recently went on a 10 day ‘Skatecation’ to LA with a bunch of Dwindle riders from across the globe – how many people were involved, where were they from, and had you met any of them previously?
It was my first time making it out to LA so I was obviously stoked to finally get out there. We were a crew of 7 skaters, mostly Euro guys coming form the likes of Italy, Germany, Denmark and Spain and then two guys from OZ. I hadn’t met any of them previously but from the moment we were all in the apartment together, I could see that it was gonna be a dope crew, everyone gelled really well.
You were in the Silverlake area of LA right?
Yeah we were staying in silver lake, I felt like I recognised the name on hearing it but couldn’t pin down where from until we got there. The place we were staying at was pretty surreal; the building was a renovated church and had been turned into a 6 apartment Air BnB with three floors per crib.
The sleeping areas were on the top and bottom floor and the kitchen and living area in the middle. The rest of place had a very vibrant occupancy as I found out the first night after venturing into the next-door neighbour’s apartment on return from an art exhibition by the Gonz in downtown LA.
They welcomed me in and I continued to party with them, they told me that they were locals and lived down the road but they only had a small flat and were too many people to celebrate one of their birthdays so they’d rented the pad out for just one night in order to have it large (laughing).
I went on to visit three other gatherings in the same building that evening, ranging from high school prom nights, to just a group of lads from Seattle on an adventure. I could see that this would be an eventful trip from the get go. The rest of the time there supplied much of the same vibe – loud music till the early hours even supplied by the cleaners that came for the periods between the paying occupants!
There are a bunch of famous spots in that area – did you do any skate spot video geeking whilst you were there?
If I’m honest, I think I do less geeking now then I did in my younger days. I felt that we had a rough schedule made out for us for our time there, I could imagine much like a lot of the cities I’ve skated before that there were certain days to skate certain things and plus, I like a surprise so we just went with the flow and waited to be taken around the spots. The first day we hit a pretty famous schoolyard with the infamous picnic tables and some perfect tarmac flat. Seeing those for the first time makes it much easier to understand how people can do the stuff they’ve done on/over those tables but even though they’re pretty low, they’re still no walk in the park, you’ve definitely got to have pop to do anything other than an ollie over them.
It’s been a while since you were over in the States, and the last couple of trips you’ve were to SF and New York – how does LA differ from those in terms of the experience of trying to skate?
SF and New York are both similar in their ruggedness when it comes to the spots – comparable to the UK in that sense. I’ve always loved the grittiness of the footage to come out of those cities but getting the chance to skate them shows you how you have to put in the work, battling the ground, heavy foot traffic and the arch nemesis the Po Po and security. LA for all its glamour and industrial-sized concrete slabbed ground can still be just as much of a battle. From bondoed cracks and lips, to campus security and agitated shopkeepers; most places are much the same! In the end it’s what we live for!
Was it your first LA experience actually? That place, despite being considered the ‘Skate mecca’ is actually a bit of a nightmare, isn’t it? What kind of ‘time in car’ to ‘time spent actually skating’ ratio were you looking at?
Yeah, it was my first time out there, I’m super stoked to finally get there and grateful that Dwindle helped to make it happen. There are so many good spots but lot of the stuff is just not skateable most of the time due to the same old circumstances. The place is absolutely massive though so if you’re out there without a vehicle then it would pretty hard to get around. James Craig and the other guys at Dwindle planned the trip to make our time there the most productive, which actually worked really well because we came away with a good amount to show for it, we probably at most did three hours in the car in a day so the planning paid off.
I saw James Craig pop up a couple of times in the clip – was he showing you around or what?
Yeah, James was the driver and tour guide and general boss daddy for the whole trip. It was an absolute pleasure to meet someone you’ve watched destroy it whilst growing up, as it always is! It’s a bit different spending time with them in the van in a less formal environment – feels like you actually get to know them a little. James was a legend and made the trip all the more memorable. I intend to make it back out there soon to see him, I definitely owe him a beer or twelve, and for the role he played in getting me there and his general radness!
Did he do any switch hardflips?
(Laughing), I think I must have been so excited to get in the mix that I don’t recall witnessing one of the legendary manoeuvres! I’ll deffo remember to put in a special request next time I see him.
You mentioned how weird LA seemed to you in terms of it feeling ‘empty’ despite being one of the most populated cities on the planet, what did you mean by that?
I guess as it’s such a big place and we were there with a the specific task of filming a skate edit and hitting a couple of skateparks we just didn’t come across that many other skateboarders along the way, well aside from at the LA Courthouse, which I guess is like what Southbank is to London, or Macba to Barcelona. It’s a given that we skated mostly school yards and the famous Firestone ditch so we were probably bound not to run into too many folk but being the skate mecca of the world I guess you think you’ll see more general skateboard foot soldiers out in the streets, probably a pretty good indicator to the scale of the place!
Where else did you get to skate, aside from street?
We paid two visits to the Transworld park, which to my knowledge had taken a little bit of a revamp in the last 6 months, adding some new transition around the sides essentially making every wall skateable and allowing for a rad flow through the park. It’s definitely one of my favourite indoor skateparks, with its permanent structure offering loads of fun lines and with some moveable additions to boot making it interchangeable. A very well thought out design. Secondly we went to the Berrics, the place was like a fortress and massive inside. The lay out of the park was pretty sick with so many different ways to skate it. It was almost like a skatepark with a few street spots around the sides, how people manage to incorporate most aspects of it into a line is pretty damn impressive. I did try to do one particular line using a lot of the park but as we were 6/7 days into our trip and my legs had began to flag, I just couldn’t make the last trick but it was fun to have a go.
What’s the Berrics like to actual skate in? Are the obstacles bigger/smaller than you think? Is it as super smooth as it looks etc?
It is absolutely perfect, the flat is incredible and as you’ve seen, there are little rails/stairs, slightly bigger rails/stairs, things that were changeable but the basis of the place allows for you to be able to improve and step up every trick you can do: essentially a training facility.
Not like your average park though, as apart from the smallest ones, the rails were more like street rails and the stairs were of a proper size. It really was like skating loads of perfect street spots in the same place. Amazing that some of the best to ever do it have funded that facility from skateboarding! Hats off to them!
Any celebrity sightings?
I went to a Gonz art exhibition on the first night I got there and saw most of the big heads floating about: Mariano, Koston, and many more including Gonz himself of course. Koston also passed through the Berrics, our session was coming to a close and he was there to film something or other for the website accompanied by Berra and Mike-mo.
What was the best spot/place you skated and why?
We skated quite a lot of ledge spots so I suppose unless you’re really into skating ledges and can tell between a slight difference in height making it perfect for a certain trick then I feel like I’ve skated a lot of similar stuff. The difference is mostly the environment in which they’re in and the look of the landscape in the footage. The classic looking schoolyards were nice to see though. It’s not everywhere you get to skate a good ditch, especially one that has so many ways in which to skate – so the Firestone ditch was hands down my favourite, a good combination of transition and street and DIY awesomeness.
Dwindle really make a point of acknowledging their global team riders so are we to assume that this is the first of these global rider trips? Would you be keen to do it again?
It was a great opportunity to get to go on this trip, as they have a lot of people they support across the globe. I believe this was the first so I was hyped to be picked as one of the 7 and yeah, I definitely would love to do it again. I made some good contacts whilst out there with one of the secondary filmers in particular, so if I go back out I might do a solo mission and just go see the guys whilst there. Maybe spend a little longer and try put a good little clip together.
Tell us a bit about the other dudes on the trip – there were skaters from Spain, Denmark, Italy, and Australia, right?
All of us were of varying ages ranging from the youngest David from Italy who was 17 and bringing that fresh vibe with a bag of creative and revived old school manoeuvres with banging steeze to boot. The oldest was Scott from Oz who was 29 and a year older than me. Scott and James (the other Ozzy) were as most skaters from down under are, all terrain beasts, with the ability to shred anything in their path. Tobias from Denmark was also a young gun at 20, pure-power and had some of the craziest ledge moves I’ve ever seen. The big poppa on the trip was the Spaniard Jorge (jalapeño) with insane pop and a deep bag of tricks. Finally, Matze from Germany, who could perform the most insane noseslide combinations that I couldn’t even comprehend. I definitely came away with a bunch of lifetime friends and look forward to seeing them all in the future.
You mentioned also that the rest of the crew were basically ledge lunatics so that kind of left you as the one ‘ATV’ guy – is that why you ended up skating the firestone Ditch on your own effectively?
(Laughing), well, a bunch of the guys were technicians for sure so banks and DIY tranny maybe weren’t their cup of tea. The Ozzys were also ATV’s but I guess everyone found their way to skate the spot and did so, but it was definitely my kind of spot so I got carried away and tried to skate it every way possible.
For any kids reading this – how would you describe the difference between an average day out skating in an UK city versus a day in LA?
LA is massive place and pretty difficult to navigate, despite having loads of spots and banging weather, if you’re not old enough to rent a vehicle and drive then I’d say to maybe wait until you are to get the most out of the skateboarding mecca!
You’ve pretty much been on a mission since getting back from LA – trips away, NASS, Shop Riot etc – what else do you have planned for 2017 Kris?
Well next stop is Boardmasters in Newquay. Then there’s going be lots of different trip coverage coming out from a REDBULL trip to Morocco, a GET LESTA short film to come in October premiering at the HOUSE OF VANS, which will be a year project as opposed to the normal two. We’re also currently working on a VANS Europe video with the rest of the crew orchestrated by Chris Pfanner, so after our recent trip to Vienna and another two trips planned in September and November there should be a nice piece of eye candy to look forward to late 2017/early2018.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks to Vans, Skate Pharmacy and Get Lesta for all the support. Almost/Dwindle/James Craig for allowing me the chance to be involved in such a project, to Mum and Dad for years of support even though I’ve been a nuisance, the rest of the Fam of course and to Powley, Wainwright and Bobby Sanderson – you know why! And to all the legends that I met along the way: Keep on keeping it real!
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