Rick Howard interview - Sidewalk Skateboarding

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Rick Howard interview

He’s not lost, he’s awesome! Girl are no longer seeking anyone to take him off their hands and his attitude is now up to scratch when shooting action or lifestyle photos. You missed the Rick Howard free agent boat, sorry. Don’t worry though; we caught up with an overly modest Rick H for a few words. In light of the 20 Years of Girl we discussed why titles aren’t important at the company, when he first met Mike Carroll and the magic that goes on at ‘The Art Dump’ seasoned with Rick radness. Enjoy.

Interview by Stephen Cox
Photography provided by Chris Johnson

Congratulations on the 20 years of Girl. How does it feel to have hit this landmark?

Thank you. I don’t think we have hit a landmark, we just like to celebrate. It’s funny, we were going through the archives and I feel like we’re always coming up with a reason to have an anniversary. Who celebrates a 3-year anniversary? I think it’s more of a good excuse to get everyone together and have a good time. It’s not so much a landmark but a good excuse to get together with everyone.

What moments stand out to you when you think of the 20 years?

Jesus [laughs]. The most recent was the trip across the US. I look forward to the new memories. It was a good time, a lot of fun. We haven’t done that in a while, driving across the entire US, doing demos.

How do you compare that tour to others over the 20 years?

The parks are definitely different now. You’re not pulling up to a downhill gravel parking lot with a launch ramp and a PVC curb. You’ve got some proper things to skate, which is always key when you’re doing a demonstration. There’s still Chuck’s Skate Barn out there, which is amazing to come across in this day and age, they’re still floating around [laughs]. It was a lot different when we first travelled around. Now every city you go to there are a lot of good skateparks.

What’s this Mike [Carroll] tells me about Rick Howard day?

Oh god. That’s pretty interesting. I don’t know how I was supposed to feel about that. Andy Jenkins is head of the art department here at Girl and we invited artists from the past who have worked with us throughout the years to do an anniversary series and one of the art dumpers, Bob Kronbauer, he’s really involved with promoting Vancouver as a city and a destination for the world. Somehow he connected with the Mayor, he pulled some strings and I don’t know how I was supposed to feel about that but it was interesting. [Rick] McCrank hosted the 20 Year show at his shop Antisocial and there was a bowl contest that weekend, it was fun going to my homeland. What are you supposed to do? [Laughs] what would you do if your hometown hosted a day named after you?

Hide [laughs].

Yeah, you know? It’s pretty embarrassing actually but it was a really nice gesture.

I heard about some of the smaller projects of celebrations that went on which sounded really cool, such as the hand painted motorcycle helmets.

Yeah! There are some guys at Girl who have been riding motorcycles forever. Jamie Housel and Andy Jenkins know of a Joe King from Brazil, he’s a well known handcrafted helmet maker. We connected and they did 20 each of 2 styles, 40 in total. They’ll be really collectable. They’re amazing.

What other celebrations went on?

We worked on some collaborative projects that were exciting; a Girl Films/Stance Socks pack, a tent with Benji from Polar; there’s a two-man and a one-man anniversary tent. We did 20 year exhibitions; a series of shows that traveled around, but there was no way you could display 20 years on 4 walls. It was kind of a peek into it. We’re working on a book but it’s most likely going to come out later this year. This has been a good editing process to work out what we want in there. We’ve been going through all the old and new stuff.

How important is it to have good relationships with skateshops and reach out the ways that you do?

It’s everything. Skateshops are skateboarding in their communities. To have them participate and be part of what has brought Girl here today is amazing.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Can you tell us about when you first met Mike?

I met Mike on one of my first trips. I’m from Vancouver and I could only ever get my hands on a few skate videos but Sick Boyz got me really psyched to go and skate San Francisco. Me and my friend went out there, bounced around and skated the city. Somehow I ended up at a friend of a friend’s house; we ended up in Mike Carroll’s backyard. He had a mini ramp at the time and we didn’t formally meet but he was showing off his melons.


He was letting us know that it was his ramp. That was the first time I saw him but then I think we bumped into him around the city, at CASL contests or at the H-Street house in San Diego. I think he was in and out of there. I thought he was a dick when I first met him actually [laughs].

What about Spike [Jonze] and Megan [Baltimore]? How did the four of you come together?

I kind of ended up moving into Megan’s house. I met them in the old World Industries days. Plan B was distributed out of World Industries and I was skating LA a lot with Guy [Mariano], Rudy [Johnson] and Henry Sanchez. I was kind of in LA and met Megan and we all met through that.

I believe from the outset it was important that everyone had a say in Girl and it still is.

That’s what Girl is. It’s for us to do, whatever we want. If there’s a trip, video, ad, board graphic, whatever it is it’s for everyone to do what they want with it. That hasn’t changed. That involvement is what makes it fun working with everyone on whatever it is.

Are the stories about the coin toss for president true?

Roshambo. Mike and Spike did that for their titles. We’re pretty serious when it comes to titles.

I remember reading Spike was hands-on in the warehouse. What’s the story with Michael Bolton being on the shipping boxes back in the day?

[Laughs] Why not? Why wouldn’t you have Michael Bolton on them? [Laughs] It’s so absurd. I remember Carroll didn’t quite get it at the time but he appreciates it more now.

How difficult was the process of starting up the company back then? Were there ever any moments where you thought things might not work out?

There were some obstacles and people trying to work against us at the beginning. Fortunately the combination of Megan’s knowledge and us combining with an X-Large clothing company helped us get going. They had some distribution infrastructure we used until one thing led to another and we started distributing on our own, learning as we go to this present day.

You didn’t know much about business back then?

Not at all [laughs]. I probably still don’t.

At what point did it strike you that you had to start something for yourself? Mike mentioned his reasons were very skate-orientated, as he wasn’t enjoying himself as much as he should have been.

Yeah. The videos we were in, I wouldn’t say they were stressful but there was a different tone. It was fun to do something different at that time. There was a lot of grey area corpo stuff going on behind the scenes, which no one needs to know about but the fuzzy stuff and a combination of many other things meant it made good sense to do something ourselves for everyone. It was a different time in skateboarding. It’s great to see that some of our friends have put out some of their best skating 20 years later.

From an industry perspective, did you consciously perceive a shift at that time?

It was a lot of us that left around the same time. In terms of that, there weren’t very many companies at that time. There was a handful. With that many people leaving, I guess there was a shift. They’re some of the best skateboarders in the world all getting together and doing something different. I’m a fan, I want all their autographs.

Commonly Girl is considered one of the greatest companies to ride for. What factors have help build this reputation?

Really? That’s nice to hear. I would ask Guy Mariano, Eric Koston, Sean Malto and the rest of the crew that question because they’re the people who do what they do for skateboarding. I don’t know how to answer that [laughs]. Ask Cory [Kennedy] or Mike Mo [Capaldi].

How do you decide when someone goes pro for Girl?

In the old days you had to enter contests. It’s different now. Cory was the last person to go pro for Girl. It’s pretty apparent from the stuff he was doing and what people were seeing. It’s natural. There is no set way to do it. Elijah [Berle], Raven [Tershy] and Stevie [Perez], the way they’re skating is undeniable. For them to not have their name on a board?

I saw how Cory found out when he went pro and I know you think it’s important to highlight when someone finally gets their name on a board.

That was fun. We usually try and spring it on them and make it special.  We try to make it memorable each time we do it. We surprised the Trunk Boyz in Puerto Rico about three months ago. There were 3 demos and 3 shop appearances. At the first shop appearance we had all the pro models made up and they had the whole shop covered in their boards. They walked in and that’s how they found out. It was a cool surprise for them.

Mike told me the two of you balance each other out in terms of your working relationship.

That’s a funny one. He likes to worry about everything, which is good, and I try not to.

Do you have much time to skate when you’re working all the time?

Lately it’s been so hectic but I’m going to go and skate in a couple of hours. Trips are good because I can get out of town and that’s the way to do it for me. We have a skatepark out the back though and I can’t not skate. I go crazy if I go a certain amount of time without skating.

How important is it for you to be involved with the day-to-day running of Girl and not leave it in the hands of someone else?

It’s huge. I want to make sure it represents what we do.  I just try to make sure that everything done serves the best interests for everybody involved.

You’re notorious for playing pranks on people at Girl aren’t you?

Spike is better than me but yeah stuff like that is fun. We’ve got Malto a couple of times. You need pranks in life. It keeps things interesting.

How do you differentiate between Girl and Chocolate?

It’s one big family but the art direction is the only thing that sets them apart from one another. When we travel there’s usually a mix of us. Other than the art direction we’re all friends.

If you had to make a substitution of one person from Girl to Chocolate and vice versa, who would come and go? Let’s hear it.

That’s a good question. It depends on what we’re doing. If we are going on King of the Road, I’d have to ask Marc Johnson to hop in the van. But both ways? I’d go out for MJ.

The films have all been a major part of the 20 Years of Girl. Did you ever plan to have a section in Pretty Sweet?

I started out wanting to but the way the video went and with the level of skating on display, I didn’t want to disrespect my friends. I hadn’t really learned that many new tricks. I thought it would be better to not be in it than disrespect those guys. Can I still film a Pretty Sweet part and put it out? Coming summer of 2025.

How did you find the reception of the video?

People really liked it man. I was really happy for everyone and everything the crew gave for that project, they travelled a lot. It took a lot to do that. I was stoked for everyone. It got the kids excited to skate and that’s all that matters. Seeing it first hand, being on the road, the impact it had, especially with the way things are now with everything being so instant and hard to keep things a secret, to see people enjoyed it means a lot.

The Girl videos are always largely hyped up. How is it trying to meet those expectations?

It gets hyped up in our own heads. It’s up to the individual. We usually want to outdo ourselves. We just put it out there. Everyone puts it on themselves. Maybe we’ll try and reverse it for the next project, no talk of a video we just put it out there [laughs].

Can you tell us about naming some of the videos?

Goldfish and Mouse, I feel like names came after we had shot some of the skits with Spike. There was no real big meaning behind it; they were our favorite bits we filmed: “let’s call it Goldfish.” But Yeah Right! was kind of a part of our language, I think it came from Kelly Bird or Dimitry [Elyashkevich]. We said it a lot during that time as well as experimenting with all the green screen stuff. It was fitting. That one actually made more sense. With Pretty Sweet, Elijah was like, “girls are pretty, chocolate is sweet.” It was part of our vocabulary.  It was another Michael Bolton type of decision [laughs].

What is it like having someone like Spike working with you on video projects?

It’s so fun. He brings a whole different level to it, especially because of his involvement with filmmaking, the toys he gets to play with, the crews he knows. It’s fun when we get to work that way.

Which of the videos have been your favorites?

It wasn’t a Girl film but I have to say Video Days. I like Animal Chin. I liked Yeah Right! It was really fun. It was when Marc just got on and filmed that insane video part. They’re all different, there are parts and moments in each that just make it you know? I couldn’t pick one.

How do you compare each of your own video parts?

I don’t have favorites but I feel like I was getting worse and worse right?

I don’t agree.

[Laughs]. There are different tricks in different parts that remind me of a trip I’ve been on or a moment on a certain day. There are different moments in each part that bring back certain memories for me. That’s the best part for me: “I had a good day of skating that day.” Some days I think Mouse maybe. I would rather watch Eric Koston’s video parts.

How long were you trying that last trick at the end of the montage in Yeah Right! at 7th Street for?

I think I tried it a few different times, a few different days. That day I did it pretty quickly. I was just so upset that I put myself through all that. I was like, “really?” It’s all in your head.

You went through that board after didn’t you?

Yeah, I’m a little embarrassed about that. I kind of didn’t want that in there! Ty [Evans] liked the clip. Maybe I was having a bad day, I don’t know, it happens [laughs]. I don’t think I’ve been that mad since; I had to get it out of my system. That was years building up.

How do you feel the Girl board graphics have changed over the years?

Oh man. We’re digging through some of the stuff now and it’s like, back in the early days it was just “I like this postcard, let’s make this”. We would just rip it off. Sometimes there wasn’t much put into it. Now there’s a lot put into it. The art department, they’re awesome creative guys who bounce ideas off each other. It’s pretty rad to see what ‘The Art Dump’ can create. They come up with awesome designs.

Are there certain elements of the art direction you feel it is always important to adhere to aside from the logo?

It’s a personal preference. Some of the guys want more wood grain, some want more negative space or brighter colors on their boards. We take all that into consideration when we’re making a design. It’s all different. We have freelancers too which we like to give creative freedom. We try to take everything into account.

Do you collect boards?

No. We archive our own stuff. There is some old Mark Gonzales stuff I wish I hung on to that was pretty cool, but not really. I have a small collection. If something stands out I’ll hang onto it.

What is Andy Jenkins like to work with?

He’s one of the few people that has an education in the building. He’s awesome. He came from back east and he grew up with Spike and some other people that ran Dirt Magazine, as well as many other things. When we first started Spike had Andy do the logo on the first series and he’s been the art director ever since. ‘The Art Dump’ is his team, his crew. He helps put it all together.

What’s the working environment like at ‘The Art Dump’?

Right now it’s pretty hectic with the all the shows going on. It’s a good environment; you can take a break for a nollie flip or do whatever as long as you get your work done. As long as Hershel [Baltrotsky] gets his homework done on time, he can do as many nollie heelflips as he wants [laughs].

Every skater out there has a soft spot for the ads. Do you remember the process of running that first ad with Guy?

Yeah, it was cool. It was pretty minimal. It was just the aesthetic we were into at the time.

There seems to have been a lot of humor throughout the years too.

Yeah, for sure. We try to keep it light. We get serious sometimes but we always try to have fun with it.

Do any ads stand out to you?

We re-ran a couple of our favorites, like the cologne one with Koston.

Mike mentioned that one too.

Yeah, the ones that are really absurd. We like to do Eric Koston wearing a robe for a fake cologne ad to a sick sequence [laughs]. Anything in between.

There have been a fair share poking fun at your Canadian nationality as well.

I know. Why are they picking on me? Carroll is pissed off at Canada or something.

There seems to be a lack of these kind of ads these days from other companies don’t you think?

It comes and goes. You’ve got to make it fun and interesting for the people, for yourself, for everyone. I can’t speak for other companies but we like to have fun with it. We need to get back to the Jean Michelle ad campaign for balding skaters.

What’s in store for the next 20 years?

I think Carroll should roshambo with Malto and we’ll see what kind of tricks we should learn for the next video. We’ll leave it up to Mike Mo and Malto. I’m just kidding. Cory Kennedy for vice president and learn some new tricks [laughs].

And you’ve promised us a new part as well don’t forget.

Is there going to be a time limit? Do I have 20 years to do it?

Special thanks – Aaron Meza, Sam Smyth and Chops.


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