Interview & Photography by Matt Pendry
What’s going on Leo?
Not much man.
Are you back at your place in Long Beach?
Yeah, I’m in between trips, not really much to do right now.
So you just got back from another Tum Yeto tour, how long were you guys out there this time?
Two months this time.
How was it having demos back in the mix with the tour?
I thought it was great, I personally love demos. I like putting on a good show around others. I think people were excited to go, just to have some sort of show and be around other people. I feel like demos break up a trip as well. I’ve always enjoyed them, so the resurgence of a demo on a trip is always fun for me.
The kids seemed to really love it, did you ever make it to any demos when you were younger?
Yeah I went to demos when I was younger. The era I grew up in skating, it was kind of the norm. Any trip you went on would revolve around multiple demos at skate shops.
That’s how you made money back then on the road, right?
No not really, but I guess to some degree. You go to a shop that supports the brand and you support them and you get to interact with kids. It’s just a cool way to interact with skate shops, you're there face to face and they can see you skate and you can see them and hang out with them. You end skating with the dudes from the shop then they show you around, you know? It’s a cool way of coming together; you’re in their town. They’re hooking you up, you're hooking them up. Kids get stoked and it brings them into skate shops. No matter what town it is, it's cool to see kids coming out to support the shop. It’s cool for skate companies to come out as well, I think it’s important personally, but I don’t know, skateboarding’s crazy.
I feel like it gives kids and that community something to look forward to. They’re probably all so hyped for you, and any team to come through.
Yeah, you go to your favourite skate shop and find out they’re bringing the Girl team through, it’s like whoa! Maybe you never even paid attention to the Girl team, or it could be your favourite team, but then you get to meet dudes and you're stoked even more that your skate shop for doing something like that for your community. It brings everyone together and all the skaters together in the skate shop. You get to meet new people. It’s like a band coming into town and going to the local record store, I don’t know, it just makes sense to me.
That makes sense, you get to be involved with the community and that’s what it's all about.
Obviously times have been strange for the past year or so, but I grew up in that environment of going to shops and getting that face to face interaction, it’s just my generation. Skate shops are awesome, so it's great to go do stuff for them.
What was the most memorable demo or stop of the trip? Anything weird go down?
No, not really, they’re never really weird. I think the only time it’s weird is when I feel strange because maybe I’m not skating up to the standard that I’d like to be at. But I’m fortunate enough to be on trips with people that are all good friends of mine. So every demo, I’m still enjoying it even if I’m just a spectator because I’m watching Braden go off, or Dakota go off. We had Daki on this trip and he went off, which was sick, Suzy too. You just see everyone going off and there’s an energy to that. If you're feeling like you can’t match that, you can at least sit back and enjoy. There was a demo where I felt miserable and I was just watching the highflying action unfold right in front of me, so it’s all good. I think it's rad that I’m lucky enough to be on trips with the people I’m with and the company I’m with anyway. The only thing I would say was strange about the trip was the shitty weather, but that’s just the time of the year. It’s always up in the air in that part of the country. It could be super nice one week or you could be in a fucking blizzard for a week. It's really up to the gods.
The best burger on the road has been an ongoing joke since Robo said every burger is the same no matter where you get it. So what is the best burger on the road?
Well if you're going for consistency, In-N-Out’s pretty good. There's this place called Johngewaard’s Bake & Broil that has a fantastic burger.
Are we talking smash burger or?
Nah, more like a higher end burger, It's such a good one. But If I’m going to go with the most bland and safe answer, I’m going with In-N-Out. But that place Jongewaard’s is always super dope. There’s also these burgers called loosies & they put the cheese in the patty, which is also amazing. Cherry Cricket in Denver has an amazing burger as well. Also, I’m going to have to go with McDonald’s cheeseburger. As bad as it is, it’s always good.
I actually had Wendy’s tonight, just so I could get back here to do this in time.
Haha! Wendy’s is pretty buttas too. But if I’m going to go for an all-time favourite burgers, I’m going with Jongeward's Bake and Broil in Long Beach off 37th & Atlantic, and In-N-Out. The In-N-Out by my house is pretty dope.
When it comes to the van, how crucial is the parking job when pulling up to a new spot? How does this affect morale?
Haha! It can definitely change the dynamic of everyone's mood if you park far away. I think any driver of the van will learn very quickly there really is no right way or place to park, it doesn’t matter. If you’re driving in a van getting yelled at by a bunch of dumbass skaters you just learn it doesn’t matter really.
Six dudes just yelling at you, no matter what you do.
Yeah, which way to go, where to park, how to park, how not to park. There’s really no way to do it. Unless a skater’s driving, then it’s usually parked fine.
Who's got it down, just kills it every time?
Jeremy’s my favourite driver on the tours. I mean, he’s the king, he’s the fucking man. He’s my fav, I feel like he's the dad.
He knows what’s going on, he’s not going to do something out of the ordinary or surprise you or whatever.
I feel like his priorities aren’t selfish, they’re for everyone. My priorities are definitely selfish. He’s looking out for everyone, so I would have to say Jeremy for sure. Robo’s certainly up there, for how much shit he takes. He takes it in his stride, I would hate all of us by now.
I think he loves it, man.
Well he works real jobs, so he’s thinking I can drive in a van, skate all day and hang out with dudes who call themselves my friends while they yell at me all day. Haha!
I guess either way someone’s going to be yelling at him all day. Haha!
It might as well be us! We hold a deep appreciation for him in all of our hearts. I hope he knows how much we love him. He’s the boss, we have to give him a hard time, that’s what you do to bosses.
What are some pros and cons about riding the motorcycle vs. getting in the van on a long trip?
I don’t think they’re any cons, except maybe the shitty weather, but that’s part of what makes it fun. Personally I love it. I actually thought this was going to be my last motorcycle excursion, just because it was a three-month long trip. I thought it was going to wear me out and I just figured this was my last hurrah. Surprisingly, it reinvigorated my enthusiasm for riding a motorcycle. I fucking loved it and it was so fun. I had the freedom to just leave town when I wanted to, obviously I wanted to hang out with everyone and wouldn’t leave town early or anything. I would say being in a van for three months with even your best friends can be very trying, and I was fortunate enough to just be on my own. I visited friends on the way. I spent nights by myself, visited skate parks by myself, and just skated and met dudes there. I stayed at Dave Edgar’s house and he introduced me to a buddy of his that builds motorcycles and I got to hang out with him. It was just a cool experience. I never experienced a trip like that when I was on a motorcycle on my own. I’ve never ridden across the country by myself, so that was pretty cool. There really weren’t any cons to that trip. All the pros were like just having the freedom to do whatever I wanted and not be around If I didn’t want to be around. For instance, I visited my friends Kevin and Christy that own Subsect skate shop in Des Moines, Iowa. I skated at the new skate park and hung out, I don’t know. It was just sick.
It sounds so freeing.
It was bizarre to have that type of adventure. It sounds cliché, but there were moments when I would be riding by myself and wouldn’t listen to music and I would just grasp the air with my hand, if I hadn’t seen cars in a while or whatever. It was very exhilarating at times being by yourself in the middle of nowhere on a motorcycle. If you like doing cool shit by yourself, I suggest getting a motorcycle and driving it really far.
Absolutely. I’ve never done it on a motorcycle, but I’ve made the drive across the country three times now.
That’s fun too. That’s a unique adventure, but a motorcycle is something else. People kind of look at you differently and talk to you differently when you're on a motorcycle. It’s a very surreal thing. Just because nowadays everyone is so scared of everything. If you pull into a gas station driving a van or a car, you don’t hear any type of like “ Hey how’s it going or whatever.” But if you’re on a motorcycle and you pull into a gas station, people are like “ Hey man, where you headed? Where you coming from? Where you been? Keep the rubber side down". I met this gentleman I was parked behind in Gallup, New Mexico. I was leaving town when I pulled up behind him and his family. When I ride, I have a bandana on my head and glasses and a beanie, so no skin is showing. He comes up to me, and I lift up my bandana so I can hear him. “He says “Hey, I got you on your tank, man.” I was like what do you mean? He said "I’m paying to fill you up. You're out here in the middle of nowhere.” I said dude, I’m chilling. Thank you so much but I’m good. Give that to someone who needs it or something, I’m fine right now. It’s kind of what you get from people when you’re on a motorcycle by yourself. It always reminds me humans aren’t all fucked, there’s good people in this world.
I think they possibly see a little adventure or something they wanted for themselves when they see you out there riding.
Yeah. And I would never see young people out there. I saw more older women on motorcycles than anything else. It was crazy! It was so cool to see older men and women just out in the middle of nowhere. They just don’t give a shit. They ask me where I’m going, you know? I’d be like “Florida.” Then they’d ask where you were from? I’d say, “Long Beach.” They were like “what the fuck are you doing all the way out here?” It was just unique. If anyone out there reading this has a chance to ride a motorcycle across a country, I highly recommend you do so, there’s nothing like it!
You have a pretty solid rail routine when you find something you like. Firing off 3-4 different tricks as a warmup before you go for something. What's been the inspiration to continue to skate big rails?
Because tomorrow is uncertain, you got to live for today. If I could do that with flip tricks down stairs, I would totally do that, but I can’t. If I can rifle off as many tricks as I can on a rail then I totally will. I’ve gone through the same thought process where I think, oh I’ll just get a 5-0 on something else or whatever. But now that I’m getting older I feel like the curtains might get drawn on me sooner and sooner. If I can skate it and get a clip it doesn’t matter, I’m just going do it because I can do it, because the mother fuck I can! I tell Braden he should back tail this, and he’s like "nah dude, another back tail?" Dude, there's going to be a day when you can’t back tail and you're going to be an old man, like “ Gah I wish I could back tail that rail”. So you fucking back tail and board slide and grind everything you fucking can because one day you fucking can’t, so just grind it! That’s why I grind everything I see and I love grinding stuff. Haha! I’m just going to keep doing it as long as I fucking can.
So sick man. I see that with the younger kids. They're like "hey, I’ll just come back" or we can find another spot for it". I’m like alright, it's up to you.
They have the luxury to do that, because they have the energy and the capability to do that. I’ve been there and I know it. But when I see it in front of me it's just like, do it. Just fucking do it! It's like having $20 in your wallet and you see $20 on the floor. Your thinking, I already have $20 in my fucking wallet, I don’t need another 20. It’s like man, you always need another 20.
What was the first skate video you ever saw?
It was a barrage of different videos, but Misled Youth was the first one that I actually held, went home, put it in and watched it.
Do you think that has something to do with the way you approach rails and skating in general?
Maybe, but maybe not at the same time. When I was a little kid and was trying to learn how to kickflip or 180, that’s what I watched. It's funny you should ask this though, because I do think about it. I watched misled youth and it entranced me. That video was it, that was everything, that was skating to me. I don’t think it had anything to do with the way I skated because I watched other skate videos before and they were cool, but they didn’t do anything to me or make me feel a certain way. I watched 411’s and Rodney Mullen Vs Daewon Song and that skating was still very entrancing to me as a kid. But it didn’t click like Misled Youth did. Misled Youth was something grand, it turned on the light. The way I got the video was interesting. A bunch of friends of mine, their parents took them to the skate shop and bought them Fulfil the Dream, the Shorty's hardware video, Misled Youth, and I think a 411. I asked can I please just borrow one of them? you have four, c'mon, don’t do me like that! I remember their oldest brother saying give him the shittiest one and they gave me misled youth. Fulfil the Dream was very influential as well though. I find it on a level with Misled Youth with the type of skating they were doing.
Absolutely. Your outcome could have been so much different if you would have ended up with the 411 tape.
I don’t think so. I watched different types of skating before and it affected me as well, but not like Misled Youth. It was just something unique that stuck with me. It wasn’t a clothing thing or a style thing or anything like that. It was just something out of this world that hit me. I’ve been skating for how I’ve been skating for almost 20 years now, I haven’t tried to change the way I skate and I couldn’t if I wanted to. I think that’s just in me, you're dealt the cards you're dealt when you're trying to learn to skate. Some kids get really good, some kids are just happy with doing kickflips and slashing bowls. I don’t know if it influenced me on how to skate, but I think of Misled Youth as more of a north star as to which way to go with what I had inside me.
Do you think skate companies will continue to work with the full-length video formula, even if it’s multiple shorter videos that come out throughout the year as we’ve seen most companies adopt?
I think companies will do what they always do, they’ll follow whatever business practice works for them. I think there will always be cool people that make cool videos and they’ll do them regardless if it’s a full-length or not. I mean look at Worble, they do full-length videos with music videos in them. I feel like that’s something I have seen, it was pretty sick. As far as companies go, they’ll just do whatever gets them the most views or whatever.
I guess it’s always been the same, just a different playing field.
Yeah, it's like they're always going after what sells the most.
Do you think in the future kids are going to be more likely to keep going on two month trips or is there a different future for skating?
Personally I don’t know what works either. My ideal situation is going on tours, doing demos, going to skate shops, stoking skate shops out, stoking kids out, and filming a video part that people find entertaining. I don’t think there is a right answer. A kid’s favourite skater nowadays could be Andy Anderson that has a YouTube following and that’s his niche. In reality, there’s nothing wrong with that. For someone to make a living being a skater from that is sick. He’s doing it his own way, whether that’s the right way or wrong way. Kids should enjoy skating and who’s to say how they should do that. Even thinking about how kids should enjoy skate videos is crazy. It’s a kid. It’s the same as the kid giving me the Misled Youth video, who’s to say it sucked, you know? I loved it.
People spend their days on social media and that’s how they get their skate content, then they go on thrasher and scroll through a sea of content to find what they want. Before you just consumed it all because they’re wasn’t as much content.
There are just more lanes for content now.
There’s more and there are no wrong lanes. It’s a good thing. But, it’s hard for companies to send people out on a trip and see a return on that. I don’t think there’s a right way to film a trick or distribute a trick. I could post a switch flip on flat or me skating some 14 rail and the switch flip is what people end up talking about. It doesn’t make any sense. So, if you’re a kid and you like a Youtube skater, that’s dope, if you only like old videos and VX1000, that’s cool too. It’s all just made up as we go along anyway. It's just bullshit to somebody out there anyway, so fuck it. I just don’t like the idea of shitting on someone just because they're a Youtube skater or something. The whole point is to sell shit and get people stoked on skating. If you can do it and make money in this game, fuck it man. I feel bad for kids coming up nowadays. Ultimately the end result will be going out to skate with your friends. I think that’s why demos are important. You can see someone in person who maybe you heard someone else talk shit about. Like people hate on Jaws for the way he skates or the way he looks, but it’s easy to hate on a basketball player when you’re watching it on TV or whatever. There’s nothing like seeing it live, when somebody like Jaws is at a demo and you’re like holy fuck, he’s been skating for 3 hours straight flying around everywhere blowing minds, and he looks like a homeless man. It’s just seeing a skater like that in person, you’ll be like “damn man, that was pretty buttas, that dude rips.” Haha!
It happens. You talk shit about somebody, then you meet them and they are so dope. You just feel like a dick.
Yeah, if you see a skater who’s very good at what they do and you see them doing it in person, it will change your perspective.
On my first tour with you guys, you were talking to me about having some of those polaroid’s from back when people used to test the light for film. Do you have a favourite photographer from that time?
I would have to say Joey Shigeo and Jamie Owens were some of the first people I shot photos with as I became Am. I got to meet Shawn Peterson, Atiba and everyone else. But Joey shot one of my first photos, it's crazy to think about that time.
I feel like taking photos used to be such a big part of skating during that time.
It totally did. It was all film too. It’s crazy to think I’ve been skating through the decline of film photography and into the digital age. When you think of it in those terms, it really brings time into the forefront. I remember a lot of roles being wasted on me doing flip tricks.
Do you ever remember going out specifically to take photos back then even if a filmer wasn’t around?
I remember photos were worth just as much, if not more than the clip. I remember so many photos growing up that were iconic, but you never saw the clip. When you would ask people where’s the clip? It's like "Oh yeah, he never landed that". Haha!
It wasn’t as big of a deal back then, but certain people still remembered that stuff.
The nerds would remember the switch heel down the 13 the skater had. Four years later the video part would drop and it didn’t even matter. Every video took so long to be made that any amount of footage got you so stoked anyway. It was a different time, it was wild to think about.
You seem to always be on the road no matter what, Sinclair says you’re the team leader. Any projects in the works for 2022?
Just keep on being on the road. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been good at. I don’t agree with the team leader moniker, I just like skating, meeting new skaters and being on the road with my friends. I enjoy going to weird spots and even going to cacka for the 50th time in a year. Haha! We’ll just take the van from Yeto and call Sinclair and tell him we want to go on a trip. He’ll ask how long? Well say three months and he works his fucking magical pink fingers at that laptop and figures out a budget for us. The only thing I consider is to just keep on filming, keep on skating and going wherever I can.
Well thanks for sitting down and chatting with me Leo, always a pleasure.
Glad it worked out brotha!