You know you’ve had a significant career when your name is synonymous with your craft. Just as men in tights credit Jules Léotard for their candid package and high jumpers thank Dick Fosbury for not being hit in the face with a bar when they pull a Fosbury Flop, the K-Grind will always be a reminder of Eric Koston’s impact on skateboarding. Ahead of his current Australian tour we got in touch with Koston to chat about Oakley’s 30th anniversary in sport, anterograde amnesia, and being the Jay Z of skateboarding.
So you guys are down here rolling out some demos for the Crocodile Done Deal Tour?
Yeah, the guys all get in on Friday [February 14] and it officially kicks off then. I just came out here early with my family to just hang out Down Under.
As you’re with Oakley, are they are rolling out some retro frames for you guys when you’re down here?
Yeah, it’s their 30th anniversary. One of them is the Frogskin, and the original Razor Blades. The other one’s the Eyeshade – it’s very Kool Moe Dee ’80s hip-hop. It’s something that a younger generation will probably see a pair of and think ‘Woah, what are these?’, and not know they’re something that originated from thirty years ago.
Have you skated in any of them yet?
You know, I had some old ones, I think they dug up a pair of some vintage ones and I was like “No way, fuck yeah get me a pair of those!” it was something that I hadn’t seen since the ’80s and if I could get ’em I wanted a little piece of that. It was amazing because they did have some dead stock parts and they pieced them together.
What do you think of the story of you doing 101 demo tour in Kansas where you threw a sweaty shirt into some fertile soil and out sprung Sean Malto, making you his dad?
Yeah, that joke’s been going on forever but I’m definitely not. I wish I was – I wouldn’t mind having him as a son.
Thats a bit cute. Unlike Malto, you’ve barely been injured at all – you haven’t even broken anything right?
Nah, not really. I’ve dislocated a finger, I’ve sprained ankles, I have tendonitis in my knee and a few other things – just back spasms here and there. But stuff that can be handled quickly, so I’ve been really fortunate.
What do you reckon you can attribute to not screwing yourself over?
Maybe I’m just good at bailing? I guess I’m pretty analytical about what I’m doing. In a high risk situation I’m trying to think of ways that I can get out of it. You’ve got to fall the right way – it’s something you learn because if you slam enough times really hard you’re like ‘All right I don’t want to do that again.’
What SB Koston colourway have you been rocking lately?
Um lately it’s an almost mint green, but then there’s always black. I’ll go for loud colours like the orange ones too. The pink was the first one – it was kind of limited and I didn’t think that many people would like it. But now that it’s come and gone a lot of people have asked about it. I remember in the beginning I thought there was no way that people would like the pink but we did it just to do it.
It’s funny that skaters embraced pink because the themes surrounding skateboarding in the past have been more macho. On the flip side you have this ‘nice guy’ persona that people relate to. Do you think skating has gotten nicer as it gets less fringe?
I think to some degree. You know, it’s funny just how a lot of skaters are very purist and don’t like change. I’ve gone through so much, and you learn to accept change as well as be a part of it – nothing’s forever. But now there’s room for it all. Back when I started skateboarding you only looked a certain way when you were with skaters. And then, when skaters grew, certain skaters would only stick with their group and would be very cliquey. But now you see kids skating around and there’s a whole mix of it all with rock kids and hip-hop kids skating in the same crew.
In a couple of older skate parts you come in to Gang Starr or Slick Rick songs and you’ve also got the A Tribe Called Mapquest vid. Are you quite into hip-hop?
Yeah, I always have been and still am. I was interested in a whole lot of different things but growing up I was definitely into hip-hop.
Are there any modern artists you’re listening to?
As far as hip-hop? It’s crazy now I always listen to the stuff that’s pretty senseless. Where you’re thinking “What are these lyrics?” but it’s catchy and it’s kind of funny. I like guys like Jay Z who has had a long lasting career – I appreciate that. And Kanye, as arrogant as he is, he’s still funny to me. Guys like that who have done time and still have been able to be relevant for a long period of time.
People always liken you to being skateboarding’s Michael Jordan, but I’d call you skateboarding’s Jay Z because of your career’s longevity. How have you stayed relevant for so long?
That’s a great question. I haven’t stopped wanting to skate. I haven’t lost that desire and I’ve stayed injury-free. It’s been pretty fun so I’ve stuck with it. And I’ve never had any other job, and now I can’t see myself having another job.
I saw an interview with you in 2004 and you said that you’ve “been doing video parts for 12 years of [your] life. There are gaps but there’s always another one. It’s crazy – I’m gonna call it quits at some point.” Ten years on, how do you feel about that comment now?
Exactly the same way! There’s a Nike video coming out and I’ve just started filming. I went on a trip to Miami right before I came over here.
For Chronicles Vol. 3?
Yeah, I’m in Chronicles Vol. 3 and I’m thinking “Another one of these? Holy shit – here we go.”
Speaking of videos, on your Mouse part, you were a pretty convincing Charlie Chaplin. You and Tony Hawk were on an episode of The Aquabats! Super Show! recently, and I know Atiba Jefferson seems to think you’d be a good actor. Are you into acting?
You know, once we started doing skits and messing around with things it was just fun to me – but would I actually go out and pursue it? No, it’s too hard. It takes a lot of work, unlike the stuff I’ve done.
Have you seen the movie Memento?
You know how that dude gets anterograde amnesia and can’t form new memories, right? If 15-year-old Koston got hit on the head and couldn’t learn any more tricks, what would you be doing today?
I think I was pretty well-rounded because I grew up at a time when you did it all. You didn’t even consciously think about it – it was just something new everyday to mix it up and I always wanted to learn everything you know: tricks on vert, tricks on a mini ramp, tricks on a rail, tricks on tricks on a bank, on ledges.
How about if you were stuck at The Berrics with five tricks? What would you be doing.
I’d skate the quarter pipe – It’s always my go to just to warm up. Or flying over the hip with some sort of grind. I like a simple back-side-air over the hip and grabbing the nose – it’s a really simple and classic air. That and front-side-feeble-grind it’s always a fun one, good when you get comfortable, and when you can hold it out for a long time it’s a good feeling.
Thats a great one. But I want to keep it legend, keep it the myth that is the fandangle.
Hard-flips? I know you love them.
Definitely not a hard-flip – I would say if anything a 360-flip. And then on the rail a frontside-nose-slide – they’re kind of like a strangely lost art. There aren’t a lot of guys who will frontside nose slide rails. It’s not that hard but no one does it. It’s a little strange.
Did you know that on IMDB you’re credited with inventing skate?
Yeah, I have heard that. but I remember playing skate before it was flat ground tricks. We played it on a curb or on a quarter pipe. Freestylers did it, but I didn’t because I didn’t know all of the tricks. Now today they’re doing switch-double-360-flips or whatever.
You can talk – you bet Morgan Smith with a fakie-laser-flip.
Yeah… but I was in it well before those.
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