We recently chatted to The Skateboard Mag’s online content guru about how his blog Mostly Skateboarding led to greater things, working on DIY spots, the frustrations of “skate time” and people thinking he doesn’t really exist – (he does) – Enjoy –
Interview by Stephen Cox
So where are you from?
I’m originally from North Carolina, went to Virginia for college then moved to California for two years to film skateboarding. I came back to Virginia from California almost ten years ago.
And how did you get into skateboarding?
I saw my cousin skateboarding at my grandmother’s house one Christmas and since I looked up to him I thought skateboarding was super cool and finally got my first board for Christmas the next year. I skated mostly my driveway with the neighborhood kids then got into street skating in high school then in college I really started traveling and filming a bunch because I now had friends from school who lived in different cities that we could visit easily. Plus in college there was so much time to explore the city and surrounding area.
So do you still find the time to skate as much as you would like?
I don’t think any adult skater gets to skate as much as they’d like. There’s always some other important thing that needs to be taken care of. I feel fortunate that I can skate once or twice a week. I wish I could go on weekend trips more. I’ve been trying to make more time for skateboarding lately. I try to tell myself that people make time for the gym or exercise. Skateboarding is like my exercise except it’s fun and creative.
Definitely true. Can you tell us about what’s been occupying your time recently?
Most days I’m just updating The Skateboard Mag’s website with the latest news and videos. Over the past three weekends I’ve been working with some friends on some DIY spots. It’s been my first experience working with concrete. So far it seems to have worked well. I wish I’d started building stuff earlier and realized that I would never find the perfect spot to build and just start building on what we had.
Where did you end up working on the DIY spots?
The DIY spot we are working on is actually pretty ideal, I was just hoping to find one close to my house. I’m really picky and patient, so I was just holding out for the perfect place until I realized that the perfect place isn’t going to happen and I should just start building and learning.
How is it working for The Skateboard Mag then?
Working for The Mag is awesome. I feel so fortunate to be a part of The Mag and just skateboarding in general. It still trips me out sometimes when Grant Brittain sends me an email even if it’s just forwarding on a press release.
Do you have a typical day?
I have a regular (non-skate) job that I go to, so between that and The Mag, I stay pretty busy. I think being in Virginia is the most frustrating part. I haven’t met many industry people in person. Some people don’t even think I’m a real person, they think I’m just a name that The Mag uses to post to their website. Mostly I think that’s funny, but it can’t be good for my career if people think I don’t actually exist.
I think I’d go crazy if I wasn’t involved with skateboarding somehow. I got recruited through my blog where I was basically posting skate links all day, so to be getting paid to do that now is amazing. I would watch all these clips weither I was getting paid to or not. Free stuff is nice. It feels like I’m sponsored, but I don’t have to film or get coverage.
And what challenges and frustrations to you come across?
Skateboarding, like any business has its frustrations, but nothing major. Things sometimes run on “Skate time” – someone says they will get you something on Tuesday then you end up getting in on Friday. But some companies run a tighter ship than others. And I think in general the last couple of years everyone has been more professional. Maybe with the industry tightening, those people running on skate time don’t have jobs anymore.
What complications can “skate time” cause?
“Skate time” is just a slight frustration in the grand scheme of things. Sometime someone will take their time getting me some images to build a Facebook contest or something then I have to rush to get it done by the time we had agreed to launch the contest. I think it’s a problem more on the ground with people just rolling up late for a filming mission or deciding that Saturday is a good day to get their hair done instead of go out and film tricks.
That actually happened.
I don’t wanna know who. Do you ever find yourself lagging or falling onto “skate time”?
I think “skate time” can have a cascading effect. If I get what I need late then I’ll be late getting my work done and on to the next person. If I see someone isn’t taking something seriously then it’s harder to take it seriously myself. I try really hard to not run on Skate Time myself but it has happened.
Does this ever make you think maybe some people in the industry perhaps take what they have for granted?
I don’t think the behind the scenes people take what they have for granted. Most of those people have probably worked some other job with strict bosses and unfulfilling work. It’s the people who never had a regular job that might take it for granted. I hope everyone in skateboarding checks themselves regularly and is grateful that they get to think about skateboarding all day and not have to wear a tie and devote all their energy into something they don’t believe in.
What have been some of your favourite experiences from working in the industry?
When I was a filmer out in California, just being a part of things was awesome. Riding around with legends hearing stories while out filming is probably my favorite memory. I filmed a couple of tricks in Yeah Right! Just being a part fo that video is awesome. I rode on the back of Heath Kirchart’s motorcycle once. He was going 100mph between cars with me on the back holding on for dear life but trying to play it cool. Now as a blogger, it’s nice to be a part of skateboarding in a small way but in a way that people appreciate. Being in a position to let people know about smaller companies is nice too. I’m always rooting for the little guy outside the mainstream, so I try to help them out with blog posts when I can. I’ve never been one to seek attention, so to find out that people are thinking about me at all even if they think I’m a robot is pretty cool.
So why did you start the blog?
I started Mostly Skateboarding out of boredom and seeing a void that I could fill. I worked at a production company making director’s reels and had a lot of down time, so I’d just hang out online. I looked at Coudal.com a lot. They just post a bunch of interesting links, mostly art and design type stuff. I thought someone could do that for skateboarding. Post 22 was going strong at the time and would occasionally link to videos from kids around the country making montages and I just wanted to see all these montages and people skating interesting spots instead of California’s blown out spots. So I made Mostly Skateboarding and just started posting links to videos and other interesting stuff. I posted some pro stuff from the big companies, but I figured those got plenty of play in the mainstream media, so I focused mainly on the little guys just doing it for their scene.
How did you get approached from the blog?
Kevin Wilkins from The Skateboard Mag was aware of Mostly Skateboarding somehow and he contacted me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to do what I was doing for The Skateboard Mag. I said “yes” of course and started doing The mag’s blog and switched Mostly Skateboarding to just small scene videos.
How did you start hearing about people thinking you didn’t exist?
When Bob Kronbauer came out with his documentary about Don Pendelton I asked Kevin to ask Bob if he could send me a copy of the video. He sent me the video but in his response to Kevin, he said he thought I was just a pseudonym used by The Mag staff to post on the site. More recently, RP Bess from World Industries mentioned on Instagram that Bart Jones said I was a robot. I thought it was funny so I screen grabbed it and Instagrammed it myself.
Do you see your career within the industry expanding then?
I would love my role in the industry to expand. I hope it will. I have a less demanding full time job so that I can have time to be a part of skateboarding. Even though my full time job pays most of my bills, skateboarding is always in the forefront of my mind. It would be a dream for my full time job to be in skateboarding. It would be fun to see what I could come up with if I could devote all my time to a skate company and have resources to do new things.
We’ve been speaking to Chops recently who’s quite adamant that The Chrome Ball Incident will end, which I really can’t see happening.
I can see why Chops might feel that Chrome Ball might need to end. There will probably come a point where all the guys he and his readers care about have been posted. At that point he would have to post the mediocre photos of people long forgotten. I think he could evolve the blog and keep it going. He does some of the best interviews, so I hope he keeps doing those for a long time. It can be hard to work really hard on a personal project like that if it is not generating money. There is something to be said for the intangible gains something like that earns. I’m sure being Chops from Chrome Ball has opened doors for him just like doing Mostly Skateboarding opened doors for me. With Mostly Skateboarding I feel the need to evolve and change the site. I’ve thought about ending it a few times, but I like having my own thing and I’ve put a lot of effort into it over the years. It would be hard to just walk away from that.
I read the 48 Blocks Pappalardo interview a while ago, I definitely don’t want to start being assumptious or judge but it has made me think having discussed with you how much time you put into skateboarding as well as having a full time job, what do you think has to be said for skaters who don’t put out footage, rep their companies and so on?
I just read it myself. I’d love to hear the Cons side of things and also be able to look at the books and really know the truth. Skating is just weird. It seems to me there are some people who don’t get coverage because they have super high standards. I respect that a lot. I’d rather see something interesting than the latest NBD on a famous handrail. But if you have high standards you have to maintain those high standards. You can’t make people wait then have a weak photo come out. Skating is more art than sport, so there is a lot of room for people to be weird and illusive. I don’t want skateboarding to be a jock type thing. There is something to be said about giving people the space to be creative. Nobody wants a skate coach driving them from spot to spot demanding tricks. Skateboarding is rad because we don’t have that. There is room for all kinds of skaters who get varying degrees of coverage doing wildly different things than each other. Some guys are lazy, others are more like tortured artists.
Do you think there is something to be said about the work ethic within the skateboarding industry from skaters and the rest alike?
We’ve talked a lot about “skate time” in this interview [laughs].
Yep sorry [laughs].
I think it takes a lot of work and a lot of hustle to make a living doing what you love. As I said before I think a lot of the people not willing to do hard work have gone away as companies go under or downsize. What remains are the truly passionate and committed people who are going to do the best stuff for skateboarding and the rest have gone off to find another job.
I liked that “term tortured” artist by the way. Moving on, you a fan of contests at all?
Kevin Wilkins came up with the tortured artist parallel. I can’t take credit for it. I like contests but I think there are just too many. When you stop being impressed by a 270 Noseblunt at a contest there needs to be a change. If you look at people’s winning runs you can tell they are holding back. It’s a good strategy to win the contest, but it’s not very exciting. I like different contests like Lord of the Lines, Skate and Create, or best trick contests. I think spots matter a whole lot. More than tricks almost, so to see the same basic set up all the time is so boring. I want a contest with weird obstacles that people have to figure out how to skate. That’s probably not very exciting to watch on TV or as a spectator. Vans Downtown Showdown is awesome because it shows skating’s more creative side and you get a diverse set of obstacles that force people to be creative.
How do you vision skateboarding progressing?
I think Skateboarding will keep getting gnarlier. It always has. Hopefully we see more creativity in how skating is presented. Better photos and videos with higher production values. Colin Kennedy is doing some awesome really creative stuff. I’m from the “park footage doesn’t count” school of thought but I think we will see more park footage and that being more acceptable. I think we will see more pros living outside of California.
What keeps you excited?
Skateboarding is what keeps me excited. The experience of skating with my friends and building stuff is what excites me. Finding new spots or new ways to skate old spots. Being a part of skateboarding beyond just being a participant is really cool. I feel like i can point out things people may not find on their own. I can promote smaller brands that may not be able to buy ads but are doing awesome things. Or I can link to videos that kids are making in their home towns. That really inspires me. Kids are going for broke for their friend’s video because they love skateboarding. The internet is exciting. It let me be a part of the industry from Virginia. It lets us see what people all over the world are doing. I like that skateboarding is becoming less centralized in California. Being a part of the evolving media landscape is fun. It will be cool to see what happens next.
You’re in quite a unique position of being aware of both the bigger and smaller sides of skateboarding. Can you comment on the differences?
When I left California, I never thought I’d be a part of the larger skate landscape again. For me personally it is nice to not be a filmer anymore and not have to chase after the next big trick. I can skate the spots I want to instead of going to some giant gap I can’t skate. I’m probably a better skater now than I’ve ever been.
Do you feel that there is a rise in the “local shop scene” currently?
I think the internet has done a good job of letting local scenes show off their talent. I think scenes are stronger now because of the internet. I feel a lot more connected to my scene because I follow a bunch of locals on Instagram. Half of them are people I haven’t even met, but I like to see if new spots are popping up or what is being done in my area. Ive connected with people online then had them show me around their city. I think this kind of thing was always going on with zines and contests but with the internet its just so much easier. I think this is a great time for smaller skate communities. People can connect so much easier. Even if a town lacks a real skate shop kids can still get their hands on anything. They can connect with each other even if there is no central spot where people would meet up at in the old days.
Can you tell us about some of the more unnoticed works and footage you’ve been posting recently then?
I actually have a couple of unused clips, unfinished lines, and alternate angles from Yeah Right! times. I have them edited into a montage and everything. I’m not sure why I’m still sitting on it but for some reason I don’t feel ready. I like filming and taking photos and making stuff but I’m less excited about sharing them once I’m finished. I probably should post that montage…
Definitely something worth sitting on but now I want to see it [Laughs]. So are there any skaters out there you know of that you can’t understand why they aren’t doing any better, or perhaps aren’t being recognised more than they should be?
I can’t think of any major oversights right now. There is so much more to getting hooked up or going pro than just being a talented skateboarder. I think in most cases the cream rises to the top. Those who really want it will work hard to make it happen. Maybe some guys who are really good but not willing to put in the effort will get left behind but I think that happens with everything, sports, business, school.
Sounds about right. Do you think Pretty Sweet has proved there is room for the DVD then? Maybe there wasn’t an issue in the first place.
I think companies will always be making DVDs. Musicians are still making CDs and records even. Plan B has just announced their full length is coming this summer. Maybe they won’t sell as well as they once did, but the full length is still a cool way to present a company and their skaters. You don’t really get a team vibe from a single video part. That being said, I really only watch a full length once or twice then I just watch the parts that I like. But I think if I was still living in a skate house I’d rewatch a lot more videos.
What upcoming videos are you excited about then?
I’m looking forward to whatever Pontus Alv and Polar puts out next. The rewatchability of his stuff is so high. The Vans video should be amazing whenever that comes out. I want to see more Life Splicing clips from Alien Workshop. The Zero video should be great. I hope Nick Boserio has a full part. I love seeing local stuff, so I’m really looking forward to the next Alley Bar montage, 207 the new Pit Crew video, Belly of the Beast from Allen Danze, The Fun Has Begun out of North Carolina. Seeing people I know skating spots that I know gets me stoked. France, Australia, and Japan seem to put out some cool and interesting videos so I’m looking forward to whatever is next from those countries. NIke seems to always be working on something. They always bring something interesting to the table plus they have a good team. I’m kinda looking forward to everything. I love skate videos.
It’s been great chatting with you, I think we can just about wrap this up. What are your plans for 2013?
I’m working on a podcast right now for Mostly Skateboarding, so that’s kinda the next big thing for me. I’ve made a pilot episode so it is getting close to being a real thing. Instead of music, I’ll recommend some podcasts people can listen to before the Mostly Skateboarding Podcast drops. This American Life, Radio Lab, Nerdist, The Memory Palace, On The Media, Slate’s Culture and Political Gabfests, and The Moth.
Wanna throw out some thanks?
I gotta thank my wife first. Then Steve Berra and Kevin Wilkins for giving me a chance and making my dreams come true. Then all the people I’ve dealt with over the years, skaters, filmers, photographers, company people. Finally I want to give a shout out to all the people out there in their own scenes making videos and websites and just making things happen for themselves.
Thanks for this.
Check out Templeton’s blog, Mostly Skateboarding
More content posted by Templeton over at The Skateboard Mag
Follow Templeton on Twitter: @MostlySkate
Photos by Kellette Elliott (portrait), Shawn Owens, Howard Tarpey, Shane Henry and Brendan Ash.
Follow Stephen Cox on Twitter: @stephen_coxy
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