No question you’ve been blessed with a power of influence as a professional athlete, business owner, even as a character in a video game. Through your life and career, has that influence ever felt like a weight and responsibility or more of an opportunity?
Early on, before I gained any wisdom about my role, I felt that whatever anyone told me my role was, that was it. I didn’t grow up with super clear boundaries or practice implementing boundaries, so it was really hard to determine what I was obligated to do. When I came to Christ I felt an obligation, but then I got burnt out. I felt like my relationship was just on display; like I was selling a product and was pushed to do so. That kind of put me in an untrusting place where I lost that spark and connection and had to go find it by destroying myself and blowing up my world all over again. It’s sad that I had to go through that but, you know, that’s what my faith journey looked like. Now I am seeing it as an opportunity. Even now though I tread lightly on how to share my faith. It’s not that I’m afraid to turn people off or that I’m afraid of rejection, it really is just a personal relationship–there are parts of it that are easy to profess and there are parts of it that are still personal. I’m trying to find that sweet spot of letting my light shine for others in all categories of life, but it’s not always easy to know what that looks like. I pray about it. The goal is to live it out so that people see a difference in you.
One of the last series of Zero skate decks had Bible verses on all of them and with you also brought back the original cross graphic for one of your pro models; it’s been pretty cool to see those. It seems like you’re becoming more vocal about your faith.
Well, I think that the external processing, or the external promotion if you will, is a byproduct of me coming to a degree of solidity in my faith; it’s like I’ve reconnected. When life gets really difficult, we should go to the Lord and fall to our knees and ask for help, guidance, and wisdom, but oftentimes I’ve been a bit blind to that and have tried to control things on my own. That’s really never a healthy path. I’ve led myself down that road though, and it’s a bit like a prodigal son type of story where I just turned my back on the Lord and tried to do things my way for an extended period of time. It basically imploded my world by developing bad habits and getting addicted to the world, acknowledgment, Instagram. I realized that I was severing my relationship with the Lord and the relationships that I value in this world even. It got to a point where it got so bad that I had to have that meeting with Jesus. I needed to surrender to the will of the Lord, and as cliché as it sounds, I had to go to the cross.
As you have grown in your relationship with God, has it become easier to let go of those things that try to hold onto you?
I spent a lot of my life being addicted to the things in this world that temporarily take away pain. The opposite thing of addiction is connection. For me, I see being tethered to the Lord is the starting point for that connection. If you’re spiritually connected to the Lord, you can be open to connecting with other people. That’s what I’m practicing: being connected; just calling people, showing up. There are a lot of ways to connect. Before I could do that though, I had to identify the addictions and obsessions I had. I couldn’t stop the obsessions or behavioral habits until I replaced them with other patterns for sure.
What did it look like and what does it still look like for you to connect with others more?
I began to actually physically go to church again and get plugged in. I joined a men’s group. I started studying my Bible and got plugged back into my faith. I had to be seen and share my struggles with other men. So that’s what I did. That helped me start a daily practice of prayer and checking in with the Lord. That daily practice really helped me set the course for the direction of my life. The more my confidence builds in the Lord, the more it makes sense to share that with others. I also feel this level of obligation to let my light shine. I think that’s where you see it coming through with more graphics. I think over the last few years I’ve become more mature and obviously you gain wisdom and maturity in your walk. This time feels more real–I can feel it permeating every part of my being.
You’ve never considered Zero a Christian brand though, right?
Zero is a very conflicted company; you have stuff that looks evil and stuff that looks Biblical and every shade in between. Zero was never a Christian company and even though I started the brand, it has a lot of different layers and lots of different facets; it represents lots of different individuals. I just try to make sure that I represent myself, my presence, and my company in a positive way. Zero is conflicted like the world is conflicted.
When we first connected and invited you to join us on the Colombia trip, you had shared that your family had done some ministry and missions in Mexico. What was that like?
My family has been on a few smaller mission trips. We also serve locally at our home church trying to help out however we can. But yeah, we had traveled down to Mexico to help build some homes. Getting to serve the Lord and other people is honestly probably one of the best feelings you can feel. Especially when you’re serving alongside those you love, building memories, helping others, just learning and working hard. I used to travel a lot more but nowadays I can’t afford time away from my family. My kids are teenagers, it’s not long before they’re gone. I’ve made the decision to only travel alone if it is absolutely a necessity so that I can spend more time with my family. I’m still down to travel but only if I can bring my family or at least one of my kids.
We were stoked on the idea of you bringing your boys. It was a blast having them–they definitely brought a fun dynamic to the group. Do you think they enjoyed the trip?
Yeah, they really liked it! They really enjoyed all of you guys. They definitely made a ton of great memories through the shenanigans, conversations; all of the things that we experienced, really.
That was your first time in South America, right?
It was. It’s crazy, you know, as a pro skater for 25 years I’ve never been to South America. I’ve traveled all over the world and visited a bunch of places in Central America, but never South America.
What did you think of Colombia and the people?
Well, what’s interesting is that the year before that trip I had taken some time off from traveling and touring, so I hadn’t really been in the public eye too much. That trip felt a little bit like a blast from the past. I will go on tours now and a lot of the fans that show up are so young–they’ve heard my name but they don’t really have a direct understanding of who I am. It was a little crazy because I felt as relevant in the skate scene in Colombia in 2019 as I was in the States 15 years earlier. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the admiration. It was tough to stay patient as everyone was trying to get pictures with me or get my autograph. But I have a lot of memories from the trip–for sure a lot of funny ones! It was just rad to witness even the relationships between the other guys on the trip, you guys playing cards, late night conversations, riding in the van together.
We were in Colombia over Go Skate Day. Have you ever experienced a gathering of skateboarders as big as the one in Medellín?
No, that was definitely unique. For the past ten years I’ve tried to avoid those insane crowds to be honest–not because I’m not into it, just because I’ve always felt a little overwhelmed by it. It was a little bit crazy because my youngest son Trey was only 11 at the time, and I had to keep an eye on him the whole time. You know, it’s an overwhelming experience and pretty chaotic with so many people but it was cool to experience it. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Sorry to make you relive this, but you took a weird fall right out of the gate on the first day of the trip. What happened?
Yeah, injuries aren’t very traumatic for me. I’ve gotten hurt a lot in skateboarding; it’s just part of my life. So there’s no problem reliving it. It definitely was just a minor injury. It didn’t cause me a lot of pain, it just kept me from skating which was a bummer. We had just gotten to the park and it wasn’t even really open yet. I rolled down a bank and my heel clipped the top of a hubba and it kind of lunged my body forward. I jumped off and dove to roll it out but landed on my shoulder weird. My body wasn’t warmed up at all and I separated my shoulder. It hurt at first and I remember massaging it, trying to see how bad it was, and even at one point thought it was okay. But then about five minutes later the stiffness and soreness set in and I couldn’t lift my arm at all. I was out for about two-three weeks.
Before the trip you had shared that your goal and hope was really just to watch, observe, and make memories with your boys. Do you feel like getting hurt that first day forced you to do more of that rather than skating?
Yeah, I wanted to be there just to be on the trip; I didn’t really have any expectations. I really love skateboarding and I love the connection it brings with the people I’m skating with, but it’s like when one of your senses is gone you just lean into the others more. Once I knew I couldn’t skate I had to embrace it; my only option was to embrace it or be miserable. There were times when it was tough watching everyone skate and trying to sleep at night was pretty rough. But those were just small inconveniences. Looking back, it was a blessing to see the trip from a different perspective.
You brought a camera with you on the trip. What were you shooting with and have you always been into photography?
About two years ago I started bringing a film camera with me any time I traveled. On this trip I brought a Leica M6. Shooting with the film camera really slows the moment down though–I like that. I like investing in things that slow the moment down. It’s really a newer thought for me; earlier on in the social media days I was completely immersed and addicted to Instagram–I was constantly thinking about instagram opportunities. That has kind of passed now and I’ve found a healthy relationship with social media. I just try to imagine the small pieces that most people don’t really notice and try to capture those. They help string together memories later on. I also really love how you don’t know what the picture looks like immediately. You just shoot it and a month later you’re completely surprised at all of these little moments that flood back into your memory. When I take a photo, I press the button, I see the shutter click, and I tend to live in that moment. Later when I get the film developed it reconnects me to that moment and that connection feels like it lasts a lot longer.
We’d love to have you join us on another trip in the future. You in?
I’d love to! Same thing still stands though–I’d want to bring my family. That last trip was awesome and something that my boys and I will remember forever. I’m super thankful that you all invited me and am looking forward to the next one!