Sept 13, 2010
Author: Andrew Norton
|Lipslide. Clifford Photo (click to enlarge)
Every story has a beginning, whether it be Greek legend, Shakespearian tragedy or a comic book adventure. Hell, even the story of a pro skater has a start. And for a Canadian pro, his feature interview usually starts with a small town, typically full of disapproving jocks, legitimately skeptical parents and the tale of his very first board.
As cliche as first-deck stories may be, the story behind this particular first-shred sled is so quintessentially Canadian it must be mentioned. Jordan Hoffartís first board had a hockey puck drilled into the tail.
A hockey puck.
|Crooked Grind. Deville Photo (click to enlarge)
This prophetic plot device in the "Story of Hoff" was bestowed upon him by his then homeless uncle (“hippy in transition” homeless, not “stinky bum” homeless, Jordan clarifies), an ex-freestyler who used this puck-modified board to protect from razor-tail when he ripped crowd-pleasing, tail-dragging zigzags.
“So the next board I got, I got my dad to drill a hockey puck onto it so I didn’t fuck up the tail,” Jordan recalls. “That was obviously not normal.”
The jock-filled town mentioned earlier? Well, that is a relatively accurate description of Maple Ridge, B.C., where Jordan grew up. An hour outside of Vancouver, it’s a small town tucked away in the wilderness. “You could seriously drive on the main road, and it’ll just go by in a couple of traffic lights,” Jordan says.
As with any story, the setting plays a main part in building up our protagonist’s background. In this case, much of Jordan’s formative years on the board were spent at a place called The Neutral Zone.
“Four hours of prosthetics on my face every day, day in, day out.”
The Neutral Zone was another one of those classic Canadian anomalies where the city creates an indoor park in the middle of summer. While logic dictates that an indoor park would be much more useful in the middle of winter, countless young Canadians grew up sweating their collective asses off in these retrofitted hockey arenas and loved every minute of it (much to the dismay of touring pros). These indoor parks often become scene staples, but in a town as small as Maple Ridge, the park was the scene.
Being a young skater with a penchant for early grabs, these wooden ramps (designed by Kyle Dion, now president of New Line skateparks) became a second home to Jordan and longtime friend and, nearly 15 years later, Jordan’s latest teammate on Quiksilver Canada, Torey Goodall.
“That was our first exposure to the skateboard world. It was way more edgy back then,” says Torey, remembering the older crew of Neutral Zone locals. “They were smoking weed and drinking, and we were drinking Super Big Gulps.”
Among that older generation of Maple Ridge skaters was Trevn Sharp, whose title at the time was “Pink Helmet Pale Kid” (his words), but now, by a strange twist of fate (as often happens in stories like these), Sharp has a more dignified title as Jordan’s team manager at Quiksilver Canada.
Like any older park local, Trevn was the resident contest killer that young Jordan and Torey were in awe of in the late ‘90s. “Torey and I just thought that was so sick, fanning out hard-his whole posse was dope,” Jordan says.
“One year, I won a pack of golf balls and a free oil change,” says Trevn of his contest riches, “which is really valuable to a 15-year-old kid.”
It was at the Neutral Zone that Jordan (or “The Early-Grab Kid,” as he was known to park locals) started to stand out. By the time he had hit high school, Jordan was shredding harder than Trevn and the older crew.
“They put Jordan in black-dude makeup and made him skate this mini-ramp.”-Torey Goodall
“It got to the point where it was like, "Dude, we gotta keep up with Jordan,’” Trevn explains. “You’re stoked to see him at the contest, but then you just think, OK, at least I will try and get second place.”
In true hometown-hero fashion, Jordan soon assembled a deep bag of crowd-pleasing tricks-Benihanas, Airwalks, Sal Flips-all at full speed, with ripping energy. Although his tricks may have changed up (sadly, there are no Bennihannas in Jordan’s recent Fun! part), Jordan’s powerful style was cemented at a young age.
“He was putting on a show,” says Torey. “He’s still like that. If he goes to the skatepark, he just rips all the time.”
Jordan was ripping so hard that he even caught the eye of a Canadian skate icon, the man behind Skull Skates and PD’s Hot Shop.
“PD was like, ëHey, dude, you look like you’re having a lot of fun, I run a shop, here’s my card. If you want a board, give me a shout,’” Jordan says.
|Pop Shove. Norton Photo (click to enlarge)
Like Peter Parker getting bit by a radioactive spider or Bruce Banner messing around with gamma rays, that moment sealed Jordan’s fate. Maybe it wasn’t quite that momentous, but it was Jordan’s first brush with sponsorship. These days, getting a shop sponsor is like a right of passage for younger skaters rather than a privilege; back in 1998, Jordan was stoked to get free boards, but the gravity of being personally scouted by one of Vancouver’s scene builders might have been lost on him.
“Shit, I had no clue. I was just like, “Sick, free boards!’ “ remembers Jordan.
Through PD, Jordan was introduced to the world outside of Maple Ridge. Hitting parks farther from home with the North Van bowl series, he not only got to skate the hallowed concrete transitions of China Creek and Seylynn Bowl, Jordan got to meet legends like Alex Chalmers, Renee Renee and Rob “Sluggo” Boyce.
Fast forward a few short years later when a relatively new magazine, SBC Skateboard, features the skating of a pint-sized, pudgy-faced Jordan Hoffart busting a textbook Canadian flyout in an article also showing off the skating of prodigies Andrew Gordon and Ted Degros. Another issue featured Jordan flying off the same roof gap Jamie Thomas made famous with the opening spread of his October 1998 Transworld Pro Spotlight.
“I’m sure I get flack, I’m positive.”
“I like jumping off shit. I was always drawn to that kind of skating,” Jordan says, almost 10 years later.
In his early teens, the quick rush of jumping down big things drew him more to gaps and stairs rather than ledges and manny pads. “[Skating big stuff] is like a do-or-die situation. I kind of need that to put me in the mind frame to go for stuff,” he explains. “I put myself into scenarios where I can’t back out of it, and that’s where my best skating comes from.”
The do-or-die mentality has become a cliche touted by ultimate-fighting promoters and summer movie posters, but one would be hard-pressed to find an interpretation as literal as Jordan’s first part as a professional skater and magnum opus of gnar in Powell’s 2009 video, Fun!
Filming a pro part in contemporary skateboarding has become a nervous-breakdown-inducing production. Not only must skaters keep up with the ever-raising bar set by hungry kids in their YouTube promos, they must also top their last performance. Enough to make any pro skater’s ankles sore just watching it, Jordan’s stunt work in Fun! seems like second nature.
“A lot of shit I did was just kind of out of spite,” says Jordan. “I would be like, “OK, fuck you, Deville [Nunes, Powell TM and photographer]. I’m going to do this right here.’ Stuff like that; jokingly, you know? It was almost like a rivalry- that’s what he wanted-like a reverse psychology thing.”
Jordan’s motivation also grew from how far he had progressed from his roots in Maple Ridge. Unlike kids whose move to the skateboarding holy ground of San Diego is only a quick bus ride away, Jordan had more on the line when he made the move.
“You got a company that is footing the bill for your working visa,” he says. “Dude, this is your time to make shit happen.”
Not wanting to be on the Greyhound back to Maple Ridge is humbling to someone who worked so hard to make it to where he is. A daunting thought when you’re trying to do something you love and make a living from it as well. Jordan is no stranger to balancing the polarized world of professional skateboarding, where many people have a hard time wrapping their head around skating as work.
”It is all about fun, but the envelope is pushed so hard that sometimes there are going to be some challenges. You’re either going to want to rise and make a plan to belt out these obstacles, or you’re not,” he says. “I either do it now, or I go back home.”
“I started making this little pedestal for myself, and I had to smash it.”
Trevn says, “He has worked hard to get there, and now he’s going to work as hard as he can to stay where he’s at.”
After all he put into it, Jordan couldn’t help but look online after Fun! reached the masses. It’s not often that you picture a pro skater sitting down and reading the idle shit-talk being thrown out on message boards. Like the heckles endured by a centre fielder from the stands, one has to wonder if it’s water off a duck’s back or if these pro athletes take the shit-talking to heart.
Preparing for the worst, Jordan clicked the thread about the Powell video. Much to his surprise, even the most bitter of haters found little to pick apart.
“That’s rare,” Jordan laughs. “There was one kid that said some gnarly thing like, “Hey, Jordan, would you rather Backside Noseblunt Staples or have sex with your mother?’ “
Libido-destroying mental images aside, Jordan believes he dodged the bullet because of his relatively late addition to the U.S. skateboard limelight has allowed him carte blanche. He can let his skating do the talking, rather than his persona. In a world where a rockstar personality can buffer soft video parts, Jordan still opts to let his skating speak for itself.
|Frontside Flip Late Shove. Odam Photos
“I don’t put on this persona, marketing myself like some people do. Like, “Hail Satan.’ Or, “This one’s for Satan,’ “ says Jordan. “The fact that you’re claiming that you don’t give a fuck, a lot of people don’t give a fuck. It just never really occurred to me to put on that hat.”
Having been sponsored since before hitting puberty, Jordan is no stranger to the idea of a public persona. By age 15, he had amassed a sponsor list that was hefty even by today’s standards. At one point, Jordan was receiving Jones Soda by the crateload.
“You get like eight flats of soda a month-it was crazy,” he recalls. “Dude, the apparel was gnarly, it was like flame T-shirts... it was pretty bad.”
Along with the cavities those flats of soda brought, they also helped give a young Jordan an inflated ego.
”It probably would have happened to anyone in that stage,” says Trevn, who skated with Jordan during his first brush with sponsorship. “He’s getting money, he’s skating and selling cases of Jones soda out of his locker. He’s got a low-rider red truck with a glowing ball as a gear shifter.”
“In high school he bought this kind of Latino gangsta low-rider truck,” Torey confirms. “For a 15-year-old kid in high school, he was pretty hot on the scene.”
Like an episode of E True Hollywood Stories colliding head on with Degrassi High, Jordan’s low-rider became a symbol of how sponsorship can go to one’s head. Even these days, at first glance his sponsor list might appear like Jordan is just trying to cash in.
“Some people keep skateboarding non-corporate and just skate brands. I’m sure I get flack, I’m positive. People love to hate on that kind of stuff,” Jordan says of his nonendemic sponsors. “I kind of had a realization: I’m going to be a skateboarder forever, but I’m not going to be able to be a professional skateboarder forever. Especially how saturated the industry is now, there’s so many good skateboarders.“It sticks with you that you can get fucked up doing this. Not only that, a lot of people have everything one day and nothing the next, even if they didn’t have an injury. You see it month to month.”
Rather than using this epiphany as an excuse to pad his sponsor list with brands willing to fork over easy money, Jordan instead now works closer with only brands he trusts to get the most out of the experience.
“I never felt like the companies that I ride for were people that were in it to really use me to make a load of money and screw me over. They are people that I can talk to and bounce ideas off of and they keep me involved. The more people that I get involved with and work with, the more I’m going to learn. I pretty much just wanted to learn about the industry side and how products work from concept to finished product,” he says. “People go to school to learn that, and here is the opportunity just because you ride a skateboard.”
Jordan’s work ethic comes as no surprise to Torey: “He’s always been a goal-setting type of person. He owned a home when he was like 18. He’s a goofy-ass dude, but he definitely had adult tendencies.”
|Kickflip. Norton Photo (click to enlarge)
“It all started with getting rid of that damn red truck,” says Trevn, only half joking.
In addition to his vehicle of choice, Jordan also gained infamy in the Vancouver scene after leaving high school when his dabbling in background film work turned into bigger movie roles. Jordan got his first taste of the movie industry at 14 with the help of Sluggo and Alex Chalmers, who were both in their prime doing stuntwork.
“If they needed a young kid skateboarder, I would come, audition and usually get it because there weren’t a lot of kids my age who were skating hard,” says Jordan.
“I never saw that kind of money in my life.”
Throughout high school the roles poured in. Torey is more than happy to recall one role in a breakfast cereal commercial that pushed Jordan’s limits as an actor: “They needed a black kid skating, but they couldn’t find one. So they put Jordan in black-dude makeup and made him skate this mini-ramp.”
Upon making the move out of Maple Ridge and into Vancouver after graduating, Jordan snagged the role that has gained him the most notoriety in the skate world, as a skateboarding vampire opposite Jessica Biel in 2004’s Blade: Trinity.
“They heard I was a skateboarder, too, so they tried to throw skateboarding in there,” Jordan says. “So I noseslid this big-ass escalator hubba. They ended up just using me coming off of the escalator, so the whole bit was just a complete waste of time.”
Besides coming away with a now infamous story about Biel giving him a special birthday present at a party (“Over it,” replies Jordan when asked for verbal confirmation) that will forever be passed along in Canadian skate folklore, Jordan had a major motion picture under his belt and a few actual stunts to show for it. Soon after, Jordan got cast in his first leading role: Zolar, an extreme sports alien in the kids’ film bearing the same name as his character.
“He was this blue alien with like a dick for a nose,” says Torey.
“I had a team of human kids, and we would save the planet from an attack from an evil alien... it was insane. You can find it in the dollar bin at Wal Mart. It’s pretty dope,” jokes Jordan. “I already signed the contract, and I’m dressed up like a alien. Four hours of prosthetics on my face every day, day in, day out. I never saw that kind of money in my life.”
Trevn explains: “He just realized it was something he needed to do to put him in the position so he could skate more and he wouldn’t have to worry about his income.”
Though he laughs about it now, when Jordan was an 18-year-old who would rather be skating every day than delivering cheesy lines while driving a snowmobile in head-to-toe blue makeup, it wasn’t quite as funny.
“The whole time I was like, “This is so lame, dude. I just wanna fucking skate.’ I was that guy,” he says.
Blue alien with a phallic nose or not, it was a lot of money, especially for a skate rat from Maple Ridge. And unfortunately for Jordan, it wasn’t just the four hours’ worth of makeup that was swelling his head.
“I was becoming this very selfish, self-righteous person, based off a little bit of money and a little bit of success. Which in hindsight wasn’t much success at all,” says Jordan.
“He was this blue alien with like a dick for a nose.”-Torey Goodall
Like Superman and Kryptonite or Alf and eating cats, the protagonist of our story had found his weakness. Luckily for us, the skateboarding public, Jordan’s Hollywood ego was eventually deflated. His slice of humble pie came in the form of his older sister, whom Jordan is close with.
“She could see what was happening and knew what was coming,” says Jordan. “I started making this little pedestal for myself, and I had to smash it before it was finished.”
To Jordan, it’s just another event he’s chalked up to experience.
“Looking back I just think, “Who cares?’ I’m going to be 40, smoking weed with my homies, watching Zolar and saying, “Dude, what the hell is this? That was so tight you did that movie when you were like 18. That’s crazy.’
|5050 Gap to the Road. Alley Photo (click to enlarge)
“I was kidding about the weed and shit when I’m 40.” he adds in a self-reflexive moment not rare in Jordan. “At the end of the day, I’m not better than anybody else. I’m just another person on this earth trying to figure out what they love and what they want to do.”
This article was featured in our Late Summer 2010 Issue.
Check out Jordan's part in Adio's new online video series Going Forward.
Adio Footwear Presents "Going Forward"-Jordan Hoffart from Mike Metcalf on Vimeo.