John Cardiel Interview

Feb 28, 2011

Author: Andrew Norton

The term “needs no introduction” gets thrown around a lot, but if it rings true for anyone in skateboarding, it has to be John Cardiel. And even for the inexcusably ignorant, Cardiel’s installment of Epicly Later’d in 2008 set the bar for the series when it shared Cardiel’s seemingly super human stoke and told the story of how he went from being told he would never walk again to being back in the streets (on two wheels or four.) We caught up with John at his home in Sacramento and talked about the current state of skating, both his own and who he’s been hyped on, the Big-O and even his glass shattering close encounter with Canadiana.

Frontside 5-0 circa 2008. Courtesy of DLX

You were at the Vans' Backyard Party recently out in Montreal, how did you like that?
It was insane man, you know we got up there and it was a little cold, but once you got indoors, into that skate park, once you saw all of those kids ripping, it was insane. Just the easiness of the way kids do Nosegrinds on the ramp, I don’t know the easiness of that trick dude, it’s hard and people are just busting that trick, its so gnarly. Its like a Smith Grind or something for them. I just thought it was so sick!

I wanted to say one thing about Montreal; I was just tripping on the Big O, dude! I got a book by Barry Walsh and Marc Tison, they did the sickest book called like Pipe Fiends. I never got to skate it and I just always tripped on that spot, just how sick it was. The history on that spot is just super sick, that was probably one of the most hype experiences of the whole trip.

It’s funny to think about, we’re up here dreaming about spots down in SF like the China Banks and stuff, its funny to think that you guys were tripping on spots up here.
Oh for sure! White Rock and all those Vancouver spots, you know, you guys have skate parks, dude! We were like, “What?!”

Do you have any favorite memories of Canada, I’m sure something stands out to you from an old Slam City?

Favorite memory, huh? Yeah, well one time I was up there for Slam City, and I had never been to a hockey game before and Steve Van Doren [son of Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren] was like, “Hey I got these free tickets to check out a hockey game.” So I was with these friends and were like, “You know what, lets use these tickets.” I’m not really even like a big game fan, but I’d never even seen the game, never even watched it on TV or nothing, so we were just like, “Wow.” So we blasted in there, walked down and we didn’t even sit in our seats, we just walked to the glass or whatever and we’re just like watching, then some dude comes like flying through the glass right next to us! It was like insane 3-D, bro! I just like flipped out, we just like finished our beers and were like, “Wow, we obviously don’t understand what’s going on here, but this shit is legit.”

So that was a good taste of Canada right there.
Oh my god! Immediate bro, it was ridiculous!

“If you can skate at all, enjoy it because you can.”

We talked about you tripping on kids having tricks dialed, have you seen any skate videos online that psyched you out lately, any good parts?
Man, you know, as far as videos go things just move so fast, I’ve been tripping on Raven Tershy he just has some sick stuff in those little Lakai video parts that are always popping up. Raven Tershy, Emmanuel Guzman footage—these guys are going hard man, and it’s good to see.

Deluxe is about to drop the new Real video, is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing in that?
Well you know, Busenitz, man. I just want to see his fire, I can’t wait to see him blazing through the streets, just fast and awesome and hard, man. That just gets me hyped.

Speaking of that, where are you at right now with your skating?
Ah man, I mean right now I can’t run, so I totally get to a certain speed on my board where I can’t run out. If I bomb a hill it has to be some serious shit, I just have to hold on. But I haven’t really been skating that much to tell you the truth.

No doubt you’ve been able to roll on some sessions though.
Yeah, no we’ve been running around. We were just out in L.A. and Grosso had a board release party. I mean they skated Arto’s pool and some other pools in Huntington. I was just down there vibing and watching little Robbie Russo and Grosso skate, it just keeps me hyped. It’s just some good shit. Grosso’s been our friend for, shit man, since I’ve been on Black Label. He wanted to make the move, so it’s just awesome. It’s all love, man.

Boardslide. Via The Chromeball Incident

Anyone who has seen your Epicly Later’d knows you’ve taken up riding your bike pretty hard. What’s up with all the hate on fix gear bikes these days?
I don’t even know man, I don’t even put my nose in there. I don’t really give a fuck. Dude, if I could be skating, I’d be skating. But as far as me riding a bike goes, man anything to get me away from the house. Whatever wheels takes you away from your house, I’m all for it.  If people want to hate and waste their energy tripping on dumb shit, then hey, so be it.

I know you used to snowboard, have you been doing any of that lately, is that a little easier than skateboarding, or is that harder these days?

No, my back leg, my left leg because I’m goofy foot, it’s just really weak. So for me, all my weight would be on there so. You know if you’ve ever snowboarded, your back leg burns because you rest on it. Honestly dude, I think that maybe this year I could do some skiing. I’m just waiting for the spring time to come, because I’m thinking I could buckle myself into some skis. I’m thinking I could maybe charge down the hill, maybe hit a jump or something and land on my face, it would be great.

“Busenitz, man. I just want to see his fire…”

It was huge for most skaters watching that Epicly Later’d episode or that whole series of yours, what were some of the best reactions you’ve gotten from that?
People who just honestly skate and know what’s up with skateboarding appreciate it because it honestly makes them want to keep skating and want to keep doing it. Because it’s a thing that they can do, and other people can’t. And you know what man? To me that’s why I even was down for it, anything to not take for granted what we have is for me the most important thing to come out of that.

It was a pretty crazy story to share.

Yeah man, so that’s where I’m coming from on that. If you can skate at all, enjoy it because you can.

Crooked Grind from John's Skateboarder Interview. Gabe Morford photo

Before I let you go, what’s your favorite pro-model board that you’ve ever had?
Dude, my first one! My debut Dog Town board got busted out and it was going to be my first board. The graphic was like a drive-by shooting on some kids. At the time, I just thought the whole drive by thing when innocent kids got killed was so fucked. So the graphic was all good, then Dog Town fell apart like right as my board was going to come out. So my debut board never came out. We had the graphics and had the ad for the board coming out, but we never made the actual board. Then I ended up on Black Label with my first real board: a Copenhagen candy slick. So the Copenhagen was my first board and I took my shape from JJ Rogers’ pro model shape. So that was probably my favorite board because it’s an actual board, but if I had one of the Dog Town boards, that would have been my favorite. Its funny, actually Lucero put the board out for me, he actually got the graphic from the artist and we re-ran that board exactly how it would be as a Dog Town board and we just put like a Black Label flame on the graphic.

If there is one floating around, that would be prime for Ebay.

I know, right. We could underground make one and make some money off it. We can keep it on the low [laughs].


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The term “needs no introduction” gets thrown around a lot, but if it rings true for anyone in skateboarding, it has to be John Cardiel. And even for the inexcusably ignorant, Cardiel’s installment of Epicly Later’d in...
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