(Featured: Sidewalk Magazine website, 23rd June 2015, Part 1/3.)
Your new shoe for Vans, the ‘Rowley [Solos]’, launches this month Geoff – how long have you been developing it for and what kind of process has that involved?
It’s been roughly a twelve-month development process, which is standard protocol for footwear design. Initially the process starts with the basic overall direction – what construction, silhouette, price point and so on – before we move on to basic sketches and 2D drawings. Once we refine and approve the design direction, things then get a little more in-depth. A CAD drawing is done with materials, colors, logo application, detail and overall fit. The design then goes to the initial sampling stage.
Has there been any direct influence from your other pro models? Or do you feel that even if you can’t see it, there’s an influence from all of your other shoes as you’ve learned along the way?
Most certainly; all my shoes have the same essential DNA, same fit, factory, rubber content and influence.
You reintroduced your original Vans shoe with a few performance updates about a year and a half ago. How does it feel having two models available and seeing the progression from your first to your most current?
It’s pretty rad; I’m blessed to have things come full circle. My first shoe was definitely about adding comfort to the vulcanized construction, while this new model is more about durability with a low profile. I’m stoked on both. I still ride my first shoe and still love it.
Vans also released the Rowley Pro Lite, which followed the silhouette of your original shoe but utilised some of the technology Vans have developed such as the Rapidweld system in place of traditional stitching. Why did you want to release this overhauled version of your shoe?
Because the technology allowed us to try something that could potentially have been groundbreaking for vulcanized construction, it allowed the shoe to be extremely light and breathable. The silhouette of my original shoe also worked well with the construction parameters. Credit should be given to the Vans Footwear design dept. It was a very difficult shoe to manufacture and I don’t think people really understood that when it was released. The Rapidweld construction allows for no stitching in the ollie area along with a very different visual aesthetic, one that actually serves a purpose and function.
Speaking of some of the new features Vans have started implementing…As you’ve always been a diehard vulcanized sole fan, what do you think to the Wafflecup Vans are currently using on shoes like the Stage 4 and Crockett Pro?
I prefer vulcanized construction for skating most of the time, but in the past have had quite a few pro models that have been a cup sole. I like the Wafflecup and Gilbert’s shoe in general; it lasts really well and holds its shape.
The Rowley SPV took an alternate take on Vans classic vulc by going incredibly slimmed down. Why did you want to go back to a more traditional waffle sole this time around?
The latest model was first and foremost influenced by the original Made in the USA Vans Era model; it had to have a traditional waffle tread and sole thickness. With the SPV I just wanted to try something a little different. That shoe ruled.
Are the years of jumping down stairs/gaps/rails in slimmer shoes catching up to you now? In your own words ‘there is a certain amount of confidence that comes with being familiar and comfortable with your tools’ – do you still stand by that? When it comes to hurling yourself down the things you have, would you say that being able to feel your board perfectly is as, or even more, important than a cushioned impact?
I stand by that statement 100%, I have ultimate confidence when skating in the Vans vulcanized shoes. Most padding and performance on other skate shoes doesn’t perform the way that the brand promotes, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried the so-called next big thing only to find out that the designer didn’t understand the first thing about construction for a shoe for everyday skating. With Vans it’s pretty simple, if it works…that’s a great thing to build from, not the other way around.
You’ve been very active in the design process for all of your shoes and have been quite meticulous in detail from the original drawing, choosing colourways and everything in between. Along with shoes, you’ve also design knives and field gear for Civilware; where do you draw inspiration from when designing a shoe or product either for Vans or Civilware?
The shoes are usually influenced by early Vans DNA, the Van Doren family heritage past and present notably. Along with detail and branding that helps take that heritage and brings it to today. I’m a professional hunting guide for Kika Outfitters in the State of California, I use an immense amount of gear in the field daily, if something sucks or doesn’t perform well I take note. It’s amazing how much of this ‘so called’ professional mountain gear is absolute crap for ‘real’ use in the field. I always have at least three knives with me and they are used and tested under all conditions, mechanically. I love knives, they remind me of skateboard trucks or revolvers, not that complicated, but if one thing is off then the performance plummets sharply.
You’ve also got an apparel range launching with Vans. We know you’ve got a lot of love for the outdoors and Wild West side of America’s history, did you draw on either of those for inspiration in your signature apparel collection?
Honestly, no. The apparel range was done at the same time as the new shoe. The whole collection was designed concurrently – labels, packaging and trim detail is consistent throughout the whole range and was influenced by Vans history with canvas, hence the natural canvas colour of the labels, trim and internal canvas on the shoes. We started with the pants, then worked in a lightweight canvas jacket, moisture wicking tees and a snapback. First colour chosen after the natural canvas was blue, because that was the colour of the original skate shoe, the Vans Era. It was important to me that the gear held up for skating, and was designed for skating.
Could you give us a full rundown of the shoe? Like what features it utilises such as the Duracap vulc and upper under layer, Ultracush insole, etc?
Vulcanized construction, Ultracush insole, low profile ankle height hence the name [SOLOS]. A layer of molded Duracap in between the suede and canvas backer, perforated to breathe, but designed to add durability and keep the toe box shape intact.
What have you been up since you finished filming for Propeller?
I’m filming for another video already; I filmed a few things after deadline that we couldn’t fit into the video so I’m just keeping the ball rolling. I love my skating more than ever, having a blast!
Aren’t you currently sitting on a bunch of footage that didn’t make it into the video? Was that what was released as your Raw Files or might we be seeing something else little down the line? Is there anything in the works for Flip at all?
My Raw Files was not what was mentioned above, that was strictly everything that wasn’t used in Propeller up to the deadline date. I’d love to make another Flip video; that would be sick.
The story about you almost dying after that fence gap went wayward was gnarly. Obviously it set you back filming quite a bit but were you happy with your part in the end?
I was out for 8 months under doctors’ orders with that slam; I was only able to skate the last 6 months before the final deadline. It wasn’t the slam that fazed me; it was the time I’d lost right on deadline that was a pain in the arse. I’m stoked on my part, just wish I had another couple of months to get those last bangers. But that’s skating for you…it’ll win sometimes, and I’m fine with that.
How was filming with Greg Hunt and Cody Green compared to past cinematographers you’ve spent time with like French Fred or photographers like Daniel Sturt?
It was killer, Greg rules and Cody is the best follow filmer in the business. They supported me like a brother, had my back and motivated the shit out me. Fred was different, although for similar reasons I’ll always love filming with him. Dan Sturt is a whole other animal, if Dan started filming properly again I’d be the first in line waiting to bust some moves. He’s the most naturally talented photographer and filmer ever to grace our industry.
Photo: Kevin Banks
Was Greg on board with you skating to Motorhead straight away? Were there any other songs you were thinking of using?
I knew early on it had to be Motorhead. Lemmy is the baddest dude in the music industry. He’s been in the studio the last three months straight recording another album that will be out soon. Greg and myself talked quite a bit about music, every track had to have that energy that stoked us out on early skate videos. He did a great job with the whole soundtrack – Ozzy, Slayer and Motorhead on the same video…it doesn’t get much better.
How important was it for you to have some footage of the UK/Liverpool in your part?
It was super important to me that my part started in Liverpool, and ended in my current hometown of Long Beach. I felt like the Vans tradition wouldn’t be there unless we looked at it like that. The opening scene was at Edge Lane Skatepark (Rathbone Skatepark), which is where I spent my youth. It was the first skatepark I ever went to and the terrace houses in the background are where my parents grew up, met and then married. Every single Saturday since I was six years old was spent in that area. My dad for years was the manager of Edge Hill Boys Club Football team too so to say the area holds a special place in my heart is an understatement.
What was it like skating Edge Lane now compared to what it was like back in the day? Did you encounter more or less scallies this time around?
It is definitely a rough area, always has been. Not a place you would go alone, unless you could run like a champ. We had some issues the first time I went with Greg Hunt and AVE, some little kids tried traditional scally moves but luckily I noticed and we got out of there as the big brothers showed up (laughs)!
The scene in Liverpool right now is easily one of the best in the UK. Obviously you aren’t there to experience it all the time but it must be rad whenever you come back and visit, to see it bloom so much over the years, right?
The skaters in Liverpool are like nowhere else in the world: salt of the fucking earth and good people. Always has been, always will be…hopefully. Big shout out to Mackey for being there and building that foundation of raw stoke. I love the way Liverpool skaters skate, no rules, raw and most importantly…real.
Any chance we might get to see a few guest tricks from you in the upcoming Beef Stew video from Lost Art?
I’m down for whatever Mackey wants, if he wants me in there I’ll film my tits off.
A lot of your part in Propeller was filmed in ditches, which is a type of spot you seem have had a pretty good relationship with throughout your video parts. Why did you choose to focus on skating them so much this time around?
I was tired of getting kicked out of spots just to get one trick; that gets old. At ditches you can show up and hang out without any negative interaction, usually. I also like the ditch terrain because you can find humongous spots and gain maximum speed, like bombing a hill.
Some looked fun, some looked absolutely terrifying. Did you have a favourite clip or trick from your part in Propeller?
Bigger banks, more speed and hard slams. I don’t have favorites; it’s the memories surrounding the day that I get a kick out of. I enjoyed slamming bombing the hill at Edge Lane; I rolled in on dried up white dog shit. Classic.
In your part you backside 360’d into the downhill ditch. Was that your redemption after you got served up with the other backside 360 over the fence? Or did you film it beforehand?
It was filmed beforehand, the spiked fence roof gap slam was the only other 360 I had wanted to do. I went there three times and got kicked out every single time until I got a chance to try it. After the slam the area had the wrong vibe.
I noticed you seemed to skate regular wheels on all those spots too. Was that because they were smooth enough to not need softies or skating that sort of terrain just feels better when its rougher and you have to push a bit harder?
That’s actually not true, most of my part was filmed with soft filming wheels, or black 95a OJ’s, I barely ride standard wheels anymore. They just aren’t fast enough.
Do you feel that you missed out on a few filming missions with the other Vans guys from filming your part that way, rather than going on as many traditional street missions? Or would any of the other Vans team get involved with those ditches sessions often?
I filmed with all the guys in the video, I just don’t enjoy those pile in the van filming sessions anymore. I also wanted to film everything in the Southwest U.S. because that’s where I love to skate.
Who out of the younger members of the Vans team did you spend a lot of time skating with over the course of Propeller? Obviously Curren Caples skates for Flip too, but are there any of the other young guns you get particularly hyped on skating with?
Elijah Berle is sick, super fun to skate with. Dan Lu is as cool as he seems, always stoked and down for hard ripping. I skated a bunch with AVE at the start of filming. We needed to get Van Doren out on the streets more; it’d have been sweet to do a trick over him for the video.
Now, I’m hesitant to ask this but I think a lot of people are curious. With Propeller done, you running Civilware and all things considered with the family; do you think Propeller will be your last video part? With the level of skating guys like you and AVE have put out over the years, everyone would agree there’s nothing left to prove and completely understand if you decided that was it. But at the same time, you guys really never stop going for it and usually make it known how much you enjoy working on projects like this. So it’s hard to believe the day will come where we actually have a ‘last video part’…
There is no way that Propeller will be my last video part, unless my days get cut short by some other twist of fate. I am healthy, strong, hyped on skating and far from done dreaming about skateboarding. I understand how people could think that given the injuries and some specific clips in the video, like the one at the end with my son. But that was just to make him feel like one of the boys and so that he knew that he had the last trick in my part, just to stoke him out. Hopefully my next part will be for the Lost Art video, lets do this Mackey! Lets bring out the troops and hit the raw streets, starting with Bold Street.
Interview by Farran Golding, photography by Chris Johnson (unless credited otherwise). View the original on sidewalkmag.com