Next up in our series of Vans 50th Anniversary interviews is Creature rider and fairly new recruit to the waffle sole; Chris Russell. Read to on hear about growing up witnessing Hermosa transition legends, incorrect and correct methods descending into a disaster slap and more.
What’s your technique for falling when you know you’re going to slam during a padless vert session?
Oh man, tuck and roll. Just tuck and roll and hope for the best. Sometimes you can’t really get out of it too clean but you just kind of stay relaxed and fucking pray. Pray you don’t die.
Have you ever considered trying a trick on a vert ramp without pads and clothes in homage to Brewce Martin and Bill Weiss?
Shit, I haven’t done that one; I think probably the closest I’ve gotten would be my underwear. But going full bare-naked sounds dangerous man, what if your junk just gets all burned up from SkateLite? I don’t know about that, might not pull that one…
You’ve appeared in a couple of Josh Peacock’s Pooling Around edits now. Have you ever got into any particularly sketchy situations with unhappy pool owners?
We’ve dealt with the police a few times, that’s pretty common; nothing too crazy though. For the most part people are down to let us skate their pool if it’s permitted. Or just go offer them a twelve-pack or pay them a few bucks and usually they’re pretty cool about us going backyard skating for a little bit. But sometimes we’ve just gotten out of there right in the nick of time, when the cops have come, or the rare occurrence when people come out and threaten to shoot you or whatever. It happens every once in a while.
Which do you prefer skating – vert ramps or backyard pools?
Oh backyards for sure, it’s just raw skating. Square one you know? Chapter one of skating, pretty much. It brings it all back and it’s a lot harder and more unique, you know? Makes it lot more challenging so if you land something there’s more satisfaction out of it.
Growing up in Hermosa and skateboarding from a young age, were you influenced by the hardcore punk history that the area has?
Yeah, very much so. I mean my dad really made it obvious by showing me some good music when I was a little kid and then from there I kind of figured it out for myself. Also, growing up with friends who play in punk bands and watching shows at a young age, that deeply influenced how I skate and how I kind of look at everything. It’s definitely the main music I listen to. I love it man, home roots.
With such an 80s influenced trick bag, who were your biggest influences skate-wise growing up?
Growing up I skated a lot with Pat Ngoho and actually Omar (Hassan) too. I would skate the Vans park a ton… Mike Smith played a pretty big part in my early years even though he didn’t skate that much as I grew up but he taught me how to rock n’ roll and we skated the Combi together when I was super young. That’s like old time Hermosa legends so it was rad being influenced from that to, like I said, Omar and Pat. Just going around there and skating with Lester Kasai was fun too. Good group of dudes I grew up skating around for sure.
You’re pretty fond of smacking into disaster on the way back in, was there any particular skater or video part that got you so into that?
Oh yeah, for sure! My friend Kevin Kowalski and also Ben Raybourne; those dudes really made me interested in it. After I watched Ben Raybourne’s ‘Welcome to $LAVE’ part – he did that big ollie to disaster right in the middle and I was like “that’s the one I want to learn” and that’s when I really started doing a ton of tricks to disaster, when I was a little bit younger and it just grew from there.
Which do you find more satisfying; air to tail slap or disaster? And what’s your favourite trick to do into that?
Oh disaster for sure! It all feels pretty good man but I like throwing a judo to disaster. That’s pretty fun, that one feels good. Come in all quick and land on the back of the truck you know?
You snapped your board on a frontside air to hang up at the Vans Pool Party last year. Is it rare you snap boards doing that?
No, I snap boards like that all the time. I snap boards way too much.
Clean in half like that one was too?
Yeah, I don’t look like it but I weigh a good amount so I definitely put a hurt on those decks, and usually I can gauge it. You’ve got to land back towards the board if you don’t want it to snap but I kind of felt it when I was at the Combi, leaning over the pool deck too much like “this thing is gonna be bad, I know.” I knew it was either gonna break or I was gonna hang up and not be able to bring my truck all the way back in. Then that just snapped on me hard and shit, and I ended up going down, sadly (laughs).
You’re going to be skating in Vans’ Pro Skate Park Series later this year. Who are looking forward to seeing skate in that?
Oh, Pedro (Barros), Curren (Caples) is gonna rip it, Greyson (Fletcher); all the homies. I’m stoked that Rowan (Zorilla) is in it. Rowan’s an all terrain vehicle so that’s gonna be rad. He’s super creative and got a crazy style so it’s gonna be fun and interesting for sure this year. A whole lot of different styles and aspects that people are bringing to table. It’s gonna be fun.
You’re one of the few to have fully got on Vans following Propeller . Whose part in that video stood out to you the most?
Hard to say man, that whole video was a banger. I loved Elijah Berle’s part though. The song he used and everything. He skated the gnarliest street spots and had a few really rad few tranny clips too. That part was so solid, he’s another one of those dudes like Grant (Taylor) that can just skate street just as good as he can skate transition or anything else. He’ll just shut down any spot we go to. It’s awesome skating with that dude.
Just a couple of mellow ones before we round this off; if you could skate street like anyone on Vans, who would it be and why?
That’s a hard one to say too. Probably (Chris) Pfanner because Pfanner has great style. Just buttery and smooth, classic, super sick, fast street skating with finesse. Definitely wish I could skate street like Pfanner.
On the other hand which out of the more street heavy guys on the team would you be hyped to see skate transition, pool, vert, etc?
Probably like… oh that’s hard. Chima (Ferguson) is pretty rad I’d like to see him skate a backyard pool; that would be sick. Or Kyle Walker. Those dudes are epic street skaters so it would be rad to see them hit tranny sometime.
Finally, as one of the newest additions riding for a brand with such a unique history within skateboarding, what is it about Vans that makes you so stoked to be part of it?
Just the whole diverse crew we’ve got. Everybody on the team is different, nobody is trying to fit a certain look, everyone has their own thing going on. Individuality, and Vans just being such a sick company. They’re the only shoes I’ve ever ridden in since I was a kid; they fit the best and feel the best. Steve (Van Doren) is the man; super in touch with what’s going on and hands on with every event. Epic. The whole family are just good dudes and I’m super thankful to be part of the Vans family and I wouldn’t want anything else.