(Featured: Sidewalk Magazine, 10th June 2015.)
The feeling of excitement has always remained the same with interviews for me: each one is also a now familiar journey from thinking, “It would be cool to interview” whoever, to the end result. Knowing someone who hopefully knows someone, emails, a phone call, a few thousand words to transcribe and you’re good. This one was a bit different though: firstly, because this conversation took the best part of a year to arrange and secondly, because I’d briefly met Aaron Herrington beforehand.
At a Converse demo last summer I asked Aaron if he would be up for this. He then grabbed my phone, flicked on the front camera and laughed, “Smile and say Static IV!” before taking a photo and saying, “Get in touch.” He then departed on the remainder of the One Star World Tour, and various other trips in the following months, and all communication stopped for what seemed like forever.
With the Polar video on repeat since getting a copy, I asked Mike (Halls) at Keen Dist if there was any chance of reaching out to Aaron again. This time, everything seemed arranged but come provisional interview day, I had neither a phone number nor Skype address to reach him with… Happily, Aaron emailed a few days later apologising for the delay and said to call after the weekend. Tuesday came around and after a couple of calls with broken audio, it seemed this interview would remain within grasping distance but never actually happen, until the next call connected clearly and Aaron was happy to go into detail on life in New York and all things Polar.
So, what’s the moral of this rambling introduction? Good things are worth waiting for, but don’t count on Talk Talk broadband getting you to them any sooner? Yeah, something like that…
Awkward backside tailslide. Photo courtesy of Keen Distribution.
Yo, sorry man, I hung up on you that one. I could hear you the time before though.
It’s alright, my Internet connection is pretty bad so if it cuts out I’ll just call you back. How’s it going?
No worries, no problem. I’m just chilling at my house; I woke up a minute ago. A bunch of people are in town for the GX1000 video premiere tonight.
How many tours have you been on since last summer? It looks like you’ve been in a different city every week.
(Laughs), yeah I don’t know exactly how many. As far as the One Star tour, we did four tours in total: United States, the UK and Europe, Asia and South America. I went Upstate in New York for a while, Australia, South Africa, went to California a few times. I’ve been all over the place. I didn’t actually go on the Polar tour though, I went to the premieres in Malmo, Copenhagen and New York City but as far as the international premieres, I didn’t have the opportunity to go because I went to Cape Town in Johannesburg. That was a Converse trip.
Let’s get into it then. So, a bit of back-story – you’re originally from Oregon and moved to California after your nineteenth birthday. You’ve said that you were being unproductive at that time, do you feel that moving away from home set you back on track with skating?
Definitely. I wasn’t skating a lot where I lived because of, more or less, being distracted hanging out with people who didn’t skate too much and just getting caught up in being bored in my hometown. Just not having anything to do and in some places you resort to drinking or partying a little more than you usually would. Moving to San Francisco, having a new place to skate, new terrain, bombing hills and a new city was really exciting for me and opened up a lot of doors for my skating. Actually, my friend who is on my floor right now, Eric Palozzolo, was the first dude I met out there. I’ve shot a fair amount of photos and ads throughout my skate career, if you want to call it that, with him. Then I met my friend Waylon (Bone) who has filmed a bunch of stuff and then… I didn’t really have much of a crew until the last year, I didn’t meet Ryan Garshell and what is now the GX crew until the last year and a half I was living there.
Then you came out to New York about four years ago and ended up staying pretty much because you fucked your ankle, right?
That’s correct, I went skating the first night and hurt my ankle pretty bad. I was here for a month with a hurt ankle, hung out with a bunch of people and became close friends with Brian Delatorre. He was the one that talked me into staying, like, “Dude, pay rent back in San Francisco, move out of your apartment and stay here. This is where it’s at right now.” Which is funny because he doesn’t live here anymore, (laughs).
How long had you lived there before getting introduced to Josh Stewart and beginning filming for Static IV ?
I’d say about nine months. I got a job working at this cafe called Snice that a lot of skaters have worked at. The day that I was supposed to fly back to San Francisco was my first day of training. I went in and it was me, Brian (Clarke) and Bobby Puleo working that day. So, I quickly got to meet some of those dudes and just through hanging out with Brian and working at Snice I got to meet Josh.
Then I was skating with Jeremy Elkin and working on his videos Poisonous Products  and The Brodies . Jeremy has always trusted Josh’s opinion on footage. If Elkin and I filmed something and we sent it to Josh and he approved it then we were really hyped. I think Jeremy sending footage to Josh got him psyched to work together on a part for Static IV.
Josh mentioned that he had absolutely no intention of using the song that you skate to in Static IV [Inna Citi Life, Group Home] but you liked it so much it ended up in the video?
Yeah, he had four different edits with four different songs and said, “I’m gonna play all four of them for you, let me know which you like.” He played that one, it had that Nas sample at the beginning, I watched that first edit and said, “I don’t want to see the other three, I want this one to be my part.” I just liked the introduction with the music and the way I ollie over the rails into the banks, it just seemed to really work well.
And Polar came about through Josh sending your Static IV footage to Pontus Alv, right?
Yeah, I was skating for Blood Wizard at the time and Josh was kind of like, “Hey man, no disrespect but you should probably just quit skating for those dudes. They have no relevance over here and you have no relevance riding for them if you live out here and they’re in California. There are other opportunities you could encounter out here if you had no board sponsor.”
I quit Blood Wizard and was getting flowed Theories brands and through that period is when the first Polar promo [Wallride Oh Yeah Oh Yeah Oh Yeah, 2012] came out. I guess for sometime Pontus and Josh had already been communicating about starting Polar. Along with that, Pontus wanted an American rider and it just all seemed to make sense.
How familiar with the company were you back then?
It was brief to be honest. I wasn’t super familiar with many of the riders, I knew who Pontus was of course but didn’t really know much about the actual brand itself other than the first Polar promo. I knew who Hjalte (Halberg) was from seeing his name, which was kind of funny to me, and Jerome (Campbell) because he had developed a skate career for a little while. Then Pontus’ videos and stuff but it was maybe two weeks, or even ten days, after the promo came out that Josh said, “Those dudes are coming to New York, do you wanna come and skate with us?”
Was it intimidating meeting Pontus for the first time?
To be honest, it’s probably more intimidating hanging out with Pontus now that I know him, (laughs). The first time I met him was really exciting. When you meet somebody you always want to give a good first impression and what we had already communicated over the phone and text messages broke the ice for expectations. He was like, “If you wanna come skate with us, you come skate and if it works out I’ll pay you.” Going into that was a little odd, going into a session when someone tells you that if it works out you’re going to become a paid skateboarder. At the time too, I feel like there wasn’t many options in skateboarding.
Before it was released you talked about feeling that Static IV could have an Eastern Exposure type of significance, like a proper introduction to East Coast skateboarding for another generation. Now that it’s a couple of years on, what part do you think the video has played with the course skateboarding has taken over the last few years?
I think Static, and what Theories is doing in general, has a huge influence and opens doors and eyes for people to start what they want to do; create a brand, an independent video, a small zine or whatever. What Josh has been doing has definitely changed the way skateboarding goes. I mean Fallen just went out of business. There are brands constantly going out of business and I forget the exact quote from Josh but he says something about how, “Nowadays kids are making independent videos, zines and brands. No longer is the future of skateboarding in the fate of the industry” and it’s extremely true. Skateboarding is in a really interesting place where it’s going to change a lot and I think that skateboarding is going to go down two directions. It’s gonna be technical and competitive skateboarding versus very relative and, you know I hate to say ‘more stylish’, but more style relative skateboarding. I can’t say that Static and Theories is completely responsible, Supreme has a pretty insane presence as far as their influence on kids and everything these days. But I don’t necessarily think that’s like an East or West Coast thing, that’s more anywhere in the world. But there are a lot of smaller things coming out of skateboarding right now.
Backside 5050 transfer on a shiny new number Photo courtesy of Keen Distribution.
Personally, how does your part in ‘I like it here inside my mind, don’t wake me this time’ compare to Static IV?
I would say my mindset was mostly affected during the last year of the whole process. Static was a project I was working on with a couple of people and we all filmed specifically VX1000 for that video. There was no desire to ever go and film HD, at that time, because there was no use for it unless it was for a commercial or brand. I went into filming the Static video with the intent filming this part that was all VX and so on.
While doing that, I would say I got a little sidetracked and didn’t focus one hundred percent on filming for the Polar video in the same way. I was going back and forth filming VX and HD. I would like things that I filmed in HD a lot and then I would like a lot of things I filmed VX. At that point, when you’re editing a part, you can’t have every other clip be VX and then HD. It’s gonna look terrible unless you’re Pontus and you can edit things incredibly. But it put me in this weird position where there was a couple of months time period where I had to go out and film specific tricks in VX just for the Polar part.
I wish I would have thought about it more in the moment, to have given myself an opportunity to focus more on just filming for the Polar video. I’m not disappointed with my part by any means but I think I could have done better. There’s probably six minutes of footage sitting on a hard drive that no one has ever seen that didn’t get used for the video. Which I’m in the process of editing to put onto YouTube to piss off the Internet once hard copies of the video have been out for a little while. So, expect another part.
Pontus said in a recent interview that you filmed about two years worth of footage and all but three clips were unusable so you went out and basically filmed your part again. Is that what you’re referring to?
Yeah, that’s what I was getting at. I filmed a lot of stuff and since so much of it was HD we couldn’t use a lot of it just because it wouldn’t fit with the format and the VX footage. He gave me two months and pretty much said, “You have to film ten VX clips and ten lines” and all this stuff and I was like, “Alright, cool.” So, then I went out and focused and just skated to get VX stuff for a while.
Do you feel your part benefitted from that happening at all? In some cases did it give you a new perspective when going back to spots where you had already filmed a trick?
Kind of, there were some single tricks we went back to get as lines or not even things we re-filmed exactly. A lot of the VX footage was new stuff, it wasn’t re-filmed ideas as much. It was just, “Oh let’s go out to Jersey, let’s go here, let’s find new shit.’ There were a couple of tricks that Ryan Garshell ended up filming VX that I had filmed in HD but that was to get a long lens angle because it would look better long lens VX versus fisheye HD.
Static IV is the part that made a lot people aware of you. Would say your part in the Polar video represents where you’re at with skateboarding right now?
I would think so, that’s also what I was getting at with some of the footage that hasn’t come out. Maybe some people think I’m sleeping or something, which… I don’t know, whatever. Right now I’m just really focused on finding East Coast looking bump to bars and spots that are very classic to New York. I definitely think it represents where I’m at with skating but also, if it was a completely true representation it would have been no footage because I’ve been on tour so much, (laughs).
You could say the video is structured like a journey and I think big part of that comes from the location specific montages like Steppeside, TBS, Paris and a NYC section before you. That style of editing sets up the full parts in a certain way. As if the montage is an introduction to those surroundings then the sections give an impression these locations are what defines the way the team skate. Would you say so?
Definitely. Like, Hjalte is amazing at skating flat ground and ledges and then he comes to New York and you get to see Hjalte’s skating represented in a different way. Same thing with Oski (Oskar Rosenberg Halberg), he didn’t have time to skate street in New York too much but if he did, Oski’s representation of New York skating would be much different to his usual style. I don’t know if I’m answering this question properly, but I feel when everyone comes here and we skate together in New York you get to see how everyone really skates. Because it’s not perfect ground and you have to adapt to the spots and the surroundings I guess.
Do you think it was important for Pontus to present you guys predominantly in the locations you live? Your part is mostly in NYC, Hjalte’s is in Copenhagen, Kevin Rodrigues is in Paris and so on. Then any other footage is mostly grouped together into those location-focused montages.
I mean Dane (Brady), like ninety percent of Dane’s part is in Portland on spots that Dane has found. But even if it’s not Pontus’ vision I think it’s just important in general and I think it’s the raddest thing when someone films a video part where they’re from or where they live at the moment. It would have been really stupid for us to have made the video in a different way where it was totally based around us having parts. Because then, in everyone’s part, it would have been like New York, Paris, Copenhagen, New York, Japan – you know? It would be all over the place. Whereas, all of Dane’s footage is just Portland: If it was Dane’s clips in Portland and then it cuts to him skating Black Hubba in Downtown it’s gonna look really weird. So, I think it’s a good way of presenting the video.
Bank to bank boneless over a ropey gap. Photo courtesy of Keen Distribution.
Did you know Dane before he got on Polar with you both being from Oregon?
I’m actually from Corvallis, which is ninety miles south of Portland. I didn’t know Dane when I lived in Oregon, nor when I lived in San Francisco, but we have mutual friends here in New York. Dane came to visit a few years ago. He knows my friend Alex so we hung out and skated one time. Then Alex showed me his footage, Alex showed Waylon the footage, Waylon sent the footage to Pontus. I had already seen the footage when Pontus sent it to me saying, “This dude is from where you’re from, what do you think?” and Dane is incredibly good at skating and I’m always gonna be biased towards someone who is from my area. The second I saw the footage it was very inspiring and what I thought would be very influential. Once everyone who skates the way that they’ve been skating sees Dane’s part, whether you love it or you hate it, that style of skating… I think I Dane’s gonna influence a lot of people out there for sure.
You know what I mean? There’s already a resurgence of that ‘nineties inspiration’ or ‘nineties style’ with nineties style pants and Dane skates like forty-two millimetre wheels which I think is sick. He does all this stuff and I mean people are doing it but I feel like, especially if you know Dane, there’s no pretension behind it. You see him wearing Carhartt double knee pants and think, “Oh this dude could go build some shit”, (laughs). He doesn’t look like some pretty kid that’s trying to be fashionable; I feel he’s kind of a total utilitarian.
Dane and Kevin seem very quiet a little bit mysterious. How is it hanging out with them?
That’s why I like hanging out with Dane and Kevin. I suppose there’s the difference in speaking French and English and Kevin is really quiet at times but he can also be outspoken. Dane too but Dane is extremely quiet. It can be like pulling teeth with that dude. If you’re in the van with Dane you wouldn’t even know he was there, he wouldn’t be talking the whole time. But I like hanging out with Dane because he knows how to have an amazing conversation, as does Kevin. I love David Stenström but you might not have the same conversation with David that you would with Dane. I feel it’s important when people aren’t talking because they don’t want to just talk, they talk when they have something they need to say. They’re two of my favourite dudes to hang out with.
You’ve said how you don’t consider Polar to be just a “European brand” anymore. Do you feel people made a big deal out of you being Polar’s first American pro?
Like a big deal in a negative way?
No, positively. It showed how the brand was growing in a cool way.
Yeah I know what you mean, I think it definitely had a positive outcome where people were psyched on it, maybe because it was still a fresh company and you couldn’t really see the exact direction of where it was going yet. For both the brand and myself I think we equally benefitted. It was probably good for Polar to get an American rider and I thought it was cool to ride for a European company because I get to communicate with Europeans about a lot of stuff. Which, with mostly everything, is completely different to how we do things in the United States. I like dealing with Pontus and I skate for Carhartt Work In Progress as well, so I deal with Joseph (Bias) and Bertrand (Trichet) who are French. I like hanging out with them and talking about business more because it’s a different mentality. It’s not like American, capitalist, consumerism you know?
Hench NYC bump to bar ollie Photo courtesy of Keen Distribution.
I suppose you get a sense of balance by also riding for Converse which is a very ‘American as apple pie’ type of brand.
Yeah absolutely, I like that balance. Nowadays, that’s kind of how it is. You skate for Adidas, Nike, Converse, New Balance, Vans; they pay your bills and then a lot of people ride for these independent skateboard companies; FA, Hockey, Polar, Palace, Pass~Port, Magenta, whomever… The board companies might not be able to support the same way the corporations do but I think that’s good because there is that balance.
Obviously dealing with Converse on a business level must be massively different to doing that with Polar too.
With skating for Converse, they’re the people where if a different brand like Bones, Independent or Polar is like, “Hey, we wanna give you an ad” then I’m like, “Alright, cool, that’s awesome.” Whereas when I was younger I might have thought it’s amazing but not cared as much. Now, I look at it as if I get an ad in a magazine and it’s two pages, I can get paid photo incentive and go and have a little more fun this week or put the money aside to pay for my taxes. As you get older, with your contracts and stuff, it’s good. It’s nice to have a small brand like Polar where I don’t have to stress and it’s nice to have a big brand like Converse where I can also do photo incentive and make a little extra money doing those things. If I didn’t skate for Converse I wouldn’t have that opportunity.
Following on from what we were saying about you being the first American rider; it’s great that although it now has a team from all over the world, Polar has retained its original direction
I feel the same way. It’s definitely stayed the same aside from more boards on the wall, more graphics and more clothing. But the last thing we want to do, and definitely the last thing Pontus ever wants to do, is have the brand’s vibe or the feel of the brand ever change. I think that’s also another reason why he continues to do the brand by himself. It drives him nuts and he’s really busy. But if he didn’t do the brand alone then he wouldn’t have to the final say and we wouldn’t get to have the freedom that we have riding for Polar and having Pontus as our boss.
A couple of years ago, in his ‘Last Interview’ with Mackenzie Eisenhower, Pontus said how he considers ten years to be a good lifespan for a company. So, if Polar continues to grow the way it does, where do you see the brand and yourself come that time?
Honestly, I would love to see Polar stay the same or grow, but grow humbly, and not get into the majorly corporate side. I would love to see Theories stay as our distributor if that growth happened. I would love to see myself still skateboarding then – well I mean that’s only a few years, (laughs). I would like to see myself in ten years helping Pontus if the brand is still around. Or if Pontus…
Like we’ve joked before, me and Hjalte, “If Pontus ever pulls the brand we’re gonna have to move to Malmo and take over!” We’ve joked about that. “If he’s ever over it, do you know how to run a company? I don’t know how to run company! Ah, we can figure it out.”
Getting back to what I asked at the start. The reason you moved from Oregon is actually because your mum bought you a plane ticket out of there. What’s your relationship like with your parents now that you’re older and making a career from skateboarding? Do you think it’s down to them that you made it this far?
Oh, absolutely! My dad would call me all throughout high school to let me go skate. I grew up skating with this dude Joseph, he would pick me up from school and we would drive to Portland. My dad would call me up like, “Oh you’re skipping class to go skate, which class? Math? Ok, I’ll call school, no problem” and I could skip school all I wanted.
Then my parents split up and my mom moved away and temporarily checked out a little bit. I would see my mom and it was kind obvious that I was blowing it, wasn’t skating and getting caught up in doing nothing. I had a weird breakdown one day, I got really emotional and my mom was like, “What the fuck is happening with you? Get the fuck out of here. Go to California and follow your dream” so that’s what I did but I definitely thank my parents for everything.
It’s funny, I would love to be able to send my parents and family product, give them my boards and everything. But since I don’t personally go and get my own product, I get my stuff from Josh, I don’t ever really know what boards I’m going to get so I can’t really set boards aside. My parents have bought so many of my boards, (laughs). I feel bad that I haven’t been able to give them to them. But yeah, my dad kind of nerds out, he definitely follows skating to see what’s up.
Thanks for your time Aaron. Just to round this off, what’s coming up in the near future with you?
I go to South Korea on Friday. I travelled a lot this past year and I would like to keep travelling. But I honestly want to spend the summer in New York City, I want to film in New York, I want to shoot photos in New York… I want to finish that part I was talking about with all the left over footage. Then I also want to make a two or three minute part of only skating bump to bar handicap ramps. So, I’ve a got few little personal projects I would like to work on. Appreciate it, thanks a lot.