Back in 2015 interviewed Austyn for Sidewalk Magazine. We talked about recovering from double knee surgery, leaving Habitat for 3D, the difficulties facing Alien Workshop and Habitat up until then, and how he and Dylan Rieder came to ride for HUF. As Austyn just reunited with Habitat (a feel good hit of a rough year), this felt like as good of a place as any to dust off and polish up some old transcripts and start archiving my past work.
Interview by Farran Golding
Photography by Brian Kelley (any uncredited images were supplied courtesy of HUF)
Published by Sidewalk Magazine, July 2015
You’ve been out of action for a while after going through some intense knee injuries. What happened there?
My meniscus in both legs were torn so I had them repaired in September. Then I recovered for six months, started skating again and tore a different part of my meniscus in my right knee so I had surgery on that two months ago and I’m back to slightly rolling around now. So yeah, I haven’t done much since July of last year. I feeling it like a year and a half ago… Or longer than that. Fuck, no – two years ago I started feeling it and I pushed through and then it got to a point where with everyday activities I would feel it. Like just walking or going up stairs, that’s when I decided to get an MRI, get it checked out and see what’s going on. Luckily it wasn’t anything else but it’s definitely been a wet towel of a situation.
What have you been occupying yourself with whilst you haven’t been able to skate?
A little music. It’s mainly just been physical therapy a few times a week, slumming a tiny bit on the side, living life… It’s not that bad, as weird as it sounds, it sounds pretty bad but it’s kind of like how not having a job feels. It’s like feeling like you’re unemployed but you’re not unemployed, you’re getting paid to recover. That’s what it’s been like.
Are you going to be working on anything when you can skate again??
Yeah we’re gonna be working on a 3D promo. That’s the plan. Film some stuff for 3D and put the focus more back into that side of things because I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for HUF for the past two years which has taken up a lot of my time, footage and photos: things that I haven’t been able to give to 3D. So I guess putting more focus on that and developing an actual brand, thinking maybe start in July/August depending on how things go and travel a little bit with those guys depending on what Brian’s schedule is like. Either way, I am going to get to filming, yeah, and get out of L.A. because I don’t film here, I just live here.
Have you been in touch with Brian [Anderson] much? What’s B.A. like as a boss?
Yeah I talk to him a few times a month. Not too much but, we chat, we catch up, it’s not like we’re on an email basis. We talk on the phone, y’know? We’re buddies. He runs everything through us, he’s really good at that. We’re friends so the ‘boss’ side of things… It is funny saying “He’s my boss” – and he’s a great boss – but it’s not really like that. If he has any ideas or we have any input it’s put on pretty lightly, or the delivery isn’t like a boss so it doesn’t feel like that.
No business meetings stuck in a board room then?
I wouldn’t say ‘meetings’ and Brian and I… That shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. It’s more hanging out, shooting the shit and whatever.
After Alex [Olson] left in the early days of 3D it seems Brian has taken his time with deciding who else to put on, like it’s been a slow and natural process. Did you know Tom Karangelov before he got on?
I liked his skating but I didn’t know him too well. I knew he rode for Zero and my buddy Ryan Allan kind of made that happen. He sent me his footage and I guess over time he didn’t like that situation he was in and he was trying to change things up.
The summer you made the move from Habitat to 3D must have been a pretty hectic, leaving your board and shoe sponsor at the same time. I remember seeing you wearing other shoes but still riding Habitat boards so was your decision originally just to leave the footwear program?
Yeah, kind of. DNA [Distribution], Alien Workshop, Habitat and Habitat shoes were juggling between different owners; people buying out the company and transferring it so it got a little sticky financially.
Joe [Castrucci], my contract was up and he was telling me that I should probably look into going somewhere else because I could probably make a better living, I could get more out of it. He kind of saw that coming to a halt but without really saying it, he just kind of hinted towards that. It was friendly, it wasn’t anything like I quit, he was just like “Hey, you should consider going somewhere else before this goes to shit” which ended up happening, sadly. Which sucks just because I like Joe and those guys and everything they do, it was extremely hard as they were my peers growing up in skateboarding and actually having a company and a home.
Best memory from the Habitat days?
Shit, we just travelled so much that I got to see the world with them. I got around with them at an early age and being able to kind of grow with them is something that always comes back. They became good friends of mine and we’re all still good friends. No real memory, just travelling with those guys was fun and I learned a lot. They just whipped me into shape. Just preparing you for actual, you know, life.
Were you always very aware of how turbulent things were behind the scenes or was everything with Rob Dyrdek, Pacific Vector and all that pushed to one side?
Yeah, you could sense it. You could sense that it was turbulent, I like that word. It was just not knowing who actually owns the company and where it’s going. Are we going to be able to travel again? Are we going to be a board company? Is Alien going to a different distribution? Is it going to split up? I didn’t leave it because of because I was aware of those changes, that didn’t really affect my decision. It wasn’t like “Oh this ship is sinking, I’m going to leave, going to get out whilst I still can.” I wasn’t like that at all. That had nothing to do with me choosing to ride for 3D.
“It never got to any point where there was any hierarchy or somebody running the ship like Dill or AVE were. It wasn’t like that at Habitat, everybody loved Joe.”
With that in mind it can’t have been easy seeing it close down overnight. But skipping forward, how did you and Jason Dill end up with cameos in ‘Moving Right Along’ when Habitat came back under Tum Yeto?
Yeah, well luckily it’s doing well now. Joe wanted Dill to be in it, I think he did something with Daryl [Angel], then Joe wanted me to be hitchhiking and them just passing me by. Joe wanted it for humour’s sake. Obviously we’re still all friends and what not where we can do shit like that where, you know, Dill started F.A. and then I went to 3D – kind of a diss, but a friendly diss. Joe asked me to film that clip, I was actually on a HUF trip, and he was like “Here’s the idea.” I obviously love that shit, just poking fun at that. A little friendly fire.
Do you think it’s strange Habitat was able to continue like nothing really happened but the opinions about Alien’s return are divided?
If any of the companies were to keep it going, Habitat’s always been smooth sailing. It never got to any point where there was any hierarchy or somebody running the ship like Dill or AVE were. It wasn’t like that at Habitat, everybody loved Joe. It’s a different company, I don’t think it’s weird at all. I kind of saw it, if any of the companies where to do it, Habitat would stay around.
Like, “This is how we’re going to lure you in” – a bit of dough. There’s no opportunity in that, what do you work for at that point? You’ve already got the dough.
How come it was HUF that attracted you and Dylan? There was a lot of rumours about bigger brands trying to scoop you guys up.
Well Cons had no plans to do anything with me and they weren’t really able to offer me anything at the time. This was mainly the thing: there wasn’t any opportunity other than “Oh, here’s money.” That was their motivation, like, “This is how we’re going to lure you in” – a bit of dough. There’s no opportunity in that, what do you work for at that point? You’ve already got the dough. They kind of gave us the run around.
Is it or isn’t it going to happen, that sort of scenario?
Yeah, bullshit like that and I didn’t like that. Then I ended up talking to Huf because we’ve been friends over the years and I knew him from San Francisco. I met up with him and we had lunch. I told him my situation, I told him Dylan’s situation and said that I’d probably be able to get Dylan on the team. We both wanted to ride for the same team so I asked him if he was interested and that’s how it came about as far as that. You could trust a guy like that when you talk to him. You’re not weary or hesitant of his promises, or anything that he has to offer you, you know it’s honest and genuine.
I think a lot of people were surprised at first but now it just makes sense. It’s a good fit.
That’s how it goes with anything, it takes someone to kind of remould it. Whatever it is, we saw something in Huf and he saw something in us and it transformed into what it is now. People like wearing the Sutters now…
Funny you should say that, I’m wearing them right now.
Yeah, no one gave a fuck about those until the whole team started riding them and we started skating the. Through that shoe, you saw that like, “Oh shit, this is actually working.” You see kids wearing the Sutter, which is a shoe Huf predicted would just drop at the end of the season, that it wouldn’t last, and that ended up being their best selling shoe. Which is weird but that’s cool to see those results. We were skating the samples but when we first got on there, there wasn’t too many that I could personally skate. Then they happened to have the Sutter sitting around ready for production and they were able to get us the samples and then it launched. It just happened to be good timing that they had a simple, narrow shoe.
Before that, were any plans for you to make the move over to Gravis?
We were working on a contract and then they [Burton] canned it. Weird timing…
I’ve got to ask: ‘New York La La La’, how did you, Jerry Hsu and Josh Harmony get involved?
That was actually a favour to a friend of ours who worked for a magazine. It wasn’t a music video, it was some dumb fashion shoot and they needed skaters. I wasn’t even supposed to be in it, I don’t even think us three were supposed to be in it, but a few guys dropped out. I was a friend of the guy that did it and we kind of went into it blind. We knew it’d be weird… I don’t know, it was a favour, we didn’t even get paid for it. It was more like, ‘hey do you want to do this, it could be cool…’
Did you at least get to keep the suit?
Those things were too fucking expensive.
Did they freak out if you slammed in them?
No they were actually cool about it, they didn’t really care, which is weird and why I was wondering “Do I get to keep this at the end? I could sell this and pay for shit.” [Laughs.] Yeah it was definitely weird but, I don’t know, that shit’s going to pop up.
There’s more of that fashion influence in skating now though. You used to be on 3D and Quiksilver with Alex Olson too so what are your thoughts on what he’s doing with Bianca Chandon? Which is stocked in Dover Street Market of all places…
Alex is a friend of mine and whatever he’s excited about, he’s going to do. Whatever he doesn’t like he makes that known so he got to finally do his own company. The way that he is and the people that he knows; that stuff, those stores, those people – he’s inevitably going to get sucked into that world and people are going to be interested. So I guess that’s cool. Skateboarding fucking sucks as far as introducing anything new so for him to do that, I think it’s awesome.
Would you take on a modelling job like Dylan and Alex have, given the chance?
I don’t give a shit. If someone wants to do it then… It’s not something I’m going to pursue, I don’t have a fucking resume or a portfolio or a look book – any of that shit.
I think Ben Nordberg does.
Yeah, a lot of those guys do. Fuck it, I don’t see why not. If you could make some dough off of that then who’s some fucking dumbass to say “You’re not keeping it real.” Like, what does that even fucking mean anymore? What does “keeping it real” mean?
I wouldn’t view it as those guys ‘selling out’ when it’s a job outside of skateboarding, unrelated to their skating. Maybe most people would disagree. Then there are guys with energy drink sponsors, Toyota endorsements or whatever which are actually tied to their skateboarding but it gets brushed over and has become almost normal.
That stuff is even more ridiculous to me. It also doesn’t have anything to do with skateboarding but somehow that world penetrated skateboarding and people have adjusted to it and accepted it. So I think it’s just a matter of time before people start accepting skaters doing things outside of skating and if you’re given that opportunity I don’t see why you would ever pass that up to get paid $10, 000 a day to just sit around. All those guys that get those opportunities, like, I don’t even know what Nordberg does. I don’t even know the guy anymore! We used to be friends and then he turned…
Cool guy’d it?
He’s definitely not too cool, at all. That’s the problem. It’s interesting but once again, that stuff takes over too. You get as addicted to that world as much as you get addicted to skating, it’s weird. You can’t let it take over. He’s a good example of letting that world take over you and I’m sure a lot of you guys from the UK agree. The direction he’s taken…
He’s not really a skater though, he’s not a skater.
No, not even a diss! I mean we’re ‘friends’. I don’t know him too much he’s definitely changed, really quickly.
It is funny. From tie die t-shirts to the catwalk.
Yeah so I mean that’s just letting it take over. I think if you do it moderately, you can pull it off with anything and tastefully.
What’s your view on the fact that skateboarding is basically ‘cool’ now to the world at large?
Am I surprised that it is? Not really, no. People outside of skating and surfing have always been attracted to it because it’s a trendsetter for the sports side of things. It’s considered cool and it’s always been considered kind of cool. The lame things I think are going on with skaters or skateboarding in general; I mean you can’t really change that, it depends. You’ve just got to go choose the right path and not let it affect you. It doesn’t really affect me. It only affects the people that want to be affected by it. Like, you don’t want to change? That’s fucking life.
Your pro shoe for HUF is out this summer. Why did you go for the dress shoe look with it? Skate footwear has always taken influence from other sources like soccer and basketball. Now even that formal style of footwear is coming in, not just for fashion’s sake but they’re functional too. Dylan’s pro models are perfect examples and I’m sure yours will be too.
That’s what I wear when I’m not skating so I wanted to meet half way. That’s always been a battle for me and luckily this time I was able to make it happen. Huf was open to anything so he got a shoe that I’m going to wear and that I wear every day, skating or not skating. I definitely got a soccer vibe out of [Dylan’s] shoe for sure, a soccer and fashion kind of hybrid. But yeah, that’s what I’m into now. That could change completely in five years and I could go back to a ‘traditional’ style of skate shoe. I guess it’s just trying something new.
So straight away did you know that you wanted to do something completely different to your last pro shoe on Habitat? Why go cupsole over vulcanised this time around?
Yeah that was definitely the goal. There were a lot of influences, as far as the shape of the shoe, from outside of skating and then we put a cupsole on it and a little bit of a heel that doesn’t really affect anything. I guess I started jumping down stairs over the past few years and caught up to me, obviously [laughs]. I realised “Hey I might want to hop on this cupsole thing…” and a lot of people that wear them don’t have complaints. Less complaints means more people wearing it. The good thing about the tread on the bottom of the shoe, the way that they designed it, whenever you pick up the shoe try to bend it. It’s very flexible. That was important too, the shoe being immediately flexible. You don’t have to break it in, it doesn’t feel anything like a cupsole in any way. There’s zero stiffness to it.
Simple sole, one piece toe cap; as far as other HUF models go it looks like a dressier take on the Sutter.
Yeah, kind of, that’s what it was based off. No toe bumpers or heel bumpers or anything like that. Just really straightforward like the Sutter is. It’s like a shoe you can’t get mad at that’s pretty pleasing to the eye no matter who it is.
The heel has got a lot of people talking. Why did you implement that to it?
That’s why. That’s fucking exactly why. If you look at a Samba or a traditional soccer shoe, if you look at the heel to toe ratio it’s more drastic than my shoe. Like, if you put it flat on the ground, my shoe lays flat. There’s no gap in between the shoe like you would feel in a regular dress shoe. You don’t feel anything but it definitely pops. It’s not like “Oh, this shoe with a big heel” like a fucking Clarks or an Oxford shoe. It’s not that drastic but I feel like it’s just enough to have people think, like, “That’s different. I’m going to try that, I’m going to see what that does for me.” No one has done it in skating so I’m excited to be the first to try it and I’m sure Huf is as well. Buddies of mine skate it, I’ve been passing it around and there’s no complaints. They like it so we’ll see how it goes over with the majority.
With you being injured for the past year, what can we expect in terms of a promo or video part for your shoe?
I have a part coming out in early July from my footage that we’ve gathered since I’ve been on HUF and there’s a little commercial that we’re trying to figure out how to do.
Are you going to go for a standard video part or broody black and white like Dylan did?
No, I don’t think they’ll be any naked chicks in my video. At all. But, maybe Walter will make the cut.
Were you stoked to give Walter a pro board for 3D?
I didn’t actually make that choice but yeah. I’m psyched that he had it, has two now. [laughs]
Who do you think should be next in line for pro model with HUF? Brad Cromer is killing it right now.
I love Cromer, yeah. He’s definitely one of my faves as well. I’d say so.
Finally, are there any plans for full-length HUF video in the near future?
No clue, no talks of it. There are a lot of those guys filming video parts now so basically the whole team is really busy.But maybe after the summer is over and things slow down after a few trips. That would be pretty cool, I hope that those things don’t die and they’re obviously not. I’d like to do it. I feel that it’s lost. I mean I’m filming a part by myself, for the shoe and that’s kind of what things have turned into. That way works as well, I feel just as long as the video part’s good it’s just as effective. Just the attention span of people nowadays, it’s catering to that.