A retrospective celebrating the career of Anthony Van Engelen through the lens of Mike O’Meally.
40 page, limited edition publication for Vans and Welcome Skate Store.
concept, words, design
SINK YOUR OWN BOAT
In 1998, Mike O’Meally moved to New York City. Immediately, he began photographing and skating with Jason Dill. Meeting his other half was inevitable.
“Anthony still doesn’t, but he never really talked too much back then. He’s the type of guy that will talk without saying anything – either with his eyes or through a laugh. I’ve always said: “He lets you sink your own boat,”” says Mike, recalling his earliest memories of AVE. He speculates the first photo they shot together was an over-the-back 5050 at the Columbus Park handrail in Chinatown, Lower Manhattan. It’s a spot that Anthony has revisited throughout his career and Mike hazards AVE was the first to tackle it head on.
Throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Mike continued to hang out with AVE, whenever he visited Dill in New York, and he became friends with Rob Pluhowski and Anthony Pappalardo over the course of trips to go shooting in Philadelphia. Quickly, he became acquainted with the Alien Workshop and Habitat teams but, even by the standard of their riders during the ‘Photosynthesis’ era, “Anthony had an extra gear on him that nobody else seemed to have,” which was amplified by his energy around Dill.
“They were kids and he was in his mid to early 20s. He was just more physically powerful and confident. You could tell he’d taken more slams over the years. Not that those guys hadn’t but he just had more grit and salt in the game of skateboarding,” says Mike.
“Pappalardo, we had this nickname for him: Mr Burns. Because he was kind of meek and not physically imposing at all but when he’d get on a board he would really come out of his shell. Whereas Anthony had the appearance of a cowboy. We always joked that he looked like a Marlboro Man. That’s [when he was] walking around and then the same thing applied to his skating. He was just a strong guy. He’s not a big guy but he’s built for speed and power.”
Offering some first-hand insight into witnessing Anthony’s drive, Mike flags up a folder on his computer titled ‘Board Throwers’ – a glimpse into the countless meltdowns (or “Kerry Getz type situations”) he’s been present for. “I’ve certainly got a few of those of Anthony,” he chuckles.
“I don’t think he’s one of those self-critical perfectionists, he’s just honest and has a very open outlook of how certain tricks should look, how fast you should be going or about popping out in a solid manner. He held himself to a really high standard and that would often lead to doing things again or until he couldn’t walk anymore.” Further dismissing unreasonable perfectionism as part of Anthony’s nature, Mike deems that if AVE’s battles for tricks aren’t due to his self-imposed standards then it’s purely “a matter of trying something so hard that even to land it is enough.”
“I have this one picture where he’s bleeding through his socks and that kind of sums him up. He would just keep going. He’s had problems with his toes and feet where he had to tape them before every session and he would be skating with a lot of pain. Cortisone injections, stuff like that… So, on top of wanting to do things well, and being powerful and stylish, he’s a tough guy. I would not want to get into any kind of trouble with him,” says Mike. A bold claim considering O’Meally is built like a heavyweight boxer.
“You watch him do a switch crooked grind, on say a two or three foot high ledge, and it’s like watching a truck come down the street. It might be really simple, but it’s really loud, and it’s really fast and you better not get in the way,” laughs Mike.
Before moving the conversation on to a selection of Mike’s photos of Anthony captured throughout the ‘Mind Field’ years – there’s a lingering question. Throughout their two decades of shooting together, has Mike ever had any inclination that Anthony takes some enjoyment from the suffering required to do what he’s done on a skateboard?
“Never verbally,” says Mike. “Maybe just a wry smile, or a sinister grin, here and there…”
The first photo I wanted to talk about is Anthony’s frontside bluntslide around the curved ledge. I originally saw this on the cover of Alien Workshop’s Fall 2006 catalogue. Does that help jog your memory?
That’s in Texas, at a bus station in Houston, and that was hot. We were there around July or August, skating at two or three in the morning because it was too hot to skate during the day.
It was quite hard [for him] to get all the way around but he got it. It’s nice when somebody is trying something for a while because, as a photographer, it allows you to think, “I’ve definitely got one from this angle.” It allows you to slowly experiment. It’s sort of scary when people land things first try, [laughs]. But that one, I was like: “Oh man, this has to be shot from here,” just because the curved bench looks so cool from the top. I was happy with how that photo turned out because of the glass wall. It looks cool and Anthony looks super solid on the bluntslide. That was a good one and I’m pretty sure it was shot in the middle of the night.
That was my impression. I’ve never seen the footage of this trick so I’ve always thought it would have just been you two guys in the early hours of the morning. The way it’s lit really evokes a sense of isolation and late night ambience.
I’m sure there is footage as Greg [Hunt] was there and definitely filmed it. But, yeah, nobody else was around other than some crackheads and maybe a sheriff would drive by. It was a ghost town.
Anthony is no stranger to manhandling curved ledges. How long was he skating this bench for?
I don’t remember him battling too hard for it. He probably landed it more than a few times. I don’t think he landed it straight away but I don’t remember him having too much trouble with that one. It was just making it all the way around, every time, then getting a nice clean pop off of the end. That’s how that one went.
Was this taken on a Hasselblad?
That’s correct, yeah.
I’ve heard Hasselblad fisheyes are notorious for being so wide that even if the flashes are placed way out of the shot you can still get lens flare. Was that any issue here?
That glass wall might have helped me. Also, you can see there’s a pillar to the left, some kind of wall. So, without getting too neeky about it all, I didn’t have too many problems. The toughest thing was that I had to stand up on top of the glass brick wall to shoot that photo. It wasn’t very wide so I probably toppled off a few times, [laughs].
The geometry of this photo has a very ‘Workshop’ feel to it. Did that occur to you at the time?
For sure. I was working for those guys so I knew there was a sort of unspoken aesthetic with Mike Hill. I knew what he was looking for but I would have shot it like that anyway – being that it was Anthony and they were filming for ‘Mind Field’ at the time it was just hand in glove, basically.
He [Mike Hill] isn’t a man of many words. I would have something to send him and then I might get a text or an email. I think the poster just showed up and I was like: “Oh cool, very cool,” [laughs]. That was a catalogue cover but I think they made a poster out of it and maybe an ad.
I love this photo because it’s so classically AVE. The trick on a curved ledge and his overall look; a trucker hat, plain clothes, the tattoos and he’s wearing Old Skools. His appearance and skating hasn’t changed or faltered in 15 years. Do you feel there’s a timeless quality to Anthony?
Oh absolutely, I would agree with you 100% on that. I don’t want to say he hasn’t advanced, because he definitely has, but he’s found his own groove a little more. He’s immune to the trends in skating now. He’s his own person whereas when he was younger he might have been doing certain tricks because… Actually, I don’t think I could even say that of him – that he was trying to keep up with what was current. Now he’s just a ‘skater’s skater’. There’s only one Anthony Van Engelen and, with everything he has been through in his life, there’s a deep sense of self that has only become more apparent as time has gone by. The tricks, certainly, but harnessing the power, that drive and determination, has only grown from strength to strength since I first met him.
So the next photo is Anthony and Omar Salazar bombing into the bank in Texas. Was this published anywhere?
Yes, that was in a TransWorld article I did called ‘So Solid Crew’ which was a pick of a bunch of my favourite skaters.
This would have been taken midway through filming for Mind Field. What can you remember about this particular trip?
That trip would have been Greg Hunt, obviously, Bill Strobeck, Jason Dill, Anthony, Omar, Dylan [Rieder] was on that trip and maybe Ed Selego was there too.
You know what? That trip was to Texas in November 2007 and Greg actually left to go to the Lakai Fully Flared premiere. A few of us were tempted to go for the night and come back. Then everyone stayed.
What lead you to this spot? Judging from the signs in the background it looks like it’s at the side of a highway.
Yeah, it’s some kind of spillway for flood water coming off of the highway. I want to say the skater from Texas that we were with took us to that. One thing I always look at with that photo – Omar Salazar is a bit of a stuntman, a hellraiser, a daredevil, and he’s dropped in on some serious shit in his time. What I like about this picture is he’s going first and he’s already in the steep part. Anthony is, obviously, no slouch but if you look at his face, he’s like: “Oh shit.”
That thing was steep, man. But [the problem] wasn’t just that it was steep, it was that you have to come out of the shoot and there was grass on one side and a wall on the other so if you got wobbles, or didn’t really know where to go, that’s when you would get hurt.
The footage of this photo appears for a few seconds in the introduction to Mind Field but I can’t remember seeing any tricks into this bank throughout the whole video. Which has always surprised me, because it looks amazing visually, but the lack of footage here now makes sense in light of what you just said.
If you look from the left side to the right side, say in the bottom eighth of the photo, there’s a mellow contact lens type shape. A concave. Its scooped out where you roll in, then there’s a big crack, and it’s scooped out again. There was that factor, alongside you land and come straight down the shoot. You’re not rolling out to flatground, basically.
It was beyond the point of doing tricks. Maybe an ollie into it. I don’t even think Omar ollied into it, actually, and that’s saying something. That’ll tell you how gnarly that spot it, [laughs].
You touched on it a minute ago but their expressions certainly grab your attention. Especially because AVE usually appears so stoical and Omar’s footage often shows how excitable he is. Whereas here, AVE actually looks concerned and Omar is completely stone-faced.
Yeah, he was really concentrating on that landing, I think. It’s funny because it’s one of my photos where people have always said: “Oh, that photo is so cool,” and I’ve thought, “It’s just the guys dropping in on a bank.” The more I study it, there are details I catch on second viewing – like Omar’s belt is flapping. The way Anthony’s front truck is lifted up too gives you a sense that you can’t just roll in straight because you would hang up. You almost have to roll into it like a vert ramp. Also, that back transition behind them makes it look even crazier.
Did they take that before rolling into this?
Yeah, a little kickturn up that. Exactly.
SOUTH OF DELANCEY
Next up is the frontside 5050 in New York which was AVE’s TransWorld cover back in April 2009. Where in New York is this spot and, to your knowledge, is it still there? I can’t recall seeing anyone else skate this.
This is somewhere along Houston Park, between Chrystie and Allen Street, down around south of Delancey. There was a clip of someone, maybe in “BLESSED” . I can’t remember who – but I remember seeing it, recently, and thinking: “Oh, someone else finally skated it.”
This is another one which passes by so quickly in ‘Mind Field’ where the photo does more justice in showing how hard it must have been to skate this spot. AVE’s trucks are almost at a 45 degree angle and I imagine if his board levelled out he would have stopped dead. Truck bolts hit the wall and you’re fucked. That kind of situation.
Yeah, that ledge… If he grinded it 20 more times it would have disintegrated.
Did Anthony struggle with this one?
A little bit, for the first five or ten tries, then he just got in the zone. I remember him doing that one relatively quickly. He was certainly grinding them every try then just trying to get the ollie out. It was one of those that looked quite easy and quick, in the clip, but that’s a tough spot. Look how tall it is for starters. It’s almost waist-high.
It’s a tight squeeze and the position of his right hand suggests it might have been difficult not to touch the wall – either as he locked into or popped out of the 5050. Was this a one-and-done make or did he have to land it a few times?
He made two or three. He did one a little bit sketchy, one perfect and then thought: “Fuck it, I’ll try one more.” I definitely remember him landing it more than once but not exactly multiple times.
Skateboarders who have ongoing relationships with photographers and filmers often have their approach shaped by the person pointing a camera at them. In regards to that, do you think you’ve had any influence over the way Anthony skated throughout the time when you shot this and the other photos I picked out?
I don’t think so. He was always a guy who knew what he wanted to do. I lived in New York, and those guys would only come out every so often so I was always taking people to things I had found just from skating around. Actually, it might have been Strobeck’s idea to take him there, if I’m honest, because Bill lived close by in Chinatown. But as far as me having an influence over him, it was more about, “Hey, I’ve got this cool spot that you might like,” you know? I was never trying to tell him what tricks he should do or anything like that.
I know this 5050 is one your favourite cover photos. Does that come down to simply the trick and photo or because of the time in yours and Anthony’s life when it was taken?
Shit man, all of that really. Looking back on it the layout is pretty stock, it’s pretty ‘lad mag’ or whatever, but I thought it was a really suitable choice. It’s a super classic photo. It almost looks like he’s surfing, in a way, but it’s cement, a massive ledge, red New York City bricks. That’s what skateboarding looks like to me. It was nice [for it] to go on the cover, especially for him, but certainly for me I was happy with the photo. I thought it was a good choice on their behalf.
Backtracking to what I was saying about the relationship between photographers, filmers and skateboarders; how would you describe your friendship with Anthony in comparison to Greg Hunt who has documented, near enough, every milestone of his career on video for what’s now approaching twenty years?
Those guys are close beyond the level of any two men. Those guys have been to war together, and come back, and gone to war together again. They know each other inside and out. I would say I’m good friends with Anthony but, for Greg, there’s no comparison there what-so-ever. Greg’s a confidant, a friend, an advisor, a father figure… Creatively, they work great together and being around those two, to witness that first-hand, is an honour.
Me and Anthony, it’s a bit more jovial. Whereas, their relationship is a little deeper and more serious. Having said that, he’s cool. He’s honest and straightforward so if I was ever acting out of line I’m sure he would have told me. AVE invited me with my new baby to a backyard BBQ he was having, I think it was the 4th of July when I had my first son. That was cool. I don’t see him a lot these days but every time I do he’s just a solid guy. He’s not the type of guy I’d feel the need to be around every day but he’s never flaked out on me, personally. He’s somebody you can be proud to call a friend.
LIGHTHOUSE IN THE STORM
On the subject of AVE and Greg, this is a suitable one to follow on with. What had occurred prior to this being taken?
I remember exactly where that was. We were in a small ditch in Texas, again, on the same trip as that drop-in photo. It was a two-to-three foot high ditch where he had done an alley-oop frontside 5-0 and a bunch of other tricks. I can’t remember what he filmed that night. It might have been a different line with a switch 5-0, or something-or-other, but it had been a long session. Another one of those where he was trying to get it perfect. That was the days of generator sessions.
Anthony’s sobriety really enforced his determination throughout Mind Field. What was different about the Anthony you first got to know, the younger and more reckless Anthony, and the person he became throughout Mind Field and has been ever since?
Well, I didn’t really get to spend too much time with the young and reckless Anthony. I definitely saw it, but I never got stuck with it, if that makes any sense [laughs]. But this was a guy who would skate until three in the morning and look at you like: “Don’t blink your eyes for a minute if you can’t handle it. We’re on this trip. This is what we’re here to do. Let’s all go eat some shitty food. We’re in it.” At that point, that motivation is infectious. The tricks aren’t going to do themselves.
I’ll be honest with you, it was also exhausting. There were times where I’d go sleep in the van because, at certain points, they’re just filming to re-film things. There wasn’t always a photo to be had, or I’d already got the photo, but those were long days and long hours. If I remember anything it’s the dedication, motivation and perseverance.
I interviewed Greg last year and we spent a lot of time talking about his and Anthony’s relationship. I called them a “prolific duo.” Greg basically brushed that off and came back with “It’s all him.”
That’s Greg for sure, he’s so humble.
What’s your take on their combined contribution to skateboarding?
Look at it this way. If, let’s say, Greg was a man of lesser strength of character and patience, he could have walked away from Anthony, many times, based on the fact Anthony had his own trials and tribulations with whatever he was going through. But Greg is somebody that… He’ll tell you himself that most of what he has got done is through just being there and not abandoning these guys whether they need him the most or they need him the least. He’s just there. He’s always present, he’s always calm, he’s consistent and he’s kind.
Those are really strong characteristics you could say about somebody despite the fact he’s shockingly talented, he’s got great ideas and a great eye. The main things I could tell you about Greg especially being around Anthony, is that he’s patient, he’s persistent and he’s present. I think that’s really the pillars of their relationship. Greg has certainly stuck by all of those guys throughout everything. Success, failure, addiction – all of it.
That’s just me being factual. Greg is a good friend of mine but that’s saying nothing of his vision as a filmmaker and photographer himself. But, if anything stands out about their relationship, it’s what I said earlier. Now, it has been 20-odd years later that I’ve known those guys for. It takes more than just a flash in the pan of brilliant ideas and talent to make something that long lasting. It goes a lot deeper.
In your Chrome Ball interview you said: “Greg was always there with the healthy alternative,” for AVE – and Dill too. Is that what you’re alluding to?
Yeah, definitely, but even when they weren’t being healthy he was there [laughs]. It’s not like he ran away when shit was hitting the fan. He would just patiently wait without judgement. I’m sure he had words with them plenty of times. In fact, I know he did. I never witnessed it but Greg is certainly the guy who… You ever hear the expression ‘Speak softly but carry a big stick’? Basically, let your actions speak louder than your words. That’s Greg. His work speaks for itself but those guys could get pretty crazy at times and he was able to deflect it, or let it bounce off, without absorbing too much. He’s the lighthouse in the storm.
One day on the road, Heath Kirchart, Dylan Rieder and AVE happened across a beaver skin Stetson. “The concept of the cowboy hat started as a joke – kind of a crown for whoever gets a good trick. But with Heath, nothing is ever simple and soon The Hat became a complex game full of rules and rewards,” wrote Greg Hunt in the ‘Mind Field’ photo book. Filming a trick worthy of taking The Hat meant a notch was carved into it – allowing the wearer to ride shotgun indefinitely, pick which music was played in the van and choose where to eat until someone else laid their claim. AVE, Heath and Dylan also bought selection of pin badges to compliment The Hat wearer’s efforts. One badge, which boasted: “One shot, one kill,” never made it to The Hat, allegedly…
On a lighter note, we’re onto AVE, Dill and The Hat – an incidental from the interview you did with Greg, about Mind Field, which was featured in the same issue of TransWorld with AVE on the cover.
Oh, this one’s great.
Were you there when AVE, Heath and Dylan bought The Hat?
I don’t think so. That might have been a separate trip. It was already in existence, but not for long, before I took this photo. It’s got about 15, maybe 20, marks on it so it had probably been going for about six months when I first witnessed ‘The Hat’ [chuckles]. This would have been taken, again, at the end of 2006 so that’s probably a year or two in [to the video], I would think.
Can you remember this exact trip? The TWS caption is: “The Hat – marked up somewhere in the Deep South.”
This would have been between Texas and Atlanta or maybe Atlanta and New Orleans. I bet if you talked to Anthony or Dill and showed them this photo then they would remember. But Anthony is driving, and The Hat is on the dashboard, so I’m sure it would have been him that earned it.
I figured it would have been Dill because he’s riding shotgun.
Maybe you’re right [laughs]. That was a good trip for Anthony though. He got a lot of tricks on that trip.
What springs to mind?
There was a half-cab crook, on a pretty tall rail, that was a sequence in his TransWorld interview. I shot almost half the TransWorld interview on that trip. There was a weird ditch in Texas where he did a frontside carve and ollied out at the end. There was a feeble and crooked grind on a pretty mellow kinked rail but you have to go out over the kerb.
What did The Hat look like by the end of Mind Field?
Oh wow, it was pretty good and marked up. It might have been adorned with a hat band and some kind of eagle feather as well.
Who earned the right to wear it the most throughout Mind Field and do you know if anyone still has it?
I think the title holder was Heath but you’d have to check with Greg on this. I’m sure it’s still somewhere, I doubt it would have gotten thrown away. That thing is far too important to get rid of.
AVE is in the driver’s seat, taking responsibility for the mission, and Dill is laid back all nonchalant and smoking a cigarette. Those postures really mirror the contrast between their lifestyles at this point.
Absolutely, and the sticker: ‘I’m so gothic I’m dead,’ always cracks me up.
As AVE had gotten sober, but Dill was in a turbulent part of his life throughout the video, did they butt heads due to being in different frames of mind?
Anthony and Jason? Oh, 100%. I recall a trip to Athens, Greece – it was me, those two and Bill Strobeck. I think early 2008. Dill was still getting pretty saucy at the time. I remember walking downstairs into the hotel lobby and Dill was having a couple. Anthony got stuck into him about it. “You haven’t been filming enough! We’re here to do this trip. You should be out skating.” In classic Dill style, he was like: “Ah man, don’t worry about it” [laughs].
What was the general vibe around them and do you have a favourite memory of AVE and Dill together?
Certainly that picture you picked. It taps into a good memory because of the banter. This is something you might not know. There was a shoebox in that van which had… Perfect example, remember when Ryan Sheckler did the Lynx ad? AVE would go through every new issue of TransWorld and Thrasher and if you had something, that was considered to be bait or kooky, your page would get torn out and put in the shoebox of shame, [laughing]. The conversations that would go on around that. Oh man, if you could be a fly on the wall in that van at that time. Ruthless. Trust me. Ruthless.
Who dished out the most shit? Dill?
Well, Dill for sure, because he’s dishing out shit all day long but, as I said earlier, Anthony was a man of few words so when he would say something, man, it would be crushing. You would hate to be that person [laughs]. It was done in good spirits. I mean, it was pretty mean spirited but also with the ideals of keeping skateboarding legit. So, any kind of bad deodorant ad, or anything slightly commercially corrupt, just got crucified.
The last one is my favourite photo of AVE. The over-the-back nosegrind at Columbus Park. I always refer to this as ‘AVE’s Rail’ when I’m trying to describe it.
One thing I remember is there was always old Chinese men playing chess in the runway at the top of that.
Columbus has a similar mellow atmosphere to other New York spots like Tompkins Square Park or TF West. So, I imagine you wouldn’t have been hassled much while skating this rail. However, I was wondering, what are the differences in shooting skateboarding in pre-9/11 and post-9/11 New York?
Well, that would only make a difference at buildings which had security. Say, some nice ledges that you really wanted to go at – it became apparent you couldn’t do that as much anymore because there was ramped up security for fear of trucks being driven into buildings. If anything, those spots became more skate-able because there was less eyes on them. Plazas, ledges and fancy marble buildings became more off limits but for places like that it didn’t make too much of a difference.
Did this go down during the same New York mission as the frontside 5050 cover photo?
Now I think about it, he may have flown back out specifically just to get that. It took a few times, actually. I got the make that day because there’s a picture on the page [in TransWorld] of Strobeck checking the footage as well. This was one where I was a little nervous of whether I should have shot a sequence but I’d already shot the over-the-back 5050, the first thing he shot on that rail, [as a sequence] back in 2000 for Skateboarder Magazine. The photos I was already sitting on [for TransWorld] were all nice Hasselblad stills.
I think Ben Colen shot an over-the-back 5-0 and I’ve shot Alex Olson do an over-the-back- feeble grind. They were sequences so I was like: “Man, I’ve got to shoot this in a different way.” It wasn’t super difficult to shoot but I was nervous it might look like a regular nosegrind but, because he’s so high up on the rail, hopefully you can tell it’s from over-the-back.
Yeah, if it was a side-on nosegrind he would be past the middle post of the handrail by the time he was on it.
See, there you go. Good. I need the skate nerds to help me out because sometimes I question myself on stuff like that. It was more of a choice, for me, where there had already been three sequences at this place so how do I make it look a bit different?
The over-the-back 5-0 appears in Mind Field immediately followed by the footage of this. However, the spot looks slightly different as by the time he did this nosegrind the stairs had been painted red. How far apart did he put those tricks down?
I would think it would be at least a year, or two, but I’m totally guessing.
This is the first photo in AVE’s ‘Pro Spotlight’ interview and, above the text on that spread, there’s a photo of him sat on the stairs with someone checking a camera but their face is obscured. I didn’t realise that was Strobeck. What was dynamic like between him and Anthony?
Pretty good, actually, because Strobeck is jolly, he’s witty and he’s got good bants. He’s like… “Tibet Midler,” you know? What are some of the other ones… “Lord of the shrimps.” He’s got all these funny sayings. He has his own language, basically. I’m blanking on them now. He has a whole list of…
Puns. Like at the end of ‘joyride.’ when Gonz gets pulled over and he calls him ‘Markio Andretti’.
There you go. He’s got hundreds of those and he would be cracking Anthony up with stuff similar to that. He’s kind of a son of a gun, to be honest. Anthony would get in the zone, and in his head, but Bill always kept it positive, encouraging and just funny, man. He’s a funny guy, I can’t deny that. He’s a cracker.
Everything about this trick is hard. The rail is tall but there’s also a crack before the stairs so you would have to pop even earlier to make it over the back of the rail.
It’s an intimidating spot, isn’t it?
Yeah. How many times did he have to return for this trick?
This was the third visit back so when he did get it, he was quite relieved. “I’ve been buying plane tickets, coming out here and staying in hotels.” I thought: “This guy is on some shit.” I remember, not questioning it, but thinking: “Is this taking it a bit too seriously?” at the time. But he was dedicated and obviously wanted it. You don’t always realise the brevity of things like that when you’re just the photographer. It’s a little different when you’re shooting a video because you understand this concept of where you need a trick within a whole part. Looking back on it, I think: “Imagine if I wasn’t there and somebody else got to shoot it.”
He’s returned to this spot over the years starting with Photosynthesis , twice in Mind Field , and then for his Propeller ender . What does revisiting one spot to constantly out-do himself say about Anthony as a person?
He’s a creature of habit. That’s what it says about him. He likes what he likes. He’ll tell you when he doesn’t like something and when he does like something he gives it 150% just to get the very best out of himself and what he thinks he can do. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t want to have a regret knowing he could have tried harder, and didn’t, and he’ll fight to the teeth for that.
What do you think the younger Anthony, in the midst of all the chaos he went through, would think about his present-day self?
He might be shocked but he couldn’t feel anything but proud of himself. It’s easy to get fucked up and throw it all away. It’s the flick of a switch or a telephone call. To stay on it through failure and trial and adversity… Skating’s not easy man, especially at this level. There are only a handful of people that can do it – let alone stay with it. If anything, I think it’s more of a shocker that he did this rather than he didn’t. There would have been nothing wrong if he was just one of the best skaters, and he burnt bright, then said: “Look man, I’m retired now.” But to stay in the field, as to use the expression, to stay in the battle for this long… He’s a general, you know? He’s a leader. You can never replace a guy like that. There will only ever be one guy like that. We can do these interviews, and talk about the photos and the footage, but my favourite thing about shooting guys like this is you can’t ever really explain what makes him – him.
You can try, but the most appealing thing to me is there has always been that little bit of mystery where you don’t quite know what he’s thinking. I think that’s my favourite thing about Anthony. You think you know him – but I don’t think you really know him, [laughs]. I don’t think anybody really knows him.
How do you think he’ll be remembered in skateboarding?
If you could take the spirit of Dogtown, all the way through to the advancement of the pressure flip and the technological era, then add a little bit of Zero and Flip in – in terms of going bigger, faster, higher, longer… Then take that mystery of the Alien Workshop, take that polish of DC and then onto Vans – that classic approach. You mix all of that up in a bucket and he’s got something of the best of all the best eras of skateboarding within him – and he’s still going.
He’s not a guy who ever sat down and took it easy. And he’s just good to watch. Looking at a switch crooked grind from that guy is what it’s supposed to look like. When you hear an Independent truck grind a ledge like that, it sounds scary. It sounds like a building is falling down and that’s what it’s supposed to sound like.