Photography courtesy of HUF Worldwide
It’s hard to pin point exactly what’s so enjoyable about the way Brad Cromer skates. While he isn’t jumping down the biggest gaps, neither is he trying to pass off the same tired skids, wallies and no-comply variations as what ‘creativity’ apparently is.
That’s not to say his skateboarding doesn’t take unorthodox routes, it’s just presented in a far more subtle way. Be that through a casually spun body varial over a hefty bump to bar or the odd treacherous fastplant. There’s plenty of power in his style too, which bears some resemblance to Keith Hufnagel who has had a significant influence on Brad both on and off the board.
From discussing his long tenure as an amateur skater, hometown, or his self-produced video lo-fi , Brad comes across as humble and honest. With a well deserved signature HUF shoe debuting this week, it felt as good a time as any to find out what’s been going on with Brad over the last few years.
How does living in Long Beach compare to Florida, do you miss being back home?
I do, it’s very different here. Yeah, I’m by the beach but it’s not the same at all. I lived by the beach in Florida but it’s a lot warmer there; the water at the beach is bearable, it’s warm, it’s like bath water. Here the water is not clean, there’s oil rigs out here, it’s cold as shit, it’s just uncomfortable. It’s a whole other side of the United States; different weather, different climate. Super hectic versus where I’m from, it’s a lot slower paced where I’m from.
I’ve heard that East Coasters can kind of discard Florida.
You mean that they don’t go there or say it’s not East Coast?
Apparently saying it’s not East Coast. I mean this is just second hand information but I spoke to Josh Stewart a couple of months ago and he mentioned how people from New York are always ‘reminding him’ that it doesn’t count.
[Laughs] Josh is from Florida and so is every dude that he films. A lot of the New York, like Theories dudes are from Florida. All my friends from Florida live in New York now.
But no, I can see that. It’s way down there, it’s hot. The best part for skating is all the way at the bottom, like Miami area. Obviously I’m from there so I would put in the category of East Coast. I lived ten minutes from the beach, on the East Coast… It’s it own thing.
It’s definitely the East Coast, I don’t see how you can not say that but I guess you could say it’s not as ‘East Coast’ as New York, Philly and New Jersey because it doesn’t snow or whatever. Weather wise it’s not East Coast but it’s the East Coast if you’re a fucking geologist, [laughs].
You have pretty strong opinions regarding what a skateboarder can achieve in their hometown and you wanted to turn pro before moving out of Florida. Your recent HUF part was all shot there, was that to reflect those opinions and love of being back home?
Yeah, I mean for this thing I just wanted it to have a certain look. I wanted it to have a certain feel, certain music, filmed a certain way, certain tricks, certain spots. With the way I pictured it, I couldn’t have done it better than there. With the weather, the heat and the rain we didn’t get as much as I wanted so it was cut short, but we made what we could with what we had and I like how it came out. It has the feel I pictured. No way could I have filmed it here in California. It’s a totally different look and it’s not what I wanted for this thing. So yeah, it ties in with me having strong feelings for where I’m from.
Do you prefer watching footage of people skate their hometowns?
Absolutely. To me it shows more initiative; taking advantage of your surroundings and working with what you have. It pushes you to be more creative, it pushes you to use your brain in different ways and really, I feel like it makes you skate in your purest form. More than relocating to somewhere else and relying on other people for where and what to skate and deciding what hasn’t been done so you can maybe do one trick. I like the opportunities of people skating their hometowns, it looks better and it comes off better on film. In every way I enjoy it more.
You usually know the history of spots because you’ve been a part of it too.
You know how to get to the spot, you know where to go get water, you know what’s been done, possibly you found the spot. Feels more organic than “Oh where’s that one thing that this guy did this thing at on Instagram?” At home it’s cooler. A lot of stuff we found too, we found as kids or recently found. It just feels more real.
You skate the HUF Sutter a lot, was that the main influence behind your shoe?
I guess the Sutter mixed with a Classic mixed with a couple of shoes that aren’t for skateboarding. They’re obviously not an intricate shoe but it was just the little things that I liked in a shoe put into one. Nothing crazy, nothing extra that isn’t needed. It’s just the general shape I like to look down at.
You’ve been there with HUF since the early days but how far back do you go exactly?
I’ve was on since day one with HUF. At the time I was getting Converse and they would never send me the shoes I wanted, I just wanted Chucks and they just kept sending me bulky ass shoes. Keith hit me up and I met him at his office in San Francisco. He already had a store in S.F., he had clothing and did collaborations and all. Then he just told me “We’re thinking about making shoes” and I was like “If Keith Hufnagel is doing this, I’m gonna do it.” I trusted everything he had.
I’ve been there since the beginning and I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else and I could say that with all my sponsors. I think I’ve found my home. It’s a comfortable feeling and I’ve watched Huf since the beginning go from “Hey, I think we’re gonna make shoes” to now we’re going to Japan with Austyn Gillette. It’s grown so much and it’s really cool to see it from the beginning to now. I feel like I’ve grown with the company.
How much of an effect did Austyn Gillette and Dylan Rieder getting on the team have on HUF?
They definitely helped the company grow. They have their own following, they are huge names in skateboarding. I’m pretty sure they didn’t want to ride for, you know, a super corporate kind of company. I think I remember Dylan saying he had offers from Nike and all. He had a shoe design ready to go and Huf agreed to do it. You know the first Dylan that came out? I think that’s his design. Nike probably wouldn’t do that, they have their own ways. HUF is a smaller company that is going to listen and I think those dudes felt it was a good home for them and it definitely helped the team grow. It helped bring in people that may not have paid attention to it before. It’s a major add to the team, both of those guys, especially at the same time and I one hundred percent backed it and still do.
Did you know Dylan before he got on as you both rode for Rasa Libre years ago?
I mean we were more acquaintances. He actually got me on Rasa Libre, forever ago. I was just flow for Rasa Libre and I only rode for that company for maybe a year and it went under, then it came back not through Deluxe and all. But I never went on Rasa Libre trips or whatever. That company was almost on it’s way out when I got on.
How did Dylan get you on the team?
I’m pretty sure I was at this contest at 3rd Lair in Minnesota. Dylan was there, he was super known, it was around the time of his Transworld part [A Time To Shine, 2006] so people knew who he was, he was like the top Am guy. I don’t even know who I rode for or what board I had and I skated the contest and maybe did well. I don’t know what he said but pretty sure he mentioned something to the Deluxe team manager at the time, Darin Howard. Then Darin took me aside the next day and asked me. I started getting boards, then that went under and then that turned into Krooked and then here I am now.
You were Am for about seven years before turning pro. In the time leading up to that it seems you were just staying productive and doing your own thing. Not exactly trying to turn pro or anything. Do you think now, things happen too quickly and people maybe don’t have to put as much time in for that to happen?
To each his own but I wasn’t, at the time, skateboarding to turn pro, per se. I was, yeah, I guess just doing my own thing really. Just doing what I would do regardless over there in Florida; skating everyday, filming everyday. I had jobs, I worked in a skate shop and worked on boats but once I started getting some money from skating I quit those jobs and was one hundred percent with skateboarding.
I rode for Krooked for probably seven years as an Am. Which is a while but yeah, it is different these days. I wouldn’t say people don’t work as hard I just feel like everything is more sped up. It’s like a constant conveyor belt of footage, pros, video parts. Everything is so on demand now which is maybe why it is so quick that someone can turn pro. Again, not saying that they don’t work as hard but for me at that time, that 2000-fucking-whenever it was, I felt like that’s more how it went. It took longer, skateboarding wasn’t as big as it is now, the internet wasn’t as big and everything wasn’t so sped up.
Do you think a lot of pro skateboarders would benefit from having worked a job and getting more regular life experience?
Just for life in general yeah, having a job is good. It helps you know how to work with people, it helps you appreciate a dollar. It’s good to have a work ethic and know what it feels to work. Skateboarding is definitely working for a paycheque if you get paid. But I loved, well I didn’t love, but I liked working. I worked two jobs as an am and had no problem with it. I like the feeling of being productive, working for what you get and still do. If I don’t skate for a few days I feel like I’m not worth being paid as a skateboarder. I feel shit sitting at home for a few days, like I’m always supposed to be out producing in some way or another.
In a past interview you’ve talked about quitting drinking for a while and wanting to quit smoking. Elsewhere, you’ve mentioned not agreeing with the energy drink side of sponsorship. But, how guilty do you think skateboarders can be of advocating something as bad as those drinks such as smoking, drinking or the whole party lifestyle some companies have put across?
I did that for fourteen months and it just felt like the right time. I was working on my Transworld part [Outliers, 2014] and wanted to feel as good as I could. Work as hard as I could towards the part and just, on accident, didn’t drink for fourteen months and it went really well.
Everyone has their own thing, I personally don’t like partying or anything, I’ll have a few beers at night or something but don’t party. I feel like I’ve done that already at earlier ages but people just do whatever they want. I still smoke and I don’t like it. But it’s good to be able to have a certain level, you know? Whether it comes to drinking or partying. Because to be getting paid as a skateboarder is a fucking blessing so you might as well do it while you can, take care of yourself as much as you can and make it last as long as you can. I think it’s cool that there are a lot of older guys like AVE and Guy [Mariano] that are sober and could be a good person to look up to. Some of the gnarliest skateboarders are sober so maybe that will help people just skate and not worry about the party side and do their best at what they can.
You made your own video, lo-fi, a couple of years ago and it sold out quite quickly, which is impressive for physical copies now. What do you think to the way skate media has progressed since you brought that video out?
It has progressed a lot. At that time, I think it was over two years ago, it might have been four, I was in a good place with good friends and had an open window to work on something like that. It was actually one of the funnest times in skateboarding for me and I wanted to take that into a physical form. I worked on it for a year, went to Boston and New York, most of it is in Florida. All I wanted to do was capture that fun, carefree year and put it into something that I can hold. I made a limited amount of copies, maybe made five hundred. I didn’t want to have leftovers under my bed. It was awesome. People enjoyed it for the most part. I just wanted a physical copy, I still have it right here and it’s cool to have that instead of on this thing [points to the computer screen] and it gets lost. It’s just cool to have, to be able to hold because I can hold that forever. Who knows, the internet could just disappear one day and everything is gone that has happened in the last fucking six years.
Last year, two of the most notable full length videos were Propeller (Vans) and Vase (Isle Skateboards). Isle gave Vase a full hard copy release whereas Propeller was pretty much digital download only. Do you think smaller companies and productions are starting to have an advantage when it comes to releasing physical copies of videos?
It’s cool that the smaller companies are doing that because then you’re holding the memory of that. It’s tangible versus typing in some letters on a computer and hopefully finding it. I think it helps them, it’s probably the same reason why I made hard copies; to see it physically get passed around into different hands. The internet to me, feels invisible really, when I can’t see or touch something physically I feel like it’s not there. I think we all have the same thing in mind with that.
People such as Pontus Alv and Jamie Thomas have been criticised for coming off as egocentric after editing their own video parts. Was that a concern while making lo-fi?
I thought of that for sure because I completely overthink everything like that. But at the same time I took it as “Ok, when people see it that’s how they’re going to portray me.” The music, the order of the tricks and what I use and what I don’t. I felt if I wanted people to understand who I am as person through this part is if I make it and that’s kind of why I made the whole video. Like I said, I wanted it to be a memory I could hold and still to this day I like every single thing about it. I wanted to have that in my hands and to be in control of it from beginning to end. I just had certain music at the time that I really wanted to see to skating; this whole picture in my head and it was cool to take that and make it. I wasn’t worried about “Oh this guy made his own part, he’s so cocky.” It was more just about showing me as a skater the way I wanted to be seen I guess.
I’ve heard your parents are really supportive of your skating. Do you keep them updated on what’s going on with you?
Well as a kid my dad would bring me to local contests and all, he was super supportive, just seeing me be so exited about something. I guess he saw how much I loved skateboarding so he was like, “I’m down for this if it makes him this happy.” Yeah, they supported me, bought me boards, did all of that.
Then me turning pro maybe showed them this is a little more serious, this can be something and I think they were exited because of that. It’s a whole snowball effect, more and more things keep happening for me and it keeps them exited. They wanna know more and more about it as it gets bigger and bigger. My mom has Instagram so she sees everything. She follows HUF and all these companies; it goes back to how everything is so instant, how you can just see it then and there on your phone. I don’t even have to tell her anything anymore, she can just see it on Instagram (laughs). They’re super supportive and always have been and always will be.
Last couple to round this off. Best piece of advice or life lesson from Keith Hufnagel?
No specific thing but just seeing him make this company from the beginning to now is really cool and something to learn from. Watching him as a business man, as like a bossman. Seeing that is cool enough right there and I take that as advice really. Watching something as an idea then to see HUF as what it is now. It must be insane for him and it’s cool to be part of it, to see it happen.
What about something valuable you’ve learned from Mark Gonzales?
[Laughs], shit, again there are no specific words said it’s his more actions. More the way he is and does things. He’s just sporadic, he’s carefree, he’s optimistic, he’s energetic as hell, he’s random. You never know what he’s going to do or say or want to do that day. You never know what board he’s going to show up with, what crazy clothes he’s going to have on. He skated up one day with a ramp and we just set it up to a bunch of different shit. I think just the sporadic and energetic side of him is more what I learn from and take in, more than specific words of wisdom you know? But yeah, that’s that.
Published: Sidewalk Magazine, 1st March 2015.