Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg – From Shrimp To Shark
I’m going to do my best to keep this intro short because at this point it’s pretty unlikely that you won’t have heard of Oski. In fact realistically you’ve probably been a fan since the days of ‘Lil Oski’ or ‘Medium Oski’, and followed every other stage of the boy’s ascension to worldwide skateboard acclaim just like the rest of us. He’s been hard to miss. And although for most of us it’s only via the distant lenses of a few lucky camera wielders that we’ve been able to watch him gain those extra centimetres (and go from backside nosebluntsliding giant quarterpipes to alley-hoop 180ing into them), the mere fact that we were all following him so closely from such a young age in a weird way ties us to his personal growth. Simply because that limelight and how he’s navigated it has played such a huge part in shaping the adult that Mr Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg is today.
Anyway that’s essentially what this interview is about: a young Swedish prodigy’s slow transition from shrimp to shark, and how gracefully he’s navigated all this aforementioned attention. He’s been treating us to a steady stream of liquid skateboarding since he was about 12 and there’s no reason for that to change any time soon. What has changed on the other hand is that he seems to have found a way to channel his hunger for filming video parts into all sorts of other projects, often putting himself in vulnerable positions and stepping way out of his comfort zone to leave a positive impact on our culture. I’m talking about a conscious decision to be more than ‘just’ someone we’re obsessed with watching footage of. This is a conversation about the steps he’s taken to start making the most out of every opportunity he’s presented with, and probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to understanding how someone who didn’t even qualify for the finals still ended up being the ultimate advocate for skateboarding at the global circus that was the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Interview by Arthur Derrien
Okay so before we really get into anything I wanted to ask you about the spot from your new Nike ad, that place looks nuts! What’s going on there?
Fred Gall took us there! It’s in New Jersey, in an area that got really damaged by Hurricane Sandy. It’s a gym / basketball court that got flooded to the point where the water pushed everything up to form this bank, or quarterpipe even, in the middle. We had to sneak in. I don’t know if you can see from the photo but the roof is fucked and the floor is so wet in parts that you could fall through the floor, it’s sketchy. But then yeah once we got in there I realised that the basketball hoop was perfectly aligned with the bank so you could ollie drop into the bank from it and thought ‘sick I want to do that’! But it was pretty scary actually.
Uh, yeah. No shit! Like ‘what’s the highest thing I could jump off here? Hmm… Ah perfect!’ haha.
Yeah I know haha. I was slamming so much trying it too. But it was kind of the perfect quarterpipe, like even though it’s super short you could actually land perfectly in it. It was really hard to get up there though, like Fred and the guys had to help me up every time. And then once I was up there it was sketchy because it kept bouncing. Plus it was super slippery and there wasn’t that much to stand on.
Does the floor itself shake? It doesn’t look too sturdy.
It doesn’t actually, it’s pretty stable. It’s a really fun spot. Fred Gall’s got all the fun spots in New Jersey.
Yeah so what’s the deal then, how come you’ve been hanging out with him? Were you living in New York for a bit?
Yeah I was living in New York with my girlfriend. But then recently I’ve also been spending time in LA, in Austin…
So New York was kind of your base but then you’d go on trips… Were you there enough to feel like a New Yorker? Like did you have a crew that you skated with regularly out there and stuff?
The thing is I didn’t have a bike or a car in New York so it was kind of hard to get around as I didn’t live that close to a subway stop… But if anything I kind of felt more like a New Jersey dude because I was hanging out there more, as Fred Gall has all the best spots. He’s so fun to go skate with. Like he’s such a cool, genuine person and he’s so hyped on skating. So motivated all the time, filming three parts at once, getting Thrasher covers… And he’s just generally very street smart, like he has so much experience with fixing spots and stuff.
And so Jake (Harris) came out to the States to work on this new part with you, how did he end up getting involved? Someone was saying that you basically picked him…
Yeah! And I didn’t really know Jake at all before working on this project, like I’d only met him once when we were drunk in Berlin, but I’ve always watched his videos and he’s always really had his own outlook on things. He’s a great editor and I feel like he’s someone that’s good at creating something completely unique that can actually be interesting to watch on different levels, not just showing the skating but telling a story, which is exactly what I was looking for. So yeah I guess I called him, he was down, and we did it.
But then as soon as we met on the trip we did to Austin with Hugo (Boserup) and Ville (Wester) it felt like I’d known him forever. We only really ended up doing one trip together because after when we went to LA I got Covid. But that one trip was super productive! We probably got about 80% of the footage for this part on that.
And so obviously you guys filmed this part to promote your new colourway… Why the Sharks? What’s the inspiration there?
When Nike said they were going to give me a colourway I was super hyped but there were so many different crazy variations of dunk colourways coming out at that point, and I really liked a lot of them. I wanted to do something that would stick out but when I looked around so many were already on this level, like really unique… How could I even top that?
So I thought I’d see if it would be possible to do something with the swoosh… I started to think about different objects or animals that could be shaped like a swoosh, ‘a plane could maybe work…’ and then I came up with the idea of the shark because it looks like a plane a little bit, and thought ‘if the shark opens its mouth that could form the curve of the the swoosh!’.
My whole life I’ve been really interested in scary animals. I used to love dragons as a kid. My main hobby was probably to look at books with images of dinosaurs and dragons and stuff. Adults would tell me they didn’t exist and I’d be like ‘nah nah they exist, it’s facts’. I feel like huge sharks and whales are the closest thing we still have to that. It’s such a shame that they are dying out now… They’re some of the only ones left from that era, I find them fascinating. My explore feed on Instagram right now is all these huge wales and sharks and shit.
I mean you kind of killed it. Like those shoes are so distinctive and so different looking to other dunks that it sort of feels like you gave yourself a pro model despite it just being colourways you were offered. If that makes sense…
Yeah, thank you. I’m so hyped to have been able to do that…
Did Nike show any resistance to you wanting to fuck with the swoosh that much?
Well I was trying to draw the shark myself at first to show them but I’m super bad at drawing…I knew in my head exactly how I wanted it to look, so I just thought that even if it looks nothing like how I picture it, a sketch might help me explain what I’m envisioning so they can help me out. And I was really getting into the business vibe, preparing to sell them the idea, thinking it would be really hard to convince them. I fully expected them to say it was too extreme and that they weren’t down at all but they liked the idea a lot from the beginning! Basically I was ready to fight for it but I didn’t have to. In fact shortly after I explained the idea for the first time in the meeting Bryce Wong, one of their designers who was there, came back to me like ‘what about this one’? And that was it: what he’d done was exactly how I’d imagined it in my head! Which is crazy because I’m so bad at drawing, like what I’d done was not showing what I had in my head, but he got it straight away.
Do Nike have crazy archives that you can access to get inspiration for this stuff?
I mean I’ve not been to Portland (Nike’s headquarters) for a while because of Covid but I remember one time being shown around all the different houses with the European SB team and looking around this room in the Jordan house with all of his colourways and like a huge box with just all of the pro models in white…
So yeah in those different houses in Portland I’m sure they have a lot of crazy things but I do a lot of research on my own anyway. I’m already really into shoes and I’m always looking online, sometimes even buying old shoes and stuff…
I mean you’re really into clothes in general anyway right? Can you tell us a little bit about the vintage shop / skateshop you recently opened in Malmö?
I mean we do have some skate stuff, like if you break your board you can get a new one but it’s mostly vintage clothing. I do it with my friend Anton who’s really into that stuff. I mean I’m into vintage clothing but more just for fun, like looking for stuff I’d want to wear, but he’s serious about it, like it’s a lot deeper for him. It’s his fucking life you know haha.
We did a pop-up shop two years ago, just because I had a lot of clothes from my sponsors over the years and he had a lot of clothes, and we spoke to Heitor (Da Silva) and he had a lot of clothes too… And then it turned into this thing where I reached out to my sponsors like ‘we’re doing this thing to raise money for charity, would you mind sending us more clothes’ and a bunch of brands, even Supreme who I don’t skate for ended up sending a shit ton of boxes… So all of a sudden we had so much gear that we were able to do a pop-up shop for a week.
It was pretty sketchy though because we were a bit like ‘we’re just going to do this, it’s no big deal, we’ll just get the money and give it to charity, easy’. But since I was posting about it a lot and Heitor was posting about it, it got mentioned in some local newspapers. So it got a lot of attention, like on the opening day so many people came, like there was this long ass line! So it was super crowded but it went really well, like we didn’t expect to sell that much, but then when it all ended we realised we hadn’t really thought it through properly and that tax laws in Sweden are pretty strict. It wasn’t a crazy amount of money that we donated but it was quite a lot, and we had no idea what we were doing. None of us had ever had a shop or done anything like that so when we’d donated everything to the charities suddenly it felt a bit sketchy, like ‘should we have paid taxes on this then donated it or something’? Not that we got hit up or anything but I definitely got a bit paranoid about it.
Anyway so that’s how it started, we did that pop-up and thought it would be sick to have a permanent store. He definitely did most of the work though as I was busy with a lot of other stuff, but I’m glad we did it, it’s been cool.
Sounds like a good setup.
One of the things I heard you’ve been busy with recently is trying to get the Oski Foundation going… Can you tell us a little bit about that?
So I was born and raised in Malmö, obviously, and ever since I started skating here when I was nine, Bryggeriet (which is the skatepark’s non-profit organisation as well as the Gymnasium High School) has always been like a big part of the scene. John Magnusson, who I’ve known since I started, is in charge of the skatepark building aspect of the organisation, and they have done so much for the skate scene, and for just young people in general here… So with my agent we were talking about the idea of starting a foundation that would work with my sponsors and Bryggeriet to build skateparks in places that need them. I mean it could be anywhere, really, because I feel like if you put a skatepark anywhere it’s always going to be a really positive thing for the community, but my dream would be to get skateparks in places that don’t really have shit going on. It’s still just kind of an idea, because we haven’t really done anything yet but we’ve been making small moves, thinking about potential projects and reaching out to sponsors… Because skateboarding is such a sick way for a lot of people to have something fun to do. Like you and I know it can open you up to a whole new world… It can really save you from a lot.
This idea of skateboarding opening you up to a whole new world, and you wanting to invite people into that world leads me onto my next topic: the Olympics. A lot of people are still convinced skateboarding’s inclusion is really detrimental for our culture, whilst others advocate for it because of how many people it will introduce to skateboarding, and for them that outweighs everything else. What were some of the pros and cons you were weighing up in your head going into this whole thing?
Well like you said I think it’s sick that it opens up skateboarding to so many people, that is obviously really positive.
But then also, I guess I was a little worried… Like it’s like, a lot of pressure you know, just representing YOUR NATION…
Yeah I mean –
– I’m joking haha. I mean there was pressure but I guess it’s more about the attention that something like the Olympics brings. That’s what can be hard to cope with: too much attention and it coming from people that don’t even see or know about what you’re doing. But what I was mainly worried about was what it could potentially do to skateboarding, which is make it become more boring, with more rules, like pushing it in the wrong direction. That scared me. You know, with contest formats that make it more like a traditional sport where you always measure things, and always try to measure what’s harder… Skateboarding is something that for most of us can’t really be measured. It’s like a feeling, or an artistic expression, or something to push your own limits. Or just a way to have fun like with your friends. Measuring if you can do a kickflip 540 puts so much focus on an aspect that’s not really that important. The beauty of skateboarding is in the other parts, the creativity, that it is so free and open. There’s a lot of beauty in the physical act of skateboarding that can’t necessarily be measured in the same way as you can measure someone running the fastest in the world or jumping the highest in the world.
If anything that was my only real internal conflict, just not wanting to contribute to making skateboarding become like that. But honestly I think I saw it mostly as something positive. Also, it’s kind of not really that deep. And like, for me, also just on a personal level, it’s a great experience. It’s a fun thing to do that most people will never get the opportunity of doing. It’s an interesting adventure, something completely new. Maybe it’ll suck; maybe it’ll be the best day of your life! But either way it’s going to be something that you will remember, or probably regret if you chose to not do it when you had the opportunity.
And then what about once you were actually there? Can you run us through your experience of that?
Yeah. I think when I first got there it all felt really surreal. I almost went into some kind of euphoric high, like I was on a bender for three days, like really fucking hyped 24/7. It’s such an absurd experience, like ‘okay this is insane, I’m in the Olympics, this is the Olympic Village…’ It was just this immense feeling of like – basically feeling like you’re in a movie. It was comparable to the first time I ever went to the United States after my whole life of hearing about the country, learning the language, knowing about the culture, and seeing all the movies. You know when you actually land in the airport and it hits you, you’re actually there, you see all the different people… It was kind of like that but times 10. The first couple of days especially. I remember walking around tripping on everything, like ‘oh my god, look at this huge food court!’ And you can just eat whatever you want: they have food from all over the world and it’s open 24 hours a day! Haha. So you just go in there, and then there’s actually two food courts! One was like all the international food from the world, and then there was another one that was only Japanese food with dishes that had been voted by the country as a way of showcasing Japanese food culture and Japanese food history.
Fuck that sounds so banging.
And also, all the people working there… Like I love Japan and Japanese culture. I had visited a couple of years prior and it was probably the most exciting place I’d ever been to. And all the Japanese people that were working there, they were all super friendly, saying hi every single time you walked in the door. The vibes were always really high.
Also just seeing all the other athletes and knowing that everyone in here is one of the best athletes in the world at whatever I think they’re doing, and it’s hundreds of different sports! And everyone is super fit and strong, like they’re all optimised, you know? Haha. There’s a huge gym, with just hundreds of thousands of athletes in there training, haha. It was crazy. All the fucking flags on the buildings… It was gnarly. It was a lot to take in.
Did you become friends with any of the other optimised athletes?
There’s this thing to socialise with other athletes where you’re encouraged to trade these small pins you are given. Everyone has their own pin from their own country and their country house, and the idea is to trade it with other people to try to get as many as possible. So then you can just approach anyone and be like ‘yo…’. Because also everyone wearing their national gear, you know, like AT ALL TIMES. One time – okay a couple of times actually – I was a little bit loose with the pants or the socks or the shoes, like not wearing the proper fully branded Swedish kit, but not like not swapping anything on purpose, I didn’t like come out in a fully kitted out vintage outfit or anything, I just forgot the socks or something… And people would instantly be like ‘yo you need to put on those socks’. haha. Like one dude got a little pissed off at me it was pretty crazy. But you know, it was also very visible, even if it would just be like the pants, because everyone else is wearing the exact same outfit pretty much. And then you’d show up with Big Boys and they’re like ‘what are you doing?’. I actually managed to convince them that I needed to skate in Big Boys though, just because I didn’t feel comfortable in the other pants that they’d provided me with.
As if that worked?!
It’s because at the end of the day, they prioritise the athlete’s performance. If you just tell them, ‘I feel like I’m more likely to win a gold medal if I wear Big Boys’ they’ll listen – if you’re serious about it. And I was. I was like, I can’t skate these pants, I feel like an idiot.
Something else that was very positive about the experience was that it was like the most diverse place I’d ever been to. It’s like New York on steroids. Every continent is there, every nation, and everyone’s just there to try to have fun, do their sport and try their best, you know? So everyone’s kind of doing the same thing. I almost felt a sense of like, maybe not belonging, but I felt like I could relate to everyone that was there, because even though I’m a skateboarder, there and then I kind of just felt like an athlete. I was just like, yeah, we’re all just athletes, and we’re all from everywhere. It was a really cool experience to just be in a place where everyone is just like from all over the world but everyone’s kind of doing the same thing, which also is something that was crazy to feel as a skateboarder because I think a lot of the time skateboarders feel the opposite way when they’re being compared to other sports, you know? Especially back in the day, when we got into it. Like I was bullied, or maybe not bullied, but people would call me ‘skater nerd’ when I was a kid skating. So yeah, that was really interesting in that sense (although kind of weird), but it was definitely a positive.
I did struggle as well at certain points when I was in there though. Mainly with the pressure. The pressure and I don’t know… The pressure and the feeling of failing. Because I was super motivated the whole time, like I saw the whole thing as an excuse to get into the same mindset as everyone else there, which is super serious. Everyone is just like ‘okay, I’m at the Olympics, I worked four years for this, just like everyone in all the other sports, this might be my last chance like, I’m trying to win this fucking gold’, you know? ‘I worked for this, I woke up at six in the morning, had that healthy meal, put in the hours, now it’s game time, and it’s fucking war.’
Whilst you’ve spent the last two days in the food court haha.
Well for me, that’s not really the type of environment that I feel comfortable skating in, you know? Like, I skate better if I’m enjoying myself rather than taking it too seriously. But at the same time, I was motivated to be like, ‘yeah, okay, you know, I’m here at the Olympics, I’m going to give it my best shot.’ It’s not like you’re trying to go to the Olympics to party, you know? You can party at Copenhagen Open. But right now, at this stage in my life, for this week of my life, I’m at the Olympics, so I’m just going to adapt to the situation and be an Olympian right now. And I thought it was funny to take that approach as well. So I was serious, really wanted to do my best and aim high. But then after a couple of days when we went to see the park for the first time, I skated it… Well I realised that I didn’t like it at all. It was just really fucking not my type of park, I couldn’t skate it. But I never gave up. I was still like, ‘okay well these are the circumstances, now I’m going to just really, really try my best and I’m going to keep my faith high and overcome this obstacle.’ But the obstacle was definitely there, like I absolutely could not deny it. I could not move this mountain or whatever you want to call it. I can’t change the park, it’s there in concrete, and it’s not working for me. And lot of people at this event were straight away skating the park so much better than I was. So I was a bit like, ‘I’m still gonna try my best next practise session, but I’m so far behind…’. It started becoming clear to me that there was no way… Like, I’ll try to get to the finals, and I’ll try to maybe get third place, but that is about as good as it’s gonna get, you know? That was definitely a bit of a struggle. I was a little bummed for a bit, or at least just trying to balance that in my head. Like, how do I still stay positive and try to make the best out of this situation? But at the end of the day, I was relieved after the contest was over. I was a little bummed that I wasn’t able to put down a line or… Like I had one thing that I wanted to do in the Olympics and that was to at least maybe land one trick that I was really hyped on, and I guess I did this gap to manny. Just because I wanted to do something, I wanted to make some kind of mark… But I was happy…
At the end of the day, I was like, ‘yeah, I didn’t make the finals, and I didn’t really like figure out the park, and I didn’t really do as well as I know I can do at contests.’ And even after the contest, like straight after the contest, I was hyped. Because that’s a really different aspect of the Olympics, that as soon as it’s over, you have to talk to all the media! It’s gnarly, all these press conferences and stuff. I was the only skater from Sweden, AND it was a new sport: so it was getting a lot of attention. But really when I look back at it, I feel like that’s where I really performed, in the interviews. Like I may have blown it in the runs but when I went in to do the interviews after, I killed it haha. ‘It didn’t really go my way today, but I got the sickest helmet out of anyone here!’ And I feel like I was representing skateboarding in a good way, giving long answers and telling them about what actually makes skateboarding unique, and what it has to offer compared to other sports.
So yeah I wasn’t bummed at all, if anything I think I was just excited to be able to properly get back into filming, you know? Not having to focus on the Olympics or an event or like, what a judge is going to score you, but just focus on ‘what do I actually want to do with skateboarding? Where do I want to travel with my homies?’
Ah man, with that much build up to the contest I’m not surprised you were like, ‘bring on the interviews, this shit’s going to be easy compared to what I’ve just put myself through!’
Yeah but honestly I felt like I grew a lot as a person because I put myself in that position that I’d never been in before. And it wasn’t an easy position to navigate or balance but I felt like I handled it in a good way and made the most out of the situation. Even when it was a struggle I managed to not go crazy… And also it was a relief just because it had been such a long time coming, like to qualify you have to go to all of these events that are kind of boring where you just have to get the points and whatnot… And then COVID happened so it got pushed back one year… And it’s just like, all this work and travelling, which is fun, don’t get me wrong I enjoy the process, but it’s a lot… A lot of trying to win. But to be honest I already felt like I’d won just by getting there. Or at least that’s how I approached it.
How was it having someone there filming your whole journey with this? In fact, maybe first just give us a bit of context to how this whole Oski documentary thing came about.
I guess it’s just a documentary about me, and me going to the Olympics and stuff. But then also about my friends, the Swedish skate scene and just skateboarding in general.
And Jonathan Lomar (who made the first Sour video) is filming it, but then the people behind it are a Swedish TV production company right?
Yeah it’s a TV production that’s run by an old neighbour actually, and this director did this one documentary about Zlatan that I really liked. At first when they reached out, I didn’t really want to do it. I was worried that it would feel pretentious, or just too much I guess. But then at the same time I’d seen this director’s work and I liked it… So I told him that maybe I’d be down, but I would have to do it with someone who I feel comfortable doing it with. And that was Lomar. I didn’t know him, but I trusted him, and he skates… Plus as I said my old neighbour was involved…
And what’s the deal? Is it almost finished now?
Yeah we stopped filming shortly after the Olympics and they’ve just been editing since.
And how old are you now? 25? Did you freak out at any points doing it? Like ‘this is too much me’ kind of thing.
Yeah definitely, I mean that’s why I didn’t want to do it at the beginning. Part of me thought ‘I’m not opposed to doing something like this one day, and I don’t even mind starting to gather footage now, but maybe it’s a little bit early to put something out like this about me’. Also maybe just so that it wouldn’t be so focused on the Olympics, I felt like it would just be more entertaining if there was more time to focus on other things… And make sure it had a special message. But mostly it was just yeah, like you said, the uncomfortable feelings, or anxieties even, that I had about putting myself out there in that way. And also I just really don’t like to talk about myself like that. You know, it’s like, I don’t know, it’s just uncomfortable to talk about yourself sometimes. That’s why it’s important when you do interviews to have good questions, like how you’re doing it now where we’re just talking about different things… But it’s also that it’s really hard to do interviews when you’re being filmed. I think that was really difficult for me during this project. And it’s still scary now, because it’s not even out yet. Right now is maybe even the scariest part of it all, because it’s like, okay I know it, I’ve seen it, I tried to make it as good as possible… And like, I’m not bummed on it. I’d even say I’m stoked on it, I guess. But at the same time I don’t know what people are gonna think… And a lot of people are probably going to judge me…
Do you have any coping mechanisms for this anxiety that comes with getting put on blast in this way? Because that’s kind of your life… Like it must happen a lot.
Yeah… The best thing I did to help myself deal with that anxiety was probably to stop smoking weed. But then also, especially for a project like this, running things past my family, my girlfriend or some of my friends really helps.
But also… Hmm how do I put it… I just try to be like… I don’t know… Wait, what was the question again?
I was basically asking how you cope with the anxiety that comes with constantly being put on a pedestal.
It’s hard because sometimes you just can’t really cope with it. Sometimes you just feel that negative emotion or the anxiety and there’s nothing you can do… Like I’m feeling it now because we’re talking about it.
Fuck I’m sorry…
No, no, no, it’s fine. But you know what I mean? And I know it’ll be over by the time we get to the next question.
Also another obvious good way to feel less anxious in these situations is to just try to make whatever you’re doing as good as possible. Like for this documentary I knew it was going to be really hard for me to put myself out there like that. I knew that I was going to be in a lot of situations where I wouldn’t feel comfortable, that lot of people were going to see it, that maybe there would be specific interviews where I’d say something that I didn’t really mean, or didn’t quite get as much out of the message as I would have wanted, you know, that sort of thing… Because it was my first time doing anything like this. But because it was such a hard decision for me to make, the second I committed I knew that I couldn’t half ass it. It was either I didn’t do it or I really tried my very best to make it something positive, to make it have a good message and to make it entertaining for whoever’s watching it. And just try to be myself, I guess. And I kind of feel like I succeeded.
As I said it’s still really scary though, I know some people will probably think it’s cringy or corny or wack or maybe some people might think that I’m full of myself, but at the end of the day, I really tried to be as genuine as possible. Plus it’s just for entertainment really…. If people don’t like it, whatever! That’s how I have to think about it.
I mean those seem like good strategies.
Actually also one other thing that was hard about all this was that I actually didn’t really know Lomar before we started filming it. So I had to open up to this person that was filming me, and really let them into my life, take them to my home, all this at the same time as I was trying to form a normal relationship with them.
Ah that’s interesting. I guess I hadn’t thought about that side of it because Lomar is such a legend and you know all the same people and stuff, but that must be a tricky one no matter who it is… It’s almost like you had to fast track a relationship into close friendship mode, all whilst having a camera pointed at you 24/7.
Okay so the next thing I wanted to ask you about is starting Lurpiv. The truck industry has basically been controlled by the same two or three American brands for a few decades now. What makes a 25-year-old boy from Sweden decide to challenge the status quo like that? Did you ever feel way out of your depth? Like, ‘what have I gotten myself into now…’
Definitely. Just like with all of these other things that we spoke about now. Whether it’s Rapsfalt or the truck company, or going to the Olympics, or making a documentary, all of these things are so different and new to me… And I don’t know, maybe from the outside a lot of people might think that it all looks really positive, but it’s actually been really hard, to deal with, like on the emotional side of it. So yeah I’ve definitely a lot of times felt like, ‘what the fuck am I getting myself into’?
I feel like a lot of skaters suffer from imposter syndrome the second they do anything that’s not skating anyway… But maybe that’s a good sign? It just means that you’re challenging yourself in new ways.
Yeah definitely. I mean you’re just pushing yourself far out of your comfort zone, that’s all it is really. I’m just doing lots of things that I’ve never done before. Things that I have the opportunity to try because of the position that I’m in – which is also a trip in itself because I never thought I would be in this position. When I was younger, I was dreaming about being a pro skater, but I never realised it was a possibility to be a pro skater to the point where you are in a position to do a lot of things that sometimes don’t necessarily even have that much to do with you actually riding your skateboard. Like you can be a business owner, or even like create a charity or a foundation… But I agree with you: I think those worries are a sign that you’re doing something good and that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. And doing things that you struggle to commit to feels good at the end of the day. But also you do have to make sacrifices, and sometimes it can be kind of miserable haha.
Sounds like maybe you also need to chill a bit haha.
Haha, you know what I mean though? It comes back to that feeling of ‘what are people going to think about this, or this, or this’. You put yourself in a very vulnerable position. You really make yourself an easy target.
But why then? Why the recent urge to look past all this and explore these different avenues rather than being ‘just a pro skater’?
It wasn’t something that happened over night. After having been skateboarding for several years, I started gradually being put in positions where I more and more often received these different opportunities to try new things. In the beginning, there were obstacles within myself that were holding me back from going ahead and committing to them, even though I knew I wanted to push myself in that way. I wanted to try to embrace these opportunities because not everyone gets the chance to do these things. I also knew I would regret it later on if I turned these things down.
Still, there were insecurities holding me back. I feel like the reason I was able to take that step and start trying things that I was initially scared of doing, basically leaving my insecurities behind to some extent, was that eventually I started to take things a bit more seriously than I did when I was younger. And what I mean by that is that when I started skating, I was hanging out with a lot of older people, because that’s just how it is in skating, I’m sure it was the same for you. I started skateboarding when I was nine and these older guys I was hanging out with became my family to some extent. At times I would spend more time with them with my mom or my dad. And that can be a positive but also negative. I feel like it helped me to understand things about how the world works at a young age because I got to see things from the point of view of 14-year-olds, because they knew more than me and the conversations they had were more advanced than that of 9-year-olds. I sort of developed a sense of maturity quicker. But also you get exposed to things that kids don’t usually get exposed to at a much earlier age, like drugs, alcohol, or even just this mindset that a lot of teenagers and young adults have, which can be negative, especially in skating.
The thing is I genuinely think skateboarding saved me, like I’m not saying it had a negative impact on me at all, that’s not what I’m getting at here… But at the same time, I just don’t think I would have been introduced to drugs and alcohol as early as I did if it wasn’t for skateboarding. The first time I was drunk I was 12 years old. Thankfully, I had this mindset from an early age where I was like, I’m not going to get caught up in alcohol and drugs because my parents had really instilled that in me. I also had heart surgery as a baby so I was really scared of doing drugs, because I didn’t want to jeopardise my health. I’d gotten a second chance at living and I didn’t want to die from drugs basically.
If anything, I was just interested in trying things once just to see what they were like. But not everyone thinks about it that way. And even for some of the kids who do, it isn’t a bullet proof approach by any means. Some can be super sure of that they are just trying – but then get stuck anyways. Growing up I saw a lot of people around me get stuck in that, and I think it’s partly because the lines are kind of blurred, where doing those things are by the world of skateboarding not only seen as something negative. Unfortunately a lot of times they are perceived as cool or authentic. Skate culture is really free, which in a lot of ways is great, but at the same time it also kind of encourages young people to not really care too much about anything, to not take things too seriously. And I definitely found myself having that mentality a bit when I was younger, even though I’m actually not that type of person at all. A lot of times I’m really serious and even a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to skateboarding but also in a lot of other aspects of life.
I never had a problem with drinking or anything but I was doing it more than I wanted to, or than I felt comfortable with. And I think especially with smoking weed, I realised that it was making me less happy and also holding me back from developing into the person I wanted to become. But in the back of my head something was telling me, ‘don’t worry it’s a part of the game, you just smoke this amount, some people smoke that amount, it’s not that bad’. It was really easy for me to in one way or another justify doing things which were not working in my favour and putting off quitting. I think a lot of skaters can relate to that because we’re kind of told that it doesn’t really matter, or that it’s sick to be fried.
It’s like you get brainwashed in a way. And at the same time being offered all of these opportunities, it was kind of a wake up call for me. I realised that if I wanted to progress and not miss out on these things, I also had to make sacrifices. And that made it easier for me to actually take things more seriously. I stopped drinking for six months, which taught me to control it a bit better, so now I drink less, and I completely stopped smoking.
That’s what helped me realise that actually it’s cool to focus, it’s cool to care! You’re in this great position where you get to work with what you love, and you even get to help out others in the process, why shouldn’t you just always try your best? You chose this, you wanted this, you’re going to travel the world: maybe you can even be an inspiration for other people! I feel honoured to be able to do this, why would I not take things seriously? And if I were to smoke weed every day, or drink every single weekend, as in like get wasted, I don’t think I would have the time, motivation or mental capacity to balance all these things because that would take up so much of my focus: just being fried. Also, I know I would have to pay the price for those decisions in the future.
I read some study that was posted by The Ben Raemers Foundation explaining how depression and addiction go hand in hand, which also helped me come to this realisation… Because I’ve seen that so much throughout my career and throughout my life – people getting into addiction and then suffering from depression. And I’ve also felt it a little bit myself… I’ve never been deep in it, but I’ve definitely noticed it and that’s another reason I stopped, because at the end of the day, I just want to be happy. It’s way more important. Being your best self is so much easier if you don’t have addictions.
Yeah it’s just putting shit in the way of your success… But then putting these things in the way of your success is a huge part of the culture in skating – the less you care the cooler you are. And everything always has to be so spontaneous. If you’re the one caring or trying to organise shit, that makes you a neek.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. But for me now I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather come off as too serious (when really I’m just trying to do something that matters to me), than come off as ignorant or purposefully not caring about stuff.
I reckon that’s quite a nice message to end it on… What do you think?
Oh really? That’s it?
Uh, I guess there is one thing I wanted to ask you about earlier when you were chatting about spending time in the States but forgot to. Someone told me something about you and your girlfriend living at Tony Hawk’s house for a month! How did that one come about?
Yeah, so I know Tony’s stepson Miles pretty well, he’s a homie, he skates… I mean now I know all of them but I knew Miles since before I properly knew Tony. Like before I stayed we’d only exchanged a few words because he’s always in and out. You’ll be having a session with him then next thing you know he’s on the jet on the way to like a sports gala or something haha. He gets the trick and then all of a sudden he’s out! But they are all super cool and super generous and they have like a sick house with some guest rooms so they were able to help us out and let us stay for a month. It was kind of like a vacation, just hanging out, swimming in the pool, then going in the jacuzzi for a little bit, then maybe in the sauna, then hit the private skatepark haha. It was pretty nice, haha.
Living that MTV Cribs lifestyle.
Oh he definitely knows what he’s doing with the lifestyle haha. And I was also just skating at sick skateparks in the San Diego area, so it was a really good time.
And obviously I did get to know Tony a bit better, which was great…
During that time, I was pretty jet-lagged so I would wake up early, like six in the morning every day maybe, and when I would go downstairs to get some water or something Tony and his wife, Catherine would usually be the living room sitting down, like office vibes, typing away, answering emails, signing deals and making power moves, you know? I mean I don’t actually know what they were doing but it definitely seemed like they were taking care of business. You could tell that they’d synchronise their schedules to make decisions together and stuff. And I found it really inspiring to see how he managed his time: he’s up at six making power moves, then he’s got this or that call, then he works on the foundation, like he is not wasting time. Definitely the opposite of the side of skate culture that you and I were talking about just before.
But then it was also really cool to just see how much he was skating. That’s what made me extra impressed by the fact that he was up at six in the morning to answer emails, because I think a lot of adults do that, but then by 10 o’clock, he’s on the vert ramp, practising new tricks and like pushing skating. Like at some point, I was like, damn, he’s skating more than me. Like he’s getting the early, early, early bird – he does not miss out on the session. And we got to skate together! At points it was definitely a trip, like you’d be in the kitchen making coffee or something and you’d look over your shoulder and he’s just there, putting a pizza in the microwave or something. You’d be a bit like damn, that’s Tony Hawk haha.
It sounds like you going there really came at a pivotal moment in your own personal development too, with everything you were saying earlier. Like suddenly you had the ultimate example of a pro skateboarder being more than just a pro skateboarder right there in front of you.
Yeah what he’s done is so incredible, and I think he does it in a really sick way too. It was crazy to see up close.
Oski’s new Nike SB Dunk will be available in skateshops from March 12th.