Casper Brooker – Evergreen

Photo: Sam Ashley.

Getting steaming was the unspoken cheat code last time we interviewed Casper. Jake Harris and myself lived with him back then so we very much understood his ways, and we’d brought Kyron Davis along because of his natural gift for making anyone feel comfortable in any situation. Try having any kind of prolonged eye contact with Ky without launching into a deep chat about whatever it is you have on your mind: it’s not possible. And it ‘worked’: we got all kinds of stories for Casper’s piece that evening! Sure, they often involved booze, sleepwalking and urine, but not only.
Anyway the article was printed about seven years ago, and today it remains a lovely little window into these past versions of ourselves, which for some of us maybe aren’t toooo different to the ones we currently see in the mirror, but in Casper’s case… Well just the fact that for this new interview you’re about to read he sat down with one of his childhood heroes – dead sober – to talk about learning to cope with his social anxiety and depressive episodes kind of says it all. Also would he, in 2016, have admitted to wanting to be more ‘professional’ in order to make the most of the golden opportunities that were being presented to him? No chance.
The Casper we have before us today is more confident, mindful and self-compassionate. And without wanting to drag the violins out for too long, it’s been pretty heart-warming to witness that growth, especially as it’s clearly helped increase his skateboarding superpowers exponentially! Still won’t shut up about his jeans though.

– Arthur Derrien

Interview by Kevin ‘Spanky’ Long

Spanky: All right: how’s it going?
Casper Brooker: Good… Stressed.

Stressed. What are you stressed about?
Deadlines. Deadlines, left, right and centre… But it’s good. I feel… Stressed is maybe the wrong word. I feel excited but a little bit tired. But that’s just part of it isn’t it, really.

A deadline will do that to you…
I mean there are three months left, so it’s only going to get worse and worse every week.

Well, on that subject, I know for a fact that you’ve been going fucking mental on a skateboard recently. Does this current stride feel different in any way? As in do you feel like you’re on some new shit? Or do you feel like you’re just doing what you were doing before?
It’s kind of a weird one. I feel like I’m having a different approach than usual, but I think that’s mainly because I’m just a different person. In the past year or two, I’ve become a lot calmer and a lot more thought out about things where I used to just, kind of go along with it, and then put loads of pressure on myself at the last minute. And then obviously have a freakout. But I guess just from doing it for so long now, when this project came up, although I was freaking out at the beginning, I realised that a year is actually a good chunk of time to chip away at it. So at risk of sounding like a bit of a dick, I have just been way more professional this time around than I have been in the past. And it definitely felt rewarding.

Ollie, ollie, frontside 180 kickflip, London. Ph: James Griffiths.

A little bit of maturity, ‘innit’. Well, it’s showing in your skating, I must say. It’s been a pleasure to watch. So what exactly are you working on right now, tell the readers.
Last November, Andrew (Reynolds) sent out a group text to me and some other people about doing Baker Has A Deathwish 2. And obviously, I grew up watching Baker Has A Deathwish so within the first 30 seconds of reading it I had a mini breakdown in my head and got really scared. And then I’ve also been working on another project in London, like a Supreme thing, but there’s a bit more time for that… But yeah getting on Baker was a pretty life-changing thing for me and I guess I want to make sure that Andrew made a good decision. Just trying to do the best I can so I don’t look back afterwards and be like, damn, I should have put more work in, which is something that I have felt previously. So the pressure is high in my brain for it, but that’s just me being tough on myself.

Well, it’s nice when you can put a lot of pressure on yourself, but then rise to the occasion and not be folded by the pressure. It seems like you’re doing a good job of that.
I go in and out of it though. I just went on an Atlantic Drift trip for just shy of two weeks and before
that I was having full-blown anxiety dreams about not landing tricks, ha ha. But then I went on that trip, had a great time with everyone, filmed a bunch of stuff there and just sort of had a bit of a brain reset. And thanks to that, when I came back to London, I felt calm and managed to tick some stuff off the list. Actually, calm is maybe not the right word ha ha… But yeah, I feel good about it all right now.

It’s cool that you get to take a break from the crazy focus needed for the part and checking things off the list but that you’re still out there skating and killing it. I mean, like everybody else, I just love those trip videos so much… How was that trip?
The trip was amazing. We went to Vienna and Budapest and it was so sick, there were like, 15 of us in total. And it was just so fun. The spots were really, really good. I think we’ve done like 10 of those trips now… And with all of us getting a bit older and understanding each other a bit more and as we were saying earlier, getting a bit more mature, now it’s just this really humble, fun experience. Cyrus (Bennett) has been coming on them and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch him destroy everything… And just having so much fun with Tom (Knox), Darius (Trabalza) and Jake (Harris)… Because they don’t happen so often – I think we do them twice a year – it’s just a real pleasure every time.

Yeah, from a fan’s perspective that has all the ingredients of greatness… Like that squad and then the filmmaking and everything, I can’t wait to see it. So what’s the crew been like skating in London right now? Who have you been rolling around with?
So in London it’s kind of been a bit different recently. Daniel Wheatley has been here for the whole summer and he’s been kind enough to help me film for this video, which I appreciate a lot. And yeah, so he’s had loads of people come through, including yourself, but mainly the crew this summer has kind of just been like me, Matlok (Bennet-Jones), Billy (Trick)… I guess Tom has been out a bunch… But it seems to be like me and Matlok out skating most of the time. Because you know, Tom is Tom, and has to film with Jake, and then Jake has been super busy with lots of other projects with Mike (Arnold) and stuff so he’s a bit strapped for time… Plus during the summertime in London everyone’s either away or enjoying the sunshine in other ways. Because if you’re not from here, you think it being super sunny is the motivator to skate but actually it’s kind of the opposite: since the sunny days in London are so rare it’s pretty easy to get caught up not skating as much in the summer. But it’s been really nice getting closer to Matlok, and he’s been fucking killing it. It’s been a really fun summer.

Ollie up, pop shove-it, London. Ph: Sam Ashley.

You and Wheatley together, that’s a great combo. It was a blast seeing all that go down and to be able to visit you guys, it was so fun. I was impressed with how tight of a ship you run and like how domestic and clean everything is. You’re a fucking adult!
Well, it’s for sure not always been like that…

Can you tell us what your day-to- day routine currently looks like?
At the moment most days I wake up between six and seven, then I’ll go to the gym and the sauna, then get back, try to figure out a day plan, hold off on eating until I leave and usually have a smoothie or something light and healthy. And then just go out and try to skate as much as I can!
I also drastically cut down on my drinking in the past year. I think it’s quite natural to get a little bit bored of doing the same thing every Friday/ Saturday night and feeling like crap for a few days afterwards, and right now, I’m really enjoying my own space, having my own time and just sort of learning to be with myself. Whereas before I used to be so manic and feel like I had to do something all the time, and be around people all the time, that it would come out in weird ways. Or not even in weird ways but would lead to me being a wasteman and then taking days to recover.
I’d never really had much routine in my life and I’ve slowly learned that it works really well for me. And it’s been giving me a sense of calm, and yeah, I guess I am just priding myself in trying to be a bit more adult at the moment.

Well it seems like it’s working… But I thought skaters were supposed to party themselves almost to death and then go sober or Christian or something. What’s up with all this moderation and taking care of your mental health?
Ha ha I mean I dunno… There was a point a while ago where it was like, I wouldn’t say it was ‘gnarly’ but I’d had a few texts from people saying ‘you need to chill out’, and a couple of other things. And when you’re in that space of thinking ‘I’m just a skater and I’m just partying, I’m young, I’m making the most of my life’ there’s a weird arrogance that comes with it. But I just got bored of doing the same thing over and over, and, like making the same mistakes. I’ve done a lot of therapy over the past four years and that’s definitely helped out, but it’s also seeing people like Tom Knox or Korahn Gayle, who are absolute machines and have pretty normal lives on the side. Tom is the most productive skater ever and he’s just a fucking legend. Always being around him and always looking up to him made me feel like I wanted to be like that. Same with spending time with Korahn and seeing his routine, how he takes care of himself physically and how that helps out with his mental health… I slowly understood that life doesn’t have to be going from completely piling out to constantly moving. I saw it going in a direction where in 10 years’ time, if I’d carried on in the way I was, I would have looked back and been upset that I didn’t make the most out of this super rare opportunity.

Well, again it’s showing… And hopefully, some people reading this will get something out of this, like as an example of how you can take care of yourself, holistically, without necessarily having to be all obnoxious about it. Do you feel like this change was gradual or that it was more of a full reset?
I think it was a gradual thing. I hate bringing up COVID, but that time was so reflective for me because there were so few distractions. I was living with my brother at the time and he moved to my mum’s house with his girlfriend, so I was in the flat on my own, and I would regularly break down into tears midway through the day. And I’d be like, well, this isn’t… Something’s not right. And obviously, I’d tell myself, ‘This is a weird time, no one knows how to deal with it…’ But being sat on my sofa eating a sandwich and breaking down into tears is not a sign of being okay. So when that kept happening I began addressing little things and trying to be more mindful of stuff.
And that definitely took like a good year of just being more aware of it… Then I started to cycle a crazy amount, and then go skating, which would make me feel really good, but then I’d drink a bunch. Like I’d have a few days of being super healthy and being really good to myself but then reward myself by having a blowout with everyone. I’d be endlessly setting myself up and then just resetting it over and over… It was just like little learning curves every time. And then I guess just after practising and practising it over and over, recognising each time, like, do you need to do that? Probably not like, do you want to do it? Yeah, but are you going to enjoy it tomorrow? No. Repeatedly having that same argument in my head I started to change things.

Because it breaks the momentum in your life. Prioritising keeps that fire going.
Exactly. And this is by no means me being telling people not to go out or anything like that, it’s just that I have a hard time controlling myself in certain situations, just out of like crazy social anxiety. It’s more about me becoming comfortable with the fact that I have certain issues and that I shouldn’t hide them away and repress them. Like, ‘Hey, I’m at this birthday party, and I’m acting weird… And that’s fine.’

Crooked grind, London. Ph: James Griffiths.

As far as the anxiety and stuff goes, is there shit that’s still bugging you out? Like what’s setting you off?
I mean my jeans are obviously number one… Ha ha, just kidding.

Ha ha we’ll get to that…
I don’t know. It’s just the classic things, lots of social anxiety, depression episodes and just having crazy ups and downs. Most people have it… But one thing I have taken away from it all is that you can do as much therapy as you want, you can eat super healthy, you can fucking cycle 20 miles a day and then film a trick, sometimes that’s not even going to help. Sometimes you just have to ride it out. You know what I mean? There are a lot of times when I get frustrated, where I’m like, ‘I’m doing everything right to feel good, why is my anxiety still through the roof?!’ There are times when I’m struggling to get out of bed in the morning because I’m depressed and I have to keep reminding myself: ‘Okay, this is gonna pass, just keep doing what you’re doing because it’ll help in the long run anyway, so you may as well stick to it.’ Because there’s a few times where I’ve just been like, fuck this, I’m over it, I’m just going to get rid of the routine and live like a kid again for a week. But then instantly you’ve made it worse… Therapy helps massively and you can help yourself constantly with other stuff, but sometimes you’re just going to feel that way. As soon as I started to accept that as a part of my reality, it made it all – or at least a lot of things – easier. Learning to live with it is something that’s become quite comforting. Like, for example when I texted you and Stu (Kirst) in the group chat after that birthday party, and I was like, ‘well that was not my finest social work’. Because I was just in there sweating, couldn’t speak, stuttering… People coming up to me like are you alright? And having to be like no, no I’m not really alright, I’m struggling with this. But then ending up leaving and skating home and just thinking ‘no one fucking cares’. Actually, that’s what you said: ‘no one’s going to remember’. And that really helped.

It’s because I relate to that stuff. And it’s true that it’s not some game that you’re trying to win. It’s just something for which you’re gathering tools to use, things that are helpful…
Exactly that. I kind of see it like skating in a way where you start off just fucked, you can’t do anything. Like, no confidence, nothing. But then it builds over time and you get better, work on certain tricks over time, then they become your strongest tricks and then you move on to other stuff because you’ve got them now. And you can never complete it. There’s always more to do, it’s just about chipping away… That’s how I see it.

Yeah, you’re not defined by each time you try a trick, it’s about your overall process.
Yeah for example I went out four times, in the past four days with Sam (Ashley) to get photos for this interview and didn’t get anywhere near the stuff I tried. And obviously, that’s not great and I should be getting stuff or at least committing to stuff but it’s all part of the process. There’s always going to be building blocks to everything and each step will lead to something better. Accepting that has been a bit of a game-changer for me.

God, you’re kind of a hippie for being such a fucking hessian.
Ha ha I’m hearing myself speaking and know that reading it I’m going to be so over it…

Bluntslide to 50-50, London. Ph: Sam Ashley.

I mean it’s important stuff… And also just as a fan of your skating and watching it evolve in real time you kind of want to know like ‘damn, what’s behind this?’
What’s your level of engagement with skating at the moment? Are you watching skate videos every day?
Oh when it comes to that I’m living like a 15-year-old. There’s usually a couple of hours before I leave and I will have skate videos on all morning because I’m just so obsessed with it at the moment. Mainly because at the back of my head I’m thinking ‘if I just come across this one clip that’ll spark an idea…’. It happens so rarely though because I’m just watching the same videos over and over ha ha.

Which are?
AVE in Propeller, Heath in Mindfield, Andrew Allen’s Vans part... And Stu’s Johnny part. But yeah, to come back to your question, skating is pretty much the only thing I have going on right now.

That was one of the best things about staying with you. We’d just stretch, watch skate videos and stay in the headspace of being a skate rat. It was so fucking sick.
Well, like I said to you, I’m going to be 30 in December… And not to say that my time skating is coming to an end but in the foreseeable future, whether it’s in a year or two or three years, I’ll probably get a partner, settle down with someone and you know, real life will start to kick in a bit. Maybe there’ll be a kid along the way… Not saying in the near, near future, but inevitably, that sort of stuff will happen. Or at least I’d like to think it’ll happen. And I feel like at this particular point in time, working on this video and just being so immersed in skating… I just want to make the most out of it. I feel like it’s the last days of being able to be truly selfish. And I don’t mean selfish in a negative way but I can literally do whatever the fuck I want, so I want to make sure later I’m not like, ‘damn I should have really lapped up having so much of my own free time.’

That’s… That’s perspective dog… It’s hard to have that when you’re in it. Without wanting to drag it back to skate videos, are there any movements in skateboarding that are not doing it for you at the moment?
Ha ha yeah I mean as you know there’s a lot of skating that I fucking hate, but what’s changed is that now I’m more like, if they’re doing what they want, then sick. Because me hating something doesn’t matter, it’s just my point of view, I just won’t watch it.

Frontside shove-it, London. Ph: James Griffiths.

What about your own skating? When you get a clip? Is there anything negative that you tend to hone in on?
Honestly? Everything. It goes from ‘why did I do it like that? I look stupid’ to ‘everyone’s going to notice that my T-shirt is longer in this than in the last clip’ or ‘damn you should have gotten that haircut the other day’. Like all such vain things… But also because I’m massive, I’m 6’2” and broad… I watch my footage and I hate it, like ‘oh, you look like a fucking rugby player, gross.’ I’ve got quite a large butt too and sometimes when I see that I’m like, oh, man, I’m just taking up the entire fisheye with my cake.

I love hearing about this because literally, every skater I know who is thriving has that thing about themselves that they’re seeing, but that nobody else is seeing… Like your cake taking up the whole screen ha ha.
I landed this trick the other day that I’d been trying for like three years. It’s a mega bust and was really hard for me… I was super happy that I did it but when I rolled away I put my head in my hands… And it’s been haunting me. And it’s really not something I can just go back and redo…

Bro! Ha ha ha ha. Well, I’ve seen the clip and if I’d landed that I’d definitely have my head in my hands when I rolled away, only on top of that when I’d remove the hand you’d see lots of tears flowing down my face, ha ha.
Yeah, I’m very nit-picky about stuff. Also since I’ve spent my whole adult life filming with Jake Harris, whose opinion on this stuff I value so highly, and where we’ve always had this dynamic where if he says it’s good, it’s good, now sending clips to Andrew I’m biting my nails every time like, ‘oh god, what’s he gonna say?’ And usually it’s fine and he’s really nice about them, but it’s still Andrew Reynolds watching my clip. It’s impossible not to think, ‘is he gonna hate it? Is he gonna love it?’ aaaah. It’s just daunting. So that’s like, a new thing I’m learning to deal with. In fact if I get a clip I actually have to delete it off my phone because otherwise, I’ll watch it over and again until I hate it.

That’s a good idea actually. You also don’t want it to lose its magic, too… What’s interesting with Andrew too is that he’s your boss, but he’s also the one making the videos, so there are multiple layers to why his opinion of a trick holds so much value.
100%. And as you know very well, I mean, he’s a very particular man.

Ha ha yeah, well put.
It’s just the little kid in me. For example, there was one trick I did recently that I had to do again. And everyone was like, why? And I just knew it wasn’t good enough and I was using it as a motivator, imagining Andrew being like, ‘Yeah… You can do it again.’ I’m finding that really helpful.

Are you taking any new kind of approach for trick selection, spots and shit for this video part? Or is it just like a continuation of what you were already filming?
It’s definitely a different approach. I kind of got myself into a manual vortex for two years. I’ve definitely been coined a manny guy, which is not a bad thing… But I basically just had a whole part in fakie manny so I’m a bit like, okay, well, I don’t really want to do that anymore. I’ve been watching a lot of AVE stuff and that to me is the coolest shit, just going fast and doing ledge lines… And I’ve been hucking a little bit more as well, which has been pretty fun actually. Hadn’t really done that for a while. So yeah, I’d say I’ve definitely switched back from the previous couple of years, which has been nice, because for a while I was locked in on being like, ‘I need to find the perfect backsmith to fakie manny spot’, or ‘how can I do something weird?’ Or I don’t know… It got to the point where it was almost like a bit forced. So I’m glad that I’ve got out of that headspace now. I’m just sort of trying to copy all the skaters that I like.

Love that. I mean, I think that’s a common thing, to respond to the comfort zones that you get into. But I really like the fakie manual stuff. Are we gonna get some of those?
Yeah, I did a few… And there’s one – which was the first thing I filmed for the video – that I’m really hyped on… I think it’s probably the scariest manny trick I’ve ever done. Very happy that one’s out of the way.

What about no-complies? When I met you as a kid you were doing no-complies all over the place! Ha ha.
Ha ha, I would have been 15 then… I was skating for Heroin (Skateboards) and would have been all hyped up on Chris Pullman… But yeah I left those behind 15 years ago, I’ve not been too tempted by them since.

I always wished I could do those, back then and now. And that brings me to another question I had: are there any other tricks that are kind of in your bag, but are reluctant go-tos? Like ones that work easily for you but don’t feel tasteful?
Yeah, back blunts, for sure. Weirdly it’s like the safest trick for me as it’s one I’ve done since I was really young… And I’ve done quite a lot of them in my time, same with blunt flips, so I kind of try and refrain from those. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely filmed a couple for this part, but yeah, I try not to go to it too often.

What is it about back blunts that you don’t like? Is it a cake accentuation issue?
It’s not ha ha. Thankfully most of the time they’re filmed from the front so you don’t have to witness the cake.
No but I think it’s just like the classic thing of like, ‘I’ve done too many’. You know, when your group of friends are always like: ‘Oooh you going to back blunt that?’ Ha ha. Fuck off.
But then it’s funny because I was just speaking to Darius about exactly that, like, you know, people having go-to tricks. And I’m not saying this about me at all but when you think about Andrew for example: you’re never going to get sick of seeing him do a frontside flip. Like you’re never going to get sick of seeing Nik Stain do a back smith.
But obviously it’s a bit different when it’s a tasteful trick, which I think back blunt maybe isn’t, which is why I really try to think about when I’m going to use one, whereas before I’d go on trips and if couldn’t film anything I’d just back blunt something just to be like, ‘Okay, well, I got a trick.’

Backside smith grind all the way, London. Ph: Sam Ashley.

Yeah, I mean, part of the reason I asked is because I think a lot of skaters have that thing where their body just works doing certain tricks.
Well, I have a ton more questions, and many of them are about trousers.
Ha ha.

But it’s getting particularly long, so we might have to save it for the next one.
I mean maybe they can have one?

Okay, well do the people get to know about your relationship with your tailor?
Fuck man, you know I switched tailors?

How’s that going?
Oh he’s fucking dope. He knows.

Do you have to tell him the length of your legs or does he just…
…Oh no, he’s good, he knows. But yeah I go to the tailor a lot.

How about the postman? How often is he dropping off packages of jeans to your door?
Again we know each other pretty well ha ha.

And do you feel like you’ve found the perfect trouser or much like mental health does this battle last forever?
Oh, no. I’ll watch the footage and hate them.

Good as it should be, ha ha.
Yeah, there’s no such thing as the perfect trouser.

Such is life.