Anthony Van Engelen – Arriving at the AVE 2.0

Ph: Sam Ashley.

There’s taking an extra push to get your confidence up if you’re hucking (which undeniably does work), and then there’s Anthony Van Engelen. The AVE approach essentially consists of employing the same ferocious velocity to switch 360 flip on flat or spin out of a pinch the hard way as he does ollying over the top of a handrail. Basically, the man only has one speed and it’s a hell of a lot faster than most of us will ever move on our skateboards, which means that every time those feet of his hit the floor to charge him up – as I’m sure it’s the case for anyone else with working eyes – we can’t look away. So much so that what is on those feet has become somewhat of an obsession… So, in the context of him working with Vans on a model that truly looks nothing like anything the skate shoe industry has produced up until now, we decided to look back at footwear journey that landed him where he is today with some classic AVE photos as a starting point!


Ph: Chris Ortiz.

What are these? Can you paint a picture of what you were influenced by at that time?
AVE: Yeah, they were like these green hightop shelltoes, and I guess I was really influenced by the whole Girl, Chocolate, World thing that was going on back then, like by all those guys.
I think I was even riding a Lavar Mcbride Blind board at the time even though I was already riding for Channel One. So very nineties, you know… I was probably wishing I was riding for Blind and not Channel One back then, but when I look back I’m so grateful for what Channel One did for me. But when you’re a kid you just want want’s cool you know!


Ph: Blabac.

We chose to include one of you in the Lynx because to us it seemed like that shoe became iconic not so much because of how it skated, or even its silhouette, but because of the people who skated in it, and we felt you played quite a big part in that…
AVE: I don’t know to me it just felt like one of those shoes that you got… It was cool but it didn’t hold a special place in my heart. My favourite out of that era was Rick Howard’s for sure. That one and Carroll’s shoe. I rode those after they were off the team and I remember how much it pissed DC off  ‘Is he still wearing fucking Carrolls?!’. I’d always have someone try to dig them out at the warehouse, even long after they’d left. Those two were definitely my favourite DCs.

Does the photo itself spark any memories?
AVE: Yeah… We were skating that school at lot at the time. I’d done it a few days before and it was in Chomp On This but then went back to shoot it.


Ph: Blabac.

This one is interesting in this context as it’s an early pro shoes (this was the first one). Plus there’s always been something special about your USC footage, like that line where you weave between people in Photosynthesis, the DC video stuff…
AVE: Ah yes, the glory days of skating better hungover… That was definitely a good era.

How involved were you actually in the design of this one?
AVE: I worked on it a lot! I mean for the most part, almost every shoe I’ve ever done I worked on a lot. I think I was actually looking at New Balances at the time for this one… That’s why it kind of has that sihouette on the side, where the DC logo is. That was a good shoe.

Ph: Sherbert.

What was the thought process behind this one? It feels like a mix of a few shoes different Vans, with the curved panel on the side, the Era lace holes, the back is like the Authentic… 
AVE: Yeah so Vans used to make a shoe with a toe cap on it, kind of like a Chuck Taylor (The Native), and I kind of wanted to do a new rendition of that and this is what it ended up being… I guess from trying to make it not look too much like a Chuck.


Here’s another simple, slim silhouette at the polar opposite end of the spectrum to what you’d been doing with DC…
AVE: Yeah so that’s the Sk8-Low, which I think was my second shoe. And it was a shoe that I’d had at the beginning of me being on Vans, but then we did again, and this photo is from that second time. And I guess that was when I first got on Vans, from just cutting off the Sk8-high and ripping the stripe off and just saying ‘can we make this?’


The Rapidweld is when you first started really exploring what could be done at Vans in terms of technology right?
AVE: Yeah so that was when I started to explore no-sew technology and all that stuff, but it was still on a vulcanized sole. That was the start of me moving in this direction so that when I got to the AVE, I thought about developing a cupsole, and seeing what we could do there. And it was a little bit of a jump for me to trust that we could make a cupsole and get the feeling that I needed, that I get from vulcanised shoes you know? Especially since I hadn’t skated in a cup sole in at least 10 years… And obviously, it is different but I was really scared in terms of board feel, but it’s actually great, and it’s saving my feet too.


Ph: Acosta

Did you feel like there was quite a big difference in what could actually be done in terms of technology between working with DC on that ‘tech’ shoe we discussed earlier and what could now be done at Vans?
AVE: Yeah definitely, in the late nineties/early 2000s skateboard shoe companies were very influenced by the adidas and the Nikes that a lot of skaters were wearing back then, just because skating is something that was done in the streets of large urban areas… So DC quite naturally made shoes that looked like that, like sometimes they’d give them like a running shoe toe… Even the Lynx has that bit that rolls up at the front. And with my first shoe, I kind of felt like I was on my toes but then the heal was raised, so almost like a running stance, but that’s just not that great for skateboarding. I remember really struggling with that on my first shoe… And then yeah you just stuck as much shit on there as you could haha. Velcro, plastic… They put all this stuff on them so it would give you that illusion of it being these crazy technical shoes, and they were expensive too for 20 years ago. And they were heavy, they were bulky… Now we’re actually making functional shoes. The technology is there because it has a function.


Ph: Acosta.

And then this new one feels like the continuity of this approach, what made you want to take things even further? It’s obviously a pretty brave design…
AVE: Well the AVE Pro was successful and coming from working with Vans for so long, and doing a lot of different iterations of classics along the way as promo shoes, there just comes a point where you’re just a little like, ‘okay, we’ve done that, let’s explore some new realms and do something different’. I think I was just a little burnt out on the same old silhouettes, the classics. Which I love, and I still wear classics but I also like other things and have my mind open to other things that I think people wouldn’t necessarily expect from me. So I just wanted to keep pushing in that direction.
And it’s like, how far can we push things? You know? Because then you’re in a real conversation about modern shoemaking, as opposed to ‘let’s just put it on another canvas vulc sole’. The first few samples of these I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work’ and that’s kind of the place I think you should be.

And if you have the freedom to actually be able try something completely new…
AVE: Yeah exactly. And I love the shoe! So you know, it’s just like anything… Even skateboarding, or anything really, I’d rather stick my neck out and fail than be comfortable. That’s how I look at life. Especially at this point, I’ve been doing this for 20 years.

Okay last one. What was the board feel like on these ones?

Ph: Blabac.

AVE: Drunk!