People learned the name Darrell Stanton a few weeks after he rolled away from a never-before-landed backside nosebluntside down San Francisco's iconic Clipper ledge. Aged 16, the photo of him pulling it off wasn't just Darrell's first photo in a skate magazine, it was the June 2002 cover of Thrasher.
That ledge trick spawned a career that saw Darrell release mind-blowing video part after video-part, and introduce his own signature trick, the "tetherball" – an early grab on both the nose and tail, considered to be one of the harder tricks to pull off. Then, sometime in 2013, Darrell left his sponsors and released a mysterious promo video for his own brand, HAVTE.
In the following months, Darrell made a series of bold Instagram posts regarding his wage as a pro and his place in skateboarding, some of which were to do with him wanting to be paid what he felt his tricks were worth. With no new footage released, many assumed he'd quit skating for financial reasons; in fact, he was still skating and making money, but had also started selling drugs – a path he's since left behind.
Darrell's story has been misconstrued and mis-told a fair bit, so we sat down to clear things up and have a chat about Clipper, San Francisco, The Muska and what he's been up to all these years.
VICE: Where did you grow up?
Darrell Stanton: I first learnt to skate in the streets of Los Angeles, California. I moved quite a bit, so it was really a matter of who was around that skateboards. I had different skate crews in different places. When I moved to Houston I skated with a couple different crews. Then I was in San Francisco for a while, staying at the famous Six Newell place, skating with the Anti Hero, Real, Rasa Libra and Krooked guys.
What was it like skating in SF for Real?
I love SF and Deluxe [Distribution]. I was Deluxe to the neck. I rode for Real, Thunder and Spitfire. Deluxe raised me. I would go skate damn near every day and party all night into the morning, take a nap, then go skate. It kind of instilled that work ethic in me, seeing as I have a similar schedule to this day. I would go on tour with whoever was going on tour in the camp. I've been on a full on Anti Hero tour from SF to across Oregon, and I barely even skate transition. If someone pulled up to Six Newell and I was there and they were going on tour, I’d throw a T-shirt, grab a hoodie, some cash and hop in the van! I'm a product of the Deluxe camp for the most part.
How did that backside noseblunt at Clipper go down?
I was a high school kid in Texas, so I booked a flight to San Francisco for the weekend to go skate with the Deluxe guys. Gabe Morford, an iconic photographer, was out with us skating that weekend, and he took us there. I'd been doing noseblunts recently, but I hadn’t filmed one or shot one, so I decided it was a good place and time to get one if Gabe shot it. I did it a few times, and we continued on skating more into the night at other spots. The next day I flew back to Houston because I had school on Monday.
After the backside noseblunt, what was the second photo that you had a magazine?
I had a Thunder Trucks ad in the same mag. It was a switch front-board down a handrail. It was my first actual skate company ad.
The overblunt down Clipper is one of the most cutting edge tricks of all time. How long did it take to get the make?
It was another one of those, “"hat should we take Darrell to? He's down to skate" days out with the Deluxe guys, and it just worked out. I hadn’t even been so much as trying that trick, and I just thought it’d feel great to do it on something. I was filming for the Transworld video Free Your Mind, and so I was like, "What the hell!"
What was it like filming Free Your Mind?
That was a fun video part to make. It was a lot of work, yet it didn’t seem like it. Frank is the star of that skit; I was just willing to do it. Frank's great. I lived with him for a while at Six Newell. Sometimes I'd be in Huntington Beach, hanging out with Geoff Rowley, Alex Moul, Ed Templeton and Ewan Bowman. Ewan was helping me film for my part quite a bit, so we would drive from one of those places in Huntington Beach to San Francisco in his Regal and make it happen with John Holland.
Who are your current skate sponsors?
Me, myself and I. Holla at me if you want to sponsor me or want me to endorse your brand. I’m a blue chip free agent.
Do you skate regularly nowadays, and if so who do you skate with and where do you go?
I’ve been spending a bit of time in Houston, TX recently, so I’ve been skating with the guys at Southside, Select and Brick Skate shops.
What was the last new trick you learned?
A new trick I did the other day on a ledge was a backside hurricane seatbelt grab. I want to do it on a rail or hubba. I just did a nollie backside sugarcane to forward on a ledge, too – that'd be rad down something, I think.
That's insane. The tetherball is one of your unique tricks. What's the favourite tetherball you've done?
I did one down MACBA when it was a big four. It was a backside 360 one. I also did one to 5-O down a rail. It’s a tie between those two.
That was when you were on Element, right? I saw you worked with Todd Francis while you were pro there. Did you have much involvement in your board graphics at Element?
Todd is one of my favourite artists; he designed the Anti Hero Skateboards logo, and that's been one of my favourite logos for a while. That was actually one of the reasons why I decided to ride for Element at the time.
Do you have fond memories of riding for Volcom?
I've been around the world a couple times with Volcom, and every time it’s tremendous. My favourite wall ride I've done was actually a Volcom ad shot in San Pedro, by Joe Krolick, near my house at the time.
What was it like skating with Lewis Marnell, RIP?
Lewis was great. I’ve spent a lot of time with him. I met Lewis at Andrew Reynolds' house. Ever since we became friends, he would come to America and have the Volcom mansion to stay in, and he would call me up and be like, "Yo Darrell, come pick me up, let's go get pizza!" and stay with me the entire time instead. He was a diabetic, so he knew I'd take great care of him, and he felt better staying at my house. Lewis' skateboarding speaks for itself. I’d go to Australia and stay with him and we'd skate and spin records. We’d talk all types of music and introduce new music to one another all the time. Rest in peace.
You skated on Element with Chad Muska. What stokes you out about him?
What doesn’t stoke me about Chad? He's wonderful. We both got on Element at the same time. Chad’s had my back since as long as I can remember. Our first trip on Element was to Miami, and when we arrived it was late at night. Chad and I skated around Miami together, just cruising the street 'til the next morning. We went to a club that had actual cars in it; we were partying in a school bus in a club all night.
What have you been doing since you left pro-skate life?
I've been privileged enough to sprinkle some footage here and there. I had some stuff in Transworld video montages, like Perpetual Motion and Duets. I had some stuff in the Gold wheels video, Gold Goons. I've just been seeing what else I could like and getting amongst it. I’ve worked on a couple video sets for up and coming musical artists, been filming my friends skateboarding, shooting a few photos here and there, and just being in music studios as a muse to music artists.
I enjoy sounds, sounds are wonderful. I like rapping to my friends in their studios when they're playing a beat to give them a laugh. They like it. I've been staying out of trouble, that's for sure, although I never got into much trouble in the first place. It’s great to keep it that way. I like being around productive people that like to turn productivity into pay checks.
Something has to keep the party going and the party coming.