Long before social media was a thing, or The Berrics ever existed, the skateboarding institution known as Crailtap.com was the trusted source for daily unique content. Pulling back the curtain on some of the most unique and reclusive characters in skateboarding, the domain remains today as the home to all things from the Girl and Chocolate skateboard companies. So it's no wonder why it's Eric Koston's "second favorite" place to visit on the internet.
For over a decade now, Aaron Meza has been the man behind the controls of the Crailtap spacecraft, and it's his sense of humor and smooth demeanour that gives the site the sort of and authenticity that keeps people coming back. Meza started at Girl as a filmer back when that meant you lived next to the dudes who skated. Following his early FTC videos, he was credited in many notable skate vids, and in 1999 Meza took on the position of Editor in Chief at Skateboarder Magazine where he continued to film on the side, getting clips in most of the big video releases of the time. After five years moonlighting as a filmer while working at the magazine, Meza returned to Girl with the title of Visual Marketing Manager and developed beloved columns such as "Crailcouch" and "Top 5's."
VICE caught up with Meza on the cusp of the epic "Cause we can," Stay Flared, Emerica x Lakai tour to find out a little more about where he cut his teeth filming, how he met Koston, and why it pays to pay rent.
Epicly Later'd with Eric Koston, part 2
VICE: Let's get into it—can you talk about your background, where you come from and how you got into doing what you do today?
Aaron Meza: Yeah, I grew up in the SF bay area, and you know SF in the early '90s was a big, big skate scene—probably the biggest skate scene at the time. I was just filming my friends, and we used to skate Embarcadero and then I just started filming with all the guys at Embarcadero mainly through this guy James Keltch who was trying to get sponsored by Plan B when Plan B was starting. From there, I just started filming everyone who skated Embarcadero, which lead to like Mike Carroll and Henry Sanchez and those kind of guys. So I was going to school and filming for these early 90s skate videos, which lead me to working at Girl.
Do you remember when Eric Koston showed up to EMB?
Yeah, I remember he was on 101 at the time and he was going up there. He was shooting an interview for Slap magazine with Alfonzo Rawls, and I saw him at that time. I saw him the night—this is real skate nerd stuff—where he switch-360-flipped the seven at the Embarcadero. I didn't see him do it, but I saw him try it. I left, but I think that's the first time I saw him. Then when Girl started, I really got to know him. [Back then,] half the riders lived in LA and half in SF, and myself and the skaters who were sponsored by Girl and Chocolate would come to LA for the weekend to film. Eric was the only one who had his own apartment, so we'd stay with him so that's how I got to know him.
Were you ever into taking photos or strictly filming?
Very rarely I took photos. I actually shot his Fourstar sequence for an ad, kickflip a double set. I shot that, but I never really went with it too hard.
As a filmer, can you talk a little bit about how you approach projects, where the inspiration comes from?
Before I worked for the magazine, I was just filming everyday. There was a while in the late 90s where every waking hour we were filming for Mouse or the Chocolate Tour. Going to get breakfast, then going to skate, then going to dinner, then going to bars or whatever. Back then, we would spend all day together skating and hanging out. I was filming a ton. Now it's different because I'm mostly in an office and then going on trips, so you're focused on this one project that you're gonna shoot then you're gonna go home for a few weeks and edit that. Whereas full length videos, you're filming for years and years to get enough stuff, which is rad... I like that, but it's just so much more memorable to go be on the trip and know you're gonna make an edit. Because I edit a lot, I film a lot with editing in mind, so when I go out and I film I get a lot of different stuff, not just the skating. I can be like "so this was a fun session" and I can film people reacting and getting the tricks and get a more interesting reel then just trick trick trick.
You told me one time that Crailtap.com was Eric's second favorite website. What's his first favorite?
[Laughs] Probably NBA.com. I dunno, he travels a lot so I gotta imagine he's on some travel websites quite a bit.
Isn't he kind of known for notoriously bouncing early from every tour?
He's left a couple, but there was a long stretch where he didn't leave any tour early. There was a good stretch of years where the first half—I mean, I remember even staying late with him on at least on one trip, or maybe more, when he wanted to stay longer to get a trick or something. But I think on some of those Lakai trips, which were like a month long, at least half the dudes were dropping out. People were just dropping like flies because you were just going to Motel 6s across the country, dudes might start breaking out.
Is there any other Koston stories that you wished you got to tell in the Epicly Later'd video, like the GG Allin Halloween costume that caused a call from Thrasher?
Oh yeah, Jake [Phelps, Thrasher editor] would always leave messages on my voicemail like, "You're making fun of GG Allin," like, he was personally offended [laughs]. There was a stretch where Eric was always killing it on Halloween. Like, six years in a row he put together pretty burly Halloween costumes and somehow he would really end up looking like the person, even though it was a wide range of different people, he'd nail it. You'd be like, "Damn, he kind does look like them." He was Sisqo one year and he bleached his hair, and he was Master P one year—pulled it off pretty sick. There was like five years in a row where he was getting into it and he would nail it. It was kind of weird because [the parties were at] his house by default... it's not that it was a party house but a lot of people would stay there. He's super nice and super giving with his stuff. He would drive us around... he didn't love entertaining he just kind of put up with it. He wasn't a total center of attention/life of the party kind of guy. Looking back at it now, it was kind of strange that he was housing so many skaters. I think he was the first one to be on his own and responsible enough. He would get a decent-sized house, while most of us were living with our parents, so it would be five of us on his floor and he'd just put up with it. He wasn't bitchy about it, but he wasn't like, "This is sick, we're all gonna be hanging out"!
Any other early Eric memories?
He didn't come to SF a ton. I was in college and he stayed with me at the Mouse time and he ended up getting a few really rad tricks in one week. It was just him and I, and that was pretty sick. He was so motivated on his own to go skate but wasn't vocal about it. Just like, "Hey, let's go over here and I'll maybe try something." He was never like, "I'M GONNA DO THIS, IT'S GONNA BE SO SICK LETS GO! I GOT THIS CLIP TODAY!" He'd just go do it. That back noseblunt hubba, he'd just do it and be kinda Zen about it. He was never claiming his own stuff—he was just super calm and mellow. He would never really get hurt, he would fall but he had this Bruce Lee half-asian kind of thing where he would just like land it properly. He's the most naturally gifted skater I've ever seen. There was a time there that I was around a lot of great skaters. They were the best, but Eric was... you know, he could do stuff that no one else could do at the time.
Check back in the coming weeks for interviews with more of Eric Koston's collaborators.