Kyle Walker on Winning Skateboarder of the Year and the Mad Winds of Oklahoma
We sat down with the reigning Skateboarder of the Year to discuss winning the prestigious accolade and his unlikely beginnings in the sport.
Let me start by addressing the witty comment you may be about to make – yes, there is a footballer named Kyle Walker. And yes, this interview is with a skateboarder who happens to have the very same name. If you want to say something about how we've picked the wrong Walker, go ahead. Knock yourself out, buddy; well observed, congrats, etc.
If you are a trigger-happy Spurs fans who clicked on this article without looking at the photo (thanks for the click-through, btw – you the real MVP), don't rush off. Stick around and let me educate you on this Kyle Walker, because though he might not be a gifted right-back he is arguably the best skateboarder in the world right now. And, in an age when skateboarding is more popular than ever, that's no easy accolade.
Finding faults with Walker's skateboarding isn't easy; he's as good technically on a flat-bar as he is at bombing a hill to launch down a huge set of stairs. You know what? It's pointless even trying to explain how good he is when you can just watch 'No Other Way', the Vans video that stars him and fellow ripper Elijah Berle. When the video dropped last year, Walker managed to change the face of skateboarding altogether – and rightly won Thrasher magazine's coveted Skateboarder of the Year.
We caught up with Kyle at the newly revamped House of Vans, where he was testing out the new school-yard-inspired layout with a few of his pals, including Daan Van Der Linden (catch our interview with Daan here).
VICE Sports: Were you expecting to win SOTY?
Kyle: A lot of people were like, you should go for it, and so I just kind of started thinking that it would be dope if it all lined up, but I was never actually trying for it. Me and Elijah skating together for that video worked well, because you get certain people you skate with that hype you up, and Elijah is definitely one of them. So thankfully the stars aligned.
How hard was it filming the 'No Other Way' part?
Now it feels like a blink of an eye, but it was definitely pretty hectic. It was good though. It wasn't like a full-length video where there were so many people on the trip – not that I'm opposed to that – but it was always mellow, so every trip was productive.
Each trick seems impossible to me, but which was the hardest? The kinked rail at the end?
Yeah, the kinked rail was obviously a stress case. It actually started off as a joke. Me and my homie Mason Silver saw the rail and we thought it was like something from Skate 3 the video game, or something. I held on to my friend's shoulder and dropped in on it as a joke, and everyone started tripping, like, maybe this is possible. After that I didn't check it out for over a year and a half, and then we were driving by it while filming for the video. That started a four-day process of kicking out, getting a bit closer, then eventually getting it down.
Going back, can you talk me through how you got into skating, and how you progressed?
I got into skating after I traded a bag of chips for some trucks. I got home and realised I didn't have anything else, so for Christmas I asked for a board. Then I got a couple of those little X-Factor ramps, and then it went from there.
Who were your influences?
My best friend Trevor Bond – he used to shoot amazing photos so I looked up to him – and just my friends and locals I used to skate with. I didn't have many friends who were my age, so I used to hang with and look up to the older guys.
Did you have any particular favourite videos parts?
I just fucking loved all Emerica stuff, you know? 'This Is Skateboarding', 'Kids in Emerica', etc. 'Baker 3', even though it's not that old, was one of my favourites. All the old Transworld videos, 'In Bloom'… I placed in a contest when I was a kid and I won 'In Bloom', 'Sight Unseen' and 'Free Your Mind', and I just watched those on repeat.
What was it like to skate in your hometown in Oklahoma?
In the summer it was so hot and humid, and just fucking deadly. But I just fused to it and didn't know anything else. Winter it could be sunny, snowy, rainy or 50mph mad winds. Then April to the middle of June, which is when you hit tornado season, is fucking crazy. There are a lot of spots though, and not many people skate them.
Where's your favourite place to skate now?
Probably Copenhagen – have you been? [Nathan has indeed been--Ed.] It's insane dude, you just ride bikes everywhere, drink beers in the street, there's spots everywhere, you can buy weed at Christiania – so yeah, I'd say Copenhagen, Sydney, or Barcelona.
How about London? Are you into the new set up here (at House of Vans)?
It's dope man. The last one was sick too, but I feel like this one has more flow, and I thought it was dope how they've added a pole jam. I didn't know until yesterday that it was all free – it's so dope.
What are your next aims?
Just stay busy, you know? This year I just want to keep skating and see what happens without planning anything. My summer is booked up, but I've got no video bookings. You know how Vans did 'No Other Way'? Well, I think they're planning another part. Don't quote me on that, but it could be fucking rad.