Spencer Hamilton Knows How to Sell Pro Skateboarding
He makes it sound like the best job in the world, which is partly because it is.
Spencer Hamilton (Photos by Carl Wilson)
Spencer Hamilton knows what's up. Off the board, the Canadian pro – sponsored by Supra, KR3W and Shake Junt, among others – can keep you hyper-engaged talking through just about any of his beliefs, be that to do with food, education or skateboarding. I met up with him a few weeks ago in Hackney, just before the Supra demo at the Frontside skate park, for a chat about some of that, the joys of tour and how important it is to understand what the fuck is going on.
VICE: Hey Spencer. How's Britain for skating? Does it beat Canada?
Spencer Hamilton: It's certainly no Barcelona [laughs]. But it's really fun – the good spots are really good.
What do you like to do when you're not skateboarding, both on and off tour?
I like cooking a lot. Going out for food, shopping for food, eating food. Mostly vegan stuff.
Is it hard to eat healthy when you're on the road?
I think you just have to lower your standards. I'm not vegan right now because of that. On the road you either have to be upset the entire time, which I've done and it sucked, or you can just accept that you're not gonna be able to eat good, raw vegan food and just go with it.
Where's the best place you've visited food-wise?
I swear to god, Vancouver or LA. In the summertime Vancouver is the best. They grow everything and it's all fresh. There are tons of little farming towns around it.
Okay. This is all well and good, but you're sitting here in front of me drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. Do you make allowances for these?
Fuck – 10AM interviews? Yeah, I'll make an allowance for beers and smokes [laughs]. I'm not a perfect human by any means. I love drinking, I fucking love hanging with my friends and socialising. I love that whole aspect to my life. Cigarettes; I don't plan on doing it forever, but I'm hooked on this goddamn thing for a while.
Spencer Hamilton for Supra, 2013
How often do you have moments where the reality of what you're doing strikes you?
Oh yeah, plenty of times. I've watched Muska, Jim and Stevie skateboard my entire life, on the first videos I ever had, and now I'm touring with 'em. So there's that. Also, last year we went to some pyramids in Teotihuacan, Mexico – they were awesome. We just went to Stonehenge on the way over here.
What did you think of it?
Oh, it's awesome! I jumped the fence and got kicked out immediately [laughs]. The big ones are fucking massive! And to think they dragged those things. You never know how that shit panned out, you know. I read something about the Rapa Nui people and the Easter Island statues recently that they'd found some historical evidence that suggests that they pretty much killed themselves off. They used every last resource on the island to build these things. They cut down trees and used everything. Which is similar to our society, right? We're ruining our goddamn environment.
Agreed. So what's tour life like generally?
It's just a fucking blur, man – there's always something going on. Asia is always crazy. The Philippines... Manila is always a fucking trip. It's the third-world, man, savage poverty, and there's extreme overpopulation for the city. The one skate park over there is like three car parking spaces for 25 million people. We did a demo there and there were kids grabbing every fucking thing you have. You leave every signing and demo with nothing because you give it all away. They've got nothing over there.
I've seen in other interviews that you're a big reader. What are you reading at the moment?
I was just reading this book called The End of Overeating, which was neat. It's not just applied to food; it's about all forms of consumption and addiction, and the way your brain reacts to rewards and things that are stimulating. It's important to understand what the fuck is going on rather than just blindly going through life.
Have you ever thought about writing yourself?
Absolutely, but it'd be hard for me. I quit high school as well as school, so I'd have to get a little help from my old lady on that one. But I've got tons of ideas floating around in my head – stuff about what we've talked about: society and personal experiences.
Do you disagree with the education system or did you just not like school?
I absolutely disagree with it. I think in all aspects of the world today we are so fucking out of date. The curriculum is shit, you have teachers who are underpaid and don't want to be there. When I quit I was being given career advice by a 70-year-old girl who wouldn't even answer questions. There's something fucking wrong with this shit. Then you get out of school and you learn all this stuff and you realise, woah, we didn't learn any of this shit. When it comes to food, politics, world affairs – the whole thing is out of date. Am I against education? Not at all. The school system today is insane and it's sad that we have that upbringing for kids. The schedule is outrageous.
I agree. I think the hierarchy of subjects need to be reworked.
Exactly. Who's to say that if you got an A+ in Science you're going to get a high-paying job? There's no guarantee. Or then this guy from the bottom who quit high school to start painting, he could be a millionaire. They switch one side of your brain off and flick the other on. It's a moulding.
I think people are questioning the system, but how do you think it can actually change?
There are ways. Civil disobedience goes a long way. There are also alternative schools – there's one in Vancouver...
VICE photographer Carl: There's one in Sweden where their playground is a skate park. It's insane. They do classes in videography and photography at an early age, when they're at school. Their play time is at a skate park, if they want, and there are loads of girls going to it now as well because it's got a great ethos.
Spencer: And then what do you have? You have a group of brilliant people. They'll have personal preferences to art, or whatever, or sport. It's all to do with how your early life is and how you're brought up.
Yeah. What's the worst thing about skateboarding right now? Penny boards?
Oh, those things are pretty rough [laughs]. But it's fucking skating, you know. It always goes through stages: girls skating, weird guys skating, guys in business suits with longboards – there's always shit going on. Is it bad? It doesn't fucking bother me. Do whatever the hell you want.
And what's the best thing about skateboarding right now?
It's so fucking diverse. There's a lot of cool shit going on. You never know what the future is going to hold. It always goes through dips; throughout history, skateboarding has always gone under and come back up. I don't know if we're up or down at the moment, but I know I feel pretty up!
What makes you happy?
Travelling around with my friends. I'm fortunate enough to live in a place that I love – Vancouver is an awesome home. I get to go back and forth to Hollywood to see my boys. Skating as a profession is insane. It's the same story that everyone's got; you quit high school, you don't know what the fuck you're doing and eventually, somehow, you end up here.
Finally, what advice would you give your 13-year-old self – the one sending out sponsor-me tapes to companies?
[Laughs] I don't know. There's so much stuff. Maybe lay off the drugs? But then, if I had, it wouldn't have been so much fucking fun getting here.