GUY MARIANO

The Hall of Fame Interview

Guy Mariano Nike SB Portrait

Courtesy of Nike SB

 

WORDS: Leland Ware

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Guy Mariano is being inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame on Friday. It was a generational win for skaters of a certain age. Not only did Guy define our glory days, he’s still killing it in 2018. Guy also arguably has the best story in skateboarding. Everybody likes a good comeback, right? This latest accolade is right up there with the most epic movie climax imaginable. After all, some of us have been watching this saga unfold for decades. 

With that in mind, I rang up Guy for an interview to mark the occasion. It ended up being an hour-long conversation that felt like catching up with an old friend that I grew up with. In a sense, I guess I did. From Ban This [1989] right through Pretty Sweet [2012], I’ve been following along. And those videos are connected to my own memories from different times in skateboarding—which says the most about Mariano’s impact on the culture. Very few have maintained his level of influence over such a long period of time.

We spoke at great length about his career highlights, the state of skateboarding, brands, video, social media, and the rest of the topics that you’d expect to hear a couple of old-timers discussing at your local spot. My biggest takeaway is that this story isn’t over. So it’s a bit premature to fully examine what Guy’s true legacy in skateboarding will ultimately be. But you can draw your own conclusions below.

 

I wanted to start in the ‘90s, because that’s the era that you were inducted into the Hall of Fame for. A lot of people romanticize that time in skateboarding. What defines skateboarding in the ‘90s and makes it special in your opinion?

I think the fashion and music from the ‘90s paints a great picture. I think that’s what a lot of people romanticize about it. The ‘90s look good, and it has a good soundtrack. I always compare skateboarding and hip hop. They’re very similar. You’ve got hip hop now—all of the Lil’ Pumps or whoever. Then, you have the ‘90s with Nas and Biggie. People say that the ‘90s has more substance or whatever. But it’s all an art form that’s always gradually moving. I actually think that there’s a lot of ‘90s going on in 2018. You see a lot of clothing based around it. A lot of brands are doing stuff from back then.

I think with every generation, you had these big icons. For me, the Bones Brigade were like superstars. The ‘90s had that, but it was a little bit less. Nowadays, it’s hard because skateboarding is so saturated. There’s so many people doing it. And that’s great. But it’s harder to have these iconic people because there’s so many great people at the same time. That’s what makes the ‘90s special.

Your part in Mouse [1996] looks really improvisational. It’s almost Gonzesque in that you don’t know what you’re going to do next. Your later stuff looks more calculated. Do you think you have a different approach to skating now than you did back then?

I do. I think that I was in some sort of prime during Mouse where it came more naturally, and flowed out of me. Now, it is a bit more scheduled. It’s like, “I’m gonna go here, and I’m gonna try this trick.” That makes a difference. You can read that stuff in footage. You can tell when you have a skater that you like. For me, it would be a Wes Kremer, or a T-Funk. When you see that footage you know that it was randomly done at a spot sporadically. You can feel it. I think that kind of translated into Mouse. That was, maybe, that time for me.

Also, when you’re a little bit younger, you’re just going out skating. Tim Dowling filmed most of that stuff. We had a relationship where we were just hanging out everyday, and capturing what came up day-by-day. That’s how that filming was done at a younger stage in my life. Now, with more responsibilities, it’s different. Sometimes it’s so strategic that you learn a trick at a skatepark, and then take it to a spot that you want to do it at. How unexciting is that? Not in a bad way, it’s just more like training in a sport than an art form that just comes naturally. 

 

Guy Mariano TWS Chrome Ball Scan

Transworld Skateboarding Scan Courtesy of The Chrome Ball Incident

"I was in some sort of prime during Mouse where it came more naturally, and flowed out of me."

 

In Fully Flared [2007] you have this look—it’s almost like you’re trying to get something off your chest. You were just coming back on the scene after your hiatus at that point. When in the process did you know that you were creating something that significant? And what does that part represent to you now, 10 years later?

It absolutely was something that I wanted to get off my chest. Some of the first things that I filmed were outtakes of the Chocolate tour video or something. That fakie 5-0 half-Cab flip on the bench, that was probably one of the last tricks in that Fully Flared part. But it was one of the first tricks that I filmed. So I was picking up where I left off. I was very fearful of that part. Ty Evans said, “I’m not putting this video out until you get this part done.” I was frightened when he said that. Actually, I was a little pissed off. I was like, “Who is this dude that’s able to put this type of pressure on me?” I’m glad that he did.

That part means so much to me. As skateboarders, we’re all super critical of ourselves. For whatever it was worth, that was a time in my life when I stepped out of my comfort zone and put myself on the line. Regardless of what people were going to think about it, I gave it a try. And I didn’t give up. I’m really proud of that. That can actually take more courage than being in your prime and filming something that came to you really easy. 

The point when things got serious was when I let my guard down with Ty Evans. I told Ty that I was kind of nervous. He explained to me that he’s a professional at what he does. I followed his recipe, and stuck by his side. Right as I started bonding with Ty, I felt really comfortable and like this was going to be something that’s possible for me. Ty’s taken some skaters to the promised land.

I think a lot of my success has to do with the timing of where I was at, and the people that I was working with. I think a big part of my whole history in skateboarding is that I got to work with Stacy Peralta. And I worked with Spike Jonze during the Blind days. And all of the Girl films, being a part of those. That’s being at the right place at the right time. There’s a lot of really good skateboarders that don’t get recognized. So timing, and who you’re surrounded by, has a lot to do with it. 

When we sat down and watched the first cut of Fully Flared, that video was not ready to come out. Right when it was decided that we were going to do another year of traveling to film, I was like, “I think I’m gonna put something together.” Those first years back were rusty. Some of those first clips were shitty. I remember going back to some of the same spots in different states on tour and stepping those tricks up a little bit. 

I was never actually comfortable, even after seeing the edited part. I was happy because I thought it was going to get by. But you’re never truly thinking that people are gonna like it, or secure about anything.  

But you got a standing ovation at the premiere, what was that like?

You have to understand, with me it’s a lot of the story that’s involved. People like that story. Everyone likes a good comeback. Hopefully it had a little bit to do with the skating. But I do know that skateboarders were all down for… sometimes you're just rooting for the person. But that was a good feeling. 

 

Guy Mariano Ben Colen Photo

Courtesy of Ben Colen

"I think a lot of my success has to do with the timing of where I was at, and the people that I was working with."

 

Now, your part in Pretty Sweet [2012] is super ironic to me. The song begins, “This has been a blast. We’ve got one more tune. Hope you enjoy it.” You share the part with Eric [Koston], and it would be the last video that you guys did with Girl after a 20-year run. What prompted you to leave that camp, and what’s it been like putting Numbers together?

That camp was making some big changes. For me and Eric to step aside and allow those changes to happen—and make way for the next generation of riders—was the right thing to do. It was just time for us to do something new. I am extremely happy with Numbers. I think that we are nailing everything that we set out to do. Especially Edition 4, all of the artist in that collaboration together is something that really hasn’t been done in skateboarding. People are starting to get it, and starting to be stoked on it. It’s our baby, and we’re taking our time with it. We’re not trying to do too much too fast. It’s a healthy grow. I’m just really excited with all of the people that we have. Antonio [Durao] is one of my new favorite skaters. Miles Silvas is probably the most true professional that I’ve ever seen on a skateboard. TX has just blown me away. I can’t say enough about the team.

I was really excited about that last Numbers drop. A lot of these brands are doing such good graphics. Graphics in skateboarding are the best they’ve ever been. You would think that after so much time it would be played out. Or we would be reinventing stuff that we’ve already seen. But it’s actually really good right now. And it’s refreshing to see the boards. I’m excited seeing some of these graphics, and what’s being done with all of these applications. I think the state of making skateboards is awesome right now. It’s back to the notion that skateboards are fun. They are fun to look at. They have fun shapes. It’s just a great time.

Also, with Numbers, I’ve been really excited about our apparel lately. I think that we started off very slow. But we’re growing. And the apparel is getting really good. There’s nothing better than starting this brand from scratch, and now being really psyched looking down at the boards and wearing the clothes. It’s become a reality. I think that a lot of people think that for Eric Koston and Guy Mariano starting a brand, everything is going to be super easy. But it’s actually the opposite. We only have a couple of people working for us. And it’s very hands-on. It’s been challenging. I think those are some of the best things that mean something to you in the end—when you put that work in like that. 

 

Numbers Team Photo

Courtesy of Numbers Edition

"I am extremely happy with Numbers. I think that we are nailing everything that we set out to do."

 

Who’s helping on the back end? You guys brought Jason Calloway over, right? He used to work with you on Fourstar.  

Yeah, Jason is a very old friend of mine. I’ve known him since I basically started skateboarding. We grew up around Val Surf. That was our local shop in Studio City. Jason is a person that has been a skateboarder. He’s worked behind the counter at Val Surf. He’s worked in sales. He’s been a team manager. He worked his way up to almost being a general manager at Girl. He spent some time at Primitive. He has a lot of experience in the industry. He’s just the type of guy that knows how to talk to everybody. And he knows what everybody is dealing with. He really knows how to be this utility knife for our brand. And he still keeps skateboarding romantic to himself. Not a lot of people do that. It’s become a business for a lot of people. It’s hard to find people that still romanticize this thing. I couldn’t be more proud of him and the work that he’s doing. 

Then we have Nate [Hooper]. Nate is our artist. We do work with a lot of other artists. But it’s kind of an art form to reach out to these people and get these graphics presentable on a board. Sometimes they’re not perfectly laid out. Nate is also a skateboarder, graffiti artist, and everything. He has a lot of experience in this industry. Just like Jason, he’s a utility knife when it comes to setting up everything from production to the clothing 

Then we have Rudy. We can’t forget about Rudy. He keeps track of everything. He’s the warehouse guy. But he’s more than that. It [the product] would not get there without Rudy. 

How involved are you with the branding and artist collaborations? Are we going to see a Guy Edition?

Hopefully there are things in the Editions that definitely reflect back to me. The graffiti stuff that’s in there ties back to my childhood. One thing that I have to say is that Eric Koston has completely stepped up when it comes to that side of the company. It’s like Eric and his skateboarding, and how he’s managed his career. He’s done the same thing with the brand. It’s amazing to see him work. I think we all know that he’s sort of a perfectionist in his ways. It’s really helped because he’s the type of guy that knows what he wants, and is not scared to have an opinion.

It must be exciting for you after skating for companies nearly all of your life to be on the other side putting your own brand together.

It’s amazing when you see people in this company packing boxes and dropping them off at shops personally, and just taking their own personal time to do stuff. I’ve seen Eric unloading boxes out of a truck and putting them in the warehouse. That’s one of the things that people don’t think Eric is going to be doing for this brand. But he’s showing up in a lot of ways. Those are the good stories that are told—when people are packing boxes, or doing it out of their trunk or garage. 

 

Guy Mariano Numbers Edition 4

Courtesy of Numbers Edition

"I’ve seen Eric unloading boxes out of a truck and putting them in the warehouse. That’s one of the things that people don’t think Eric is going to be doing for this brand."

 

It’s kind of like when Dill and AVE started FA, it had that same vibe.

They actually were. They had boards in a public storage unit. It’s so interesting right now. There’s so many brands starting. I always trip out on what a brand means—and if that’s changing nowadays.  

I think it is. Everything has been democratized with the internet and social media. Anyone can have a brand now. It wasn’t like that back in the day.

This is the funny thing. Let’s say back in the day that I looked at these brands like Santa Cruz. These were the major brands. You would want to become pro for them because that’s what being a pro meant. Is that the same as a group of kids starting a brand now and turning themselves pro? It’s exactly the same. We’re just judging it. But I guess that’s the same way that Variflex, Santa Cruz, and Powell-Peralta looked at World Industries. It’s all the same idea. I was trying to explain that to someone the other day. They were talking about being a pro and this and that. And I was like, “I don’t know what that means anymore.” You can start a brand with your friends and turn yourself pro. 

It’s true. There’s all the YouTube guys. They’re pro and have a whole industry going, but they don’t get coverage anywhere outside of their YouTube channels. 

Some of those guys are really good. I’ve seen them skate. I tripped out on that. I remember a couple of years ago people were explaining that to me. Then, I checked it all out. But what is the difference between that or what anybody else is doing? Someone that I think is doing it really well right now, and their own way, is Illegal Civ. They have all of these rad personalities, skaters, and artists. And it’s its own new entity in skateboarding. Wouldn’t you say?

Yeah, Mikey Alfred kills it. He’s doing that movie with Jonah Hill, and he’s done all that music stuff with Tyler, Mac Miller, etc. And he’s putting out his own short films as well. He’s in his own lane. 

One time I was filming for Pretty Sweet and I called Jim Greco because I was looking for a filmer. And me and Mikey started filming. I think he filmed that fakie bluntslide varial heelflip on a bench or something. I just remember that he had such a great personality. He was so humble, and just had an appetite for this industry. Right then, I knew this kid was gonna go places. I’m not surprised on where he ended up. 

 

Guy Mariano Lance Mountain Anthony Van Engelen

Courtesy of Blue Tile Obsession

"I was trying to explain that to someone the other day. They were talking about being a pro and this and that. And I was like, 'I don’t know what that means anymore.' You can start a brand with your friends and turn yourself pro." 

 

Who else do you think is doing cool stuff in skateboarding?

It’s hard for me to answer those questions because I think everything is sick. FA is doing some really cool stuff. Those are my friends. And I think a lot of that stuff comes out of Jason [Dill] and Anthony’s [Van Englelen] heads and bleeds their personalities. So that’s really authentic. Primitive is a content king. 917 has a really good thing going. They’re sick people that you want to get behind, and just really great skateboarders. You can’t leave out Real. For being one of the legacy brands, Real has been the best at evolving, and always having such rad skateboarders at any given time. It’s never had to make these big transitional moves. And what they’re doing with their boards—the graphics, laminates, and layers. I like that things can exist like Friendship Skateboards that are just good people, and rad skateboarders that inspire. I could go on and on. 

Let’s talk a little bit about Nike SB. Going back to the ‘90s, there have been so many great photos of you skating and chilling in Nikes. I think people would be stoked on a Guy Mariano colorway, or something signature from you with SB. Has that been talked about at all?

For sure, hopefully by the end of next year you’ll see something out. And besides me, hopefully we can do some more collaborations with Numbers. I really like that you can get me, Eric, and Antonio involved on those. Hopefully in this next year, we’ll see something good—maybe a little video part or something. 

That leads right to my next question. It’s been a solid five years since Pretty Sweet, and four since Life on Video. And you've gone dark on Instagram. Is there a part in the works? I think everyone is really anticipating seeing your next thing.

I’ve actually been filming and stacking some clips. I think that the whole industry is kind of confused right now on where we’re going. I think there has to be a balance between Instagram and putting out some clips and parts attached to some pieces. I’d like to see a video piece attached to some Nike stuff, and come back to Instagram with some stuff. It’s hard to know where this stuff does the best. I think it’s finding that right balance. I think Instagram is really great for people that want to be discovered. But I also think that pros working with the top filmers and putting out these parts is really important for our industry. I wouldn’t want all skateboarding just to go to an iPhone. Right now, it seems like that’s where it translates the best.

I’d rather see a part. 

Yeah, but so many parts drop every single day. It’s hard to know if these things are getting the appreciation that they deserve. The bottom line is that the gnarliest dudes out like Louie Lopez, Joslin, whatever your taste is; they’re still putting their best stuff out in video parts instead of just throwing it on the Gram. That’s a sign that filming parts is still an important part of what we do. 

Numbers is working on a video too, right?

We’re gonna do a video. We still do believe in videos, and what they can do. I think with the smaller brands that have come out, what’s separated some of them is a full-length video. That definitely helped 917. When they came out with their video it helped elevate their brand. We all know that videos are hard to make. I think that with Eric and I coming from Girl, and the respect that we have for video, hopefully we can make something special in this era when the attention span is a little bit shorter. But still have it be artistic and curated in a way that represents Numbers. And I have to say that I feel that as rad as Antonio is and what people have seen, they still don’t know how good this kid is. He’s not had his breakout part per se. That is going to be coming in the Numbers video. He’s coming for blood. 

How far along would you say you guys are?

It’s going to be a next year project. Miles’s last part that he put out, he went to Barcelona for three months and filmed that thing. So making a video part for these kids is a little bit different than what we used to think. Realistically, it takes them a couple of months. It’s just about getting these skateboarders to the right places at the right times. That’s hard nowadays because everyone is actually pretty busy. Eric is a busy dude. Miles and TX travel a lot with adidas. So it’s actually just timing it, and getting everyone together. Hopefully the next thing that you see from Numbers is a Kyron [Davis] part. I don’t think that people have really seen him properly introduced by the brand. So that’s going to be something that people can be looking for. 

 

Guy Mariano Nike SB 2

Courtesy of Nike SB

"I’ve actually been filming and stacking some clips. I think that the whole industry is kind of confused right now on where we’re going."

 

Skateboarding is growing right now. It’s going to the Olympics in 2020. The general public is going to be looking it up. Now, with the Hall of Fame, your name is cemented in its history as one of the greats. How does it feel to be recognized on that level?

I’m honored. Lance Mountain actually called me up to tell me about it. It meant a lot coming from Lance. It means a lot coming from the people that actually voted and got me in there. Like I said before, I’ve seen so many people not get the recognition that they deserve. So to be recognized at any time in skateboarding is really special. I think I’m going to look back at these times and be really proud of all of these small moments that I’ve had. It’s a big moment for me. But I’m sure other people might think it’s small. It’s going to mean a lot to me. I’ve been around this industry for a long time. I care for it, and hold it really close to my heart. Things like this are special to me. I feel like even in my later years, I’ve had to work really hard for stuff. I feel like it’s been earned. And it hasn’t been given to me. 

I started off just good for my age. And I came in pretty young. So I’ve had a lot of battles overcoming things and proving myself. Skateboarding is my life. I have learned so much about the process of life just through skateboarding. Traveling, seeing the world, meeting different people—almost everything that I do in my life, how I handle it, and how I react to it—comes from skateboarding. I’ve learned how to try and not give up. And what that means in just life in general. And the hard work that it takes. Learning through a process of failure is a big part of skateboarding. That’s become a big part of my life, and how I look at it. That’s helped me in so many ways. 

Also, almost every person that I know is related to skateboarding in some way. Skateboarding is one of the best communities that there is in the world. I could get on a plane, go to Barcelona, and end up at Macba without a dime in my pocket, and probably be taken in by some skaters, have a place to stay, and be fed. I don’t think it’s like that in any other art form, sport, whatever you want to call it. So I’m really blessed to have found skateboarding. You have to remember, when I got into this it was, “What do you want to be: a fireman, policeman, or astronaut?” Wanting to be a professional skateboarder was outlandish. The risks were a lot higher for me and my family going into it than it is now. So something like this means a lot to me. And it means a lot the people surrounding me. I have a whole group of family and people. This means a lot to everybody. My mom probably reads more skate magazines, and knows more about the industry than me. I’m getting random texts from old friends congratulating me. Everyone is stoked. 

I think people that grew up in our era feel like we came up with you. So to see you go into the Hall of Fame and still be skating at the level at which you’re skating is really cool. I think it hyped up a lot of people as soon as the announcement was made.

Yeah, I always feel that way about me and my skateboarding. A lot of times, people aren’t just rooting for me. They’re like, “We did it!” Even when I was posting Instagram clips, I would see comments that said, “Still holding it down for the 40-year-olds.” It’s like you still got one out there. I could even take it deeper. I was just watching that thing in Hawaii. You’ve got Cab, Hosoi, and those guys. Cab is killing it right now. He’s doing loops and stuff on his social media. It’s rad! That is super inspiring to me. It gets hard as you get older. Not many of your friends still skate. The crew gets really small. I only have a couple of people that are my close friends that I skate with a lot, and are trying to go hard. That even becomes a really difficult thing. 

 

Guy Mariano Villager Portrait

Courtesy of Villager Goods

"It gets hard as you get older. Not many of your friends still skate. The crew gets really small."

 

From the start until now, do you think you have a career highlight that you can pinpoint? 

I think a lot of people will probably remember that switch tre nosegrind in Pretty Sweet. Maybe because it was on a handrail. And that was at a stage where I was already pretty old. That was also around the time that I got nominated for SOTY. Social media was really just picking up. That was a very spotlighted time. Now that it’s so saturated, it probably doesn’t have that same effect. It was a trifecta of social media, the SOTY race, and Pretty Sweet. 

We covered a lot of ground here, thanks for being so candid. The last thing I want to ask is that at this age, with everything that you’ve accomplished in your career, what’s driving your progression at this point?

One of my biggest motivations recently is that I got hurt. I hurt my knee. I had a tear in my patellar tendon. It sidelined me. That was probably for like eight months. I did a lot of shots in my knee that were unsuccessful. So I kind of battled not being able to get it right. I almost gave up on it. But I decided to give it one more try. I tried this doctor and invested some money into trying to fix it again. I was successful in stopping some of the pain that was keeping me from skating. That motivated me. I’m always going to say this, but I’m not done yet. I still have something to offer. Maybe that’s a skateboarder’s curse. But I think that where skateboarding’s at, and my history with it, I still have something to offer just like those people that have inspired me. I love to skateboard. It is my release. It’s my drug. And I get a lot out of it mentally, physically, and spiritually. So that is my motivation. And I’m not going to lie. I personally get off on skateboarding. I drive down the street everyday and see stuff and think, “That looks rad to skate.” I still, at age 42, daydream about tricks and want to go do them. Also, I want to do some cool stuff with Numbers. I want to participate. I think that was kind of bothering me. In some of these edits and things that we were doing with Numbers, I couldn’t be a part of them in a way that I wanted to. That feeling motivates me to want to do something cool for Numbers, and for Nike as well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. There’s other reasons sometimes besides yourself.