Championship finalist three times successively. Overall winner of the last competition. Now, the possibility of becoming the first skater to retain the flatground title in the history of Battle at the Berrics. Ladies and gentleman, Patrick John Ladd. We recently caught up with PJ, still going strong in the sixth annual tournament and first ever at the new park, to talk about the beginning in Boston, New Balance, solitary skating and the much anticipated Plan B Video. Enjoy –
Interview by Stephen Cox
Photos by Yoon Sul
I've never been to Boston and have always wanted to. Any recommendations as to what I should see?
Yeah you should go. I don't know if I can recommend any spots other than skate spots [laughs]. Just rolling around is fun; you can skate from one side of city to the other in a half hour. See a Red Sox game maybe?
It’s on the list. How was life growing up and skating there?
It was cool. I would skate my box and flatbar in the warehouse next to my father's auto parts store and then take the train into downtown to skate. Before that I skated this concrete stage in the high school parking lot. And before that, just in front of my house. It was good. Wherever you grow up is your root. Made me tough, built my character and develop certain qualities. I’m grateful for my upbringing no matter how difficult, because it made me who I am.
What important relationships did you build in Boston that stand out to you in terms of where you are now?
Donny Barley hooked me up with Element when I was a kid and we're still good friends now, he's the man. Donny, Ryan Kingman, and Johnny Schilleref did a lot for me back then, I’m super grateful. It's funny now because Plan B is at Element, pulled a three-sixty [laughs]. Pretty tight. Before that Matt Roman hooked me with boards and gear, again I’m very thankful.
Is Boston somewhere you will live again?
Probably something like I'm doing now, places on both coasts. Going back and forth.
How do you rate the skating there?
There's a good scene there, some are more progressive and some like to keep it classic like it's 1996, some keep it strictly transition, I respect it all. My boy Gavin holds it down pretty hard, Bro and crew from the Orchard shop are doing good things as well, also my friend Steve and Raw support it. There have always been great skaters and an awesome unique skate scene not only in Boston, but also in the New England area in general. I back it. With Brick Harbor being in Boston as well as New Balance getting involved with skating, with the local and larger companies supporting the skate community, I say it’s only getting better.
How are you feeling about being part of a new project with New Balance?
I'm psyched on it. I believe in New Balance being a no bullshit shoe brand from Boston that successful and makes great shoes. I think it has a lot to add.
When I made initial contact with you, you were stuck in traffic. For me there's nothing worse than feeling like you're not getting anywhere. There's the obvious frustration, but how do you overcome it?
[Laughs] yeah when I talked to you I wasn’t in traffic that moment exactly, I was just saying that I hadn’t been at the Berrics too much and had been attempting to street skate, which just meant I had been sitting in traffic a lot, [laughs]. Half joking there.
Oh right [laughs]. Can traffic and security put you off street skating then?
Yeah it's tough, it's great now but street skating definitely isn't what it used to be. I definitely like being posted at one spot for a while: skating, filming, and being outside.
Is fame or notoriety something you care to comment on? How can it affect your enthusiasm for skating? I imagine it can affect different people in different ways.
I see being recognized for something you do as a positive thing. If somebody were feeling what you did or was inspired, that's cool. It's more of an effect than a cause though.
Can you tell us about your experiences of New York City? I saw the part a while back.
New York is great. I wanted to get back to the east coast, but something different. Just get out of LA for a while. Skate around, take the train, and be out all day with your board. There are a lot of new parks around the city and everything.
Do you think kids nowadays will progress faster because of the wealth of parks popping up everywhere?
The more accessible it is yeah sure. I mean if there's a schoolyard in LA that you can skate all day every day, with banks on sides and table and benches, I'm sure you'd have that much more footage and stuff from everybody [laughs]. Maybe we should approach the city with that idea. Keep it simple, authentic.
Interesting that you say authentic.
I suppose I mean authentic to skateboarding, true to skateboarding. It’s evolution I guess. I just mean hypothetically speaking that recreating a LA schoolyard, say you used picnic tables and benches that weren't like the classic real plastic ones everybody skates and were like metal or something. That might not be authentic, but if they were the true exact real ones people skate now that would be a bit more authentic. Does that make sense? Talking loosely here.
It does. I read a while back that you used to skate on your own quite often.
I skated a lot solo when I was younger because there weren't so many skaters, not so much by choice you know? I don't really skate by myself now.
Do any differences arise when skating on your own?
I mean I don't really anymore, unless I'm at the park or spot before anybody else. Sometimes I like to go film solo just to be more focused and get it done. Other than that when I was growing up it might have helped a little I suppose, get in your own zone and skate a little more meditatively.
What sort of ratio is there when it comes your skating with regards to filming and not filming?
It's probably equal filming to not filming. Half and half I'd say.
Who do you film with?
I've been filming with Erik Bragg and also my friend Joe from New York, Russell Houghten as well.
What do you have to say about the importance of a good relationship with a filmer?
You’re probably spending a lot of time together so it helps to get along [laughs].
I believe you have a reputation for giving a hard interview. How am I doing so far?
Do I have that reputation really?
Shoot, you’re doing great dude!
Battle at the Berrics. Are you going to retain the title? Is it something you take seriously?
Yeah Battle at the Berrics is a fun thing more than a serious thing I feel. Kinda like playing with your homies [laughs]. Like you’re trying but it's all in good fun you know?
There was a potential past Flip reunion with Salabanzi before he made the exit.
That would have been cool. Bastien's the man![Laughs]. I saw him New York not too long ago, it was good to see him.
Who would you like in the final?
The homies! Anybody but Rodney or Daewon [laughs]..
Matt Miller said to me about a ledge game, which I think would be great. Ever tried that with anyone?
Yeah that's cool. We do that sometimes. I don't know if that'd work for Battle at the Berrics though.
What are your thoughts on the new park?
The new Berrics Park is insanely great. It's got everything. Everything's built really well. Super fun.
Do you think over-analyzing the condition of the skate industry is more common now than when you first started out?
Yeah I don't know if it's more common now than before. I was always so focused on just skating I suppose that maybe I didn't get into it. I just focus on what I like.
So what's right with skateboarding currently and whose footage inspires you?
Skateboarding is great now I think. Noticing the trend of people skating everything more, which is cool. The footage from all the Plan B homies is inspiring me right now. Other than Plan B dudes I'd say Guy, Rodrigo, Reynolds, Suciu, Trevor Colden, Antonio Durao, Gavin Nolan, Mickey Papa, and AVE.
Having mentioned people skating everything currently, is this something you feel you are embracing?
Yeah it's cool. I’m down for it
Are these trends rooted in a minority setting the standard for everyone to follow?
There are trends, then there's evolution and progress.
Speaking of evolution and progress, the Plan B video is scheduled for summer 2013. Has the team been filming a lot together? There’s a lot of talk about this video.
Yeah everybody's working on it and going on trips, we just got back from China, it's coming along.
China is currently the hot spot. When on filming trips in other countries do you meet up with local skate communities or do you keep to yourselves?
Yeah it's really good to skate with all the new plazas, buildings, and marble. And yeah, we meet up with locals as well as just being on our own mission.
Cool. How do you approach an upcoming video part?
Sometimes there are certain tricks that you want to get. I’ll skate the park and try it there with the street spot and in mind and then go out on the weekends and try and get it or sometimes you’re out skating and it's sort of impulsive or random, which is better but a little harder these days.
What's the best tour you've been on?
Not sure what the best tour is but Plan B did a fun trip to Hawaii and Costa Rica.
What have you learned from touring?
Are you a fan of skating demos?
I like skating demos. They can be fun, depends on the park.
What about signings?
Signings as well, it's cool to meet people and other skaters that support the brands and what you do.
What were you first experiences of competition skating?
Just some local contests, I remember there being good ones at the skatepark in Rhode Island called Skater Island.
Thinking back from those days to now, how has skating affected your body over the years?
The body was made to heal itself. I actually feel the best that I've ever felt now health wise.
Good to hear. What other passions do you have apart from skateboarding?
Apart from skating, usually just recharge time, maybe read.
In terms of skateboarding being your career how do you separate “work” and leisure where there is an overlap?
It's not really ever work because I love it. But again, sitting in traffic or driving for hours to go to a skate spot and get kicked out can seem like work sometimes. "Let's just go to the Berrics" [laughs].
Would you like to always be involved in the skating?
Let's finish up by trying to get a rough estimate of how many boards you have went through since day one. Have a guess.
[Laughs] this is an amazing question, original. Dang man I don't know, a serious guess I would say…maybe two thousand boards? Does that sound crazy? I just did quick math in my head. I'll have to think about that and get back to you [laughs].