Interview With Justin Bishop

Interview With Justin Bishop

Justin Bishop interview by Matt Zicopula; photos by Saeed Rahbaran.

How’ve you been? What’ve you been up to this year so far?

Been good! Things have been opening back up again so Ive been skating a lot more, and skating some contests again.

Sick! Speaking of contests, before Covid and all this we went on a trip together to Vista CA for your contest at the California Training Facility park.
Even though you didn’t place first it still felt like you had a win with that 6 stair ollie. How did that come about?

Yeah! It actually came about from the practice session the night before the contest. A bunch of guys wanted to see a blind person
ollie it so I decided to try it and eventually got it.

Interview With Justin Bishop

Yeah I remember they had this ramp set up at the bottom of the stairs that made the stairs like a euro gap and that thing had to get
removed. It took like three of us to move it, the thing was pretty heavy and took some effort to get out of there. I remember you feeling
kind of obligated to do it like there was this pressure for you to at least try it.  

Yeah definitely when the guys took their energy to move the euro gap it sounded so heavy and I just hear it scraping on the ground and them
pushing it so I definitely felt I had to give them a little show, but the plan was just to throw my body down it a couple times and thank them for their
time but after long enough I got into the groove, heard people listening, and it all came together eventually.

So awesome how naturally that all worked out. You didn’t even have an idea of how many people were watching you at first. As soon as you started
going for it there grew this audience and you start hearing all these people cheering you on, it kind of became like “oh okay I’m gonna do this now.”
And then after you did it you had mentioned it was one of your biggest blind ollies you’ve done.

Yeah, it definitely was the biggest thing I’ve ollied and even still today and its like right in that perfect zone of like “I can still do it without sight”, cuz it doesn’t kill your knees on the impact but at the same time big enough to matter to me, so yeah it was definitely an achievement.

Interview With Justin Bishop

Definitely an achievement and just the energy being there, just remember everyone cheering you on and there was like six or seven people filming you with
their phones and so that quickly went viral, thats when we realized that people

I think when we discovered that people liked seeing the process, because when you land a trick that’s usually the best that you can, because most tricks are only possible if you landed in a certain way. So almost every trick looks perfect when landed, trying to get that land. So showing the process of how I get there definitely got people excited.

Right, which also kind of gave us the idea on the theme of your part, which was to include some or most of the bails of your tricks until the make because I kind of figured man, everyone’s almost more interested in seeing that. Rather than just the make because you know, you don’t see the process and what you go through. I mean, skating itself, like when you can see is hard and you have that process, but people are just like, Man, this guy doesn’t have all of his vision and he’s still doing it. And he’s still making it happen. So you have to like I don’t know, it double up on your on your balls and your guts, I guess you know?

Yeah, no, I just always think like, you know, yeah, I’m not the best skater but I am the best at throwing my body at something and hoping for the best. And I’m glad that people enjoy that. It definitely keeps me going.

It definitely shows your your tenacity, your persistence and just like your grit as like a skateboarder never went away. And you had one part already come out almost a couple years back, you know, First Street part, since you’ve lost your sight? How do you feel about this new part you’re about to put out? And how is the process different for you.

So that time length of filming was a full year, which was really nice. And then once we talked about how we’d actually add in the process of, you know, even if it’s just small bails, or whatever, adding the process, they got me excited to try to max out my tricks and kind of push it as far as we can. So I mean, the process was amazing ,we had time we had a patient filmer, and then just, you know, letting being able to heal was always a nice thing to you know, come back and be able to try a trick feeling better.

Interview With Justin Bishop

Yeah, it seemed like the first one was more of a time crunch. I think you guys had like, a little bit over a month, or just about a month to do it. And I remember initially you reached out to me to do that part or to film and edit it. And, you know, I was busy and really overwhelmed with my video that I’m doing that I recommended Dom for it. And I think he did a great job, hell of a job doing with the HD setup and everything like that, because I knew he was like, the only one in Vegas who had that camera, like, you know, the Panasonic with the extreme fisheye. And I was like, if anyone’s gonna make it look good right now, like, that’s the guy.

Yeah. Plus, we had straight like six hour days, like, I think we took off one or two days a week, it was, it was definitely rough by the end.

Yeah. And then this time, you had a little bit more of the luxury of time. So you could kind of plan it out more and revisit a couple spots if you had to, to get a trick. Also, kind of going back to my video, we had such a big crew that you’ve been friends with, like, you know, Jericho, Jovahn, who were big, you know, factors in getting you back into skating and getting you hooked up at Zappos and Not Impossible Labs, stuff like that. So, this time, instead of like, straight missions, with a filmer and photographer, you had kind of a nice crew of people backing you and some camaraderie, you know, which is what most skateboarders feeds off of.

Yeah, it was nice to skate with the Cake It crew and either feed off their energy, or if I wasn’t feeling it that day, like, those guys are so great that, you know, one of them will step in and get a clip. So it’s just just adds to the, I don’t wanna say stress free, because there were some stressful times like skating, but the just more of like, Well, you know, it will happen tomorrow or another day to start type of stress free. I didn’t have to force it.

Interview With Justin Bishop

And then there were times where, you know, we may have went to a spot for someone else for the video. And then you were like, oh, I’ll come tag along. I just want to be there for support. And, and, you know, I feel like getting out and rolling around a little bit today. And then you would get a trick there. Or maybe sometimes, no tricks went down from the other guys, and you were the one getting the trick that day. You know, like the second to last trick in your part was the green rail. The inside grind on the bottom rail, which was completely unplanned, as far as not being something that you sought out to do.

Yeah, no, that was a pleasant surprise. And I mean, like, I think we were there for like, six hours. Yeah, like two hours. I didn’t skate. So I was just kind of like, you know, supporting Jericho, or I think, Yohei got a trick ,so I was just there to support that, but Devin, Devin got the gnarly heel flip hippie jump. That was gnarly. But, ya know, it’s more of just a pleasant surprise. Like, I was kind of feeling out the rail. For what Jericho? Jericho was going up the rail. He was trying to 5050 upper, the four or five I forget what it is.

Yeah, it’s like a stretch four.

Yeah. But, and I just kind of felt like, oh, man, this is a little bottom rail. I might be able to connect with this. And the whole time I had no idea how it was gonna pop out of it. And I was just hoping one of those skater thoughts like physics will work itself out. And when I finally got it, it just popped me out. cleared the last step. So yeah, it was there’s definitely a nice surprise.

Yeah, that was incredible. Like, everybody was beyond stoked. I don’t even know what words to describe that energy, that day was insane. Because I remember it was like around Christmas time. Yeah. You have like a dinner party to go to with then your fiance now wife, and I remember she was waiting patiently and we’re just like, all right, well, like he he’s really trying his hardest to get this and we’re gonna stick it out and everyone was just like, like on their toes waiting, like we knew you’re gonna get it. We’re just waiting for you to stick that that perfect one. And that almost ended up being your your last trick up until we found the the handrail for the last last trick. So skating on top of the handrail, instead of like the bottom part. Yeah, for a board slide. How did you find that hand rail? And I think you had mentioned to me, it was a handrail that you skated when you were younger.

Yeah, yeah. So to do that, you know, the benchmark for the video was to, like, try a handrail, like just just attempted or get on or hope for the best. And then we found we finally found like a good enough handrail. It’s a four with a five curb cut. So yeah, the fifth steps a curb cut, and I’ve skated the rail when I was a kid. It was like one of the first rails I did like, when I was like, 12 or 13. God, my first trick on it was a frontside board. So I thought, you know, I’ll do a frontside board. Because it was my first handrail, and so I thought, you know, let’s, let’s stay with their tradition of a front board. And so yeah, we did the front board, but 15 trips.

Yeah, we we took 17 in total. And I think even the first or second time there you got really close, like, stuck at a bunch of times, it was kind of like one of those where, okay, like, you’ll get it the next time. And then it quickly turned into like, okay, we’ll get it the next next time. And then all the while your knee is getting more and more trashed, and buckled and stuff. So you’re dealing with that at the same time, I don’t think people kind of understand that your ACL is like torn.

I tore my ACL on the inside of my inside of my knee, that ACL. And so we’d go skate, and the from the impact, my ACL would just get mushed. And then we take like, a week off, and then come back and I’d be healed enough to try to skate until, like, My legs are dead. And yeah, I think we did 15 from board visits, I can’t even remember just hours. Like each time like three hours minimum. Each time we went. And but yeah, and then I was getting close to like the deadline of the video that we already we pushed the deadline back like, a month, so I can get the handrail and the front board just wasn’t coming. I was losing my confidence. And then COVID happens. Yeah. And so you know, like when COVID happened that’s where we got so many attempts out of it. But right around like September was when I finally got it, but I switched it up to the back board.

Yeah. I think you made a good call on that. Because you were like, You know what? I know I can do a back board easier on this to get something. If anything, at least we’ll get that. Yeah. And you know, we went there the 16th time you had the rope on the same side as you did as the front board.

Just angled it. Yeah. Right at it.

Then it didn’t work out. And it was kind of like one of those like, Oh, is this gonna work out? Maybe the front board was better off and then you decided on the next one to to switch the rope on the other side. And it just worked and you got it like that time. And that was just like another incredible victory. I mean, I remember like you rolling away, smashed your cane and everything the ball of it or whatever. That was just awesome.

Yeah, no, I don’t usually victory smash anything, but my adrenaline was so pumped after. Cuz I mean, like, the trick wasn’t the front board. To me. The trick was always hanrail, How can I end so I was kind of looking at it like, like in that way of like, I just want to hit that and I don’t know what trick will make it happen. So, like, how

How do we get my skateboard on this handrail and on and off.

Yeah, so. So the trick for me was handrail, so that’s why even when I switch it from front board the back board, I was just I had the same amount of happiness just because the trick was handrail. I got a legit handrail trick.

Yeah. Like if it wasn’t cool enough that you 50-50 the inside rail, the green one to actually full out backboard, the top of this, which is not an easy rail to skate. The cracks are big. also talk about that, like how the the cracks helped you out in a way.

Yeah, so a lot of skaters don’t skate it because it’s like, endless cracks, because the cracks are pretty wide. And then they also have like, there’s parts where like, it’s art, like, sidewalk and I don’t know what that’s called. But you know, where it’s like, where they have the smaller tiles. Yeah, of concrete. And then in between. So I mean, like, if they had like, concrete Mosaic, I guess you would call it and so it just duh duh duh duh the whole time. But we were there so many times that I can actually time it The little cracks that were so thick that it was just like duh duh duh duh rail.

Yeah, it was almost like the the cracks were able to give you a gauge of when the rail was coming up. Yep. Yeah. And we had the rope there. Which, you know, your wife was holding, which was awesome. Yeah, it was, like, super stoked that she was able to be a part of that, as well. We had Saeed they’re taking the photo, you know, we’re all there together Saeeds like laying on the rocks like on a little like foam pad. Yeah. And like one of the gifts that you gave him afterwards for like sticking it out for so long was like a brand new foam pad. I wanted to kind of go back to.

Haha yeah!

I wanted to kind of go back to the ball tips of your cane. Like if people don’t realize how, how many of those can break. You know, it’s like, you have this one cane that you use all the time, but yeah, you have these interchangeable ball tips. And I think maybe in that session alone, or like that one spot alone, you broke like eight or nine of them or something like that.

Yeah, yeah, I usually averagely break about four a month. So four a month, but at that spot, I was probably breaking yeah, I would say like four to eight a month there, depending on how often we went. But yeah, I don’t think there was a session that we went that I didn’t break at least one. Yeah, even the last one. It was broken. But I was in like, in the groove. So I just like went back up with half of a ball tip.

Yeah, it was like half or like maybe just like a little hollow now.

Yeah. Because it was like hollowed out or something it was good enough but yeah.

Like a nice little incision in there. And I was just like, Man, that’s like, another thing he’s gotta worry about is bringing extra ball tips to the session.

We had a cool local premiere, you know, COVID, and everything going on, our first we had setup venue fell through and we were bummed like ah man this probably isn’t gonna happen. I was talking to Richie banks and telling him about the situation, and then he was just like, oh, no problem. Let me make some phone calls and some emails and I’ll get back to you. He ended up getting a place downtown on Fremont Street called Hennessey’s tavern, where they had like a small like ballroom area in the back that held 60 people max with social distancing and masks and and all that. And it ended up actually being really cool it was like on Fremont Street downtown Las Vegas.

Yeah so stoked that it worked out the way it did.

Yeah! Not a lot of people know this but when you initially lose your sight, you got into stand up comedy. And you thought it was a pretty cool idea to have since we had that venue and platform to invite a couple of your friends who do stand up to do a little bit before the actual premiere. Which was like really unique and kind of like a hybrid type of event.

Yeah, having a downtown premiere meant a lot to me. So it was really cool that our buddy Richie banks could hook hook up the connection, that connection with having it on downtown Fremont. You know, being born and raised in Vegas, it was just really meaningful. And just so awesome to have a skate premiere on Fremont Street. It just it was rad. And then, and then yeah I got into doing stand up comedy once I lost my sights, I was still chasing that. The thrill of skateboarding or you know, getting your adrenaline up. So I thought a safe way to do it would be comedy. And so I made a bunch of comedy friends, and I thought it would just be a great idea to have a couple of them do their comedy set before this skate premiere, just thought it would be a full circle of art and love and a great time.

Yeah, those dudes were so hyped that they were able to get up in front of real people again, and do like a set for five to 10 minutes or whatever and, and get the crowd laughing and in a cool mood

Oh, yeah, that was cool. Yeah, that was awesome.

Before I get into what you have planned next, and what your new goals are, after putting out another street part. How is it or How does it feel to be a married man now? you just recently got married to your girlfriend and fiance for quite some time,how is that feeling?

Yeah, it feels great. I mean, you know, I think a good marriage in the beginning doesn’t feel like anything different. So that’s, yeah, that we’re still the same people. And it, it’s just great to have a wife that fully supports her grown man husband playing with a wooden toy. It’s a hard thing to sell as an adult. So to have another adult be into it. It’s It feels good.

Right, Carol’s great man, so supportive, and, you know, just has your back 100%. And, and, you know, I mean, that’s all you can ask for at the end of the day.

I wanted to go into maybe a little dicey question, but I know, there are some Instagram haters out there, that that sometimes don’t believe that you’re fully blind, or they don’t understand how you could like, you know, pull these tricks off. And I know sometimes it used to affect you a little bit like you would get down and then you kind of found a way to kind of like, you know, shrug it off a little bit easier. How do deal with that?

You know, it’s, it’s been easier getting through, as you know, as time goes on. It just doesn’t affect me like it used to. But yeah, I would clarify. I don’t have haters. I have conspiracy theorists haha.

Haha yeah they definitely love visiting your page.

Yeah, they like it. They just they’re trying to figure out how I’m duping them, but ya know, it’s like one thing that like helps a lot is I’m homies with Dan Mancina and he gets it a lot too. So well we’ll text or you know, call and just kind of vent to each other you know, kind of a laugh it off So, but yeah, no, it used to get to me before I realized other blind skaters have to deal with it too.

Right, it’s just crazy to me how these people take their time and they just, you know, they just like are like, Oh my god, they can’t believe it. Like, I know you personally. So I see like, what you what you do and your personal life and you know, see how you live at your home and, and everything it’s like, do they really think like you’re putting on an act and you and Dan are putting on this act? You know what I mean? Like to, to impress people, it’s like, no, it’s like, this is what happened to me. This is legit, you know, genetic thing that happens. And this is what we’re dealing with. It’s like almost like to me I feel like secondhand insulted. Yeah, you know, I’m like, this guy is like doing his 100% best.

Yeah, you know, I mean, and I think that’s what used to get me was like, I put my all into, like a heel flip. I put my all into a heel flip. And they’d be like, no! no! And I was like if I was really lying, I would do a better trick. I’m maxing out right now you’re telling me I’m not. I mean, sometimes it’s a compliment, as in, you know, they, they can’t believe it. Like, you know, in like an inspiring way. But then there’s other times where, like, how are you even using your phone? It’s like, you know, you use your phone hands and Eyes Free while driving. You don’t think technology has figured it out for me yet? So yeah, it’s just funny that they don’t realize like, I use all the same technology they use. They’re just not. I don’t know. Aware to it? Yeah, they realize oh I do use my phone without hands or eyes while driving

Right sometimes people can text without even like looking at the keyboard. Oh yeah, I know, you use the one app where you speak into it, or it’s like even Siri or whatever it is. Some voiceover dictation. So that stuff is there for you. And, you know, even Uber and like Lyft, or whatever you can just to get around. All you have to do is do the voiceover. The technology is there and it’s awesome that you’re able to do those things with it.

Yeah, definitely.

Back to Dan, I got to meet him for the first time when we were in California for that contest. And dude’s definitely a character. He’s a lot of fun, super funny guy. And, and you had got you guys had been friends for a while before that contest. But he’s also been kind of a big influence on you getting back into street skating, because there was somebody out there and you were like, Oh, this guy’s doing it. Talk about Dan and his impact on you getting back into it.

Yeah. So I got back into skateboarding after sight loss before hearing about Dan. And so I would just skate either flat ground or mini ramps. And just one day, someone just told me about Dan and describe one of his videos to me. And he was in the streets, like skating banks and ledges, and like real stuff. And I was like, Well, I have no excuses. Now, like, I I got to get out in the streets. I think I missed that part of skateboarding. I just thought I couldn’t do it anymore. And he was in the streets doing it. And so it just really motivated me to definitely pick up my skateboarding. That wasn’t a gimmick anymore. That you know, we’re actually pushing adaptive blind skateboarding like trying to make it a sport now And so yeah, once I found out he existed, it definitely expanded my world of adaptive skateboarding.

It’s awesome man. What do you guys are doing. It’s like you’re setting the the standard. And really like influencing so many kids out there I’m sure.
So you did this video part, what would you say is your your next goal or what’s next for you as you continue your journey in the skateboard world?

Yeah. So what’s next is competitions. Adaptive skateboarding, with blind amputee, WCMX is like really getting movement right now and traction, so we’re trying to get it into the Paralympics. And so now it’s just competitions, demos showing the public what’s that we’re out there that we exist and And, hopefully, you know, show other kids that are going through sight loss or have already been through sight loss. Like, there’s still sports out there, there’s still things we can do. And so now it’s just pushing that.

Interview With Justin Bishop

Yeah, man, that’s incredible. Because even at That contest at the California skate facility in Vista, there was a plenty of adaptive skaters there. It’s just incredible for kids who, who grew up with, with something like that, or whether it’s like, you know, being blind. They have these other people like yourself and Dan to look up to and be like, Oh, my God, they can do it. I can do it. Yeah, like, it doesn’t mean that like, I can limit myself like there really is. The only limitation is it’s the ones you put on yourself.

So I think my last question would be, for anybody, since you’re trying to push this and expand this and put it out there. What would be your advice to kids looking up to you guys, and you are struggling with like, oh man, like, you know, I’d really like to do this. But, you know, I don’t know how to get into it. Or I don’t know if I can, what would be your advice to maybe even like, someone like yourself, who first had it And maybe if you could now talk to yourself back then what would you What would you tell him?

Well, what I would say is it’s not just for adaptive skaters, but for just anybody nowadays that want to get into skateboarding. It takes hours every day. And so you know, get addicted to, like, that’s the only way to like, get better is to be addicted to skateboarding. Obsessed. Yeah, you have to be obsessed. And you know, like, a lot of people though, is like, how do I do what you do, and like, well be on your board for a couple hours a day. And like, a lot of times, that’s too long for them. It’s like, I can’t help you then like, that’s what it is. And then for adoptive parents, I do have advice for adoptive parents to just let your kids get hurt. Because like, they’re going to get hurt skateboarding, but nothing feels better than working through the pain, and landing your trick. And then especially doing it with like a limb difference, or, you know, being visually impaired or anything like that. It just feels good to get hurt, and to be a kid. And you know, I think that’s one reason that, you know, we still do it as adults is that we like to get hurt. We like feeling like a kid again.

That’s true. And you know, it comes down to the to the love of it, where you do become obsessed. And it’s not like a sport where your parents are like, Hey, we’re going to take it to practice now. It’s like, no, you’re out there. Right after school, you’re grabbing your board, and you’re doing it because there’s something in you that that won’t allow you not to do it. You know, and whether, like you said, you know, the limb difference or loss of sight. That doesn’t change. If you’re into something you love it, you’re gonna do it. Yeah. And then I like the advice you said to the parents, because I can imagine that they’re very, even more so over protective. You know, to like, not let them get hurt or like, let them go out into the world. I think the best thing they can do is, you know, give them a little bit more of that freedom. So they can learn from this because that the best teacher is experience, right?


That’s awesome. I love what you guys are doing. It’s incredible. I can’t admire you guys enough. And I think there’s a lot of cool things happening in the future because of guys like you. So anything else you want to close out with?

Just that. I love the skateboard community without the skateboard community being as cool as accepting and above and beyond. Just stoked on what we’re doing. We wouldn’t be pushing ourselves as hard. So, you know, it’s it’s that this sport and the community has a has a place for us and like, you know, what other sports have blind pitchers, you know what I mean? Like, obviously, there isn’t another sport that is as inclusive as skateboarding is. So thank you to the community.

(Watch Bishop’s ‘Can’t You See The World Through My Eyes’ part here.)

Interview With Justin Bishop

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