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Longboarding, Rattails, and Candy a conversation with Adam Colton
Interview and introduction by Marcus Bandy
Skateboarders and skateboards come in a multiplicity of shapes, sizes, lengths and widths, and there is no other time where such diversity is more apparent, and important, than the present. Longboard skateboarding is experiencing a transformation and maturation—moving away from simply being the casual pastime of surfer boys and frat dudes and expanding into distinct and vibrant subgenres, filled with creative riding disciplines, sophisticated media presentation, and innovative equipment design. I have recently had the honor of befriending one of the more prominent players heading up this new movement. His name is Mr. Adam Colton. Adam is an interesting guy in that he’s not only a great skateboarder, but also a passionate filmmaker, photographer, and weirdo outdoorsman. The following pages are a brief glimpse into the mind of this earth-rim-roaming skateboard monster.
Ok, let’s start this puppy off with the standard-issue stuff: Where is it you grew up? How did you start skateboarding? And what is it you like so much about longboarding?
I grew up in good old Springfield Beach, VA where the sea gulls crow, the cats meow and large-mouth bass are a jumpin’. I got into skateboarding when my neighborhood friend Kurt got a board, and then I told my mommy I wanted one. My first skateboard was ordered off the CCS catalogue, hahah! I used to be obsessed with that catalogue. I was 13 years old at the time. After college, longboarding kind of took over and I started skating long distances. I did this Skate across the USA trip and I guess after pushing 3,000 miles on a longboard I formed a special bond with it. Longboarding felt like it was something that I could really be a part of and contribute to, so I went for it.
By the time this interview is printed you’ll be skating across Morocco, and this ain’t your first rodeo neither. What’s the draw of long distance skateboarding?
Long distance skating combines 3 of my favorite passions: skateboarding, backpacking and self-torture. I was hooked after my first trip across the USA, in 2005. The trips continued: After that U.S. trip some friends and I skated across France, then later, New Zealand, and most recently, Peru y Bolivia. I love getting away from it all–living out of a backpack, simple. On such trips, every day presents a new challenge and location. At the start your body breaks down and by the end you are a machine. Your mental edge is always pushed to its limit and every day you go in and out of a beautiful mediation/daydream mindset brought on by the physical/mental exhaustion. You slowly get worn-in, dirty and numb, and become one with the road and environment. So many beautiful and rewarding memories are formed from these trips, with more to come. Check out www.longtreksonskatedecks.com to follow our trek through Morocco.
Can you tell us anything about the Rattail Crew? How did that start, and who’s in this gang of silly haired hooligans? And, dude, what’s up with the whole half-beard deal.
I am not supposed to talk about the rattail gang too much, but I’ll give you a brief summary. We are small in number. We are all ninja 4.0 certified—one of the hardest certifications. To be in the rat tail crew you have to have a nasty looking hair tail dangling from the back of your head. 2 times a week, we meet up in our secret sewer spot and go out and fight crime with ninja stars and hugs. We take down a lot of the small time criminals in LA and lock them up in our tree fort and put them through the ‘hugs for thugs program.’ Our research has shown if you hug a thug long enough goodness will prevail. The rat-tail is the source of our power and a way for us to get the ladies. The half-beard days, eh? Yeah, I kept that ridiculous thing for like 9 months. During my Skate across New Zealand trip I grew out a beard so I could store my extra food, much like a hamster does with his big puffy cheeks. I think it was towards the end of the trip I was like, hmmm? Beards make me look old, I wonder if there is a way to be young and still have a beard. The half beard approach was born. Strangers would be like, ‘So did you loose a bet?’ I got that all the time. Plus, crazy people on the LA bus transit would always talk to me since they though I was one of them, and maybe I am?
On a more serious note, can you do a kickflip on the Dancer? I tried and racked myself.
This question is so serious I am freaking out. I racked myself once with the Dervish and peed blood for an hour. I was concerned and called my doctor friend, Tushar, to ask what the dealio was and he told me to bath in tomato juice and eat cat litter—‘that should stop the bleeding’ he said. It worked like a charm. No, I really have not even tried kickfliping the big 55” beast. I know some kids in the Philippines that can do it though. Pretty impressive! I try to stay away from kick flipping ridiculously large things without proper tails, but I do like to bust them out on a shortboard to see if I still got the candy to make the candy bar.
Coming from a street skating perspective I’ve seen longboarding associated with kook-o-beasts and dork-a-doodles. My first experience of longboarding was with guys trying street and ramp maneuvers on longer boards with softer wheels. I always thought that stuff looked kind of stinky, but it seems to me that longboarding has matured and started doing its own thing now. What are your thoughts on this?
Yeah, the common perception in the past was that if you sucked at shortboarding you rode a longboard. Nowadays I feel like some of the younger generation is picking up a longboard over a shortboard, which was unheard of only a few years ago. I feel youtube has really helped push longboarding, and given it some street-cred. It was just a matter of time until kids started taking longboarding further, doing cooler things with it, and posting up their videos for the world to see. Now there is this sustaining growth of stoke in place with a strong core-group that is just going to keep spreading it.
It seems like teaching is one of your main principles, how did this develop?
It is simple, I like learning from people and I like seeing how stoked people get when you teach them something. It is a give-and-take exercise. Why keep things a secret? I feel it is more rewarding to help people and have them be stoked, rather than hide knowledge. Sharing is growing. By all of us teaching each other we can push each other to get better at what we do.
Can you tell us about the filmmaking and photography you’ve been getting into lately?
For the filming aspect I have been really digging smooth subtle camera movement in my videos. The new Canon 7D has been a big help. It is such a blessing to be able to change out lenses to get different looks. I love shooting with the 10-20mm lens. For awhile now, I’ve been into nature photography as well as skateboard photography. With my nature shots I have gotten into HDR as well as long exposure Neutral Density shots. For skateboarding, I just got a new flash that I have been experimenting with. Shooting at sunset or in shadow woodsy areas is where the flash has really helped.
It seems that Longboarding has splintered into so many differing genres these days: Downhill racing, freeride downhill, dancing, distance, sliding and slalom, just to name a few. I saw a video yesterday of a slide event in SD where pool legend Duane Peters was one of the judges. Crazy! Anyway, it’s funny because even these varied styles of riding have further subdivisions and splintering groups within them, but somehow it works? Where do you think all of this craziness is going? Where do you see the long-term growth of such a diversified skateboarding community?
I see a lot of these varieties of skate disciplines overlapping. For instance, free-riding has been born from technical sliding and DH racing. I see in the future Free-riding also incorporating some fancy footwork–more technical moves while going down the hill. There will be no difference between switch and regular and people will get numb to faster and faster speeds; doing stand-up slides at ridiculous speeds with a smile on their face. It is natural for progression and exploring. Without progressing longboarding would slowly die away and would just get boring. Wait until you see the Loaded free-ride board we’re working on, it is a step in board progression, so stoked for this board.
I think it safe to say that you are one of the main creators of a new breed of skateboarding called Dancing. From what I’ve seen in your various online videos, it looks similar to single-fin longboard surfing; implementing the use of longer, flatter boards, with a multitude of toe to heel foot movements, as well as an emphasis placed on fluidity of motion? Tell us about how this all started and where you think it’s going.
Dancing was refined by a group of my college buds, but particularly Adam S. and myself. Yeah, doing the whole cross-stepping dealio is nothing new really and has been done by surfers since back in the day, we just added to that. Dancing is the product of our environment. Living in Suburbia, VA with hardly any good hills, most of our time was spent skating on flat ground or slight down hills. Carving gets old after a while so the creative mind took over and dancing was developed. What really planted the seed in my head was when I stumbled upon one of Chris Chaput’s cross-stepping and board twirling videos. I quickly went out and learned those moves and then from there it was just brainstorming with friends, thinking up moves of our own. Then we began posting videos online, which slowly gained popularity and recognition, and bam-a-ram! I see dancing, or whatever you want to call it, sticking around because there are always going to be kids stuck in “no-hill-ville”. I see crazy thing happening in terms of balance on the board, putting together insane flowing combos combined with slides. It is just a matter of time until some random kid just blows our minds with the next level. One person that comes to mind is one of our Loaded and Otang riders, Petter, from Norway. This kids is throwing down insane slide combos that no one can touch yet. 360 powerslide-shovits, frontside and backside; cross-legged slides, you name it.
Nice talking with you, bud. Any final thoughts, and the future?
Go out there and have fun. Be a doer not a dreamer. Longboarding is great but don’t let it consume your whole life. There are many other awesome things out there in life that are worth exploring. Have variety in your life and balance. If you get a girlfriend please manage your time wisely between her and friends. Enjoy the moment; do not be checking to see if you got a text message every minute. Wear your helmet. Every once in a while say, “Boy, you best be gittin’ on, gittin’ on”. Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my ideas. As everyone knows, people change, ideas change, and that’s what keeps us growing. Who knows what I will think in 5 years? Big thanks to Jonathan Jelkin for taking all the pics, all my CA skating buds, the longboarding community at large, friends I play with, Longboard Larry, Loaded, monsters on the internet and my loving super rad parents. Thanks for the support everyone, and thanks Concrete Wave and Marcus for this opportunity.