David Gonzalez isn't wired like most skateboarders in the world.
Gonzalez has worked his way through the amatuer skateboarding ranks the way most kids do -- send a sponsor-me video to a skate company, enter amateur contests and skate, skate, skate. As he became more popular, people began questioning his image, though -- long hair, headband, ripped-up T-shirts and his consummate tongue out and devil horns up. He looked like the stereotypical skateboarder. Was it a façade? Was he trying too hard to fit in? Didn't cutoff sleeves go out of style 20 years ago? And what defines a skater exactly, anyway? There's no unanimous answer when it comes to appearance.
Gonzalez, now 22 years old, has come into his own and is one of the most respected young skateboarders in the world. A poor kid from Bello, Colombia, he began riding for Flip Skateboards at age 12, moved to America and now travels the world skateboarding. It's what dreams are made of. But questions remain and Gonzalez answered them when XGames.com spoke with him on the phone recently: Where did the overt affection for Thrasher Magazine come from, does he really have a fear of flying and why does he dress and skate the way he does?
XGames.com: You practiced gymnastics for seven years; did that help you skate big rails?
David Gonzalez: Yes, gymnastics has a lot to do with it, but I never thought that it would help me one day with skating. I never thought it would help me have more confidence to try big rails and jump down stairs, but it did. I started to not really care about gymnastics and I wanted to do something different, so I started skating when I was 10. Two years later I was riding for Flip.
The story of how you got on Flip Skateboards is pretty wild. You got discovered by Geoff Rowley?
I was 12 and I sent a video to a company here in the States called Monkey Stix and they were interested in me, so they started to send me boards, wheels, trucks and shirts. I was just a kid from the ghetto, so receiving all that was [unreal]. It was the best thing ever. Four months after they started sending me boards, I got so much better and I made another video.
A little bit before that second video, Monkey Stix sent me a contract and they told me to sign it. It was for five years and for $50 a month. I signed the contract and sent in my second video and they ended up displaying it at a trade show. That's how Geoff Rowley saw it. He asked who I was and the next thing I know some people showed up at my door in Colombia and said, "You ride for Flip now." I said, "But I'm under contract," and they replied, "We'll get you out of your contract."
You're represented by the action sports agency RPRT. Is having an agent helpful?
I'm always skating and doing other stuff, so what I'm not interested in [taking care of], my agent handles for me. He helps me to get opportunities around the world. It's good to have an agent because they put you in good situations like X Games and Street League, and you get to travel around the world. It helps a lot.
Off your board you play a lot of music. What's up with the band?
I don't really have a band. I just have homies and we just jam all the time. We make songs together and I have a few songs that I wrote. If I had a band, I would call it "Rat Black." There's a Spanish band with that name, but I'm going to go by the name in English.
I read somewhere that you're afraid of flying and motorcycles.
I'm scared of cars, motorcycles and helicopters. You know, things that are like machines and robots. I'm not really into that stuff. I'm not into any of that stuff you can't control. It's weird. I'm afraid of motorcycles because one of my best friends, Shane Cross, passed away on one in an accident. After that I wasn't really into motorcycles.
I have my license and I drive every day, but I hate it. I drive at a normal speed. It's not like I'm super afraid, but I just hate driving because there are so many stupid people driving too and you don't know what they're going to do to you.
What about your fear of flying?
When I'm flying I'm always drinking beer, so I'm getting hammered pretty much. There's something about flying and being in the air for so long that I don't like. It's crazy. I can't control it, you know? It's kind of weird, but it's no big deal.
Globe Shoes has an eclectic team; what's it like touring with those guys?
Every trip we go on, the guys are really professional. Ryan Decenzo is a real professional skateboarder. He's on point. He's always pushing it. The same goes for Mark Appleyard, who also won Skater of the Year [from Thrasher Magazine]. [Chris] Haslam is a maniac and his skating is sick. Louie Barletta is great. Going on tour with those guys is a lot of fun because they've been around longer than me and they rip. Haslam rips anywhere. Decenzo is out of his mind. Appleyard is so laid back, everything about him has a mellow vibe. Louie does all these crazy tricks and handplants.
What video parts get you hyped to skate?
John Cardiel's part in Transworld's "Sight Unseen," for sure. I remember watching that before I saw any skate video and I was just thinking, "How can someone skate that good?" He would do the gnarliest grinds and kickflips with so much style. Pretty much all I watched was Cardiel and Tony Trujillo's part from Transworld's "In Bloom." Geoff Rowley's parts from the 411 days. After I became pro I started skating differently and thinking about skating differently, so my heroes now are different. I really look up to Steve Caballero and Christian Hosoi because those are the guys who invented all the tricks and they do them with style.
What was it like growing up in Colombia and being influenced by Thrasher Magazine?
I don't think many people know this, but the owner of Thrasher was from Argentina. He was born in Argentina and made it here in America, so the magazine has a vibe that appeals to South Americans. You see other magazines too, like Skateboard Mag, but Thrasher is the only magazine that South Americans want to see. They don't care about anything else.
When I was 10 I grew up skating with this guy who only cared about Thrasher; nothing else mattered. He was only about Flip and Anti-Hero [Skateboards]. He would only do the raw stuff, like grinding pools and bombing hills and just having fun. He would tell me, "This is it. Thrasher is the way to skate. If nothing else, this is skateboarding." So pretty much since I was a kid I've been down.