At the DROP event held in Paris at the end of June, I had the opportunity to meet Andy Anderson. Sometimes adored, sometimes decried, Andy’s skateboarding leaves no one indifferent. Just throw the subject around you for it to go into PMU debate. Beyond this battle of ideas and a certain elitism shown by certain media towards him, here is an interview which should allow you to discover more about the path sometimes strewn with pitfalls and the personality of this atypical skateboarder. .
Hi Andy how are you?
I’m doing very well. This is my first time in Paris and frankly I love it. It’s the best sidewalks I’ve ever skated, the architecture is amazing. I feel like I just have to push and let myself be carried away.
Have you had a chance to explore the city a bit since you arrived?
Yes, for the moment I skated in Bastille and at the sculpture-fountain Place du Québec. I filmed some tricks there. Maybe I’ll keep some of them. I do not know yet.
I read in an interview that you started skating at 3 years old. You learned to skate before you walked…
I actually started when I was 4 years old. When I was 3 years old, I saw a skateboarder one day through the window of the house. I was amazed. I said to myself, “this is what I want to do”. This guy was pushing so stylishly down the street. I found that phew, I really wanted to go out and try it myself even though I was much too young. Afterwards, my parents gave me a board for my 4th birthday. At the store, the salesman said to them “take him the cheapest board, at 6 years old, for sure, he will stop”. At 7 years old, I fully invested myself in skateboarding.
How did your parents perceive this sudden passion for skateboarding?
I am lucky to have amazing parents who have always encouraged me. They reacted the same way with my sister. They always told us that they would be behind us no matter what. They are proud today that skateboarding is at the Olympics even if that is not the main reason why they supported me.
I hope your parents will read this interview because it is a beautiful tribute. How did your style of skateboarding which mixes freestyle and street skate assert itself?
When I was little, I watched videos like Yeah Right, Time To Live, those kinds of videos. But I was never inspired by flip tricks or curb skating. Flip tail slide, nollie flip nose blunt, they were the same tricks in my head. I saw no difference. So I quickly rejected the ollies, I rejected the flips. And then also because that’s what everyone was doing. Me it pissed me off. I said to myself: “fuck that”. I wanted something different.
“When I was 15, I didn’t know how to do the “fuuuuuuuck” treflip.
One day I watched the Dogtown ZBoys video. I learned how to have fun on my board, the flow and all the tricks. Because the ollie was invented in 1984 and skateboarding was invented around the 50s, so what happened in between? I then studied this period, as much as possible, this phase “before the ollies tricks”. When I was 15, I didn’t know how to do the “fuuuuuuuck” treflip. That’s when I got into classic flip tricks.
Do you have models from the pre-ollie period that inspire you?
Mark Gonzales, Pierre André Senizergues, Kevin Harris of course. Kevin is Canada’s first pro freestyler skateboarder. So far, he hasn’t landed any kickflips. He remains attached to his roots. He barely does stand trucks and primos. When people think of freestyle, they imagine casper primo trucks, etc. But he emerged long before all that. He did pivots and spins. I really found that incredible. And on the street skate side, Bill Danforth is one of my favorite skaters.
“You know the people who were talking about my helmet, who were laughing at me. But it never affected me because I know who I am.”
Rodney Mullen, who bridges the gap between freestyle and modern skateboarding, isn’t he a role model for you?
Rodney Mullen obviously too. But I feel like every freestyle skater wants to be like him. I think there are so many more freestyle references that existed long before Rodney. Afterwards, we owe him a lot: the darkslide, the casper, the stand to primo truck, the kickflip, etc. But my role models for me are definitely Mark Gonzales, Kevin Harris and Pierre André.
Besides, we don’t say it enough, but PA invented so many tricks like the coconut wheeling. It’s like a primo except that you find yourself on the edges of the wheels. People think it’s a new trick, but we owe it to PA.
Do you think that your way of skating, your specificity, which allowed you to obtain this recognition, sometimes did you a disservice?
Maybe it was a weakness when people didn’t know me. The more people I meet, the more they understand what I do. But maybe it was easier to judge me before, today I don’t know. But yes, I had some problems before.
What kinds of worries?
You know the people who were talking about my helmet, who were laughing at me. But it never affected me because I know who I am. Why say bad things about me when they don’t know me? It may have been a liability for some sponsors as well, but OG brands like Powell don’t give a damn. They fully accepted my helmet and tricks without judgment. They weren’t trying to find out what was cool or not.
Speaking of cool, not cool: when I do research about you, I find you in videos shot at Braille, at the Berrics. Very few street parts strictly speaking in the “classic” media. How do you explain this?
Opportunities with brands or core media have been denied to me, in particular because of my helmet.
Even if his story is different, Mike Vallely also wears a helmet…
Mike Vallely is Mike Vallely. He can do whatever he wants. He has children, he has an accomplished career. He knocked out four guys in a parking lot! He can do whatever he wants. No one can piss him off.
Otherwise, I pay attention to the media in which I can appear. With Braille for example, it is special. They are very popular. If I hadn’t made videos with them, my board wouldn’t have received any media coverage. Because before I joined them, my pro model had no visibility. So I needed it. And then I was working with Nigel from NKA, we are very close. He was the one who advised me to collaborate with them. I felt that was a good thing for me.
I think it’s more important to be me and whatever the platform is rather than letting people decide for me.
Besides, why isn’t there more marketing around your board and Powell more generally in the skate media?
In the 80s, Stacy Peralta was head of marketing, but he left in 1991. George Powell is a brilliant product designer. But they lost the marketing genius with Stacy. So it’s not the same anymore. And then also, when they decided to turn me into a pro, there was no big ceremony. I knew I was going to turn pro. In fact, I was already working on my board.
We are really in a friendly relationship with George. The guys at Powell liked my personality, my style. They wanted to design me a great board so they wanted to turn me pro first. The company didn’t think, “Damn, his board is going to sell in pallets!” “. That wasn’t the primary motivation at all.
In addition, George and I speak the same language because he is an engineer, a designer. His original profession was designing airplanes. And even if these are not fields that I studied, I am fascinated by physics and science. When I propose to him to create a board to do a trick on a particular curb, he is always super excited. But if I want to make a basic board for the general public, he’ll tell me to fuck off. I have to offer him something out of the ordinary to make him feel challenged. R&D, design, that’s what speaks to him.
“Dude, you’re turning 18, you can’t keep wearing a helmet. You won’t get a girlfriend while wearing a helmet, you can’t get sponsors, you can’t get magazine appearances, etc. … “
How long did it take to get your first pro model?
It took 7 years. Before, I rode for a small company Protest Skateboarding in Canada. Normally, Powell does not take a skater already evolving in a team. But for me, George Powell came to see the leader of Protest, Hippie Mike. He told him that he wanted to recruit me. Hippie said yes, but on the condition of continuing to develop my pro board because the project was already advanced. It was part of the deal.
What models or references did you rely on to design your shape?
For street skaters, bowl skaters, it’s strange to come up with a new shape. People are like “wow, that’s weird, the guy is releasing a new shape”. In freestyle it is something normal because there are no obstacles in this practice. The only obstacle is your board. So your tricks are going to depend on the shape of your board 100%. For example, the shape will influence your tricks first, your trucks stands. If you have affinities with certain tricks, you’re going to orient your board design accordingly.
My board was accordingly designed around the tricks I do. Let’s say it’s a giant freestyle board. Its width is ideal for bowling, it’s perfectly balanced for street and flip tricks, and the shape itself is ideal for freestyle. And little confession, I’m working on my next board.
Let’s come to your helmet. Why do you always wear one? Your parents were afraid for you? Reminds me of the Rodney Mullen story. His parents made him wear a helmet. He even had to wear protections when he participated in his first contest at 11 years old.
Yes, it was a deal with his parents. In my case, it comes from me. I thought that was a good idea. When I was little, it was fashionable to think that those who came back with a helmet, protections, were dummies. It was my little pleasure to make these fixed ideas lie when I walked back to the skatepark and wowed them.
Then growing up, people started saying to me “man, you’re gonna be 18, you can’t keep wearing a helmet. You won’t get a girlfriend wearing a helmet, you can’t get sponsors, you can’t get magazine appearances, etc. All of these things were true until I was good and confident enough.
I like to think that if you’re good enough and confident enough, you can do whatever you want. Nyjah can wear shorts and get criticized, but he’s confident enough to give a damn. So I wear a helmet because I think it’s a good idea. And then if I lose my legs, I’m still Andy. But if I lose my mind, I’ll be someone else in Andy’s body. Afterwards, I’m not here to say what to do or what to wear. I just want people to feel free to make their own decisions. For people who want to wear a helmet, I hope I’ve helped them feel more comfortable with it. And then if you don’t want to put it on, you do what the fuck you want!
You also have your brand of headphones Mind Control, can you tell me a few words about it?
We have been managing this brand for a few years now. On the last pieces, we only have a few sizes left. But Mind Control is more of a movement. Mind Control for “Control your Mind”. It’s the only thing you can control. Literally. It’s the only thing you have power over. If you don’t control your mind, someone else will. I want people to think that their state of mind can inspire other people.
Another thing that characterizes the character Andy. You collect fire hydrants, right?
I love fire hydrants. It’s a long story… But do you know mushrooms?
The main part of the mushroom is under the ground. And these parts all connect with each other in the forest and they help moisten the other plants. When an area in a forest is too dry, mushrooms grow and take care of moistening it. I see fire hydrants exactly like mushrooms, but man-made. It’s a message that whatever you do to get away from nature, you’re unconsciously creating it. It is a metaphor of human nature as unnatural as it is.
Hydrants s are not easy to find. In addition, they are quite expensive. Much more expensive than my car!
“These days, I have the impression that brands create shoes to stick to a fashion rather than to meet the real needs of skaters.”
Speaking of cars, besides skateboarding, you have other passions like motorhomes. I came across a report on your vehicle, is it an old ambulance?
Exact. I lived in it for a long time. But right now my motorhome ambulance is parked in Venice Beach at a friend’s house. I use it to get around now. My motorhome is a bit of an extension of myself. When you go inside, you can draw on the walls. It’s a bit like a museum in which you are an actor. It is a participatory museum. You can come back years later and revisit your creations. There is a lot of energy in this vehicle.
When I was preparing for the Olympics with my coach, we lived inside. We traveled through Arizona, Las Vegas, California to discover the different skateparks. To my relief, the motorhome had no mechanical problems.
Listening to you, I have the impression that you don’t really like routine, common things
If you will, I wasn’t necessarily looking for an ambulance. I was actually living in my dad’s car, an Acura. She was very nice but really small. I slept on the seat once folded down. One day during an event at my local skatepark, a friend came over and told me that one of his buddies was donating an ambulance. Free. I still spent $1,000 because I couldn’t take the car like that knowing that I was going to make it my home.
What do you think of the revival of etnies. Who seems to have benefited from the side step of a certain sportswear brand?
etnies is the first skate shoe company owned and managed by a pro skater. Why would skateboarders support companies that have nothing to do with skateboarding and are only there to make money?
Marketing, excessive means
Probably. I won’t say more. But all I know is that Pierre André is a freestyle skater that I love and respect. I grew up watching him in skate videos. And I ride today for his company. He designs shoes that make sense. For example, on a Windrow I wanted to add a strap. He immediately validated. With this strap, you can both tie your laces and protect them. I find it unfortunate that this idea was not adopted earlier by other brands.
Nowadays, I have the impression that brands create shoes to stick to a fashion rather than to meet the real needs of skaters. It’s important for me to be in a company that thinks of the skaters first.
You have projects for videos or others to come, before we part.
I work on a part of skateboarding. But I want it to be thought of more as an artistic project. It’s my aim. At the same time, I’m working on a design for shoes, pants… I also have a wheel project in mind. I’m looking to create wheels that don’t yet exist on the market that would allow me to perform certain tricks. You will know more about it later. But more generally, I try to involve myself more and more in the product creation process.