Our latest interview is with Evan Schiefelbine, a conversation prompted by the recent release of his second book Ocean Green. By following a loose autobiographical timeline we learned a lot about Evan’s writing, his life before putting his thoughts down on paper, the many creative endeavours he is driven by, and where he is at right now…
Words and interview by Jacob Sawyer. Native Angeleno Evan Schiefelbine at home. PH: Johnny Franck
Evan started skateboarding in 1991 at the age of ten, and his Southern Californian surroundings meant he was perfectly placed to become completely immersed in the culture. On top of his location he had absorbed and observed the passion of his two older brothers. When Evan started, they had already been swept along by the Bones Brigade wave, meaning he was no stranger to Animal Chin. He clearly remembers the house over the road from his elementary school, this was the skateboard stash spot where he would stare in awe, soaking in the diverse information only a pile of skate product can provide. By the time he got his hands on his first board, a New Deal Rick Ibaseta, he was already hooked. Through his brothers, he met lifelong friends James Craig, and Colin Kennedy. HIs life path was set in motion, and skateboarding has remained his North Star throughout.
This interview joins Evan’s story when sponsorship enters the picture. It was great to connect about some of his formative experiences through to his memorable part in the Blind Skateboards video What If? From there we focused on how his journey diverged and got stuck into the intricacies of his creative process, one which has led to two books so far.
Having recently read Ocean Green it was a fresh memory that made a very visual impact, it was a pleasure to hear Evan expand upon the inspirations behind it, and to delve into how it came about, all without serving up any spoilers. Enjoy this trip into Evan’s world, find out what his role at Vans has hatching, and expect some Trilogy chat for good measure. Ultimately we hope this drives you to acquire a copy of his new book, it’s a read we recommend that will transport your mind to Los Angeles via the words of a resident who loves the city’s streets more than most.
an early trip to San Francisco. Hubba Hideout noseslide in 1995, captured by Lisa Whitaker
When did you first get sponsored?
I just grew up around the shop so I was always getting random stuff. I would always get stuff from James [Craig] for years and years too. I remember getting Rhythm boards flowed through the shop, I then got Expedition boards that way forever. Eventually through James years later is when the Blind thing happened. It was never anything official until Blind which would have been in my early twenties.
The shop was Liberty Board Shop, and like any good shop it was a community centre. I got so much education about music, art, and movies from the characters that would come through there. We would go there all the time. More often than not Gideon Choi would be in there, or Jeremy Wray, or Luis Cruz. In the early days Gideon [Choi] would always be leaving boards there so we could get them that way. Being in Southern California, lots of people had cameras so we were filming, trying to figure that out, making sponsor-me videos. Doing all those things you would do as a kid in the mid 90s. We would send videos to brands and ended up getting stuff, I remember getting shoes from DVS. Rhythm boards was when I was in high school, Jeff Taylor was really generous about that. Expedition boards came after a sponsor-me video where Karl Watson maybe thought some of my stuff was cool.
It’s amazing looking back at that time. You are making local videos with a local filmer as you say, kid stuff. But your route into the industry hinged on evolving that. Your 411vm Whels of Fortune that was in a “Best of Rookies’” or your first “Wheels of Fortune” are an extension of that process.
Yeah that was just part of the program, we would always just be filming with our friends. They would be homie videos and we just kept going. Just from proximity, where we were and the people we were around, things started happening. Not to be self-deprecating or anything but I met really talented people when I was really young. I was around James Craig and Danny Garcia when they were at the height of what they were doing. Those guys were amazing, and I wasn’t as good as those dudes. I was into other stuff too though. I was super into Eastern Exposure, Underachievers was kind of like my bible. I liked the REAL Non Fiction video too. I loved the World and Girl videos but I was really attracted to San Francisco and New York, and I was influenced by East Coast skating a lot. It was through proximity to James [Craig], Danny [Garcia], a couple of other dudes, and Colin [Kennedy] that stuff happened organically. We just kept going.
“I feel super grateful and I trip out that I grew up, and was randomly just around this amazing handful of individuals”
You must be glad to have had that traditional route into the industry.
I’m definitely grateful for that experience. Sometimes I look back and think it would have been cool to leave Orange County right when I got out of high school. Eventually I would, but at the time we had such a good crew and community. We were all motivated and that’s like the greatest thing ever, every day was the best. I feel super grateful and I trip out that I grew up, and was randomly just around this amazing handful of individuals.
Do you think that they raised the bar for you?
One hundred percent. Ronnie Creager was always around too. Ronnie and Gideon [Choi] specifically, and James [Craig] by that point. Robbie McKinley was around too, rest in peace Robbie. Having those people around just showed how you needed to do it, style and everything. The bar was so high, especially with Ronnie [Creager], my god it was insane. You just knew what people were doing so you had something to aim for.
Cue the music in your mind. Evan’s opener from 411VM Issue 34. Filmed by Colin Kennedy
Did you ever get a 411VM opener?
I did, I don’t know what issue it was in, and it’s so funny thinking of what gear I was probably wearing in that thing. There was a rail at a church which was near us, down a five stair. There was a short half of the rail, and then halfway down it went into a double-sided straight out cement ledge. I did a front boardslide down and then popped out the corner. That was my one opener.
You had four good years skating for Blind what would you say were the highlights of that time period?
I was really fortunate at that time with Blind. Their business was in a good spot so they had budget. Also by that point a lot of the older dudes on the team like Ronnie [Creager], James [Craig], and Josh Kasper had already travelled so much by the time that I got on. So anytime trips came up and nobody wanted to go on them I would always say yes. I did a trip through Europe for the contests and some specific trips after that. We went back to Barcelona, and back to Paris, I was obsessed with going to Europe. There were a few trips to Puerto Rico which were just insane and super fun. I was fortunate that every trip I went on, the handful of trips that there were, I was always with at least one of my really good friends. So it was always comfortable, productive, and fun. I would say hands down that travelling was the absolute highlight.
Switch frontside 180 to frontside 5-0 from the April 2001 Skateboarder mag. PH: Seu Trinh
What If? came out in the middle of a dawning digital age but a lot of media from that time is yet to be romanticised so much. It’s rad to see your part getting recognition way after the fact. Jenkem for instance and Austyn Gillette picking it as a classic. It must feel good to have made something impactful.
Absolutely I’m really happy about that. When I saw Austyn’s thing years ago, it was really special for that to come from him. He came up around our area and is like a brother so that coming from him meant a lot. I was equally as hyped seeing that Jenkem thing. I think when we were filming for What If? I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be sponsored or doing that for much longer. I was psyched about everything that was going on but looking ahead I didn’t know what was going to happen with Blind after that.
I always liked video parts from Dan Peterka, and Jed Walters [RIP] is another one. People who have video parts and then they are gone. I figured if I could get one part I’m happy about regardless of whether it fits well with the rest of the video, at least I could have one documented standalone thing I am happy and proud of. One thing that’s a good representation of what I liked to do skating. I’m stoked that years have gone by and it still comes up. It was the stuff I was excited about doing so to see other people pick it out, especially a younger generation, is super cool.
“I figured if I could get one part I’m happy about regardless of whether it fits well with the rest of the video, at least I could have one documented standalone thing I am happy and proud of”
What If? came out in 2005, did that coincide with you starting university?
Straight out of high school when I was 18 I was still studying. I took community college courses here and there that could be applied to university later down the road. After the Blind video came out, the focus at Dwindle shifted to focusing on the enjoi video [Bag of Suck] which I have always been a big fan of. So after What If? there was an element of radio silence, there wasn’t much communication with the company, and we didn’t do any trips that summer.
At the end of that summer I met up with [Bill] Weiss to go and get food and he said that if I was going to focus on school that they were looking for a more ‘all or nothing’ situation. They were cool, they said to keep doing my thing and revisit the situation in a couple of months to see what I wanted to do. I was a bit perplexed at the time because most of the classes I was taking were in the morning before most of those dudes were out of bed. At the same time I understood, things were shifting and I think [Bill] Weiss had a different vision for the brand and how I was skating at the time too, which totally made sense. Timing-wise I was shifting to other interests so it was kind of cool to just wrap it up and eliminate the stress of balancing things. People skate for longer now but back then I would have been 23. I was looking to my friends like James Craig and Danny Garcia who were actually really doing it. I didn’t want to sleep on James’ floor for longer than I had to. I thought I may as well get on with whatever was next, so I did.
Having had those life experiences to that point may have left you in a better spot to start studying with less distraction.
Totally and I’m grateful that it was in my twenties as opposed to my thirties, less of a wake up call. Lots of interests were developing, I was thinking writing could be a thing, music was interesting to me, lots of creative avenues were opening up. They took my attention and time and things started to be more interesting for me. I was still super into skating the whole time of course.
You landed on English Literature as your degree?
I did, and that was a funny thing as I had never been a huge reader. But as skaters we grow up watching skate videos, are interested in movies, and so much of that is involved with storytelling. When I was doing it, and when I was having life experiences, I became more concerned with remembering that stuff and putting it down.
Did you like what you had to read?
I did, I had to sift through some things I wasn’t that into but there were a few things that caught me enough. It’s amazing talking to other skaters about A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway for instance. But two books that I really enjoyed while at university were Ceremony by Leslie Silko and Native Son was another one by Richard Wright. They are the two that come to mind that got me stoked.
Was writing always a release for you? Did you like to write from a young age?
Yeah but when I did it at a young age I never thought it was something I was going to do. It was like skating though, when I did it, it felt good, you get that buzz feeling when something works for you. That happened enough, I realised that when I wrote more energy would come out of me. I don’t know if I’m a bad writer or a good one but I wouldn’t get tired when I was doing it, there would be surges of energy. So it was in the back of my mind, that all the experiences we have as skaters, haven’t necessarily been put through the scope of literature. I was so grateful for my experiences skating and there had always been such bad skate storytelling in the 80s. I thought it could be something I did one day.
The cover of evan’s first book The Good Fool, published in 2015
How long did the idea for your first book The Good Fool germinate for?
It had been bouncing around in the back of my head. There was a period of time when I was living in Seattle, I moved up there in 2008. For whatever reason, when I was skating with friends in Seattle or travelling back to LA as a habit I would take a camera. We weren’t filming all the time like we used to, so I started filming with a shitty digital camera I would take out with me all the time. I started making these collagey videos like all skaters make which led me to thinking about what audio to pick to accompany them. Skate videos have done it for years, in 101- Snuff, Andy Stone has Andrew Dice Clay for instance. I did a couple of those over the years and then came around to an idea, instead of finding the audio I could write shit and have this loose narrative over the top of the video. Once I had done that a couple of times, and in the midst of fine-tuning them, it put me in this headspace where I felt I could try and write a book. By then I knew the satisfaction that came from fine-tuning something to have a tone, or come off the way you envision it. I realised that I liked the process and knew I would be down to do it for a year-and-a-half and emerge with a book.
“in the midst of fine-tuning them it put me in this headspace where I felt I could try and write a book”
Was there any overlap with ideas? Had any elements from Ocean Green existed in the blueprint for The Good Fool or vice versa?
Definitely. Ocean Green I already had the idea for, the bare bones, maybe twenty-five percent of the setting for that story about 6 months before I started in on The Good Fool. In 2013 I lived in San Francisco for a few months and had the idea for Ocean Green, brainstormed for the first time, and really thought about what I wanted to write. So I was already thinking about Ocean Green, then I got sidetracked. A few months later I wrote The Good Fool in a guest room at Austyn Gillete’s house in Highland Park. Austyn would be in and out of the house with his friends. It’s funny because I’m like ten years older than Austyn. I would have been about 31 and there were 21 year olds everywhere, it was silly. But for the most part that was a summer where Austyn [Gillette] was with Dylan [Rieder] (RIP) out in New York the whole time. I was house-sitting for him for months so I had the space to myself a lot. I was also staying at a guest room in James Craig’s house in Fullerton, so it was written between the two locations.
When I was writing The Good Fool at Austyn [Gillette]’s house it was this hot Highland Park summer which I loved after 5 years in Seattle. After finishing that book the idea for Ocean Green never went away and it was kind of bothering me. I would be working and the bare bones idea was always there in the back of my head. Pandemic stuff hit and I had all this extra time, and it was this cool way to revisit how much I loved living in LA. I had been in Seattle and it was just so nice to be in Highland Park and the Pasadena area where I ended up living after that. There was overlap for sure.
So when the first book came out it was less of a cathartic release and more of an urge to get started on the next one?
The process of writing The Good Fool was definitely cathartic. That book was based more heavily on true characters and archetypes in skating, it felt really good to write. But for how long the Ocean Green idea had been on my mind to actually put that one out there was incredibly satisfying. Just to get it out there finally. I always figured it must be an idea I like whether it’s good or not because it wasn’t leaving me alone.
I interviewed Olly Todd a while ago and asked him about including his life as a skateboarder in his writing. He kept the two separate for a long time and then felt liberated when he began to because it opened something else up entirely. Your first book involves skating as a central theme. How do you approach this when considering your reader? For us we are instantly in tune with what you are describing and you feel a great connection but there needs to be some effort to almost repurpose or translate your subject matter for someone who has no idea about it. Is that hard to do without it affecting your writing? You couldn’t just drop a SSBSTS in there for instance…
There is a line there, your subject matter is familiar, and comfortable enough that you could drop SSBSTS in there without thinking about it. It’s trying to walk that back and keep it interesting and still connect with people when you’re writing about a skate trick.
You have two audiences to think about.
Exactly and I’m very conscious of that the whole time. I talked to a few people after The Good Fool. One of Austyn [Gillette]’s roommates said he thought it was cool but mentioned that a lot of the stuff was really familiar to him as a skater. He inherently understood the shared skateboarding experience and felt connected because of that. It’s a challenge to balance that line. So I would rather try and write it for people who don’t know anything about skating and start with that approach. One of the best things about art is to revisit things that seem super familiar and if you do a good job of it you can make it seem un-familiar. Pull out things that people know but haven’t thought about in a certain way.
“We have had an incredible life doing something unique, you don’t have to romanticise it a bunch for it to be interesting”
I understand what you said about Olly Todd who is one of the G.O.A.T.s for sure. There is this weird thing writing about skating, there were a lot of unwritten rules in the 90s. It’s nice to approach that though, break it down in different ways. We have had an incredible life doing something unique, you don’t have to romanticise it a bunch for it to be interesting. Everything else is written about and has been written about, it’s something that is there to be explored.
Evan Schiefelbine’s second book Ocean Green first published in October 2022
I read Ocean Green in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very evocative and I felt immersed in the surroundings. It felt like a love letter to LA.
Thank you, that was the intention one hundred percent.
I also really liked the house you chose to be the focal point, is that based on a real place in Pasadena?
I just found out something kind of funny. When I was in San Francisco and I first had this idea, I was thinking about what a cool location for the book in LA could be. I thought Pasadena was a good location because of all the beautiful old houses, I thought there must be a historic house in LA somewhere that is preserved. That was back in 2013 and I never researched any of this stuff.
When I finished the first book and had just started working for Vans I googled conservancies in LA. I looked and of course there is a historic architectural conservancy. The original title of the book was going to be Blue Green just because I really like that Miles Davis song “Blue in Green”. I liked that idea visually too because I like Rothko paintings, so that was the initial idea. Then I found this website for a conservancy and in Pasadena of all places there was this historic architecture firm called Greene and Greene. I looked at a few things on the map that Greene and Greene had designed in Pasadena but they were apartment buildings and things like that. I changed it to Ocean Green because Ocean Howell is one of my favourite skaters. And also because I’d run into Bing Liu at some curbs in Long Beach around the time, and he’d mentioned Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous when I was at a pretty heavy stage in the writing process. I like taking those sometimes pointless coincidences as hints.
I found out just three weeks ago that there is a house called The Gamble House designed by Greene and Greene that I somehow missed. One of the main things they did was this Craftsman home in Pasadena. The book wasn’t based on this house, it was based on the idea that something like this must exist but it ended up being this weird specific thing. These dots all connected. Colin Kennedy lives out there with his family and I met him the other morning. He is much more savvy about architecture than I am and he was just laughing at me, that I hadn’t based it on this place. I had no idea.
It added a whole other The Great Gatsby element to things, because of this huge ornate building. Spanky recommended a film by Robert Altman called The Long Goodbye and I felt elements of that in here too. How did the decision come about to add this element that wouldn’t be part of an average skateboarders story?
That’s crazy you mentioned The Long Goodbye because I just watched that film. The main character lives in that weird house with the bridge and all the action happens at a crazy house in Malibu. When I was living in Seattle I had read something about a residency for a poet at this place but there was a rumour that the house was haunted. It made me think how weird it would be to live in a house that was rumoured to be haunted and that thought stayed with me, living and working in a strange house. I liked the idea of a cool, tranquil, but eerie setting. Somewhere things could unfold and happen, a calm, weird, restful place for gatherings. I liked the additional unusual elements that opened up, the piano outside for instance.
Outdoor piano Illustration for Ocean Green by Tony Bach
When I was done, and had sent the book off to be printed I drove over to Point Ferman. It’s probably a twenty minute drive over the bridge from Long Beach up at San Pedro. That’s kind of where the opening scene from Ocean Green takes place. I pulled up and there was a piano just sitting there. It’s funny how those things happen when you’re in the middle of a process. I take all the little signs and motivation I can get, that’s one thing I saw that made me think “I should feel good about this”.
There are lots of touchstones for skateboarders in there referencing actual spots, skateboarders, and video parts. There are also lots of musings on the nature of skateboarding, reasons for doing it, how we perceive the world around us, and how what we do affects the spaces we frequent. Which came first these musings and philosophy or did the writing process provoke them?
I think a lot of that goes back to some of those videos I would make. So much of them revolved around the feeling of skating. I think at that time I was thinking about the power of skating, I was getting older. When you’re growing up you’re just thinking about getting tricks. Making those things later, it wasn’t intentional, but a lot of what came out was an appreciation for the benefits, and the force, all the things that come from skateboarding. There was some of that in The Good Fool, and that’s the stuff I don’t want to overdo. Skating around the city with my friends, or by myself, is probably one of my all-time favourite things about being alive. If I have a chance to skate across Manhattan, or across San Francisco, or across downtown LA, that’s some version of heaven for me.
“Skating around the city with my friends, or by myself, is probably one of my all-time favourite things about being alive”
Things you do for years, take for granted, then have a realisation about how special they are. It’s the same moment you start thinking about how much it gives you and why you have always done it.
You’ve got me excited now, I love this shit. When I moved to Seattle I was introduced to people very quickly thanks to the skate community. That said, what skating meant to me completely changed when I was up there. I would put on headphones and just go and explore the city. I had friends but the majority of the time I would be exploring by myself and it became a completely different thing. That was when the switch flipped as far as contemplating it. I had those feelings travelling or skating with my friends of course. You have to be careful with how much you write about it, but even thinking about book three, I’m wondering how am I not going to write more about this stuff? I love it so much.
More Tony Bach illustrations inspired by Ocean Green
It’s great subject matter. Also much of what we deemed to be normal in our formative years, the places we gravitated to and still do, are not the norm for other members of society.
Yeah and that’s something I hope came through too. Not to be as precious as I feel about it. I am totally aware of how completely absurd it is that on any given day I’m skating somewhere on the beach with a couple of other people who are in their late thirties, some forty year olds. I’m going to meet Dave Atkinson and some other guys in the next few hours. It’s not lost on me the absurdity of us as grown adult people meeting in a parking lot, and that being our idea of a good time. We’re choosing to do that, or go to Griffin Park where there is a drained ditch instead of going for a hike. I have an addiction to being outside from skating for years.
Do you think good writing is drawn from the same well as good skateboarding?
Yeah, so much of what I have learned about taste comes from skating. Principles that apply to good skating apply to art.
In the book your passion for things shines through, be that skating itself, nostalgia, cars, the impact of Celebraty Tropical Fish, food. Do you find this key to your process, and has it rewarded you with more appreciation for those things as a result?
For me that’s one of the most fun things about it. The things that you love or have strong feelings for, you obviously have this energy for them. So you have a format, you have time to think it through and present it in a way that does it justice, in relation to how much love you have for a given thing. I could sit and talk to my friends and romanticise about a 2-egg breakfast or something, and this is a way to really distill that, and it’s fun. I love these Mexican pastries called Polvorones, so there is an enthusiasm for any situation where they appear. Writing is my way of putting down all of the things I love about being alive, or the things I’m confused about. Sometimes it’s about taking humiliating experiences, and contextualising and crystallising what that feeling is. That way it’s cathartic for me but it’s more universal than that, it triggers something so people can enjoy it. If I have an experience where someone makes me mad, writing is also my way of tangling with that and having fun with it.
“I had always wanted to write about Pat Brennen and that video part but I didn’t even connect the dots with Pasadena until I was halfway through the book writing process”
Ocean Green has a recurring Pat Brennen theme. His late-360 shuvit from Celebraty Tropical Fish immortalised by Tony Bach’s pen
How much autobiography is involved in your second book?
I would say a lot. Everything is exaggerated for the most part. There are flakes of autobiography but they’re turned up and distorted so much that they end up becoming something else. In terms of Celebraty Tropical Fish one hundred percent. Pat Brennen’s part in that was one of the first modern skate parts I saw when I was growing up. It always struck me with the Beethoven soundtrack that it was so odd and eerie. All of those Pasadena spots really struck me in a certain way. I had a real fascination and love for that part. I bought Airwalk Enigmas in that same colour because of that video part. It’s funny what stuff catches your attention when you’re a kid. It’s weird because I had always wanted to write about Pat Brennen and that video part but I didn’t even connect the dots with Pasadena until I was halfway through the book writing process.
There was a Seattle/LA courting process going on with the girl who became my girlfriend at the time which is told through Ocean Green. I had that idea for a story already but then I ended up actually meeting this girl who also had a cousin who was in prison that informs the Rene character. Its crazy how that stuff happens. Short answer it’s definitely pretty autobiographical but it’s so turned around and upside down that it is hard to say. It’s way more autobiographical than The Good Fool.
Do you think about Pat Brennen every time you do a switch 180?
Haha maybe not every time. That one he does at the end of that 10 trick line is amazing though. Tony Ferguson does one that I always liked, and Tim O’Connor. Tony Ferguson does the cool ones where you don’t really try to pop it high but you pivot it cool. He does one like that in one of the Plan B videos.
Music also plays a central theme in the book, is there a big space in your heart for classical music?
When I was living in Seattle I had gone through a breakup. To a Southern Californian it’s hilarious for someone to move up there because it’s all about darkness and rain and it’s tough for people. Seattle cracked me open and put me back together completely differently. It was during the cracked open section that I discovered the Seattle Symphony. It was probably a half mile walk from the apartment I lived at for one summer and winter, probably an eight month period. One day I walked down there to see if I could just get a ticket, I walked down and asked and tickets were $15. Seeing classical music live, visually, and sonically, it’s insane. I became addicted to it because of the education I got. I would just go, if friends came into town they were coming with me, they had no choice. That became the foundation for being introduced to so much stuff. I saw Mozart stuff, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27. The first time I heard that, or paid attention to it, was live, and it’s just bananas. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G was bananas live too. Then there was some Camille Saint-Saëns stuff, seeing Havanaise live you are like what the fuck!?
“Seattle cracked me open and put me back together completely differently. It was during the cracked open section that I discovered the Seattle Symphony”
Then I started putting classical music to those skate edits I would do. I just think skating looks really cool to classical, if somebody could actually take that and do it in a way that is tasteful. I just kind of throw stuff into iMovie and let it rip. I think there is so much there that somebody could do. It has popped up a few times over the years and then when writing this to be able to put in the parts about Pat Brennen was really satisfying.
Ocean Green’s narrative involves a few visits to Pershing Square to visit this Beethoven statue
Are you still finding time to make music?
No, that was a really fun period of time. It was when I was writing The Good Fool. The first thing I did was in Seattle with my friend Adrian Kolbo who is amazing. When I moved back down here Danny Garcia basically helped me with all of the instrumentation. Danny, and then Austyn Gillette, his roommate Jeff Chikami, and Mike Karapetian. One thing in Seattle with Adrian, back here with Danny, and then with Austyn. Back then it was a creative outlet. But Danny [Garcia] and Austyn [Gillette] are very focused with it and I am a bit more like a sloppy writer. Basic chords, and some random lyrics I just wrote. Even as time goes on, it’s on Spotify, the project is called Creepy Trees, it’s so of the time that it’s just cringe to listen to. Playing music is still fun for me to do though, I’ll sit around and play guitar. With writing it feels super good to do, with music it doesn’t so much.
You have many outlets at your disposal, writing, making films, and your job at Vans involves thinking outside of the box too. Do you find creativity comes in waves, or are you consistently creative but shift focus on the medium?
It comes in waves for sure, I feel it comes in these heavy, crazy waves for me. That’s what the addictive part of it is. Once you’re in it and you have access to it it gets to this point where you’re just obsessed. It becomes something you can’t stop thinking about and that’s just the most fun thing. Having that obsessed feeling, sitting down, and you just go. When you’re so obsessed about it that your brain starts presenting ideas to you is when you know that you’re really in it, your brain is doing the work. That’s when you wake up in the morning with something out of nowhere. Right now I’m in the middle point too where I can’t even think about it. I have to focus on work and other things. That’s the nice thing though, I know that wave will come along. I have had some things happen since this last winter that I know will generate into a story for sure. It sounds funny to say it but your brain and imagination present that to you and it clicks, then you start.
Lockdown gave space for Ocean Green to be written and edited. When that wave comes will your writing process have to change or will you take some time out?
I guess I’ll know when it happens but I would imagine if the process has to change to do it when that wave comes along it will just change. I was still working when I wrote Ocean Green, it’s just finding space. With my routine I would have to start early. Wait for weekends, start early and do the mad dash of getting stuff down and then have evenings to do the cleaning parts. I think that will work well but it is something I definitely think about. How it’s going to work is always a point of anxiety until it hits and then it just works. It’s weird when you come out of this stuff. You finish a project and look back and think how did that even happen?
“How it’s going to work is always a point of anxiety until it hits and then it just works. It’s weird when you come out of this stuff. You finish a project and look back and think how did that even happen?”
Do you find the editing process difficult?
I do find it difficult because I’m an impatient person. But the way it works for me is that I can’t relax until it’s done. For the entire process of the book in the back of my mind I had this weird little itch. Even at the time if I was out with family, friends, or my girlfriend, my brain would be telling me we need to get back to work and finish this. There’s like a little hum that won’t go away. So it’s difficult but it’s matter of knowing what you’re working towards and keeping the end goal in mind. Then times when I’m really not motivated, I’ll remind myself that if I don’t do the thing right now there’s a good chance somebody out there will be doing something similar. So I use that as motivation.
In the book you talk about “an unspoken fondness for vacant schools, banks, business parks, and strip malls”. This resonates so much and it’s funny that the dream US destination for skateboarders this side of the pond are spaces many people don’t even glance at vs the Grand Canyon. What UK spots are on your bucket list?
Obviously Southbank for days. Then talking about Olly Todd earlier I would love to skate that brown brick bank with the wooden bench in it that he skates. Bobby Puleo skates it, and Nick Jensen did a bunch of stuff into it too. Does that still exist?
That was Holborn Viaduct and unfortunately it’s long gone now. Skating it that way was unlocked by Bobby Puleo.
It looked like such an ideal spot, even the high banks and stuff looked super fun.
For me, growing up frequenting an underground carpark, one place I would look to is the carpark Ronnie Creager skates in Trilogy. His tricks there meant a lot and I hope I get to go there one day. This is spot you skate all the time. Is that in your hometown?
It is and I literally grew up about two miles from that spot. When you talk about being hinged to things happening I remember going there and skating when I was around twelve. It used to be a bust but it was right across the street from Fullerton High. That school had a cafeteria with a bump over a trashcan that Ronnie [Creager] and James [Craig] would skate. It had this two-flat gap that Gino [Iannucci] and Lavar [McBride] skated in Trilogy or 20 Shot, so people were always coming through but the carpark was across the street.
Full circle in Fullerton with Ronnie Creager and James Craig
We’ve all been going there since we were kids. The funny thing about going there now is that it’s half an hour from where I live now, and half an hour from James Craig, it’s the halfway point so it’s an easy meeting place. During quarantine that was the easiest place for all of us to meet up. James is a crazy creature of habit too so he’ll only go there, or he can’t be bothered to go anywhere else. I remember going there back in the day and seeing Chad Muska, Kareem Campbell, and Ronnie [Creager] filming with Socrates [Leal] for Trilogy, that line he was doing.
Wow, you were there for that?
Yeah I was there on that day but I didn’t see it go down. We left because it was weird for us to be around when they had a proper session going on. We hung for a bit but back in the day when people were trying to get work done when you showed up to a spot there was a certain vibe, it was a good vibe but there were enough of them that we didn’t want to crowd the spot that day.
“I remember going there back in the day and seeing Chad Muska, Kareem Campbell, and Ronnie [Creager] filming with Socrates [Leal] for Trilogy“
Full circle to these days, you’re still skating there with Ronnie Creager which is sick.
I laugh about that too, it’s that same thing, it’s absurd. We’re grown ups in a carpark on a a Sunday. Ronnie [Creager] skates with us, Gideon [Choi] will come through, Socrates [Leal] has come through a couple of times, Jeremy Wray. Spanky was there a couple of months ago. Jokingly I’m trying not to go there so much anymore because it’s been so much of a habit these last few years. Super fun spot though
It’s rad to see you still skateboarding with passion and that you have managed to maintain that all these years.
Thanks, it’s this thing I have always done that still offers me some kind of catharsis and it’s a great way to be outside by myself or with my friends.
I also wanted to say that I very much enjoyed your Drake Jones interview. It was great, he was a big figure for us growing up. Do you enjoy conducting interviews and can we expect more any time?
Oh thank you, he was a huge figure for us too. Anytime I can get a chance to do that I like to. It’s through my friend Aaron [Brown], James [Craig], and Austyn [Gillette]. Aaron knows that I enjoy doing that stuff, and he knew I was a fan of Drake Jones too, for all the reasons we all are. I enjoy conversations like this, I like being able to get into stuff with people. So I enjoy conversational style interviews any time that I can do them. That’s almost the format where I’m more comfortable communicating with people if that makes sense, compared to a social gathering. It’s great to talk to people especially someone like Drake Jones. There are no more coming right now. I’m glad you liked that because I read some of that back and hoped it wasn’t like the Chris Farley Show.
This photo of a photo omits the typo. Evan’s first ad for Blind. Backside lipslide shot by Seu Trinh
Three skateboarders whose pain you feel for the many ways their name has been misspelt over the years?
Oh my god, hahaha. Danny Garcia plays under the name Reverend Baron for his record label and on the back of the vinyl they spelt my buddy Abdul’s first name wrong. He’s not a skateboarder but I felt his pain so much. They used to do it so crazy, I remember back in the 90s seeing Eric Koston’s name spelt wrong, with e’s and a’s. That’s one that still strikes me. I always liked that Pat Brennen title because you could tell they blew it and had to correct it. The funny thing is Luis Cruz is my good friend and he had to lay out all of these things for Blind. He misspelt my name so many times on flyers for demos and stuff, he wouldn’t call me.
For my first Blind ad they spelled my name wrong, and my friend did it. It’s Luis, I remember him saying in his thick Puerto Rican accent “sorry homeboy, I was just late”. Whatever, it’s only my first ad, no big deal. Is it just in skateboarding this happens? Some people have the craziest last names and they’re always spelled right everywhere. Now when I misspell names I don’t feel so bad, I always triple check because I don’t want to do that, but then I think, dude, people have misspelt your name your entire life you can do what you want. The funny thing is my mum’s maiden name is King which is my middle name. I should have just been King since I was a kid, why did I keep this long-ass name?
Any advice for someone who feels like they have a book in them?
Sometimes I would just say start but having an idea is going to help. Even if you don’t have a clear idea though I truly believe that if you just start, try to write one sentence a day. If you actually do that and don’t stop writing one sentence a day, before you know it you will be writing pages. It’s all about momentum, you just have to allow yourself the time and be disciplined. Momentum will get your mind going and your story will start to take care of the rest.
“I truly believe that if you just start, try to write one sentence a day…before you know it you will be writing pages”
What projects are you excited about right now? Any plans for Vans you can tell us about?
We have something planned with Beatrice Domond for a couple of months from now that I’m completely thrilled about. She’s been one of my favourite skateboarders for the last handful of years. We did something with her back in 2021 and was hoping we could follow that up again. I’m such a fan of everything she does and who she is as a skateboarder. Such a perfect representation of how skateboarding is what you do on and off your board. I love that skating isn’t what it used to be in the 90s where it was just what you did on board. I’m just super hyped we have something coming up with her in a couple of months, I’m excited to have some new gear, and some new loafers to wear.
Hallowed ground. Immaculate backside 180 fakie manual shuvit where Ronnie Creager made history
There’s an Ocean Green playlist you put together?
There is, it puts together a bunch of the classical stuff, the composers who are mentioned in there. Then it has some of the music like Brenton Wood, some lowrider style jams, and some vibey stuff as well to capture the mood of the book.
I’m looking at a DVD of Steven Soderbergh’s movie Che right now. So I’ll go with a quote from this movie. “A little craziness is good”. Everybody’s life is a bit nuts so why not embrace it and appreciate those aspects. That’s where the good stuff happens too.
Evan would like to thank SML Wheels, the Van Doren family, Priscilla Moreno, and his friends and family. We would like to thank him for spending the time on this interview and for illuminating some hours with his writing. Here is the synopsis of his latest book…
Ocean Green is the second novel from Evan Schiefelbine, and surely his best one yet. The story follows an architecture student, Hector Alvarez, as he returns to the LA Basin for a summer residency at a historic house in Pasadena. Between skating with his old friends and doing his research, Hector spends his time visiting skate spots connected to the late, Pasadena skate legend, Pat Brennen. And with Hector’s time in LA, also arrives a story of love for family, friends, Beethoven, and the unexpected. Readers with a love for the city of Los Angeles will surely enjoy this Ocean Green adventure.
We recommend you buy a copy of Ocean Green and Evan’s first book direct from The Good Fool.