6-Month-old Justin Strubing Interview

One Wednesday in last December I was waiting for a flight to Denver. There at my gate, which pro skater did I spy? None other than the amazing Justin Strubing, whose memorable parts in Foundation’s 2001 Art Bars & Seagulls and 2004 That’s Life have since laser-burned themselves onto my frontal lobes as go-to reference points of the big, clean, and especially fast brand of street skating I dig so much. It’s like the Hemingway school of skating where quick, smooth lines say way more than whatever flowery stuff the other guys are pulling their hair out over. This is not to say, however, that Justin doesn’t earn every trick he gets in the mags. Turns out, Justin and I shared a plane to Denver (which, after this interview, seemed like that scene from “Mr. Show” where the two dudes peace out to each other, like, 24 times), from which he took a connecting flight to our former home of San Francisco. Also, Justin (who skates for a ton of companies: Santa Cruz, Skate Works, Silo, Krux, Vox, Hurley, Spitfire, Roughneck, and Ninja) talked about his role in the infamously hilarious Fix-Push video (“Take it to the street!”), which is a big spoofy commentary on what would happen if hipsters co-opted skateboards the same way they have fixed-gear bicycles. Read on, dear web-hit-driver-uppers, about Justin’s take on contest course designs, SF vs. NY, the indisputable radness of fixed-gear bicycles, and why he’s not stressing over buying a Ferrari. Whew.

Tell me about Fix-Push. I freaking love that video.

A couple of us just came up with the idea. The truth is, I was really worried before it came out because I’m friends with a lot of people who ride fixed-gear bikes, and we didn’t want to diss them in any way. But there’s just so many people jumpin’ on the [fixed-gear] bandwagon, trend-wise, on Valencia Street [a prominent street in San Francisco populated with coffee shops, press shops, bars, etc], wearing outrageous get-ups. We just felt like it was a good opportunity to poke a little fun at it.

You know, I really didn’t get the fixed-gear thing until I moved to San Francisco. I’m from Iowa, and a couple of my skateboard friends were trying them out, there, but when I moved to SF, a friend worked for Travis Poh [featured in the Mash SF video] at Freight Baggage [a for-rider-by-rider messenger bag company], and I watched Mash, and I was like holy shit, dude. That video made me get it. The way those guys on fixies bomb hills and skid, that’s the same way we bomb hills on skateboards and powerslide.

Yeah, and it’s gnarly as hell, man. When I look at the “Fix-Push” comments, I was relieved to see people write that they ride a fixed-gear and they thought it was funny as hell. I think people got it, although people in other cities were confused.

I think hipsters [fashionable, post-collegiate, urban 20-somethings] are rad and I’m not trying to bash them or anything. But why do you think they’ve taken to fixed-gear bikes as opposed to skateboards? Wait! Actually, I would say that recently, hipsters have gotten hip to our cruiser boards [big wide replicas of board-shapes of the 70s and 80s—like the skateboard Michael J. Fox had]. I think it reminds them of when they were a little kid and had a skateboard.

I really don’t know. I also don’t know why they picked fixed-gear bikes, because when they were younger, they probably rode a BMX bike. If you can ride a skateboard you can ride a cruiser board. A normal cyclist has to really figure out how to ride a fixed-gear bike. It’s way different.

I think hipsters recognize that as skaters, we’re pretty rad, skating down the street and stuff. I think they also see that same type of radness in bicycle messengers, especially the ones who ride fixed-gears. I don’t know. I guess it just comes with the territory.

Yeah! When I talk to some of the skaters like Julien Stranger [a stylish, quintessentially-SF, Anti-Hero pro] who got into fixed-gear riding, they always said it compares to skating, even though it’s easier on the knees and stuff like that. It must have a similar feeling. It’s like learning how to do a powerslide on a skateboard. I think they get psyched that way.

Yeah! Those guys win these insane, illegal downhill street races, up from like Diamond Heights, down Oak Street in like 5 o’clock traffic to the EMB. Do you ride a fixie?

No. I bought a bike off a crackhead and haven’t used it. I really just skateboard. I mean, I know how to ride a bike. I kind of want to get one because now I live in New York City.

Yeah, I want to ask you about the move. You’re not from San Francisco, are you?

I lived there twelve years, but I’m originally from Santa Cruz, up in the mountains, about an hour south of SF. I thought it was a good time to change it up.

I moved here in June, too. I remember seeing this illustration online, and it’s of these really excited people on this bridge traveling in both directions, and the bridge both resembles the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. Under that it reads, “SAN FROOKLYN.” I feel like it speaks to the [commonalities] between SF and Brooklyn.

There are so many people I know from SF who moved here over the last eight years. It’s great, because now I have more friends over here than I do over there. I have some really good friends in SF, but as far as quantity goes, it’s like, I look in my phone book and now people who were just phone calls are like, “hey, let’s meet up.” They’re all here.

I kind of have the same thing with some of my buddies from Iowa—here in New York we have a little crew.

Are you from Boise?

No, Iowa.

Oh, I was thinking Idaho.

You know, like Subsect skate shop in Des Moines. I went to college at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, which is a rad town.

I don’t know if I’ve even been to Iowa.

Maybe on a road trip. I-80 and I-35 bisect the state. If you’re ever driving through Iowa and you need to stop off somewhere and spend the night, stay in Iowa City. They have lots of good venues, restaurants, record stores, and coffee shops — if you’re into that sort of thing.

I can’t believe I just said Boise.

Oh, whatever. I’ve got this t-shirt that has the outline of Iowa on it. Above the state it says “Welcome to OHIO!” and below it, “The Great Potato State!” Within the drawing of the state, cities are marked as Boise, Davenport, Akron. I love it when I show someone the shirt, because when they’re like, yeah, so? I’m like, exactly dude!

[laughter]

Do you live in Brooklyn?

No, I live in Manhattan in the Lower East Side.

Do you like that?

Yeah, I do. I love it.

But it’s so expensive.

I moved in with my roommate, who had a room for me, and I got a good deal. I have a good-sized room. I mean, I pay a lot for the place, but it’s actually less than I was paying in SF.

Did you live in the Mission?

I lived in the Mission most of the time I lived there, but later I lived in Glen Park, which is kinda in the Outer Mission.

Coming from Iowa, I’ve always liked janky spots, but before I moved to SF I really had a dated idea of what skateboarding would be like there. I still expected to see those marble benches all the way down Market Street!

Yeah, the City removed them.

I lived in the Lower Haight, and it killed me how I had to skate a mile into the Mission just to find a decent ledge. But doing so made me drastically change the way I think about the skateboarding I personally do. I’ve come to fully appreciate the crusty spots — and I see a lot of those same types of spots all over Bushwick, Brooklyn, where I live. There’re lots of old warehouses. And cellar doors!

Yeah, you gotta love crusty spots and cellar doors. I was just saying, man, you missed the SF Generation when there were tons of spots. In the mid-90s it was definitely the Mecca for awhile. Those ledges on Market? Those came out about five years ago. Now, there’s basically not that much to skate. Lately, though, I’ve been finding a lot of spots in the East Bay. There’s a lot of spots in Oakland.

As far as SF goes, the Potrero Del Sol Park is a huge asset.

That park opened right after I left.

Me too.

I love that park. It’s so fun man. The Mission is a good neighborhood to have it in. It used to be a really sketchy part of town.

Well, it still kinda is.

I wondered about the park, when it opened, if some guys wouldn’t come in and do some random acts of violence to the skaters, but it hasn’t happened to my knowledge.

My buddy lives on 23rd at Potrero, and he was leaving Pop’s, walking literally just a block, and he got held up by a mugger with a sawed-off shotgun right in front of his place. Take about that blowing a person’s sense of security—

[Justin looks over his shoulder at the line of passengers boarding the plane.] Are you getting on this flight?

Denver?

Yeah.

That’s Portland.

Well, it’s Denver and Portland. My connection goes to Denver to SF.

Oh, you’re going to Denver?

Yeah.

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13 Responses to “6-Month-old Justin Strubing Interview”

  1. what, no one wanted run this? not bad pete, not bad

  2. what, no one wanted to run this? not bad pete, not bad

  3. Wow Peter this is rad. Good job dude. Send this shit to low card maybe?

  4. on second though its not hesh enough, theres no flannel.

    • Haha. Yeah, I had been holding this interview for the website I used to edit, and now that I’m not beholden to it I feel like this interview is too dated to do anything with except post it here. As much as I love fix-push it’s about two years old now, and especially so for SF skaters. Dang.

  5. Clayton Says:

    I like the part about Idaho, duh. Good shit Pete, keep it up. And Black Lips x Thrasher is on newsstands next month, if you still care.

  6. I dig, I dig. That’s a good look for you, it might be the only media outlet that I genuinely consider COOLER than Vice.

    I just sent over the Odd Nosdam pics, sounds like we are taking over. Good shit!

    Let’s keep this ball rolling…

  7. Ummmm, TVOTR? Something major, we gotta up the ante. Lemme sort through these promos and you do the same…

  8. Clayton Says:

    Spoon, dude. New EP.

  9. That could be a go. TVOTR is possible too but I wonder if that hasn’t been done by the mag yet.

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