Skateboarding and that natural high

Rappler sits down the the DC Skate Team

YOUNG AND PROMISING. Nyjah Huston is the youngest member of the DC Skate Team at 18. He landed 1st place in 3 competitions this 2013: Street League Kansas City, X Games Barcelona and X Games Brazil. All photos by Roopak Ramachandran Nair

MANILA, Philippines – It’s easy to feel at ease with the members of the DC Skate Team who are in Manila for their Southeast Asian tour.

Cyril Jackson, Tommy Fynn, Jake Hayes, Matt Miller, Nyjah Huston and Wes Kremer may seem reserved and detached at first, but once you engage them, they open up and warmly answer. In short, they’re easy — easy to talk to, easy to get along with, easy to like.

What’s best is that they also believe in energy and good vibes. As skaters, they are sensitive to that. 

And when they feel the good energy from you, they happily reciprocate.

Cyril, Tommy, Jake, Matt, Nyjah and Wes arrived in Manila on August 31 at 11am. That evening, a welcome party for them was held at 7th High in Bonifacio High Street. Then on September 1 at 10:30am, members of the press were invited to interview them at the DC concept store in SM Aura, Bonifacio Global City.

I was a skater in my childhood but never got to grow that passion. Nonetheless, sitting around a table with these skaters felt like I was in a familiar place. As soon as I started with our interview, it seriously felt like I was talking to friends.

WILLING TO TRY BALUT. Wes Kramer says 'he's down' to try the exotic Pinoy fare. His only question: 'Is it better fried or boiled?'

“I don’t think we’ve had any traditional Filipino food yet but we’d be looking forward to, for sure,” began Wes when I asked how they found Filipino food. “The nightlife was really good. We had a lot of fun at the club last night, for sure. Sick.”

All the guys are in their 20s, except for Nyjah who is the youngest at 18 years old. Their love affair with skateboarding started early in their lives, too.

NO OTHER SPORT BUT SKATING. Nyjah checks out a sleeveless shirt at the DC concept store in SM Aura

“I started to skate when I was 5 years old. My dad was a skateboarder in his teens. His parents were never too supportive of it but he always loved it,” shared Nyjah, who burst into the scene when he was only 9 years old. “As soon as he [had] me and my two older brothers [sic], he got us into it. Earliest age as possible.

“Ever since I started, I’ve absolutely loved it. I’ve never played any other sports. I just kept going from there. I practiced every day and had fun.”

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE TRICKS. Matt's eyes gloss over when he recalls the feeling of landing a new trick

Matt discovered skateboarding with the help of his best friend. “I was never from a wealthy, wealthy family, so my best friend’s mom bought us our first two boards. Since then, every single day, in on out, just me and him, just all day, every day, [we skated]. I just never stopped.”

His expression turned to wonder as he continued: “The feeling of landing a new trick is what keeps everyone going. The feeling you can’t really explain unless you just do it. When you land something new, that’s worth no money, you know? Can’t put a price on it.”

THANKS TO FRIENDS. Like Matt, Jake attributes his skating beginnings to the influence of his childhood friends

Jake also attributed his skateboarding beginnings to friends. “My friends who [sic] I lived next door to back home, they got skateboards when we were really young. I was hanging out with them and, I guess, got into it as well. They kinda got into team sports; I just picked up skating and then went from there.”

STRONG AND HEALTHY. Tommy loves learning new tricks — 'One of the best feelings in the world'

Tommy, who was born in South Africa, discovered skateboarding at 12 when he moved to New Zealand. “My cousin in New Zealand, all he did was skateboard every single day. I had no other friends, I had no other family, just him. So everyday I would go out with him and we’d be skating. After school, every weekend, I’d go skating with him. I started falling in love with it and I’ve never stopped since.”

Like Matt, Tommy’s eyes lit up when he thought of the tricks he could do. “I just love it. I love progressing, you know. The best feeling is doing it and feeling like you’re strong and healthy. It keeps me going. The feeling of learning a new trick is one of the best feelings in the world. I love it.”

12 ONWARDS. Cyril, the quietest at the interview

Cyril said, “I started pretty much when I was 12 and I just loved it ever since.”

I asked them if skateboarding is something one should get into as a kid, like they did. “It helps. The earlier you get into it, the better, I guess,” Jake said.

He pointed out that skateboarding is easy to learn and practice since one can do it at his own time. 

“It’s not a team sport, you can do it by yourself,” Jake said. “You can work it all out by yourself, you don’t have to worry about what anybody else is doing. It’s just all you.”

Tommy added, “And you can do it anytime. For example, with surfing, you wait for the right waves, the right swell, the wind. With skating, you can just go on and on, skate on a flat ground. It’s no team sport. It’s an individual thing.”

Considering all of them come from humble beginnings, from their answers, it was safe to conclude that skateboarding is not an elitist sport.

“It’s a poor man’s sport,” said Tommy. “My parents couldn’t afford to buy new stuff when I first started skating. I came from nothing, pretty much. But I would always manage to get secondhand boards. They were like brand new to me, at the time.”

Matt, who is also a believer in skateboarding as a way to keep kids out of trouble, added, “A bunch of friends I grew up skating with, they all went crazy, drugs and stuff like that. I just skated. It kept me out of trouble.

“Parents should want their kids to skate because It’s like a brotherhood around the world. You go to a skate park and you instantly have these brothers that are gonna look out for you, you look out for them — all friends. The more skaters in the world, the better.”

THEY'VE ARRIVED. Skateboards signed by Nyjah and Wes on display along with the shoes named after them

Debunking skateboarding myths

Skateboarding in the Philippines is still not seen in a completely positive light, something Cyril, Tommy, Jake, Matt, Nyjah and Wes want to change.

I asked them to comment on these skateboarding myths and misconceptions:

1. Skateboarding is dangerous

Wes: That is true. It’s very dangerous, more or less, but maybe not as dangerous as your parents would think. I guess, back in the day, skateboarding had a bad reputation. The skaters were these punk kids that would get into trouble. That’s what they were portrayed as. I guess parents wouldn’t want their kid to be brought up like that so that kinda turned them off from skating. So I guess, more or less, it is dangerous. Wear a helmet.

Watch Wes on his skateboard in this video:

2. Skateboarding is not a sport

Nyjah: I think it is. It’s not a team sport. It’s an action sport, and it’s definitely like what we said earlier — it’s a poor man’s sport. Any kid can go out there and just skate, have fun with their friends or whatever. But I can say, in the past few years, it has turned out to be one of the bigger action sports, with X Games expanding into other countries. The street culture is starting, definitely helping [skating] evolve which, I think, is awesome.

Watch Nyjah on his skateboard in this video:

3. Skateboarding is a vice

Matt: I think that’s completely wrong. Majority of skateboarders are the nicest people on the planet who’ll do anything for anyone. I think that [perception is] wrong, especially nowadays so many people skate that are normal, super cool, nice, respectful. No one here [points around the table] is a major a-hole like some punk kid that’s gonna do crazy stuff. A lot of skaters are really good. That whole image of being punk, using drugs, that’s fading away because skating is getting bigger and bigger. Hopefully, parents will let their kid skate. It’s not bad.

Watch Matt on his skateboard in this video:

4. Skateboarders are loners

Jake: Definitely not true. I’ve got all my friends here. The actual skating is being done by you, but you get to have all your friends there everyday. That’s the best part about it. The vibe is the best. If the people behind you have good vibes, it makes you feel electric so much more. It’s the best feeling. It’s the best natural high. We feed off each other’s [energy].

Watch Jake on his skateboard in this video:

5. Skateboarding is only for men

Tommy: No, it’s definitely not. There’s tons of girl skaters. If they wanna skate, let them skate. It’s cool. If they enjoy it as much as I do, it’s awesome. X Games has a skateboarding competition for girls.

Kai: Would you guys only go for a girl who skates, too?

Tommy: To tell you the truth, I kinda stay away from girls who skate. It just depends.

Jake: If you have a girlfriend who skates, you’re with them at night, and then you’re with them all day as well. You won’t have time to hang out by yourself, hang out with your friends or whatever.

Tommy: It’s like being with someone who’s at your job and she knows all your friends and she knows everyone at your job. For me, that sucks always. I don’t like that. 

Watch Tommy on his skateboard in this video:

6. The skateboarding skill is something you’re born with, not something you learn

Cyril: Not true. Everyone begins on an even playing field. Everyone can learn to skate.

Watch Cyril on his skateboard in this video:

While all 6 are in the DC Skate Team, they have other sponsors who also support them — something Matt said just happened.

“I was just skating and doing my thing and someone saw me and brought me into [the DC Skate Team],” he said. “Kids shouldn’t be shopping for clothes and sponsors. Just do what you do, let them discover you. It’ll come.”

When asked what it meant to be part of the team, Nyjah was quick to answer.

“It’s really an honor. It’s one of the biggest skateboarding groups in the world,” he said while adjusting his shoes, a DC sneaker named after him. “We’re like brothers. We hang out together. We feed off each other’s vibe and energy.”

Wes believes that skating can be used for the greater good, starting with the fact that it helps complete strangers get along instantly. 

“It’s easier to make friends. Straight off the bat, it gives you something in common with someone you just met,” he said. “That person will welcome you with open arms. It has been multiple times where I’ve met skaters on the first day, and they would tell me, ‘When you come back, come stay at my house. We can come hang out. I’ll show you my country.’ [Skaters are] good people.” –

Kai Magsanoc is the Life and Style editor of Rappler. Follow her on Twitter @KaiMagsanoc.

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