interview / vinnie hager
photos / chris ortiz & michael chi

Hey Ben, let’s start with the cliché questions – what is your age, hometown, sponsors and how many years have you been skating?
I am 23 years old and originally from Bowie, Maryland but now I stay in Annapolis, Maryland. I currently ride for Blind, Tensor, New Balance, Wreck Wheels, and Pure Boardshop. I think I have been skating for roughly 12 or 13 years now.

Who was your first sponsor growing up?
My first actual sponsor was a shop in my area called Owens. I think I was 14 or 15 when I sent in a sponsor me tape but they denied me because the team was full at that time. Several months later they put me on after I skated well in one of their contests. It was kind of a weird situation overall but the guys were nice and they hooked it up with free product when I needed it, which helped out a lot.

I think I started seeing you skate local contests around 2011-2012, give us the rundown of how you started skating and where you are at now.
I started pushing around when I was about six, probably because my dad showed me his old Zorlac board from the 80’s and it caught my interest. My cousin was also skating at this time, which had some influence on me as well since I wanted to be like him, haha. Since then I’ve just been skating as much as I can in between going to school and also working.

Have your parents supported your skating throughout the years?
Yeah, they definitely have been supportive growing up and they still are. They would always buy me shoes or boards when I needed them and as I got older they would drive me to contests too. At the same time, however, they want me to be practical and have a plan B if skating doesn’t work out. They both emphasized on going to school and finding a job to pay bills and stuff, which I am always grateful for.

And you recently graduated college as well right? What did you major in and how did going to school full-time affect your skating?
Yup! I finished up this past May so I am stoked. I majored in psychology and then minored in sociology. Skating while going to school wasn’t too bad, I managed pretty well. There were many times I skipped out on class to go film if it was nice out. I actually set up my schedule the same for four years so I had longer weekends to skate and do homework. I was also working part-time as well so I had to fit that into the mix too.

That’s a huge accomplishment, congrats! Let’s talk about the skate scene in your area. From your footage, I have seen local spots to your area of Annapolis and also ones in Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Thank you! And the skate scene around Annapolis is small compared to Baltimore and D.C. in my opinion. Spots can be scarce around Annapolis so it’s always enjoyable to skate new terrain in surrounding areas. D.C. definitely has a good history of skating and the scene is still alive and well so going there is always a fun time.

 Do you usually skate with a typical crew? Or do you find yourself always skating with a different crowd?
I would say the crew varies depending on where I am. When I’m filming, it could be a solo mission with my filmer James and I, or the homies Ty, Kadian, and Yoshi will meet up with us too. If I am around Annapolis it is usually all Annapolis homies skating little spots around there, cruising downtown or going to the local park.

So what would you say is a typical day for you when going skating?
Usually I get up and have some coffee, then I’ll call up James to make sure we are still on for that day and meet at the skate park to warm up. Most of the time I have a certain trick in mind for a specific spot so the goal will be to go there first and try to get that out of the way before going anywhere else. If everything works out we just continue on to other spots or sometimes we call it a day and go to the bar for a drink, haha.

I’d say that’s pretty productive as long as you get a clip.
Yeah, we try and make the most of it and get at least one good banger. We operate a bit differently in the sense where we want to have a successful day filming and end it satisfied, so that’s why I like to plan stuff out instead of just meeting up and seeing what happens. I think it’d be harder for me to get stuff done that way.

Is there anywhere on the East Coast that you particularly want to visit and skate?
I definitely want to go to North Carolina soon. The spots there look so good and I have never been there before either. I want to check out Boston as well. Those spots look super fun too, just by looking at PJ Ladd or Dave Bachinsky footage. Boston also has so much history to offer, it would just be a cool place to explore.

Speaking of pro skateboarders, are there any guys you looked up to growing up and who you look up to today?
That’s a tough one. There are so many I love to watch and look up to. Growing up, Sheckler has been one of my favorites along with Corey Duffel and Kristian Svitak. At the moment, however, Ryan Decenzo, Cody Mccentire, Dave Bachinsky, Miles Silvas, Jordan Maxham, and Sierra Fellers are some of my favorites.

Favorite video part?
Another tough one. Decenzo’s Hallelujah part is amazing to watch and also Mccentire’s Thrasher part he put out last year. I could watch those two consistently. One part in particular that I love is Chris Troy’s God Save the Label part. Good music, tricks, and editing, it won’t get old.

You recently won the Dew Tour Am Search for the United States and were flown out to Barcelona to skate the contest. How was that experience?
It was amazing to say the least. I almost didn’t submit footage for the contest so winning the whole thing was so surreal. The experience overall couldn’t have been better, I met some great people, great skaters from other countries, skated spots I’ve only seen in videos, and I got to enjoy some super good food in the city. I was able to fly out with my filmer James too, so we filmed as much as possible before the actual contest because we both weren’t sure when the next time we’d be back.

 I know you’re sitting on a bunch of footage. Do you have any upcoming parts coming out?
Yeah, I have a decent amount I am waiting to release. Right now I am working on a video part with my filmer James that will include some other local guys as well. But hopefully 2018 will bring in some new opportunities to release some more parts.

Well I can’t wait to see it all! Hopefully you guys put it out soon.
Yeah me too, I don’t like sitting on footage too long or else I feel it will get stale, especially in this era of social media where new content is put out every day. It’s hard to keep up.

 I know the skate industry is very prominent out in California and it’s known as the place to be if you want to make it in skateboarding, do you have any plans to move out there?
Maybe in the near future it will be a possibility. At the moment I think I will just try and take as many trips out there as possible. If the opportunity does come up though, I will probably take it.

It’s hard to leave these wonderful east coast spots too right? (haha)
Haha, I like the sarcasm. But honestly, there’s something about our spots that stand out in video parts and add to the footage because when you are from the east coast you understand the work it takes to land a trick since the environment is more gritty. L.A. spots are fun but they can get to your head when trying something because you begin to think of all the stuff that has been done and what you can do to set apart from that. 

Do you have any other hobbies besides skating?
Yeah, I am actually really into ping-pong and I like to golf when I can. Other than that, if it is a nice day out and I have nothing planned, I like to be outside skating.

What does your future in skating look like?
Only time will tell I presume. I just plan on filming as much as possible and keep trying to progress as much as I can.

 Any shout-outs before we end?
Definitely. Shout-outs to Bill and Ricky at Blind and Tensor, Jason at New Balance, Chet at Wreck, Josh and Rob at Pure for helping me out whenever I needed it, Chris Opilla for always looking out and having my back, Ben Fordham for giving me my first opportunity to go to L.A., Robbie Gurlik and James Park for filming me and putting up with all the struggles, Chris Ortiz for this opportunity and taking rad photos out in Spain, all my friends for the support over the years, and my mom and dad for the continuous support since I first stepped foot on a board.