Ricky Oyola; a powerful skater with a powerful personality. He has a vision at all times and he thrives on integrity, pride, execution, and stubbornness. He may also have the most iconic push in street skating history, as well as one of the most classically stylish ollies ever. Going fast with purpose is what I think of when I think of Ricky Oyola. He's East Coast to the core and typically we on the East don't give much of a rat's ass if someone doesn't like us or our point of view. We have our own styles and we view them as the preferred methods-of-approach. You may or may not agree with each approach, but the people here at least have the balls to voice their strong opinions and showcase their perspectives. There are countless skaters who are motivated despite the skate industry's continued denial of talent here on the East. Ricky lived through the initial industry-denial of that talent and well...he and his friends pretty much blew the doors off that question of doubt when Eastern Exposure released. Ricky continued to lay down his vision of skating and cement his place in history by skating for and starting several iconic brands, and producing some of the most influential skate-coverage the world has laid eyes on. This interview hopefully gives some other insight into Ricky, his point of view, and some classic career stories. Ricky is a pro skater who has seen every facet that a skate career can offer, and we should all respect that. He's a guy that has a wealth of skate-knowledge to bestow on the world, and also a great person to just sit back and talk shit with. This interview and guest pro model project mean a lot to me and Shawn Beeks here at Pusher. Ricky truly is an inspiration for those of us who appreciate really good genuine skating that comes from true self expression. The kind of skating that embraces the battle against one's own mind, and results in something awesome. Ricky, you rule man, 100% respect.
-Rob @ PUSHER
Rob:Where are you originally from?
Ricky: Born in Pemberton, NJ. I grew up in Medford, NJ.
What year did you start skating?
Throughout your career you stayed on the East Coast. In particular, you chose to stay around the Philadelphia area, but over the course of your career was there anywhere else you lived or spent a significant amount of time skating in?
I stayed in the Philadelphia area pretty much the whole time. I spent 3 months in Australia on my first visit and then 6 months on my second trip there. I thought about moving to NYC at one point, but Philly had too much to conquer. SF was the only city out West that I could have ever seen myself moving to. Trekking though those hills, and seeking out new spots with Matt and Sergel were some of the most exciting experiences of my life.
What other cities and scenes have you respected or been inspired by over the years?
From the start of my skating every city in California was highlighted in the magazines. So I can't help, but have tons of respect for what I saw in those mags early on. New York City, especially during the early SHUT years was out of this world. It seemed like every SHUT rider was the best skater. After we blew up Philly, it seemed like the mindset became from Boston to DC we were all one big scene, because of the close proximity of the cities. I also got a lot of love for ATL. The Japanese scene is like no other. I went there later in my career, but I wish I had gone during my peak. After going to Barcelona though, I wanted to live there. I couldn't believe the way they laid out that city. There were amazing things everywhere you went; I like banks and they're all over that place. I honestly wished I had made enough money during the height of my career, so that me and my wife at the time would have moved there for a few years before our first child was ready to start school. To experience that would have been amazing.
You've obviously been on a lot of skate tips over the years. What has been your favorite trip and what is your favorite international destination?
For me, Barcelona was head and shoulders the best city all around. I have so many memories from too many trips that to narrow it down to one location can be really hard to do though. From managing and surviving solo trips through Europe, to Hawaii with Kastel Shoes, to the OG Silverstar tour, to Hong Kong and Japan, to hitching a ride with Mike Manzoori through Germany to Amsterdam all the way over to the UK. I mean traveling to all these places has been amazing. New Deal through South America was totally ridiculous. At the time Giant Distribution was all about Element and the New Deal crew was the forgotten stepchild. Somehow they let me convince them to do this New Deal trip to South America. They let me organize the entire thing head-to-toe. It all came about from one photo of Peter Hewitt on the cover of Thrasher skating the "Skatepark de Carolina" in Quito, Ecuador. I saw that photo and I knew I had to go there someday. We made it happen with New Deal. The SLAP trip to Puerto Rico was epic too, because we went there before a lot of people had really traveled there for skating. Traffic's Spot-Seeker tour was dope; an original idea that was a little bit ahead of the whole DIY craze. TWS ran a 20 page article on our good times, which was un-heard of at the time for a company that wasn't an advertiser.
I know Traffic has been very popular in Japan since it started, and that sparks the question...when is the next Deshi part coming out?
I have no idea right now, but I am definitely hyped to see what Deshi creates.
Any plans for a Traffic trip to Japan in the next couple years?
We shall see I guess.
TOA started distributing Traffic in recent years (Traffic was previously distributed by Syndrome). It appears a new spark has been lit for the company. What's in the plans for the future of Traffic, and what can we expect to see soon?
Continued pushing. Original spots.
You just traveled to Canada this summer with TOA. How was it getting back in the van and hitting the road again?
I was stoked to hit up Toronto again. My first trip there was years ago with the Traffic crew and it was so sick. Things changed up there a bit since that time. Bluetile Lounge is the main shop up there now and those guys took great care of us on this TOA trip. I remember more banks years ago, but where we stayed this time around didn't allow us to hit too many of those. Just being in the van again with the team was so fun.
You mentioned Kastel Shoes in a previous answer. Over the years you have skated for a lot of different shoe companies including not only Kastel, but also Airwalk, Duffs, Memphis, and Vox. What was your favorite footwear brand to skate for and why?
I also rode for Vision Street Wear and Converse too. I was hyped on the possibilities that Memphis presented at the time. It could have been amazing, but it had internal problems. If it didn't end up having those I feel that I could have created a unique brand with them. Honestly, some of the people that I forged friendships with through these shoe companies is what really stands out to me. August from Duffs, Mike from Vox, and J Stone from Kastel; those are three people that I am very fortunate to have had a chance to work with and I'm stoked to have become long-term friends with them.
What was the deal with Kastel shutting down out of nowhere back in the day? What happened with Vox and your pro shoe under their camp?
I can't say with certainty. I got in trouble in Australia when things went South for Kastel (many previous Ricky interviews address the Australia incident). Probably money and profits have to be involved I guess? I really enjoyed my time with them; my third shoe would have been so good. At the time we were going for the lightest skate shoe on the market and with that one it would have been if the whole operation didn't kick the bucket. As for Vox, it comes down to internal issues again. The core dudes like Ed and Mike eventually were no longer involved, so the image of the brand and team were adversely affected.
I ask everyone this, but since we are on the topic of shoes, what are your top five favorite skate shoes of all time?
I never paid too much attention to shoes in general, but I guess I have a few. The Es Accel was by far my favorite shoe. My first shoe on Kastel was fashioned after the Accel; skated the same, felt very similar, so that's my number two. Vans Half Cabs are undeniably on that list for sure. I rocked a lot of Jason Lee's Airwalk pro model at a point in time. The Matt Hoffman black leather Duffs was probably my favorite Duffs shoe while I was on that team. Lastly, that final pro model I had on Vox was real good too. It was a mid-top fashioned after a half cab mixed with the silhouette of my first Vox pro shoe. It's so funny to me now, because so many of these shoes we have all loved over the years are really not very good for your feet. No matter the design, so few are really good for you.
Love Park, City Hall, or Muni; what was your favorite part of each plaza?
They're all one dude; one intersection, one big spot. Individually though, Love was the best. For diversity of spots, City Hall wins. As for Muni...Muni was the most guarded during that time, so it had a special allure to it that was different than the other two.
Was there ever another plaza spot you skated during your career that you felt compared to the quality and options these three Philly plazas had?
Pulaski was always an amazing plaza to visit. Endless marble ledges with varying options for lines. Pulaski's scene was always one of the best on the East, so you knew when you skated there you were going to see some new shit. EMB was obviously the premiere plaza in skate history. Seeing it in the mags, videos, and watching what was going down there during its era made it a spot you had to visit. EMB offered so many options for the progression of modern day skating. Coming from Philly and being spoiled from skating perfect Love all day, I was not a fan of the brick ground at EMB or the cement ledges though. Henry, Mike, Jovontae, and the guys from that crew were basically pushing the progression of ledge skating, and after I skated EMB my admiration for what they were doing and what they had to do it on only grew. It would have been dope to have seen Henry and Mike skate Love. Love has to be one of the best plazas in the world, but I used to boast more about Philly having one of the best city blocks period. Muni, City Hall, and Love all at the same intersection across the street from one another, you can't get any better.
I know skaters often pretend they don't like "normal" sports, or at least many of them tend to hide the fact that they really do like them. I respect that you have always been open about enjoying other things besides skateboarding. You have always openly expressed your interest in hockey and you are a well known pool shark. How has having these other interests helped you in skating and in daily life?
I'm not sure if it has helped me in anyway in terms of skating that I can think of, but being a genuine fan of all the Philly teams I enjoyed fucking with random people in the streets. Especially the New York fans. For example, I was recently skating a spot in NYC and I spontaneously started chanting E-A-G-L-E-S-EAGLES to a dude rocking a Giants jersey. You gotta do it in a way that the other person realizes that its a joking shit-talking manner so that you both can laugh about it. Sports are just another way of having a connection with a complete stranger out in the world.
Who has been your favorite photographer to work with over the years and why?
Damn, not fair. All the photographers were cool to work with. I respected the ones who were so talented that they captured the moment first try. I worked with Ryan Gee and Frankie the most. They lived in Philly and I lived in Philly, so they were natural relationships. Jeremy Traub was amazing to work with. Man, there was a lot that shot well. Mike O'Meally, Ed Dominick, Geoff Graham, Skip Millard, Adam Wallacavage, Dennis McGrath, Brian Uyeda, John Mehring, Dave Adair, Wig, Skin, Julius Reeves, Morford, Ortiz, Dawes, Swift, Andre Tur, Kingy, Iseki, and Tobin...the list goes on and on. Sorry if I missed anyone I have ever shot with. They were all important, but in the end Gee and Frankie were with me the most over the years.
Favorite filmer to work with over the years and why?
Working with Dan Wolfe in the early years and getting to see him progress into what he is today was amazing. Josh Stewart is an incredible filmer that I have spent countless hours with as well. Although I have not filmed with Chris Mulhern that much, he is somebody that comes from the school of thought that Dan and Josh come from. I really admire his filming, editing, and work ethic. Vern of course being from Philly and being the only one I actually used to just go skating with before he became a filmer is definitely one of my favs. My buddy Ry who lived with Rich Adler is who I filmed and skated with the most towards the end. I always enjoyed filming and skating with him, but I bet you there's footy he hasn't logged yet, hahaha!
What is your take on the prominence and emphasis on contest-skating in the current state of skateboarding media and industry?
It is what it is i guess; a way for skaters to make money...a few skaters at least. You mentioned the word "current" within your question and it's fitting considering the direction skateboarding is being steered. The corporate dollars needed for the growth and longevity of the sport is going to continue coming in from TV exposure. Contests seem to be the only facet of skateboarding that translates to the non-skateboarding public. Even if a viewer doesn't truly understand the tricks being done they understand #1, #2, first, last, medals, and a champion. A difference going forward with skateboarding is that more kids are starting to skateboard with gold medal aspirations and the goal to be a "champion". I don't know if I ever met or skated with anyone since I started in '85 where those were the reasons they got into skateboarding. Times are different and the youth are being exposed to these things. Fortunately, skateboarding is unique and more multifaceted than traditional sports, so no matter how much corporate dollars push the contest side of skateboarding the essence of skateboarding will strive and progress. That essence will also be the reason why there will always remain a distinction between a skateboarder and someone who rides a skateboard. True skateboarding is the freedom of creating on your own and it will always be that deep down.
Lastly, what's your dream session? Spot, people, vibe, etc. etc.? What's going down, present time, future, or back in the day?