Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Amie Nguyen and Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au
Location: Toronto WEBSITE[Show Text Only Version][Hide Text Only Version]
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Gymbo Jak – I am part of a skateboard team out of California called “Jak’s Team”. I run Shred Central Skatepark and I’ve been running it for 12 years.
Tell us about Shred Central – What is it like?
Shred Central is the kind of place where skaters can come and be themselves instead of being at a skate park and having to wear all those pads and be all serious. Shred Central is rough around the edges and a lot of parents don’t like hanging around here. We listen to Slayer and we don’t make you wear pads, so it’s a bit more relaxed than any other park. Also, you can listen to tunes here and take a nice clean dump in the toilet.
Even though the park is built indoors, it has a really raw feel. How do you maintain the essence of skating, even in one of the snobbiest neighbourhoods of Toronto?
It helps that I skate on a semi-regular basis, so I know what needs to be repaired. Hanging out with the kids will tell me what they like to skate and I know that it can be boring skating — the same shit every time. I try to keep things up to date, as much as I can afford to. We call it Shred Central because it’s right downtown and it can be a hassle dealing with the yuppies in the neighbourhood. A lot of new development is going up all over the place and people complain about our noise – they don’t like hearing the clacking and people swearing at their boards and stuff. We tend to have a problem with the community being so upper-class but we’re not going to be dealing with that for long because they are going to tear us down and put a condo here.
What is going to come after that?
I’m going to be involved with something more in skating, but dealing with the adults kids. The kids’ parents can be a bit ridiculously demanding so I’d rather deal with the adult kids rather than the pee-wees. I want to open up a skateboard bar – a bar for skateboarders. All these bars out there are becoming overrun by other people and skateboarders don’t have a bar to go to. I’d like to do something like that where I can sell alcohol legally and have maybe one mini ramp in the back for special occasions. Something for adult skaters is what I want because all these kids are going to grow up and if they’re still skating, they’re going to also want to drink. My place will be right up the alley.
Skateboarding has gone through a lot of transformation, especially with corporations and advertisements. Where do you see it changing from here on out?
It’s already so popular now. Skaters are making so much money off of it. I think that if you’re the small guy, skateboarding is so popular that it’s not too good for them and the little shops. It’s much better for the bigger guys like West49 and those clothing shops. I guess it’s good for skateboarding overall and as a culture, but I liked it better when it was underground.
Can you tell us about the changes that Shred Central has gone through?
I used to have five partners doing this with me but they all kind of fizzled out over time for one reason or another – they couldn’t handle working and running a skate shop at the same time, or they wanted better pay, or whatever. I’ve had a few guys come around that tried to setup shop but the money isn’t really there, thanks to skateboarding becoming so popular. These stores and shops are opening up in malls and parents prefer to go to a mall rather than an underground stop – one stop shopping is all they want to do. Skateboarding has changed a lot; it has gone from underground to local skate shops to being hugely popular with huge corporate sponsorships and being found in malls.
Tell us about the Toronto skate scene.
The skate scene in Toronto is not as tight as the West Coast skate scene – everyone and their grandmother skates in the West Coast. A lot of the skate scene here seems to blend in with the college scenester crowd – you see a lot more people attending these scenester parties or paying $20 to line up at some club where everyone smells like perfume. I think the skate scene on the West Coast is more down to earth where a lot more people attend skateboard functions just because they are skateboard functions and not because there’s some popular DJ or shit like that. I like skateboarding in the underground scene because it was not popular – it had a rebel feel to it. Now, if you go down to the street and see junior, you see him getting set up with kneepads and a helmet and she takes him to the skate park. Then, she stands in the way when people are in line and people get pissed off. I liked skateboarding when you had to be badass in order to enjoy it – you had to be a tough bastard to take a skateboard to the teeth or fall on your face. I never had anyone teach me how to skate. I never had kneepads or helmets. Now, you have so many skateboarding instructors to teach you how to do it! I tried to get into other school sports, like rugby, but it was always so serious that it just took the fun out of it. Back in the day, there were only four or five other skaters and we were considered badasses and I liked that image and feeling. I was also into hardcore aggressive music that seemed to go hand in hand with skateboarding. Skateboarding just felt more like a lifestyle back then, where nowadays, it’s just another sport to get into.
What is HYPE?
HYPE is energy. I don’t know how else to explain, I’m not a hip-hop dude! HYPE seems energetic to me. I don’t want to quote Flava Flave and say, “Don’t believe the HYPE,” but I like the HYPE – HYPE gets me stoked.