(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
A: One of the silver linings of the craziness of the last year is that I’ve been mostly in one place and able to skate more regularly than ever. That has kind of fine-tuned my style. And I started to feel a lot more confident with my skating, which is really strange because obviously I’m much older and this is supposed to be my twilight years in my skate career. But I do feel like I’ve sort of got my groove back and there are a few tricks that I knew that I probably would be capable of redoing. The Ollie 540 was one of them. The [day of the video], the day I did it, it was a little hard to get to and I realized I was probably not going to be able to do it much longer. And the trick is one I’m hugely proud of, because it was the first time anyone ever spun more than a 360 without grabbing a skateboard.
Q: You first did it in 1989. And what I love about watching clips of you is that you show all the times you fail at it as well. In baseball, you don’t see a guy put out his highlight reel from the All-Star Game with him striking out two times and then hitting the homer. Is that part of your culture?
A: Most people don’t do that. I like doing it more because I want people to see the perseverance it takes to do these things and that maybe it gives you a better sense of reality and a better sense of validation that, hey, no one does this stuff the first try. Before, when we would do videos, say a three-minute video segment, it better be your bangers. But especially at my age and with the outlets that we have now through social media, I just thought it would be more fun to show that process and obviously what it takes to do that kind of stuff at my age. You’re not going to want to see the baseball players striking out. Also, skateboard falls are much more spectacular than strikeouts. So I feel like I’m justified in that, you’re going to see me falling and getting whiplash on my board, flying around.
Q: So starting out, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it’s just guys in a park. And then suddenly you flash-forward five years and you’re on the X Games.
A: When I learned to do a 720, which is a double spin in the air, I learned it on a backyard ramp with no cameras and about four people skating with me. And there was no grand celebration. It was more like, “Hey, that’s cool, you spun around twice. Awesome.” And then 14 years later, in the 1999 X Games, I did the first 900 and it made “Sports Center” highlights. That’s kind of how far it came in that short time. [In the beginning] skaters were the furthest thing from cool. I used to get picked on. I would hide my skateboard at school because it marked me as an outcast and I didn’t want to get thrown around in the hallways.
Q: I need to ask you about the 1989 movie “Gleaming the Cube,” with Christian Slater as a skateboarder. Do we know what “Gleaming the Cube” means yet?
A: It was a quote from a quirky pro skater in a magazine in the ’80s. I think he was trying to make conversation or throw off the interviewer. And someone picked it up in the movie industry and decided it must be a skate term, that you’re killing it like you’re in the zone. So they wrote it into a script.