Interview by Eric Orlando
Eric: The first time I remember you is from the Fun Shitter spot, the go-kart track that we turned into like a skatepark in Orlando, Altamonte Springs area.
Jimmy: Yeah yeah yeah.
Eric: I knew who you were, and when you showed up I was intimidated, because I always felt weird skating around pros. I didn't know that you knew anybody out in California that I knew, didn't know you had a history with Jamie Thomas or any of those dudes. I remember you showed up and you had such momentum, you were a bigger dude, like you weighed 220 pounds, because you had so much power behind you. I didn't really talk to you. We went on a couple of state missions. It was around the time I'd hurt my knee. You were skating a lot with Johnny Buchanon and Mike Rosa.
Jimmy: Yeah. Yeah, all those O-Town dudes.
Eric: Right. I was in that phase of, you know, wasn't probably going to be a pro skateboarder any day. I remember we went to Rollins College and it ended up being an FKD bearings ad where it was a three stair with a weird, black, kinked rail that went out with a long kink.
Jimmy: Yeah! And when you landed you went in the grass real quick, or something.
Eric: You ollied out and lip slid it. You had the ability and were so agile. You were on the handrail chomping level with some heavy dudes. I remember thinking, “I don't skate like that”.
Jimmy: Wow, thanks.
Eric: Tell me about those days. You grew up in Florida. You went out to California. I remember you knew Jamie Thomas and Jeremy Deglopper and those dudes.
Jimmy: That's kind of how it all started. It's funny. I grew up in Arizona, in Tucson. Then I moved to Panama City Beach in the Panhandle and going into high school, which would have been like 1990. I was only in Panama City Beach for a few years. It's funny because you think back and it seems like an eternity when you are kid, but it was really only three to four years living there. It really shaped me. As far as moving out to California, it was right after the Invisible video came out. I knew Jamie so I got my hands on the copy and watched that video a lot. A homie of ours, this dude Adam from Dothan, just happened to be in Panama City and showed up at this little spot downtown called 5th Ave. It was so random. We were all down there and Deglopper just shows up in the panhandle of Florida. At that time I could literally count all the skaters on one hand. At the time I was super stoked on Deglopper, and then we clicked. We wound up going up to Dothan and hanging out. He wanted to go back to California and I wanted to get out of there too. I was 17, and, you know, I had been booted out of my house and was trying to pursue the skate thing. He was going back to Cali, and I said I wanted to go, so we bought Greyhound bus tickets and rode the bus to California and ended up in Vista at his parents' house. That was how I moved out there. It was so random man. I mean, there was always the dream to get out to California. You know what I mean? Like being back in Florida I was dealing with Panama City and rednecks and just all that craziness that came with being a skater at that time. It's a different world now. I think about that a lot. I'm like, dude, like, California was a dream. The song "California Dreamin” was stuck in my head the entire bus trip to California. Everything I love comes from SoCal. It was all such a trip, how it worked out.
Eric: Yeah, I mean, I daydreamed about it and I never ended up going to this Southern California during the whole time I skated very seriously. I figured in the late ‘90s I'd be out there, but then it just went a different direction. I thought I was just going to do that post-high school struggle and pursue it, and it just didn't happen. The first time I even went to California I ended up going to San Francisco. I didn't even go to Southern California.
Jimmy: That's what I wanted to do. Originally, I planned to go to SD because I knew Jamie and all those dudes. I ended up getting on Natural, with Alphonso Rawls, Danny Mayer, and Jason Rogers, but I remember riding Stereo boards and was all about SF and that kind of skating because I like going fast and bombing hills. I still to this day trip out that I ended up staying put in SD and only went to SF a handful of times, but as a kid that was the dream. San Francisco was where I wanted to be. But it all worked out, you know? I love San Diego.
Eric: Did you skate F.A.S.L. contests and all that stuff in Florida?
Jimmy: No. This is a crazy story, when I moved back from Tucson to Florida. In Tucson, we had WSA and O-Boy contests that were connected to the C.A.S.L. contest in SoCal. There were all these guys from SoCal there skating in the contest. I remember skating sponsored Am and I was little, like in junior high, and I skated against like Ron Chapman, Jeremy Klien, Jason Lee, and Ray Barbee. It was crazy back then. Arizona was still kind of an extension of SoCal. Then to move back to Florida, back to Panama City Beach I thought there was going to be this thriving skate scene. It's like the record skipped; “Wow, nobody skates here”. Then I go to a contest, which is where I met Jamie Thomas; it was a Parker Fun Day contest around 1990 and it was literally like going back to a contest in 1986. Dudes were all doing grab first airs, Christ airs, and bonelesses. It was crazy. Jamie, me, and a few other dudes just clicked because we're like ollieing into tricks, starting to flip our boards. It was just sort of a reality check, like, ”dude, you didn't just move to the thriving skate scene”.
Eric: I can't imagine living there in 1990 and trying to skate.
Jimmy: There's like two of us there that skated in school, like the second I moved back there. It was just instant craziness. You know what I mean? I was coming to school with big baggy gear and dyed hair and I look like an alien with a target on my back.
Eric: My students have taken notice of me wearing skate shoes on campus and I have run into a few of them at the skatepark. I am so impressed by some of the students here, in my opinion. They are some of the best skaters to come out of Orlando. They grow up with all these public parks. They grow up just so much better connected than we were.
Eric: And they grow up playing other sports like hockey-baseball-soccer-skaters.
Jimmy: Totally, man, it's a whole new world. Everybody's good. I trip out. Everybody is so good, even the young kids that haven't grown into their style, they're skating with power and pop. It's crazy. It's a different world from what we grew up in. You know, to be a skater back then, you made your life hard because you love something so much. It's just different now. There is still that passion, but it's a whole different world. These days I love going to the skatepark and see the mash-up of styles and tricks. When I first moved to California, I tripped on how clicky it was, It kind of caught me off guard. Coming from Florida and just being on the East Coast, if you saw dudes with holes in their shoes, it was on, like "Oh, you skate?” We're skaters. We're going to figure it out. We're going to skate. I don't care if your hesh or whatever.
Eric: Late ‘90s was the Daggers versus the more tech kids.
Jimmy: Totally, the ‘90s were pretty hip-hop heavy, which was still a great time in skating, and then later on everyone started splintering off. I definitely for a hot minute went hip-hop heavy. So, I went down that path.
Eric: What was your favorite memory or memorable thing you did? Was it riding for DNA or meeting Jamie Thomas at such a young age?
Jimmy: I just appreciate it all. I still trip out. I'm like, dude, I rode a Greyhound bus to California, slept in bathrooms, couch surfed, etc. It's crazy how it all played out. To this day I am stoked. I live in South Orange County, just north of Camp Pendleton. I still love San Diego, and when I visit Pacific Drive I still trip out about the time I was living in Pacific Beach. But honestly, my most fond memories are from my Tree Fort days: I loved riding for DNA and all that. But at that point I was kind of checked out. If I could go back, I would have applied myself more and skated a little harder.
Eric: In terms of all your sponsors and getting paid, What was that like back then?
Jimmy: Tree Fort, I got paid a few hundred bucks a month, which was unheard of at that time. They got Deglopper, Danny Supa, and me a house in Pacific Beach. After Tree Fort went under, I was on Expedition for a hot minute, with Chany Jeanguenin and Troy Morgan being involved. Then DNA happened, literally James Riff hit me up. He was wrestling with skating for DNA because it was a division of Zorlac, and that was just not cool, you know, just cool guy stuff. He had hit me up, and I'm like, "Hey, man. You're an adult, you need to pay your bills. It's either that or go punch a clock somewhere." I said, "I'm not mad at you. You know what, I'll do it, I will ride for DNA." He was like, "Really?" I'm like, "Yeah, get me in the mix. I'm down!" Then we got Jason Maxwell, Matt Milligan, and Justin Bokma. It ended up being a cool thing; we traveled and had fun before I moved back to Florida.
Eric: How did you end up going from there to England?
Jimmy: We got sent on tour to Europe for a DNA tour for four months. I love to travel. Europe was always a huge goal of mine, and then we got to go on that trip. We flew into England, from there took a train to France, then just went all over the place. I ended up blowing my knee out in Switzerland. It was my meniscus; randomly, wasn't skating. I got something on my shoe while on top of the ramp, when I went to look at the sole of my shoe I tweaked my knee just right and instantly just dropped. I'd already been having issues with it after the Slam City Jam contest. In Europe is when it hit. I wound up staying in London with a homie, and then ended up meeting my first wife and then just ended up staying there. I always have this weird relationship with skateboarding. I wasn't wired to care about photos and filming. At that point, I was like, “Dude, I don't care, I've gotten so much out of this, it's time to move on” So when I got back to the States to try and make a go of it, my knee was still really bothering me. I had knee surgery, and then that's when I told the DNA dudes “when my contract was up, I'm done”. I told them, "Thank you for allowing me to do this." That would have been 2000 or 2001. At that point, I was already back in England and was living in Brixton, which was cool.
Eric: We didn't ever talk or hang out until we met again in Redlight, Redlight Bar, about twelve years ago. We shared a bunch of rad stories and realized we both knew Jamie Thomas and Mike Ballard. We talked about Stockwell park in London. I love Stockwell, I have been back a few times.
Jimmy: Yeah, that's right!
Eric: They raised the walls. You can't jump them now. I never jumped it. I never even had a chance to try.
Jimmy: It doesn't matter. Anything over that wall was gnarly. Yeah, I remember trippin’ at some of the tricks that went down. I was like, "Dude, this is pretty crazy." And with how busy that road is.
Eric: I didn't know how you get the speed to do it. So, I went down to the depths of that snake run bowl, and I got to that, like, mogul in the deep end with way too much speed and I just flew off my board and fell like 8 feet to the bottom, broke my watch face, bruised my whole side. It was the last day I was there.
Jimmy: That was one of those parks you had to learn how to skate. I haven't skated there since back then. I think it was still red then. I lurk it and look at it on Instagram, look at the videos. I'm dying to go back to England, you know; it'd be fun to skate. That is a cool park. I mean, England had a rad scene, like, London, hands down, one of my favorite cities? Even the stuff going on at South Bank, that was always cool to roll down there. My flatmate Jesse was down with a lot of those dudes. I mean, I still wasn't skating a ton. I would just pick up a board and go roll around.
Eric: You had more of a scene than I did growing up in Orlando. With Arizona and contests you met people, whereas, for me, I was super nervous to skate around pros like you. I remember the cool thing about Tampa back in the day was that you could skate during demos: I used that to try and get used to skating around pros.
Jimmy: Living in Arizona helped me. That was huge, literally, like Randy Colvin and Colby Carter. There were just rad skaters everywhere.
Eric: Reflecting, what was great about that era? What has changed?
Jimmy: I don't know. I never really get into it that hard, the whole "back in the day, yada yada yada." But like it still was clicky. I mean, if you were back on the East Coast, you know, when I moved back... It was really hard to make a go of it. Now it's a blessing and a curse because you can live somewhere and never really have to leave because of social media and filming. Back then you had to make a pilgrimage, it kind of weeded people out. There's so many shoulda, coulda, woulda... We all know those dudes that ripped so hard, but just could never get out there or life just got in the way. Life happens, you know. You had to want it back then. I miss how little it was, and how tight the community was. It is massive now, it is in the Olympics. You know what I mean? So it's in a different realm now, but it's still there. There are just different aspects to it. In my eyes, the more people that skate, the better it is. It's rad.
Eric: Where are you now? Is skateboarding still in you?
Jimmy: Yeah, I live in Southern California and I work for NHS, I'm the SoCal rep. I love NHS. I love everyone up there, I've been with NHS for almost eleven years now, it's awesome. I still gotta pinch myself sometimes. I'm like this is all such a trip, you know.