Chris Joslin: Born Under a Bad Sign
Chris Joslin never met his father. He was shot and killed by police officers during a methamphetamine-fueled encounter in 2004. Joslin was seven years old then. His mother was also battling with addiction, living in a rehab center in Long Beach, California. The state prison system was home to his older brother who, before his residence behind bars, introduced Joslin to skateboarding. But a turbulent family history only fueled his engine and steered him toward realizing his dreams. And at a mere 19 years old, Joslin is well on his way to becoming one of the greats.
Raised by his grandmother in Hawaiian Gardens, California, Joslin spent the better part of his childhood in skate parks, where he developed his talents while his grandmother would sit nearby and write letters to Joslin’s brother in prison. It was these formative years that he cherishes most. “It was a rough time in my brother’s life,” Joslin recalls, “but for my grandma, it was a special time when she could watch me skate and also think of my brother. She was really spending time with both of us.”
Over the next decade, the young Padawan took to skate parks and the streets. He won contests, filmed video parts and gained sponsors at an exponential rate. Then, in 2014, Joslin not only earned a spot on Plan B’s skateboard team, but was introduced to the world in their long-anticipated film, TRUE, where he thrilled audiences with a big spin down Barcelona’s MACBA gap, an inward heelflip at the Lincoln set in San Francisco and a 360 flip down the UC Davis gap. Joslin didn’t just throw down the gauntlet – he chucked the whole damn suit of armor. And he filmed his entire part on an injured ACL.
Joslin’s feats earned him The Skateboard Mag‘s Am of the Year in 2014 and a nomination for Thrasher Magazine‘s Skater of the Year. And he hasn’t slowed down in 2015: With the year only half-finished, the young prodigy has already dropped several video parts and became the first Am Skateboarder to film a Battle Commander for The Berrics.
Recently, Joslin invited me to his apartment in Anaheim, where he lives with his girlfriend, Julia, and their Maltipoo, Coco. It’s a humble home, and it has served them well after being kicked out of his grandmother’s house. Neither of them has a car, mostly relying on friends, family and Uber to get around town. Joslin greeted me with a mischievous smile as I entered his residence, and I knew, almost as fast as I could smell, that he’d been smoking weed in preparation for our interview. Not just weed – primo shit. I hadn’t had a whiff of anything like that since my last trip to The Grasshopper café in Amsterdam a decade ago.
[Joslin and I sit at his kitchen table while he methodically rolls a spliff and gives me the squintiest stoner smile imaginable as he recounts a recent skateboarding trip to Europe.]
So I wake up one morning on the curb of a gas station in Copenhagen. I’m recovering from a complete blackout the night before and I’m stumbling around trying to find my rental bike. It had to be my sixth or seventh bike of the trip. I kept losing them. As it turned out, the key from the bike rental shop unlocked all of their rental bikes in the town. Every time I’d lose my bike, I’d recruit someone else’s. At the end of the trip we had to pay for all the lost bikes. Anyway, I look around and recognize the sign from my hotel, and realize that I had made it back, just never made it in. I pulled out a spliff, lit it up and took a few rips. You know, my main concern when I travel is to make sure I’ll be able to get weed wherever I go.
I think most Western European countries are pretty liberal. It’s just when you get to the Eastern Bloc, or when you travel to places like Malaysia, they are super harsh about it.
In Russia, they like, chop your fingers off or some shit. No mercy. And then going through customs in Canada, they almost put me in jail for a few little crumbles at the bottom of my bag. And that’s insane, because weed is basically legal there. But they trip in customs. That’s one of the reasons why I hate cops. I just try to stay away from them.
Skaters and police have never really meshed. But aside from shaking you down for skating or smoking weed, given what happened with your father, I’m sure you have some pent-up emotions about the cops.
Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t there and I never met my dad. But it seems like a bunch of police could have found a way to detain one man rather than kill him. They’re supposed to be trained to handle situations like that. More often than not, you hear about them shooting unarmed people.
So, your grandmother raised you?
Yes, my mom was battling with her addictions, living in a rehab center in Long Beach. I grew up in my grandma’s house in Hawaiian Gardens. I saw my mom every weekend. It was always great to see her. It ended up going so well for her in rehab that she started working there. It helped her straighten her life out to be a better person. Now she lives with my grandma and we see each other a lot.