In late 2011, Mark Gonzales was named “Most Influential Skateboarder of All Time” by Transworld Skateboarding. The following year he was inducted into skateboarding’s Hall of Fame. But accolades haven’t stopped “The Gonz” from continuing to evolve, both as revolutionary skater and prolific artist.
Born in South Gate, California in 1968, Gonz entered the skateboarding world at age 13, and by 16, was featured on the 1984 cover of Thrasher magazine. Along with fellow Hall of Famer Natas Kaupas, Gonz was first to skate on handrails, and first to ollie the Wallenberg set, a 19-foot long span of concrete blocks in San Francisco. “I think a lot of it has to do with that adrenaline rush, that kick that makes you feel very alive in that exact moment, and you want to do that more,” says Gonz. His video parts, such as in Blind’s Video Days, still stand testimony to his limitless and whimsical approach that changed skateboarding forever.
Concurrent with his legendary skateboarding career, Gonz has also established himself as a contemporary artist, whose spontaneous and avant-garde visual expressions have been seen in galleries worldwide, used in Calvin Klein ad campaigns and served as graphics for his skateboard company – Krooked Skateboards. Gonz original designs have been long sought after by collectors of all walks, including Donald Trump and Sean Combs.
We met up with Gonz at his private art studio in New York City to discuss the future of skateboarding and it’s place in the Olympics, hear a dirty story from the filming of Away Days and receive a history lesson on skateboarding’s beginnings.
What’s your take on the addition of skateboarding in the 2020 Olympic Games?
I think a lot of times people want to get involved in skating, whether it’s for money or to help it out, and they jump on board and try to get into the culture. But what they don’t realize is that a lot of these kids who skate really have nothing else. Death is going to happen, but to them, it’s like, “I don’t give a fuck.” And that’s why they skateboard, because they really don’t give a fuck. It’s hard for some people to understand that mentality.
So I don’t know about the Olympics. Skateboarding is not an answer – it’s a question, a game of logic and death. It’s sad, but there is a very dark side to skateboarding – there’s a side of the board that never sees the light [laughs]. I’m being silly, but also serious.
You just released new footage in the first full-length film from Adidas Skateboarding, Away Days. How was it skating and filming for the project?
Well, we were out skating and shooting in New York and I tried this trick so many times that when we finally made it to the next spot, I was completely sore. The younger guys were having so much fun that I just forgot about my pain and started skating more. I became overambitious and I fell in this disgusting gutter and that really sucked. It was, like, the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I mean, those guys on Jackass go into the port-o-potty and get all that shit all over them. It can’t be worse than that, can it? What’s worse? Do you think that the port-o-potty shit is worse than the gunk on the streets of New York?