So how did the whole Tony Hawk scene that’s pictured in the movie come about?
You know what, that’s a bit blurry even to me. I’ve never asked for any of the stuff that’s been happening in my life… but yeah, there was this guy Dallas who was organising these cool skate camps for low-income kids from rural areas. The Laureus organisation was sponsoring his project and sent Tony Hawk as their ambassador to open a new pool Dallas had built. I also got invited to skate there and jumped in the mini ramp session. After the demo he came up to me and told me he liked my skating. Then he asked if he could send me product – and that’s how our relationship started: I told him I was really stoked but that I lived on the streets. “I don’t exactly have an address!” I ended up giving Tony my friend Dorian’s address and he would send me Birdhouse product every now and again over the following year or two. A few years after Tony came over again for another Laureus thing, this time with Kevin Staab. We talked a bit, he asked what was going on, I told him I was still living on the streets, but nothing happened. A little later though – about the time Tammy was playing a bigger and bigger role in my life and she had mad clear that I needed to kick my habit in order to be spending more time with her – Tammy went surfing with Natalie (Johns, film maker)’s younger brother and told him my story. Natalie heard about it and wanted to know more about me. So one day we’d go the park, film a few tricks and do an interview. She posted that on her Youtube, sort of as her support or motivational film to get people to fund me chasing my dream and going to America. While it didn’t work out as fund-raiser, the video blew up on the internet. People took it very well and got really and asked how they could help. However, Natalie felt like she needed to take measures into her own hands, she paid out of her own pocket and used her contacts to get me a working visa to get me over to the US and try for me to make it in skating. All the while she was now: Come on, we’re doing this film about your life!
»…shit!, I inspire people?!«
That must have been a trip! How did it feel having a film made about you?
It was just surreal dude! Then again I’ve been weirdly used having a camera in front of my face from people filming at the (skate)park – though of course not to that extent.
But didn’t it feel a bit like you’re marketing your life in some sense?
I don’t know… To be honest I didn’t even really know how documentaries were made. Next thing I knew it was actually going down and one’s been made about me!
Then the film was presented at the Laureus Awards in Shanghai. How did that feel?
Yeah, Laureus flew me out to Shanghai and put me up. It was rad! But bottomline is, I’m really thankful for them giving me this opportunity, and also for my story to be out to the world. Because I know it can inspire people. – I’ve been asked a lot: So, are you going to make money off of this? But the truth is: This film has opened so many doors for me and will continue to do so; so many opportunities that money couldn’t buy me. Of course I wouldn’t say no to a bit of money, but I’m way happier to hear a kid message me on Facebook saying my story is inspiring him to be a better person. That brings me more joy than a bunch of cash could ever bring me. – It’s a crazy feeling, like shit!, I inspire people?!
I’m sure you must be getting a lot of those messages… But you were also welcomed on stage by Benedict Cumberbatch and saluted by a ton of big name celebs and sportsmen. Did you get to meet any of them? Any stories from behind the scenes?
I broke a big expensive vase… well, Benedict Cumberbatch got me up on stage, I did my little talk, which was very nerve racking, we got picked up and brought back to this fancy hotel, went to the after-party… but that closed at ten or eleven. So everyone went back to the hotel and talked the hotel people into letting us have our own after-party on the second floor — with all the ambassadors, Olympic winners, a couple of actors and actresses, it was really cool. But so there was this big vase with all these flowers in – and I swear to God, I barely touched it! But it went boom! and smashed on the floor, glass everywhere. I was freaking out, thinking “Who’s going to pay for this?! I can’t even pay for my room!!” But all of sudden Bill Murray comes out of the woodworks, puts his arm around me and saves me from the situation. It was one of those moments when everyone is talking and the next second everything goes quiet.
»All of sudden Bill Murray comes out of the woodworks and saves me«