SEVEN THINGS WE LEARNED ABOUT ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST RESPECTED SKATEBOARDERS
Words by Oliver Pelling.
I didn’t want to be hungover for my interview with Dennis Busenitz, but I am. I make some small talk – not my strongest suit at the best of times – with the adidas entourage while I anxiously wait for The Man Himself to finish his breakfast. We’re in the café of Melbourne’s Mantra hotel and it’s 10am on the first day of the Australian leg of the Away Days tour.
Perhaps more significantly for Dennis, 2016 marked the 10-year anniversary of the first time he slipped his feet into a complimentary pair of adidas shoes. He even had an exhibition in Sydney featuring original artwork by Australia’s own Sid Tapia to celebrate the fact.
Knowing as I do that Dennis isn’t mad keen on interviews, I thought I’d try and make it fun for him by asking him about some of his most memorable stories from the past 10 years. It turns out that expecting a jetlagged stranger to dig into their memory bank at 10am on a Saturday morning is a bit of a tall order, so I soon abandon that line of questioning and we end up just having a regular chat. Here’s some stuff I learned from spending 26 hungover minutes with one of the most highly-respected plank pushers in the world.
HIS FIRST TRIP TO AUSTRALIA NEARLY KILLED HIM
“It was 2004, I think, and we were out here with Volcom,” Dennis recalls. “Jake Phelps wanted to drive from Perth to Sydney. We rented a car and drove about six hours into nowhere … then crashed. That was … memorable. It was pretty bad. We ended up 200 metres from where we went off the road. We flipped it a whole bunch of times. I’m definitely lucky to be alive. I’d never been in a crash like that before… It really put things into perspective. We waited for the cops to show up and they looked at the wreck and gave us a ride straight to the bottle store in the next town.”
What Dennis doesn’t tell me, until I ask him about it, is that he punched Jake Phelps in the face that night for getting them into the situation in the first place. It was all in good jest, but it got them kicked out of the bar they were in. “All my other Australian trips since then have been good,” he continues. “I think that one was my first one. Some people were talking about how there’s some Australian curse where bad shit always happens, but every time since then has been fine.”
HOW HE STAYS ON TOP OF HIS GAME
While the likes of Andrew Reynolds and Danny Way are taking ice baths, drinking plant-based protein shakes, stretching, upping their fruit and veg intakes and all the rest of it, 35-year-old Dennis prefers to keep it simple. “I just skate,” he says. “It’s basic. Just get out and skate. Some days are better than others, but I just try to get out and roll around. It helps to keep it going. Not skating for a couple of days and then trying to get back into it can be pretty harsh. So just that, and not party too much, and generally be healthy. Just common sense stuff.”
“I wish I got to skate Embarcadero,” says Dennis. “I never got to skate the old one. That was already gone. It had been ripped out by the time I got to San Francisco. Hubba Hideout, too … I wish I skated that more. I did backside 50s and noseslides, but I wish I tried some more stuff on it. That place was a bit discouraging, because everything had been done already, but I still feel like I should’ve skated it a little bit more.”
HE DIGS FAT BOTTOMED GIRLS
I ask Dennis if there have been many records over the past 10 years that he’s found himself returning to, whether for inspiration or to chill out or whatever, but nothing comes to mind. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen lately, though,” he says instead. “Freddie Mercury was a pretty awesome dude. It’s good shit. I never listened to it when I was a kid. I’m just discovering it now. It’s fun to listen to, and my kids love it as well. I don’t really have any go-to things that get me hyped to go skating. It’s always just something random.”
HIS KIDS KEEP HIM YOUNG
For a lot of us, getting older can pretty easily go hand-in-hand with losing motivation or opportunity to keep pursuing the things we love. For Dennis, he’s found a remedy in his offspring. “My kids get me stoked,” he explains. “They remind me of my childhood. They remind me of my enthusiasm that might not always be there anymore. That’s something that only kids can do. You don’t even realise how much of that enthusiasm you’ve lost until you hang out with some kids. They bring new life.”
HE STOPPED TRAFFIC WITH SNOOP
Earlier this year, an edit of Dennis’s Away Days part surfaced; the prelude of which shows Snoop Dogg lending some advice while he skates a wallride spot. “That shoot was pretty intimidating,” he says, “but it was awesome. I was excited. Snoop is a super chill dude. He didn’t make it awkward. The good people at adidas made that happen. They didn’t tell us about it. They just asked us to skate this spot that wasn’t that great, then he rolls up and jumps out of his van with weed smoke and everything. It was crazy. He caused a traffic jam and the cops came just because him being there was causing such a commotion. He wasn’t even doing anything, just standing there on the sidewalk. People were stopping in the middle of the road just to take selfies.”
HE’S A RECOVERING DIY ADDICT
As our interview draws to a close, I ask Dennis if he has any resolutions for the imminent New Year. “Get more into skating and stop getting myself into home improvement messes that I shouldn’t be doing,” he laughs. “I always get in over my head. I need to outsource that shit, but it costs so much money. I’m always like, Oh, I can do that myself. And I guess everybody can do it themselves, but that doesn’t mean you should. I always find myself wasting days doing some stupid shit, and there’s no end to it, either. You finish one thing and there’s always another. I’m trying to cut that out. I can save that shit for when I don’t get paid to skateboard anymore!”
Boardslide through the bend to rock out, Sydney. Photos by Andrew Peters.
Article posted from Slam Issue 214. Buy your copy here.