It’s a Sunday evening, just after eight, as the Real team’s van pulls into Pitt Street, Redfern. Kyle Walker, Zion Wright and Ishod Wair all pile out, followed by the Real team manager, photographer and filmers. Kyle has a couple of broken ribs and Chima Ferguson has already made his way back home to his place. Everyone’s a little tired. They’ve just spent seven days filming day and night in the streets of Sydney.
Once inside the Airbnb, beers are cracked, joints are rolled, and there’s talk about where to get a decent kebab. A few of us perch up either side of Gabe Morford’s laptop to scope the photos that are to be run on these pages. We watch some of Zion’s footage that will be used in his new part. Then I park up out the back, on the patio, and interview the fellas one by one about their week in Sydney. Obviously, Chima is Sydney-royalty by this point, and the rest of the fellas have been here plenty of times too. They know Sydney well, name-dropping local skaters, rattling off their favourite Aussie slang and explaining some of the tricks they’ve managed to get during their stay here.
Article from Slam Issue 221, December 2018.
Interviews By Nat Kassel. Photos By Gabe Morford.
[photo above] There’s a kerb at the top step of this rail, where the reddish paint meets the grey. Zion had to pop super early for this 14-stair back lip, hectic!
So how many times have you been to Australia?
Six times, bro. It’s too nice. Thankfully I’ve gotten to travel a lot, but I think if I had to pick a couple of the best places, Sydney would definitely be up there.
With your Skater of the Year trip to Sydney in 2016, did you get to choose where you wanted to go or did they decide for you?
You could kind of go anywhere. We hit Sydney and Canberra because I was like, “Yo, I wanna go somewhere with good weather, some beaches and all the homies.” Sydney’s the spot, you know? It’s hella laid back out here.
You guys got some pretty heavy tricks on that trip.
Yeah, I think on the first day we got like 14 or 15 clips. It was like, Let’s go, let’s get it!
The front blunt at the Suicide Towers rail was pretty memorable. That spot also has a rep for being ghetto, did you have any run-ins with the locals when you were trying to put that trick down?
Yeah, people came out spraying hoses and shit. It definitely lived up to its typical name. It’s fucking wild. You’ve got tweakers just walking around and yelling at you; the guy in the main office comes out every time just losing his shit. Thankfully that was the first day too, so we just got that one out of the way. We were at Waterloo and Michael Burnett, the Thrasher photographer, was like, “We could just get that cover out of the way real quick...” and it was like, “Let’s get it!” So that was a highlight and a memorable moment. It’s a legendary spot, from Dustin [Dollin] crookin’ that shit and then I think Dane [Burman] noseslid it. But Dusty’s crook is OG shit.
And then you were on King of the Road. I wanted to ask you about the frontside 180 at the Dompierre gap, that thing was huge.
Yeah, I’ve wanted to skate that thing for a while, so it was cool that it worked out second shot. I was scared too, just goin’, goin’, goin’ and it was past halfway through the trip but thankfully it fucking worked out, dude.
Was that the scariest moment of the trip?
Nah, the scariest moment was trying that 30-stair [rail]. That shit sucked. Because it’s like, you pull up to spots and it’s not like people expect you to skate, but it’s like, “Oh yeah, Kyle, there’s a 30-rail, you wanna try this shit? No one else wants to try it.” That shit was pretty scary.
How about some Aussie slang? Do you know some by now?
For sure, like, cheeky fuckin’ cunt.
Yeah, what about the word ‘cunt’, do you remember hearing it casually from an Aussie for the first time?
Well, I met Chima when I was hell young, like super young; Volcom house days. And a bunch of Australians ride for Volcom, and they would always be over there. I went and stayed at the Volcom house for a summer when I was about 15 or 16. That was when Chima was staying there too. It wasn’t like I was used to it, but I was around a bunch of Australians then, so I feel like I’ve heard it so much that now it almost just seems normal.
What was the deal with the Volcom house?
It was in Southern California, in Costa Mesa. It’s not there anymore but it was a house where some of the people that worked [for Volcom] stayed in one side and then the other side was a team rider house. I moved out there at 16, but I would visit even before that. It was awesome, you would stay at the house and all the homies could come over and party. There were three mini ramps in the back, a pool, and the Volcom filmer and photographer would pick you up every day to skate. It was pretty sick.
Do you reckon that helped get you motivated from a young age skate- wise?
I was super young. Everything was new but it definitely opened my eyes. It was like, Damn, I’m trying to live in California and do this every day.
And on this trip you didn’t really get to skate, can you tell me about the injury you’re dealing with?
It’s fine, it just sucks, dude. You’re at one of your favourite places ever, after a 14-hour plane ride, the best spots ever, you’re with the good homies, and you can’t really skate. But yeah, I tried to ollie over this rail into bank. It was a steep bank and I caught this one where the elbow goes into the rib. I’m pretty fucking skinny, so it was bone on bone. It hurt really bad for like four days and I was like, Dude, I should probably go get an X-Ray, but my doctor was saying not to because he doesn’t want too much radiation on me. So that was the one time ever that I was like, I won’t get the X-Ray, I’ll just chill, because normally, I’m trying to have peace of mind.
So this was back in the States, before this trip?
Yeah, so I came out here, skated for the first two days, and it was sore as fuck. I was limited and I couldn’t jump down some stairs or anything too crazy, you know? It was painful and then on day three, no joke, I pulled my sock up in bed, first thing in the morning and my rib popped. I was like, Oh shit, and I had to freeze and it tensed up. I was like, Damn dude, that did not feel good whatsoever. So I went to Chima’s doctor and he did some acupuncture and felt it out. He was a positive dude but he was like, “I would highly suggest you go get that X-rayed when you get back.” He could feel a crack and I can feel it right now, it’s a little knot on the rib, so it fuckin’ sucks. I’ve just been chilling. I couldn’t skate any spots or the demo. But it could be worse – you could be in a lot worse places and be hurt. Every time I somewhat start to complain in my head, I’m like, Bro, come on now, you’re in Sydney. I’m not tripping. It is what it is – no complaints.
Have you had the chance to party a bit?
I was about to say, there’s shit goin’ on. Chima and Beau [Reid] and all the homies are out here. We saw Rhino [Ryan Wilson] last night too. There was a block party going on. It was sick.
Hopefully next time you come you’ll be able to skate.
Yeah, we’re all ready to come back in a few months for sure. I was talking to Ishod like, “We gotta come back. It’s about to be summertime out here.”
Kyle had a crack at skating on this trip, but a snapped rip forced him to sit on the sidelines.
You were living in The States for quite a while – how long have you been back living in Sydney?
I moved home around three years ago. I grew up in Sydney, so everything I know is here. All my friends and family. It just happens to be one of the greatest places on earth, so I’m lucky to be from here.
You rep Sydney pretty hard. Has it been fun showing the Real guys around your city?
Always gotta put on for Sydney. It’s cool to have good friends out here and show them how we live. Anyone who comes through always has a great time.
What were the most mind-blowing tricks you saw on the trip?
Zion and Ishod skated a rail out in Castle Hill [that] I’d never seen before. That was an awesome session to witness.
Yeah, Zion’s Smith and Ishod’s back 50. When all these guys come to town do you play tour guide? Or was that George Kousoulis’ job?
George and I would figure out which direction to head and what spots were out that way. Kyle, Ishod and Zion skate pretty crazy rails, so George had a few for them to check out. Spots that have been looked at by locals out here are a breeze for those three.
And tell me about that kickflip over the bench that you did.
That spot had just been built and we just happened to go there. George and I filmed it in a line first shot. I did it another three times until Gabe got the right shot.
In the background, you can see a hint of Sydney’s ruthless and rapid urban development. Chima makes the best of this new spot, kickflipping from flat over the whole bench.
And Instagram tells me that you’re going to be a dad soon. Congratulations, man. When’s the baby due?
She’s due in January.
Obviously you’re stoked but are you a little nervous, too? Have you got a plan?
Yeah, nervous and excited all the same. No plans, just to be the best dad I can be.
I noticed that on King of the Road you didn’t get down with any bubblers or shitting in shoes or anything. Do you feel like you’ve proven yourself to the point where you don’t have to do that stuff? And was there a part of you that thinks, I don’t want my kid to see me doing that stuff on TV.
So much of that stuff is pretty embarrassing and not at all much to do with skating. I’m not trying to look like a fool on international TV, so I stuck clear of the weird challenges. I’m almost 30, so I see myself too old to be acting a fool like that.
Yeah, I heard you bought a house a few years ago.
Yeah, I live in Redfern. Its super nice, right up the street from Waterloo and a bunch of friends live nearby so it’s a great location.
I can’t imagine that when you were a young skate rat growing up in Western Sydney that you envisioned you would buy a house out of skateboarding?
I never envisioned half of what I’ve experienced through skateboarding. It’s something I just always loved to do so being able to make a living out of it is a trip every day.
I read somewhere that you get tripped out when you see random people who don’t skate wearing your shoes – have you seen any unexpected people repping the Chima 2 lately?
I saw three people in line at Sydney airport earlier this year all wearing them. It always puts a little smile on my face.
Do you think moving back here sets an example for young Aussie skaters who want to turn pro? Does it prove that you can still make it as a pro skater and not have to live in the US permanently?
The United States will always be the centre of skateboarding. With the rise of social media, it has changed everything. You don’t have to be in The States all the time. I lived there a long time and did a fair amount while I was there which made moving home a lot more doable.
So you’ve been out to Australia a few times by now. Do you like it out here?
Yeah, I think this is the fourth. Australia is one of my favourite places. It’s just so fucking far. It’s far as hell out here, but it’s dope, I fuck with it.
Have you got a lot of friends out here?
That one dude, Jarrad [Carlin] is sick. But he’s actually not Australian, he’s from New Zealand. And that dude Robert Pace, I met him recently. I really fuck with that dude, he’s cool. I met him in The States kinda recently. He fucks with older BMWs and shit. I think he has a 318iS but it’s built, like a race car, it’s sick. He does work with his dad, and he’s been doing that since he was younger from what he told me, so he knows what the fuck’s good. I met that dude Noah [Nayef] at X Games, he’s super chill and one kid Brad [Saunders] from Melbourne, he’s tight too. And the list just goes on. Beau [Reid] is the homie, I talk to Beau quite a bit.
Ishod bumps to back Smith.
And you have an older BMW too, right?
Yeah, I have a 318iS and I have a 325i too.
Is there anything you miss about being home, anything you’re looking forward to getting back to?
I don’t really want to leave, but I’ve kinda got some shit to do back home. I haven’t been in California recently. I’ve been out. I’ve been dipping around, so I’m kinda ready to go back and chill for a little bit – obviously skate – but I got my cats and shit.
How many cats have you got?
I’ve got two, but I try not to make that big of a deal of ’em. People make such a big deal that I have cats. I’m like, It’s not that big of a deal. I can’t have dogs because I travel too much and if I get a dog, I’d get a baby so that I could watch it grow up and train it. It would be my fuckin’ boy, you know what I mean? But if I get a dog and have someone watching my crib all the time, the dog is going to form a connection with that person and not me, so I need the time to train my dog and teach it. Otherwise, I’m fuckin’ comin’ home and my dog’s barkin’ at me like it’s not me. Then it’s not mine. But I love dogs. I just like animals in general. I wanted an animal because I never had one as a child. So I was like, I’ll fuckin’ get a couple of cats, they’re pretty self- sufficient. And everyone’s like, “Dude, it’s so weird you have cats.” It’s really not.
Right and how come you didn’t go on King of the Road?
I was hurt. My knee was all fucked up.
I thought I noticed you at Zion’s pro surprise. Did you have leopard-print hair?
Yeah, they flew a bunch of people from the team, and he didn’t know that we were in town. I was one of the people with his family and some other people on the team. We came out, and yeah, it was right after Halloween and I went as Dennis Rodman.
So are you pretty tight with Zion’s family by now?
Yeah, I don’t know his mother that well but I know his dad and he’s mad cool.
Sick, so it looked like you had a pretty good time at Bondi bowl. I’ve always thought of you as a street dude, but you’re a tranny dog too.
Yeah, that bowl’s really good. It’s a good transition; a lot of speed. But I don’t know, there was a year where I skated FDR every day, and there’s pretty much no footage from it. Me and my homie, Letty, would be there every day skating. So I skate tranny kind of a lot.
Most of your video parts are pretty street-heavy.
Yeah, the transition thing started coming on more within the past three or four years. I could do grind tricks, but I just couldn’t air. I learned how to air not that long ago and that opened up a lot of tricks.
One thing that blew my mind at the demo at Sydenham was the no-comply blunt fakie on that big bank.
If you try it, you’ll realise that it’s not that hard once you get the timing down. You want to be going fast enough but you aim to take your foot off below the coping, and then you scrape your tail up the tranny into blunt, so it’s pretty easy to bail because you’re sliding your foot back into it. And then you just put your foot back on and blunt out.
[Laughs] you made it look so easy. Do you like skating demos?
Yeah, they’re cool. I was tired. I’d just woke up from a nap.
Ishod front blunts round the bend and into Parramatta Road.
And how about the front blunt on that kerbed ledge at Glebe?
I didn’t go around the whole thing. I was trying to get the whole thing, but I probably made it around 70 per cent and then I just kind of popped out into the street. It was so round that when I would get into front blunt and I would start hitting the turn, the Hubba would start putting me into a switch front crook. The Hubba would turn but then my bodyweight would keep going and then I would just slide out.
Looked pretty dope though.
Yeah, it was fun. That spot’s fun.
How old were you the first time you came to Australia?
I was thinking about that earlier. I’m pretty sure I was 16 on Kyle’s SOTY trip. Or no, I was 17 and then I came back for the Manly contest, the [Vans] Park Series they had, and I was 18 there.
And then you came back for Jamie Foy’s SOTY trip too.
Yeah, Jamie’s SOTY trip was my third time and this trip is my fourth time. I love it out here. It’s amazing. It’s got the beaches, the spots, the beautiful women. It’s got it all. And I heard recently that you went on a trip in the US with a bunch of Aussie Nike guys. Yeah, so Mike Sinclair organised a trip to North Carolina and he had the Aussie Nike team come out. I had known Rob [Pace] before from being on trips and stuff and I got to meet the rest of the crew. It was super sick. I’d met Squish [Jack O’Grady] one time before when I came here, but yeah, it was an all-round good trip, everyone killed it.
What kind of antics were going down? Did you guys party?
We didn’t party much, we were just chilling, but I was fucking with Noah [Nayef] the most, like drenching him and putting water on his face while he was sleeping and slapping him and shit.
Was Noah the youngest? Is that why he was getting grommed?
Yeah, I don’t know, he’s Noah. He’s a little shit.
But then on this trip, you’re the youngest, so do you get grommed by the older guys?
Yeah, of course, normally, on a trip with Jake Donnelly, I get picked on the most by him. But if Jake’s not here then it’s Ishod. He likes to push buttons.
Zion rides out a marathon Smith grind on a Castle Hill rail that has only ever been skated by him and the BMW bros, Rob Pace and Ishod Wair.
Your pro surprise on King of the Road must have been a wild day.
Yeah, dude. That day was crazy. I started off handcuffed next to two other people that morning, then got the handcuffs taken off and then we had P-Stone day, so that day was very special. Turning pro on a day that was dedicated to him and having my whole family there: my brother, my dad, my mum, the whole team, all the squad, all the boys. It was honestly a dream come true and such an unreal moment for me.
I saw your dad on Instagram and he looks like a legend. From what I could gather he’s a bit of a role model in his community.
Dude, it’s crazy, my dad is pretty much the one who taught me everything I know today. I mean obviously my mum helped me out too, but dad was the one who guided me and showed me the way, so I really look up to him. He’s my best friend.
He seems so proud of you, man.
If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be here today with my skateboarding. He’s the one who sacrificed his work and that stuff to get me to all these contests when I was little. My mum supported me too. She’s not really in the [skate] scene, but she’s been a big help and supporter throughout it all too.
And where’s your dad from originally?
I mean, he’s African American but on my mum’s side, her grandma is Haitian and Bahamian, so I’ve got a little bit of that mix in me. But my dad’s very spiritual. I would say it’s not really a religion, but it’s his spirituality.
And how did you keep turning pro a secret for so long before the episode went to air?
It wasn’t even really a secret at that point. When I turned pro, everyone was like posting about it and stuff, so I was just like keeping it under wraps. People would ask me like, “What was going on in the show?” and it was just like, “You’re going to have to wait and find out.”
So you were skating your boards like normal and if people asked, you would tell them?
Yeah, some people knew, and some people didn’t, but when they aired [the show] the whole world got to see it.
You looked like you had a pretty good time at the demo here, crowd surfing and throwing out your pro model boards.
It was very sick, all the kids were super stoked. Everyone was hyped.
Do you get hyped off that energy? You seem pretty comfortable in front of a crowd.
Yeah, I mean, I grew up skating contests, so there was always a crowd around watching. It doesn’t really frighten me too much, but it gets a little overwhelming sometimes, you know? Like with autographs and all the kids coming up. But they’re all super cool, so it all works out.
So tell me about that back lip you got. That is mind-blowing.
Yeah, pretty stoked on that. It’s crazy, we went to check out [another] spot and then we went and grabbed food, and Zoolz [George Kousoulis] was like, “Yo, we should check out this rail here.” So we went and checked it out and I felt good and skated it. He said one other person has skated it and they did like back 50 and crooks or something. Pretty sick.
Yeah, the other person was my friend, Chris Vaughan. Did the kerb at the top trip you out? It makes it quite a bit higher, right?
Yeah, for sure, you’ve got to pop earlier and be more precise with your positioning. But yeah, it worked out.
And then that 50-50 at Olympic Park was large.
Yeah, I wanted to grind the whole thing, but I got the down, flat, down, flat and then popped over the last stairs. I was stoked on it though.
Did it take a while?
Dude, it was crazy, I almost did it within the first three or four tries. And then like...
[Kyle Walker jumps in] The first one where you actually were on top and going down it, it was like, Oh, this is it. Then the last [kink], I swear you touched it down and it went into front feeble right at the end.
[Zion again:] But yeah. I’m super stoked.
Apparently your Thrasher part will drop before this mag comes out, pretty close to the end of the year. Are they timing it for Skater of the Year?
I wanted to put out as much content as I could this year, and then with all the contest skating that I’ve been doing and then travelling, I’ve just been trying to juggle it all. So I don’t know, we’ll see.
Picked up any Aussie slang on this trip?
Oi cunt, [laughs]. Oh and good onya, that’s a good one. Fuckin’ oath.
Watch the REAL SYDNEY REMIX here.