California is the inspiration of our Spring/Summer collections and Carol and Humberto’s home state. We interviewed some inspiring locals to define the essence of the golden state, and on top of our list was Vanessa Torres. She is one of the top professional skateboarders in the world and a pioneer for being the first female skateboarder to get a medal at the X games. Last fall, she rode for KENZO at the Kalifornia launch party in L.A. and today, she shares her point of view on Californian culture and its influence on skateboarding.
KENZINE: Born and raised in California?
Vanessa Torres: I was born in Anaheim and raised in Buena Park. I have been all over Southern California with a little bit of Northern California mixed in as well.
K: How did you start skateboarding?
V. T.: Growing up, I didn’t really fancy hanging out with other girls. You would most likely find me running amuck with the neighborhood boys, who had a huge influence on me. Being around them made me want to get my hands on my first board. I was always involved in physical activities, so when skateboarding presented itself within the group of boys I grew up with, I asked for my first board for Christmas. I was 12 years old. After that, I would skate everyday after school until I couldn’t skate anymore. It died out for most of the boys I grew up with, but there was something undeniable that skating gave me so I continued doing it. It gave me a sense of peace and I felt like it completed me as a human.
K: Do you think that coming from California led you to skateboarding? Is it part of its way of life?
V. T.: I definitely think growing up and continuing to live in California influenced and inspired me to skate. The weather is beautiful almost 365 days of the year. Living in Caliornia, I feel like if you didn’t pick up a skateboard, you were likely to pick up a surfboard, if not both. Back then and now, everywhere I look there is a kid with a board. There has always been a huge skate scene out here.
K: I heard you were living between San Francisco and San Diego… Why two cities?
V. T.: Once I moved out of my mom’s place at the age of 17-18, I became super nomadic. Skating is amazing in SF and in SD. At the time, I had the privilege of traveling through skateboarding. I met a lot of rad people and wanted to experience it all so I lived in two cities. I loved spending time in SD because of the gorgeous weather for skating year around and being near the ocean. SF has a completely different feel when it comes to skating because the city has so much to offer, i.e., crazy hills to bomb, architecture to get creative with trick wise – it makes for amazing photos and footage.
K: Which aspect of the Californian landscape would explain that skateboarding was born there and knew its main revolutions there as well?
V. T.: I believe it all started from the beach and surfing. Back in the day, the surfers needed an alternative to surfing when the waves were flat, so skateboarding was created. It started as “sidewalk surfing” and kept evolving from there thanks to California’s endless amount of concrete and great weather.
K: How would you describe the Californian way of skating?
V. T.: In my eyes, the skate culture and scene out here is really diverse. You’ve got your heavy technical skateboarders, your huge hand rail skateboarders, your transition skateboarders and so on. I almost feel like whatever it is that you’re most passionate about in skating influences what you wear. I find that most skaters that grew up in California are pretty laidback, fun and social.
K: And the music scene that was defining skate culture in the 80s/90s?
V. T.: To be completely honest, I was born in 1986 and didn’t start skating until the late 90’s early 2000’s. When I envision what the music scene was like back then, I see a lot of Fugazi, Bad Brains and Beastie Boys. There were heavy empty backyard pool skate sessions going down with punk bands playing.
K: And the “outfit”?
V. T.: That seemed to be what was most comfortable to skate in at the time and was considered the standard skateboard “fashion” attire. Shoe wise, Vision Street Wear and Vans were pretty common during that era. Today, skateboard “fashion” has progressed into tighter pants and the music scene is continuously changing. There’s no specific genre that defines all skateboarders. Everyone has their own sense of style and music preference. I am myself pretty big on corduroy pants and dark denim, I’ve been skating in some free people cords, and I also love a good vintage t-shirt. I mostly skate in the Vans era shoe.
K: Who was your icon growing up and why?
V. T.: Before I even knew that female skateboarders existed, I was heavily inspired by Rick McCrank and Brian Anderson. I think I instantly had a sense of what amazing style and creativeness should look like on a board. They are hands down still two of my favorite skateboarders. When I discovered Elissa Steamer and Jaime Reyes, I realized that there was a promising place somewhere in the skateboarding industry for the ladies and that just made me want to skate even harder.
K: You were the first female skateboarder to get a medal at the X games, would you say that skateboarding is a tough scene for women? Would you define yourself as a skateboarder or a female skateboarder first?
V. T.: I would definitely define myself as a skateboarder. Skating is an art form and a way of self-expression. I’ve never considered it anything but that. Whether you are fond of cruising down the streets or you are an aggressive bowl rider, it’s skateboarding and has nothing to do with gender. It has been a continuous struggle and will continue to be so for females. I believe one of the main reasons is that we are constantly being compared to the male skateboarders, progression wise. Male skateboarders have been skating longer than females, and I think we are beginning to make our own mark. More females need to get out there and show people that we are and can be a part of skate culture. We are in a class of our own and the progression is very much alive and thriving. But there have been some great moments over the past years for women’s skateboarding. ESPN/X Games adding a women’s skate street event and keeping it going over the past decade is phenomenal. THRASHER skate magazine recently filmed and released a full video part of Lacey Baker that was super badass. But no matter what, we’ve got to keep working really hard to get coverage in top skate magazine and websites and achieve more exposure in order to inspire progression.
K: How do you feel about fashion influenced by skate culture today?
V. T.: Skateboarding is more popular than ever right now so it was bound to happen sooner or later. My opinion is that in general brands “borrowing” skate culture to sell their products should be careful about looking representative of what skateboarding is truly about. Skateboarding is a form of art. If a brand wants to be a part of it, it should be authentic by working with real skateboarders and contributing back to our culture.
K: Do you still love skateboarding as much as in 2000 when you started being a professional?
V. T.: My passion for skating has never changed, it has only intensified with every new day. I actually enjoy skating more now than ever not being a part of the business/contract side of things. I am free to skate whenever I want and don’t feel pressured or obligated to meet crazy deadlines that are a big part of riding for a huge company.
K: You have a rather “free” life, what would you like to do that you have not done yet in your life?
V. T.: Skateboarding has given me so much throughout the years. I’ve gotten to travel the world to places like Europe and Australia multiple times. I have had the opportunity to skate some of the most prestigious street spots around the world. I have met so many amazing people along the way. There are definitely some things I still want to do. Skydiving sounds pretty killer and maybe backpacking somewhere like an exotic forest. I’m only 27 so I’m hoping I still have time to achieve everything else I aspire to do in my life.
K: Where is your next trip?
V. T.: Currently, I am preparing for a trip down to Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico with a good friend and her nonprofit organization called Poseiden Foundation. The foundation’s main purposes are to empower youth to follow the dreams they are most passionate about whether it be skating or something else. We will be skating with locals and throwing best trick contests for all ages, giving out skate product as prize. My goal is to bring encouraging and positive vibes to their cities.
K: Everybody in the world knows the skate park in Venice beach, would you give us your top ten Californian skate spots or skate parks?
V. T.: The Brooklyn Projects Skate shop that I ride for in LA has a super fun miniramp in the back that I always enjoy skating with a good crew of friends. I spend a lot of time in Long Beach, CA as well. Long Beach has a legit skate scene with a lot of fun parks around the city such as Houghton Park and Cherry Park, which is a DIY spot made by skateboarders. The Bay Area has some pretty rad parks too, Potrero, Berkeley and Sunnyvale to name a few. There are so many new parks popping up left and right so the list goes on and on.