We caught up with DC and Element professional Evan Smith for an exclusive chat about his new DC shoe, his refreshing approach to Street League, skateboarding in the Olympics and his pro vert skater uncle among other topics. Accompanying the interview are some photos of Evan at Street League in Barcelona last spring. Find out more about (and buy) Evan’s DC pro shoe here.
Interview and photography: Henry Kingsford.
What have you been up to since your new shoe and video part dropped back in January?
Element is releasing a full-length video at the end of the year, so I’ve been filming for that. We’re starting to edit in the next two months and the deadline’s coming up, so it’s going to be interesting to see who has enough footage. I also have a lot of footage that I’ve filmed with some homies throughout the years on VX and I’m trying to get all that together to put a VX Thrasher part out, so that’ll be exciting.
Talk us through your new shoe and some of its features.
One of the features that makes it unique is the new technology that we have on the outsole. It’s called Impact-I technology. It has cone-like holes that spread out impact when you land and when you pop. And it’s a vulcanized shoe from DC so… they only make a couple of vulcanized shoes. It also has the new toecap, which is a mellow version versus some of the other shoes out there right now. It doesn’t feel like it’s dipped in some sort of plastic. It actually feels like a solid piece of skate shoe. We have a high top and low top so it runs through different eras – the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s. I feel like it fits in all the eras.
To what extent are you involved in the design process at DC? Can you explain the process a little? How long does it take to design a new shoe?
It took about a year to design the shoe. The design process was: we all got around the table and started shooting the shit about ideas and things that we thought would be cool for a shoe for me. After maybe two meetings, we had an idea of what we wanted to move forward with and then manufacturing started and cost of goods and all of the other things that come along with making a shoe.
You mentioned the toecap briefly. Every brand seems to have a toecap skate shoe out at the moment. What are your thoughts on this? With your shoe, was this a practical feature, or more to do with what’s in fashion at the moment?
It is definitely on point with the trends that are out at the moment, but it is different in the sense that it’s more low-key versus something that’s very over the top. It’s really easy to skate and like I said, it runs through all the eras. I feel like it’s a part of almost every decade that has gone by.
Onto a different topic, I went to Street League in Barcelona last May and was really impressed by your approach, which seemed a lot freer and more fun than the other guys, who tried the same line again and again, throughout practice, during heats and in best trick. I don’t remember seeing you try the same trick twice all day. Can you talk a little about this? I’m interested to know if it’s a conscious decision not to take the competition too seriously – almost a statement against the whole Street League movement.
I wasn’t doing it particularly as a statement against Street League. I do like the contest format, because it allows anyone to be whoever they want to be. I could practice a couple of tricks and do them when the time comes, but as far as my mentality goes, I get really interested in the moment when I push myself and I don’t know what I’m going to try when I drop in. That’s something that’s really exhilarating. The contest is great and everyone has their own approach. Some people throw tricks out there, like Nyjah (Huston), when the time comes, and he didn’t know he was going to try it – he just throws it out there and he’ll do it. That’s part of it too. I kind of approach contests like that. Sometimes I’ll have an idea of what I want to do and other times I’ll just kind of throw it out there.
Related to Street League, do you see skateboarding making it into the Olympics? It made the shortlist for new sports to be included at Tokyo 2020.
I do think it’s going to make the Olympics and I hope that the right people get involved with it, so that it becomes a really cool way to expand skateboarding to people who don’t skateboard. I would like to see skateboarding grow in any possible way it can and if the Olympics is a part of that, then please.
Would you take part in the Olympics if given the chance?
Yes I would.
What do you think it means for skateboarding in a broader sense? A lot of older skaters who started when skateboarding was more underground find the move to a more sporty, organised approach uncomfortable.
Definitely, without a doubt. That’s why skateboarding has always stayed where it has been, because it has this lifestyle to it that no one can take away from us. But that being said, I don’t think it’s smart for us to forever be stagnant. We need to grow as much as possible. Think about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (laughs). That was huge. That made skateboarding so much bigger than it was. That’s what we need constantly, for us to grow. Unfortunately the only thing I’m upset about with the Olympics is that countries are going to battling against each other. That’s one thing I’m not psyched on. I don’t want to battle my friend from Brazil, or I don’t want my friends to battling my other friends. We’ll probably make it all fun, you know? But I would love to take part in it. I don’t see that sporty mentality killing it (skateboarding).
What about mixing skateboarders with such a serious and regimented event as the Olympics? There would probably be strict rules on how to behave, what you could wear and drugs tests for example. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s cool. I mean what would you do if someone asked you to go to the fucking Olympics and you felt like you could do it? You’d probably say yes. You’d probably push yourself, if you were smart.
I read somewhere that you got on Element through Mike Vallely. Is this true?
It is technically kind of true. My uncle and myself, we had a skatepark… well it was my uncle’s skatepark, and it was actually the reason I moved to Pittsburgh. We had an Element demo and Mike V came by and I was skating the demo with him. It was just me and him and one other person and we had an awesome demo. It was really, really good. After he was like, “Dude, I’d like it if you rode for Element,’ and I was like, “Fuck yeah, that’s awesome.” At the time Listen Skateboards was around. I was introduced to skateboarding through a really core company and I was really pleased with that at the time, so I decided not to get on (Element) then, but I guess Mike V put me on their radar. When Listen Skateboards went out of business, I called Element up and I was like, “Hey, would you guys still be interested in sponsoring me?” and (Ryan) Dewitt, who was the team manager at the time, was like, “Yeah, I’ll talk to the dudes and see what’s good.” That’s basically the story.
Am I right in thinking your uncle was a pro vert skater? Who was he? Do you have any specific memories of watching him skate?
His name is Mike Speranzo. He was extremely influential to me at a young age. He introduced me to skateboarding completely. He bought me my first skateboard, he gave me my first video – it was a Woodward Colony of Summer video (laughs). That was the first time I saw skateboarding. He introduced me to this grand world of skateboarding. I messed around with him, skateboarding outside the front of the house a couple of times but one year when I was like 13 or 14, he brought me to Tampa Am where he was skating a vert contest. In his run – he ended up getting fifth in the contest – he drops in, tries finger flip lien tail and hangs up, flies to flat and breaks his collarbone and then gets up and fucking does it and finishes his whole line. He didn’t just do that trick, he did the rest of the line. It was so epic. I remember he was broke off after that, but that’s a vivid memory at a young age of my uncle Mike inspiring me to just get up and do it. I think about that often when I’m at spots, battling something. He’s a beautiful human.
How did your family feel about you following in his footsteps? I’m guessing it was way harder to make a living as a pro back then.
We always had each other. We always had family. We didn’t have anything else – that’s all we had that was holding all of us together, our relationships. So as soon as I took a real interest in it and started travelling and stuff, we just slowly opened the doors as they came. We didn’t ever think it would be this awesome. I feel like I’ve been given the biggest blessing on earth, this opportunity to skateboard and to make things for skateboarding. Everything’s an opportunity, every single moment, every conversation, every single interview… Every single fucking day different things pop up and you’ve just got to take each thing with real respect.
Does your uncle still skate now?
He’s been slashing, I’ll tell you that, he’s been slashing.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to make a bunch of really cool commercials. I hope to make a bunch of really cool product. I’d like to be in the Olympics. That would be pretty funny. I could bring the flag from all the homies from all the different continents and just show up at the Olympics and hold that flag high. I’m super proud of all the boys. I’d like to stay alive.