We caught up with Baker and Emerica professional Kevin Long for a chat about life as a sober pro skater, turning pro for the second time, Made Chapter 2 and Baker 4. You can buy Made Chapter 2 on iTunes.
Portrait: Rafal Wojnowski
Interview: Henry Kingsford
How did you enjoy the Made Chapter 2 premiere tour?
The tour was great. I don’t typically love premieres in general, especially when I am in the video. That being said, we were in epic cities with a great crew and I’m damn proud to be in this video so it was fucking fun.
Being sober, a premiere tour with after parties must be quite tough. Are you happy to be out and about while others are drinking?
I have introverted tendencies. I used to drink my way through social events. Sometimes that worked great, but eventually it began to seem like a lot of work just to be kind of okay. These days I feel a little better about it in general. It’s easier to find a rhythm and enjoy it for what it is. Annoying people are annoying whether you are drunk or not. For the most part, I support other people partying big time. I love partying, it just isn’t for me anymore. Plus, I am genuinely flattered and still in awe that people care about my skateboarding. I love skateboarding to death and it trips me out every day that some people appreciate the way I do it.
Can you talk a little more specifically about how your experience of skating has changed since being sober? The actual act of skating, but also filming, working on a part etc.
The main difference is my everyday appreciation for what I am doing. I’m clearer and more present than when I was drinking all of the time. I felt like I was dragging something on my back everywhere I went. I didn’t fully realise that until I dried out for a bit. When I put down the bottle, I was left with a tremendous amount of time and energy that I had (to my surprise) been investing into partying. I’m just the kind of skateboarder that requires a lot of time on the board to do what I wanna do. For better or for worse, I can’t just pick up a board once every couple of weeks and rip. I’ve always had to stay on my board all the time to do anything that feels worthwhile. But I do enjoy working for it. Whatever it is, I find that it’s more fulfilling to work hard on the things that bring you joy.
Drinking has always seemed to go hand in hand with skating, even more so in Europe, where drinking on the streets is generally legal. Do you see this relationship diminishing? Quite a lot of well-known skaters are sober these days, the whole fitness and looking after your body thing is pretty popular and then of course there is the whole Olympics / skateboarding as a sport movement…
I think it’s different for everyone. Drinking and skating can go fucking great together. When you can balance it, it’s a magical combination. For some people though, that balance can be hard to maintain. And it certainly gets harder as you age. I’ve done a lot of damage to my body over the years and now it takes a lot more discipline just to combat all the wear and tear.
How do your feel about your part in Made Chapter 2?
I worked hard on this part. I managed to accomplish nearly all of the things that I set out to do in this period of time. For that I’m proud. There’s always more shit that you want. You’ll hear that standard answer from pretty much anyone. My standards are still on the rise. I guess I’d like to just use that as fuel for Baker 4.
Did you feel pressure to film a comeback part?
I put a decent amount of pressure on myself. I don’t look at it directly as a comeback part, but I wanted to produce a level of skateboarding that is enjoyable to watch and that didn’t look ridiculous next to the epic line-up in this video. When I got my board back I was like: “Fuck, I hope I can give this opportunity justice.”
Whose part is your favourite?
Gotta go with Jerry (Hsu). I saw him first-hand put his whole heart into this thing.
How much time did you spend with Rob (Maatman) and Eniz (Fazliov)? What do you think of these guys?
I went on a couple of trips with those bros and skated with them around LA a bit. They fucking rip. They are such a pleasure to have around. I’d get real stoked knowing they’d be coming back into town. They come with a fresh energy and they’re just down to rip all day and night. I was stoked to see the shit they’d been up to while they were at home too. Rob and Eniz rule.
I get the impression Made Chapter 2 was filmed mainly in the US, as was Propeller. Do you prefer filming at home, or do you like trips to exotic / far-flung places?
I always prefer filming on the road. I like going to new spots and getting that feeling like you gotta do the trick now or never because you might not see that spot again. I’ve always thought it was easier to utilise that kind of spontaneity. At home in LA, there’s tons of spots but you know all the shit that’s going down there every day. It takes more planning and I’ve always been keen to avoid the pressure of planning. That being said, I probably needed that, to get proactive and plan a little bit. Plus, I like the look of the spots at home. And they’re great spots. I grew up in blacktop LA schoolyards not Chinese marble plazas.
Can you talk a little about getting your Baker pro board back? The impression I got from your Epicly Later’d episodes was that you weren’t expecting that to happen and perhaps didn’t think you deserved it.
It honestly wasn’t a complete surprise that I’d be getting my board back eventually. Andrew had opened up the discussion but I was determined to just keep my head down and skate. I just hoped to get to a place where it made sense, a place where my skating simply warranted my name on a board again. It’s hard to be aware of that kind of thing. How do you know? I didn’t need to be part of that decision, only to do my job as a skateboarder. So when it did happen, it was still overwhelming and emotional.
How does it feel to be pro again? Are you getting more out of it, having experienced life not making a living from skating?
I’m grateful every time I step on my skateboard. It’s pretty hard to take it for granted these days. I’m blown away that I have the opportunity to continue to explore in this way. I’m completely in love with it plain and simple. The fact that I can make any sort of modest living riding my skateboard in 2016 is a fucking gift. I’m just gonna work my ass off and enjoy the ride while it lasts. Contribute what I can while I can and continue to say thank you. Thank you.
What are your plans now the video is out?
Keep working. I just want to keep creating while I can. And enjoying the ride. I’m working on graphics for Baker and a collection of clothes featuring a lot of my artwork. We got another Boys of Summer video in the works. The main focus is Baker 4. Stay on the wave. Let’s get it.