The Karl Watson Interview
Some of my most impactful encounters with skateboarding culture were fostered through print. Before I stepped foot onto a skateboard, I spent countless hours reading outdated books at my local public library, until the day I stumbled across a Transworld subscription. I remember identifying with the old Organika and Ipath advertisements, it was completely surreal, seeing people that looked like me; I was totally astounded by the style and confidence conveyed in the photos. As time progressed and I became active in skateboarding and I learned the importance of community and how it de-compartmentalizes our ways of thinking and ultimately enriches our experiences.
Karl Watson Grew up in San Francisco in the late 80’s - 90’s and established himself throughout the decade as one of EMB’s most stylish and technical purveyors of the nose slide (exp. nose slide pretzel spin out at hubba hideout). Overtime Karl Watson has become liken to an ambassador for the culture; teaching the importance of inclusiveness and equality; recently he released a children’s book titled "My First Skateboard" in collaboration with skateboarding illustrator Henry Jones, that highlights these fundamentals. This book provides early readers with a positive and engaging story centered around EMB and it’s multicultural community, arguably one of the most important skate spots in history.
C.S. : What year did you start skateboarding and what was the environment like for you at that time?
K.W. : I started skating in 1987. Got my first board for Christmas. I would spend a lot of time skating by myself in front of our house on the sidewalk and in our backyard.
C.S. : When I first started to pursue skating as a hobby, there was a stereotype that it was a “white thing to do” subsequently, some would take my participation as a sign of me wanting to assimilate. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen the culture become aware of the early contributions of people of color; as a noteworthy contributor to modern skateboarding, would you say skateboarding has become more conscious?
K.W. : I know exactly what you're talking about. I got a lot of flack from my community too. The good thing about skating is the fact that it gets you out of that narrow-minded perception of the world. It really made me feel that I can do anything I put my mind to, no matter the color of my skin; nowadays skating is way more accepted by many different cultures.
C.S. : As skateboarding has grown, it’s received more acceptance and appeal in society, in tandem, certain aspects of it have become diluted from its commodification; what do you feel skateboarding has lost in it’s gradual induction into popular culture?
K.W. : I feel that individual expression in skating is slipping away a bit. Skaters have always been trendsetters and never followers. But now more than ever I've noticed trends catch on like wildfire.
C.S. : Tell us about how you came to make the decision to write a children’s book.
K.W. : After reflecting on how skateboarding has enriched my life, I pinpointed a few key attributes that skating has to offer and I decided to put them into a children's book.
C.S. : What was your process like writing the book and have you written any other stories?
K.W. : A long process for sure. Had to go back to the drawing board a number of times to get it right. I've had some fun writing screenplays in the past.
C.S. : The story is based on your youngest son Jonas; do you find that your work has been inspired by fatherhood or some other element?
K.W. : Jonas is the main character in the book but the book is based off of certain fond childhood memories. I've been a father for such a long time so fatherhood definitely inspired the creation of My First Skateboard. I wish I had something like this for my sons when they were younger.
C.S. : When you were initially writing the story did you already have an idea of who’d illustrate the story?
K.W. : I did not have anyone in mind when I first started. Came across Henry Jones and it seemed to be the perfect match. Stoked to work with him! He really brought my story to life.
C.S. : Lastly, where’s Aldelmo?
K.W. : Adelmo is back in Brazil with his family, he’s still skating hard and running his company (Plural Skateboards) there. Miss that brother so much!
You can purchase "My First Skateboard" here: Myfirstskateboard.com