An Interview with Jeff Vyain
| No Comment
27 year old Longboarder and Brooklynite, Jeff “The Wriggler” Vyain, is considered to be one of America’s best distance skaters and has the career wins to prove it. On July 30, 2011, he became a two time Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon winner, finishing the 26.2 mile Governor’s Island, NYC course in 1:31:40.7. I managed to catch up with him after his win and he agreed to sit down for an interview before skating off to his next competition, the August 7th Annual Central Massachusetts Downhill/Free ride/Flatland Event. We talked about his recent win, NYC’s longboarding community, his take on the future of longboarding and more. Check out what he had to say.
Gonzalez: How has longboarding changed since you started to immerse yourself in it? Do you think that those changes have added or subtracted from the sport?
Vyain: When I first got into longboarding, I had two sets of videos to watch on YouTube: videos of kids sliding down golf course paths on Landyachtz EVOs and videos of kids doing pretty much the same thing on the Loaded Vanguard. I was stoked…it looked fun, and it looked like something that would take me a while to get the hang of. Since then, we had the addition of Adam Colton, who revolutionized (professionalized) video for longboarding. Most of this sport has spread through events and the internet, so this was a big deal, because where I was in Nashville, Tenn., there were no events. I didn’t even know anybody except for a couple close friends who skated on longboards. Everything that people do with this sport has added to it; I don’t think at any point will more people riding longboards result in taking away from the sport. There are “core” guys out there who might disagree; they have a little bit of distaste for the “bro” crowd out there skating up and down the boardwalk. I disagree though. Those guys are stoked and they’re being seen and as a result, more people are exposed to the possibility of riding a skateboard. The less coordinated and sillier they look, the more confidence it gives to that 40-something man (or woman!) who has been hearing that inner child screaming for fun and speed but choosing to ignore it and take the “realistic” approach of just dreaming and watching. This sport is accessible to almost anyone. I have a good 50-something year old friend that skates hard with me that without our connection through longboarding, I probably would never have known. That is what it’s about most to me, and that’s why no matter who gets involved in the sport, I am stoked.
Gonzalez: What has been the most challenging sports competition you have ever undertaken and how did you prepare for it?
Vyain: I can’t definitively answer that one. Most of my competitions are speed-over-distance related. They are all as hard as you let them be. I did a 188-miler over three days earlier this year that was very difficult. The last day was 94 miles, and I completed it with stitches in my butt that I got the night before from a fall on day 2. The distance and challenge was exceptional, but once I lost sight of winning the race (when I took the fall and cut myself open) the rest of the race I was just fighting for second. It was a lot easier on me physically and mentally to know I just had to finish and hold a strong pace rather than gun it out head-to-head with Paul Kent, my top rival in distance skating competitions.
I also just had the pleasure of competing and winning the Adrenalina Marathon in NYC this past weekend. There was a $15,000 carrot at the end of that stick, and I had to skate against Paul Kent again. That was the toughest race mentally because of the pressure of the money and all the stress involved leading up to the race. Once the gun went off and I was skating with Paul and we had sealed the deal on first and second, a lot of that stress disappeared, but even so, there was a $10k difference between first and second place, so you can imagine how difficult it was to push the toughest skater I know off of the pace. A lot of preparation went into that—mostly diet and mental preparation as well as a few really hard training sessions. There were other guys who had been skating more than I was, and that made it tough for me mentally, knowing there might be somebody out there who was more prepared than me.
Gonzalez: How often to you practice?
Vyain: I try to have two to three good hard workouts per week. Most of the rest is just eating right and focusing mental energy on my goals.
Gonzalez: In your opinion how does the “push culture” of longboarding differ from other skateboarding disciplines and do you feel that American’s interest in longboarding is on the rise?
Vyain: I definitely feel that interest is on the rise. This is obvious just based on sales and our constant fight to keep up with the ever increasing demand. More people are showing up at events. New people walk into our shop every day. “Push Culture”…basically is just skating, to me. Skate up, skate down, skate here and there, pass up the train when possible and by all means avoid our arch enemy, the taxi cab. Just skate. Does it really differ from longboarding in general? I don’t think so. It’s just a catch phrase. It’s got a nice ring to it. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything different when I go for a slide session or hit some hills. It’s all longboarding to me, and the different types of longboarding weave in and out of each other daily. I got more comfortable skating on hills when skating through the north side of Manhattan during our “Warriors” runs (26 miles from Bronx to Coney Island) or commuting to work on a banana board and skating down the Williamsburg Bridge.
Gonzalez: Describe the longboarding community in New York City?
Vyain: We have a large, very welcoming group of skaters. I would say the entire community is pretty loose knit but tight enough that everything can travel pretty quickly by word of mouth. Then there are smaller tight knit groups within the greater community, but every group is open enough to where you can show up to skate on any given day and feel like you belong.
Gonzalez: What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
Vyain: My back-to-back Adrenalina wins are what I’m most proud of. The first one felt sort of like a fluke – like I might have just gotten lucky because other people had an off day and I was able to surprise everyone. No one expected me to win, not even me, and I think when I took off in the beginning of the race, everyone expected me to come back to them. This year, people knew what it was going to take to win this race, and a lot of people came in thinking they were going to win. This affected me quite a bit. I didn’t go in with any expectations other than to be competitive. I figured I’d just try to make the most of it once the gun went off. I really wanted it but I was scared to lose my title and scared to miss out on the financial incentive of 15 grand. When the gun went off, Robin McGuirk took off and I knew it was going to be a fast race and that everyone had come ready to rumble. What I didn’t expect was my own ability to push that hard for as long as I did. Now that I have re-broken my own record and set such a large gap between Paul and I and the rest of the pack, I feel like I can be a lot more confident heading into future races.
Gonzalez: Do you have any products or videos releasing soon? If so, what is being released and when?
Vyain: I am working on a couple boards. I have a wheel on the market already through Atobe Wheels. We have a couple little videos here and there that I make cameos in that will be released in the near future – the Bustin Robot video, a Bustin commercial that Solomon is heading up. And then I plan on doing some video myself here in the near future. I am going to buy a good camera with some of the winnings. I feel like I can improve upon a lot of the video stuff we’ve done in the past and help take that front to another level, but it takes a lot of time, so I may just end up shooting and try to get someone else to edit it all!
Gonzalez: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the sport?
Vyain: Don’t worry about anything and just do whatever it is that puts a smile on your face. Bomb hills, go slide, pump up and down the street, get your dance on, look stupid. If you’re having a good time, that’s all that matters. You will get better at skating the more time you spend on the board, and it just gets more and more fun from there. Don’t be afraid to push your limits, but do it consistently in baby steps and you will never stop progressing, and hopefully you won’t hurt yourself too bad along the way.
Gonzalez: What competitions are you planning on participating in this summer?
Vyain: I am going to do all of the Adrenalina races. I am going to a downhill event in Harvard, Massachusetts this weekend. I also plan on going to some slalom events this year, but it’s all going to depend on the budget and when I can get off of work. It’s not easy to just take off every weekend when you have a full time job to worry about.
Gonzalez: What social causes (charities etc.) are you passionate about and why?
Vyain: My girlfriend and I have been collecting used (and new, when we win them) longboards and are saving those up to make a nice fat deposit to a charity. We want to help troubled children connect with each other and their communities through longboarding. Other than that, I’ve been an advocate for NOBI (No Brain Injuries) that my friends Mitch Moshenburg and Michael Brooke are heading up. I tried to work out a trip to Austin, Texas this year to help raise awareness for this program, but I didn’t plan it far enough in advance and couldn’t bring it to fruition. Still, the desire to help is there, and I will jump on any train already in motion with them and gladly help out with my own fronts when I have the time and the right purpose.
Gonzalez: What person do you most admire (living or dead) and why?
Vyain: My Mom and Dad. They taught me how to work hard, have helped dig me out of a few holes and taught me a lot about compassion.
Gonzalez: Where do you see the sport headed in the next five to years?
Vyain: I think the athletic race thing will evolve into much more technical events with hard uphills and downhills, more technical turns and just require more guts and better overall techniques to come out of alive. That’s wishful thinking at least. Maybe we can have some flatland pushing too in some races with people who excel at different things and will have a chance on a different style course. Furthermore, I can see downhill only becoming more and more popular. That sport is really made for television. Much more interesting than football, that’s for sure.
Gonzalez: Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
Vyain: I hope to still be a competitive skater with a few more tricks up my sleeve. I’d really like to take up some downhill, even if it’s only used in distance pushing races. Most of my best competition right now is older than me, so I don’t see age being a factor for several years. Furthermore, I hope to have pushed the Bustin and Longboard Loft brands further than we ever dreamed possible with all sorts of new boards and god knows what else. I really have no idea what’s in store for the future…just taking one step at a time. But I also have some personal goals that involve personal healing through wacky things such as sensory deprivation, binaural beats and music.
Gonzalez: If you could only be remembered for one thing what would it be and why?
Vyain: In my perfect world, I am the guy who manifested zero-point energy; more than anything, just because I want to have the pleasure of giving it away.
Written by Killeen Gonzalez