WORDS BY STUART GOMEZ
Jerry Hsu has sort of a hidden history with Emerica. Originally getting flowed their shoes as a teenager (the Marc Johnson bump), he had an early taste for what Emerica would eventually become. Some time later, when Hsu joined the team, he had already gained a reputation for pursuing creativity and progression at all costs. It's fascinating to look back at how Hsu's career had developed during his pre-Emerica period—the Jerry Hsu who finally landed on Emerica's Pro team is a Jerry Hsu who had also explored the worlds of art and photography with a keen eye for beauty and brutal truth—and understand how Hsu evolved into one of today's most insightful Pros.
Hsu has never been one to shy away from the touchier subjects in interviews (he's outspoken, but not in an incendiary, abrasive manner). This penchant for openness is refreshing for someone who has had to deal with the physical and emotional pain of being sidelined with injuries. Reflecting on his downtime and how it has changed his approach to skating, he's introspective. His biggest challenge while filming for MADE Chapter Two? "Dealing with a shittier body," Hsu says. "But that's a good thing! That means as a skater I can evolve and I can adapt and I have to think of new things to do."
It's fair to say that he came up with some pretty creative solutions in his Chapter Two part. It's classic Jerry Hsu. Check out our full coverage of Emerica's MADE Chapter Two in issue 152 of The Skateboard Mag.
INTERVIEW BY ATIBA
How did you get on Emerica?
I became friends with Spanky first, and then through Spanky I met Justin Regan. I also had met Jon Miner here and there throughout the years, just skating around Northern California and stuff. So, those three people basically helped me out.
Also, what’s funny about that is I also became good friends with Beth, Regan’s wife. We always joked that she kinda persuaded him to [put me on the team] at night in bed, like, [with a feminine lilt] “Put Jerry on!” We always joked that Beth was really the one who got me on. But it was really between Jon and Justin who got me on.
Sick. Do you have a favorite pair of Emericas?
I don’t know. I feel like the one that they gave me, that first Pro model—I know, it’s like, [in an arrogant tone] “Oh, mine!”—[both laugh] I really like that shoe. They had that design ready to go and when I got on, they were like, “Do you want this one?” I was like, “Yeah! Fuck yeah!” I loved that shoe.
But other than mine… Dude, I used to ride these ones back in the day when I was flow for Emerica, when I was sixteen. They had these ones called the “Interscope,” maybe? Those were like when the Yellow video came out and Donny Barley was wearing them and I just always thought those were awesome!
Wait. You were flowed by Emerica at one point?
Yeah, back when Marc Johnson rode for Emerica. He told the team manager, “Flow this kid some shoes.” And I would call and it was that guy, Steve Black. He was the team manager at the time. I would just call him and say, “Send me shoes.”
But then shortly after that, Dave Mayhew got me on Osiris. Like, proper team. I got paid and shit like that. Emerica wasn’t really doing anything with me. They were just throwing me shoes.
I guess there is a little bit of history there.
A little bit, yeah. I always liked Emerica; I thought they were a cool company. Definitely when I got on I was like, “This is the only shoe company I want to ride for.” Because there were other shoe companies that I almost rode for and I’m definitely glad I made the choice that I made.
Did you pick your own song for this video part?
No. Well… kind of. I always told Miner that I really liked this song, so he definitely knew that I liked it. And it definitely fit into the voice of the video, the feeling of it. The music is pretty similar through the whole video. When he suggested it to me, I was like, “Yes, definitely. Let’s try to make that work.” So, he definitely suggested it but he knew that I really liked the song.
Maybe we talked about it a little bit? I definitely remember him being like, “What about this song? How do you feel about it?” I immediately was like, “Yes, let’s do it.”
Cool, that’s awesome. How long did you film for your part?
I think probably two years pretty consistently. Then maybe I filmed a few tricks before that. Because I was really trying to be in MADE Chapter One but I just had injuries and things just weren’t lining up. At a certain point, I was like, “I’m just not going to be in this video at all.” I just kept getting hurt.
There are tricks in this video part that are, like, really old. You’ll be able to tell when you see them. But I think, consistently, it’s taken about two years.
What would you say was the biggest battle for you during the filming—personal or trick-related?
Well, it’s difficult for everybody. But for me I think my body has been the biggest challenge. Having your body and your mind align to skate at that level is a hard thing to do, especially when you’re not young anymore.
I know I’ve been talking a lot in interviews about being old or whatever, but it does present a really crazy challenge to skating because I think all skaters use our imaginations to think of stuff to do. But, you know, our bodies can’t always make these dreams come true. And that’s really frustrating. But when you’re a kid, pretty much everything you can think of you can just go to a spot and do it. You can do it. Now, I have to realize that there are just things that I want to do that are kind of impossible. Or the risk is too great. You know what I mean?
I have to make all these risk assessments. If I really go for this one thing that I’m thinking about, if I get really hurt then I won’t have a video part. I’d better think of something else. So, I think that’s the biggest challenge, really: dealing with having a shittier body. But my mind is still the same; I still have a sixteen-year-old mind when it comes to skating, but I’m in a fuckin’ mid-30s body. [both laugh] I just can’t make a lot of my dreams come true!
But, at the same time, that is a good thing! Because that means as a skater that I can evolve and I can adapt and I have to think of new things to do. And that’s good! The challenges of all that shit I just mentioned is a fuckin’ good thing because my skating’s gonna change. You know how when you watch someone skating over the years and they never do anything different? It’s boring! It’s just like, “We wanna see you do something else! We want to see you do all the shit we want to see you do, but we also want to see something new!” It’s like when you go see a band: you want to hear all the hits but you also want to know what they’re up to now. Play some new stuff! What’s the new stuff they’re working on? You might really enjoy that, too. That’s been the biggest challenge but there’s also a silver lining, you know?
One more thing would be [having] a regular human life. Like, I’m an adult and I have to fuckin’ do all this other fuckin’ shit in my life and I also have to balance skating in there and that can be hard, too. Definitely just not being able to do stuff like you used to has been a big one.
Is there any trick, specifically, that you went back for that was a battle and you felt rewarded when you got it?
Yeah, I guess the darkslide in the ditch was big because I kind of tried it once as a joke and said, “That’s fuckin’ impossible for me to do,” and then we just kept going back to that spot and I just kept trying it and trying it. I would get closer and closer, and then it just became this thing where I HAD to do it. It was all I thought about until I did it. And that took a long fuckin’ time!
And another one was that backside nollie to switch nosegrind down the handrail. I’d tried that for years: different rails, different countries. That was a hard thing to find the right rail. There were still really fucked up parts of it and that was something, when I rode away from it, where it was almost only relief. It wasn’t happiness, it was more like, “I finally don’t have to think about that anymore! Ever again!” It’s funny.
I think all skaters will understand. When you want something and you’re not even stoked anymore? You’re just like, “Fuck. Finally, I don’t have to think about that anymore.”
Those two tricks, just off the top of my head, were really eating away at me.
You’re killing it in this interview! What is it that you think is so special about the Emerica team?
Well, what’s special about it is we’re so picky about who gets on the team. The team is so small and there’s just a small amount of people kinda running the show and they all know what’s up. They’re all skateboarders who know about skateboarding. When I got on the team, I was at the first meeting when they told me “Welcome to the team!” and I thanked everybody for letting me ride for the team, because at that time nobody ever got on Emerica. They put Herman, Spanky, and Leo on and they turned them Pro, and they had farmed those kids since they were babies. It’s not a team that people really got on and I knew that, so I was so honored and I told everybody, like, “Thank you so much!”
It tells you something about Emerica. It tells you that they’re very particular and it makes their company special and everything that they do really special. It’s like they only have to worry about skateboarding. They don’t have to think about anything else, like, the “Emerica Wakeboarding Team” or something. It’s just all about skating. That’s what makes it special. Other companies might get a little lost doing too much shit or maybe not caring about skating and be focusing on other aspects of the industry. I think Emerica does a pretty good job of trying to focus on the team and what they want. And I think that’s a rad thing.
"Made 2 Roll": 36 full-bleed pages of Jerry and the rest of the stars of Emerica's MADE: Chapter Two, in The Skateboard Mag 152.