TEXT: STUART GOMEZ
You know that smell of fresh cookies baking in the oven? That scent that makes you forget about everything you were doing, drawing you in like a dog in a cartoon catching a whiff of a pie on a windowsill? That’s what it feels like to see Chris “Cookie” Colbourn skate.
That may seem like a confusing analogy since his nickname is Cookie (to be clear: Colbourn does not smell like cookies, but he does have training as a baker). But how else would you describe someone who instinctively knows how to precisely hit those pleasure centers when you watch an amazing part? The kind of skating that affects all of your senses—even your eyeballs are getting goosebumps. That’s Colbourn’s gift, targeting skateboarding’s umami receptors. There’s something that’s so appealing about watching him improvise his way through a line, seemingly never repeating the same trick twice, with the immaculate poise of a gymnast.
The Vermont native moved to Los Angeles several years ago, in good company (Jordan Maxham and Chris Whitaker), and quickly found his groove. Cookie made a point to get clips by any means, gaining inspiration from the Illegal Civilization crew. (Cookie says: “They opened up a whole new side of LA that I hadn’t seen. Kids that are really motivated to make videos and not take no for an answer.”) Eventually joining Maxham and an international cast in Ty Evans’s globetrotting movie We Are Blood, Cookie was soon getting much-deserved recognition (most recently getting on New Balance Numeric shoes).
Currently filming for a full-length Element video, Cookie is a Los Angeles-transplant success story and an inspiration for others who just a little extra push to pursue sponsorship. His perspective on living in the city sums up the assertiveness skaters need nowadays. “Nothing comes easy,” Cookie says. “If someone’s out filming, I’m not gonna hold back. I’m always gonna make something happen.”
Cookie doesn’t crumble.
Frontside Smith Impossible out. Los Angeles, CA | Photos: Rodent.
When I first met you, you were working at a coffee shop. But you also seemed to be out filming all the time. What was it like to have a full time job but then also travel and pursue skating?
It was quite the juggle. I was trying to film on some days when I had to work at 4:00 p.m., and I’d show up to work with a cut-open hand. Little memories like that always stick with me. Even though I was broke off I would still come in to work!
I left my job so I could travel more. That’s when Ty [Evans] asked me to come to China with him for We Are Blood. Then Element made this really amazing move to support me. They signed me and began paying me enough that I could quit my job and pay rent. I was able to quit and just focus on skating; it never felt forced. It was good motivation for me to just try harder to do what I want to do on a board. These people believe in me so why shouldn’t I believe in myself?
Skateboarding is ninety-percent confidence as well… maybe ten-percent aggression. I try to learn from my experiences. No matter what it is in life or skateboarding, doubting yourself will equal falling hard. Whether it’s the split second before you get to that stair set or ten feet away before you put your board down.
How much of the time are you actively analyzing it?
Not a whole lot. It’s really just muscle movement and analyzing your surroundings. Making sure you have enough friends with you to watch for traffic so your neck isn’t sore from looking both ways. Skating in LA has been teaching me a lot about interacting with people and traffic. I’d come here on weeklong trips and go to a lot of schoolyards. But living here has forced me to see everything at all times. Someone’s out filming, I’m not gonna hold back because it’s a certain time of day. I’m always gonna try to make something happen. There’s a lot of factors out there.
I’ve never had to deal with as much foot traffic or cars when skating in Vermont. It was a lot more spread out area and less people who cared. Six or seven months out of the year we [Colin Hale and Jordan Maxham] were pretty cooped up at Talent Skatepark.
When did you start traveling for videos?
My first time out of the U.S. was to China with Ty in 2014. It was awesome! I was traveling with all of my favorite skaters who I looked up to growing up, like Justin Brock, Daryl Angel, and Shane O’Neill. Jordan and my friend James Buchmann who I’ve been friends with and working with for years also came out. Being around a lot of easygoing guys who are also really talented just helps with new places and experiences that I’m not used to. Two weeks into a skate trip, you’re icing every part of your body but you know that you have another week left. You gotta pick your battles!
I’m happy to be working on a somewhat smaller-scale project for the full-length Element video team coming in April. It’s not as many cameras and not as many people. That makes the missions easier.
How did you get involved with the Illegal Civilization crew?
That just happened randomly and organically. Skating with Jordan and Mikey Alfred. Mikey grew up here in LA so he’s got a lot of friends who he works with. They are constantly skating so they opened up a whole new side of LA that I hadn’t seen. Kids that grew up here and know all the spots and don’t take no for an answer from anyone!
They influenced me in a great way, to just like stick my chest out more. If you want something, go for it. I got a couple of tickets skating with them—it was almost worth it! Mikey’s always got the camera on, too, so it makes for great content. If something happens, he’s gonna get it!
It sounds like he understands the way you skate. What would you say your attitude was when you first moved here? Were you more introverted in Vermont?
Growing up in Vermont, I had a lot of guys that I looked up to and most of them were very outgoing. They were amazing on skateboards but it took moving out to LA to see that people can make a living off of this. Moving out here really changed my perspective.
What’s your preferred approach to filming?
For Illegal Civ 2 and Cut and Dry, it felt more personal—on a “homie” level with Buchmann and Mikey. I filmed most of those parts solely with them so the footage looks cohesive. It’s fun to be out with filmers who are down to bomb the hill with you: Ira Ingram, Chris Gregson… they’ll keep up no matter what! There are a lot of great filmers out there.
Tell me about the time you filmed the back 360 at the downtown triple set. That was beautiful.
Thanks! I had tried a hardflip down that triple set like eight times. I just remember being so sick of trying to flip my board. I was like, “This isn’t working. I gotta try something else.” Luckily it worked in three tries. That’s a good number: three sets of three stairs, 360 on the third try.
How did you get on New Balance Numeric?
I was thinking about what shoes I’d want to wear and New Balance just look and feel great. I was on an Element trip and I remember Levi Brown telling me that if anything didn’t work out down the road to hit him up for some New Balances. And the team itself is really awesome. They’re all really damn good and really nice people.
You also do a lot of drawing, don’t you?
I’m working on more drawings and I’m also getting into animation because my brother has always been into it and I love what he’s made. I love seeing my drawings come to life. My brother introduced me to this program called “Pencil 2D,” I’m just learning how to make lines move around. It’s pretty fun.
I have a lot of graphics just sitting in a drawer that could go towards a skateboard. I’m terrible at finishing stuff.
Why is it hard for you to finish some of these projects?
Just knowing when to stop. A lot of painters that I like only use a couple of strokes and they turn that into a masterpiece. It’s not really how much you use, it’s how little. I’m trying to adapt that [philosophy] to skating and all types of ventures in my life. It’s easy to “overdo it,” it’s harder to stop but want to keep going.
You believe in “Less is more?”
Yeah, but it’s kind of the opposite when I’m filming a line, though. I just love adding tricks onto it, before and after, just to get my “special meter” up. Sometimes you’ll get stuck on the stupidest part of the trick or line and it just ends up pissing you off, maybe ruins the whole experience of filming what you were doing. But that’s skating. I just need to learn to not get too attached to any trick and just let it happen.
You just did the One Day In Skateboarding in Vermont. Do you get back home very often?
It’s nice to visit at least once a year. To be back home and see all the spots I grew up looking at, more and more spots are beginning to look different to me. It’s fun just walking around, knowing that I have a little more energy and strength than I used to, and just seeing the possibilities.
Your nickname has been covered a hundred times already. I love that it’s the least menacing nickname ever.
True. I feel like it’s the name of a grandma who’s meeting every week for a knitting circle. I prefer “Cookie,” not “Cookie Dough.” I thought “Cookie Doe” was funny, but now it’s become something that I did not see happening.