TEXT: STUART GOMEZ
Tom Karangelov is a guy who seems like a reluctant star, someone who is uneasy about accepting too much rightly-deserved credit. Speaking with him, you get the impression that he’s an open book—he’s self-reflective, he’s self-aware, but he’s not all that self-conscious. He’s conscious of himself to a degree, but only enough to know how much others have played a role in his success. “If I didn’t have a fun crew of friends to skate with, I’d probably work as a janitor or drive a bus,” he says. “And just skate for fun.”
When talking about the forthcoming Skate Mental video, Tom mentions how excited he is to see the whole team represented. Describing the hands-on approach at New Balance Numeric, he talks about how inspired he is by the company’s attention to the riders; or working with Russell Houghten on the NB# videos (the end product is epic, but Tom’s just “messing around”). He even gives Ed Templeton full credit for his trick repertoire: “I just try to copy Ed.”
Tom is missing the ego component, that thing that filters how you present your feelings to the world. He isn’t trying to present a cool version of Tom. He’s just being honest—Tom being Tom. And that’s what makes Tom cool.
So, the big news this morning is that Brian Anderson has come out of the closet. Do you want to comment on this?
Yeah, I think it’s cool! He’s the perfect guy to do it—Brian’s so legendary that people are going to respect anything he does and he’s always been pretty accepting of people being different. It’s cool that he’s the voice for gay skateboarders.
Do you feel any pride, having worked closely with Brian on 3D?
Yeah, I’m pretty proud that it was Brian. It’s the hardest thing that he’s ever done. A lot of skateboarders seem like they could be homophobic; a lot of skateboarders are pretty competitive in an unhealthy way—“I’m trying to hide a spot from another skateboarder,” “I don’t want people to know what I did,” There’s a lot of jealousy, too.
Being gay is one of those things where skaters could say that “Oh, that guy’s not cool because he’s gay.” Just like another reason to not like somebody when it has nothing to do with that. But no one’s going to say anything bad about Brian Anderson. If I came out as a gay skateboarder would that be another reason for somebody to not like me?
It’s great that someone who is already respected like B.A. could open the door.
Exactly. I wouldn’t be surprised if this starts a domino effect. How do you feel about it?
At first, I just took a deep breath, like, Oh boy here we go. Bur the hate didn’t really materialize. It was reassuring to see that so many skaters were supportive. Another great way to show our diversity, you know?
I agree with you but I think that it’s because it’s Brian Anderson. Personally, if it was anybody else and they told me that, I’d be happy for them. I would feel the same way I would feel if it was someone like Brian. Skateboarding, there’s more rules to it so you could be the best skateboarder and people will really like you, or the worst skateboarder and people will really like you. I don’t know the logic behind a lot of it. If you were like, “I’m gay,” and you weren’t the right person people would be like, “I don’t know, that’s kinda weird to be gay.” But no one will say that about Brian Anderson. He’s like the gnarliest dude. That’s just how I feel about it.
And if there are any skaters who are like, “I don’t agree with people being gay,” Brian Anderson might change their minds. It could change people’s lives, you know?
It’s almost a little strange that it’s taken this long too happen.
Not all of us are like that, though. I’ve been talking with him the last few days. He texted me before [the news] saying that he’s nervous, and he wanted to make sure that I got his back. I’m sure he’s texting all his friends that but I’m like, “Dude, I have your back!” One hundred percent. So, in that way skateboarding is a tight-knit family. And I like that. These personal issues that you’re battling, I can’t relate to it the way other people can, but I can understand. I’m really happy for him.
Let’s talk about what’s going on with you now! You’ve got a New Balance colorway video coming out, and after seeing some of your previous parts I’m really curious about how you approach filming.
Jamie Thomas gave me the chance to film a video part six or seven years ago. And filming a video part six/seven years ago for Zero—there is a very high standard! The level of skating you has to do at that time was just gnarly. So I had to look for spots that I thought could really fi tin the video perfectly, and that’s how I skated back then. I’d just look for things that looked cool and were gnarly.
Was the experience filming for a Zero part overwhelming at all?
It always just felt like I was filming for a homie video. I never lived in San Diego; I would just film with my friends and Jamie would come skate with me and my friends. It was pretty much all natural, always. I feel like that’s how it’s always been filming. I never think, “Oh, I need to collect footage with random people and bring it all back and make something.” I’m always just with my friends. But I guess I’m just lucky that I get to do that.
Has that “homie vibe” been pretty consistent for you as you skated for different sponsors in the past few years?
It is, because I’ve been friends with Russell Houghten for a long time. Filming with him is just like filming with the kid I grew up with. Every decision he makes, I know he’ll do the spot and myself justice. I always trust him.
That’s interesting, because his videos are always so cinematic. But you just feel like you’re making a homie video?
Yeah! He always has the gnarliest equipment and his end product is always really impressive, but while you’re creating that it just feels like you’re messing around. Me and Russell will be just joking around, throwing stuff at each other, then I’ll try a trick and be like, “Oh, do you think that’s cool?” And he’ll be like, “Oh yeah, it’ll be really sick!” It just works out, it always feels fun and then the end product feels like this epic thing. It all comes from fun and it’s like that with everyone on every trip. It’s never too serious.
How did you get on New Balance Numeric?
It kinda happened really naturally, I was scared at first but I knew Arto from Gravis, and I knew Russell. I was nervous at first but after that first video I felt more confident, and since then it’s gotten so much bigger.
The team is big now!
Yeah, it’s run by really good people and they always give good input—it’s really natural.
In what other ways is the company different?
Obviously, every company is in it to make money. I think the difference with New Balance is it’s family-owned. A family of four people still own it and the divisions are split up by lifestyle. One of the family members is handling the skating stuff. He knows all our names and he hangs out with us. We all know him really well. We try to explain to him and show him how things work instead of going to a board of members and explaining why something is important. He just gets it, he totally understands. I think that’s really cool.
I think that having that connection with the owner, and him knowing how the trips go and stuff, all of that is just rad! With the giant companies, you have so many people involved. He approves every video.
Everyone in the skate division skates and they all have a pretty big background in skating. It’s almost like really “core” but ran with corporate money. That sounds crazy. The shoe designer, Jeff Mikut, is a really good skater who wants to make a rad shoe. He want to use quality material—he always brings that up—and we’re lucky enough to have the option to do stuff like that. It is run by core skateboarders and funded by corporate money.
It’s a family-owned company that is all about quality. I don’t think their whole goal is to buy the best skateboarder, the flavor of the week. It’s not like, “We need our Street League guy! We need our Olympics guy!” Maybe people already realize that, I don’t know.
How is life on Skate Mental?
It’s good! We’re working on a video right now. I’m saving the footage from this interview for the video. Hopefully it’ll come out the first week of January. Maybe. A lot of the dudes that live in SF and Europe don’t really have a solid filmer all the time so it’s gonna be something that Brad [Staba] creates. It should be crazy! I hope Brad takes all of his ideas and just makes a video out of them. He’s put out a lot of really good ones. I want Brad to make something insane where people are like, “What is going on?!” Something that shows the team and defines who we are. That would be sick!
What else are you working on?
The NB# colorway video. I took it pretty seriously. I saved spots for it and I went on a little two-day trip to Monterey Bay and Oakland. With a video coming out in January, it’s kinda stressful.
I really like that Hi-Tide video.
Thanks! I made that with my friend Matt, who I always skate with and who I always will skate with. I think if I didn’t have him to always skate with and hang out with, I don’t think I could even be a skateboarder. Like how I am today. It just wouldn’t work.
Because you would be on your own, not with a partner?
I don’t know. It’s almost like if I didn’t have that fun crew of friends that I always skate with, it’d be really hard to always be stoked. “Making a career out of it,” or whatever you’d call this.
I’d probably work as a janitor or drive a bus or something and just try and skate for fun. I mean, I skate for fun now. You know what I mean! Even my friends who have jobs: they don’t really know much about skating and they just get super stoked, and I just get super hyped to try a trick when they’re there!
Trips are kinda hard for me, actually. If I go on a trip to film something I don’t think that I’d be as productive as if I was at home with my friends. You can just mess around. I think I’m just more comfortable in areas that I know and people that I’m friends with for like ten years. When I go on trips I just tell myself that I’m super lucky to be here right now and that it might never happen again. I say, “I’m never gonna be back here!” But then I end up in China again somehow!
My friend, John Demar, he rips and his dream is to travel and skate. I know that if he was at the same spot I’m at, he’d fucking skate it. So I gotta skate it! [laughs] He’s a really good reminder ‘cause he works his ass off and goes skating on the weekends. That inspires me. My peers inspire me for those reasons. A lot of my friends work full time jobs.
How’d you get so good at wallrides?
A lot of people were bummed on me, actually. They’re like, “All this kid does is wallrides.” I was really stoked on how Pontus Alv does them. You always see him doing wallrides in Sweden. I saw a sick photo on Pontus doing a frontside wallride and I was like, “I wanna do that!” I would just try to do it on random stuff and I just got the hang of them.
It’s funny to see how skaters are. Like, going back to what I was saying: If the wrong person came out doing a lot of wallrides, people will talk shit on him. It’s like, dude, it’s fuckin’ fun! That’s all skating is! It’s fun, and that’s what I find fun. I don’t find doing a tre flip in a line fun.
Jamming on the wall is a pretty sick feeling. That’s what’s cool about skating: there’re no fucking rules. You just like whatever you like. People always talk shit about me on the internet about wallrides.
Maybe they’re jealous.
I don’t know. Maybe they’re right! [laughs] I’ve talked about this before, but my favorite skater is Ed Templeton and I feel like he never tre-flipped a nine stair, you know? He Smith grinds real fast, noseblunts, like the same exact tricks I do. I just try to copy Ed Templeton, ever since I was a little kid.
from The Skateboard Mag #154.