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Chima Ferguson Interview

10 a.m. and no plans for the day

WELL, WELL. WHAT CAN I SAY ABOUT THIS TALENTED YOUNG DADDY? I GOTTA EXPLAIN A LITTLE OF HOW THIS GUY’S BRAIN WORKS.

CHIMA IS NOT REALLY SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO TRAIN TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT HE DOES. I DON’T THINK CHIMA REALLY LIKES TO GO TRAIN IN THE U.S AT ALL. I ACTUALLY CAN’T RECALL, OVER THE FOUR OR SO YEARS WE LIVED TOGETHER, MANY TIMES WE WENT TO JUST CRUISE IN A PARK. I’M SURE THERE WERE A COUPLE TIMES BUT NOT OFTEN. CHIMA ONLY REALLY LIKES TO SESSION WATERLOO SKATEPARK IN SYDNEY. AS SOON AS HE SET FOOT IN THE STATES, IT WAS LIKE HE HAD SOMEHOW STRATEGICALLY, LIKE A MASTER OF CHESS, PLANNED EVERYTHING IN HIS HEAD HE WANTED TO ACHIEVE: FROM THE LIST OF TRICKS HE PUT TOGETHER FOR AN ASTOUNDING BREAK-OUT PRO PART TO PROPELLER TO THE BEGIN OF THE LAUNCH OF HIS BEST-SELLING SHOE – ALTHOUGH, HE DEFINITELY HAD TO WITNESS SOME PRETTY HARDCORE PARTY TIMES IN BOTH OUR APPARTMENTS. CHIMA ALSO HAS A STRICT TIME OF WHEN IT’S FIRE-IT-UP PARTY TIME. HE IS A HOMEBODY AND, MOST THE TIMES, AT THE BAR HE WAS MORE INSPIRED TO GRAB PEOPLE TO COME HOME TO PLAY POOL AND PARTY. LIKE HIS SKATING, BEING AT HOME MAKES HIM IN CHARGE OF THE SITUATION: MUSIC, TYPES OF BOOZE AND WHO’S ALLOWED TO COME. I FEEL HE APPLIES THIS TO SKATING ALSO. HE’S NOT REALLY THE GUY THAT WANTS TO ROLL AROUND TO SPOTS ALL DAY. MUCH LIKE THE WAY REYNOLDS GOES ABOUT HIS WAY OF HOW TO CONSTRUCT A PART, CHIMA ALSO KNOWS WHERE, WHEN, AND WHAT HE WANTS, AND I’VE NEVER SEEN HIM NOT GO OR GO BACK TO THE PSYCHO SHIT THAT COMES .
ALTHOUGH HE POINTS OUT, “DON’T DO WHATEVER DUSTIN DOES FINANCIALLY,” HE HAS BOUGHT A HOUSE NEXT TO MINE AND WE HAVE THE SAME ACCOUNTANT. HE IS LUCKY TO HAVE THE FINANCIAL KNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE NOW, BUT WHEN HE MADE HIS CASH, I HAD ALREADY DUG MYSELF PRETTY DEEP AND I AM DEFINITELY STOKED THAT HE HAS LEARNED FROM MY MISTAKES AND BEEN GUIDED THROUGH IT BETTER THAN I WAS. CHIMA AND I SHARE A GREAT MANY THINGS IN COMMON, WE LIKE THE SAME MUSIC GENERALLY, WHICH ALWAYS MAKES THINGS EASIER AS CHIMA IS ALSO A HOPELESS ROMANTIC AND UNDER HIS TOUGH OUTER CORE HAS A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE HEART. ANOTHER GENUINE SUCCESS STORY BEING THAT WE ARE BOTH HARDCORE WESTIES (WESTERN SUBURBS OF SYDNEY). OUT OF ALL THE PEOPLE I HAVE TAKEN UNDER MY WING, HE HAS BEATEN AND SURPASSED ME IN MANY WAYS. FOR THIS, I AM THE PROUDEST UNCLE DUSTY. XXD

- Dustin Dollin

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Chima Ferguson Portrait Acosta 2019 02c Acosta

Photo: Anthony Acosta

Hey Chima, how is it in Australia with the virus [interview was recorded on March 17, 2020, editor’s note]?

I have to go out and get a few more things. Melbourne has gone into lockdown and Sydney will probably go into lockdown any day. It’s not the sickness I’m afraid of, but there is a bit of tension in the air at the grocery store. It’s more other people’s hysteria that you have to worry about. From the end of August until January, it didn’t rain and we had bushfires going on. It’s crazy now because there are all of these people who are displaced from their houses. Some people literally don’t have their homes to stay in. A lot of people have gone to friends, and some kind people have opened up their houses to those in need. It’s been the worst fires we’ve ever had in Australia, and everyone has completely forgotten about that because now this is happening. Hopefully when all is said and done, this will bring people a little closer together. When the bushfires happened, it was great to see all the GoFundMes and all the money that got donated. People were using social media for something genuine instead of just trying to sell weight loss products. Whether you are rich or poor, everyone is going to get affected by this. There is no barrier when it comes to race or anything.

"That shoe changed the course of my entire life. It gave me everything I have and it still continues to give."

How would your days in Sydney normally look like?

It’s autumn now, so the weather is cooling down a bit. With the bushfires last summer, there was no sun for two and a half months, just smoke. You’re probably better off being outside now with this disease going on than back then because the air quality was the worst. A standard Sydney summer is one of the best places to be. You’d be going out to the beach or with your family or skating. Everyone is out or in the pub having drinks.

How is the skate scene in Sydney?

When I grew up skating, there were the city skaters who were all hip-hop. Then the Euro videos and Baker came in, and everyone was wearing tight pants. Everyone was separated in a sense. Now everyone knows each other and there’s not really any separation.

Chima tre flat 2c Robinson

Treflip | Photo: Thomas Robinson

You grew up in the suburbs of Sydney. Do you think that skaters from the suburbs feel the urge to prove a bit more?

I wouldn’t say I had something to prove, but every weekend, I used to catch the train for forty minutes into the city, whereas my other friends lived in the city where all of the skate spots were. So when you came into the city, you didn’t take your time for granted. It was the same thing going to the States. When I would go over there, I could only ever stay for 90 days, so I would have a plan.

How was it when you first got the idea that you actually could make a living out of skateboarding?

In 2005, I already rode for Volcom and went to the States. I was in New York with Shane Cross, Lewis Marnell, Javier Sarmiento, Darrell Stanton, and everyone. I had no money at all, I had to borrow money off of Shane to get an avocado. Throughout those months, I took a bunch of photos and that stuff came out. Then the next year I went, I had just started getting paid, so I had a little bit of money. When I got home, I had a few thousand dollars in checks that my mum gave to me, which was from photo incentives. I had never had money as a kid. I felt rich. I was like, “Oh wow, you can actually make money from this.” As time went on, I got on Vans and started making more money. Between 2007 and 2008, I started making enough to move out and rent a house. From there on it was, “I’m just going to skate,” and it kept on working out for me. I’ve never had a job in my life, but one day when I’m done skating, I want to do something to give back.

For me, even after years, I still have those moments where I can’t believe that I’m really able to work in my favorite profession. Is it the same for you?

I had a lot of friends growing up who got sponsored and as they got older, reality kicked in and they had to get jobs. It’s definitely something that I never take for granted. At least once a day, I have those moments, like, it’s 10 a.m. and I don’t have a plan for today. That’s an extremely fortunate thing to have. I walk my dogs every morning and I see people going to work and I can see in their faces that they don’t want to be doing it. It’s such a rare thing in life to grow up doing something you love and make money off of it and then support your family.

Chima Ferguson Hardflip high res c Darwen

Hardflip | Photo: Jake Darwen

Your first shoe was an instant success. How did that feel?

That shoe came out seven or eight years ago and it’s still selling now, so I got really lucky that they let me design a shoe the way I wanted to. It didn’t look 100% like a skate shoe, so it sold to the public really well. It’s one thing where you have your name on a board and you see a skateboarder with it, that is awesome, but the strangest thing is when you see someone who doesn’t skate, like, I’d be in the airport and I’d see someone walk by me with my shoe on. It would always put a grin on my face that that person doesn’t know who I am. That shoe changed the course of my entire life. It gave me everything I have and it still continues to give. I kept all the first colorways. It says Sydney on it as well, which is my city and I love to represent it.

Is it difficult to deal with such a success?

We weren’t poor growing up, but we definitely didn’t have that much money. This kept me grounded and I knew that if I ever got money, I would do the right things with it. A lot of people in skateboarding get that and they burn it, and then they are stuck with nothing. When I look back on my skating, I want to be proud of what I did and the way I did it, and to feel that, I got the most out of it.

"He stomped a Jäger bottle and it broke and went straight through his shoe, gashed his foot open, and he had to go to the hospital to get his foot stitched up. So that’s how he started his 2008."

Let’s talk about Dustin since this is his issue. How did you meet him?

He won’t remember this, because he was wasted, but in 1999 when I was ten years old, there was this old indoor skatepark. They used to have demos there and he was skating. I said to him, “Hey man, you’re Dustin. I think you’re cool.” Five or six years later when I got on Volcom, I was so starstruck. This guy who used to run Volcom called me up and asked me if I wanted to stay at Dustin’s house in Melbourne to film for the Volcom video. I was so nervous. I was a fifteen-year-old kid being picked up at the airport by someone I had looked up to my whole life. I stayed at his house and probably didn’t say more than a hundred words during the first couple of days. I was such a shy kid at the time. He was stoked because I was wearing his pro shoes and getting a lot of coverage in them. Now when I look back on it, it seems like a very surreal time in my life where it was all happening so quickly. As I got older, we became good friends. He moved to Sydney a few years later and he lived near to me.

You were also roommates.

We lived together in L.A. for five years. I moved over there in 2011 to start filming for the Propeller video. I’d been to the States a bunch of times, but I had never actually lived there. He hit me up because Braydon [Szafranski] was moving out of his house and said I should come and skate with everyone. It ended up being one of the best things I could have done for my skateboarding.

CHIMA FERGUSON NOSEGRINDc Peters

Nosegrind | Photo: Andrew Peters

CHIMA KERGUSON KICKFLIPc Peters

Kickflip | Photo: Andrew Peters

I heard from a lot of people that he gives good advice.

I owe all of it to him. He put in the word for me to get my shoe, he told me, “When you see your first check, remember that you have to pay taxes.” He said, “Don’t go and spend it all on cars.” He said, “Buy houses, don’t buy jewelry. Have a good time with it but don’t waste any of it.” All of the greatest advice he gave me is advice he never followed himself. I look at him as an example, whatever Dustin’s doing financially, I should be doing the opposite of that. When he reads this, he’ll laugh because I’m sure he will agree. Being a skateboarder, you’re not a movie star, but there is a lot of power and status that comes with it. That’s how people see you even though I don’t see myself that way. Dustin said there is a lot to control and there is a way you go about doing it. You’re not just a skateboarder, you are a professional as well. So the way you talk to people when you meet them, handle yourself, and putting yourself out there is important.

It must be weird sometimes being a hero in the skateboard bubble, but on the streets, nobody knows who you are.

A lot of people get lost in it. At the end of the day, you are admired for riding a piece of wood. It still freaks me out when people come up to me saying my name. I don’t have an ego in that sense and I don’t particularly love to hear it. I like to hear when someone says they like the way I do my kickflips or that they like my style, but when people come up and they want to hang out because I’m me, it’s a bit strange.

"A lot of people don’t deal with fear on a daily basis. It changes you as a human."

How was living with Dustin?

There is the skateboarder Dustin Dollin and there is the human Dustin Dollin, and that’s who I know. It worked for him. He’s marketing himself with the Pissdrunx image. You’ll be in the van with him before a demo and it’s all good, and you’ll get out and all the kids are screaming and he’s then fucked up. It’s what the kids want to see. He knows how to sell his image. People would always ask me, “How the fuck do you live with him, he’s crazy,” but it was not like that at all. He’s so well domesticated. He taught me, “The house has always got to be clean, clean up after yourself, and be respectful.” At home, he’s a great cook and he’s got lovely conversation. He’ll send me lists of movies to watch. Everyone has two sides.

Dustin told me that you can also go wild when you drink. Do you have some stories?

I wouldn’t say I have a problem, but it’s definitely something I’m trying to tone down on. As you get older, you want to remember all of your days instead of forgetting them. Hanging out with Dustin in L.A., you’d always end up somewhere like the Getty family’s house. He can live like that because he has such a larger-than-life personality, but for me, I prefer to party and be social with people I know. He was always hanging out with famous people and that was something I was never interested in. I would always end up with him at dinners with people and it was awkward, but he has got me into some very interesting situations at times.

For example?

New Year’s 2007/2008, a friend of mine had one pill left and Dustin was like, “Give me the pill,” and he wouldn’t give it, so he pulled a knife out, held it against his throat, and was like, “Give me the fucking pill.” We calmed him down, but he kicked my friend out because he wouldn’t give it to him. As the night went on, there was a fire going in the backyard, and Dustin knew the camera was on, so he was acting all crazy, he throws a lighter in the fire and it explodes. If you slow-mo the footage as he goes back, his hair is completely on fire. After that, maybe at five in the morning, he stomped a Jäger bottle and it broke and went straight through his shoe, gashed his foot open, and he had to go to the hospital to get his foot stitched up. So that’s how he started his 2008, but he’s calmed down now, we all have.

Chima Ferguson Fs Boarslide Pop Out high res c Darwen

Frontside Boardslide | Photo: Jake Darwen

But going to the pub is an important thing in Australia, I recognized.

Drinking is such a part of the Australian culture. You’ll notice in the States, you have a lot of people who party and drink and then they become sober. In Australia, you never hear of that. I don’t know anyone who’s in Alcoholics Anonymous. People are like, “My life is getting out of control, I’m drinking too much,” but others are like, “No you’re just Australian.”

Is there also a difference between the OZ and US skate scenes?

Here, it’s all surrounded by drinking. If I’m going to go and hang out with everyone and try to skate, everyone is going to get drunk. So a lot of the time, I get a filmer and a photographer and go out and do it by myself. It sounds very professional and boring, but I can focus more. It’s kind of the same in L.A. where you have to drive for an hour to try a trick. Over ten years ago, I’d want all my friends to be there, so going to L.A. changed the way I skate professionally. It’s a lot more serious now. I have a baby and a lot of the people I film and skate with have babies too, so we’ll have a slot between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and we’ll go and skate and then get back to our normal lives. It’s the way it has to be done now.

You’re skating big spots. How do you prepare yourself for that?

I don’t want to come across as cocky, but I’m confident. I usually know I can do something. I still do get a little bit scared or worried before I do a trick. A lot of people don’t deal with fear on a daily basis. It changes you as a human. When you look at a rail, every part of your brain is telling you not to do it. When you do it, you have overcome something. If you work in an office, you’re never going to have that thrill. I’m not saying I want to eat shit, but sometimes when you hit the ground, it makes you feel alive. It gives you a sense of mortality. Skating ledges is probably my favourite thing, but when it comes to rails and stairs, I’ll tell the photographer, “Are you good?” and it’s this rush going through your body. There is no way to explain it and I don’t get it from anything else. I like making the trick, but I like trying it just as much. Proving to yourself that you can do something that you’ve never done, it’s like, “Fuck it, I’m just going to do it right now,” and you go against your own instincts. It changes your whole mentality as a human.

You posted Kobe Bryant’s book The Mamba Mentality as something that inspired you on Instagram. What did you learn from the book?

No matter how you read that book, you can take it into any aspect of your life. I don’t want to name names, but there are skaters out there who just coast by. They don’t challenge themselves or they get comfortable doing what they are doing. I don’t do what I do for money, I do the best that I can. When I make my video parts, I care about the trick selection and the song. If you’re going to put in that much work, you want it to come out the way you want it and not how anyone else wants it. A friend bought me that book and it’s one of the best presents I’ve ever got. Never accept things as they are and get comfortable. It’s the uncomfortable moments in life, and how you deal with them, that make you. If you are comfortable every day, that’s easy. Nothing in life is supposed to be easy. It’s about learning how to deal with things you don’t like. People show their true inner selves when times are tough.

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