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I think it’s fair to say that everyone is loving Chico Brenes right now. It’s an interesting modern phenomenon that someone with no major sponsor can remain just as relevant, or in Chico’s case perhaps more popular than ever.
Of the many ways Instagram can be interpreted, Chico is a shining light. He posts with genuine passion about what he loves. Reconnecting with the city he is from and skating the 80s and 90s boards he grew up around tells a story of dedication, devotion and his love of skateboarding. No gimmicks.
Chico rips on a daily basis, almost making a mockery of the way board shapes have supposedly 'evolved'. The way his effortless style prevails is a joy to watch. Which we've been doing since Love Child in ‘92.
Krooked have also been so intrigued by Chico of late, rewarding him with an honorary Krooked Guest Board, which is out now. We're super stoked on this one, take it away Cheeks.
First off, what everyone wants to know, what brought about the change to skating the old school boards? After leaving Chocolate did you just want a change?
It wasn’t something that I planned, I’d been riding my Chocolate Big Boy 9 Club shape for over five years. Then Vern Laird (Bones team manager) sent me a Flames and Dagger Tommy Guerrero Powell board that I’d been wanting for a while, I planned to get it signed by TG and hang it on the wall. Once I started working on my 7x7 all San Francisco part, that’s when I decided to skate the TG board. Just because Tommy is such an SF icon I figured it would be rad to get some clips with that board. That then led to me trying different retro shape boards.
Are they the same kind of boards you skated as a kid, is it also a bit of a nostalgia trip?
They’re the same boards but the ones I never got a chance to skate brand new. My family couldn’t afford to get me one at the time. All the kids in the neighbourhood had them but I had to settle for whatever used ones came my way. I remember my first used proper board, it was a Bryce Kanights ‘BK’ Madrid, I bought it used for $15. But yeah, it’s definitely a bit of a nostalgia trip, it brings me back to my childhood days when all I dreamed about was skateboarding.
People are amazed by the range of flip tricks you have dialled on those boards, even tricks off a 3” nose! It raises the question of whether it’s better or easier on a newer board which is more designed for this?
I was surprised that a lot of my regular flip tricks were working, challenging but definitely working. I think that’s what made it fun for me, I would throw stuff around and see what worked and for the most part, everything was going. The ones that surprised me the most were laser flips and Nollie BS 360 heelflips, which was at Ft. Miley on the Tommy Guerrero Powell deck. But yes, it’s a lot easier on the newer design boards.
Out of all the re-issue decks you’ve been skating over the past year or so, do you have a favourite and if so why?
They’ve all been pretty fun and special but my favorite has to be my early 90’s World Industries Orange Vendor reissue. Just because I was able to set it up almost the same with the 40mm wheels and then to be able to skate EMB and do some of my old tricks again, it was very special.
What do you think sparked the whole re-issue market over the last few years? It’s totally mushroomed and now you can pretty much buy any board from any era.
I think the timing, also the quality of some the reissues are amazing. I was talking to TG about his first Bones Brigade Powell Pro board, the blue one with the dagger, he said the paint on the reissue version was just as good if not better than the original. What I mean on timing, I feel that you can’t release something too soon, so right now the 80’s and early 90’s reissues are killing it. Anything after that period is too soon and I don’t think it will get as good as a response.
As I’m sure you know, people are wondering if you’re working on a video project and the Insta clips are just the warm-ups and off-cuts? Can you put out any statement on this?
I’ve been working on an all San Francisco part (7x7) that should be out mid-October on Thrasher. Just me cruising, having fun around the city and hitting up some legendary spots like Embarcadero, Fort Miley, 3 up-3 down, 3rd and Army and a few more.
I’m not alone in thinking you’re one of the best people to follow on Instagram. Given that a skateboarder can now maintain a pro career just on Instagram, is this something you consciously thought about now you’re no longer ‘pro’ or is it simply a place for fun?
Nah, it’s only for fun but I do just try to keep it strictly skateboarding and keep everything else out of it. I think when skateboarders bring their personal life and problems into it, that’s when it gets kinda weird.
Since leaving Chocolate I think you’ve gained more popularity and relevance. What’s your take on the current state of skateboarding? You’ve been a part of the industry, and indeed culture, for so many crucial years of its development.
It seems like skateboarding is in a weird place right now, it’s definitely growing but it seems like there’s only a handful of guys making real money. You almost have to go the energy drink/X-Games route to make the big bucks nowadays and when you stamp that logo on, your street cred automatically goes down. Now with the Olympics coming next year, I don’t know how to feel about that, especially coming from an era when skating wasn’t that cool.
Also, everyone is incredibly good, sponsored or pro today, but that doesn’t give you a pass. I was stoked to be invited to judge the Silas’ Lotto Grotto contest jam at the beginning of this year. The people who skated in that contest are the people I like to watch and pay attention to, everything else is just noise. That to me is 100% skateboarding, no attitude no bullshit, just raw skateboarding. I was glad to see people still trying to preserve that side of skateboarding.
We’ve seen you with the Palace guys and rocking some of their gear but have you ever considered starting your own company.
I was doing Central for a few years with my good friend Jay García. Although it was hard, it was picking up steam but unless you have a good distributor that is willing to push your product, it’s hard work to get it to the next step. I also wasn’t 100% committed and felt weird pushing Central since I still rode for Chocolate.
Eat right, get a good night's sleep, stretch and stay off the booze
What keeps you motivated to continue skating daily and do you have any tips for keeping your body and mind in good shape?
Bottom line, I love skateboarding. Although surfing is pretty freaking rad, I’m getting that same high and stokeness that I do on my skateboard. Eat right, get a good night's sleep, stretch and stay off the booze. The body is an amazing machine if you eat the right things your body will perform incredibly well. Also, riding the different board shapes and set-ups has kept skateboarding fun for me. It makes me want to get out and see what’s possible.
Yeah, you seem to be living the dream at the moment, skating daily, surfing, hanging out with your kids. The vibe from your Insta tells us that San Francisco is treating you well?
Yes, at the moment. Luckily I was able to save through my years of skateboarding, after my departure from Chocolate I just wanted to take some time to be with my family, skate, surf and do things on my own terms while I figure out my next move.
Lastly, you’ve been skateboarding for over thirty years, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to stay off the booze, I was never a crazy drinker or a piss-drunk type, but Animal Thug would come out sometimes and get outta hand. Animal Thug is my alter ego name that Mike York and Daniel Castillo gave me when I would take it to the next level. I’ve been sober now for over five years and I feel better than I did in my mid-twenties on and off my skateboard.
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