Chris Cole hit the pavement at the age of eight, signed his first corporate sponsorship with World Industries at 16, and hasn’t looked back since. A San Diego transplant, raised in Levittown, Pa., Cole has risen from his modest Northeast routes to become one of the biggest names in the global skateboarding game. He’s already accomplished more on a board than most skaters could ever dream of, and if he were to hang it up tomorrow citing the desire to spend more time with his young family, or pursue other career endeavours, there are few who could admonish his decision. Extreme sports, and skateboarding in particular, has always held a certain stigma that it’s a live fast and die young mentality among the sports’ elite, but for Cole that couldn’t be further from the truth. Chris has adopted the personal credo of “live rad and die proud,” words that he says guides him both personally and professionally. This is not to say that he plays it safe on a skateboard, all you have to do is watch a few of his highlights to know that. It speaks to the fact that more important than winning trophies, Cole is trying to take the most from each experience his career gifts him.
Cole earned the prestigious honor of being named Thrasher Skater of the Year in 2005, and when he received the acclaim again in 2009 he became just the second skater to do this after Danny Way. 2013 was a tremendous year for Cole, he took home several second place finishes in Street League competitions around the country, and bagged top spot at the Street League Super Crown World Championships as well as the Street League X Games in Munich, Germany. Now, on the heels of his fourth signature shoe drop with DC since signing with their elite skate team in 2011, Cole is looking to make this year is his biggest to date. Check out our interview with Chris below as we talk signature shoe drops, what it means to "live rad and die proud," and the backbone of skateboarding.
Last year you won the Street League Super Crown and the Street League X Games in Munich, how are you going to top that in 2014?
I’m working to keep pushing and keep doing the things I’ve been doing, but it’s also off to a really good start already, and that’s how I think it’s going to be better. I have a video part dropping in March. I have a new shoe coming out in March as well, and then I’m just grinding away to skate as much as humanly possible. But also be involved with as many other things as humanly possible, be out there doing stuff instead of just lying dormant doing nothing.
What I’ve always grown up thinking is that it’s really important to be proud of what you’ve done at the end of your life. It’s the only way to truly be okay with dying, right?
You mentioned the shoe launch in March, how many signature shoes do you have with DC?
It’s actually my fourth signature shoe with them, believe it or not. It’s pretty crazy how time flies. It’s the updated version of my lite shoe, which was pretty successful, and it’s the Cole Lite shoe. It basically has every single bit of technology that we make all in one shoe.
Your motto is, “live rad, and die proud,” what does that mean, and how did it come about? I kind of just made it up, because I see a lot of people in the media that we follow, who make a ton of money, kind of being assholes. They suck at living a normal life, and they suck at kind of being a person. What I’ve always grown up thinking is that it’s really important to be proud of what you’ve done at the end of your life. It’s the only way to truly be okay with dying, right? At the end of the line, the only way you’re going to be okay with it is if you have no deep feelings of regret. That deep feeling of, I should have done this, I should have done that. The worst regret I think that I could have, is that I should’ve been a better person. I shouldn’t have been lame, I shouldn’t have done that, because then you’re actually affecting other people in a negative way. I think the world’s built with people who are effecting others in a negative way, and there needs to be a whole lot of positive influence.
You talked about how you want to leave it in the end, but let’s go back to the beginning. What made you pick up a skateboard in the first place?
I saw these kids skate by my grandmother’s house when I was a little kid, and I was looking out the bay windows just being a bored kid as usual, and those kids looked so cool. It was that moment where I was like, that dude looks awesome, that board looks awesome, he’s doing something that I want to do. I started asking my mom for a board, and she was an ICU nurse, so she saw people come in straight after being hit by a car. So she didn’t want to give me a board, and it took two years of begging before she finally gave me one. The first day I stepped on it, actually even before I stepped on it, I was completely addicted to skateboarding. I looked at all the magazines, and I used to make sentences on the blackboard and in my homework, and all of them had to do with skateboarding. It was pretty much a dead ringer that I was going to continue that path.
But I know up until this point, deep down inside, without being full of myself and without thinking I’m the shit, that I did it. I actually accomplished my goals that I never even knew where obtainable.
What did it mean to win Thrasher Magazine’s Skateboarder of the Year, and then take home the honor again?
That’s the one. It was heavy. It was kind of like the moment when you say, ‘I did it, like I really did it.’ Essentially, after that you could quit. You set your name in stone, you accomplished what a very, very, very low percentage of skateboarders will ever accomplish. You’re among that elite, and you can now just quit. But I love skating, and if you get to be the Skater of the Year, you love skateboarding, you’re not going to quit. You don’t get there if you’re not 100 percent all about it. Then to win it again, I couldn’t believe it. It’s hard to believe that they would ever even give it to me twice, because it comes down to their decision, and whether they want to give it to you twice or not.
When they gave it to me a second time it was too much, I don’t even know how to describe that. I’ll continue to try to live rad and die proud forever, and that’s always what I’ll try to do. But I know up until this point, deep down inside, without being full of myself and without thinking I’m the shit, that I did it. I actually accomplished my goals that I never even knew where obtainable.
How do you juggle traveling and competing all over the world, while being a dad and a husband?
It’s so tricky, it’s super duper hard. I really rely on my wife, my kids, and my family. Everybody that’s around me picks up a lot in order for me to do what I do. From answering emails that I’m not going to be able to get to, to planning my schedule for me. Once I go into skate brain, I’m in skate brain, and the hardest part I’ve found about juggling it all is to go from skate brain, to business guy, to dad. It doesn’t work, I can’t do it. The skateboarding mind takes over 100 percent, and then I can skate, and that’s about all I can do. Then I have to break out of it and get back into being a dad. When I come home from trips I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I forget what you feed the kids for breakfast. It’s that bad. My wife’s like, ‘why don’t you make them eggs,’ and I’m like, ‘eggs! Great idea.'
What’s the best and worst about about travelling and competing all over the world?
The best part is it’s exciting. It’s exciting to see other places, and see our world. There are little differences that you pick up, especially because my A.D.D. is crazy and I pick up a bunch of little things, just kind of the lay of the land. It’s the subtle changes to the culture that are really different and really interesting. That’s a great thing, to go around the world and see other people, and see other places. It goes back to the no regrets. If I see all the places I want to see, then I’m not going to have any regret about not travelling. The worst part is to be away from home, and to be away from my family. I know that it’s hard on each individual in the family.
When I come home from trips I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I forget what you feed the kids for breakfast. It’s that bad. My wife’s like, ‘why don’t you make them eggs,’ and I’m like, ‘eggs! Great idea.'
It’s also tough to know that that the kids are going to grow up while I’m gone, and they’re going to have life experiences. I don’t ever want a different job, ever, but I do envy those who have a consistent schedule, and are home at this time, and gone at this time. Their family relies on them to be home at those times, and they can schedule their lives around that, and I definitely envy that.
I want to be there for every single football practice, and I want to be there for every single ballet class, and all the moments in between. But that eventually ends up being an impossibility.
What’s the mission of your foundation, Chris Cole’s Excellent Adventure? How did you get that started?
It came about because I was just thinking, what can I do that gives back that actually means something to me? You can’t go bad with the charity route, but what would I actually be passionate about? We’ve got a really great relationship with the people over at Woodward, and they’re just such a good family over there. We proposed this idea of bringing kids from my hometown to come to Woodward to skate, those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it. They said that sounded like a great idea, and they’ll open up a camp for them and make sure they were taken care of. And that was me, that kid who was looking at the brochure wishing he could skate at Woodward. It’s pretty excellent to be able to bring a bunch of “me” to Woodward.
How much are you trying to promote your name and your brand versus being an ambassador for extreme sports?
With those two, one hand washes the other. If you’re a good dude, and you speak well, and you genuinely have your head on your shoulders, you can break through, and you can do a lot more than what you’re expected to be able to do as a skateboarder. If you think you’re just a skateboarder, then you have the wrong way of looking at it. There’s a bunch of famous people who are famous for absolutely nothing, but everyone knows their name. Why can’t we? There’s definitely room for us, and there’s room for us to get out there and be a positive influence. If you’re out there, and you’re giving your all doing skateboarding the way that you want to do it, it comes through to other people, and they’ll want to do it like that too.
Who are the innovators of skateboarding that really made the public pay attention?
Rodney Mullen, he invented everything that I do. All the tricks I do, he made them up. He’s huge. There are tons of dudes, it’s tough to think about all of them. Rodney Mullen is the clutch dude, though. Danny Way is definitely a good one, and Pat Duffy. All the skateboarding in the '90s drove what I do, and that’s where I gained all my inspiration. That’s what I started watching, those were my formative years. Luckily for me, that was also a time when they started pushing the limits of what they were doing. They figured out what they could do with a skateboard, but then they said, ‘if I can do this, then I can do that. I don’t need to find little tiny rails, I can go bigger than that.’
I’m hoping to have my confidence up, and my abilities firing on all cylinders.
How pumped are you for X Games Austin this June, and what are your goals there?
My goal is probably just to do as good as I can. Austin is a really cool city, and I can’t wait to go and do what I’m doing over there. The fan base is great, and the crowd is going to be sick. It’s one of the first events of our season, so to speak, so it’s kind of going to be like getting into the groove of it. I’m hoping to have my confidence up, and my abilities firing on all cylinders.
What’s on rotation on your iPod right now?
Oh, that’s a good one. It’s funny, you caught me at a pretty metal moment. I’ve been listening to the new Children of Bodom album, a lot. Then my top rated stuff is Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road was today. Gabrielle by Cradle of Filth was today, and Lolita by Lana Del Rey. It definitely gets weird. And then Candle in the Wind by Elton John is everyday. I had to explain it to my son yesterday, he wanted to know all about it.
What would you tell the next generation of young aspiring skaters?
Enjoy it. Enjoy that time. Don’t think about what it’s going to bring you, who’s better than who, who’s good who isn’t good. These are the years that you’re never going to forget, so enjoy them and try and have some sort of clarity, as hard as it is. Try to think about it as, I’m going to look back on this right here, this moment. Be proud that you’re a skateboarder. Hone your craft and be the best skater you can be, and skateboarding will always have a place for you. You don’t have to be a pro, you don’t have to be sponsored, you don’t have to be a superstar, you don’t have to make money being a physical skateboarder. There’s always a place for someone. Whether it be a filmer, who gets a chance to travel and skate, or a team manager, who gets to travel and skate.
You can be a photographer who travels and skates, or a marketing dude who gets to do that. You can just work in a warehouse and skate with all of your buddies who work there. Skateboarding is a huge world, and we as pros rely on those people so heavily. The backbone of skateboarding. It’s all about enjoying your time on a skateboard, and not worrying about what it’s going to bring you.
What’s the endgame for you by the time you step off a board for good? What’s the legacy you’re trying to leave?
I do want to be a household name. I would love that, because I want to skateboard for the rest of my life. I don’t ever want to quit, and that would be the way to do that, by becoming a household name. When people look back at my skateboarding, I want them to look at it the way that they see Eric Koston skateboarding, somebody who is still active, still doing it. Not that I’m like, ‘I want to be a living legend,’ but these dudes are living legends. I would love to be looked at like that by someone, that would make me happy.