Dropping In: Billy Jackson

Interview by Nick Shields Photos by Eduardo Sanchez

Billy Jackson is one of the most gifted, technically advanced skateboarders in San Diego. One of those people you watch skate and say to yourself “Yep, that dude belongs on a board.” We caught up with Billy after seeing his part in the new Slappy’s Garage video to see how he’s been and what he’s been up to. You wouldn’t be able to tell by his mind-bending Instagram clips that he’s been dealing  with multiple injuries for months now. Billy is a true skateboarder, he doesn’t need to keep up with the internet content to fuel his skating, he simply does it for himself, to push his abilities and get that spark we all started skating for, even in between occasionally hitting the roller rink. 

Thanks for doing this man!

Yeah, yeah, yeah no problem!

I’m hyped to support the homies and get people involved.

Check in on your friends, then ollie the wall at the Korean Bell of Friendship.

Thanks for picking me, I’m a random person.

No way dude! You’re a skate wizard.

Something like that.

Alright let’s get this poppin’ man. 

Cool. Hey sidenote, I’m probably going to be driving while this is happening.

That’s fine man just be safe.

Oh yeah, I’m all airpods.

Are you on your way to the park or what?

Actually I just stopped by my mom’s house.  I could see the park from here. I might go chill in the parking lot. See if I can find some shade or something.

You don’t live in Linda Vista anymore?

Nah, I live in Spring Valley now. I lived there pretty much [until] they broke ground to build the Linda Vista park. 

That sucks!

It sucks, I lived in Linda Vista for like 16 years or something and the day I move out they start making a skatepark.

Like the best skatepark in the city too.

It’s kind of insulting but, whatever.

So you mission from Spring Valley to PQ to session like everyday?

Yeah, but I work in Escondido so it’s on my way home. I drive a lot.

So the whole point of this segment is to drop in and see how people are doing, so how have you been man? What’ve you been up to?

I’ve been decent to be honest. Been kind of plagued with stupid minor injuries here and there. So that’s been kind of frustrating, but I think all and all I’m still pretty solid.

What kind of injuries? What happened?

Shoot, it’s been stemming back for a while now. I’m trying to think where it really rooted from. I can’t remember the first one, it’s been like three months off and on of feeling good and feeling bad but mostly it’s just been my legs.

Like your ankles or knees or what?

Mostly knees now. Ankles I don’t have too much of a problem with anymore. I think when I first started skating switch it gave me a whole new flexibility and range of motion in my ankle. That actually helped my ankles a lot. So I don’t really get too much ankle pain anymore. So that’s cool because that’s something that plagued me for awhile, for years and years. It’d just be the most terrible rolled ankles. But the past two months it’s just been mostly knees.

It’s because I had this kick where I wanted to skate stairs all of a sudden, and drops and handrails. Which, for me, that’s really out of my comfort zone. And for me to be doing that after all these years of not doing it, its taking a toll. But I just gotta heal up and learn how to land safer. Get me into a position where I don’t get hurt.

Yeah, I’ve seen you killing it switch skating the rail at PQ, like switch feeble, switch lip, and shit.

Yeah I’ve just had this kick where I really like the flatbar switch. We were at PQ one day, Josh Walsh was there, and I’ve always looked up to him because I’ve seen him skate big handrails in person, it just blows my mind. I said, ‘Man, one day I just want to switch front board this thing and be content,’ and he said, ‘Just do it! you can do it, you know you can!’ I kind of halved my way on a few times, and I was like, “Alright, I’m just gonna go for this.” That felt good enough to where I could switch front feeble it. Now I want to find a street spot where I can do it. Hopefully nothing too gnarly, but still look cool. 

Congrats on the Slappy’s part by the way.

Thank you.

Fakie thruster, making the shop sponsor proud.

That was gnarly, a lot of switch skating going on in there. How’d you get involved with Slappy’s and when did you have time to film that part?

Well, I’ll tell the Slappy’s part first. So I worked at Sprouts for several years and Jason Carnie, the shop owner, would always come in. At some point I started skating for Clairemont Surf but Carnie would always offer, ‘Yeah, if you want to skate for us just let me know.’ So he was always cool, and it was always kind of on the table but he wasn’t hounding me. So I was skating for Clairemont for a few years and then most of my friends started skating for Slappy’s and then almost all my friends hung out there, so I just got pulled towards it. Then I said ‘Hey Jason, I’m down. I’m here all the time and this kind of feels like a second home to me at this point.’ He said he was down for me and that’s pretty much how it started, it was probably a span of about 6 years. He was always cool about it, he respected that I skated for Clairemont too which was always sick.

The weird thing about the video is, I got added in the night before the premier. So I got on Slappy’s back in November right before Thanksgiving of 2018. I talked to Danny [Goycoolea] maybe two months before the video [dropped]. He said ‘Yeah, the video is pretty much done so…’ and I took that like it was done. Then, the night before the premiere, he asked me ‘Hey, how come you didn’t send me any footage? If you have a couple clips I can just toss them in real quick.’ He checked [all my footage] out and decided ‘I’m just gonna put you in the video. Start searching for a song.’ He stuck his neck out for me, it was sick to actually be part of a full video and to have a part that I was proud of.

Yeah the part was epic man. One standout trick for me was the switch flip fakie manny fakie flip on the Torrey Pines manny pad. That fakie flip was so fucking perfect.

Thank you. Yeah that was the first time I ever did [that trick]. Something was in the air that day at the Torrey Pines manny pad. We just had a really deep crew. June [Saito] was there, a bunch of other people who are really into mannys were there. In my head I wanted to do that combo that day. All the other tricks were working for me, and I actually had to work really hard for that one. But it wasn’t a tense session, everyone was just cool. It was good energy that day that really helped me pull it off, I don’t know how I did it that great because I usually land terribly. That was just a fun one to do so I was really hyped on that one.

Yeah dude good energy will get you a long way. Are there any standout tricks that maybe you had to battle for?

Obviously my ender. I think it became a joke between our friends; we spent so much time there that it’s like a home to us. 

At Correia?

Yeah Correia. I feel so bummed because my friends spent so much time and energy going there. It was cool at first, it would be about eight to ten people per session when we first started going. Then after I didn’t get it, it would just dwindle away. I think the last time I was there it was just three people plus the filmer. I always have to try so hard for the enders, they take me roughly seven or eight times going back. That one took me, I think it was my twelfth time there, maybe thirteen or fourteen. So that one sticks out a lot because it was hours and hours of tries put into that. For that spot, I had to push. Most people get towed in but I couldn’t figure out how to get towed so I figured that I’d just push. It was a lot more energy wasted.

That’s pretty gnarly. Inward heel over it too and front shuv, that’s pretty buck. I’d say back three kickflip might be one of the gnarliest things done over that. 

Yeah I’m really hyped on the inward heel because it was actually after the kickflip back three. Someone wanted to do another trick, and somehow it turned into me doing that. It’s another one where I rolled away good. So it’s one of those tricks that I’m really proud of, I surprised myself with how good I did it. I’m not trying to sound cocky about that, because like I said I normally land pretty iffy, but that one just worked for me, and I’m still hyped on it to this day.

Yeah the only other trick on that that really stands out to me was Tyler Surrey’s switch flip late shuv.

Yeah! Actually the reason I started skating it is because of Marius, his ender in Feed The Need, nollie back heel. It looks like the sickest spot! He gets towed by a moped or something, then when he does it he flies into the grass, and then Smolik comes up and then daps him up. I just wanted to skate it so badly because that just looked like the raddest thing ever! Like how cool was that? He landed so cool and then flew into the grass and then got dapped up by his friends. I always loved that spot just because of that one clip. I’m hyped I got a trick on it just because that was so sick.

So you’ve been injured for a while but you’re still fucking amazing, how did you get so fucking good?

I don’t know, I just try to dabble in everything. I don’t think I’m good at skating, I think I’m decent at it enough to get by. I always keep the term in my mind, ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ I’d rather be decent at everything than really good at just one part of it. 

Well you’re really good at manuals and tranny, you’ve definitely mastered those two sections.

Yeah I think I just sit on tranny too much. That’s the safest thing. I think when you learn tranny you learn a lot about other parts of skateboarding which is cool. Learning tranny gave me the stability to venture out and street skate more. If I do a switch front feeble stall on a quarter, then I’m pretty sure I can do it on a ledge or a flatbar.

 The way I see it: why limit yourself to one discipline of skating? There’s so much sick shit you can do when you’re out skating. People can just go out and bomb hills all day, or you can get super tech, or you can skate tranny. There’s just so much to it, why wouldn’t you want to get a piece of everything?

“Learning tranny gave me the stability to venture out and street skate more”

That’s a great approach, I try to do that myself. I’ve never wanted to limit myself with who I can skate with or what I can go skate, I just try to do a little piece of everything. I could go to Burnside and have fun or I could go down the street and skate a manny pad, you know?

Not switch, but a heelflip feeble nonetheless.

I’m stoked you said that you don’t want to limit yourself with who you skate with because I think a lot of people get discouraged. It’s just kicking it with you’re friends and hanging out. That’s the sickest thing, no matter if it’s your first day on the board and you’re skating with people who have been there for twenty years, it’s all the same at the end of the day. 

How old are you?

28.

28? Damn, killin it.

Old.

And when did you start skating?

I started around 10 or 11 and I stopped skating for three or four years in high school.

Did the ladies get ya or what?

Nah I started roller skating. At the skating rink, that was my life.

“I started roller skating. At the skating rink, that was my life”

Pushing far, far away from the roller rink.

Why would you stop skateboarding for roller skating?

I don’t know, it’s something different. I played little league at the time, and a few of my friends were at the roller rink and I happened to be passing by because it’s in Linda Vista. I saw them and they invited me in, it was weird because that was the first time I had money on me because I never really had money as a kid. So I ended up going in and it was so sick to me, it was like a whole new life. From the very first day I went, I was all about it and I got hooked [ever] since.

You never worried about getting clowned on for roller skating or is that not a thing in Linda Vista?

Nah, I mean growing up in Linda Vista everybody went to the rink for the most part. Almost everybody went but I think after middle school that’s where it really dropped off for a lot of people. For me, going there through high school I kind of got clowned on but at the same time I was like ‘whatever, this is what I’m doing.’ I was really good at that, I mean with skateboarding I think I’m okay, but I was really good at roller skating. I picked it up super quick. I was good at it, so I didn’t really care what anybody said, it was sick.

Yeah instead of an insta-skater you should just be an insta-roller rink rider.

Man if my body could still do that stuff I’d be down. That type of roller skating incorporates break dancing so it’s a lot of technical stuff that you do. Some of it includes backflips, I don’t think I could throw a backflip anymore because my back’s so messed up from all the years of doing them. We would do halftime shows at the roller derby battles and they’d lay five people out and I would do back handsprings over them. I don’t know if I could still do it. Maybe if I tried, I could probably dust the cobwebs off and do it, it’s worth a shot.

Blunt Bigspin, inspired by some of the greatest to ever do it.

Coming back to skating, who are some of your favorite pro skaters that inspired you? Growing up I didn’t really watch many skate videos. I mean, I probably started watching skate videos at 20? But once I actually started watching and people would show me videos, definitely Daewon and Jerry Hsu for sure. Hands down! Once I saw his Bag Of Suck part I realized that guy looks like skateboarding to me. That’s why I’m on this huge switch kick, because he has one of the nicest switch styles I’ve ever seen. Why wouldn’t you want to skateboard like that? So mostly them, and later on Marc Johnson, Cory Kennedy. But I’d say for the most part it’d be Daewon and Jerry.

I’d say your style is a pretty good combo of those two skaters.

Cool, I’ll take that! Oh and now I’m very big on Gilbert Crockett. He’s just a power house. If I could blend Daewon, Jerry and Crockett together, that’s how I would want to skateboard.

“If I could blend Daewon, Jerry and Crockett together, that’s how I would want to skateboard”

Would you rock those crazy cuffed pants that he was wearing?

You know what, he just posted a video on instagram today saying he’s releasing new pants. I think his company is called Cee Blues. I actually wanted to check the website, I don’t really wear jeans. But I thought maybe I should get a pair, just to see. Most of the jeans I wear are too small for me; they’re too tight on the legs. But because his are all big I thought maybe it’d work out. 

Tight, get that steez.

But I don’t know about the little shirts, because he wears big pants little shirts. I need my arms to move, I can’t wear the little shirts.

Who are some of your favorite local SD heads that you either skate with or just see around?

Number one: Mike Paek. He’s just the most creative skateboarder I know and it’s a mystery how his brain works and how he comes up with some of the stuff he does. He also gives me a lot of trick recommendations. A lot of the tricks I have in my bag are based off of Mike suggesting, ‘You should try this!’ Then it somehow works out, so I’d say Mike first and foremost. 

Nolan Lively, I think he’s a very underrated skater. Who else? Brian Gille, probably one of the gnarliest. Jimmy Cao of course, Jamie Palmore, Q [Perez] for sure.

Eduardo is sending over some photos for this. Is he somebody that you like shooting with?

Yeah, I love shooting with Ed. He shoots a ton of photos, it surprises me. Madness posted a photo he took the other day of one of their riders wishing him a happy birthday, it was a photo Ed shot. I didnt know Ed was out there shooting these people. It’s sick to see him all over the place! He’ll be at OB, or Memo, Linda Vista, here or there so it’s rad to see that he’s shooting with a ton of different people. 

Reuben wanted me to ask you about the traveling that you’ve done. It looks like you’ve been to China, Canada, and Scotland all fairly recently. How did that all come about?

Well, the China thing, I have a buddy out there and he works with their government. He’s part of a committee that throws contests and they get skaters from all over the world, so he picked me and some of my friends to go because he knew us and thought it’d be sick and be a cool way to hang out and skate. The contests out there are pretty crazy, they’re a huge event! I went two years in a row and stayed out there for two weeks each time. 

Dreamin’ about Crooked Grinds in Toronto.

Canada was just a pure skate trip between friends. You know how people say, ‘Yeah, let’s plan a trip,’ but it never really gets set into motion. Well it was just one of those times where it did. We have a buddy out there named Daniel Policelli. He’s a phenomenal filmer, he makes great edits. So we had a group chat and told everybody, ‘Hey, meet at this Starbucks on this day if you wanna go to Canada.’ We met and we booked the Airbnb to solidify that we would for sure go. That trip was seriously the best, it was about 10 or 11 days. The sun sets late over there at around nine or 10 so we’d wake up at nine am, leave by 10, back by 11 [pm]. Then we would just repeat the same thing the next day. To me it was incredible because back at home I have bills, I have this, I have that, and I have work. All that stress was behind me, so it was just like everyday I woke up living the dream. 

I went to Scotland and London to visit family. I haven’t seen my family since I was two. Scottish people are the nicest people ever, they’re so polite. Just everything they do. Actually everywhere, everywhere besides America everybody’s so nice.

“…at home I have bills, I have this, I have that, and I have work. All that stress was behind me, so it was just like everyday I woke up living the dream”

So one of the things about the mag is stuff that skateboarders are into outside of skateboarding: different hobbies or passions. Do you have any passions or creative outlets outside of skateboarding or is that your main focus?

I’d say for the most part skating is that for me. Roller skating was that for me, for a long time. When times were rough or anything, in a way I could just go there and let all my problems melt away. It was sick. They play the music or I’d have my headphones in and play my own. For many years that was it for me. Now more so, it might just be skateboarding. I mean, we’ve all been really big on bowling lately.

I was going to mention that! I’ve seen you’ve been bowling a lot, is that creepin up? I bet you’re one of those guys who’s just good at everything.

Nah, I’m pretty terrible at bowling. I think my form’s wrong. One of my injuries might be caused from bowling, just by having bad form. When you bowl, getting strikes isn’t the hard part: it’s getting spares. If you don’t get spares then your score is just gonna sink. Yeah, bowling is a sick time with friends so that’s another cool part. I go occasionally by myself, that’s been a nice thing for me. One thing that I use to be into, which is why I bought these airpods, is running. I use to love running a lot and it’s something that I need to get back into so I bought these in hopes that it’ll motivate me to go run. I think I might run after this.

We’re getting to the end of this. What keeps you going man? What makes you happy? You’re 28, still shredding through the injuries. What keeps you going? Friends? Tricks? Footage? Traveling? What keeps you psyched?

All of the above! Just still being out here and doing the thing that makes me who I am. The fact that I get to do that day in and day out. There’s a lot of people who love baseball and they stop playing it or those who love football and they stop playing it. I think people who have a hobby at some point in their life just stop it. Maybe that’s just growing up and maybe skateboarders just don’t ever grow up. It just seems that when you’re a skateboarder it’s just something you want to do forever, regardless if your making millions off of it or hanging out at an elementary school slappying curbs with friends. It’s just something that’s always in you, and it holds true to me. I think it’s so rad that I still get to do this even on the days I’m injured. Even if I can go down to the beach and cruise from side to side, from Mission to PB and back, I still skated that day and I’ll still feel good about it.

“…it’s just something you want to do forever, regardless if your making millions off of it or hanging out at an elementary school slappying curbs with friends.”

I think that’s it for the interview, do you have anything else to say?

Thanks for having me, this was fun. Glad that you guys picked me, shoutout to you and Reuben. Sounds like a good little thing you guys are gonna get going.

Thanks man.

See more of Billy’s tech wizardry on Instagram: @billyjackson._

Check out more of Eduardo’s epic photography on Instagram: @eduartoe

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