Dropping In: DJ Martin

Interview by Nick Shields, Photos by Eduardo Sanchez

About six years ago a shaggy haired red head kid from Pennsylvania showed up at my local skatepark, Shockus Skatepark, seemingly out of nowhere and just destroyed everything in his path. That was DJ Martin and he has not slowed down since. DJ’s tech ability to throw flip tricks over the hips back to back to back was mind blowing, not to mention the long list of NBD’s he’s since attained in the now twenty year old skatepark. He quickly earned the respect of the locals that had been skating there since their prepubescent years. Not everyone gets taken in with such respect at that park, or any park with a crew of prideful loc’s, but the respect that DJ projected was reflected back at him.

Even more admirable than his talents on the board is DJ’s humility. He doesn’t see himself as somebody with any more talent than his peers, he just loves skateboarding. Growing up on the East Coast, shoveling snow to skate flatground in the winters, he is just grateful for the life he’s built himself in San Diego. With an impressive list of local sponsors and the ability to skate year round, he’s “made it” in his mind. DJ is living out his dream living in sunny California, skating next to legendary skateboarders on the regs and getting free product. He isn’t someone who is always looking for the next best thing, or a better opportunity, because in his mind he’s already found the holy grail. That’s something I hope we can all take away from DJ, is to look at your own situation, appreciate how far you’ve come, be grateful for everything you DO have, and just strive to keep it pushing and have fun with your homies.

DJ didn’t come to Cali for college but he recently mastered in BS Tailslides at UCSD.

How are you doin’ man?

Chillin’! Just got off work, kickin’ back.

Where are you working nowadays?

Hodad’s! Down in Ocean Beach.

You still living in Linda Vista?

Yep, still right here next to the skatepark. This zone is tight man, been here for about two years.

That’s awesome. Let’s jump right into some of the basics, how old are you and how long have you been skating?

I’m twenty-five, I’ve been skating pretty much my whole life. I’ve got this photo of me when I’m like two and a half, three years old standing on a board. It’s definitely always been one of those toys I’ve just had around. When I started getting seriously into it I was probably like eleven.

What got you to start taking it seriously?

I moved to a different town as I was just getting into it and all the kids on the street that I moved onto were already fully skating everyday. So it was natural for me to be out there with the other kids.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, it’s about 60 miles west of Philadelphia. Farmland.

Who are you currently riding for?

Right now I’ve got Scarred Skateboards, Slappy’s Garage skate shop, Mark Ass Trick Grip, Roughneck Hardware, Huh Bearings, Necked.co clothing streetwear, Crucial Crutches, and SliqBrix skate wax. 

That’s a lot! 

Yeah I’ve got good support, it’s tight! Definitely, those guys keep me rolling for sure.

They say you’re known by the company you keep, well DJ is in great company on the Slappy’s Garage team.

Let’s talk about Slappy’s Garage, how did you end up riding for them out of all the shops in SD?

I officially got on at the Chicano Park skatepark grand opening. They had a contest there, I was there cruising around and he [Jason Carney] just asked me, “Hey do you wanna skate for the shop?” I was like, “Pshhh, yeah Jason, legend!” 

That’s rad, what’s it like over there? It seems like a pretty tight-knit crew around that shop.

Yeah it’s definitely a good group of dudes who are about the shop and hold it down tight. It’s cool to be a part of, we just did the video at the beginning of [2019]. It’s a good vibe over there, they’re holding it down.

That’s good man! It seems like retail stores are dying out right now, because of online shopping. How important, do you think, is a local skateshop to a skateboard community?

Yeah it’s the keystone to the skate community for sure! You need a shop to go to and talk to people about skating, and if you have questions. You can buy stuff on the internet but you gotta know what you’re looking for, I don’t even know what I’m looking for! I need to be in there like, “What’s the difference between a conical and a conical full?” [laughs] You know what I mean? 

Skate shops are very important! I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon. It’s definitely getting harder but the people who are working to keep them open are doing it for the love, not for the cash.

“What’s the difference between a conical and a conical full?”

Amen. Bringing it back to sponsors, when did you first start getting hooked up for skateboarding?

Shortly after I moved to California. That was seven years ago.

What brought you out to California?

I had a couple homies that moved out here. Once they got settled and were like “Come out!” I had to jump at the opportunity.

Is that the dream for a lot of east coast skaters, to move out to Cali?

Yeah it’s definitely a dream, it’s almost unachievable. You’re so far separated from all that, it doesn’t even seem real. California is just a place you see in the movies. The opportunity led me out to Cali, I don’t know if I would’ve done it by myself you know?

I’ve never been to PA but I don’t imagine they have skate spots with a postcard view like this one. Feeble to fakie.

When you moved out here was it your goal to pursue skateboarding?

Not really, when I moved out here I was just trying to get out of Pennsylvania. I was just working a shitty job and I wasn’t doing anything with my life, I was just burning out after high school. Then that opportunity came up and I was like, “Well there’s gotta be something out in California for me.” So I just packed up and dipped.

As soon I got here I was like “I’m gonna go get a board and check out the skatepark.” It’s kinda just been that ever since.

Who were the first people you met and started skating with when you moved here?

So, I moved straight onto Voltaire in Ocean Beach, I lived like a block from the skatepark. So all those dudes going there every day like Lefty, Micah [Christina], &  all the older heads. That OB crew was the first people I was skating with.

It seemed like you and Mikey [Morris] were accepted into the crew pretty quickly.

Yeah Mikey is rad. We just love skating, that’s all we’re doing, you know? We’re just trying to have fun and everybody else is trying to have fun, so it’s easy to have fun together.

Did you and Mikey grow up in the same town?

Yep! I grew up with Mikey, he’s a couple years older than me so by the time I started skating he had already been doing it for a few years. He’s always been the good kid I looked up to.

How did you get so fucking good at skateboarding?

[Laughs] Fuck man, I suck! I think it’s just that I didn’t necessarily have the best childhood or situation growing up so I think a lot of it was just getting away from home. Being out in the streets and with my friends, all I wanted to do was that. It’s just the time put into it really, I remember skating flatground for years by myself when my friends quit, or winter time, or whatever. That’s all I’d want to do, that’s still all I want to do.

That’s definitely a commonality amongst skaters, that a lot of us had a rough home life and we used skateboarding to get out of the house.

Yeah I feel like it takes some freedom to be able to do that young, to just roam the city with your friends at an early age. So you’re right, a lot of skaters probably didn’t have the structure to tell your kid not to run away to the city and spend all day riding buses around and breaking people’s property and shit [laughs]. It’s a pretty rebellious sport I’d say.

Skating didn’t just get him out of the house it got him onto the house. Natas Spin?

Being able to do it by myself is what attracted me to it as well, you don’t need a team to go out and play skateboarding.

Yeah exactly, it’s accessible. You can just go outside and do it, there’s no field you gotta go to or team you’ve got to meet up with. 

“..there’s no field you gotta go to or team you’ve got to meet up with.”

In your video parts we can see that you are a pretty well rounded skater, how did you develop such versatility in terrain that you’re able to skate and your bag of tricks?

That just comes from skating what was in front of me the whole time. I came from a small town so we didn’t have much, a tiny little skatepark and some loading docks. I’d mainly call myself a street skateboarder, because I enjoy the streets and I strive to be there. 

I think it’s just skating what you have in front of you because when I moved to OB, that place is nothing but tranny, and I like couldn’t even frontside grind when I moved there [laughs]. I wasn’t gonna not go there because I couldn’t skate it, I was gonna go there and figure it out. That’s one of my favorite skateparks now, that place helped a lot with getting my transition legs in. Now I have Linda Vista which has got handrails, big tranny, and vert. I’m kinda trying to dig into that a little more because it’s kinda what I’m lacking. It’s always what I’m lacking that I want to work on.

Well now you’re doing nollie big heel tail stall reverts on tranny, so I’d say you adapted pretty well. What’s your favorite kind of obstacles to skate, manny pads, rails, gaps, stairs, ledges, tranny, etc?

That’s a toss up because skating everything is so different. Like you can skate a mini-ramp and it’s more of having fun and good vibes and everything, but that can be just as fun as going out to a handrail that you know you can skate but you’re just scared shitless shaking, and to overcome that fear is just as fun as having fun on a curb. You get something different out of pretty much anything you skate. Spend five hours, ten days, or a month on a manual trick or just first try [on a handrail] you have to lock in, I can find the satisfaction in both of those.

What skateboarders influenced you growing up, and had the most impact on your style?

Definitely the videos I was watching like the Flip videos I remember early with Geoff Rowley, Arto, even Bastien, I love Bastien’s style, and Tom Penny. 

Being on the east coast and having The DC Video come out around the time I started skating. Seeing Stevie and Josh Kalis, just that whole Philly scene that was kind of close by and relatable. 

For someone like me who grew up in Cali, tell me what’s it like trying to skate on the East Coast, because it’s a lot rougher out there right?

Yeah it’s rough, but don’t get it too messed up because San Diego definitely has some crust! I’d say the general streets everywhere are about as rough as a ditch would be and the same with sidewalks. 

“..San Diego definitely has some crust!”

How did you deal with the long winters growing up skating?

Kinda just did what you had to do. I remember shoveling out skateparks and bundling up, definitely putting layers on, like long sleeves, hoodies,  jackets, and you got your big winter jacket over that. If it’s dry it’s skateable. I was never too concerned with how cold it was, because the more layers you had on you could stay warm and then you had all that padding. So if you were jumping down big stuff and falling on your big winter jacket it wasn’t even that bad.

You’ve put out a part pretty much every year since you’ve moved to SD, how do you keep motivated to stay filming in the streets and not get caught up just going to the park everyday?

That’s all the weekend crew, the Washed Up Warriors and T-bone, Tyrone Olson. Shoutout to T-bone, he’s the number one inspiration in staying in the streets out in San Diego. 

Always down to huck down some crust, DJ heads back up for another go.

How did you meet Tyrone Olson and start skating with him all the time?

I met him through Mikey [Morris], he had met him through Kenny Mohr and Mikey [Gray]. I think we clicked because I like filming too, I’m down to sit on the spot and point a camera at somebody while they’re getting theirs. I love that almost as much as I love skating, just being out there. Me and T-bone have a good vibe where he’s down to film and skate and I’m down to film and skate. So we get to the spot and we both do our things and we both get our shit and it’s onto the next thing. He is so productive all the time, it’s cool to have somebody like that around for sure.

Tyrone is a legend, not just in SD but in skateboarding in general, was it intimidating when you first started going out filming and skating with him?

I don’t think it was intimidating but it was definitely motivating. That was my first experience being out with a professional while he was doing his thing. I’ve learned a lot from that guy, like how to approach spots, he’s been in the game doing this for decades now, he’s got very keen experience in this shit.

Do you guys purposely go out knowing that you want to skate a rail or need a clip in a ditch or whatever, or do you just go with the flow and skate whatever you stumble upon?

A little bit of both. It also depends on who you’re skating with; T-bone’s a rail chomper so you’re gonna end up at some rails with T-bone. I’ve been skating with little Trae [Montgomery] too. He is the future, he’s the raddest little kid, he’s nine and he grinds twenty-stair rails, it’s absurd. So you know he’s gonna be jumping on some big stuff.

Oh sick, are you guys teammates?

Yeah I guess, we both ride for SliqBrix. That’s the homie Mike’s [Hamilton] company. Shoutout @mikeymeatz! He got hurt and he had to put his time into something productive, and something skating while he couldn’t be skating. So he just started making wax and doing his whole thing. He knows all the ledges and he knows how to wax em up! [laughs]

How did T-bone’s new company Scarred Skateboards come about?

Yeah it’s been around for about a year now. He just wanted to do his own thing. He’s got a couple cousin’s that are graffiti artists back in Madison, Wisconsin where he’s from. He’s been killing it, it’s rad to be a part of for sure.

DJ is a straight up ATV don’t let these street flicks fool you. Back to UCSD for a guest lecture on Lipslides.

Do you have any other creative interests outside of skateboarding?

Filming and editing. I’m working on my first video, we’re calling it Mustard and Tomato. It’s pretty much just a homie video. The homie Matt Sosa, he grew up with T-bone out in Madison Wisconsin, and he’s been on it every weekend. He’s got a trunk full of different sized skateboards and everything you need to fix a spot. Over the last year or so he’s been picking me up and we’ve been skating and filming. We ended up with a hard drive full of footage so I gotta put it together and throw a party right?

Hell yeah, so you’re gonna be editing that then?

Yeah, it’s pretty much my whole [project]. It’s my camera, and my roommate has a sick computer setup in the living room. It’s like a media center, he makes music and stuff, shoutout @hughgoodmusic. We’ve got a cool little creative vibe going on here.

Who’s gonna have parts in the video?

Matt Sosa’s got a full part, I’ve got a full part. Wheelchair Rob, Robert Thompkins shoutout @thesix1nineschair_man! He’s got hours of footage too. It’s probably going to be a couple of friends montages with a few full parts in between. 

That’s rad. Let’s talk about Robert for a second, what would you say about him for the people who don’t know him?

Robert is the man! He lost the use of his legs cliff jumping, he broke his back so he’s in a wheelchair. He is 1000% skateboarder, you could not take him out of the game if you tried. He’s still out there grinding rails, jumping stairs, going for it full send all the time. 

He takes some slams too!

Oh yeah, he’s like broke his knee and got his trick and then went to the hospital later. Yeah he’s definitely a trooper, he’s a beast.

“..he’s like broke his knee and got his trick and then went to the hospital later.”

What other local SD skaters get you stoked right now?

Oh man, San Diego’s full of them, the scene here is so rad. Gone Cemental, pool skating legend running the game over there. The Hodad’s crew is killing it, look out for the Hodad’s video! We’re just in the beginning stages of it, but it’s coming. Sk8mafia is rolling, those dudes are sick Alexis [Ramirez] and Alex [Willms]. Marcel [Martinez], Marcel is the best!

That’s sick you’re hyped on Marcel’s skating. What do you think of people who are too die hard on street skating to watch any kind of tranny skating, do you think that’s whack?

I wouldn’t say it’s whack. Every skateboarder fell in love with skateboarding at a certain point of their life, at whatever era of skateboarding that was. I feel like everybody kinda wants to draw back to the era that they fell in love with. So if it’s not in correlation with the skateboarding that they fell in love with they might not relate to it as much so they wouldn’t want to get into it. 

I’m kind of like that too. People skate curbs, and curb skating is hard, and you can slam and it’s just as respectable as any other skating. But for some reason I usually won’t make it through the whole insta post if it’s just curbs or something you know? [laughs]

Skaters are the biggest haters too, [most] just talking shit. You’ll see a kid doing a sick no-comply trick but somebody always has something shitty to say about it right?

That’s very true, skateboarders are some of the biggest shit talkers but then everybody always talks about how skateboarding is all inclusive.

Yeah I think a lot of it is just the whole internet though. Everything is like that right now, everyone is getting talked shit on for whatever. If you go to the skatepark you’re usually not gonna have a conversation about a trick you’re trying. Everyone’s going to be supporting you in the process of trying this trick because they’re there seeing it [in person] as opposed to it being next to Nyjah’s clip in their feed or some shit [laughs].

Places kids notoriously talk shit: instagram, skateparks, hallways. But never on this Hardflip over the rail.

Are there any skaters from back home in PA you think people should know about?

Yeah man, John de Parrot. I grew up with that dude and he’s killing it! There’s a lot of them, Josh Miles, shoutout Josh Miles, he’s the best skateboarder in the world and like, could give a fuck. He is just on the thing for the smile, it’s so rad. Most of the dudes who are on the east coast now who are really about it and doing it are getting their shine, it’s cool to see. Like the Terror of Planet X dudes are all killing it, Sabotage, most of the main dudes are getting their shine.

Speaking of shine, you’re still pretty young at 25, do you have any aspirations to try and make a career out of skateboarding?

That’s a tough one, that’s the dream right? We all share that dream. I’m definitely going to be skateboarding for the rest of my life, there’s no question about that. It’s where I find my satisfaction and happiness, anything you’re looking for I get it out of skating. I feel like I made it, I’m in southern California skating, living next to the second biggest skatepark in California. I’ve come way farther than what I thought was possible so anything from here is a plus.

 “I’ve come way farther than what I thought was possible so anything from here is a plus.”

That’s a great mindset dude. What would be your next step though? Do you ever want to see your name on the bottom of a board?

That’s a dream, I don’t know about that one, I guess [laughs]. That pressure of thinking about all the other professionals on the board and what I would need to be doing for me to get the satisfaction of all that. I feel like I’ve got some polishing up to do still. 

That’s funny, most people would be like, “Yeah, of course!” and you’re actually thinking about it more as an actual job and the hard work of earning it which is rad. 

Yeah it’s a special thing. Not everybody gets their name on a board or gets hooked up at all so it’s definitely a blessing.

Anything else besides Mustard and Tomato or the Hodad’s video in the works for 2020?

Yeah I’ve got a Scarred part in the works. Maybe drop a Shieldless part?!

Yeahh! Any time you wanna drop a Shieldless part we’ll make that happen! Thanks for doing this man, any last shoutouts to end this?

Shoutout everybody man, if you’ve helped me in any way, shape, or form, thank you. Thank you guys, thanks Shieldless, this was awesome.

The rail chompin’ never stops. Which one of his three upcoming parts do you think this Front Blunt will make it in? Stay tuned…

Keep up to date with DJ on Instagram HERE.

Check out Slappy’s Garage on Instagram HERE.

See more photos from Eduardo on Instagram HERE!

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