Dropping In: London Davis

By Nick Shields, Photos by Mike Goodman

When you think of young sponsored skaters coming up nowadays you might start to think that the mandatory Instagram clips and shameless self-promotion required to please sponsors and gain recognition would inflate the ego quite a bit, this is definitely not the case with London Davis. At 23 years old, London has managed to humbly keep his head down and destroy every handrail and stair set in his path. I recently had the pleasure of filming his session for this interview on the famous Brooklyn rail in San Diego, mere days before they knobbed it. London showed up with about 20 minutes of sunlight to spare, set up a fresh board with the most air-bubbled grip job I’ve ever seen, and with car legs hot off an hour and a half drive he proceeded to knock out five of six tricks for the camera no problem. From witnessing his effortless destruction on that rail and talking with him in this interview I have no doubt that we will be seeing a lot more of this young buck over the years. If you don’t believe me, just take it from friend of the mag, San Diego OG, & professional skateboarder Shuriken Shannon:

“London Davis, I’ve been watching him kill it for years now. Many great things to say about him: he’s a very humble and laidback brotha, straight up a silent killer on a skateboard for real, he really impresses me every time I see him skate. Smooth, Solid, and Gnarly. Really excited to see what’s to come for my young G. Y’all better buckle up and watch out now cause I am.”

– Shuriken 

This rail was nothing for London, might as well have been at a skatepark.

Let’s get right into it man! What’s up with these injuries, didn’t you go straight from a fractured wrist into a broken ankle?

Yeah, I recently broke my ankle maybe five weeks ago, but it’s healing pretty quick. I should be back skating in another; maybe three weeks. So pretty short injury, not too serious.

Is that the worst injury you’ve had so far?

It probably is the worst injury I’ve ever had. The only other major injury I’ve ever had is breaking my thumb. 

How are you holding up not skating?

I’ve been going to school. I’m always doing college classes, I’ve been focusing more on that while I’ve been hurt.

What are you going to school for, anything specific?

Yeah, I’m actually doing real estate. I already have my certificate and everything, about to start working pretty soon, maybe next month.

Oh, that’s really cool, man. What got you into doing real estate?

Growing up I had a really close buddy who decided to go into real estate. He was actually my skate filmer, so he inspired me to do that.

Sick! That brings us back to the beginning, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Chicago, Illinois. I really grew up moving my whole life, I moved from Chicago to Michigan, and then here to California when I was about fifteen or sixteen.

What part of California did you move to?

I started in Anaheim and moved my way to San Diego after that. Now I’m up in Riverside, so all over the place.

What’s your favorite city in Cali that you’ve lived in: Anaheim, San Diego or Riverside?

Probably San Diego. I like San Diego probably the best out of everywhere I’ve been in California. Super laid back. And the skate scene is crazy out there.

Yeah. It’s booming down here for sure, its wild.

I like it a lot better than LA for sure. LA is too hectic for me.

Yeah I feel that man. Did you see a lot of pros growing up in Chicago or when you moved out here?

In Chicago I actually grew up skating with Jon Dickson and Chaz Ortiz. We grew up all in the same skatepark.  It’s a pretty small skate scene out there so everybody knows everybody. Actually, when I moved out here my teacher was Wes Kremer’s mother, I think she was like my math teacher. It’s pretty random but she was always super sick showing us skate videos all day.

That’s so awesome! Did you ever get to skate with Wes?

Not as much as I’d like to, but hopefully in the future we can get some more sessions going.

Is there any story behind the name London and why your parents named you that? 

Not really. I had an uncle named Paris, but I guess that was just a coincidence. No story behind it, just random names [Laughs]. But I’m hyped I don’t have a regular name.

That’s a really funny coincidence though with your uncle! So you grew up skating with Chaz and Dickson, but you’re a little bit younger than those guys, right?

Yeah, for sure. They’re maybe about 10 years older than me, or a good number of years older than me.

How old are you right now?

I’m 23 right now.

Damn, still young!

Kinda, kinda, getting up there though [laughs].

I mean, in skateboarding years it kind of feels like that I’m sure. But in the grand scheme of things, you’ve got plenty of time. Who were your greatest influences growing up? Who did you look up to?

I’d probably say Chaz Ortiz was my greatest influence. I skated with him really every day from like ten years old to fourteen. He pretty much started out with the tricks I wanted to learn, he kinda molded all of that for me.

“I’d probably say Chaz Ortiz was my greatest influence.”

Oh really? So he kind of pushed you in the direction that your skating took?

Yes, sir. Very much so.

Consistency is key, Back Lip just to warm up.

I don’t mean this in a bad way at all, but he’s almost got a robotic style, like everything’s very dialed in. Was that kind of sought after when you were young looking up to him?

Definitely, that was the biggest thing looking up to him, was his consistency, and contests. I really grew up skating contests because of him and I still really love contests to this day.

That’s awesome, man. That’s a skill that even the most talented skateboarders don’t have. Skating a contest is way different than filming the video part. Were you watching a lot of videos as a kid? What videos did you grow up on?

Well I started skating maybe 2008 around there, 2009. So a lot of the kind of older videos like the older Element videos, 411, all the older core videos, you know? I’m not a fan of the new corporate stuff too much.

How do you mean?

Just like Nike and Adidas they’re just taking over the sport. I liked it better when it was more core skateboarding.

When you think of core skateboarding, what comes to mind for you?

Really just a smaller community. People who actually care about skateboarding more than just doing it for a show or to be cool. 

So if Nike came along, with a fat monthly check you would turn them down?

[Laughs] That’s hard one, but most likely I would. If I I’m on a core company already, for sure.

I’m not a big Nike fan either, so I’m right there with you. But I’ve never seen the check so I don’t know what I would do.

Exactly, exactly. 

So going back again, what’s your family like? How did they react to you getting into skateboarding and did somebody in your family skate?

Nope, I’m the only one in my family that skateboards, but my parents are super supportive. In Chicago they would always take me skating to the indoor parks. It snows like most of the year there in the Midwest. It’s cold, it’s snowy, so you can’t really skate outside. Without them I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at.

I was looking up some videos on YouTube and I came across a video of you on the New Pollution show from Fuel TV when you were like 12 years old. Did any opportunities come from that?

Not directly, but I stayed in contact with Matt Beacham and he’s always doing stuff in the skateboarding industry, like contests in different places around the world. He has been spreading my name around and talking to a couple of people for me. He’s a cool guy from the show, the host.

That’s cool to hear that he’s a cool dude. How did that show come about? Also, what was that experience like, having a camera crew come film you and doing interviews at such a young age? 

It was pretty wild being that young and being on TV. Chaz had been on before me so he recommended to those guys that I was pretty good at skating and they were hyped on me. It’s pretty wild having a camera crew at your house that young and filming and all that, but I was hyped on it.

“It was pretty wild being that young and being on TV.”

I always wondered, was that show scripted at all? 

It was pretty much just like we’re doing now.  There might be a couple of little scripted lines in there, some of the stuff was corny but most of it was just normal interview stuff.

Since you were so young when that came out, like 12 years old, was there a point in your skating when you realized you were getting better than the people around you?

Yeah, it was not like I stopped skating with those people, but I just focused more on skating with the people that were better than me to make me progress. That’s the main way I feel I get better is skating with people better than me.

Alley-Oop Back 180 with a little Fabrizio inspo perhaps?

Was there a single trick that might have put it in your brain that you could maybe do this for a living someday?

Kind of, yeah. There’s this famous spot in Chicago called Cole Taylor, it’s a 13 stair. I hardflipped that when I was like thirteen, I thought that was just skating at the time, but Chaz was super hyped on it and he told me to really focus my head and all this stuff, you know, like focusing on a career and I took his advice and kept with it.

Recently you posted on Instagram a clip that was filmed by Nyjah’s dad and you mention that you rode for his company I&I. How did that come about?

That was through pro skater Fabrizio Santos. He’s an OG pro, has been around for a while. While I was in Chicago skating I got sponsored by his company, which was called Forest Skateboards, they were kind of big for a little while. I rode for them for about a year or two when I was like fifteen or fourteen and we became really close friends, me and Fabrizio. He was like a father figure kind of, and he told me he was dropping his company to ride for I&I, and he told me I should do the same thing and ride for them as well. At that time I was just skating and going along with whatever. He got me on the company and next thing I know Nyjah’s dad was saying, “Come fly out to Cali, to film a part!”

So you came out to Cali and went out filming with Nyjah?

Well, the thing was, what I didn’t know at the time is I thought it was Nyjah’s company, but it was really his dad running it. It was Nyjah’s, but his dad was the owner. So I flew out there, I think it was like my second time to California. I stayed for about two months and he would take me around everywhere, LA, San Diego, filming clips with Fabrizio. There was another skater, Anthony Williams, he’s a super good AM skater as well. Everybody went out there and we filmed a part for about two months, super heavy, hectic missions. When we were finished, Nyjah’s dad really just cut everybody off and didn’t talk to anybody after we filmed our footage. So we all lost a full video part and never heard from him again. 

Woah, that’s crazy, man. So was there some pretty gnarly footage that you lost?

Super gnarly! Probably the best footage I’ve ever filmed, honestly. But you can’t cry over spilled milk, you know? [laughs]

Is there anything that really stands out that you can mention, since that footage might never surface, anything on any iconic spots that you’re really stoked that you did?

Yeah. It’s kind of hard to remember the spot names, cause I was so young, but there’s a spot that Walker Ryan skates in his Organika Graduation [3:17] part. He does nollie front heel down a set. It’s pretty famous, everybody’s skates it. I did the same trick, nollie front heel way back then. It’s probably one of the heavier tricks. We all did a lot of heavy tricks for that video, but he only sent us like one clip.

Damn that’s hectic. So did you ever come in contact with Nyjah at all or was it all just you going out with his dad and the other team members?

Yeah, it was really his dad taking charge of everything. Nyjah was really busy at the time as well. 

That’s really surprising to me that he wasn’t out with you guys filming. So what happened once his dad went M.I.A? Were you without a board company for a little while?

I was without a board company for a little while, but just kept skating. I have a shop sponsor, so they were giving me boards and eventually Mystery picked me up, not too long after.

So after you went out to Cali to film for a couple of months it wasn’t too long before you actually moved to California. What was that like, moving to a whole different part of the country in high school?

It was pretty regular for me. Like I said, I grew up moving around a lot before I came to California. I actually moved to Michigan due to family issues. So we moved from Chicago to Michigan and then from there to California. I was pretty used to moving states. I’ve been to like six high schools in my life in like four years so I’m used to moving.

How did you adjust moving so much? Was it just skateboarding that kept you grounded

Yes, that’s really all it was is just skateboarding. I am grateful I moved around a lot because it taught me a lot about life and everything. At the time I really wasn’t hyped on moving, but in hindsight you realize it teaches you a lot. 

Do you think  it had an effect on your skating at all?

I do, I do. I feel like if anything, it made me skate harder just because I wasn’t focused on other people and, you know, normal high school things like girls and cars and all that. I was just really focused on skateboarding more because that’s what keeps the stress down. When stuff is hectic you just go out to skate and forget everything.

“When stuff is hectic you just go out to skate and forget everything.”

I wanted to talk about Rincon because I’ve seen videos of you destroying that spot. It’s also listed on the Mystery site as your favorite skate spot. I think from what I remember, you hardflipped it, tre flip, over crook, and nollie crooked it. What do you like about that spot so much?

It’s super easily accessible. You just hop a small gate and it’s like a skatepark to me. Not too much of a bust, you can skate there all day. I used to live in Escondido, it was like two or three miles away from where I used to live, not far at all. I would go there probably like once a week just to skate flat ground or skate the set, it’s like a plaza. 

You ever do anything on the four block when you’re skating there alone?

Yeah, I tre flipped it and hardflipped it a couple of times and filmed it for Instagram as well.

It’s no Rincon but a picturesque Back Smith will do.

Wow, that’s insane! Going back to sponsors, how did you get hooked up by Mystery? 

Just by skating in the San Diego area, they were based out of Oceanside for a while in the Surplus [Distribution] warehouse with Theeve. I guess they saw me skating a couple of times and they were hyped on me, I started off getting on Theeve first and then after Theeve it’s the same distribution so they put me on Mystery.

Then how did you get on Etnies, same sort of deal, hanging around north county?

Not really, I’ve been on Etnies for about seven years, a long time. I went to Tampa AM and did really good. I got like 16th out of about 300 and the finals were like top 15, so I missed it by one spot. I was pretty bummed and I’m about to leave that day and the owner of Etnies, actually came down and was hyped on me and asked me if I wanted to ride for him. I was super stoked and of course said yes, and I’ve been riding for him ever since. That’s why I like contests, to get your name out there a lot more.

Do you have any hobbies or passions outside of skateboarding?

I do, kind of random, but I really like food. I’m starting to learn about how to become a food critic. I’m thinking about doing that as a job as well, like a legit food critic.

“I’m starting to learn about how to become a food critic.”

Yeah? You like to treat yourself to a nice restaurant once in a while?

Oh yeah, very often. I go probably like three times a week to fine dining. It’s something random I like to spend my money on.

Are you going fancy like picking a wine to pair with your meal?

Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely all about that wine pairing and all of that. Yeah, I love all that stuff too.

Sick! Do you prefer red or white wine?

I like white wine.

Do you have an alcoholic beverage of choice?

Probably say a Rosé, Rosé wine.

What kind of food would you pair with your Rosé?

Hmmm, with some Rosé it depends. Depends what I’m feeling, but you could do some fine bread and cheese with the Rosé

Hardflip in the streets of SD! Celebratory rosé anyone?

Have you ever thought about getting into the cooking side of food or are you more just on the tasting side?

I like both, but I don’t think I’ve got the skill for cooking the type of stuff I like to taste.

That’s cool though, good to have other interests. Back to skating, are you working on a part right now?

I am. I’m working on a couple parts right now. I have maybe two homie videos I’m working on right now and I’m also working on a full-length for Mystery.

Oh shit. A going pro part maybe?

[Laughs] Hopefully, hopefully. Definitely the dream for sure. 

So you’re 23 right now, but you’ve been in the skate game for over a decade. Do you still feel like a young buck or do you feel more like a veteran these days?

I kind of feel like a veteran, but there’s a lot of people that have been skating way longer than me, and are a lot better, so you just got to humble yourself and keep skating.

Totally, sounds like you’ve been getting hooked up in one way or another since you were like 12 or 13 years old and a lot of people don’t even get their first box until they’re your age now. So you’re way ahead of the pack.

Yeah, absolutely, I definitely appreciate it and I’m in a blessed spot with skating for sure.

That’s awesome. Did you ever consider going the Youtube route with your skating?

Kind of, but its kinda like a stigma with YouTube skaters. You know what I’m saying? That they’re not as legit. So I mean, not really too interested in starting YouTube stuff, but I’m definitely staying on top of Instagram and other social media.

Do you mean like the skateboarding is not as legit or like from the industry perspective, like Thrasher, it’s seen as illegitimate?

Yeah, just in the industry they’re not taken as seriously. Like one of my really close homies, Jeff Dechesare, he’s like probably the best skater I’ve ever seen. Just because he does that type of YouTube stuff he kind of gets looked down upon in that regard, but his skating is top line. So it’s kind of a weird thing in the industry but that’s how skateboarding is.

You’ve kind of taken the more traditional route of just skating contests, putting your head down, filming parts, and hitting the streets. 

Exactly, if you’re killing it you’ll get noticed. 

Speaking of killing it, how did that front blunt on O-side hubba go down, was that a battle?

Surprisingly it wasn’t, I just had that trick in my mind for a long time. We went there pretty early, about eight in the morning, and knocked it out really quick. Maybe about eight tries, eight or nine tries.

Wow. That’s pretty Epic. Had you skated that thing before?

I have not. That was my first time skating it, I just warmed up with a 50 and five-0 and then just hopped on it.

Do a lot of your tricks kinda come fast like that or do you end up like battling pretty often?

I usually battle pretty often. That one I kinda got pretty quick, so I was hyped. But either way it doesn’t matter to me, I like a nice battle here and there.

Do you have any plans to get a flip into that thing?

Oooof, I don’t know about that one! [Laugh] If anything I’d nollie into it.

To wrap it up here. You got to go shooting some photos with Mike G for this interview, how was that?

Super fun, Mike’s a great photographer, always fun shooting pictures with the homie.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you plan on taking your skateboarding?

Really just go pro as soon as possible and just keep doing it, you know?

Nothing like a good old loading dock. Heelflipping through the light show.

If you could pick your first pro graphic what would you do? You got like a spirit animal or something?

Probably like a play off my name in some kind of way. Maybe like London in the background, or something like the city.

Maybe throw uncle Paris in the background or something.

Right! [Laughs].

Have you ever been to London?

I have not but it’s on my bucket list.

Was there anything else that you want to cover before we get into the last little bit here? 

Thank God for where I’m at and blessed to be here, and keep shredding y’all!

Any last shoutouts you wanna give?

Yeah, shoutout Mystery skateboards, Etnies footwear for making the best impact support, and Asylum skatepark in Chicago for supplying me with what I’ve needed since the beginning. Shoutout Elenex clothing as well.

And where can people find you online if they want to keep up with you?

Find me on Instagram @londondavis__, and you can find some of my video parts on YouTube, just search my name.

Is there any video on there that you’re the most proud of that you would like people to check out?

Yeah, I have an older video on there I’m really proud of. It’s kind of older, but it’s video called London Davis Street Footage. It’s all my Michigan stuff before I moved out here. I filmed really hard for that part and was hyped when it came out, and still hyped on it to this day.

That’s a good one! Well, that’s all I got for you unless you wanna add anything else?

Nope, that’s all my man. Thank you. Thank you for the interview and we got to catch a session real soon.

Follow London on Instagram for some epic clips @londondavis__

See more rad photography from Mike Goodman on Instagram @mike_g_photo

Special thanks to Shuriken Shannon, keep up with him @shurikensjoint