By Reuben Barrack
It’s been a decade since I was featured on Slap’s One in a Million at the tender age of 16, making me one of the youngest contestants to ever participate. I’ve been asked by my friend and fellow co-founder of Shieldless Mag to reflect and recount what I’ve been up to in life since the contest for anyone who may care. (Spoiler alert: I still say ‘thank you’ way too much!) During the process of creating this piece, I struggled with many guilty thoughts of coming off, and possibly being, incredibly narcissistic, vain, and pretentious. While I haven’t totally shaken these thoughts, I’m still doing this anyway! Just like everyone else in the midst of an ongoing quarantine, it has given me a lot of time to look back on the last ten years and think about where I’m headed for the future.
I encourage anyone, regardless of reading this, to do the same exercise. See if you’re hyped on your current emotional and mental state right now, or if some changes need to be made for the better. It hasn’t been a cake walk for me to say the least, which we’ll delve into later on, but I’m very fortunate to still be skating and have my shit (mostly) together at this point. It’s a cathartic experience to finally say goodbye to your old sense of self while also feeling proud of what you’ve accomplished in the process. Ultimately, I wouldn’t have anything worth mentioning if it weren’t for my friends, family and skateboarding. This recap is just as much a part of me as it is for them!
2010-2011: Earth Shattering Sacks and Shitty No-Complys
Looking back on OIAM ten years later, it was my first real skate trip that I’ll never forget. I got out of school for a week, met a bunch of rad people in the industry, stacked some of my best clips at the time and also got a ton of free shit. Not much more you could ask for, win or lose. It felt amazing making it to the top three but it was difficult having to keep the results a secret from everyone for at least a few months. Although I didn’t win, I was never bitter. John deserved it and I was really happy for him! It is a bummer that we all don’t keep in touch, but everyone is still killing it. Big congrats to Nik who just turned pro for Hockey as well! I had time on my side and all I wanted to do was keep skating and having fun, so I stayed on top of it.
2011 was a transitional period for my skating. I tried to follow the sage advice of Mark Whiteley, who challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and learn new tricks to expand my ability on the board. A few months after OIAM, I skated in a Crossroads contest at the old Black Box park. I tried a fakie bigger flip down the stairs but couldn’t quite pull it off the way I wanted to. I rolled away super sketchy while borrowing Tom Remillard’s board since I had broken mine earlier in the day. My nerves got to me and it was the first time I had skated in a contest with top pros at the time. Manny Santiago was there and he saw Forrest and I about to set up for our tricks on the roll in. He shouted “They meet again!” like it was some sort of rematch. That’s the last time I’ve skated with Forrest, but hopefully we’ll cross paths again soon as fellow skaters and not competitors.
I was glad I continued to push myself to keep learning tricks at this time but it really took a toll on my body, as you can see in my shared Animal Style part from What Day Is It? I sacked the shit out of myself on Crawford trying a trick I have not attempted since then, but did manage to finally land a way better fakie bigger flip in a line so I felt relieved. I was pretty inspired by TWS Hallelujah at the time so I tried to do a lot of ledge dancing tricks for this part as well, but those quickly faded out from my repertoire, just like the double pump no-comply 180 I did which still makes me cringe to this day. Although there’s some clunky and funky maneuvers for me during this time, to put it lightly, it still brought my skating to a new depth that I carried with me to Santa Cruz once I started college in 2012.
2012-2013: Partying and Bullshit
The night before I started classes at UCSC my homies got me into a local watering hole, which basically set a precedent for partying way more than I should have during my stint in SC. I was 18 with a friend’s old ID, so if anyone on campus needed me to go on a run I didn’t need to ask any randoms for help, plus having a beard helped for sure because no one questioned me. I was also going through a tough break up at this time, which fueled me to skate hard and hit the books even harder, but not without being heinously hungover in the process. I was able to finally get a decent no-comply 180 in Two Dudes One Part that year and even finish another Animal Style part for XTRAMDM that came out in 2013, all while filming for a full-length SC homie vid called Bro Möd.
I also started going up to SF pretty consistently, almost every other weekend, taking solo train missions and doing my school work to and from with my downtime. My brother Nate lived in the Tenderloin so I’d crash with him Friday night to Sunday morning and skate as much as possible with Brendan Bill. I was really motivated to keep the skate/school/party balance going for as long as possible and seemed to have a handle on it. I wrapped up my first year of college with solid grades so I didn’t think anything could bring me down. But it also got to the point where I couldn’t feel comfortable having social interactions at a party without drinking excessively, fueling the start of my codependency and reliance on alcohol to have fun.
2014-2015: Calm Before the Storm
Everything was looking up skating wise and with life in general! I finished up my Bro Möd part and had some clips in Bill’s full length 19th Avenue. I even got my first photo in Thrasher! I also got my driver’s license on the first try shortly after my 21st birthday. I was a late bloomer to driving and had an irrational phobia that I finally overcame with the help of my roommates who taught me how to drive and my aunt who drove me to the DMV for my behind-the-wheel. It’s weird how something so simple like this could make me feel so empowered, having the freedom to go anywhere and not feel stuck. I traveled a bit that summer as well, went up to Washington and filmed an edit there with Miciah Garcia and Doug Valdez, riding the high of my big year.
It wasn’t long after this that both my grandfather and longtime friend Shockus passed away hours apart from one another in October of 2014, which led me into a deep depression for the better part of a year. I grew out my hair and beard long as fuck. I just stopped taking care of myself. I did have the opportunity to go to Cambodia that December for my major, which did help me get out of my rut a bit. I had never been out of the country before except Tijuana, so being able to go on an academic yet personal journey couldn’t have come at a better time.
Moving into 2015, I also had some HD footage on the side that we were able to piece together for a Hungry Ams part in the OJ Show on the Thrasher site. A few months after that part dropped, I officially had enough credits to graduate early from UCSC in the winter of 2015. So I had six months of doing absolutely nothing but watching every season of Curb Your Enthusiasm and skating every single day before I walked in June 2016. That was the best time of my life, having no obligations and a much needed mental health break before moving out of SC to Oakland and immersing my life in the working world.
2016-2017: Anxiety and Death Pt. I
Moving to Oakland for a year was probably the best and worst time of my life. I went through another serious breakup, I was working six days a week at a retail job, and I had a part-time internship at an art gallery once a week. I barely had any time to skate and was partying pretty much every night all throughout Oakland and SF. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an exciting time to be on your own, making a sufficient amount of money to support yourself, paying your own bills and rent and still having time to treat yourself. But it all comes at a cost when you start to care more about where the next party is while slowly letting your passions drift away.
In May of 2017, my father suddenly passed away from a heart attack a few months after his 60th birthday. I was absolutely devastated. I always thought we’d have more time to grow together but that was unfortunately cut short. After going back to SD for a few weeks to make the arrangements with Nate and meet with my extended family, I was robbed at gunpoint walking home from a Bart station one night after work. Ironically, I’m glad that happened to me because it made me realize that it was time to move back home to SD and start over. It gave me the chance to reconnect with old friends and finally be skating more.
2018-2019: Anxiety and Death Pt. II
Things were going smoothly back in SD. Shields got me a room with him in Ocean Beach, I still had my retail gig and was back on a regular skate regimen. Although I was stoked on my situation, I was still partying after work frequently and all my pent up stress from moving back home and the aftermath of my father’s death lead me to developing crippling anxiety. I would have daily panic attacks, either at work causing me to leave early or at home late at night from not being able to sleep. I called ambulances on myself multiple times because I thought I was going to die. This was an all time low for me and my mental health, I couldn’t seem to find a way out. I started going to therapy and was being prescribed anti-anxiety medication for the first time in my life and it made me realize that I had always been an anxious person, but just never fully understood what that entailed until this moment.
I had taken a few trips to clear my head in early 2018, one of which was going to Japan with Nate and some childhood friends which was a bucket list adventure for sure. By this point, I was also skating with Vinny and the FTV crew more. There were talks of us organizing a three-week trip out to the Southwest. I was sick of my day job and was ready to quit so I could skate and travel the entire year, something I had never given myself the chance to do. Needless to say, I put in my two weeks and it was one of the greatest decisions I ever made. Choosing to put myself first and focus on skating with my friends is something I knew wouldn’t last forever, but it eventually helped me learn how to manage my anxiety comfortably and I’ve been off medication ever since. I couldn’t have done that without the support of my loving girlfriend Abigail, who was patient with me every step of the way. I was able to film the majority of my FTV 5 part on our Southwest trip, and survive a near-death experience from a car crash just outside of Vegas coming back home. What didn’t kill us made us stronger, giving us the mentality to never take a single minute of this life for granted ever again.
I also took the pilgrimage out to Copenhagen for CPH Open later that summer, and as soon as I got off the plane back to the states the first episode of Gridlock dropped! I felt like I was back. Seeing the love and recognition from the SKATELINE mention gave me the hype to finish filming for FTV 5. It also gathered some attention from Zero HQ, and since Vinny had just begun to wrap up Damn It All I started skating with the Zero dudes a lot, especially Dane. Skating with the right group of friends to keep you motivated is key. I finally felt whole again.
2020 – Quarantine: Redemptive Peace
Before the world shut down, we premiered FTV 5 at the House of Vista in late February. It’s the best video part I’ve ever put out, and within the past ten years it’s the main project I’m most proud of. The response to this part was extremely gratifying. Seeing the full-length come out on Thrasher while I was on vacation with Abi in Italy was an incredible experience, right before we barely made it out of Rome to get back to SD before the travel ban was implemented! It was a huge bummer not being able to see anyone for at least two weeks when we got home, but gradually getting back on the board for socially distant seshes has been keeping me sane during these trying times, along with our Quarantine Call podcast.
I’ve been battling some injuries on and off this year, but that’s the price you pay when you want to make another part that’s better than your last. It’s mainly taught me how to be more patient with myself and remember that I’m now closer to 30 than 20, so healing takes time and I’ve had to adjust. It also encouraged me to learn some new tricks, keeping skating fun for me and still heeding Mark’s wise words from 10 years ago. I want everyone reading this to know that while we enter this next year still under quarantine that you’re not alone. I’m at a responsible place with my drinking these days, only doing so on occasion, which has also improved how I cope with my anxiety. Please reach out to me if you need someone to listen, or if you just want to check in and say hello. Together we’ll get through this! Please continue to stay healthy both mentally and physically.
Special shoutouts/Honorable Mentions: David Barrack, R.I.P., Donna and Pete Michelson, Nick Shields, my partner Abigail Bianchi, Steven Levas, Alex Clark, Shane Fernbaugh, Matt Ohlin, Eliot Greenwald, Nate Barrack, Christopher Brown, Daniel and Quinn Fullen, Cameron Ward, Kevin Marquez, Daniel Hernandez, Doug Valdez, Andy Ortega, Kurt Hodge, Cano Cardenas, Ivery Turner, Jason Lee, Dave McKinney, Marc “Shockus” Delellis, Matt Eversole, Mark Whiteley, Justin Carlson, Cuong Lieung, Alex Horn, Ron Whaley, Louie Barletta, Cairo Foster, Tyrone Taylor, Mitch Ragusi, Brendan Bill, Miciah Garcia, Sky and River Ramirez, Dan Zaslavsky, Gabe Gussin, Brett Nichols, Cam McIntosh, Dane Burman, Chris Cole, Jamie Thomas, the ZERO Army, Alex Pourfard, Bryan Phillips, Jeremy Garcia, Q Perez, Marshal Ruelland, Vinny Dalfio and the entire FTV family.
Thanks to everyone who has helped me in the last ten years of my life.
Let’s keep it going!