Board control wizard Wade DesArmo made his way to Tokyo for Grand Collection Japan tour. The Canadian technician looks back on his roots.
──WADE DESARMO (ENGLISH)
[ JAPANESE / ENGLISH ]
Photo courtesy of_Grand Collection
VHSMAG (V)： So you're from Ottawa, capital of Canada. Where do you live right now?
Wade DesArmo (W)： I live in Toronto, Ontario. So it's about a four hour drive west of Ottawa.
V： I heard you were a karate champion when you were a kid.
W： Back in the day, yeah. I attribute a lot of the things I learned in karate to skateboarding.It's all about the form and technique and I think that helped me a lot with skateboarding. They give you a lot of homework to practice on your own. Skateboarding is on your own too. It helped a lot with self confidence and how to treat and respect people. Not to say I never had respect, but you know what I mean. It was another layer on top of it.
V： How did you get into skateboarding?
W： I was in a lot of sports when I was a kid. I got a skateboard for Christmas, I was 11 years old and it kind of just chilled there. And I remember all the people in my neighborhood were girls that I hung out with. I didn't have guy friends and then I remember a guy skating down the street and I was with one of my friends Monica at the time and I was like, "Oh my God. He looks like he knows what he's doing. That looks fun." I went to the corner, saw him try to boardslide some wooden ledges in a park. I introduced myself. He was three years older than me. I told him I had a board at home, went and got it. The rest is history. That was my skate buddy until I moved out of that area. His name is Ben.
V： What video was out there when you started skating?
W： I didn't see a video for the first year and a half. And then the first video I saw was through another kid that was around my age that skated. And I went to his house and he showed me a video and then I went back to Ben. I was like, "Yo, I just saw a skate video." He was like, "You never saw a skate video?" He showed me Europe '95, Tom Penny. Ever since then I was the biggest Tom Penny fan.
V： Do Canadian skaters look up to American skaters or do you guys keep your eye on Canadian skaters?
W： We're so close to the States that it's super tough for Canadian brands to self-sustain themselves because we get all the same mags. We can drive to New York in eight hours, you know? Certain places can just cross the border in two hours and be in Seattle or some other place, right? So we wanted to ride for American brands, straight up.
V： How did you break out from the local Canadian scene and get hooked up with DGK?
W： If you're good enough to get product, usually it goes through a shop, right? The distributor will give a couple of extra boards or a couple of extra shoes to the shop and be like, "Hey, we want to flow this kid." So that's how I basically got my start and then skip, fast forward, I was riding through a distributor and I basically just got lucky. There's this guy name Chad Albert, he worked at S&J Distribution. I gave him a tape that I had and he sent it to DGK and I'm just very, very fortunate they gave me the call back.
V： You're also involved with Dime.
W： Yeah. Ottawa where I grew up is super close to Montreal. So we would always go down there, cause that's where all the skate parks are. In the winter, we take six months off sometimes because we have no parks in Ottawa. Montreal has two of the biggest parks and the bus is an hour and a half. So we'd go down there a lot of times and I met those guys when I was young. So I guess through the years we always just kept in contact and I'd go down there and skate, they'd come to Ottawa. We're roughly the same age. And then they started the Glory Challenge and just had a funny idea and obviously I'll do anything I can to help those guys.
V： The Glory Challenge is amazing.
W： The first one was super sick. It was at a loft space in an industrial part of the town. It felt like a skateboarding Fight Club. It was at a dusty warehouse space. You took an elevator up and then it was a little space and all the best skateboarders that they invited. And then a small crowd. It was super dope.
V： How did you become the face of Game of Skate for the event?
W： Honestly, I have no idea. Those dudes are just so imaginative with the creations that they want. So that's something that crossed the line and I guess I won the first year and they wanted to keep going with it and it just snowballed. So I don't know. I'm very fortunate. It's hectic.
V： Who did you play against?
W： The first year was Eric Riedl. The second year was Jamal Smith. Third year was Tiago, and then last year or two years ago I guess was Ishod. That's Dime, you know? They just have fun with it, and create events that people want to see. I don't know if they want to see the Game of Skate, but I'm sure the events that they create is... they're not the usual skate obstacles. So it's fun.
V： You said you live in Toronto. What keeps you in Canada?
W： There's so many layers to that question but I'm a very homebody. I'm very Canada proud. But that aside, from the first times I used to go down to the States and especially California, the industry didn't strike me as a... I don't want to say "welcoming," because that's not the word. I got into the industry somehow. I'm very fortunate for it. I thank God every day for it. Skateboarding is my job. It's just that I always didn't understand why you had to move to LA to make it, especially once I started getting in the industry. They would send us everywhere. They'd be like, "We're going to Barcelona or we're going to China." If it's so important to be in LA to make it in the industry, why are we going everywhere else to film? Stevie Williams said back in the day, "If you're productive where you live, that's all you have to do." This is your job and this is what you're responsible for. If you're slacking, then we'll kick you off. It is what it is. But if you're productive and you're doing your job, you can almost live anywhere, you know? Now skateboarding's so global, there isn't one hub where you have to live, if that makes any sense.
V： That makes perfect sense. How did you get hooked up with Grand Collection?
W： That's all big Ben. I've known the founder Ben for a long time. A lot of people probably don't know that he's Canadian. He used to come and skate the local park in the summer and that's where I met him the first time. And, the next time I saw him was in Vancouver, cause he lived there. He's never changed since the moment I met him. I always remember him being the same, genuine, great person. He's the same great fucking guy.
V： So he started the brand in New York?
W： Yeah. We were the first people that he had in mind for it. So we bounced ideas off each other and it just so happens that our aesthetic lines up perfectly with each other. We wanted clean, simple clothes. Especially at the time there were a lot of all over patterns, and I didn't wear a lot of my sponsor's clothing because it was kind of crazy, you know? I just wanted a plain white tee or something with a small logo. And if you know anything about Ben, he's the exact same way. He's not loud, he's just very reserved. We just want clean cut, great aesthetic with great quality. So it just so happened to work out, we had the best of both worlds.
V： And that was back in the end of 2016.
W： Yeah. When we go on a trip, there's nothing forced, you know? Everyone hangs out, everyone likes to wear the gear. I would buy this stuff if I didn't ride for it. I'm very fortunate in that aspect too. But the way that he edits things, he has a different vision and he's always been smart on that aspect of the things. He has a vision for the production and he's very motivated to go and achieve it and make it happen. At the same extent we want to do it because that's one of our good friends, you know? We don't want to let him down. Cause that's just homie shit. That's just our man, and we'll do whatever we can to help him. And in turn, we know he's always got our back.
V： You had a video part out from Grand Collection and then Naomi and Cindy, which are name of the models. In other video there was a clip of Anna Wintour. Grand is apparel brand and videos seem conceptual.
W： You got to talk to Big Ben. That's his brainchild. That was his vision, and I'm just the footage behind it. He has the knowledge and has a vision of how he wanted to edit certain things.
V： Memorable project with Grand Collection?
W： Everything. Anything we always do. I mean, right now this is a great memory. We're in Japan, you know? It was a hard skate trip, but I look forward to being back because this group of people, we're all really good friends and we don't really get to see each other a lot.
V： You guys are all spread out?
W： Yeah, Spencer's in Vancouver, I'm in Toronto. Others are in New York. Dutchie's in Boston. So it's tough for all of us to get together, but when it does happen, we didn't miss a day, you know? So take those days and you really absorb them and I really appreciate them.
V： What about the video part that you had last year with Grand Collection?
W： The original idea behind that part was to be like a predominant East coast part. And things changed because the east coast winters are harsh. So in order to carry that on, you had go to LA. You had to have a little bit of that in it for the project to come to completion in at least a couple of years. You know what I mean? Toronto is a big metropolis and it's hard to skate. You got kicked out a lot in New York. Super hard to skate. Our time schedules often times don't link up. You can't really film a certain people but we did what we could to make it work. And I'm so hyped to have that part. As long as Big Ben's happy, I'm fucking over the moon with it.
V： Grand Collection released Tonal video too.
W： I have some clips filmed in Japan. I'm just hyped on what we came up with. The guys all have great styles. I'm hyped just to watch it myself, you know.
V： There are all these brands out there. What makes Grand Collection special?
W： We're not in your face. That's what. We're the opposite of, I would say, most clothing brands. Like 99% of them, where everybody wants to grab your attention with loud stuff or something different. That's not our M.O. We would just want to make stuff that's greatly made. Very minimalistic, very clean, clean patterns, clean colors. They're not clashing it, they all work together. If you walk down the street and you see something that's Grand, it's not going to catch your attention because it's fucking loud. It's going to catch your attention because there isn't logos on it. It's going to catch your attention because it looks proper, it fits proper, and it's just clean. You're going to have to fucking look for that logo. You know, it's not in your face. We're not shoving logos down your throat.
V： You just had a part in Primitive video. What's next for you?
W： For Grand, we're just going to keep doing what we do, and hopefully keep going on trips, keep producing great fucking quality gear and people support us hopefully. And for me, I'm very simple, man. I just want to keep filming. I just want to keep filming video projects and having fun. Beggars can't be choosers. I just want to film and do tricks that I think of. That's it. I've been very fortunate to do it, and thanks to guys like Big Ben, it's been an honor to do it, especially for him.
Technical master out of Ottawa, Canada. He's currently stacking footage as the face of Primitive, éS and Grand Collection. Go check out his skating at Grand Collection YouTube channel.