Silas Baxter-Neal interview

Silas – skating high
One of the world’s top skateboarders comes from an off-grid background in Eugene, Oregon. He talked frankly about his life off-grid, and drugs and skating to Thrasher magazine’s Jake Phelps:

Of his time in Oregon he says:

I stuck around until I was 18 or 19 before I moved out. Acid is cheaper and easier to get than beer, or it used to be. I don’t know if it is anymore, but it was for a while, when The Dead shows came through and we had the summer festival country fair. We’d have all these roving bands with vagrant hippies coming through, trying to make money and selling hits for a buck or two.

Q: Coming from a hippie culture, do you feel like you’re more open to people, or are you more reserved?

A little of both. I’m pretty open to most people, but I feel tons of resentment towards the drug-dealing fucking scum hippies. I don’t like being called a hippie because I don’t like being associated with that crowd. I guess I kind of have a reservation towards that, but I’m open towards most people.

Jaya said in an interview one time, “My parents are hippies, but they’re not dirty hippies.” If your parents are free-thinking people, that’s always good.


They try to live off the land and have property, get off the grid. When they had kids, they were like, “We don’t want to raise our kids with a bunch of rednecks.” That’s the school system up there, and they didn’t want to home school us, so we moved.

Meth’s big up there too.

Yep, meth’s real big. A lot of tweakers. It’s crazy to think that in a place so pristine and natural, some people become tazed by something so fucking violent.

But it’s like that everywhere. You know, you’ve been all throughout Montana, and it’s the most beautiful place, but you also run into the most backwards, fucked-up redneck tweaker dudes ever. It just comes with the territory. Getting away from the mainstream and the cities and getting into the woods, it brings in all sorts of different people. It brings in the hippies who wanna chill, and it brings in the tweakers, too.

What do you think about skaters who wear jewelry?

Well, I wear rings and I have a necklace, but I don’t wear bling. It seems like it’d be hard to skate with, but we’re in a time in skating where you’re not just skateboarding. You’re everything, and so if you’re trying to personify a thug look–if that’s what you’re into–then I guess when you’re off your board …

… You better rock it.

Yeah, exactly. If that’s what you’re into, whatever. It seems silly to me. If you were to have an iced-out necklace, what would it be?

Maybe something that has to do with the Northwest, a fucking iced-out mountain range or something.

Like a Coors beer can?

That’s the Rocky Mountain way.

The Habitat video came out of nowhere. That was a pretty amazing part you had–I was hyped up.

I was pretty psyched, man. it was a lot of fun doing it. We went to cool places and skated a lot of cool spots. And right now, we’re trying to do another project where you go on the road for a tour video–kind of like how Girl and Chocolate do theirs, how they’ll have street footage with little parts in there, too.

That’s the only way to do it. You better keep up with the information. You can’t just say, “Did you hear Silas grinded that?” You don’t want to wait six months. You want to see it now.

And major videos take like four or five years, nowadays.

Imagine if it got to YouTube that night.

Exactly. Our video came out on YouTube before we did our first premiere. They sent a bunch of people advanced copies so they could put it in shops and do premieres, and some kid put it on the Internet. Shameless.

Yeah, and it’s all for Internet fame, Internet cred. Street cred.


Did you make an effort to step it up last year? You’d kind of been off radar from the Powell days until now.

Well, I’ve just had the chance to skate with people who wanted to skate and tip–just having a chance to go out and skate rad spots. I guess that kind of did it for me. Also, being a part of Habitat. Powell was cool, but I didn’t really know what was going on. I didn’t even really know how it worked. And now, being around other people who are killing it makes me want to kill it. I gotta keep up. I just felt like I had to make sure I had my place on the team with Habitat.

That’s cool. You look up to the skaters you ride with–who else do you look up to?

Big Cairo fan for sure. I always draw a blank when people ask me. Growing up, I was super into Andrew Reynolds. I still am. That guy is fucking amazing, hands-down.

What do you like about wallrides?

You go fast. They’re fun, man. It’s just something that’s kind of a different feeling. You don’t gotta flip your board or nothing like that, but it’s just like riding up on the wall and changing the direction you’re going. It’s kind of like skating really quick, steep tranny. Just smashing into the wall and coming out having speed, you know.

Did you skate at the San Francisco park here?

I have not. I came down to skate it today, actually.

Dude, it’s so sick.

I drove by it on my way here and it was crowded as shit.

It’s smooth. It’s like a taste of Oregon. If you look at the concrete–man, in San Francisco?

Those dudes are the best.

They’re doing it. I really believe that people will be looking at that stuff and scratching their heads long after we’re all dead.

It’s crazy to see the progression of the parks. Have you ever been up to Jacksonville and all those Southern Oregon parks? They’re so …


… Jacked, and that was only 10 years ago.

They were learning, you know what I mean? And they’ve come so far from that shit. All the new parks in Portland are fucking amazing.

What was the first trick you were surprised you could actually do?

Slappy bluntslide on a curb. Like, backside, just slapping right into it.

Ron Chatman style?

Exactly. I was like, “Whoa, that’s actually a real trick.”

You’ve got some gnarly rails in this interview. What’s your take on rail riding?

I just got psyched on them recently. I go in phases. For a while I wouldn’t skate anything bigger than a nine-stair or something like that. I was watching some footage of Guru skating all these crazy rails out in Texas, and I just got super sparked on rails. He made me want to go out and do it.

Do you get hyped on seeing interviews in mags?

Yeah, I do actually. Pretty much every magazine that I get, I read cover to cover. I’m still a skate rat for it. Even if it’s someone I don’t care anything about, I’ll still read their interview just ’cause I feel like I have to.

If it’s about skateboarding, I read it. Just to know that there’s some asshole out there thinking about something that I’m not. Are you gonna be stoked to check out the Fallen vid?

So far all the little previews and teasers I’ve seen are really good. I was psyched on the Mystery video because of the teaser. They did that little black and white short video. But then when I saw it, there were only a couple parts that I was really psyched on. I’m a fan of Jamie and what he does.

He’s very driven.

Yeah. I believe that it could be amazing, and it’s a good team. It’s a real good team.

Tell the story about your cover for the photo issue. What the hell is that thing?

It’s a dry dock. It’s at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. It looks like a coliseum–like a giant, empty coliseum. It’s 100-feet under ground, and at the end of it, there’s a big old gate that comes up. On the other side is the water, and so you’re 80-feet underneath the water near the base of it. When they want to do work on boats, they lower the gate and all the water floods in and fills up the coliseum area. Then they get the boat in there and pump all the water out–it dries, and they can work on the bottom of the boat. So at the base of the thing is tranny, and right up behind me, against that wall, is the ocean. Every time before I went I could hear the water knocking against it. Kind of sketchy. I was trying to get Drehobl down there, and he was like, “Man, you can die down there. No fucking way.”

You ever skate the bridge in Portland? That one that’s in TH1RT3EN, where Jeremy Tuffii pivots to fakie?

No I haven’t. That kid, Jeremy, is fucking rad.

That’s the sickest photo in that mag.

Hell yeah. That’s why when I saw it, I was like …

“… I want to go there!”

Exactly. It was funny because I met him when he was like 15. He was up at the summer camp that I was working at, and he was such a cool little kid and ripped so hard that I kidnapped him for like four days and brought him to Eugene and got him drunk.


It was pretty fun. That’s an amazing photo. I haven’t been to that spot, but it looks really sick. Especially fakie.

All you gotta do is catch some wheel bite on some moss …

Yeah, it looks like it’s a 20-foot drop.

Oh, it’d be terrible. When’s the last time you feared for Fred Gall’s safety?

The time I had the most fear for him was when we were road tripping in England. There’s this crazy brick sculpture; where you start out, it’s probably 20-feet off the ground. You roll on the top and then it drops in, and then flattens out. It’s a bank that goes down for eight feet, then flattens out for three feet, and then drops 10 feet–and then there’s a four-stair, so you gotta just drop in and then pop an ollie or crack your tail and clear the whole thing at the end. He kept disappearing to the bar, getting pints, and then coming back. On one of the drop-ins he just stopped short and almost fell off onto his face. It’s seriously like a 15-foot drop. He’s just totally trying to go for it but stopping at the last second. It was fucking pretty sketchy. But there are lots of moments that are sketchy with that dude, man.

How does your daily schedule differ from Fred’s?

I think he has a lot more antics in his life. He breaks a lot more shit.

He’s a pretty big dude.

Yeah, but he shreds so hard and he skates so much. He’s a skate rat to the heart, you know.

The sequences of those slams he took in the mag …

That was awesome. No matter what it is, he’ll go that hard for it.

What’s the dynamic of the Habitat team? How do you guys work on tours? Who’s in charge? What does it take?

They’re all pretty mellow–good for the first half, then people get burnt out in the middle, and then we pull it together in the end. Nobody’s really in charge. Most of the dudes got their shit together enough where they can handle themselves. We don’t have a bunch of little kids on there–there’s nobody really babysitting. Brennan’s kind of the team manager/filmer dude. Joe goes on some of the trips every now and then. We skate a lot, party a lot.

What’s it like living in Santa Rosa? Do you skate at the park?

I do skate the park. I haven’t really been doing all that much; I like it. I go hiking and fishing a lot. It’s a nice area for getting away.

How old are you?

I’m 24. I lived in SF for a while and I loved it, but it’s just too hectic and too crazy. I want a yard. I have a dog. I’m married. I just want a slower pace. If I don’t have anything going on in Santa Rosa, I come to the city or go hiking or something like that.

Can you ollie the pyramid in Santa Rosa?

I’ve never tried. I think about it all the time.

Phil backside 180’d it.

I know, man. That’s insane. I remember that, 411 opener.

Are you interested in skate history? Do you care about who did what in the ’80s?

I do. I started skating in ’95 and I don’t know a whole lot from before then. I’ve picked up a lot, the more I skate. The first videos I saw were the first two Transworld videos. Reynolds had shit in one. I had Welcome To Hell on repeat forever.

Jamie Thomas, eat the fucking ice plant. Backside 50-50.

It was on repeat for so long that, now, when I hear songs from that video, I remember the tricks that go along with it.

What gets you hyped in a session? Do you like it when it’s rowdy, where Freddy’s telling you, “You got this one!”? Is it you against yourself, or do you like it better when there’s a crew?

I like it when there’s a crew of people skating, but it depends on who you’re with. If you’re skating with other people and they’re stressing out and having a shitty time, it makes you not want to do anything. But if you’re with a group of people and they’re all trying to get tricks and they’re hyped, then it’s super fun. If it was between somebody throwing their board and me skating by myself, I’d rather skate by myself.

Who do you like to skate with the most?

I like to skate with a lot of my friends from Oregon. I was talking about this with my brother earlier, about how there’s two sides to my skateboarding. If I’m at home, and I just want to go cruise and have fun, I like skating with all my friends, the kids in Rosa. Just go out and skate the park and have a blast and fuck around. But if I’m going out to film shit and get stuff done, I like to skate with Stefan and Guru and all those dudes. I like skating with Mikey Taylor; dudes who are psyched to skate and like to try shit.

It’s like a dinner party. You gotta have the perfect crew to make it right. It’s like, “Uhh … This is kind of awkward. You’re trying a nosegrind? That’s my trick.”

Yeah. Exactly.

Do you get invited to the X-Games?

I don’t get invited.

You don’t go to contests in general, right?

I don’t. I kind of want to, though. I feel like the pro contest would be a lot more fun than the am contest. Am contests are just too much of an intense proving ground. That always bugged me, or intimidated me. From what I can tell, a pro contest–as long as you have some friends there–you can just go skate and have fun.

What about those Tampa Ams in ’99 and 2000? Appleyard and those dudes going to work? That was your class.


It was like, “Hey Silas, you in there?” And then, “Yeah, I’ll be right out.”

It was more like, “I’m going to go smoke some weed and hide in the van for a little bit.”


Monster energy drink bought Lutzka a freakin’ house. Would you endorse a drink in exchange for something like that?

Puck. That’s pretty tough. I’d like to say no, but a house? That’s pretty gnarly. I got in an argument with Stefan about that shit; I was like, “Dude, fuck that. Fuck those sponsors. They don’t mean anything.” But he said, “Well, I don’t ever wanna work a real job. I want to play and have fun for the rest of my life, so fuck it. What’s it gonna do? Some core kids are going to say I’m stupid because I have a Monster energy drink sponsor, but I’m not gonna tour with them. I don’t care about them. It just means I can have more money and more time to do what I want to be doing.” So it’s kind of hard. At the same time, I’d have a lot of shame and feel embarrassed about it. I don’t think I could answer that until I was in the situation. What do I have to do, just put a sticker on my board twice? Drink your drink once?

If you think about it, pro skaters can make more money off of drink sponsors than skate sponsors.

In an ideal world, we would make money off of our board sponsor. Most people care more about their board sponsor than anything else. Your board sponsor is your main sponsor, and you care more about it, but there’s no money. There’s hella money in energy drinks, and there’s a lot of money in shoes and apparel, so it makes sense that they can pay you more. As far as an energy drink sponsor, they’re paying you like a professional athlete–less than what they pay basketball players and baseball players, but they’re treating you like a professional athlete. Unfortunately, for some reason, there’s not enough money in skateboarding to be treated like professional athletes, so it makes sense that you don’t get paid the same.

It’s a different world than mine, for sure. It’d be nice to make that kind of money, but I don’t know if I’d like everything that comes along with it.

What do you listen to when you’re jamming on big handrails? Reggae? Hippie music?

I’ve been into an older country bluegrass kind of zone lately.

Do you play guitar?

No. No instruments.

No flutes, no nothing?

I wish I could play the banjo. That shit’s kind of tight, but I listen to everything, man. I listen to hip-hop, reggae.

It’s pretty much prevalent in skating.

Like a lot of classic rock. Pretty much everything.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Probably not in California, but in Colorado or Oregon or something. Skating, doing the same shit.

“Give me land and the sunny skies above–don’t fence me in.” Cities are just so burly.

But I love them, too. They’re fun to be around and they’re fun to play in–there’s a time for it. I really enjoy it and I don’t really want to get too far from the city.

I heard you actually bring beer to the sesh when you want to get your skate on.

I like to drink beer when I skate. It kind of loosens me up, you know. It makes me less nervous.

That’s awesome, because you know how people are like, “I seen a guy break an arm and leg trying to skate like that.”

It doesn’t work for everyone.

How about bombing hills on acid?

Well, I always grew up bombing hills on mushrooms. You feel like you’re flying. You don’t feel your board, you don’t feel nothing. You’re in the clouds. That shit was the best.

Silas, you’re a great dude.

Keep skating.

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