Professional skateboarder, co-owner of FLIP skateboards, namesake of his own Vans shoe line, skate film and video game scene stealer, Liverpool-turned-Orange County native, diehard Motorhead fan, new father, head designer of this year’s Maloof Money Cup skateboarding contest courses, and now patron saint of the gospel of skateboarding, spreading the good news to those less fortunate: Geoff Rowley is a busy man. We talked with Rowley about his work with the Maloof “Skate & Donate” Program [see Fig. 1], and why the program is such a worthy cause.
Interview & Illustration By: Amy Hood
OCG: Why did you get involved with Maloof “Skate & Donate” drive?
GR: I think it’s a fantastic thing. In a place like South Africa - where some kids perhaps aren’t fortunate enough to buy shoes to wear to skate - the drive will help them get the same kind of product as kids are able to get in the US. A lot of these Maloof events are about giving back to the local communities; The parks that we design for the events are left permanently for the kids.
OCG: How did skateboarding positively influence you as a kid?
GR: I think it’s different for everybody. Some kids just do it to get away from their parents [laughs], get away from school, get away from whatever bothers them, you know? Other kids take a more athletic approach. For me, it was a way to get out anger and aggression. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was just something I started and couldn’t stop.
OCG: Are you excited to see the big smiles on the kids’ faces?
GR: That’s the best part. Especially in South Africa. I’m looking forward to that. Last year I got to see it when we left the first park for all the kids in New York after The Maloof Money Cup NYC. That was so sweet. Just seeing how excited they were before the event even started, because they knew that after everyone left it was going be their park. That’s a cool thing. South Africa’s a rad country; a lot of character - very diverse place. So it will be interesting to see such a large skate event in an area like that.
OCG: You’re leading the course design for this year’s Maloof money cup events. How’s that going?
GR: It’s really fun. I’ve done a few of them - one in New York and two in Orange County. It’s a lot of pressure but at the same time it’s pretty fulfilling to be able to come up with ideas for obstacles and then connect it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. I’m always learning new stuff. It’s a lot of hard work. The size of these parks is just phenomenal - how much money and resources are put into building these big parks for kids. You don’t see many people putting up money like that and giving it to the local communities and young kids in such a positive light. That’s definitely a driving force for me when I’m designing. To be able to design a park for New York, and one for Washington and then do one for Huntington Beach and then for South Africa - to see what makes those skate scenes tick and try to integrate the kind of obstacles those communities would benefit from, that’s cool. I enjoy that.
OCG: Is it hard to think of the technical aspects of it all, design wise?
GR: It’s kind of a natural process. If you’ve been skateboarding for a while, you’ve ridden every size bank or ramp you could think of and you just get a knack for what would and wouldn’t work. That’s the difference between a contracting company building a skate park and someone like the California SkateParks building one—their head designer is Colby Carter, a professional skateboarder. It makes it a lot easier when you’re working with people that get skateboarding and they understand to progress the sport you need to actually progress the obstacles and progress the way you look at it.
OCG: When you were a little punk kid in Liverpool, did you ever think that you’d end up where you are today?
GR: No. I picked up skateboarding and I loved it and didn’t stop. I guess that was the driving force; just, “I’m gonna do it and I don’t give a shit what anybody says. It’s a very humbling thing to actually look back.
OCG: You’re a former Huntington Beach native, so how would you describe the Orange County skate scene?
GR: Ah, well it used to have some of the best street skate spots in the world. You didn’t get in as much trouble for skating places, there wasn’t as many parks.Now kids have got a number of different skate parks to choose from. They’re very lucky. But the Orange County skate scene was about as diverse as you can imagine. As far as your mind can expand, I’d say. There’s a lot of history there, a hell of a lot of history. A lot of the legendary skaters are from here or have lived here- Mark Gonzalez, Ed Templeton, Jason Lee, Christian Hosoi, Jeff Grosso, John Lucero - you name it. A lot of them came through here, a lot of them came from here.
OCG: Who are your favorite riders?
GR: Ah, well right now, David Gonzalez, who rides for us [Flip], is one of my favorite riders because of his attitude and he’s incredibly gnarly on a skateboard. He smiles; he’s stoked. Guys like that kind of motivate me to go hellbent.
OCG: So if you weren’t talking to me right now what would you be doing?
GR: Oh, I’m at Flip right now next to a mini ramp with David Gonzalez. So yeah, 24/7 skateboarding. I don’t know if you can hear, there’s some 80s metal playing in the background. Got a Thrasher and Skateboarder mag in front of me, got Lance Mountain artwork all over the walls, got all the Flip trophies and awards up, all of our old skateboards and everything.
OCG: Eat, live, and breathe it.
GR: Yep; I definitely eat it.
OCG: If you could be anyone else in the world, dead or alive, who would you be?
GR: Maybe the last wild grizzly bear roaming California that got killed in the 1920s. The last one to look across the California landscape and go, “Wow, look how beautiful it is,” and then - boom- dead.
OCG: Three bands that would definitely be on the soundtrack to your life?
GR: That would be Motorhead, Lungfish, and The Beatles.
OCG: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
GR: That Winston Churchill one is a good one: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Another one is “It’s not the birth nor rank that makes the man; it’s the get up and get.”
OCG: That’s a good one. So what’s the next thing for you? What are you working on right now?
GR: It’s just before the tour contest season and I just had a kid two weeks ago, so I’m changing diapers 24/7 and skating a lot locally.
OCG: Congratulations! So what’s it like being a dad?
GR: It’s fantastic. It’s like seeing your own heart right there in front of you, with little eyes. It’s cool.
OCG: What do you want them to write on your gravestone?
GR: [Laughs] I don’t know, “He came, he saw, he died.”
OCG: Can you give our readers a motivation to donate their shoes?
GR: Yeah—donate your shoes and old gear or I’ll get down there with a 357 mag, Smith & Weston model 620.