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Interviews, Originals April 3, 2024April 18th, 2024

In Conversation with Anthony Van Engelen

The term ‘legend’ gets banded around quite freely these days.

And more often than not, it’s unjustified or at least an exaggeration.

But in the case of Anthony Van Engelen, or ‘AVE’ as most would refer him as, ‘legend’ is very much warranted. If anything it might be an understatement. The term ‘luminary’ or a ‘phenomenon’ might be more fitting.

After all, this is a guy who has been skating at the top of his game for 25+ years. If you count Channel One’s Lo-Fi Explosion!, it’s almost 30. And at the age of 45, he’s just released yet another pro shoe with Vans, the aptly titled AVE 2.0.

So on the eve of his shoe release in Downtown Los Angeles, we sat down with the 2015 SOTY to discuss longevity, fatherhood, maintaining sobriety and designing on the edge of failure.

WT: How does it feel to have another pro shoe at 45?

AVE: It feels incredible. I feel just a lucky to be here now as I did almost 20 years ago, especially with a brand like Vans.

Do you think that kid who purchased a Vision Lee Ralph with red and blue trackers in 1989 would’ve ever dreamt of releasing a pro shoe in 2024?

Oh no, for sure not. You could’ve asked me that question 15 years ago and I would’ve been like “pffft”. I remember being in a hotel room with Greg (Hunt) filming for Mindfield, being like “where are we gonna be when we’re 40?” And he’s like “we’ll be right here doing the same shit”. I was “yeah right, there’s no way”. But sure enough, here we are.

How much do you owe to Ken Jiro for making you not push mongo as a kid? And can you tell us who Ken Jiro is for those that don’t know.

So he’s affiliated with VHS magazine in Japan. But he came to the States as a kid and we met skating and yeah, he was hard on me. Real hard on me. I remember one time he goes, “your style. Bad.” Because I would learn something and be like, ‘yes I’m doing it’ and he’d be like, “no you’re not.” And I feel like someone would have told me to stop pushing mongo it wasn’t him but it’s good to have someone be hard on you.

How’s the bone spurs in the big toe?

Oh that’s good. Got that figured out. Well it kind of figured itself out eventually. I got lucky. I don’t know, I shot enough cortisone in there. I think I just cauterised the inside too. I shot it with six cortisone shots in a year.

How long have you been sober now and are there still challenges within that, do you still go to meetings etc?

About 15 years, since 2008. Without getting into the whole program side of things I think the initial reasons to go and become sober are not so much my challenges anymore, like substances or anything like that, at all. But I think some of the character side of things that you discover are some of the driving forces that lead people there. Those things always need cheques and balances. The program stuff is still part of my life, maybe not as heavy, I’ve got kids and stuff now so it’s harder to find time. But in terms of “oh god, I need a drink”, no.

Has it helped you help others? Not just with addiction but mental health overall. John Fitzgerald comes to mind a someone who’s had struggles in the past.

Yeah there’s been a lot of people around me that I’ve been able to help or talk to in some form. I think there’s a certain personality that usually excels in skating and that usually comes with a downside too. Just like everything right? There’s two sides to every coin. You see a lot in skating and sure, John is a super close friend of mine. I’ve seen him go through some struggles with stuff and I’ve helped him along. But John’s been doing great for the past couple of years now. But at the same time I don’t seek out to save anybody.

How do you think fatherhood has changed you? And was having kids the reason for moving back down to Orange County?

Well during the pandemic LA was so locked down, I had children and I’d lived in LA for 24 years. I also lived in LA before that. So kinda from here but not from here. I’ve spent a lot of time here. But I think at that time I was ready to get out of the middle of Hollywood and have a little bit more of a life that works with having a family. Quality of life stuff with children is just different. Like where I live now and being able to ride our bikes to the beach or to the park. Schools are free and good.

How do you balance being a Dad with skating and running LA? What’s the day to day?

I’m up in LA probably 4-5 days a week still. It only takes me 50 mins to get here. I’m mostly skating when I come here. it’s on the east side so I don’t have to penetrate Hollywood which is another 30 mins y’know? It’s actually pretty easy. My wife is amazing. She’s with the kids full time. My daughter’s six now so she goes to school. My son is two and a half. It’s non-stop that’s for sure. Even the days at home, on Sunday, because Saturday is always a big skate day usually, we’ll go to the skatepark or the beach with the kids so it’s nonstop.

Who do you skate with mostly?

John is one of my go-to guys. Whoever’s going out that day. But usually I’ll drive up and hit up John. I like to skate early just to warm up before we hit the street. He’s always down to meet at a park at nine, skate and then link up with whoever wants to skate that day.

Is Benny (Maglinao) the go-to filmer?

No, Benny lives in Ventura and he does HOCKEY. Pretty everything you see is Benny. All the editing for FA and HOCKEY. He worked on this campaign. Benny’s a fucking machine. But he’s not out in the street as much as I think he’d like to be anymore because of all those responsibilities. But we have Jonathan Flechas as a filmer/TM, so he’s out filming. And Cody (Green) who worked on Propellor with Greg. So they’re pretty much both out in the streets daily.

Talking about FA and HOCKEY, you recently put Jake (Anderson) and Curren (Caples) on. Both have ben killing it for a while but I think Curren’s Vans part on Thrasher really blew people’s minds.

Yeah he has that thing. He’s got something special which you don’t see all the time. That’s really what drove me….because Curren’s always been a great skater. But when I saw that part, the creativity was incredible and the even length of it, because a lot of the time I find parts too long. But that part gave me a feeling that I don’t feel very often when I watch skating now.

Elijah’s going hard right now too? That new part was pretty rad.

Yeah I mean that was just the stuff he’s not using for the main part.

Are you guys working on a full length?

We were. Full lengths just seem silly in this day and age. It’s just hard to not have guys be seen for two years. Getting everyone to align on this two year date in this day and age….it can be done, but at what cost? So we were aiming for that. But I think we’re gonna just break it up into various parts and shared parts. See where people are at along the way, so we can continually be putting stuff out.

How’s Dill doing? Apart from the Adidas Tokyo clip it feels like we’ve not heard much from him recently. Is he good? Last I heard he was moving to Ventura?

Yeah he’s around. He’s in Pasadena now. He was in Ventura for a while, then he moved to Pasadena. Pandemic hit and he was locked up there for quite a while, like everybody. Then once things relaxed he was like, “ok, I’m done with his place”. Dill’s nomadic in a lot of ways so he went on a long trip to the Pacific Northwest and did a bunch of stuff, staying in motels, being up in Astoria, Oregon. Just doing Dill shit y’know? Then he came back and he’s back in Pasadena, painting a lot, doing FA and stuff.

Do you guys have daily chats about company direction or whatever?

Not daily chats. I mean now there’s so many moving parts it’s not just me and Jason solely making plans everyday. There’s our partner Mike and other people working on stuff. Some things require both mine and Jason’s attention, sometimes just one of us. It just depends.

Moving on to your new shoe. You seemed pretty hands on with it and it’s a pretty technical shoe it seems. How hands on were you and how was the process working with Neal (Shoemaker)?

It’s always pretty easy working with Neal. We’ve worked on a bunch of shoes together. I had ideas and he kinda makes them come to life and function. So his input comes in those areas. I’d tell him I want it to be stripped down so only the necessary support is there for durability. That’s where he came in with that kinda sock feel. Almost wanna wear it as if it has no laces you know what I mean? And he made it happen.

How many times did you go back and fourth on samples?

Quite a few, it was actually hard to lock it down at first. Some of the early samples I was scared, I was like, “man I don’t know, this ain’t gonna work”. So we went back and kept refining it until it was good. I think a lot of people expect from me and from Vans, a more classic line. I mean we’ve been making shoes for twenty years, so at some point you have to look outside that box. So I’m really happy with the direction of the last ten years. Even with this shoe, now looking at it, if we’re not on that edge of failure with making a product then what are you doing? You have to push the envelope a little bit.

How do you maintain your hunger for skateboarding at 45 years of age?

I mean…….it’s my job. You know what I mean. Yeah sure, it’s different than what it was when I was going out in my twenties to skate. But I still get that same feeling that I always get when I land a trick or whatever. But yeah at the end of the day, at this age too, I’m lucky to be here and have this opportunity, so I do treat it so because yeah, it is harder now.

What’s the secret to keeping physically healthy? Is it stretching? Eating well?

Yeah I mean I’ve always done that stuff. Injuries led me to understanding rehabilitation and stuff. Introducing me to exercise and whatever. And that then slowly became a part of my life over the last….fuck a long time now. I’ve always been pretty good with that and stretching. Of course the better I do in that area, the better I’m gonna feel. Straight up.

What’s your personal favourite or proudest skate part?

I think Propelloris the hardest I’ve worked on anything and I’m pretty proud of that. And then the last video part Dancing on Thin Ice. And that one perhaps for different reasons. That was five years after Propellor and y’know, I was burnt out after Propellor for like…….five years haha. Literally I was burnt. Still skating and stuff but not with that, “I’m gonna do it” mentality. And then in 2019 I just had this thing where I was like, “I’m gonna skate every day for one year and film and whatever it is, it is”. And that’s what that video part was and I skated every possible day I could. So I’m proud of that because I’d just hit my forties when that came out and it was good and got a good response from people. Those two are probably my two proudest achievements on film.

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