Ben Raybourn On the Road

There's something unique about Ben Raybourn. He's pretty normal on the phone but just watching him in videos, it feels like you're in a time warp. He's all patched up and bespectacled. His tricks are different. He's skating all crazy. He stands out from the crowd because the skating he does, whether it's your style or not, plugs you in to a time when you were young, wandering around town, trying to find spots and learn weird tricks with your friends.

How's the road trip going?
Pretty good.

Where have you guys been?
Within all of the Midwest—Iowa, Ohio, places like that.

How long's the trip?
One month.

Did you get picked up in Houston or fly out there?
They drove out from California and picked me up in Houston.

You live in Houston, right? Tell me a little bit about Houston. Where are you originally from in Houston?
Um, I'm from Rosenberg. It's not actually Houston. It's right outside of Houston.

Is it kind like a small town?
Yeah, it's a pretty small town...not many people live there.

How'd you start skating?
My older brother skateboarded and, I don't know, I just copied it.

That's pretty normal. The typical story is that your brother skates and gets you into it, you know? I've always wondered, 'cause you kind of have an older style; how much older is your brother than you?
Ah, he's only, like, seven years older.

So, when you were growing up, did you see a lot of the videos that he had and get into an older style of skating? Or, did you kind of pick that up on your own?
I don't know. I kind of hung around the older skateboarders.

I always notice when I watch you skate, it feels like watching a skater out of an older video. You're doing like Iceplants and footplants—it's kind of cool. You don't see that as much with younger kids.
Yeah, I know what you mean.

Did you actually try to get sponsored? Did you send out tapes? Or, did it just happen?
Well, I was just skating at this park and the dude decided to put me on the team. I never sent any tapes or anything.

So was it Kristian
who saw you directly and decided to put you on the team or was it another team?

Well, the one I was talking about was just the skatepark. But, yeah, that's what happened with 1031

So he was just rolling through town and happened to see you skate?
I was skating at a skatepark and he saw me.

That's pretty sick. So did your dad skate at all?
No, my dad never skated.

For some reason, I pictured your dad being the kind of guy that skated back in the day...so you picked it up from your brother. Is your dad stoked on you skating for a living?
Yeah, he's really supportive. He likes it.

I'm sure your brother's pretty stoked, then.
Yeah, he is too.

Does he still skate?
Um, he's more into BMXing and stuff like that now.

He's on a whole other thing? You ever try that stuff out? Or do you just like skating, straight up?
Yeah, I just like skating.

I see dude getting into that, like Chris Cole and Lindsay Robertson—they're all into BMXing. You never gave it a try?

There's that old Jon Allie part
where he grinds a rail or something in the middle of his part.

That's crazy. I'm just skating, though.

So what's the rest of the trip like? Are you guys in Ohio right now?
Um, no. I think we're going to Indiana right now. We have a different stop each day.

Just doing demos?
Yeah, we have a stop at different shops, every different day, so we always have a really gnarly drive in between.

That part sucks. It all just blends together, 'cause it's drive, stop, drive, stop...You don't even realize where you're at. Someone just tells you to get in the van and you're like, "Okay."
Yeah, that's pretty much how it's been [laughs].

So, how'd you get hooked up with IPath?
The dude Dave Smith—he's friend's with Kristian...he saw me skating at a contest and then he contacted me.

That makes more sense, 'cause it seems like there's a little different kind of crew on that team now. IPath
started out being super rasta, but now there's a lot of different guys on the team.

Yeah, they're trying to change their image up, I guess. I'm not really sure.

Either way, if it's a little bit of both, like the Hessian or punk dudes and the rasta dudes, it's all good—worked for Bad Brains.

So, tell me a little bit about growing up. Any funny stories?
I don't know. We would just always go out skating and we would find spots. In Texas, it's really, really hot in the summer, so we'd go out skating with backpacks full of water bottles for like eight hours a day. We thought we had all these okay spots, we'd always go to, but they were just curbs and stuff. [Laughs] We'd build ramps a lot out of wood that we would find at construction sites and stuff. It was pretty cool.

So you guys had your local spots and you thought they were amazing, but they were just whatever. That's funny.

Yeah. Then, when I was older, we'd go and try to look for pools.

It sounds like there are a bunch of spots, but you just have to look for them. Jeff Gilmer [the photographer that shoots a lot of Ben] showed me the photo of you dropping in on that I-beam
in Texas, I think.

Oh yeah, that was in Houston. It's like some weird abandoned slab thing.

That's what it looked like. It looked like you guys were in Mad Max or something. So, do you skate with friends around Rosenberg or do you have to go into the city to find people to skate?
Well, it was always friends from school—the kids I'd go out with.

So there was a little bit of a scene in your home town?
Yeah, there still is, kind of.

The last thing I saw, someone did a break down of where pro skateboarders have been from and I think Texas had the most. Do you have any specific pros that you look up to?
I'm really into skaters like John Cardiel
. Skaters that I look up to now are Donovan Rice
and Greg Harbour. Those are some good skateboarders. They're on this trip, too.

When you were coming up skating, did anybody kind of school you? Like, show you old videos and say, "Check this out"?
Yeah, of course. People at the skatepark would notice I liked skating bowls and stuff, so they'd show me all these old videos.

And you'd pick up tricks from those?

That's cool, 'cause I've definitely noticed a lot of the tricks you do are from a different era. I mean, it doesn't matter old school or new school or whatever, but they're unique.
I don't know. I guess I just do my own thing. Me and my friends would just do weird, dumb tricks.

However it happened, it's cool to see a different style of skating. I think that's why people like Cardiel stand out. So, how many more weeks do you guys have on tour?
We don't have too many more stops. Like three or four. Then, we all go home for a week and then go to the Grand Cayman Islands.

Oh, sick, you guys are going out there?
Yeah, we're just doing some skate camp thing. It's gonna be like a vacation.

You'll be right on the beach and get to skate that insane park there. Are you gonna be touring on July 4th?
No, I'm gonna be home by then.

Any stories from the road?
Stories from the road? There's quite a few, actually.

Too many to tell?
Yeah, I don't want to bum anybody out [laughs].