Morgan Smith Interview

Morgan Smith kind of came out of nowhere a few years ago, ending up on Blind and, to me at least, typifying the type of skating I grew up watching in the '90s—baggy pants, super tech tricks, consistency—but in today's era. Not only is he good at skateboarding, but he's from the often and unfortunately over-looked Toronto scene. So I caught up with him to learn more about him, Toronto and the '90s-influenced skating that I think I forced him to admit he does, by repetition...kind of how he warms up.

Is it true that if someone challenges you to a game of SKATE, you can't refuse?
Ah, depends on the situation. But, if it looks like it's gonna be fun, then I'll definitely play. If it looks like it's just gonna be really competitive or something, I might have to decline.

(Blind Team Manager) Bill Weiss just said you could barely ever turn down a game of SKATE.
Yeah, I guess that's pretty true. I'm pretty much not gonna turn down anyone.

I've read a little on message boards from random people or kids that have skated with you, that say you're kind of a creature of practice
—that you start your day out practicing the same trick over and over again. Is that true?

I guess, it's kind of like a mental thing. I don't know, I can't get that comfortable until...I guess that's always how I've skated—get comfortable, take your time.

As opposed to the kind of skating where you don't practice very much and just huck yourself at a trick?
Yeah, everyone has their own way of skating, but that's just how I do it.

I read in the Venture interview
that two of the videos that you got early on were the FTC "Penal Code 100A" video and 411 #19. What kind of influence did those videos have on the kind of skating you chose to do?

I just watched them [then], but I didn't really know what tricks they were at all, you know? I would watch the flip tricks and then go outside and see if I could do the same thing, you know? I just tried to copy every trick in those two videos. I didn't even know what they were named or anything. Those videos inspired me.

Was it pretty secluded, where you grew up?
Yeah, but when I was growing up, I lived in different suburbs, so I was close to the city. There were definitely other skaters around me and I could meet people.

When I see you skate, I get the feeling I'm watching someone out of the '90s. Did that era have a big effect on the way you skate?
Um, not really. I mean, I've watched a lot of those videos and they're sick but, I mean...I guess, since I grew up skating in the '90s. I guess it did have an influence, yeah.

Were there some skaters that you looked up to as a kid that influenced you?
Yeah, there were a couple. I really liked Rodrigo Tx
earlier on...a couple Canadians, like Wade Desarmo and Paul Trep. And, PJ, Brian Wenning, Gallant—that's pretty much a good list.

You're 22. You're relatively young, but when did you start skating?
I've had a board since my 6th birthday, but it was on and off until I was about10. That's when I really started to get into it.

So, it took a while. Were you just pushing around on your knees until that?

Yeah, it would just fade in and out. You would just do it for months and then you wouldn't do it. But, when I was 10, I literally spent hours and hours trying to learn kickflips and stuff.

That story a lot of people have, where you just want to figure out what a kickflip's like. But, that was around the same time your dad got you those videos, right?
Yeah, that was around the same time...just watched the videos and got hyped, basically.

It's funny, because the people you listed, Gallant, PJ Ladd and TX—even someone like Paul Rodriguez—who are really precise, super tech and consistent, remind me of your skating. But, you skate really big stuff, too.
That pretty much comes from when I was a little kid and all I could do was pretty much ollie. But then I started realizing you could do more tricks and started getting into the technical side. I still like jumping off big stuff, though.

How do the eastern and central Canadian scenes compare with Vancouver? Because it feels like a lot of people who keep up with skating, whether in the industry or not, might know Vancouver and British Columbia a lot better.
I agree fully with that. No one really cares, you know? They care, but...I mean, I think we have a pretty good skate scene. We just got this new skate plaza that's right on the water. We got tons of spots. There are so many outskirts of Toronto, it's almost like LA in that way. How LA's got those little cities outside it and there are so many spots in all the little cities. You gotta look for them and stuff, but I think we got a pretty good scene. We've got a bunch of photographers and filmers and stuff.

Who's you're crew up there?
I film with this guy Devin and Oscar—just a bunch of guys I grew up skating with. I'll go and skate with anyone, though.

Is there a shop out there that everyone skates for?
There's a shop called Blue Tile Lounge and I ride for it and a bunch of my friends ride for it. It's up north from the city, but it's a pretty good shop. There are some shops in the city, too, like Shred Central and Adrift, so it's pretty much wherever you're at.

I'm going to ask you some Toronto questions: What percentage of Canada's population lives within a 160 km (99 mile) radius of Toronto: a) one fifth b) one fourth or c) one third?
Ha...ah, one fourth!

That's actually it.

25% of all of Canada's population lives in the Toronto area. That's pretty insane.

You wonder where the rest of the people in Canada live.
Well, there's a lot of empty space here.

When getting around downtown, what is the name of the continuous underground pedestrian system in Toronto?

Can you skate anywhere in the PATH?
Oh, for sure.

Is that were people go to skate in the winter time?
There are a couple sets of stairs and handrails. I haven't done it for years, but when we were all kids, we would go down there and barge it. Then, security would come from everywhere and you'd have to run and everyone would meet up at Tim Horton's in like 20 minutes or something and we'd go and do it again later. We skated it [the PATH] a lot. You can find areas that are like no man's land—areas where there aren't any cameras—where you can skate some benches or whatever. It's sick. It's pretty awesome on a winter day.

There must be a lot of indoor parks, though.
They don't really last that long, because when the summer comes along, they instantly go broke. There was this one called Common Ground. It was just down the street from my house. My friend Glen owned it. It was amazing. It lasted a couple years and then it went under, too, so that kind of sucked.

About 25% of films produced in Hollywood are actually filmed in Toronto. Is it a) the fourth b) the third or c) second largest TV and movie production venue in North America?
I don't know. Maybe the third?

Correct. Maybe you've heard some of these living up there.
Seriously, I don't know. I know a lot of movies have been filmed here. I saw Jackie Chan downtown one time.

Yeah, they film a lot of stuff in Toronto. It's pretty crazy, actually.

It must be cheaper or something.
Yeah, it's actually when they want something to look like New York, but they don't want to actually pay for New York, they hit up Toronto. Right now they got this dumb-ass square and they're trying to make it look like Times Square. So, they're going for it, but it doesn't really look too much like it.

So, do you speak French there? Is that technically French Canada?
It is pretty close to French Canada, but it's not actually in it. But, you do have to take two years of French in high school. You have to take it—so I definitely know a little. If someone were speaking it, I could understand a little, but I couldn't actually speak it back. So, I don't know.

They kind of speak a weird French in French Canada anyway, right?
Yeah, it's like a mix of English and French and stuff they make up.

When you go pro will you have to have the writing on your deck in both English and French, by law?
Mmmm, I don't think so. Ha ha. That might be a good idea, like a little play on it...

Isn't that required out there? All the writing has to be in French and English?
Yeah, it's usually English and then a little French description right under it.

Who's your crew when you come out to Cali?
Again, whoever. But, I stay at my friend Aaron's house—he lives in Yorba Linda. He's a dude who films. I don't know just Bill or the Blind dudes. Anyone, really.

For a lot of people, you kind of came out of nowhere. Could you explain how you initially got hooked up with Blind?
Yeah, my friend—I just call him "Big Man" but his name's Pasi Posi—he's this massive Finnish dude that films. We filmed a couple video parts—he's a really good friend—and, he knew Bill [Weiss]. So, those Blind guys where in town—this must have been about five years ago—and Pasi called me and asked me to go skate. I think I got some tricks or something and then Bill asked me later when we were out at dinner. I was like, "Yeah, let's do this." That was pretty much the happiest day of my life, ever.

That's got to feel amazing.
It was just out of nowhere. I was meeting all these dudes. Like, James [Craig] was there and he was super nice and it was crazy to get the opportunity to skate with them.

That must have been insane. You're also on DC right? Are you on DC USA or DC Canada? How's that work out?
Um, it's kind of up in the air right now. I get shoes from the Canadian side, but I know the guys on the US side, so, I don't know...I'm filming a part for their video, so I guess I'll just see what happens.

For the new DC Am video that they're releasing?
Yeah, I'm going to give them some footage, but I'm not too sure what's going on. I'm trying to film a part, but I'll just have to see what happens.

You kind of already said it, but how does it feel to do what you're doing for a job?
It's pretty good, dude. I mean, you see your friends and they all gotta work and you're like, "F**k, I should be doing that," but then you realize you are, but it's just skateboarding. It feels pretty good. I don't know...it can suck sometimes, because it's your job—like, "I'm sore. I just want to cruise around. I don't want to go film..." but at the end of the day, I'm just hyped to be skating.

So, since you grew up in the '90s and kind of influence by '90s videos, like "FTC's Penal Code" and 411s, does it feel odd being on the same team as someone like Ronnie Creager, who really epitomizes that era?
Yeah, it's pretty crazy, because I've stayed at Ronnie's house and skated with him a lot now. And, he's just a dude who likes to skate. He's not like some crazy superstar. He just keeps it mellow. We have a lot of the same interests, so it's funny seeing him after years as the guy on the video and then to become your friend—just Ronnie.

Do you still look over once and a while and go, "Whoa, that's Ronnie Creager next to me"?
I was doing that for a bit, but now that I know him, he's just Ronnie. He's a good dude and he gives me all the advice in the world, because he's been through so much in his career. It's rad to be around the people I get to be around.