Uphill Battle: The Leo Romero Interview

Leo Romero has been having a good couple of years. A strong contender for 2009's Skater of the Year and already a front-runner for this year's nomination, Romero has been turning heads and dropping jaws with his full-speed-ahead approach to everything and his gnarly innovation. While other skaters near Romero's caliber have cashed in on their talent via corporate sponsors and endless media play, Romero has stayed a bit truer to skating's roots. He's kept a small stable of essential sponsors based more on friendships than on what could get him the most dough. He's also kept fairly quiet letting his outsized skating do the talking. In this rare interview, we got Romero to open up a bit about what motivates him to keep things moving upward.

What inspired you to start grinding up rails?
Bikers sort of inspired me.

Bikers? What bikers?
BMX bikers.

Who was the BMXer you saw grind up a rail?
Some biker in this Etnies BMX video just skating up rails. That was the first time I had ever saw it other than a two stair or something. I think that was the first time I saw it done.

What's the biggest rail you have grinded up?
El Toro!*

Sweet! Did [Toy Machine Filmer] Kevin Barnett film you grinding up El Toro?
No. I went by myself to do it for myself one random day.

How are you managing your time with two video deadlines? "Brainwash" [The new Toy Machine promo due out soon] and "Stay Gold?"
There is not much managing, I just go skate and try to get as much stuff as I can for both videos. Just go out and try to get stuff; it's all you can do really.

How long have you been riding the same board shape?
I think I have been riding the same shape for close to six or seven years now. The original was a Pharmacy shop board.

Has the shape changed at all?
Yeah, it's changed a little. I didn't change anything about my shape really. It just changed from being copied so much so it's a little different from being copied so many times over the years.

How did the switch from Baker to Toy Machine come about?
Me and Andrew Reynolds got in a fist fight.*

Who won?
Andrew did that's why I left.

Are you still homies with the Baker guys?
Yeah, of course.

Even Andrew?
Yeah, I can't hold no grudges.

Who do you skate with the most on Toy Machine?
Diego [Bucchieri] probably ... Yeah, Diego definitely the most.*

What's the most bizarre thing you've seen Ed Templeton do?
One time I saw him cry over not getting gelato.

When did he do that?
Ed did it on a RVCA Canada trip and Deanna [Templeton] had to explain to him why he was being a 5 year old, It was weird seeing an adult act like that. It was pretty hilarious actually.

What's the story of you learning to ride a motorcycle for the Wild Ride?
I don't have a good one, nothing too cool. I just dropped it a bunch. It was just like anyone trying to learn how to ride a bike: sketchy, really sketchy.

How many times did you drop your bike?
I can't even count ... I would say I dropped it at least 20 times in total. Then I got the hang of it and I haven't dropped it in two or three years.

When did you get your Chevy Chevelle?
I bought it about two years ago.

Where did find it?
I found it on the Internet and picked it up out in Arizona. It was a dip-s**t skater purchase, a straight up impulse buy. As a kid I always liked that car. I don't know too much about cars but I've always wanted a Chevelle so I bought one when I saw the one I liked.

What year is it?
A 1971.

What have you fixed on the Chevelle?
I just switched the starter out and did some oil changes. Little stuff nothing major you know. I can check the tire pressure, bro. No big deal.

When was the last time you woke your neighbors revving your bike or your Chevelle in the middle of the night?
I stopped after I got that note from my neighbors. So not for a long time now. I'm just trying to be a little more respectful these day. It was funny to see kids commenting on the TWS site and read how kids actually cared how I was living my personal life and me being lame. I can't believe kids would even give a s**t. That was funny.

Have you received any other verbal or written threats on keeping the noise down?
Nope, just trying to abide by the TWS commenters these days and keep it mellow.

What are the best and worst things about owning your own home?
The best is it's your house and you get to do what you want to it. Paint it any color you want, add things to it or remove things, whatever you know? The worst thing is that it's in California. And the biggest pain is cleaning it.

What's the weirdest thing someone might find in your house?
My old roommate claims he saw ghosts in my house and he refers to the ghosts as "shadow people." So shadow people would be the weirdest thing you might find in my house.

Who's the worst houseguest you've had?
Just random, stupid girls that my buddy's bring home from the bars. The worst one got a firework to the face. But she wasn't even the worst one actually. The worst one fell over my fence onto her face and she even came back again, which was weird.

These accidents must run in the Toy Machine family. Billy Marks had a girl fall off his roof a while back and he didn't know her name so he calls her roof girl now that he knows her.

Yep, Billy's weird. What are the advantages and disadvantages to having a moustache?
Advantages: flavor saver and they look cool. Wyatt Earp. Disadvantages: Patrick Melcher.

What did you think I was referring to when I asked how all the pollen was while you were in Nashville?
I thought it was some new slang for action.

Too funny.
Yeah, it's a good new slang. It just sounds cool.

Let's finish this up with the first thing that comes to your mind on each one of your Toy Machine teammates.

Matt Bennett: He smokes and he's the coolest dude ever.

Billy Marks: Webb Trucks.

Josh Harmony: Charms. YEEEEEEEEAH!

Nick Trapasso: S**t talker. Hater.

Ed Templeton: Kid. Art.

Johnny Layton: Big Boy.

Diego Bucchieri: Making fun of his teeth one night at the bar while Ewan and him were giving me crap for something.

Austin Stephens: Sunset.

Jordan Taylor: Fat and whack.

Daniel Lutheran: Gnarly.

* Editor's note: Leo embraces the art of sarcasm.