Christopher Hiett – ‘For me, skateboarding is a form of expression and art’

Words: Miljan Milekić

Skateboarding may be lots of things, but it will never be one thing – boring. Everyone has their own style, their own pace, flow, and idea of where they want to go and what to do with it. And that’s what makes it so beautiful. That is why people like Christopher Hiett are important. They carve their own path, do things their own way, but invite everyone else to the party. We got to know him a couple of months ago when he joined the Fallen Footwear team and became instant fans. So, it only made sense to reach out to him for an interview. Check it below.

Christopher Hiett / Photo: Deville Nunes

Hi Christ! So how are you? What are you up to these days?
Christopher:
I’m good! Skating all the time! (laughs)

So, I’m guilty of not knowing you until you joined the Fallen Footwear team a couple of months ago, so I think it’s best to start there. How did it happen, and how does it feel to be on the team so far?
Christopher:
I am from Indiana, and I am on a local skate shop there, Killer, that I’ve been on since I was 13. So, Fallen were looking to flow someone through that place, and they recommended me. Then Killer said that I actually live in California where Fallen is. So, they contacted me and sent me some shoes. Then I met up with Willø, Kevin [Marquez], Daxter [Lussier], and Chad [Foreman] at the California training facility for a Fallen demo, and hung out. And it all just went from there. And working with them, they are like my best friends. They are amazing people in every way, great personalities, with great drive and motivation to do things. They support me so much, as well as I support what they’re doing.

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Along with the announcements, there were some talks about the full part. How does it go and can we expect it anytime soon?
Christopher:
Yeah, it’s going extremely well. Everyone’s been working on their things, and I have a lot of it done. I just have to get these last couple of things – like getting rid of some of the throwaways, replacing some… I’m very excited about it. I’m very excited to see everyone else and what their parts ensue. Hopefully, it all works out because it’s just fun. We just go out with Kevin and Willø and have a great time shooting and filming.

So, one of the things that made me an instant fan of you is your versatility, as you’re able to destroy every terrain possible. And you manage to keep your own style while doing it. So, how did you get into skateboarding, and who would you say are your biggest influences?
Christopher: I got into skateboarding because my older brother had a board, and I wanted to skate because he was doing it. So I started skating with him. Then, I went to the local skate park and shop – Killer. I’m still on there, to this day. The owner there, his name is Glenn, he skates shaped boards, does flip tricks going downstairs. But also, he skates curves and ramps, and foot plants. So the actual skate park itself had wallrides, rails, quarter pipes, stairs, banks. Like, every different type of skating was there. So he definitely helped in the way of how he skated, but the actual layout of the park shaped me a lot as well. Then, I have always loved watching Ben Raybourn a lot. I think that his skateboarding is phenomenal. Dylan Rieder, of course, it’s just absolutely beautiful the way he does things. Ben Hatchell was one of my big ones as well, ’cause he would skate transition and street at just such an insane level. He showed that you can do all of it together.

So, for a couple of years now, you’re part of the Powell Peralta setup. How did that happen to you, and how does it feel to ride for one of the most influential skateboard companies ever?
Christopher:
Again, back to Killer, it’s like everything stems from it. I was there, and I was 14, I believe, and Powell Peralta came down on their first Let’s Go Skate tour. They were touring the Midwest, and Deville [Nunes] was there, as well as Charlie Blair and so many amazing people. And instead of an actual demo where everyone stands on the side and watches, Powell‘s idea is to skate with people. It’s a big session rather than like – “We’re skating, you sit and watch.” Everyone just skates together, ’cause that’s what skateboarding is. So, I skated that day, and with the help of the owner of the skate park, just by doing what I love to do on my board, I got flow through Powell Peralta that day. I was 13 or 14 when I was flow, I stayed with them, and I am now 20 years old and finally fully a part of Powell Peralta. And it’s just incredible. I wouldn’t want to be on any other company that is this iconic and thought-provoking, creative, and just has amazing people and minds behind it.

It’s not so common nowadays to see people ride old school boards, and especially not on the level you do. How did you get into the vintage boards, and how different is it to be ripping on one of those compared to the popsicle shapes? Do you need to have a different mindset to go with a different board, or how does it work for you?
Christopher: For me, the way it started was that, back home in Indiana, a lot of people skate shaped boards. All different kinds of shapes, all different kinds of brands. We sell a lot of shaped boards at Killer. I always had one, but I never really filmed on it. I just had it to skate and cruise around. A lot of other kids did it as well. And when I moved out here, I was skating the normal popsicle, and then size nine street Cab.

Then, Deville just mentioned, like, if I’d want to skate on the shape boards, because he noticed how much I enjoyed skating those anyway. And I’ve always watched older skate videos, more than modern ones in general. Duane Peters, Cab, obviously, Tony [Hawk] and Lance [Mountain], I loved watching the way they skated. And, in my eyes, no matter what the shape of the board is, no matter the size, even if it’s a longboard, a penny board, or a skateboard, a skateboard is a skateboard to me. And if you can ride down the street, you’re skateboarding. So why not try all the different shapes because it’s going to work the same, if you think about it, because it’s still a skateboard. So that’s how I envision it, and it’s just fun. I have more fun skating on the shape boards than normal boards, just because I liked the way they feel. I like the history behind them. I like the look. I just enjoy skating them.

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And I guess there’s no better company for that than Powell Peralta.
Christopher: Yeah, it’s perfect. They have that rich, luscious history behind it. The fact that these people support me is just wow. It’s out of this world for me. I’m so lucky.

One thing you’re known for is your style and your image. It seems like you care for every little detail. How important is it to you to show your personality in everything you do?
Christopher: For me, skateboarding has always been a form of expression and art. I’ve always wanted to express myself, whether it is wearing makeup or different kinds of clothes, quote-unquote girls clothes. I don’t think that there should be either one side or the other, I think anyone can wear and should wear whatever they want.

I look at skateboarding as a canvas, and I want to show my personality and art through the skateboard. That’s what everyone does. Everyone has their own personality that shines through the way they do things, the way they land tricks, the way they dress, all of it together makes you who you are in a personality sense. So, when I decide to wear certain things, it’s not only for me wanting to express myself. I’m hoping that other kids who are scared, or feel as though they can’t wear makeup or dress, whichever identity they want to, I want them to know that there are other people out there that feel the way they do. That they are allowed to express themselves in skateboarding because it is that amazing of a community.

Christopher Hiett / Photo: @danny.dux

Yes. On this website, we actually cover a lot of music, and many of the bands we cover, especially punk rock or hardcore bands, share those same ideas and messages. And I love that connection.
Christopher: I definitely feel as though skateboarding and music are in that same sense of expression. The way you express yourself through the instruments or the sounds that you want to produce and vocalize, that is your personality, that you are not able to express verbally in a conversation sense, but you can express it in that sense. You can express it through skateboarding or music because that just is how you express yourself and how you feel. The way your songs sound and the lyrics you write are deeper than just words. They’re how you feel inside. And it’s the best way of expressing it.

And do you think that your skating style and your taste in music were influential to one another? Also, what’s in your headphones when you ride nowadays?
Christopher: The way I listen to music is that I like songs that I can personally relate to. I’m not only enjoying the actual composition but how that artist feels. I like to understand their intention with the song and how that song can relate to me. And whenever I find songs, which I very often do, where I can really feel the way that person is showing through the song, because I can relate to it in a sense, I just can’t stop listening to it. ‘Cause I can feel that they’re putting a piece of themselves into that music. So when I listened to it, I know how they’re feeling and what they’re trying to say beyond just the words.

READ MORE: Check our interview with Columbian-American musician and skateboarder Good Bison

So, how did you start shaping and customizing up your grip tapes? I know some people did it before, but you really took it to another level and inspired many more young skaters to start doing it.
Christopher: Back in the eighties, a lot of people did that. They would customize their grip tape and it was normalized back then. And since I started skateboarding, I’ve always done that. Throughout high school, I was in all art classes throughout all four years. I’ve always enjoyed physical art as well as vocal art, and I realized that I could get even more in-depth with my grip if I thought about it as if it was a canvas to paint on. So I went through different times where I would paint my own grip, I would cut it up to where there would be almost no grip left, but it would just be the way I wanted it to look.

And I still love to spend a long time doing it and making it, what some people would call a crazy mess. I see it as what I want to do with my art. Grip tape is now an art to me. It’s not just a grip tape that you put on, every time I do it, I want it to be a piece that I’ve created, and that’s why I enjoy doing it so much. And it’s amazing. It’s just absolutely amazing to see more people going out and embracing the idea of spending more time cutting their grip tape up and showing their creativity through that as well. The graphic is already there, on the board, but the grip tape, that’s yours. You can do whatever you want with that grip tape. You’re already showing your personality when you’re skateboarding, so adding your own art piece on top of it just makes it that much better.

It seems like it’s impossible today to build a successful career in skateboarding without having a strong Social Media presence, and it looks like you’ve unlocked that game. However, I have an impression that you use your platform not only in the most basic way but also to connect with your followers on a greater level and share what you do, as well as your messages and ideas.
Christopher: I’ve always thought this way, but now that I have a sense of direction and that I’m able to help people, even in the slightest way, I want my page to not necessarily be about me. I want it to be a community. If people are scared to be themselves, if they are going through awful times in their life, if they are not knowing who they are as an individual, as a person, as a gender, I want them to be able to feel a sense of belonging when they go through my page. They can DM me, and I will try to respond to every person, because, when I was a kid and didn’t know who I was going to be, when I couldn’t express myself as everyone around me would think I was weird or have something wrong with me, I would always hope that there’d be someone there for me that I could talk to.

Even if it’s through the internet, just having someone, knowing that someone cares and that someone is listening, is what is really important to me. I still need that nowadays. So it’s a safe place for them to talk about their problems, their feelings, their life, and what they want to be. Things that they can’t talk to their friends or their parents about. I want them to be able to feel like that because I can talk to them back and express how I’m feeling as well. It’s not just one-sided. I want people to have a place where no one is going to judge them or tell them what they have to do. I’m here to listen. And if someone wants to tell me something, and they don’t want me to say anything about it, if they don’t want me to give them an opinion or advice, I’m just going to listen to what they have to say, because everyone needs someone to listen to them. That’s what everyone needs in their life.

Yeah. And it’s actually a great approach with all the negative influence Social Media can have on the mental health of young people. It’s nice to know that there are people who are trying to turn that around.
Christopher: Mental health is extremely important to me for people to start talking about it more. It’s not talked about enough. It really isn’t. And it needs to be talked about more because people are struggling and need help and need someone to go to.

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So, you have so many things going on and put on so much content, from Instagram posts to Youtube videos. So, how hard is it to maintain that kind of productivity and not sacrifice the quality of the content?
Christopher: For YouTube, it’s kind of strange because you can do it one way, and it just works out another. So some days, I have thought about it for two weeks straight, what I want in the video, how I’m going to edit it, how I’m going to film it. And then I go out and do it. Other times, I’m just there, and I’m like – “Hey, this would be a good time to film. Let’s just see what happens.” And for keeping it going, it’s just so much fun for me. I don’t look at it as if it’s a chore or hard work.

It is hard work, but if you are having fun at whatever job you’re doing or the career path that you’re taking, you’re gonna feel better about yourself. A lot of people are doing what they want to do but still aren’t happy because they’re not doing it the way they want to do it. So if you can create a work environment for yourself where it is difficult, you do have stressful times, but you’re still able to realize that you’re doing this because you love it, it makes it way easier to go out and do that all the time. I’m sure you know it. Working on the website and social media is difficult, but you love it so much that it overshadows difficultness of doing it.

Yeah, definitely. So, you basically became an influencer by accident? (laughs)
Christopher: Kind of, yeah. (laughs) I was just posting what I wanted to post and how I wanted to feel. And I guess people enjoyed it for some reason. (laughs)

So, with the following you have, do you feel like you’re ever under the pressure of what you do and what you say? Simply by knowing there are people who are watching what you do?
Christopher: I definitely sometimes think like – “Is this good enough? Is it able to compare to the last post? Are these tricks harder? Am I doing this trick too many times?” And then I sit down, and I have to stop myself. I’ve been posting on Social Media for a long time, and I’ve gone through phases where I won’t post until I have a better skateboard trick to post or it’s a better edit in the last one. And then, I was like – “Why am I doing that?” The reason I’m on here is to show people how fun skateboarding is. I’m not here to show people the hardest tricks or how hard it can be to skateboard. Like – “Look at this, look what you can accomplish if you work for 30 hours trying this trick.” Which is also amazing when people do that. 

But I can’t do that every post ’cause I want people to look at posts the way I look at them. It’s like – “That person looks like they are having so much fun right now on their skateboard. I want to go out and have that much fun on my skateboard.” So, trying to maintain difficulty in posts and stopping myself from posting things for all kinds of reasons, I just try to completely block that and stop doing that. I just post everything because that’s all I want to see. People living their lives in the best way and having fun the way they want to have fun. I don’t think that you have to be the best skateboarder in the world to go out and do this and to make a career out of skateboarding. I think you just have to show how much fun you’re having because that’s what everyone wants to do on their skateboard. They want to have fun. So if you can somehow show how much fun you’re having without stressing about it and going out and making it this extremely difficult. And people can see and feel through videos if you’re having fun or not.

So, this will be the last one I have for you today, and I know it’s a bit cliché, but what’s next for you?
Christopher: Oh, man. Well, I have a short documentary, ‘Skateboard Stories,’ coming out for Powell Peralta in the works, and I’m working on my YouTube all the time. I love doing it. Uh, skateboarding with my friends, talking to them. Keeping my family close and just enjoying every day that I’m given to be on this planet because I used to not. And now I’m going to.

Follow Christopher Hiett:
Instagram: instagram.com/christopherhiett
Youtube: youtube.com/channel/UCm0-r4DxocHYBoDoW7PwJqw

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