We check in with Guy Mariano – you might have heard of him. He had his “Check Out” in our June ’92 issue, fresh off his part in Video Days (’91) – back lipping the Peter Smolik* rail in Beverly Hills shot by Spike Jonze.
Twenty five years later, Guy is a living legend running his own brand, Numbers Edition, alongside Eric Koston and raising his two-year-old daughter Gia. Here are his thoughts on how it all started and how he applies the lessons learned under Mark Gonzalez and Jason Lee to his present day hustle.
* Switch 270 lipslide. Fulfill The Dream (’98).
Do you remember the first time you saw this Check Out?
I think Video Days had already come out. So people definitely knew who you were.
Maybe people weren’t as experienced back then at timing editorial with video releases. Maybe the video guys weren’t in touch with the media guys [laughs]. No. But it does bring up a good point about that video.
It wasn’t really like a planned video back then. Nobody really knew it was coming out until it came out. So however long it took to get that Check Out done back then – by the time that happened, the video was already out.
That’s that little Beverly Hills rail correct? The one on Wilshire?
Yeah, when I look at that photo I see it’s a short and steep rail. For someone like me who doesn’t have a lot of pop to get on – nothing has changed in my thirty years since [laughs] – I still like my handrails like that.
Was this the first rail you back lipped?
I might have actually back lipped that same rail before actually. As an amateur skateboarder back then, if you got a chance to go out with someone like Spike Jonze – you weren’t just trying some move you weren’t gonna get.
You took them somewhere familiar and probably did something you already knew you could do. Just to make sure to get the photo. If not, that could have been my first and last time ever seeing Spike Jonze [laughs].
They ran another angle of this trick from the back in a later issue. It looks like the same day/night.
I actually just saw the photo that Skin shot of [Sean] Sheffey ollieing over the rail from the back. That was such an interesting shot. From the back like that. One could say that these skateboard photographers back in the day were a little more artsy. They were just a little more experimental.
They were a little more experimental even though they had a smaller margin for error too. Shooting on film you got way less chances than on digital.
True. But nowadays, say someone like Nyjah wants to go backside flip El Toro or whatever. You only really get a couple of shots at something like that. Sometimes maybe only one shot. That seems way more limiting for the photographer than some guy trying something over and over.
Jason Lee wrote the text for this. Did you remember him writing this?
I just re-read it before we got on the phone. It’s such a well-written Check Out! Jason’s a really good writer actually. Jason Lee is actually making a video right now. We were talking about videos one day and I sent him the Numbers video–the first one we did. He wrote back his thoughts and I kind of wish we would have hired him to write text for it. It was exactly everything we wanted it to mean.
But that Check Out for that time, it was amazing to have him write it. He described where he thought my skating was coming from at that time and he used the word “pure." That really stuck out to me.
At that time, I had had my time on Powell [Peralta] and was now having my time on Blind – but I was still unaffected by the industry. I was having the time of my life. I had just gotten done with Powell – riding for the brand of my life. biome I’m getting on Blind with Mark [Gonzalez] and Jason. Everything still came from a very pure place.
I know it’s just Check Out text. Like you’re not going to write something shitty about someone. But I think he nailed it as to exactly what I was going through. Some of the stuff he says about my skating–I was obviously very honored at the time when I look back at it now.
And maybe that’s what it was like for Jason. Now when I skate with an amateur skateboarder that’s coming up and I skate with them and they are doing so many new tricks or tricks I might have done–but they can do them way more consistently. As I read that text, I can imagine that’s maybe what Jason was feeling at the time.
Did Jason and Mark talk to you about their skating philosophies? Was it instilled in you guys? Or did they just show you by taking you out skating?
I would say that they led by example for sure. One thing I would say about Jason Lee was that Jason was very tough on himself about style and the way that he did things. I think that by watching that I started going, “I need to keep the way I’m doing this up to par because I know how Jason feels about it."
That was some of the first times I saw people not just focus on a trick but on every detail of it. I remember Jason talking about it at the time like maybe street skating was getting bigger. But how maybe just doing the backside flip bigger and bigger doesn’t always look better. You could backside flip a smaller set and make it look better than just maxing out on some huge set.
It seemed like Mark and Jason were holding that side down right as it got super gnarly.
Every time that Mark touches a skateboard, a miracle happens. I say that almost literally. The way that Mark [Gonzalez] skated and the way that Jason skated–it almost would have happened to anybody. I always say this, you could take almost any kid at the skatepark and throw them in say the Baker van and they are going to start getting molded. That’s sort of how I picture my youth being like. How I got molded.
It seems like any time there’s a sick skater or crew of skaters–there is also a direct elder or crew of elders that have sort of molded them. Like [Andrew] Reynolds with Baker, [Jason] Dill and AVE [Anthony Van Engelen] with FA, you guys and Mark and Jason. Jason paid attention to everything; even down to his sticker placement and top ply colors and all that.
There was no doubt about it. At that time we were not only skating with those guys, we were also just on the border of being obsessed with them.
Almost like a cult.
Yeah. Totally. There are pictures of Rudy (Johnson) and I back in the day and we have our hair died exactly the same colors as Mark and Jason. When I liked the Bones Brigade, I dressed like them. When Matt Hensley came out, I shaved my head, wore cargo shorts, and put a chain wallet on. When I got really sparked on Natas Kaupas; I went down and skated the beach curbs until he came. Kids still do that stuff.
You know what’s awesome about Baker and Reynolds?
I like how the generations of Baker start off with these kids that are almost pulled straight off the street or out of the skatepark. He develops these skaters. He never really takes an established skater and puts them on the team. But he raises these kids–he sees this special thing early on and then he develops it into something special.
Any specific tricks by each rider in Video Days that they got real close to but never made? Like things that would have been groundbreaking then?
On that trip up to San Francisco, where Rudy does the manual to tre flip at the Embarcadero–I was tre flipping ‘The Seven’ that day. Then I rolled my ankle. It was pretty bad ankle roll. Back then I didn’t really think of it too much. I never remember there being any deadline or anything for Video Days. So it wasn’t like, “I need to get this trick.”
Tre flip down the Seven would have been pretty gnarly in Video Days. Mark?
I remember Mark Gonzales trying frontside noseblunts on a vert ramp for the video. That one was probably a big one for him. I remember he used to try it at the Transitions Skatepark in LA.
That would have been crazy too given that the one on the mini ramp at the end was one of the first. What about Rudy [Johnson]?
Rudy and I used to jump on some bigger rails. Then for a while people stopped jumping on them for a second. But Rudy was almost lipsliding this double kink rail in La Mirada. I think he ended up with his face in the dirt. Rudy was seriously so gnarly.
I don’t think he ever thought to go back for the video though. It might have been on a Powell board. It’s the one Frankie Hill did as one of his enders (Celebrity Tropical Fish [’91]) with the piece of plywood right there.
Frankie Hill used to live in La Mirada. We used to kick it with Frankie. He used to live in Santa Barbara but he came down to do that movie Hook (’90) with Robin Williams. All my friends from La Mirada got jobs on that. I always loved Frankie Hill. He was so sick.
I always heard that Jason Lee was way better than even the part. Like his Video Days part was just him cruising. Anything crazy that you saw him almost make for the part?
It was an amazing part but Jason was a tricky guy. He skated by like vibe and feeling and what felt right. I don’t know if documenting it was his favorite thing.
I had seen Jason Lee backside 180 50-50 a handrail, for example, long before that video came out. I think stuff like that he never went back to get. Maybe he just didn’t think about it. At that time, we didn’t know what that video would become. Not that I’m saying it’s anything special [laughs].
It’s a little special.
But I don’t think we knew the affect it was going to have. Nowadays you might have situations where it’s like, “We’re gonna extend this thing a year and we’re going to put everything we’ve got into this.”
Say Miles [Silvas] for example. He just went out on a trip to Barcelona and he was out there three months with his girlfriend and his PLA homies. And he made a video part in three months. This thing fucking rocks. And I think it has style oozing out of it because he was just enjoying it. It gives you a good feeling. So maybe the Blind video was like that. Because we were actually having fun filming it, it gives off that free flowing vibe.
You can sense the vibe for sure. I was tripping on the Spike (Jonze) Epicly Latere'd how Gonz randomly giving Video Days to Kim Gordon pretty much launched Spike’s music video career. So to a degree Video Days launched Spike’s directing career.
Spike was always such a crazy and different person–he was definitely going places no matter what. But I know what you mean. It wasn’t long after that I was making videos with Sonic Youth. Skateboarding is a fucking trip. You know it and I know it. Skateboarding leads in fashion, in art, in music. We’ve seen skateboarding change culture. Like Hieroglyphics or something.
We even had Green Day in Questionable before it blew up.
(Laughs) Even the baggy pants, skinny pants trends. Shoes. Streetwear and all the Hypebeast stuff. Supreme. All of it.
We did everyone else so what about Jordan Richter? Anything major he didn’t get?
First off I think Jordan is sick. I’m not down with the Jordan bashing stuff.
ordan Richter at that time. Him and Peter Hewitt at Carlsbad (McGill’s Skatepark). They were two of the baddest motherfuckers out. If anyone wants to talk shit on Jordan – you had to be there at McGill’s. You would have known. There was a certain style and finesse that he brought to the table.
The alley oop backside ollie to fakie. You don’t see that stuff on vert even today.
No. And he’s still ripping too.
How is your current life going? How goes Numbers Edition?
The current life is good. I have a baby. A two-year-old. I’m super excited about that. I have our brand that we’re super excited about. That’s my other baby.
Boy or a girl?
I have a girl. Her name is Gia. She doesn’t skate yet. But I will say this. I watch all the Andrew Reynolds stuff of him skating with Stella and it makes me super inspired.
I didn’t know if I wanted her to skate at first to be honest. She might get hurt, I don’t want to push it on her. I had all my ignorant daddy worries. But when I see Andrew and how he is I could only hope that I could share that with her in some way. As skateboarders, maybe we can get a little selfish at times. It’s all about us. But she incorporates all this balance that I needed in my life.
The brand just makes everything so exciting. There are things like ads and graphics and all these things that are a new role for me and Eric [Koston] to be in. But just seeing it all come to life has been really good.
I couldn’t be more happy and proud of the team we are assembling right now. Skateboarding will always be pushed by the progression of skateboarding. And all of these guys have that.
Their style and attitude and the way they go about things – some of it is a little different than what I might do – but they’re all really unique. They’re all artists in their own way and just fucking rip man. I almost feel like a parent [laughs]. If these guys f*ck up in any way it will be because of what I did, because they’re all the best skateboarders in the world.
Now you and Eric get to be the Mark and Jason.
Yeah. I think the difference is that these days all these guys no matter what their age have such a solid head on their shoulders. Someone like Miles [Silvas] – I mean, I could take some direction from Miles [laughs]. That guy is running a solid program. All of them are for that matter.
One of the dudes I’m super hyped on is TX. He’s just been ripping for so long. I don’t know if Numbers has given him motivation but he’s just been killing it. He’s in all these adidas edits killing it.
Watch Guy's Blind Video Days part (1991), video by Spike Jonze:
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