How to be a Great Downhill Skateboarder

First things first: you have to look the part. If you aren’t swagged TF out in some of this season’s hottest clothing trends (sold exclusively at Zumies!), don’t even waste your time leaving your house to go skate. Second, don’t wear anything childish. Skateboarding is something not meant to be an expression of yourself, or a way to project your strange fetishes onto via appearance. Wear age appropriate, stylish clothes. It’s easy!

Actually, don’t take a single word of that seriously. Seriously. Skateboarding IS an expression of self. But in the same sense, it also isn’t. There’s no popularity contest in skateboarding. Nobody ever got famous in skateboarding because they looked fly AF. They got there because they were a GREAT skateboarder. However, being unique comes with it’s own set of fans, but uniqueness is subjective. Wear whatever you please. Event T shirts, your favorite band, nothing at all…you just do you.

BUT, when it comes to doing downhill skateboarding, what really counts is what’s in the pants. Not exactly physically IN the pants, but what’s…in the pants. You know, material wise? The worst thing is to bail, slip, or otherwise wreck your pants, revealing those cute panties you bought that match your bra, which you were saving for the cutie at the top of the hill later on. Get a strong pair of pants that can withstand a few falls. Your body will thank you. Road rash is a real…pain in the butt. And guess what? Once you’ve decided which pants are going to be your skate pants, you better stock up on duct tape. Duct tape is a girl’s best friend when it comes to saving money. Stop buying new jeans just because you can see your pimply butt through that new-found hole! Just double up on the duct tape and get back to the hill. 

And for something that actually matters - get yourself some dang pads. There are people out there who were once very talented who now only host events, or those that don’t even skate at all who have lost their passion for skateboarding because of a fall that wrecked their body parts. Knee pads are essential. You don’t know where you’re going to fall, but if you’ve got knee pads, you can drop right onto them and slide across the pavement like the princess you are, right into a safe and complete stop so you can crush that line better the second time. Knee pads are essential, there’s no argument. And of course, you could shell out and get the top of the line knee pads that cost you your entire Taco Bell fund, but it’s not necessary. Just get something that’s going to come in between you and the pavement and get to work. My knee pads are so old that they started turning grey. And they’ve been used so much that the little straps that actually keep them in place have eroded straight to concrete heaven. But do I pay the premium and get new ones? No. What makes a great skater is doing the best with what you have. I simply just duct tape them around my knees and go for gold. And they don’t slip!

Equally important is slide gloves, not only because I couldn’t imagine being a great skater without them, but also because your hands are a national treasure and they deserve to be treated that way. Take care of your hands. They’re the only two you’ve got. What really matters is your helmet. Keeping brain goo in, on and around your brain is something you should aim for every day. You can do your part on skate day by wearing a dang helmet. We’ve all heard horror stories that usually end on a teary note - but they don’t have to. Just by strapping a certified, tested and inspected hunk of protection on your head, you’re already a great skateboarder.

Being a great skateboarder has nothing to do with your ability. It has everything to do with your attitude. I can name a few (I won’t) people I know that aren’t “great” despite their abilities on the road. They’re the kind of people who only skate with a select squad, tell people they are “blowing” spots (by falling on hills they want to skate again), and have no time dedicated to being a positive influence. A great skateboarder is one who organizes a get together. Someone who truly shows interest in growing the industry. Someone who strives to be better as a person, a skater, and a role model. Guess what? Flying down hills at breakneck speeds is impressive - people are going to look up to you! Just by sharing the notion that literally anybody alive can skateboard, you’re already a great skateboarder. It could be as simple as standing on the corner and giving up your next run so you can help the next guy work on his form for a slide, or just offering a ride to someone who wouldn’t have otherwise gone out that day. Anything you do that makes someone appreciate the scene of downhill is making you great.

But even if you’re not already a skateboarder, you can still be a great one! By standing at the top of the hill, you’re great. By getting back up after a fall - you’re great. By going for the one line again after you’ve been trying for hours and failing - you’re great. Never giving up makes you great. Putting time into being great makes you great. Having a positive attitude even though your ass is bleeding and everyone else is astronomically more skilled than you makes you great. Getting home after a long day, putting your Spongebob onesie on with the butt flap left open, and cracking open the last juice box in the fridge, and smiling because you tried something new makes you great. Being on a skateboard makes you a great skateboarder.

Downhill skateboarding is a social activity. You’re probably going to get a ride to the hill with somebody you only know from the internet, or you’re going to meet up with people you’ve only heard rumors about. It’s okay! And when you’re at the hill, you might take a break and inhale the devil’s lettuce with people, or crack open a spiked canned beverage. You might not at all. You might just sit in the car seat and rest. It’s all okay. Putting yourself in a position to make friends is already a step to being great. Personally, I have a lot of friendships that are solely based on our connection through skateboarding. And I have a lot of friendships that have lasted longer than any others because of skateboarding. Keeping it alive by still getting out and skating - that makes you a great skateboarder.

You will fall. You will get hurt. You will spend 30 minutes standing in the furthest corner of your shower trying to soak every part of your body except for the one covered in road rash. You will scream in agonizing pain when your gauze pad sticks to your road rash after accidentally falling asleep on the couch with an open beer in your hand. But you can smile when you’re walking with a weird limp so your jeans don’t rub your sensitive areas. Why? Because, for god’s sake, you’re a great fucking skateboarder!

Just throw on some more duct tape and hit the road. Again. With your whole body. At high speeds. I promise, you’ll learn to love it. And if you don’t learn to love it, you’ll learn how to at least protect yourself a little better, and learning is what makes you a great skateboarder.

Nobody ever jumped on a wooden plank with clay wheels for the first time and threw a 100 foot slide on their first, second or third try. They came from backgrounds of surfing, roller blading, street skating, sports of all kind, yoga, stand up paddling, or motivation. They eased into it, built their confidence and worked their comfort zone until the only way to get a high while doing it was to go down a dirt path on a 99% grade hill in the rain. You’re going to get frustrated. You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get upset, angry, and otherwise emotionally bothered in some way at some point. I can promise you that. But building on those emotions with perseverance is what is going to make you a great skateboarder.

There is no judgment in downhill skateboarding. Everybody has respect for anyone looking to join the ranks. Anyone who does it will agree - they don’t care who you are. They don’t care about your identity, your color, sexuality, or any other factor that you discern is “different” from what is perceived as normal. I personally am transgender. You know how many other transgender skateboarders I have skated with? A few. Very few. Less than 3, but more than 1. Nobody has ever not skated with me because of my gender. Nobody has told me I can’t skate because of my gender. Every event I’ve competed in has welcomed me with open arms. And I’ve skated with people with tattoos from their ankles to their necks, people who are gay, lesbians, bisexuals, black people, asian people, hispanic people, people that don’t even speak English, people that have no idea what their gender is, white people, people that can’t even stand on two feet, people that have no feet, 70 year old people and 5 year old people. It literally doesn’t fucking matter. You know what doesn’t make you a great skateboarder? Assuming that you can’t do it because other people won’t accept you. 

The only thing that makes you a great skateboarder, is being a skateboarder.

It’s early November and 32 of the world’s best traditional longboarders are living the high life at The Westin Shimei Bay Resort in Hainan, China. A Chinese tourist walks by as San Clemente’s Karina Rozunko blurts out, “I love your hair!”

Minutes later, Karina is up in her room with Alex Knost and a pair of scissors, snipping away towards Rini’s new look — a short, bowl-cut fade.

That’s Karina in a nutshell. Down for whatever on the spur of the moment, living without much worry — except maybe when sleeping alone in a hotel.

Get to know the newest member of the Vans surf team through this short interview, conducted en route to the Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational China.

Welcome to the Vans Family, Karina!

Karina Romayne Rozunko

Hometown: San Clemente, CA

Sponsors: Vans, Seea, Thomas Surfboards

Date of Birth: June 28th, 1996

Nickname: Rini (REE-NEE)

Instagram: @karinarozunko

Vans Surf: When did you start surfing?
Karina Rozunko: Probably around 11 but my dad had me on a surfboard before I could walk, and I was terrified!

Most scared you’ve ever been in the ocean?  
I’m always scared of the ocean. I’m the most scared of the ocean person you’ll ever meet. I’m also scared of sleeping in a room by myself.

Is surfing a sport?  
For some people, yeah. For me, it’s just for fun.

Non-surfing sponsor?  
Probably a car company, but I don’t like new cars. Can I just have a house?

What annoys you most about surfing?  
Rude vibes in the lineup.

Were the waves better when you were a kid?  
Yes, there was more sand.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?  
Married with six kids! I’m kidding! Definitely not a math teacher (laughing while struggling to figure out what age she would be in 20 years). I want to live in a cute house, with a rose garden and a front porch, where I can spend time painting with a significant other, (and) maybe a couple kids.

What is your biggest fear?  
Sleeping by myself in an empty hotel. But literally anywhere. I don’t like sleeping alone.

Most valued possession?  
At this point I don’t feel any real attachment to anything.

Would you ever run with the bulls?  
Yes, I would run with the bulls for sure… if there was a cage around me.

What’s your favorite dinosaur?  
Triceratops! Well, Brontosaurus are cool, but we don’t know if they were actually real.

Would you rather be 7 feet tall or 4 feet tall?  
Four feet. Lower center of gravity.

How many times per month do you eat pizza?  
I don’t eat pizza that much. Probably once.

What’s the first thing you’d buy if winning the lottery?  
Dinner and drinks with all my friends to celebrate never having to work again.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?  
4 Non Blondes - What’s Up

What’s the longest you’ve gone without looking at your phone?  
All of last year I had a flip-phone. Luki made me get an iPhone.

What’s your favorite season?  
Pumpkin spice latte season! Just kidding. I like all seasons. If there was just one season all the time, it would suck.

How many pairs of shoes do you own?  
Realistically I probably have about 35, scattered throughout my house, car, and friend’s houses.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  
This finger (points at right index finger). A rabbit bit it when I was a kid, when I was feeding it a carrot. We had to let it go in the hills after that. My sister was crying, it was her rabbit.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?  
Go back to sleep.

Favorite place to travel to?  
Anywhere I haven’t been before.

Skate or snow?
I think skating is pretty cool. Have you seen my slam? @americasgotnotalent re-posted it. (We highly recommend clicking here)

Favorite non-surf movie?  
I try to watch them, but I always fall asleep.

Biggest pet peeve?  
People being on their phone when you’re talking to them (as she’s on her phone doing the interview)

What would you say to people who think the earth is flat?  
People think that?