Aggressive, fast and loose, Eric Dressen’s style of skating is one you can see echoes of in many of today’s top pros. Now a world-renowned tattooist, designer and illustrator, Eric still lives and breathes skateboarding. I had a brief chat with him on his last night in our country, at the end of a tour with his longtime sponsor Santa Cruz.
This is your last night in Australia, huh?
That’s right. I’ve been here for ten days.
Are you ready to go home?
No, I want to stay longer. I really love it here.
Well, that’s when you know you’ve had a good trip.
It’s been awesome. I just wish I was a younger man. It really wore me out, all the skateparks and stuff, hiking …
Do you know Slam magazine?
Oh yeah I’m familiar with Slam. I think back in the ‘80s I was in Slam a couple of times. I still have tonnes of Slam stickers in my sticker collection. The long strip ones.
You’re a bit of a collector aren’t you?
A little bit (laughs).
It’s nice to hang on to that stuff.
Kind of. I drag that shit around. I haven’t gone into a lot of my stuff since I put it in storage in the ‘80s, so I don’t even know what I have.
Do you ever feel like having a big cull and getting rid of all that stuff?
Not really. I just keep piling shit on top of other shit.
So is this your first trip to Australia?
This is the first time I’ve ever been here. I think I was supposed to come in ’88 and it fell through, so when this Santa Cruz trip popped up I jumped on.
Was it different to what you expected?
I knew that we’d be skating a lot and it was going to be hot, and I knew Australians are super passionate about their skateboarding. I really like the Victorian architecture in Melbourne and stuff, all the huge parks; I really dig it. I can see myself living here, definitely, besides the heat. Everything else I like.
Do you feel an obligation to skate hard in the demos these days? I mean, people don’t really expect you to do kickflip tailslides.
I’m getting a little older now and my knees are getting a little more worn out. For me, demos are more about meeting old timers and hearing their stories. Back in the old days, I had to go there and rip and show off, but now it’s more to make friends. I got a lot of that on this trip.
‘Back in the old days, I had to go there and rip and show off, but now it’s more to make friends.’
It must be a strange feeling connecting with these people on the other side of the world, and you’ve been a big part of their formative years.
It’s crazy, but I’ve been travelling a lot over the last couple of years and we all grew up the same, you know? Every skateboarder grew up the same.
Growing up as a skater in Australia, my dream was always to go to California to the centre of it all. Do you have that perspective of knowing you were in the middle of it all?
Oh yeah, definitely. I was a total California kid. Growing up, I got to skate a lot of parks and meet a lot of people, but before that, I was just a little kid skating around the neighbourhood.
Before I came on this trip I’ve been following a lot of Australian street skaters and I’m really taken by the Australian scene right now. Right now I’m really inspired by Australian, Swedish and English street skating. The kids in those three countries are tearing it up right now. I’ve been my whole life in LA, so I’m bored of it. I’m over it.
But it seems like you’re such a big part of that LA scene.
Yeah, I was born and raised there. I’ve been there the whole time and somehow I’ve always hung out with skateboarders. Now I’m working on Fairfax by Supreme, tattooing everybody. I’ve just always been a skateboarder since I was a little kid.
Your video parts have aged really well. I think a lot of the newer skaters skate a lot like you, with all the wallrides and slappies, that aggressive style.
It’s a pretty rad time in skateboarding right now. Just in the last month, all these videos got released, all these people doing this rad stuff. It makes me want to go skate harder. Skateboarding is my favourite thing; I love it so much.
The other thing you’re really well known for is your tattoos. Did you get hit up a lot by people asking you for tattoos while you were here?
Yeah, I got hit up a tonne, but I only ended up doing one little tattoo the whole time. We’ve been running around so much, with full days of skating, then dinner, then going to skate more, so I haven’t really had the opportunity. Maybe next time I come out I’ll put some time in, set up in a shop or something. I want to come back in the next six months for a longer time with Uppercut Deluxe pomade, another one of my sponsors from over here.
I feel funny interviewing you, because the Epicly Later’d series on you was such a great portrait of you. Were you happy with it?
I think so. I only watched it once at the premiere, I was so nervous. And with me, I always walk away from interviews and think, ‘oh, I should’ve said this, I should’ve said that’. I’ll walk away from this one and do the same thing. But everyone seemed to like it.
I thought it was great. Have things changed for you since it came out?
Oh yeah, definitely. Within days of it, I got more recognised. I’d be at the market and the bag boys would recognise me. I’m real popular at the supermarket and the laundromat (laughs). It boosted my career quite a bit.
Okay, I’ve taken up enough of your time. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
This has been an incredible tour. We’ve been taken care of so well and got to skate so many places and meet so many nice people. I really appreciate it and I don’t feel like I deserve it, but I feel at home here. I’ve been made to feel very welcome here.
This piece was published in Slam magazine, 2015