|ESPN.com: Skateboarding||[Print without images]|
|Omar Hassan in mid feeble at speed.|
A quarter century is a long time to be rolling upright on a skateboard. But to have the same shoe sponsor for that long? There're only a select few who can claim that -- Omar Hassan is one of them. This year Omar is celebrating 25 years with the waffle print. As far as Vans riders who have consistently remained at the forefront of skateboarding, only Steve Caballero has a brand legacy greater than Omar.
"Omar Hassan has been on Vans longer than anyone else named Omar. Hell, almost longer than anyone not named Omar, too," says Justin Regan, Vans skate marketing manager. "He's been rocking the side stripe for 25 years now and in those two and half decades he's managed to see every inch of the globe and shred every type of terrain put in front of him. Omar is the blueprint, prototype, all-terrain skater that we are starting to see more of emerging these days. He's not a bowl skater nor a vert skater nor a street skater; he's simply a skateboarder and one of the best ever."
A couple years after Omar joined Vans, Blockhead Skateboards turned him pro. After a short tenure at Blockhead he rode for Acme, then joined Black Label Skateboards in 1996, where he's been ever since. Along the way, Omar has endured skateboarding's ups and downs and forged a reputation for being tough and consistent. If there were ever any doubters, they were silenced by Omar's marathon runs each year at the Pro-Tec Pool Party, where his lines mix 540s, head high Madonnas, 5-0 grinds to fakie through the corners and heelflip frontside airs in every pocket of the pool.
The Pro-Tec Pool Party runs this Saturday, May 12, at the Vans Skatepark in Orange, Calif. ESPN.com caught up with Omar to talk about the comp, his staying power at Vans, and growing up in Southern California.
ESPN.com: What have you been up to lately?
Omar: Getting ready for the Pro-Tec and filming for this little video I'm putting out with Preston Maigetter, which will probably come out the end of July.
How often do you skate the Combi bowl at Vans?
I skate there once in a while. In spurts. And then around the contest, when the sessions are happening. I try to skate all sorts of things. I go on a lot of trips. Vans keeps me pretty busy on trips. For the majority of the year, I'm on the road.
As far as contests go, how does the Pro-Tec Pool Party rank?
It's one of those contests that's high energy with a lot of history. Lots of roots with the masters division. Not many contests have that many generations like that. It's not often you get to skate with Eddie Elguera to Tony Hawk to Rune to Bucky to Pedro to Alex Perelson. To me, I'm not going there to try and prove myself. It's more or less to be a part of a big session with all those guys. I looked up to Chris Miller. I looked up to Tony [Hawk]. And being in the same arena with them makes that contest stand out.
Speaking of generational, what does it mean to be on Vans for 25 years?
It's cool because I've watched Vans go through its ups and downs. I've been there when they weren't necessarily the coolest shoe company, and when they were cool, and weren't cool, and now they're super cool again. I've seen it all, and it's awesome to be a part of because nobody knew that they were gonna be such a big impact on American culture and around the world. When you see the rap musicians and the punk bands wearing them, it's cool to see how it's evolved into a whole lifestyle of what gets perceived as what people wear on their feet. It's been crazy to see it as big as it is now.
I was 13 when I got on the team. There was a ramp at the factory at Vans. Back then, the skateparks were dying so that was one of the main go-to places to skate. At that time, there was a big surge of newer pros that were getting discovered as the 80s moved into the 90s, like the Danny Ways and the Eric Kostons, and Wade Speyers - those kind of skateboarders moved up as the next generation of pros and a lot of them skated at Vans, which was cool.
How did you adapt during that shift?
I think it was mainly living where I lived and having the sun and surf. I've always been into surfing and rode for companies like Vans and Quiksilver that compliment each other. Plus, riding for Black Label. Orange County has always had a great skate scene. Vision skateboards, when I was a kid, came out of there, and guys like Mark Gonzales. By living here, I got to see a whole generation push and all these guys always on the cutting edge.
When I was a kid going to school and stuff, Vans weren't on everyone's feet. Now all the kids are wearing skate shoes. But back when I was a kid, if you had on a Thrasher shirt or Independent shirt, you really had to be a part of this subculture scene, an underground scene. You were different. You weren't a jock. You weren't playing football. You weren't playing baseball. You were a skateboarder and you were into music or you were into art, something that was totally different.
Nowadays, skateboarding is such a mainstream thing to do. It's a different culture than what I grew up with. But it became easy for me to adapt due to the fact that's all I ever did and that's all I ever wanted to do -- skate and surf and go see shows. Who was to know that it would become as big as it is? It just happened that way. And with the skatepark resurgence starting around 2000. That's when they made skateboarding an "at your own risk" sport. A lot people don't think about this, but people were suing people for years over skateboarding. But since they made that law, it changed things and city's started making skateparks. It really opened the doors to getting communities involved in building skateparks. When California started building more parks, that opened doors for my style of skateboarding. I really like to skate parks. And not only that, but my whole generation had something to skate again, something they grew up on.
|You don't see tail-grab one foots to often, and when you do they don't look like this. Creature Ramp, Ramona, Calif.|
When did you know you wanted to ride a skateboard for a living?
Ever since I was 13 and got on Vans. That's when it kind of started. I turned pro at 16. Luckily [it was all about] where I lived and the people I was affiliated with and who've supported me. Sticking with it through the injuries and staying loyal to the companies who sponsor me is pretty much what I've had to do my whole life, and just focus on my skateboarding.
I never really was a huge competitive skateboarder. That wasn't my main focal point. You know, having a signature shoe on Vans really opened the doors to being creative, knowing what other people would like and what would look cool on their feet, and riding for Label and having cool graphics. Having a say-so in a creative product. That's a whole other outlet than just the competitive side.
How does surfing fit into the mix?
Surfing and skating go together. Growing up in Newport, I grew up surfing and skateboarding. Half of my friends ended up being surfers or pro surfers or started a surf clothing company or whatnot. It's always been just a big family for me, having friends that surf and skate. It's just a California lifestyle that I've always lived.
But didn't you move to Oregon full time a few years back?
I never really lived there full time. It was sort of half and half. Oregon has a really good skateboarding scene. I'd compare it to living on the North Shore if you're a surfer. But it's a seasonal thing. And with my situation with the traveling that I do, and the weather up there, I have to pick and chose when I can be there or not. I moved there to help raise my daughter, and when it comes to skateboarding, there's no better place to be than [the Pacific Northwest]. I still travel there a lot.
How old is Lola?
Two years and two months. Her mom [Nicole Zuck] skates too. I have a feeling that Lola is going to fall into some sort of skating or surfing thing because she's already jumping wild on my board and jumping off the couch and jumping on the bed.
The raddest thing about her is that I see a part of my childhood. The innocence she has is awesome. Watching her grow, watching her walk, watching her talk, the whole nine. I'm super proud to be part of her life, really blessed.
As you get older, take on parenting responsibilities and deal with injuries, how do you stay on point?
The coolest thing about it is that skateboarding has a lot of different outlets. You look at a guy like Steve Caballero, he's kind of an inspiration for me. He's still skating hard, he's got all his tricks, he's still ripping, and he's balancing it all out so that he makes skateboarding work. Guys like Tony Hawk, Mark Gonzales, you look at them and they're still skating, still ripping, and they have families.
You just have to come into your own. I've never been a huge competitive skateboarder. It's been more of a lifestyle. So I'll always have my time to do my parenting and still skate. It's one of those things that's just part of my life, and I'll always ride my skateboard and be part of skateboarding. And I hope that in the future I'll be able to teach my daughter.
When it come to injuries, they've always been a part of my life. It comes with the territory. If I get older and I'm not able to push it like I do now, it'll always be an outlet to just go skate a bowl and carve around and have fun with it. Kind of like a surfer who resorts to a longboard.
Skateboarding is just something I'll always do. There aren't many things that give you that feeling that surfing and skateboarding do. I think it's something that lasts with you for the rest of your life.