The Chrome Ball Incident for ABD #3: Ronnie Creager
“I’m just going to keep skating as much as I can, try to do my best and enjoy how it makes me feel.”
A simple philosophy that has taken the tech wizardry of Ronnie Creager to undeniable legendary status over course of the last two decades—but not without drawbacks. Unfortunately there’s often more to a career in skateboarding than just skateboarding, and Creager’s lack of concern with playing the industry game has kept him a bit under the radar throughout the years.
While this may appear to be perfectly fine with Ronnie, it leaves his legions of fans shouting out claims of “most underrated” and wondering why the man P-Rod refers to as “the other Koston” doesn’t have a signature model shoe. And in this era of high-profile endorsement deals and big paydays it can all be a bit dizzying.
But don’t sweat it, because Ronnie doesn’t. He’s too busy skating.
Why is Ronnie Creager, one of the most technically precise skaters in the game, nowhere to be found at any of these high-profile Battle at the Berrics S.K.A.T.E. tournaments?
I just need to work on my flatground more in order to do well. My legs go numb when I’m nervous and even the most basic of tricks turn hard. I can’t trust my body to do what I want to in these situations. I’m starting to work more on fundamentals rather than just tricks I’m working on to film or shoot photos of, so we’ll see.
It’s surprising to hear that you think you need practice. I’m not buying it. I bet you’re beast at that game. Give me one flip-trick in particular that gives you trouble in these situations so if we ever meet, I can take you out.
You have to be a beast in those big games, though. Believe me, I need to practice a lot—especially at my age. My feet are slower and my muscles are deteriorating. I’m doing what I can to keep in shape but I haven’t found the fountain of youth yet. Give me some time and I can get the feeling of any flatground trick, but I forget to practice them. I’m too busy working on tricks that I want to film.
If we ever play a game of S.K.A.T.E. you should stick with heelflip variations and varial flips.
Good to know. Your ass is mine.
Bring it on [laughter].
Can you still do those Benihana fingerflips you were pulling in that Vancouver contest a while back? Benihanas are obviously the worst, but I’m totally on board for that variation. You ever pull those out in a game?
Benihanas are like riding a bike. If you take the time to learn them, you’ll never forget them. I’ll break one out in a friendly game of “anything goes” skate if I need to catch up.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How’d you get introduced to skating and what was your first real board?
My neighbor Mike Skinner introduced skateboarding to me around the age of three. He basically brainwashed me as a small child by pushing me around on his board when my mind was just developing. My first real board was a Sure-Grip that belonged to my sister, but the one I remember the most from early on was a Ken Park. I had all the plastic accessories on it—plus Rip Grip and cut-up griptape in all different colors. But back then, the only things that mattered to me were the wheels. If I could roll, I was in business.
Now you got on the Foundation team before it became the full-fledged “Super Co.” of the 90’s, back when it was low-budget Circle-F times, right? How’d that go down?
I was working at a skateboard shop called Hot Skates that many of the Foundation guys and Jason Lee rode for back then. I got invited to the Quartermasters Cup at the Powell skatepark in Santa Barbara, and after that Powell started giving me boards and free passes to the park. Eventually Josh Beagle took notice and asked me to ride for Foundation and I said “yes.”
It was very exciting. I was 17 years old and had no idea what to expect, other than that I didn’t have to work at the shop for boards anymore. Josh drove me down to Foundation and showed me around and I picked out a couple boards to skate. I remember Tod just kept piling more boards in a box and I ended up leaving with about 10 boards. I didn’t think it was low budget at all.
Foundation’s ads were super funny back then. I remember you were “Born Again” in one of them and they kicked Drehobl off in another one. Swank even turned you pro via a ballot in a Foundation Big Brother ad if I remember correctly.
One year after getting on Foundation, Tod asked if I wanted to go pro. I kept quiet because I didn’t think I was ready but Josh answered yes for me. That’s how I went pro.
The ads were always pretty funny. Foundation did whatever they wanted in my ads, I was just happy to be getting free stuff and being able to skate. It was about having fun and not caring about what the aftereffects would be.
What was the story behind Foundation advertising that it owned Rocco’s companies? I know this had a role in Mulder going to World, but did it have anything to do with you going to Blind as well?
As far as I know, Tod bought Foundation from Rocco and they were friends. Announcing that Blind, World Industries and 101 were under the ownership of Foundation was a lie but it was funny. I was scared I was going to get in trouble since he used me as the introduction to it all but Tod did what he wanted. He had great ideas and made Foundation one of the top brands in skateboarding.
I remember there were rumors about me riding for a World company but they were just rumors. Foundation came to me first with something real and my loyalty was with them, like a “first love” type of thing. Rodney did call me up once and told me to let him know if I ever had any problems or needed anything, but that was it.
Shortly afterward, I called Tod to get some boards and all I can remember from that conversation is getting let go from the team and hanging-up the phone. I never even got to ask why. I was devastated. I was living on my own and was cut off from making money and getting free boards. I had no idea what to do. My life just seemed to stop.
About an hour after getting my ass booted and not knowing what to do, I called up Rodney and he gave me the choice to ride for any of the companies he and Rocco owned. I chose Blind thinking I would get laughed at or get the runaround, but I’ve been on Blind ever since. Just about to hit the 20-year mark.
So you were kicked off Foundation and on Blind before Barbarians at the Gate even began filming? How awkward was it doing a project with the company you just left? I bet Rocco got a big kick out of this.
It was pretty wild. Just a bunch of stupid stunts and skits to see what trouble we could cause. A cameraman filmed us 24/7. I get embarrassed when I watch it.
Being kicked off Foundation then being back on the road with them was hard for me. I felt like I couldn’t say “no” because I had just gotten on Blind and didn’t want to let them down. I was young and just wanted to skate. Tod and Steve made things pretty good and having Josh on the trip made it better ‘cause he’s always clowning around and in good spirits. But after a while, I just asked if Heath could come and take my place. I missed out on some cool stuff but that’s probably a good thing for me.
What was the vibe like when you joined Blind? After all, the company was supposedly “dead.”
It was scary. At one point, I was the only rider on the team. I was worried. I had lost a sponsor before and knew how it felt, but this time was different: it wasn’t about getting kicked off—it was that the company might fall apart.
Definitely turbulent. So I gotta ask … there’s a rumor that you were under the influence of a certain fungi when you pulled all those consecutive switch tails at the end of Trilogy. Is that true?
No comment. I got hurt that day. The tailslides were easy and I wanted to do something out but I ended up landing awkward and tweaking my right foot. Not the best thing to happen when you’re filming for a video part. But aside from getting hurt, it was an amazing day in Huntington Beach.
You’re one of those rare pros, where not only has every video part of yours been fantastic and well ahead of its time, but each also seems to be a further logical progression along the same line. Classic Creager—just more refined and always taken one step further. Is this constant refinement and expansion the approach you’ve personally taken with your skating throughout your career?
I’m constantly trying to get better. I always feel the need to out-do myself. The feeling of learning something new or doing something I didn’t think I could do always feels great. It is getting harder though, especially from skating so long. My body has taken a beating.
Do you have favorite video parts of your own and ones that make you cringe?
I did like the What If? video, but I think my favorite video part will be my next one. My old part in the TSA video makes me cringe because of the song Angel picked for me. The skating is just whatever. I wasn’t happy with the latest [The Blind Video] video either ‘cause I thought it was thrown together too fast.
What goes into making a video part for you? Do you go on a program with a filmer or try to keep it loose? Do you make trick lists to set out to do? ‘Cause you can really go off on some ledges.
I just go out and film, film, film.
In the beginning, it’s just getting whatever you can and then building up from there. I always have a list of tricks to do but it’s often hard finding the right spot for it. I usually just try to keep it relaxed and go with the flow. I try not to go out and skate with expectations ‘cause I’ll just let myself down and get stressed. But if I feel strongly about a trick that I want, I’ll make sure I work at it ‘til I get it.
How do you go about constructing your lines for videos? Are they mostly improvised on the spot or premeditated and fine-tuned? Sometimes it seems like these lines are just flowing, but other times, the line is definitely pre-constructed, like the regular then switch garbage can 180 ollie/k-grinds mirror line in Menikmati for example.
For the most part, I always determine what I’m going to do beforehand. Only on rare occasions do these special things just happen by accident.
I usually see what tricks are working good and what I can actually make, ‘cause if the line is too hard, it could take too long and I may give up. But then again, if the line is too easy, there’s no point in doing it ‘cause everybody can do it.
What’s one place that sticks out for you from back in the day that you really dug skating?
I miss the Santa Monica courthouse. That place was fun.
Good answer. So through it all, what has kept you on Blind all these years? I have to imagine a lot of “super teams” have tried to pluck you from the Reaper.
I’ve pretty much dedicated my whole skate career to Blind and stood behind the company in times of both good and bad. It is a little depressing that I’m still not considered an employee or have a retirement plan in place for the 20 years I’ve been with the brand, but I’m confident that Blind will take care of me. If I were to leave Blind and ride for another brand, it would be for love not money.
is it frustrating to skate for a company that no matter what amazing feats are accomplished, there will always be that shadow of its first years of operation looming large? Blind plays with this a little with old graphic reissues and old school art direction in the ads. Was there ever a time where changing the name to start fresh, like Deca and Artafact?
I highly doubt Blind will ever even think about changing the name.
I’m always going to be in someone else’s shadow. I have my own that I can’t get rid of. But the only really frustrating thing for me has to do with the expectations that I place on myself and wanting to skate better.
Well put. And you’ve definitely stuck by your sponsors through years, which was why it was so shocking when you left éS for Nadia. What was the story behind that company anyway?
I feel I’ve only made one bad decision in my whole skate career and that was when I decided to leave éS. Don Brown gave me the option to stay but I couldn’t take the pressure back then. I was naive, confused and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t leave éS for Nadia. It was a project that was started a year or so later. It’s long gone. Maybe some day I’ll expose some info but I don’t feel like talking shit or singling anybody out right now.
So its safe to say your Nadia experience wasn’t a positive one?
Both positive and negative. Living in China for months at a time in the factory was amazing. I would work on shoes and try my hand at sewing—seeing firsthand how shoes are made. I’d play basketball at night and help employees learn to ride a skateboard. I would go fish all the time with our friend Bernie, who owns two plastic and metal molding manufacturing companies in Guang Dong, China. We’d catch fish for the factory and drink beer. Bernie is Cantonese and his English has gotten amazing over the years, my Mandarin, however, still sucks.
The negative side was the lies and greed that the owners had. It sucks how people change when money is involved. I lost a huge amount of money paying for materials and salaries, but that’s the price I pay for experience.
Tell me a little about your new Etcetera project.
Etcetera is a new brand I’m launching this spring/summer. It’s an accessories line designed to help keep skaters on their boards instead of nursing an injury. Ankle braces you can skate in, fully padded insoles and other products that I need to keep under wraps for a just little longer. It’s been in the works for a long time now. I just think it’s crazy that some of these ideas skaters come up with never get made, so that’s why we exist.
Looking forward to that. So what’s the current shoe situation now that Adio is gone? It’s hard to think of another pro out there more deserving of having a pro model laced up on their feet than you.
Finding a sponsor is like trying to find a girlfriend. I’m not going to get my hopes up and be eager just to disappointed. I have more important things to do with my time, like skateboarding.
What about maybe P-Rod hooking you up with some of that Nike money? We’re trying to get you paid, Ronnie! Are you planning on starting up something of your own perhaps?
Paul’s done more for me than I could ever imagine. If Nike sees something in me they want, they will call. There’s handfuls of skaters out there much better than me doing tricks that I can only dream of.
I have nothing in the works for shoes and no plans on starting a shoe line in the future. It would be a better road for me to ride for a brand that already exists and loves skateboarding as much as I do.
How do you react when someone like Paul or MJ talk about how underrated you are in interviews? It’s a very commonly held view. Your influence on some of today’s younger pros, like PJ Ladd, is pretty obvious.
As much as I’d like to think I’m “underrated,” I can only smile and have a laugh at it. It’s not going to change the way I act or do things. When I saw what Marc Johnson wrote in his “Top Five” for TransWorld and then what Paul said in his interview, I was blown away. It’s a strange feeling, as Marc and Paul are guys that I can’t get enough of seeing skate. Their influence and attitudes towards skateboarding have impacted me in the most positive ways. It felt really cool and unreal. Kind of like everything I’ve been doing hasn’t gone unnoticed. I feel like I need to give more blood sweat and tears into my skateboarding and I will. I’m not done. I love it too much.