By Robert Brink. Photos by Ian Ruhter and Robert Brink
The first few times I saw Oscar Loreto skate was at the Adaptive Action Sports X Games event in 2009 and 2010. Obviously, like most people would, I noticed he has no hands. But what I also noticed, was that he didn’t seem to care that it was an actual contest. He wasn’t gunning for a gold medal or anything, he was simply skating the course and having a good time.
As I got to know Oscar and we skated together more, I learned he was also missing half a leg, which blew my mind because he jumps down sets of stairs like it’s no big thing.
But you get over all that leg and hand stuff pretty quick and discover Oscar is down-to-earth and legit. He’s super mellow. He loves skateboarding and beer and filmmaking. He’s not only an incredible ambassador for Adaptive Action Sports and amputees across the globe, but also an inspiration as a human being.
Skateboarding doesn’t need gold medals. But then again, if there are going to be gold medals in skateboarding, then Oscar deserves a few.
So what’s the word, Oscar?
Not much. I just left Element. They had a package waiting for me so I was driving back from Irvine.
How’d you end up getting hooked up with them?
Through Amy Purdy at Adaptive Action Sports. They sponsored her and she told ‘em about our team. I submitted my footy and then they started hooking it up.
Can you explain your physical condition to us?
The doctors call it a congenital birth defect. Basically, when I was still in the womb, the amniotic bands wrapped around my limbs and prevented development. So I came out with no fingers on my left hand and half a development of the thumb on my right.
And then you’re missing a foot too?
My left leg, below my knee. It’s not an amputation; I was just born like that.
Oscar pulled a Spanky got a black guy foot.
At what point did you realize you were different than most kids and going to have a different kind of life?
Probably age 13 or 14. I realized I gotta do things the way I gotta do ‘em and sometimes it’ll work out and sometimes it won’t. From there I just learned to adjust.
What were some pivotal turning points in your life that made things easier for you?
I was pretty much an average kid. I’d always watch soccer games with my pops and I played for a little bit as a kid. But when skateboarding randomly fell into my lap was one of those moments. My cousin was doing it so I tried it and eventually kept going.
Then one time I saw an ad of Jon Comer doing a kickflip and his leg was coming off. That was the first time I’d ever seen anybody with one leg do anything that I really liked. I mean, I would go to the doctor’s office and see posters of a runner with one leg, so that kind of always inspired me, but seeing Comer in that ad was pretty tight.
Also, socially and in school, just learning to not care what other people think—to just worry about me and do my thing was a key thing.
One time in Tampa, Comer was opening beer bottles for us on his fake leg because we didn’t have a bottle opener. He’s the sickest.
I’ve skated with him a bunch. He’s awesome.
Did you have the same prosthetic foot before you skated as you do now?
No, I definitely had to change things up. They started me off with a foot that was made for everyday walking. Even running wasn’t a problem, but once I started skating and learning tricks I broke tons of prosthetic feet. The one I have now is finally perfect and doesn’t snap on tricks. There’s a spring inside—basically like bushings that mimic ankle movements. But it took years to figure that out.
And you have a prosthetic sponsor that helps develop those for you, right?
Yeah, they hook me up. I was gonna try to make a custom one but by the time I met them, they already designed one and I was the guinea pig.
Did you automatically start skating with your prosthetic foot forward? Evan Strong skates with his in back. Seems harder to get pop and board control that way.
I’m regular-footed and started that way right off the bat. I’ve talked Evan many times and it’s definitely is harder to get pop off your fake leg because you don’t have all those muscles down there to pop you. I didn’t learn switch for years because it felt weird with my fake leg back there—so I didn’t even try. Evan can skate tranny really well because he’s not doing that much popping.
Was there ever any consideration for prosthetic hands or is it easier without ‘em?
At this point it’s easier not to. My doctor hooked up this whole robotic hand and I was able to hold a drinking glass in one hand I still couldn’t do much with the other. I was too accustomed to using both hands to grab and do everything with.
Is it worse to lose your hands halfway through life, or be born without them?
Definitely weirder to lose them I think, because a drastic change like that would definitely fuck with you mentally.
Do you ever get to points of insane frustration because simple, everyday things take you way longer to do?
I’ve definitely gotten to that point lots of times. Trying to like, hang up a picture frame or something with a hammer and nail and all that bullshit. Or tying my shoelaces—I’d get so pissed off because it would take me 25 minutes. It would ruin the whole day. Like, I’d be late for school when I could’ve just tightened ‘em up and stuffed ‘em in my shoe instead of tying them. Little things like that, that people take for granted and do so easily.
What’s the harshest thing anyone’s ever done to you?
My tenth grade geography teacher was a dick. I don’t remember what he said verbatim but he was like, “What happened to you? What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be somewhere else?”
He was referring to the special ed. class. I didn’t expect that from an adult.
That’s gnarly. What do your hands have to do with …
My brain? Yeah, exactly. Sometimes people get weirded out. He didn’t even try to talk to me or anything.
So what’s the raddest thing anyone’s ever done?
My local shop used to be called Downey Skate and I submitted my sponsor-me tape and they called me back a week later like, “You’re on the team.” We started filming the next weekend. That was the raddest thing I’d ever experienced.
In 2007 we did the AAS skate tour and we got comped so much stuff. It was tight. That, and just the skate culture in general—the good vibes that everybody else brings.
So tell us more about Adaptive Action Sports.
Adaptive Action Sports is a non-profit that is trying to spread awareness and get more people who have disabilities involved in action sports. Amy Purdy is a snowboarder who founded AAS with Daniel Gale. I met them back in ‘05.
They recently voted me on to the board of directors and we’re trying to launch the LA chapter this summer. LA is a mecca for skateboarding and we’re hoping to get more people involved because there’s definitely a bunch of skaters out there with prosthetics.
We’re at a good place right now. I see nothing but progress. Element and Vans are backing us so the skaters are able to get some free stuff and we also get different donations here and there.
How can other people help AAS?
By visiting our website. There’s a a donation tab. We apply for grants but they are hard to get. So it’s usually easier to get businesses and people to donate.
We got a grant from Balance Bar one year and did a road trip, which was dope. This year I’m trying to draft a proposal and approach RV companies and see if they would donate an RV for a summer tour.
Can AAS use support as far as prosthetic companies and skate companies donating product?
Yeah, definitely. It kind of varies with prosthetics though. For example, this one kid, Chris Gentry doesn’t use a prosthetic leg —he skates on his stump, which is a whole different game.
I get pretty hooked up with my prosthetics by Scope. I hear stories of kids in Texas or out east that get hooked up here and there, but it’s harder for them. Sometimes companies will hook a kid up who doesn’t have insurance because they are in it for the love of helping people. Others are more strict and go by the books and they’ll deny the kid.
I would love to see more companies helping out because I don’t think they know too much about this realm yet. But those who know us, they know that we’re just real skaters doing what we love and it spreads in a very positive way.
Obviously Aaron Fotheringham is gnarly—doing Mega Ramp double backflips and front flips … but who else is really killing it?
Evan Strong is gnarly. Rob Nelson … he introduced me to pool riding. There are a few guys that used to be on Adaptive back in the day and fell off because of an injury or just stopped skating. A guy named Chase and a guy named Gary Moore were pretty gnarly. I’ve seen YouTube videos of kids that skate with crutches who are pretty sick. We are trying to get Italo Romano out to California this year too.
You have a bachelor’s degree, right?
Yeah, in film and electronic arts. I want to do action sports stuff, maybe develop a show that will end up on Fuel or be a filmer for a skate company like Ty Evans does. Working on feature films, like a Spiderman movie, would be dope too.
Have you ever had any internships or lucky breaks where you’ve been on a set or met anyone?
A bunch of big names came through school and we were able to work on their sets. I interned for a television station in Commerce and I worked for a studio in Burbank. The show I worked on for three-and-a-half years was a home shopping art auction—like QVC. It got canceled.
I freelance right now. I shoot whatever I can get my hands on—weddings, music videos. I eventually hope to land a studio job at Fox or something.
Who are some of your favorite skate filmers and videos?
Definitely TransWorld. Jon Holland and all their videos are up there for sure. Growing up, I liked the simplicity of the skate videos like Zero’s Thrill Of It All and the Toy Machine videos. Just short and sweet—straight skating was always dope.
Yeah Right! was the first one I was stoked on with the graphics and the movie magic trickery. From there, with Spike Jonze leading the way, things developed and other people began integrating techniques from actual film making, like dolly shots and stuff. I like Fully Flared and I like that magnetic liquid stuff in Mind Field.
Is there an etiquette to shaking your hand? Should one go for the knucks or a shake, even though they are really grabbing your wrist and arm?
I don’t know. It gets kind of weird. I don’t judge people on it. I think the people that shake my hand but still keep eye contact are normal and seem more open-minded. But some people are surprised, like, “Oh sorry, I didn’t know.”
I don’t really have a preference. If they put out a fist I’ll bump the knucks. But a high five or an actual handshake is normal to me too. The weirdest is when they shake my hand but grab almost up to my elbow. I’m like, “Okay, thanks buddy.”
That’s what I mean … it can get weird.
It definitely can.
Who’s helped and inspired you the most?
I’d have to say my mom and my sis. My dad bounced when I was a kid so I only knew him for a little bit, but it was my family just telling me, “Yeah you’re different but it doesn’t mean you still can’t do things and excel in life.” With that instilled in me pretty young it just helped me and always made me think of the dopeness that can come out of any situation.