Agility, creativity, dedication and, of course, wicked skills. This is the foyer into the art form, sport and culture continuing to gain popularity worldwide: skateboarding. Zack Whyel explains what the excitement is all about and Charlotte’s place in the whirlwind.
interview matthew brown // photography troy browder
What is WhyelFiles all about and how was it started? We are a multi-media website and apparel company dedicated to promoting independent artists, musicians and skateboarders from Charlotte, Los Angeles and everywhere in between. We have a team of endorsed artists, musicians and skateboarders who we work with in creating premiere, positive events that kids and adults alike can enjoy and participate in. We distribute premium alternative apparel, art, media and skate accessories to dealers and buyers worldwide.
How do you view skateboarding now, versus how it was when you first started skating? I actually view it quite differently now. It still is and always will be my creative passion, and an outlet to relieve stress or to have fun. But when I was younger, I viewed skateboarding as a sport. It was a way for me to individually express my freedom while still working out and competing at the same time. We all saw skateboarding on the big screen when we were younger, and saw it so glamorously. This made me want to be the best and use this creative sport to get me where the Ryan Shecklers and Rob Dyrdeks are today. All these things have been great to diversify and expand the sport, but it also has led to a downfall of the true essence of skateboarding, which is pure fun and imagination; and I believe it needs to be taken back to that. Without these two foundations, skateboarding would and will be nothing. It is an art form and should be treated as such. Each unique style and difference makes up the greatness of the collective whole.
I’ve realized that competing and being better than the others are not my goals with skateboarding. It is an art form and should be treated as such. Each unique style and difference makes up the greatness of the collective whole.
In my experience, being a skater always went back and forth from unpopular to popular; what would you say the popularity level is today? Skateboarding has definitely reached its height in popularity these days. With major competition tours like Street League and Maloof Money Cup giving away millions of dollars a year, and corporate sponsors such as Red Bull, Monster, Target, Nike, and Adidas, there’s no doubt skateboarding has hit the mainstream.
How big of a role do you think image and fashion play with skaters these days? Unfortunately, it plays a huge role. I appreciate that everyone has his or her own style and can express that to the fullest. It makes it cool that there are so many choices and different styles of skate fashion coming out these days. But it also takes away from the fun and imagination part of skateboarding. There are too many “different” skateboarders out there that are all wearing the same thing, and doing the same tricks. So where is the uniqueness and creativity in that?
There seems to be some animosity from street skaters when talking about longboarders. How do you feel about that? Street skateboarders see longboarding as “inferior” to skateboarding because there are no tricks involved. I believe that we should all be supporting each other and working together no matter what art form you’re into – longboarding, BMX, rollerblades, etc. What the normal skateboarder doesn’t think about is that regardless of what sport an individual decides to practice, they are still choosing to practice a creative form of self-expression. This is what we are all choosing to do. So how does that make you better than them, if our goals and intentions are the same? Cut the hate and just skate.
What are your favorite videos to watch? I get inspired for skateboarding by watching all the new skate videos that come out: full-length and youtubers. There are some amazing young skateboarders out in the world right now. If you’re from Charlotte and want to be introduced to local Charlotte skateboarding, look up “this is reality” which is a full-length skateboarding film we created a couple years back. Definitely a good watch even if you’re not necessarily into skateboarding. It has some great visuals, and showcases some great skateboarders from Charlotte.
In your opinion, who are some local skaters that are truly holding it down? There is definitely a handful; some I would say would be Zay Belton, Trey Boyd, Cody Stark, Curt Braden, Jackson Davis, and Niki Porcello.
Would you say it’s easy for people to skate in this city? Somewhat, if you know the right days to go out and skate the city. If we had a free public park it would make things a lot easier. The city is definitely making it harder for us to skate and shutting down legendary spots where we’ve grown up skating, and a lot of pros are actually traveling to Charlotte to skate. Skateboarding does bring people to Charlotte, and it could even more so if we had the proper backing from the city to host bigger events.
In what ways do you feel Charlotte’s local skate community could be improved? Charlotte skateboarders need to all come together. Everyone is too worried about being better than the next man. If we united our scene, we could do amazing things in the community. We also need a free public skate park that is up to par with the plethora of skate plazas popping up around N.C. and the U.S. There are a lot of talented individuals out here without the proper means to practice their craft.
Would you say local law enforcement reacts positively or negatively towards skaters and skateboarding in general? Well, I would say that there are bad apples in every bunch. So saying that the Charlotte law enforcement as a whole reacts one way or another towards skateboarding would be a false statement. I have personally dealt with negative situations with Charlotte cops several times, but I do believe—and have met—Charlotte cops that support skateboarding and are not out to get us as we all think. Whether it is because they have a nephew or son that skates, they still understand what it means to us. Even if they have to kick us out sometimes.
What plans do you have for WhyelFiles? All I can say now is that we are launching a completely new site at the beginning of the year. We also plan on putting out a full-length skate video mid-summer 2013 and hosting a traveling premiere concert tour up and down the East and West Coast. We have plenty of surprises up our sleeves though. Stay tuned.
How would local artists go about linking up with WhyelFiles to collaborate and showcase their work? As of now the best way to send in contest submissions would be via info@WhyelFiles.com. Come out and support us at our events. If we see your work and like it we will definitely be in contact. The new site will have a daily updated video blog that will showcase all independent creative individuals. So send in your videos and we’ll promote them.
Any last shout outs and/or words of advice for anyone out there? Shout out to the WhyelFiles Family. Curt Braden, Ben Henry, Luca Brazi, Osei Key, Cory Ring, Nate Stout, just to name a few. Catch us at a show near you in Charlotte or L.A. Love this life we are given and live it to the fullest! 4