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In Conversation with Elijah Berle

When commenting on Elijah Berle’s career, Guy Mariano stated that he has “earned his space in skateboarding”. That praise is well deserved. Berle has paid his dues - from numerous injuries, to sponsor changes, to dealing with internet trolls who care about fashion choices more than quality skateboarding. He has seen it all.

While still wearing nappies, he was intrigued by the skate and surf cultures that dominated his hometown on the Westside of Los Angeles. To fuel his fascination, his mother took him to Rip City skateshop, where she got her first board in the 1970s, to buy him his own twenty years later. 

Before long, he was flying around the local scene and turning heads - especially at Culver City Skatepark and The Cove in Santa Monica. Despite his youth, he possessed the natural talent and confidence of a seasoned skateboarder well beyond his years. 

Fast forward to 2022, Mariano’s endorsement still rings true. Berle has landed himself a pro shoe, ridden for the most impactful brands in the industry, and released many video parts at both amateur and professional levels.

Most recently, he has designed a Skate Classics signature line with Vans, which is now available for purchase worldwide. Read on to learn about how he joined the Vans family, the three shoe models he chose for his line, and his experiences of visiting and skateboarding in the UK.

Text: Elliott Wright

In Conversation with Elijah Berle | Flatspot

Flatspot: So, how has 2022 been treating you?

Elijah: I can’t even tell you when 2022 started, honestly. It’s been a little bit of a blur but I guess we are already halfway through it already, which is crazy.

It’s been sick. I was stoked to start traveling a little bit again after the COVID shutdown. I was definitely yearning for that because traveling has been a big part of my life. All of a sudden it came to a halt. I didn't realize how much that would affect me - not being on the road all the time.

I took a little bit of a slam in Atlanta about a month ago, which put things on hold for a little bit. But I should be good in a couple of weeks. I just want to get right back on the road.

Flatspot: I saw a photo of the slam and it looked pretty heavy.

Elijah: I just stuck at the top of this rail. There was a security guard at the top; I had to weave around her to get the angle. I grinded it really sketchy - total little-kid-first-50-50-on-a-rail-ever style. 

When I ran back up the stairs, the security guard was going into the building, so I thought I had time to try it again. I was feeling weird, kinda shaky legs because the roll up allowed for like two pushes. The first try I got into a lipslide - which was insane - because that never really happens with nose grinds. I thought, Whoa, that was gnarly. There’s no way that is going to happen again.

Then I ran back to the top - same deal, two pushes. This time I got into the nosegrind but stuck at the top, and then it was kind of “lights out” from there. I remember it all, but I was pretty hazy. I guess it's similar to when a boxer gets a solid connection and he's kind of dazed, you know? 

But it was all good. I guess I asked Dill for a cigarette; I don’t remember that. I didn't want to go to the hospital but everyone said that I needed stitches. When we got there, I was sitting in a chair, and I went to stand up and realized my elbow was super painful. When I got checked out they gave me a scan of my face and head and an x-ray of my arm.

The doctor walked in and said, “Good news is that you don't have a concussion. Bad news is that you fractured your face.” I thought, What the fuck? I didn’t believe him. I fractured the orbital on my face, which surrounds the eye socket. It sounds gruesome and gnarly, but all in all it never really hurt that bad. That’s why I was so confused. 

Flatspot: Sounds like you handled it like a boss. Is there anything you can do for a fractured face or do you just have to wait it out? 

Elijah: I guess it happens a lot with NBA players; that's when you see them wearing those plastic Batman masks when they are playing. I guess I could have rocked one of those and kept skating [laughs]. But my elbow is the main thing holding me down.

In Conversation with Elijah Berle | Flatspot

Flatspot: So that was on a Fucking Awesome trip. Are you guys working on a video? Are there any Vans projects on the horizon?

Elijah: I’m just filming, but not specifically for anything. I know Vans has a couple projects. They are working with my buddy Flech [Johnathan Flechas] on a video with some of the newer guys. I’m just trying to get some footage to be a part of that. I know Rowan [Zorilla] is going to start cooking something up soon so I was hoping to tag along on that and hopefully get a fresh start on filming a part. 

Now that I’m hurt, I’ll have to wait and see what I can get in terms of Flech’s video because that will be coming out by the end of the year. I’m just going to put footage towards having a fresh start next year and hopefully get another Vans part out.

Flatspot: You mentioned that you have been traveling a bit. Have you been sticking around domestically or have you traveled internationally yet?

Elijah: I haven’t been overseas since January 2020. We did a Vans trip to Portugal. That trip was when the whole shitshow started. Kobe Bryant died and then the pandemic hit while we were on that trip. I remember being in a restaurant and everyone was looking at their phones. Then some random stranger next to us said, “Kobe died”. It was crazy. 

Flatspot: He definitely played a role in the lives of Angelenos.

Elijah: I was bummed for sure because I grew up watching him. I’m not a crazy sports fan. Even if you aren’t into sports, in Los Angeles you are tied to these guys in a way. So that was pretty gnarly.

Flying home, we were at the airport and everyone was already wearing masks. I was thinking, Damn, people are tripping. But then, it turns out, it was actually a big deal.

In Conversation with Elijah Berle | Flatspot

Flatspot: You can say that again. So, when did your relationship with Vans begin?

Elijah: I’m pretty sure it's been twelve years. However old Jamie Hart’s kid is, that is how long I have been on. Jamie is the team manager. I got on the team the same month his kid was born. 

I remember he told me that he was a little stressed because they had already chosen the name for his son, Elijah, before I started riding for Vans. He was nervous to meet me. After we met, went on a couple trips, and became friends, he told me, “I’m so glad that you didn’t turn out to be an asshole because that would have totally ruined the name for my son” [laughs].

In terms of getting on, I think I just got a random call from Jamie asking me if I wanted to skate Vans in the Damn Am contest in Phoenix, Arizona. So I met him at the contest and he brought me some shoes in the trunk of his car to wear. I can’t remember how I did in the contest. The rest, as they say, is history.

Flatspot: Let’s talk about the new Skate Classics line. Not every Vans pro gets a signature model, but you have had that as well.

Elijah: I had a pro model, which was a huge honor and I was super grateful to have had that.

Flatspot: I remember it launching in early 2019 and seeing it in shops around Europe.

Elijah: Yeah, so it was just over three years ago. I think things switched up a little bit at Vans when the pandemic began. They hit a thing where the Skate Classics were selling way better than the signature shoes, which is something I can totally relate to.

I love wearing the Skate Classics. Those are why you want to be on Vans - to skate the classic styles. I can totally understand why they wanted me to switch back to having colorways. At the end of the day, I was stoked and proud to have a shoe. But I’m also equally hyped to represent the shoes that make Vans who they are.

When my shoe was coming to a wrap they said, “We really want you to design a Skate Classics line.” I told them, “Fuck yeah, this sounds awesome”. I usually only skate black shoes, so it’s hard for me to design shoes that I like to skate that aren’t something that's already on the shelf. So that’s always been a challenge for me. 

I didn’t want to make some crazy colorways that I wasn't going to wear with bright, loud colors. I wanted it to look like a classic shoe but maybe with a little bit of a twist. Just something that you can throw on with any color pair of pants or shirt you are wearing. 

In Conversation with Elijah Berle | Flatspot

Flatspot: What were some of the influences in terms of the colorways and the art?

Elijah: I am pretty inspired by flash art, like tattoo-style stuff. I have been stoked on embroidery as well recently. I’ve also been drawing barbed wire on all my surfboards [laughs]. I’m kind of stoked on doodles too. 

I took all the things that I’m into outside of skating and incorporated them into the shoes. I don’t know how I thought of the velcro idea, that one kind of just popped into my head. I thought about that booth at a carnival where you can run and jump onto the wall with the velcro suit on. I think I was thinking about that [laughs].

I wanted to make a shoe that looked like a shoe on the wall but also had something that hadn’t been done before. I was thinking it would be cool to have accessories to come along with the shoe. You can put the patches however you want to. You have your own chance to tailor the shoe to your tastes.

Flatspot: The art is sick! Are those your designs?

Elijah: No, I can’t draw for shit [laughs]. The art was by the Vans guys. They are super talented and can adapt to whatever you are into. They would send me samples, and I thought it was all awesome. They nailed it; they always do.

Flatspot: So it's an Old Skool, a Half Cab, and a Sk8-Hi?

Elijah: Yeah. I was stoked to do the Half Cab because I’ve never truly skated them. I had a pair a long time ago when I first got on Vans, but they haven’t been a go-to for me. 

When they asked me which shoes I wanted to focus on, I wanted to do an Old Skool because that is my favorite of all time. The Sk8-Hi is super fun to do colorways with because they have a lot of room to work with. And I chose the Half Cab because I’ve never really tried skating them. I’ve always secretly wanted to skate them but just didn’t pull the trigger on it. 

When I was working on the designs I got a black-and-white pair of Half Cabs and realized that they are the best shoes ever. My kickflips were feeling so good, and I was hooked immediately. I have been skating them a ton since I started working on the shoe line.

Flatspot: The Half Cab is indeed a veritably classic shoe. 

Shifting gears a bit, have you had many opportunities to visit the UK for skateboarding?

 Elijah: I’d love to spend more time there, but the only two times I’ve been to the UK were to London and both were short trips. The first time was for a Pretty Sweet premiere. It was freezing cold, raining, and not skateable. We were only there for two days. 

The second time was when I went to the Street League contest out there. That’s when I saw you and we kicked it. We skated Southbank and Mile End. That trip was really nice; it was beautiful out.

Flatspot: Any memorable stories from that trip?

I was at Street League, during practice. Curren [Caples] was there too. He came up to me and said, “Dude, The Rolling Stones are playing across the street in thirty minutes”. He wanted to get tickets. So we left our boards at the contest, bailed practice, and just walked across the street. Somehow we got standing tickets right in front of the stage and we saw the Stones on their home turf. Curren, Louie [Lopez], and me. It was such a rad show.

Flatspot: I saw them that year as well, at Twickenham Stadium. So epic.

Elijah: We bailed practice. I’d rather have lunch with my grandparents than skate a Street League practice. The fact that we were leaving to go to see The Rolling Stones felt like I was getting pulled out of school to do something sick instead.

In Conversation with Elijah Berle | Flatspot

Flatspot: You mentioned the London Pretty Sweet premiere. Speaking of that, how is your old teammate, and housemate, Cory Kennedy? I saw that you visited him in Vashon Island, Washington recently?

I’ve been going up there since he left Los Angeles. I talk to him all the time, including the whole time he was in prison. Before he went in I was going up there a bunch to hang out with him. We sent him off properly. When he got out I went to see him and hung out at his house for a few days. Now that he is off house arrest I have a trip planned for the end of July which will be a camp/skatepark mission. Super fired up about that.

Flatspot: Amazing. In regards to the UK, are there any particular skaters you are into?

Elijah: Danny Brady! He’s the sickest. I haven’t got to skate with a lot of skaters over there but it seems like it’s a tight-knit scene. When we were skating Southbank, all the locals were just ripping. It was sick to see the style of skating in London.

Flatspot: All right, EB. Last question: What is one thing you like about skateboarding in 2022 and what is one thing that you would change about it?

I’m rediscovering what skateboarding is again. It was kind of lost for a second for me, I forgot the magic of it. Honestly, when I went up to the P-Stone Classic at Lower Bobs [] in Oakland, it was the first time I saw why I loved skating in a long time. 

It was a crazy experience. I guess people could say it was almost a “religious experience” [laughs]. I thought, Whoa, OK. I forgot. Skateboarding is the fucking coolest thing ever. This is what it's all about right here. It was a crazy mood shift and attitude change. It made me think of things that I was taking for granted. I owe a huge thank you to everyone over there for helping me see what I had been missing.

Things I would change? The only thing I would change is the fact that we aren’t doing more shit like the Lower Bobs day. Let’s do more of that.

Flatspot: Thanks for taking the time to chat buddy. Any thanks?

Elijah: Thanks to everybody! I appreciate you!

In Conversation with Elijah Berle | Flatspot

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