Stumptown Skate Team: Silas Baxter-NealMar 08, 2019
Silas Baxter-Neal hails from Eugene, Oregon where he grew up skating "lumpy" skateparks and crusty street spots. He's put out numerous ground-breaking video parts over the years and took home the coveted SKATER OF THE YEAR award in 2008. He took a morning to chat with our Chicago cafe lead, Eric Perez, who splits his free time evenly between skateboarding, photography, and running the New Gotham Coffee Community, a nonprofit dedicated to community building and education in the Windy City.
Eric Perez: I’ve always wondered, how did you get started in skateboarding? What drew you to it?
Silas Baxter-Neal: When I was a kid, my older brother skated. Then when I was around 11 and my parents started giving me some of that big-kid freedom, I started getting into it too. At the time I thought it was just a cool thing that older kids did. Looking back, especially when I was in middle school, it actually became a way to create identity.
Eric Perez: With growing up skating and it being everything that it is to you, where has been that place, that spot, that you'd love to skate or maybe a place you've always loved to go back to?
Silas Baxter-Neal: I think that it's pretty amazing that skateboarding allowed me to travel the world and see all of these crazy places. I still get really excited when I go somewhere new -- it makes me feel young, you know what I mean? That feeling of adventure and exploration is what really sits deep in my heart. As far as places that I want to be, I always think to myself, "Oh, where can I go that would definitely be fun?" Every time I go to Spain, all of the little cities there have so much cool stuff to skate and it's so laid back, that I love to be anywhere there. Barcelona, of course, is like the playground for everybody. I just went to Madrid and Valencia and that was super fun. I've been to this other little town too, Alicante, and it seems like every little town in Spain has a handful of really fun, good spots. They have a lot of plazas and they use really good materials to make everything to be bank heavy in their designs.
Eric Perez: That's awesome. Do you think the different types of architecture and materials informed the way you skate, or have helped you think about tricks differently?
Silas Baxter-Neal: Yes, I think so. In general, I think that the greater variety of stuff you skate, the more you think about things differently, you know? If you just think, "Oh, I skate ledges," then you only look out for the ledge to skate and you miss out on a lot. I think skating crappy spots growing up in the Northwest, having that rough ground and lack of good, typical spots really helped me have a better skate brain, just because we were always trying to make do with what we had.
Eric Perez: Has there been anything else that skating has helped shape in your life?
Silas Baxter-Neal: Yes! I think the idea of failing, failing, failing -- like we all do the first time we try and learn how to ollie off a curb -- and then finally succeeding, is an amazing sense of satisfaction. That's a really important thing to learn, that the hard work and the energy you put into something, you'll get back out of it, in all aspects of your life. I think that it really does affect you. When you’re working towards something, you're creating your own reality, you know what I mean? Mess around with the problem, figure out and visualize how it's going to work, then do it. I think that helps with creativity in general. Travelling, seeing the world and different walks of life and the way people live in different places expands your view of the way things should and could work, so I think that skateboarding really has affected the way I see the world. I think that it's made me more of a creative person for sure, and I think that it has shown me the ability to do what I want to do. Also, it's not just about what you do, but about how you do it -- your style. You know? There's people that can do every single trick and may not be the person that you want to watch skateboarding. Understanding that it's the way you do it, not necessarily what you do, means a lot.
Eric Perez: Definitely, definitely. What has been one of your favorite coffee experiences or places you've had coffee, especially when traveling?
Silas Baxter-Neal: When I’m in Spain, in the mornings I'll get up and I'll go walk to the nearest little bar and get myself a little cortado or café con leche. Just being in that atmosphere and seeing the old timers who are there at ten o'clock in the morning having a beer just feels really nostalgic. It's a different experience than what we have here and that I grew up with.
Eric Perez: Do you usually start your day with a cup of coffee?
Silas Baxter-Neal: For sure. It's always, get up, boil water, grind beans and sit there and wait for 15 or 20 minutes for the thing to drip through. It's never fast enough but it's always good.
Eric Perez: Definitely, that's my number one routine as well in the morning. Just fire up my automatic coffee maker and wait for that to go.
Silas Baxter-Neal: Got to get that first cup before I can function. On skate trips you get very little time on your own, so coffee has always given me the chance to get out and have solo experiences. Getting up, getting out of the hotel, and walking around getting coffee and experiencing the area your in has always been something that I really enjoy.
Eric Perez: Dude I thanks so much for chatting - we’ll catch you around!
See Silas in our new film, Breaking The Crust.