Elissa Steamer is one of the all-time greats of skateboarding, period, and was the first woman to achieve pro skateboarder status. She’s a four-time X-Games gold medalist, and played a part in some of the most influential street skate videos of the 1990s and 2000s. Our Los Angeles roaster Jessie Frietze was a little kiddo skating around Southern California at the time, and idolized Elissa growing up. These days, when she’s not at the roaster, you can catch Jessie skating bowls all over LA and Orange County.
With the Stumptown Skate Team and its corresponding coffee, we worked with a steering committee of Stumptown skateboarders to advise the campaign and choose three impactful skate-focused non-profits to donate funds to. Jessie is one of our amazing committee members, so naturally, we got these two connected to talk about their shared passion.
Jessie: Hi, I'm a roaster at Stumptown. I'm also a skater. I'm in my 20s now but I’ve been skating since since I was little. I'll just go into real dork land and let you know I definitely had a poster in my room of you on my wall, so it's just really cool to be able to talk to you. Super stoked to have you on the team.
Elissa: Me too, thank you.
Jessie: When and where did you start skateboarding -- what hooked you?
Elissa: I started in Fort Myers, Florida, probably around 1984. Once I actually started skating, what kept me hooked was spending time with myself and my body, trying to perfect something. The feeling of doing something that I hadn't done before, just the amazement of learning something new that I didn't know was possible, and the couple of seconds I got of clear-mindedness, while I’m involved in movement.
Jessie: Yes. That mental conversation.
Jessie: Past or present, what has been your favorite skate spot? What kind of spot was it? Was it like a little DIYer or was it--?
Elissa: There used to be this spot in Fort Myers called the cement jump ramp. That’s my favorite all time spot, because I just liked it. It was in my hometown, it was super fun and you never got kicked out and could just hang out there, just do whatever you wanted. It was an industrial building, kind of under a carport, a loading dock, I guess. It was just a slab of concrete that went from the ground to about waist-high. It was gradual, and you could launch off it. It was pretty fun.
Jessie: That's sick. What would you say is the best skate trip you've ever been on or the best skate destination that you've experienced?
Elissa: Well, I just went to Australia, and I really liked that. New York's fun, but I’ve been there several times. I just went to China for the first time in November, and it was insane for skating.
Jessie: It looks like it's this crazy terrain. I would love to go one day - it's crazy what is happening with skateboarding in China right now.
Elissa: Yes, everything's huge. The cities are huge and everything is marble. Everything's new and big, it's cool.
Jessie: On a little transition from skateboarding, what are your other creative pursuits, and how has skateboarding shaped them?
Elissa: I really haven't had many creative pursuits other than skateboarding in my life. I've always liked to look at art, but I've never really been patient enough to come up with an idea. I skated because I just don't have the patience to sit down and draw or paint. The only creative pursuit other than skateboarding that I've gotten into is that about 10 years ago, I started surfing a lot. Through that, I started my brand Gnarhunters, and that’s been a creative outlet. Just to have an idea in my brain and then fabricate it and bring it into the world, you know?
Jessie: Totally. My understanding is you do almost everything for the brand, is that right?
Elissa: Down here packing boxes right now.
Jessie: (laughs) That's funny, we're doing the same thing over here. How do you like to start your day? What is your morning ritual?
Elissa: Oh my God. Well I go to bed at night and 9 times out of 10, I say to Rachel, my girlfriend, "I can't wait to wake up and drink coffee in the morning."
Jessie: It's so good.
Elissa: Then, the first thing I do is I roll out of bed and I boil water immediately. I turn my phone on, and check my email or whatever. I'll make some coffee in the French press, then I drink usually two or three cups. If Rachel's not awake, I'll drink the whole French press.
Jessie: Dang, you're going hard.
Elissa: That's every morning. And if I don't have coffee, I freak out.
Jessie: That's awesome. Going back to skateboarding real quick, I'm super stoked that Stumptown is doing this and have somebody like you on the team. I'm sure both men and women will be checking this zine out. Do you have any advice for girls and women who are skating out there today?
Elissa: Words of wisdom: you're going to get hurt. Skateboarding's a great teacher of one of life's most valued lessons, how to get back up after you fall. My advice would be, pick a line and go.
Jessie: I like that. Just drop in, just do it.
Elissa: Yes. Just pick a line, and go.