how do you become one of the most in demand skateboarders of your generation?
Effortlessly cool, good-looking and talented – Sean Malto has the world at his feet, as he flies 50mph through the air on a skateboard. Here, he discusses the mental challenges of the sport, and shares his thoughts on fashion’s co-opting of skate-style.
Images courtesy Mountain Dew
"I think skating actually builds people up to be successful, in a way -- skating is setting up to fail," says the 28-year-old LA-based skateboarder Sean Malto, the morning of Mountain Dew's Dew Tour AM Series competition in Barcelona a couple weeks back. "Everyday, going out skating, we fall a lot. It's all trial and error and you gotta push through it. I probably land 20% of tricks I try every day and I think that mentality towards anything is good, you gotta know shit isn't gonna work out all the time and you gotta keep pushing and keep on it."
The archetype of a skateboarder, Sean is effortlessly cool, good-looking and clearly immensely talented at what he does. Following a difficult setback from an injury in 2013 that left him unable to compete for almost three years, Sean is back on his game, devoted full-time to competing and shooting videos. "I dislocated and tore a ligament in my ankle. It took a long time to be able to get back from where I wanted to get to." Today, he's looking forward to getting involved in a competition that celebrates the new generation of skateboarders, the Sean Maltos of the future.
When asked about his ankle injury, it's clear this was more that just a physical hindrance for Sean. "It was physical and mental. It was scary. Skateboarding got ripped away from me for a long time and I, you know, it's hard not to panic in that situation. There was a while too where I wouldn't skate in certain situations because I was embarassed to the level I got to. But at the same time, I wouldn't get any better if I didn't skate. I don't think anyone else really looked at it that way, but for me I was like, I can't believe my life has come to this. But then you keep pushing through."
Once considered an act of non-conformist rebellion, skateboarding has now become recognised by the Olympics, and acts as a style reference for legions of fashion consumers the world over. "I don't know… I guess it's good for our industry", Sean says of fashion's somewhat co-opting of skate style. "It's just funny. It's like, even when I was in high school, ten years ago, it was like, skating wasn't cool. It wasn't like I was getting beat up or got made fun of, but I really didn't have a lot of friends in high school, I just always waited until I got out of school and met up with my friends at the skatepark."
But that's not to say he holds any animosity towards the many skatewear brands synonymous with street style now. "Thrasher! It's crazy how it took off. And I think, now, you know it's like, they're the cool kids. Which is so funny how that transitioned. Skaters were the outsiders and now it's like the cool thing."
Beyond being an inimitably cool style reference, what is life actually like for a professional skateboarder? "We skate six or seven contests a year, and then other than that, it's shooting photos for videos, magazines and then filming for video parts. So, in between contests, you know, we're always on the road, trying to get tricks on the streets and compile our best footage into three-minute clips people can watch. You know three-minutes doesn't sound like a lot, but sometimes one trick you try for hours, and that goes by in five seconds. It takes a solid year to do it. Today I'm here for Mountain Dew, supporting the M Series and all the kids involved."
So what advice would he offer these kids looking to follow in his footsteps? "I would say just have fun, focus on yourself and your friends. Some kids – I see it now that skateboarding has gotten a little more mainstream – they really wanna be pro and push. I mean, it's great to have a goal, but you can't ruin what skating is all about for that. I think you just gotta have fun and progress within yourself and let the sponsorships and contests happen for you. It's almost like, have fun but, you know, don't take all the opportunities that pop up at once."