Chasing Bobby

Photo: Tia Romano

Interview: Benjamin Deberdt

"Then, all of a sudden, you gotta go bring some miserable schmuck in the West Village a kale and quinoa salad."

On May 16th 2013, a video part of Bobby Puleo went online…
Out of nowhere, with no announcement nor marketing pre-campaign, over two minutes of footage from one of the most elusive professional skateboarders –edited to Large Professor– started to circulate around the world wide web, first as a special thing you just found and wanted to share with friends, then as a cornerstone to the ongoing e-debate about all the things that supposedly “suck” about skateboarding, and who could “save” it. Because Bobby is amongst those characters that attracts equally love and hate, where people hate to love him, and / or love to hate him. Often at the same time. Trust me, this is actually a great trait, even if it most likely must weight on him, sometimes.
Since this new part was asking even more questions than before, and not answering any old one, it was time to track him down, and see what he had to say about it all. Not so surprisingly, his answers were often far from what you could expect.
"You must learn."

I understand this part was supposed to be a part of your Greatest Misses project, or am I wrong?
No, you’re not wrong. This part is indeed part of the Greatest Misses project. Which is still on its way out. A grip of unseen footage in there. That will be available soon.

So Greatest Misses is still a happening project?
Yeah, it’s basically done. Should be available soon, probably through a new Victim site or some shit.

What prompted you to just put it online like this, not telling anyone about it?
I’m not really sure. A bit of impulse, a bit of calculation, some pre-meditation, one part mischievousness. I just got sort of tired of waiting for myself. The part had been done for a sec’, so I decided to put it out. Everything ends up on the internet sooner or later, anyway. I figured sooner rather than later.

I understand you did not even tell the filmers involved?
Yeah, why would I tell them? Just kidding. I mean like I said, it was a bit of an impulse move. There was primarily one filmer, Joe Bressler. Josh Stewart filmed a couple of things. Joe re-filmed all things Stewart lost or fucked up. This Spaniard filmed two tricks.

The Pushed documentary just came out on DVD, and I was wondering if you actually ever saw it? I know Florian Schneider, the filmmaker, is wondering that, for sure!
Nah, I still haven’t watched it. I have a copy, I just haven’t watched it. I’m a bit scared to. I’m afraid to see what kind of an idiot I’ve made of myself. I don’t want to ruin the experience by watching it.

I believe the week they came to NYC to film you was roughly the time skateboarding stopped being your main income? After being pro for so long, how difficult was it to adjust to this new rhythm?
It was insane. That’s part of why I don’t want to watch it. It’s true, at that point I really only had IPath left as a paying sponsor. Basically, after the sale of IPath to Timberland, the Timberland suits told me: “sign a contract that basically hands over all your footage to us, with no pay increase, no shoe deal, no nothing…”, and I was like “no thank you”! When I saw the changes IPath was going through, cutting main dudes off the team that made IPath what it was, adding new dudes that clearly weren’t IPath material, I said “no, thank you”. A lot of people think I got kicked off. I basically refused to sign their contract. It was a gnarly time and decision for me. At the point that those dudes showed up, I was basically forced to get a regular job. It was an insane transition/reality check for me. It was either get a job or not be able to pay rent. And those dudes were there to basically capture it all on film. Yippeee!

Now working full time, how much time do you actually get to spend on your board?
Well, it wasn’t full time. It was four days a week. So, four days a week off my board, three on. I’ve since got it down to where I can spend a lot more on my board. But that came with making some crazy changes to the way I live and my attitude. I’m still trying to make sense out of it. In a sense, it definitely gave me perspective. It made me a bit more focused. Because, all of a sudden, now my time is compromised, which is one thing I really dislike. I don’t like having to be somewhere at a certain time, and I most definitely don’t like having my time on earth not be my own.

When you speak of new perspective, what is the most important thing you’ve learned from having to earn a living not skating?
That working sucks.

Do you still care? About skateboarding? About how people perceive your skating?
Absolutely. It’s the one of the most important things to me. It always has been. I don’t want to get into the psychological ramifications and/or the effects of skateboarding and, and on, ego, or “why we skateboard”; but, absolutely, I still care. It’s my practice and my trade. I wouldn’t be skating if I didn’t care. That video part is proof that I still care.

I was wondering if you would actually be interested in sponsorship, still, or is that something that you’ve let go?
Nah, I would love to have somebody pay me to ride a skateboard again. I mean, I never not wanted that. But at this point, almost every sponsor I’ve ever had over the past ten years has pretty much dropped the ball. I mean shit, even Enjoi. I basically got kicked off that brand for “not filming a video part”, when the whole time I was basically asking them to hook up the people in NY that would be able to film me, which at that point was pretty much no one. People don’t realize how difficult it is to do things in NY. Those guys didn’t realize that NY is not like San Jose. There are infinite distractions, here. The dude that filmed most of my Static 2 part, Alex Mucilli, had to pay the rent, so that means he had to get a job. And what happens when you have to get a job? You’re not skating and/or filming. It’s that simple. So I asked them, “hey, provide my filmer with an alternative to working a 9 to 5, just like you provide a filmer for the rest of the dudes in SJ, and I’ll be more than happy to film you a video part.” You know what they told me? “Come to SJ and film a part here.” Could you imagine? Why would I ever film a part in SJ when the shit I skate is in New York and New Jersey? But that’s the mentality these days. There’s no attention paid to detail anymore. It’s just “skate the shit that the last guy did, one up them, and put it on the internet”. But I digress. Yes, I would love to have paying sponsors. It would be great. A dream come true. Sorry about that rant. Oh yeah, and I don’t have any hard feelings towards Enjoi. People will probably interpret that as “Oh yeah, he hates Enjoi. That guy’s a dick” or some shit.

What is going on with Traffic, actually?
Traffic is still going. A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with Traffic, lately. I just talked to Rick [Oyola, Ed’s Note] recently and he told me that he has a new distribution deal worked out and he sounded positive about it.

What was the last thing you saw/read/heard that got you stoked on skateboarding?
Well, I really like those Love Letters to Skateboarding. I always liked Jeff Grosso. I think he’s rad. I like all vert skateboarding. I think it’s absolutely gnarly. It’s the basis of what we as street skateboarders do. I appreciate Grosso doing that. Let’s see, I liked the foot plants episode, and the Sadlands episode. I recently watched Todd Congeliere’s Liberty part, Buster Halterman’s Now n’Later part, Chris Miller parts, and Ben Schroeder parts. I like and recently watched a couple of Steve Douglas and Bod Boyle parts. I like good lip tricks on vert. Oh yeah, that Tom Groholski episode got me super psyched. I watched a couple of really good Andy Roy parts recently. Alan Petersen. Salman Agah’s The Real Video part. So many things, lately. I’m really into the history and progression of skateboarding, especially vert tricks, at this point. But for me, and I always say this, three of my big inspirations will always be Gonz's Video Days part, Julien’s Skypager part and Guy’s Mouse part.

What makes vert so interesting to you? What do you make of the way it has evolved from the backyard scene of the 80’s to the TV friendly mega ramp extravaganza?
I’m interested in it because of the way we, as street skaters, base everything we do on what was done on vert. The ledge is the lip of the vert ramp. And the pool coping before that. Throw in some Rodney, and boom, you have street skating. Gonz and Natas ran 5 star restaurants.

Have you ever skated vert, actually?
Yes. It’s scary and not fun.

What is going on with the Collections? Are you still working on them, or have you been exploring new artistic endeavor?
Both. Still working on them, and a bit of new territory.

Are those a serious go at art –for lack of better wording–, as in eventually making a living out of it, or more of a release and consequence of spending that much time in the street?
Both. I’d love to get paid paper and or electric money to make art. Whatever people are using as currency, I would love to get paid that to make shit.

Earlier, you were speaking of drastic changes in your lifestyle, but I never saw you as a splashing spoiled pro, so what were you referencing to?
Ah, you know, just having to be somewhere, spending my time doing something, that if I had a choice of being there or not being there, I would choose not being there. I mean a job. That shit is drastic, when for the last ten or fifteen years you were able to get by without having to work some shit job and then, all of a sudden, you gotta go bring some miserable schmuck in the West Village a kale and quinoa salad. But like I said, when you do gotta do that, you make damn sure when you don’t have to do that, that you spend your time wisely.

Make sure sure you read CBI excellent interview of Bobby, touching similar and other subjects, before getting another round of Puleo's magic:

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