By Rob Brink
Strength May 2003
Leo Romero is 16, and he acts like it. He just wants to skate with his friends and have fun like every other 16-year old does. He doesn't have any intense theories regarding the skate world. His answers to questions are simple—as they should be from a young sponsored skater who is thankful for all that has come his way.
Dub him an “am-railer” if you wish, but Mr. Romero likes to skate ledges. He can do ss/bs/ts just as well as the next guy. He can even land on switch 360 flips! But Leo's got many years ahead for him to perfect all the important skating moves. For now he's just enjoying life, skating his ass off, learning to talk to girls, and trying to get at least half of his homework done.
Hey Leo, you want to do this interview? You got time?
I got tons of time.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in East L.A. and then moved down to Fontana when I was three.
You still go to high school?
Yeah, I still go to high school.
Do you get picked on in school for being a little skater punk?
Not really, just some of the gangster guys bug me for shoes and stuff.
They want free shoes?
Yeah, they are always like “hook me up with some shoes and shit.”
So you don't have to kick anyone's ass or get your ass kicked?
No, hopefully not.
Is your hair dyed black or naturally black?
It's like, dyed back.
What's your natural hair color?
My natural hair color is brown.
In your Strength Raw Talentarticle a few issues back you had a crazy, Ramones-style bowl cut. Are you still rocking that cut?
Actually, I shaved my head a couple months ago and now its growing back.
You look like a tough guy in that photo.
Its because I just got hurt and it was the first time I ever got a swellbow. So I was in pain and they were shooting photos.
So are you a tough guy?
Not really, if I have to be I will though.
What are you, 15?
No, I'm 16.
What's your favorite handrail to skate?
The one I skated at the San Dieguito handrail contest.
What's your worst handrail slam?
I was skating this ten stair. And I had just gotten over being sick, so I was all weak. So I just wanted to take it easy and try to boardslide it. But I rolled up and didn't pop at all. My leg went between the rail and I sacked it sideways and went straight down to my side. I was in shock about how bad I felt. It was the worst slam I ever had.
Did you break anything?
Who do you like watching skate rails the most?
My friend Matt Allen.
What handrail trick are you most proud of?
What is this, like the handrail interview or something?
No, this is just the handrail portion of the interview.
Oh. Probably nollie feeble grind.
I just skate ledges and flatground.
Yeah ledges are the best. They are the funnest thing to skate.
Oh so you're a ledge guy then? Everyone says you're a handrail guy.
Well, like, I am a handrail guy, but I like to skate ledges and do lines and stuff.
Do you ever use the term “hammers” when describing tricks?
Can you do switch 360 flips?
I can land on them, that's it.
What about switch backside tailslides?
Yeah, I can do those.
What's a trick you can't do but want to learn really bad? Or can you just do every trick?
There's so many tricks I wish I knew how to do. Probably backside tailslide to kickflip out—do it really clean.
What's your favorite skate spot?
That's a tough one. There's so many. One that I don't get kicked out of I guess.
Do young kids ever ask you “how high can you ollie?
No they always ask like, “What's the biggest rail you've ever done?” Or “What's the biggest stairs you jumped off of?”
Oh, you mean like the lame questions I was just asking you?
Is it weird signing autographs for people who are older than you?
Yeah I think that's pretty crazy.
I would never ask someone who's younger than me for their autograph. I'm too proud and stubborn I think. Sorry.
You got discovered at the Tum Yeto/DNA Distribution Coup de tat handrail contest right?
Actually, I went to Tampa Am last year with the Pharmacy team, and I ended up skating with the Emerica dudes and stuff. And Ed Templeton was there and he asked me for a tape, and I sent it to Tum Yeto. Josh Beagle ended up getting it and he was so psyched and wanted me to go on tour with them. I was so psyched because Tony Silva rides for the same shop as me—we are good friends. So I hung out on tour and skated and then ended up getting on the team. So that's pretty much where I got my board sponsor. Then at the handrail contest I guess everyone started to know I was riding for Foundation.
Oh so they took you on tour before you were actually on the team?
Yeah, because Josh was like “before you get on let's see if the team likes you.”
How are they treating you now, well?
It's really sick. I love Foundation.
You qualified 74th at Tampa Am this year. What happened?
What happened? First of all, we were skating at Tampa Am contest and this guy broke his arm, so I was so scared to skate as hard as I could because I didn't want to break anything. Before that I was skating the Volcom Damn Am contest and my friend Joey tore his knee a little bit trying to krook this rail. I was like “dang!”
Then at San Dieguito I hurt my toe really bad and bonked my head really hard. I'm like “All this for just a contest!” It's not even that fun. To just try to hurt yourself for money and its like—money isn't even that good.
Do you ever think about if you'll be around in the skate world five years from now?
I hope I am.
Will you be famous or low key?
Probably low key.
Do you think its possible to get too much coverage?
Do you feel like just another amateur lost in a sea of ams who all skate rails and wear black? What separates you from the rest of the pack? Seems like a lot of that is going on nowadays
Yeah. I don't know. I just want to skate with all my friends and hopefully get coverage.
Do you ever feel that skating is “work” or a job?
Is PJ Ladd responsible for the sudden resurgence of shifty flip tricks?
A little bit. I'm thinking between him and Braydon Szafranski. Is that his name? Did I say it right?
Him and PJ because they both do amazing shifty flips.
Do you have any rituals you go through while you're setting up a board?
Not really. I try not to think about that. It kind of sketches me out that if I do something wrong, in my head I'll be like “Damn! I can't skate this board now.” So I just do whatever.
Do you do anything superstitious while you skate? Like how Kristian Svitak won't step on the top step when he's skating rails.
Really? What I usually do, if I am trying a trick and I am really scared of it. If I finally land on it and slip out, I try again and do the exact same thing that I did before I tried the one I landed on and slipped out of. That's probably the thing I do.
Who's your favorite skater of all time?
I'd say its between Heath Kirchart or Erik Ellington.
Any talk of you going pro soon or is that off in the future?
That's way off in the distance. I don't think I deserve to be another pro for at least a year or two.
Do you think being a young kid who is sponsored and gets paid to skate shoves you into a more “adult” lifestyle than other kids?
A little bit, but its kind of cool to just go on tours and hang out with my friends and go skating all the time. It's a cool opportunity, because some kids at school are like “Whoa you get to go do this?”
Do you get extra time off from school to go on tours and stuff like that?
Not really. Sometimes I just don't go to school some days. Like if I have to go do something. But if I have to go on a long tour, my mom goes and talks to the school and they give me work and stuff.
Oh that's cool. You have to bring work with you?
Yeah. I hardly ever do it though. I only finish half of it.
I couldn't imagine getting any work done on a skate tour. I'd probably throw it out the window.
How come you aren't sitting at home watching TRL in the afternoon like the rest of the American kids that are your age?
Because MTV is the worst possible channel you could ever watch. I'm all about channel 11—the Simpsons, dude.
What kind of bands are you into?
I'm mostly really into Bowie. Just mellow stuff.
What kind of things have you purchased for yourself now that you make lots of money off of skateboarding?
I mostly buy food and stuff. I bought a mini disc player. That's probably the most expensive thing I've bought.
Tell me about all the ladies you've been getting now that you are famous.
I don't even get any ladies man. I wish I did!
I don't know. I'm just so shy when it comes to talking to girls.
What are you afraid of rejection?
I don't know. I think I just fuckin' can't talk to girls that good.
I thought the girls hit on you once you have pictures in magazines?
Yeah, but that's at demos when they see you there. But that's when I'm with Tony Silva or Corey Duffel and they are all hyping me up and I'm like “Yeah, I'll go talk to them!” Then I get up there and just freeze up like a fuckin' dumbass.
But you got nothing to lose. You're never going to see them again right?
Yeah, I know. I'm just a shy guy.
Wasn't that you grabbing some girl's ass in the Foundation tour video? That doesn't seem too shy.
Yeah that was me. But that was my friend Erica though.
I saw Corey at Tampa Am and he seems to have girls hanging all over him.
Yeah, he's crazy. He's so sick. I love that guy. When we go on tours he just grabs girls and start making out with them. He's a chick magnet man—rock star.
What do you like to do when you aren't skating?
Just hang out with my friends and edit footage or something.
Do you guys film each other for fun and make stupid videos?
I did before I was sponsored. Just hung out with my friends and made videos. But now I am just filming for Pharmacy video that's coming up and for the next Foundation video.
Strictly-business filming now huh?
Are you about to go skating now?
Yeah, we're about to hit the Vans park in Ontario.
Oh, I'm from New Jersey. I don't know shit about California. Do they make you wear pads?
Yeah, but I only get an elbow pad and then take it off when I'm inside. Then I only have to wear a helmet.
You like those parks?
Before it was a really shitty park. Nobody even went there. But now they redid it and there's good shit. Transition, street, banks and stuff. It's pretty sick.
You hit the bowls?
I wish I could. I try to sometimes, but I am just so scared to drop in or try to do any coping tricks. It's so gnarly.
Anything you'd like to add?
Can I give some shout-outs to all my homies?
Yeah, if you want.
My homie Tony Silva, Corey Duffman, everyone at Pharmacy, Donny, my brother, my mom, Matt Allen, Herman, Spanky, Justin Regan, Josh Beagle. Let's see, who else? Everyone that helped me on the way to where I am right now. Thanks to my friends who I used to skate with before I got sponsored. That's about it.