February 29, 2012

Kill Fee: Randy Ploesser

Photo by Sam McGuire

This was supposed to be posted by the Worldwide Sports Leader late last year, but a change of editors, a lag-time in resubmission and some confusion over The High Five has it ending up here. That said, Randy rules.

Some years ago, Randy Ploesser was unsponsored, living in St. Louis, Mo., nicknamed after an intelligent marine mammal and making waves in SLAP’s “One In A Million” contest. The video part he submitted was such a heavy hitter that Birdhouse snatched him up and started sending him boards before the contest had ended, and soon he moved to California. But what happened so quickly ended up being a waiting game for Ploesser. He returned to St. Louis, sitting on Birdhouse as an honest to goodness man am for far too long, before landing on The High 5, which finally turned him pro this year. He topped off a heavy 2011 by also getting married. Ploesser may still be waiting to actually ride one of his pro models, but we’ll gladly wait with him.

What’s a bigger deal, turning pro or getting married?

Probably getting married, to be honest. You know though, they’re both pretty equal in the gravity of it, you know (laughs)? The pro model hasn’t come out yet; it’s kind of on pause for the moment. But it’s coming along, so I’m definitely super hyped on it. I’m glad someone gave me a board in my old age.

How old are you?


Was turning pro ever a real big deal for you?

It kind of was, but I really wasn’t thinking about it for a while there as something that was going to happen. I was just going to ride this thing out until I wasn’t skating as a sponsored skater. But I think it’s more important to turn pro for a company like The High 5 because I actually care that I’m pro for them. It re-motivates me in a way, creatively and skating-wise.

What’s the story behind your “first board” graphic? Was that your idea and how did you hang onto that board for so long?

I’ve just always had it. I got it signed in ’96 by Tony Hawk, Willy Santos and Paul Zitzer; they did a Birdhouse a demo in St. Louis. They signed it so I kept it. It’d been in my basement for years.

I told Todd [Bratrud] the idea [for the graphic] and he found the board sitting around at my house and took a photo of it. I didn’t know he’d done that and a couple of months down the line he sent me the finished graphic. I’m pretty stoked.

I saw those Birdhouse guys on the same tour, they did a demo in a hockey rink.

That was right after I started skating; I started in ’95. I skated the same board for a year or something. It’s funny, you look at it and it’s seriously a foot and a half long. The nose and tail are shaved down and it’s chipped to hell. The graphic is pretty hilarious. You see the size of the old board and how crappy it was.

Is having more of a normal life in St. Louis what keeps you there?

Yeah, I think it’s just being able to relax and do things at my own pace. I have to go to California and travel regardless, but it’s just nice to come back and unwind. There’s stuff to film here and I can do it at my own pace with my friends. It’s just a different atmosphere.

For someone that’s never been there, what’s St. Louis like?

Ah man, it’s pretty trife. It’s a run-down Midwestern city that’s sort of on the upswing. But it’s not as bad as you think, there’s a lot of good stuff going on.

You’ve written some tour stories for magazines about trips you’ve gone on. Is that something you’d want to do after skating or just a perk of the job?

I think it’s a perk. It’s something I could see myself doing, but I don’t know how much you can sustain yourself off skateboard writing. I enjoy it a lot and if people ask me to write something I’m always willing to do it.

Why are you so harsh on yourself when you write captions about yourself?

(Laughs) It’s kind of awkward to write about yourself in general, so it’s just funny to be self-deprecating. I would never hate on someone else in a caption. It’s kind of fun to think about, it’s in the back of your head, but you’d never want to put it out there, so I’d rather use myself as the subject of all the abuse.

Everything that can’t be said you just pile on yourself.

Yeah, exactly. It’s already what everyone is thinking so I just beat them to the punch.

How are things going with The High 5 after a year?

It’s going awesome, man. It’s pretty nice to actually be creatively engaged with the company instead of just doing a job or filling a roll as just a skateboarder. There’s a lot more power to change things and have things done.

Is it sort of a culture shock going from a big company to a smaller start up?

Yeah man, the trips are way different. The Birdhouse trips were insane, we went on some pretty big trips. There’d be 25 to 30 people, 10 that are skaters and the rest are people managing Tony’s stuff. You’d do a demo everyday then still try to shoot a street article with a crew of 30 people to deal with. It was pretty crazy.

Finally, you were really one of the first guys to get sponsored just off a video part on a website. Do you have any advice for kids, seeing as how they’re all trying to do the same thing nowadays?

Yeah, I’d say don’t do that (laughs). Don’t use the Internet as your only forum of exposure. It’s good for kids to ride for companies that they’re stoked on and come up through the ranks on a flow thing, where they’re potentially going to get the big video part that will put them out there. Get something going that’s not as ephemeral as just throwing your own content on the web.

I don’t know though, it’s a changing game, I guess.


Anonymous said...

So is "The High 5" going to become "Tha High 5" or what?

JonathanToth said...

Thanks for interviewing Randy. He's dope. We definitely need more current footage tho...hopefully from California. St. Louis is cool, but the spots here are far and few in between.

Dj Trog said...

Randy is awesome! Thanks for the good read