Ryan Thompson's "Texas Three Step" Interview
It goes without saying that you know Ryan Thompson. You know all about his landmark Pink Limousine part, the Cold Brew performance and his Jake-Johnson-level pop. You probably also know about his multi-million dollar sponsorship contracts and lavish lifestyle. Yep, it's basically Tony Hawk, P-Rod and Ryan Thompson when strangers think about skateboarding. Oh shit, my notes were all fucked up. Looks like he has a real-deal job as a programmer and his once-in-a-generation snap has only been rewarded with a homie pro spot on the regional board brand that my boss owns. If justice was a thing, he'd be a household name. Maybe this interview will get him there. On the occasion of his three-parter week on the Thrasher channels, I called up the tall-steppin' Texan to talk early prospects, burlesque shows in Paris, stock market secrets and why he skates until he passes out.
From the first front blunt around the bend to the final bar hop, Ryan starts the Three Step off right
Hey, Ryan, it’s a real pleasure to talk today.
It’s a pleasure for me, too.
Let’s get right in. The first thing I ever heard about you was that were an amazing camper at Woodward.
Yeah, I was like a little Woodward baby.
That’s awesome. I had friends working there and they told me that you were killin’ it way back. I understand you’re from a little town outside of Houston called Katy. Were you like a child prodigy skater? Or like the biggest thing in Katy, Texas?
I I couldn't answer that. But, when I was six, my grandma gave me a board. Before that, my dad rented me a board from Vans and just let me loose like, Well, see if you like it. I liked the fact I was crashing into stuff and eating shit. I think at the time, I was pretty competitive, and my dad was like, Whatever you wanna be the best in, go for it! So I skated a lot in Katy, but there weren’t any skateparks. So I went to Vans skateparks. The launch ramp there was the shit. I just clocked in on that for two years straight. I was just a ramp kid from seven to nine. Then I started seeing street skaters like, That’s the coolest thing! And my dad was like, Why don’t you skate street contests? So he would take me around to contests and he sent me to Woodward for a week. That was also the shit. When you’re a kid, you can just skate all day and party—I tried to keep it to 15 milks a day, though. But I was like, Dad, I can get good out here and they’ll give me some time half off. Can you help me get back? And then eventually it would be free. They would offer me a week to come out. I thought it was awesome—way better than playing video games at home.
50-50 ollie out on a rail taller than most campers
I heard you even won a street contest there. Kids who were in that were often the future pros. Were you around kids that were gonna be hooked up?
Yeah, Ishod—he was one of our cabin mates. He was like an annoying little kid and I think it inspired me to be annoying, too. That’s actually how I met Chris who’s like his roommate and the one that helps us get to Japan.
Who else would’ve been in that contest?
Jack Olson, Tyson Bowerbank, Cody Davis and others. It was like a Playstation-sponsored event. It was the first time I ever won money. I was like, Holy shit! This is amazing! Five-thousand dollars, what the fuck am I supposed to do with this?! I guess buy a camera and start to film clips.
With an early success like that and people around you moving in the sponsored direction, were you assuming or thinking that you were gonna be a pro skater?
No! Skateboarding has always just been an outlet. The pro-skateboarder thing is something I always pushed away, because it’s just so hard and risky to maintain a career. My buddy Chaz Ortiz had huge contract signings at the time. My dad told me, “You could do the whole skateboard thing if you are gonna get deals like him.” Those deals obviously didn’t come around.
Nothin' annoying about this boardslide up to shove out
They only came around for him and Sean Malto.
Yeah, those were the two, right?! Red Bull and Gatorade offered him huge contracts. That seemed like it was the only way to even consider the pro thing as a career.
Not that money should be the ultimate driver in someone’s decisions, but that’s probably a good lesson from your dad. You can either do well enough to have the time spent ruining your body pay off or you can make less than a teacher and have no health insurance.
Exactly. To answer your question bluntly, no, the pro thing never seemed like it was for me.
So you did the regular path from high school to college to working?
And you have a degree in electrical engineering?
Yeah. It was pretty hard to get.
Were you dead set on being an engineer at some point, or were you like, I just need to make some money.
Well, early on I got contacts and I was like, I can see everything and it all looks like it’s with an HVX200—1080p, crispy. So I thought optometry would be awesome. I went for that first. I took all the chemistries and biologies. It was such a struggle, though. But I had always built my own computers. I was shooting weddings at the time and had made a super cool server workstation. I was like, I fucking love this. Maybe I could try electrical engineering? I tried it out and was like, Oh my God, this is like skateboarding, but using my brain. It triggered very parallel feelings. You have a problem in front of you and just start chipping away ‘til you make it. You don’t know how to do it when you start, but you figure it out. Making the switch was the best decision, by far.
Front board from flat, this is skateboarding using your legs
Nice. Is that what brought you from Katy to Austin?
No, I went to school in San Marcos, Texas. I just moved to Austin because it looked fun and it had a river. I met Elias and these dogs at No-Comply and thought that was what I wanted to be a part of. Seeing Ryan Holloway, Bus and everyone in person was huge. I just thought, You guys are the shit. I wanna hang out with y’all. It’s the best place to live in Texas if you work in tech, too. I was thinking about moving to California for a little while. I flew out to skate with Ty and Buckman. I got on some sessions for We Are Blood, and I just noticed everyone was living on couches, living pretty tough with no sponsors. That’s when Austin came about.
So you have a pretty professional job now. Do you wear a suit and tie in the office? Did you ever have a point where you thought you might need to put skating off to the side to become more of an adult?
Well, the thing is, they counterbalance each other nicely. You have one side that’s liberating and free, like skating. Then on the other, you put your little monkey suit on and go to work all serious. You can’t have too much of either. I don’t wear a suit much anymore because a dude found my code on the Internet and offered me a job. I worked with these crystal oscillator devices—they’re like these rocks that vibrate and run every phone and computer device in the world. He liked what I was doing so I got put into the San Francisco radio startup world. It’s just this super genius guy and then me, the tech nerd who fixes some code and adds cool features to radios. I mostly code all day and wear pajamas. There’s not a whole lot of supervision because he knows I’m always on it.
Self-motivated back blunt kicky, Ryan's always on it
I heard that you are very regimented with skating. Like, you have a pretty structured routine with two House Park sessions in the week and then street skating on the weekend?
It’s starting to change to one park session and then full-blown explosion on the weekend. It’s not so much House Park because there’s this little equestrian center where they’re tyring to get money to build a skatepark. It has flatbars and little things on the ground where I go on Thursday to warm up for the weekend. So regimented? Yes. Thursday’s the day to get the legs up and going. If I can’t, then I’m doing some crazy yoga where nobody can see me. Saturday and Sunday I wreck my body until I can’t walk anymore. Then it’s back to programming.
Goddamn. Well, it seems like a good system! Speaking of systems, I heard you’re also in the stock market.
Yeah, I own no more than five stocks at a time. I like looking at a few companies over 12 years and seeing how their earnings are, then I make my bets. That’s where my money is.
Respect. I have 600 bucks in a Roth IRA, so I get you. Is the stock market like a casino?
It is the casino! What do you mean?! Just a regulated casino. You get a little heads up, though. You can look at the report cards for how well some companies are doing. You’ll see it and know, Yep, McDonald’s has some good burgers. But it’s straight-up gambling.
Front blunting Horeshoe all the way to the bank, pay up
How did you get into that? Did you watch some hustle culture TikToks?
Dude, no, my grandpa used to be a broker. My dad looks up to him and advised me to do what he did. He showed me how to look at the financial reports—you follow this line and that line. It’s how much money they make and what dividends they pay out over a period of time. If both of those lines go up, then you’re probably looking at a good company.
Do you own some Apple?!
No. Whoever’s number one already is usually not the company for me, maybe second or third place. I also try to look at the management of the company.
Wonder if Ryan can clear a bike rack? That's always a safe bet—nollie back heel
So you don’t have any Gamestop stonks?
Dude, I only bought one, then TD Ameritrade banned me on Twitter. I was just tweeting at them, like, Why won’t you let me buy these stonks?! It must’ve tripped their flags or something. I wanted to buy it for like 100 more than it was worth. But I did buy that one for 400 and it immediately dropped to 200. I was like, Fuck! It was funny, though. I definitely don’t condone anyone getting into it like that.
So you’re down to gamble a little. I also heard you guys had a pretty epic night in Paris at a burlesque show.
I was there with Max Taylor, Calvin Millar, Brian Gonterman and Reese Barton. Reese didn’t go to the show. Austin Amelio wasn’t there, but he’s the one that got us in. He knew somebody in Paris. I was like, We’re gonna see a burlesque show in Paris?! Fuck yeah! Max and I were like, It’s a nice place, so we gotta get nice clothes, don’t we? So we went and got these suits. But instead of looking nice, we kind of just looked like scummy businessmen. But we went out and got escargot and we saw the Eiffel Tower. It was a cute time with the boys. Then we got into the show and I was so amazed. Like, Look at these people. They’re beautiful and they’re killing it! I kinda called it out on the way in that if they had anything with the audience, I think I wanted in. And I thought if Austin got us in there, then I gotta do something to pay him back. We can’t just take advantage of his time and not do something cool with the opportunity. Lo and behold, there’s this super flexible homie that was like the intermission guy. He was running around looking for someone, and I just raised my hand. I was already a champagne bottle in. So he took me up on stage and we did this little dance number. I looked like a straight dumbass. I think Max popped my collar without me noticing and I had these sunglasses on. I got back to the table and asked the guys how bad I fucked up and they were like, It was amazing. You looked like you were part of the show!
You were an audience plant!
Seriously, some other audience members came up and asked if I worked for them. I was like, No, I’m just drunk. Then I saw Reese rollin’ up a spliff and was like, You know what? Let’s make this the first night I smoke weed. If there was ever gonna be a time, it was gonna be in Paris after a burlesque show hammered on champagne with my friends.
The photo says it all
Crossfaded in Paris.
It was one of the best nights of my life. That’s when Brian got his nickname Dad-o. He came back from a Tinder date, also in a suit. He sees me high, then everybody wasted and was like, Hey, what’s going on here? Everyone was like, Oh no, Dad-o!
I may be projecting my puritanical views here, but I feel like there’s something icky if you were to say that all you guys went to a strip club. But going to a burlesque show is like a classy affair. They’re kinda sellin’ the same thing, but one has a bit of a Broadway night-on-the-town vibe.
Yeah, if Austin was like, I can get you guys into a strip club in Paris, I would be like, No thanks.
From flat frontside 50-50 across and down on some video game shit
So your life is a movie, but it’s also a video game. How did you go from regional sponsored skater to CGI animated figure in the critically-acclaimed Sessions video game?
It’s pretty long, but it had something to do with the computer stuff I did. I’m a nerd, so I’m also into video games. I saw Session had a VX for the in-game camera and I thought, They get it! I just blindly sent an email to whatever address was associated with the studio. They got back to me, then I sent them a brochure with Roger boards, seeing if we could get them or No-Comply in the game somewhere. The lead developer on the game was a skater from Canada and he used to skate The Banks in New York. He ended up knowing about my Thrasher parts and he knew about Roger. Sometimes I don’t know how big the reach of Sieben or Roger has, but when someone from Montreal knows about it, it’s like, Holy shit! So we talked and I asked him, “What’s up with the shop in the game? How about No-Comply?”
He’s like, It’s between Supreme and No-Comply.
I was wondering if it would be an issue that it’s not from New York, but it was cool. Then they announced some pros and I just asked again, Could I be in there? And he was down for that too!
Ryan keeps killin' in Step Two until the scooter roach rolls up...or over
The question that pros got asked when I started skating was, “Do you play yourself in the game?”
No! Dude, I even put stickers over the name on my board. Last thing I want to do is try to live through my own image. It’s too weird to play your own character and skate your own board. I like to skate Reese’s board.
There’s something very psychoanalytic about this situation. I don’t have the chops to know what it is, but that’s either a very healthy ego or completely fractured self-esteem.
More towards the fractured self-esteem. It’s like, Let’s keep ego as low as possible. Ego management is important. You let it get too wild and you start losing friends. You’re like, Oh, I talked about myself the entire time? I didn’t ask how they were or how their day was. If you work on that, you can have way more friends.
Bet his friends were hyped on this front 270 50-50 in The Bronx
Friends are dope, but for the purposes of this call, I need you to keep talking about yourself.
Well, I can talk about my experiences.
Then I’m gonna ask you about your experience of eating food. I heard you have a healthy appetite and on a trip have made two pizzas disappear.
That was in SF with Garrett Young. We had a huge dinner and we were stoked, but two hours later we got kinda hungry. We went to Dominos and I asked for two medium pizzas, then whatever he wanted. It’s two medium pizzas for $5.99! You can’t beat it. When I’m on a trip, I eat four or five times a day.
Maybe it’s inefficiencies, but I gotta eat a shitload to keep from getting sore. When you’re sore, that’s when all the rolled ankles and ligament tears start to happen. When you’re not drinking enough water and you’re empty, the muscles can’t repair, so I try to help my body out. Also, if the company card comes out, you bet we’re getting two dinners. If you have the option, it’s always yes to two entrees.
Switching gears, I heard while making these parts you also hosted an international superstar at your house.
Oh, Oski? Yeah! We had mutual friends and someone gave him my number because I had an extra room. I was like, Hell yeah, I’m down to host an Olympian. I felt bad, because right before he came out, my girlfriend and I both had COVID. So he flew in and I was just staying at my girlfriend’s place and gave him the key. I trusted him. There was this funny moment when he was rolling up at the same time a guy was supposed to drop off some weed for everyone. So my girlfriend walked out to his car thinking Oski was our drug dealer. But he stayed at my place for a bit and I found out he was into stocks and property and stuff, too, so we had stuff in common. He’s the sickest.
That’s really good to hear. So the Texas Three Step trilogy just dropped, which makes me wonder: can you do the Texas Two Step?
Yeah, a little bit. My mom taught me.
Mom's version has a little more hangtime, front 180 Photo: Makar
So if you’re at Country-Western bar and people start lining up, are you gettin’ in?
I’m a little scared of social situations, but if I got two beers, then I can. First beer turns the key and the second opens the door.
So how do you work a full-time job and stack this much footage?
Just putting my head down. I just have the goal every week to get a few clips that maybe would inspire someone else to go skate. Turns out that if you do that enough, it starts to pile up.
The epic finale to the trilogy, the dance isn't complete without watching this a few times
You’ve got 52 weekends a year. So that’s a little more than 100 days. I feel like there’s more than 100 clips here. Is it rare for you to go out and not come home with a clip?
Oh yeah. I gotta get something or it’s hard to sleep at night. I gotta get something—anything!
Dedicated to the clip, Ryan flicks on over the pole on his third time back
What clips are you most proud of in these parts?
Honestly, I’m really stoked by how well the Berlin stuff turned out. In terms of what I’m proud of, it would probably be the tricks that I got just before heat exhaustion set in. I’m just so happy I didn’t have to go to the hospital for them.
Do you skate until you puke?
Sort of. I skate until I’m about to pass out. Last weekend I worked for a trick for four hours and that’s not uncommon. But I’ll try until I land it or my body gives out. What usually happens first is I start seeing stars. Then it’s like, Alright, I got 15 tries. Once I stop sweating, then it’s like ten tries before I pass out. I’ll get lightheaded maybe have beer and then give it five more. That’s usually when I can feel my hips or ankles also starting to weaken, so I gotta call it. But I really try not to get there.
Heatstroke or plan the return trip? Hard decisions...
Do you go back for stuff?
I hate it. I really don’t like doing that. I try everything I can not to do that. But the kickflip over the yellow pole, I went three times. First time they just forgot to press record on the camera. I got a phone clip, though! Then on the second trip, I landed it for a bit and then stepped off. Third time, I did it. Every time was a two-hour battle. Then the front blunt in Step Two was about 45 minutes north and we went there five times. So it happens, but I’d rather go until I’m about to pass out and walk away with the clip than go back. I’ll wake up at 5 AM thinking about it if I don’t.
I know the feeling. It’s an affliction. I’m glad you got enough clips to still sleep at night. Thanks for doing this, man. The parts are really great.
I’m stoked. Thank you!
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