1) Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! First question, what came first for you: longboarding or skateboarding?
Skateboarding came first when I was in elementary school mainly because everyone was doing it and I wanted to try. I remember my first street complete I got at Big 5 with bulky pads and everything, some no name brand but I was in love. I learned to ollie, kick flipped once or twice and then ate major shit down a stair set and stuck to traditional sports until high school.
2) How did you first get into longboarding?
I’m from Fresno, CA which is in the Central Valley so in high school I picked up a Sector 9 complete from my local skate shop and started skating anywhere and everywhere but purely as transportation. It wasn’t until I dropped out of college, quit playing collegiate/competitive water polo and moved home from NY that I found a group of guys and started pushing myself on the hills. I had always known that I was going to college to play sports competitively and my coaches always tried to limit my skateboarding but finally, I reached enough and dropped it all to skate.
3) You designed my favorite longboard: Madrid Havoc. How many prototypes did it take before you made the final board?
Oh man, there are too many. I actually took what I learned from my first board, the F-Bomb or Freak Bomb with C R Boardworks, and applied it to the Havoc. There you’ll see the start of the rounded nose (I chopped mine down from a point because I stabbed myself) and the simple slight taper down the deck. Let’s count though: prototype F-Bomb, production F-Bomb chopped, prototype Havoc x3, a foam core Havoc, and then a prototype with flares. Oh! Before we released the 2014 production Havoc, I made a last minute change to it to help popping of the tail so pre-production 2014 Havoc and then production 2014 Havoc and then 2.0 Havoc. So 10? Damn, my lucky number! And that’s not including Havoc DK, Mini Havoc or Pocket Havoc.
4) The Havoc board has a kicktail like no other board I’ve ever ridden. What inspired you to make such a boss ass kick?
Havoc was created off of a need I saw in Madrid’s current lineup. I found it funny that all these longboard companies were trying to make decks with kicks with crazy sharp angles while Madrid who has been in the skateboard industry since 1976 did not have a single kick longboard except retro boards. I went into designing this board with nothing more than the tail on my mind because if I could make the tail pop perfectly and as close to a skateboard as possible, the better off it would be. Plus riding those steep kicks longboard companies pump out is just super annoying and uncomfortable.
5) What’s your favorite set-up?
Favorite set up has to be Madrid Havoc on Paris 50’s with Cadillac 78a Sugar Mama’s or Venom 90a Curb Stompers for freeride, fuck around, skate everything, alley slasher, commuter. Race set up will be a Havoc or a prototype BN (bigga nigga) symmetrical race deck with 50/43 Rogue’s and Cadillac 70mm/75mm Hot Pursuits.
6) Where’s your favorite place to grub?
Oh man! I love food so much. Super Mex, Asha Mediterranean, Yardhouse for the food and drank or my house because my lady KILLS it in the kitchen.
7) What are you doing when you’re not skating?
Working and taking care of business! Relaxing with my lady, taking yoga, chilling at the beach, drinking some craft beer or absolutely nothing. Working on my race car when time permits as well, hoping to have it done soon for filming purposes.
8) Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses or 1 Horse sized duck?
100 duck sized horses! That would be so rad, I’d lasso 50 in each hand and have the best sled team ever! MUSH! And I think one horse sized duck would just end up very painful…
9) What was the inspiration behind the Toke Stop?
Plain and simple, The TOkE STOP is all about the surf and skate culture. I don’t know how many kids out there I see skate and smoke, figured why not try and combine the two? What could be better than NOT falling on a piece I asked myself… So I made the piece attach to your skateboard and a tool is not needed to take it off. Just some upwards force! Plus, you can smoke part of the bowl at the top of the run, close the lid and skate down your run and finish the bowl before heading back up.
10) Inn N Out or 5 Guys?
IN N OUT hands down. 4×4 and a shake on a hungry day or a number 1 on a normal day.
11) Riders ask about getting sponsored all the time, any advice on how to get sponsored?
STOP ASKING. Companies will come to you when you’re ready to be sponsored. Plus, you shouldn’t be on the computer emailing people for free shit. You should be outside skateboarding. (Raffi Here: THIS! BEST ADVICE EVER! LISTEN TO THIS ADVICE KIDS)
12) What was the first race you ever competed in?
I went to the Mosquito Outlaw hosted by Nick Ronzani but it got broken up by a freaking airplane. After that it was Wonder Valley Outlaw which I threw myself and have for going on four years now.
13) Do you have any badass longboarding stories?
Oh man. Skateboarding has been nothing but a nonstop story for years. Go on trips, skate with friends, race hard and survive through shit.
14) Where do you see the sport in 5 years?
I actually think here eventually, we’re going to decrease in size. Not sure if it’s in 5 years or 10 years but the smaller, newer companies just in it for money will fade and it’ll be the same companies doing to year after year it has always been. Saturated market is definitely something that comes to mind when I think of skateboarding/longboarding. I wish we would stop getting kooky skateboard/longboard Kickstarters and someone would spend that time and money on curing cancer.
15) Some skateboarders like to say longboarding isn’t skateboarding. Do you agree with them?
Skateboarding is skateboarding no matter truck kingpin location, length of deck or wheelbase or the size of wheels. I’ve seen some heavy falls in skateboarding but nothing compares to crashing at speed and what that does to your body.
16) Which city has been your favorite place to skate?
Malibu absolutely kills it but as does Santa Barbara and San Diego. I’m going to say California is my favorite place to skate because NorCal is amazing as hell.
17) What’s your favorite music to skate to?
I try not to skate with music purely because of cars but if I’m cruising something mellow, I’ll rock out to Metallica, Red Fang, Atmosphere, Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, A Perfect Circle or Rebelution.
18) What year do you expect to see hoverboards by?
Doc Brown had told me they were going to be here by 2015 so he better put out!
19) What’s been your scariest downhill experience?
Ah. I knew this question would be in here somewhere… I lost of my friends, Sean Smith, back in Fresno, we’re four days from the four year anniversary of his passing as I write this actually. It was a normal day just like any other, our small group of skaters had woken early to beat the scorching heat that rolls into our county and we were hill hopping trying to get as many hills and runs into our session as possible. Last run was called and we ventured down the four mile stretch of mountain road in a close pack. Through one of the hairpins, Sean went to pass my buddy on the outside and his wheel touched the yellow line and due to the way the pavement was laid, pulled him over the line ever so slightly. He held the line until a car rounded the corner and he went into a backside slide last minute and hit the bumper of the car with his ribs. Unfortunatley, that was the last time any of us saw Sean alive. By far one of the scariest, roughest, most challenging and darkest days I had ever dealt with. But ever since then, it’s been all downhill all the time. I couldn’t let his accident take me out of skateboarding. Others from the group faded away and hung up their gear but I told myself I’d keep going, keep carrying the flag and doing this until I could no longer.
20) Anything you want to say to the longboard community?
Skate hard, skate safe, & skate to skate another day. But most of all GET SOME!
21) Where can riders follow you? (Instagram, FB, Twitter all that)
Grant Kiessling on Facebook.
wreak_havoc on Reddit.
renegadeoffunk on IRC & Instagram.
havoc10 on SnapChat.
Special thanks to Grant Kiessling Interview