INTERVIEW & PHOTOS Ali Mehraban
When I look back at my favorite pictures I’ve ever shot, a large part of those images are of Brett Ciabattini. It could be his top-notch style, or his strong jawline? Whatever it is, there’s something about working with Brett that makes for photos I cherish greatly. We spent a bit of last summer cruising the event circuit together, rolling dice, and snapping pictures on every stop we made. In that time I learned a lot about Brett’s mind and his skating. His confidence oozes through in his skating and his creative view makes for visually captivating spectating. I sat down with him recently to put these photos to words and figure out more about Lieutenant Lifestyle”s life. Please enjoy.
Name, Age and Location?
Brett, 18, Eureka, CA.
So, what’s “Brett’s New Day”?
It’s a day in the life-esque video that we created. Just a classic day of going to the skatepark with the roomies and then heading to the mountains and finding cool spots.
I just don’t want to be “race kid”. I believe in skating as an artistic form and I don’t see the art in racing. The competitive mind doesn’t belong in art.
Why is it a New Day?
Well I used to live in Temecula, but I moved to Humboldt County after some buddies invited me to live with them up there. They had a pretty bare attic space that gets really hot during the day and really cold at night, but rent was 275$ so I had to do it. So I gathered all my stuff and got settled and have just been developing my room ever since. You came up right after the move and that’s when we got many of these photos from searching for new places.
What’s the difference between Southern and Northern California?
NorCal has more to look at. SoCal has more going on, but Norcal just has more to look at. I like southern California more because I was raised here and I like the weather. I also like how any city you can go find something to skate and have fun.
What do you think about California’s skate culture?
Every other skate scene where it’s happening is so much sicker, because California has it the easiest. So anywhere that is still doing it no matter the weather or lack of roads is so much more badass than the California skate scene. Look at Laguna. Kids on the east coast really aspire to be good downhillers—kids in Laguna Beach stopped downhilling and started doing flip tricks and skating teeny rails off the side of the street. It’s just too easy to skate here. On the East Coast you have to be a baller to go out and skate. Dude. . . Yokesgiving changed my entire perspective on life.
What happened during Yokesgiving.
Every other day was snowed-out. It was just so cold and we were battling snow the entire time. And the runs were just so gnarly. There was always something obscenely jank about them, and the boys would just be mashing it. So I just learned to not care about really sketchy stuff. It still sticks to me to this day because of Ed Garner. He changed my entire look at skating, entirely. I’m no longer afraid of going down any hill at all. He would literally mash anything and go so hard on it. We would be going down some highway and he would be like “Yo I’m gonna skate this.” He would get out of the car with this batman hat on—no helmet—and just mosh down. Bombing some snowy, completely wet highway through corners and shit, but completely mobbing. So any time I’m going down a run where something gnarly is happening I just think to myself: what would Ed Garner do? I think I’ve exceled in skating since from learning that mentality.
Who is currently your favorite downhill skateboarder?
Eddy G, The man has no fear. Literally no fear. In his mind he’s the best skateboarder and then he performs at that level. And Roger Jones because he just goes really fast and does it really well with style on any setup.
When was the first time you met the skaters you looked up to?
I met them all at my first slide jam that also got me dubbed “Backpack Boy”. Everybody was there and I was just like no way, they’re all here. Like I remember Kevin Reimer was there, James Kelly, Louis Pilloni, Jimmy Riha, and Duke Deagen were all there, I remember being way hyped and thinking I was so tight cause I used to think I was soo sick back then.
I almost forgot about the backpack. Why were you backpack boy?
Oh man. I used to hold my helmet in my backpack because my parents would make me wear a helmet, and I didn’t want to be wearing my helmet. So after time I started using it for other stuff like the tripod we were filming with, or skate tools and stuff. One day I didn’t use it and I just had the hardest time skating. Like I kept hurting myself unnecessarily, and had to relearn a bunch of tricks. At the end of the day I totally realized that it was the lack of backpack and that I had to start wearing it forever. Then Dubler had a shot of me doing a stalefish at the slide jam and called me “backpack boy”.
How did you first start skating?
I saw an Original video, I got hyped and knew Daniel Luna had two longboards hanging in his garage. I hit him up and told him how excited I was and I grabbed one of the boards he had to go skate. Daniel was busy so I had to have a solo sesh at the pathway behind my house. I went up halfway, bombed it, got speed wobbles, and fell into a bush. Then I went higher up and did the same thing, got wobbles and fell into the bush again. I eventually moved onto a new hill and did the same routine over and over again. Daniel and I got into it more and more and it at some point led to some freestyle/boardwalking on my longboard.
Who were you fanboying about in those days?
For sure Adam Colton, Brian Bishop, and Kyle Martin. I remember watching the Eh-Team video so much.
What were the events you remember from that era?
My first event was an SDDRL because Daniel Luna saw the video Coffee and Judas and he got really hyped on it. He was like “I want to start racing, dude. Im getting Paris 195’s, were gonna start doing this big!” He was talking about going to Maryhill and getting leathers and shit. So we looked up SDDRL online, got into the group, and we went to the very next race, I raced on an Apex 37. The hill was just straight-flat-straight, and it was really short. Eric Fuss was the first person I raced and I won by like an inch. All the boys were sooo hyped. Hunter Shwirtz and Jake Fast were there with leathers and Daniel and I were so intimidated. Then they smoked us so bad. Afterwards I was doing freestyle for them and they were like woah this is really crazy, but also making fun of me.
Is that when you first met the Laguna Beach Alpha Groms?
Yeah. The next event was Palomar where we met Wyatt Gibbs, Nohlan Campbell, Jake Fast, and Noah Hunt. Wyatt had this grudge against me from winning the last SDDRL, so he thought I was like, the guy to beat. But we immediately became bros. I remember the race organizer Tye was talking about us racing like you would talk about horse racing. “I don’t know, Brett’s pretty quick he might just pull it off.” Immediately we all connected really well and they realized that we needed to go to Laguna and skate their runs. So every week we would get dropped off at Wyatt’s house and would skate so many runs and eat so much taco bell.
What was skating Laguna like?
It was really desensitizing having my first real downhill runs being Laguna runs. Worrying about little things didn’t even become a factor anymore. Because the roads themselves were perfect, instead of being concerned about that, you had to worry about things like cars being in your way. So eventually you learn to not worry about any of that stuff, and then you’re just skating a perfect run.
Achieving downhill nirvana! Do you like competing?
I remember really liking slide jams, but then going to races because Original paid for them. I’ve always enjoyed racing to a degree and I became the Original Downhill kid so I had to rep.
Are you over being “downhill kid”?
I just don’t want to be “race kid”. I believe in skating as an artistic form and I don’t see the art in racing. The competitive mind doesn’t belong in art. That’s just my opinion on that. You can battle with yourself and compare yourself with others, but in racing you’re always trying to beat others, and I’m just not about that. That’s not my skating style. My skating style is about taking the tools I have—my skateboard—and applying it to anything in the whole world—because I can do that on a skateboard. It’s just me attacking my environment in my own way, applying my own brush strokes. I just don’t see that in racing because there are exact lines that you have to take and exact things to do. It’s okay to do that with your friends, but it’s different than, say: skating a run that I’ve never skated before. I’m carving and smiling and seeing something really dope and then being forced to manage the corners and I’ve always really enjoyed that experience.
Which is pretty much what we did with most of these photos.
Exactly. Skating new stuff is fun. Just going really fast on some hill I’ve never done before. I want to do a video series where we just film first time runs down gnarly hills. It would be sick because it’s the most pure moment of downhill; not knowing what comes next. Just like we did in the photos we shot up here, we would drive up a run, I would judge it from that and then I would just go for it. The spot is your blank canvas to do up anyway you want as long as you’re satisfied. And the way I’ve been satisfying myself the most recently is by taking those first runs as fast as I can.
That really explains the joys of exploring for new skate treasure. What’s your favorite trip that you’ve been on?
Tour de Giant, or whatever they call the trip to Mt. St. Helens in place of Giants Head? We just skated a bunch of stuff from skate parks to mountain bombs. When we didn’t want to skate we were just chilling in the forest or the river nearby. It was just the chillest time ever and made me realize that it’s all I wanted to do. I realized downhill is tight, especially when you don’t force it.
What trips are you looking forward to now?
Yokesgiving got me really psyched on doing more road trips with a small amount of people and just filming. I want do that type of trip for Yosemite, and you know Eddy G. is going to be there.
Who would be in a good crew for that?
I would probably invite, Roger Jones, Daniel Luna, Byron Essert, Ed Garner, Alex Colorito and Kai Monroe.
Why do you mess with Wheelbase Mag?
There’s more skater involvement which brings the scene together. Compared to other magazines, Wheelbase is more of a community-backed and driven publication. Wheelbase has developed a really different image and a direction that freshens up the documentation of skateboarding.
Predict this year in our scene for us.
I see more people going towards car raw runs. So everyone’s going to start doing the sketchy car runs and they’re going to be less about capturing skating from corners or whatever and more about getting the run in its entirety. It’s going to get really focused on the rider.
Well, whatever happens it will be rad watching you continue to grow. Thanks for the lowdown. Please list any thank yous below.
Of course, and thank you! I would really like to thank all the people who have kept me going all these years: Laguna boys, T-Mec bros, the parents, and my sponsors: Original Skateboards, RDVX Griptape, Bear Trucks, and Sector 9 Wheels.