There are a lot of things you could say about Andrew Mercado. You could call him opinionated, antagonistic; and, depending on where you’re standing, you might even mark him for a straight-up rebel rouser. But it’s important to understand that much of what’s said about a person by others ain’t the entire truth. You really have to get to know someone for yourself in order to make a real and truthful assessment. I did just that a few years back and have been skating and traveling around with Andrew for a while now, and can honestly say for a certainty that his love for skateboarding burns brighter and with more heat than 99% of the motherfuckers out there. Andrew’s passion for shredding has, and continues, to bridge gaps in the skateboarding community. Dude’s a rad dude. He’s inspired a whole hell of a lot of skaters. Please enjoy the Andrew Mercado Wheelbase Interview.
Age, origin, and years ridin’ skateberds?
27. I was raised in Lake Elsinore, California and now reside in San Diego. I’ve been riding the stunt wood since I was 9, so that’s 18 years.
When, and how, did you first get involved with longer wheelbases, and weirdboarding in general?
It’s kind of strange how it all happened for me. I think the first time I rode soft wheels was when I was around 15. A skatepark opened in the town I grew up in. One of the guys who ran the park raced both downhill and slalom. That guy ended up being Eli Smouse. He rode for Comet at the time and always had a bunch of sick setups laying around. We would get bored at the skatepark and go rally this little hill that ran next to the it—buckets of fun! I really didn’t take it seriously at the time, but it definitely sparked an interest outside of the skateboarding I was used to.
Then, when I was 17 there was a contest held at my local park called “The Triple Threat”. The concept was that you had to skate street, vert/mini ramp, and slalom—and do well over all the disciplines in order to win. Once it came time for the slalom I had a blast, and then just stuck with it. I met Richy Carrassco at that race and started skating with him regularly. Just about everything I learned about slalom I owe to that guy, he’s a beast! I don’t ride Slalom much these days, but once in a while I’ll find myself at a slalom race, get the itch, and jump on someone’s board. Really, it is slalom that prompted my jump to skateboarding’s outer limits!
Later on, in 2005, I was at a Pump Station giant-slalom race and the Rogers brothers were there B-lining the hill. It looked fun and I tried one of their boards. After that I was hooked. I also found out John lived around the corner from me and John and Dave invited me to go session the local hills. During all this time I was working in the warehouse at Madrid. That following week I went and cut myself out a downhill shape. The next weekend I jumped in the car with John and headed to the local hills, which ended up being GMR! This was the first time I skated a real hill and it sealed the deal. I haven’t stopped since!
You were one of the first dudes I met in the downhill community who fully understood, actively practiced, and proudly carried the torch of theSkate Everything mentality. When we met, you were kind of an anomaly in the longboarding industry. Nowadays though, it seems like more and more skaters and brands are opening their minds to a broader and more diverse future for skateboarding culture. What do you think took ’em so long? Ha ha.
Maybe they were at the wrong dock and missed the boat! Honestly, I think it’s taken them so long because they just don’t know any better. It’s funny because there is an entire generation out there who has entered into skateboarding through the longboard, and they are just now discovering street and bowl skateboarding. It was bound to happen. After all, it is all skateboarding. The paths are going to cross as some point, and in doing so, this new generation of skaters is going to be well-rounded and very open-minded to all forms of riding. In the end, it’s these open-minded individuals who are going to thrive, because they are never going to get bored. When they get tired of charging down hills, they are going to go mash coping or hit the streets.
So you’re a pro downhill skateboarder, the brand manager for Gullwing Trucks, a husband, as well as a stepfather—that’s a whole hell of a lot of responsibility for one skater. How the shit do ya pull it off, dude?
Sometimes, I don’t know how I pull it all off. It’s insane! I am always busy and I don’t skate nearly as much as I would like to. As brand manager for Gullwing, I wear a lot of different hats. It can often be stressful at times, but rewarding knowing I am involved in a company that has such rich history in skateboarding. It’s really cool when I meet random dudes who rode Gullwing as a kid and it brings back good memories, or when I meet kids at races who are hyped on the trucks and can relate to what we stand for. At the end of the day, the relentless hard work sets a good example for my step daughter to not let anything stand in her way and hopefully inspire her to do what she is truly passionate about when she grows up. That alone is worth the madness.
You just got 2nd at the Laguna Seca Invitational downhill race. Congrats! Tell us about that experience?
Laguna Seca was SICK!!! I actually wasn’t invited but raised a shit-fit and got in at the last minute. I have always been a geek for skateboard history, so to have the opportunity to race on a legendary track was like being able to skate the original combi-pool at Upland. It really didn’t hit me until I got out on the track. Its then and there you realize you are on a race car track and about to participate in a race that paved the way for what we do today. To pull a 2nd place finish was just icing on the cake. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and hope they do it again next year, but with a master’s class so we can watch the legends skate!
So what’s new at Gullwing these days? I know you’ve been working on a number of rad projects and building the team—what’s coming our way from the Gullwing camp in 2012?
Whats new? Well everyone is going to have to wait and see. I can promise nothing but epicness in the same vain Gullwing was known for in its heyday. One thing you can count on is a contuned effort to build the bridge between all of Skateboarding. If anything, that is our number one goal—spread and grow skateboarding.
Who are the three skaters that have inspired you the most, and why?
Jason Adams. When I saw this guy’s part in the first Black Label video I was blown away. Growing up, I always had a different style than my friends. I was into punk rock, I skated pools, and skated street like I was skating round walls. Jason’s skating was the first time I’d seen someone who skated like me: slappies, quick tranny. His different approach to street skating was so influential to my approach, and still is. Anyone who has followed me down a hill knows I do some weird shit, you can thank Jason Adams for that.
Matt Hensley. I have always been a firm believer of the idea that it’s not how many tricks you can do, but how you do them. Matt Hensley’s skating embodies that. It’s important to skate with your own natural style and to not force it. When you force style or are trying to look cool, you look like a kook or a robot. Hensley’s skating is a perfect example of natural style. Making something as simple as blasting a curb-cut look as rad as a McTwist. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch some of his videos. They will make you want to jam down the street and shred everything in your path.
Andy “Fuckin” Roy. Growing up, and to this day, my favorite skate video ever is the second Antihero video, the one with the cow on the cover. Really, every skater in the video is a favorite of mine. Julian Stranger, Tony Trujillo, John Cardiel, they are all among the Greats. However, the one who stood out the most was Andy Roy—straight-up not giving a fuck—raw, fast, powerful style. I don’t think many people reading this know who Andy Roy is, so YouTube this guy and it will explain a lot!
I heard you just sold the Mercado Van—that shit is Legend and has been all over the place—the stories are endless. What does it feel like to have it be a past chapter in your life?
Yeah, things aren’t the greatest financially and I have to let it go. It sucks, but that’s life. That beast of a van has been to just about every state this side of Colorado and Texas, and everywhere in between. It enabled our local scene to grow and enabled people to skate far off destinations that wouldn’t have been able to otherwise (including myself). It was a service to skateboarding, and if you ask anyone who rode in it they will tell you the same. It feels good knowing my van benefited so many skaters, but a bummer that in my time of need it’s tough to sell it because it got rallied so hard. Regardless, it holds great memories and I wouldn’t change a thing. If anything, I hope to get another van one day and do it all again.
If you could have one last hurrah in the Mercado Van who would be in it, where would you go, and what would you shred?
I honestly can’t answer this. Half the adventure on those van trips was not knowing ahead of time who was going to be on board or even what we were going to shred. The only thing for certain was the destination—everything else just fell into place. So if there were a last hurrah, it would need to be spontaneous. All we would need is a destination. Whoever was around would get in the van, and whatever crossed our path would get shredded. It’s the only way.
What’s the best and worst thing about “longboarding”?
Best: More people skateboarding. Longer boards and soft wheels, in general, are user friendly and easier to ride. This has opened the doors to people who typically would not ride a skateboard. Because of its simplicity, it makes it possible for everyone to ride a skateboard and enjoy the fun it has to offer.
Worst: On the flip side, because a longboard is so user-friendly, it attracts people who know nothing about skateboarding. It used to be that when you saw someone skating down the street you were instantly friends because you both knew and liked the same things. You were skateboarders and had that common bond of experience. Nowadays you will see a random dude pushing down the street and you can just tell they are clueless. They bought their longboard the same way they would buy a beach cruiser or a scooter. Even worse, is when you see jocks, bros or frat boys pushing a skateboard. Those are the guys who 10 years ago laughed at us because we were skateboarders, but all of a sudden longboards are in GQ Magazine and now it’s the cool thing to do. If people are going to start skateboarding they should educate themselves on the subject of what they are about to embark upon—understand that it’s more than a toy—it’s a subculture and a way of life for millions around the world; millions who are willing to defend that.
You’re also really into music—you DJ at events and parties—and every time I go skating with ya I’m impressed by your broad appreciation of the jams. What initially sparked your interest in music and who’s music are you hyped on right now?
What initially sparked my interest in music was skateboarding! For many of us, skateboarding is the gateway to everything. Through skateboarding I got into punk. In my opinion the two go hand in hand. I really got into the different areas of punk (Oi!, 77, Street Punk, Crust, Hardcore, etc.), and really got into the bands that came out of England. Bands like Blitz, The Business, Dead Kennedys, Doom, Crass, Angelic Upstarts, Subhumans, Discharge, The Jam, Cock Sparrer . . . the list goes on. Through punk I got into the traditional skinhead scene. It was there that I learned about Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady, 2 Tone, Mowtown and Northern Soul. It’s from those styles of music I dove head-first into record collecting, thus sparking my love affair with vinyl. All of that led into my interest in DJ’ing and eventually spinning at Bars and parties around San Diego. If you are going to be at the Mt. Tabor Old School Race, I’ll be DJ’ing the after party. Come check it out!
As of lately I’ve really been into Northern Soul. Northern Soul is essentially Soul music popularized in England around the late 60’s/Early 70’s. The scene itself is really interesting because it was one of the first underground subculture movements and the precursor to the modern night club. It was already well established and been around for years before the media or press got involved. Similar to the Downhill skateboarding scene. What really makes it a unique genre of music is that it’s all based around B-sides and Soul singles that didn’t really make it here in the states. Some of the best Northern Soul tracks were done by artists who only recorded a single 45, and were unpopular upon their initial release. For example, Frankie Wilsons “Do I love you”. It’s a banging track and only two copies are known to exist. Last time one sold it went for over $20,000! Next time you are at a yard sale or secondhand store and you see a box of 45’s take a look, you never know what you might find.
Thanks Brotha. It’s always a pleasure rapping with ya. Let’s close this interview out with some propers, shout-outs, and any parting words ya might have for the Wheelbase readers.
A big thanks goes out to Marcus and Wheelbase for doing this interview; my sponsors for making all of this happen for me: Madrid, Gullwing, Biltwell Helmets, and Sector 9; all the homies I skate with on a regular basis who keep pushing me to go bigger and faster; and last but not least, my wife, stepdaughter, and the rest of the family for supporting me and my passion. I couldn’t do it without you!
To the readers, keep shredding your faces off! The streets are ours—let’s keep it that way!!!