The longboarding scene in Florida, like everywhere else in the world, is growing at a substantial rate. More and more skaters are joining the ranks and shredding their local spots on a broader range of equipment. William Royce is one of those who have always been ripping on skateboards—long or short. Up until this year, he has dominated Florida downhill competitions, and many along the East Coast. This year, Will has traveled and skated all over the United States, as well as Canada, competing on the IGSA Downhill circuit and a grip of others.
Our editor, Marcus Bandy, asked me to sit down with Will so that we might learn more about this dreadlocked shredder. Once I was able to track Will down, he and I kicked back and discussed his story and unique skateboarding experience. Please enjoy.
So what is Will Royce’s story? How did you get your start in skateboarding?
I was born in Alaska on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Literally, you had to get on a boat and take it up the river to get to my house. No roads and no concrete. Luckily, my parents moved us all the way across the nation to Fernandina Beach, Florida; where concrete actually existed. I did all kinds of sports when I was a kid, but skateboarding was the one that I actually loved. I remember my dad taking me to Kona Skatepark every weekend back in the day—that really helped me get advanced. They have this gnarly snake run there that I always had to hit at least once. I was also blessed to actually have real hills in my town that we could skate and go fast on. A group of us would session them throughout high school.
Longboarding took off for me when I moved to Tallahassee, Florida for college. This town is perfect for all types of skateboarding, especially bombing hills. I lived in the middle of so many runs. I could walk out and go skate whenever I wanted. I had a street map in my house with all the good runs highlighted on it.
So I first met you in Florida, at Florida State University, when the longboard scene was first starting to grow. Back then, top mounts were not the trend and you never wore a helmet. Obviously that has changed. Why the change in wearing a helmet?
Coming from street skating where no one uses helmets and speeds never go over 20mph, I had a hard time understanding how important helmets were in skating. I started to wear a helmet when I got a Bern that actually fit my head, yet I would still sometimes take it for granted. Then, one time I basically grinded my head into the ground with my helmet on. It was hectic. I fell over backwards and did a helmet grind, feet in the air, with only my helmet scraping the ground. The helmet had a huge spot where it had been all ground down. I realized then that that could have been my skull, and I never went skating without a helmet after that.
One of the more common jokes in the skating world is that people longboard because they can’t figure out how to ollie, yet you are known to skate any discipline including: downhill, street, tech sliding, etc. What is your favorite discipline and what advice would you give to the young groms who are just starting to learn how to skate?
I love skateboarding. I get the same great feeling bombing down a hill as I do sticking a kickflip. It’s all fun for me. Some advice for groms just starting out: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT—no one is great at skating when they first start—it takes a lot of practice and falling will happen, but you will get better if you try hard enough.
Rumor has it that your dread locks give you an extra 10 horse power and are super aerodynamic, therefore making you faster. You seem to win all the races in Florida, and just recently, one in Massachusetts. Is it true what they say about the dreads? Would you ever cut them off?
Dreads make you faster, but only if you know how to use them the right way. I am not currently thinking about cutting them and maybe never will, but people change and I might decide to hack them off one day.
Longboarding has grown a lot since we both started out. What do you see in the future of our growing sport of longboarding? Do you think it will ever achieve mainstream acceptance from the street skating crowd? Is longboarding also skateboarding?
Longboarding is a part of skateboarding. As long as you are riding trucks with wheels underneath a piece of wood, that’s skateboarding. The future of longboarding is looking extremely bright. I can’t go to school without seeing 15 kids on longboards skating to class, and they have real longboards, not just a pintail or something. It wasn’t like that a few years ago.
Street skating will inevitably have to accept longboarding as a form of skating. Once enough street skaters realize that this is something completely different than what they had imagined it was, things will start to turn around for the better. Longboarding is still so new that it is hard for some people to understand how much fun it actually is. I love introducing all my street skating friends to bombing hills on a longboard. If I can get them above 35mph on a real downhill board then usually their whole perspective is changed.
I saw that Marcus always seems to ask this question in his interviews, so I feel like I should as well. Who are the top 3 skateboarders who have influenced you?
- John Cardiel is my favorite skater. He influenced me so much in my street skating—he goes fast and strong into everything, and I always tried to imitate that.
- Riley Lux. Most of you probably have no idea who this kid is, but I skate with him in Florida. He pushes me more than anyone else to learn new shit. He is amazing at longboarding and does things that I might never be able to do.
- Anyone that I have ever seen in a skate video killing it and doing innovative tricks.
I remember when I was helping to sponsor an event last year, and you were telling me how you wanted a symmetrical topmount speed board. You ended up winning that race and won exactly that. You never really had to actually buy your skate gear, and you still don’t. How has getting a big name sponsor changed your skate life?
I am extremely blessed to be in the position that I’m in. I can’t thank everyone enough for everything they have done. I got really lucky to have someone sponsor me.
Getting sponsored changed my life by giving me so many more opportunities than I would have ever had on my own. I have had the chance to meet a lot of people and go to some unique places and it would never have been possible by myself. I have been sponsored for less than a year so I am still getting used to this whole thing. It’s different going to races when people there already know who you are. Some have certain expectations of you and it can go both ways. Sometimes I get embarrassed because I don’t remember people’s names who remember mine. I need a little name book or something to keep track of everyone I meet.
A question a lot of up-and-comer skaters ask all the time: How do you get a sponsorship? How did you get sponsored by Gullwing and Bustin Board Co.?
How I got my sponsors: I went to Miami for a garage race last January and Andrew Mercado (Gullwing) and Mike Dallas (Bustin) were down there checking out the Florida scene. They were surprised to see the amount of skaters we had. We get down pretty hard here in Florida, and to say the least, they were impressed with the whole vibe of Miami and skating in downtown till 4 am.
That race ended up turning into one crazy night with 20 dudes sleeping in a single room apartment, and Mercado sleeping on a cardboard box outside. He was woken up by the landlord yelling crazy things at him in Spanish.
Anyways, I ended up giving Mike Dallas a ride to Tampa after. We talked a lot and I told him I had won a lot of the races in Florida and he seemed somewhat interested. I got Mike D’s contact info and he went back to NYC. I didn’t think much of it after that.
Later that year, I decided that I was going to go all-out that coming summer. I wanted to race Danger Bay, Maryhill and Brittania Beach—I wanted to do it all! I had no sponsors or any idea what the race scene was like. It was March and I had this dream to go do all these races, but I needed to take action so I bought a one-way ticket to Seattle, arriving just before Danger Bay, and I signed up for Britannia Beach classic. As I was planning out this whole trip I found Mike D’s card, and thought it was worth a shot to call him. I hit him up and told him I was going to these races and wanted to know if they would like to sponsor me. He ended up getting back to me a bit later, and the answer was “YES!”
A lot of people are caught off-guard by your confidence, and often portray it as arrogance. What do you say to that?
I’m not sure why people are caught off-guard by my confidence, but I have heard the same thing from a number of people now. I think its goes something like this: I meet new people and skate with them. Before we skate, they ask me “Where are you from?” I tell them Florida, so they immediately assume I suck. Then we go skate and they are surprised on how I charge downhill just as hard as they do. This kind of thing happened a lot when I first showed up in Canada.
We Floridaian skaters envy you. You’ve had the opportunity to skate all over North America this year. What are the top 3 places you have skated so far?
- ZooBomb: This was by far the most fun I had on my travels. That hill has everything from switchbacks to speed. And there is something about bombing that run late at night with all those bikers. Last time I skated the ZooBomb, Zac Maytum was on a street luge hauling ass through the city next to all of us. I will never forget that crazy night. I say skate it if you ever have the chance. Also, thanks to Jon Huey and Billy Bones. These Portland ZooBomb locals are two of the nicest skaters you could ever meet. They helped me out tremendously. Thanks guys.
- University of Utah: Salt Lake city has some gnarly stuff going on. The campus runs are extremely fun and numerous. After you make it through campus you can hit a huge steep slide hill on your way down before you hop back on the train. Then, take it to the top and do all over again. You can get like 50 runs in a day if you wanted.
- Soldiers of Downhill: Out of all the races I have been to, this one takes the cake by far. The hill that you race on is mind-blowing. I remember driving up it and thinking: “There is no way I’m actually going to try and tuck this whole thing!” The run itself is 50mph+ with cracks everywhere and bumps in the road that make you feel weightless at times. It’s the fastest I have had to pre-drift into a turn—I can’t wait to go back!
Any other spots you’d like to hit up one day?
I saw this pic of an insane mountain road in China a few months ago, and ever since I have wanted to go skate China and east Asia. The picture I saw was a road with like 17 hairpins and one part that wrapped around 360º style under itself. There has to be so much gnarly shit in China waiting to be discovered and explored. I am going to skate there one day.
Well let’s wrap this up. Thanks for taking the time to do this and congrats on your success. You’re making us Florida skaters proud. I’m gonna leave it to you to finish off this interview—any last words?
Yeah I would just like to thank some people who helped me out along the way: Thanks to my dad and mom for always giving me rides to go skating. I would not have made it this far if it wasn’t for them. Mad props out to Five Mile Longboards in Seattle—this company couldn’t have better people working behind it. Stan, Cody, Dan and everyone else, thanks for the kick ass times. To everyone at the Stoop in Vancouver—you guys all rock! See you at the next Danger Bay. Thanks to all the (S.L.U.T.’s) in Utah, especially Steven McSweeny and Micah Green—I will be back one day—count on that. Lastly, thanks Bustin Boards and Gullwing Trucks for helping to make my dreams become a reality. JAHBLESS!