Interview by Associate Editor Megan Petersen @Meganrollinglove
Photos by John Sullivan @sullyphotoz | Ryan Loewy @RyanLoewy | Jonathan Labez @Jmlabez
Aarin Gates has been a friend of mine for years now. We lived in San Diego together in 2008 and again in 2011 when we started ‘The Bladies House.’ Aarin helped me learn to do soul grinds. She’s one of my biggest inspirations in skating and in life.
Originally from Camarillo, California. She works with and teaches kids, has a dog named Danzig and calls Texas her home with fellow blader, John Sullivan. She’s currently pregnant with her first child who is due in December.
I had the pleasure of catching up with AG, talking about life, love, sponsors, events and getting into trouble.
Megan Petersen: Would you ever move back to California?
Aarin Gates: Well, I say all the time I miss the ocean, lots. But then I think about all the expenses and I can’t even imagine anymore —like with my life now. If I had a million roommates like we used to and we all paid $400 a month, but that’s never going to happen again. Gas, living, food, taxes… they’re going to start taxing by the mile now. My mom just sold her house and they’re moving to Sweden.
MP: Would you ever move to Sweden?
AG: We’re going to visit. John and I want to go to Blading Camp, so we’re going to go to Sweden, drop off the baby with my mom and then go to Blading Camp.
MP: So you’re going to Blading camp?
AG: Yeah, the baby will be 8 or 9 months old by then. My mom said that was a cool idea.
(John Sullivan, Aarin’s soul mate, enters the room during the interview.)
MP: So how’d you guys [John and Aarin] meet?
AG: We met at the weekly sessions. We both became single, started skating and hanging out.
MP: You guys were all smitten and nervous at Blading Cup
JS: I’m always nervous around her!
AG: We went on a trip to Arkansas, talking and skating. Wse just clicked. We first started hanging out around the time Keaton [Newsom] passed away and my dad…[was sick and passed away]. We were there for each other. Every time he called, I was right there and he did the same for me when I was feeling that way too. It really helped us grow together.
(pause) John just got me some ice cream!
MP: When did you start skating Xsjados?
AG: Whenever the first pair came out , then on and off ever since. Every time I switched, I went back to them until I got on the Aeons.
MP: Did Xsjado ever offer you anything?
AG: When JC was running the team, I was living in Orange County at the time and he was in Long Beach. He was hooking me up with skates. Yeah, that was cool!
MP: Would being sponsored by Xsjado have changed rollerblading for you?
AG: I don’t think so. If they sent me places and stuff, maybe. Getting skates and stuff is awesome, but either way, it’s still skating. I never liked the feeling that much [of competing]. As I’ve gotten older, I just want to have fun and session; not worry about the biggest trick or whatever.
MP: Did you ride for Circolo wheels?
AG: I wasn’t sponsored; I got wheels. I mean, that was Jeff Linett. He’s always been cool to me and liked me skating. I respect that. Since way back, before I drove a car, I met him in Santa Barbara and he wanted to shoot photos. I was skating the first brown Xsjados and Jeff was working with Be-Mag back then.
(We had some off the record discussions on the topic.)
I used to take the bus to Santa Barbara. I would meet up with Toby [Holden], Sylvester [Hernandez] and all them [her Santa Barbara crew]. We ended up meeting Billy Prislin and a few other guys that were big at the time. It was a cool scene. We were all groms but we would all session with them. Then, I’d hop on the bus and go home. Santa Barbara is so pretty! That was like, before I could drive. As soon as I got my permit, I packed all my friends in my mom’s car to get out there.
One time, we were skating the college [UC Santa Barbara] and supposedly I ran a stop sign. We got pulled over and the cops took us out of the car and made us sit on the curb. I had cornrows at the time. My aunt did cornrows in my hair —I was such a thug. My mom had to come get us. It was funny because she wasn’t mad. I was mad because I don’t even think there was a stop sign, he just pulled us over because we looked like…[hooligans].
MP: You’re the most responsible person I know, I can’t even imagine.
(We talked about last year’s Blading Cup. She did a front backslide on the shotgun rain that was so sick! At contests, her feet feel like 1,000 pounds with mushy wheels and she was happy she landed all her tricks.)
MP: How many contests have you skated?
AG: I can probably count them. I’m gonna take a minute. I’ve done a few AIL’s at Woodward, Vegas Contest (Sin City Sessions), 3 Super Girl competitions in Venice Beach, the Pow Wow comps and Blading Cup.
I skated 2 ASA comps way back when I started rollerblading; when it was still kinda big. I remember they [Skate Lab in Simi Valley, California] had a really nice mini ramp and 8ft half pipe. I did all these kind grinds and I saw I had beaten Connor O’Brian and I was like “YES!”
MP: You got first place at an AIL and in Vegas. You placed top 3 in all the Super Girl Jams.
AG: One year I broke my ankle but I got second [at Super Girl Jam, $1,500 prize].
MP: Do you remember at AIL when they had the award ceremonies at the lodge? Man, the after parties too. What are a couple of the craziest memories you have from skate contests?
AG: I didn’t skate in the comp, but the one when we went to Vegas for WRS where Aragon won. It was Halloween. The night before, there was a before party at the bar. I was super shy and there were all pro rollerbladers at the bar that were like, my heroes. I think it was you, me, Austin [Sullivan], Toby [Holden], and Steve [Steinmetz].
MP: Yeah, Austin and I weren’t 21 so we just followed you guys around and stood outside drinking from champagne bottles.
AG: Haha, yeah. We walked in, Rob G and Kevin Dowling said “Oh my god! That’s Aarin Gates!” It was right after my rollerskater edit. They were going crazy that I was there, but in my head I was like, “Oh my gosh, it’s Rob G!” That’s how I felt about them! I’ll always remember that— it was cool!
Then, at an AIL there was a picture of me and Rosie [O’Donoghue] and some random girl. She was just some random drunk girl and no one in the whole place knew who she was. There’s this picture of me Rosie and her with Dave Lang, Jeff Stockwell and all these dudes in the background looking at her like, “who is this girl.” That was the first time I met Rosie.
(We started talking about Blading Cup again. The course was scary, pretty narrow. Aarin came out of a trick and almost ran over a lady and a stroller.)
MP: What was your favorite time placing top 3 in a contest?
AG: I got first at AIL, that was awesome. But my favorite was the Blading Cup last year (2nd place). It was a different feeling. I felt like I was skating for my dad. It felt good to do good.
MP: You stuck your tricks, you did so good!
AG: The whole vibe was good. Everybody was super positive that whole weekend!
(We start to talk about how her life changed when John came into her life. “Now that’s happy” she says.)
AG: I can’t even imagine what the next couple of months will be like. I’m 25 weeks [pregnant] with 3 and a half more months. We started getting a couple of gifts.
(I poked fun that she didn’t have a crib yet.)
AG: John’s mom and his sister are going to throw me a baby shower. Then I think Arianne and [Jason] Reyna are going to throw one, for the friends. I don’t even know what I’m going to do [when the baby is born.]
(Aarin chuckles at the thought)
(Aarin’s Mom will stay in Texas for a month when the baby is born and then go to Sweden. Aarin is nervous and excited to have a baby. She’s stoked to, “have my[her] mommy there!” Luckily Aarin has a high tolerance for pain [from skating]. “My body can handle it, it’s science”. An aside, Aarin’s mom was a surfer and skaterboarder, so you can probably assume she inspired the path Aarin took, shredding.)
AG: It’ll be worth it. Once it’s over, you’ll heal up pretty quick. You walk out of there and it’s done. It’s like a little present. I’ve been watching Becci [Sotelo] and her kids. She’s my biggest inspiration. I ask her stuff all the time! I can’t wait because that’s exactly what I imagine. A lot of guys who skate don’t talk about them or bring them around, but for John and I, we’ll just bring her. Becci takes her kids to all the sessions. Everybody’s going to know our kid—she’ll be with us. I think it’s so cool how Becci and Kenny [Sotelo] take them.
MP: Shane McClay would bring his baby street skating and sometimes even do a trick over her or pretend airplane her through the skatepark – so cute! Derek Henderson and his little girl too. Derek’s little girl was booing people at Blading Cup just waiting for her Dad to skate. These kids turn out super cool!
AG: I can feel her kicking all the time now and can actually see it—oh my gosh, it’s so crazy there’s a little human in there!
MP: Do you guys know what you’ll name her?
AG: One day I was looking at a girl’s name of “Keaton” but it was Keatynn. It looks really pretty when you write it down. John almost cried. I think it would be amazing to honor him [Keaton] and think about him all the time; they [Keaton and John] were best friends. We go to breakfast with Keaton’s Mom; John does some work for her. She has an interior design company and John did 40 huge photos or so for this new apartment building. He’s on board with it, so I think we will go with Keatynn.
MP: What is your worst getting in trouble experience you had?
AG: We were skating this old hospital. It had been abandoned for a couple of years. There were some perfect rails inside of it. My friends found it in Oxnard [California]. It was like from a movie – broken windows and everything. By the time we were actually skating the rail, some guy comes running up screaming at us, “What are you guys doing here? Get off my property!” We we’re like, “what? You own this place.” He was just a normal guy. We told him we were just skating, we’ll leave, that’s fine. He started following us and then ran the other direction.
We started going to the car and next thing we know he’s flying around the corner in his car and parked, he pulled up so he was blocking me so we couldn’t get out. The rage was getting me, I kept thinking, “I’m gonna hit this guy’s car, I’m gonna hit this guys car!” He said he’s putting us under citizen’s arrest and stayed there until the cops came. The cops pulled us all out of the car. I was so mad because this guy told us his story about who he was. Man, we’re just skating here. You could tell people were living there or doing drugs. He said he’s a professional paint baller and used to rollerblade and was mad we were trashing the place skating it. My friends went to court, in front of a judge, who literally laughed. “So you guys were rollerblading? Okay, get out of my court room.” Me, since I was under 18, I had to go to some class and do 30 hours of community service.
Aarin had a few more stories of getting in trouble with the law, Tyler Hester on the run, and expressed her sadness missing out on Blading Cup this year being so late in her pregnancy. She hopes to be at Blading Camp and Blading Cup 2020 as long as everything goes smooth with the baby. Aarin’s excited for what the near and far future holds for herself and growing family. I’m stoked for such an incredibly talented female skater (and one of my best friends) to raise her own shredder girl, start her family, and keep shredding!
Megan Petersen is a Be-Mag Associate Editor. She is currently based in Portland, Oregon and has been photographing rollerblading for over a decade. She is the Bladie behind the ‘Bladies’ project.