Interview & Intro by Dustin Umberger
Ronson Lambert has been on the scene for over a decade now, beginning his career on the short-lived DNA team alongside some of the more obscure and underrated rippers of the day. Then he suddenly exploded out of the gate with two very innovative video parts – P-Rod’s Forecast and Transworld’s A Time to Shine put Ronson in the spotlight temporarily. But fortune and circumstance changed his path, securing for him a spot out of the limelight but still in the game. Ronson took some of my questions and gave his perspective on those circumstances, and where the game might take him from here on. Based on his determination, skill, and love for skateboarding, I’m betting we’ll see much more of him in 2012.
Dustin: You rode for DNA, which was a solid company but wasn’t in that top tier. It seemed that many of the riders were dudes who were underrated, and some ended up blowing up (P-rod) but others kind of faded away (Micah). What was that experience like, and was it your first legit sponsor?
Ronson: By the time I got on, Paul had already been riding for DNA for a minute and had already parted ways with them. At that time they were revamping the whole team – they added a bunch of new dudes from all over. We all clicked and became good friends. My experience with DNA in the beginning was amazing… Definitely a great life experience as we all got to travel together and skate all these rad places. It was a great thing for that time period. However, after a couple years on DNA, I started to realize that I had an insatiable hunger to progress with my skating and my friends at the time weren’t on the same page; they seemed to be complacent with where they were with skateboarding. So that showed me it was time to move on and to continue progressing to the full potential that I knew I was capable of. Yeah, I was still in high school when I got picked up by DNA skateboards and they were my first legit sponsor. Crazy to think I knew nothing about the business aspect side of skateboarding or how it worked, we all gotta go through that though. All I knew at the time was that I had a company that wanted to support me and my passion of skateboarding.
Dustin: How did you hook up with P-Rod for the first Forecast video? It seemed that your skills had progressed a lot by that time. Were you skating differently and pushing yourself more or was it just a natural progression? Was that part the one that really got you out there and into the public eye, so to speak?
Ronson: First I’d like to thank Paul for having my back and giving me that opportunity. Having a part in Forecast was huge for me! I had a bunch of footage stacked up and my buddy (James) Riff (videographer / editor) thought it would be good if he sent it to Paul to see if I could get a part in his Forecast video. I thank Mr. James Riff for sending my footage to Paul. Back then, he knew Paul a lot better than I did and that’s how I got my part. Before that, I felt like I was under the radar. I was skating differently, having fun, pushing myself, filming, shooting photo’s, grinding hard… putting all my being into skateboarding, that’s what felt right, and truly natural. I knew I wanted to take it to the next level, and when I achieve that then I always want to take it even further. Forecast definitely got me out there and showed the world my skateboarding. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to be in back-to-back videos, Forecast and A Time To Shine, which really gave me exposure. (It was) the best time of my life.
Dustin: By the time of your Transworld part, you were rocking Plan B boards and gear. What was the story? I remember that being around the time that Plan B had just reformed, so I was expecting you to be one of their core ams. It wasn’t long after that you switched to World. Can you explain that transition?
Ronson: I’m always getting asked about this. At the time, I expected to get on Plan B, I felt so confident that I didn’t have a backup plan. It was looking good, it was looking bright, I was hyping up & repping Plan B gear, and doing everything I was supposed to be doing. The team manager ended up telling me that they’re not putting on any ams at that time. I was a kid with big dreams and it felt like the air got let out of my balloon so to speak… I felt blind-sided, and let down, ya know? So when World approached me, offered me a contract, and then after a year to turn me pro and have my own product lines – I was ready, felt appreciated and wanted to (keep in mind that no other company was there for me at that time)… Even though I knew their reputation, at the beginning of riding for them things did feel right and were looking bright. I was hyped – they got a new owner, new TM, were revamping to a more relevant team, and working to change their image, but without any advice or guidance from people in my life to tell me that this was or wasn’t a good thing to do…I took it, I was inexperienced in business and naïve I’d say. Had I known then what I know now… things would’ve been much different with my decisions. Everything happens for a reason. It was definitely a learning experience that I grew from.
Dustin: You seem to be representing a lot of up-and-coming or more obscure companies rather than the big brands. Was this a conscious decision? What is it like to have to market yourself towards a certain style or genre in skating?
Ronson: That’s true; I represent and give props to those who support me. I’ve changed, matured, and learned a lot over the years… and refuse to compromise what I value, whether it’s a big or small brand. It’s not all just about the money, it must also be the right fit and have that mutual respect. I now know how to critique a company for their reputation, mission statement, what they can offer me and what I can offer them, if we are headed in the same direction, support, being part of a team, goals, etc. So if a company’s mission statement doesn’t instill similar values, or I’m not feeling their product, then we’re just not the right fit for each other, and I’ll leave it at that. However, I feel blacklisted; no really big companies have approached me since World. I get surprised at how some people think I still ride for them. It’s easy to get jaded in skateboarding. I really want to leave that part of my life behind me, as I’ve moved on from that experience. As for marketing – well it’s for sure time consuming, takes mad work, determination, and perseverance. I’ve been learning a lot of other skills along the way as well as further exploring my artistic side.
Dustin: Your YouTube videos get a lot of hits, and draw a lot of comparisons to PJ Ladd in your tech abilities and choice of terrain. One criticism I’ve seen a lot online is this idea of your style being too deliberate, for example the way your posture when you land and the way you push. How would you describe your own style, and how has it developed over the years?
Ronson: They do. Well if people say so, sure why not. PJ has helped me out and has been a favorite skater. Though, everyone has his own individual style which is shaped, developed, and refined through progression. My style and posture is a result of a badly broken clavicle that happened during the first week filming for my part in A Time To Shine. People don’t realize that I was wearing this awkward brace called The Figure-8 and in pain while having only three months to film my part, but there was no way I was going to let my injury cause me to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with Transworld! I live with this every day since I didn’t take a break to let it heal properly. I’ve just learned to accept and do my best with what I have, and to always push myself to consistently excel. Even though I still hear comments about my style and shit, I don’t take it personal because they just don’t know the facts. But now, because of this interview, they will know if they take time to read.
Dustin: I noticed that you seem to do a lot of your own promotion, and have developed a significant fan-base through your online networking and clips. Do you feel that this is part of your job as a pro skater? Do you think that you are ultimately responsible for the amount and quality of coverage that you get in mags and videos?
Ronson: Being a professional skateboarder, you’re an independent contractor; it’s up to you to make shit happen. Since I’m not currently riding for a board or shoe brand, it all depends on me to get that exposure and support I need in order to keep moving forward. I’ve lost a lot in my life in the last couple of years, and it’s made me really want skating that much more. I’ve taught myself a lot of useful traits because of what’s gone down. I have to push myself to get my own exposure that much more, so I’m always skating and doing what I need to be doing every day – it’s just a little under the radar. I feel like it’s up to me to learn all the necessary traits, and those skills to make it happen. I’ve seen lots of talented skateboarders get dropped by companies real fast; these dudes have all this potential and skill then all of a sudden they have no sponsors. And these skaters are driven, motivated, talented, have great attitudes and character, the whole package! They just don’t know how to get back into it. Without the support from your sponsors… it’s tough for sure. I know what that’s like!
Dustin: Your skating seems to blend the progressive tricks of the 90′s era with a more modern touch. What were some of your favorite videos growing up? Who are your favorite skaters of all time?
Ronson: The 90′s was the era I grew up in and pretty much defined my skating to where it’s at today. I feel privileged that I grew up in that time of transition where street skating was evolving at a fast pace. Back then my older brother was into skating and his buddy brought over the Second Hand Smoke Plan B vid. That was the very first skate video I watched. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I knew what skateboarding was, but damn I didn’t know how these dudes were flipping their boards or anything. I was determined to learn how to skateboard after watching that video, then got my first board from my older bro, from then on it became my sole passion… some favorite vids growing up: definitely Virtual Reality and Second Hand Smoke, Blind Video Days, those H-street videos, Trilogy, the Treefort video, XYZ Stars & Bars, Prime High 5, Planet Earth video, Alien Workshop Time Code, Etnies High Five, Rhythm Genesis, Girl Mouse, Rodney vs. Daewon, Toy Machine Welcome to Hell, the list could go on…
My all-time favorite skaters: Guy Mariano, Keenan Milton (RIP), Daewon Song, Ronnie Creager, Andrew Reynolds, John Cardiel, Josh Kalis, Paul Rodriguez, JB Gillet, Nyjah Houston, The list could go on…
Dustin: Do you encounter a lot of politics and negativity in your role as a sponsored skater? It seems that the climate for pros now has become more competitive, and that the number of young rippers getting exposure has exploded in this internet era of skating. How do you deal?
Ronson: I do deal with the politics and my share of being hated on. I just stay grounded and true to myself and always keep my focus on skating. Times have definitely changed with the advances in technology. I remember it was all mainly about putting video parts out and that’s what your sponsors expected, and was how you got your street cred, that and if your sponsors ran ads in mags then that was a bonus. But as skateboarding grows so do your sponsors’ expectations, and so do most companies. Now it’s changed to contests that were really never too important for most skaters and brands. But over these years contests seem to be all that matters in order to make decent money and to attract the bigger brands. Ams make decent money if they place well in contests these days and they have them often too. It’s a little harder since I’ve turned pro. I feel likes it’s been tough to get into these contests unless you receive an “invite,” or through your sponsors if they have connects, yeah, that part is not easy to deal with… there’ve been many contests I’ve been wanting to get up in the mix at.
Dustin: You seem to incorporate a lot of creativity into your tricks, and your manual combos remind me of Brezinski at times. When you select tricks to film, what are your considerations? Do you feel that spots are equally important? What would your ideal video part consist of for yourself?
Ronson: I don’t really plan ahead. I like to just go. (It’s just) being a street skater, because you never know what you’ll end up skating, especially when you’re somewhere new skateboarding. That’s the best thing. When I get to a new spot, my mind goes crazy thinking of all these tricks I wanna do… and I’ll try and do as many as I can at each spot until I feel satisfied or until we get kicked out. My considerations are that spots are definitely important – every spot is different and gives its own degree of difficulty, for sure, and you have to work with it. Most spots aren’t perfect so despite how consistently you have your tricks on lock, sometimes it could just come down to something being wrong with the spot you’re skating; the right trick but the wrong spot. Most of the time we just work through it. But all around skate spots and the environment you’re skating in do make all the difference. I like skating everything! My ideal video part would consist of spots definitely all over the world. Ledges, gaps, rails, hubba’s, manny pads… a blend of everything would be ideal.
Dustin: How have your family and friends responded to your success in skating? Were they pretty supportive growing up? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Ronson: Family and friends have been really supportive of my skateboarding. Growing up, coming from absolutely nothing my family left everything then we moved out here to California in the early 90’s. Being a skater was tough but my parents recognized how much I loved skateboarding and it kept me out of trouble and away from things I would have gotten into. Skateboarding kept me focused, so they were real supportive. Being a little street kid and a skateboarder in the 90’s in those raw and pure times – we were looked at as straight hoodrats, taggers, gangsters, shit you name it. When I saw my first ever skate video though, from that day on I knew skateboarding was what I wanted. I could finally control this imagination and dreams of mine and manifest them through skateboarding. At that time, I didn’t realize how much that decision would change my life in a way that there wouldn’t be any words to describe.
10 years from now, I want to still be shredding, innovating, dropping video parts. I see myself as a successful business owner / partner, and fully established and respected in my industry. A supporter of underprivileged children… I really want to be in a position to give back, provide sponsorships and to help those in need, and ones that have helped me in those difficult times.