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Hot! AN INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT LIM


Interview: Oleynik

So you grew up in Houston. Did you start skating there?
I didn’t officially start skating there, but I had a friend that skated a Vision board that I borrowed once in a while. Being Korean, my parents didn’t want me to have anything to do with it, so I cut out a wooden board by tracing my friends board after I accidentally broke it. That thing took 3 sessions to cut out and it sucked. I tried to give it to my buddy and apologize, but he was bummed out even more because the thing was like 1/2″ thick, no concave and spots of sand paper glued on with wood glue. He never spoke to me again.

When and why did you move to California?
I moved to Southern California in late ’92 and got my first real board that following year when I turned 13. My father just wanted to change things up and we already had some family out there. That really sucked. Things seemed so much more natural in Houston compared to California.  Plus, that was when I really realized what an Asian was and that I was one of them. They were every where in California.

How did you seriously get into skating in Cali?
After that whole incident with my attempt to make a skateboard, I kinda forgot about it. That’s until I moved to California and my Mother took me to get clothes for school and we stepped into a skate shop. The shop was playing Virtual Reality. I just kept staring at the screen because the only skating I saw previous to that was my friend trying to focus that 1/2″ thick 1-ply board I had just cut out. It all looked so different, too. These dudes could ride their boards forward and backwards. It took a lot of convincing, but my father got me a set up. It was a Channel 1 with an ever slick bottom, Indy’s and some Formula 1 wheels. Things got more interesting once I started school…oh man. Imagine an Asian kid from Texas talking to a Southern Californian white kid, who surfs. Using words like “ya’ll” and dropping my g’s didn’t help. But thankfully, the kids that skated were kinda psyched on that. So everything sort of worked out. I found my crew and I worked on my speech in order to stop confusing people.

How did you first get sponsored?
I rode for a shop called HOTSKATES in high school. The owner knew Mirko Magnum and sent him a tape of me. I remember I was asleep on the couch when he called. I was nervous, half asleep and super confused. I’m not sure what happened, but I think I spoke to him in Korean until I snapped out of it. Regardless, Mirko was the man, is the man. He hooked me up at Planet Earth/ Rhythm Skateboards originally. Then at Alphanumeric when he went there and when he bounced to go to Circa, I had shoes to skate in, too! Thanks Mirko!

You rode for some big board companies back in the day and got to travel a lot. I remember seeing tons of photos of you back in the day in Transworld and shit. What was skating like for you at that time?
It was actually a real rough time, I guess. My parents had split on me and my sister when I was 15 so I had to live with my grandmother until I turned 18. Skateboarding was everything because back then I really had nothing else. I was trying to raise my sister, but failing miserably because I just always wanted skate. That’s when I met Dave Hoang and I would see him around skating with some of the Planet Earth/Rhythm dudes. We all filmed for this independent video “New Horizon” and I hung out a lot in Long Beach with the 508 dudes.


Back Tail. Photo: Mikendo

Damn. Well after all that, what brought you to NYC?
After years of no plans of wanting to really try and be sponsored again, not to mention I would be an official Man Am, I got on 5Boro. It was so refreshing at the time because being in the West Coast, skateboarding started to look so different from when I had started. Rich hot moms would bring there kids to the skateparks and coach them. All the kids had camera’s and generators. But most unusual of all to me was that kids would ask me how rich I was since I was sponsored! I had to leave. 5Boro was a great excuse for me to leave.

How does skating in NYC differ from Cali? Pros and Cons?
As cliche as this, NYC has always been that raw pure skating. I don’t necessarily mean the skating style, but rather the environment. Especially when I realized how much California skating used to be more like the old World Industries days, NYC seemed to still have that spirit. That was what really got my attention about 5Boro because at my first Tampa Am I went to, I witnessed Josh Maready do the infamous pyramid ollie to back-lip. The 5Boro dudes were so loud and chaotic when that was going down. That always stuck in my head about those dudes. And that’s what I was psyched on about NYC and how it differed from Cali. No matter how much skateboarding changes, one thing will never change in NYC and that’s the streets. You’re not going to get in a car and drive around in the city when it makes more sense to skate around in the city. That’s the main difference and why I think skating will in some ways remain pure here. However, you can’t beat the weather in California. Oh man, I do miss that a lot.

How did you get into design?
Well, I started going to school and finished my first semester taking Illustration, Color and Design and some typography class. I bailed on the typography class after two weeks because people can get real serious about fonts and my teacher was a dick. I never went back after that semester though because I started traveling a bunch for skateboarding and thought that I could always go back to school, but probably won’t ever be able to travel to skate when I got older. Regardless, this is also cliche, but the truth is that as a skater you notice things. All the products you get and the surrounding environment you’re in. I rode for Alphanumeric, L-R-G, and then later for Ezekiel. I think that’s kinda what gave me my interest in figuring out things in apparel early on. Some of my friends and I actually started a small T-shirt company called Imago. I worked with severely disabled students at the time and the company was formed to be able to help get their art work out to people through tees. It only lasted about 2 seasons though. I was completely burnt. It was a great learning experience though.

You currently are a head designer for ZOO. How did that come about?
Shortly after I moved to New York, I started getting really stressed out on life. The same ol’ sob story how you’re broke and the recession hits. I didn’t know what to do and just called up Nardelli. He was the Marketing Director at Zoo at the time, but also the Creative Director at 5Boro then and now. Nardelli pretty much owned me. If he needed lunch, I’d go get it. I even went to the ATM to get cash for him! Now that I think about it, he really trusted me or he was clueless. He was my boss at Zoo and at 5Boro. More importantly though, he is like an older brother to me that paved my life here in New York. Thanks GNAR, I hope you read this!

What’s your design process like? How do you go about putting together new lines and graphics?
I know some people get real serious and I guess I do to at times too, but it’s really kind of simple. I mean, I am by no means some design guru, but it’s kind of like math to me (no pun intended). You get all the variables and sort them out to find a solution. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about art or even personal designs. Everyone gets their inspirations from their own surroundings or what they are influenced by and what they prefer. But in the end I learned that I’m just trying to translate ideas into tangible product. That’s not how I design everything, but for the most part that’s my thought process here at Zoo. Man, that sounded pompous. Dude, I don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing. Really.

Tell me about the Summer line?
For Summer 2011 we wanted to try some brighter/softer colors, with more of an upbeat mood. We wanted to kind of get away just for a second from the darkness of the recession. It’s pretty typical for everyone to do some sort of nautical theme during Summer seasons so we wanted to put our own take on it and Rob came up with the whole inspiration, “Dazzle Ships”. It’s based on the camouflage art techniques used on British battle ships during WW I to disorient the attackers. Since Zoo has always had that military DNA, it made sense to go that direction with it. At the same time, we didn’t want to forget about our other flavors of the DNA so we also did a delivery of some athletic inspired pieces from the same time period. You can wear any of these pieces on your way to Far Rockaway to hit up the skatepark then go for a dip in the water.

What’s the design team like at ZOO?
Our design team is amazing. What else would I say! No really, when I first came to Zoo, I was actually kind of a hater. But then I started to learn about everyone that worked there and I was really humbled. What do I have to say about Seamus? He was a filmer turned TM and now has taken the Marketing Director spot. It’s funny to think about all those years ago when he filmed a clip of me and now we work together. The best part though, is that my Design Director is Rob Mars. Talking about O.G. He worked for World Industries when Trilogy came out! Then he helped shape what Element is and the whole Giant Distro. Remember ON video?! He was part of that, too. He’s my biggest mentor here and I couldn’t have ask for anyone better to learn from. Basically, everyone here is very credible at what their background comes from.

What’s your plans for the rest of 2011? Both skating and design wise?
I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Currently, I’m finishing up doing my part for the Chaz Ortiz line and a couple of new Brandon Westgate pieces. As for skating, nothing has really changed. But maybe I’ll film a little more again for fun. I just bought that Panasonic Lumix with the Leica lens and the weather is starting to get better so this year is gonna be really awesome.


Switch Nosegrind Fakie Flip. Photos: Mikendo

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