Jimmy plants corn and I don't care
Everything you think you know about professional skateboarding is wrong. That is, unless you know James Atkin. James has been quietly ripping for a long time now. James has style and consistency that have never gotten the justice they deserve from footage and photos. But if you see James skate in person, it’s a whole other story. He has every trick you can think of on lock, can land all his “bangers” in lines and even Utah’s most famous pro (Reptilian Overlord) once told me he was envious of James’ flip tricks. An interview with Atkin is long overdue in his home state of Utah, and even though there are some awesome photos in this thing, you really have to see him skate in person to understand how good he is. As my friend Chris Raymond said, “I thought I knew how pro skateboarders skated on a day-to-day basis, until I moved back to St. George and saw how good Atkin is.” I’m a little biased because James has been my friend for almost as long as I’ve been skateboarding (pushing 15 years now buddy!). But, truthfully, James kills it at life and skateboarding. It’s about time people recognize, as a famous television ad puts it, a “Utah Original.” –Sam Milianta
SLUG: What are you up to these days?
Atkin: Just going to school and farming—haha. Working at the Atkin Family Farm, taking care of chickens and gardens, and skating. Right now I’ve got a bruised heel. But I’ve also been skating a bunch down here, and filming at random spots.
SLUG: How did you bruise your heel?
Atkin: I tried to switch frontside flip that four-block in downtown St. George. I was wearing these thin-ass Emericas. I landed it but didn’t ride away. So I tried it again and my foot slipped off and I felt the fat in my foot get pushed up by my ankle.
SLUG: Has your skating injury taken away from your farming?
Atkin: A little bit. The first week I couldn’t walk. It’s hard to clean chicken coops and bale hay ... hahaha.
SLUG: Is the farm you work on a pretty legit farm?
Atkin: No, not that legit, it’s a chicken farm. We have seven chicken coops that hold over 45 chickens.
SLUG: Is 45 chickens a lot of chickens?
Atkin: It’s a lot for us. We get tons of eggs every day. They poop everywhere so you have to clean it up. We don’t have them in a field. We have them at our house in the backyard.
SLUG: What do you do with the eggs?
Atkin: We sell them and give them to families. We have a greenhouse and a bunch of gardens.
SLUG: Is the farm organic?
Atkin: Yes, organic farming. You pretty much just need to make sure the chickens have water and clean their water every couple days because it gets disgusting. Give them food and clean out their coops, then water the garden. It’s about two hours of work every day.
SLUG: So what’s a typical day like for you?
Atkin: I go to school Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s what I do all day on those days. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays I go to the farm and handle what needs to be done. Then I try to go skate as much as possible. Down here it’s so hot, you have to wait till 6 to go skate. Sundays I skate all day.
SLUG: You live in St. George right now. Is that where you were born?
Atkin: Born and raised.
SLUG: How did you start skating?
Atkin: Kind of random. I lived next to Bloomsdale Elementary. It was one of the best spots growing up. There would always be a bunch of skaters that were older hanging out there. They were the older brothers of some of my friends. Right after Halloween, I went to the school with a huge pillowcase of candy. I would trade them a handful of candy for time on their boards. So for like one handful of candy I would get 10 minutes on one of their boards. I did that for a couple weeks, then my parents got me a board for my birthday
SLUG: How did you meet everyone in Salt Lake?
Atkin: My friend Ryan Wingert moved up there and at the time I flew for free because my parents worked for an airline. I knew who some of the older Salt Lake guys were, like Andy Pitts and Mark White. So when I was 14, I would fly to Salt Lake for a day. The first time I flew up there I didn’t really know anyone except Wingert. So I took the bus from the airport to Liberty Park. It was weird because I was this young kid but I just wanted to skate some new shit, so I was like, “Fuck it, I’m going to Salt Lake.” That day I met Mark White and DJ Chavez. I always thought DJ was way older than me because he had a tattoo. Ha. The second time I ever went there, I was trying switch backtails on the ledge there and this guy Mark Wynn was there trying switch backlip. Wynn was the big sponsored guy at the time, so he thought I was trying to one up him so he tried to fight me. So funny. We’re good friends now
SLUG: What was next?
Atkin: I started coming to Salt Lake for contests. That’s when I met Nate Bozung. It was hilarious, ‘cause that’s when we were both little Mormon kids. We were skating together and hadn’t introduced ourselves to each other yet. We just looked at each other and are like “Hey are you LDS?” Haha. So funny. We instantly became best friends.
SLUG: Did you stay in contact with the Salt Lake crew?
Atkin: Well in the spring a lot of the guys would come down to St. George because it was warm, so we would meet up and go skate.
SLUG: You became the St. George tour guide, showing them all the spots.
Atkin: It wasn’t really like that then. We just wanted to skate. The red curb was fine. Now it’s like you take everybody to actual “spots.”
SLUG: What was it like growing up in St. George?
Atkin: It was rad growing up in St. George and being able to go to Salt Lake all the time. I was different from the kids my age in St. George because of being able to travel and skate all the time. Going to Salt Lake on my own before I could drive gave me that experience of going places on my own. Sometimes my parents had no idea I went to Salt Lake. I would tell them I was staying at a friend’s place down here and fly up there.
SLUG: So you were flying up to Salt Lake all the time and skating a bunch. How did you end up getting sponsored?
Atkin: I was on rep flow and was riding for this company Eternal. They were supposed to pay for me to go to Tampa Am, but they went out of business, so I just paid my own way out there. I flew standby out there and was 104th on the waiting list. I remember just waiting in the Las Vegas airport the whole day to get on the plane. I only had money for a hotel room for one night, but I just figured I’d meet someone that would let me stay with them. The only person I knew going out there was Ragdoll and he was just on Zero flow, I couldn’t stay with him. That’s when I met RP Bess. He totally hooked me up and let me stay with him. He even bought me some food I think.
SLUG: Was that when RP was the Duff shoes team manager?
Atkin: Yeah, he was the team manager and hooked it up. At the time, I wasn’t riding for Duff’s, but he took care of me. I ended up breaking my foot, and he took me to the airport and took care of me. I was so broke. If it wasn’t for him I would have been screwed. At the time, I wanted to move to California and I called up RP a couple weeks later and told him I wanted to move out there. I asked him if I could move out there and live with him for a bit until I found a place. He let me move in for two months, then I ended up getting a place with Tully, Jared Smith and Jon Allie.
SLUG: Was that the Hellrose house?
Atkin: No, that was in Carlsbad. I moved out there for about two years and got on Hollywood by going on a trip with Hurley to Japan. That’s when I met Nuge and those guys by skating on Hollywood. Then we all moved into that Hellrose Apartment and lived together.
SLUG: Was that when you guys started Hellrose Skateboards?
Atkin: We were all on Hollywood working on a video that was supposed to come out, but never did. They were kind of fucking around with it, telling us different things than what they were doing. We were getting fed through the ears. They were calling it getting ‘swanked’ because of Todd Swank. He was just saying a bunch of shit. Everyone was like, “Get out of there while you can.” Syndrome Distribution approached us and said they wanted to do Hellrose out of there. They talked us up and ended up just fucking us over. In the end, I wish we would have done Hellrose out of Tum Yeto. The company probably would still be in business. They said we could put out a video and the video was done, but it just never came out. Then the Plan B dudes came around, I think because of the way we were doing Hellrose. We actually leased Hellrose to Syndrome, which, at the time, was something that had never been done before. I think Plan B heard about that because they don’t want to give ownership to anyone so they ended up going to Syndrome. So that was a a way bigger opportunity at the time for Syndrome, even though it probably ended making them lose a bunch of money because of how much they pay their riders. So they wanted to put all their money towards that and it put us out of business. We were all partying hard and just wanted to skate and not deal with that shit. We kind of just gave up on it and went our separate ways.
SLUG: How long was Hellrose around?
Atkin: Well, the company was around for a year but the crew is still around. It wasn’t separate ways homie-wise, just sponsor-wise. A lot of the people still ride together, just for different sponsors. Like Baker and Deathwish have a bunch of the guys.
SLUG: After Hellrose was done, was that when you moved back to St. George?
Atkin: After Hellrose, a month later, I got kicked off Duff’s. Angela (James’ wife) and I were kind of over living in LA at the time, just because everything is so expensive. Angela wanted to go back to school, and my mom had some health issues at the time, so we wanted to move because I wasn’t making anything and I kind of just got bummed on the whole industry thing. I never quit skateboarding. People probably think that, but I’ve never stopped for more than a day or two unless I’m hurt. We were going to Albuquerque or St. George, and I have family in St. George, so we thought it would be nice to be around them and help my mom out. St. George is only six hours away from LA. I could still go there and skate and it is close to Albuquerque where Angela’s family is. It’s a lot cheaper to live here and go to school so we decided on St. George.
SLUG: How did the opportunity to skate for Crimson come about?
Atkin: It was probably four months after we moved back to St. George and got married. Kris (Markovich) called me and said he was starting a company, and I needed boards and wanted to ride for someone. So I was like, “Cool, I’m on board.” Right at that time, I was still kinda on flow for Hurley, and then I got put on their pro team.
SLUG: Once you got on pro status, did you get to travel?
Atkin: Yeah, it was good for a while there. We were getting paid enough to not have to work, get to skate and travel a bunch ‘cause we were filming a video. Crimson was coming up really good. Then shit went bad with that because of one of the guys who owned it. He fucked it up pretty bad. Two years after Crimson started, we had to get out and start Given Skateboards. The guy owed people money and wasn’t paying any of us royalties. He was buying himself new cars and motorcycles. It wasn’t Kris, it was this guy Sam. It sucks ‘cause Kris was in Georgia and this guy was running the company.
SLUG: It was just some random guy that invested in the company that ruined it?
Atkin: With Crimson, it was hard because it was just one guy that ruined the company. So that’s why we had to start all over again and do Given. It was hard because everyone was getting used to Crimson, then it’s Given. It’s just hard to start a new company when they are similar to each other.
SLUG: Was Given started right when the economy went bad?
Atkin: Yeah. Given is still going, we actually just got picked up by a distributor so it’s actually still alive and growing. Having a distributor helps a lot. For awhile there, it was pretty scary. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it, but it’s good now and growing.
SLUG: What are plans for the future now that you skate for Given?
Atkin: I’m always skating, so now I just want to get more footage out there to be seen. Get some photos in the mag, you know, be “sponsed.” Haha. I’ve always had a bunch of footage, it’s just never come out. I want to have a part in a movie. I just want my footage to actually come out. I’m working on a video right now with Josh Martinez and Garrett Taylor with a couple skaters. Levi Faust will have a part, then a bunch of pros like Corey Duffel, Leo and Cairo will have parts too.
SLUG: Damn, you’re going to actually get a chance.
Atkin: Hopefully. My mag minute for The Skateboard Mag is coming out in a week. I have a bunch of old footage that I just need to get out on the internet to try and build up the hype again. I had the hype a while ago, but I kinda lost it from moving away and being out of the scene. So I want to get out there, get a video part, some interviews. Just get big, get to travel again and skate a lot. The last little bit skating has been slow. I can’t just sit around so I went back to school. Just keep living and skating.
SLUG: No plans to open up your own farm?
Atkin: Ha. No. Well, maybe. Not a farm where I chill all day. How ‘bout a farm with a garden and two chickens? I don’t even know if I would ever want chickens after dealing with them. I just want to be self-reliant.
SLUG: Any shout-outs?
Atkin: Thanks to Given Skateboards, Duff Shoes, Bones Wheels, Lip Trix Skate Shop in St. George and when I’m in Salt Lake, Milo Sport. Shout out to my family, the Plumb family, the photographers, Hellrose crew, Mark White, the old Salt Lake Crew because they were who I looked up to, and all the homies.