Remembering Van Wastell
We first met Eddie Villa about a year ago when he contacted us about helping with his brother Van Wastell’s profile page. Since then, we’ve learned what an amazing individual Eddie is and to what great lengths he goes to keep the memory of his younger brother Van alive. When Eddie speaks of Van you immediately hear the joy in his voice, so we asked if he’d like to answer a couple questions and maybe share a few stories. Eddie gladly obliged, because you see there are few things Eddie enjoys more than to remember the life of his younger brother and best friend Van.
Q: Thanks for taking the time Eddie. Let’s start with how many siblings are in the Wastell/Villa family and where you and Van fell into line as far as age goes?
A: Yeah, for sure. There are 7 of us kids… Van, Me, Tina, Julie, Kurt, Andy and Jeff. Me and Van were close in age at only 3 years apart so we shared a room for years when we were in Elementary School.
Q: Whoa, that’s a pretty big household. Did you all grow up in Newbury Park?
A: Most of us grew up in Newbury Park. My brother Jeff graduated from Simi Valley High and Andy too. Julie, Kurt, Tina, Van and I all went to Newbury Park High.
Q: I know Jeff and Kurt were both pro snowboarders back in the day, so I imagine you and Van were introduced to skateboarding and snowboarding pretty early. Around what age did Van first start skating?
A: Thats a good question. Van started skating at 3 years old and I started the same time really, but I was 6 years old. My brother Jeff took an old Powell or Santa Cruz deck, I can’t remember which, and cut it down so Van could have a mini board to learn on.
Q: Was Van your typical skate rat? Do you have any good or humorous stories from those early years of skating?
A: Yeah, Van was a skate rat.(laughs) Me and Van skated in the street in front of the house at first because we were small. Pretty much anything I could do Van could do better and I was always way jealous. By the time I was in 9th grade our crew used to skate the Borchard 3 stair everyday after school including Van’s old best friend Mikey Taylor.
As for a good humorous story, Van, Justin Case and Ryan Leach were launching water balloons at cars at Borchard Park and Van pulled the launcher back and sent a water balloon right into either a Snap On or UPS truck and hit the dude right in the chest!(laughs) I can’t remember exactly what happened after that cause that was like 15 years ago or so.
Q: That’s awesome. You know Van’s style just seemed so natural. Did he start learning tricks and progressing fairly quickly?
A: Oh yeah, everyone noticed Van had pop right away. Kurt used to trip out on how good Van got so quick. Kurt even used to film Van a lot with a DV camera and Van could do almost any trick by the time he was in Junior High. It seemed so easy for him while I struggled to street skate. I was mostly a mini ramp guy.
Q: I hear you, I’m a transition guy myself. So who were a few of Van’s early influences or favorite skaters?
A: Gonz, Julien Stranger, John Cardiel, Koston, I think in the early years.
Q: And how long did it take before Van started getting hooked up? What was his first sponsor?
A: By 1998 Kurt kinda got Van in the door at Vans Shoes, first as a shoe tester. So Vans would send Van shoes every month to try out and he had to give them feedback on the shoes. Then Scott Sisamis, the skate team manager over at Vans helped Van out a lot. Scott got Van on Consolidated soon after I think, or he was a major part of helping out.
Q: The first I saw of Van was in Consolidated’s Is What It Is video, was that his first video part?
A: Yeah. Its funny, at the time this dude from Newbury Park, Steve Ireland used to film Van and Mikey Taylor a lot. And basically what happened was Steve Ireland sent Consolidated a demo just like how it is in the video and Consolidated ended up just using Ireland’s edit and threw it in the video as is.
Q: That sounds like something Consolidated would do. But that was the only Consolidated video I remember Van being in, how long was he on there? Didn’t he get on World Industries after that?
A: Van wasn’t on Consolidated too long, by 2000 he got on World Industries. One of Kurt’s homies that worked for World got Van’s tape over there right away. But Van wasn’t really too stoked with World cause at the time he liked Chad Fernandez 7.75” decks and he would ask the team manager for only those. Sometimes Van would get a package of those but most of the time a package would show up with Flameboy decks and clothes. Both me and Van were over it. So Van would take the Flameboy stuff to Borchard Skatepark and sell it to kids!(laughs) Then by 2001 Van’s friends Mikey Taylor, Justin Case and P-Rod got on City Stars. That was short lived and Van had a hell of a time getting ahold of Kareem Campbell.
Q: So how did him getting on Krooked come about? I mean riding for Krooked seems like any skaters dream come true, and you just said Van was a Gonz fan growing up. What was that like for him to get on Krooked and have the opportunity to travel with The Gonz?
A: I remember Van telling me back in the fall of 2002 that he went on a trip with The Gonz, and that Gonz really liked him. Mark saw something in Van that Consolidated and World Industries didn’t. Van was very artistic like Gonz and they just found each other. Then all of the sudden Van started getting flowed from Krooked. Van was one of the first Krooked riders along with Bobby Worrest and Dan Drehobl.
Van told me all the time that he loved traveling with Gonz cause you could skate anything. There wasn’t this thing of you have to just skate rails n’ shit. The Gonz made skating spots way fun. Kinda like more of the no pressure and more relaxed how it should be.
Q: Did Van ever tell you any good Gonz or Krooked trip stories that you could share?
A: Van told me stuff all of the time but I can’t remember any stories. I wish I could. Mostly Van said that skating through S.F. with Gonz was crazy, cause Gonz skated so fast and through everyone. Oh, and in 2003 Gonz taught Van how to firecracker a curb.
Q: Nice! What prompted Van’s move to San Francisco?
A: Since Van was on Deluxe and Deluxe was in San Francisco, that brought more skating and hanging with everyone up there. Deluxe has the raddest dudes ever. Van loved that and he used to skate with The Gonz a lot. I asked Van that same question. I was really bummed in late 2003 when he moved up there. We talked all of the time on the phone and on AIM. Van said that the skating was way better up there in the city off Cesar Chavez.
At the same time Van’s biological Dad, Rich was living in S.F. so Van got to see him a lot. I remember when I went up there to record our song Article 1, with nowhere to turn we both went to Rich for help in writing a piano part. Rich definitely helped us out in a major way with that! Rich had a small room downstairs with a nice piano and a guitar.
Q: I remember Van having a trick in Mikey Taylor’s Mind Field part and you mentioned earlier they were best friend, how did those guys first connect?
A: Mikey moved from Oak Park to Newbury Park early High School time. Mikey started skating Borchard Park 3 stair with all of us and Van and Mikey instantly were inseparable. Out of everyone back in High School there was no one like those two. Van and Mikey found each other, maybe it was fate. Those two would wake up in the morning, talk about skating, go to school, at lunch time talk about skating, after school skate until dark, then either Van would go to Mikey’s or Mikey would come over to our house and watch skate videos. Those two lived and breathed skating. They would love filming each other. Not like nowadays, kids all just want to be the star. Back then Mikey had his license before any of us and he drove a blue minivan. Justin Case was also a part of their crew.
When The Borchard Skatepark was built in 2001, when Van, Mikey and Justin Case were there, everyone would stop what they were doing and watch. Man that was something to see. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Van, Mikey and Justin Case started blowing up. Van and Mikey were close for years until about 2003-2004ish when they went there separate ways.
Q: It seemed like Van and Mike Anderson were also close and shared a lot of the same sponsors. Did Van have a hand in helping Mike get hooked up?
A: Oh yeah! Van took Mike under his wing, they were so similar. They both were the same height, same weight, both had a red beard and both shared the same birthday April 22nd. Van pretty much changed Mike’s life forever. Van asked Mike one day, “How would you like to get flow from Krooked and Matix?”. Mike lit up right away.
Mike was a little younger than Van, a kid from Ventura, humble and amazing. I remember some of the first times we went to meet up with Mike Anderson at Camarillo park, Mike was tearing up the bowl. I was amazed cause I’m a tranny skater. I remember the first time that Van met Mike Anderson he said that he met a really rad dude.
Q: Then just as Van was turning pro and at a high point in his career, the unthinkable happened. How did you receive the news of Van’s death? Kind of a dumb question as I imagine it’s still an everyday struggle, but how did you and your family begin to deal with that?
A: In My eyes Van was pro way long before August 2008. I’ll never forget that Friday, September 5, 2008 around 5:00pm my phone rang and it was Kurt. Kurt told me that Van was dead. At first I didn’t believe it but Kurt was crying and instantly I knew that it was true. I was the third to know in the U.S. by that time i think. I didn’t really know what to do. I hung up the phone and the first person I called was Van’s old best friend Mikey Taylor. After I got off the phone with Mikey Taylor I completely fell apart. My eyes filled with tears for the next year after.
We are still having a very hard time with it. I’m still very sad. I will never get over that, I don’t care what anyone says.
Q: I imagine you’ll always carry that with you. But you’ve helped organize a few memorial skate jams over the years to keep Van’s memory alive. How would you most like for Van to be remembered?
A: What I would hope for people to remember is how genuine, giving and loving Van was. And if they can learn something from him it would be to always help people who have less than you have like Van always did.
Q: What’s your fondest memory of Van growing up?
A: A really fond memory I have is when me and Van both built a 4 foot wide by 3 feet high mini ramp in the spring of 1996 in the parents backyard. I have a photo of it, I will send it to ya. We also had so much fun jumping on a big trampoline that we got Christmas day 1990.
Another huge fond memory with Van is around 1991 our older brothers Andy and Kurt taught us how to do backflips on the ground. Me and Van used to do flips all of the time after school, it was a lot of fun. During that time me and Van both asked the parents if we could do gymnastics. They signed us up soon after. This is no Joke. At the time I was 10 years old and Van was 7 years old. We learned how to run, do a round off, and then backflip on the ground. One night when we were in the gymnastics class, we were doing the tumbling which is the flat ground stuff. We did the normal night where we did stretches and various summer salts, etc. Anyways by the end of the session just before we were all walking out of the main spot Van started running on the tumble floor full speed. Van did a round off, then a backflip-full twist in the air and landed on his feet. Everyone in the whole place turned and looked right away. Even the girls class stopped everything they were doing and instantly went to talk to Van and tell him how amazing that was. Our 2 teachers were in shock! I still see it in my head to this day even though it was 20 years ago. Van was only 7 years old when he did that. Talk about Van being gifted man! The only thing I could do was a round off backflip and that was it.
Q: Your brother Kurt is part owner in Solid Snowboards which just released a snowboard with Van’s first pro deck graphic on it. Have you ever talked to Deluxe about re-releasing a Van board to maybe coincide with one of your memorial skate jams? If one was re-released I know I’d pick one up.
A: Nah, after the 3rd deck and Van Memorial deck I think Deluxe is done making Van boards. It’s sad cause I wish Deluxe would always have a board for Van like they do with John Cardiel. Deluxe actually ran Van’s deck for a while, all the way from August 2008 until January 2009.
Q: I heard Joe Krolick may be working on a documentary about Van or something along those lines… is that still happening? Have you been in contact with Joe about that?
A: As far as I know Joe is still going to do it. I talk to Joe here and there, I keep in touch. He’s really busy working with other projects and paying the bills. He’s going to get to it though.
Q: I hope so. Knowing you play guitar and Van played the guitar and piano I wonder what part music played in your family? Do you all play instruments or was that something that you and Van gravitated to?
A: Oh yeah, Van’s dad Rich is an amazingly gifted guitar and piano player. Rich taught Van all kinds of songs on the piano. Van would come back home and play a new song every time that he went to see Rich.
We pretty much all play guitar. Jeff plays in a band called the Beer Boys. Andy plays guitar, Julie plays guitar, and Van and I both play guitar. Andy taught me how to play guitar back in 1991 when I was about 10 and I always stuck with it over the years. Van always played the piano more, but then by 2003 Van wanted me to start sitting down with him and teach him some songs on the guitar. So we ended up going to Guitar Center in Oxnard and spent like 2-3 hours there. I tested every acoustic for around $200 and finally I found one that was a Fender acoustic. Van ended up bargaining with the salesman and got a free case with it! Van played guitar and piano about the same after that which was really good. Van ended up recording an album using Garage Band on his Mac laptop. I let Deluxe use one of Van’s songs for his 3D farewell part, the song is called Tuna.
Q: I watched a sick video of you and Van jamming on your YouTube Channel the other day. It said the song was for Van’s Krooked Kronichles part but didn’t end up being used. What was the story behind that?
A: Here’s how it went. Van called me up back in the fall of 2003 and said that he’d talked to Mark Gonzales about having me record a song for his Krooked Kronichles video part. I started writing a song on my guitar. I spent days on it then finally came up with something that Van liked. One night Van asked me to play that for him while he was sitting at the piano. Van came up with a beautiful melody and said “Why don’t we record this and I’ll put it in my part”. I liked that idea way better than just having me play guitar. Our family ended up gathered in the living room where we were writing this song and everyone was so happy.
I thought it was a great idea so we went up to San Francisco where Van was living at the time back in January 2004, found a recording studio, payed about $200.00 and recorded this song professionally within 3 hours. I thought it came out great and so did our parents! For some reason Van never really followed up on putting this song we wrote together in his Video part after Deluxe told him that it wouldn’t be a problem. They ended up using Cheech and Chong instead.
I had to hunt down the footage. First I called Joe Krolick, Van’s main filmer and told him where the footage may be. Then Joe got the footage for me and I made that edit on my computer.
A: Yeah for sure, I check them often. By all means please link them!
Q: Definitely. Well that’s about all I’ve got, is there anyone you’d like to thank personally or on Van’s behalf?
A: Everyone at Deluxe, Matix, Vans, Skately, Alanna Gabin, Robin Flemming for sure, and Van’s most recent best bud Mike Anderson for continuing to have Van in his skate parts. Thank you Mike!
Last photo taken of Van before leaving for Germany. Left to Right: Carrie(Andy’s girlfriend), Eddie, Van, Mom.
Rest In Peace.
To see more Van Wastell ads and videos, visit Van’s profile page.
Krooked ads courtesy of DLXSF. Thanks Damon!
PS-If you are in the So Cal area on 9/17, please come out to the Van Wastell Memorial Skate Jam at the Skatelab. See you there!