The Follow Up: Ryan Townley

WEB RyanTownley portrait PAPKEPhoto: Papke

Townley talks with his longtime collaborator Alex Papke about their first interviews, the state of the game and whether vlogging might be a bridge too far. Scroll through to see the trove of killer flicks he got workin’ on the new part.

Ryan serves up the hits in his newest part for Welcome Skateboards

As soon as I called you, I got a text from Andrew Peters telling me to ask you about your hangover. What did you get into last night?
Goddammit. Yeah, Peters, Ernie Torres and myself went to Waltz and had a couple drinks, then we went back to Peters’ house and kept drinking wine—woke up definitely feeling the wine today. I walked into a gas station today right before this and the clerk took one look at me and asked if she needed to unlock the beers for me. I was thinking, Wow, I must really look like shit today.

That’s a great way to start an interview
Can we get a do over?

RYAN TOWNLEY 360 FLIP PETERSSending a three flip over the hydrant with his fellow wino     Photo: Peters

Sure, we can see about that. Alright, so this is the third interview you and I have done, the first being your original Follow Up we did when you came out with your Fetish part in 2017. What’s changed with you since that first conversation?
Wow, it’s been that long? A ton of stuff has changed since then. I moved up to LA from Orange County. I was living down there my whole life with my parents so that’s a pretty major upgrade. I got a house with my wonderful girlfriend Delaney and we have a dog together—his name’s Blue. I guess I’m older now, too.

Older means the hangovers are getting worse

Ryan Townley BURNETT DSC 8971Doin' what he does best, board yank from the top turnbuckle to the bank     Photo: Burnett

Is that really all that’s changed?
Well, I guess I went from doing all of this shit for fun to making a job out of it. Didn’t think that would ever be something that could happen. Obviously when you’re a kid that’s the dream, especially when you’re just a kid that’s obsessed with skateboarding growing up in Orange County. That’s kinda all you think about.

Has that thirst level changed? You’re not still going and skating shit like El Toro to get noticed anymore, thank God. How old were you when you boardslid it?
I think I was 14 or 15.

Is that your highest stair count or what?
Nah, I lipslid that Walnut 21 stair. I think that’s my highest stair count. I don’t really do that anymore. There are way too many people better at that than I am. But a couple of years ago I was in Australia and we went to this 20 rail and I boardslid it just because we were there. Gotta see if I still got it in me, you know?

RYAN TOWNLEY LIPSLIDE PETERSSmaller stair count with the same danger factor, lipslide 'cause he can     Photo: Peters

The natural progression of that shit is funny. Alright, so I know I told you I didn’t want to talk about your collage art here because I feel like every interview you've had touches upon that, but you’ve changed your medium up a bit in the last year or so with all of these resin projects. Can you shed some light on that for those who don’t know much about it?
So the resin stuff kinda came about during COVID, because obviously everyone was just stuck at home. I would see shit online of people incorporating resin into different projects, doing it with tables and different woodworking. I was really curious if it was something I could incorporate into the paper collages that I do, and it was a lot of trial and error. Trying to figure out how to properly coat the paper and pour the layers was really difficult, but I had all of the time in the world to learn at that point. It’s a pretty tedious process—it starts from getting the image, coating it, and then going around it in a very close proximity to the paper and the resin so nothing leaks. I have to do that three or four times to really coat it so the resin doesn’t bleed into the collage. Then I pour another layer, put down my paper, or paint on it, whatever it is for that project. And then after about five or six layers—depending on the piece—I sand it down to whatever shape it is and pour a final layer over it to clear everything up and give it that shine. Then do a final sanding on the bottom.

Ryan Townley pullquote I’ll be five days into a collage and something will fall into the resin when I’m not looking
Wow. So if you mess one layer up it’s pretty much a wrap?
Totally. And it’s happened where I’ll be five days into a collage and something will fall into the resin when I’m not looking, bubbles will rise out of the paper, or the resin will leak into the paper and there’s no going back at that point. It just becomes trash.

It seems like you just keep making your art process more and more stressful for yourself. It’s kinda like skating where you just want to make it more difficult.
Exactly, it’s a super meticulous process. I kinda like it. Like you said, it’s just like skating, or the progression of really doing anything. You just zone out of everything else and focus all your attention on that specific thing until you feel like it’s perfect. I’ll even show things to Delaney that I’m wigging out on and she’ll just tell me how hard I’m tripping. She won’t even be able to tell what I’m talking about it.

RYAN TOWNLEY BS NOSEBLUNT PETERSSkippin' the set, gap to back noseblunt

Most people probably don’t know this, but Delaney is a very talented and established tattoo artist in LA. Do you think it helps having a girlfriend that has a creative eye to lend her perspective to your projects?
Yeah, of course. Once again, it’s pretty similar to skating where you are your own boss. We’re both independent contractors. I think a lot of the tattoo world lines up with skateboarding, so she can understand the process of what we do even when it comes down to things like style and trick selection, things a lot of people wouldn’t notice or pick up on.

Townley Torgersson Tables 2000Two pros, one table—Davis and Ryan make a great team     Photos: Townley

On top of having her right there, you moved into a house where Davis Torgerson is living directly behind you in the back house. I know that he started getting seriously into woodworking in the last couple of years. Have you guys worked on anything together?
Originally, I lived across the street before moving into the front house so we got to know each other pretty well over the last couple of years. We always knew each other through skating but when we started hanging out more and more, we always talked about doing a project together. He does the woodworking stuff as a full-time job now, and I’ve always been involved with building things since my dad was a contractor growing up. So before he fully segued into working full time, we would go in the backyard during lockdown and just figure out things we could build together. It was cool. We ended up collaborating on a table where we built it together and then I did a resin piece on top of it.

WEB RyanTownley OLLIE PAPKEMore hops than one of those gross beers     Photo: Papke

Have you had any luck selling your pieces? Do you see yourself going down the same path as Davis after skating?
Luckily, it’s been going pretty well. People seem to be stoked on it right now. I’ve pretty much sold all of the pieces I’ve done, which is awesome for me. I’m not really sure if it could become a full-time gig, but I have friends that are in the art world and that shit seems like it’s even crazier to get your foot in the door than skating. I would definitely like to be involved with something where I use my hands like that but I guess we’ll just have to see.

RYAN TOWNLEY FS NOSEGRIND PETERS 1500The killer returns to the scene, ollie over wallride

If you can break into the skate world anything is possible. How long have you officially been on Welcome?
Probably right around the time of that first interview, so maybe seven years now? I’ve probably been getting boards for a little bit longer than that, but only by a few months or so. I started getting boards and was lucky enough to get on relatively quick.

Are you still hyped on it? Do you ever see yourself leaving if the opportunity presents itself?
Oh yeah, well, the right brand hasn’t hit me up yet, so as soon as they do I’m jumping ship. I’m totally fucking around. Welcome has been super great for me and it’s really cool that they give me the freedom to be pretty hands on—from designing my boards to helping out with artwork on different projects. I feel like other brands don’t do it as much so I don’t see myself going anywhere else in the near future.

I feel like a lot of people have gotten on and then left not too long after. I know D-Vargs moved over to being the team manager, but It’s kinda just you and Nora standing since you got on, yeah?
Yeah, I mean, Aaron Goure and Will Blaty are on. Those are the two other dudes that have been on since I’ve been on.

Ah, you’re right. They’re from Arizona so they don’t really count.
Completely irrelevant.

RYAN TOWNLEY 180 NOSEGRIND PETERSFrontside 180 nosegrind from the bump to block     Photo: Peters

Nah, both of those guys are the best. Is there anyone else new coming around?
This new kid Noah is about to blow everyone's mind. He’s gonna be everyone's new favorite skater, just wait. It’s all going to be happening very soon.

Seeing you’ve been on the team the longest and maybe the most involved, do you feel like you lend a hand in shaping the team?
I’ve just been around for a while. I would like to think that I have some say over the next people that we’re going to be putting on. I feel like every brand is like that. You gotta be stoked on a person across the board to be able to spend two weeks on the road with them.

Totally. I feel like there are so many dudes that have pro boards on companies but can’t even get a free pair of shoes. There’s only maybe three or four shoe brands out there now and a hundred or so people that deserve a paycheck. You get to do all of this stuff for Cons, but they’re just such a big company that has layers of different teams within skating. I snooped around and saw that they got you doing a good bit of TikTok stuff now, something that no one really loves to be doing. Is that where you saw life going as a pro skater?
Not exactly, but I don’t really mind doing it. When I went pro, Instagram was the big thing you had to look out for, but Tik Tok wasn’t even out. It’s become a part of every business now. You’re crazy if you don’t have a social media presence and you’re trying to sell something. I never thought that making day-in-the-life videos would be part of the job description but it’s really important for them to reach the people that are actually buying the product. It’s not the easiest to navigate.

Ryan Townley pullquote Vlogging would be pretty tough for me
Your stuff isn’t on the cringe side of things at all. The one I saw was just you putting on some shoes and doing some slappies. However, there are a ton of skateboarders where it just seems they’ll do anything to get a check. If they came to you and told you that you had to be a vlogger to get paid, you think you would do it?
I mean, I think there’s a tasteful way of doing anything in life. There’s gonna be cringe shit everywhere, but social media is one of those things that skateboarders need to do and I think there’s ways of doing it that are less soulless than others. Vlogging would be pretty tough for me; that one might be drawing the line. It’s hard enough to go out in public without a selfie stick in your face.

RYAN TOWNLEY HALFCAB PETERSHalf Cab into the crust, sans selfie stick    Photo: Peters

What do you think carries more interest to a corporate shoe sponsor in 2022—a vlogger or someone putting out a gnarly Thrasher part?
That’s what’s really hard—no one really knows. You see some of these Internet people skating a keyboard skateboard or whatever and they’re getting more views than someone that’s hucking themselves down Staples Center. It’s fucking crazy what the general public wants to see.

I think it’s just relatability. Not everyone thinks they can be a Clive Dixon.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that all of the gnarly shit will always be cool but I also think that it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that.

Is that what the new video part is going to be like? I guess we forgot to talk about the thing that this interview is for, after all.
I guess you’ll just have to watch the video part to figure that out for yourself. Spoiler alert: there is no Staples Center.

RYAN TOWNLEY OLLIE PETERSCollage ain't his only craft—Townley threads a high-stakes needle

Well, all in all, do you think that wine hangover did any good for this interview or should we just go from scratch?
Maybe so. I think this was the first hungover interview I’ve had to do out of all of these so at least we’re doing something different.

Very true. Three down. Hopefully we can find something new to talk about for a fourth. We’re really running out of talking points seven years later.
It’s pretty fucking awesome that it’s been this long and we’re still able to do this shit.

It never seems to get old.

WEB RyanTownley nosegrindTailgrab PAPKESame as it ever was, only better, bump to tailgrab nosegrind. Well done on interview three, boys. We still ain't sick of it, so let's get goin' on the next one      Photo: Papke