Chris Haslam's Instagram handle speaks volumes: @waywardnephew not only explains his wanderlust, but also his occasional discomfort with the celebrity skate scene. He started skating in Singapore and currently resides in Vancouver, but continues influencing his skating with self-financed trips to unconventional locations around the globe.
Avoiding five-star hotels and gilded tourist spots, Haslam prefers the spontaneous -- and often sketchy -- embedded visits, partnering up with locals to destroy hidden skate spots off the tourist grid. But, as Haslam humorously recounts, sometimes his wayward ways leads into surreal territory.
redbull.com: You're Canadian but spent a lot of your teenage years in Singapore where your dad taught. What was it like discovering skating in a country that far off the skateboard grid?
Chris Haslam: I started skating at the end of '94, but in Singapore we were at least four years behind. My first video was an Invisible one but at around that same time in North America they were already onto Girl's "Mouse." We'd get English or Australian skate mags, but not Transworld or Thrasher. We were so far away that even the concept of being sponsored was far off, forget being pro. We just had fun with what we were doing.
In 1997, I graduated, didn't go to my prom and moved to Richmond, Canada with my brother. I went to college, skated the streets and then they built a skatepark near my house. I was one of the better skaters in Singapore, but then I saw guys like Moses and Sluggo and McCrank at the park and I thought, "Holy shit, I have some work to do."
I want to experience the life in each country, not "the tourist" life, but what's it’s like to actually live there
I was 21 by the time I got on Deca and then things went 100 miles-per-hour. But it was my friends who weren't pro skaters that shaped my appreciation of being pro and traveling. I’d skate with them, but then they'd have to go to work and they said, "Take advantage of the pro lifestyle." They were going to be pissed at me if I wasted something not many people get to do. I always kept that in my head.
But nowadays my sponsor's travel budget can't keep up with my activities. If I pay for a trip, I'll skate, but I'll also be able to do whatever I want. I don’t really do anything else but skate so I'm not spending my money on eating or binge drinking. Why not spend my money to go to Iceland or Russia? I might as well spend it on stuff that I'll remember.
I like going everywhere. I like Belarus, Ukraine, England, South America … I like Australia, I like Japan -- every place offers something different. Each country offers a whole different vibe that's unavailable in other countries. I want to experience the life in each country, not "the tourist" life, but what's it’s like to actually live there. I try to live in somebody's house for two or three weeks, eat in local restaurants and avoid the regular tourist attractions. You get more of a feel as to what the country is about that way.
Do skaters from different cultures have unique approaches to skateboarding?
Sometimes people in different countries do different tricks than what's being done in the States and those will influence my tricks, sometimes it's just certain styles or movements. But the spots I find in other countries influence my skating the most. That variety gets me excited about doing certain tricks at certain spots. Just seeing what I can do at an unusual spot. I keep a mental list. There are some spots in Germany I want to go to and Mexico City has a spot that I want to skate.
And sometimes besides the skating, you get some funny stories to tell. As long as I don’t lose my wallet or passport, it'll be okay. If anything, I could just go to a skate spot and get some help. People ask me to stay at their houses all the time and say that their mom will cook me dinner. It’s nice to know that's an option.
Stay tuned for Part II of our interview with Haslam.