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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lizzie Armanto: Interview with isTia

Lizzie Armanto was twice crowned best bowl rider by the
World Cup Skateboarding body. She is still ranked #1 female bowl rider in 11.
One day, I asked Lizzie Armanto if I could interview her for isTia.Tv. That was eons ago. That was actually one week before the Combi Classic Pool Party at Vans early November 2011. She said “Yes” and I said “Let’s do it right after the contest”. Lizzie’s interview was part of the big girl’s month special I did on isTia.Tv in October with the interview of the best girl riders… But, as days and weeks passed, the tedious chores of the everyday life were not allowing us to do the interview. I could have done the interview by email… Definitively not. By telephone? No way. I preferred to wait and do a live interview. That’s so much more work afterwards. Then again, it is so much better and so much fun. So, a couple of days before Xmas a lot of emails went back and forth. Due to previous plans, she was scheduled to go to Hawaii, Washington, back to LA somewhere in between, then to see Nora Vasconcellos in Boston. Yes, she’s that busy… She was not even sure when she would come back. Hey, I waited two months; what is one more week? Then she sent me a last email: “Call me, I’m in L.A. and I’m free for the day”! I started to talk about doing a sesh at Culver City skatepark, then Venice. She did not even blink when she heard Culver City. The mere mention of Venice, there was a weird, awkward silence. Usually at that time of day, the bowls of Venice are damp, not good for skateboarding.

Then, she said, “Let’s go to The Cove”. Turns out that, eventually, we ended up at Gonzo’s pool, not far from the infamous Dogtown.
Julian Bleecker, from Hello Skater Girl,  has that kind of magic when he takes Lizzie's pix... Vans 2011.
I was excited!! Gonzo’s pool had been skated by the best pool riders for more than 35 years. I was not even sure of what was going on with Gonzo’s, but I read strange notes about that place, like it was bound to be sold and destroyed or something. Rumors, ya know… Destroyed? No. It’s just vacant, but If I say where to find this place, I may be forever cut off into obscurity for leaking “TOP SECRET” information. We were lucky, there was just a little bit of fresh water at the bottom of the pool. I was amazed that the pool was in pristine condition, the coping was not even damaged and it was almost empty… “It’s always like this,” she said… Given that skateboarders are used to skate at Gonzo’s so often, I’m sure that the pool has not had a romance with water for many years. There we were, just the two of us, Lizzie and I, in that magnificent pool… We started to ride the pool, but Lizzie was kind of sick. Maybe she was feeling the jet-lag from Boston. After a short sesh, we decided to go to Venice. Any seasoned skater knows all too well the adventures of finding parking in Venice without paying premium for an hour or two sesh.
Lizzie Armanto during the Protec Pool Party at Vans 2011
It is all about timing. And after 20 minutes, well that was too much time wasted to find a parking spot.

Since it was late already, the Venice sesh ended up to be an open minded discussion in front of delicious tacos de Barbacoa at the Mexican restaurant La Cabana on Rose Avenue…

This interview with Lizzie, I wanted to do it differently. No frameset, no preparation, no written question whatsoever, not even a general idea of where to go, just feelings and guts. The setup in the Mexican restaurant was perfect. Except that we were in the restaurant patio and the transcript resulted to be difficult since La Cabana is close to Santa Monica Airport. There were a lot of plane noises which added a difficulty level to the background music and the restaurant’s patrons laughing and joking around and the tape was a pain to listen to and transcript afterwards. But it ended exactly the way I wanted: just a talk between two people… And since we were in the heart of Mexifornia and the waiter was addressing us in Spanish, I started with that stupid icebreaking question. Just because, Dude! We have to start with a question anyways.
Lizzie Armanto at Vans. Did you know Lizzie was tagged in 1860 pix in FB?
Interview with Lizzie Armanto

isTia.Tv: You don’t speak Spanish?
Lizzie Armanto:
No. I took Japanese at school. I studied it for three years but the pace l at which we were learning; we would never be able to speak fluently. In three years, I probably know less than a kindergartener. I can read it but I think that I’m losing it. I still have all my notes though. I’d like to go to Japan to learn the language. I’d like to be able to speak multiple languages… I always wondered how it’s like to be speaking multiple languages…

isTia.Tv: My son wants to learn Japanese, but the school is teaching Chinese, so he says “Daddy, I don’t want to learn Chinese, I want to learn Japanese.”
Lizzie Armanto:
That’s not a bad idea; the Japanese characters are derived from the Chinese language.

isTia.Tv: Yeah, Japanese is not that hard to learn compared to Chinese; Chinese you can’t speak fluent Chinese if you were not born in China… But, let’s go back to skateboarding. When did you start?
Lizzie Armanto:

isTia.Tv: Why skateboarding?
Lizzie Armanto:
Max, my little brother, wanted to go to the skatepark because he wanted to try so I thought I would go with him.

isTia.Tv: And now he doesn’t skate anymore?
Lizzie Armanto:
He stopped for a while; he is getting back in to it.
Lizzie Armanto at her favovite park: "The Combi… It’s perfect. The transitions are SOOO good it allows you
to do a lot of things. It works for you. At Vans, it feels almost effortless. You go there and everything is easier.
At other parks you actually have to try, Hahahaha."

isTia.Tv: Was he better than you at one time?
Lizzie Armanto
: No.

isTia.Tv: Where were you going to?
Lizzie Armanto:
The Cove in Santa Monica. (pause) This soup is very good, so good.

isTia.Tv: So, you like Mexican food?
Lizzie Armanto:
It’s not my favorite. I like Asian food. I like Japanese, Thai, Filipino, and Chinese food. Italian food is very good also. Food, generally speaking.

isTia.Tv: Do you have Italian origins?
Lizzie Armanto:
No. I’m half Finnish, I’m a quarter Filipino and I’m a quarter Scottish-German-Irish-ish. Ha-ha. I think, Grandma on Mom’s side is not sure. On my Dads’ side, they are Finnish. The family name was Prokoviof.
"I’m much more comfortable in big stuff than small stuff. I’m really hesitant to skate anything small and so
for me it’s harder." Lizzie at Vans, during the Combi Classic Pool Party last November
During the war, Russia fought over the land and peoples between Finland and Russia. Many of the families in this territory were Russian descent, yet spoke Finnish. This is part of the history on my father’s, mother’s family. The same is true of my grandfather’s (my father) family also. His family name is Dejeff. So to avoid conflict many of the people would change their names to something else. A distraction of sorts.

isTia.Tv: Do you go to Finland sometimes?
Lizzie Armanto:
No, I have not been there yet. I’d like to visit.

isTia.Tv: When is it exactly that you started skateboarding, you and your brother?
Lizzie Armanto:
That was 4 years ago, in the summer…
Vans Contest 2011
isTia.Tv: That’s not a long time ago, how did you manage to be so good in only four years? Now. I’m really amazed…
Lizzie Armanto
: Determination. When I put my mind to it, I practice until I got it. There was a summer when I was trying to learn a trick every day. And then suddenly everything clicked.

isTia.Tv: Isn’t it like you had bits and pieces and suddenly you got the whole picture?
Lizzie Armanto:
Yes, It is all related. First you learn basic tricks. Then new tricks, more tricks and then mix other tricks with tricks and this is where I am at.

isTia.Tv: Where did you first drop?
Lizzie Armanto:
Yeah, a drop … But that’s not really a trick. Every trick is very hard until you do it.
Vans Contest 2011
isTia.Tv: You’ve been doing bowls and vert only? No street skating?
Lizzie Armanto:
Not really. It’s funny, I don’t really watch videos. When I was at Nora (Vasconcellos), she showed me a couple of street videos and it looks like it’s so easy. I know better though…

isTia.Tv: When did you start entering contests?
Lizzie Armanto:
In 2009. That was at the Protec Pool Party.

isTia.Tv: Whoooa. OK. First contest, Protec!
Lizzie Armanto:
Well, it was the girl division so it was kind of different.

isTia.Tv: When was the first time you won the Protec?
Lizzie Armanto:

Lizzie at Gonzo's: "Everyone has bad days; you can’t judge yourself too harshly. Take today as an example.
I’m not feeling good and I know how I skated is a kind of a joke. I did not do anything. I’m dead tired."
isTia.Tv: So, you won the Protec just one year after you started entering contest!
Lizzie Armanto:
Yeah. I had no idea I would do that good.

isTia.Tv: Did you realize that, maybe, you could win?
Lizzie Armanto:
No. I never thought I was going to win. I was skating really good but I never
thought it to this point. And I am also overly-critical on myself.

isTia.Tv: Winning Protec, Did that change something for you?
Lizzie Armanto:
Yes. There was a lot more respect given to me.

isTia.Tv: Do you think girls are treated differently in skateboarding?
Lizzie Armanto:
Definitely! Just because they are girls!!

"I’m half Finnish, I’m a quarter Filipino and I’m a quarter Scottish-German-Irish-ish."
That's a lot of quaters to fill in a Florida Bowlrider Cup round medal...
Photo Julian Bleecker
isTia.Tv: When you watch girls’ videos on YouTube, you read the comments and they are condescending like “She not that good, but for a girl, she is ok. …” That kind of crap. Ya know…
Lizzie Armanto:
That’s funny what you are saying. l Last weekend, I was with Nora Vasconcellos in Boston. We were at her house watching videos and most of the comments were just people talking trash about the girls, including myself. It was very entertaining to watch and read.

isTia.Tv: Does any this type of behavior bother or anger you?
Lizzie Armanto:
No, it doesn’t make me angry. People are always going to have an opinion. Positive and/or negative. … If people wanna think that, that’s their problem and if being negative makes them happy, that’s their deal.

At the Chili Bowl. Photo Michael Chantry
You can please some of the people some of the time, you can’t please all the people all the time. In the end, you have to live with yourself. I know I am happy doing what I do. Enjoy!!

isTia.Tv: Or maybe they are jealous?
Lizzie Armanto:
I think they are insecure and they have nothing better to do. Misery loves company. I am my own person and I am not going to let those things get me down. Skate with me you’ll see. When I first started skating I wanted to be a good skater. I just did not want to be a good “skater girl”, (Take gender out of the statement) otherwise I would have settled that issue a long time ago. I know that mindset helped me get to where I am.

Armanto Airlines. Photo Michael Chantry
The girls; and women in general; need someone or something to push them. There isn’t any goal set to compete. No pressure to compete. There are not enough contests in the year for girls/women. Since there are not enough contests, girls don’t try. There are a few role models, but unless you are heavily involved into skateboarding, you don’t know about them. Grandparents and even some parents feel that skateboarding is not for girls. It is “too rough” of a sport to try.

isTia.Tv: Ok, there aren’t enough contests for girls/women. How many girls would you say are at your level, maybe, say, fifteen girls?
Lizzie Armanto:
I would say there are about ten girls that are close to my “skill-set” level. It sounds... well, bad: “my level”. Ha, ha. !!

Add caption
isTia.Tv: Oh, but that’s true. The results of the WCS show that you have been ranked the #1 “Ladies Bowl Rankings” for the past two years.
Lizzie Armanto:
Yes, Two years in a row.…

isTia.Tv: There you go, so you are the number one skater girl worldwide, it’s written!!!
Lizzie Armanto:
Yes, but hold on… OK... Like when I am in a competition, go to a contest, I don’t grade my skating upon how I did on my results, I base my level upon how I skated…

isTia.Tv: Are you only as good as you last session?
Lizzie Armanto:
Everyone has bad days; you can’t judge yourself too harshly. Take today as an example. I’m not feeling good and I know how I skated is a kind of a joke. I did not do anything.

Pirate Bowl 2010. Photo Silly Girl.
I’m dead tired. I know my ability and my level of skating. Well, today, I couldn’t skate because I don’t feel good. Sometimes it is good to remember to cut yourself some slack.

isTia.Tv: Fun is a big part of skateboarding. If you don’t have fun…
Lizzie Armanto:
… Then what the hell are you doing skateboarding?

isTia.Tv: Yeah, just don’t do it, right?
Lizzie Armanto:
Yeah….In the past, year, the level of skating for the girls has gone up. When I first started skating, I was usually the only girl at the park. Now, when I go to Vans, there will be two or three little girls skating around. There are a lot younger, they look like they could be six or seven. I think that’s a start.

Only one year after she first entered the Protec Pool Party she finished 1st of the renamed
Combi Classic Pool Party. On the right, skate pal and BFF Allysha Bergado...
In addition, I like how Vans added an Am division for the Combi Classic. Before we were competing against Ams that were not at a level that was fair to Ams or the Pros in competitions.

isTia.Tv: Do you think there will be more girls skateboarding in the future?
Lizzie Armanto:
It looks like there will be more, but, I don’t know. Any day, at any moment, this could change.

isTia.Tv: I noticed there has been something very strange happening this year: most, if not all, the major contests for girls have been cancelled. And then again at the same time girls’ skaters are everywhere?!?!? Suddenly everybody is talking about the girls. So, hey, what IS going on?
Lizzie Armanto:
What’s going on? I don’t know.

Pirate bowl 2010. Photo Silly Girl
I think girls’ skateboarding has and is getting bigger. Allysha Bergado and I have a close friendship where we like to skate with and against each other. It is because of that camaraderie and support of each other that helps promote women’s skateboarding. We went to San Francisco quite a bit, the past year and attended numerous events. I think if only one of us went, there probably would not be as much exposure of women in skateboarding.

isTia.Tv: So, there’s you, Allysha… Who else is leading this movement?
Lizzie Armanto:
(Pause) Basically any girl that is skateboarding…

isTia.Tv: (Laugh…) Yeah I know it’s a loaded question and you don’t want to say…
Lizzie Armanto:
On the east coast, I would definitively say Nora (Vasconcellos). She is all by herself.

Lizzie Armanto. Stalefish
This last trip to Boston I realized how hard it is to live out there. If I lived out there, I wouldn’t be skating. . It’s just so cold!!!

isTia.Tv: You are living in the center of skateboarding, right?
Lizzie Armanto:
Yes. Now I realize that how fortunate I am. I think it’s odd how that worked out and I’m really thankful for that.

isTia.Tv: I’m sure there are thousands of skaters that would be stoked to live 10mn form Venice, 10mn from The Cove, 10mn from Culver City and even Vans which is not that far from where you live…
Lizzie Armanto: Compared to living in the middle of nowhere? Yes, even Vans is not that far!!.

A perfect set for an in-depth interview: Mariachis in the back, planes landing at Santa Monica Airport
and Mexican waiters…
isTia.Tv: Why do you prefer Vans skatepark?
Lizzie Armanto:
The Combi… It’s perfect. The transitions are SOOO good it allows you to do a lot of things. It works for you. At Vans, it feels almost effortless. You go there and everything is easier. At other parks you actually have to try, Hahahaha.

isTia.Tv: Don’t you also like Vans because your friends go there too?
Lizzie Armanto:
Yeah kind of. Really though, it is about the skating. I’m starting to try to skate other stuff, like smaller Tranny, etc...

isTia.Tv: Why smaller? I though you would go higher, not smaller…
Lizzie Armanto:
I’m much more comfortable in big stuff than small stuff. I’m really hesitant to skate anything small and so for me it’s harder.
Photo Steve Potwin
isTia.Tv: Smaller is harder?
Lizzie Armanto
: Yes…

isTia.Tv: Is it because in smaller trannies, there is less flow and more tricks?
Lizzie Armanto: No, It is a different ballgame. it’s just different when you’re going to bail. When you’re in a big bowl, you have time to fall whereas in a small bowl you just slam. I’m really thankful to live where I live. This year has been the best of my life so far. I started a blog. I have a couple of posts. I was thinking about writing an end of the year post and I was trying to go back and write about this year. There are so many things that I did this year that it’s ridiculous. Next year is going to be rad.

isTia.Tv: I’m sure something is gonna change for you girls in 2012. With all that has happened since September 2011. Like what Ozzie did at Lance’s with all you girls.
Lizzie Armanto:
It was really cool. When it happened I really did not think much of it, but by looking at what came out of it, for girls/women’s’ skateboarding. That’s a big deal and also that session!!! There’s never been a session like that!! Just girls!! All those girls going skate together and no contest!! Girls Sesh?!?! It was weird, it should have happened already but it never happened, until now!!. Guys get together all the time. They have teams. They go to all these places. They go to backyard pools and bring companies to make videos about it. Do you know what I mean? There is no hope of that happening for girls real soon!! It is not something that happens often for girls has never happened for girls. And the weird thing is it has not taken a lot of thought to put all of this together. Isn’t that weird to think that it has never happened? It’s crazy… You know; I’m excited about my blog. I wanna move my blog to my own website. That would be cool. It’s a thought process. Sometimes I wonder if people will read it.

Flying to a top spot on 2011

isTia.Tv: The question is why would you do a blog? For you?
Lizzie Armanto:
Just for me.

isTia.Tv: So you know, at the end, yes, it matters that people read but if you do it for you, it matters less. It’s like an artist that’s writing a song. The artist writes the song because he has the necessity to write and sing the song. After that, you don’t want to keep the song for yourself and it feels good if hundreds of thousands or millions of people listen to your song. It’s an added value to the artist’s work. But the first goal of a true artist is not to write a song so millions of people could listen. A true artist writes a song to express him, because he has a message to spit out.
I'm sure Mr. Indy is very proud to have Lizzie Armanto as his Embassador...
It’s not a commercial venture, it’s an artistic expression.
Lizzie Armanto:
Yes, I really don’t like writing though. I don’t think I am a good writer but I think that if I just do it, I’ll get better at writing by just doing it. And that’s what I’m hoping to get out of it.

isTia.Tv: Practice is the key, it’s like skateboarding. The more you do it, the more you are good at it. If you write every day, eventually you’ll be good at writing. Who are your sponsors?
Lizzie Armanto:
Bones Wheels and Bearings, 187 Killer Pads and Helmets, Dakine, Santa Monica Airlines, and Independent Trucks.

isTia.Tv: What do they do for you? Do they pay you trips to the contests?
Lizzie Armanto:
Some of them, I mostly just get product.

isTia.Tv: How do you pay for when you are going to Tim Brauch contest for example?
Lizzie Armanto:
I rely to my friends to travel and stuff. But for the most part, outside of that for example, me getting paid to skateboard, it’s not happening. Everything is difficult. If I am asking for a plane ticket, I know it’s gonna be difficult for my sponsors to give me money. On top of that, I really feel bad for the other girls that made it to the contests. Because if I am at the rank where I am and according to WCS, like, I’m the number one and I’m begging for tickets and I don’t have them, so can you imagine how difficult it is for the other girls… I’m sure they get a definite no.

isTia.Tv: So, where is the money in skateboarding?
Lizzie Armanto:
It’s like; skateboard money for the girls is a joke. Contest money for guys is usually not that good. There’s a few that are really good.

isTia.Tv: What’s the biggest purse for girls?
Lizzie Armanto:

Gonzo's Pool was just vacant -and empty- but If I say where to find this place, I may be forever cut off into
obscurity for leaking “TOP SECRET” information
isTia.Tv: That’s nothing compared to the $30,000 Pedro Barros made at the last Protec Pool Party. And that’s small change compared to the $1 million dollars Nyjah Huston is making with Street League when he wins contests. That’s crazy.
Lizzie Armento: Then, take the XGames who leveled the purse for the Women and then the following year cut the whole Women’s division and now they took it out. When that happened, women skateboarding hit them from all sides. Shortly after, they took out girls out of Protec and they gave them their own contest. In a way that’s nice that women have their own contest but at the same time, it’s like “Protec is for Pros”. Women’s Combi Classic-Is “Pro” in the title? Maybe?

Lizzie Armanto at Gonzo. Preparing for a sesh: you have to do what you have to do...
isTia.Tv: In a way, isn’t it better if you have your own day just for you? Before, you had one Saturday morning, when people had not arrived yet. Now you have a Saturday afternoon and more attendance… They would never switch the boys in the morning and the girls in the afternoon…
Lizzie Armanto:
There’s ups and downs to it. Before in ProTec you had everything. Now Protec is just for Pros and you have another contest for Ams and now there is the Girls Combi Classic. On the day of the contest for the girls, the bleachers are not set up like they do for the Pros. Or the live webcast, or the huge purse, etc. Shall I go on?

isTia.Tv: So, what you want to say is that Girls and Ams are treated on a similar level, not like pros, but like a second tier… I understand that you feel that it’s gonna be very difficult for you to live only on skateboarding. Do you think that might change in the next couple of years?
Lizzie Armanto:
(no answer) Yeah… (not convinced)

Thanks Lizzie...

Thanks to Julian Bleecker, Michael Chantry, Silly Girl, Steve Potwin for sharing the pictures.

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I skate therefore I am: skateboard pools, pipes, parks, bowls and vert, daily skateboarding news...
posted by Xavier Lannes @ Sunday, January 08, 2012 


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