By Peter Madsen – Right now Chaz Ortiz is in Los Angeles and, although he’s being polite about it, I’m getting the impression I’m squandering the 14-year-old’s skate-time. After all, he’s only out there during spring break, and he has a mere week to gather footage for not one but two video parts.
“When I’m out here, it’s really just skate, skate, skate,” he said with his agent at his side during this phone interview. And while he does have to talk to me for a bit, Chaz swears his week isn’t spotted with business meetings.
In fact, Chaz’s priorities seem to begin and end with filming for both Paul Rodriguez’s Proof, and the Zoo York’s upcoming State of Mind. Nearly finished with the Zoo part, Chaz said he and team member Brandon Westgate collected a lot of footage around the Chicagoland area. “There are skate spots everywhere here! People don’t even know,” Chaz said, his voice picking up. And while he said he filmed about half his part there (no doubt a necessity for the full-time ninth grader), Chaz has scheduled a New York City filming mission–presumably after school gets out–to nab some last bangers. Zoo York has brought Chaz to the Big Apple over ten times now, and while he said he loves barging city traffic on his board, he has no desire to move here after high school.
“New York’s just too crazy for me–I can’t handle it!” he said.
And while that’s an odd comment for a Zoo Yorker to offer up, it’s worth considering the fact that Chaz, only two years into being a teenager, has man-handled a set life-altering circumstances (stellar contest performances, high-profile sponsorships, international recognition) with an aplomb nothing short of professional. As Chaz and his family are in the process of moving into a “beautiful” new home near Chicago, the skateboarder stands as the youngest athlete to join the elite roster of Gatorade athletes. Additionally, Chaz has been asked by his home skate park Warp to implement design changes—something he said he works on when he gets bored at school. He said the park has already begun building the features he feels 100 percent about.
“I have such a good relationship with them,” Chaz said. “Warp Skatepark is like my home.”
Chaz’s collaboration is a great endorsement for a skate park whose banks, rails, and transitions have primed the young skater for the upper-echelons of contest-skating; accordingly, Warp will play host to a Gatorade Free Flow Tour stop July 20th. Like so many skaters of his generation who’ve grown up in skate parks, Chaz skates with a fluidity that allows him to handle rough street spots as naturally as he does smooth parks laden with banks and transitions. It’s no small detail Chaz won the 2007 Gatorade Free Flow Tour, which shot him to the PlayStation Pro, where he finished sixth. If you’ve had eyeballs for more than a year, you’ll know how Chaz came back to dominate the 2008 Dew Tour, claiming the Dew Cup from three-time winner Ryan Sheckler. Additionally, Chaz took third place in the iconic Tampa Pro contest this year, finishing behind one-two finishers and Dew Tour regulars Greg Lutzka and Paul Rodriguez.
Many articles about Chaz mention how the late Harold Hunter discovered the grom at a 2005 contest in Philadelphia. Nine at the time, Chaz said he recognized the legendary Zoo York skater, a figure who many of us remember as the extroverted, bug-eyed skater from Larry Clark’s phenomenal 1995 Kids. But let’s remember it was Harold Hunter the person—not the myth—who saw to it that Chaz began receiving Zoo York boxes. Unlike most non-New York skaters, Chaz never needed a movie to make him feel connected with a historically important scene (he still hasn’t seen Kids) because its very members had already reached out to him—four years before the greater skate world would meet Chaz via the Gatorade Free Flow Tour. Greatness recognizes its own, and no doubt Harold saw something of himself in a pint-sized Chaz.
And while the attention Chaz has received for his fantastic skating at the Gatorade Free Flow Tour and the Dew Tour has certainly accelerated his career, it stands to note that Chaz’s brand of smooth and technical skating couldn’t have remained stifled for long.