Cody McEntire On How Skateboarding Can Really Mess With Your Brain Chemistry, And Other Topics

An interview with Cody Mac.

Cody Mac loves to skate. He told me so—three times in the same interview, in fact. Whether he’s with his parents in Belton, Texas, at his apartment in Long Beach, California, or helping the Blind team to its recent Dew Tour victory, he’s skating. He’s also got a really good head on his shoulders, which is fortunate, because he’s also all over the place. So get a cup of coffee, and read on as he waxes philosophical on contests, life after being a pro, and how skateboarding is like taking too much molly.

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Security watches closely as Cody demonstrates how to switch flip frontside crooked grind. Photo: Chami (click to enlarge)

How’s the Street League stuff going?
It’s good. The Super Crown coming up in LA in a few weeks.

Do you try to log some hours at the skatepark in preparation for contests?
Well, I skate every single day, so that’s not really the issue to me. I’m not one of those dudes that figures out the obstacle and practices on it. I just skate for fun. I mean, I definitely work out and train, from an athletic point of view, but that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with skating. It’s not like I’m going out in my driveway and banging out 200 kickflips in a row. I do weight training, but that’s for personal reasons. Obviously, it helps my skateboarding, but that’s something I’d do whether or not I was in contests, so… There’s no real special preparation, I just try to stay healthy, and keep my mind focused on what you’re supposed to do, and to remember that it’s skateboarding—you’re riding a toy.

“YOU EVER HEAR STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO TOOK TOO MUCH MOLLY, AND IT FUCKS WITH THEIR DOPAMINE LEVELS? I FEEL LIKE THAT’S WHAT SKATEBOARDING DOES FOR A LOT OF US.”

Yeah, it’s a weird balance. You want to perform your best, but at the end of the day, you’re getting paid to skate.
I look at it this way—just getting into the Super Crown is a huge achievement on its own, and so… I’d be doing this shit whether I was talking to you on the phone, whether or not I was sponsored, I just love skateboarding. More than I can explain it. And I know, every skateboarder says that, and I’m sure it’s true, but I genuinely fuckin’ do, man.

Do you ever get to the point where you get frustrated? You’ve got some pretty technical tricks on film, stuff that I’d imagine takes hours and hours to film. Does that ever get to you?
Well, I’m usually an impatient person. I’ll give it an hour, and if the trick isn’t working, I’ll just come back and try something else. But in a way, you can’t fully love something until you’ve hated it. In one skate session, trying a trick, you can run a whole gamut of emotions—depressed, sad, crying, elated… I have this theory that it’s messed up my brain chemistry. Like I can’t think like a normal human. You ever hear stories of people who took too much molly, and it fucks with their dopamine levels? I feel like that’s what skateboarding does for a lot of us. It’s harder for us to have fun in normal situations. It’s the adrenaline junkie complex. Things that normal people are happy about, we’re not happy about, because it takes so much for us to get stoked.

I’ve thought about something similar. Skateboarding fulfills so much of our lives. When I’m injured, or I can’t skate, I’ll try to occupy myself with something else. And I’ve realized that you’ve got to do a whole lot of things to fulfill all the facets of your life that skateboarding gives you. It’s social, because you go out with your friends. It’s athletic, because you get a workout and you feel good about that. It’s a personal challenge, when every single trick you try, you’re trying to do better than you did before. And it’s art—a creative outlet, where you can express yourself, and your board is your canvas, or your palette. And it’s adventure, whether you’re running from a security guard, or sneaking into a pool.
I agree with you. I think skateboarding also has a therapeutic effect that keeps you thankful. I was talking to someone about this the other day—I will get physically scared for my well being, on a daily basis, like when I’m skating at the skatepark. If my board flips out, and hits me, I’m like “ah, fuck,” and if I hit my shin super hard, I don’t feel like normal people that just have a nine-to-five everyday job. I feel like those people don’t necessarily have a physical fear throughout their day. It’s not an everyday reality for people like that, but for skateboarders, it keeps our minds sharp. And another thing: I don’t have any 28-year-old people that I grew up with who spend their days rolling around on the dirty-ass ground. Every single day.

Skaters don’t even blink at that. You’ll slam your body into the landing of a stair set 25 times in a row, and then it’s “let’s go get a drink.”
Well, just even the mentality of laying on the ground. I was talking to my girlfriend the other day about this. Like, I’ll just be in a parking lot, waiting for a friend to get a trick. I’ll think “oh, I’m kind of tired,” and I’ll just lay down, on the parking lot asphalt. And most normal, functioning people, they think “oh, God, that’s so gross,” but to us, we just don’t bat an eye. I’m grateful for the way that skateboarding has made my mentality work, the way I perceive the world, and what’s in it.

Especially when you compare it to one of those nine-to-five people you referred to. It puts things in perspective. Are you going to spend your time worrying about keeping your shirt clean? Because there’s always another shirt. And also it’s just a shirt. So I’m gonna lie down and be comfortable.
Exactly. And I’m not being condescending or anything; it’s just a personal thing for me.

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Dialing in a kickflip back lip on the rails course before competition day. Photo: Durso (click to enlarge)

Tell me about growing up—what do your parents do? Were you ever intending on following in their footsteps?
My dad is a supervising contractor at a construction company; he’s been doing it for years. And he offered to get me in there, to make quite a bit of money. And I thought well that’s cool but—and I know it’s cliché—but what’s the point if you don’t give a shit about what you’re doing? I’d rather follow the starving artist route if I had to. And then mom—she’s a school teacher so she obviously wanted me to get a better education but it was one of those things where I could never live my life on a “what if” or a “maybe.” It’s like the age-old fork in the road—you go down one path and there’s certainty, and on the other one, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know, I just thought to take a chance, and see what happens. You know, you can always go back to school. I said earlier, I’m super into fitness. I could go back to school for a personal training program. And what’s more, I don’t have to do it this minute. I could do that six or seven years down the road. But with skateboarding, I’m kind of on borrowed time. I only have a set amount that I can do this for a living, you know? So I need to do the best that I can, take advantage of this, and do the best I can, while I have the opportunity to.

I hear you, but look at Tony Hawk. He’s up there (sorry, Tony) and he’s still killing it.
You’re right, but I think it’s a little different. I mean, some of the shit that those guys are doing is so gnarly, but street skating is a little different. You aren’t seeing a 40-year-old dude in Street League. [Ouch – ed.] It’s tough to jump down 12 stairs at that age. That’s a big part of why I’m into fitness and nutrition, I want to have some longevity with this. It all goes back to what I said at the beginning—I genuinely just love to skateboard, so I want to be able to do it as long as I can. And another thing that people forget to consider with conversations like these is that your mentality changes. You have more to lose, the older you get. When I was 18, 19, I didn’t give a shit. I’d get drunk until six in the morning, and then go straight to a 15-stair in the morning and be hopping down it like it was nothing. Nowadays, you have things you gotta look for. Well, I got this video project, and that video project, you become a little more professional, and you get older, and learn to pick your battles a little bit. That comes into play, as well.

(Switch 360 flip. Watch the Best of Gaps: Dew Tour Long Beach 2016 Pro Competition.)

So, going back to what you said about potentially getting a physical therapy degree. What you’re doing now is credibility for the practice you’d open. You’ll have first-hand experience with a lot of issues and injuries.
Yeah, I guess. Skateboarding has made me pretty aware. I know a lot more about anatomy, and whatnot from my own research. It also makes you sympathetic. If someone comes in with injured hip flexors, I know exactly what that’s about—I know that every little step is this stabbing pain… Skateboarding gives you so much, it opens you up to such a broad spectrum.

So did you have scholarship opportunities? Were you looking at schools? How far did you get into that process?
My dad’s Native American so I have grants and stuff that I can do up in Oklahoma. Places like O.U. and O.S.U, I could have looked at them, but to be honest with you, things changed after Tampa. I won Tampa Am when I was 18, and that was the nail in the coffin. Nothing was going to change my mind. I didn’t even look. I had horse blinders on, and I was heading in a direction that no one could stop me, even if I was going off a cliff.

Well, winning Tampa Am is a pretty clear indication that skateboarding is something worth pursuing.
After that, my parents saw it a little differently. My mom had gone to a bunch of local contests, and she’d seen me do well in those. My dad was never really fully supportive, but he went with me to Tampa, and after that, they both began to understand. I don’t think that they really understood the magnitude; until they began to see all the endorsement deals come in. To put it in their terms, it was kind of like the miniature Super Bowl for amateur skateboarders. But, I mean, back then I didn’t know anything at all. I made shitty career decisions. I was this nobody, then I had all this opportunity. I went down paths that I definitely regret, but at the end of the day, I’m happy now.

That’s good. What are you doing for shoes these days?
I actually just got on DVS footwear.

Oh, cool. Is Kerry Getz the team manager there now?
Yeah, exactly. And whenever there’s a guy like Kerry—I respect him, as a skateboarder, and as a person, so it’s a no-brainer when he approaches you. I used to watch that dude in every single video, so it’ s just like “where do I sign?”

So are they doing a full team rebuild?
Yeah, I think it’s a fresh start kind of thing. I mean, it sucks that they lost Daewon, but he’s like, the best dude on planet Earth, so I’m stoked for him, wherever he is. But yeah, we are reinventing the team, and getting everything going, and we’re going to have a Berrics United Nations coming out maybe later this month, or next month, and that should kind of get the ball rolling with who is on the team, and it’ll be more of a public announcement.

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Nollie backside bigspin during Dew Tour’s Long Beach 2016 Team Challenge. Photo: Kanights (click to enlarge)

Because you do both contests and video parts, do you have to budget your time carefully? Like, if you need an ender for the video part, but there’s a contest coming up, will you wait to try a dangerous trick?
Well, you’re conscious about what’s going on, but then there’s the age-old adage of “listen to your body.” So if you’re feeling it that day, and you’re in the right mentality—skateboarding is 80-percent mental, and 20-percent physical—I just do things when I feel like it. Skateboarding is all about fun. I do kind of need to regiment my time, and I do need to be proactive, but if skateboarding ever becomes more of a job than a passion, that’s the day I need to look at it and think about why I started. I mean, I would never want to walk away from skateboarding, but if it became something I didn’t want to do anymore, I’d have to reassess.

It can still feel like a job, and be something you want to do, you know.
Oh, for sure. I just mean that if the job aspect ever trumps the passion aspect…

I wanted to ask you about the Dew Tour that just went down—specifically, if you had any feedback about the new format. I know you had mentioned a concern that the courses weren’t ambidextrous.
The only thing that I thought was a little bit weird was that you had to start on a specific side, and then come back—you had to skate back and forth. And I understand why they do that, for TV, but… Generally speaking, I think that the format they used this year was really cool. It was really cool, seeing dudes out of their environment, like Carlos Ribiero skating a bowl, that was insane. It was almost like a mini triathlon.

I think that some guys appreciated that, and others just sort of took a pass on the sections that they weren’t comfortable with.
I think that the main complaint that I heard was that a lot of the dudes that would really excel in the gap section never made it to the gap section. Because they had tech, bowl, and rail, and then from there maybe 6 or 8 people made the cut. I mean, obviously they want it to be the grand finale, but I think they maybe should not cut so drastically, because there’s so many dudes that could have killed it. But all that being said, I’d skate it again next year, if they invite me.

More from the Blind team:
Best of Blind: Dew Tour Team Challenge Long Beach 2016