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Q&A with Johnny Tang

Johnny Tang, a true skateboard rider who has skated for 19 years till now.
His skateboard setup is 8.0 deck, highs, 51mm, Allen key, and he skates in US 9 shoes. 

In 2006, a few Global Nike SB members made a trip to China to film some clips for “Nothing But the Truth”, 
Johnny was probably the only one they could find who knew the spots and spoke both Chinese and English.
So, he naturally became their tour guide.
During that trip, Johnny skated a few spots with the Nike SB team and the team managers (Kevin Imamura and Hunter Murraira) were interested in starting a China Nike SB team.

Soon after that, Johnny got a call from Kevin Imamura who offered him a job at Nike SB.
Johnny was the first member of China Nike SB team and has been representing Nike SB till today. 

Please welcome Johnny to the latest #5pmQnA
and enjoy the full texts in our Instagram story highlights!

Part 1 – Life 

What’s up Johnny? Where are you right now, and what you were doing just before jumping into this Q&A?

It’s 9:05 and I’m in my bed replying this email, because I just remembered and I don’t want to forget later haha, but life has been slow, I am currently in Toronto with my mom, dad and little brother.

During COVID in Shanghai, China, my Visa encountered some complications, I could have stayed and got a job or go to school but I thought it would be a good time to come back to Toronto and spend some time with  my family, the only problem now is not knowing when I can go back, COVID is fxxked.

But yea, the city has been in lockdown in months and its winter so I’ve just been trying to keep myself busy hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones, catching up and understanding what the skate scene is like here in Toronto and see if there are some opportunities to work or help out here.

I bet you have tried lots of good food, tell us one really tasty food you just found recently? 

After living in China, I’m not afraid to try any food, gotta try everything at least once, it won’t kill you unless you’re allergic obviously but if its on the menu and other people are eating it, its safe!

I love trying different restaurants that friends recommend and have them help order cause you’ll always find something new and delicious.

But recently I have found that using coal to BBQ is the best, gives the meat and vegetables such a nice flavor compared to a gas BBQ, I think this summer I will invest into one and use it more often, take it fishing and to the skatepark haha.

You write in your Instagram bio “Fish and destroy + Skate and enjoy”, what you enjoy destroying? Haha! 

Skate and enjoy is actually a tattoo my little brother (Ricky Tang @riiickkkyyy) has and it’s in the Thrasher font, I thought that meaning made so much sense, because skateboarding has brought me so much joy, so I got the same tattoo as him, to me its also a brother thing.

Fish and destroy haha I guess its just something fun and obviously physically opposite of fishing, but it has a lot of similarities to fishing, like you’re always looking for new spots, catching a nice fish is like landing a trick, its fun with your friends, its something nice to do when you just need to take a day or 2 off of skateboarding.

Which album in your rotation?

In Your Eyes – BADBADNOTGOOD

BADBADNOTGOOD - IV - Amazon.com Music

Your favourite song of all time?

Oh Honey (Gold, Denne) Prod. By Ken Gold / Delegation

Delegation – Oh Honey Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

What are your favorite shoes?

Do you have very personal habits when you go skating?

Before I skate, I give myself a few goals to accomplish.

  • Do 3 tricks you haven’t done in a long time
  • Learn a new trick

I realized that skateboarding was getting very boring cause I was just doing the same old tricks all the time, but it wasn’t exciting.

Now when I go skate I feel like a kid again, trying to solve a problem, it doesn’t work everytime but at least it will be easier the next time I try and when it does work it’s the feeling of why I started in the first place.

What’s your most dangerous skate experience? 

Oh man, a few years back I was working in the office for Nike SB as a Brand Manager, it was awesome, I learned so much in the company working together with people who are good at what they do, that experience changed my life and the way I look at things, and we also got to give a lot to the skateboard community in China.

Towards my 3rd year there the company started to change and the focus was more on digital which meant we were doing less events and cool shit for the community, that’s when I started hating to work in an office cause I was just stuck there, so I quit.

I thought to myself, maybe I still have a chance at this skateboarding thing, I can still do kickflips and grinds haha.

On my second day after quitting I went with a few friends to a university town in Shanghai, there were sooo many nice spots and a few teams have already been there, I saw a 11 stair and right after it there was a 6 stair, I for sure thought I could get a quick line for my friends video, I jumped down it a few times and it was good, I wanted to kickflip the 11 and then quickly do a frontside 180 to build up a special meter, on the next try I saw some students walking and it messed up my concentration and I ended up doing a half ass ollie and did the splits at the bottom of the stairs and sat on my knee… 

I couldn’t skate for a year and in my mind I didn’t think I’d ever be able to skate again, but I took it slow and did whatever I had to to get back on my skateboard.

Part 2 – Culture 

You have lived in Toronto and Shanghai, do you find any skateboard cultures that only exist in these two cities? 

I think it has a lot to do with the deeper history and resources of skateboarding in Toronto, but the skaters here really try harder to become better at skating and try to know and understand everything that’s going on in the skateboarding world.

Whereas in China, skateboarding hasn’t been around nearly as long and theres a huge language barrier, so they can’t read articles of their favorite pros or understand what they’re saying in an interview, all they can do is try their trick or look at what they wear.

But China has all the skate spots in the world, Toronto has shitty street spots and good skateparks, Shanghai has Good street spots and shitty skateparks… kinda weird haha.

China is a unique and cool place in many senses, from your experience, what’s really cool about skating in China?

I think that there are so many undiscovered skate spots and cities in China, every city I have been to has at least 1 amazing marble plaza with no security and perfect ground, even after living in Shanghai for over 10 years there are so many parts of the city I haven’t been to cause it’s so big and constantly changing.

Skateboard culture in Finland is so strong in recent years, you can see many kids around 10 years old in the skate parks here. Do you know any skaters here? 

Man, I feel like everywhere is getting so good at skating these days, there are way more resources now for kids to get good at whatever they want, the internet is such a powerful tool.

As for Finland skaters I personally know one, I actually met him in Shanghai and he was living and working there, legend Juhani Salo.

My first experience of a Finnish skater was at some random contest in ShenZhen, China, it was a young Jean Marc Soulet, I think he was Finnish, rode for Element and Es, the kid has mad tricks and dope style, kinda a dick tho… too cool hahaha.

(Editor: Jean Marc Soulet is Swedish, close enough haha!)

Part 3 – Doing things 

Many skaters browse your Instagram for skate spots when they travel to China, which are your top recommended spots? (your favorite 2 or 3 spots) (Photos: skate spots) 

Yea man I love that my Instagram spots are inviting people from around the world to visit China and skate, I started posting spots because I wanted my friends from Toronto to come and visit me, a few close friends actually did! Then they’d go back and tell stories and more would come.

Then I guess more people started seeing all the spots and eventually teams started asking me to tour-guide, its like a dream going to all the spots and watching the craziest shit happen, and it’s even better when the local kids get to watch them skate and greet them, I totally understand that feeling of saying hello to a pro and have them smile and say hello back, just something so simple will make that kid keep going.

Best skate spot in Shanghai — Penguin plaza.

Do you have some maps of skate spots?

I used to have photo albums of cities on my phone, each spot would have the geotag, but I recently fucked that phone up and lost it all… But I try to leave the geotag on my instagram posts for safety and convenience.

I love watching your skate videos a lot, as well as the Instagram stories of fishing, cooking, hanging out with other skaters. Have you thought about making a vlog type of skate video, I really can’t wait to see it! 

Nah, I don’t want to be a Vlogger, I think I’m still a bit old school for that, I love sharing information and knowledge, and I’ll do the vlog shit for media purposes, but I don’t know if I could do it on my own, I don’t have enough content for multiple episodes haha!

The skate shops in every city is a major part of its local skate culture. If some day you decide to open a skate shop, which city will it be? And what’s something special you will do to bring skaters from every corners of the city?

I’d like to open a skateshop in ChengDu, China. There’s good opportunity to help grow the skate scene there and crazy spots everywhere, they have a small skateshop there but its crazy… they make their team riders pay a sponsorship fee, like if you get sponsored by someone, they take a percent. That’s the most fucked up shit, they should help the skaters grow and find their path to success not leech out of their pockets.