Tony Castillo, 21, spends  his days cruising along Venice Beach


» “No one can help you learn to skate. If you want to learn, you have to do it yourself. And when you land a trick, the feeling you get—it’s the best.”

» Castillo grew up in Salem, Oregon. At 12 he saw a kid skate at school. “It got me hyped.” Soon after, he received his first board, a gift from his step-grandparents, and learned an “ollie,” which involves pressing the tail of the board down to make it launch into the air without the feet losing contact.

» Three years ago, at 18, Castillo visited Venice on vacation. He loved the weather, the palm trees, and the “good vibes.” A month later he returned to stay. His mom didn’t want him to go. “I was just, like, ‘Got to do me.’?”

» Castillo slept on friends’ couches before moving into a Venice Boulevard apartment with a roommate. Now he is crashing with friends again while he looks for his own digs.

» On a typical morning Castillo stretches, eats a light breakfast, and heads to the Venice Beach Skateboard Plaza. Later he and a few friends might go out to the streets and film each other skating. At day’s end he might get together with local skate legends Nate Principato and Greg Valencia and see where the night takes them. Castillo tries to get on his board every day. “If I don’t, I get a little stressed out or bummed.”

» His ride of choice is a wood model by Antihero, manufactured by the San Francisco-based company Deluxe Distribution. His boards get such intense use that he has to replace them every few days. At $40 each, he estimates he spends more than $4,000 a year on boards.

» In the 1970s, the Zephyr Skate Team—aka the Z-Boys—roamed the south Santa Monica neighborhood known as Dogtown. Their inventive techniques were immortalized in the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys.

» Castillo says he has received several tickets ranging from $200 to $400 for skating in restricted areas. He and his friends were once apprehended by the LAPD in an underground parking garage at UCLA. The group was handcuffed, photographed, given verbal warnings, and released.

» Skaters help maintain the skateboard plaza—a $3.4 million, 25,000-square-foot facility built last year at Windward Avenue and the beach—protecting it from taggers and cleaning it up during off-hours (it’s open from sunup to sundown).

» Once a guy picked a fight with Castillo, and he was knocked out and beat up by fellow riders. “In Venice, if you’re disrespectful for no reason, someone’s probably gonna lay you out. It’s a family out here. Everyone sticks together.”

» Castillo hasn’t broken any bones, but he has sprained his ankles and wrists several times. He doesn’t wear a helmet; he says it throws off his balance. Among his more difficult moves is the “360 flip,” or “tre flip,” in which the skater pops the board into the air and grabs it again after it spins 360 degrees.

» There are 16 skate parks in L.A., 11 of which were built in the past five years. The newest, the 20,000-square-foot Stoner Skate Plaza in West L.A., opened last month.

» Castillo wants to open an indoor skate park. “It’s everyone’s dream, but I want to make it my reality.” He’s not sure where the money would come from, but he’s reluctant to work for anyone. “I really just try to go with the flow. I don’t like planning ahead too much. I’m just really trying to focus on having fun and skating.”

Photograph by Dustin Snipes

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