Steve Caballero began skating in 1976 at the age of 12. He turned pro for Powell Peralta in 1980 and still rides for them today. An original member of the Bones Brigade and the inventor of the Caballerial, Cab has given so much to skateboarding. A man of many talents and hobbies…we catch up with Steve Caballero.
OGRT: You mentioned in other interviews how Shogo Kubo, Eddie Elgurra, and Stacy Peralta were huge influences for you growing up. How have you taken their guidance and used it over time?
SC: Well, the only guidance I’ve taken of those skaters I mentioned, was pretty much Stacy Peralta because he took me under his wing as an amateur skateboarder growing up and put me on the Bones Brigade. And, he was someone that I related to because I would hang out with him a lot. Following his career, I knew he was a pretty solid dude and very professional. He’s famous in the skateboard world, so I spent a lot of time with him and learned a lot of wisdom when it comes to the industry and competition and how to prepare for things and so he definitely was a good mentor. As far as Eddie Elgurra goes, I just was influenced by his skating and what I saw in the magazines. I knew that he was the best skateboarder at that time in the late ’70s. So to be as good as the best skateboarder, I had to do the same tricks that he was doing. So there were a lot of innovative tricks that he would do frequently. I was always looking forward to the new tricks that he was inventing. My only access to seeing what he was doing was through magazines, as there’s no such thing as video yet. So, I would study the sequences of all of Eddie Elgurra’s tricks and try to learn them all. By doing that, I was able to become one of the best amateur skateboarders in the circuit, which in turn, led me to turn pro in 1980.
OGRT: Do you use this to influence people today or do you have your own approach?
SC: I’ve always pretty much had my own approach. I remember when I was 15, Stacey noticed the way I approached things and he kind of mentioned that I had a kind of Zen-type of lifestyle where I just kind of went with the flow of everything and didn’t really fight things too much. I just kind of put myself in situations and never really complained about where I was and what we were doing and just tried to go with the flow. Just accept the things in front of you, rather than try to fight them and go around them. All through life, I’ve learned a lot of things through skateboarding. Just being a skateboarder, how much hard work it is, how much focus and determination and passion, you have to put into things. It’s really helped me with other activities and creative outlets to help me to be successful using that same mentality and positive mental attitude. Just knowing that nothing in life comes easy and everything that we do in life takes a lot of hard work and pressure, frustration, and putting yourself in vulnerable situations where you’re uncomfortable. You’re dealing with anxiety and stress and need to overcome those boundaries and those fears. Once you put yourself in that arena and are able to fight through it, you come out winning on the other side. You allow yourself to overcome the fear and being uncomfortable. So, I kind of like to spread a lot of wisdom and knowledge. I don’t know if you read my Instagram or not, but I do some things that are very motivational for me and what I believe in, and then I share it with the world and how I view it. And some people agree and some people don’t, it depends on who you’re talking to. It really depends on if a person trusts you, then they’ll listen to your advice. But I’m definitely out there trying to help people see life like I do because my track record shows that I have been successful. So at least I can say I know what I’m doing kind of.
I think your Instagram and all of your social media is great. I think it’s amazing that you interact with people on your pages. I think that’s huge.
SC: It’s important to me to let people know that I’m giving each person attention and the time of day. In all honesty, Instagram, Facebook, all the social media outlets are just people craving attention. It’s huge if someone takes the time to comment and give me a compliment. I want to let them know by liking their comment that I saw it. A lot of people will be like, I don’t even know if he sees my stuff, so why would I even comment, right? So, I try my best to be as social as I can on social media and interact when I can answer. The only thing that bugs me is when people ask questions without even reading the post. When the answers are already in the post, it kind of gets annoying and it’s a test of my patience. I’m not a perfect man, I do get angry. I try to be as loving and empathetic as I can towards the knuckleheads.
OGRT: It’s so rad to see Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Christian Hosoi, and so many more still ripping. What have these long friendships meant to you?
SC: They mean a lot because I feel that life’s all about relationships, and being able to maintain them. Over the years, we’re not the same people that we were five years ago, 10 years ago and a lot of people change. People change for the better, some people change for the worse. I kind of like to try to surround myself with people that are going to encourage and inspire me and build me up rather than draining and causing more stress than I need. I’ve happened to pick good friends that I’m able to keep long-lasting relationships with within the skateboarding community, but also within every other community that I’m associated with. Whether it’s art, music, hot rods, motorcycles, dirt bikes, snowboarding, and now mountain biking. I just think I have a pretty good judge of character. Just being alive for 56 years, I kind of can see-through people. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t trust people, I give them the benefit of the doubt. If someone steered me wrong, then I just stay away from that person. I don’t really need that person in my life. But the friendships that I have built have been amazing, and it is really cool to hang out with McGill, because I’ve known him since I was 14 years old. We’re both 56 years old and I spend a lot of time with him.
OGRT: My really old friendships mean the world to me, I have a friend that I’ve been friends with since the third grade. Every time I talk to him, it fills your soul. You know what I mean?
SC: Yeah, it’s great. I have bandmates that I was in bands with before that even if I don’t talk to them for a lot of years, the next time I see them it’s like we don’t miss a beat. Especially like all the guys in the Faction, we did a lot of playing together and wrote music together, recording albums, going on tours. So we’ve had the relationships, you know, pretty special. Being in a band is a pretty intense relationship in itself, you’re dealing with like four or five different egos and personalities. It’s hard maintaining a similar relationship in itself, let alone four or five other people.
OGRT: You are a man of many talents and hobbies: art, motorcycling riding, mountain biking, music, skateboarding obviously…how do you find the time to have so many interests?
SC: I definitely just juggle it around. I plan my day depending on what discipline I want to put all my thought and effort into. So sometimes I do two in one day, but I just love being multifaceted. Even once again, the relationship, the connections, and a lot of them kind of blend in together. A lot of people who are mountain biking rode a skateboard before. A lot of people who are into music used to skateboard before, so skateboarding touched a lot of people’s lives. That’s kind of like the basis of that. They just kind of all blend together because there are other people who are like-minded that have a lot of interest as well. So it’s just really cool. The companies that I ride for, like Vans and Fox racing, they cross over to different sports.
OGRT: You’ve had some brutal injuries in the last few years. Did you ever consider hanging it up as far as action sports are concerned?
SC: No, not necessarily. I mean, there was one point that I did want to give up on street skating at the level I was doing back in 2000, which was 21 years ago, at 35 years old. I was really heavy into street and trying to hit these gnarly rails and I ate it on three gnarly ones in filming for a video “The class of 2000”. At that point, I just didn’t want to take it anymore. I felt like there wasn’t anything I needed to prove to people. I’ve accomplished a lot in skateboarding as far as vertical skating and I was trying to just make a mark in street skating. At the level that I was doing it at, I put myself at a lot of risk. When that goes bad, it goes bad. Sometimes there’s a point where you’re just like I don’t feel like doing this anymore. Because I know that if I film another thing that it’s got to be gnarlier than the next thing. I’d given up on motocross years ago, I started riding in 2000, pretty much after I stopped street skating and rode for five years. Then I kind of hung it up for six and didn’t ride anymore. Then I got another bike in 2011 and I started putting work into that and fell in love with it again. The more and more I did it, the more and more it started becoming a part of me and I started to understand motorcycles a little bit more on the dirt, and it sort of felt like skateboarding. So for me now, at the point that I’m at in motocross after coming back from those two gnarly injuries, a broken femur and a broken ankle, I feel like I’m at the top of my game right now riding the dirt bike, and I feel the most confident. It all comes down to my passion for it and my will to succeed and to show people that even though you have a hang-up or something, that kind of keeps you from progressing to that next level that you can overcome that and still succeed. Sometimes people have a little hiccup in wanting to be really good at something. Then you can just move past that. Some people can’t get through the mental stages of that or the physical but I feel like if you have a lot of passion and drive, you can do anything.
OGRT: My son had a moto injury a few months back and he is super active like you. He was in a bed or wheelchair for 3 months and about lost his mind. How did you keep your sanity and pass the time with yours?
SC: I was in a walker for a while and I was on crutches and it definitely was difficult to move around. The way I kept busy was my other creative outlet, which is art. So I did a lot of artwork in that time and I got to really focus on life and what’s important. I really felt like skateboarding was super important to me and that I wanted to get back to it. I just focused on healing, I focused on eating well and I focused on exercise. I just didn’t sit around and let the injury try to heal itself. I put the work into trying to bounce back, so that took up a lot of time. Even though I was down and out, I was still working hard mentally and physically to come back. I felt like I did a pretty good job because I was back on my dirt bike four months after I broke my femur. Then, five months after that, I broke my ankle. So it was a little setback there and it kind of did a number on me mentally with skating. I’m definitely not back to where I want to be on vert in skating, but I feel like the more work I put into that, I’ll get there. I’ve been focusing a lot on riding dirt bikes and mountain biking, I’m starting to progress at riding mountain bikes, which I never had been at that level before. It’s just been a new excitement in my life.
OGRT: It’s pretty awesome to see the videos of you out riding with Don Szabo.
SC: Yeah, he’s super energized, he’s positive. He definitely motivates you to get out there and peddle. He’s always calling me now and saying, “Hey when we’re going to ride next?”. Definitely, a good person to be around if you want to be inspired and encouraged to be a better rider. I’ve learned a lot by just watching him ride and getting towed into certain jumps and making sure you have the right speed. But a lot of it with mountain bikers, it’s just overcoming the fear of getting hurt and trying to make the right line choice. The mountain bike is really helping me ride dirt bikes too because it really teaches me to look forward, look ahead and plan out your ride. So, yeah, it’s just kind of a new thing that’s been exciting. Now I’ve been hooking up with different manufacturers and companies that support me, like YT, Yoshimura pedals, 100% Goggles, and helmets and gear. Hopefully, we can try to get Vans on board to try to make a mountain bike shoe, which would be pretty cool. But it’s just one discipline I haven’t really tapped into, I’m enjoying it. Like I said, I’m associated with really great companies that want to support me, so I want to try to give back and help them sell products.
OGRT: Do you do anything differently now or do anything for injury prevention?
SC: I definitely make better-calculated risks, riding at your own pace and not pushing it too much. Making baby steps to get to where you want to be I think will help make fewer injuries and make less mistakes. But everything that I do is challenging, not only physically but mentally. So, just getting your mind in the right mindset and being very positive. I just try to use that across the board when it comes to riding bikes or motocross or skating I try to use that energy and that courageous attitude to do things that people second guess and just believe in myself. I make sure I’m still able to grow in all those areas.
OGRT: Is there a day Steve Caballero doesn’t skateboard anymore?
SC: I don’t know, I have not thought about that. That’s probably the day that I can’t skateboard physically anymore, mentally I’d probably want to do it. But if my body’s saying it’s really tough and I don’t want to go through the pain and suffering of another day trying to skate. But right now I don’t have any thoughts about quitting. Because first and foremost, it’s been my passion, it’s been my career my whole life. That’s what honestly pays the bills. If I can still do what I am doing for years to come, I feel like it’s still encouraging generations to understand what they’re capable of, and teach people that age is just a number. It’s the way you feel, you don’t have to stop because you get to a certain age. You can continue doing this if you have a great mindset. Don’t let fear overcome your ability to enjoy something to explore.
OGRT: That’s a great mentality!
SC: It can get me into trouble sometimes! But like I said, I’m willing to take that chance because the things that I love, there’s a risk factor to it, and that’s what makes them cool. If it wasn’t dangerous, or thrill-seeking then it wouldn’t be as cool as it is, not every person has that same mindset. It kind of separates people initially in the individual. Courage really helps you explore your full potential. Not letting fear and anxiety rob of the joys of life.
OGRT: I see a lot of videos of you out skateboarding, moto riding, etc with your kids. How awesome is it to share these passions with your kids?
SC: It’s been great, I try to pass down everything that I know to them. I’ve been trying to influence them in all things, encourage them and inspire them with all the different talents and skills I have. Obviously, it’s every parent’s dream for their kid to follow in their footsteps and to try to guide them and everything, but to each their own. They’re their own person, and I’m not the type of parent that’s going to push all these things on them. But I do try to inspire them by the things I do. I just kind of put it out there for them and give them the opportunity to shine. I let them take it from there. If it’s something that they’re not interested in, then I try to find out what they’re into and help them along the way to accomplish their goals that they set for themselves. I’m here to help them, guide them along the way, and to teach them to make good choices. I think a lot of people don’t have a father figure or mother figure or someone that they can look up to and give them good choices and good wisdom to follow. They have to learn it on their own. I don’t want my kids to do that. I’d rather try to teach them what I’ve already gone through so they don’t have to go through it themselves.
OGRT: Skateboarding has really embraced the “Legends”; what has that been like?
SC: It’s been great. I feel honored and blessed to even be in this industry. It’s really exciting when little kids come up to me and they know who I am. Because maybe someone had mentioned my name or I’m still doing my job correctly, that I’m out in the public eye, making a difference in being exposed to them. It’s pretty amazing to have a career this long and good people to have followed all these years. Watching all the videos, looking at all the magazines, back in the day, and remembering times, exciting times that excited them, and it’s really cool to meet all these people years down the road and to know that I influenced them in some positive way. To know I got them stoked as a kid, these older people, they kind of relive their childhood when they meet or see their childhood heroes and are able to be in contact or get excited that you gave that memory.
OGRT: What do you hope to be remembered for?
SC: I’d like to be remembered as a person that succeeded in anything I put my mind to. I also want to be remembered that I was a man of faith. I follow God and that the wisdom that I learned from that helped shape me and helped me become a better person. Not so much talent-wise, but a more loving, caring, and understanding person. I want people to remember me in the sense that God changed my life for the better, and not the worse.