25 Years of 303: David Reyes Interviews Sam Schuman

Sam 303 Thrasher 2000The fearless leader out front     Photo: Ted Menné Heron

pros like David Reyes, Windsor James and Angel Ramirez all popped out of Denver, despite having no connection to the coasts. The scene punched above its weight, garnering respect outside the Southwest, thanks in large part to 303 Boards. With 25 years in business under his belt, Sam Schuman has learned a few things about running a store, propping up the kids and the importance of putting out local vids. After a year of new releases, David Reyes calls up his old friend to talk shop.

From shop grom to professional heavyweight, David joins his fellow 303 teammates to elevate their glorious new full-length

Photos by Nate Rowland

First question: Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the border of Denver and Westminster, Colorado. I lived on 69th and Lowell, so kind of Northside. I was in a middle-class neighborhood. Definitely didn't grow up with a bunch of money, but I didn't grow up poor either.

So you're pretty close to the first shop?
Yeah, the first skateparks were in Arvada, Wheatridge and all those zones. We ended up opening the shop over there ‘cause that made the most sense at that point.

012 303 25 Years Thrasher david bs smithColorado's son David Reyes dips a back Smith down 14 

And when did you start skating?
I don't even know the year, but I was 15 years old. I started late.

So in the 1940s? Just kidding.
Yeah, I was pretty much a video-game nerd and straight-A student. I wasn't very socialized or anything growing up and then skateboarding opened up a whole new world—you make tons of friends, you get introduced to different ethnicities and cultures and stuff that you have no fucking clue about until that point. So I was a late bloomer. I didn't really come into myself until those years, because of skating.

002 303 25 Years Thrasher mike colon bluntMike Colon goes back blunt over the mini death

What was your local skateshop growing up and how did it make you feel?
We had a couple, and they were actually pretty cool. There was Shoreline and Wave Rave. Everything back then was like a surf/skateshop even though there was no surf stuff in it. Everything sounded like a surfshop. But there was this guy Adam; I believe he was at Shoreline and he was always super cool with us. We eventually had mall chains like BC Surf and Sport, but they would always vibe us out. They had a couple of cool kids in there and even though it was a mall store, you didn't really feel welcome. That was a big reason for me to start a skateshop—I wanted to embrace the culture and the people that came in. If a kid like me, that starts late and doesn't know anything, can come in and feel welcome and feel like he's gonna learn and become part of this bigger family, that’s what I wanted.

023 303 25 Years Thrasher trevor 3flipOne of Denver's rising stars, Trevor Theriault hops blocks with a lofty tré

That's right. Yeah, that was my next question: What made you want to start the shop?
It was me and Joe Gordon—rest in peace. We just wanted that. We both skated and it didn't feel like we belonged to any certain skateshop or culture. It seemed like there were only 15 skateboarders in Colorado at the time, so it wasn't the best business idea. But we didn't really think of it like that. We were thinking of it as a place to just cultivate all of these things. The first shops had a mini ramp in the back. We moved around Arvada a little bit. We had video games in there. We had pinball and there were always people just chillin’, watching videos. It's not quite like that these days, but it's stil a hub. With the Internet and Instagram, it's a little different, but people still want to come and talk about it.

303 Pullquote It never is, in skateboarding, about the money
The new shop definitely has the clubhouse feel—the Annex.
Yeah, it definitely is like an homage to the beginning, but now more elevated. We have a venue, a bar and a little skate course, plus a shop inside there. It goes back to the roots and helps remind us why we do all this stuff. Because in skateboarding, it never really is about money. You have to handle business, but it's always been about doing it because you love it.

017 303 25 Years Thrasher eli dump truck Elijah Riley admires the public art with a pull in on their Chicago trip  

What's something you can share with us to inspire other start-up shop owners?
I think the biggest thing is just to go in it with that mind frame—that you're not going to get rich off this. Every once in a while, someone does. But it's more about that you want a job you can love while you’re cultivating and trying to do cool things for the scene—events, videos, good content and other good things that keep kids skating. That's really what it's all about.

Definitely. And it's not just for the shop, either—you're doing more for the community as well.
Yeah, exactly. We do a lot of charity events. We give and donate a lot of completes. We've donated a couple-hundred completes this year to all these skate programs. Once again, we're not doing it because we're rich and we get a bunch of write-offs, we're just doing it because we're gonna do it regardless.

Thrasher Cover November2008 David ReyesLest we forget, David made it to the front with a kickflip wallride on our November 2008 issue 

303 Pullquote 1 Edit 2000
I was an at-risk youth and I found a home filled with love at the shop. I always felt I wasn't special and I was missing something. I found that at 303 the day I walked in—a place of acceptance, a place I could call home. I'm not the only one y'all have taken under your wings. How do you know which kids could use that extra little boost of encouragement and love?
Yeah, the minute you start talking to a kid, if not instantly, then within weeks, you pretty much know the kids that are going to be skateboarders—maybe not for life, but for a long time. They have the right mindset. You want to help them as much as you can, which gets challenging, because it is a business. We always gave used stuff out to kids and did what we could to get kids rolling, but then eventually we see the kids like you that have potential and you want to really help them. Maybe you start trying to give them some boards here and there, or maybe there’s some work they can do for a board. We don’t really need you to do that work, per se. It's just like, Do something for this besides just being a good skateboarder. Nowadays, I think it's a little different. With Windsor, we just saw potential. You could see he was good and he had the motivation. We were like, We got to get this kid and if we start hooking him up and taking him out, he's probably going to do some stuff. And he did—same with you, same with Angel Ramirez. I think we all need each other to do great things. We're not as strong solo.

011 303 25 Years Thrasher gage rubio ollie 2Already a mile high with a few extra feet for good measure, Gage Rubio hops the fence 

That was the other thing 303 taught me, was that if you worked hard, you would be compensated in a sense. A lot of kids don't have any parental guidance. When you go into a skateshop and you help throw the trash out, you feel like you have a place. It feels like, Alright, I'm contributing to something that I do love and this is teaching me responsibilities to keep my zone clean. And then at the end of the day, you get to go skate.
Exactly. And if you're being rewarded, you get in the van, you get tricks and maybe you get more boards. The shop tries to get you a shoe sponsor or a clothing sponsor. Next thing you know, you're getting product and getting everything you need for skating because you love it and you're working for it.

The local skateshop is so important, not only to get companies' products in there, but without a shop, there isn’t as strong of a skate community. You can obviously sell straight to consumers. At the end of the day, a skateshop is the skateboard world’s community hub. It is our economic center, in a sense.
Yeah, exactly. The video premiere the other night was proof—we had probably 400 people show up in that spot to come see the video. The amount of messages we've gotten this week and the amount of response, it just shows that people want to be part of this bigger thing. Everyone's proud and everyone's happy. Everyone loves to see their friends, peers or someone step it up and do something good.

005 303 25 Years Thrasher micheal mattlock nosebluntIn the streets and the 'crete, Michael Matlock pushes a picture-perfect backside NBS

I remember going to Who Cares and I had a trick in the friends section. And that just motivated me so much to want to be a part of the whole video next time around. Do you think kids felt like that during this video?
Oh, for sure. They're going, I definitely need to step it up and film a part of my own or do more. Everyone loves that feeling of seeing yourself on the big screen or in front of your peers.

Every time I've walked into the shop, everyone's just hyped up and seems to know the ins and outs of skating. It makes you feel like they’re pros.
Yeah, you have to either know your product really well or skateboarding—or both. That’s at least part of it or you're not gonna want to be there.

003 303 25 Years Thrasher tj macconchie switch ollieBarely a bump, but TJ Macconchie still clears the bar switch 

How many videos has 303 made?
There's a lot of them. We're uploading a lot of stuff to YouTube and trying to work on a docu-series for next year just to bring awareness to all the old stuff. I know not everyone's gonna care to go watch a whole old video, but there's a lot of people that do.

That's how I found all the spots that I've skated.
We go back to the early days and there's Chris Haven, De, Jehr, Davie and more.

Yeah, the Tetrahedrons.
All those guys were a big part of the first videos, and they all still skate. This is 25 years ago. Then you go into Spencer R and his whole crew. All the Semantic Blockage kids, they all rode for a shop called Boardroom before us. Then they moved on to do their thing with us, because we were cultivating and doing things that they wanted to be a part of. I'm gonna miss stuff in here, but you go into the era that really started doing great things. Ryan Millard is a big part of getting everyone out—Mark Spencer and Ryan Millard. That's when people really started becoming aware of Colorado and 303. A lot of people like you, Angel, Windsor, The Twins and all the people from back in the day started to actually get sponsors. Where people like Tetrahedron guys, D, Chris and even Eric Shelley didn't really get any kind of love because it was too early. But then you guys all started getting sponsors, companies actually flowed you stuff and took some of you on the road. Some of you guys went pro! It was great to see Angel go pro. He was out on all these Vans trips and everything else he was doing. And then you, obviously. Early on, we saw Windsor becoming something big. Even seeing The Frederickson Twins in one of the Toy Machine videos was big.

021 303 25 Years Thrasher micheal mattlock smith grindMichael locks in on a front Smith

Yeah, in Suffer the Joy they had a part in the Easter egg. So did Jared Stoots; we had the Kansas City connection, Robin Harper.
We were all friends with The Escapist people and Malto and all them. Then all the Wet Boys stuff, which was Micah Hollinger, Aaron Wheat, Jerrod Saba and more names I can't think right now. Gordie Cousino was a big one and he actually got noticed for a minute. Then we went on to Travis La, who was a big thing back then. Then Travis went on to film Land Race, one of our videos. He filmed and edited that, which was good because it was kind of a time when we weren't really on the video thing. We didn't have filmers; didn't have anything we could get done. We've gone through a lot of filmers obviously.

Yeah, the other cool thing was Mike Gilbert, when he was there. Just the dudes that laid the foundation to be able to get sponsored were important, like Mark Spencer and Ryan Millard—the old videos, Divided, Semantic Blockage, Consider the Odds. All those videos were literally getting Colorado recognition and on the map, and at that time when you had to wait years to see a video.
Yeah, one of the first ones we saw go viral, like bigger in Japan, Europe and everything was Let the Good Times Roll. With that one, all of a sudden we're like, Holy shit, you can really reach people with these. Because back then you didn't get to reach people. It wasn't as easy as it is with Instagram. And there wasn't the Thrasher site to its extent at that point. Back then we saw that the video was getting bought like crazy in Japan, Europe and all over the place. So, I think Let the Good Times Roll was the one that really put us on a bigger scale on the map in Colorado.

019 303 25 Years Thrasher kyle eggen switch ollieDouble stack attack, Kyle Eggen soars a switch O 

Yep. Bucky O'Connell. That was our squad.
Those were great videos. Queen City was another one that came out after Let the Good Times Roll that was super good. Debo made that one. We're trying to find it right now to upload it on YouTube. It's hard to find a copy.

Maybe Debo has the raw file.
Then you go on to like Mike Marks. He is one of the best skateboarders in that era. He's still one of the best, just living the family life now.

013 303 25 Years Thrasher micheal matlock bs 5050Michael Matlock holds on and takes the backside grind for a walk 

I feel like everyone's kind of lost touch with the importance of making shop videos. How do you think that impacts the community?
We saw it the other night with all the kids. They're all seeing that and they want to be part of it because they see not just a skateboarding part, but they see a family of skateboarders hanging out in the van and going out and filming. You realize you can have your crew and do something bigger than you could with your own solo part.

You're helping not only yourself by representing yourself in the skate video, but you're also helping facilitate each other by complementing each other's parts. For instance, someone like Trevor Theriault opens the part with something technical and then you have Alex Gould with a different approach. The video just becomes well-rounded.
Yeah, everyone skates differently, but they're all still a crew, getting stuff done together. It just makes it better.

024 303 25 Years Thrasher trevor kickfipTrevor sends a kickflip from the shipping center  

And everyone gets to say these guys are pro level, and that's a good feeling. Each person's clips elevate and complement the others, even just the tricks in the team montage. That makes you feel good, 'cause you are putting a lot of work into it. And obviously you do hope something would happen with skating at some point. So it's nice for your progression to be acknowledged.
Well, and it's thankful to Thrasher that they're helping curate these things these days, because that's given our stuff and your guys' videos more eyes.

And that's the other thing—303 has always made the best videos.
Yeah. Growing up, Tony Mellick and the Denver Shop were a good thing for us too, because they would make good videos also. It was a good back and forth where they put out a video and then we'd all kind of have to step it up and put out another video. Healthy competition is good like that.

009 303 25 Years Thrasher jaz drop 5050Scottsdale is known for beautiful winters, spring-training games and people losing their minds in public. You decide what Jaz Astudillo came here for, drop to 50-50  

Yeah, because it's bringing business to both shops. It's also building recognition around the up-and-coming kids in the Colorado skate scene. Yeah, it's definitely important to do things for your local shop, and to keep making local videos and pushing the limit for the community. I feel like we did a good job doing Gold Star. Coburn Huff obviously did an amazing job.
We've also been going out and doing these road trip edits, which is awesome. It was our 25-year anniversary so we wanted to do one every quarter this year. We only got through three of them, and then focused on this video Gold Star for the fourth thing. Our goal next year is to keep doing one a quarter as a crew. Of course, it costs money and it's expensive, but it's worth it. We're getting all of our new kids out and they're seeing the world. A lot of these kids have never been out of the state until they go on the road trips. Some of them never would have gone to Chicago or to Phoenix or LA.

The new crew stayed in the heart of Chicago and came back with a killer edit

For sure. We got to get some more endorsements to sponsor those trips.
Yeah. Let's find those please.

And companies will fly you and Chris and whoever else out for an adidas party, Vans event or with Sole Tech.
Which is awesome. Me going on a lot of those trips with shoe brands kind of sparked me into going, I want to take our team and our kids out on these things, because they need to see this and I can't skate like them. I'm going to all these spots and I'm like, Damn, I know these kids can do stuff here. On that note, we should probably talk about the new kids. I mean, Alex Gould, you already mentioned, he's one of the best right now. Michael Matlock's coming up. We just did a Thunder truck and he's filming a part for that. That'll be a spring thing. There’s Spencer Semien, who's obviously pro for Powell now. He moved out to California, but he's a Colorado dude. Trevor is one of the best, period. Yeah, he really needs to go somewhere. A good example is Julian Christiansen. He wins a lot of contests and he's an amazing skateboarder, but never really got his place. If you stay in Colorado, sometimes you don't get the sponsors. That's how I think of Trevor—he's at the point now where I feel like someone has to get him and do something with him, because he's one of the best, honestly.

016 303 25 Years Thrasher eli 5050Eli's stepping up by going flat down in Chi-Town 

He really is. And I feel like he stepped it up a notch too.
Yeah. And then there's little Elijah Riley and Jarod Penny. These are kids I love getting in the van. Every time we get to a spot, they'll go for it—same thing with Kyle Eggen. You got Jaz. I'm sure everyone knows Jaz by now from partying or killing it on a skateboard. I think having everyone together also just helps them all push each other on these road trips, and hopefully for video projects going forward.

007 303 25 Years Thrasher jaz nosegrind 180You can't keep Jaz off the sketchy out ledges, frontside nosegrind  

Would you agree that skateboarding teaches you how to deal with the real world?
Yeah, for sure.

You definitely have to know how to use what you learned through skateboarding and apply it to real life. It's a nonstop conveyor belt of failing and success, failing and success. It definitely teaches you how to not give up. I think that is very special. I learned that at 303.
Yep, exactly.

022 303 25 Years Thrasher mike colon backside flipMike Colon uses the time-tested cruiser and the kicker method to backside flip a planter

Anyone that spent time at their local shop will feel that.
Another thing about getting all these people in the shop together, in the van or at these events together, is you get a lot of people that wouldn't necessarily always hang out. And now they are, which is good, because skateboarding can be cliquey. There can be little different groups and things like that. But when they all get together, usually they're like, Oh, we all are kind of the same. You know, not everyone's gonna get along all the time, but I think when you get everyone in the same van, or same room, you realize, We are all skateboarders and most of us want to be friends with each other.

Yeah. We're all the same and we love it. I think it's such a beautiful thing. And like I said, without the skateshop, without 303, without Escapist, without any of the local establishments, I wouldn't have any of my friends. I've met everyone through 303.
Yeah, exactly. It's definitely the same for me. I've met so many people, I can't even count.

001 303 25 Years Thrasher micheal mattlock heelflipStretchin' his legs, Michael makes moves in LA, too—heelflip

Yeah, well, you don't know how to count. That's why Bob's there.
My brother doing accounting.

Should mention companies working with skateshops?
I think it's vital for companies to keep working with skateshops. And not just that, but realizing they should make a definite effort to try to sponsor or at least hook up some of these kids, because sometimes they're kind of falling away. The local kid needs product if they’re trying to do something with skating. I feel like a lot of times now, that's a lot harder. Which seems like it should be easier these days. Maybe it's because we're in Colorado. I'm not sure.

Yeah. California is so oversaturated that it's easy to find new kids here.
Or get the chance to be face to face with them and talk to them. It's a little different. But with Instagram, you can see when a kid has talent. If a shop is saying a kid has talent, you should probably try to do something for them—even if it's on a lower level. But it can be like pulling teeth just to get them their flow shoes sometimes. We do what we can to support and get kids on the team with whatever they need to keep skating, but it can get costly as a shop. I don't know if any companies have money either, but I feel like they have a little more than we do, maybe.

303 Pullquotes You Still Have Be In The Streets 2000
014 303 25 Years Thrasher jude pullol nosegrind Do the soles match the stucco? That's not a saying, but Jude Pullol's do. Color-coordinated front nosegrind

303 always reaches out to the reps and would talk to them about the new guys. You'd get on rep flow, then you got your rep giving you a couple pairs of shoes a month. Obviously, you start to progress and they started to take you a little more seriously and you can get in-house flow. Is it still like that?
It still is, but it seems harder to get in-house flow from Colorado. It's even hard to get rep flow sometimes. I feel like companies will hopefully figure that out as they go. Because you got to keep your ear to the streets and you got to keep all this direct to consumer and everything going on. But you have to remember that you still have to be in the streets. I don't know how to word that. But that's skateshops—ear to the streets, like we're there. We see what's going on. We're right on the ground level, face to face with all the customers in a way these companies aren't really.

Without the shops, we’d be fucked. What are your biggest inspirations now?
The biggest thing I could thank is, honestly, just everybody that's helped the shop or supported the shop—customer-wise, employee-wise, partner-wise, team-wise, company-wise. We all need each other. So pretty much thank you to anyone that's been a part at any time. I want to thank Thrasher for just letting us get our voice out there on a bigger scale, because it's actually really amazing to see it.

015 303 25 Years Thrasher kyle eggen kickflipBack on the stacks, Kyle tosses a big kickflip for Colfax

For sure. I tried to not butcher this. I have to remember that I'm the interviewer and not the interviewee. But I've been 303 for damn near 20 years. So I've seen the changes. I've seen the kids that have come and go, and every single time, you've always been supportive of all of them equally and you've always tried to help them facilitate whatever it is they're trying to do. And I just want to thank you because you hold it down so hard and you continually impress me.
Yeah, I appreciate that. It's a lot, but I've chosen it at this point. This is my life.

Yeah, you hold it down. Helping all the kids that skate, the Colorado community, all that stuff—it ain't easy.
I want to thank you as well.

Before you see 'em all around the US this year, make sure you watch how they handled their fellow Southwest city. Thanks for a quarter-century in the game, 303! Here's to hitting that 50th
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