Miles Silvas: The Thrasher Interview
When I met Miles, he was a smiley 14-year-old kid with a mouth full of braces. Despite being two feet shorter than the guys in his crew, somehow he was twice as good. He was humble and hungry to soak up game from everyone around him, but also unafraid to playfully tease the old heads while hyping up a session. Thirteen years later, Miles is the same skateboarder, only wiser, taller and more tattooed. He’s still all smiles, talking shit and having fun when he’s on his board, yet he’s the embodiment of a professional. And unlike so many other talented phenoms we’ve watched come and go in this strange industry, he has not wandered into other, some might say, easier pursuits. He’s not influencing; he’s not training for contests; he’s not entrepreneuring. Miles is in the streets doing the hard shit—pushing himself to his limits while giving us groundbreaking video parts. I sat down with him to look back on his career thus far, discuss his recent move to SF and find out what’s keeping him motivated.
Miles cements his name in the books on a host of famed SF spots, from Cardiel Ledge to the top of Mason Street
The rail is perfect but the landing leaves no room for error. Precise 5-0 down the street from High Speed
I’ve known you since you were 14 and you’ve always handled yourself extremely professionally with respect to filming tricks. You know what you want to do, when you want to do it and you make it happen. Do you feel emotionally let down when clips don’t work out, or is it just another day at the office?
I definitely like to really prep for tricks, so if it doesn’t work out the way you expect it to, then yeah, that’s a little bit of a bummer. But I don’t get too hung up on it. Most of the time I just tell myself, I already got super close the last time. I just went through the whole process of pretty much doing the trick without doing it, so I just have to come back another time and make it happen. It’s definitely been more of a thing recently since I’ve been out here in San Francisco. The spots are tricky and rough and I’ve definitely had to come back to spots multiple times. So I’ve been dealing with that a lot recently, for sure. I definitely have a handful of tricks where I’ve been hung up on them where I’m just watching the tries, over and over, and just analyzing every little thing.
And then on the flip side, there’s the insane high that comes from landing big-goal tricks. It was only a couple of weeks ago that you got the front crook on the Mason rail and took the hill. How long does the high from a trick like that last?
I definitely like to enjoy the moment of feeling a trick. I feel like sometimes I’ll think, Alright, I did something; just keep pushing it. But other times it’ll last a couple of days, for sure. Sometimes I’ll do a trick like that and not even touch the board for, like, two days—just totally maxed out and just reset it. And then I’ll get to the point where I’m ready to run up the next mission. But the high definitely lasts a while, for sure.
Front crook the rail then straight down the slope and onto our November, 2023 cover
An ode to Frank Gerwer, who front boarded this rail at the top of Mason Street 20 years ago. Yes, Miles did this front crook twice
What was it like taking the hill for that trick? That’s another level of trying a trick. You land it, but then there’s the whole other part—surviving the hill.
That is definitely the scariest trick I’ve ever done on a skateboard, even though it’s just a front crook on a rail. The rail itself is a pretty healthy-sized rail. It’s tall, mellow and long and then obviously you have the hill. So that’s playing in as a factor when you’re trying to hop on the rail. I went maybe two other times before. The make was the third time I tried the trick. I’ve never tried to front crook a rail more than one trip there, so that was definitely messing with my mental. I’m saying to myself, What am I doing? I can’t even catch a pinch. I’m doing this trick, but it feels like I don’t even know how to front crook. But I think I was just so focused on the hill because that was the scariest part for me. That was just messing everything else up. The last time we went the weather was the best. It was super sunny and I just told myself, Fuck it, I’m just doing the hill today. And the scariest part is that the hill is so steep and you can only take the sidewalk and it’s all serrated so you can’t really powerslide. I had a couple of ones where I was warming up just doing a 50-50 and I went to powerslide and just got tossed. But yeah, just taking the hill and going that fast was definitely out of my comfort zone. I’ve never gone that fast on a skateboard. I did one powerslide at the top and I just thought, I’m not risking it. I was tripping. I was on a different type of high after that trick than any other trick, for sure. It was definitely the gnarliest hill I’ve ever bombed, for sure, so that was a different feeling on a skateboard than what I’m used to.
I can’t wait to see the footage. Do you have any superstitions when it comes to going for big tricks?
I like to have all my stuff set up the night before. I’ll have my board set up, new grip, all the stuff I like. It depends on the trick, but if it’s a big trick I like to wake up real early, get a good stretch in, get my breakfast in real early. I like to prepare—get my gear ready, almost like it’s the first day of school; lay that shit out. I don’t want to be worrying about anything. During the session, I like to have my speaker. I have to have music. I hate when it’s quiet, especially if you’re the only person skating and it’s just crickets over there. I can’t be doing that.
Kickflip at a never-before-skated house spot in Oakland. Ask for forgiveness, not permission
But you’re not like Ryan Gallant with his kickflips? I remember him saying that if he missed his first kickflip of the day, he just wouldn’t skate that day.
No, I’ve had days where I’ve missed the first kickflip, or just recently the first ten minutes of flatground was just horrible and I thought, Well, I might have to chill today. But then I shook that off and made it work. Felipe Gustavo is like that. He’ll literally set up a brand new board and then hop on it, miss a nollie flip and then change the board. I’ve seen him come down from the hotel room, skate flat, miss a nollie flip and then say, Nope, go back up to the hotel room and change the board. So funny.
So tell me about your move to SF. How has it been different skating The City as a resident versus driving from Sacramento?
We moved out here last November, so we’re coming up on about eight months and it’s been great. I never even thought about moving to SF for some reason. I always thought if I moved out of Sac I would probably go to LA or somewhere farther than a two-hour drive. And then randomly out of the blue Jessica said, Oh, if we were to move somewhere, I’d be down to move to Berkeley or SF. And I thought, Well, that could be a good idea. Poobert is here and I’ve been wanting to film some adidas stuff. I was at a point where I needed a scenery swap and just some new energy. I’d been in Sacramento for so long and I’ll always love Sacramento, but there’s not too much to skate during the week besides the skatepark. You gotta be a weekend warrior out there, or just mission to The Bay, do weekend trips to LA or go on trips. So just to move out here and have so many new spots to skate every single day, it’s been really cool. Just a different change of pace. I love it a lot.
Tell me about the crew. How’s it been with Jonathan Perez?
Yeah, that’s pretty much been my squad—Jon Perez, Poobert and Brendan Bill. Jon stays one exit up the freeway from me and then I just swoop him every day if we go skate. We skate with Justin and Brendan; it’s been a fun little squad. Jon’s always on the mission, getting super gnarly. He’s from San Francisco, so just seeing the way he skates spots and skates hills, it’s definitely cool to be with someone like that. He knows how to maneuver the spots, because skating a hill spot is totally different than what I’m used to. It’s fun to learn some new terrain. He’s got a good knowledge of spots, too. I feel like a kid in a candy store living out here. It’s crazy; it’s been fun.
I’m really stoked you made the move to SF. I sort of felt like with the trajectory of your career, LA was going to be the next move if you left Sacramento. Has there ever been pressure from your sponsors or a feeling that you should move to LA?
No, not really. Back in the day it was kind of like that. I feel like now everybody’s been able to kind of live where they want to live because of social media. But yeah, I never really got pressure to move down to LA or even to move out of Sacramento. It was more on myself when I felt like it was getting too slow out there. I was sort of the only one making missions happen. Sometimes I would go to LA and get an Airbnb with Jessica for a month or so. We thought maybe we could move down, but it never happened.
Speaking of Jessica, congratulations! You just got married. She’s your high-school sweetheart, right? How long have you guys been together?
Yeah, for sure. It was ten years pretty much to the day on the wedding day, which is crazy.
A Suciu-steered mission to Barcelona earlier this year led us to this over rail. There’s no “i” in team, but there’s two in “switch flip”
That’s amazing. I love that. So how has it been managing a relationship while pursuing such an active, traveling pro-skate career?
It’s definitely been a mission when it comes to being gone and stuff like that. A skate schedule is so all over the place, especially in the earlier stages of us dating when I was really just going on trips all the time, like never home. Now it’s been a little bit different. I mean, I still go on trips a lot, but it’s a little bit more spaced out. But yeah, it’s definitely been a learning process. I get fully immersed in what I’m doing, where I’m just tunnel vision with skating. And, you know, I got to figure out how to manage my time and my energy and find the balance. That’s definitely been something I’ve been learning over the past couple years, just how to separate it. Moving to SF, there’s so much more going on here.
I’m super skate oriented but I make time for the fam, because we got the dogs and there’s a whole squad now.
I’ve always been amazed by how much talent is in your family. Your sister played soccer in college and your brother is a professional soccer player. Your dad was in the Junior Olympics for boxing. Have you ever boxed with him?
Sometimes we slap box. He’s still hella quick and he’s got the hands. He’s fairly young. Obviously he’s older, but he’s got a younger type of body. He’s always working out in the garage with the punching bag. He’s still pretty quick with the hands, for sure.
Speaking of your brother, it’s so unusual to have two professional athletes in different sports in one family. Are there similarities between his soccer career track and what you’ve had with skating?
We both did so much traveling at a young age. He got to go to Italy with a team when he was like 12. It’s been pretty cool to be on the same type of pace with him, traveling all over.
It’s difficult to come up on obscure spots in The City. Security was tripping when he opened the gate to this gem, so don’t expect to see it blown out anytime soon. Backside flip, don’t kick out
It’s crazy because you’re still so young, but you’ve had over ten years of constant video parts, covers and very groundbreaking, super impactful skating. What’s it like looking back right now? What are some of the differences between your expectations of being a pro and the reality of how it’s gone?
It’s crazy to think that it’s been over ten years doing this—ten years I’ve been with adidas. I don’t know if I really had any real expectations of being pro. I guess I thought you’d have to film, go to demos and sign stuff, get your name on a board. It kind of matched up to that. Ever since I got started, my sponsors were filming videos or taking me on trips. I’ve just always been filming for projects. And then I think starting out where there were multiple video parts at one time, I think I just made that my norm—just always filming. I always felt like I wanted to be filming, doing something or pushing myself. I went back recently, just looking at all the video parts and talking with Alan about it. We got like ten video parts.
Is it only ten? I was going to guess 13 or 14.
There might be 11 or 12 now, because of the last Primitive stuff. But it’s just a trip. That’s technically a full catalog of parts. So it’s a lot but it doesn’t feel like it’s been that many. There’s still plenty more I want to do, which feels good to not be burnt out. You definitely go through waves of that, but I don’t know, it’s always been feeling good to just keep filming and doing shit.
Three different days and two broken boards, this switch tré was a battle. This is one of the last street gaps in SF without handicap ramps or warning tiles. Got something? Better hurry
Yeah, that was going to be my next question—ten years is a good point to feel a burnout kick in. Not every skater is always just rolling from one video part to the next, but you don’t seem to have a problem with it. Is it ever daunting when you’ve finished a project and then you’re staring at the empty timeline? Do you think, Oh my God, we got to start this again? Or do you still just feel excitement for the process?
I don’t think I ever really felt daunted at the beginning of a project because that’s always when you’re just getting clips randomly and it’s just happening with no pressure, you know? I think it’s more daunting when you’re about three-quarters of the way done and then you’re thinking, Fuck, right now we got to really come through and finish this thing. I mean, there are always some phases of burnout when you’re just trying tricks over and over. Maybe they don’t work out or things get repetitive. But I think the scenery swap of moving out of Sacramento and just coming to San Francisco kind of gave me a new spark to skate new shit and keep it going.
It’s amazing how you and Alan Hannon have been working on projects for so long. Talk about that relationship, because I think that’s very special.
That’s one of my best homies. We’ve been skating together forever, since I was about 13. Not necessarily the first person that took me out street skating, but basically the first person that took me out on some real filming missions with real cameras and dudes going for it. So just to still be linked up and filming and talking all the time, to have the real close, day-one homie in the industry is tight. It’s crazy that we both made it to where we are now and it’s come full circle, too. He’s the brand manager for Primitive and I skate for Primitive. There were a few years where we had separate sponsors but we would always still film. Now to be linked up over there is pretty sick. It’s been great. I know he’s always going to come through with the good angles and stuff, which is always motivation to film some shit with him.
I’ve always seen you as someone who is going to have a Reynolds-type career. There’s no way you’re not going to be fakie tré flipping down some huge shit when you’re in your 40s. Is there anything else besides continuing to put out video parts that you want to get out of skating in the next ten or 20 years?
I just want to try to skate and do the shit I really want to accomplish. And whether people say it or not, everybody wants to win SOTY, so that’s an underlying goal. After being a pro for as long as I have, that’s the street skater’s goal to reach for. Contests have never really been something that’s driving me to want to keep skating. I just like filming and making video parts, so I’ll just keep striving for that and have fun in the process.
Nollie back heel at the Powell Street station. Does Spitfire still pay photo incentives?
I’ve always loved how it seemed like Rodrigo TX took you under his wing. Do you feel like Rodrigo was a mentor to you of sorts?
Yeah, definitely. It kind of just happened; we just became super close. At one point we were going on road trips, sponsor trips, and it just seemed like every trip we were going on, we were always together—LRG, Official, adidas, Numbers. We were on so many companies at one time and we were always rooming together. That was definitely my big homie. Always talking about throwback stuff or current stuff, and I always felt like I was learning something from him. And obviously he was crazy to watch skate, just knocking stuff out like a real OG. So definitely being able to stay with him and go on a lot of trips during that time period was a blessing. I haven’t seen him in a while, but we still touch base when I make it to his side of the world. He stays pretty planted where he’s at in Brazil. But yeah, definitely a mentor during those times, for sure.
So we both have Karl Watson to thank for kick-starting our careers. He discovered you at a contest he judged, right?
Yeah, I wasn’t even going to go to that contest. I didn’t have the right shoes and was like, Nah, I’m going to skip this one. I think it was the last stop of this circuit around the Central Valley, Modesto, Turlock and those cities. My pops said, "You need to finish this. You already did all the other contests, you might as well go to the last one. You shouldn’t quit now." So I was like, Fine, I’ll go. I ended up winning that one and Karl was the guest pro judging it. After the contest, Karl came up to me and asked if I had any footage. I had just finished a part for a homie’s video that Alan filmed. Alan started filming for Kayo from that, too, so we both got our start from that contest, which is really cool.
Who would you say inspires you today, inside and outside of skating?
I definitely watch a lot of skate videos. I’m a skate rat, for sure. In the skate world, I’ve always looked up to Ishod. That’s a lot of people’s favorite skater. And Tiago. Just people who’ve been doing this for a long time and are the best at what they do. And then I get a lot of inspiration from sports stuff, too. I like watching people that are operating on a top level and hearing about their situations and taking some stuff away from that, just to give me some push. Sports have always been a big thing in my family, so that kind of mentality of just doing your best and just going hard at something; giving it your all.
Nestled in the cuts of the East Bay, Miles switch back tails an out ledge that had only previously been skated by Thrasher’s newest employee Kevin Braun Photo: Robles
So tell me about the projects you have going on right now and what’s coming down the pipeline. Are you at that daunting three-quarters point?
Yeah, a little bit more than three-quarters. I have been working on this adidas part with Poobert primarily in the Bay Area and The City. And then we have footage from Spain and other places.
So you’ve had an epic year—you got married; you bombed Mason. What else is in store for 2023?
Just finish up what I’m working on. Try to try to check off all the goals I got written down and things that I want to get done and wrap up these parts. That’s pretty much all that’s on the hit list right now—just finish the year strong and healthy and keep the ball rolling.
He typically maps out his missions, but this switch heel at St. Mary’s happened on a whim. Life is what happens while we’re busy planning NBDs, or something like that…
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