Not a day goes by when David González doesn't reflect on his upbringing in Medellín, Colombia — the cold-blooded acts that permeated his neighborhood, his family's destitute life and his father's wild, irresponsible ways that ultimately tore that family apart. "My dad was partying too much — doing a lot of cocaine, hookers, all the crazy stuff," recalls González.
By age 12, he had become fed up with school and his impoverished situation. He took to the streets, spending countless hours on his skateboard. He practiced relentlessly — literally thousands of attempts a day on each trick — dreaming of a better life. "I hated school — fucking hell, I hated it," he recalls. "I was like, 'This is bullshit. What the fuck is this?' I asked my friend Maurice — he was older and owned a skate shop — to tell my mom that I should just drop out of school to skate. So he told my mom and she was like, 'OK, yeah, that's fine. I trust you.'"
Within a year, González was sponsored by Flip Skateboards and Globe, and began making annual pilgrimages to the U.S. to compete at Tampa Am — the world's most prestigious street-skating competition. Salary checks rolled in each month, enabling the Colombian prodigy to support his entire family and move them to a nicer home in the countryside. González continued to rise victoriously over the next few years. When he turned 17, he moved to California with teammate Luan Oliveira, where the two turned pro upon release of their breakout video parts in Extremely Sorry. In 2012, González dropped his greatest achievement to date, Possessed to Skate, and was subsequently crowned Thrasher Skater of the Year.
Revolver recently visited González's new home in Long Beach, California, to reminisce on his life in the barrios of Medellín, hear some hilarious stories about his early skateboarding career and find out what's up with his thrash band RattBlack.
YOU GREW UP SKATING IN THE STREETS OF MEDELLÍN, COLOMBIA. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
DAVID GONZÁLEZ It was crazy. There was so much violence and people getting killed all the time. I would be going back from the school to the house and hear some gunshots and have to run and hide somewhere. I saw dead bodies all the time. It was common, like, "Oh, there's a fucking body there." You go see it because the ambulance doesn't come for like a half an hour or more — no one. So the dead body is there and the people go see it 'cause that's how it is in South America.
HOLY SHIT. AND THAT WAS COMMON WHERE YOU LIVED?
Yeah, I grew up watching a lot of fucking blood and fucking dead bodies. There's a track on my band's last album called "Face in Blood," and it's about this dude who I watched die when I was a little kid. I just came back from school and heard the shot, and I was like, "Fuck!" I went kind of hiding in the window and I saw this dude coming down a hill, kind of running — his face was in blood. At the end of the street he just fucking fell onto the ground and died right there.
THAT'S HEAVY, MAN. WHAT WAS YOUR FAMILY LIFE LIKE BACK THEN?
It was pretty gnarly. I mean, I grew up in the ghetto and went to a pretty sketchy school. My parents got divorced when I was like four years old. My dad was partying like a rock star, just fucking doesn't give a fuck about nothing. So my mom just kicked him out of the window — everything — all his clothes out of the window and it was fucking hilarious.
SHE THREW HIS SHIT OUT THE WINDOW AND THAT WAS IT? DO YOU STILL HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR FATHER?
Yeah, he's really a nice guy and I still talk to him. I always say my dad is like a Colombian James Brown. He was always dancing, singing, loud music, salsa and funky stuff — such a badass. I just think he's not made to have kids — he doesn't know how to be a dad, I guess.
HOW WERE YOU INTRODUCED TO SKATEBOARDING?
I saw skateboarding in videos on MTV and I thought it was pretty sick 'cause it was totally different than football or gymnastics — that's what I was doing at the time. My mom got me a broken board at one of the houses she used to clean. And then my uncle gave me, like, 20 bucks and I fixed this shitty board and started skating — after that it was on. I would go skating and it was really sick because I was learning tricks really fast. I put the hours into it, all the fucking time, and it would work. I remember, when I was learning 360 flips, I probably did 500 tries in three hours. On every trick, I would try, like, a thousand times a day.
YOU DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL AT AGE 12 TO FOCUS ON SKATEBOARDING. HOW WAS THAT TRANSITION FOR YOU?
I was completely possessed by skateboarding. I wasn't even paying attention, like that last year that I went to school, I wasn't even there. I dropped out of school and then the next year I came to compete at Tampa Am in Florida. It was perfect.
YOU WERE DISCOVERED AND THEN SPONSORED BY FLIP SKATEBOARDS?
Yeah, the Flip dudes were like, "Fuck, we want this dude to ride for us." And then straightaway Flip just brought me here. They got me a visa — they got me everything. And so I got the opportunity to support my family at a really young age, because I started getting paid when I was 13 by Flip and Globe. We moved to a better area — a better house. It was definitely life-changing right away, like, "Boom!"
AND SO YOU TRAVELED BETWEEN COLOMBIA AND THE U.S. TO SKATE AND COMPETE UNTIL YOU WERE 18, WHEN YOU ULTIMATELY MOVED TO CALIFORNIA, RIGHT?
Yeah, I moved to the Flip team house in Long Beach with Luan Oliveira, Shane Cross, Bastien [Salabanzi] — all team riders. It was so sick. I used to sleep on the floor. I didn't care. It was a nice carpet, so it was like, "Oh this is perfect." [Laughs]
SOUNDS LIKE THE MAKINGS OF A FULL-ON PARTY HOUSE.
It was fucking awesome. Luan and I filmed for Extremely Sorry — we skated nonstop — getting tricks every day and hyping shit up fucking hard. That's the house where I used to party with [pro skaters] Collin Provost, Chris Gregson, Jon Dickson, Figgy [a.k.a. Justin Figueroa] — it was a fucking party house. We used to get so drunk and throw knives into the fucking walls. We would just smash shit, piss in the carpet — destroy the house. I used to drink so much and always had to piss, so I would piss in empty bottles. Sometimes I would wake up, drunk as fuck, and just piss myself and go back to sleep. One morning in a hotel room, after Luan and I partied hard all night, he woke up super hungover and needed to drink some water bad. He accidently grabbed one of my piss bottles and shacked it down — it was all my piss. Then he realized it and was almost puking. It was the funniest shit, dude. [Laughs]
YOU WERE NAMED THRASHER SKATER OF THE YEAR IN 2012 AFTER A HUGE PROFESSIONAL YEAR THAT INCLUDED YOUR VIDEO PART POSSESSED TO SKATE . WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING TOWARD THAT TITLE?
Oh, that year was insane — it was amazing! I talked to the guys from Flip at the start of the year, with Jeremy [Fox] and Geoff [Rowley]. They said, "You should go for Skater of the Year." I was like, "Fuck. I'll try. Fuck it, yeah, I'll fucking do it." I worked nonstop every day. I wanted to put out one of the hardest video parts of me. I was just like, "Fuck, I'm gonna go as hard as I can and just go out and destroy everything." When the video came out and the end of the year came, I never really suspected I was gonna win. And the next thing you know, Thrasher pulled a huge prank on me — they sent a fake police officer to my house, making me think I was getting in trouble for noise and partying — and then it was like, "Oh, you're Skater of the Year!" And I was like, "Holy shit!" It was so sick. I'm so thankful to Thrasher for everything they've done for me.
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE FOR YOU AFTER YOU WON SKATER OF THE YEAR?
I got a lot of new sponsors and brands hitting me up to do ads and so many things. In, like, one day, I got 100,000 followers on Instagram, and 200,000 the next day — everything was going so fast. I was partying and celebrating hard — coke, ecstasy, alcohol, weed — nothing too heavy. And it was way easier to get chicks. I didn't even have to try. But then, doing a simple frontside air in a skate park, I fucking smashed my left ankle. It was a stupid accident and I ended up with a really bad compound break. I had to get surgery — like, seven screws and two plates. I was out for about eight months that year. And then it took me almost three years to feel 100 percent on the board again. But that slam was good for me. I look back and it was exactly what I needed at the time. I needed to change my head from where I was at and what I was up to. I was out of control, doing whatever I wanted. But with my injury, I had a lot of time in my bed to think about being a better human being and appreciating everything that I had.
WHAT WAS THE MAIN CATALYST FOR CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE?
Right before I broke my ankle, I met my girlfriend Adele. She was the only person who really took care of me during the worst time in my life. She was there the whole time. I couldn't do shit and, mentally, I was really down and depressed. She helped make everything better — I fucking love her. Now we're together for three years and we have two pit bulls that we rescued.