Isaiah Johnson

Skater in car getting interviewed

January 2022

So, they kicked me off the skateshop and there was nowhere for me to go. I wanted to go to California because this is where skateboarding industry is. Trying to get lucky and see what I can get out there. Since then, it has been the time of my life.

Do people walk up to as you look like someone famous?
I always get Kobe a lot. Every couple of days.

Which pro did you look up to around the time and why?
I really like Ryan Gallan a lot and also the old school guys like Mike Carrol and Mark Gonzales. Tyler Bledsoe riding for Quasi Skateboards. I like his style and seems like a cool person in general.

You mentioned in an interview that skateboarding changed your life when you were 24 as you moved to California. I can think of three reasons why. Love, sun or progressing your skateboard career. Which one is it?
Skating just to progress. I used to skate for a skateshop called Cowtown in Phoenix, Arizona. They did so much for me. I was really young and did not know what I was doing in skating. I got hooked up with companies like DC shoes for a while but I never went filming street skating to give footage to them. I just did not know what I was doing. I thought I just sit around and get free stuff all the time. So, they kicked me off the skateshop and there was nowhere for me to go. I wanted to go to California because this is where skateboarding industry is. Trying to get lucky and see what I can get out there. Since then it, it has been the time of my life.

Did you move out there by yourself?
Yeah. I just picked up and left. I met Nate Woolridge who films Jake Brown and other vert dudes. I really did not know him that well but I was talking to him a lot online. He said, I should come out skate, film and meet all the pros and that is what happened. It was amazing but the way he lived was wild. I had the best experience hanging out with Peter Smolik and partying with Brendon Turner and all the San Diego guys. It has been a lot of fun. I got away from all that and went on my own path and figuring stuff out. My parents supported me the whole way through.

He said, I should come out skate, film and meet all the pros and that is what happened. It was amazing but the way he lived was wild.

BS flip - San Diego
BS Flip • San Diego  © Michelle Storm

You just turned pro with Esoteric Skateboards at the age of 32. This is quite an achievement in many ways. How did it all come together for you at the end?
The skate industry is different now. There are so many board brands now. Everyone is starting a board brand. So, I think there are more opportunities. You still have to work for it though. I am skating for 15 years and have been in Thrasher twice. I have been around. There was an interview with Shane O’Neil from April skateboards. He commented about the whole flow thing. Companies just flow kids for so long and you never know what is going to happen. You may get on it, you may not. For me, I want something guaranteed, solid. When I first met John from Esoteric Skateboards, he made me sign this contract and talked about how it will work, not wasting everyone’s time. That means a whole lot to me than anything else. He is a cool guy. About this pro thing, I do not feel I made it though. Nothing like that. It made me more hungrier and pushing myself much harder.

Speaking of flow. You were on flow for many reputable board companies such as Girl, Chocolate and Alien. Do you know why you did not turn pro with any of them?
I was 18 and not filming a lot as I said previously. I only started filming when I was 25. I was more of a contest skater and this is how I got my name out there. Also, I was not really in with the companies that much as I mainly met sales reps of board companies. I never met Team Managers. The closest I got was when I was flow for Cliché Skateboards through the owner. However they moved back to France. Paul Hart’s board with Cliché was also taken away.

It is not so much about skate shots and doing well in contests but more around video content on social media.
It is like that but also about marketing and sales. At the end of the day, can a skater bring more sales to the company.

Would you think you would have turned pro if you stayed in Vancouver?
I do not think so. California has so many board companies and skate shops too.

varial heel - AUS12
Varial heel flip • AUS12  © Michelle Storm

For all the brands I skate now for, I approached them.

As of this year, you are pro for Sonar Wheels too. How did this happen?
I hit them up on Instagram. That is the thing with Social Media. It is crazy. They are the best brand. I have been with them for 3 years now.

Can you make living off this engagement?
It pays some bills.

How about all your sponsors? Can you make a living at all?
It has been good so far. I do not want to say numbers, but I say yes. They take care of me pretty well. I can pay my rent, car expenses and some other bills. My second job is a skate instructor where I do skate lessons. My girlfriend is a photographer, and she is on the Mum’s pages on FB where I can get some leads.

You have a wide range of different sponsors. Are they all incoming or are you also actively approaching them?
For all the brands I skate for now, I approached them. I had companies to approach me like Osiris shoes. The owner Brian Reid hit me up 3 years ago and I was supposed to be on the team. However, something happened to the brand and Circa bought them eventually.

If you could pick any brand to represent. Which one would it be and why?
I like Adidas a lot. Thunder Trucks too.

What advise can you give a talented skater that is looking for sponsors?
Filming and posting to social media and message companies you think are good enough to support you. It does not have to be the biggest brand. What if you find a smaller brand that has a lot of money backing it and they have a small team? They have a lot what they can do for you! Instead of being on a bigger company that has like 75 flow riders and 10 on the team. This is what I would do. The smaller companies can take you far and you may end up the main person on the team. Who knows?

You mentioned about appearing in Thrasher twice. How did this come about?
I did not even know I was in there. The local skate shop told me. My friend Kazu did the picture and he sent it to them. I did not know he did. I was in the gym when they told me and I was tearing up. It was so random. Getting coverage like that helps you out.

Tre flip - Arizona - michelle storm
Tre flip • Arizona  © Michelle Storm

Has this been your proudest moment as a skateboarder?
A few years ago, I appeared in the rip clip on The Skateboard Magazine’s Mag Minute video and I also in the footy tape Friday from Transworld. Back to back and all by myself. I never had anyone helped me getting sponsors. I always done it my own.

I came across a company called Athlete Speakers where organisations can book you for a keynote speech, corporate appearance, product announcements etc.
What is that? Sorry. I have never done that.

Here is the website. I will send you the link.
I did not even know. This is insane. My girlfriend must have done that. She is always trying to get me in some stuff.

Have a look at the fee range. $5,000 to $10,000.
What?! Are you kidding me!

I owe you $10,000.
She did it for her.

Last question: If you could interview one person, who will it be, why and what would you ask?
I want to say Jeff Bezos. I want to know how everybody else did it. I know some of his stories how he started with Amazon which is pretty crazy.