Visitors Welcome. Ryan Sheckler not.
Interview with Parker Wilson
Photos by SNAPCHUANG
Tell us something about Taiwan people don’t know.
Something people don’t know about Taiwan that’s kind of silly is that most people here speak Mandarin Chinese although they also speak Taiwanese which is similar to Chinese but has different tones. Also skateboarding here is still pretty young so passers by are often very intrigued when they see us street skating and will stop and stare.
You are from Idaho (US) but you moved to Taiwan in March 2020. Why?
I actually moved here in January 2020 and previously I lived in China. I left for China October 29th 2018 and have been abroad since then. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal for me to go abroad and try a different culture but after a few months I was hooked. What started out as just something to try out became a new life and a fun new lifestyle for me. Now that I have started traveling I find it very hard to stop or even imagining stopping.
Why did you move to China?
I moved to China because I was unhappy with my life in the states and wanted to try something new and exciting and it was OK at first but Taiwan is so much better.
On Linked-In you state that you are a self-employed skateboarding coach. How is that going?
The skateboard coaching was awesome! I had about 10 students previously in Taichung where I lived for over a year and when I moved to Taipei I lost most of those students because of the distance but up here I had 5 students. Teaching the young ones to skate is so fun for me and seeing the smiles on their faces and the looks of determination when they are struggling is amazing. I live through their trials and tribulations and when they conquer the fear and obstacles I feel I accomplished something as well. The money was also decent but not near enough to sustain myself unfortunately. However that was an afterthought. As a skater I am normally at the skatepark so going there and spending a couple hours with some cool little dudes was a no brainer for me. Loved every second of it even when they would fall and cry. I still wouldn’t trade those moments for anything else.
I noticed that one of your posts you talked about your trip around the island with a scooter. Fun trip?
Yes, the trip around the Island was amazing. It’s called a Huan Dao here in Taiwan. It is kind of a right of passage. Many people will go on this trip when they graduate college and some high schoolers will do it too although it can be dangerous. My trip went swimmingly and I stayed the night at three different beaches along the 6 night journey and loved it! Mosquito bites, sunburns and all, it was amazing and my thighs are still tan!
‘For anyone that wants to travel here and do some skate tourism as I have done, I would strongly recommend Taipei during the not rainy season (avoid April to July) and Taichung as well is amazing.’
How easy was it for you to be accepted into the local skate community? We skaters pride ourselves as being people without borders so I am curious to understand your experience.
I found that at first when I arrived, I received a lot of attention but I was not sure why they found me so fascinating. After learning the language more and getting to know them all better, that’s when I truly felt accepted although I feel they actually accepted me sooner than that. They really enjoy my unique tricks and the fact that I am always laughing and smiling.
Would you say as a western it is by default easier to connect to the local community?
I do think westerners have an easier time getting accepted here especially americans. Taiwan loves America and vice versa. Taiwan is such a beautiful independent island nation (not a part of China). I also found that Taiwanese people hold many of the same values as Americans and they realize this as well so I found connecting with people here was very easy and many people here have good stories of other interesting westerners they have met.
You are sponsored by Deschamp Skateboard. Who are they?
Yes I am! My buddy Ricky Deschamp (pronounced De Shawmp) offered me a sponsorship and I jumped at the offer. Deschamp skateboards is a relatively new brand he started recently and made an awesome website and shop with my friend Justin Hoffman @hoffmoneyy on IG. If you ever need any marketing, design or any sort of online work done, he is the dude. Deschamp skateboards though to me is an awesome guy who is a father and a talented musician who made his own brand and I admire it a lot. They are a small company currently based out of West Virginia.
On their website they call you Parker Grant however.
In regards to the name thing. My middle name is Grant and I used to work in a prison as a corrections officer and I remembered having one inmate that got released search for me and try to add me using my last name. So I decided to make myself harder to find and changed my Facebook name. It causes a little confusion but my friends know my real name and know my reasoning behind the change I made.
How about that inmate just wanted to thank you for your correction style
(Laughing) It’s pretty common for inmates to pick a guard or two who they like because guards and inmates are just like people. Sometimes, we jive with someone and other times, it’s hate at first sight. I was always very real with the inmates and would always lend an ear when they had issues because as a guard, I am kind of the camp mother in a way so it helps keep tensions down when the frustrated inmates have people to talk to.
Who is the most talented skateboarder in Taiwan at the moment?
The most talented skater in Taiwan in my opinion is a guy names Xiao Jie or Xiao Jay. Xiao Jie also means miss like excuse me miss but the tones are different and his name is not Miss, I assure you. This guy absolutely kills it. He has tech tricks, flip in flip out, can do front side 360s going fast. Jumps off huge stuff. Can back tail and crooked grind anything and his has an amazing style and makes everything look incredible! Also a very nice and positive guy and he would often speak with me in Chinese although my Chinese is not perfect, he was still more than willing to speak with me about whatever.
And who is the most talented (Taiwanese) skateboarder outside Taiwan?
There is a guy here names Yuan JiaLin. I hope I spelled it correctly. He is a semi famous skater here in Taiwan and has participated in the X games and also starred in various skateboarding commercials. I don’t know how much he has done outside of Taiwan in the skateboarding world but he is a widely known and widely contested skater here. The more core skaters here kind of view him as a kook but I have met him and spoken with him and he was always very kind to me, so I have nothing bad to say about him. Other than him I can’t name many Taiwanese skaters that have left the island and made it in the skate world outside of this paradise.
Are there any local/national brands within the skate industry? Who are they and what do they do?
Yes, there are some cool brands here for sure! We have TPOOC Taipei Out of Control. They do clothing and skateboards and also Overlord, who is a bigger skate shop that does clothing and boards as well. Another cool brand run by a skateboarder friend of mine GaoLiang is called The Fox Way Up, its a cool brand he has started with pretty sexual themes to say the least but he kills it with his designs and he has a good eye for fashion that I do not! There are also some smaller brands here like PlugStix who makes awesome boards and apparel. Also in Taiwan, we are big supporters of HK so we have some of those brands here as well. One of which is called FEAR and they are based out of HK and I am lucky enough to be their only Taiwan based rider. Now US based though.
What are some of the digital/printed magazines in Taiwan?
I actually am not super caught up with digital magazines here in Taiwan. I have read some blogs on skateboarding here but they are all in Chinese so difficult to comprehend to say the least but video is very common here. There are more than a few IG pages and youtube channels and creators dedicated to skateboarding in which they interview skaters, make funny videos and host contests and give aways. One that comes to mind is ZaiLai which basically means one more try. Its run by a friend of mine Xiao Zhang and he is hilarious and talented and he has awesome tattoos.
Where is the biggest skate community in Taiwan?
The biggest skate community in Taiwan has got to be a tie between Taichung and Taipei. Taipei I think has a larger number of skaters but due to the often wet and stormy weather we are often at a loss when it comes to getting out and finding places to skate. In Taichung the weather is much more mild but also hot hot hot. The skate scene in Taichung is more skatepark based but up here in Taipei. We are more often found skating street and getting chased off by security and police. I love both the scenes and as I got my introduction to the Taiwan skate scene in Taichung, I have a natural affinity to that area. After skating with the guys up here in Taipei, I have seen that the overall skate level is a bit higher up here much in part to the access to skate spots and ease of traveling around this area thanks to the MRT that Taichung is sorely missing. It’s actually being worked on now.
‘It’s not near as bad as in the states and actually many people would be surprised at the number of core skate shops here and it’s amazing and most the owners of these shops are rad dudes that have been skating since before I was born.’
I have seen some footage from the Nangang skate park in Taipei. Are there others in and/or around the city?
Nangang is a cool wooden park for sure but many of us don’t like it because the wood gets dusty and literally becomes a hot ice skating rink. There are quite a few other parks around here though. Taipei and New Taipei City (the area surrounding Taipei) has around 6 parks I can think of. Bridge park (Xin Sheng Qiao), Niehu, Nangang, Yonghe, Banqiao and PoolPool. Taichung actually has more skateparks but the quality is hit and miss. I did thoroughly enjoy all the parks though. The best skatepark is located south of Taipei in a city called XinZhu and its the biggest and smoothest park Taiwan has with a decent mix of wooden quarter pipes, a tall rounded bank, and various concrete obstacles that are always the right amount of wax.
Are there any DYI skateparks you are aware of?
There are a few DIY skateparks. Actually the Bridge park I mentioned above was started after a BMX demo many years ago. After the demo, a few ramps were left because those are hard too take on planes go figure. After this the skate scene at the time kept the ramps under the bridge away from the elements and slowly added in some rails and boxes for the skaters and now its a vibrant area to skate and a great place to really get a feel for what the Taiwan skate scene is like.
For any tourists that want to skate in Taipei, what is the best place to meet local skaters?
For anyone that wants to travel here and do some skate tourism as I have done, I would strongly recommend Taipei during the not rainy season (avoid April to July) and Taichung as well is amazing. As for specific areas the Bridge skatepark as I mentioned is amazing and the people are super friendly and for Taichung I recommend ZhongZheng skatepark which literally means Center of the city skatepark and you can guess where its located. Great park fun obstacles for all levels and always good energy.
‘Yeah Sheckler has been banned from Taiwan because of that stunt but all the skaters think he is awesome and I am with them. I have seen that spot and its amazing and so scary.’
Ryan Sheckler is in a bit of trouble on his ‘You Good?’ part where he tail dropped from the top of two tunnels into a very narrow concrete provider with busy traffic on either sides. What are some of the local customs a foreign skater needs to be aware of before potentially grinding down an old Buddha statue?
So funny you mention that! Yeah Sheckler has been banned from Taiwan because of that stunt but all the skaters think he is awesome and I am with them. I have seen that spot and its amazing and so scary. They actually made it not skateable now by adding those yellow traffic pole things to the center of the whole thing. In regards to local customs, I don’t think they have anything that would be unusual. The skaters here are normally very healthy guys, always stretching before skating, drinking lots of water (there’s water in beer right?) and eating fruits. In regards to when you’re out skating, just be mindful of the area you are skating. There is A LOT of traffic here especially in Taipei. The closer you get to Taipei 101, the worse it gets. So you need to have someone catching boards. Don’t skate too close to temples which there are many. I have seen people skate at temples and I can admit to skating at a couple but its not something you can do for long and if they ask you to leave, then you apologize to them immediately and leave right away. Cops here are really not much of a bother but security guards are often the party killers, so be aware of them. Some can be paid off with 100 yuan (roughly 5 dollars USD) but do not count on that. Sometimes they will give us a few more minutes but a lot of the time they receive noise complaints and if they are coming over to ask us to leave, it’s because their boss told them to so by understanding that there should be no hard feelings when you have to leave. They have a job to do and we have a million other spots to skate.
What are some of the challenges skateboarding in Taiwan faces today?
Some challenges skateboarding in Taiwan is facing would be the prevalence of online shopping. It’s not near as bad as in the states and actually many people would be surprised at the number of core skate shops here and its amazing and most the owners of these shops are rad dudes that have been skating since before I was born. Many of them have adapted to the online model and are seeing success in their online shops, however so I think skate shops will continue to thrive here. Other than that, I don’t see many problems here facing the skate culture. Unlike the US where skating went through phases and was deemed the sport for deviant trouble making kids, people here see it as a sport like any other and have a huge respect and admiration for people that can do it at any level and if you are good at it, they tout you as a professional regardless of your actual skill level. I think the future for skateboarding in Taiwan is insanely bright and I can’t wait to see what its like in 3 or 5 years.
From what you know, what are some of the challenges Taiwan faces in general?
In general, I think the problems facing Taiwan are more political. Taiwan is a free democratic nation but we are always being threatened by China who has vowed to take Taiwan by force much like they have done and are doing in HK and Macau. However Taiwan has a very vibrant and strong economy and is extremely self sufficient for the most part. We have done great throughout the virus and with help from the US and Japan, we have been able to combat this thing and deliver a lot of vaccines and perform many tests to minimize spread and continue normal life. Overall the biggest problem Taiwan faces is China, plain and simple. It is a scary thing to think about but its a reality and not looking at the scary thing doesn’t make it go away. I have faith Taiwan will stay a free and beautiful country and I know that we will stand strong against the CCP.
Last question: If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
If I could interview anyone I would be most interested to interview Louie Barletta as he is my favorite Enjoi Skateboards rider and I admire his style, unique tricks, attitude, positive outlook and his creativity. I think with skateboarding becoming so mainstream these days, I have gained even more of an appreciation for the unique tricks and interesting ideas that many of the older skateboarders have. Its amazing to see how the sport has evolved and speaking with someone who has been in the industry that long would be very fun and I would no doubt be taking notes the whole time.