Photo credits: Christina Johnston, Greg Higgins, Spike Jonze, Jeff Z, Paul Vail,
Kai Kuusisto, Amy Stewart-Johnston.
Today I am stoked to publish this much deserved interview with the man behind Intrikat, Chad Johnston. Chad is a flatland lifer, and has contributed so much towards our artform over the years, he has helped many riders careers via video parts and getting their names out to us all, not to mention inventing and documenting so many tricks that have inspired us all across the globe. If that’s not enough, Chad also designed a signature line of products/frame with S&M. Despite all this, I feel the man is underrated, and I wanted to show the man some love and thank him for all he has done for me over the years. Grab a cuppa, this is a long interview that deserves your attention. Let’s get into this!
How long in the game Chad, how did you get into flatland? It’s crazy to me, I remember sending you money through the mail years ago for Reality Tv Part 1 and here we are 2018 doing this interview.
Haha! We’ve been in it a minute. I got my first BMX for my 10th birthday. Prior to that I was riding a hand-me-down stingray type of bike. I don’t remember how I got it, or when. I do remember my dad teaching me how to ride it without training wheels. As soon as I figured it out, it started raining, but I didn’t care, I kept on going.
Flatland is something we always did. We rode everything. I started out rolling around the streets with my brother and friends. We learned endos, wheelies, bar hops, bunnyhops, posers, surfers, trackstands, etc. Our town didn’t have a racetrack, but we got magazines so knew about tricks. When I was 13 we found out about a track from a shop in Winnipeg (we were living in Brandon, Manitoba at the time) and soon after our parents drove us there for our first official race. It was cool seeing the locals shred. I raced for a couple years, but lost interest and became obsessed with freestyle, then flatland specifically.
That’s rad you ordered RealiTV. Thanks E, you helped fuel some of our original road trips.
What was your first bike Chad?
It was a Stingray-type bike, I think a Royce Union, not sure on the brand though. I remember it was yellow, 20” with ape-hanger bars and a banana seat. It was good for poppin’ wheelies. My first real BMX bike was a Huffy Pro Thunder, black with yellow Tuffs.
What was your first contest? The contest scene was pretty vibrant in California right when you were growing up.
1987 AFA Velodrome, if I remember correctly. Yea, during the summer it seemed like a contest every weekend.
Originally from Bakersfield right, Linkt was filmed when you were out in Bakersfield? When did you move to Long Beach?
I was born there, but originally only lived there until 6 months old and then my Dad’s job kept us on the move every 2-4 years. Eventually we ended up back in Bakersfield when I was 16. Yea, I still lived there when we did Linkt (1998), but moved to Long Beach right after that.
Did you grow up on the AFA contests, because in the earlier years I feel like you had that jam circle style of riding about you, up rocking around the bike and really creative lines. Were you a jam circle man at the contests?
The first contest I went to (as a spectator) was the King of the Skatepark finals in Upland, Ca. 1986(?). My parents drove my brother, Ells (Bells) and I there. We arrived, parked and started walking to the entrance, but became distracted by this large crowd of people circling around a couple guys riding flat in the parking lot. Jason Parkes caught my attention immediately. He was doing Boomerang, Tailwhip, Decade combos. So many things linked together rapidly that I couldn’t comprehend. After that contest, Ells and I talked about the links Parkes was doing, for many years. That day was a mind-opener for me. I liked the energy of a jam circle, riders vibin’ off each other.
The first time I recall seeing you was your backwards death truck sequence in Go? Were you always creative with riding from an early age? Because that was a big deal at the time, yo he’s going backwards!!!
Nice! I was super-psyched on that shoot. I met Spike Jones and Mike Daily at Wizard Publications and we went to the parking lot next to the Spot (Redondo Beach Pier). I think being creative is natural. Before I saw tricks in real-life, I saw them in magazines, usually just one frame of that trick was printed and this made me have to imagine how to get in and out of it, what direction to go, what technique to use and so on. That, and I didn’t like being the same as anyone, so I always did something different. I like the feeling of doing something that’s never been done.
Pre internet days obviously, so I was curious how did you go about getting the shoot with Spike Jonze and Mike Daily. Did you have to hustle, make some calls or did they see you out riding? Can you paint that picture for us Chad?
I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was Mike that approached me at a contest, maybe at the Velodrome. I remember giving him my number and he called a few days later. My mom answered and handed me the phone. I was trippin’. We scheduled to shoot the following week. It was surreal rolling around in the Freestylin’ Magazine van, so much positive energy. I was a little intimidated, but everyone was super cool.
What was your first sponsor? Did the how-to help with sponsors?
A local bike shop, A&D Cyclery. They were a GT dealer and hooked me up with a GT factory support deal. A little later on I got on Vision Street Wear and they were stoked on the spread, for sure.
How did you get started in making videos? Was your first video Reality Tv Part 1? What year was that? I have to give mad props here, that video had one of the best impacts on my whole life!
That’s rad, psyched to hear that Effraim! I kind of got into videos out of necessity. To get that GT deal I had to submit a demo tape. In 1987 a friend borrowed his dad’s camcorder and we filmed. I hooked it up to my parents’ VHS player and stereo to edit. The next year (1988), my grandma gave me $1000 bucks for graduating high school. I used that to buy my own camcorder, which I used to film my friends and I riding. Greg (Higgins) said that I should use the clips for a video. Later we shot some more stuff with a video in mind. We were freestyling though, so no script or formula, or anything like that. That eventually became RealiTV. We were just having fun riding and capturing a little bit of it on tape. We were learning on the fly.
Tell us about the transition from Reality Tv Part 1 to Part 2?
I was surprised that people liked the first one, the feedback was great and I got requests to do another. I put a little more thought into the second one, still didn’t know what I was doing though, haha!
How did you hook up with Pete Brandt and Eric Emerson for Reality Tv 1?
I met Pete and Eric at a contest, also. I don’t remember which one. We immediately vibed, felt like I knew both of them since day one. Eric gave me a list of calling card numbers and would call me all the time. Do you remember the Freestyle Calling Card? I’d go up there (Hayward & San Francisco) to ride and film. It was always crazy with those two!
When did you get started with the intrikat name?
I think it was 1987. The bike shop sponsor I mentioned earlier had us do demos at the Bakersfield Street Fair. That led to some local schools booking us and they wanted to know the name of our team, but we didn’t really have one. I thought up Intrikat earlier and wrote it on a piece of paper and stuck it to the fridge, I didn’t know what to use it for until that time.
Intrikat was known for videos, but also you held the jams for several years in LB? I would come out every year, and many others too. What were your intentions there?
Yea, man. That place had good vibes. We’d session there without issues for hours. One day after riding with Fano and S-Dogg, I remember saying that we should invite everyone. I sent out emails with no real intentions, other than jamming. The vibes were positive, so we did it again, and again for five years, until the spot was locked down. That spot was on the Woodrow Wilson High School campus, after school and weekends it was open to the public. It was between the tennis and basketball courts. After a drive-by shooting that unfortunately resulted in the death of a student, the school closed the campus to the public and we lost our venue.
I feel like from your Intrikat videos you helped so many riders careers, was there any one rider that you filmed and thought wow this guy will make it to the top?
It’s good to hear that, thank you! My intention was to showcase flatland riding. I’m especially stoked on hardcore undergrounders, the shredders that don’t get much coverage, or any at all. A lot of riders I filmed with were already known in their scene or nearby scenes. I’d be filming with someone and they’d ask if I’d ever heard of “so and so”. Often times they’d link me up with others. Phil Dolan connected me with James White, Jody Temple told me about Erin Donato, Mike S. got me in touch with Ulrich Kittel and Frank Lukas and many more instances like these.
What’s your sponsorship been like over the years Chad?
I’ve worked hard and been fortunate. I’ve had many great people and companies backing me for a long time. I haven’t had to buy parts for decades and this makes it possible for me to ride everyday which I’m grateful for. The S&M pro deal is beyond any dream, shout out to Mad Dog and McKinney! Primo and Lotek have always kept me rolling and I’m super thankful to Fano and Rich for that.
Competing, I remember you would dip in and out, Worlds 2002 on the Quamen you killed it with the pedal roni’s, what were your feelings on contests around that time?
Thanks again! I go through phases, cycles. Contests haven’t really been a source of inspiration for me. I’m mostly into tricks that haven’t been done yet and I get bored real quick with what’s already been done. I think there are different stages of riding. Starting with learning tricks, then linking them, and then getting them consistent. I like the feeling of learning something new rather than repeating a handful of things to the point of being dialed enough to compete. I don’t have much of a competitive spirit, I’m usually cheering for someone else hoping they’ll do their best and consequently I’m not focused on my riding. To be a champion I think you have that mentality that you’re going to win. I went to comps mostly to hang out with friends. Sometimes I entered for a personal challenge, just to see if I could pull something under that kind of pressure, but I never entered because I thought I was going to win.
The KGB Video? Living in Long beach, and Martti and Viki out in Europe how did that come about? And what was the time frame on that project for you?
That was a challenging and surprisingly fun project. When we first started talking about it I was a little nervous because all the footage was self-filmed . Some of the clips you could barely see the trick, because it was too far away from the camera or the camera was sitting crooked on the ground and that kind of thing bothered me, especially at that time. I was on a mission to film everything myself for Intrikat projects because I wanted to have it all shot a certain way. For that video, the riding was so insane I didn’t get too hung up on the filming issues. It forced me to learn new editing techniques and when the sections started coming together with music, I was stoked! I’d privately post rough cuts on YouTube for Martti and Viki to give me approval and they were always psyched, which got me more psyched!
What was the transition like getting onto S&M, they are just down the coast from you right in Santa Ana? (LTF frame first i think…)
Yea, they’re (Santa Ana) about 20 miles south of here (Long Beach). McKinney and I have been friends for a long time and before the S&M deal came to be, he’d mention to me that I need to meet Mad Dog. I was def into it, but at that time S&M didn’t have a flatland frame. Years later, they made the LAF with a 19” top tube. S&M gave me one and I rode it and loved it. The next year they came out with the LTF, also available in 19” tt. After that they offered me a pro deal with a signature kit (frame, fork, stem & bar).
From being on S&M, to the intrikat frame coming out how long was that time period?
2-3 years. In 2008 I got flowed a LAF, 2009 a LTF and then in 2010 we did the first Intrikat prototype. We went into production early 2011.
How did you go about building the team up? Cause you had the best team for a couple of years.
Yea, we had a stacked crew. There are a number of things to consider when building a team, it’s not easy to have everything line-up. Moeller put me in charge. McKinney sometimes got the last word, haha. It was a lot of hustling. The industry has changed a lot in the last few years, business with international distributors, especially. When that changed it became much more difficult to support a global team. We still have some shredders representing for us, Jody Temple and Ahmed Johnson have been killing it!
When did you start riding pegless?
I think it was 2007. First edit was ten years ago, Intrikat Instrumental:
When you took your pegs off, was there a trick that you thought once I get this, the pegs are staying off? I never imagined an elbow glide pegless for example.
Death Trucks and Ropes. Elbow Glides came a little later.
From riding with you for many years in LBC, you always did your own thing, and kept yourself to yourself. Riding on your own, on your own schedule, talk about riding your own and why you choose to do that?
Yeah man, there became a point when I wanted to see how far I could take my riding. I was going out everyday no matter what. I started to like solo sessions and noticed I’d get a lot more done. I enjoyed riding in the moment and the freedom of solitude. I also switched up my schedule hoping to avoid security. I ride early morning when most are sleeping or on the way to work.
The Long Beach underground is infamous from your videos over the years, so many heads rolling through. What’s it like there right now? Is still your stomping ground? Didn’t security get really crazy around 9-11, I remember you saying something about that?
It’s the best spot in the world! I ride there so much that it’s weird for me to ride anywhere else, haha! It’s always been inconsistent as far as security goes, yeah, after 9/11 the security tightened up and I had to stop going there for a while. It’s chill lately, but still sometimes a bust. Most everyone there sees me enough to know I’m not causing any trouble. It’s almost always a bust if too many people show up, though. They recently installed cameras and if they see a group of people they send the security cart to boot us out.
So similar to my solitude question, it appears you keep yourself away from the modern day flatland scene aside from the One love jam. What’s your take on the modern day flatland scene Chad?
The last three years I’ve been focused on raising my daughter with Amy and I’ve been happy keeping it local. The flat scene has changed from my perspective, for sure. I think social media has a lot to do with it. There’s not much of an underground movement, everyone is out there, posting clips all the time. Def takes away from the mystery that makes flat cool to me.
The Hot dogs section just dropped Chad? Tell us about it, how long did you film for?
Longer than any other project I’ve been a part of. I think it was 3-4 years. That was a challenge in it’s self. I knew it was going to be a long-term project and I wanted to push myself harder than I ever had before. I changed my riding mentality for that project, I put all my dialed links on the back burner, so I could focus on undone stuff. It was an interesting time. My daughter was born during filming, so I was going through some huge life changes.
What’s your bike set up these days Chad?
I just got a new bike, but it’s similar to the last one that I rode for years. Brakeless, pegless, 20”tt, 10” bars, 4130 cr-mo and all black.
Let’s wrap this up. Final shouts Chad?
Thanks for the interview Effraim! Thanks to my family, S&M familia, Primo fam and anyone who’s showed support. Ride on riders!
My pleasure Chad, it’s been awesome to catch up with you again. I hope you all enjoyed this one at home. Thanks again Chad and Amy for always putting me up on my trips out to the intricate jam, and I am sure I speak for everyone. Thanks for all you have done and continue to do for flatland. Respect!
Follow Chad on Instagram: @a.k.a.intrikat