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The Best of Both Worlds – Corbin Harris

By Dan Hutton on January 31, 2017 in People

Photo: Jeremy Greive

Photo: Jeremy Greive

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Sutherland Shire Hospital, and grew up in Miranda and the Caringbah area.

Where are you living these days?
I’m living in Los Angeles, specifically downtown LA, opposite the Staples Centre where the Lakers play, which is cool. I basically live in a hotel-style apartment, because I’m on the road so much. It makes sense, but it’s definitely not somewhere I want to be forever.

You also called the Eastern Suburbs home for quite some time; what first first brought you to the east?
I was going to school in Sutherland Shire for my first year of high school, then I didn’t do so well, so my mum decided she was shipping me off to Waverley College. I fell in love with going to school there. I was getting a train for an hour and ten minutes on the way there, and then a bus from the Junction all the way back, every day – but I never, ever skipped school. I’ve got a pretty good relationship with my parents and they can see right through me. I moved basically straight out of school into a place in Bondi, surfing and skating every day.

You’ve said in other interviews that your mum is a big inspiration for you; can you elaborate on that?
I just think the family that I have grown up with have been a hundred and ten per cent supportive of whatever I’ve done. They’re just good people. Every decision I make is with Mum and Dad and the rest of the family.

Did your mum push you to pursue the media side of your career on top of the skating?
She did actually. She’s been the brains behind a lot of it. I think I was so heavily into sport my whole life. At Waverley I played A-grade rugby all the way through, then I started skateboarding seriously when I was about 17. Once I started travelling to skate, Mum said to me, “Hey, we need a back up option. You need to do an apprenticeship and be a sparky or a chippy.” I looked at all the TAFE courses and I was like, “These are all four years; this is way too long. I’ve got to get something done quick.” I did a real estate and property management course and completed it in a year, and then I started travelling for skating.

When did you first jump on a skateboard?
I stood on my brother’s skateboard when I was six years old in the front of our house. We’ve still got the picture actually. It’s pretty sick; I was wearing a Garfield hat and Converse. I couldn’t get my head around how you did it. It’s kind of tough trying to ollie and you have to put so much time into it. I really picked skating back up at 14 years old when I rode down on my BMX to an industrial area Taren Point and I saw an indoor skate park. As soon as I saw it, I remember looking through the fence and being like, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” I liked the fact that I could do it by myself and it wasn’t a team sport, because I played team sports my whole life and it was a nice change. Plus, at that point skateboarding was definitely pumping on a larger scale.

When did you realise you were good enough to turn professional?
Maybe like five years ago. Ha ha. No, I just remember being so into it at around 16 when I was doing Warped Tour and Big Day Out. I remember standing on the platform and looking around. Danny Way was next to me, and a couple of my idols that I looked up to, like Colin McKay and Steve Caballero. I was like, “This is pretty sick.”

Do you get scared?
I do get scared, for sure. I get scared skating street, handrails, and stuff like that. The flow of skating swimming pools or bowls or concrete skate parks like Bondi feels natural to me. I definitely get scared on the street though, and I think that’s maybe why I pulled up stumps on skating contests, too. A media option came up and then all my sponsors were basically like, “Oh we’re actually happier if you just go and do the media stuff because you’ll get more air time, and then you can still do your skate projects. You just make up a trip and let us know where you want to go.” They’d send a videographer and a filmer with me and I’d get to make an unreal piece of content that I could be creatively involved in, which is what I really like doing too.

What’s the worst injury you’ve had?
I think I’m just consistently smashing my body. Five broken ankles, four broken arms, torn posterior cruciate ligament in my knee, hematoma on my elbow that’s never gone down since I was 14. My glutes are just the worst; I need to get them rubbed out every two to four weeks because they become so tight and start playing on my back, my vertebrae. I’ve had this back problem for the last year and even with all the Olympic doctors, CT scans and MRIs, we still couldn’t figure it out, then it just came good one day.

So you’re like the Dane Reynolds of skate, or is Dane the Corbin Harris of surf?

Absolutely not, he’s the king. I’m nowhere near that.

Getting back to the Eastern Suburbs, what do you love about life in the area?

What’s not to love in the Eastern Suburbs? The things I miss when I’m away are the restaurants and the culture of waking up early, getting in the ocean, having a swim, and just feeling like a million bucks straight away. I surfed a lot when I was young with my dad: he was a really good surfer. I stopped surfing for a while and I’ve just started to get into it again; I kind of love it now. I love the challenge of it.

What gets your goat about the Eastern Suburbs?
There are so many aggressive drivers. People are on the horn all the time and it’s intense. I feel like in the States it doesn’t happen, but you never know if someone’s got a gun or not over there.

You mentioned you played A-grade rugby at school; is it true that you once harboured ambitions of playing for the Wallabies?
Oh, absolutely. I loved it. I still love footy so much. Rugby union is, obviously, the game they play in heaven.

Is the skate scene ageist at all?
No, I don’t think age is a barrier. I mean, Tony Hawk’s 49 years old and he’s still doing it well. He’s spinning 900s, a trick that changed skateboarding and gave him a video game and made him a multi-squillionaire.

You’re probably Australia’s most famous/recognisable skater; back in your heyday were you actually Australia’s best skater?
Yeah, I won the Australian Championship in 2009? I was Australian bowl riding champion. I haven’t been in a contest in five years, though. It’s funny because skateboarding’s still one of those sports where guys that could be the best don’t compete. They just do video parts, or they just skate and fulfil their sponsorship requirements, so it’s hard to say, “That guy is the best.”

Who, in your opinion, is Australia’s best skater at the moment?
Jack Fardell. He rides for Adidas. I’ve been helping him a little with strategic planning in a few contests. He’s hopefully coming to Bowl-A-Rama at Bondi in February, and then he’s in the big series that’s going around the world for the Olympics in 2020, so that’s what he’s working for. I feel like there’s always going to be your diehard core skate guy – skating street, skating pools, skating whatever – but skateboarding, whether you like it or not, is now mothers dropping off their kids at the skate park in BMW X5s or Mercedes 4WDs. There’s definitely more money coming into it now that it’s going to be an Olympic sport.

What television work are you doing at the moment?
I am doing some Red Bull stuff, so I could be hosting skiing, snowboarding, cliff diving, or any of those ‘extreme’ sports around the world. I’m also working on a new series in the States, too, and that’s probably just going to be up on YouTube and we’re looking for partners for that at the moment. I’m also on NBC in America, doing a show called Red Bull Signature Series, where I’m reporting on the beach from events like the Volcom Pipe Pro and other things like that.

When you’re not skating and doing television, you’re designing clothes and shoes; what drives you to keep working hard and creating stuff?

It’s just stuff that I love, so it’s not even a chore. I just get hyped on trying to create new things. I like having a lot of things on my plate. I’ve got ADD. At the moment I’m working on a new fashion range, which will drop in February, with General Pants. I’ve been heavily influenced by Japanese street wear over the years, and it really shows in this new range.

You’re a General Pants ambassador, how did that role materialise?
It was actually just a phone call between Craig, the CEO, and I. I really love General Pants – it was clothing that I bought growing up – and it felt like the stars aligned. We hit it off and now I’ve just been going gung-ho. It’s a young team and they’re kind of on the same page as where I am.

Have you always had an interest in fashion?
Yeah, I was always drawn to it. I think it seriously goes back to my sister and mum. It’s like they’ve always had a specific style. And Dad too. Dad’s cruising with the newest Nike’s and he pretty much just wears the stuff I wear. He’s the same size too, so he’s very lucky.

Is skateboarding a good thing for kids to get into, or is it basically just a lot of trips to the emergency room?
Mum couldn’t come to a lot of my contests because she was so nervous at times, and she knew how invested I was in it. Once Mum watched me in Bowl-A-Rama and I lost in the final, so she thought she was a jinx and she wouldn’t come again. I played football since I was four years old so I think my parents were already used to me getting beaten up.

The injuries definitely went up when I started skateboarding, but it’s just one of those sports where you can express yourself way more than anything else. You’re wearing whatever you want to wear, you can actually walk straight out the door and just push on concrete. All you need is your skateboard and you; I think there’s something cool about that.

Bowl-A-Rama comes back to Bondi in February; what’s your role in the festival this year?
My role is basically host for the event and for all the television side of things. General Pants is the major sponsor, so they’re going to have a bunch of activations down there. I’ll be hosting it for television so I’m basically strapped with a headset on.

Why should Beast readers buy a Bowl-A-Rama ticket and get down to Bondi?
Because they’re pretty cheap and it’s just awesome even for someone who hasn’t watched skateboarding at all. Last year we had maybe 70 per cent of people who’d never been before. In the semi-finals and finals even some of the big name skateboarders like Pedro Barros, Bucky Lasek, and Tony Hawk are trying tricks that they don’t even know they’re going to do. They get so amped. When you’ve got that many people in that amphitheatre screaming, the energy is phenomenal. Pedro Barros is one of my favourites and he just rides the skateboard like Dane Reynolds surfs. If you haven’t seen any skateboarding, get down there and check it out because you’ll be blown away. It’s a world-class bowl, too.

Who is your favourite skater and who was your favourite skater growing up as a kid?
My favourite skater growing up as a kid was Lance Mountain, just because he was quirky and funny. My favourite skater style-wise would have to be Dylan Rieder, for sure. He makes things look effortless.

Do you have a favourite skate movie?
Gleaming the Cube’s pretty good. Search for Animal Chin might be my favourite though, just because I did a 30th anniversary special with all the Animal Chin guys. They rebuilt the ramp that they did in the movie and that was a pretty cool experience.

Skating will become an Olympic sport in 2020; do you think it’s a good thing for the sport that it’s becoming more mainstream?
Yeah, absolutely. People might hate me for saying that, but I think it’s great. At the end of the day if people want to do this for a living, you’ve got to get the sport out there. Then companies are investing more money, and they want more out of their athletes. There’s definitely a part of the anti-establishment stuff in skateboarding that I love and I think is really cool, but there’s room for both.

Skating is a rebellious sport; do you think it will lose that rebelliousness as the Olympics takes it more mainstream?
The Olympics and television side of things is one side, but there’ll always be the other side too, that core side of skateboarding. Even big companies like Nike and Adidas know who the coolest guys are. They’re still sponsoring them and they’re not doing contests.

Is skating cooler now that guys are pushing themselves and doing crazy manoeuvres, or was it cooler back in the day in the California droughts when people were jumping over fences into random people’s empty backyard swimming pools?
That still happens; I still do that. I travel out to San Bernardino or North Hollywood maybe once a week with a bunch of boys and we skate backyard swimming pools. Some of them have squatters in and some of them don’t, but skateboarding is still very raw. You’re in there, you’ve jumped the fence, maybe you paid off the next door neighbour in cigarettes, sometimes you’re going to pretty poor areas, and then you’ve got a generator on the back of your car and you’re trying to get the water out of a pool. That’s very cool.

Do you support any charities?
Whatever comes my way. Obviously the Tony Hawk Foundation is one I support, which about building skate parks across the world in low income areas. It’s really trying to push sports in those areas so people, especially youths, are doing positive things and being empowered. I’m up to help out however I can, though.

Do you have any advice for youngsters looking to make a career out of skating or in the media?
I think the advice that I’d give is to not worry about what could go wrong. Push yourself, and if anyone brings you down just get out there and try to do it anyway. If you’ve got an idea, what’s the worst thing that can happen? The world needs more positive people who just give stuff a crack.

In an ideal world, what does the future hold for Corbin Harris?
In an ideal world I’d probably buy a house in the Eastern Suburbs in the next few years and have one in New York, then I’d go back and forth between the two. I’d spend some of my time up in Montauk in the summer, or Long Island, go fishing, and then come back here and skate and surf and hang out with all my friends. I’d like to have the best of both worlds.