INTERVIEW // LIZZIE ARMANTO
September 9th // Interviewer: Shane Allen // Skate
Lizzie is a professional skateboarder who's career in recent years, has really taken off. So much so that Lizzie will be going to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and is featured in the latest Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game. Sponsored by Tony Hawk's board company. Birdhouse, Lizzie has been setting a precedent for a new standard in woman's skateboarding. There has been woman's pro skating for years, but it hasn't been until recent years that a much bigger spotlight has been placed on it. Lizzie and her peers have been able to really break through the industry and make names for themselves and a living as well.
A game known for getting millions of kids into skating, the Tony Hawk games were and still are a cultural phenomenon, one of the only few representations of skating to the general public. The playable characters that were in the games were always current popular pro skaters, Lizzie gets to join that legacy and be permanently embedded into the game. Just as much as people grew up idolizing skaters in the original games such as Andrew Reynolds, Careem Campbell, Chad Muska, Elissa Steamer, kids now and for generations to come will be looking at Lizzie Armanto, idolizing her in the same way.
So how have the last couple of months been for you?
All in all, I feel like I've been super fortunate. It’s not the easiest time, but thankfully I just still have my job and I'm still skateboarding, so I don't know. It's kinda just been like a big break for me.
I totally geared up for this year to be kinda gnarly with scheduling and it just turned out to be the exact opposite, but I can't complain.
Totally it's kind of discouraging.when your picking up steam and then coming to a dead stop.
It can be, but skateboarding is so disorganized and on the fly. For the world to have a moment, it doesn't feel like the craziest thing.
Have you ever wanted to take a break from skating?
I feel like for the most part, I try to balance out my schedule so that I'm not overdoing it. There has been a couple of summers where I didn't give myself a break. Once the summer ended, I got to that point that I knew I can't do what I just did to myself again.
I feel like I've learned to navigate the ebbs and flows of skateboarding. It's so different. Traveling can be exhausting and skating itself is super physical, so you have to find what works for you. There's some people that can go all the time and never stop. And there's other people who aren't as busy.
So how did you get into skating?
So I started skating when I was 14. My brother and I had skateboards, my dad had bought them for us when we were like younger and it wasn't until we moved to Santa Monica with my mom that my brother wanted to take them out. There's a heavy skate influence and a really long history of skateboarding there.
My mom ended up taking us both to the skate park and signing us up. And then from there on out, that was the place we would go to. It was either to the library or the skate park. The park was a better choice for us.
A little more exciting than the library. Were you into anything else besides skateboarding as a kid?
Yeah, growing up, I used to be into arts and crafts, I was athletic. I never really did any sports, but I loved being outside and being in the garden and I think drawing was like my thing.
What do you think is some of the most important things skating has taught you over the years?
Skating has taught me so much, it definitely goes beyond life lessons. I've seen the whole world. But honestly, its as simple as, if you fall, you get back up. Persevere.
That'll get you a long way with any thing you want to do. If you were to go out skating on any random day, what is the first spot you're going to?
Lately. I've kind of been all over the place. I've really been into just skating curbs. Pretty simple but it's been refreshing.
How did you start to get sponsored by Birdhouse? Was Birdhouse your first sponsor?
So my first sponsor was Santa Monica airlines and they are all like one of the oldest companies in skateboarding. Growing up in Santa Monica I was on their radar. I was just like a local kid and at some point they started giving me boards.
It wasn't until I was skating contests a lot. My friend Jeff Grosso, he was asking me, if I were to be on any board company, what company would I be on? I told him I have a board sponsor. I just felt so happy that I did have someone that was hooking me up.
"And at the time there wasn't other females on core skateboard companies, it definitely felt like a stretch to get on one of them."
I ended up thinking of all the brands that were around or like around at that time. I just felt like Birdhouse was the option that stood out to me.
Fit you the best
Yeah. And so I just reaching out to friends and I knew like I knew people that knew Tony, I'd met him too, but I didn't know him or anything. I guess through the grapevine word got to him and then I think he texted me or like messaged me on Instagram. I forget. Which was really crazy. He reached out and it's like, "Yeah, we would super down to give you some boards and maybe you can come on some demos with us." And we started the like relationship there.
Probably didn’t imagine that would lead to you being a character in his video game huh?
I feel like you never really envision yourself becoming a video game character, so it definitely comes from left field. It’s super flattering, I think it's so cool that they have all the original people from the first one and then adding new people. The first game had a huge impact on the world. Tony was able to use all that to continue to bring people up and do cool shit.
Do you ever feel like your pushing the boundaries as a women skater, being on the forefront of a new era? Do you think about that stuff?
I definitely feel like I'm on the forefront of something. There's so much more opportunity for women and girls today and skateboarding and I think I was a part of the beginning to actually break through. There are so many women before me that help build, and didn't get the opportunities that I did. They made it possible and I feel super fortunate that I am where I'm at.
There were people before me that ripped and deserve so much more, they made it possible for all the girls that are getting to skate for a living right now. They had to deal with so much shit to do so,
Do you ever feel this unwanted pressure to be some type of role model? Like I’m sure when you started skating that wasn’t anywhere in mind.
I mean, yeah. I don't think anyone picks out something with the intent of being the first or like breaking boundaries. I don't know. I'm just a skateboarder. It definitely wasn't something popular when I first started, for women and girls to get into. But I love pushing myself and like learning new things. And I think that if more people do things that make them the best person that they can be, I’m totally down for that.
You mentioned Jeff Grosso, could you talk about the impact he had on your life?
Jeff, he was one of my close friends and he definitely helped me get to where I'm at today. Like he's the reason I ride for Birdhouse and vans. I don't think they'd be things without him. He was there and kind of helped me figure out my path.
When I was coming up, my job didn’t exist. Jeff was one of the people that helped me figure it out.
Jeff was definitely one of those people who fought for the things that he believed in. Inclusion was a big part of what he believed in.
He's definitely an outspoken and opinionated. And he definitely liked to use his voice for the people that maybe were shy about theirs.
Lizzie also selected to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Before the virus, 2020 was supposed to be the first Olympic games that include skateboarding and Lizzie was selected to skate for Finland, her families home country.. There are only a few countries in the world that really excel in professional skateboarding, The U.S, Japan and Brazil are the major three, not to say there aren't amazing skaters all around the world, but the major industries all lie in a select amount of countries, So being that there are only a limited amount of slots open for each countries Lizzie decided to level out the playing field by choosing to represent Finland.
In the world of skateboarding, The Olympics are kind of a touchy subject. A lots of skaters have reservations about it and a lot of skaters love the idea that it’ll be included. The strict nature of the games don’t really mesh well with the freeness of skateboarding. Lizzie however has some really cool ideas behind her reasoning to participate.
Speaking of inclusion, how does it feel to be skating in the first Olympics that is including skateboarding?
Yeah. As long as everything keeps going, I know pretty much everything's on pause right now. It's all postponed, but once they have the other few contests then we'll go to the Olympics. And as long as I hold my ranking, I should be good to go.
And you're skating on the Finnish team, correct?
Yeah. I'm skating for Finland.
That's awesome. Were you born in Finland?
No, I was born in California, but my dad is Finnish and he lives there. I was born with dual citizenship.
How often do you get to visit?
In the past few years I've been going a couple of times a year.
Anything in particular that you love about Finland?
So growing up, my dad's side of the family was over there. Whenever I had been there, it was always for family trips. And since I like having this opportunity to ride for Finland for the Olympics, I've had the chance to go over there through skateboarding.
I've learned so much more about the culture, it's one thing to be on a family trip. Because then you just hang out with your family. But getting to go there for skateboarding and seeing the country a little bit more like it's so beautiful.
I've learned more about my heritage and I guess growing up I've always been really introverted and opinionated. Turns out Finnish people have similar traits. I kind of thought it was a me thing, but then getting to go there and learn more about the people, it's like, oh this is kinda normal. I guess that’s my Finnish side. And it's been really cool to learn things like that, just because like, I didn't know about that before. And it definitely makes me feel like, I don't know. I feel like I found a new piece of myself, or more so that I came to like realizations about myself. It's just cool to learn about yourself as a person.
Being peers with most of the USA team, what was the motivation to skate for Finland? Is there a rivalry aspect to it?
I don't know if I would say that. A huge part of my decision to go for Finland was based on the fact that with the Olympics, there's like this quota system where there's only so many people that can go to the Olympics for each country. And most of the talent is like, it's only in the U S, Brazil, and Japan.
Let's say only the top three or so are gonna go to the Olympics. So whoever's next in line, even though they may be fourth or fifth best in the world, they get dropped. And so, I I just kinda wanted skateboarding to be at the highest level it could be for its debut. I just felt like going with Finland was the right thing to do.
Skateboarding has always been about what you can do on your own, It's never been, “Oh, you're a skateboarder from this country.” Growing up, I've skated with people from all around the world. I have the best sessions with the people that are my friends and I like skating with, it doesn't really matter where they're from.
I really want the debut of skateboarding to the world to be as cool as possible. And it may be a little limiting being that you can only have like a certain amount from a certain country. Spreading the wealth is good for the culture of skateboarding.
I think that’s a pretty interesting and refreshing way of thinking about it. Instead of focusing on the pride of your country, you’re focusing on the pride of skateboarding as a whole.
I also think, at contests there can be the person who wins the event, but in the end, if someone was ripping like no other, even if they don't win, sometimes that's the person who's remembered about that event. Skateboarding is so different compared to other sports. I feel like they just focus on the winners. but it's different, each person has their own abilities.
When they announced skateboarding will be in the next Olympics, skaters' opinions were kind of split in half. A lot have their qualms about how it’ll be misrepresenting the integrity of the culture. But at the same time a lot of people were really stoked about the positives it’ll bring.
I feel like I see both sides and I feel a little split about it. But overall the Olympics is just going to create more opportunities for skateboarders. There's going to be more people like that are gonna want more parks. more contests, which means that people are going to have to support skate companies. And on the women's side especially, there's so many girls who are gonna get into it after, and without the Olympics, they would have never been able to pursue skateboarding.
The Olympics are such a big platform and there's going to be countries that have never seen a skateboard. This is their first introduction to it. I mean they're not going to see Grant Taylor at the Olympics or anything. But they're going to see skateboarding and be like, “Oh, that's cool”. I want to try that, and real soon they have a passion for something they wouldn’t have known otherwise.
"But it’s not like, being a skateboarder Isn't about being the best in the world. It's just about skating, you know? You don't have to be good to have fun skating. I think that there's going to be more skate scenes popping up all over the world."
I think anything has to grow, otherwise it stagnates or dies. I imagine there's going to be new styles of skating. People are going to do things that you wouldn't have thought of. Because the Olympics will have all of these rules, it's not necessarily the most like “free” so to speak. But one doesn't exist without the other
Was school ever in the picture for you?
So I was going to college but I was skating, doing contests and I was going to high school.
"Once I started going to college, I was doing both until I tore my PCL and I couldn't skate at all. That's when I made the decision to pursue skateboarding. If I'm going to do this thing, I have to really do it and go full on."
It was against my parents judgment. Basically, I knew how much I wanted to skate going forward and my window to do it is now it's not after I'm done with school. So I quit doing school and I started doing physical therapy.
I ended up getting a manager. He helped me figure out my sponsors that I already had, he helped me solidify those relationships. It definitely took the load off of the back end of opportunities that I was getting that I just didn't really know how to deal with. So I was able to focus on skating and luckily it worked out okay.
I would say definitely worked out okay. Do you have any plans of going back to school or who knows?
I mean, I knew that if skating didn't work out, I could always go back to school. Now that skating has worked out, if I want to pursue something else, I definitely know it's an option,
I'm not really there yet. I'm still like, kinda in the thick of being a skateboarder and really love doing it. I think where things are at with my career, It’s kinda the busiest and craziest it's ever been for things to do. Like I’m in the Olympics for crying out loud!