The Skateboarding Australian Expat


Photos by Matt Neilsen

To the untrained eye, the city of Los Angeles and the country of Australia aren’t that different.

They both are home to a vast expanse of bright sun, vibrant beach culture, a pubescent obsession with bronzed skinny blondes, as well as being home to Monster Children offices to tie it all together. But Jack Fardell is a Queanbeyan, Australia native and has a very, very trained eye. “The beaches here are dirty as shit,” he tells me as we enjoy a couple of cold beers on a typically sunny late afternoon, one Friday in Los Angeles, “and the traffic drives me fucking nuts. Anyone who’s in a car in LA is the most inconsiderate person ever.” And then he laughed, having just detailed how he’ll spend time driving around looking for spots.

Jack’s got a knack for spots and skating them in new ways. Like eyeing up a line at a park (another talent of his), approaching obstacles with ample speed and plenty of space to gain it. He seems to use all the pavement at his disposal to go just a little higher and a little further, often making his mark on the unskated parts of popular spots. “My favourite is when the rest of the adidas team are in town. I’ll go out with a lot of those dudes and they’re all pretty tech. We’ll be skating a hydrant or a ledge and I get sick of not skating so I’ll jump in and get involved in the session and get some random trick that I’ve never done before. That’s been happening a lot lately.” Not just lately. His first major splash into American skate media utilised one of San Francisco’s most famous spots—the China Banks—by way of a frontside carve over the long bench. That landed him the cover of Transworld and a name in the skate world at large, which is why he left Australia in the first place.

“The skate industry is pretty massive in Australia but it’s nothing compared to what it is here. I’m sticking around for a little while. It’s a relevancy thing.” After trying Bay Area institutions Anti-Hero and Enjoi on for size, Jack and his wife moved down from San Francisco to Los Angeles where he seems to have found a fit with Steve Berra and Mikey Taylor’s SOVRN, for whom he just turned pro. Toss that in the bag with his other sponsors—adidas, Spitfire, and Independent to name a few—and that’s a pretty impressive case for moving 8,000 miles away from your hometown.

Jack on home shores in Maroubra.

An ardent appreciator of an extended frontside invert as well as a hunt for a unique street spot, he sometimes watches old video parts and then goes searching to see if the spots still exist, hoping to uncover a new angle or a classic thrill. He’s in awe of —and also exasperated with—the rate of skateboard media consumption, though he’s been putting out at least a part a year since he’s been in the US. When he skates to blow off steam he doesn’t worry about sharing it. “I don’t want to film a trick and put it on Instagram. When I go to the park I want to go with my mates, skate, have a good time, finish up, and have a couple of beers. The last thing I want to do is take out my mobile phone and film a clip. I’d much rather film a trick for real and make a great part.” The approach works; check his video resume for proof, his Welcome to SOVRN part being the latest.

A few beers into our interview, Jack’s recollections of his home country become a bit more wistful. He misses the barely touched spots, of which he contends there are hundreds, and cold Victoria Bitter. He excites himself when he remembers a recent trip home for a project with Surf Dive ‘n’ Ski. “I went back to Australia over Christmas and we filmed a mini-documentary about how I started skating and where I grew up. We took a trip down to Queanbeyan, my country hometown—farms everywhere, old school pubs that are still going. It’s fucking sick. We went down there to the first skatepark I skated, where I went to school. One night we had the whole family at the pub—aunties, uncles, cousins. Like 40 to 50 people. It was sick.”

“And all the Aussie skateparks, especially the old ones, are super rough with all these cool obstacles. You can get footage at any skatepark in Australia because it looks so old and cool. It’s not like a bright orange and pink park with perfect handrails. They’re rough with no coping. It doesn’t look like there’s Vaseline spread across the whole flat bottom.” I asked him his favourite trick. “I hate that question,” he said while shaking his head and smiling. I began to move on but he cut me off and said, “Just cruising. Going fast. A deep wall with pool coping. Going as fast as you can and frontside grinding and just hearing those tiles. That’s the fucking best. You know when you’re doing it right.” I tried to make some stupid metaphor relating that to his skate career, about how you know when you’re doing it right. He just smiled and asked if I was going to have another beer.

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