NY-based Danny Falla talks about being the weirdo from from Peru, skating in New York winters and about getting old.
Photos and interview by Reggie McCafferty
You hurt your ankle a few weeks back. What happened and how’s the recovery going?
I was pretty much just messing around at the skate park. I feel like I always hurt myself doing something stupid when I’m the most excited about skating. We were going to go skate and all my friends were late, so I was just messing around. I did a trick, but it was kind of windy out so my foot came off my board when I landed and I just rolled it over and under my board completely. It’s been a while since I’ve had an injury like that and I knew immediately that it was going to be at least a couple of months. So now it still hurts, but I took x-rays and it wasn’t broken. Most of the times sprains take longer than a broken ankle. So I’m kind of doing physical therapy on my own, just working it out, doing the alphabet with my ankle, icing it and hopefully in like two or three weeks I’ll be skating, but we’ll see.
What have you been doing while you haven’t been able to skate?
I’ve just been working and riding my bike a lot. I think it’s helping it to get better a little bit. I can’t just stay in, so riding my bike is making me feel a little bit more sane. And luckily I’ve had friends in town so I’ve been distracted showing them around or whatever, lots of drinking. Which probably isn’t good for the ankle, but my friends are from Barcelona so they party pretty hard.
Do you think it gets harder to recover from things like this as you get older?
Yeah for sure. I remember the last time I hurt my ankle like this it was when I was young. I think it was like two or three weeks, but I was just really determined to skate. It was still kind of hurting so I was using my other foot to do certain tricks and then I actually rolled my other ankle, just because my luck I guess. But now I feel like it’s going to take a long time. And also I feel like if I don’t really take good care of it, it’s not going to heal properly. That’s the part that sucks.
Yeah that’s something I’ve noticed too as I get older. Things don’t just fix themselves anymore, you really have to take care of them if you want them to get better.
Right now I’m actually taking advantage of some free health insurance that I was able to get. So I just take care of everything. I go get checkups every year. Even something small, I don’t really like taking medicine for things, but if I can get it, I’ll do it. Just getting old kind of sucks.
That’s lucky you were able to get on a health care plan.
I actually got it through skating because there was this company that was trying to get younger people that skate to realize how important it is to get insurance. So they got a couple of skaters to join and kind of promote it a little bit. So that’s what we did and now I have health insurance.
What do you do right now for work?
I work at the Supreme warehouse. Their online store is pretty insane. Whenever they release anything new it’s just crazy. I don’t know if a lot of people know that when Supreme releases something, there’s a line down the street for whatever it is they want to get. So I’ve just been working there a few days a week. The people that work there are actually really cool, so it felt pretty easy from the beginning. As long as you’re not like a princess and can’t lift boxes, it’s all right. I’d rather do that than sitting in front of a computer anyway.
Is it pretty normal for most pros to have a day job aside from skateboarding?
I feel like right now, especially in New York since it’s so expensive to live, that not every pro can live off skating even if they want to. Most of them I guess move out to California. Actually right now, skating is so weird that only like 10% of actual pros make a good living out of skating. You know, I always had a job. I’ve never had a problem with working and skating, just managing the time. I’m sure a lot of pros that skate in New York do the same. It’s just about balancing your job. There’s some pros that get lucky or actually really deserve it and when they get big they just skate all the time and travel. Which is nice, but it can’t work out for everyone, it’s just how it is I guess.
How different is it to be more of a low-key pro versus one of those top 10% dudes?
I mean I always think about it, it’d be nice to just skate. With all these big contests, the dudes that are skating those are the ones who are actually making the money. But there can’t be that many people who are good at skating all that stuff. There’s always going to be those certain dudes. But then there’s always going to be the older skaters or pros who skate for smaller companies too and keep a different scene alive that’s more underground than mainstream. I guess that’s what it is, the ones that are making the money are the ones that are on ESPN all the time. And they’re pretty much celebrities, you know Sheckler, P-Rod…
You see them at the LES Park and they’re signing autographs and getting mobbed by kids…
Yeah it’s crazy, the kids just go nuts. But then there are other people who are more underground, low-key pros. There’s a lot more than just that 10%, but skating needs all that stuff. I’m not hating on the ones who are making the money. If they can do it, then that’s awesome for them.
Do you think they feel a lot more pressure at that end to get coverage and film tricks as opposed to the more low-key pros?
I think those guys probably feel a lot of pressure to get stuff done. They probably don’t have a lot of time for anything but traveling, skating and demos. Those dudes practice for contests, you know? It’s got to be tough, but they’re so good that I’m sure it doesn’t come as hard. They don’t have to worry about other shit. Which I’m sure is nice. I mean if you have a job it’s tougher to work on going to get photos. You don’t have as much time, you have to schedule and just balance everything out. But it becomes more special too when you don’t get to skate all the time. I’m at work and I’m thinking whenever I get out of here, “I’m fucking tired, but I’m going to hit up my friends and try to do a night sesh or something.” Especially now that I’ve been hurt for almost a month, I’m just constantly thinking about shit that I want to try or tricks that I want to learn or spots that I want to go skate.
Do you think things have changed a lot for skateboarding since Nike, Adidas and all those bigger companies have started to get involved?
For sure. It’s weird because I feel like we kind of need that stuff. They actually make really good product. It sucks for some of the smaller skater-owned companies, but I feel like they’re helping skating in some way. I know that Nike built that LES Park and it doesn’t say Nike anywhere in the park, which is crazy. They just give half a million to build that amazing park in New York City. It’s just ridiculous. I don’t hate on that stuff, it sucks for the smaller companies, but I think it’s necessary to some extent.
Yeah I could see that, I guess you just only ever hear people complaining about them.
Yeah totally. People that don’t even really know just complain about these big corporate companies getting into skating just to make money. But they’re actually helping a little bit too. And they’re going to be around for a while. To each his own I guess. But it’s tough for the little kids now, they just see it all in your face.
Yeah it must be so different for a kid now who’s finding skateboarding for the first time as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago.
Yeah for sure. It’s just weird. Whenever I used to skate a long time ago, I’d say, “What’s up,” if I saw another skater because it was kind of rare to see them around, especially where I grew up in Queens. Now kids won’t even give you a little nod like, “Hey, I skate too.” It’s just way different, everyone skates.
How old were you when you moved to Queens from Peru?
I moved with my mom and my brother when I was 13.
Did you speak English already?
No, I didn’t speak any English. That was the hardest part about moving here. I guess my mom knew that we were going to come to New York at a certain point in our lives. But we didn’t know. My dad already lived here and my uncle had been here since the late 70’s and my aunt too. So I would just talk to them over the phone or they would come for Christmas, but my mom never told us that we might go to New York one day and probably live there. So I never worried about trying to learn the language. Like we’d learn English in school and you’d be curious because you’d want to know what different songs meant. And whenever we’d see shit in skate videos we’d be like, “What the hell is he saying?” So I didn’t know how to say a lot, I just knew what some things meant.
Did you end up moving into a neighborhood where people spoke Spanish?
Yeah I was actually pretty shocked because I had no idea what Queens was going to be like. But everyone I met in school spoke Spanish, I had ESL classes the whole time. I was actually doing really good because school is way harder in Peru. So it was pretty easy. I was at the top of my class but I just couldn’t relate to the kids at school. I was like the skater dude and skating wasn’t big back then so they just didn’t know what it was.
Not only are you the weird kid who moves from Peru but you’re the skateboarder dude too.
They were like, “You skate? That’s like a white kid thing.” It was like an American kid thing. But that’s just what I did when I was in Peru so I was like, “How come these kids don’t know about skating, this is crazy.”
How old were you when you moved out of Queens to Brooklyn?
I was probably like 22. Shit I don’t even remember. I moved to Park Slope with this girl I was dating. I would just stay with her a lot at first then a few months later she was just like, “You’re always here, you should just move your stuff here.” So then I was living with her for like two and a half years. And then after living in Brooklyn, even though I was down in Park Slope, I just liked it. All my friends lived here so I didn’t really go back to Queens after that. I lived in Jersey for six months and then I came back to Brooklyn and just got used to living there.
Do you get back up to Queens often to see your family there?
Yeah my mom still lives in Queens. I don’t see her as much as she would want to, but I see her once a month and we get dinner or whatever. But my dad actually just moved back to Peru. I talk to him sometimes but we were never super close anyway.
How do you think New York has changed as a place to skate over the past 15 or so years since you moved here?
I mean it’s changed a lot. I guess in the 90’s you kind of had to know some people to skate with. People would go to the banks or whatever, and you’d kind of have to know some kind of crew to skate with. Now it’s just crazy, everybody skates. Like I said, when I was in school I didn’t relate to anybody because I was the kid that skated and nobody else did. So I had to meet some white kids that skated by going to Flushing Meadows Park. I barely could communicate with them, but those were the kids I met through skating because only a few people were doing it then. But now, I bet if you went back to the same high school I went to, everybody probably has a skateboard or knows about skating. It’s changed a lot, all the parks that they’ve built and all the other stuff they’ve done, it’s pretty amazing. I really wish that it had all started happening when I was a little younger. But it’s happening now and I’m still skating, so I’m fine with that.
Physically speaking, New York is a city that’s constantly in flux. Things are being torn down, built up, and the neighborhoods are changing are all the time. It’s not like other towns where you grow up with 10 skatespots and you know that’s all there will ever be.
Yeah things change so much. In a lot of neighborhoods like this one, in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, so much is getting built that it’s nice to go look around and find new stuff to skate. Living in Queens I remember it was cool too. We would just go all over Queens and we would meet different crews and skate their spots. And then on the weekends we’d take a trip to Manhattan and go skate downtown. After 9/11 it got tough because everything was a bust and you couldn’t skate anywhere. It kind of sucked for a while; security was really crazy. So it was easier to skate in the boroughs. It was nice because it kind of gave you an excuse to explore and find different spots.
You’ve probably gotten to see more parts of New York that way than most people who live here ever do.
Yeah it’s fun, you know. You just have to go out there with a certain attitude and be careful. I remember going to some spot in East New York with my friends Tombo and Pencyl. I was like, “You guys are crazy, you guys know you’re white right?” This spot was in the middle of the projects. But you have to go in there with a certain attitude, because we’re not trying to do anything, just skate this shitty spot. There’s always shit that can happen. I’ve known of people getting their cameras stolen or whatever. But sometimes people in the hood think its kind of cool and they just watch you or whatever. It can definitely be kind of sketchy so a lot of people don’t venture out to those spots. I feel like a lot of people that move to Brooklyn only know like three parts of the borough.
What have you been working on filming lately?
We had a deadline that just got pushed back for the new 5boro video. We’ll probably have a premier sometime in the summer. There have just been a lot of injuries. The guys that have full parts are all younger kids, they’re just so hungry right now and their stuff is pretty amazing. I’m actually pretty hyped to be in the same video as them, they’re probably going to make me look like shit but it’s fine, I can take it.
You have some footage for it already though?
Yeah maybe like half a part. I just need to get some more stuff, maybe try to think outside the box a little bit instead of trying to get hammers and get hurt, you know?
Do you skate through the whole winter here?
Yeah, I try. Sometimes short days. Maybe try to get out a little earlier because it gets dark at like four. I mean I’ve never really gone away for the whole winter. Maybe I try to take a trip when it’s the harshest in like February or March. But yeah I’ve been skating every winter. It’s tough but you just bundle up, get an extra pair of socks or long johns all that shit. There’s ways to do it.
Do you ever think about moving back to Peru?
Yeah, maybe when I’m older. Not right now. It’s actually really good for skating right now, but I wouldn’t really go back to live. I have an uncle who goes back to Peru every winter to spend it there. Which would be nice, but it’s just different. I’m so used to New York. I remember I spent one month in Peru maybe like six years ago. But I was kind of going crazy by the end. The last week I was like, “Why is everyone so mellow?” It’s just hard to get used to that rhythm.
Do you have any plans for the future? Like what sorts of things you could see yourself transitioning into as you get older?
I’ve been thinking about that lately. I’m not really sure, but I know I want to stay in the industry. I have a few ideas, but I’m just trying to learn some things now that are outside skating but would still help me stay in the industry.
Would you ever try to start your own company?
No, I wouldn’t want to do that. Maybe try to do something where I can go back to Peru and still come to New York. Maybe like a skate shop or some sort of distribution with a few brands that I’d be really hyped on. I also want to go to Barcelona to visit, I’ve always felt like that could be a place where I could live even though I’ve never been there. So I have a couple different options, we’ll see which one will work at the time. For now I can’t think about the future too much, just skate, work and enjoy life.