Joey Suriel and Menace Skateboards were both a huge influence in the mid ’90s. The short Menace intro in World Industries’ 20 Shot Sequence is all it took to create the hype and demand for Menace Skateboards back in 1995. For a minute, it looked like nothing could stop them. I recently had the pleasure to catch up with Joey and ask him about the short lived Menace days and what he’s up to now.
Menace gave you a pro board in 1993, but who made the call and actually turned you pro?
Mark Gonzales turned me pro. Out of all the things I was able to accomplish in my skateboard career, I would have to say that is probably the one I am most proud of. If that’s not legit, I don’t know what is.
Didn’t they steal you from 60/40? How did it all go down?
Yes, I grew up with Kareem Campbell skating the streets of LA. He came from the same background I did and, to be honest, we just related with one another. From the first time I met Kareem as kids back in 1988, I saw the same hunger and determination in him that I also had. We both shared the same desperation in the sense that we knew this skate thing had to work. We had no other option. And the burden of knowing our families livelihood stood on the balance of whether or not we were going to make it in the skate game, we made it happen regardless of what anybody else said. I guess you can say, Kareem and I have always had the mentality of failure is never an option. So, when he approached me in 1993 to help be a part of Menace, it was natural for me to say, “Yes, I’m down.” Nothing against Mark, I just felt that I not only had more of a history with Kareem, but I also had more in common. Mark was definitely an instrumental part in helping me initiate my skateboard career, though, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you, Mark.
Anyone ever pack heat on Menace?
No comment. I will say this though: if you look closely in the beginning of the Menace part in the Trilogy video when we break into Kareem’s house, in the bottom left corner of the screen, you will see a hand go into the camera equipment bag and cock a 9mm handgun. I don’t think anybody ever noticed that. That was the real deal.
What were the best things about 1995?
I think the best thing about 1995 is that you didn’t have to go very far to skate and make things happen. Within a 10 or 20 mile radius in Los Angeles, you can basically film an entire video part. It was the same in SF and SD. Also, it seems like back then the mentality was more about quality and not quantity. And it was much harder to get in and be accepted as a sponsored am or pro than it is now. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego was basically where skateboarding was happening, and back then there was no way you were going to go to any of the local spots and think you were going to just get in on a session with the locals if your skills weren’t up to par and hadn’t earned respect. To me, it was not about being sponsored; it was about gaining the respect from my peers first. And it’s because of that respect I was able to obtain that I am still here today. I have always been the type of person that respects everyone to the utmost fullest, but in the same token I demand that same type of respect back.
Do you feel skateboarding was in a better place in 1994 or 1995 compared to now?
No. I think skateboarding has evolved and progressed the way it should. Everything must change; nothing stays the same. And that’s with life in general. I think it’s great that these guys are making millions now. I think it’s great that a lot of my friends I came up with are now successful company owners. I am just thankful I was able to be a part of an era in skateboarding where I was able to make somewhat of an impact. Not so much on the physical or talent aspect of it, but more in the sense that kids were able to look at me and say if he was able to do it with the circumstances and situations he dealt with coming up then I can do it too. I strongly believe we can accomplish anything we set our minds to do. As long as we have a passion, desire, and, most importantly, love, for what we do, anything is possible. Love overpowers and conquers everything.
What do you do for work these days?
I am brand manager for Diamond Supply Co.
What do you do on a daily basis now that relates to being a professional skateboarder?
I, along with Nick Tershay, Greg Carroll, and Khristi Camarlinghi, help handle all the day-to-day business situations and decision-making for Diamond Supply Co. My job description is brand manager, but I have my hands in everything. The only thing I do not touch is art direction and marketing. I leave that up to Nick Tershay.
Did you ever think you would still be working in the skateboard industry almost 15 years later?
Honestly, yes. I remember I was driving back with Kareem from a film session at Chaffey back in the day and I asked him, “What’s next?” He looked at me and said, “What do you mean?” I said, “This can’t be it. Skateboarding isn’t going to last forever. What will we do for the rest of our lives?” And I remember Kareem looking at me and saying, “Just enjoy it.” Kareem had already started Menace and was in the works with starting Axion Footwear. Which, to me, was as if I owned the companies as well because I was able to work under Kareem and learn a lot about the business. I am thankful for the fact that he always allowed me to do whatever I wanted as far as involvement in the day-to-day operating and decision-making that went on behind the scenes. And it is because of this that I am where I am today. I never went to college, but in retrospect, skateboarding was my college because I was able to learn about business while in the trenches. It was real-life business situations I was dealing with and learning from.
Do you see or hang with the old Menace crew?
Lee Smith works at the Diamond Store, and Javier Nunez works down the street at Supreme, so I see them all the time. Billy Valdes I run into every once in awhile. He works for X-Large Clothing. Eric Pupecki lives in Rhode Island, and I have not heard from Fabian Alomar in awhile. Fabian: if you are reading this, hit me up, family. Steven Cales comes by a lot. Kareem, I see at certain events here and there. He lives in Texas now, so I don’t see him as often as I would like to. He recently re-launched City Stars; he’s busy doing his thing. We are all in a different phase in our lives. We are grown men now.
Who almost got on Menace that people don’t know about?
I heard Paul Zitzer almost got on. I remember Rick Ibaseta was going to get on Menace at one point. Billy had mentioned putting him on, but he ended up doing his own thing and started Cream Skateboards. Paul Zitzer, I am not too sure about. I do remember Kareem bringing us a video and asking us what we thought, but for some reason nothing ever flourished beyond that.
Tell me the first thing that comes to mind about each team rider
Fabian Alomar: OG
Eric Pupecki: Viking
Billy Valdez: Pastelito de guayava
Steven Cales: New York
Javier Nunez: little brother
Lee Smith: Majors
If someone on the Menace team had to do a frontside air in a pool, who could do it?
Billy Valdez and Javier Nunez, without a doubt.
What’s one thing you should never do when you’re a professional skateboarder?
Never take any opportunity for granted and never burn bridges. The people you see on your way up are the same people you will see on the way down. The difference will be on how you handled your business coming up. If you did right and kept it honest, the industry will remember that and you shall be rewarded.
God Almighty, my mother, my wife, Claudia, and my two beautiful boys, Isaiah and Jeremiah, I love you with all my heart. Kareem Campbell, Nick Tershay, and Greg Carroll for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to show and prove myself. Khristi Camarlinghi. Mark Gonzales for turning me pro, a huge compliment coming from one of the best street skateboarders that ever lived. Russ Pope for supporting me early in my career. Stacy Peralta for sharing his words of wisdom with me when I was a kid. The OG LA crew, Kareem Campbell, Shiloh Greathouse, Billy Valdes, Paulo Diaz, Gabriel Rodriguez, Rudy Johnson, Guy Mariano, Fabian Alomar, and all the other homeboys we came up with skating the streets of LA. My extended family: Empire Distribution, Girl, and Chocolate Skateboards. Ruben Orkin, Keenan Milton, Justin Pierce, forever RIP. I love skateboarding because I am skateboarding. God is love.