Factory Records, Footwear Sponsors & 3D Skateboards with Tom Karangelov

Tom Karangelov portrait by Ryan Allan - Welcome Skate Store Interview

Towards the end of last summer, the New Balance Numeric team were accompanied by Russell Houghton and James Messina, taking up residency in Manchester whilst visiting various UK cities on a filming trip for an upcoming web clip. Two weeks prior I'd been lucky enough to ask NB#'s and newest member to the 3D Skateboards team, Tom Karangelov, a few questions. With 'Quids In' debuting today this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get this very, very long overdue interview online - sorry Tom! So without further hesitation, get to know the humble, friendly and all around rad skateboarder and person that is Tom Karangelov before checking out NB# and Russell Houghten's latest visual offering.

As one of today’s most interesting yet underrated skateboarders, I’m thankful to see Tom Karangelov has gained some recognition he certainly deserves over the last year. Following on from a standout part in Zero’s ‘Cold War’, he’s since caught attention in New Balance Numeric’s visual outings and recently accompanied Brian Anderson and Austyn Gillette as the much speculated and anticipated third amigo of 3D Skateboards. No stranger to hard work and with good ethics for it, Tom is far friendlier, approachable and enthusiastic than his enigmatic and seemingly quiet nature suggests. Having achieved the habitually thought of dream of quitting a regular job to peruse skateboarding, he has nothing but gratuity for the chances he’s been given. Someone who would rather call it quits and skate for fun rather than milk it for what it’s worth; Kirchart, for the Street League generation...

Words and interview by Farran Golding. Portrait by Ryan Allan.

Tom Karangelov Kickflip Fakie photo Ryan Allan - Welcome Skate Store InterviewKickflip to fakie. Photo: Ryan Allan

So you officially ride for 3D now, how’s that treating you?

Great! Things couldn't be any better.

Was an all white outfit a required to get on the team? Are you going to keep dropping that fashion hammer?

Yeah it's a requirement for sure! I don't know, that outfit comes and goes for me; I was stoked on Ryan Gosling wearing it, (laughs).

How did you get to know Brian and Austyn in the first place? You seem like people that would mix in different circles.

I met Austyn through my friend Ryan Allan, I met Brian through Brad Staba.

Coming from Zero, who have a pretty stacked team, what is it like riding for a smaller brand? Does it feel like there’s less or more pressure on you, to be getting coverage or in any other ways?

Definitely way less pressure. I feel like I can literally skate or do anything I want! I could before but this feels like complete creative freedom. Without sounding to corny I always want to try and get photos and film because it’s fun and makes sponsors happy.

You’ve said prior to leaving that Zero didn’t feel like the Zero you rode for anymore. Recently, it’s been no secret that some of the biggest names in the skate industry are struggling, though now it looks brighter for Zero with the Dwindle partnership. Did you have any idea about that, or Chris Cole intending to leave?

I had no idea about dwindle or Cole leaving, I quit because of how I felt. I heard rumours but it always felt like Cole would be with Zero forever, I think he even owned part of the company. I could see him being bummed on some things though, Ed Duff is an amazing skater and Cole’s good friend and Cole didn't even have enough pull to get him on the team. Crazy.

Tom Karangelov Frontside 5050 photo Ryan Allan - Welcome Skate Store InterviewFrontside 5050, Zero days. Photo - Ryan Allan

Smaller brands are surpassing bigger ones right now. Polar is one of the biggest sellers, with newer companies like 3D and Fucking Awesome on the up as well. Why do you think smaller brands currently have a better appeal than the more established ones?

Maybe because the graphics and the vibes speak more to this new generation of skateboarders than catering to making graphics for seven-to-thirteen year olds, but I'm not sure... [Laughs].

Would you agree, in some cases, a lot of people are more drawn in by the pro behind the company? Obviously with Brian, 3D had a lot of credibility from him.

Yeah, I was drawn in because Brian was one of my favourite skateboarders and I loved the first series of boards, the logo, the vibes... You can just tell Brian is putting his heart and soul into the company and actually gives a shit about all the details which I think a lot of people can see.

3D has a completely different vibe to Zero aesthetically, more light hearted in terms of graphics. Was that a welcoming change for you?

Very welcoming. I only rode the "OG" zero graphics. I felt like we were all being left out of the loop on board graphics that got us stoked. I mean I could have tried to let my voice be heard but I felt that I didn't have enough pull or that my opinions didn't matter at that time. If John Rattray didn't get a Predatory Bird graphic, why would my opinion matter? That's how I felt but I'm sure there's a business way of looking at graphics...

Tom Karangelov frontside boardslide photo Ryan Allan 3D Skateboards Welcome Skate Store Blog InterviewFrontside boardslide. Photo: Ryan Allan / 3D Skateboards

Your Welcome To the Team clip was the first bit of footage released officially by 3D, any plans for a promo or video in the near future?

Brian has talked to me about a couple ideas which sound amazing. He and Austyn are working on parts right now so after that I'm sure something will be happening!

A big debate at the moment is the amount of ‘outsider’ involvement in skateboarding. However, you ride for New Balance Numeric, which out of the big brands that have entered skateboarding, seem to have had a far better reception and doesn’t portray the ‘corporate’ image as much. What are your thoughts on that?

You're right, I feel like New Balance are the underdogs of the ‘corporate’ shoe game. I feel like New Balance isn't trying to buy the big names, we are just trying to get a team of dudes that travel well together, get along, love skateboarding and are down to work on project based videos. Hopefully NB can shine through all the bulIshit in that type of way. I mean Jordan Trahan and Jordan Taylor on the same team? I can't think of a better crew of dudes to be on the team with!

You’ve said you aren’t obliged to wear NB# shirts or rep stickers, which is interesting because it’s in some companies contracts. Energy drink sponsors can even dictate the way a skater wears his hat; what’s your attitude to that sort of sponsorship?

I'll put NB stickers on my board and wear the shirts; I'm not too cool for that. I think it is cool that I don't have to, we aren't being forced to. Energy drinks are stupid, but fuck it, they help out so many skateboarders that have house payments and two kids...that part is cool - I don't really want to have anything to do with it.

How did the transition from Gravis to NB# come around? With Arto and also with Russell Houghten working on videos, it must be a pretty familiar atmosphere?

It was pretty gnarly. At first I had to figure out how to make lemons into lemonade really quickly. Once NB approached me, Arto, Russell, and Rattray and they were into it, I was sold. Also the main person that runs the skate program is a really good guy and he only wants the best for everyone – he didn't make crazy offers or act like a dork. He was really genuine so I knew I was in good hands.

Tom Karangelov boardslide pop-over photo Arto Saari New Balance Numeric - Welcome Skate Store Interview

Boardslide pop-over. Photo: Arto Saari / New Balance Numeric

All of NB#’s web clips have been incredible in terms of skating and cinematography. How is it working with Russell Houghten on those? Is another in the works?

Thanks, I'm sure Russell will be stoked to hear that! Russell is an amazing filmmaker, although we butt heads a lot I love him. We have an older brother/younger brother type relationship... We are actually coming to the UK in a few weeks to work on another!

You’ve said riding for NB# makes life easier financially. While I doubt it, do you miss anything about having to work a regular job?

No, not really. Now all I can think about is finding spots and skating... (Laughs).

Does it ever feel like you’ve got too much freedom now?

No way. Freedom is the best thing ever!

With your family moving to America for a better life, was growing up difficult until you were able to work and help your family in return? Obviously, I imagine you also feel more grateful for you the opportunities to get as a sponsored skateboarder?

My parents moved here when they were eighteen or nineteen. They did really well financially until about I was fourteen years old. I saw the good sides and the bad sides, so I definitely feel fortunate for everything.

I think you saying you’d rather go down the normal job route and skate for fun is really admirable. Some pros have never had to work a regular job in their lives; do you think that some take being a pro skateboarder for granted at times?

No, being a pro skateboarder is probably way harder than any other job in the world. Props to all you pros out there.

Kids idealize the life of a sponsored skateboarder and forget about the fact that some have to hold down a job at the same time – if it came down to working again what would you go into?

I would try to work somewhere that allowed me to take time off to go skate or travel, that would be the most important thing.

What would you say to someone that’s going through similar experiences to you? As in juggling work, education or whatever else; with what they really want in the long run?

Follow your heart; stick around your friends that put a positive influence in your life. Have fun, life's too short.

With the divide between what’s ‘mainstream’ and ‘real’ skateboarding growing bigger by the day, what do you think skateboarding will look like in ten years?

Probably the same! I hear skateboarding repeats itself, I can see that...

As a Factory Records and Morrissey fan, would you like to visit Manchester to skate and see the place that gave way to the music?

Dude, I'm coming out there soon! I'm so stoked! New Order ‘World in Motion’ playing the entire time!

Best Joy Division song not yet used in a video part?

“Something Must Break”

What’s a Morrissey lyric to live by?

“Nothing's changed, I still love you, oh I still love you... only slightly less than I used to, my love...”

Top five skateboarders (white outfits not compulsory)?

Tempter (Ed Templeton), Arto, AVE, (Geoff) Rowley, B.A.

Finally, give us something good we may not know about Arto Saari?

He always calls out tricks that he wants to do at spots he’s already done them on, but doesn't even remember that he already did them... Oh Arto...

Enjoy 'Quids In' and be sure to check out the accompanying article by Seb Palmer on the Kingpin website. Massive props to Russell Houghten, James Messina, Seb Palmer, Arto Saari, Tom Karangelov, Jordan Taylor, Jordan Trahan, Tyler Surrey, Levi Brown, Tom Knox and all at New Balance Numeric involved in the production of this from everyone at Welcome!

Grab yourself Tom's Factory Records inspired colourway of the Brighton 344 or browse our whole range of New Balance Numeric footwear.

For further reading check our previous interview with shop rider Brendan 'Brenna' Harrap.