We Talked to Adam Ziegler, Lil Wayne's Skate Coach
Music can bring people together for a common purpose and almost vanquish judgmental attitudes, abolish discriminatory viewpoints, and create communities. Along with music, skateboarding can bring all of these to the table as well. Your mentality changes towards other people so much so, that if the other person has good character and skates, you’re already friends. No judgment or prejudice against one another. Everyone’s sole purpose is to have fun and skate.
Recently, the magic of skateboarding has been becoming more and more mainstream, which can get kind of annoying if you're a skater—sometimes it seems that carrying a deck is another fashion accessory rather than a way of life. One celebrity for whom this doesn't apply to, however, is Lil Wayne.
Tunechi started skating around 2011 and has been slowly progressing his skills, as well as his focus on skateboarding in general. Although a fair swath of the skate community disagrees, Wayne doesn’t seem to be interested in skateboarding to be hip, but instead is truly inspired to skate.
To settle all of this speculatory nonsense I decided to give Weezy’s skate teacher, Adam Ziegler, a call. Though many of you may not know him, he’s been a core proponent of Florida skateboarding for years, and has even been a rep for the East Coast company 5boro. Check out what he had to say about Tunechi’s skating, attitude, and progression.
Noisey: How long have you been skating and what got you into it?
Adam Ziegler: I grew up on the beach, surfing and skating around Daytona Beach from when I was eight years old, and I never really stopped. I started off as a surfer and got more into skating when I was in ninth grade. When street skating blew up in the early 90s, that’s when I got into it.
Cool. That’s kind of when street skating was getting new, but a lot people didn’t really skate. Those are core roots.
Yeah. We then had—and still do—a lot of good skaters from Florida.
I definitely think Florida has a really great scene. I don’t think a lot of people really know that we have a plethora of good skaters.
It’s still that way. When I was being a rep for 5boro in Florida, I was really working hard to build a flow team. I really tried to get those guys some exposure and I think it worked out really good. Clive Dixon is riding for Tony Hawk and Birdhouse. He’s killing it. Chris Blake is blowing up recently. All of these guys are starting to do something and I just wanted to do something to help them—to help them get seen and help them understand one way to make it. Chris stayed home in Florida and CJ left Florida and they both are working out for them.
From what I understand, moving to New York lead you to what you do now, which is teaching Lil Wayne how to skate. How did that whole process happen? It seems, from my perspective as a friend, really random. One day you were working at this nice job in TriBeCa and all of a sudden, you moved back to Florida working for Lil Wayne.
Some of the friends that I made in New York ran a skate school. Jennifer Willis, Dave Willis, and Joe Tan run Uptown Skate School and teach at different skate parks all over the city. They’re a really organized crew and really passionate about what they do. They basically spread skateboarding to the younger generation and teach them how to do it right. It’s a great organization. I got involved with them as a volunteer for a while, helping them do events and teaching. At that point, I’d been teaching skateboarding for a long time. Uptown Skate School was contacted by Wayne to teach him to skate. He saw that was where he wanted to begin. Based on my affiliation with them, I was one of the first people they thought of. When they reached out to Wayne, they offered three different people. I was lucky enough to be picked. They flew me out to meet Wayne and skate with him. We clicked right away. He learned a lot from the first session and made a lot of progress. He was really open to my teaching and what I had to say. He progressed a lot quicker than he thought he was going to.
From the first video of seeing Wayne skate, it looked like he was having a lot of fun, but he was just learning. Then, with every video that came out, I saw his progression. He recently had the street skating mission with Greg Lutzka and he 180’d a five-stair. I was really stoked! He’s progressing very quickly.
He’s skates a lot and he has from the beginning, when I first started working with him. He was on his American tour and we were skating four or five nights a week. After shows, we’d go skate. Skate parks would always be closed for us. He and I would just work on new techniques, and he really progressed a lot. He basically started off on ramps and pumping around the flow course. He liked it all, though. He liked bowls, mini ramps—anything, really. Once he started really getting comfortable, he started street skating. In my mind, I had been preparing him for those nights.
I knew he would end up skating with a lot of pros, and he had already met a lot of them before he even skated. My goal was to get him confident in his skating. If was going to go skate with Paul Rodriguez, he’s going to have to actually skate and not be intimidated. From the beginning, he’s always been confident to skate with those guys. That street skating stuff that he did in LA, for him, that’s just an awesome night to go skating and just happens to be with Greg Lutzka. He really loves skating and he really wants to do it.
When you go out street skating or to a park, you’re still skating with all of them, too. I remember seeing that Thrasher video when Wayne skated Double Rock, and I saw you got footage in it. I was really stoked to see you get clips. Do you have to be constantly by Wayne?
The way I always approach teaching people how to skate is the way we all learn how to skate, which is with your friends. We’ll go through periods where I’m not even skating very much. I’ll only skate as an example on a trick. I can’t teach him anything. You know how skating works; you have to learn. I’m not taking the fall for him. If he’s learning a new trick and he falls, that’s on him. He’s going to get up and go again until he learns it. When I claim that I’m teaching him, I’m just showing him and telling him everything that I know about that trick that will help him apply it. We’ll go through times where we’re working hard on a trick or we’ll spend a few days just carving a bowl, almost like drills. Then we’ll go through periods of time where we’re just skating together, like the crew. We’ll go out and skate with the crew and he’ll feed off the energy and learn that way, too. Those are usually good opportunities. I’ll coach him and then I’ll back off. When I see he’s ready for more, I’ll go back into coaching mode and when I see he’s tired of hearing it, I’ll back off. People who skate with him comment on how quickly he progresses and they also comment on how consistent he is.
It sounds no different than when we grew up learning how to skate. We’d go to the park and we’d learn how to do a trick and someone, whoever knew how to do that trick would give you suggestions on how to do it. By the end of the session, you’ve landed it a few times and you've got it. The process is something that everyone goes through, and anyone who skates can relate to that.
Exactly. For him, he didn’t have to slowly learn that with his friends. He was able to have an influence from someone who has been skating for a long time.
It’s like having a big brother who knew how to skate and taught you how. I’m going to change directions for a second. A lot of the skate community hates on the fact that he skates. I, personally, disagree. It seems that he skates because he's genuinely passionate about it. It doesn’t seem that he’s doing it because it’s trendy. Do you think that’s accurate?
Yeah! The first time I met him, I was on tour with his group for about three days and I still hadn’t met him. I kept waiting around wondering, “When am I going to see this guy?” I actually had a full-time job and decided to use my vacation days to go on tour for a week and a half. I wanted to see if it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to figure out if I wanted to change my lifestyle. I had a really nice apartment in Brooklyn, had a good job in the city; I had everything I wanted.
By day number four, I still hadn’t met him. I needed to meet him and have a couple of lessons. I didn’t even know when we were going to skate. I got a call from his assistant to go meet him. I’m not joking, when I walked in, Wayne bowed to me. He said, “You are the skate sensei and I want to learn from you. I want to skate so bad. It looks so fun and I don’t care what it takes, but I want to learn and have fun doing that. I don’t want people knowing I’m trying to learn. I don’t want people to checking my progress and talking about it. I just want to keep it quiet and just learn.” That’s the way it was presented to me, and that told me everything. That told me he wasn’t trying to be cool about it and he didn’t want to just learn to kickflip; he just wanted to learn how to skate and have a fun outlet. His life has demanded he work really hard, and he was getting to the point where he was looking for something else. He got a taste of skating and he was hooked.
The first lesson, he learned how to drop in, how to kickturn, how to do rock-to-fakies, and learn get a little grind on the coping. He worked so hard that night to learn those tricks. I realized what he went through and knowing what skating is about—no one subjects themselves to that if they don’t really want to do it. He was so grateful to me for teaching him that I had all the right feelings about it. Over the next week, we skated everyday. By the end of my vacation time, I knew I was going to quit my job and stay on tour with him. I didn’t even give notice; I just quit. I ‘ve been working with him since. It’s been very rewarding to say the least.
That’s awesome. It’s refreshing to hear. What was tour like with Lil Wayne in general? Was that the first time you went on tour with a musician?
Yeah, that was my first experience on a music tour like that. To compare it to any other tours I’ve been on, it’s like apples and oranges. The pace that you live and the pace that you have to move from one place to another and the lack of sleep and nutrient is another level, but you get used to it. Once I did, I really liked it. Every day, you’re in a new place. As we’re driving, I’m looking for skate parks and skate shops in that town. My job was to find a good location for Wayne after the show every night to go skate. During the day, I would be able to skate the city a little bit, go to the show, and then go to the park. For me, as a skater, being able to go a bunch of different cities and to go to 45 different parks is like a dream come true. The experience was awesome. When it ended, I decided to move to Miami to keep working with him.
After that tour, did your relationship with Wayne begin to grow? Did you guys hang out and skate as if I would call you or another friend would call you to go skate?
Oh, yeah! I think that after that first tour that we were on and he saw that I was willing to leave New York and move to Miami, he felt the loyalty. I wasn’t just looking at it as a job. We did train really hard after tour, but after a while, we just skated. We’d talk about skating and talked about building ramps and parks. This was early on before Trukfit, before Supra, before all that stuff. Before the industry part of skateboarding, when he was just skateboarding. My involvement with Wayne is to help him skate. We’ll skate together for awhile and it’s not like a training thing. If he’s in not traveling and is in Miami, we’re going to be skating together. A lot of people around him skate now, including some of the people who work for Young Money. His sound engineer, Mike Cadhia—he skates. There’s always people around him who skate.
Now that he’s running Trukfit and his involvement with Supra, what is your involvement with it? Has he been really focused on skating?
Trukfit has become a full-time venture for him. Ever since he wanted to start the company, there was always talk about building a team. He talked to me many times before about managing the skate team and helping build a team. I don’t feel he just wants to put together a big bunch of names and have a good team. He’s been skating with people and meeting people and getting to know people. When he decides to pick a name out of a hat, it’s going to be someone he actually knows and believes in. Not like, “Chaz [Ortiz] won this,” or “Nyjah [Houston] won Street League, so he’s our guy.” He’s not about that. I’ve never pressured him to build a team, but I’ve given him suggestions and whatnot. Just different things we can do with the team and different things we can do with the brand. I’ve never really been involved with Trukfit, though. I’m available to help when I can, but I’m not about pursuing any of my own agendas or goals. He’s been so generous with me that I’m not trying to gain anything.
Any future plans that you’re going to do with Wayne?
Yeah, actually. I’ve begun working on a new video website. The core of the website that will allow skaters to post their videos and their crew videos.
Kind of like Hella Clips?
Kind of like Hella Clips, but specifically, what I’m doing is that I’m giving crews like Daylando or skateparks or even individual skaters who want to get sponsored something that allows them to brand themselves. Any skate crew in the world can put up a page through us that has all their videos and all the skaters in their crew. If they have a DVD, they can sell it. It’s going to basically be a video skate shop.
A place like Midtown Skatepark will have their own page where they can sell their DVD, post their streaming video, or rental. I’m also going to be bringing in skate shops so they can sell their shop videos and sell their shop decks and shirts. Not have them sell everything in their store, but they can sell their branded stuff. I want to be able to have MIA sell their MIA boards. Anyone in the world can order their shop brand. If I live in LA, I can’t go to every skate shop and order it. I’m going to have Wayne help me a lot with content. We’re going to have original content for the site as well. Trukfit, for example, will produce original content. It’s going to be kind of like a channel. It’s going to be RawFooty.com and is in its early developmental stages.
Follow Daniel on Twitter - @danieldorsa
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