If the session is really heavy, like jumping down a fifteen stair for hours, I’ll definitely go straight for an ice bath if I can.
– Walker Ryan
the Walker Ryan interview.
29 November 2017 / interview: Matt Beare
Photo: Patrik Wallner
Something about Walker Ryan always really stood out to me. He's in that exclusive pocket of skaters, where you find people like Mark Suciu. I can't say exactly what it is that sets him apart. Maybe it's the college education, maybe it's all the clips of him skating in places around the world that no one else has skated, I don't know. What I do know is that whenever a new Walker Ryan part pops up, you have to stop whatever you’re doing until you’ve watched it. He’s one of those skaters. There aren’t many out there that have such flow and style, along with such a unique and awkward trick selection, big pop, and the ability to throw down some seriously heavy hammers at the same time. He’s a rare breed that’s just straight up enjoyable to watch.
I can only speak based on random impressions from clips on the internet, and our communication for this interview, but he also seems like a real humble and friendly dude. He was hyped to do an interview and after a few emails and Instagram DMs this is what we put together. He told me "I'm not the gnarliest healthy lifestyle advocate", but he's definitely got a decent stack of habits and methods to stay on point and to keep skating the way he does. We get deep into everything from ice baths to Downton Abbey, foam rolling to Asian pain-easing recovery pastes, upcoming video projects and much more. So take notes kids, you can be sure that the things Walker does to improve his skating will work for you too.
Photo: Alex Souetre
What’s the secret to switch backside flips?
Closing your eyes and crossing your fingers! Just kidding. I would say the secret is all in the shoulders. You have to just make sure you give it the full rotation and aim for landing square over your board back in regular position. Delaying the flick a little is helpful too.
How does a normal day for Walker Ryan look? Do you have a routine?
A normal day for me consists of getting up early-ish and working on the computer. Either doing stuff for Old Friends, working on various writing projects, or just emailing. Sometimes I’ll read my book for a little before busting out the computer. I’ll prepare some breakfast while listening to a podcast. If there aren’t any random errands to run, I’ll try to find a skate session to hop on, whether it’s filming in the streets or at a skatepark. Skate days usually end once it’s dark, at which point I’ll head home and make or order some dinner with my girlfriend Whitney. We’ll end the evening with a show and then some reading.
Do you warm up before you skate?
Ideally I like to go for a little bike ride before I go skate, maybe even bicycle to the skate spot if I can. That usually feels like a nice warm up for the legs. Once I’m at a skate spot, I try to squeeze in a routine of dynamic stretches that my friend Dr. Kyle Brown has recommended. Leg kicks and such. I’m usually pretty stiff at the start of a session and the dynamic stretches really help.
Photo: Patrik Wallner
Do you have any go-to methods to recover from a heavy session?
If the session is really heavy, like jumping down a fifteen stair for hours, I’ll definitely go straight for an ice bath if I can. Stuff the bath tub full of ice, fill it up with water and get in with only a sweatshirt on and suffer for ten to fifteen minutes or so. Ice baths definitely help me feel less sore the following day. If I can’t take an ice bath I’ll ice my legs with bags from a liquor store directly after a jumping session, which I’ve found is still helpful. I also take branched chain amino acid supplements sometimes, which helps combat muscle soreness. After a more mellow session, I foam roll my legs for ten to fifteen minutes. I always bring this rumble roller which has little knobs on it. I’ll usually have to concentrate on my calfs and the back and sides of my quads. Then I’ll do some static stretching, hamstring, hip, groin. I sometimes use this medicated plaster that’s a little like Icey Hot called 701 that I find at Chinese Herbal stores. I swear by this stuff for the minor bruises, light strains and general soreness.
Is there anything you do off your board to help your skating?
I like to multi task TV time with a solid stretch routine. A fifty minute episode can be a perfect lazy yoga session. I’d like to do more yoga but after I badly pulled a hamstring doing yoga one time, I’ve been a little wary. I mainly just do a daily routine of yoga inspired stretches. Riding my bicycle feels like a nice work out as well.
How are your eating habits? Are you strict with what you eat? Do you go for burritos on the daily or healthier options?
I’m not too strict with what I eat, but my girlfriend and I aim to eat healthy. I usually make some kind of egg meal in the morning, followed by a big acai bowl. The bowls usually consist of acai, berries, bananas, almond milk and peanut butter. I usually make a lunch, sandwiches with lots of avocado and some kind of meat. Whitney and I often make big batches of beans and roast a chicken to make meals from during the week. I love a burrito here and there, especially now that I’m back living in California, but dinner will be anything from sushi to pasta to burgers and salads. My girlfriend makes some delicious salads. I like fiber granola bars and apples throughout the day. I’m always trying to make sure I’m drinking tons of water.
At first glance, you don’t seem to be the kind of skater that skates massive gaps, but then you drop some of the biggest hammers in the game, like the switch backside flip down the Love gap. Do you prepare for tricks like that or do you just wake up and decide it’s hammer time?
If there are specific gaps I want to hit, I’ll definitely “prepare.” All that really means is that I’ll go to a skatepark with a specific trick in mind and do it over and over again down a small set. But in general, I definitely prefer to jump down big stuff if I’m in the habit of it. Now that I’m almost thirty, I’ve found that recovery from jumping down big stuff can take much longer than when I was younger, especially if I’m out of the habit. But if I’m jumping down stuff somewhat regularly, I definitely feel less sore after heavy sessions. That being said, you never know when the spirit might move you and that perfect set or gaps pops up that you just have to jump down. While I still can, I definitely want to jump down some big sets in the future.
What was the turning point where you started taking care of your body and your health more?
I think it was just becoming aware of how crucial stretching and increasing flexibility is for maintaining a long skate career. Probably when I was eighteen or nineteen. I also just hate watching stiff skating and I notice it within my own skating sometimes. Like jumping down something big and not properly bending my knees is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate how that looks. If you watch guys like Reynolds, or Sheckler, or Miles Silvas, they take impacts in a way that just looks healthy for their bodies. As for maintaining a real healthy lifestyle with what I eat, I could always improve on that. I’m definitely no pillar of perfect eating and drinking.
The Visual Traveling videos you shot with Patrik Wallner are some of the most amazing skate videos I’ve ever seen. They gave me the impression that you were some kind of travelling gypsy for a while. How long were you on the road for?
I wouldn’t say I was a traveling gypsy, but I did spend about five years without an address or home base and said “Yes" to every trip. It was incredible to have the opportunity to travel to so many insane places through skateboarding.