Geoff Rowley has the same scars as many skaters, and now at 39, he’s still battling blood, bruises and broken bones on his board.
Although the Long Beach, Calif., resident (by way of Liverpool, England) got his first signature shoe with Vans in 1998, the skateboarding legend was a fan of the brand before he turned pro.
More recently, Rowley has launched a knife company, Civilware, and partnered with Motörhead’s late leader, Lemmy Kilmister, on sneaker collabs.
How many pairs of Vans do you own?
I actually collect original Made in the USA Vans. I have about 10 pairs of them, really rare models. I have some Old Skools in original leopard skin canvas, I have all-white Old Skools, I have some original blue canvas Eras, and then I have a whole garage full of sample shoes. I’m sample size 9, so every single season — spring, summer, fall, holiday — every single colorway, they ship me loads of shoes. I’ve probably got more Vans than anybody else in the U.S.
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Which Vans ambassador do you most admire?
Steve Van Doren, whose father founded Vans — he’s somebody I have a huge amount of respect for. He stands up in front of everybody at every industry event as the face of Vans and tells everybody how it is; I appreciate that. And the current president of Vans, Kevin Bailey, is a huge supporter of skateboarding; he’s happy to vocalize his support for skateboarding at a lot of private business events. And obviously Tony Alva. He’s in his 50s and still ripping it on a skateboard. Tony rules: He’s the original badass.
Tell us a cool story about Lemmy Kilmister and Vans.
I wanted to partner with Lemmy and Motörhead because of their integrity, their morals. Every Vans-Motörhead shoe was Lemmy-approved. The last time I took a shoe sample to Lemmy, I asked him what he wanted to do with the shoe, and he said, “Burn them.” He would always cross the road from his apartment to the Rainbow Bar & Grill and spend time there, play the jukebox and drink. We took a studio photography shot of the shoes burning and ran that as the billboard right above the Rainbow Bar & Grill, so when he went over there when the shoe launched and looked up, he’d see a black Vans shoe and a white Motörhead logo on the side completely burning on fire.
Why’d you start your knife brand, Civilware?
I like to hunt and I am a hunting guide here in Southern California in the offseason, from October to January. I do that to stay in shape because those are some of the most endurance-building hunting trips you could throw yourself in the middle of. At my age, I can skate more now than when I was in my 20s because my lung capacity and strength building has helped protect my joints. I’m going to be skating until I’m at least 101. But I made a knife for fun. I liked it so much I made a couple for my friends, and they liked it so much that I decided to sell a few. That was about two-and-a-half years ago.
Where’s the best place to skate?
Southern California, all day long. There’s the weather, smooth concrete, it’s not as old as other major cities across the world and therefore the terrain is smoother, and there’s more architecture due to the amount of people out there. And Arizona, for all the big concrete drainage ditches.