Vertical Horizons

Surfer, snowboarder, but above all skater, Lyn-Z Adams is a true Californian sports star. So we headed out to her hometown San Diego last summer for a little taste of what growing up and hanging out in the vert capital of the world was all about

Words by Posy Dixon, photos by Volcom and Jeff Crow

Did you enjoy your cover shoot?
It was fun. I kept reading the photographer’s name in emails before and I was thinking that it could be this girl who I knew already. And then Kassia (Cooler snapper Kassia Meador) showed up, and I was so excited as I’ve known her since I was ten. When I rode for Roxy she was on the Roxy surf team, so we used to hang out and surf all the time.

It sounds like you had a pretty idyllic childhood growing up in California, did that shape you into the person you are today?
In California most kids do sports, I did soccer, basket ball, baseball, girl scouts, swimming, diving, I did it all. I got my first surfboard when I was five and started competing in surfing when I was nine years old. I actually got my first skateboard when I was one and a half, so I’d been around it my whole life, but I didn’t really get that into skating till I was about ten or so.

You were skating and surfing competitively at the same time in the beginning?
We used to live in Mexico for six months of each year, my dad had a bed and breakfast there, so we’d do school in California till December, and then we’d pack up and go down to Mexico and home-school until Summer came around again. Down there was great for surfing, we were right on the ocean, but the pavements were shitty so I couldn’t really skate much, and it stopped me progressing. It was when we stopped going to Mexico that I started to pursue skating properly as I could go to all the skate parks all year around.

Did it bother you in skating that you were one of the few girls on the scene?
There were a few other girls around, girls like Cara-Beth Burnside and Jen O’Brian, but it never bothered me personally. And it wasn’t like I was a natural at skating either, a few years ago my Mum told me that in the beginning she’d been upset when she took me to skate comps as there were so many girls doing better then me! But I worked really hard and eventually something clicked – and then it got a little easier, but in the beginning it definitely wasn’t an easy ride.

At what point did you find yourself skating with some of the country’s best skaters?
My local skatepark was where all these “legend” guys, like Tony Hawk skated when I was growing up. You have to realise that people move from all over the world to San Diego to skate. This is where all the best vert ramps are and if you want to make it as a vert skater this is the place to be. So all those guys were always at my local park, and they watched me grow up and learn, and in my head they were just the super nice guys at the park. I never realised that they were a big deal or anything.

You do a lot of comps and demos, is that an element of skating that you enjoy or just something you do as part of your job?
I’m very competitive and when I grew up skating was everything. When I was 14 I was doing between 20 to 30 events a year, travelling and competing all over the place. And I loved it, but after a while, I just got burnt out. I was starting to feel like I didn’t have real friends and I didn’t get to be a kid at all, I was just thrown in to this world where I had to travel and be this little adult. I hit 15 and I was super apprehensive about everything, I wanted to go to regular school and play soccer maybe stop skating altogether. But I pulled through somehow, and I am so glad I did because I don’t think I’d be as happy as I am now if I’d given up skating then.

What was it that pulled you through?
I took some time off, and that’s when I got into snowboarding and through that I met a lot of kids who were in a similar situation to me, as in snowboarding there were way more people who had been competing from a young age. And also instead of it being all boys, there were all these girls in snowboarding too, so I suddenly met all these friends who I could really relate to. Finding snowboarding also helped me to have some kind of balance in my life, I found that if I rode all winter by the time summer came around I was totally ready to skate again.

Did you find snowboarding easy compared to skating?
I picked it up pretty fast, it was really fun and I started competing straight away. But it got to a point when it became stressful, I got caught in this mental trap because I was worried about hurting myself snowboarding and then not being able to skate. I blew out my knee snowboarding and that really effected my skating, so I guess I let it fall to the wayside eventually.

How do you deal with injury?
I’ve been lucky, so far the worst has been tearing my ACL and meniscus snowboarding when I was 16, just on a small jump that’d got slow. But you know, in a way it was a blessing in disguise, it wasn’t scary so it didn’t freak me out, and I kind of needed some time out anyway. I went home and worked hard at getting my knee better, and at the same time I went to all the big contests and worked at them, announcing or as a course marshal. It was tough being at those events and not being able to skate, but it was a really good experience to learn about other sides of the industry and gain a new perspective.

You often state Tony Hawk as one of your biggest influences, how did you get to know him?
I’ve known him since I was little and I skate at his office on his vert ramp most days that I’m home. There’s this huge building where all the Tony Hawk companies are based, and it’s got a vert ramp in the middle. I go in and everyone’s like family, I go say hi to everyone, and then I go skate.

Tell us about your involvement with the Tony Hawk show in at the Grand Palais in Paris
I’d done a few different demos with him, I’m his go-to girl because he thinks it’s important to have a female role model in the show. But the Paris one was really special, there was some kind of mix up with dates and Tony didn’t think I was free to go, so it was only a few days before when I rang him up that he was like “what I thought you were busy?!” He ended up using his frequent flyer points to fly me out there last minute.

And that ended up being where you landed the first ever mctwist to be done by a woman?
I’d done two demos previous to that when Tony had been like, “I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you land that mctwist”, but I just couldn’t pull it together to put it down. In Paris, the offer still stood, and I just had this feeling that today was the day. Kelly Slater there too, and he was like, “How about I give you 1000 dollars too?” I’d been working on it all day, and we were getting ready to end the demo, Tony had taken his pads off and was thanking the crowd, and then he turned around and said, “who wants to see Lyn Z do a 540?” And that was when I dropped in and I landed it. It was so surreal, everybody thought it was staged and that wasn’t my first one, but it was for real.

And then to another of your “first woman ever” accomplishments, riding the DC mega ramp?
Yeah I’m the only girl to have hit that, I hit the small side which has a 55 foot gap.

How did you approach that challenge?
I was 15 when I first did it, I stood up at the top of that roll in for hours so no one thought I was going to drop. But finally I just did it, just went for it, and I flew across that gap, I didn’t even have my board near me, I just flew across it and landed on my knees, and I was like, “oh my gosh that was amazing.” I did it a few more times that day but it was getting dark, so I had to keep going back. I think it took me about 4 days before I actually rode away from one, but when I did it was the most incredible feeling.

There are people who are saying that in some sports, like snowboarding, things are getting stupidly big, turning riders into stuntmen as such. Is that something you think is happening in skate at all?
I agree for sure that things can get too big. It gets to a point where it’s so dangerous, and having the speed to get across a gap is so crucial. It’s particularly the case in snowboarding where conditions change so quickly and there are so many things to take into account. When things get so huge it gets to the point where things aren’t technical anymore it’s just about who’s got the biggest balls to fly across the biggest gap, and I’m not into that. Having said that I think in skating, it’s not so much a problem. Things are still pretty technical, I mean I’m sure that street will get to a point when you can only go down so many stairs without huge consequences, but I think in general progression is still more about skill.

Would you like to see vert introduced into the Olympics like halfpipe snowboarding has?
I think they’re working on that now, I’m not sure when it’s going to happen or if I’d even be competing at that point, but I think that would be awesome. It’d really help grow the sport and introduce it to other countries, and give opportunity to a lot more people all around the world to get involved.

Something else I’ve noticed is that you are often photographed looking very glam when you’re out at awards and premiers. Is getting dressed up something you enjoy when you’re away from skating?
It took me till I was 16 to really start coming into this “womanhood” and dressing like a girl. I’ve always dressed a lot girlier then most girls in skating, but it took me a while to get to dressing different when I’m skating and when I’m not. I really like it, I’m a woman and I want to show that, its cool to be able to be skating and be all sweaty, and then to snap your fingers and change into a dress and heels. I like that I’m a women and that I’m in sports and want to show both aspects of my life.

Looking forward you have any long-term goals, or things you’d like to do outside of skating?
I’m starting to try and figure it out so I’ve got a plan if I can’t or don’t feel like skating anymore. I like teaching, so maybe skate coaching would work. I do know that I want do something with the Women’s Sports Foundation one day.

And what exactly are they all about?
The WSF is a big non-profit organisation that helps get more women into sports. They help get young girls in underprivileged areas into sport, and they run programs across the country that make sure kids get up and moving, because obesity is a big problem here in America.They also created Title Nine, which is the law that enforces that every school has to spend an equal amount of money on women’s and men’s sports. Being president is a four-year commitment, and as I don’t think I’ll be going to college any time soon, I’d like to think that that could be my further education.It’d be my chance to give something back to sports, and that’s something that’d I’d be very happy to do.

Lyn Z Adams is sponsored by Volcom, Nixon, Electric, Etnies, Birdhouse and the Nitro Circus

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