Cairo Foster has literally grown up on his board. By chance, he was given a Vision Gator at 13 because he could’t take his bike on a move. From there, he never stopped skating. Now a full-grown adult professional skateboarder that’s also a family man, Cairo has a long and rich story about where skateboard journey has taken him. Read all about it below.
Interview by Keir Johnson
Keir: Let’s start with getting a little bit of your history.
Cairo: I was born in Taiwan, where my dad met my mom during his time in the Air Force. We left 10 days after I was born, which led to years of endless moving. In no particular order, we lived in Washington, Texas, Germany, Egypt, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, California, Florida, and New Mexico. I’m guessing I had the travel bug after all that. Once I moved out when I was 17, I moved back and forth between Florida, California, and Utah for a couple of years before I settled in San Francisco. But after seven or eight years in the Bay, I moved to Santa Monica with the lady, then New York with both ladies. Laura and I raised our daughter in New York for a little over a year, and then I was over NY. We packed up and headed west. Now, we reside in Oakland.
Keir: How did you get into skateboarding?
Cairo: I lived across from these two brothers, the Jaramillo’s in Albuquerque. They had banana boards. That was when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I’d try and ride on their boards, but eventually persuaded my parents to buy me a NASH Executioner. I was hyped on it for a month or so until I ate some serious shit cruising in a nearby park. After that scrub, I hung up the NASH and didn’t really do much with it. But when my dad and I moved from Alabama during my 8th grade Christmas break, I had scored a Gator board with Tracker Ultralights and Slime Balls. My dad said I couldn’t take my BMX bike with me on the move, so he bought a “real” skateboard. I was 13 at the time, and this marked my parent’s true separation. Since I was living only with my dad from that point on, I just turned to skateboarding to occupy my time. Thank god I linked up with some locals and learned how to skate the jump ramps. Shit was hot in the ‘80s.
Keir: You were also skating abroad as well, right?
Cairo: Well, we had a couple of jump ramps in Egypt, and eventually I got into it so much that I’d make some of them for the bros. Then there were some marble curbs that we skated in front of an ice cream parlor. The speed bumps and curbs outside of school were pretty cool too. But pretty much, we struggled for any substantial spots. As long as the streets were paved, I think we were happy. There were about twenty skaters it seemed, who really skateboarded when I lived in Egypt. But the tight-knit crew included the Lewis brothers, Omar, Tariq and his brother, Dan from DC, and the guy I owe my musical taste to, Ruvan Wijesooriya. That guy got me into music, which looking back on it is pretty tight.
Keir: At some point, you ended up on the East Coast.
Cairo: Not sure how many people would vouch for Jacksonville, Florida as being a part of the East. But technically speaking, I did live on the East Coast. For a second, Caine Gayle had been telling me to send a tape to Foundation. But I never got around to it. Instead I just skated with my friends that included a filmer / skater named Jabir. Dude was pretty awesome! He ended up harassing this dude Jeff Davis to sponsor me. Jeff had this local company named Wrecked. He ended up taking me on my first skate tour to California. It was Jeff, Bear Hughes, and myself. We ended up getting in a wreck in Yuma, AZ on the way out. Jeff fell asleep at the wheel.
Keir: How’d you end up in San Francisco?
Cairo: Ha! I don’t even think we made it to the six-month mark the first time around! Anyway, after taking Greyhound from Florida with my friend J.W., we linked up with Al Mosely and got a studio in the Tenderloin. I got a job within a couple of weeks and was working 30-plus hours to pay for rent, shit! I think we went out there with no more than $600 each. Talk about inflation! You couldn’t get shit with that these days. I was working a lot while Al and John were skating. I don’t think they ever really got jobs, which led to the studio falling through. After two months, we were living with these girls, Mihee and Michelle. I met Drehobl and Matt O’Brien living at that house. That fell through soon enough, and me and J.W. got back on Greyhound heading to Florida. It took two more Greyhound journeys before I stayed put in SF.
Keir: After it did finally work out, you popped up in a Thrasher video.
Cairo: FOR SURE! I owe a lot to Satva Leung. He gave me a chance to get on film and that was kinda my in. Dudes had hit me up asking if I was sponsored before that part came out, but I was just hyped on skating and having someone film me. I was running some thrift-store kits back then with huge-ass glasses. It’s a good laugh for sure.
Keir: What was the first proper skate company you linked up with?
Cairo: Supernaut was my first real gig. Paul Sharpe called me up out of the blue, and asked me if I’d be down to take part in this project with Mike Ballard, Ted Newsome, and him. I think Paul knew Satva. Plus, he had seen that Thrasher video. So it just went from there. A lot of things went down riding for Supernaut. I got to meet Duane Pitre at Ballard’s music studio. We got rocks thrown at us by the locals at Burnside one night. That was epic for sure!
Keir: Your skating went from really tech to big around that time too.
Cairo: I don’t think I was ever tech per se. But I know that I had a bit more flippage going on back then. When I lived in Florida, there weren’t a grip of spots to skate. So I had built a few boxes that I always skated. Ledges are much more attractive when they’re all perfect like the ones in a skatepark. So yeah, I think I enjoyed getting down with the tech a bit more when I first moved out. But when I saw all the hills and started skating with Satva and his homies, a different style of skateboarding opened up to me. And to take it further, I feel like I’ve lacked that influence a bit these days. I wanna get back to the streets for sure, which is to say I probably won’t be getting very tech.
Keir: After Supernaut came Mad Circle, right? What happened with that?
Cairo: Basically, Real came about because Mad Circle fell through. I had left Supernaut for various reasons and ended up getting on Mad Circle. That was amazing. The team was Scott (Johnston), Karl (Watson), Rob (Welsh), Marcus (McBride), Bobby (Puleo), Pontus (Alv), and (Justin) Girard. But within six months, Giant Distribution and Mad Circle parted ways and it all fell apart. So I just laid low and skated while I tried to sort out a new sponsor. I had been in contact with a handful of companies, but nothing seemed ideal. All the while, I had people telling me to avoid Deluxe and the whole “mafia” vibe they supposedly had going on. But in the end, it boiled down to being close in proximity to the company that had my back, which in turn led to some great friendships with guys like Gabe (Morford), Dennis (Busenitz), Frank (Gerwer), Nate (Jones), Jim (Thiebaud), and all the crew.
Keir: How did Lakai take shape?
Cairo: Mike (Carroll) called me up and told me him and Rick (Howard) were starting something that would include Scott and Rob. He asked me if I’d be interested in being a part of it. I said yes, simple as that. I didn’t even know the name of the company for another month or two. Imagine that. I’m on the phone with Jeff Taylor, the Adio TM at the time, telling him how I’m gonna ride for this shoe company that Mike and Rick are starting. And I don’t even have a name or an idea of what the shoes looked like. Jeff tried to talk me out of it, but he didn’t press the issue too hard. I believe he knew where I was coming from, and realized the likelihood of me staying with Adio over trying to do something with Carroll and Howard.
Keir: What stands out to you about East Coast skateboarding?
Cairo: It’s rugged and legit. There’s no bullshit about the East, and there’s just a lot more history out there, whether it’s the buildings, the streets, or the people. There’s just more character than many other places in the States.
Keir: How did you like living in NYC?
Cairo: I was into it, which is a poor reason for my moving away. In retrospect, I wish we had never left NY. But now that we’re back in the Bay Area, I’m chilling. We were in Brooklyn for a year and half and I just couldn’t figure shit out. Between having a full-blown family with a little munchkin running around, to dealing with winters, partiers, and the lack of a skateboard industry presence, I had to bounce. I was thinking that getting back out West would make everything easy. But being a dad isn’t a simple task. Instead, it’s something I work on everyday regardless of where I live.
Keir: Lets talk about Enjoi. How did it come about?
Cairo: Another flop with Giant once again. Things were good with Popwar for a couple of years until Bod (Boyle) and Steve Douglas parted ways with the program leaving some other people to head it up. Eventually, ownership changed hands and things headed in a downward spiral. So I broke out. After holding out for things to improve for nearly a year, I knew I had to take care of myself. I thought back to what it felt like being closer to the teammates, like back in the Real days. I even spoke with Thiebaud about possibly making something happen back over at Deluxe. But in the end, I went with Enjoi. I’ve known a number of those guys from back in the Supernaut days when I used to take public transit from SF to kick it in San Jose. I spoke with Matt Evs about making a move over to the Enjoi camp, and he ran it by the dudes. Fortunately for me, they were backing the deal. So now I’m back in the Bay.
Keir: What was it like working on Fully Flared?
Cairo: TY2K is the man. Ty Evans has the foresight necessary to make an amazing film come together. With Kyle Camarillo’s help (and Matt Eversole’s understanding), I was able to get somewhat of a complete part. Matt’s the brand manager for Enjoi, and fortunately he was down to have Kyle, the Enjoi filmer, contribute to my Lakai part. But basically, Ty can make it all happen. He can make it more than tricks, which is essential. Being that everyone has their own personal style, a cinematographer has to be able to translate that on to the big screen. Without that, the video’s more likely to be forgotten in a time when multiple videos premier every few months. I’m grateful that Fully Flared is what it is, because I can’t say I was completely satisfied with my part. I spent the last ten months unable to skate due to ankle issues. I felt like I missed out on a lot of opportunities to fine tune my part. But it’s a done thing. I feel fortunate to be part of such a large project.
Keir: How’s fatherhood treating you?
Cairo: Parenthood is rewarding, exciting, surreal, and completely new. Sure, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gained more responsibilities. But now, having a kid in tow, I’m taking part in shaping someone’s future. As long as I remain mindful, I’m confident that my wife and I are doing our best to raise our daughter. Seeing her smile and hearing her laugh is the best thing I could ask for.
Keir: Right now, what do you do to stay motivated, who are you skating with?
Cairo: Phelps always tells me how it’s important to surround yourself with dudes that get you hyped. When my body’s cooperating with me and I’m not dealing with ankle drama, I do my best to follow that rule. So when they’re around, I try and skate with Daryl Angel and Corey Duffel. Those dudes are pretty vibrant on their boards. That gets me hyped for sure. They’re good at motivating me at whatever spot we’re skating. I try to oblige by getting them hyped too. I see them going for shit with little regard for consequences. They’re just trying to handle their business. And that’s rad. Aside from that, hanging with the homies is inspirational. A good time with friends results in a good time on the board. RVCA trips are good times, just like going down to SJ to kick it with the Enjoi heads.
Keir: What’s going on for the rest of this year and beyond for you?
Cairo: That’s a trippy one. I’m still working on getting my ankle good so that I can get on my board and be comfortable. Since I had a semi-botched first surgery and had to get a second one, I’ve been dealing with a lot of physical therapy. As with most skaters, downtime leads to mental anguish. So even though I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been scheming on magazine projects that I want to focus on. Aside from that, the Tilt Mode Army’s working on their third project, so I’m trying to get Paul Sharpe on the streets. That way, he and I can share a video part.