Felix Arguelles has enjoyed a pro career that’s spanned almost two decades. And as illustrated in his recent online clips, he’s still ripping at 40. Those two facts alone instantly put Felix at icon status in my book. On top of that, you have to give it up to the guy for being way ahead of the curve on the whole fashion / streetwear movement, and the moves that he’s made through that. Despite what anyone might say, Felix is a pioneer that’s in a lane all of his own. The following interview starts with his early NYC roots, and walks us through the highlights of what’s happened up until present day. It’s a sick story for sure!
48 Blocks: You’re from NYC, what year did you get started skating and how did you discover it?
Felix: 1980, I made an effort to buy a pro board. I had a plastic board, like a toy, in my closet. But I wanted to get the legit shit just to be the cool guy on the block. It was the red Duane Peters with the black stripes, with Indy’s and Kryptonic wheels.
My friends were mad jealous. But at the time, we would just push, no tricks. Eventually, my friends from the neighborhood that skated moved away. A few years later, around ’84 – ’85, I met some guys that knew how to skate at a party. When I told them I had a Duane Peters board, they freaked out. They came over to my house just to see it, and they started ollieing and doing 360 bonelesses on it. I bugged out! They were jumping off cars, and on one of those 360 bonelesses they cracked my tail. They then gave me their address, and said they would hook me up with a board. And with that, they took me under their wing, and showed me the ropes and the Bones Brigade Video Show, Powell Peralta’s first video.
48 Blocks: Who were some of the people that you were skating with early on and what spots were you hitting up?
Felix: None of the guys are still around or made names for themselves. The first known people were Jim Murphy, Tom Groholski, Ian Frahm, Harry Jumungi, and Mike Vallely, to name a few. Basically, I would skate the streets in NYC, the Banks, this vert ramp in Redhook, Brooklyn, and the vert ramps in the Jersey suburbs.
48 Blocks: You were a part of the original SHUT team back in the day. How did you hook up with them, and what was the vibe like back in those early underground days?
Felix: My friends that were mentoring me knew about the Brooklyn Banks contests and the ESA circuit. I basically got approached by SHUT because I was busting at the Banks. RIP Beasley (one of the founding riders), he brought me up to Rodney Smith and Bruno Musso, and said I was the guy. He wanted to get me on the team. We were a small tight click that slowly grew into a movement like a gang. We were a force, a vibe that felt like a presence at all East Coast events, and then we slowly started moving outward like a virus.
48 Blocks: Like many people, I first remember you from World Indsutries’ Rubbish Heap, which was one of the most influential videos of its era. How did you transition from Shut to World, and what was it like being a part of World when it was emerging?
Felix: Mike Vallely was a close friend, and I kept breaking my SHUT boards. At the time, I was getting a lot of offers cause I was one of the top ams in the country. Although, I had no idea what that meant. So when Mike asked me to join him and Chris Pastras on World, it felt pretty natural since I skated with them all the time. The major perk was there was gonna be some money, more product, and more traveling. I was a bit older, and pressured by my parents to make some adult moves. So I had to take the chance, and I trusted Mike. If he was leaving Powell, I guess I could leave SHUT. Although, it hurt my soul.
48 Blocks: At some point you transferred to Planet Earth. Can you give us a basic recap of when and why you departed from World, and how you hooked up with Earth?
Felix: Mike started having issues with Rocco. We were all on World, but more looked at it like team Mike, not team Rocco. I kinda never made the transition to Rocco’s click. I started hearing some shit was being said in the office after I turned pro and got 6th place in my first contest that Rocco wasn’t gonna give me a board. Then, when my plane ticket to the SF contest was cancelled, I fly myself out there and quit World. I had a couple offers to do a couple things, New Deal and Real skateboards. But I had known Lotti for a while, and he gave me some Earth Boards that had a real cool kinda symmetrical shape. I took those back to Miami with me to my parents’ house. Later that month, I got calls from Mike Ternasky—who had asked me to ride for H-Street during the World days—and from Chris Miller, one of my favorite vert skaters. They had an offer to start this new company called Planet Earth and I was gonna have a pro model skateboard. So I rocked with it. RIP Mike T. Thanks for the support and early guidance.
48 Blocks: It seems like you got more involved with the company as far as design and management at Planet Earth. Ultimately, you started Rhythm skateboards through them. Can you give us a little bit of insight on how the growth from rider to doing your company went down?
Felix: I was always really involved with my ads and graphics. Miller asked me to move west to help him with Planet Earth in ’93. So I did, cause I was going nowhere fast in Miami. Once I started there, I had a vision to get Earth on its legs, then spin off a brand that reflected my personal style and upbringing. A little more urban, and a little more fashion smart—kind of like a streetwear skateboard brand.
48 Blocks: Rhythm has a strong legacy. Talk a little bit about your original vision for the company, and how you went about building it up to what it ultimately became?
Felix: Rhythm was the first of its kind. It was like Polo or Nike, but in a small streetwear skateboard brand fashion. We had the first 90 percent cotton fleece, the first Major League quality appliqués, the first Nylons, even before DC jumpsuits and such. The video redefined editing and music selection. In prior videos, there was punk, rock, a little hip hop, classics, or underground shit. We used music with energy, and feeling to provide editing points. We really didn’t care what people’s opinions were gonna be on the soundtrack. Just as long as the production value was there in the end, and the music matched the skating style. Afterwards, many Rhythm-esque companies came to follow, and video editing began to be a little more creative.
48 Blocks: What were the circumstances that lead to the demise of Rhythm?
Felix: Rhythm was forcibly shelved while still profitable by the hierarchy at K2. At the time, Chris Miller, who was my liaison to K2, or the suit at K2, couldn’t see that Rhythm had the potential to grow to be their biggest label because the urban movement was just around the corner and about to bubble so big. Instead, they went with the brand that had more longevity, and consolidated our efforts into Planet Earth because it had a growing snow department, and in Adio footwear, which was growing fast also. More people have feet than people who need skateboards. We didn’t have enough manpower for all these growing brands, and didn’t staff appropriately. So Rhythm was shelved still in business, not out of business. It’s a very sad story that was the biggest turning point in my life. I feel we would have been bigger than LRG, ZOO, etc. We were in a similar lane, but we were coming up first.
48 Blocks: After Rhythm you seemed to dive more into the worlds of design and fashion. What projects were you working on at that point in your career?
Felix: Fashion has always been a big part of my life. I was raised working in a textile company so my mom could keep me out of trouble. So I was familiar with colors and fabrics. In school, I got A’s in art and in wood shop. So my design sense was always there. I just never knew how to harness it.
When I moved to Miami, I met Don Buswieler, who with my other friends Veny and Swatty, had started one of the first streetwear brands called PERVERT. At the time, Stussy was kinda it, and Fresh Jive was starting to make a little noise. Don understood branding, design, and aesthetic. He had old school design savvy, pre-computer cut and paste styles. Remember when you had to Xerox shit over and over again to lay something out? I would spends days with Don designing, street teaming, and partying. We hit the tastemakers off with some goods. All things that are pretty common knowledge now, were groundbreaking unorthodox marketing and promotional moves in brand building back then. I kinda picked up a lot of my hustle between that and working on building SHUT up in New York in the mid to late ‘80s.
48 Blocks: You definitely stayed in the public eye, even appearing on Tommy Hilfiger’s reality design show. How did you hook up with that?
Felix: I was parting ways with Alphanumeric due to differences of opinion in the direction of the brand, and I caught a promo for the Hilfiger show on MTV. I saw it randomly. So I looked it up. At the time, I had no deals, and was just doing freelance work in LA. So I sent the offices a design reel that included skate products, graphics, painting, furniture, etc. It was a pretty eclectic video portfolio, but it got me a meeting. I beat 20,000 other people to be one of the 16 on the show. I kinda figured anyone that was good would probably be somewhere working already. I could win this and take the 250,000 dollars and start up my own thing on someone else’s dime, and it would get a lot of attention being that I was the winner.
48 Blocks: Was it a conscious decision to become a more mainstream public figure or just a natural progression?
Felix: Once I got the offer, it was more of a necessity, and a gamble with a huge potential payoff. I also was not opposed to the extra shine if it was going to represent skateboarders in a positive manner. That weighed on me big time, the potential of embarrassing skateboarding on TV more than myself. I wanted to win, and it be known that skateboarders were the most creative people to ever walk the earth. As the show went on, I had plenty of off-screen fights with production as I began to notice it was kinda being guided by story producers. At the time, Reality TV was not booming like it is now. But I was still gonna try to protect myself and skateboarding the best I could. Later, after watching it, I saw how things got manipulated, edited, etc. Even Hilfiger himself had to sign off beforehand that he would not influence how the story was told on TV.
48 Blocks: More recently you seemed to have gotten back to your skate roots by rejoining SHUT after it re-launched, and helping to launch the skate program over at Famous Stars & Straps. How did you hook back up with SHUT and get involved with Famous?
Felix: I was shopping a brand around in hopes of finding a good person to partner with, and SHUT was re-launching around the same time. I had sold some freelance work to Famous. I got tired of shopping my brand, and thought the SHUT thing was destiny, poetic justice to my career going full circle. The Famous thing was a natural progression for me. I was interested in being around the music industry. It was something that I didn’t have much knowledge about, and my brother and father were both musicians. Famous reminded me of RHYTHM in a way with the bold graphics and music ties. I met with Travis Barker after I saw him at a club cause he had purchased some of my designs that I submitted to his art department. At a breakfast meeting, we came up with some ways that I could be a part of the company that did not conflict with my skateboarding. That was the reason I left Planet Earth and Adio, I wanted to be able to keep skating when they stopped doing hardgoods over there. I moved to LA to start over again.
48 Blocks: Can you break down your role at Famous? I’m assuming that you are involved with some of the designs and handle the skate team.
Felix: It has changed a bit over the years as the company has grown. We have the best art team in the game, period. So instead of me competing with them, sometimes I’ll just throw concepts their way. Although it is a bigger company, it is still run small at the top. We meet on creative and marketing stuff, and kinda pow wow to come up with hot stuff, or good marketing moves. Travis is the final say on everything. Being that I come from having experience in multiple fields, and that the company is still run very personally, I get the opportunity to work in the areas that come naturally to me. As far as the skate stuff, when I came on board it was just Darren Harper. So he and I started getting things poppin’ grassroots skate style like I had done at all my past companies. And here we are now. I’m the OG leading by example, the crew is amazing, work great together, and are willing to learn.
48 Blocks: I think a lot of people may have been sleeping on your skills, but you just dropped a serious part on The Berrics that made many take notice.
Felix: Thank you, I skateboard for myself. Challenging myself on my board is how I feel the most satisfaction in doing it. When I get a chance to share it, I am flattered by people still responding to it positively. After so many years, that is very motivational.
48 Blocks: How long did it take to film that part?
Felix: About 3 weeks, it was just an idea that I had cause my birthday was coming up. I just wanted to do a pizza party at the park like the little kids, but with 40s of beer as the theme. I wish I would have thought about it sooner, so I would have had more time. I was not sure if I should do it or not. But I felt the overall message of putting a video part out for my birthday in the 40 at 40 state of mind outweighed the fact of me exposing that I am a grown man on a skateboard. I kinda had to go early in the morning, late at night, or piggyback other peoples’ sessions to film cause The Berrics is a business, and it’s not gonna stop short for my whimsical idea which then became a reality. Thanks to Aaron Brown and Chase at The Berrics for working with me. And thanks to Steve and Eric for being true friends for all these years, and letting me get a little shine through their site with my skating.
48 Blocks: Obviously you’ve been skating a lot lately, were you skating that hard the whole time (even during the period between Rhythm and Shut / Famous)?
Felix: Yes, in between that time I had a SLAP interview thanks to Lance Dawes, and a The Skateboard Mag interview thanks to Reda and the TSM Crew for giving me the space. I have ten minutes of footage that I never released because I really did not have an outlet for it, no board, clothing, or shoe sponsor making a video. I sat on it hoping I could use it one day if I got on a team, or as some leverage to open a door. This kinda stuff happens to a lot of pros in between deals. You kinda don’t want to give it away, but you need to stay out there or they think you’re done. It’s a tough balancing act. That is why I left Planet Earth and Adio, I wanted to be looked at like a skater, not as a worker. Everyone is quick to label you, so it is easy for them to process it. Last year, I got the team manger of the year award. But I’m not a TM at some desk chilling that never skated. My career is not over in skating. I get down daily with my teammates, and am more of a team captain. Because of experience, it is natural for me to lead. I’m flattered by the award, but I won’t be in the TM contest anytime soon. I will be releasing most of my footage before the FAMOUS video drops in the form of a Felix and friends video. All my friends will have parts, and clips in there. Since the FAMOUS video is all HD, I have no need to hold onto this stuff anymore. I would love to have a Transworld video part, and give some of it to them. But the opportunity never presented itself.
48 Blocks: Do you approach skating differently now that you’re older?
Felix: In 1996, when I tore my meniscus, I was 27, and 193 pounds. I chose then that if I wanted to stay involved as a pro skateboarder, I was going to have to be smarter about it cause I was no longer indestructible. So over the last 13 years, I learned to eat better, started working out, controlling or eliminating bad habits, and luckily I enter the fourth period still in the game, not on the bench. I do approach skateboarding differently. I try to not skate risky or stuff that hurts unless I’m finishing a video or an interview. So if I do get hurt, I have media to fall back on, and get me through the healing process. I try to help myself after I’m done skating instead of just thinking I’ll be fine tomorrow. I may ice or Epson salt. I’ll eat better, and not drink alcohol for periods of time. All these things help keep you in the game, or get you back in there faster.
48 Blocks: Do you feel like there are any age limits with regard to skateboarding?
Felix: Definitely, the intensity has to be reeled in a bit. Hot pockets are much more re-occurring since your ankles build up all the scar tissue. I think I’ll skateboard forever, but all I can do to push the limit is be smart about it because the feeling of riding my board is a worthwhile reward. So let’s see where I take it along with Tony, Steve, Mike, and some of the other men skateboarding showing no signs of slowing down.
48 Blocks: Being that you do a lot of design work for various companies, what are some brands / designers that currently influence you?
Felix: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander Mcqueen for their work on the big labels, and for their supervision of brilliant design teams that keep putting out interesting stuff. I like simple furniture like Minotti or vintage stuff like Le Corbusier Charles-Edouard Jeanneret designs. I’m also into pop art, Ron English, West Coast graff, Maxx242, East Coast, Krink, Mr. Cartoon, and Cheuy’s tattooing. I feel Angel, the team at Supra does some cool stuff. My inspirations are all over the place.
48 Blocks: What projects do you currently have in the works?
Felix: I wrote a film with Imani Shakur, my buisness partner. We have several rappers and actors attached to it. I’m currently meeting on getting it financed because I want to produce it independently, not with a studio. It is called Get Lifted King of the Street. I am starting an agency to help like-minded people with business moves. Kinda like a management type firm. A few other creative ventures, more skate related, but they are still in the development stages. Everyone will know when they are ready. I stay busy in my down time, let’s just say that. But nothing comes before skateboarding.
48 Blocks: What’s a typical day in the life Felix Arguelles these days?
Felix: Wake up at 7:00 or 8:00 AM if there was not an event the night before. I hopefully can address all emails while walking my dog. If I do, I listen to some beats or a book. I bring him back home and finish addressing any emails I couldn’t off my phone. Hopefully that buys me enough time to hit the gym. So I go work out for about an hour and a half. Thanks to my iPhone, it’s almost like I never left my desk. Sometime it is Bickram yoga that takes the place of my going to gym. But I’m so high strung it is hard to make it through early classes. Then, head back to my home office for a quick browse online of stuff relevant to my work. I don’t really care for current events. I feel the majority are formulated by governing bodies to manipulate and influence us. By now, there have been several tweets, and we are approaching early afternoon. I start trying to line up a street session somewhere with some friends. If not I put in a little more time at my home office. Then, head to The Berrics where there is always someone to skate with. Put in a few hours on my board, then come home for dinner and shitty TV with my lady. Usually, there is more emails to tend to. So I multitask during my home quality time. I try to stay home at night, but living in LA ,there is always some event going on. So it’s either hit the sack or hit the streets. Going out is not my first choice because everything else during the day is so much more rewarding. I don’t like delaying getting to it or the negative effects being out have on your next day.
48 Blocks: Where do you see yourself going next?
Felix: Same place I am now, just shuffling the hours around to get the job done. Skateboarding comes first. Then F.A.M.E. is my game, Fashion, Art, Music, and Entertainment.
48 Blocks: You’ve enjoyed a long and successful career as professional skateboarder, designer, and businessman. What advice would you give to someone that wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Felix: Follow your dreams, even if they break you down. Hopefully, you’re not delusional and you will manifest your destiny. Know what you are: a living force and what you put out effects everything around you. If you build off of what you’re strong at, things should come together for you. Don’t be scared, be calculated. Luck is timing, and preparation! If you’re not ready at the right time, you can’t have what people refer to as luck. Take your time. Life is a beautiful short trip. Enjoy it, and don’t be too hungry. It looks desperate.
48 Blocks: Obviously, skateboarding has been a part of your life for a very long time and played a role in you success. What’s the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned from your years on the board?
Felix: If you endure, you conquer.