An Interview with the 2007 Flow Tour Expert Standup Champion, James Lovett
Like Tony Hawk, James “Jamie” Lovett is too tall to do what he does. At a gangly 6' 2 Lovett is half a foot taller than most alternate board sport athletes – especially those who are best at pulling aerial tricks: Superman airs, backflips, shove its. Jamie Lovett's last name kind of rhymes with “shove it” and despite his lengthy size he has been pushing the limits of what is possible riding backside or switch on the Wave Loch Bruticus Maximus.
At the 2007 Flow Tour National Championships at Wave House San Diego on September 22, Lovett had an epic final heat against Greg Lazarus, Jeff Ranta and Tyler McIntyre. All four riders had four, 40-second rides in which they were judged on tricks, style and riding fakie.
Lovett went up and out like Charlie in the Great Glass Elevator and when the smoke cleared, Lovett was loving it as the 2007 Flow Tour championship.
You might ask yourself, “Well how did he get there?” A few days later, Lovett had settled down enough to talk and described an arc that begins in deepest darkest Mexico…
First things first: Who were the two girls in your posse at the contest?
Um just some local hoodlums that I happened to meet when I was down there.
Nice, you were warming up doing stretching exercises with one of them before your heat and then you did some break-dancing.
Just trying to get the butterflies out and have a little fun.
Your Expert Standup final against Greg Lazarus was exciting, it was down to the wire. Do you and Greg Lazarus have a rivalry going now?
I'd competed against him before but I'd never really seen him throw out all the tricks that he tried at this contest. It was almost like he had been holding out or maybe he practiced a lot, I don't know.
Anything done on that final day that hadn't been done before?
I saw Lazarus did his first – supposedly he had done it four years ago and had it named after him – but he did his first backflip one-footer.
You won, but I am still not exactly sure why you won.
Well I did a double backflip and I did it switch and I think that was what did it. The announcer didn't call it over the mic but the judges knew what was up. Greg was doing these 720 spins, but then I did my thing and it was just funny to see some people go, ‘Welllll what was that?'
‘Well that was a switch double backflip.'
‘A switch. Double. Backflip.'
And then they're like, ‘Oh no way! Oh my God.'
And that's the only one that has ever been done on this thing. Ever.
Is it harder to do it switch or natural?
Well of course it's harder to do it switch. If Greg had gone out and done a double backflip in his run, he would have won.
You think that was the icing on the cake?
That and also I rode switch the whole time, which no one really takes into consideration.
I heard you talking in Spanish to someone at the event and you sounded like Pancho Villa. Where did you learn to do that?
I grew up in Cabo San Lucas. I've been there since I was two months old.
Where did you live?
Right in Cabo San Lucas. Started off in Pedregal, which is the main little town, with my parents since day one.
School and high school and everything in Mexico?
Are your parents Mexican and your like an albino Latino or something?
No they were just kind of over the whole American scene. They saw kids grow up with Beamers and Escalades and they wanted me to grow up in a spot where if you have a surfboard and board shorts and one sandal on one of your feet you're killing it.
Yay mom. Yay dad. Are your parents both surfers?
Yeah they surf.
Where were they before they lived in Cabo?
They lived in Santa Barbara and then on the North Shore.
You must know Taylor Divine then.
And Brenda and Peter McGonagle and Donald and Cheryl Miller and Flippy and Walter Hoffman.
All of them.
So if you grew up in Cabo like Taylor Divine then that means you surfed your brains out through your youth and your teens.
I'm thinking of Martin Potter surfing Shipwrecks in Surfers: The Movie and if you had waves like that at your doorstep…
All the time, every time. Spring, summer, winter and fall. I remember back in the day when I was like 8 or 9 getting all my buddies together and having my parents take us out and go camping out there for weeks on end.
Weeks on end?
Weeks on end with no one around and not even knowing we were in some frontier spot that very few people had seen or heard of before. It was amazing.
When and why did you decide to come up to Alta California?
I competed for years in the Mexican National Championships and did well. In the last three years I started putting everything together skill-wise and I wanted to surf professionally and do skim-boarding. So I took a big step and came up here and tried to get some sponsors and do the whole tour and see how it happens.
You said you competed in the Mexican Championships?
Yeah I did all the Mexican Nationals and pretty much was second overall for about five years. That is what pushed me to come up here to do all the real contests, because I always seemed to get juked out… everybody even the judges would tell me that I had won the contest, but you had to be a Mexican because the next contest… whoever won that contest got paid to go to the next Mexican main national big contest and they never let me go to that one.
So they probably saw you as a Gringo Rico and…
So you came up here three years ago, have you been doing WQS events at all?
No I never really wanted to get locked into the WQS and trying to do all that, so I've just concentrated on doing all the Air Shows.
Air shows. That makes sense, after seeing what I just saw.
I started doing all the Vans Air Shows because you can get all your stuff done in one day: Show up and boom. You can win a couple hundred bucks or something and not have to be on the tour, constantly worrying about points and how many stops you just did.
When did you start riding the Bruticus and the Flowrider and getting into the Wave House thing?
I started as soon as they opened the thing up, like two years ago, at the Grand Opening. Bill Bryan was a good friend of my dads. Him and Dick Hernandez to surf. They would always push me in my sport, which was surfing, and they always showed me there were other little tickets like skimboarding and flowboarding. I never really got into it until I moved up here and saw that skimboarding was really a sport.
Did you skimboard a lot in Mexico?
No I never really did until Beaker and all these guys came down for an O'Neill shoot way back in the day when Beaker and everybody was surfing for O'Neill. We all went down to this beach called Solimar where I had always gone and surfed this killer gnarly beachbreak. I was down there bodysurfing or something and Beaker pulled out this little dinky board and he said. “There's these boards now and you can ride these things in the beachbreak.”
And I'm like, “What, you can ride these things in the beachbreak!? How do you do that?!”
So I turn around and he's running down the beach full speed, jumps on this little banana peel and slides 20 feet off the beach and then wraps an 8 to 10 foot wave and pulls in and gets barreled all the way to the beach.
Yeah I have seen video of those guys at Wedge and Laguna and it's pretty amazing.
Yeah and I was just like, “What!”
That was at Solimar, the beach at the end of the world? That place is spooky.
Yeah that's the one. They won't let you go in there if you're a tourist. It comes off a big rock and makes big siders, just like the Wedge. You ride these siders into these peaks that are monstrosities. Just mind-blowing. I started doing that a lot and got on the pro tour, doing every contest there was.
What is the Skim Tour? I don't know anything about that at all.
There are 12 stops: six on the west coast and six on the east coast. Each of them has a certain amount of points. There are five main contests I think, in Santa Cruz at 26 th Street, Ventura at Deer Creek, Cabo San Lucas, Aliso Beach in Laguna
and then they go to North Carolina, Outer Bank and Kill Devil Hills, Rhode Island.
Can you actually make money on the skim tour?
Yeah it was paying the bills there for a while, I was coming in first or second at almost every contest. First place makes something like $1800.
So I was hanging out with Beaker all this time and he had all these trophies in his garage for Wave Tour and Swatch and I was like, ‘What is this thing, what's up with that?'
And Beaker said, ‘Oh yeah that's just some eight foot barrel you can do flips on and ride switch or somethingorother.'
And I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. There's an eight-foot barrel and you can do flips on it?”
And he goes, ‘Oh yeah, it's nothing special, whatever.'
And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, that sounds pretty special to me. That sounds like my dream. That's my sport. That is what I have been looking for in all these sports, something that will let me round everything together: skating, surfing, snowboarding, skimboarding.'
And he was like, ‘Oh no it doesn't exist anymore. There was a tour, but it stopped. it's not around.'
And I thought, ‘Oh that's weird, how come it's not around…”
Well he must have been talking about the Swatch Wave tour, which happened for two years, and which Bill Bryan sometimes dominated. But it was very expensive to move the Bruticus around.
I can imagine, so I just kind of forgot about it and got working on the tour and did the whole skim tour for like five years.
So the first time you rode one of these here sheet wave attractions, did you ride the Flowrider first, or the Bruticus.
I went down with Bill Bryan for the Grand Opening of Wave House San Diego and he was all , ‘Alright, you want to try this thing out?' He threw me his board and just pushed me on the wave and I went headfirst right over the falls and almost broke my back.
It's not easy.
I almost was over it and thought, ‘There might be a little more to this.' At first it looked easy. It was a perfect wave, I've surfed all my life, I can jump on this thing and rip no problem. Well that was the problem. Instead of jumping on the thing and ripping I jumped on it and went over the falls and almost killed myself.
So you went to the Grand Opening, rode it, ate shit and then you got intrigued. Did you ride it every day? How long did it take you to get it figured out?
I went back and rode it for like a month straight. It was so addicting and like any addiction I spent so much money on that thing I could have bought three cars.
Well the parallel I'm seeing is you grew up in Cabo surfing perfect waves all the time, with no crowds, warm water. Then you come to California and the waves aren't perfect all the time and it's crowded and… do you like surfing up here?
No, it's horrible. You've got to wear a wetsuit, you've got to wear booties. For me I get so cold out there I can't feel my feet so I have to wear booties all the time, even when it's kind of warm out. That's why my main attraction is to the Wave House. For me I'm always looking for the best wave I can ride, you know? For me to be up here now and try to surf this stuff is ridiculous. So what I do now when I am here is I plan on going to other spots… Indonesia, Cape Saint Francis, wherever I gotta go to get a perfect wave, I'm lining my trip up. I'm not sitting here going, ‘All right I'm going to surf Huntington tomorrow and maybe go surf San Clemente the next day because it might be bigger.'
Either that or I can spend $40 and go down to the Wave House and ride the wave for an hour, then get barreled and come home and go, “All right, I got barreled today.”
Do you feel surfed out after you ride the thing for a couple of hours?
I mean you aren't paddling, but you are definitely getting some exercise.
Yeah it takes away your paddling arms for sure. You go back out and try to go surf and its like ‘Oh wait, where's my arms at?' But it builds your legs up so strong and your cardio and everything. It's definitely a full-body workout. Especially when you go from bodyboard to strapless to strapped, you get the whole variety of everything.
On the Bruticus I saw you do double backflips which has to be the high point right now. It has to be the most complicated thing you can do, right?
Yeah it's definitely the biggest trick that anyone has ever done at the Wave House. I've only been riding it for two years and Lazarus has been riding it for four. I would have thought he would have a little more game in his book, especially considering he gets to ride a double-sided wave, non stop.
So you are the only one doing double backflips?
Yeah supposedly I am the only guy who has ever landed a double backflip, and also the only guy to do it switch. I'm waiting for someone to do a regular double backflip and then I'll tell them, ‘Well, I'm actually a regular foot…' so my double backflip is switch.
You remind me of Tony Hawk because you are too tall to be good at this stuff. How tall are you?
It all just depends on your balance and everything. As long as you tuck your arms in and your style doesn't look too bad and you don't break limbs too often .
Because you are over six feet tall, right?
Yup, I'm 6' 2” .
So when did you pull off the first double?
We have it on video and documented. I can't remember when exactly it was but I think it was like in the last six months.
How often do you ride the Bruticus now?
It depends. A couple of times a month. Two or three times a month.
So your last name kind of rhymes with “shove it” is that how you pronounce it? “Love ette?”
How old are you?
Twenty one on September 4 th .
Congratulations, don't start drinking.
I don't drink, so that's not a problem.
You won a seven-day Royal Caribbean cruise, didn't you?
I did and I was going to take my dad on the cruise with me. But I don't know. I'm going to call him and see how he feels. I want to do down to the Cayman Islands because they have a right-handed FlowBarrel there. I've never ridden a right and I wouldn't want to imagine what can be done. T riple backflips?
Wow, think you can?
Oh I'm sure I can.
Think there is a future in all this flowboarding? They are opening Wave Houses in Santiago, Chile, one in Singapore, another in Bahrain and a couple in Spain.
Oh yeah, it's going big. You can definitely feel it, the enthusiasm of the people who come from the Midwest who have never really ridden in a big barrel. These are funky looking guys but they're pulling chicks and they're like the stars from out there. It's something for them to do. It's awesome. It's great to see stuff like that. Weird random people who go out there and finally learn how to ride and are kind of killing it, or are having a good, fun time on it.
Two guys got carted off during warm-ups. Two bodyboarders, but I heard they're okay. Have you ever been hurt riding the Bruticus?
Well I broke my ribs in the final.
On the last run I was trying to do a 1080 double backflip but when I spun out into the last section I ended up landing with my knee elbowing… my knee hit my elbow and my elbow hit my ribs and ended up cracking three of my ribs on my left side.
I didn't see that.
That was my first trick so I ended up having to ride the whole 40 seconds afterwards, with three broken ribs. That is why my last run kind of went downhill because… I was all messed up.
No breakdancing for a while. Maybe you should have dressed your two hoodlum friends in nurses' outfits.
Maybe I did.