Surfing, Skateboarding, Music, Photography, Travel, Culture and general antics of the youth on the run.

Conversation With: Warren Smith Ex Homeless Laser Tag enthusiast

Photo: Warren Smith Archives

“…And then laser tag came in the last few years of high school and it almost won. It almost took over all of them. But thank god our laser tag center burned down because I might be the manager of a laser tag center instead of surfing or whatever the fuck it is. “ –Warren Smith, 2015

Warren Smith: [Answers phone] Cukr.

What Youth: Daddy. What’s up my child?

Wadup fool. Just driving down to Lowers.

Oh god you don’t stop. Alright, so I just wanted to talk to you about life. What do you do, do you record this and then transcribe it?

Yeah we’re live right now. Live webcast. It’s live. Right now. How many followers do we have?

None. We’re broadcasting to zero. I like it.

Yeah, perfect. What’s this Quiksilver shit all about? I’m just shooting a wetsuit campaign for them.

Are you shooting surf shit? Am I what? come on dude. do you think I’m on the beach with a 600? get out of here.Wait a second. Are we live still?

I’m just trying to figure out the Quiksilver shit. You’ve made it big. Yeah well don’t write any of this down.

I’m not. I’m just talking to you, we’re friends remember. Okay, if it’s as friends we can talk but if you’re recording me right now, you can suck it.

Okay we’re live now. We’re rolling. Okay the interview begins now. Nothing pre of now is real.

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I just want to talk to you about your hilarious story of living in Florida and your whole laser tag thing and then kind of moving to San Clemente and living on the beach. That whole thing. Okay what do you want me to talk about? You’re moving around fast, Cukr. You just said it all in one sentence.

Growing up in Panama City, Florida what was the “normal” kid like there? you had red hair and painted your fingernails and shit, was that normal there? Was I normal with red hair?

Don’t play hard to get. You idiot. I’m trying to work with you here, Cukr, but I’m thinking this might be your first interview.  Okay. So what was Florida like, is that what you’re question is?

I mean yeah, but it wasn’t that stupid of a question. I was wondering, cause you have been into that shit since day one, as far as I know, like painting your nails and dying your hair and shit, and I was wondering, is that normal in Florida? Are most dudes doing that kind of shit or were you an outcast? There was a big group of us that were just very silly and reacting to spring break and stuff and you either take part in that or you react to it. There were a bunch of us that took up skateboarding and surfing and laser­tagging and whatever.

How old were you when you this was goin on? Well, it wasn’t a conscious decision I think it’s just all of us fucking around and growing up. I didn’t turn 15 and decide I was going to react to spring break, I didn’t even know that I was, but I just knew that the sort of beach culture that I grew up in and that was prevalent in my face was stuff that I didn’t want to be a part of and we all just did other shit.

What came first­­? surfing, lasertag, skimboarding, music…? First would’ve been skateboarding for sure, and then surfing. For a long time I didn’t know which one I wanted to do  – surfing or skating. Skimming was just a silly thing to do when I wasn’t doing those things. And then laser tag came in the last few years of high school and it almost won. It almost took over all of them. But thank god our laser tag center burned down because I might be the manager of a laser tag center instead of surfing or whatever it is.

How far did you take lasertag? You and Patrick we’re known as “the twins.” you guys were good. Yeah. We had a traveling tournament team where we went around the country playing tournaments. It was very serious and it was one of the most competitive things I’ve ever done in my life. We were very serious with it.

Could you make money doing that? I know there’s gamers that think they can get paid playing video games. Were you one of those dudes? No, nothing like that. I mean you would maybe get your money back for doing the trip and doing the tourney but you would never make a profit or anything. But you had to place in the top 3 to get your money back. But it was never like, “I can’t wait to become a lasertag dude.” I don’t think that’s a real thing.

What’s the farthest you traveled to play laser tag? Oh, I don’t know, not that far. Like California? Back then I was like 17 so we went all over the east coast and south and mid­west and we went to California. Wait, no. We didn’t ever go to California to play laser tag. No, I played another time when I got to California but, nevermind, take that part out. I didn’t go to California to play lasertag. Take that out.

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K. Did you strike it?

Well, I will. Okay.

“You know, you put quarters in and it flicks the quarters off the side, you know, kind of like gambling. Well the one at our bowling alley right next to where the laser tag was has these quarter pushers that– I don’t know if they realize this but they actually put the advantage into the player’s hand, if you know how to play them. So I played them all summer long and got pretty good at them and saved all my quarters and then drove to California with all the quarters. “

Where did Bad Ass White Boys (BAWB) fall in this timeline? Oh, yeah. Playing music. I forgot about that. When I was 16ish until now, still. But it’s such a backburner hobby now, it’s a bummer. But we played in a really angry, thrashy punk rock band growing up.

I remember you telling me you moved to California with zero plans at all. How’d you do that? Actually my parents helped me a lot. That, and I played a shit ton of quarter pushers and I got pretty good at the quarter pushers so I played quarter pushers all summer long.

What’s a quarter pusher? You know, you put quarters in and it flicks the quarters off the side, you know, kind of like gambling. Well the one at our bowling alley right next to where the laser tag was has these quarter pushers that– I don’t know if they realize this but they actually put the advantage into the player’s hand, if you know how to play them. So I played them all summer long and got pretty good at them and saved all my quarters and then drove to California with all the quarters.

How much did you make quartering? I don’t know, 200 bucks, 300 bucks? Something like that.

So it wasn’t like you were making 10 grand or something like that. No, I’d win 10 or 20 bucks a night and sometimes I’d win 30 bucks a night and then put them in a jar, or this big bucket and then I took the big bucket, used it as my gas money, and drove across the country.

And you did that by yourself? Yeah, I did that all myself.

You were sponsored at that point, weren’t you? No, fuck no. No. You couldn’t be sponsored coming from my town. We never had a pro or anything like that.

So you moved to California and right off the bat, were you homeless? Or was that something that came after? No that came after because I was moved into a studio and worked at a pizza place in San Clemente and just surfed lowers all day everyday and ate pizza every meal of the day. Two of my buddies from Florida moved in with me in the studio and we got kicked out, and then I went homeless. But right at that same time I got my first sponsor, which was Amerikan and they were paying me a little bit of money so I quit the pizza gig and just lived out of my car and lived the dream for a while.

The team manager from that didn’t think you were serious when you said you were homeless, he thought it was a joke? Yeah, Gary Siskar and Eric Crane were big, huge helps in my life a long time ago and Gary saw me walking up from the beach when he was walking down to go surfing, cause I’d just been sleeping on the beach, and then he lent me his studio in his backyard and I lived there, then went back homeless and kind of just bounced around and didn’t do much for a long time.

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Was it during this time in California that you made a name for yourself in surfing? Not really. I think the whole first sponsor with Amerikan was done so fast that not a whole lot came of it. And I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, I didn’t know about shooting. I had no idea what I was doing. Then my second sponsor was Insight and I think I was a little bit more successful with that one.

“…I have a really killer successful track record of making companies go out of business so that was another one. Literally, I’ve ridden for like 5 companies that have all gone out of business.”

How’d you get hooked up with Insight? I sent them a tape. A sponsor me tape. I was pretty old, I was like 23 or something.

So then at that point were you on Anon too, or was that after? Jesus dude. What the fuck? Yeah I was on Anon for like a year. I have a really killer successful track record of making companies go out of business so that was another one. Literally, I’ve ridden for like 5 companies that have all gone out of business.

Alright, so­­… No. Insight went out business. Amerikan went out of business. Anon went out of business. Wait, West Wetsuits went out of business. That’s 4 people. I bet there’s more if I think about it. Oh, Axion Shoes  , they went out of business, that’s 5. Yeah, so I’m doing pretty good. Got a good track record. If you guys want to go out of business, sponsor me.

I’m kidding. So the reason I asked about Anon is because that’s where you met Dion right? Yeah, I met Dion through Anon.  I can’t remember the first time I met him. We’ve tried to do this once and neither one of us can remember. But whatever happened, we just became really good friends really quickly.

And then Proxy Noise happened. Was that just a fuck around side project? Yeah, that was a fuck around side project while we lived in New York. So we tried to think of a way to not get fired while we lived in New York and we started Proxy Noise. But neither one of us took control, or had the time, effort or energy or resources to actually manage so we squashed that little bad boy.

So with Insight going out of business, that was kind of the last little hurrah. What the fuck happened there? I still really don’t get it. I think it’s back in business now but whatever Insight that I rode for, that one’s out of business, this new insight has nothing to do with me or the old insight at all including the board shorts that they keep selling with my name on them. You’d have to ask the mighty managers of the holding company what happened because I don’t know enough about the business side and mismanagement and all that.

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So it was nothing you were ever informed about? It was an ongoing, up and down battle for a couple years of them struggling. And then [one night] Dion texted me from Australia. He found out before I did because they closed the doors in Australia, which was during the night here and I don’t know if anyone in the states actually knew we went out of business until the next morning. But it was a doozy.

Where were you in the world at that time? I was in Florida about to cut into a steak dinner, thinking I was living the dream. And then I got the steak in a to go box and that was that.

Since then, you ended up living in downtown LA. what were your thoughts? Like “I’m done surfing, I’m gonna go do some real shit in LA?” I still surf everyday all the time but I tried to get sponsored again and it was pretty much impossible. I haven’t had a real job since then.

What kind of stuff have you been doing? I heard you were assisting for a while. I’m still assisting for random bits and pieces, shooting, and writing and doing editorials. Just a bunch of whatever kind of shit comes my way. It’s all commercial shoots for photography and editorial stuff for magazines. Shit like that.

Are you playing music still? I’ve been playing with Austyn [Gillette]and Mike’s[Karapetian] band, Vaude, off and on. But I’m a flaky piece of shit for them and I just play every now and then.

Yeah cause I thought you were on full time with them and then I went to that show and you weren’t playing with them. That dude Graham was. Yeah, I think I was out of town then or something.

No, you were there, at the show, and they made fun of you. I think I was out of town right before then and couldn’t practice.

Do you have any trips planned or are you home in downtown now for good? I’m home for a little while we’re working on Welcome Rivers a lot. You can plug that if you want.

Oh shit. You have a personal website now, what’s that all about? You’re here, you’re the real deal now. What do you mean, like my photos and shit? Yeah, I learned a big lesson with Proxy Noise about putting my photos out there so I waited a really long time until I had a body of work that I was ready to show people. So I didn’t do shit with my photos for a really long time and that’s kind of the first thing I did with any sort of online presence, that was the first thing I’ve done in a really long time.

So what’s happening with Welcome Rivers?  Photo stuff or writing or shirts? We’re definitely working really hard on that and things will be coming out very soon.  All kinds of shit and you’ll see it soon, you nosy little maniac.

Well the website says ‘coming soon’ and it’s been there for like a month. what do you expect? Oh does it? Yeah I can’t remember what it said. But that’s what it says, that’s what it means. “Coming soon.”

Can you just promise me that you’ll do a reissue of the “Smoke Opium” shirt? No, I think that one got axed. We sold out of that one and we’re not gonna remake it.

Okay I’ll make my own. Did you get one?

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No. You wouldn’t fucking give me one. You’re too young.

Do you remember right when I saw that shirt, I didn’t know you that well, I was like, “So, do you and Grady like smoke opium?” [laughs] Yeah that’s why we’re not making it anymore. I have no idea what people thought. But I don’t smoke opium.

When I first found out who you were you were like the coolest goth surf thing ever, like the coolest thing to ever happen to surfing and I just assumed with your fucking dyed hair and fingernails painted you were this big party guy. like some rock star. I thought you may have done opium. I had no idea. And then I got to know you, and you’re a sweetheart. You don’t even smoke cigarettes. No. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.

Why? I don’t know. It’s pretty gross. Ok, lets talk about you for a bit… What about you? What’re you doing now?

Dude… you tell me I suck at interviewing and then you ask me that? Yeah that’s my question to you.

What am I doing? Yeah.

I’m stuck in traffic driving to Laguna. Where are you going?

I’m going to work. At this time? Right now? At this hour?

I kind of had a doozy of a morning, I was expecting a package to get delivered to my house today at some point, so I went surfing to wait for the package to show up. Then I found out it wasn’t even been shipped yet, so then I had to all the way home to pick up my shit and then I was on my way back to the office and then Troy Eckert called me and said he needs a lens so I had to go back home and then on my way back I got lunch with Brooke and so now I’m finally on my way to work. Is Brooke still your girlfriend?

Yes, that’s still my girlfriend. How long have you been dating her?

Today’s our 9 month anniversary. Do you guys celebrate 9 months?

We’re aware of it and we say it but it’s not anything serious. Do you love her?

I think so. Uh oh. How old are you?

I’m turning 21 next month. Oh, you’re in for a world of hurt, my child.

Why? Well, it’ll come. It’ll be a good growing experience for you.

Remember you told me like anytime we’d get in arguments, you’d be like, “Dude I’ve fucking seen the world, I went out til 4 in the morning in New York and danced my tits off and then done it the next day for a month straight.” I don’t remember saying anything like that, dude. That sounds terrible.

Well you did, dude. You say that shit all the time. The best advice I’ve ever given you was to burn those Stewie pants.

I’ve been shooting a ton of photos more than ever lately, I just don’t do anything with them. Oh really? That’s cool.

Yeah it’s been really fun. Like the first year working at What Youth I didn’t shoot but now I’m back. Yeah I’ve noticed that too, I’m not shooting as much now that I’m actually working more.

You’re shooting more now? No I’m not shooting personal stuff at all, I’m shooting everyday but I haven’t shot any film in 3 or 4 months probably.

Oh really? Yeah.

Huh, yeah it’s fun. I don’t know it’s weird that I used to get so stoked to post shit on Tumblr or Instagram but I just don’t even want to be a part of that anymore. I don’t even know what to do with it. Yeah it’s so hard. It’s a hard thing.

It’s fun and I’m still doing it for whatever it ends up being but I don’t know what that’s going to be. Yeah well that’s all you gotta do it for.

Are you there? Can you hear me? I’m driving through Laguna, the part that has a cliff next to it, so I might be losing you. Yeah okay.

Am I losing you? No, but are we done with our first interview?

I think we’re pretty close to be done with it. Okay.

I think our party’s over, Warren. Okay, well, good luck with it.

K. Let’s hang out soon, let’s be friends again. Yeah come up north.

Come surf Oceanside. That’s so far. That’ll take two hours for me.

Alrighty, love you daddy. Love you too, talk to you soon child.

Thanks, see ya. 

Interview by Michael Cukr | Surf Photography by Hamish Humphreys

 

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