Photos and intro by Rob Dolecki
Taken from DIG issue 84, September 2011
I could write pages about what it’s like to spend a week with Dakota Roche. Everything from sleeping on the living room floor of his small second floor apartment, located just blocks from one of the most famous beaches and surf spots in the world, to the rotating cast of guests like Alex Kennedy and Ryan Navazio (the semi-permanent winter couch resident), to daily sneak peeks at the newest footage compiled for the (then) upcoming Cult video “Talk Is Cheap.” Not to mention the fact that Dakota was ready to go before ten in the morning every day itching to ride, and at times gets miffed waiting around for hours in Russ Barone’s apartment for late risers to get out the door. Or that he keeps his laptop computer, which is in such bad shape that it can really only be used as a desktop, still going strong. Writing extensively about that week could easily fill up the following pages that are dedicated to Dak’s interview.
In the time since Dakota had that split interview with Nathan Williams in DIG issue 60 back in 2007, when they were both relatively unknown up-and-coming shredders on the verge, he’s expanded on his ability to bunnyhop over your head, and has a few epic parts under his belt and more on the horizon (I write this after previewing what is already in Dak’s “Talk Is Cheap” clip folder on Navaz’s desktop; take it as a forewarning). Dakota has also become more seasoned and insightful (no pun intended), and less concerned with speaking about his views or issues that are important to him. It seems like it would almost be a waste of space to morph this interview into some long-winded rant based primarily from my perspective. He has a lot of good things to say on his own – real talk. Read on for yourself… -RD
RD: So, how has your life changed since your split interview with Nathan Williams in DIG issue 60? I think the main thing that sticks out that people are going to try and get me on is the fact that in that interview I said I didn’t drink, and now four years later I’ll socially have a beer or glass of wine here and there, and I don’t have a problem with that. I guess when I was younger I didn’t really understand why people did it. I was judgmental of people that did it, because I felt like it was wrong. I understand now that it’s not. If you’re just socially having a beverage, and not getting into crazy bar fights and have control over it, then I don’t understand how anyone could be mad at you. I do have a problem with people who have drinking problems. If you do have a problem with drinking and you know you do, and you’re not doing anything to change it, then I don’t really have much respect for that aspect of it, I guess.
So you may have a problem with a good percentage of the BMX population? (Laughter) If drugs or alcohol are making you less motivated to ride, then I do have a problem with that.Simple as that. For me, I can’t even get myself to drink more than two beers, so I know I’m going to wake up in the morning and feel fine and ride. And it’s not often; I only drink a couple times a month at most.
You cuss now? Yeah, I cussed back then, but I kind of tried to keep it in. Now, you know what, I’m going to have meltdowns, and I am going to cuss. I’m not saying it’s ok, it’s something I definitely need to work on, but that’s how I am now. It’s not something I’m proud of but it’s not something I’m going to lie about either; that’s what it is.
Have your rage issues been tamed at all? They come and go, to be honest. I’ll have good control over my rage for a couple of months, like, “Calm down, you’re just riding a bike, you’re trying something new so obviously you’re going to get frustrated…” If I can talk myself out of it, it works. Sometimes I can’t, and I’ll just lose it and freak out.
Like five tries in? Yeah, that’s only on stuff I feel like I should be able to do that isn’t working for some reason, like a rollback or something, and it escalates from there. When I get frustrated, I have other stuff on my mind. So I’m thinking of doing this trick or line, along with ten negative thoughts of whatever is going on in my life. That’s when my control goes out the window. Not saying it’s ok, but that’s how it is right now, and hopefully I get a hold of it one of these days.
Russ: What’s it like to be one of the top riders? How am I supposed to answer that? (Laughter) “Oh, it feels awesome.” That’s another thing that stresses me out. Dehart and I were talking about this the other day. Riding has gotten so crazy that you almost feel the need to keep up with everything that’s going on. I know I’ll never be Garrett Reynolds, and I’m ok with that. So I just need to stay focused on what I do. This is me and how I ride. If people like it, cool. If you don’t like how I ride, that’s fine.
…keep your mouth shut if you weren’t involved.
RD: Explain your path from So. Cal. grom to superstar pro. (Laughter) I’m a superstar pro? I didn’t know that, man.
Yeah, you’re in the X-Games. Does being in the X-Games make you a superstar pro?
In some people’s eyes. Ok. Well, I think the fact that I grew up in California definitely helped with my motivation to continue to ride. The weather’s always good for one, there’s an abundance of spots, I grew up with a lot of friends who loved to ride, so I always had people to ride with. I always had love for BMX and I just stuck with it. I don’t know if it’s corny to say it or not, but I’m just psyched on where I am with it, you know? I’m so blessed to be able to keep doing what I’ve always done and have fun with it. I have a big smile on my face right now.
Did you ever send a sponsor-me video to a company? No, I never sent one to anyone, never tried. My friends and I would film stuff, but it was just for fun. Robbie started giving me frames in ’03, when I was sixteen, I think. I had been paying full price for frames until then, so I was tripping out. Here and there the Sheep Hills locals would give me parts. I used to buy parts off of Troy McMurray for super cheap.
Did you buy any War Pig frames? Nope, never got a War Pig from him. After Robbie had been hooking me up for a while he asked me to film some stuff for Fit Life. The summer before Fit Life came out, I started hanging out and riding with Rich Hirsch whenever I was in Portland. I got an IM from Rich one night, but I was all scared typing to him or whatever, and he asked me to ride flow for Lotek. I freaked out; I said, “Yeah, obviously.” He asked me if I wanted to go on the Vancouver trip with the whole Lotek team two weeks later. I ended up going and it was the time of my life. It was just so rad of Rich to go out of his way to get me on without knowing me too well. I appreciate it so much to this day; that helped out so much being in the Lotek video and Fit Life. Also Navaz has played a huge role in where I am today.
Where did you meet Navaz? Through Kurt (Rasmusson) and Dean (Dickinson). I ran into him one day at a concrete park; we were all riding. I was doing hand-plants over a spine. (Laughter) I was asking him about Standpoint 6; I’d always liked the Standpoint videos he made. He asked me if I wanted to film a couple of clips for Left/Right. A lot of stuff happened really fast out of nowhere. Primo put me on flow, and then I went on a trip a few weeks after that; that was a blast.
The Toronto trip? Yeah, that was when I had the split interview, and it was one of my first times hanging out with Nathan. Levi’s came along around the same time. I was on flow for everyone, and within a month I went pro for Fit, Primo, and Lotek; it was crazy. A lot of stuff seemed to happen when I moved back to California. I was working for my dad a bunch up in the Northwest…
What were you doing? It was a cabinet building company that kind of sucked really bad; they always gave us the wrong parts. I moved back to California in November ’06. I didn’t necessarily move back to try and make it big as a pro rider; I wanted to be back with my friends in Huntington riding every day in the sunshine. California is a BMX Mecca and I just wanted to be where everything was and have a good time with it. It made sense to be there. I worked with my uncle there, even when I was already pro for a few companies. Opportunities to film and travel started coming along. Navaz got the job to film Insight. We were filming for the video a month before he officially had the job, and Ride was cool with me having a part.
Didn’t you also start filming early for Stay Fit? Yeah, I think what happens is that I get super psyched when I hear about a new project I’m involved with, and I just want to start. I have so many ideas rushing through my head.
Some people can interpret it like, “Oh, that dude is hungry.” If people look at me and think I’m hungry, then that’s totally fine, let them think that. But the people that I’m close with know me and my personality and how I go about things. It’s not in an overly eager or hungry way; I’m just psyched to be doing this. I want to be happy with what I put out all the time; I don’t want to put anything out that’s half-assed. Who wants to do that? I want to work on every project whole-heartedly and that means getting started and putting effort into it. When it comes to riding and filming and stuff, I’m not really a procrastinator. Filming for Insight was the most convenient thing I ever filmed for, because Navaz literally lived across the street. I’d go knock on his door and we’d hop in my van…
What was the van? Aerostar, I can’t remember. We’re gonna talk about the van?
Yeah. All right. When I lived in the Northwest my parents bought me a thousand-dollar Ford Taurus, and it blew up on the side of the road on the way home from the skatepark one day. So my dad hooked me up with his work van, since he got a new one. The van was sketchy looking, with no windows in the back. It was a white van that was hollow with no seats, not even a bench seat. It was a legit work van. That’s what I drove from Olympia, Washington to Huntington Beach in back in ’06. It was rolling ok, no major problems. It was sweet when people would come into town. It easily fit five people, five bikes; everyone would just sit on the floor. Brennan, D-Wats, Jared, everybody would be back there. The van was basically the Insight machine for quite some time. One day I was driving it, and it had complete brake system failure. I had to drive 5 miles to Pep Boys with the e-brake and hazard signals on; people were just honking at me. It was kind of a nightmare. I ended up buying my grandma’s car after that – rest in peace grandma. She hooked me up, it was a Saturn sedan and only had 25 thousand miles, it was burgundy; straight-up old person’s car. Although in the last clip I did have my Dodge Magnum by then.
When you had that interview in issue 60, where had you traveled to at the time? Vancouver and Toronto. That was the longest time I had ever been on a plane at that point.
Since then you’ve traveled a shitload, especially when filming for the Levi’s video; what’s your favorite place as of right now? Barcelona, but everyone says that. It lives up to the hype; too many spots to list, girls everywhere, architecture, it’s on the beach, there’s not much more you could ask for if you’re a BMX’er. I really like all of Spain. Melbourne, Australia also, for the same reasons. I love anywhere that’s warm and has good spots. That’s why I live in Huntington Beach. Shanghai was unbelievable. I went to Beijing for the Woodward opening in 2010, and just spent the time there at Woodward. I was only there for 72 hours…
Three days? You might have been on the plane for almost as long as you were actually there. Yeah, so I didn’t really like Beijing that much, which meant I didn’t have expectations for Shanghai. I went there for Asian X-Games and roomed with Nathan. We’d get up at like six in the morning and ride the city all day long until we had to go to the contest. We had so much fun; there were spots everywhere and the weather was nice. It left a good impression on me, I could definitely see myself going back. I can’t really pick just one place.
What’s your take on the street plaza contests? Street contests are definitely getting bigger these days. I have fun riding in them. There’s obviously a bunch of things I would change because I’m a rider and I know what riders would want in a contest, versus some corporate dude who doesn’t really know too much about the in’s and out’s of BMX and what we’d like to see in the contest, and who we’d like to see in them for that matter.
Name three people who you’d like to see in one. Alex Kennedy, Dan Lacey and Ben Lewis; it bums me out those UK shredders get overlooked. It’s nothing against the X Games committee, but it just sucks when really progressive riders like that get overlooked. The format could be tweaked. If they invited a group of riders who rode in the street comps, I think the formula could be developed. Contests in general are harsh. I had to go through a metal detector to get food in the athlete’s lounge.
It’s a street contest; people are packing heat. Seriously, it’s grimy out there. (Laughter) It’s hard to get my family and friends in there to watch; I only get two passes. Parking is nuts, it costs like twenty-five bucks. It’s really inconvenient for the people that it should be convenient for; I’m in the contest.
…but I hope people understand that I already pulled it a few months before he tried it.
I was talking with someone recently and he told me about how when the X-Games invites people to compete, they don’t pay for anything, like hotel or airfare. I never even knew that. Considering the fact that we are the main attraction and we make the X-Games; they should treat us better. There’s no reason they shouldn’t. Without us competing, they wouldn’t really have anything, would they?
A blank TV screen. What’s a contest without the contestants? It’s definitely a turn-off. If I get invited to the Asian X-Games, I have to go to my sponsors for the flight and hotel. If I didn’t have sponsors, I wouldn’t even be able to go. Even if I got top five, that wouldn’t cover my expenses. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s an honor to get invited to X-Games, but at the same time there is a lot of b.s. that comes along with it. It is what it is.
When a kid comes up to you and recognizes you from seeing you in the X-Games, what do you think his perception is on how much money you make? The kids probably think I’m a multi-millionaire. But in reality, most BMX’ers and myself live check-to-check; that’s how it is. The fact that a huge company is making it look like they are paying us millions of dollars to be in this contest; it’s real misleading to the kids. We as riders get the bad end of the bargain to say the least. We look like the heroes to the kids, but in reality they’re the ones caking off what we do, and we’re just getting by.
What do you think the solution is? That’s a tough question. I don’t really have a solution. Their whole process needs to change at this point. They need to take care of the riders. That goes for all of BMX. Without the rider there wouldn’t be a business, and they can’t forget that.
Navaz: How did you end up on Vans? After being on Lotek for years, I guess things weren’t progressing the way they were when I first got on. I wanted more opportunities to do things and travel. I had little conversations with Josh Harrington and Chase Hawk about how I was psyched on how Vans does things, keeping everybody doing cool things like traveling and signings. And one day Josh said, “Hey man, I talked to Jerry Badders for you. Hope you don’t mind; it’d be cool if you were on Vans.”
RD: It was his idea? In a way, him and Chase really helped the situation. Badders had a chat with me and told me what he could do for me. It seemed like the right choice so I went for it. It’s been a year, and I couldn’t be happier. Been on a bunch of sick trips with them; we got the Vans/Cult collaboration going. They’re so psyched with what we’re doing with Cult; it only makes sense to support people that support you. No complaints.
Navaz: How is having Badders as a TM? It’s entertaining, to say the least. He’s definitely crazy in his own way, but he’s such a caring, good-hearted dude. It’s definitely fun to hang out with him on trips; he’s always the life of the party. He takes care of us. He’s helped me out so much, and I appreciate it. He’s my neighbor; I can see his place from mine. There’s always communication with each other.
How did the idea for rocket-power day come about? Me and my friends always talked about how when you live in Southern California, “action sports”- I hate that term really bad, but that’s the only way to describe it – are really accessible. You could definitely skate, surf, ride and snowboard all in one day. We were talking about how cool it would be to do that sometime. Myself, Cody Levesque and Navaz ended up doing it. We started out surfing…
RD: Where did you go? 56th street and Newport; the waves were kind of big when we first got there, then it died down. Then we went to Chino skatepark and rode and skated for like three hours. From there we drove another hour up to the mountain and caught the night session snowboarding for like three hours. It was way more tiring than I ever thought it could be. I didn’t realize how much actually goes into that. It was such a good experience. I’m glad we could say we did that. We had a good time. A fun fact is that was the first time I’d ever been filmed while surfing, and I didn’t realize how much of a tool I look like when I’m surfing. Even though I’m not very good at it, I thought at least I don’t look like “that guy.” Turns out I do look like “that guy.” Kinda sucks! Just another thing to work on, my surfing steez. (Laughs)
What are your thoughts on the resurgence of the Robbo/Cult – Moeller/Fit drama lately? I’m just real happy with the way our crew is handling it by leaving the bullshit behind and moving forward and continuing on in our own way. It just sucks when the other party is stuck in the past and going on and on about things that happened a long time ago. There’s always going to be “he said/she said” stuff. I’m just psyched our crew is doing it the way we want to be doing it now.
Without us competing, they wouldn’t really have anything, would they?
Has there ever been any tension or issues between you and anyone who rides for Fit? No, there really hasn’t been, other than a couple of things from Moeller. As far as the riders on Fit and everyone that was involved in the situation that went down; everyone seems to be cool. When I hang out with dudes who ride for Fit in person, there really hasn’t been any negative talk. Hopefully everyone sees both sides of the story.
Would you ever put a Cult sticker over a Fit sticker somewhere? No. (Laughter)
How about a F-it sticker in the Cult font? Yeah, probably. It’s funny when a kid that has nothing to do with the split-up and goes behind both companies’ back and makes their own sticker. I don’t even know the kid; he wasn’t even a part of the split, so what makes you feel like you have the right to make a sticker that has nothing to do with you? That’s kind of my main beef with the split is the outsiders that don’t have anything to do with it putting their two cents in. They don’t know what’s going on; keep your mouth shut if you weren’t involved.
How did you feel when Stay Fit premiered at Interbike and you had the last part, then when the video came out, you didn’t have the last part anymore? (Laughter) I totally understand why it was done; I wasn’t on the team anymore by the time the video made it to a DVD. It kind of bummed me out a little bit. I worked really hard on that part, and it’s definitely an honor having last part in a video. That was the first and last time I’ve ever had last part in a video, for one night. (Laughs) And unfortunately I didn’t have it anymore after that. Not taking anything away from Van’s part – his part was ridiculous, and he’s obviously always deserving of last part. To have last part waved in your face then taken away, it wasn’t the highlight of my life, by all means. When I filmed the part I was on Fit, it’s not like I was riding for a different company while filming for the video and getting pissed for not having the last part. We weren’t planning on leaving Fit until our contracts were up the following January, but a lot of things happened (around Interbike), so we had to move quickly.
It’s been talked about before, so we can move on. So, how about you and the Northwest? There’s been so much negative stuff to come out of living in the Northwest for my family and me.
Is it because you can’t surf, ride, skate and snowboard in one day? (Laughs) My main problem was that it seemed like I wasn’t accepted there. It changed about halfway through when I met Shad (Johnson) and Rich while hanging out in Portland – the people and the spots there kept me sane. When I moved back to California, my parents decided to stay and move to Oregon City. They were out in California visiting the family, and I was on the Summer Of Fit trip, and I get a call from them when they got back home. It turned out their house flooded with eighteen thousand gallons of sewage. Eighty percent of my belongings were in their basement, since I only bought what I could fit in my van when I moved, along with everything they collected in their fifty-something years of living. They basically got screwed; they lost the lawsuit against the city, even though it was the city’s fault. There have been so many negative circumstances; my mind won’t stray from the negative and think of the positive there. Obviously I appreciate the few people I did meet that I really like up there. I guess when you live in the same place for seventeen years and have to move away from where you consider home, it’s always gonna be hard.
So I take it you’re not going up there anytime soon. After my parents’ lawsuit went sour, I don’t see myself going back up there. No offense to you guys who live there and enjoy it, but it isn’t a place for my family and me.
How about kids getting mad at you for changing sponsors. Talk amongst your friends, have fun, diss on me, whatever, but do it in a manner where you’re not judging someone, do it for fun. If you’re talking shit on someone so blindly when you don’t know anything about it, you’re basically worthless at that point. If all you can do is talk about what other people are doing in a negative fashion, and not even try and look at the positive, your existence is based on negativity. Who would want to live that way? If you have an opportunity that could really change your life in a good way, why wouldn’t you take it? It doesn’t make sense to me.
What’s your opinion of the term “selling out”? Selling out is when you base all of your “career moves” around making more money. When I make moves, money is far from the deciding factor. If I change sponsors, chances are it’s because I don’t like certain things that are going on with the brand or something with more opportunities that fit my style came along. Greed, butting heads, different view points on important issues and lack of communication on their end are some of the things that would steer me to another brand. Loyalty is very important to me, but if I feel like things just aren’t working out, it’s time to move on.
Navaz: All the photos in this interview will pretty much be clips in your part for “Talk Is Cheap”. How’s it going for that? Filming for this video has been some of the best times, and some of worst times in my life. I’ve had a bunch of things work exactly how I wanted them to; I was so relieved. On every project I always have a mental list of things I need to do for that part. I’ve been fortunate enough to check a lot of those off. There has been just as many breakdowns as there has been made tricks for sure; trying something just a little beyond what I’m able to do, and just losing my mind. Coming ridiculously close to pulling something a hundred times before riding away from it, and getting killed in the process. Overall it’s been way more of a positive experience than a negative experience. Getting to film with someone who I trust all the time, and knowing that aspect of it is handled makes it easier to clear my mind and just do the trick and keep going. I’ve seen so much ridiculous stuff go down from everyone else that’s filming. I can’t wait until the video is done so I can watch it.
If drugs or alcohol are making you less motivated to ride, then I do have a problem with that. Simple as that.
Any idea when it will be done yet? If all goes well, we’d like to have it out for Christmas, but definitely within a couple of months after that.
Whose part is looking to be your favorite? The stuff I’ve been seeing from Alex Kennedy is on another level. It’s the corniest thing to say, but I don’t know how else to explain it. Everything he’s doing is new and refreshing and fun to watch. Everybody that’s been filming for it has been doing such cool stuff; seems like things are going well.
So how about that rail icepick? So I’d seen that rail on a skate mag cover and in a few skate videos. It caught my eye and got my interest up, and I did some research. I ended up finding it; this was late 2010. It’s about 50 miles from my house; close enough to where I wanted to drive out and look at it. My cousin and me took a drive out there to look at it on Thanksgiving night. It was way bigger in person; it was pretty terrifying. I thought about it a lot, and then you (Rob) came into town in early January, and I figured I’d try my luck at it. We drove out that way with a big crew. When the session was winding down and getting dark, we got there. When I was at the top of the stairs, for some reason it was even scarier than I remember it being. I almost backed out. But everybody was there, and I had to at least feel it out. So I got my bike, circled around and grinded it. It was scary. I grinded it again, and (decided to try the icepick). You guys (Navaz and Rob) set up, and it was getting uncomfortably close to dark. I think I hit the rail again a few times, and things ended up working out. (Editor’s note: At this point during the interview Dak had no idea the shot would make the cover of this issue)
Russ: Second try. First try I dropped, second try I double pegged it again to warm up, then I got it. I was so psyched. It was so sick to have all my friends there to help me clear my head and focus on getting it over with.
Russ: Some people couldn’t even watch. Belcher and Hawk stayed in the van. Belcher was a little scared; I was too. I don’t blame them. So, I didn’t think much else of the ice after that; the clip turned out great, and the photo did too. That’s it; let’s just keep moving forward. Then I found out someone else tried it after me. Dylan (Stark) didn’t know I already did it, so nothing against him for trying it. There are a lot of riders in Southern California, and he came across the spot so he figured he’d try it. I did get a little tight when the crash was online, kind of after he knew I’d already done it. I wouldn’t have gone about it that way. Not calling the kid out by any means, just for the record. Obviously it’s not a competition or a race to ice the rail, but I hope people understand that I already pulled it a few months before he tried it. I feel bad he went there and tried it and slammed and didn’t get it. But I feel like he could have done without putting the slam online, especially after he already found out I did it.
Navaz: How did you get into filming? I like that question, that’s a good one. I think back in 2004 was when I first had an interest for filming. I started looking at videos a little differently, like when something is filmed right it makes stuff look way better, and it fed my interest. My friends and me were filming for a local video called “Go For Broke.” Then I moved to the Northwest and I got a Panasonic 3 chip camera and a little Death lens and continued with it. I would go on the computer every single night reading about different cameras and how to make things look right. When something is filmed right it just makes everything so much better, and it’s a satisfying feeling. I got a VX2000 from my parents for graduation from high school. I helped film stuff for Insight, and an eighth of “Let ‘Em Talk”. I filmed a couple of Nathan edits. For Talk Is Cheap, Navaz and I have a routine where he gets his shot and I work around him to get shots that make sense with what he is filming. Navaz has helped me a lot with understanding why certain shots make more sense than others. He taught me how to use a super 8 camera the other day. I enjoy working with cameras, and I’m going to keep doing it.
Will you ever make your own video? At this time no, because I’m so busy with other projects. When things mellow out, maybe eventually, we’ll see.
RD: Who would be five people in the dream video you made? Chase Dehart, Nathan Williams, Alex Kennedy, my friend Cody… and Dan Lacey; I love filming with Lacey. The people I like hanging out with are the same people I like filming with.
Final thoughts/thanks? Thanks to God for always providing and allowing me to do what I love. Thanks to my family, mom and dad for backing me 110% – that goes for all my homies too, I don’t even need to list you fools, you know who you are. Robbie Morales, Neil Wood, Joe Vee, and The Cult Crew, Dave Smidt and everyone at Monster Energy, Jerry Badders and everyone at Vans, Will Stroud and everyone at Cinema, Paul Conroy and everyone at Crush sports and Good Fight, Chris Cole, Navi Arm, Jim Bauer, Jeff Z, Dolecki and everyone else that has helped me in any way. I’m Blessed.