Luis Tolentino needs little introduction. Born in the Dominican Republic, he grew up in Queens and is now best known as the guy with the really (really) big ollie. Just before boarding a south-bound plane with his dad, Luis sat down with RedBullUSA.com to discuss turning pro with Shut, being righteous, and where the hell he gets that pop.
A lot of us first saw you two years ago when your Berrics Recruit footage went viral (watch the video below). I don't think anyone had ever ground or boardslid UP the hubba. Obviously all that was pro level-skating. Why did you wait until now?
Now feels like the right time. Three years ago people were asking me to go pro, and I guess I was still waiting. Not to sound spiritual or anything, but now feels different. I feel more positive and confident and righteous inside than before. That feeling's what made me secure to make the decision.
When you say righteous, do you mean spiritual?
Your spirit is weak if you don't live righteously, and everyone has a spirit. If you have doubts and you're always questioning things, your spirit is weak and you give off a confused vibe to people. I don't want to do that now that people are looking up to me -- because every young skater's dream is to go pro, and now I'm pro.
Your skating does not feel confused. It feels like an elephant made of fire.
I was more up and down before, but I don't feel like that now. Now I want to connect by positivity. Anything that has positive vibes. The other day I went to a Catholic church that looked like a club. It was full of life and young people. That's what I'm down with. Churches that are Gothic, that look like you're getting ready to die, that's all about putting fear in your heart. I'm about life, not fear.
Growing up, what were your top spots skating in New York?
The Banks. All the time. Seeing all the different skaters. New people. Different styles. The older homies showing you stuff. Everyone being free and just killing it made me fall in love with skating all over again. Also, Flushing Meadow Park, where Rodney Torres saw me skating and approached me about filming. That ended up being my footy tape, then I got sponsored by Supreme.
A number of sponsors followed suit -- 5Boro, Bones, Spitfire, etc. How did you end up on Red Bull?
Joey Brezinski saw the Berrics video. He saw how hard I was working, and asked if I wanted to join the team. I was like “Hell, Yeah!”
That video was where a lot of people first saw your talent, specifically the explosive power of your ollie. Not all pros can ollie a garbage can, and basically no pros can ollie frontside 360 a garbage can. How do you do that?
Ohhh. Yeah. Well, ollies are very expressive to me, because when I first learned ollies, there was a lot of shit going on. One day something happened at the house, and I went skating. And I was skating really aggressive. I'd never thought of skating like that, like an outlet, but I started popping my ollies, and kept popping higher and higher. And that was it.
Cole Louison is the author of "The Impossible: Rodney Mullen, Ryan Sheckler and the Fantastic History of Skateboarding."