Culture | August 23, 2022 7:00 am

How Pro Jake Wooten Used Skateboarding to Beat Back His Demons

"Skating has saved all of us in one way or another, so we give that back."

Jake Wooten
Jake Wooten
Red Bull

An airport is technical heaven for any skateboarder: the ultra-smooth floors, the volume of space, the plethora of surfaces and shapes to grind and ride — all wrapped in the allure of the forbidden. The sheer number of rules and regulations that govern most TSA-protected spaces makes skateboarding in an airport an obvious no, but since skating in an airport was 22-year-old pro skater Jake Wooten’s dream, Red Bull decided to make it happen. As a sponsor for the young skater, Red Bull put together a skating event called Red Bull Terminal Takeover at the now-defunct Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and began inviting skaters from all over the country to compete. 

First held last year, the event expanded further in April 2022 as pandemic precautions lifted, and word quickly spread among the skating community. “I was like, ‘I want to skate an airport,’ and they were like ‘Here’s an airport,’” Wooten tells InsideHook. “I wanted to invite a bunch of skate shops, and Red Bull also set up a prize for winning the competition, because COVID-19 was hitting hard at that time. As COVID has slowly gotten less and less prominent, this year it’s a lot bigger of an event because we’re able to have more skaters.”

Even though the old Louis Armstrong terminals are closed, it’s right across the street from the new airport, and technically still under federal regulation — so cooperation from the local community was a huge part of the event happening at all. “We’re literally on the airport grounds, this is airport federal regulation — I can look out there and see planes taking off,” Wooten explains. “The officers and the local New Orleans police department were amazing and have been so kind. They’re making sure everyone has a great time without anything going wrong.”

Born and raised in Tennessee, Wooten first began skating as a pre-teen to help cope with the anger and pain he experienced growing up in an unstable environment. Now, he lives a few hours south of Los Angeles, so skating in California is more familiar than skating in Louisiana. We caught up with Wooten to get some of his tips and tricks about the world of skating and learn just how he went pro right around the same time he hit legal drinking age.

InsideHook: When did you first know you wanted to be a skater?

Jake Wooten: I’d never experienced skateboarding or seen skateboarding until my Uncle Phillip took me to Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam in Nashville, Tennessee, when I was five years old. I was immediately enthralled with the skating, and my uncle skated before when he was younger, so he was super down to go get some skateboards. He started taking me out on weekends, and he was my father figure.

Moving from Tennessee to California is quite a jump — how is the skating scene different between the two states?

I moved to California in January 2020, right before the pandemic. I didn’t leave my house for 38 days. But it’s a night and day difference in the scenes — there’s as many kids in the scene in Tennessee as there is in one skate park in California. I live in Oceanside now, and it’s a lot of transition skating. That’s skating a lot of ramps, versus people who skate more stair sets and rails.

It’s still such a loving community anywhere you go. It’s not like surfing or biking or golf — it’s not like any of these standard sports or action sports. Skating has saved all of us in one way or another, so we give that back.

What’s your personal skating style?

In Tennessee there’s a lot more street skaters and a lot of BMXers. I actually grew up with pro BMXers, and those were the pro people I was around riding with. That’s why I learned to skate transition the way I did. I’m known more for transition skating, but I skate more street. I’ve always skated both. When you skate everything you’re considered to be more of an ATV, which is all-terrain rider, like all-terrain vehicle. One of the greatest to ever be like that is Grant Taylor.

What’s your favorite place to skate in Southern California?

I’m a big fan of Chino Park, but it’s about an hour and a half from where I live. I’m also a big fan of Costa Mesa Park in Orange County — that one’s like 15 minutes from me.

Do you have any rituals before or after skating?

Every day after I wake up I immediately get a big glass of water and chug it. Then I drink a green juice and normally a protein shake or eat something. Before I go skate, I stretch out my hips and stretch out my groin, just make sure that my thighs and my hamstrings are all straight and then I’m good to go. After I skate, I try to use the leg compression devices and the Theragun. I use Hyperice. It’s like Theragun, but it’s cheaper and I think they’re better. I don’t ride for them or have any affiliation, but I think they’re amazing products.

Do you have favorite clothes or shoes to wear when you’re on the board?

I be wearing my Etnies. I like MIranas a lot right now, the JOcelyns. I have to be in a hat. I do have multiple different types of underwear, but I have to wear TJ Maxx’s Calvin Kleins, they’re the best. I’ve gotten actual ones before at Dillard’s, and I swear it wasn’t the same, they were all silky. And I have to wear white, mid-shin socks. Always. You don’t skate in black socks. Black socks are dress socks, white socks are skate socks. And also, Jake Phelps — rest in peace — the Thrasher editor-in-chief said you never skate in black socks.

What is it about skating that drew you to make it your career?

I always dreamt of being a professional skateboarder, but I never thought I’d actually get there. Then I turned pro when I was 20, and now I’m realizing the other sides of it and all the opportunities — the things besides actually skateboarding. Now that I’m pro I’m working on product lines for each of the companies I work for. 

I had a lot of problems with my anger and baggage from being a kid. I didn’t respond to it correctly and treat it in a healthy way. My aunt and uncle did their best job to try to help me out, but it’s something you’ve got to work through yourself. As I got older, skateboarding taught me a lot of lessons that I had a hard time learning on my own.

I had nowhere to put this energy and animosity I had as a child. Going skateboarding was my teacher to be like, you can’t blame anybody else. You can’t, it’s you. It’s like golf in a sense, but most of the time rich kids play golf, and poor kids get what they get. But you can get a skateboard for a hundred bucks and take off.

What’s your best advice for a new skater?

Wear a helmet. Bend your knees. Don’t get frustrated or angry. It’s skateboarding. It’s a wooden toy, it’s just for fun. Don’t get discouraged because it takes a long time.