Navajo skateboarder Len Yazzen just got done competing along with hundreds of fellow native skaters from reservations across the country in the All Nations Skate Jam (ANSJ), which took pace from April 30 through May 1, and was hosted at Los Altos Skate Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the fifth straight year.
Competing in the world’s largest Native skate festival, which last year attracted more than 6,000 people including 300 skaters from 50 different tribal nations, Len continued on his now five-year journey of skateboarding. The jam itself was created by the skate-centered Native nonprofit organization Nibwaakaawin, dedicated to the education and empowerment of Native youth.
We caught up with Len to ask him some questions about his passion, his fears, and his goals for his skateboarding career. Each skateboard move mentioned, in case you're not an expert, will be provided a hyperlink to a video of the move.
Can you tell us how old are you and where are you from?
I'm 22. I'm from Chinle, Arizona, but I live in Albuquerque now.
When did you start skating, and what is your style, if you had to name one?
I started when I was 17, which was kind of late, but ever since then I've been hooked. I try to have an old school flavor and mix that with some street style.
What are your favorite, go-to tricks?
Who are some of the skaters you look up to?
Guys like Daewon Song, Bob Burnquist, Danny Way, Andrew Reynolds, pretty much everyone who rolls. Also, my buddy Bryant Chapo is a rad skater that I look up to.
Is there a trick that you're gearing up to land?
I'd like to master a 540 McTwist by the age of 25.
What kind of board do you use?
I ride for Native Skates, so I have a Native Skates board. I'm also sponsored by iPath Footwear, so I wear their shoes. Then I picked up a new sponsor, Native Threads, which is the biggest clothing company that promotes our Native backgrounds, so Native Threads is what I wear.
A three-parter here: Is there any trick you're afraid to do, can you recall your best landed trick, and can you tell us a trick you're hoping to invent?
If you want to challenge yourself and get really good, you try not to be too afraid of any trick. But, I have a fear of handrails, haha. I've had a couple of hard falls where I've smacked my head, but that's skateboarding.
About a year ago I learned this trick, and landed a kickflip indy grab to a fakie. I want to do a 360 double flip, and I also want to get to rock to blunt to 360 flip out. I don't think this is a new trick, but I want to land it.
How do you see the relationship between the American Indian culture and skateboarding?
The All Nation Skate Jam is an opportunity to show other people that the relationship between the reservation and skateboarding is not a new one. It showcases skaters talents and skills, and the event is getting bigger and bigger, going on the fifth year and staying strong. Five years is a long time and we've achieved a lot in those years.
What do you want to do as your become a better skater and the All Nations Skate Jam grows?
I want to put more of my focus on the kids. I want to communicate with them and tell them to never give up, because skating can bring happiness and other opportunities. You can travel, meet new people, and learn more about the whole industry because there is a lot that goes on behind skateboarding, like manufacturing (skate boards), photography, graphic design (skate clothing, especially t-shirts, are huge sellers). I want to tell them that skateboarding will always be there and they can pursue skateboarding, or the things behind skateboarding, as their career. That's what I've been doing throughout these years.