Jake Ilardi of Team USA Skateboarding

FRANK151: How’d you get started skating?

Jake Ilardi: I started skateboarding when I was four years old. I have a twin brother, Nate, and my grandmother got us skateboards for our fourth birthday. We kind of just pushed around on our hands and knees, like, in the driveway. And then it turned into what it is today. We started going to the skate park. We got a half-pipe in our front yard, like a four foot tall mini ramp. And then we had skate ramps all in the driveway and stuff. And then from there, it kind of went from home, to going to the skate park and then doing competitions, and then the competitions snowballed into what it is now. And then fast forward, 20 years later, to skating in the Olympics for Team USA.

FRANK151: How is that feeling of being in Japan for the Olympics? Like, that must have been fucking amazing. Right?

Jake Ilardi: Yeah, it was crazy. It was super hot over there, but just the feeling of being in the first ever skateboarding Olympics was incredible. Honestly, like, couldn’t believe it happened and it was a very humbling experience. But also, it’s a very exciting experience just because not a lot of people get to go. And have that opportunity. And I think there were only 40 for street and 40 for park, so like 80 people got to say they were part of the first ever Skateboarding Olympics. So out of however many people in the world, that’s a pretty small number and it’s a pretty incredible thing that we accomplished.

FRANK151: Did you get a lot of shit for it though? Cuz obviously we’ve been in this industry forever. It’s like a lot of people were half and half about it. What was your overall feeling when it happened, when it got announced?

Jake Ilardi: Um, I didn’t really get too much shit for it. I mean there were a few haters but it was more positive on my end. Like a lot of my people and family from my hometown in Sarasota and Osprey were super supportive. All my friends from all over the world were supporting me the whole way. But yeah, it was pretty great. I really liked the feedback from it. What was the second part?

FRANK151: So you didn’t get a lot of slack for it. Everything was good from your part, but how did you feel overall? Like were you super hyped?

Jake Ilardi: Yeah, I was. I was really hyped on it because like, I found out in 2019, I was gonna get a chance to go qualify. The first contest I did was January 2019, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was the Street League World Championships but they had an open qualifier in the beginning. So usually you get invited to that, but they had an open qualifier where anyone can come. Jagger was supposed to go to that one, but he actually got hurt so they sent me down there for Team USA instead. And then I ended up making it onto the tour by qualifying into SLS, and then just started climbing my way up the ladder through the rankings and then made the team.

FRANK151: What was the dynamic with everyone on Team USA? Were you guys all homies before you went into it together?

Jake Ilardi: Yeah. I’ve skated with Jagger for 10+ years throughout the competitions. And then I’ve seen Mariah around before, growing up skating all the Am contests. I watched Nyjah Huston like all over when I was a little kid and got to skate with him a few times throughout this qualifying series. I’ve known Alana from Arizona, like Alana, Jett and Jagger. I knew all of them from going to different competitions and I always see them in California and Arizona. And then like the park dudes. Tom didn’t make the Olympics but he’s still on the team. Cory’s on Rockstar, so we’re teammates. And then Zion is from Florida, I grew up skating with him. And Tom, I just always saw him on TV and stuff, skating. But I feel like a lot of us became a lot closer with this whole Olympic experience, because a lot of these people, like the team as a whole, don’t really skate together that much on a day-to-day basis. We’re all in our different zones, like Alexis Sablone, she’s up in New York. I’m down in Florida, Zion’s in Florida and Cali. Jagger’s in Arizona, Mariah’s in Arizona, like we’re all over the US, and it was kind of cool because we would all meet up in California or LA as a team, sometimes skating together and then just going to all the different competitions around the world. We would all be at the same contests. So we kind of created a little bond over there and it was really cool.

FRANK151: Did you guys help push each other? Were you guys competing with each other or was it more like, you know, everyone’s trying to help each other?

Jake Ilardi: I’d say before, whenever we’re on the course, it’s always super competitive, but it’s always sick to see your homies land that crazy trick or crazy run. Everyone obviously wants to get first or do the best that they can, but that’s not the case all the time. You can’t always win, but it’s also cool to see the camaraderie of skateboarding. We’re all together like one big family and we’re definitely pushing each other out there in practice. Like if somebody is scared to try a trick and like you land the trick, you’re like, All right, if I land this, will you go behind me and try it? And we’re just always pushing each other. So it’s like 50/50, like we’re definitely competitive but we’re pushing each other. It’s cool to see.

FRANK151: My favorite question I always ask is: What was your first wild experience in your skateboard career? When did you say, “Holy shit, this happened. I made it.”

Jake Ilardi: The first time I ever won 10 grand. I think it was October 2017. There was this contest called Am Getting Paid in Montreal. And I was working like a 9 to 5 at this grocery store in Florida called Publix. I’d work from 3 to 11 every day and get off and go skate at night. But I told my grandma and my brother, if I won this contest, I was gonna move to California because I have enough saved up. So I remember it was like the last run. I was the first skater to go in the final. And I made my run. I was in first place and stayed in first place the whole time for the rest of the final, and then I won 10 grand. I was like, holy shit, this is the most money I’ve ever won skateboarding.

FRANK151: Going to Cali.

Jake Ilardi: Yeah exactly. So I just worked at Publix for a few more months and then saved up some more money. And then bought a one way ticket to Arizona, skated the Phoenix Am and then the rest is history. Moved to California. Now I’m back in Florida, just chilling right now.

FRANK151: What was the village like?

Jake Ilardi: The village was wild. I didn’t really interact with a lot of people because I heard about a few people catching COVID over there. So I did my social distancing thing and just stayed in our little group of the skaters. We couldn’t leave the village unless we were going to the skate park. So it was like, village, skate park, village, skate park, like every day. And we had to go on a bus, come back in and get our temperatures checked and all that. They tracked our whereabouts and our temperatures on this health monitoring app for the Japanese government. That was like, the whole part of the process with being in Japan, with COVID and stuff going on. But it was cool to see all the different people and all the different athletes from all over the world. Like seeing athletes from Afghanistan, athletes from Russia, Great Britain, Australia. Like every corner of the world. Especially at the cafeteria. Imagine a two story Ikea, but it’s just full of food. It was just like a big lunchroom. We would eat in a plexiglass cubicle almost. Three plexiglass things around you.

FRANK151: That’s crazy.

Jake Ilardi: So you’re eating with your friends, trying to talk like, “Hey, how’s your food?” but you can’t hear each other from straight on. That was kind of funny.

FRANK151: Yeah.

Jake Ilardi: That was a little different for me, but I understand they have to follow strict guidelines because of COVID. But yeah, that was my experience in the village. And then we also did some street skating in the village too, which was cool. Skateboarders are always finding something that wasn’t meant to be skated on and skating on it.

FRANK151: Yeah, I remember seeing a bunch of videos on TikTok and Instagram, like the behind the scenes of the village. It looked cool.

Jake Ilardi: Yeah. The beds were cardboard.

FRANK151: Were they comfy?

Jake Ilardi: They sucked. They were on the floor. It was bad. Advice for next time: Bring your own pillow. Maybe a mattress topper.

FRANK151: Did they tell you guys why?

Jake Ilardi: The first rumor was so the athletes couldn’t have sex, because apparently if the cardboard shifts, they collapse. And then the other one was for COVID. So they can easily throw the cardboard and the foam away, recycle that, and then have a brand new sterile bed . Our block of skating was done, so the street skaters left and then the park skaters would come in.

FRANK151: Right. It’s almost like using a plastic fork in a restaurant. What do you think that skateboarding in the Olympics will do for it on a global scale within the culture?

Jake Ilardi: I think skating is obviously gonna grow now that it’s an Olympic sport and more people have seen it worldwide. I was on my way home on a plane at LAX, and this Mom showed me a photo of her daughter with a skateboard. They told me she wanted to start skateboarding because she watched the Olympics, and that was like my goal, to inspire more people. So, mission accomplished on that end. And then also with skateparks and stuff, there’s gonna be more parks built, I believe, and just more people are gonna start skateboarding. So I feel like the sport is just gonna grow overall.

FRANK151: I mean, it’s amazing how skateboarding is now just like globally accepted again. For a second it was accepted in the 80s and then that died out. And then, you know, some comebacks are there. But now you’re like the coolest kids on the block right now, it’s pretty amazing.

“I feel like skateboarding is always setting fashion trends for Hollywood… Feel like they’re always copying off us.”

Jake Ilardi: Yeah, it comes in waves, sometimes. I feel like skateboarding is always setting fashion trends for Hollywood. Like baggy pants and a small shirt, and then that’s what everyone else is wearing, or just like different stuff. Feel like they’re always copying off us.

FRANK151: What’s next for you now that you’re back?

Jake Ilardi: The next thing for me is Tampa Pro, on October 15th to the 17th. It’s local for me because it’s in Tampa which is like 45 minutes from me, but it’s been going on for over 20 years now, 25 maybe. That’s like the contest I want to win. If I win that contest, I wouldn’t care if I won any other skate contest because that’s like the hometown for me, that’s the one I’ve been going to since I was a little kid. I grew up watching Tampa Pro on TV and going to attend the competition every year. And so if I could win Tampa Pro, that would be like a big checklist item.

FRANK151: That’s the hometown hero situation.

Jake Ilardi: Yeah. That one would just hit. Like, that’s the one contest. I got so close in 2019, I was in first place after my run in the finals, and then I got knocked into second by Carlos Ribeiro, but it’s all love. It’s skateboarding. It’s just a contest at the end of the day, but it would just be cool to win that one, one day. And then besides Tampa Pro, I’m just skating, just trying to stay as healthy as possible. I’m trying to put out more street footage and stuff and get more photos and Thrashers. Because I mean, that’s the most fun, going out and skating with your friends and getting clips. Actually I was out this weekend and got my first clips back since the Olympics. So that was a good feeling.

FRANK151: Does it feel like anything’s changed since you went to the Olympics and came back?

Jake Ilardi: I mean as a person I feel the same, but I’ve definitely noticed that a lot more people come up and say hi to me. I was in Tampa buying a car the other day and a person I had never met before came up and was like, “We’re so proud of you!” I was so confused at first and then I was like, Oh yeah, she’s talking about the Olympics. It’s just crazy to me to see how much recognition I’ve gotten from it and the support from everyone all over the world, it’s amazing.

FRANK151: What advice do you have for people that want to start? Like that little girl that the woman showed you in the airport, what did you say to her about her daughter?

“But at the end of the day, we’re just having fun on a piece of wood and four wheels, you know?”

Jake Ilardi: I just told her to have fun. That’s the most important thing in skateboarding, because when you stop having fun with it, you’re done with it. So many people try to skate and they just want to skate to be competitive. But so many people just train to the point where they forget to have fun. It’s like, I started skateboarding because it was the funnest thing I’d ever done, and just loving the freedom of it. That’s why I’m always gonna skate, because it’s fun and it’s free. I’m never gonna skate to be competitive. The competitive side of me wants to be the best I can be. But at the end of the day, we’re just having fun on a piece of wood and four wheels, you know?

FRANK151: Was it competitive growing up with a twin brother?

Jake Ilardi: I pushed myself because my brother didn’t really take skating as seriously as I did. I knew from the beginning, I wanted to be pro so I was always pushing the limits every time I went skating. But my brother just did it more for fun and to pass the time. We love skating together but then he picked up a camera and started filming me and became like my little mini manager. Like, he’d make my videos, then send the videos off to sponsors and all that stuff. But other than that, he just did it for fun. We didn’t really like competing with each other.

FRANK151: Were you allowed to bring anyone to Tokyo or just you and the team?

Jake Ilardi: No, I had to go solo. I had to go solo. I would have loved to bring some of my family, but COVID happened. So it’s all good. Hopefully in France, we can bring some people.

“I just feel like it’s just a good thing to keep it real. Plain and simple.”

FRANK151: What does it mean to you to be Frank?

Jake Ilardi: It means a lot. I mean, there’s a lot of fake people in the world nowadays and a lot of people putting up this facade, putting up this image. There’s a lot of fakeness in the world and I feel like it’s better as a person just to keep it real and be truthful and not lie. I don’t know. I just feel like it’s just a good thing to keep it real. Plain and simple. You’ll get more respect that way, like you can’t front a lot of stuff, you know?

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