Interview: The Gnarmads Talk About Biking from NYC to California for Charity
NYC skate collective the Gnarmads are on a mission to help kids all over the country by showing them that skateboarding is a tool that can be used to give back to the community. We caught up with them before their epic charity bike ride from NYC to San Francisco to find out what inspires them and how they became the Gnarmads. Check out what these gnarly nomads had to say.
Who are you guys and what exactly is a Gnarmad?
My name is Matt. I’m 23-years-old, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and have been skateboarding with my friend Bogdan for about 13 years. He’s like my brother. We had a team racing bikes and needed to come up with a name, and people always referred to us as gypsies and nomads, so calling ourselves Gnarmads made sense.
My name is Bogdan. I’m 22-years-old and was born in the Ukraine and raised in Brooklyn with this guy next to me. Gnarmads really started off as a joke—probably the best joke we ever made. If you’re free and you do whatever you want, you’re a Gnarmad. It’s about doing things, pushing yourself, and having fun.
You guys are biking from New York to San Francisco. What’s the reason for the cross-country bike ride?
Matt: After we won a bike contest last year, we were so stoked we said we would ride across the country. When we were supposed to leave, our bikes got stolen so we couldn’t do it. At the time, my friend was throwing a skate contest in Philadelphia, so we thought it might be cool to bike there. It was about 150 miles of a super fun experience. We really saw the skate community come together. When we came back, our friend from Shut Skateboards told us we could possibly skate in the Tampa Pro-am contest, so we thought that might make for a good bike ride. We planned a trip in the next two weeks and set off to Florida on our bikes.
Bogdan: After we tested out riding to Philly and then to Tampa, we went back to the original plan. The mission of cycling from New York to California is about going through each community we pass and not just passing by, but interacting, skating and meeting the people by putting together events for different charities. In places like Baltimore and Woodbridge, we’ll do a jam and clinics for kids, plus we have products to give out from our sponsors. We’ll also do smaller events starting in Philadelphia like mentor programs for young kids to learn about skateboarding. We can show them how we got into skating and how to use it to give back.
As skateboarders why is it important for you guys to give back to the community?
Matt: The skate community molded us and as we've gotten a little bit older, we realized it's our turn to give back to that community.
Bogdan: I’m from the Ukraine and I had no friends and could barely speak English when I moved here. The skateboarding community really helped me connect to the city and I’m so grateful for that. I really want to show kids that you could do something off the board just because you’re on the board.
What sponsors have helped make this idea to bike across the country a reality?
Mighty Healthy has definitley been the biggest supporter. Ray Mate has been all about what we’re doing by co-sponsoring the whole thing and sharing all the content plus generously contributing financially. He has been doing everything he can to help us make this a reality and we’re so grateful to him. Besides that, Shut Skateboards has also been helping out with all the product we need. Shut is core skateboarding, so they really epitomize what we’re trying to do on this bike ride across the country. We’ll bring that Shut spirit with us throughout the ride. Chrome Industries has also been with us since day one of the first bike ride to Philly—they were our only sponsor. Kind also blessed us with a crazy care package of over 300 bars to make sure we have all the energy we need to pedal all that way.
Besides your bikes what are the top three things you need for this trip?
Bogdan: The three essential things are on my skateboard—Shut 8.5 deck, Indy trucks and Rockstar bearings. This Life Straw is one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten. It’s a really big straw that filters 99.9 percent of bacteria out of any liquid for up to 1,000 liters of use. Also, my girlfriend printed photos of us together and wrote all these notes and hid them all over my bags. It will be cool to randomly find them throughout the trip for some inspiration.
Matt: My skateboarded is definitely the top thing. Also, a GoPro to a document what we’re doing. Lastly, I would say my hammock. It’s gonna come in handy when we are camping out.
What’s the game plan for ride? Do you know where you’re staying or do you plan to camp the entire trip?
Matt: In certain cities we have planned places to stay, but a lot of it just depends on how tired we are or how much ground we cover. It’s the kind of situation where it’s an adventure. I think it’s more fun that way; it makes for a better story, that’s for sure. We learned from the last two trips that you have to just go with the flow. There will be a lot of camping and there will be a lot of meeting people that put us up like last time.
Bogdan: We met so many great people in different skate communities that were willing to put us up. When we meet people and tell them our story, they go out of their way to help us. If it’s access to hot water and showers or a floor to sleep on, the skate community will be there to support us. By design, we’re having the trip take us four months and if we run into any troubles Ray Mate from Mighty Healthy said he would help us out. All we need to do is call—we got his number on speed dial.
What inspires the Gnarmads in skateboarding and in life?
Without a doubt our friends and homies! They’re like our family. Over the last two years, we've met so many great people in New York and the Lower East Side that are skaters, artists and creators. All types of people help us out in everything that we do, so I guess I have to say that everyone we’ve met is a Gnarmad.