Daewon Song is one of the few people who can skate better than anyone at any given spot without looking like a showoff. I first witnessed this in the 1990s, when I saw him at a school yard. He can perform the ridiculous feats you expect—as documented in videos like New World Order (1993), Trilogy (1996), and Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song(1997)—without making anyone feel like a lesser skateboarder.
But as the past decade has shown, Daewon’s skills go well beyond benches. He’s equally adept at riding parks, along with obstacles few others would even deem skateable—think rocks and tree trunks. And despite being pro for more than 20 years, he's still very much a skate rat.
Luis Cruz can attest to that. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, he was Daewon’s teammate on Deca. Now, alongside Daewon and Rodney Mullen, he runs Almost. If anyone is qualified to speak on the kind of skater he is, it’s him. He gave us 15 reasons why Daewon is not your average pro.
"He skates his shoes until his toes are showing through. I went skating with him today and his toes were coming out of the side. I told him, 'Dude, you are a professional skateboarder! You have your own signature shoe!' He just mumbled something about having to get in touch with a guy to order more, but he didn't seem like he was in a hurry. I've seen him just tape the inside of the shoe so his toes don’t pop out."
"He knows what everybody has done and when they did it. And it's not just the new tricks coming out—he watches the old stuff, too. He'll be on YouTube watching skating all morning and night when he's not skating. He watches pros and no-name kids trying new tricks. If you talk to him about a trick, he'll be able to tell you how some random kid did it or when a pro did it. His memory is insane."
"He's been riding the same shape for over 17 years, with only minor tweaks. I make the boards for Almost, and I actually just changed his shape from a 7.6 to a 7.7. I added 1/16 to the width of the board and he noticed the difference! You’d need a microscope to see the difference. But he liked it because he wanted to step up to a wider board. His feet are so in tune with the board. He's been riding that shape for so long that I think his feet are molded to it. Standing on a different board, even slightly different, would be like you or I putting on a shoe that is the wrong size—you can tell exactly where it doesn't fit. One time I gave him a board with a slightly steeper tail and he could tell within seconds. He just took it apart and set up an old trashed board and rode that for another week.”
"Before we designed presses that made one board at a time with a uniform concave, we used to press them in stacks of five like a lot of other companies. There are subtle variations in the concave depending where the board is in the stack. I would go to the woodshop to get Daewon his boards and I'd have to sift through 100 boards to find ones that had the right degree of concave. I'd step on every single one until I could find the ones with a flatter tail but still a steep concave on the sides. If I gave them to him and the tails weren't flat enough, he'd park his car on it overnight to make the tail flatter."
"Dae's back truck is pretty normal, but the front truck is different. Sometimes he doesn't have a top bushing, and sometimes he rides a cut-down bushing that's as thin as a washer. If he doesn't ride a bushing, then the kingpin gets loose because of the truck hitting it constantly, and that adds another level of instability, but somehow that doesn't seem to phase him."
"His orders are for, like, two boards at a time. The flow guys on the team get way more shit than him. In a typical month, he might go through two boards and ride them down to a razor tail. He won’t change a board because he skated it for a couple of days. He doesn't change a board until the tail is a razor and there are chips out of it. He rides Spitfires until they are absolutely done. He doesn't like changing wheels, and only changes trucks when they break."
"I've seen him break a board once in my life. It was back in the early 1990s. He never throws boards and actually gets annoyed when he sees other skaters doing it. He gets frustrated and mad, but he never takes it out on his board. He'll slam or repeatedly not make a trick, but he just gets up and talks about how he wants to make it and tries again."
"Dae doesn't like having a stockpile of boards, so any time I give him a box, there's only one or two in them. If he needs a new board and I'm out of town or I send the board to get a graphic on it and the warehouse takes forever, he'll go back and take one from his old board pile and re-grip it and skate it for another week."
"If it's raining and he wants to skate, he'll skate in the rain and then still ride that same board."
"He loves Spitfire stickers, and I've seen him peel one off his old board and put it on the new board he's setting up. He always wants that Spitfire sticker on his board. I don't know if it's because he likes seeing it when it flips or whatever."
"We were eating at Subway and a kid came in for Daewon's autograph. He had a school notebook with a plastic sleeve, and there was a small Spitfire sticker underneath it. Daewon talked to the kid and decided that he might need that sticker as a backup in case he ran out, so he bought it from him for a buck and kept it in his car. Obviously, he could call Spitfire and they'd send him a bag of stickers, but he doesn't like to ask for anything. He likes to have only whatever he needs at the moment. He doesn't like surpluses."
"By 8:30 in the morning, he could be at a park by himself. He might skate until 2:30, and then, if I'm with him, we'll go get lunch and then go out and skate again until whenever. Sometimes he'll get something for dinner and then go skate again. He just wants to skate no matter what—doesn't matter if it’s a curb or a ramp or a skatepark."
"Daewon regularly skates with a very small group of friends. He skates with his friend John, who he's known since high school, and they're always together. Same with Daniel Castillo. It's based on friendship and having a good time, not on how gnarly the dude can get."
"When he started skating, it was all about launch ramps, and he still loves it. Anytime he sees one, he gets hyped. He'll start pulling judo airs, double judos, rockets, 360s."
"Actually, the shittier the skate spot, the more he likes it. It's more fun for him to skate something that is not perfect. Maybe it’s more of a challenge for him, like his front truck. He likes skating rough ground, and if it's a transition, he likes it steep. One time we went to Girl to skate the miniramp and it was all in pieces in the parking lot. We actually wanted to skate the ramp, but Daewon was so stoked when he saw the pieces. He started moving the pieces around to see if he could transfer from one weird piece to the other. It was really hard to do, but it was all fun for him. I think he likes figuring out how to make the best of anything."