Braydon Szafranzksi’s risk-taking approach to life and skateboarding was formed as a youth on the streets of Las Vegas. Instead of sliding coins into casino slots, he gambled with his body and mind by skating down the biggest stairs, gaps and handrails he could find.
In the early 00s Braydon moved to California to pursue his dream of going pro and through hard work and some Vegas pot luck he eventually got sponsored by Baker Skateboards and made it happen.
Nineteen years later and Braydon is still risking it all on and off his board and he's now a No Comply Network Member.
So we had a chat about growing up in Vegas, his first sponsors, Kenny Anderson, how he got on Baker Skateboards, Andrew Reynolds, why meeting The Muska on 9/11 changed his life forever and how he stays motivated to do some of the best tricks ever done on a skateboard.
So you’re in your hometown right?
What's it like growing up there?
My grandfather raised me in thrift stores as a kid and we spent every weekend at flea markets.
Everything was about finding something and turning it into something special.
It was there I learned that one’s man trash is another man’s treasure.
So to me it’s self-explanatory if you love to travel and love to move, get out there.
I don’t need much in my life. I’m happy with what I can get.
I can go on a trip with people and stay in a 5 star hotel but then I could stay in a random country in a hostel with 20 crazy random people and laugh my ass off the whole time.
Do you think growing up in Vegas made you wary of materialism?
There's a reason why shows like Pawn Stars are set here.
Vegas is the city of glitz, glamour and losing everything.
Only the other day I went to the store to buy some cigarettes and I lost a $160 in the slot machine.
All I went in there for was a pack of goddamn cigarettes!
When I was a kid my dad bought me a shotgun for Christmas, two weeks later I said let's go shooting, he said;
"Ooh I've already pawned it..."
That’s how it is down here.
The thing about being around here, everybody has a gambling problem.
They lose and they owe some bookie that’s going to cut their legs off, or kill their family and they have to pay off their debts, so they are willing to steal cheat, do whatever it takes to get that money.
Glad you stayed away from that. When did you start skateboarding?
I started skateboarding in Vegas in 1994.
At the time there were no skatepark.
Now there’s a hundred of skateparks but when we were kids there was nothing.
You had to learn a trick on flatground; you took it to a three stair, then to a five stair then to an eight to a ten. We had to build our own boxes and ramps.
That’s why I skate skatepark nowadays as much as possible so I can skate for hours and nobody tells me what to do.
I love it.
You started skating in the mid 90’s the dopest era of skating.
What inspired you to get a board?
When I was a kid my older brother and his neighbourhood friend started skating and that was in the summer of 1994 and then for my birthday my neighbour’s sister stole her brother’s skateboard because he went to jail.
She was like, "Hey Braydon, here's a board!".
My birthday is in October and for an early Christmas present my mom bought us 411 volume 13, Welcome to Hell and a Transworld video.
I was heavily influenced by Welcome to Hell.
That was my everything.
My beginning to like ‘whoa Jamie Thomas, Ed Templeton, everybody jumping off everything and the slam section being so surreal, everything being surreal it was one of those things that made me want to get out there and watch Mike Maldonado go absolutely nuts to The Misfits and it put me into a zone where I felt that I want to do that I want to a part of that world.
That video is right up there for me.
I’m also one of the biggest Baker fans but those videos are too important to me.
Were you at school at the time? Who were you skating with?
I was always a bit of a loudmouth kid so I always kicked out of school.
Eventually I got put into a special school where it was just me and tutors, so I had a lot of time by myself.
My dad was a carpenter and my brother was a ramp builder, so they just built a skatepark in our yard with boxes and flatbars.
There were no skatepark so everybody in Vegas would come to skate at my house.
We had two main crews would come and skate my house.
Shorty’s crew. Half the of the crew was into doper hip-hop, Chad Muska and dress fresh and were into Dj’ing and the other half were into Zero, Jamie Thomas , jumping off big rails and heavy metal music.
Sick. How did you get sponsored?
I got my first skateboard from a skate shop called Sub Skates in Vegas and Kenny Anderson worked there at the time.
Kenny set up my board and it was him who pretty much taught my brother and I how to kickflip.
We would always go in there and skate with Kenny outside the shop
So a few years go by and one day when I was buying boards from the older pro’s in town Kenny rolled up to me and said,
“Don’t worry about buying boards from anyone else, I’ll hook you up from now on!”
So Kenny Anderson was my first actual sponsor
Braydon Back Smith, LA Courthouse Ledges:Photo by Mason Miller
Kenny Anderson is a legend. Was it through him you met The Muska?
Everybody I knew in Vegas knew The Muska but he moved out before I skated.
The first day I ever met Chad Muska was on September 11th 2001.
For most of the world it was a terrible day but for me that was the day everything really started for me in skateboarding.
In September of 2001 I had just moved to California and I was sleeping on the streets, my friend Jaimie Owens, who was the Photo Editor of Transworld at the time, said I could stay with him for the night on September 10th.
At Jaimie’s the next morning we both sat and watched the live news coverage of the twin towers falling down and he turned to me and said,
“This is going down in history!”
But me being a young jackass just replied
“Yeah, Okay, so do you want to go skate now!?”.
That’s ridiculous. Where did you go skate?
So that day Jaime, my friend and skate filmer Eric Hakamato and I went to the Beverly Hills High School handrail.
I did a backsmith grind down the twelve stair rail but right after that I snapped my board trying another trick.
So Eric and I went down Melrose looking for a board and we heard a car horn honk a bunch of times.
We looked over and saw a guy driving a Cadillac screaming “America! America!” driving in our direction.
As the car got closer we realised it was The Muska and he pulled over on our side of the street and skated down the street towards us.
What happened then?
Well, it turned out Eric had already met Chad a few times before so we all just started talking and realised that have a bunch of mutual friends and a lot of other things in common.
Then Chad asked me if I had any video footage that he could see, and I said yeah as Eric had all my footage right there.
We had been filming a lot so we had all the video he needed on him right there.
Chad grabbed the tape of my footage and popped it into his car's VCR player.
The very first trick on the tape was the backsmith that Eric and I had just filmed down the Beverly High rail two hours prior.
Chad just hit pause on the tape, turns to me and was like
“Yo man, from now on you are officially on Shorty’s , Circa, Ghetto Child Wheels..”
Chad basically listed every sponsored he could give to me basically on the spot and told me If I need anything it would be taken care of from there on out.
Woah. So, your skate career began on September 11th 2001.
What do you think about that?
I think that everything happens for a reason.
Braydon Frontside Flip Double Set. Photo: Yoon Sul
You were living with Jaimie Owens?
I was sleeping on the streets of Venice beach and he helped me.
How'd you end up on the streets? High rents?
Nah. Just told my mom, I’m going to California, I’m going to do this.
I had no money I wanted to do whatever I could, I was hustling whatever I could, Slinging whatever I could.
There was'nt enough for rent, me and my friends were on the grind to be pro skaters and nobody was going to stop us no matter what.
That was our plan.
We managed to scrounge enough money to get a gram of weed every day and we’d light it up and hit it up and hold it in until the joint came back around to you and if you blew out, that was it, you were out.
So were all about getting high as we possibly could.
Gnarly. Not everybody makes it, what kept you motivated?
As much as much of it sounds like it was bad, it wasn’t.
We were so happy back then.
We had nothing but we had each other just me and a crew of fiends we fucking felt like we were taking over the world.
Definitely. So when did you stop skating for Shorty’s?
I was riding for Shorty’s for about eight months but to be honest at the time I dressed too hesh and acted a bit too wild.
Also a lot of people on the team didn’t want me on and I was still sleeping on the streets at the time.
But then one day I ran into Andrew Reynolds and we just started talking.
Had you met Reynolds before?
Yeah I’d met Reynolds before; we’d talked at spots like Beverly High and a few other places like that
He said ‘Where you are sleeping,
I said “under this one tree!”
After hearing that he said I could stay with him for a night at his friend’s house and that house just so happened to be the Baker/Bootleg house.
I ended up staying there with Andrew and Jim Greco, they had an apartment but got kicked out earlier that day and were staying at the Bootleg house that night.
Erik Ellington, Andrew Reynolds, Jeff Lenoce, Alex Trainwreck Gall, Jeff Lenoce, everybody was there and we stayed up all night, drinking and talking and they tortured the shit out of me and I ended up staying over the next day and a few more days after that
Finally Andrew just told me that I should just live there from then on.
Is that how you got on Baker?
On New Year’s Day 2002, Emerica asked me if I wanted to ride for them and film for This is Skateboarding.
So I quit Circa and a few months later Andrew asked me to ride for Baker.
I was living with the crew and I’ve always been down with the Bootleg and Baker family, so I was immediately down.
That’s really organic. What was it like filming for 'This is skateboarding'?
I knew it would definitely be a big deal.
I knew Reynolds and Jon miner were big names and I knew this was a video that a lot of people wanted to see.
I got hurt, hurt my knee. I did'nt have much time to film.
I wanted more out of my part.
That was the era were skateboarding was everything.
Videos didn’t come out for years at that time.
It took ages for videos to come out years ago. Every one had a prem!
I was meant to have a big video part but it never happened.
I was bummed at the time because I felt like I could do more but that was when I tore my ACL and I thought my career was over before it started.
I wake up everyday and fight for what’s mine and try to push myself.
What about the Kickflip Boardslide bail at Hollywood High, where you hit your head?
I’d never kickflipped front boarded a handrail until the day before and I did it first try and first second try, third try and then fourth try down a nine stair kicked out, third try and then on the fourth try I went straight to the ground and that slam happened.
I remember saying 'I’ve got it next try' and Atiba and everyone was like...
"No, you don’t homeboy, you’re all fucked up"
That’s when I saw the blood and everything.
What do you remember after the slam?
I was fine on the way to the hospital and I started to act out in the car but then I don’t remember anything that happened in the hospital?
How long where you there for?
A week later when I went to get my staples out the stafff were like,
"You were insane! You were like throwing up everywhere, we had to tie you down and you had the craziest concussion"
I don't remember any of it...
Yeah it looked like serious blunt trauma. What were you filming for after 'This is Skateboarding'?
Yeah, my Baker 3 section was next.
How did your Baker 3 part come together?
That part and my skating are generally unplanned.
Take the full cab flip.
The Full cab flip, was weird, I don’t even remember it.
I just popped it and then the next thing I was riding away. I landed it; I thought my foot came off. I wasn’t stoked on it but everybody else was stoked so I was tripping. So I feel like I never got the satisfaction off that one.
That fullcab flip was amazing. You stomped that one. Baker 3 is one of the best videos. What do you think made it different?
What the world sees especially nowadays, everything’s about being commercialised and helmets and looking safe and that’s what Baker 3 explains more than anything else, it shows that we’re in the streets, we're dealing with crackheads, we’re dealing with reality, most people don’t see the reality of skateboarding.
They only see what they perceive skateboarding to be and that its beatiful and it’s clean.
It’s not beautiful and clean, half the spots we skate are dirty places, filled with crazy people and there are no boudnaries to where the skate spot is.
Whether your in the craziest favela in Brazil or the wildest part of LA, you’ll be where you have to to get that trick.
You’re not waiting till Superbowl Sunday to see stuff go down.
Skating is a free and creative thing.
If you love skateboarding, the feeling of skateboarding without doing a trick is the best feeling of all, the best way to do it.
Look at skateboarding as a whole, a lot of people think you need to be doing craziest thing, sometimes you just need to do the simple thing.
Every time you see someone bombing a hill, you get blown away and I’m so impressed and you know they are having a great time.
Yeah, it’s the simplicity that makes it great. But do you ever get stressed about skating?
I’m a stress case, video parts are a part of my life and I put every piece of energy and myself and my focus into my video parts.
I do stress over them probably to the point where it is unhealthy.
I literally will die for skateboarding, to get that trick and I will try to get a trick for as long as my body can hold out to get that trick.
That’s commitment. Who inspires you to skate now?
I just like to skate with the people who skate around me.
I don’t watch many skate videos right now.
I skate by myself and with whoevers around and do whatever tricks I can get in the moment
Right now Daewon Song inspires me.
He continuously is doing stuff that’s different and out-of-the-box.
That’s not my level of skating but I’m working on a Thrasher part right now, I was nearly done but then I broke my foot in February and I’m only five tricks from finishing the part but i've been waiting to recover.
This part is me trying to do new and different tricks.
I’m working on pushing at where I’m at and where my mind is to finish that one off.
What’s the hardest trick you’ve ever done?
That’s the best trick I’ve ever done in my life.
Thousands of tries over and over to get that one?
That’s probably the most difficult trick that I’ve ever done
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Generally stair tricks.
They always fucked with me. Also, for me its handrails.
Once you get past 15 stairs, it’s annoying because its tricks you know but there’s always that potential for something to happen.
The majority of my injuries have been on something that’s not even big, it’s the ones that you don’t expect to happen
Do you enjoy being involved in the creative side of the skateboarding?
You always had input on things that have your name on it.
The team at Baker always give you complete creative control of things if you want.
But just depends on where you’re at and what you want to do, they do have staff that would make things for you if you give them ideas.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a blessed skate career that I’ve been lucky enough to work with talented people.
There is no limit to the many different levels of creativity of people I’ve met in skateboarding
Growing up my friends who were making art, are now working creatively.
Skating is an art form, it’s your art form; it’s a doorway to creativity and to anything else in this world that you want to do.
Definitely just the way that skaters pay attention to spots is different.
People think I’m a freak because I know granite and I look at marble on their kitchen top and I tell them what country it comes from.
And they ask me "how the hell do you know that”?
If you spend a lot of time looking at spots, where it was made and where they’re from and you travel a lot to these places then knowing that kind of stuff is the random kinds of knowledge that you’ll acquire just from skating ledges.
It teaches about, music, life, relationships and so much stuff you’ll never imagine and it all comes from riding a board.
What kind of music are you into right now?
I grew up on Rock and Roll but now I listen heavily to rap.
Everything in hip-hop culture change my outlook on life.
Rappers are the new rock stars, rock and roll was about good times, being reckless but then when Rap was coming into my life, it reflected the grittier, darker aspects of life but staying positive and striving for a better future and I loved it so much.
Now I’m open to all new music and I want to hear it all.
I get closed off by certain things but it still doesn’t t matter I still try to open my mind and tell myself to find what you can get from it and listen to the love and positivity that comes from it.
What was it like hanging with Chad back in the Muska Beatz days?
I consider Chad and Andrew to be my godfathers.
They raised me. Chad had a huge impact on my existence.
When he took me in he taught me everything.
He introduced me to everything in Hollywood and showed me so much about music, life, people, celebrities, glitz and glamour, fashion, makeover, everything!
Most of my life I was taught that you should be one thing but Chad taught me you can do whatever the fuck you want.
"You want to be a designer? Here let’s make clothes!
Want to make some music? Never done it before? Doesn’t matter. Here’s some instruments, let’s make something tonight!”
Chad really opened my eyes.
We talked recently and we still had a great conversation.
I couldn’t imagine life without him.
He’s one of my biggest influences and I plan on doing everything I can do with that.
Rad. Are you still pro for Baker?
I’m still a part of the Baker family.
I still get all my product from Baker Boys Distribution but to keep the company going, you need a new generation to push the brand, you’ll always have your staples like Andrew Reynolds and Dustin Dollin but everybody has had to step back to let what happens happen.
I‘m not filming for Baker 4 right but I should have a few tricks in the friends section of Baker 4.
I’m still in touch with Andrew and everyone and I’m still a big part of the Baker family
Who else hooks you up right now?
Are you working on a new part?
I am working on a Thrasher part right now but then I broke my foot in February and I’m only five tricks from finishing the part so I’m waiting to recover.
This Thrasher part is me trying new and different tricks.
I’m pushing myself to finish it!
What keeps you so motivated?
The feeling that skateboarding gave me and the way everything changes for those first couple years, I’ll always look for that really.
Skateboarding is still my number one, two and third most important thing in my life but I also want to push myself in other new creative directions.
I’ve been shooting photos for fifteen years and I’ve got 26,000 photos on a hard drive. My plan is to release those and do an exhibition.
Braydon with Ozzie Osbourne: [Braydon's Archives]
Sick. Any last words Braydon?
Keep skateboarding positive, stay motivated and surround yourself by people who make you happy!