The Outlaw, Braydon Szafranski: Ride or Die
In the early 2000s, Braydon Szafranski broke into the skate scene like an outlaw on the road for vengeance going all or nothing to achieve his ambitions. Braydon’s journey has taken him from his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada to getting taken under the wing of some of skateboarding’s finest, including Kenny Anderson, Chad Muska, and Andrew Reynolds. Throughout his monumental career, Braydon has skated all over the world with Baker skateboards, Emerica, Shake Junt, Independent trucks, Thrasher, and even Lil’ Wayne. The passion Braydon has for skateboarding is dripping from his pores, as he continually puts his body on the line, sustaining countless injuries and defying all odds. All the blood, sweat, and tears that Braydon has put into the industry can be found in the countless skate videos that he’s been featured in from Emerica’s This is Skateboarding (2003), Kids in Emerica (2004), Wild Ride (2007), Stay Gold (2010), Baker 3 (2005), Baker has a Deathwish (2008), Bake and Destroy (2012), and many more.
Braydon’s wild ride hasn’t ended though. He currently rides for Straye footwear, Independent trucks, Shake Junt, and Hubba wheels, as he works towards completing his next part for Thrasher. When he isn’t skating, Braydon is working with his company Happy Hour Shades, as well as working with Byer Films on a new independent film. The thrill-seeking Braydon Szafranski is continually searching for new adventures on his motorcycle and behind his camera lens, as he also works towards getting together his first photography show. Milk spoke with Braydon to gain further insight into the path he’s taken within the skate industry, as he sheds some light about his childhood growing up in Las Vegas, the injuries he has sustained over the years in skateboarding, and how it has all led him to where he is today.
What was your childhood like growing up as a young skater in Las Vegas?
I’d say growing up in Vegas was an adventure, to say the least. I thought it was completely normal and it was just an average city to everybody that lived there, but when I grew up and as I moved away, I realized that everything we did and whatever we were a part of was nothing to do with average. I thought smoking in restaurants and 7-Elevens and everywhere you went was completely normal. I thought slot machines and people gambling at all times and losing everything that they have and constantly coming up or going down was completely normal.
Since we were little kids, there were 25-cent slot machines, where a curtain comes up and girls would be dancing on the other side and nobody ever carded you or asked whatever questions that there were to ask. They were just like if you have money, this is your city and you can do anything. It was just free-range, you know? There were no rules to anything. You could be who you wanted; you can terrorize the city if you wanted. I mean it was just one giant joke and just the funnest place to ever be from and be part of. I didn’t realize that we were completely different than everybody else, until I moved away and got to LA and saw that nobody was the same as us. We were on a whole different level than any other human in the world. There are only a few cities in the world that are like that. Vegas is just Sin City for a reason. It’s the best place in the world.
Before entering the skating industry, did you have any other career ambitions or was it just skate or die?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a rockstar. I knew I wanted to be in a band. I wanted to be on stage, I wanted to be the center of attention. I was a little junkie for people to stare at. I wanted all the attention. I just wanted to be out there. I knew that a nine-to-five job was not for me. I was not meant to be somebody cooped up in an office staring at a screen all day. So I just wanted to be in a band, I wanted to be anything to do with being a rockstar and I found skateboarding and that was my ticket. I was like wait a minute, I get to potentially travel the world and I get to do whatever I want. It’s just you being your personality, your craziness, and your uniqueness to be whatever you want to be. So it was skate or die ever since the day I picked that motherfucker up.
What was the skate scene like in Las Vegas, while you were growing up?
In the 90s skating was popular, but it was on the rise again for the third time. Street skating was getting really big and starting to take off drastically, but still, we weren’t cool. There were three of us in our whole school, and there were a couple of us in a couple other schools. We were the least to succeed; we were considered the scum of the school. We didn’t listen to anybody; we were all bandits and just did our own thing. All the girls wanted all the jocks and it’s so funny now when you can pass by a school and you can see all the kids skating and all the girls are really into the skater kids. Man, it’s like you guys have it so different than us, we were not cool. So yeah it was fun, we were outlaws. We got to do what we wanted and nobody paid attention to us. We weren’t part of the popular cool circle. We were just kids that were a little gang and we all had each other’s backs. We were supportive of you being you and having your own style. Just as long as you’re having fun. That was the skate scene in Vegas back in the 90s, it was way different than nowadays.
Which skaters had the most influence on you?
When I was a kid I was really into Kenny Anderson and I was really into Chad Muska, and Jamie Thomas. Those were like my three everything and it’s funny, because they’re like three completely different types of skaters. I was also really influenced by music and that’s kind of what shaped my skating and my personality. It was just certain rock stars and certain people that were just outrageous like Ozzy Osbourne. Those crazy motherfuckers out there really changed me. For skating, I wanted to be Kenny Anderson but not his persona; I wanted to just be like him in the kindness, and the loving carefree everything. I wanted to be like Chad Muska, the crazy, wild, ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude, and have as much fun as possible. Then I wanted to be like Jamie Thomas, the businessman, the best skater, and the handrail champ. So I just kind of combined a bunch of everybody, plus myself.
You’re a veteran in the skating industry now, but how did it all go down when Baker first sponsored you?
On 9/11, right after the towers fell, I was skating down Melrose and there was a guy driving down the street honking the horn holding an American flag out the window. That was Chad Muska, screaming “America, America!” Then I ended up running into him a couple blocks down the street and gave him my video, and then he put me on Shorty’s and Circa and everything that day, because he watched my video and was just super amped. About six months to a year into riding for all those guys, I was on Flo and nothing was working out with that; they were kind of keeping me on the back burner and at this point I’m still kind of sofa loafing, living on the streets with a couple friends and I ran into a friend that told me I can spend the night at his house. That same day, Andrew Reynolds and a couple other people got kicked out of their apartment and they also stayed the night at that house. We just ended up staying up all night, talking, smoking, and partying, then the next day they were just like, “aye kid come skating with us,” and we went skating. That night they said stay another night, then another night, and another night, then before I knew it was like months have gone by. Then Andrew comes at me one day and says, “Hey you can either ride for Shorty’s and all these people for Flo, or you can turn Am right now for Baker and be on the best team in the world. What do you choose?” and come on now, that was an easy decision there. So it was just all history from then on. I got on the team, started filming for videos, and Baker helped me fulfill my dream of traveling the world, seeing everything, and being everything I wanted to be.
Can you tell us about some of the injuries you’ve sustained over the years?
Over the years, let’s see I’ve broken every single bone in my body pretty much, except for my femur bone. Last year, 2018, I broke two vertebrae in my spine. This year I broke what the doctors called the “career-ending bone” in your foot. I’ve broken my right ankle like five times; I broke my left ankle like four times. I’ve shattered every toe, every finger a bunch of times. I broke my left wrist seven times; I broke my right wrist six or seven times. I’ve had four ACL surgeries. I cracked my shoulder on Christmas Day a couple of years back. I have arthritis of a 75-year-old man in my left knee. I have arthritis in my hands and wrist. My elbows have been broken and shattered. I have bone fragments floating around in both knees and my ankles. I have bone spurs in my right ankle. I’m just in a lot of pain all the time. Would I change any of it? Nothing, not at all. Not one break, not anything it’s made me who I am. I appreciate skateboarding and when I’m old and crippled I get to look back and say that I had the best existence, the best career, and the most fun in the world doing it. I’m a thrill seeker, so it’s just one of those things that before 2019 is over, I’ll probably break another bone. It’s going to happen it’s just something that’s bound to go wrong and I don’t regret any of it or think about any of it at all. What I do think though is that it has taught me to have the most insane worth ethic in the world. I will fight for anything I love I will battle anyone or anything to make sure that I can do what I love. I’ll prove every doctor and every person that says that you can’t, wrong. Skateboarding has taught me that I can do anything, all the breaks are just part of the game. Some people are lucky enough not to have any. Some people are paralyzed. For me, I’ve broken everything and I’m proud of it.
Throughout your journey in the skating industry, who would you say has served as a mentor to you? What have you learned from them?
I would say Chad Muska has been one of my biggest mentors in life. He’s taught me so much and introduced me to Hollywood, New York, and the real world. He came from a very similar situation. He showed me what was real and what was fake. How people really are and how you can just do whatever you want and be whomever you want, because when I was a kid I thought you had to be a certain way. You can’t be too crazy or too out of line. Chad taught me you can be yourself, and you can be anything. It’s your world you create whatever magic you want. I still to this day think that he is probably my biggest mentor in life. He’s been there for all my ups and downs. He’s continued to always have good advice and be there for me, no matter what is going on in my life. So, Chad Muska all the way.
How long have you been riding a motorcycle?
I actually got into riding motorcycles, when I was a little kid back in the 80s. The kid across the street from me was sponsored by Kawasaki, and he broke his leg so bad one day that they told him if he broke it again, they might have to amputate it. So he had like 25 motorcycles and his parents went to my parents and sold a few of them for a couple hundred bucks. So since I was probably six years old I’ve been riding motorcycles. I was just always trying to push the boundaries of how far or fast they could go. Then of course when I got old enough, who wouldn’t want a Harley-Davidson or doesn’t want to be part of a culture that’s just like skateboarding. It’s an outlaw culture, you’re free there’s no rules, besides the “traffic rules”. But once you’re on that open rode by yourself, you can do whatever you want and it’s the freedom of being yourself, that’s why I think motorcycles are a part of the skateboard culture as much as anything else.
Can you tell us about the bike you’re riding right now?
I’m riding a 2007 Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide that I just chopped up to hell and made it my own little chopper. I’m constantly doing something new to it. It’s an endless project. I’ve changed it so many times, and I’m sure in a couple of months I’ll probably look back at it and say, “Oh, this has to happen now. I need new pipes or I need this”. It’s just a cosmetic makeover all the time but it’s my little beauty.
Do you have a favorite place to go riding?
My bike has gotten me to New York twice; it’s taken me across country a bunch of different times. It’s taken me to Chicago and Seattle. It doesn’t matter where it is, the more the open road that’s my favorite place to ride. I’m a thrill seeker, but I do like to be alive. That’s the difference, but once you’re on the open road with a couple of the boys and there’s no trucks or cars for miles in front of you, and you can just put some headphones in and jam out to Lil Wayne going 110 MPH or whatever. I just love it.
How did the idea of starting Happy Hour shades with Bryan Herman come into fruition?
My good friend Flip Nasty and Josh Hockenberg, they both helped start Shake Junt and Deathwish skateboards. They weren’t owners, but they were people who helped run it, helped start it, and get it to where it is. Then one day they were like, “We already know everybody, we know everything, we want to start a sunglasses company and we know you and Brian Herman are always rocking sunglasses and you guys are always fashion-forward about what you love.” So we were like, “Yeah fuck it, let’s try this out.” That and we were sick of buying Ray-Bans and losing a pair a week after you just spent a hundred and something dollars on them. So we just came up with this idea that if we make glasses for $20-25 bucks or less, you can buy five of them when you go on vacation and whatever happens to them, happens to them fuck it. Which we make them the best quality that we can, and we get the same lenses as all these massive brands that have gnarly mark ups. We keep it real for the consumer, and we want kids and people to enjoy the same things we enjoy at a normal price without breaking your back. Nobody wants to work a full day and a half to get one pair of shades, and then something ridiculous happens to them and they break. If I work a day and a half, I want five pairs out of that motherfucker. That’s just where Happy Hour came from.
What’s your primary career focus right now, are you working on anything new at the moment?
Right now, I’ve been doing a bunch of projects with my friends from Byer Films, just little short skits and independent films. I’ve been doing clothing with a couple of my friends from this band, the Big Pink and also planning on going on tour with the Big Pink next year in 2020. I just want to be on stage. It’s a lifelong dream. I’ve also been shooting photos my whole career and I’ve never known what to do with them and finally, one of my friends went through one of my hard drives, and says, “You have 26,000 photos, we should do a photography show”. So hopefully before the end of Summer, I’m going to have my first photography show somewhere in LA or New York. I also need to finish this skate part with Thrasher and come out with this clothing line that I’ve been working on. Just you know some shirts and jackets. I have no date on when my new part is coming out; it’s up to Thrasher though. I hope people enjoy it. It’s something I’m putting my name to and I’m pretty proud of it for what it is so far and I hope everybody thinks it’s as good as I do.
Do you plan on continuing your journey in the skating industry?
I will always be a skateboarder, I will always be part of this industry and just like Jake Phelps or Jay Adams or any of the greats, you know you live and die a skateboarder. That’s just what you are. I’ll always for the rest of my life be known as and will always be on a skateboard. As long as I can walk and nobody’s restricting me to a hospital bed, I’m going to be rolling. So yeah I try to do everything you know, I’ve always been in the fashion industry, and just obsessed with acting, clothing, and music. I don’t have boundaries though, I want to do everything, but I will always have number one be skateboarding.
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