A Look Inside "Aura" With Eric Hunt
For the latest expansion of the TOA Underground Network we sat down with Eric Hunt out of the Asheville, North Carolina. We are stoked to learn about his latest release "Aura" and his drive for creating his own independent videos, hosting art shows at PUSH Skate shop and Gallery and managing his own brand, Brainstorm Skateboards. A lot of hard work and passion goes into everything Eric does and we couldn't be happier about being able to bring some light to all of his efforts for the skate scene in Ashville and beyond. He also gave us the honor of hosting "Aura" in its entirety on the TOA YouTube channel (see below). So sit back, relax and enjoy this new TOA exclusive. Many thanks to Eric and congrats on the the new video release!
Hey Eric! How’s it going and how is life in Asheville, NC in the days of a pandemic?
Hi Jovi! It’s a weird world we’re all living in these days, so I’ve just been trying to take it one day at a time. I’ve spent most of the past year staying with my family in the little town I grew up in outside of Asheville. My mom has had some serious health issues going on lately and a lot of my focus has been on being there for her this Winter. Looking forward to warmer days ahead filled with more daylight and getting to spend time staying back in Asheville more often at my place, riding my bike, getting out in the mountains and skating/filming with friends again in the future.
Scotty Moore Boneless Noseblunt / Photo: Griffin Faulkner
How is PUSH Skateshop holding up during these times? I imagine they have had to make some pretty radical changes to the way they do business.
PUSH has been doing pretty well, it’s definitely taken some time to adjust to the new normal, but overall things are good. For me personally, it’s been a big change after 13/14 years of working there and I’m currently still not behind the counter due to COVID and my parents both being older and having underlying health issues. I made the decision last year to give up my shifts and focus on some other projects behind the scenes for the shop. Rob Sebrell that owns PUSH has been working day and night to keep the shop safe and stocked for the community though and some of the younger guys that work there have really stepped up to help with the day to day. I know last year with the skateboarding supply chain being disrupted so much it was tough for shops everywhere, but luckily, we seem to have made it through that. We’ve seen a whole new wave of people either getting back into skating after years of being off the board or people discovering it for the first time while trying to stay safe and get outside.
Eric Hunt: Switch Nosepick / Photo: Mike Belleme
What happened with the PUSH Instagram account? I noticed it was hacked and all the original content was slowly being removed. That's a major bummer because it had such a good following and strong community outreach.
Yeah, it was pretty weird. Last Summer somehow the PUSH Instagram account was hacked by what appeared to be a teenage kid in the Middle East somewhere and over the course of about a month they slowly deleted all of the posts we made over the last 7-8years. That was of course big bummer, since we’d put so much work into it. We made numerous reports to Instagram about the issue with no real response or help from them to recover the lost content or regain access and ownership over the account. It’s been a slow go at it, but a new account was started back in the Fall and some of the shop guys have been making a mellow push to build the account back up to the over six thousand followers we completely lost. Instagram is for sure an interesting place in the worldwide web that has its pros/cons but seems to be a bit of a necessity for skate shops these days, and ultimately a great way to reach out to the community and connect with others. With all that said, please like, follow and subscribe haha.
PUSH also has a skate camp program over the summer. How is it being one of the mentors and how long have you been doing that for?
I’ve been helping run the camp and teaching it for around 10 years now and I absolutely love doing that. I’d also started doing a PUSH after school skate club program at a few different schools in Asheville over the past fast few years, which was a lot of fun too. Working with kids and teaching skateboarding has definitely been one of the most inspiring and rewarding things I’ve been fortunate enough to do in a lifetime of skating. Skateboarding is such a truly special thing and has given so much to me personally in so many ways, I love to share that with kids in hopes they fall in love with it the way I did as a kid. It’s so rad to see how excited kids get from the simplest achievements like doing an ollie or dropping in for the first time, it takes me back to those simpler times in my life and is such a great reminder of how fun skateboarding can and should be.
Matt Miller: Bluntslide / Photo: Eric Hunt
Did you guys figure out any solutions for conducting lessons last summer given COVID?
Unfortunately, we didn’t due to North Carolina state mandates and the Asheville Parks and Recreation’s protocol for using the Skatepark. Rob and I both weren’t really comfortable with having the camp either and wanted to try to do the safe and responsible thing for the community by canceling it. I’d love to get something going this Summer if possible and of course safe. I know all the kids and I really miss it a lot, I can’t think of anything they probably all want/need more than just getting to skate with their friends after the difficult year. It’s hard to imagine being a kid these days and going through this pandemic, between quarantines, virtual learning and everything. Hopefully they’re all out skating in their driveways and neighborhoods still pushing around.
What other skate shops are holding it down in the area?
JP at Recess here in Western NC has done some great things in recent years like having a long-lasting skateboarding ban overturned and finally having skateboarding legalized as an alternative form of transportation in their small town of Boone. They also got the approval of a new concrete park to be built on the Greenway there and have been trying to raise funds to break ground, hopefully this Spring.
Black Sheep in Charlotte is always killing it of course, Drew Adams their super talented and hardworking filmier/editor of all the Black Sheep videos is definitely a motivating source of high energy to the skate video scene here.
I’ve also been hyped on Manifest in Durham and their whole VX vibe and art direction. I haven’t been in the shop yet, but it looks really rad and seems like they’ve got a lot of love for their scene and are always out filming and having fun.
It’s been cool to see Endless Grind, North Carolina’s oldest shop, continuing to breathe life into the scene. Chris and Bill from Cee-lo Champs have been steadily putting out VX edits for a while now and keeping the Endless guys in the mix for those.
Permanent Vacation owned by my old friend Subhan is another one of my personal favorites, he’s the best and the guys he has riding for him like Griffin Faulkner, Nick Brown and Mercer Rhyne are all really rad. Griffin is multitalented, whether it be his skating, filming or photography, I’m always hyped to see what he’s working on and look forward to his next video project for them and whatever he has in the works with Genuine Zine.
Brett Abramsky & Eric Hunt / Photo: Matt Miller
Tell me a little bit about Brainstorm Skateboards and what inspired you to start your own brand?
Well, I’d started a brand called Appliance when I was around 20 years old with Mical Swett back in 04/05. At the time I’d been skating Supernaut and Unbelievers boards for several years trying to get on Supernaut and was talking to Brent Calahan all the time and Henry from Systems Distribution which actually made our first few runs of boards before they went under. Swett and I kept that going for about a three-year span while traveling around the South East, skating demos, contest and filming for our friend Chris Brunt’s video “Blood Money”. With that video being finished, and just sitting on Chris’s computer, I ended up helping pay to produce a thousand copies of the video with all the money I had invested into Appliance at the time so we could all get the video and our parts out. As funny as it sounds now, DVDs were sorta the main way of seeing videos back in 07/08 since this was pre-Instagram or really even videos being released on the internet or anything that much. During that time, I had started working at PUSH and over the coming handful of years focusing more of my energy/time there and Appliance sorta got put on the back burner with a hope to someday bring it back eventually. Then cut to 7 or so years later when after working 8, almost 9 days straight at PUSH for Rob while he was out of town on a trip, the way we use to do it all the time for each other to go on trips when we were the only two working the shop, and I ended up getting into a bike accident on my way riding home at night after going out with some friends, post work and skating the Foundation. The next day I woke up in the hospital with 3 fractures in my skull, 8 staples and no memory whatsoever of how I got there or what happened. That was very much the real motivation behind starting Brainstorm that I needed to get busy living and just such a life changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It brought a profound new perspective on life as I’d imagine any potential near-death experience would or does for anyone. That was April 5th of 2014 and just a little under two months before the first art show and Foundation fundraiser I ever curated in the PUSH gallery, that was scheduled to be held in late May the night before a big contest/event at Thrashville our now unfortunately defunct keyholder bowl we used to have. With my brain being super mushy and after sleeping at my mom’s house being taken care of completely laid up for around 2-3 weeks straight of sleeping/recovering, then I started to work on curating the “Our Favorite Toy” art show/fundraiser. I fully accredit the experience of brainstorming with all of my friends, the process of trying to put something creative together for the community to completely helping with my recovery of my brain injury. Trying to push myself by having something with so many moving parts to focus my energy and mind on was a huge help in the recovery process. After that experience and new lease on life, I felt I had no reason or more time to waste and I started a new project a year later and Brainstorm was born in the back of PUSH skate shops gallery in 2015 in the second show I was fortunate enough to curate there. That’s the real origin story behind Brainstorm, where the name comes from and where the art direction is inspired from. Ever since its creation it has continued to act as a form of art therapy for me personally by brainstorming with my friends on different types of projects. Hopefully it has a similar therapeutic affect for everyone who’s been involved with it, in the same way skateboarding has interacted as a therapeutic form of art for most of my life and so many others.
Eric Hunt / Photo: Logan Khidekel
It seems like you are super active with the community and include local artist with all of your projects and even host rad launch release parties for each new series. Is it a ton of work to get everything coordinated?
That’s one of the things I love about running a brand is trying to bring people together to connect through their collective love of art and skateboarding. I’ve been blessed to get to know and become close friends with so many talented artists over the years of working at the shop and the countless art shows we’ve had featuring the work from Asheville’s incredibly deep pool of artists. It’s definitely a lot of work, since I’m largely running everything myself, but I’m constantly getting help from so many of my friends with everything, which is so appreciated and amazing to have. As they say... “it takes a village” or at least in this case a whole little mountain town full of artists to keep it going.
Kevin Cordell: No-comply Wallie / Photo: Matt Miller
I saw you held an art show in October at Push. How was that? I’m sure it was nice to finally be able to bring people back together.
It was great to get back to working on something in the gallery after not having any other art shows since things shut down because of COVID. We weren’t able to have a proper reception to acutely gather in person, but it was still so nice to reconnect with everyone through curating the show and a lot of people were able to come in and see it during our normal shop hours. The “STAY SANE” art show was originally supposed to be in June of 2020 to celebrate PUSH’s 15-year anniversary and Brainstorm’s 5-year anniversary which was last May. I hung my almost complete collection of PUSH boards designed by Rob Sebrell, along with other artists who’d lent their artwork for boards for the shop.. my full collection of Brainstorm boards that I’ve released with a surprising 27 different artist and also some new original work by some of the artists. Alex Irvine design/built some “STAY SANE” slappy curbs for the show that were inspired by an idea between my friend Ishmael and myself to make curbs for an art show and have them painted by artists to be placed in the gallery. After the show came down with the help of my friend George Etheredge who was visiting town at the time, we put them out around Asheville to create a few new “socially distanced” safe skate spots during the pandemic, as the Foundation can be a bit crowded at times and it’s just nice to have a change of the scenery sometimes. Once again that was a very therapeutic process working on the show and fun to see all of the boards all at the same time hanging in the gallery and be surrounded by so many memories of making them with the artists. I thought it was really important even if we couldn’t have an actual reception or gather to still put it together to give a positive opportunity/outlet to express ourselves after months of negativity filling the worlds air. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a child, last year was extremely difficult for me as I know it was for some many others. I think the significant and largely unknown lasting mental toll from COVID and the weight we’re all gonna carry with us for the rest of our lives is something that will be one of the worst parts of the pandemic. I’m happy to see in skateboarding and our society at large such a shift towards being more open and understanding with the mental health issues and struggles so many of us deal with. I feel like it’s really important to find ways to crate times and spaces to talk about it where we can all feel comfortable and not alone in dealing with all of our own issues. I hope that in some small way that message was sent and received through the show and if nothing else was a little light in such very dark times, as I know it was very much that for me in my life and I can’t ever thank everyone involved enough for shining their light on everything.
The “STAY SANE” art show at PUSH Skateshop & Gallery
Speaking of art shows, there was supposed to be a TOA x Push Skateshop art show about a year ago. Can you give us some details on what we can expect when things return back to normal and we are able to make this happen?
That was one of the many amazing art shows we had scheduled in 2020 but was canceled due to COVID. It was supposed to be late April last year and include a TOA tour down here to Asheville where Josh had planned to curate an art show at PUSH featuring an incredible line up of skaters/artists involved with the brands distributed by TOA. We had been in talks about it for a really long time and just weeks before everything shut down the transfers for an amazing PUSH x TOA board by Michael Newton had come in, which we’d planned to release at the art show. I’m really hoping to jumpstart that whole project with the boards, art show, a potential TOA tour to Asheville and hopefully a Tincan Skatelore trivia event. I know it’s become tough these days to plan anything with complete certainty but hopefully with the vaccine rollout picking up things will start to improve, and we’ll be able to make it all happen and you guys can all come camp, swim and skate down here in the mountains.
Can you tell us a little bit about “The Foundation” and how you guys gained access to that space? It’s by far one of the best DIY parks I have ever skated.
We’ve been skating there since around 2008 when it was extremely difficult to skate street in downtown Asheville without getting kicked out or tickets. A good friend and amazing painter Ted Harper who we skated with all the time found it while painting. It was sorta just the low-key spot tucked away for all of us to skate while things where open and without the fear of being kicked out or hassled. The original property owner’s son used to skate and did graffiti, so he was sympathetic and didn’t mind us skating there as long as we kept it clean. As the skate scene grew in Asheville the property was eventually bought by 3 developers around 2015 and they approached Rob and I at PUSH about the Foundation and expressed interest in allowing us to continue to skate/build there if we could get insurance. With a little brainstorming between Rob, Alex Irvine, our friend Kim Roney and myself we were able to come up with the idea and opportunity to partner with “Arts 2 People,” an existing nonprofit that aims to support arts in the community. With the Foundation being right in the middle of RAD, Asheville’s River Arts District, it seemed like a logical fit and we were fortunate enough to be added to Arts 2 People’s insurance plan. We’ve been working really hard ever since then to raise the insurance money through a verity of different ways every year to cover the Foundation and have in the last few years started our own 501c3 nonprofit, “Asheville Skate Foundation” which has been a lot of work and a hell of a learning experience to say the least. The property owners named the whole constantly evolving complex after us as the “Foundation Studios”.. now with restaurants, a coffee shop, a brewery, a winery, shops and art studios. It’s incredible to have the support and acceptance in the way we have by the community down there and to have become such an integral part of the River Arts District in Asheville.
Foundation 2011 / Photo: Mike Belleme
How can people support the DIY?
There’s an “Asheville Skate Foundation” GoFundMe people can always make donations to and if anyone ever finds themselves in PUSH they can always drop a few bucks in the donation box at the counter. If there’s any individuals or companies out there that would like to make a rather larger donation, feel free to email me at email@example.com and with our nonprofit status we can help ensure your donation is tax deductible to save you some scratch from the taxman at the end of the year. This Spring we’ll also have some new boards available in the “Concrete Community” series, with a New Belgium Brewery x Crooked Creek Holler x Push x Brainstorm board featuring art by our friend Danny Reed the owner of Hot Stuff Tattoo and Crooked Creek Holler here in Asheville. Those should be available on our new website, pushskateshop.com eventually and a percentage of sales from them will go to the Foundation.
Wesley Lembo: Wallie / Photo: Griffin Faulkner
What is “Skateboner”? And can you tell us about any other cool stuff happening in Asheville?
It’s a skate zine my buddy Matt Miller started years ago in Wilmington, NC that features a bunch of heads from all across North Carolina. There’s a new one in the works that’s coming to select shops in the near future that I can’t wait to see. Another noteworthy thing to check out if you ever make it to Asheville is my good friend, and longtime PUSH team rider, Luke Broussard’s bar “The Barksdale”. It’s definitely the go to spot to get drinks/food and play some pool. It’s now more than ever a time to support all of our friends with local businesses, so we can all survive this pandemic we’re trying to get through. Horse and Hero is another one of my favorite spots in Asheville that always has great things going on. It’s a shop right downtown and up the street from PUSH that’s owned by our friend Justin Rabuck and his wife Brandy. They sell the work of over 100 of Asheville’s best artists/makers and feature a ton of stuff from many of the artists in Asheville that have had shows in the PUSH gallery over the years. They do so much to support artists and makers here in our town and are the sweetest people in the world. Horse and Hero’s humble and loving approach to the arts are very inspiring to me and we’re super lucky to have them as neighbors to PUSH.
I know the “Carolina Love” video was pretty huge for the North Carolina scene. Can you tell me a little bit about that video? Your shared section with Ty Rhode and Mike Swett is sick!
Thank you, it was all Ty’s part really, Swett and I were just lucky to sneak some clips in there thanks to Ty and James Tupper. That does seem to have a had a big impact at the time on the scene here when it came out in 2004 or at least for all of us involved with it. It was the first video I was ever a part of that really brought a group of skateboarders together from across the whole state, all the way from the beach to the mountains and in between. James Tupper and Travis Knapp-Prasek were really ahead of their time here in NC. Not only did they help push us all to wanna film but helped forge some nearly 20 yearlong friendships as a result of that video. Largely we had all grown up making our own local videos in the cities/towns we grew up in and then had the opportunity to all be part of one video which was such a unique thing. Also, pretty ahead of its time was the fact that they both had their own websites (Post 22 and Skate NC). I didn’t really know of many other people doing that and working on larger projects and smaller edits to document/cover the skateboarding scene in their states or at least not in the South East anywhere. They both were always a big inspiration to a lot of people and me personally. I’m so thankful to have been part of that video and introduced to the broader North Carolina skate scene through that video.
How stoked were you on Justin Brock’s new part for Stratosphere Skateshop?
Justin and Yoder both killed it with that one! It’s so rad to see Justin all these years later from his first part at 16 in “Carolina Love” to that part. I find it super motivating to see not only how much he still rips, but how hard he’s worked after having injuries and all while being a seriously rad dad. It was really true to form for him to put out such a seriously heavy part for Stratosphere, his shop sponsor, in such a difficult time for shops last year. Justin has always been such an authentic and solid person all the way around. I think one of the funnest parts of skateboarding for so long has been to watch all of us grow up, get older and still be skating/filming.
Tell us about your new video project “AURA.” Is there any special meaning behind the name?
It came from this idea for a board series featuring guest boards for most of the original cast of “Carolina Love”. In the series I let everyone involved pick an artist/friend of ours to create a graphic to essentially capture their “AURA” or vibe in the graphics. The boards came out last Fall despite a lot of difficulties due to COVID and the video was originally supposed to come out with them, but once again due to all do the craziness in everyone’s lives last year it didn’t quite work out that way. Over the course of working on it, the video took different shapes and went in a multitude of directions due to certain things. With over 15 years passing since the original “Carolina Love” video came out, I wanted to revisit/reconnect with everyone to try to sort of bring the band back together in a way by filming some clips with them again to capture our skating in this stage of our lives and a bit of a modern day “AURA” of skating in NC with a bunch old timers haha.
The “AURA” board series
You’ve been working on this one for a while, right? What was the editing process like in 2020?
Originally, I started working on it towards the end of 2018 and spent all of 2019, then into 2020 filming for it by taking around a half a dozen trips across NC from Asheville, stopping in Raleigh, then to Wilmington and back to Asheville. That whole experience was something I thought about a lot in 2020 since I was unable to travel and spend time skating the way I was before COVID. It’s funny how life works sometimes and gives us just what you needed at the right time and I was able to get out and skate with everyone so much the whole year before the pandemic. As always with video projects you wanna film more and get those last trips/clips, but I’m happy with how everything turned out with what we were able to film. I really wish I could have been able to make a few more trips to film with Ty, Swett and Justin in ATL more, but am really glad I got to spend all that time on the road driving across NC since I hadn’t done that in years. The editing was definitely interesting and quite different during a pandemic, the editor role got passed around to a few different friends, but with us all in varied states of figuring out everything last year it eventually landed on the computer and lap of my friend Kerry Webb who skates for PUSH and had just put out a video titled “Just Fine” he edited for the shop featuring, Luke Broussard, Kevin Cordell and himself. I was very lucky to have the help of Kerry to bring my vision for the video to life, since I’m a bit of a weirdo in that I’m a filmer that doesn’t edit. I’ve been filming since I was a kid and love to do it but have never owned a computer other than an iPhone, which I didn’t even get until about six years ago. I’ve always just sort of made notes and ultimately just story boarded out full projects or concepts in my head and then worked with different friends/editors to help bring them to life with what I film. With this project we basically just went back and forth over the course of a few months’ through email and text. Kerry was kind enough to deal with my OCD nerd notes and so many tiny adjustments on everything as we worked our way through the process. I’d obviously have preferred to have been able to sit in person with him to work on it the way in which videos could be made in what now seems like the “old days”, but we were able to make it work. I’d love to have had a proper premier for this, but it’s a really good feeling to see it all come together finally and be able to share it with you here and now!
How has the process changed making videos in your mid 30s vs your early 20s like your first video?
It’s definitely not quite as easy with trying to juggle more real-life responsibilities, between everyone’s work schedule, trying to run their own business, spend time with families or significant others and the shear fact that the energy level is tougher to maintain in this twilight of my thirty’s. I remember in my early 20’s and even late 20’s being able to skate/film all day everyday with so much more energy and less pain, but these days if I’m really skating hard trying to film a trick. I’ve definitely got a pretty finite window of a couple solid hours max and then I’m probably not gonna be skating for several days or a week after that. Oh, the joys of aging. At the end of the day, I’m just happy to still be able to do what I love and have fun doing it though!
Tell me a little bit about the ender in the video? I understand it was the last clip you filmed before shit hit the fan almost exactly a year ago.
It was filmed almost exactly a year ago to the day of me writing this which is weird how the perception of time seems to have changed during 2020, it seems like so much longer ago. I’d went on a trip to Raleigh the day after working Alli Goods art show reception at PUSH to film some stuff since I was trying to warp up the video. I’d hoped to get to make a few more trips to Raleigh, Wilmington and especially Atlanta since I hadn’t been able to travel there as much to film for the video, but by the next week after that trip the whole world seemed to shut down and that wasn’t really an option. That Sunday of the trip in early March after going back to shoot a photo of this FS Nosegrind with my buddy Brett Abramsky, we then went skating and filmed at this bench spot Jed Shooter and Dan Murphy built on the Greenway in Raleigh and with only about an hour of daylight left Jed was like “I wanna go by and look at this ledge at State”... we got there and with Jed already being warmed up, he went straight into trying to film the Noseblunt, despite the loose brick at the end of the ledge, and within less than 10 attempts later he landed it and the brick or metaphorical mic dropped... he was so hyped to hear that it had actually fallen when he popped out and rolled away. With that being basically the last trip before COVID it seemed to make perfect sense to use as the end of the video.
There are several shorter edits I’m going to be working on, I’ve already started filming for something for this SP21 series by Ishmael inspired by and featuring the “STAY SANE” slappy curbs. Also, gonna film another short with my friend Nathanael Roney for the SU21 series by him and another artist/friend Maxx Fiest which I’m excited about. I also just started talking to my friend Tim Jarman about working on a collaboration between Brainstorm and his brand and “The Fuzzy Needle” which is a record and bookstore based out of Wilmington, NC. Hopefully we’ll make a trip happen this Summer and I can try filming for something with an idea I have in mind for that. Last year I spent the Summer/Fall trying to film as safely as possible with some of the guys from PUSH and want to really focus on that too in hopes of making something for the PUSH x TOA boards when they come out. As far as boards some of that is just up in the air due to delays in production, hopefully the kinks will get worked out with that and they’ll end up on shop walls before too long.
Thanks so much and congrats on Five+ years of Brainstorm Skateboards! Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d simply like to say thank you so much Jovi and everyone at TOA for giving me the opportunity to work on this with you all and to anyone who took the time to watch the “AURA” video and read this rambling I wrote on a 4.5 inch screen (iPhone) over the course of several insomnia filled nights haha. On a more serious note, the community that has been born/built from the art of skateboarding is something special we’re all lucky to be part of, with a kind heart and an open mind there’s a lot of change we can make happen collectively in all of our local communities. We can better the life of not only for ourselves, but for others, and I hope anyone reading this will keep that in mind and focus their time/energy to do so. Stay safe out there everybody and keep on pushing!