17 Year Old Skateboarder Jono Schwan Wins $10K And Does Something Amazing With It
JONO SCHWAN WINS $10,000 AT EZ ROCKS: SKATE FOR THE CURE AND GIVES IT BACK
By Chris Dickerson, Seattle, WA: On a normal day in marketing at evo, you are hard pressed to see as many heads perk up, outside of watching the occasional shared cat videos, as when we heard that one of the winners of the EZ Rocks: Skate For The Cure, 17 year old Jono Schwan, donated his $10,000 cash prize back to the Zekes Foundation, our entire crew was blown away by his generosity and ability to inspire others with such a kind act.
The EZ Rocks: Skate for the Cure event is held in Bellevue, WA featuring a pro super ramp and am street skateboarding competition with over $50,ooo in cash and prizes handed out to the winners. The Zakes Foundation was created by Brad and Nancy Zakes in memory of their son, Ethan Zakes who lost his life in 2011 to ALD at the age of 10. The Foundation supports newborn screening programs for the early detection of rare childhood diseases and provides access to educational support through the provision of academic scholarships for at need youth.
We tracked down Jono to find out more about him and his why he did it. Here is what he had to say:
How did you get started in skateboarding?
This might sound funny, but it was Disney’s A Goofy Movie that got me excited about skateboarding. I was four years old at the time and living in Belfast, Northern Ireland when I saw the movie and remember thinking Goofy’s son Max was the coolest, skateboarding everywhere he went, and if you’ve seen the movie you know skateboarding kind of saves the day, so I had to have a skateboard! I don’t remember if it was a birthday present, or just a surprise gift from Mom and Dad, but I got a skateboard and on the first day, had to do the handstand Max did through the whole movie — that didn’t end well, I scraped my entire face and while Mom and Dad were rethinking the gift I knew it was game on and skateboarding was going to be a big part of my life.
Belfast had one indoor skatepark, none outdoors that I remember because it rained all the time. But my Mom and Dad would take me to the skatepark a couple of times a month. Then when I was six years old, we moved to Cameroon, Africa where there were no skateparks, skate shops or skateboarding. For me these were tough years! After three years in Africa, we moved to Australia where there is an awesome skate scene. First we lived in Canberra and then Melbourne and everywhere you go in Australia you’ll find a skate park getting lots of use by the locals.
And when I say Australia had a great skate scene, I really mean it; everyone at the local park was welcoming and supportive. I didn’t know it at the time, but a lot of the older skaters I was snaking were Australia’s best vert and bowl skaters and instead of giving me grief for snaking them, they gave me tips and showed me how to land the tricks I was trying to do.
When did you start competing? How did you get into skating a mega-ramp?
Australia has a great skateboarding program. If you were a grom like I was at the time in Melbourne, the YMCA hosted a series of comps throughout the state of Victoria that were more about having fun and progressing than a sport competition. At the end of the year there were category winners from all the different regions and states and they were invited to a big competition in Sydney. Whoever made the podium at the big national level AM comp got invited to other events and sponsorships. For me, I was just a grom at the time, but did end up on the podium for vert and bowl. What that did for me was get me invited to skate in the LA X-Games AM vert competition back in 2009 and 2010. Imagine being a 12 year old skating in the X-games, it was all I imagined and more and where I saw Danny Way and Bob Burnquist battle it out on the Mega. I snuck on to the Mega ramp and just slid down the landing area and remember feeling scared but wanting to give it a go at the same time.
It was only a couple of weeks later that I got the chance to skate the mini-mega at the AM Maloof Cup and in order to have a chance at making the podium you had to skate both the Vert and Mini-Mega. You can imagine how my Mom and Dad reacted since I’d never skated anything close to a super ramp! I had two days of practice and was stoked to leave with the silver cup.
It seems kids are more focused on emulating what they see in Street League. The number of younger kids coming up on the vert side of skating seems to be smaller than say, a decade ago, what are your thoughts on that?
I am a firm believer that vert is very much alive and will always continue to be. As always the more the merrier, I’d be stoked to see more kids giving it a go and seeing what it’s like. The main reason I believe that it is harder for kids to get hooked on vert is because there aren’t many public vert ramps out there, street is so much more accessible to the general public. We need more public vert ramps and I’m sure that will result in more vert skaters!
As a competitor, how is that different from skating with your friends?
It’s not really that different; when I’m skating it’s all about getting a new trick in the bag. What I like about competitions is the extra adrenaline you get from skating with the top skaters. Helps me focus at times and at times be a little more courageous than if I’m just hanging with friends at the local ramp.
How did you hear about EZ Rocks Skate For The Cure?
My friend Jeff Jewett who helps put on a lot of major contests reached out to me and told me about the event and asked if I wanted to come and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to skate with my friends and do it for such a great cause.
How often do you compete and skate?
I try to skate every day and I’m usually working on some new tricks. Skateboarding is my peace of mind and how I stay in shape. I don’t see skateboarding as a sport, it’s more of a lifestyle for me, but I also think in order to be a good skater you also have to be a good athlete, which is also a lifestyle. I like competitions because they help me get to that next level, if I can get control of the nerves. So anything I get invited too I usually go, although it’s getting more difficult to juggle school, skating, and my foundation because I want to do well with them all but there’s only so many hours in a day.
You won a $10,000 cash prize at Skate For The Cure and donated back to the charity. Many people would not have done that, especially someone who is 17. What inspired you to do that? Do you encourage your friends and family to give back or is it more of a personal thing?
I’m not sure that’s right, I think most people would have done what I did. For me the event was all about raising awareness and money for ALD, so those were the goals I set for myself when I said yes, I would go. I reached out to my fans and friends via Facebook to raise awareness and being lucky enough to win some money it just seemed that giving it to the Zakes Foundation was the right thing to do. And after meeting Brad and Nancy Zakes and seeing all the work they put into the event and the kind of people they are, I’m pretty sure if their son Ethan had the chance to grow up and was in a similar position, he would have done the same thing, so I’m sure it was the right thing to do.
After living in so many different places growing up, seeing how much can be done when people choose to help, I try to do what I can when I can. It’s a lifestyle, which I think goes well with skateboarding. Sounds a little kidish maybe, but if everyone was a skateboarder I don’t think there would be any wars.
Tell us about your own organization, SK8 Strong?
I don’t want to take the focus away from the Zakes Foundation by talking about Sk8-Strong, but if you want a little more information on it please go to either of the following links: www.sk8-strong.org, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sk8-Strong/131859186877892
Who’s helped you out or who would you like to thank?
I want to say a huge thanks to Brad and Nancy Zakes, and Joe and Marshall for putting on such an amazing event! I can’t wait ‘til next year!
In supporting my skateboarding lifestyle, I can’t say thank you enough to my Mom and Dad and brothers (Joseph and Aaron) for all the support they’ve given me over the years and still do. And of course I want to thank my sponsors for helping me pursue my passion, Nike, TSG (Technical Safety Gear), ProTec, Woodward, BC Surf and Sport, Theeve Trucks and Type-S Wheels.
Thanks Jono! You can find out more information about the EZ Rocks: Skate For The Cure Here>