For those who may not yet know, Natalie is an extremely talented longboarder based in California, who is looking to expand the stoke and community of our sport. She’s been in the scene for a while, so I figured now would be the perfect time to reach out to her for an interview.
Without further ado, let’s meet Natalie Pluto!
Alrighty Natalie, let’s start with the most important question of all, what is the absolute cutest thing you have ever seen Koda do? I gotta know, I also have a black lab out here in Germany and they are just so damn cute I can’t even….
NP: Black labs are just absolutely the best. And Koda is one of the most crazy loving puppers out there. There’s so many adorable moments with Koda, but one that stands out to me is when he speaks while he sleeps. He tends to be a big dreamer. So in the middle of the night when he’s sleeping or taking a nap, sometimes his tail will start randomly wagging, or you’ll hear him start to growl. I can’t help but smile and wonder what he could possibly be dreaming about. It’s so cute.
So like any good interviewer (ok I am flattering myself lol…) I did a bit of homework on you, and in one of your YouTube videos you actually mention you’re from the East Coast, Baltimore area if I remember correctly. I think most of us in the longboard scene automatically associate you with LA, so since most of our readers are actually from Europe or Asia, why don’t describe in your own words what are the differences between the East and West coasts of the US.
NP: I’m originally from the DMV area! Short for DC, Maryland, and Virginia. I’ve been living in LA for a couple years now, so I’ve definitely picked up on some differences compared to the East coast. Weather is a big one. I prefer the weather in LA rather than my home town mainly because of the extreme levels of humidity we don’t experience in LA. Where I grew up, we get to encounter all four seasons to the absolute max, while in LA it doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
Traffic is another big difference. I think it’s safe to say that traffic can be found everywhere, but public transportation in LA is just awful. From my personal point of view, I’d say traffic on the east coast is slightly better. Lastly, I’d say the people overall are much more laid back and chill on the West coast. I love where I grew up, but I’m definitely much more into the vibes found in LA.
I lived in Vegas for a bit, so LA was kind of like our weekend getaway destination. And I gotta say, I personally am not the biggest LA fan (great food though!)…though this was before I started skating, so maybe now I’ll really dig it! But tell us one thing you love about the city, and one thing you hate about it.
NP: I absolutely love LA. The vibes are so chill, and the weather is always gorgeous. There’s just so much to explore (yes, including the endless food discoveries). The people in LA are also very kind, laid-back, and creative. I can definitely see myself settling down in LA one day, after traveling to other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia of course! 🙂 It’s hard to bring up something negative about the city. But if anything, again the traffic in LA is just not the wave.
I hate to tangent off to COVID-19 stuff, but seems it just can’t be avoided right now, but how has the whole pandemic affected the longboard scene specifically in LA?
NP: LA is actually a major hotspot for the virus at the moment. A lot of group meet-ups and events have been put on a hold, this including LA Docksession. It’s weird going from skating with the Docksession boys every weekend to not being able to meet up with the longboard community at all. Everyone still goes out to skate though..
As long as everyone is at a distance from one another I believe it’s okay. Also because the sport is just like another exercise or activity that takes place outdoors. From my perspective on social media, I can see that the LA community is being very careful and hopeful about stopping the spread of COVID. We all just need to play our part by staying safe, and wearing a mask when we go out. The city at one point filled up the skateparks with sand just to keep skaters off the parks. Pretty crazy!
Annnnnd moving on deeper into the skating questions, let’s startoff with a super important one. What’s the secret powers behind the cow inspired socks in this pic? I ask because at the longboard camp in Portugal, I was riding a setup with black and white wheels, and I just started calling it “The Cow.” Then everyone started calling it the cow, and I am pretty sure it gave me at least mild super powers.
NP: Wow so deep!! I’m so happy you asked me this hahah. When I feel good, I skate good! Obviously cows are the best animals on the planet, right?? I’d love to see that black and white wheel setup of yours. I vibe with the cow pattern so much, I actually customized my old skate Vans to look like cow shoes. Between you and me, they really do give mild super powers heh. Stay organic!
But seriously now, let’s dig in a bit deeper to this picture. Those Travelol Boards are beautiful, and their team has some of the best riders in the world. How does it feel to be a part of that team now?
NP: I’ve just started riding for Travelol, and it really amazes me to be part of such a talented crew. I’ve always looked up to the riders on the team, and they were all so welcoming when I joined. I’m truly grateful to be riding such beautiful decks, and I can’t wait for what’s to come with this new longboarding chapter with the Travelol team.
Tell us a bit more about how that sponsorship even came into play, since they’re based out of Hong Kong, how did that all happen?
NP: Not long ago, I was riding for Majutsu before Travelol welcomed me to the team. I love Majutsu, and I will forever be grateful for the endless love and support from the company, but due to personal reasons between me and the brand, it was time for some change.
Travelol was kind enough to send me some boards to try out before confirming, and I found myself really drawn to the new decks! I was surprised with how fast I was able to adjust to the new board, and I really think it’s because their decks really fit my freestyle “style” a lot.
One reason why I really like supporting international companies is because as a community of boarders from all around the world, I think it’s awesome to connect one another and introduce new longboard brands / riders to each other. Travelol really loved my style and vibe, inviting me to join the team. Learning that they didn’t have any other U.S. riders, it was awesome seeing Travelol spread over into America.
I’m looking forward to the day where I can meet and skate with the other riders!
Talking cross-ocean relationships, in your own words how would you describe the growth of longboard dancing and freestyle in the States? I bring a board with me whenever I go home, and for the most part people have never heard of it, so it’s really awesome to see people like you and Brandon D. up in Oregon raising awareness for our sport.
NP: Brandon is a legend!! Love that guy. He’s for sure one of the greatest lead inspirations for growing the sport over here in the States. From my point of view, I would say longboard dancing and freestyle is almost non-existent on the East coast.
I’d love to change that one day in the future. It’s definitely a skate style that most have never heard of, but the sport is overall becoming more and more popular everyday.
Before the virus hit, we’d be getting new skaters at the LA Docksession every weekend. Slowly growing those numbers!
Going back to the topic of LA, LA has a pretty rich and old skateboard scene. Tell us about that, are there still different “stigmas” between different people of different boards? I think there are still some stigmas here in Europe, but more styles are starting to cross over and a lot of people are starting to take on more disciplines now.
NP: I believe there will always be those “stigmas” shared between skaters in different skate communities. But we’re also living in 2020 now, and a lot of skaters have moved on and looked past these differences between one another.
Skating on my longboard in the streets of LA, I’ve met many boarders skating decks of all lengths and shapes. All of them being so kind and supportive! Any hate about how I skate, what I skate, why I skate all comes from online and in social media actually. It’s very little, but at the end of the day we’re all skaters just wanting to have a good time. 🙂
For any of our readers that plan to visit LA in the near future, if there was one restaurant they absolutely had to try, where would that be, and what should they order?
NP: McDonalds!!!! Hahah just kidding (no hate on McDonalds, they have the best fries in the world) 🙂 . I’m a BIG fan of asian food, and there are so many great sushi restaurants in LA. I live in the Burbank / Glendale area, and one of my favorite restaurant strips is on Brand Ave.
So much to explore! My favorite bakery is on that street called “85°C Bakery Cafe”. Eataly LA in Century City is amazing, along with the Hollywood Farmer’s Market on Sundays! Catch me there ordering a freshly squeezed juice from the locals!!
What’s a cool local-y thing a visitor could do in LA to really get a pulse of the city and its people?
NP: I think a lot of people automatically think of the beaches or Hollywood when visiting LA. I definitely believe Santa Monica is one of the most touristy spots of the city. Santa Monica is beautiful and a must see, but there are also so many amazing activities to do outside of the LA beaches.
If you like art, the Getty museum is a great choice. You can see all of LA from the top, and the view is to die for. Visiting major malls such as the Americana, the Grove, and Westfield Century City is always fun as well.
If you like hiking, you need to check out the Runyon Canyon trails! To really get a feel for the people in LA, a stroll down Fairfax Ave is also great because that’s where a lot of the locals share and sell their art / fashion.
One last place I can recommend is Little Tokyo in downtown LA. If you love Japanese food and culture, this is a must see spot! One of my favorites for sure. 🙂
Being that I am also of Filipino descent, I gotta ask, what’s your favorite filipino dish, and how would you describe that to people?
NP: I’m actually not too big of a fan of Filipino food. That may be because I haven’t eaten a lot of it, but my grandma makes really good Filipino dishes. A couple of my favorites are Pancit and Adobo.
Filipino Pancit is a dish with very thin noodles topped with vegetables and different meats. There’s multiple variations of Pancit, but it’s really popular and common when it comes to celebrations and get togethers.
Adobo is also super good. It’s a longer cooking process that involves the dish sitting in a mixture of various sauces and spices until it’s ready! Totally worth the wait. You can use pork, chicken, or seafood for this dish. Shoutout Lola for always providing the yummies!!
And on the topic of being Filipino, what’s your favorite “weird” Filipino cultural thing that only Filipinos do?
NP: One thing I have realized with my family and other Filipino families, is that we are ALWAYS late. We run on what’s known as, “Filipino time”, a term very well known in the culture.
My family jokes around with it a lot because most of the time, we’re really not trying to be late but it just sorta happens hahah. If a family gathering or celebration is planned for a certain time, you can count on the party to start maybe thirty minutes to an hour later.
In your opinion, what is the most overlooked or underappreciated part of a longboard setup?
NP: Every part, big or small, that goes into a longboard setup is important. I’m actually not too picky when it comes to bearings (that could be me under-appreciating bearings).
But I would say bushings and grip are very much overlooked a lot. For example, grip is very important to me with my setup. Having a certain grip job can really effect how I skate. Too much grip can be more tough for dancing, and can destroy your shoes faster.
While too little grip can make freestyle tricks and cruising feel less secure. I believe choosing your grip job / style is just as important as it would if you were choosing any other key longboard component.
If you had to pick only one, to date, what is your absolute most favorite longboarding memory?
NP: This is a tough one. :’) But if I had to choose only one, I would say my favorite longboarding memory would be the event that was held during LA Docksession, when we were joined by @Achelmachin and @Lotfiwoodwalker.
It was the biggest LA Docksession meetup I’ve ever seen. There were contests, pizza, prizes, and more. I got to meet some new skaters in the community, and everyone was overall having a blast. The boys from Caliber Trucks and Blood Orange Wheels came down for the event as well! We had such a rad outcome, and I’m looking forward to when we can do it again.
Natalie, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, let’s end it on a high note here. For longboarders around the world who are just starting their journey, if there was only once piece of advice you could give them from your experience, what would that be?
NP: Thank you for taking the time to interview me! And of course to everyone who is reading in the audience. For those who are just starting their longboard journey, my one piece of advice is to involve yourself with the longboard community.
This community is the most inspiring, welcoming, and loving community of all time. And I would not be the skater I am today without the amazing friends I’ve met through skating.
Longboarding gives you the freedom and creativity to do and be whoever you want. So, get out there and make the most of it! Progress at your own pace, try new things, but most importantly, have fun and skate safe. 🙂
Thanks again!! <33