Joel Meinholz

Joel Meinholz

Subterranean Skate — Hopps' pro, East Coast party thrower, Bum Rush the Spot organiser and newfound photography freak Joel Meinholz shoots Dutch artist Parra in LA.

In the few years I’ve known professional skater Joel Meinholz, he’s lived in no less than 10 different apartments, thrown over 100 parties and events, and bounced around the globe like a rubber ball. True to his sponsor Hopps’ moto, Meinholz keeps it moving. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Meinholz moved to Miami, to avoid winters and pursue his skate career. Along with logging footage, Meinholz started promoting parties at bars and nightclubs, eventually getting deep into the nightlife scene.

Driving through the sweaty streets of Miami in the Spring of 2012, he pointed out a corner that he once stumbled through after several nights of raging, high on everything and looking like a “bloated Val Kilmer”, in his own words. Meinholz gave up partying, but not promoting; expanding his 10 year-plus party “Chocolate Sundays” to Brooklyn, NY, starting his own skate event “Bum Rush the Spot,” and continuing to skate obsessively. He’s also making an effort to document things, constantly snapping photos through the fish-eyed lens of his camera.

As snow starts to fall on every NYC corner, I caught up with Meinholz, who was enjoying a post-lunch swim at a Los Angeles beach. He brought me up to speed on his recent photo exploits and a chance session with Dutch artist Parra, who recently launched Tired Skateboards.

What have you been up to this winter and what led you to LA?
I was in Miami for Art Basel, running around all over the place and I decided I was over it and wanted to go where my passion was. My passion has always been skating, so whatever door that opened up was what I was going to pursue. I could be stuck in New York for another winter freezing, or I could head out to Los Angeles and pay less money to have a house and skate around and have fun. Rolling around, just hitting skateparks and spots and enjoying the weather – it’s just kind of sick and I enjoy the lifestyle here.

Has it been difficult to run your events and parties being based on the West Coast?
I set the parties, including the long running Chocolate Sundays, a long time ago and I’m able to keep them going remotely. We have teams in place at each city and they’re exploring new options, right now LA is the new frontier.

How did your interest in photography start?
Before I ever skate a spot, I always think about how it would look in a photograph or on video. That’s what attracts me to a spot, if it has some look or it’s sexy looking. And by sexy, I’m referring to the rich colors you see from it, the feeling you get when you see it. That’s why I’ve always been drawn to abstract art and wanted to start shooting photos. I’d always be talking to photographers and filmers, asking questions, and as time went on I became comfortable shooting my own images and using a camera. I still really don’t know a lot about the technical side of things, but I know how to make things look how I like them – it’s really about being able to capture moments. I’ve lived a life where I’ve forgotten most of it, people are like ‘You don’t remember that?’ and I really don’t. That’s why I’m always shooting photos now, so I can remember everything.

I don’t have any images from a huge part of my life, but now I’m so lucky to be doing what I’m doing, meeting the people I’m meeting, and I want to capture that as much as possible. When I meet someone that’s interesting or inspires me, I want to have a photograph of them. It could be as simple as snapping a portrait of them in the street.

What I liked about your photographs of the Parra curb session, was that it took me back to a time in skating that felt really innocent and fun…
That’s the whole thing, I was tired from skating all day by that point, but I still wanted to hang out and participate. It’s really about being as loose as possible, not taking things too seriously, and just capturing the essence of what fun is – that moment with your friends and homies. It’s just an on-board flash and a fish eye, taking things back to the basics. Getting in really low and making everyone look like they’re going really big.

Skating seems to be at a very self-aware point, where everyone realises there are a handful of millionaires that have to stay super competitive and everyone else is just focusing on having fun. Overcoming all those ego issues when you’re younger – although you still have them as you get older – is what progresses you. Now it’s about focusing on what’s in front of you. I’ve been on a skateboard for over a quarter of a century and I remember being a little kid thinking, “I want to skate forever,” not really knowing what forever was. Now I’m in forever and it’s a curse and a blessing. All I want to do is skate – roll down the street, hit a curb, grind a ledge, and take in the architecture of the city that no one else sees. I’m fucking stuck in it.

Part of me is like, “OK, c’mon now dude, grow up,” but I’m so excited to have that be a part of my life. It’s all about having that energy come out in everything you do in your life as you get older. You learn to appreciate what this stupid-ass thing did for you. It’s not even about tricks, it’s riding around, the clicks and clacks when you’re just carving down the street. That feeling is just the illest shit. With Hopps and other small brands, it’s people taking skating into a direction with energy that’s something others can follow. This is what we all love to do and that’s what we’re doing with the majority of our time, it’s a total release. Most people don’t have that release, but we do. Instead of golfing, I go skating.

What do you enjoy about constantly moving around?
One of the best things about growing up like Indiana Jones and exploring what’s in front of you, it might just be street spots, but that’s your jungle. I’ve been going and throwing parties wherever I go for years, getting lost in America, or taking off and just going, but I know there’s always going to be security in my safety blanket of a skateboard. I can always just throw it down, roll, and automatically meet new people, see different things, and share that common passion.

Is there any bigger plan for your photography?
There’s no final focus, I’m not trying to work towards a book or a show. Those are always options that can happen and I’ve thrown photography shows with a bunch of homies, but it’s more about getting flicks of those cool moments and the people you’re with. I was chilling with a friend last night, showing her old episodes of Miami Vice and how they were shot with these really dreamy night scenes, packed with neon colors, the ground’s always a little wet. It’s amazing how much that really shaped how I see taking a photo and that’s why I’ve loved Miami for so long. That balance of washed-out color and that dreamlike state it creates is something else.

You can keep up with Joel’s adventures on his Instagram. Anthony Pappalardo is an NY-based writer and author who contributes to Vice, Jenkem, ESPN and more.