After P-Rod and Stefan Janoski, the latest pro model from Nike SB belongs to Omar Salazar. A renowned space hog and rad skater, Omar would also have to be one of the friendliest visitors we’ve had to our office. With a stack of features including Flywire and a stash pocket, his shoe is definitely a polarising piece of design... but that’s just what he likes about it. As you’ll read, Omar is still wigging out about having his own Nike! Photos : www.leo-sharp.com
It’s nice you came all the way down to Melbourne. Most of the time cats just start freaking out at the thought of spending an entire day on a plane.
Yeah it is a long way, but I love Australia, it’s one of my favourite places. I actually put it as a priority to come here, this place is amazing.
I heard you banged-up your foot?
Yeah I was actually injured for nine months, my board landed sideways and totally smashed my foot, it was like this freak accident where I was only a foot off the ground when it happened and I was out for nine months. It’s good now.
What a pain in the ass.
Yeah! You know what it’s like when you can’t do something you love doing, so I started working on my shoe. The whole time I would get all these samples and the only thing I could do was wear ‘em around. I spent a lot of time late at night with my shoe on the nightstand next to me as I went to sleep. I was with this girl at the time and I think it made her mad! Every night I would go to bed with the shoe right there then I’d turn on my light, look at it, move it around, get out of bed walk around in it, then put it on my bedpost, turn off the light and then two minutes later turn on the light again, write a note...
You’re a kook but I appreciate your obsession! You’re good friends with Stefan Janoski – for you both to have a Nike shoe deal must be pretty rad.
It’s awesome. Nike told us a long time ago that the only person who’s going to have a pro-shoe is gonna be Paul Rodriguez, and I was totally fine with that ‘cos he’s the best. But in the back of my mind I was like, ‘Yeah but you know what? I want a shoe too one day, and I know I can do it,’ I kinda manifested it in my head. I never told anyone I just kept it to myself.
Congratulations! So, how much of the design is from your input?
Well, they called me down to work with the designer James Arizumi and he told me to bring a bunch of my stuff. Like I said, I’ve had this dream for ages so I had a sketch that I’d drawn two years before they even offered me the shoe and I took it to the meeting. I showed him my drawing and he was like, ‘Alright, well, are you trying to take my job or something?’ Haha! So pretty much what you see is exactly what I wanted except for Nike’s Flywire technology, which I was really happy about.
The first version got out on the internet a little early...
It was pretty shit because my phone got hacked! I got a phone call from Kevin Imamura (Nike SB) and he’s like, ‘Hey Omar, did you put your shoe on the internet?’ And I’m looking at the photo thinking ‘Someone’s taken a photo of my shoe!’ And it’s like some guy with black jeans and I’m thinking, ‘Dude, those wooden floors look just like my wooden floors at home!’ So I’m asking my roommates, ‘Did you shoot a photo of my shoe while I was gone?’ And then I start thinking, ‘Well, I like black jeans...’ So I look through my phone and I was like, ‘Holy shit that idiot is me!’ But I didn’t send that photo to any damn blog, someone went through my phone somehow.
Once it’s out, it’s out there. You can’t take it back.
Exactly. I just can’t believe how gnarly people are, how they’ll go out of their way just to be the first to give news. If they’re the first they feel significant or something. So, fuck you dude, if you ever read this!
What brief did you give Nike SB? Board feel is obviously key and the shoes are light for a skate shoe.
I wanted a lot of things, I mean, obviously I wanted a shoe for myself that’s gonna be really good for my performance, and I wanted support for my ankles. With a lot of the other Nike SB soles, the Zoom Air usually comes in the sockliner, but this one’s inside the shoe and I dropped down something like 12 stairs the other day wearing this thing and it takes the impact out so much. But I also wanted to keep in mind my other fellow skaters out there so it would be a classic-looking shoe to wear. So I told ‘em I want a classic-looking shoe but with today’s technology, that’s light, but that also has options. When I said options, I meant I wanted to have an interchangeable tongue. At first people are like, ‘What do you mean, interchangeable tongue?’ I mean I know some skaters who’ll cut old tongues from shoes and stuff ‘em under so they can have more support, or sometimes they even just do it for fashion.
Remember the old KangaROOS shoes? They had a stash pouch under the tongue.
Yeah, if you want to put like twenty bucks in there in some sketchy neighborhood in New York or wherever, who’s gonna check your shoe? The cool thing about Nike was they were like, ‘Hey look, when we do a shoe with an athlete, we try to incorporate their personality into the shoe.’ Well, I like surprises, so having the interchangeable tongue is kinda like my little surprise. Another surprise is that around the heel it’s not stitched down so it’s like a hidden pull-tab. I think pull-tabs are really handy but I know some people don’t like to have them sticking out, so I had it not-stitched so you can slide your fingers in and put your shoe on a little easier. That worked out really well.
Did you ask for the Flywire?
When I said I wanted a classic-looking shoe with new technology built into it, that’s when Nike stepped up and introduced me to Flywire. How it works is, it enables your shoe not to have so much padding. That’s why my shoe actually runs in an 8 when I’m actually an 8.5 ‘cos it doesn’t have so much material. The tighter you tie it, the more it pulls down and locks your heel in, it’s interesting and it’s how Kobe Bryant’s shoe works. So it’s been pretty effective so far. You could smash it down and it bounces back into shape, while the support is awesome, but the lightness of it is probably my favourite thing.
What about all the space stuff?
Well, every time I do a signing I do a Saturn-looking planet, so when I went to Nike I was like ‘I wanna have my own symbol on it!’, and I told them that instead of the rings, I wanna use the Swoosh. The designer guys were like ‘That’s awesome, but I’ll tell you right now, that’s probably not gonna happen, there’s a lot of things you cannot do with the Swoosh blahblahblah’ It’s against their copyright or laws or whatever, which I was okay with. But they were cool enough to say that for my first samples they’d do it. Then I got my first sample back and when the bigwigs saw the shoe they liked it so much that they gave it the okay! That was a big deal and not very normal for them.
I think James might be right. Sounds like you might be after his job! Your mum must be proud...
Yeah man! She’s really excited. My parents never imagined me doing what I’m doing now. It was pretty crazy, growing up, my Dad never really approved of me skating because a lot of people back then used to stereotype skating as a bunch of skinhead punks that just don’t give a shit. It was funny, ‘cos it wasn’t really like that. But for a long time when I first got sponsored it was a huge secret, my dad never knew why I got free stuff, I would hide my skateboards under my bed and whenever I’d get a box my Mom was like, ‘What the hell is this?’, and I was like, ‘Ah nothing... it’s just a friend, sending me stuff.’ So, it definitely is a big deal now for me to actually have my parents understand that I stuck with what I believed in and now can enjoy the fruits of my success.
Well, you’ve put the family name on a shoe.
Yeah I’m pretty psyched on how that worked out too. My name, Omar Salazar... it aligns kinda like the ‘AIR’ over ‘JORDAN’.
Oh yeah! When did you know you’d got the shoe right?
Well, the people that I really want to say thanks to were the kids Nike organised to skate in the shoes to test them out. They don’t skate for Nike as such, and like I said, I went pretty mental for a while because not being able to test it out myself was really shit for me. But those kids skated the shoe ‘til it was gone. I saw some of the samples with holes on the bottoms and was like, ‘Damn! They really skated it!’. I’d ask them how it felt on the foot, is it sticking to your board, do you like how it feels and they really filled in the blanks at a time when I couldn’t. Then I had a few of them write back and tell me it was the best shoe they’d ever skated, and that’s when I kinda thought I might be doing okay! Thanks to those kids most of all...