Hump Day Hits a Home Run with Durell Williams

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Interview By Toby Witte. Intro by Lance Michael Hakker.
All photos by Dylan Thompson.

When it comes to snowboarding, Durell is the real deal. I’m not proclaiming Durell is a shoe-in as a future pro; that only time and productivity can tell. What I mean is that Durell has a love for snowboarding that makes sacrifice natural, it’s easy for Durell to choose to take a hit on his other interests for snowboarding. He’s not going to question it. Which is super awesome. And yeah, of course he’s super good at snowboarding. And yeah, he’s got a shot at making it. But the truth is, who cares? He’s already making his dreams a reality.

Durell Williams, back lip, Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Dylan Thompson

Where are you from?
I’m from Palo Alto, California.

Did you grow up there?
I was born there, lived in Redwood City, but my parents wanted me at better schools so they sent me Palo Alto to grow up with my Grandma. And it was a better area, so they wanted me there.

My mom was from Palo Alto and they had me at a very young age, like right out of high school. Imagine being 18 and getting all of that shit for having a kid, you know? So, my parents went through a lot. My dad was working 2 jobs and we were living in Redwood City in a pretty bad area with a bunch of gangs, violence, drugs and all that shit. So my parents wanted to send me to Palo Alto because one day we actually got robbed. The kicker for my Mom was, and I don’t remember it, that I walked out of my room and said, “Mommy, they took the money out of my piggy bank.” And she just lost it. What kind of sick fucks steal a kid’s piggy bank money? So she wanted to get me outta there and living with my Grandma.

So my dad, was a medical engineer, just working his way up through companies, and he just kind of said, “fuck it” and started his own business and its been going really well for like 6 years now. Ever since then we went from a really shitty time in our life to a really good one. It taught me that you always have to work hard for what you want. It doesn’t matter what gets in your way, if you want something and have a good attitude then it can come your way. I just want to thank my family for everything that they’ve done. They are the greatest influences in my life. No matter how good things get, it can always get worse so just keep at it and work hard. Just be thankful and stay humble, always.

Wow, thanks for that. That’s awesome to hear. Back to the Bay, I’ve been once or twice and it seems like a good place for skating. Not to mention, didn’t you used to skate small-time for some people?
I rode for a couple shops, got some flow for a little bit when I was younger so that was pretty legit.

Which ones?
Skateworks. It was a local shop in San Jose, kinda Palo Alto/Santa Cruz area. And I met a lot of guys I grew up riding with through there. Guys like Caswell Berry, Jerry Hsu, Barletta and Nestor Judkins. You know, all those guys. Anyway, they would hook me up with Deluxe products because that was all I liked riding. Just Spitfire wheels and Real decks, nothing too major, but anytime I needed anything they were down to help me out. I was really happy about that, just living the time of my life being 14 getting gear and skating whenever I could.

That’s pretty awesome, I didn’t know all that. Anyhow, correct me if I’m wrong, but while we’re on the skating subject, was there anything that happened between you and the editor of Thrasher?
Oh God. Well, I-Who? How’d you? (Laughs). Anyway, I would skate this spot in San Francisco at 3rd and Army with those big white rails and a ton of ledges. So I was just cruising around and eying up the rock gap one day and Jake Phelps, “The Phelper,” was there and I was going for a frontside flip over it. He sees me trying it and goes, “you fuckin’ better do this right now!” Just trying to keep me hyped, like, “that’d be awesome if you did it.” And I’m just thinking, “God, this guy is a legend, I can’t let him down.” And I was just getting wrecked on it, gave it hell and got it. Then Justin Williams, the TM for Venture at the time, gave me a pair of trucks and to get that as a kid was just really awesome.

How long ago was that?

That’s when I was 16, I think? Still in high school for sure by then.

Damn. So how old are you really? I remember last year when I met you it was your birthday in a few days and I asked if you were turning 19.
Well I’m 26, actually. Most people think that I’m a little kid; I guess I don’t look my age. But I’ve only been snowboarding for 5 seasons now.

Tree handplant in Truckee, CA. Photo by Thompson.

Why are you so embarrassed about your age?
I’m not, actually. Maybe it’s because that’s like “old” in snowboard terms. But I’m not really embarrassed about it.

Back to the serious stuff, and we’ve talked about this before, but you were quite the sportsman in high school, not to mention college as well. What did you play, exactly?
Uh, well I started playing baseball at the age of 5; my dad got me into that. Then I played a little soccer and got transitioned into that. Played JV basketball in high school for a little bit, and then football in high school. So those are all the sports I ever played but baseball and soccer were the main ones.

Dang, that’s quite the laundry list! Word is you got a few scholarship deals from some different schools, as well. Did you follow through with any of those?

I got a few for baseball from University of Nevada-Reno and one from Hawaii. But I didn’t wanna get stuck on an island in case I got homesick, so I chose Reno. And then for football I got a few from some small schools down in southern California like Occidental. But baseball is what I wanted to stick with; it was what I loved the most. It helped me pretty much pay my way through college.

Nice. Well you may or may not be embarrassed easily but I’m gonna need you to go ahead and give us the 411 on the Diamondbacks deal.
(Sighs) Yeah, I dunno. I get embarrassed talking about sports. I’m kind of a shy guy, I guess. In high school, some recruits were like, “well the Diamondbacks are looking at you, and we want you to know that. So just keep doing your thing and we have our eye on you.” But I kind of wanted a college education, its what my parents would have wanted. Baseball is actually kind of the reason I stopped skating, I was always getting hurt and showing up for games like just after learning new tricks. Like, I still remember learning back lips and showing up with 10 minutes until I was supposed to be out there.

Do you ever miss baseball?
I mean, I love it, but it’s not what I would rather be doing and I’m having so much fun with snowboarding and skating. With team sports you kind of have to rely on other people but with these two you’re the only person you can blame. It’s all personal gain or loss at that point.


Well after all of that you wound up in a frat house in Reno, I assume that’s what put you closer to the mountains and got you into snowboarding?

(Laughs) No! I was actually sitting around with my roommates one day and they were like, “Let’s just go snowboarding” so I got a Morrow setup for like $100. Boots, boards, bindings; the whole deal. So then I just really liked it and got like 100 days in and went up to Hood the next summer and I ended up meeting Johnny Brady after helping out at Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp. I found out that he lived in Reno, so we linked up there. I ended up being a coach at Boreal after just one year. Spent ever since just out there riding with good friends. Guys like Nick Visconti, Sammy Spiteri, all the bHappy kids, Blake Geis and all those guys.

So were you balancing school and snowboarding at the same time? I know that can get sort of hard for some people. How did you do it?
Yeah, well I was going to school taking like 17 credits a semester and playing baseball when I could during the year and then snowboarding just kinda came more into play little by little. I think I only have 2 semesters left but I want to enjoy snowboarding while I can. You know, school’s always there.

When did you start riding more seriously, as in starting to film, sponsors and all that jazz?
Well me and Sammy (Spiteri) got on Milo out in Lafayette, and they’re a real good group of dudes. Just really hyped to be part of the snowboard family out there, and they were really good friends with the reps out there. So then Chris Wilmouth started flowing me some stuff and that’s kind of what got me to where I am now. I’m so thankful for those guys doing what they did for me; shops really can get you to a good spot in snowboarding.

We see some of Durell's skateboarding past influencing his snowboarding in these shots... not so much the baseball. Photos: Thompson

Cool, cool, cool. Tahoe. Seems like a pretty good place for people to hone their crafts, not to mention a badass place for stories. Blake Geis told me to ask you about the toothpaste story. What’s up with that?
(Deepest sigh of the interview) Aw, that fuckin’ dickhead! So, it was Australia Day and we were at these Aussies house just drinking and having a good time. Someone told me to do this beer bong, and I just knew that it wasn’t normal. Everybody was laughing and it turned out to be four shots and sprite. So we just kept partying and next thing I know its morning time and I’m on the floor of a bathroom, butt naked and covered in toothpaste. I guess I went in there with a girl after saying something to get her mad, and I passed out, and there was a tube of toothpaste in there.

That’s embarrassingly awesome. When did you link up with the bHappy kids?
My second year riding through the Academy Camp, I met up with Paul Heran, Bryce Hymans and Joel. Me and Sammy both hopped on around the same time so we started wanting to do something fun and made some park edits and it just kind of took off from there. Kept on meeting people like Dylan Thomson, Cole Atencio and Colt Morgan. Now we’re all kind of best friends and a lot has come of it. We’re all either at Windell’s or High Cascade. Paul did a lot of filming for Think Thank this year, too. Really hyped to be a part of it.

You had a pretty awesome part last year, not to mention ender. Did you film with them again this year?
Thanks. I actually moved to Salt Lake this year, so I didn’t get a chance to ride with them too much, but I definitely filmed with Paul and Bryce a little bit. I’m really excited to see Colton Morgan’s part. He’s got some moves.

I heard you filmed for some other people, too?
Aside from bHappy I filmed with Jon Stark for Workin’ for the City. Stark is THE Man! One of the best guys I know… great friend, awesome filmer. He’s just always down to film what you want and he’s a really great motivator. I’m really glad that I got to be a part of that and I can’t wait to see the premiere on August 1st in Charlie’s, which will be crazy. I also filmed with my good friend, Rob Balding, for Keep the Change. I’m hyped to have some shots in that, too. All of those movies are gonna be amazing, there are such amazing riders involved.

Defenders of Awesome?
Not really. I might have some shots in the Northern California section extra. But I went out one day with those guys in Salt Lake to this down flat down with Cale and Phil. It was my 2nd day filming and I was with these amazing riders. Not to mention there were four filmers there; Butters, Roobs, Dangler and Gary Tyler. I didn’t get what I was trying but I’m grateful to have been there just watching those guys in their element.

Salt Lake. That happened. Tell me about it.
Well I moved there and lived in a room with Kyle Fischer, which was an experience to say the least. And we both ended up getting jobs as snowboard instructors at The Canyons Resort, which was sick because we only had to work 25 days out of the season which left a lot of time for just riding and filming and getting passes to the other resorts around there. It was a good year, I’m pretty sure I’m going back after the fall in Tahoe.

Glad to hear it. So, I met you up in Govy last summer and now you got yourself a job. What are you doing and how did you land that?
I’m the Head Skate Monitor at High Cascade. I’m super hyped on it, and I want to thank the bosses for that one. But I worked at Unicorn Food last year and kinda solidified the bond with High Cascade while doing that. I applied to be the Trampoline Assistant, but one day Aera called me and asked if I wanted to be the Skate Monitor. I was just like, “Fuck yeah, are you kidding me?!” I mean, not in those words, but.. Yeah.

What’s it like working with the kids?

It’s not bad at all. I like watching the kids skate and just helping them out if they need it. Hopefully I can be that guy that makes an impression on the kid and he comes back one summer and wants my job. I like how High Cascade has that little cycle where the most down to earth kids are kind of the ones that get to go back through it on the Staff side.

That’s definitely why I work here now, so you’re right about that. What do your responsibilities entail?

Just escort campers sometimes, chain up the ramps, maintain the park by putting screws back in, and sweeping up the rocks. I make sure kids that aren’t with camp stay out unless they clear it with the office and get a pass from me. And yeah, like I said I’m just so thankful to be doing this.

Think you’ll stick around if you can?
Yeah, I mean if they offer me the job for next summer I would definitely accept it. This is such a good place to be, you know? Such good friends up here, amazing snowboarding, food, place to stay and a little bit of money while I’m at it. It’s the best.

Well, I hope you stick around. Here’s the inevitable, not to be racist, but word is that you’re half Cuban and half African-American. Is that true and is that why you’re so good at baseball and other sports?
(Laughs) Yes, that’s what I am. And I don’t know about the sports. Maybe?

(Durell pauses to assist Jason Hume (Salomon) with a skate pass after Jason correctly fills out his waiver and leaves a form of ID with Durell)

Any thanks or shoutouts?
Well I wanna thank my family for being very supportive in everything that I’ve done and making me the person that I am today. I want to thank my friends for always being there and being assholes, especially Johnny Brady and Blake Geis. bHappy, Paul, Shane, Colton, Sammy and all those guys. Chris Wilmouth for everything he’s hooked me up with, Blue and Tedore at Capita. All those guys at C3, actually. Lance, Mike and Nima. Darrell at Howl, Bobby at Nike, Jay, George, Benny, Cal, Jeff and everybody at Milo Sport. Saga. Filmers and photogs of all kinds. Tim and Hannah of Pizza Party, check ‘em out. Cory at Cobra Dogs. Everyone at High Cascade, and give Crab Grab a try, kids!

How about a complete list of sponsors?

Capita, Union, Coal, Ashbury, Saga, Nike Snowboarding and MiloSport

Hey, Kids! Don’t forget to check Durell out in bHappy’s ‘Happy Days’ and Keep the Change’s title film. Both due out this Fall. And for now, check out bHappy’s ‘Happy Thoughts’ for some hot Durell action.

Happy Thoughts (Full Movie) from bHappyFilms on Vimeo.

29 replies
  1. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Another great interview. But no videos???? Hook us up with some Durell links to the vimeo or utube

  2. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    One time I walked into Kyle and Durell’s room and Durell was showing kyle a clip and kyle was completely naked just standing there like it was completely normal.

  3. Fonzie
    Fonzie says:

    Quite a thorough hump day. This guy sounds like a good dude, and that hard way grabbed 270 on he did in a recent camp edit was insane.

Comments are closed.