Ed Templeton is one of skateboarding’s biggest icons and a name that has become synonymous with great skating and creativity. Compassion is another word that describes Ed, who has been an avid vegan for twenty years now, while also promoting cruelty free business practices through his sponsors and his own company, Toy Machine. Recently, I had the chance to speak to Ed about his veganism, his skateboarding, and his art. Enjoy!
CP: How long have you been Vegan?
Ed: 21 or 22 years. I went vegan in 1990. When I started, soymilk tasted like shit. There was no vegan ice cream, and going on tour in the Midwest USA or Europe was a nightmare. I am living proof that spending my dollars with compassion can make a huge change happen. Luckily, at the same time I was figuring out that I didn’t want to eat meat or use animal products both for animal rights and for my health; there were other people, thousands of us who were doing the same thing. We created a demand for better products and companies came to take our money from us by making better soymilk, a variety of vegan ice creams, and a multitude of other vegan products. I can get off the freeway anywhere now, only 20 years later, and there will be a market or restaurant that has vegan food. There is even an app for your iPhone that will tell you where the nearest vegan food is anywhere in the world!
CP: What influenced the decision to become vegan?
Ed: I had some close friends that were becoming vegan. They would give me pamphlets on animal rights. They would take me out to dinner as long as I didn’t order meat. I resisted at first, but soon discovered that I also liked vegetables. I read the pamphlets, and that pushed me to do my own research. I read some books and tried to find out what was really happening in the meat and dairy industry. Once you read about how slaughterhouses are run, and how animals are treated I don’t understand how you could continue supporting them. To me, it was the same as a child learning the hard way that fire burns. Once you know, you don’t make the same mistake twice. Once I knew what was happening, I had to stop putting it in my body or supporting it with my money. Over the years, my reasons have shifted slightly. I still eat this way out of compassion for animals, but there is also a large dose of compassion for myself. I want to eat healthy and avoid many of the pitfalls that many Americans consistently fall into with their health.
CP: Do you feel like the Vegan lifestyle helped or hurt your ability to skate when you first went vegan?
Ed: It didn’t change anything; at least I didn’t feel any change. I have always had pretty good stamina, but I never took being an athlete very seriously as far as stretching or working out goes. So I’m not sure if it gave me any advantage. People are omnivores and can survive on anything, like dogs can. But I am sure that taking out all that garbage from my body has made me less prone to sickness, and helped me recover more quickly from injury. I feel good. But since I was only 18 when I started, I didn’t feel the same affects that someone who is 35 and turning vegan for the first time might feel.
CP: What does a normal meal consist for you and Deanna [Ed's wife]? Do you regularly go out and dine or prefer to cook at home?
Ed: We try to stay home during the week and cook, but we go out quite a lot too. We probably eat at home 4 to 5 days a week. We have a few go to dishes we rotate through. We make vegan pizza, burritos, veggie dogs, salad wraps, BBQ Sliders, Sautéed veggies and garlic over rice or noodles, pesto couscous with beans, so many things! Lots of salads. During the holidays we make Thanksgiving style dishes with mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and maybe a field roast. We really enjoy simple dishes with just beans and grains with steamed veggies. When we go out there are plenty of choices around us in Huntington Beach. We live right by Mothers Market and Kitchen, and there is a Native Foods and a Veggie Grill (two examples of vegan food chains starting to grow around the USA) not too far away.
CP: I was going through your and Deanna’s food blog and I have to say some of those meals look insanely good. If you had to pick a top meal from anywhere in the world what would it be? I know you probably travel a lot and have a huge bag to pull from but I hope it’s not to broad of a question.
Ed: Well, the best Vegan restaurant on the west coast USA is Millennium in San Francisco. You can get a topnotch vegan meal there that will impress any foodie. New York city has multiple great high-end vegan restaurants. Our favorites are Blossom, and Candle 79. These places I mention are on the expensive side. Our favorite vegan food in London is a place called Manna (also, a fancy place). In Europe, our favorite is Avalon in Gent, Belgium. My favorite all time meal might have to be the Tempeh Reuben from Avalon. Deanna is saying the Caesar Salad and Ravioli starter from Blossom in NYC, but anything from these places I mention will be really, really good vegan food. Best in L.A. is Madeline’s bistro; they probably have the best vegan dessert available anywhere — their chocolate soufflé. And we just discovered a place in Berlin called Viasko that had incredible food and a chocolate mousse that almost made us cry.
CP: A few years ago, it was very tough to find a decent cruelty free skate shoe. How do you think the skating world and broadly the apparel industry compares for vegans these days?
Ed: Every shoe that has ever had my name on it has been leather free. I think it was harder 15 years ago. I had to wear some really flimsy shoes in the past. But as soon as I was able to design my own signature shoes I made sure they were protective for skateboarders and also vegan. But these days many shoe companies make non-leather shoes because the materials are readily available. Many shoes in a company like New Balance’s line, for instance, are non-leather and they are not doing it for the animals. Emerica, my shoe sponsor deserves a lot of credit for standing by me and working with me through the years to make my shoes and many shoes in the Emerica line suitable for vegans. They even make a link on their website showing all of the vegan shoes for each current line. We, the people, control the companies through what we buy. If nobody is buying leather, they will stop making it. I can only control my tiny part of this massive industry, but at least my dollars go only to vegan shoes.
CP: I watched the documentary on the Beautiful Losers art show and it seemed to bring up a lot of parallels between the skateboarding and art worlds. What affect has skateboarding had on your art, besides the obvious outlet of Deck Graphics?
Ed: Being a skateboarder and growing up around skateboarders has shaped me into the person I am today. So whatever artwork I make stems from the worldview that I live in, and came from. This sounds obvious, but the way a skateboarder sees the world has been helpful in worlds outside of skateboarding, like the art world. Being around the skate world gives you thick skin, and gives you some street smarts. And for me doing Toy Machine all these years has given me an insight into business. Art galleries are also businesses. So in many ways all the seemingly different worlds are the same. It’s just a matter of the language and references changing.
CP: Between ANP, Toy Machine, your personal Art, and skating what is the project that most excites you right now?
I’m excited right now about 3 things. I’m skating more than I have been for the last few years and it feels good. I have some free time this year that I want to use to paint in my studio. I also want to organize a show and book called Wires Crossed, which will be photography based project documenting my years inside the skateboard subculture. Those things I will focus on this year. Plus I have a wonderful wife, a company to run, and some upcoming exhibitions planned in 2013 to deal with.