Tom Flinchbaugh Interview: Santa Gnarbara And Wheels Over Paradise

[Feature image thanks to Jeff Suchy – Follow him on instagram @godofbiscuits1]

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Hey Tom, can you give us a few basics to kick off, Name, age, where you’re from, where you’re living?

My name is Tom Flinchbaugh, I’m currently 25 years old, grew up in Santa Barbara but live in Santa Cruz now.

You might be better known to some out there as Sanata Gnarbara, you’ve been putting out some rad media a while now. How long have you been skating and filming?

Santa Gnarbara is definitely better known than me haha. But I am the soul person behind it and everything SG does. I’ve been skating and playing with cameras since I can remember. I used to borrow my dads handy cam to record me and friends mountain biking or snowboarding, whatever we were into at the time, and I would edit the videos trying to imitate my favorite snowboard or mountain bike movies that I grew up watching. It later faded during high school and I didn’t really pick up a camera again until I found downhill skating when I was 19. Downhill skating was just a natural fit for me. With my love for being in the mountains, my surfing/skate/snowboard background and my passion for going fast, downhill skating just made sense and I was instantly addicted.

Which came first? And how do they instigate and inspire each other for you?

Both have roots in my life back to when I was just a little 13 year old grom. But I didn’t become serious about cameras until after I had discovered downhill skating. Since day one of starting downhill I’ve been playing with go pros and making little edits. But it wasn’t until maybe two years into downhill that I bought my first dslr camera. That’s when things really started to take off. Truly it’s the skating and the crew I had in front of me that inspired me to make videos in the beginning. It felt like we were doing something new and different and I wanted to capture and document it. And that’s still very much the motivation today.

Have you taken a skate approach to your camera or did you go to school to hone these skills?

I’ve always been a self learner. If I have passion for something I’ll put in the hours to learn it. I was in nursing school at the time cameras and skating started to really take off for me. I was putting in a huge amount of hours and money into making these skate videos. People started treating me like a professional. Eventually I came to realize that this should be my job. Cameras, photography and videography were what I truly wanted to do with my life. I dropped out of school and started working with anyone I could doing video. I did weddings, commercial shoots, tons of free skate videos, anything and everything to get the knowledge and experience I needed. I did start some editing classes but quickly dropped out once I realized I could learn everything I needed online or through people I had made connections with and didn’t need school to be successful.

Another skill set that really pushed me into it was the follow driving. Before I ever started filming skaters I had spent years on canyon roads to race tracks driving cars. Follow cam came really naturally to me. My dad raced cars and I grew up going to the race track pitting for him. I knew what cars would handle the best, I knew how to tune them for follow cam, and I knew their limits and how to stay safe behind my friend. Anyone who has filmed with me can see how serious I take it and the trust I’ve built with them has been key to my success in filming downhill skaters.

How long has Santa Gnarbara been a thing? What is it really?

The name Santa Gnarbara originally started with Max Myers and the original slide jams and outlaw race. But about 3-4 years ago the local crew adopted the name for our media channel. Really it was just a name for the videos and photos I was putting out. Now Santa Gnarbara is a lot of things. Foremost it’s a huge place and community filled with some of the most amazing roads I’ve ever skated. It’s a truly special zone for downhill. SG is also a core group of guys who were the first true locals to start downhilling these runs everyday. And it’s the name of my media company and of course the yearly Santa Gnarbara Downhill! It’s fucking amazing how big SG has become. It all started with some GoPro edits on a YouTube channel and an Instagram.

You’ve been pretty active in Santa Barbara with regard to the Skateboard Ban. There is still a ban right? Skaters lost? Is it blanket or just specific spots?

The crew was active through the whole banning process. As a community we really came together and represented ourselves beyond what anyone expected. In the end we still lost and they banned downhill skating specifically on three of our most skated and best roads. So far I’ve seen the ban have no effect on the amount of skating going down, which is awesome. It’s just the hand that skating has always been dealt. I’m ok with the ban. We’ve been running from the police avoiding tickets since day one. I’m ok with skating staying illegal. Personally I think it’s how it should be, ha ha.

You’ve have been able to host a race still thought right? Will there be another Santa Gnarbara race in 2016?

Yes we can still host the race! We will be having another race in 2016! The county and national forest service have been really rad in helping us put on the event.

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It seems your effort is paying out some opportunity, and you have a feature length film, Wheels Over Paradise, out now? I’ve read a bit, but can you tell us in you words what it’s about?

I got the opportunity to team up with another producer to do a full length documentary about the downhill scene in Santa Barbara. Paul Mathieu saw coverage of the ban on the news and in the local paper and sought me out to see if there was enough for a story. Once he saw my videos and heard about the history he basically said we’re doing this, and I was down haha. So I helped to create the story, bring in the people and run the interviews and of course film and edit the riding sequences. Paul has tons of experience in the film festival and documentary world so he handled the technical aspects, directing, and did the overall editing and filming. Together we’ve really created something special that aims to capture a small piece of the downhill scene that’s taking place. It tells the history of downhill in Santa Barbara, covers some of our more recent and serious accidents, the ban, and the event.

Can you tell us a bit more about how it all came together? Who is involved? How long did it take?

Since this movie addresses current events in SB we wanted to do it in time for this years film festival. It took us about 6 months to get from idea to finished movie. Everyone in the Santa Gnarbara scene is involved. All the boys like Dave billesbach, Tyler Howell, Eric singer, Max Myers, Kevin Reimer, Louie Pillioni and more. We even were able to interview the CHP and county supervisors.

Is the film purely for entertainment value or is there a message here?

At its most basic level the film aims to record and document something that might have otherwise faded into the abyss. I think it’s true value will be shown in 30 years when we’re too old and fried to remember any of it haha. One theme in the movie is considering the governments role in our lives and how far someone will go in order to pursue their passions. It sorta aims to show the grey areas in the law and unveil these so called criminal skaters. We interview the CHP as well as one of the Santa Barbara County Supervisors in an effort to show both sides of the issues. But besides all the interviews and awesome archive footage there’s plenty of really intense follow cam sequences to keep you entrained. All the highlights from the last 3 years of driving.

You have the film submitted to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival right? Will you be taking this to other festivals?

We will be taking this to other festivals! I know we’ve submitted to a few others up and down the west coast. We’ll be announcing as we know.

Congrats! Seems you have some great riders (and you, which is actually huge) to get things going, what’s the plan for 2016?

Do what we do best. Provide non-stop core edits and media, travel to rad places and skate new roads.

Seems you have all kinds of awesome going on, is there anything we’re missing? Are you still going to put out content on your own channel?

Oh yes, the Santa Gnarbara channel will stay just as active, if not more active than ever haha. I’ll always need a place where I can put out whatever edits I feel like. Somewhere I’m free to be as creative or as different as I want. I’ll always make sure to save some of that dank fire kush for SG. Santa Gnarbara won’t ever change.

The other thing I’m working on is Team Take Forever with my friend and partner Caden Castellini. Team Take Forever is probably my funnest project right now and the whole idea is to not take it too serious. But despite our lazy carefree attitude we’re actually getting shit done and Team Take Forever is definitely growing. We got new products and media in the works and you’ll be seeing them in the next couple months.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Famous last words or words of wisdom? Sponsor Shout Outs? Hi Mom?

I get hit up by a lot of kids hoping to get to where I am now. I hope this interview inspires them to actually make it happen. Because that’s all it takes. If you love it, go do it. Go buy a camera, film your friends, and don’t stop. It’s never too late. People like to tell me I’m lucky. Luck has little to do with it. Passion and a lot of hours is what made it happen.

That and I want to say thank you too all our fans and anyone who watches or follows our stuff. I truly couldn’t have gotten here without all the homies who let me film them and the people who shared and enjoyed our videos. Thank you.

[Feature image thanks to Jeff Suchy – Follow him on instagram @godofbiscuits1]

Wheels Over Paradise is available for digital download now! Link here: https://wheelsoverparadise.vhx.tv/packages/wheels-over-paradise