Cairo doesn't have a trick named after him, but he does have a piece of terrain that bears his name. Pieces of terrain, in fact. Somewhere along the line it came to be that any gnarly ledge off stairs, the kind of ledge you get pitched from before falling 7 feet into scorpion pose, could be dubbed a "Cairo ledge" and people would know what you are talking about. Through the years, Cairo has skated things most people shouldn't skate and he makes it look damn good. And sound damn good- his video parts got an entire generation of skate rats into indy rock artists like Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. Trick selection tasteful, steeze steezy, skating spots that people really shouldn't- this is Cairo Foster, and this is The Cairo Foster Interview.
How long did you live in Egypt and what was that like?
I spent three years living in Egypt and as luck had it, that’s where I began skateboarding. There wasn’t much to do there aside from the usual things associated with school, so skateboarding was an awesome outlet. My dad hooked me up with a Gator complete before we flew out to Egypt during the Winter Break of my 8th grade. Looking back on that purchase, I’m grateful things went down like that.
Didn’t you go back there with Kenny Reed on a Skateboarder trip some years later?
I’ve never been to Egypt with Kenny, but I did go there ten years after I’d left for a Skateboarder Magazine trip. I went out there with Aaron Meza, Mike O’Meally, Brad Staba and Brian Anderson. It was great revisiting Ma’adi, the suburb I lived in, and checking out what we had access to skate. Fortunately during that Skateboarder trip, we found a lot more stuff to skate.
Do you have any friends there still having to deal with ISIS or any of the other Middle East skirmishes?
I lived there quite some time ago, so keeping in contact with people was as easy as hopping on Facebook or Instagram. I’ve really only kept in contact with a couple of guys from those days, and they left Egypt after high school too so really, I don’t know anyone out there dealing with the heavy stuff.
Given that you moved around a lot as a kid, how do you think it’s affected your world perspective today?
Yeah, I definitely moved around a shitload, sometimes attending two different schools in a year, but in the end I feel fortunate to have been exposed to numerous cultures both nationally and internationally. It’s prepared me for the traveling I’ve done throughout my skateboarding career as well as exposed me to so many viewpoints that make up my surroundings. I’m an advocate for continued exploration simply because it gets you out of your comfort zone while letting you experience new things.
Do you feel more comfortable maintaining a semi-nomadic lifestyle still or do you prefer to stay in one place these days?
Internally, I’m torn between slowing down on the travel or continuing to explore the globe. But in reality, given the opportunity I generally jump at any and all chances to travel. It can get overwhelming at times, but at the same time I tell myself that I’ve been given an amazing life to live and I do my best to embrace all that comes my way.
When and why did you first move out to San Francisco?
The first time I moved to San Francisco was either the summer of 1996 or ‘97. Basically, my friend and I wanted to get out of the South and live somewhere that had a ton of spots, and growing up I had watched my fair share of videos that all led me to believe San Francisco was a skateboarding mecca. I also had traveled to California the summer before thanks to my friend Jeff Davis which gave me a chance to check out Southern California and Northern California. I preferred the north.
Favorite OG SF spot?
I’m gonna have to go for Wallenburg, back in the days when you could skate the picnic tables in the back. And for a downtown spot, my love was at Blackrock. In the ‘burbs, cruising the Avenues was always amazing.
Didn’t you go to SF State? How did you balance that with a budding skate career?
I attended a bit of college, both on campus and online. At the time, it was important to focus on that aspect of life while skating and working. However, as my skateboarding career grew my ability to attend college was compromised, so I never got a degree.
Click to watch Cairo Foster's commercial for Enjoi's "Tweak The Beef"
How did Supernaut start and how did it end?
Supernaut was a collective of three brilliant minds, Mike Ballard, Ted Newsome, and one of my favorite skaters, Paul Sharpe. Paul reached out to me after Supernaut came about, so the true beginnings of the brand are unclear as is the end. I’m grateful for the years I rode for Supernaut. To this day, I still have a copy of my first check from skateboarding. It was a $250 check, a major turning point in skateboarding for me that made me realize that there could be a long-term path to be taken on my skateboard.
Why did Popwar end and how much of that came down to the distribution agreement with Giant?
I think the whole thing with Giant Distribution changing hands from the old owners to the new owners resulted in the downfall of Popwar as well as a handful of other companies. Unfortunately, I think Popwar was tied directly to Giant Distribution, so it wasn’t like any of us could take Popwar out of there and shop it around. It’d be awesome to bring that brand back, but in hindsight I’m thankful that I had such a rad opportunity to do something with a group of friends.
Do you know what happened to any former Popwar riders? Some of them seemed poised for great careers, like Aaron Johnson.
Hmm, Tim Tim is still riding for Element skateboards which actually use to be a part of Giant Distribution. Raymond Molinar does WKND skateboards with Grant Yansura. Rob Gonzalez does BLVD skateboards. Justin Strubing rides for Santa Cruz Skateboards while Dennis Durrant rides for Element Australia and Adidas and Mark Del Negro gets boards from HOPPS. Aside from that, I’m not too sure what’s going on with some of the crew. Popwar was a great time and I’m thankful that our crew was all under the same umbrella for a few years.
Favorite memory from the Real days?
There’s a lotta memories from those four years at REAL so I’d have to think about the best ones, but off the top of my head I remember being on tour out East and it must have been Dennis Busenitz’s first tour. Anyway, we had to get Gerwer from jail in Atlanta I think and while Mic-E was sorting out all the details we were camped out in a nearby parking lot. Max bet Dennis $100 if he could do 100 nollie flips in a row. Anyway, fast forward to what we all know about Dennis now, and you can only imagine how many nollie flips he did that day.
When’s the last time you tried to nollie hard something? Gun to your head, how many stairs could you take one down?
It’s debateable whether they’re hardflips. Hah. But, I guess if it really came down to it I may be able to throw it down ten stairs or so. I had a REAL ad that Morford shot doing it down a double set and then in a REAL video I did one over a ten stair rail. So...yeah, ten to twelve maybe? Let’s just hope there’s no one pointing a gun to my head.
Are you still self-conscious about them or are you old enough now not to care?
I wouldn’t say I’m self conscious about my nollie hardflips. I’m more concerned about my switch frontside flips because I’m actually able to do them both ways, but whatever. They’re just tricks and some feel better than others, and some look better than others.
Who has the best frontside noseslide in skateboarding?
Rick Howard knows how to do them.
How did the release of “The Reason” affect you?
“The Reason” was awesome. Ty Evans! Thank you for hooking it up, and Dan Wolfe, thanks for filming too. I got to do another project with each of these epic dudes. Ty and Fully Flared, and Real to Reel with Wolfe. Thankful to all the filmers who I’ve skated with.
Click to watch Cairo Foster in Transworld's "The Reason"
Fast forwarding a bit… Any favorite tricks from OverVert?
I really liked the backlip transfer and the nollie flip at the end of my part. Stair count wise, it’s not the most stairs I’ve nollie flipped, but overall size I think it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever nollie flipped. Oh...and getting a line always feels nice. I liked the one where I flicked off the security goon in China.
Louie told of the stoke behind your double set nollie flip in China, any other epic tales worth telling?
Jimmy Carlin everything! I can’t air his laundry, but if you ever have a chance to party with Jumping Jimmy, be sure to take the next day off because it’s gonna be a BIG night!
Word is the whole team got broke off filming, do you think you have another full part in you?
Hmm, I don’t remember who got broke off but doing another part would be rad. I don’t have any big projects on the level of Oververt or Fully Flared planned. I am working on a Transworld interview, and nowadays any print editorial piece typically comes with an online video part. So there’ll be something like that. I’d love to do another full blown video part, but unless one of the companies I’m riding for is doing a project, I don’t know if I’ll just film a big online video part.
Worst injury you’ve ever had?
Sacking a rail and falling on my back. Did the first one while filming for Chomp On This, and the second one during that REAL trip that Dennis did 100 nollie flips in a row. Both took me about 6 weeks before I could really stand up straight and walk without much trouble. I’ve had a handful of surgeries, but it’s a given that you’re out for a while with that kinda stuff. The two I’m talking about here are just on the surface, so it was gnarly that it took so long to heal up. I couldn’t skate for three months with both of them.
Favorite enjoi ad?
“Lost in Transition” with the whole team, and one with Jose atop a massive double set where he looking down them and the caption says something along the lines of “Contemplating originality”.
Click to watch Cairo Foster and the rest of the team in Enjoi's "Bag of Suck"
Is Wieger trying to rip off Nestor’s haircut steez? You kinda got the wavy locks for it too…
Hah...not sure about that one. Nestor’s got a look just like Wieger does, and I’m gonna have to say that Wieger is more style conscious than Tor.
How did you get into bands like Modest Mouse and Built to Spill, and how does it feel to have contributed to some of their success by skating to their songs before they had a wide audience?
Whoa...that’s a big assertion, but I’m definitely hyped to hear that peeps listen to either of those bands because they heard them in a video I skated in. I’m thankful that Ty knew what song would work for my Reason part. He knows how to make an impactful video, and then to have Morford and Wolfe follow it up with a Modest Mouse song. Well, I think that solidified my place as a skater who listens to indie rock. With Oververt, I finally got to skate to a Guided By Voices song which is probably the band most responsible for me getting into Built to Spill and Modest Mouse. I feel as though I was really lucky that the record labels allowed us to use that song for my part.
Any other “up and coming” bands you’d recommend?
Man...I haven’t a clue. I kinda stick to my classics unless someone gives me a heads up about a new band. I couldn’t claim to have an edge on any bands. I am heading to ACL soon, and I’m excited to check out some of the smaller bands that’ll be playing.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Since the last few questions were about music, I should mention that I really like Skrillex, Justice, and Underworld.
Click to watch Cairo Foster in Tiltmode Army's "Bonus Round"
Some dude in the comments section of your Chromeball interview credits you with getting him into Noam Chomsky. What do you think of Chomsky, and is reality just a shared hallucination?
I think reading it essential for personal growth. Whether it’s Chomsky or a teen novel, it’s good to take some time away from the screens and focus on a book or magazine.
How is it skating on the Etnies crew when you’re at least 8 years older than the next guy? Do they make you feel your age at all?
The age question is always a loaded one because people wanna let themselves believe that age is indicative of what’s possible on their board. I’m hyped to get in the van with any skater who’s down to shred, young and old. In regards to the Etnies crew, it’s actually been a long time since I’ve been on tour with them but the last time I did go on tour, I was reminded about how much we all love to skateboard and that when I’m on a trip and we’re not skating, I get really antsy. I need to mention that I’ve spent a lot of tours with Leo Romero and instead of worrying about how good he was, or anyone else for that matter, I was more thinking about how rad it is to skate with dudes that kill it on a skateboard. My time will come when I’m not supposed to be in the van but hanging with the younger dudes doesn’t make me think that.
You got sponsors under Dwindle, NHS and Sole Tech… Do you consider this diversifying your portfolio to mitigate risk?
On paper, that’s what you could call it. But it seems like once you lose a major sponsor it doesn’t matter how diverse your portfolio is, other sponsors are likely to follow if you don’t pick up the pieces. In my mind, staying active both on and off the board is what mitigates risk.
We love you for skating some of the tallest and scariest ledges ever. What’s the gnarliest “Cairo ledge” you ever skated?
Thanks for the shout out on that. I’d have to say this ledge in the Presidio (San Francisco) was the scariest ledge I ever skated. I shot a sequence with Pete Thompson doing a frontside boardslide to fakie. It was double sided and well over my head. Then there’s another one in St. Petersburg that I tried to backtail. Some of the attempts were in 411VM. Anthony Claravall recently mentioned to me that Justin Strubing was trying to talk me out of skating it. I ended up front tailing it years later.
What about that courthouse ledge in Oakland that you nosegrinded in Fully Flared? That thing looks monstrous. How long did that take?
I love that ledge. It’s been good to me. Best granite ever and just the right height for a handful of tricks.
Roughest flat gap experience: switch flip the rock gap at 3rd and Army, tre flip the Bay blocks, or nollie flip that street gap in SF (Fully Flared)?
Switch frontside flip on the Bay Blocks gap. Way harder than the tre because I had to ollie up the blocks switch.
What’s the biggest difference between skating in 2001 and today for you?
There seems to be a lot less to skate in San Francisco.
Working on anything for 2015/16?
Just an interview for Transworld Skateboarding. We’ll see how that turns out.
What’re you going to do now that you’ve finished all these damn questions?