Meet the Pro: Skateboarding with a Dogtown Legend

As a third generation Dogtown skater, Eric “Tuma” Britton has been skateboarding since he was given his first skateboard by his father at five years old. From being part of the inside circle who made skateboarding what is is today, to being one of the most influential and recognized pro skateboards in history, “Tuma” has been at the forefront of of skateboard culture for over thirty years.

In a testament to his dedication for the sport, Tuma has shifted from riding pro to coaching the next generation of pros. While the world watches as skateboarding make its Olympic debut, Tuma has been teaching his unique “Tuma Method” to get kids of all ages in the flow for the last decade.

Beyond kids, Tuma is now sharing skateboard experiences in LA as a goFlow local expert. “We’ll give you a skateboard lesson and history lesson in Venice,” Tuma says. “I’ve been here my whole life. I will introduce you to the locals so you feel like you are part of the community. You’ll enjoy yourself, and if you haven’t already skated you’ll go away from the experience wanting more”

For someone who grew up in the punk-rock world of the Santa Monica skate scene, Tuma’s compassion and experience while teaching might come as a surprise. Yet he’s become a celebrated figure and mentor in the community – so much so that a school in Malibu has enlisted him to help build the country’s first skate and surf program at an elementary level.

Whether you find him in the park, taking his dogs for a walk with his son, or at a sweat lodge he frequents with close friends, he truly strives to live every aspect of his life in a state of flow.

Here, we sat down with Tuma, and his seven-year-old-son Taj for some words of wisdom.

LA ONLY: Click here to book a skateboard experience Session with Tuma!

What is the first thing you do in the morning?

Tuma: The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is say a prayer. I ask to please guide me through this day, help others, and keep me focused on the positive.

Taj: I say thank you for waking me up.

What do you have for breakfast?

Tuma: I have oatmeal with butter and a lot of maple syrup or a breakfast burrito. I like turmeric, ginger, or wheatgrass shots. Sometimes I have a peanut butter smoothie or a green smoothie. It depends on my mood. But I always add always blueberries and hemp protein. My go-to place for smoothies in Venice is Whole Foods.

Taj: I usually have a pastry, like a cinnamon roll with sugar on top. Or cereal. I like whole wheat cheerios.

How did you start skateboarding?

Tuma: When I was five my dad came home on my birthday with a plastic orange skateboard from Kmart. I took it outside and started skating. I had the balance and naturally took to it. There was a driveway by my house I would go to where I would just grab the rail and do power slides. Granted I didn’t know who the Z-boys were, or Dogtown. I was just a little kid.

How did it evolve for you to continue into becoming a true expert in the sport?

Tuma: When I was ten I moved to Santa Monica. That’s when things really took off. I was down by the beach where everyone was surfing and skating. When I was 11 my father told me never to come down to Venice because it was crazy at the time. There was a lot of gang violence. Now that I am a father I understand where he was coming from. But at the time, as soon as my father told me not to come down to Venice, the first thing I did was come down. Being a skateboarder maybe I was a bit rebellious – or just more of an innovator. But that’s when I met Jay Adams, Tony Alva, and Jim Muir who were leaders on the scene.

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YWhat was it like to be on the Venice skate scene during an iconic era? 

Tuma: The Zephyr Team was a team of young guys who had a shop in Santa Monica. Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom got all the kids together. All these kids had dysfunctional households but amazing talent. Their outlet was skateboarding and they thrived at it because that was a way to release their energy. Those are the guys who brought skateboarding to the public in an extreme way. Dogtown started to emerge after that near the burnt down pier and there were wild dogs everywhere. Those are the guys who brought me up here in Venice. I’m third generation, if you want to call it, Dogtown.

What do you find you get out of skateboarding you don’t find anywhere else?

Tuma: What I get out of skateboarding is the freedom that skateboarding brings you. And the creativity it allows for. Every skateboarder is going to do the same trick, but there’s no standard for how that trick should be done. So it’s all about expression. You’re going to do the trick, but how are you going to make it look stylish, that’s what sets you apart. I get a lot of the sense of freedom. I don’t have to be stuck in doing everything the same way. There are no rules.

How do you get in the Flow when you Skate?

Tuma: I feel like an artist when I’m on a skateboard. It’s like painting. It’s a flow. I feel connected to something outside. The imaginations of skateboarders is incredible. Who would look at a handrail instead and say I want to ride that thing? I think top level athletes are like superheroes. The falls are like getting hit by a car. So it takes a special individual to get back up and continue on. It’s not for the weak. And to get through it and keep going, they all need to be in the flow.

What does being in the Flow feel like for you?

Tuma: Flow is a state of being. I don’t even think it’s a state of mind. It’s more of a body feeling. When you’re out there surfing or skating, it’s difficult to explain. It’s just that connection. Something happens where everything turns to magic. Everything turns to flow. It’s easy, and you don’t even realize you’re doing these movements. That’s what being in the flow is.

Taj: It’s feeling the movements. Well, sorta just like, clean lines. Not really tick-tacking at all.

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How were you taught to skate and how does that influence how you teach?

Tuma: I am a teacher, but I didn’t have a teacher who taught me. I had mentors who guided me along the way. One thing skateboarding brings to my life is drive. That’s something you can’t teach. You have to do it every day from a young age and really love it. You have to have drive because you’re going to fall, you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to cry, you’re going to suffer – you’re going to go through all of these things, yet you’ll get back up and continue to try again.

How does that drive impact other aspects of life?

Tuma: What’s beautiful is that can translate to any area in your life. You’re not going to succeed in everything. That’s what I learned through skateboarding, and I think that’s what it can teach people. I didn’t realize this until I was older. really taught me to persevere.

Who has inspired you the most in your life?

Tuma: Who inspires me the most right now is my son, Taj. Who’s inspired me in the past, Jeff Hartles, Jay adams, Aaron Murry, the list goes on. It’s hard to say who has inspired the most because it’s a collective thing. These people have shaped me. It’s inspiring to see success from other people despite struggles.

How do you think teaching kids how to skate changes the way they see the world?

Tuma: Teaching kids how to skate allows them to see possibilities that might not have been there before. It opens up their subconscious to many things. The creativity comes and opens up a part of their brain. It allows them to see a handrail and think oh, I can ride that. It allows them to think out of the box. It will help them achieve commitment. It’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of work. It’s failure and success which will help them from childhood through life. Through skateboarding they can learn to take those hits and continue chasing their dreams.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Tuma: Helping to mold young minds in a new way is the most rewarding part. Sometimes I’ll have a flash of awareness that reminds me the importance of what I’m doing. A kid will write me a note or draw me a picture of me and him, and that’s incredible. And I get to skate with my son every day. It’s the best.

Taj: I like always meeting other people. And skateboarding with my dad.

When did you realize you wanted to be a Skate board coach?

Tuma: I didn’t seek to become a coach, it just turned out that way. 10 years ago a friend asked me to teach his son. I didn’t think much of it, but it slowly started to flow into teaching once or twice a week. It’s turned into a thriving business. I teach 7 days a week, and 5 or 6 kids a day. It’s great!

Taj: I feel like it’s important that you like what you do!

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You built your own technique of coaching and started a program skateboarding. Tell us about that?

Tuma: I have a particular method, the Tuma Method. I’m great at connecting with the kids I teach. I put myself in their shoes. I get on their level. I don’t stand up above them in an authoritarian way. But I also don’t let them give up. I don’t let them fall their first lessons because it might deter them completely.I make it fun. Sometimes there can be some fear there, and I want them to get through that and experience fun their first few times. So it’s based on compassion and understanding. They’re kids – they are beautiful souls.

Do you think you have to be a natural to be good? How can you tell if someone will be the next Olympic champ?

Tuma: You can look at a kid and tell how much ability he or she has based on the flow. Some kids might not get all the tricks, but they have the flow. Some kids have all the tricks but not flow. You can almost see it in their eyes.  It’s very difficult to become a top athlete. To be the best, you need to be fearless. You need to have the flow. Strength and core. Focus. Coordination. Flexibility. And work ethic to train. And sometimes even the best can burn out. So it’s very hard to make it to the Olympics. At the beginning, though, a kid doesn’t know about the Olympics. He just knows he wants to be the best.

Taj: You have to have teamwork. You have to work with other people too.

Last thing you do at night?

Tuma: Before going to bed I always say a prayer. I say thank you for my day, for my family, for my movements, and my ability to function, and mother earth. That’s what I do before I go to sleep. It’s saying thank you for my day.

Taj: Sometimes I guide my stuffies [stuffed animals] and hide them behind my pillow so they don’t get lost in my covers. And I say thank you too.

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LA ONLY: Click here to book a session with Tuma!