Words & ?s / Tim "Timbo" Davis
A / Deez Liska
Photo / Cody Liska, Josh Thompson
When Boarderline closed its Anchorage doors, I lost touch with Derek Liska. We both worked at Boarderline and, on occasion, snowboarded together. We partied together too. Not as much as some people partied with him, but enough. Aside from snowboarding and killing it on the mini-ramp, that’s kind of who Deez was. He partied and then he partied some more. And he was always the life of the party. Whether he was recalling an outrageous, near-death experience or he was just telling an everyday story with his telltale commentary and onomatopoeias, he always had something to say.
If one thing can be said of Deez, it’s that he’s had his share of trials and tribulations. From 2006 to 2011, he lived in a bottle, meandering from state to state, staying with whomever would have him. A Jekyll and Hyde complex that switch on and off, alcohol dominated his personality. It was hard not to love Sober Deez, so much that the idea of Sober Deez carried Hammered Deez for as long as his whirlwind of alcohol abuse lasted. Although alcoholism is a lifelong disease, he has managed to keep it at bay for the last 4 years, with no intention of letting it rear it’s drunken head. That gutter lifestyle changed when he met his wife Jessica. If it wasn’t for her, he’d probably still be aimlessly wandering and drinking. Because of her, Deez is now the best version of himself. That person everyone wanted to be around before the alcohol took hold.
I hadn’t seen Deez until I walked into the Juneau Boarderline last year – it had been 8 years since the last time we saw each other. While we talked, I remembered what a special time that was, back in the old Boarderline days. To have a shop that united so many people is an amazing deal. It was an outlaw time. No Internet. No Facebook. Just hanging out with, you know, people face-to-face. Deez was one of those people.
After Boarderline closed in 2006, I lost touch with you. What was life like between then and moving to Juneau, where you are now?
I pretty much straight up time traveled, dude. I went to Portland, then to Juneau, then I went to Hawaii for [my brother] Jake’s wedding. I ended up staying there for six months and then went back to Portland. Then I went back to Anchorage and stayed in Mountain View at Chris Ochap’s house for like six months. That was pretty…rad (laughs). And then I moved back to Hawaii. When I was staying with Ochap, my wife Jessica hit me up because Jake and his wife Kristel were in Hawaii. And Jess was like “you should come to Hawaii,” and I was like “yeah, I should.” So I went to Hawaii to be with her. We were there for a year and a half or so.
So, when the original shop closed it changed things?
Yea, it was like there was nothing to do. I wasn’t doing shit. I was just partying. But it definitely wasn’t like me to do that and only that. It’s weird to think about now. It’s a weird concept to grasp. But it happened and it’s over. I definitely killed it when I was partying though (laughs).
I hear you don’t drink anymore.
No, man. I had to put the “plug in the jug,” as my grandma would say. I partied way too hard. I partied till the end and basically couldn’t party anymore. I was gonna die. I quit drinking four years ago. Which is awesome. It’s kind of weird, thinking back on it now that I’m sober, how or why I was partying so hard. There’s nothing wrong with partying here and there, but I was on a whole other level.
Before the shop, closed I partied hard, but that was just kinda what I did. After the shop closed, I was partying for no reason. Just to pile out I guess.
There may have been a morning I came into work at Indo and found you passed out in a clothing rack. You remember that?
I remember that shit.
What was the most comfortable outwear you snagged off the rack to sleep in?
Dude, there was a Yang jacket from like ’94 in there that I used to sleep with a lot. It was a black jacket that turned into a sleeping bag or something. Yeah, I remember I used to grab that thing, but then it started getting kinda stinky.
I always wondered why that thing never sold (laughs).
(Laughs) Yeah, I don’t know.
Tell me about how the new Boarderline in Juneau came to be.
After Hawaii, [Jessica and I] moved to Juneau and J-Bo [Jake] was like “I want to open a shop,” and I was like, “sweet.” And now we’re here. There wasn’t much in-between that (closing of B-Line and opening of Juneau shop). After the shop closed, the snow and skate community pretty much sucked.
All the competitions, the snowboard camp, everything just stopped. It was like there was nothing to do.
Yeah, exactly. It seemed like when Boarderline closed [in 2006], skateboarding and snowboarding just kinda died down in Alaska. It’s pretty crazy that throughout those years, nothing was really going on. When I first got back to Juneau, there were like no snowboarders or skaters really. There was Jake [Liska] and Bong [Carandang] and a couple others still shredding and there was a couple people at the skatepark, but that was it. Then we reopened the shop and it seemed like things started to pick back up – I’m not saying the shop made it happen, but it definitely helped. That first summer we opened, it felt like skaters and snowboarders started coming out of the woodwork. Now it’s going off. It feels like it’s making a big comeback, which is awesome.
There are a bunch of young kids here that are starting to kill it. There are a couple of good snowboarder kids and a bunch of skateboarder kids. It’s just cool to watch that progression again. I’ve always liked seeing kids come up. And I don’t feel like it’s gonna slow down either. I think it’s gonna keep on spreading.
The Internet wasn’t really around back then the way it is now. Now, it’s everywhere. In what ways do you see the Internet affecting the shop and the community?
The Internet sucks for business, but I mean it kinda hurts everything. A lot of people quit filming and just started piling little clips to put on their Instagram or whatever. But recently skate and snow videos are getting popular again, which is pretty cool. It seemed liked for a while both were falling off.
The Internet kind of fucked everything up, business-wise and loyalty-wise. But now that everyone has gotten used to it, I see that old style coming back – everyone is crewing up like family, like we did back in the beginning. The snowboarding and skateboarding community is starting to make a comeback. Which is rad.
Do you need shops in order for that family or community feeling to exist?
Yeah, if you don’t have a crew, then you’re just kinda wandering. And if there isn’t a local meeting ground, crews can’t form. It’s always fun to hang out with your bros and skate or snowboard, but I think that core snowboard or skateboard shop helps bring people together. It helps unite that community.
How have things changed from the original Boarderline on Arctic to where the it is now?
I was pretty young back then. All I did was go to school. After school, I would take the bus to the shop and go to the skatepark behind Boarderline. That was the first indoor skatepark that Boarderline had I believe. It was dope. It had a 3-foot mini that was the shit and another 6-footer with a bigger extension. That’s where I met Mark Thompson. We basically skated every day and hung out together. My dad [Scott Liska] and my uncle Jay [Liska] would hold the shop down. My uncle Kent [Liska] was in there too a bit. I skated with a couple pros over there too, like Erik Ellington. He would come to Anchorage every summer. I remember Jesse Cross was good at skating the mini and Mike Gorder was one of the best skaters in town at the time.
That was when Boarderline was in its heyday. It was intense. Everybody wanted to be a snowboarder or a skater. This was before the Internet and shit. That’s when snowboarding was in it’s prime. It’s way different now. Now it’s mainstream. There’s no real core anything anymore. Everyone tries to be core, but they’re all owned by corporations so they have to abide by the rules.
Who were the core dudes back then?
My older brother Jake and all his buddies. Dudes like Jesse Burtner, Pete Iverson, Jason Borgstede, Kris Bombeck. The idea of “core” didn’t really exist back then because everyone was core. Everyone would go to Valdez to just heli and rage. Back when heli’s were super cheap. It was my dad and Jay and all those guys just ruling it.
My dad and Jay had the Beastie Boys and shit stay with us. Offspring and Blink-182, back when they were just Blink. Offspring and Pennywise came up for the King of the Hill and we just hung out with them. And Unwritten Law. And Pennywise. NoFX. Rancid. It was cool because those were my jams.
That’s so cool. I remember the Boarderline Team was always a big deal. You guys always rolled pretty deep when you traveled. What was it like riding, competing and traveling with the team?
We would all roll up to the Vans Triple Crowns and we’d blast Boarderline stickers everywhere. The Boarderline Team was well known all over back then. We would party super hard and then compete the next day. I actually always did really well. It was always like me, Dre [Andre Spinelli], Lando [Mark Landvik], Jake [Liska] and Collagreens [Ryan Collard]. It was a pretty heavy squad. That was during the heyday of Boarderline when we were like straight up superstars. Before I blew out my knee.
How’d you do that?
I had just gotten back to Alaska from a Triple Crown. I was riding with my buddy Bill Preston and doing this trick I just learned, it was a backside 720 Japan, all corked out. I did it and landed in a pothole and my knee blew the fuck up. After that it was never the same. That was a climactic time in my life and in my life with Boarderline. It was a huge turning point that should have never turned out the way it did. Everyone was blowing up at that point, getting sponsored, signing contracts, all the good shit. I just signed a contract with Mission Six and someone else, I can't remember. I was all stoked, thinking that I had made it, but that's not the way it turned out.
After I blew my knew out, my dad sent me to Juneau to work at the Boarderline there. Then I came back to Anchorage to work at Indo Skatepark. All that time, I was basically just watching the years pass and letting it all slip.
Your dad is a legend. I still hear his influence in my voice. Does that happen to you?
Oh, fuck yeah, man. I think we all talk like him. I think it got engrained in everybody’s vocabulary. I fully do that shit. Like, not even on purpose. I mean, sometimes I do it on purpose cause it’s tight (laughs).
(Laughs) What do you think your dad’s legacy is?
Fuck man, everything. He straight ran shit. Everybody mocks or copies what he says, everybody in the snowboarding game that is doing any kind of business, I guarantee, is basing half of their business on stuff he did. Kinda using Boarderline as a template.
I can see that. What do you think made Boarderline so successful?
I dunno, man. It was just like a big family. Even if you weren’t part of the Boarderline crew, you felt like you were part of something bigger than just hanging out. Just knowing that you were involved, that was enough. How stoked were you when you got a job there?
Dude, it was like the greatest day of my life and then within 30 seconds I think your dad called me out for being an idiot. I was like, “what did I sign up for?”
And then you get locked in. You’re like, “oh my gosh, I made it.” And then you’re like, “oh shit. What did I do?” And before you knew it, you’re that dude: the Boarderline guy.
The shop was the backbone, but there was so much more. Just camp itself was amazing.
To me, snowboard camp was just hanging out with Mark Thompson. We were the two snowboard and skateboard punks that were lurking around Girdwood the whole time. I remember this one time I had to lock up the skatepark and me and Mark rolled up in his VW Van, we were wearing bandanas and shit and drinking forties, all thugged out, blasting “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. We rolled in super hot, like we were doing a drive-by. Everybody in the park looked at us like we were about to rob them. So, everyone bailed. I don’t think we even closed it up, we just stayed and skated (laughs). That shit was pretty funny.
Camp was seriously the coolest shit ever. Every year, that was what we waited for. Snowboarding and being able to hang out with everyone was tight. Skateboarding at the park was tight too. And then there were parties. You don’t get that much going on at many other camps. It was an outlaw camp.
What made it an outlaw camp?
The kind of people that were there and just the way that it was set up – snowmachines towing you around, the Glacier Bowl with all the kickers and the rails with music blasting into the bowl, people from out of state coming up, the Juneau guys rolling deep. It was a shit show, but somehow everything about it just worked.
I remember Landvik was always Head Digger and he’d haul us around on the snowmachine. I think he would tell us what to do and just pass out on the hip.
(Laughs) Probably. Lando’s Hip.
Have you and Jake put any thought into opening up another Boarderline in Anchorage, picking up where Scott and Jay left off?
We’ve talked about it, yea. It would definitely be cool to go to Anchorage and start Boarderline back up. To actually have a Boarderline there again would be the shit.