Zooming out, whether you’re watching his footage or looking at his brand work, you can see through-lines and again, consistency that reflects a lot of thought, attention to detail, and a sense of humor and lightness that grounds everything he takes on. It’s a nice reminder that whether you're breaking yourself off to get a clip or pushing towards a deadline, getting shit done is always about finding a way to make it fun.
That’s Cairo Foster and this is us getting nerdy about work, skateboarding, and how to navigate worlds that can feel so disparate at times.
ONE37pm: You’ve mentioned moving around a lot in interviews. What were your parents doing for work that led to relocating so often?
Cairo Foster: My dad was in the Air Force. He did 20 years active duty and 16 years civil service. We moved a ton; sometimes I would move schools twice in a year. When I started high school, I spent a couple years in one place. I was getting into those formative years and it was split between New Mexico, Egypt then a couple years in Florida to finish high school.
Did you notice how different the education systems were?
I was definitely too young to pick up on it. When I had my daughter and we were looking into elementary school options in Oakland, CA —Oakland has some really great schools and some really challenged schools—I was asked by a family member what my best experience was in school and I never even thought about that. I just remember being the new kid and getting in fights all the time.
But when I thought about it, in the context of my daughter, I realized my favorite school was in Egypt. It was an international school that was K through 12 and because it was private, the teachers were really invested in the students. When I moved back to the States for 11th and 12th grade, I went to public school, and then transferred into an art magnet school which was really good because it focused on creativity.
So aside from constantly moving, you got fully immersed in skateboarding. Did that cause any friction with your parents, wanting to pursue skating instead of taking the college route?
It's funny. I've thought about this a lot. I don't really recall any moment where either of my parents were truly advocating for which college I was going to or anything like that. There was just an expectation that I was going to college because I was super-duper into everything science based. I was like, ‘I'm going to MIT!’ I look back on it and think, ‘Dude, you are so way off track to go into MIT. It takes more than just good grades.’ I had no idea.
The other reason I liked the 11th and 12th grade year at the magnet school is because there were a lot of skateboarders there who were super artistic—I never skipped school until I met all those quote unquote, “cool skaters”. And then when my parents were getting divorced, it was like, ‘I'm gonna skip school. I'm gonna go skateboard.' It was really easy to pass all the tests or whatever.
I have this theory as to why so many pro skaters don’t go to college: it’s more than just the travel or obligations, because you can pull all that off and get a degree as some skaters have done. For a civilian, you go to school for four or eight years and it could be another four or eight before you see any benefit or even start to do what you really set out to do.
In skateboarding, you could go pro in high school, start getting checks, maybe even have a shoe or some big endorsements. Because you’re already doing it, it’s easy to think “fuck school.” Is that fair?
That’s very accurate. I dropped out of high school. I don't have a four year degree. There's a lot of reasons behind that. I chose to drop out of high school because they were going to flunk me completely out, even though I was getting straight As, because I wasn't going and they had attendance requirements. I wasn’t emancipated but I didn't live with my mom, so there were some legalities around it and I had to take care of my own shit. I thought it was better to not destroy my GPA, dropout, and get a GED. I had to start working more hours because I was living with a friend, and, to me, it was more enticing to go to California not necessarily to follow the dream of becoming a pro skater, but I knew how to take care of myself and make money, so why not do it in the best place to skate?
I couldn't process the idea of how to work 30 to 40 hours, skate six to eight hours, because you're so excited in California and then go to college. I eventually did go to college and completed a handful of years. I don't have any degrees that I can be like, ‘Hey, check out this piece of paper, check out my document!’
I personally don't like to talk about it too much because I'm a huge advocate of education but also, there's a lot to be said about getting that real life experience. A year of school, a year of life… could really help you rather than spending four years in a school aimlessly to get a degree you might not use and build a ton of debt.