Corbin Harris is a busy man. In the past 12 hours alone he’s been to the dentist, paid a visit to the accountants, signed some contracts and renewed his driving license at the RTA. “Any boring stuff you can think of, I did it today,” he laughs over the phone from his Sydney abode.
Needless to say, this isn’t a typical day for the globetrotting professional skateboarder and TV personality. His itinerary over the last couple of months has involved flying to Aspen to cover the Winter X-Games for Red Bull, heading to New Zealand to cover the Wellington Bowl-a-Rama, travelling back to Sydney to cover the Bondi Bowl-a-Rama, embarking on a 10-day trip of Australia with some of the best skateboarders in the world, and then flying to Melbourne for the Grand Prix.
Despite having reached a point in his career where he’s able to travel, skate and get paid for it, Corbin’s worked for what he’s got. He spent nine years as an amateur skateboarder, and there were times during those nine years where doubts, uncertainties and very little cash almost led him to pack it all in.
“Me and my parents called it ‘The University Degree of Skateboarding’”, he reminisces. “I was borrowing money to go on trips, getting in debt, coming back from a trip, getting photos in a magazine but having to do labouring, concreting and other jobs like that to get me through. It’s only been the last four or five years where I’ve had enough money to really enjoy myself. I’m really living the life I dreamed of, and I’m so stoked about it.”
Corbin grew up in the southern Sydney suburb of Miranda, where he immersed himself in team sports of all shapes and sizes. Cricket, soccer, tennis, football, water polo – you name it, he played it. And after showing particular prowess on the rugby pitch, his parents made the decision to transfer him to Waverly College - one of Sydney’s top rugby union schools.
But when a skate park (the legendary Vert-X, no less) opened close to the then 13-year-old’s home, any aspirations of pursuing a rugby career were quickly sidelined.
“Skateboarding definitely threw a spanner in the works,” laughs the 30-year-old. “I remember riding past that park one day with my brother on our BMX’s, looking through the fence and just thinking, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever seen’. Since that day I’ve just been in love with skateboarding…and that’s a few years ago now.”
After developing a taste for skating bowls, vert and any other transition he could get his wheels on, Corbin was committed to the skate life.
“We’d be in 45 degree heat in shorts and full pads, skating Vert-X from 10 in the morning ‘til 10 at night,” he remembers. “It was non-stop. We’d just eat cheeseburgers and drink red cordial to try and get a buzz to help us keep going.”
It didn’t take long for Corbin’s talent on the board to get him noticed. By the age of 15, he had his first ad in a magazine and had earned himself a spot on the Vert-X team. Much more than just a novel achievement, getting free product was a lifeline for Corbin’s skateboarding at the time. “I didn’t come from a rich background, no matter what people seem to think now,” he offers.
“I grew up on a six-lane highway on the boulevard in Miranda, in the suburbs. Buying a brand new pair of $150 shoes every month was just not in the question. I needed that sponsorship.”
Next, Corbin found himself on the Vans Warped tour and Big Day Out with the likes of skate legends Steve Caballero, Colin McKay and Lance Mountain. Guided by friend and mentor Shane Serena, he began making his mark on the skateboarding world.
“I was this 14-year-old kid and I just thought it was the sickest,” he says of the time. “I thought I’d won the lotto. I was trying to do kickflip indys with 60,000 people watching. It was pretty intense, but it was one of the best things ever. That’s pretty much how I got thrown in the mix.”
Presumably, it’s where he gained a lot of his confidence, too. At the age of 19, Corbin called up Fuel TV/Fox Sports and asked if he could be a presenter for them. After some persistence on Corbin’s part, he got the job. Well, he got the odd jobs (covering an extreme sports festival in Dubbo, is one example), but he put his all into it for three years. He even began taking elocution lessons in his spare time. Corbin Harris doesn’t do things by halves.
Corbin’s perseverance paid off, and saw him host two of his own TV shows. First came Corbin Presents and later, Popgun – a Rove-inspired action sports talk show. His goal with his future projects is to help take Australian skateboarding into the mainstream, and he views his involvement in TV and with brands such as Red Bull as the perfect platform from which to do that.
“In the states, those guys are like rock stars,” he reasons. “But in Australia, people still don’t really understand what we do. [The mainstream] is where skateboarding needs to go. Otherwise it runs the risk of going into another lull period.”
Of Corbin’s many successes, nothing comes close to the fulfillment of having his name on a board. Element turned him professional in February 2012 and he made sure he had a stellar video part to accompany the announcement. “It was the absolute biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he says emphatically. “Getting a board with your name on it, that’s what I dreamt about when I was 13 or 14 years old. Having that board and having my second one just about to come out, it’s just awesome.”
It’s apparent that the secret to Corbin’s success isn’t really a secret at all. The man works damn hard, and has been ever since the 12-hour shifts he’d put in at Vert-X when he was 13-years-old. That work ethic, paired with his unwavering positive attitude make him a force – albeit a super-friendly force - to be reckoned with both on the board and on the screen.
Just this month, Corbin’s been named the Head of Skateboarding for ESPN, which will see him travel the world whilst hosting the X-Games alongside Tony Hawk. His first stop is Brazil. “After that, I don’t think 2013 will slow down at all,” he laughs, audibly stoked.
It’s just as well Corbin Harris handled all the boring stuff today; it may be while until he has another chance.