Pro skateboarder Erik Ellington’s first-ever tattoo was nearly a casualty of his INKED photo shoot. “I went bombing down a hill and slammed,” the 31-year-old skater recounts. “I rolled down the hill like a rag doll, scraping up my whole right side.” The fall slashed up the word “Balance” on his upper arm—the name of the skate company he and a pal started as teenagers growing up in Tempe, AZ, one of the many ’hoods Ellington would call home en route to his current digs in Hollywood.
His life and skateboarding career actually launched in the boonies of Anchorage, AK.
“There wasn’t a whole lot to do up there in winter,” he says. “But in the summer you’d get between 16 and 22 hours of daylight. So you kind of got a year’s worth of skating in those four months.”
After Anchorage came Tempe, followed by San Diego and a gig as team rider for skate OG Jamie Thomas’ s Zero Skateboards. It was there that Ellington got his second tattoo, a prison job. “I met a dude on tour who told me about the tattooing machines people make in prison,” he says. “When I got back to San Diego, I had so much free time on my hands that I rigged up my own little machine with a Walkman motor, guitar string, 9-volt battery, and india ink.” Ellington’s DIY piece was his name and address on his left shoulder, though he’s first to admit that “815 South Palmer” looks more like “8½ Street Farmers.”
“I gave a few too,” Ellington says. “We’d get drunk and I’d break out the machine. This one dude wanted ‘Fuck You’ on his arm. I did the F and kind of a crazy-looking U. I was halfway through C when he couldn’t take it anymore. I saw the guy a couple of years later and he’d tattooed all around it, but kept the ‘FUC.’ That was kind of cool.”
Ellington’s days as a tattoo artist are behind him now. The full-time pro skater and dad spends time repping his current sponsors, Deathwish Skateboards, KR3W clothing, Supra Footwear, and Brigada Eyewear (a new project he recently launched with fellow pros Andrew Reynolds, Jim Greco, and Terry Kennedy). He still manages to score sketchy ink whenever possible. His latest is a stamp on the rib cage by friend and graffiti phenom Neck Face. “He drew one of his crazy mouths, then had this dude do it who was carrying a tattooing machine around in his backpack. I’m pretty sure the dude was smoking heroin in the bathroom. That’s one of my favorites just because of the memory.”