Growing up in Milwaukee, Greg Lutzka started ice skating at 2 and then played ice hockey in high school. When he was 9 he was introduced to skateboarding got the bug and has been skating ever since.
Greg got his first sponsors at 15 and the idea of being a professional skater became a viable career option. He moved to the mecca of action sports, Southern California when he was 18 to to be near his sponsors, take things to the next level and be surrounded by the best skateboarders on the planet.
Lutzka was part of the original team for Almost skateboards founded by Rodney Mullen and Daewon Song. He has had numerous competition wins including 2 X Games gold medals in street, multiple Dew Tour firsts and is the only skater to ever win Tampa Pro 3 times.
Greg has juggled his career with filming a number of skateboard movie parts, commercials, music videos and been the face of the popular game Skateboard Party 3. In 2019 with his love of motorbikes he founded Lutzka’s Garage, a high performance motorcycle shop.
Tune in to find out about the highs and challenges of being a pro skater for over two decades, building a personal brand, entrepreneurship and what future projects he has in store.
Oli Russell-Cowan: Is it true that you were on ice skates when you were about two years old?
Greg Lutzka: Yeah, I started off playing ice hockey. I pretty much played since I was two years old to high school. Everything from peewee all the way up until high school and then some kids on my hockey team started skateboarding. That’s where I got a skateboard and after that it was over. I was like, I don’t really want to play hockey anymore.
Actually, now I do play ice hockey. I play a pickup league here and there. You pay 15 bucks and you can go and it’s right here and you just go play for 80 minutes and have some fun. It’s just fun hockey. So I still play to this day.
Oli: When you discovered skateboarding back then did you just ditch all the other sports?
Lutzka: I was really good at ice hockey. My dad wanted me to go to college and probably become a pro ice hockey player. I was on triple A ice hockey so it’s pretty much the traveling league like the top of ice hockey you can be, I guess.
My brother was a goalie he played on his team. And then he actually played on my team. I’m three years older than him. So he was really good, too. We were pretty much grown up to be pro ice hockey players. I mean, my dad wanted us to get a scholarship and go to college and do all that. I grabbed a skateboard and he grabbed a guitar. He’s out here for music and I’m out here for skating.
Oli: What did you guys do in the winter? Were there many indoor parks back then for skating?
Lutzka: When I was growing up when I was 9, 10 years old, we didn’t really have a skatepark. Then when I was 11, four season skate park opened up. My mom worked for the city. So she helped the owner Neil Levin get a grant. She helped out the city which gave Neil a $50,000 grant to open the skatepark. Neil was really cool and let me skate there for free.
We were just stoked that my mom helped him push the way to get that skatepark through and got a grant from the city. It worked out for me. I was able to go there whenever I wanted and skate. That’s actually how I got really good at skating and met a lot of my friends throughout the years back home that skated as well at the skatepark.
Oli: When did you get your first sponsors was that back then?
Lutzka: Yeah, like in the Midwest, they had skate contests for sure. Four Seasons had some and then Janesville, Wisconsin, they had one. And I started skating those contests locally. Then from there I think I won some of those at one point. Then from there I went to Tampa AM.
The first year at Tampa AM I won the ‘Worst Fall Award’, I was just so nervous. I ate shit on one of the rails and came back like, wow, there’s some good skaters out there. You know what I mean.
It was like a whole different level of talent, came back to Wisconsin and just skated that whole year super hard. Then I went back to Tampa the next year, I think I was like 15. and, you know, made finals or something like that. And then Al Partman I met down there, and he helped me get on Illenium Skateboards and we went on tour.
Next thing you know my career kind of started. From there I met other skaters on the team that rode for Globe that got me on Globe and Bones Wheels, Mike Peterson helped me out with that. Before that, I was sponsored by a little local shop in Milwaukee called Phase Two. Then also Beer City Skateboards sponsored me and gave me boards. They were originally my first sponsor.
Oli: Back then when you were a teenager were you thinking this could potentially lead somewhere?
Lutzka: I always wanted to be a pro skateboarder, for sure. Growing up, that was my dream for sure. There’s no doubt about that. And then watching all the videos, you know, Andrew Reynolds and a lot of the guys, Geoff Rowley and Jamie Thomas. The guys that I looked up to all of them lived down here in Southern California.
I wanted to get out here and skate all the spots I’d seen in the 401 videos, and all that good stuff. Then Al Partman who I met, he brought me out here when I was 16. I’d stay at his house in San Diego, and he originally got me into being in 411, which was pretty cool. So I filmed a video part called, ‘Wheels of Fortune’ for 411. Then I met Bill Weiss and he got me in digital videos. And then, you know, I met Dave Swift, and he got me in Transworld. I met Mike Burnett, and he got me in Thrasher magazine. It was just like a snowball effect where one thing led to the next.
Oli: You were 18 when you thought, Okay, I’ve got to be in California.
Lutzka: Yeah, I was coming here quite a bit after that. I’d go home and then basically want to come right back out here. So I really wasn’t home that much. And then through there, I was sponsored by Globe and they were doing a lot of trips over to Australia. We were just traveling a ton. In the summer we went to Europe, there’s a lot of skate contests out there for the world cup. We went out there, I won that one I think at 17.
I came back and I think I bought a brand new BMW car and thought right, I’m going to move to California. I moved right after Christmas, and New Year’s when I was 17.
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