I am sure everyone is impressed by how much Qiona Payton has improved at skating in such a short period of time. She started skating in Birmingham, Alabama, where she has lived for the last 10 years, but recently relocated to Texas with her new husband. “As soon as this opportunity presented itself,” Qiona said about leaving Birmingham, “it was like, FINALLY. Okay let’s go!” I spoke with her recently about her first independent part, Falling Faith, the process of filming, and her opinions on the overall growth of our community. 

For the First Frost Brain Freeze video you used a Chili Peppers song, “Can’t Stop.” Then you used the Paramore song, “Hallelujah,” for your independent part, Falling Faith. Did you make those decisions?

It’s crazy, I wanted to do a Paramore song because they had music that came out and I was like, “Well, I should probably use this because it’s new,” but we had parameters for our music. They were like, “Well, we want more old school music.” I was like, “Okay, well, I’m going to have to reach in because I’ve been listening to newer stuff the past few years.” I can’t remember what made me bring it up—if a skateboarder had used it for their part, because my husband skateboards—the song was just stuck in my head forever after that and I was like, “Okay, I’m going to try to see if this one will fit,” because all my other options didn’t, and they were like, “Oh, yeah. This is a good one.” And then when everyone heard it, especially my community, they were like, “Wow, this is a good first choice.” I never really thought how important the music was until I saw everybody’s parts.

Dude, that is the death of me. I mean, it’s my favorite part, but it’s also the worst part, because my two independent parts both had two songs. I was struggling more with picking those two songs than the skating.

I want to say I really started listening to a lot of rap, but that really never felt like my thing. When I was growing up I was very into rock, alternative, that kind of thing, and I was like, “Let me see what it feels like to go back to that,” and I’ve not looked back.

I totally get it. I always end up picking older songs. How long have you been skating?

I roller skated as a little kid, but the roller rink closed. So I didn’t really skate for a long time until my husband got into skateboarding in 2020 during the pandemic. I think it’s been three years now. I bought some roller skates from a sports store in 2021 and I barely even touched them. Then I saw a girl come out to one of our DIY spots—we didn’t have a skatepark at the time in Birmingham—and she was shredding. Skating so fast and she was hitting the rails and skating the little quarter that we had built. I didn’t even know that was a thing that you could do on skates. She had a pair of Chayas, like the park series, and I was like, “Okay, I want those.” My skates looked so cheap compared to hers. The pair that I bought after that were Impalas.

I feel like everyone’s first pair of skates were Impalas, unless you’ve been in the game for a while. I had the cheetah skates for my first ones.

I actually started park skating in those when we were coming out of COVID.

I had to glue them, so they would hold long enough for me to film whatever I could for my street part

That’s when I started skating also and then it just takes over. Did you skate mainly street right off the bat because it was DIY, or were you skating transition on the quarter pipes?

They had this A-frame at one point and two banks. I used to just roll up the bank and quarters. Then I finally got to a miniramp and would just roll back and forth, but I never touched coping, it was too scary of an idea. I didn’t feel like my skates could even handle something like that. I would rotate as fast as I could on the banks and that translated into me skating on transition now where I can do rotations comfortably. We have Atlanta parks that are within two hours and so we would travel to skate those, but most of the stuff in our DIY spot were banks, quarters, and some boxes that were built by the community. It wasn’t great stuff, but that’s the stuff that I learned on.

That’s crazy that you were learning on DIYs.

I want to say my first clip that I ever posted was at the DIY spot. Gosh, at that time, I bought Chayas and I put slide blocks on it just to get used to that feel. That was my first time skating in those, but those were not even the park skates. I was taking little baby steps, trying everything until I got it right.

When did you get to the point where you wanted to start filming a street part?

I didn’t start street skating until summer of 2022. It was right before I started working at the skatepark in Birmingham. I’d never even thought of filming anything. Then in the fall I joined the Brain Freeze team and we were going to have a street part come out at the end of the year. I thought, Well now I got to figure our what street stuff I’m gonna do. I looked for a lot of inspiration online. Birmingham used to have good street spots, but it died out. I knew that I was determined to film something there, so that’s what forced me into that type of street skating. Even when I was filming for Brain Freeze, I wasn’t really into street skating as much as I was when I started working on my second video, my own part. That was when my skates broke. I filmed the first clip and was like, Okay, well, if I’m going to be hardcore street skating I need to check to make sure everything is good. My hangers were cracked and my plates were stripped. It was a whole mess.

So the skates were fine, you just needed new plates and hangers? What plates do you skate?

I got rid of those skates. I ended up getting Avanti plates and I still had Wildbones sliders. I had to glue them so they would hold long enough for me to film whatever I could for my street part. I was scared that I would hit something, like a rail, and my skates would fall apart and I would hurt myself, so I was like, well, I guess I’ll just try to do whatever I can, and I just put it out there.

So you skated on broken skates for your whole part?

Yeah. Before I was supposed to release it we had found out that Wildbones was ending at the end of the year. That’s why I had to make my setup last for as long as it did.

That’s even more impressive that they were broken.

In every single clip. It was constantly in my head so I feel like I didn’t try a lot of stuff that I knew that I could do. I feel like I took it easy, but it made me want to figure all this stuff out. It’s not that I’m not proud of that one, I just know that I was holding back so much. Especially now that I’m in Texas I’m like, okay, I’m ready to really push the limits and skate the way I’ve been skating the past two years.

Do you have any ritual or routine before you go street skating?

The only thing that’s been consistent is I always try to make a playlist before I go, whatever I’ve been feeling that week. Sometimes I put my headphones on quick and then we’ll listen to it and jam out. In my part, my husband was recording me while I was jamming out and he had me put that in the video. I look back at that and think, “That’s me authentically vibing out right there.”

Quick kind grind 270 out.

Perfect. I don’t know how people listen to headphones while skating. Did your husband film the whole thing? Does he work on his own street parts?

No, he isn’t as big of a street skater as I am. He’ll skate in the parks all the time and do crazy stuff there, but when it comes to going out street skating, I’m usually the one that’s like, “Let’s go to this ledge and let’s see what we can do on it.” But yeah, he’s my official filmer.

Then you edited it?

Yes. The first one, I sent it in for the team thing and let them edit it. This time we edited it ourselves. We also filmed everything on my phone. We weren’t able to get a camera. We have friends that have good cameras, but they were in California the whole time that I was filming. So yeah, filmed and edited on an iPhone.

Are there any dream tricks or anything that you’re focusing on for your next part?

I wasn’t as rail-heavy as I wanted to be because I was so scared of my setup. I know for this next one that I want to start hitting the big rails in the streets now that I’ve got the right setup and I’m comfortable. As much as rails scare me, I love every trick that I end up trying on rails.

Steezy top acid.

It’s the best feeling. What are your thoughts on roller skating standards for street skating? Pros and sponsored skaters, specifically.

That’s a big one. I came into this not expecting anything. I wanted to make friends because I really didn’t know anyone after I graduated college. I was an athlete in college, I ran track, I was a hurdler—that’s where all the jumping comes from. I wasn’t expecting any sponsors or getting into street skating, but I just try to focus on doing whatever I can and not put pressure on myself. However, I do want to make sure that whatever I put out there looks good artistically and feels good to me. Because I know, especially in this community, that people are very opinionated. They’re watching your every move. And once you get put on a team, or get sponsors, or you get free things, people look at you more. I just try to continue to make sure that I’m being myself and putting my best stuff out there because that’s what I learned from—all of you guys, really. Trust me, I’ve seen your parts a million times because all I had were YouTube videos and stuff that was on Instagram because the community in Birmingham is so small. It was literally me and my friend, Melissa. We were the only actual street skaters. So because of the standards that you guys put out there, I was like, “You know what? I want to be like that.” That’s what I really focus on whenever I’m skating.

Yeah, you still want to have fun and do things with your own style, but also want to do it with whatever standards you’ve set for yourself. I’m not a fan favorite right now because of my opinions on this, that’s for sure, but it is what it is.

I’m still a big fan. A lot of us are. I learned a lot from watching skateboarders and inliners. I know how they feel about our community and I know, even in the area where I skated, the way I skate changed their minds and their perspectives on roller skating. I think a lot of them look at us and they’re like, “Well, you’re just rolling around,” so I don’t think there’s a problem with setting standards or critiquing things—I mean, that’s what you do in competitions: you’re judging people off of their skating. I don’t think a lot of people fully understood what was going on, because the magazine just came out and a lot of people hadn’t even read it. But I think if you look at the people who are in it, like you guys, and you think about what you guys all stand for, and what you’re trying to do for the community, it’s not hard to say, “Okay, maybe this wasn’t the best way, but let’s not crucify the people who are in this position to actually change the community as a whole for us.”

I hope people realize we’re not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I was a beginner just three years ago so I would never make fun of beginners. At the end of the day, we should just be skating and having fun.

It bugs me because this should be exciting more than anything. There are so many great things in there beyond that part—it’s just crazy to me.

We were like, “Forget all this, I just want to do something just the two of us,” so we went to the courthouse and we had a friend photograph it. A week before, she was like, “Hey, how would you guys feel about doing something in a skatepark?” 
And I was like, “I’m down. I would love to have some, I’ve seen so many videos of people having a whole skatepark at their reception.” I wanted shots like that. Qiona’s wedding day needed a skatepark session, giddy up!