Pretty good, middle of the week but still keeping my spirits up.
Kind of, got bills to pay so working hard to get more free time for skating on the weekend!
Where do you skate during the weekends?
Usually I go to this hill where we’re doing this slide jam event at the end of this month. It’s about 40 minutes driving from my house and it’s a completely closed road, perfect pavement, not so long but there are several hills so it’s like downhill/freeride park. We call this spot “Superhill”.
Sometimes I go to bomb longer hills when I can meet with my downhill pals. But we have to drive few hours to go to those spots.
“Superhill” is also good place to meet up with other longboarders here because we can hang out all day there without any worries of the police or annoying neighbours.
Where did you start skating?
I started skating in Mexico back in 2006. I got a scholarship for a year and I met my life partner there. Since then I’ve gone back often. My partner, Fifer has a little brother called Daniel and we three are all together as a wolf pack! Back in 2006, we went to Hawaii to celebrate Daniel’s 15th birthday and that’s when we discovered Longboarding.
We all got stoked, especially Fifer! He was so good at searching through internet and a little after that we found the video on YouTube of Patrick Rizzo and Noah Sakamoto skating down Clermont and we got all crazy about downhill skateboarding. At that time, we were just cruising with our first board. Daniel got one of the first sector9 Rasta, then we bought Landyatchz Bamboo Dingy and Evo (even though we didn’t downhill yet) when Fifer and I visited the Landyatchz factory in Vancouver back in 2007. Then I bought Loaded Ceviche and so on… We always saved up our coins and spent it on boards! But we were all just cruising and for some years downhill was just a dream for us.
You both shared one board?
We three shared one board for our first months!
Where in Mexico were you studying?
In crazy Mexico City, DF (Distrito Federal) that’s how the locals call themselves.
How did you find love?
It was in 2005 when I went to live there. My neighbour was a Japanese girl and she was teaching Japanese there, she organized a welcome party for me and Fifer was there, since then we’ve been stuck to each other. I lived in Mexico City for a year, but I had to come back to Japan and we kept this long distance relationship for 7 years since then. We are finally moving in together next month here in Japan!
You must have the power of the ancients!
Hahaha, we’re sure that we were together in our past lives.
When you have skate babies can I name one?
Of course! I rather would like to adopt one/some than having my own child, so that we can have more diversity in my skate family!
What was it like skating in Mexico city then?
Well, fortunately we lived in a quiet neighbourhood so we cruised around where we were living and also we went to a campus of the University where they closed the road on weekends. They had some nice mellow hills to practice. There were very few guys who ride longboards back then in Mexico City, so that campus road was our playground. We made our slide gloves and tried to figure out how to tuck and slide.
Eventually there were more longboarders showing up to that spot and it turned into a meet up spot for all of longboarders in the city. Definitely we felt the special feeling that we were starting something that most of the people didn’t even know.
Who were the other people skating in Mexico back then?
When I started, there were only three of us there and then I met a few guys who had loaded boards but I don’t know if they’re still skating. I didn’t see them when I went back this year, but I met new longboarder friends of my wolf pack this time. Now there are more crews doing downhill since they found a nice spot for going fast.
Daniel was one of the first ones who skated this hill called “Ajusco”. For his first year, he had to bring his mom to give him lifts up with a car because nobody else did downhill then. Daniel and Fifer had encouraged the guys who hung out with them at the spot in the campus and taught them how to tuck and get more and more speed. He took them to Ajusco to skate together. Now they have a nice crew there, they even organize outlaw races, they are getting more connected with Guadalajara and Monterrey guys, organising more events and the stoke is getting bigger and bigger.
When did you first skate outside Mexico city?
I think it was in Vancouver in 2007 after we visited Landyatchz factory. Carly Midget Richardson attended us and she set up two boards for us. After that we used our board for commuting to the city of Vancouver and we found out that cruising around on a board was a great way to get an idea of a new place geographically, because you can actually feel up/down and actual distance by pushing. Since then we always bring our boards when we travel. Traveling is also what we love a lot.
What was it like skating in Canada compared to what you had experienced in Mexico?
Mmm, I can’t say much because at that point all we did was push around the city. We knew that there was an emerging scene in Vancouver back then and we went to see how people got together. We were too shy to join them at that time. The longboard scene was still very far from us back then.
Where did the wind take you after Canada?
I came back to Japan in 2008 and Fifer to Mexico. After that Fifer and his brother Daniel were skating in “Ajusco” quite often and they are getting used to speed, but I couldn’t find anyone to skate with in Japan, so it still took me few years more to start skating seriously.
I was super jealous that Fifer and Daniel had each other to skate with. I went to visit them at the end of 2008, and I felt so much difference in the level and it was kind of sad because I felt that they left me behind at my beginner level and they were already really good at everything. That was when I crashed so stupidly trying to catch up with them (the typical beginner’s wobbling crash) and I almost broke my chin! I think that made me stay away from my board for a while and I didn’t skate much during 2009-2010.
How serious was the injury?
I don’t think it was that serious, I had to some stitches on my chin. The thing is, you can’t see your own chin without a mirror, so I couldn’t see how serious my injury was. But Fifer, Daniel and the other friend who were there told me that it was quite scary to see my open chin.
What was the highlight of your 2 years in Mexico?
Definitely sharing every epic moment with Fifer and Daniel! We had many epic experiences together, parties, concerts, BBQs, ending up on a stranger’s rooftop after an epic night. Not only skating, but we tried to invent as much fun stuff as possible. We also started fixed gear biking back in 2008 and that gave us a bad ass spirit while battling hard between heavy traffic in Mexico City.
Did you make any other skater friends while you were there?
Not much! Well, I think I was very shy then. I was always hiding at Fifer’s back. Actually I made a lot more skater friends when I went back there this year. I met Daniel Favela who rides for Rayne, crazy Punk Rocker (actually his name is Fabian but everybody calls him that), who just got sponsored by Sector 9, Valeria, the only girl who does downhill in Mexico City, Donnovan who just crashed really bad at Ajusco a month ago (please send him best wishes to be able to skate again soon!!), “Speedy” Jose Luis,“Yo Soy Quien Soy Richardson”, and so on. Some of them raced together at Maryhill Festival of Speed and Monterreal International Longboard Festival (MILF), the first IGSA race in Mexico. They are pretty funny guys to hang out with.
When you returned to Japan, was anybody else skating?
I found some videos on YouTube of a group of guys doing downhill here in Japan, but they looked very advanced and they skated far from where I live, so I didn’t get in contact with them. Life is very interesting and after 4 years of being here, I often skate with them! I think there were already some people riding longboards but each of them was very far apart, doing their own thing.
Where were these guys riding?
They live in Chiba, the one more prefecture north from Tokyo, and they always skate around there. Yoshinori and his brother Satoru are one of the first guys who start doing Downhill in Japan. They used to skate with this old legendary dude called Mr Shioda but sadly he announced his retirement early this year just when I started skating with them. Mr Shioda is a 50 year old dude, but he was the very first guy who did Downhill in Japan and he introduced Yoshinori and Satoru to this world. He even went to Vancouver alone just to learn Downhill back in 1996 or something. That is rad!
Then Yoshinori and Satoru kept practicing downhill themselves, and now they have a crew and they named the group “Downhill Skateboarding Wired”. Check their videos on Youtube, they skate rad spots!
What is their role in the Japanese community now?
Spreading predrifting in the community! They’re only one who skate technical downhill courses so that’s their role definitely. Also I’m convincing them to go to races with me next year, so getting into races and sharing the world stoke in Japan will be their role next year!
Did you try to find other people in Asia?
Not really, I wasn’t using Facebook then, so it was not that easy to get connected. Plus I always had some excuses for being lazy to pour more energy into skateboarding. I think I was afraid.
What is the scene like in neighbouring countries?
I am not sure. At least our closest neighbour countries, China and Korea looks like going the same as Japan. There are people longboarding but the scene is not yet established. A little bit far down in Philipines and Malaysia, there are big scenes. I met a guy from Philipines, Caloy, when I went to Maryhill this year and he told me that there were so many guys and girls skating down there and that got me stoked.
Do you have plans to visit?
I really would like to visit the Philipines!! Especially now we have our friend Caloy, we want to visit him and skate his local spot and maybe surf?! We’re really interested in Philipines from a traveler’s perspective, ‘cause there are lots of Spanish influences there and it should be an interesting mixture of Asia/Latin culture. We love to discover these cultural messes. The only thing is we’re not very good in hot weathers. But we will be there soon!
How many years did you ride alone for?
I started skating with people just a year ago. In 2011, Daniel decided to compete at Maryhill, but Fifer and I weren’t ready, so we went to watch and cheer our lil brother, but it changed our life. It was an amazing experience, just being there, hanging out, looking at those leather suited guys coming and going like the wind. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, that was the first time I ever felt “stoke”. I swore to myself to be there as a rider next year and when I came back to Japan, I said to myself “fuck it, I have to practice no matter what, no more excuses!”. I found a spot which I mentioned earlier “Superhill”. I went there alone for the first time in September 2011, but magically, I met an “animal chin” there!! He taught me how to slide and I started to go there often and I discovered there were other people skating there.
You found animal after nearly breaking your chin!
Haha, yeah, he is totally an Animal Chin! He calls himself “Sekigio” because he loves the Brazilian techslide style and he took his last name “Seki” and combined it with his super hero Sergio Yuppie’s name. Sekigio-sensei is like 40 years old and he has skated all his life and he’s a very good instructor for me.
What motivated you to ride again after your break?
Maryhill spirit!!! That is all about stoke, family, friendship and love!! When you’re there, you feel it. Maryhill is a magical place. It changed my life and gave me back my longboard spirit. The only desire I had was to be able to ride that hill. I am proof that if you can be very strong, you can make your desires come true.
How did these changes manifest themselves after you left the loops?
Well, before that I always had some excuse for not starting something new. My life was stuck in working bullshit routines and my spirit was totally lost.
Maryhill made me focused on one purpose, to be able to skate there. I listed up what I needed to be able to race Maryhill in one year, not only skating skills but you need some savings for flight ticket, skate gear and travel expenses. Then I started working very hard, and finding time to practice on the weekends and early mornings. All I did in this one year was work and skate. When you have a time limit and a single purpose, there is no other way than to be efficient and feel alive, you don’t let the time just fly away, you do it now or you never do it!
How exactly did it change your life?
I used to make art pieces, I finished my sculpture degree at University and I kept making art since then. But after Maryhill 2011 I had to stop making it, just to have more time to skate and make some cash for traveling. Though I think it was a good change for me because making art couldn’t make any cash and I was getting a bit depressed being locked in my studio (my room) for many hours a day, working on my art pieces. Skating made me alive!
Rosy mentioned the pact that you made at Maryhill, was it something like harry potter?
Oh, Rosy was there at Maryhill 2011 as well to watch her Guadalajara friends. Rosy, Fifer and I all got stoked watching our friends skating down that magical hill and we said “We have to come back next year to skate this hill, no matter what” and we made it!! Rosy and I made another pact this year, this time in MILF. We said “Next year we have to get those killer curves with all our spirit and get over the fear!”. Because the MILF course is very fast and lots of hairpins, so for us, it was very hard to get over the fear and we skated down all the way but we didn’t feel comfortable.
Do you sign these pacts with a spit handshake like cowboys?
Hahaha, we didn’t cut our hands or spit, but our pact is still strong!
What did it feel like to return to Maryhill as a competitor?
It’s totally different. When I was just a spectator, it was fun but you never felt as accepted as a competitor. This time I felt accepted as a member of this special downhill skater’s family.
How was the hill?
Fast and so much fun! It took me almost 3 days to get over my fear for speed and crashes. I was one of the slowest rider in the first 3 days and it was not easy for me to see everyone having fun and I was scared as hell. But I kept challenging myself and tried to keep tucking as much as possible. Eventually I started to feel more comfortable and I even improved by 20 seconds from my first qualification to the 2nd, which is quite a lot! I felt I was flying in the second qualification run! There was nothing better than having that amazing hill just for you.
Did your expectations from the weekend match reality?
Hmm it was different, but I arrived there with no expectations. I knew it was gonna be a different experience to be there as a rider so I tried to keep my mind blank as white paper. I can say I didn’t expect the challenge which I had to face and get over it in 5 days, I either didn’t expect that I was able to be even stronger to get over so much fear in such a short time. I realised it’s hard to imagine the feeling of skating that hill if you never skated it. It was totally unique and an incomparable experience.
What was the highlight of the weekend for you?
Wow, there were so many highlights and epic stories! Hanging out with the great friends we made there and definitely our small BBQ and “illegal” campfire every night at the camp ground with our local friend, rider and event volunteer Chris and his Portland friends. Getting up to Bricin Striker’s shout from his van at 5am, Fifer competing with Chris Chaput at handstands, me getting interviewed by Push Culture. We made so many good memories in those 5 days!
Where did you skate after this?
We went to Monterreal Longboard Festival in Mexico, people call it “Killerreal”.
Because it’s a very challenging course and very scary for the first time. I think Gerardo Moreno told you about this course in his interview. Lots of hairpins, slippery pavement, and there are those crazy speed bumps at several points on the course and you have to be very careful to not step on those things!!
Was this your first time skating in Mexico since you went back to Japan?
I stayed in Mexico City for 2 weeks before we went up for Maryhill FOS and my wolfpack took me to Ajusco to practice my tuck and get used to more speed. It was the first time I went more than 30km/h on a skateboard. I think I reached around 50km/h (you can reach up to 70km/h) but so much adrenaline was flowing in my body that I felt so strange in my stomach for several days.
How does it feel to be skating in your own country?
It felt a little bit weird and lonely at first because I didn’t know anybody who skates around me. And to be honest Japan is not such a skater welcoming country (compared to USA for example) so I had to be very careful not to disturb pedestrians when I cruise around.
How much has the scene grown since you got back?
Not much, to say the truth. For example I see more new people at my local “Superhill”, but the people who I see there constantly has not changed much since I got back. It is also because of the average longboarder here in Japan is older than other countries. There are almost no kids, most of the guys are older than 25, lots of 30s, even 40s are not rare. So many guys have jobs and a family, they work hard and can only skate on the weekend or on their days off, so it’s not easy to keep skating or improving their skills quickly as those groms in the rest of the world. I think this is the reason why the Japanese scene hasn’t grown as fast as in other countries.
Does Japanese culture clash with skate culture?
That’s a good question! I think yes, because skate culture is based on the “flipping the bird to society” spirit. It’s rebellious and disobedient. On the other hand Japanese society is based on protocols and “how it should be”. Going against mainstream society is not a good looking thing in this land of unspoken social rules. Many people aren’t aware of it, but it is very hard to get out of that circle of conformity. Sometimes I feel that many Japanese skaters don’t have this spirit and that makes Japanese skate culture a little bit weak, because they are not “bad ass”.
What will it take for longboarding to thrive in spite of this discordance?
STOKE!!!! That’s what I like about longboarding because it’s based on stoke, not any hate, it’s pure passion and positiveness. I realize that the stoke spirit is very contagious, so I hope there is no exception here in Japan. It would be amazing if I can make more people stoked and make people aware of how things should be: based on happiness and fun!
How will you, as a stoke ambassador – spread the love for longboarding in Japan?
I want to show the world’s stoke and how much people in other parts of the world are passionate for longboarding. In Japan, there are very few people who read a lot in English and there is no exception for skaters. It is very hard for many Japanese longboarders to keep up with what is really happening in the world longboarding community.For me, that is also a fun part of longboarding as much as skating itself. So I would like to translate as much information as possible so that people here can also be a part of this huge family and feel the stoke from all over the world.
And of course, skating and trying as much as possible to get more people on board, organising local events, beginner’s school, making videos etc.
Where do Japanese people get their news from?
Basically YouTube I think, Facebook is not that popular yet here. There is a very popular Japanese social network service called “mixi” and people use it a lot and there are longboard communities and forums there, but they talk more about technical stuff, like how to do this or that, where to skate and practice.
What sort of stuff do they like to watch?
Many people like to watch freeride, standup slides and cool tricks, also Brazilian techslide. I would like to spread more downhill videos! Exploration and downhill!!
What events have you organised?
I haven’t organised any event by myself yet, but I’m helping a local shop owner “Yoshi” to organize a first ever official slide jam at Superhill and it’s gonna be next Sunday! We’ve done various slide jams before, but everything was guerilla style. This time Yoshi and his wife Rie worked very hard and got the official permission of the city and the police so we announced everywhere and it looks like a lot of people are coming!! We’re so excited about it!! I also talked to the people who I met in races and managed to get sponsorship from several shops in the USA! So we’re so stoked about it.
Are there many longboard shops in Japan?
There is only one shop which is specialized in Longboard but they only sell online and there is no physical place. There are two small shops, one is a surf shop “Funwaves” and the other one is a street skateboard shop “Custom pro shop”, which is getting into a lot in longboarding, because the owners longboard and they’re stoked! We skate together a lot at Superhill and they are the organisers of the slide jam and also do quite often beginner’s school and sessions etc.
What are you most excited for about the slidejam?
I’m excited about to be part of this! Getting involved and trying to get more people to come to this event is so exciting! I set up a Facebook event and it is very exciting to find posts from people who have never skated before who want to come to this event! Also some foreign guys contacted me, so I’m excited to see the international ambience!
Who are you expecting there?
Ishtar Backlund is now in Japan and she is so excited, there is a British guy who got in touch and he made his travel plans to Japan to be able to attend this event, several Japanese guys who’s never skated a hill before, some girls who wants to start skating, some guys from Japanese online magazine for foreign travelers called “Outdoor Japan” who are interested in spreading longboarding in Japan etc. Lots of stoke will be there!
Louis Selby, he is the Maradona of skateboarding!
Yes, that’s the British guy! Maradona of skateboarding!!! Wow, so honored to have him around!!
Yay Ishti! Have you guys been skating yet?
Yeah, I took Ishtar to the north island in her first week here in Japan. We stayed there for a week, explored and skated some beautiful hills. Then yesterday, I took her to her dream hill, Mt Fuji road! It’s very fun and I felt safe to skate with Ishtar. I learn a lot skating with her.
Has anyone ever skated Mr Fuji?
Legendary Brad Benett and his friends skated Mt Fuji back in 2009 and you can still find their video on YouTube, and I think several guys had done it but definitely Ishtar was the first girl ever who skated that road! I am so so so proud of being able to support her!
What do you hope to acheive by hosting this event?
Encourage more people to start longboarding, and more people to skate hills.
Where would you like longboarding in Japan to evolve to?
Everywhere in Japan! Haha. Because of Superhill, the area around Shonan has the most concentrated longboarder population in all of Japan, but I think when we get better, we can go to skate other part of Japan and spread the stoke over there and get more people on board the “empire of the stoke”!
Choose 3 numbers between 1-39.
13, 33, 3
13 – Do you have a pet?
I used to have a lot of pets, cats, dog, hamster, goldfish, even a chicken. Once we had like 7 rabbits at the same time! But a few years ago when my cat died, I said no more pets, it was getting harder to get over their deaths.
33 – Daniel.Hawes asks: What’s the most interesting thing regarding string theory you have recently learnt about string theory?
Daaaaaa… Not even sure about string theory! Physics was my worst nemesis back in school, though I’m a huge fun of “The Big Bang Theory”.
3 – What impact has longboarding had on your life?
It changed my life!! Made me stronger, made me bad ass enough to keep on going what I believe.
Nee-chan! It has been so good talking to you, I wish you all the best in your future adventures spreading the stoke in Nihon-go. Stay rad!
Arigato!!!! Nice talking to you too! I’m so happy to be able to do this and be a part of your amazing project! Let’s keep making growing “the empire of stoke”. Thank you so much!
Any thank yous?
Thanks Fifer and Daniel Figueroa for being the best wolfpack always. To Ishtar for stopping by in Japan. To all the guys who skate at Superhill and also Wired Downhill Skateboarding guys. Thank you to all the downhill community who I met back in Maryhill FOS and MILF, you guys changed my life.
Superhill Freeride Slide Jam: http://www.facebook.com/events/397675936972189/
Wired Downhill Skateboarding: http://www.youtube.com/user/DHST1
Longboard Girls Crew Japan:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Longboard-Girls-Crew-Japan/379912938738719