Diego tells us all about how he got into downhill skateboarding, his favourite roads in Chile and the future of racing in South America.
Great to talk to you Diego, how are you?
Great to talk to you Diego, how are you?
I’m relaxed, the trip was incredible, but exhausting!
Where did you go?
The trip started in Bogota at Festival de la Bajada, Colombia. I spent a week there, then I came back to Chile for a few hours (hahaha), like 6 hrs. Then I traveled to San Luis for Snake Skeleton, Argentina. Then back again to Chile for one or two days, before flying to Lima and Ciudad de los Reyes, Perú. I was back to Chile for another week and my last travel was to Brasil. In Brasil there were two championships, first in Guaiba and the next weekend in Teutonia. That was the trip.
Who did you travel with?
I went to Bogotá alone, but there I met my friends (Alexandre Maia, Ivandro da Silveira, Juliano Cassemiro, Christie Aleixo and others. We drove with some friends from Santiago and we picked up James Kelly at the Chilean airport and we stayed in Argentina with the LY crew (that was a nice trip!). Perú, and I was alone again. Brasil, alone, but there were some friends from Chile and other countries. I don’t mind if I travel alone, ‘cause everytime I see my friends where I go!
Why did you go to Colombia?
My friends had told me very good things about the road and finally I had a sponsor for traveling. Festival de la bajada had the best organisation that I had ever seen in a downhill skate event, it was like the events on the snow (I was a snowboarder and raced at boardercross).
What was special about the organisation?
60 workers on the track plus marshals on corners plus 3 buses for 90 people (super comfortable) tons of water, juices, lunch, cookies, fruit. There are a few more things about it, but I think on a scale of 10 they deserve a 9.
What flavour cookies?
Brownies, cookies and granola, I don’t know which flavour,but I tried almost everything!
How did they afford to have so many people working and so much food and drink?
By just making things as they should be. Making an event isn’t just about the hay bales and shuttles to the top. The guys at Festival de la Bajada know how to do those extra things.
Who organised the race?
Manuel Rivera, Marco Vidales y Simon Mejia. Great guys!
How was the race?
It was… WOW! The weather affected everything. The race was in a national park, so when it rained the track wasn’t completely wet, some parts were dry and others were so wet. I had a lot of funny and painful bails. But it was a great experience, I really want to be there next year and win that one.
How did you perform in the race?
I made it to the quarter finals, I bailed trying to pass Dalua and Cassemiro at the hardest corner, Tongue was 4 meters in front. Next time I’m not going to fall. I wasn’t braking in that corner and almost all were braking hard there.
What did you enjoy most about the event?
The difficulty of the track! I made 9 or 10 drops before I did a clean run. Having to race my friends there was a fun challenge.
What was the hardest thing about the track?
The wet/dry conditions and the unique asphalt grip and drift, those things turned a fun hill into a hard one.
Had you skated in Argentina before?
Yes, I had won a lot of events there. Last year I made the 3º fastest qually and then lost in the 4ters, this year was not that good, but we had a gnar party with my Chilean mates and LY team over a week ending at mendoza, so the trip was awesome.
What do you enjoy about racing in Argentina?
The 6 man heats with tailwind. I don’t like that race course much, it is not a challenge at all without the tail wind.
How was Peru?
I was super tired from the continuous party at Argentina, so the first days at Lima were spent relaxing a little. My knee was not good after a hard bail on the first day in Colombia, I had a microfracture at the femur, near the meniscus, so I wanted to rest and eat the delicious ceviche there!
The race was in the south of Lima, a small mountain that ended at the beach and a really nice restaurant. I don’t know why there weren’t many people, but the track was not that good for racing, not too technical and quite narrow, so we had 2 man brackets, I lost to the local hero Felipe Malaga (get well soon!) in quarterfinals. I got 7th place there.
Which South American race has the best party?
I think that the best party was in Argentina. 4 days ending with the event party, at the side of a big empty pool, dancing all night. The cops stopped us thinking we were lost so we went to another place and again the cops. Potrero de los funes was a small town in the middle of a RACE track (like f1 tracks).
Did you do any races in Chile?
I helped on some. I was at the organization of the Red Bull Big Drop at the end of 2010, teaching some organizers how to do the things (some work well, some others work horribly).
What’s your role in the community in Chile?
My role? Wow, that’s a big word you know? I just try to help organisers. We had a really bad experience at the last event on the South American tour in 2011. 2012 was the year to re-group as a community, so we are making things right. I’m just a member of the community and because I’m the guy with the most race experience, I have more to share.
When did you start skating?
I started at 12. I was living a few blocks away from a sk8park and received some rollerblades and a sk8 for Christmas, so I learned both. The next year I got a snowboard and I continued with the inline thing until I was 17.I started racing snowboards at 18 in boardercross and that changed my point of view of the sport, it wasn’t just freeride, it was racing! Then I moved to my grandmothers place and found an old set of wheels with big lips and soft urethane, so I put them on my skateboard. There’s not much to say, all the people know that when you put some soft wheels and go for a cruise in the city, you fall in love.
Have you stopped since that moment?
Yes, but only because of some injuries like a broken clavicle (twice) and broken hips, but nothing too bad.
What makes you keep coming back?
Because I love to feel the wind on my face and I’m good at it. When I first broke my clavicle, I was snowboarding and then I was mountain boarding. My hip was a bad bail into a guardrail at the end of 2008, that bail changed my point of view of the sport, now I’m more conscious about the risks that we take and I don’t take those kind of risks. Also I’m a father now, so I have to take care of another human (my little Milenka).
How does being a father affect your race technique?
Sometimes when I’m going into a corner and I feel the aggressive aura of the guy on the side of me, I just let him go. I’m going for a fun day, not an aggressive one. The funny thing is that in most cases, the guy ends up in the hay bales.
How did your snowboard racing influence your skateboarding?
I love the rush when you are side to side racing, and in snowboard you have jumps, and things that make the things more exciting.
What came next after cruising around the city on your new soft wheels?
Next was a borrowed S9 Cosmic with stock set up and then I made my deck from plywood and bought some invaders 183 with green 76 Kryptos.
What kind of skating were you doing then?
When I had the cosmic, I met some guys at my college who taught me how to carve on a hill. Then at “Quebrada Onda”, I met some guys who taught me more things like slides and cuts (almost all of them were surfers trying to have fun in the city), that was back in 2003.
Was there a huge community back then?
Yes, Quebrada Honda was a 4 lane, 4 blocks cement road. It had a park at the side with a bike path and a few other good places to skate. Some days there were more than 50 people on boards plus friends.
When did you start going fast?
I started the same year (2003), when I was looking for the models for my new plywood deck. I started to see some fast guys then, like Biker Sherlock, Rick Kluddy and others, I realised that I wanted to do that too. So I made some designs of a lowered deck with Randals and after 3 protos I made my first deck, a killer machine built for speed!
First real speedboarding attempt was at 90+kph and I loved it! The next year I made another drop thru deck (Chris Chaput Model, drawings were on the internet) and went to my first race which I won.
Who was going fast in Chile at that time?
A guy called Poeta and other guys from Panico Xtreme. I smoked everybody at the first race!
You made your own board?
I printed the template from Chaput, passed the template to plywood, cut it and shazam! If i had known a place to buy my first speed board, I would have bought it. But at that time, we didn’t know too much about internet shopping and not too many online stores were there.
Are there good shops in Chile now?
Yes, the sport is growing everywhere. We can buy almost everything here.
What shops are supporting the community?
I know a few ones: Openbox, SportHQ, Aiwin, Andes Longboards and some small ones.
Have you made many boards since?
Yes, a lot. around 50 or more.
Does anyone else in Chile make boards?
I’m not making boards now (I’m on the design team at Ky Sygni Longboards from Argentina) but a few guys from here do boards, good ones!
What is Ky Sygni?
Its a longboard company based in Argentina. All the team contributes to the shapes and it is growing super fast.
Do you have a pro model?
What was your first race?
“Curacautín Downhill Temuco” 2004. Mid south of Chile, near Temuco. I was super nervous on the first day when I saw all the new people there, all of them looking fast. I didn’t know that I was also fast, so when I did well at the first attempt, it was a big surprise to me. I was super stoked to do the thing right.
How did it feel to win?
It feels awesome, but something told me that our level was not that good, so I started to look for a new challenge. When I saw teutonia on the internet, all I wanted to do was ride there and see the level in other countries.
What impressed you about Teutonia?
I didn’t realise where I was going. I had some help with the tickets from Red Bull and some support from the Chilean S9 distributor, so I had everything to do it. When I got there, I couldn’t believe that hill and I couldn’t believe that I was at the same house with Martin Siegrist and Stuart Bradburn. It was like a dream.
Was it fun?
It was one of the scariest things that I have ever done in my life. I had stock randal bushings on 50º randal plates on a flat plywood deck going over 100kph on rough asphalt. I don’t know how I survived Teutonia that year.
What did you learn from that experience?
Who were the people you trained with then?
I started to go faster than others because almost everyone was a little uncontrolled and dangerous at speed. I was afraid of them so I had to be in front. I used to ride with Mimo and Jorge “Negro” Canales but that wasn’t on speed, that was on freeride/freestyle.
2005. I had the Red Bull support and a Chilean distributor with S9.
How did you get connected with redbull?
I just went there and asked for a meeting with THE guy at the moment. I was with a cd with photos and my 3 winning podiums. That was all I had to do for free tickets to Teutonia, I was super stoked. I lost the contract for a while because they changed all the people there but now I’m back with them.
What did you get up to in 2005?
Before the race in Teutonia, I won 2 races here (one of them had Redbull supporting them so I got free entrance there). In Teutonia I met Juliano Cassemiro who came to Chile and stayed here for 2 or 3 weeks and won the race here. I learnt a lot from him. We were both fast but he had all the technical ability in his head. He loved the country and now he is one of my best friends, we continually race at all the events, sometimes he wins sometimes its my turn. At the most recent race, he didn’t know that I was on the inside line and we fell just before the finish line at 8º finals in Peru.
What did you do to try to grow the downhill community in Chile?
I just try to pass all the info that I have in my head to my friends so they can teach the same to others. I can’t do that to everybody because maybe they aren’t prepared for some things. Everybody needs to learn from the beginning.
When did it get big?
It’s big because we have a lot of places to do our sport, we have a lot of guys doing downhill everywhere, but we are not organised at events and that kind of things, so we lost some points there.
Where is your favourite spot in Chile?
Camino Farellones, a 35km mountain road with 40 hairpins. If you don’t fall its weird owing to the super bad pavement and a lot of sweepers. They have new pavement for around 6 km, and its the best place I ever skated.
Are there any races there?
Not yet, I’m trying to make one with Red Bull there at the end of the year.
Have there been any races in Chile?
Yes, a lot. But usually not every year. The people who make them make one this year and nothing the next. That is not working well.
Where is your favourite place to race in South America?
Maybe Lo Prado, 30 min from my home, its a 4.5km road that has 90kph top speed with hard sweepers and 2 hairpins going full speed (broke my hip there). But all the guys from my crew told me that there is a new paved section of a classic spot here caled chacabuco, 6 hairpins all new!
Have there been any IGSA races?
Yes, it was a big FAIL because the organizer wasn’t prepared to do it, and told everybody that he was. I spent like 40 hours teaching him how to do it, but when the event came round, he just failed. He was a well organizer for DH mountain bikes.
What influence has the IGSA had on the development of racing in South America?
I think that all the IGSA has is a good image from the world, but almost all the riders who know better about the IGSA events thinks different. Its not about the IGSA, it is about the organisers and IGSA doesn’t care too much about it. They ask for some things, but if the organiser can’t have everything right on race day – it doesn’t matter, the IGSA will give him a World Cup next year as reward for making a mediocre event. It can’t continue like that.
What does the future hold for racing in South America?
All of us want good events, I don’t know about a South American championship or something like that, but we are going to have a great season for everybody who wants to come and skate down here.
A South American Championship would be rad!
It was this year! But I don’t know what is going to happen in the future. I just know that I’m not going to the events that weren’t up to my expectations last year.
When you organise your race this year, will it be sanctioned by the idf/igsa?
Nope, I don’t care too much about it.
How will the arrival of the IDF change things down there?
Not to much. Not too many riders here know about the problems with IGSA events, they just come there and share with friends that never see, so they have a really good time at the event.
IDF came to show to all the skaters that badly organised events show a lack on the respect to the riders, and all that the IDF changed was for races to be in the IDF you have to have experience and make good events for riders, its not too much to ask right?
What do you ride?
Asteroid deck (Ky Sygni Proto), Aeras 180, Venoms, Orangatang Wheels.
Are those all your sponsors?
Nope, I was with the support of Kevin but I moved out to make my own truck at a sub-division of Ky Sygni called UZIco. Also I have the support of: Predator Helmets, Orangatang Wheels, Tantum Leathers, RedBull, New Era Caps, Osiris Shoes and G-shock.
What’s special about the UZlco trucks?
I just made another geometry based on randal dimensions, so we started from a Randal compatible baseplate. Now we moved to other things, too many different things from the beginning.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
What are your plans for the future?
This year, I want to skate some rad events maybe in Canada or Europe, for the following years, I just know that I’m going to train to be competitive cause all the groms are bombing hard.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-40.
1,39 and 19
1 – What do you take with you when you go for a skate?
Skate, wheels, slide gloves, pads, helmet and skate tool.
39: Possala Wang: what’s your favorite dance move?
Don’t have one, but the robot dance is nice!
19- What is your favourite video game?
It’s been really great talking to you bro, thanks for your time. Maybe see you in Europe this year.
Thanks to you!
I want to say thanks to all the people who support me at any level, photographers (manu, carlos, barbara, and others). Friends, Mariano at KySygni. To my girl Anchi and thanks to my daughter Milenka for rocking my world.
Photos by Carlos Gomez.