Interview: Takayoshi Saito
Photos: Nobuo Iseki
Translation: Nino Moscardi
Ryota Abe, a skater whose been all over Japanese media since his high school
days, turns 22 this year. He’s appeared in edits on the Berrics, a double part
with veteran hand rail shredder Hiroyuki Matsuo, and has been on a
consistent hustle to push himself in the street. What’s more, he’s the
kind of dude whose energy can keep him going long after anyone else. Now
that he’s in the midst of filming a brand new full part, we sat down
with Ryota to see what’s up.
How old were you when you first started skating?
Like my first year of elementary school or something. Maybe
7 or 8…
Was there anyone from the older crews that helped you through that first turning point?
Well if we’re talking skaters, then I’d have to say Moritaka Ogido really helped me with my
skating a lot. I was always just a little park kid, but he’d take me out to
skate street and teach me all these flip and ledge tricks. We skated together
pretty much every day until I moved to Saitama. He always had a camera too, so
we’d go out and film together too. Since I moved here, I hang with Kota (Ikeda)
and Buchi (Hirotoshi Kawabuchi) since he lives close. And then Hiro (Hiroyuki
Matsuo) who’s standing right here next to me..
All dudes with fancy footwork, huh. Anyways, you’re still young so you’ve got a lot of interesting stuff coming ahead of you. What about the first time you went abroad?
The first time was for Element’s Make It Count contest.
Honestly, I didn’t really like contests so I didn’t want to enter it. I’ve been
competing in AJSA (All Japan Skateboard Association) contests and stuff like
that since I was a kid, but I just don’t like losing, you know? That’s why I
had never actually entered any big ones.
Just being a rebellious kid?
Yeah, totally. But when I would talk to Kota and Buchi about
it, they’d be like “What the fuck dude?! If you want to get to the States, how
else are you gonna get there? You’ll get it if you just enter. So when I
actually entered, I ended up winning. That’s what got me out of Japan for the
I see. Where did you go first after you got to LA?
I think it was the park in Westchester
near LAX. That’s where I met pretty much everyone who was in the contest. I’m
not very good at English so I just thought I’d skate around a bit, but once I
started skating, I started to get to know everyone more. They taught me a lot.
I couldn’t even say like “I wanna…” or whatever. I couldn’t understand anything.
But afterwards when we were eating, everyone would talk with gestures for me so
I could understand, like “You okay Ryota? That chicken is spicy dude, you’ll be
breathing fire!” They’re all these kind of mischievous dudes but they’re all
super nice, so I made some really good friends. That’s why I was hyped. Even
though we were skating in a contest, it really just felt like I was skating
with the homies.
Sounds like you were really on your own. Did you go to a bunch of spots and parks?
We went to the Transworld park, the Berrics, and then
stopped at a bunch of parks on the way to the contest. There were about 10 of
us, all the winners from the different countries. Skating was a lot of fun, but
I really wish I could speak more English. It was pretty tough.
But it sounds like it was a good experience. How was it skating with guys from all over the world? Could you feel a difference in level after all?
The difference was crazy. It really made me think like
“Damn, I gotta step my game up.” With my energy too. That feeling of wanting to
go pro shows on so many different levels, and those guys are so hungry for it.
It made it tougher on me for sure. It was tough to keep up with them the whole
week. The last half of the week skating with them, I really couldn’t move a
Gap to back tail.
But I guess that means you have to work just as hard at it. There’s an age limit for them too.
I guess there was just a lot that I got from them that I
never feel around Japanese skaters. I’ll just out and say it, but Japanese
skaters just aren’t on the level, don’t you think? There’s not many of us and the demand for
Japanese skating isn’t really there so even if I see a dude skating and he
tells me he rides for whatever company, it’s like “oh okay, whatever.” That’s
where you feel a big difference in level, and there were so many guys that you
can tell that they just love skateboarding. It makes you feel like you can
really make a living off it. Even now, I don’t feel like I’ve caught up to
those guys I skated with. I got to skate with a bunch of pros too, and those
dudes are even gnarlier and you get that feeling from them even more. They’ve
just got the raddest style. With guys that sick, I’ve pretty much given up hope
I get you. What about
the tours you’ve gone on?
Well in terms of tours that left the biggest impression on
me, the Volcom Asia Tour was the most fun in the purest sense of the word. That
crew was so on point and I was glad I was able to skate and demo together with
them. We toured through Malaysia, the Philippines, and Bali.
Was everyone hyped at
Yeah, they were real good. Like no one wanted to be outdone.
I skated really hard. Those were a lot of fun. After the demo in Bali though,
all of a sudden I got a fever or something and couldn’t stop shaking and had
this gnarly diarrhea. I was eating almost every meal with Kota so the same
thing happened to him. We both got this
gnarly stomach bug at the same time all of a sudden. We were still supposed to
be in Bali for three more days to skate street, but there was no way we could
in that condition. I just wanted to be on the toilet the whole time. It fuckin’
sucked. Everyone else got it too, and Alec (Majerus) even puked in the van. Even
Dane (Burman) said he had a stomachache from drinking that Yakult shit.
(laughs) That sucks. Not to change the subject, but when did you start skating mostly big stuff?
I think I just ended up skating that way because that’s the
way they skated in all the old videos I grew up watching. At the time, my local
park had just shut down so I naturally started going out to skate street more.
I went to the fountain spot at Tsutsujigaoka Park in Sendai and started getting
into curbs, ledges, flatbars and everything. And rails and stairs are just cool
looking so I like skating that stuff.
Where’d you practice handrails?
I used to skate the Tsutsujigaoka handrail alone with my
On that? Isn’t it kinked?
Yeah, it’s kinked. And the ground there is pretty gnarly so
I would just be by myself totally eating shit. Then Ogido-san would take me out
filming so I’d try them then too.
What is it you like about skating the big stuff?
Whether it’s a bail or a make, it always looks cool. And
there’s a sense of accomplishment and thrill to skating big stuff. Not really
in a winning against yourself kind of sense, but like when you’re so scared
that your knees won’t bend, but even while you’re thinking to yourself that you’re
dead if you bail, you lock in and think like “dude, I got this.”. That feeling
is what makes it fun for me.
That’s how it is on the first run up, huh?
Yeah. I’m usually always just going for it right out the
gate like I don’t care about eating shit though. And sometimes I really do eat
it. It hurts, but that footage of the bail is sick too, isn’t it? I like that
kind of shit.
What about recently? Making any moves?
I’ve been going out with Yuto (Kojima), Hiro (Matsuo), and
our videographer Hide and photographer Iseki-san, so there’s always someone
getting something. I go out on filming missions with them even on days I’m not
skating. Like as backup I guess. If someone says they’ve got a trick they want
to get, we all go together. Almost like if everyone says they want to do
something, it’s we go to the spot and as long as we get one thing, it’s all
I get you. So that’s basically on the daily?
Yeah, probably. I’m probably out making moves with everyone
far more than I’m at home.
That’s the goal though, right? That’s the whole reason you came out here.
Yeah, now that I’m finally able to go out and film all the
time, that’s what’s fun. To me, going out filming and not even getting the
trick is better than spending my time not knowing what the hell to do or not
doing anything at all anyways.
Anything currently in the works?
Yeah, but I can’t quite say yet. You’ll have to stay tuned
until next time. I’m hyped just knowing people are interested, but I can’t say
what it is yet.
What’s the ultimate goal?
My dream has always been to be a pro skater abroad. America
isn’t everything, but to me, American skating is the sickest. The shit they do
is the craziest. I want to be a part of it. That’s why I’m trying to make
moves. That’s another reason why my skating naturally went bigger.
Plans for the future?
I’d like to try entering some competitions abroad. Ryo
(Sejiri) competes abroad a lot, so if I can join him next time, that’d be dope.
check the grams:
We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!
OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly