The Ryota Abe Interview
ER Magazine #11
Interview: Takayoshi SaitoPhotos: Nobuo IsekiTranslation: Nino Moscardi
Ryota Abe, a skater whose been all over Japanese media since his high schooldays, turns 22 this year. He’s appeared in edits on the Berrics, a double partwith veteran hand rail shredder Hiroyuki Matsuo, and has been on aconsistent hustle to push himself in the street. What’s more, he’s thekind of dude whose energy can keep him going long after anyone else. Nowthat he’s in the midst of filming a brand new full part, we sat downwith Ryota to see what’s up.
How old were you when you first started skating?
Like my first year of elementary school or something. Maybe7 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 myskating a lot. I was always just a little park kid, but he’d take me out toskate street and teach me all these flip and ledge tricks. We skated togetherpretty much every day until I moved to Saitama. He always had a camera too, sowe’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 (HiroyukiMatsuo) 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 beencompeting in AJSA (All Japan Skateboard Association) contests and stuff likethat since I was a kid, but I just don’t like losing, you know? That’s why Ihad never actually entered any big ones.
Just being a rebellious kid?
Yeah, totally. But when I would talk to Kota and Buchi aboutit, they’d be like “What the fuck dude?! If you want to get to the States, howelse are you gonna get there? You’ll get it if you just enter. So when Iactually entered, I ended up winning. That’s what got me out of Japan for thefirst time.
I see. Where did you go first after you got to LA?
I think it was the park in Westchesternear LAX. That’s where I met pretty much everyone who was in the contest. I’mnot very good at English so I just thought I’d skate around a bit, but once Istarted 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 soI could understand, like “You okay Ryota? That chicken is spicy dude, you’ll bebreathing fire!” They’re all these kind of mischievous dudes but they’re allsuper nice, so I made some really good friends. That’s why I was hyped. Eventhough we were skating in a contest, it really just felt like I was skatingwith 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 thenstopped at a bunch of parks on the way to the contest. There were about 10 ofus, all the winners from the different countries. Skating was a lot of fun, butI 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 togo 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 wholeweek. The last half of the week skating with them, I really couldn’t move amuscle.
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 Inever feel around Japanese skaters. I’ll just out and say it, but Japaneseskaters just aren’t on the level, don’t you think? There’s not many of us and the demand forJapanese skating isn’t really there so even if I see a dude skating and hetells me he rides for whatever company, it’s like “oh okay, whatever.” That’swhere you feel a big difference in level, and there were so many guys that youcan tell that they just love skateboarding. It makes you feel like you canreally make a living off it. Even now, I don’t feel like I’ve caught up tothose guys I skated with. I got to skate with a bunch of pros too, and thosedudes are even gnarlier and you get that feeling from them even more. They’vejust got the raddest style. With guys that sick, I’ve pretty much given up hope(laughs).
I get you. What aboutthe tours you’ve gone on?
Well in terms of tours that left the biggest impression onme, the Volcom Asia Tour was the most fun in the purest sense of the word. Thatcrew was so on point and I was glad I was able to skate and demo together withthem. We toured through Malaysia, the Philippines, and Bali.
Was everyone hyped atthe demos?
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 hadthis gnarly diarrhea. I was eating almost every meal with Kota so the samething happened to him. We both got thisgnarly stomach bug at the same time all of a sudden. We were still supposed tobe in Bali for three more days to skate street, but there was no way we couldin 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. EvenDane (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 theway they skated in all the old videos I grew up watching. At the time, my localpark 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 gettinginto curbs, ledges, flatbars and everything. And rails and stairs are just coollooking so I like skating that stuff.
Where’d you practice handrails?
I used to skate the Tsutsujigaoka handrail alone with myheadphones in.
On that? Isn’t it kinked?
Yeah, it’s kinked. And the ground there is pretty gnarly soI would just be by myself totally eating shit. Then Ogido-san would take me outfilming 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. Andthere’s a sense of accomplishment and thrill to skating big stuff. Not reallyin a winning against yourself kind of sense, but like when you’re so scaredthat your knees won’t bend, but even while you’re thinking to yourself that you’redead if you bail, you lock in and think like “dude, I got this.”. That feelingis 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 thegate like I don’t care about eating shit though. And sometimes I really do eatit. It hurts, but that footage of the bail is sick too, isn’t it? I like thatkind of shit.
What about recently? Making any moves?
I’ve been going out with Yuto (Kojima), Hiro (Matsuo), andour videographer Hide and photographer Iseki-san, so there’s always someonegetting something. I go out on filming missions with them even on days I’m notskating. Like as backup I guess. If someone says they’ve got a trick they wantto get, we all go together. Almost like if everyone says they want to dosomething, it’s we go to the spot and as long as we get one thing, it’s allgood.
I get you. So that’s basically on the daily?
Yeah, probably. I’m probably out making moves with everyonefar 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 thetime, that’s what’s fun. To me, going out filming and not even getting thetrick is better than spending my time not knowing what the hell to do or notdoing anything at all anyways.
Anything currently in the works?
Yeah, but I can’t quite say yet. You’ll have to stay tuneduntil next time. I’m hyped just knowing people are interested, but I can’t saywhat it is yet.
What’s the ultimate goal?
My dream has always been to be a pro skater abroad. Americaisn’t everything, but to me, American skating is the sickest. The shit they dois the craziest. I want to be a part of it. That’s why I’m trying to makemoves. 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.
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