Well, I’m back in Japan and off to a good start. The main reason being, the video that myself, Marc Whitelaw as well as the other people at BYC Collective, is finally finished and online. This video took us a long time mostly because we decided to incorporate some CG effects into it to make it really stand out. Not many skate-videos go this route, but we figured it would help us stand out and really build our own niche with skateboard videos.
I met Marc through a friend I once worked with back when I was at West 49. This guy was a huge fan of Kilian Martin and Brett Novak’s work, and he was really interested in making a major skate-video to help build a name for himself in his industry. When we first met up two and a half years ago, we hit it off right away and have been good friends since then.
This project took us quite awhile to complete mostly because of our animated robot friend, Ollie, who we plan to use in other projects in the years to come. For now, we hope you enjoy our first project in what we expect to be a long and incredible adventure. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to present you with: Ampersand.
Well, this is it, I’m heading back home to Canada. I am super excited to fly back across the pond and see all the friends and family back in Canada for 6 months before coming back to the land of the rising sun. This has definitely been the fastest year of my life and I can’t believe how much I learned and obtained from this one year. I couldn’t believe all the people I was able to meet and the things I was able to experience. Things like getting my N1 on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, which is the highest level you can get, entering, placing and winning various Japanese speech contests, winning the Japanese Freestyle Skateboard Championships, etc. I have no intention of bragging, in fact one thing I learned through all this is, valuing these kind of achievements themselves have no meaning. It’s all empty. If that’s the case, what was the point in doing all this? It was simply the journey. If you look at the other side of the coin, In this year I also placed low in some speech contests, placed 10th in my first Pro skate contest (ouch), and made so many mistakes with my Japanese along the way I sometimes ended making a complete fool of myself. But that’s all ok, because regardless of the placings or how well I was able to carry out certain tasks I stuck with it, because the journey itself has value.
After falling, getting back up many times (which is definitely something that skateboarding has taught me) I would start to notice things like my Skateboarding and Japanese slowly start to improve. This was something I learned in Canada, however after being on my own for the first time in a foreign country, this definitely became more apparent. The way I look at life is “just keep moving”. What I mean by that is, you don’t have to be exhausting yourself everyday (although it doesn’t hurt to test your limits either), just aim for a goal and keep doing something related to it everyday even if it’s small. The more you put into something and the longer you stick with it, the more you will get back. A goal is something for you to aim at and what’s important is not obtaining what is at the end of it but the experiences and memories you created along the way. To me, that’s how you live a full life without any regrets. Just don’t stop and keep moving.
I have to say, I am forever grateful that I have skateboarding in my life. It’s only because of skateboarding that I was able to take on Japanese with confidence and stick with it. Every time I stumbled on my Japanese and made stupid mistakes, I always thought back to skateboarding and how it was no different than missing a trick. It’s only because I had skateboarding in my life that I was able to go on this amazing journey and meet so many awesome people in the skateboard community as well as the Japanese community. Thank you Skateboarding.
Well, it looks like The World Round-Up is done for another year. I wasn’t able to skate my best this year unfortunately, however I think I gained something even more important from this time: clarity. I only spent a week in Vancouver, but that week helped me realize a lot of things in my life and the direction I want to go. I always had these choices in my mind, however I feel like I can think more clearly now and make the right decision for myself (which I hope to talk about in another post).
I also learned a lot about my skating, what I did wrong, and why I think I couldn’t perform my best. Hippie Mike and I went to film the day before I left back for Japan and he brought up something very interesting about the difference between competing in a freestyle contest versus competing in a street contest. If you’re going to compete in a street contest, it’s better to get used to your terrain and not to worry about exactly what you will do in your run. In a freestyle contest, planning your routine is everything. We’re more like gymnasts, dancers, or (dare I say it?) figure skaters. Planning your run is everything and the second you start to doubt your run and try to change it up, your done. I guess in a way, the contest results are decided well before the contest itself. I’ll definitely remember this and hopefully I’ll be able to skate better the next contest. Regardless of the formal results, as a freestyler I just want to skate a run that I can feel happy with and be able to say that I did my best. I think a lot of us freestylers are really just trying to chase that one perfect run we can be proud of. At least, that’s what I’m chasing…
Last month I went to a skateboard convention called Inter-style. It’s where Surf, Snow and skateboard companies all get together to show off their new line of product for the new year as well as a chance to show off their own teams talent. One team I did not expect to meet were the Osaka Daggers, one of the worlds best skate teams in my opinion. The creativity these guys put into their skating is absolutely incredible. I highly encourage you to watch their videos if you haven’t yet, especially videos of their leader, Chopper. I always watched their videos countless times while I was in Canada, but I never would have guessed that I would have the chance to meet them in person. On top of that they let me skate with them as well. It was a blast and certainly something I won’t forget. These guys are the definition of what skateboarding is to me.
I love my life here in Japan. School is lots of fun, I have tons of great friends here and the skating here is fantastic. Hardly ever a rainy day here in Yokohama, which is awesome because I can take a break from skating my garage during the winter this year. But more importantly what I think is great about Japan is the skateboard community. Everyone is incredibly chill, there aren’t people labelling other people as a poser or labelling anyone as anything for that matter. I haven’t seen anyone throw a tantrum or throw/break their board because they missed a trick. The amount of respect I see here in this country is amazing.
There is a saying in Japanese that is used in sports, especially martial arts, “rei ni hajimari, rei ni owaru”, which basically means “start with respect and end with respect”. I was reading an article in class one day about this and thought it was awesome.
A Japanese professional baseball player was drafted to play overseas for an American team. In an interview he said that what he was surprised by was how the other players treated their equipment. If they got mad a lot of them would throw their gloves or break their baseball bats. He said “That is something I could never do. I just think about the person behind the scenes who made this equipment for me which is allowing me to play this sport that I love”. A lot of Japanese sports players take very good care of their equipment for this reason. The same goes for skateboarding. I was definitely blown away by that. I never really took the time to think about how there was someone who took the time to make the deck, the wheels, the trucks and bearings which are allowing me to keep skating. Since getting here I have made sure to take extra care of my set-up and make sure I am using every part of my board until the very end, even if I get some free product from sponsors. One day, the world resources which are used to make our boards could be quite limited or in an extreme case be gone completely. Nothing lasts forever, and this is true for skateboarding. Lets make the most of it.
Happy New Year I hope you are all had a great time with your family and friends. This was my first Christmas and New Year’s abroad, and it was a lot of fun. Over the winter break I went to a year-end party hosted by Fabric Skate Shop. Kojima and Saori are truly amazing people for hosting this kind event and have always been incredibly welcoming since I first arrived here. I got to meet tons of people who I kind of already knew from Shin-Yokohama Park but didn’t really talk to as I was too focused on my skating and they weren’t sure if I spoke Japanese. In Canada, I almost always practice by-myself and completely zone into my own skating completely ignoring my surroundings, but now that I’m here, I think I’m going to try and change that a little this year and try to reach out to some of the other skaters here a bit more.
At the party we ate freshly cut sushi off a skateboard with skate videos of the shop-team playing when I noticed “holy crap that’s White-Rock“. Apparently the Lower Mainland’s reputation extends all the way over here too as some people were talking about their skateboard experiences in Vancouver and their favourite spots. I felt right at home talking with these guys who know what skating in the lower mainland is all about. It was a great time and I was stoked to be invited.
I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year and lets all try to actually stick to those new year’s resolutions. Take care
So your fairly young maybe you feel like your missing out on something and you want to experience something new. Maybe you have thought about travelling but never really got to the planning stages or were financially able to do so. If this is where you are, you’re probably going to want to keep reading this. I have been in Japan now for almost 3 months and am having a great time living here. If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 you qualify for a working holiday visa. What is that you might ask? A working holiday visa is a visa that lets you live in and work in a variety of countries for usually about one year (2 years sometimes depending on the country).Of course you will need a Passport too. Canada is fortunately one of the countries that is a part of the Working Holiday Program and depending on the country you wish to go to, you will be able to stay for up to a year and have the experience of a life time. Once your done your time in one country, you can apply for another working holiday in another country and see the world.
Qualifications vary by country, but generally you only need about $3000 in your bank account (the government doesn’t touch it, they just need proof you can support yourself until you find a job), medical insurance and a round-trip plane ticket.
To check which countries are involved, please check following link, then simply go to the website of the embassy of the country you wish to go to for more information. I can’t tell you how life changing my time in a different country has been. This experience is something that I’m sure will influence my future greatly in the years to come.
Alright! I keep meeting more and more freestylers here. A couple of weeks ago Mario Steinemann and his friend came to Japan to hang out. Mario is an insane truck trick skater riding his board in ways you didn’t think were possible. We’re talking going from Railstand (Primo), late flip to truckstand madness! It was good to catch up with him in Japan since I haven’t seen him since the 2010 world-championships.
He’s such an amazing skater and still lands everything he tries. He’s an incredibly hilarious guy (so funny I can’t post even a hint of his humour on this website), always up for partying and having a good time. With all the diverse characters in the freestyle community he is definitely the comedian and the guy to ease the tension in any heated situation.
Good to see you Mario and were glad you had a great time in Japan.
Well, I guess some things don’t really change even when you go half way around the world. It’s only been a little bit over a month in Japan and so far I have been pulled over by the cops twice for simply riding my skateboard to school. The crazy thing about it though, is in Japan you are legally allowed to ride a skateboard on the sidewalk and on the road, however with bicycles it’s illegal to ride them on the sidewalk and you have to ride your bike on the side of the road. The funny thing is, I see more than half of the bicyclists break that law and the police don’t say a thing. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been hit by bikes on the sidewalk. At least if you have an accident with a skateboard where you accidentally hit someone it’s just flesh hitting flesh with maybe the little wooden board bumping a leg, and the odds are you are going significantly slower than someone on a bike. Have the same situation where someone runs into you on a bike, they are likely going much faster and are going to charge at you with giant chunk of metal. I’m not here to point fingers at people on bikes, but it’s crazy how much some of the cops don’t take the time to stop and think “Oh wait, which one is REALLY more dangerous?”
With the police here it’s kind of weird, however on the other-hand I’m happy to report that a lot of the regular people here are fairly welcoming to skateboarders as long as you practice tricks at your local skatepark which kind of makes sense if your living in a city whose population dwarfs that of Canada. Other than the police though, cruising seems fine for the most part. Skateboarding isn’t as popular in Japan as it is in North America, but there is a good scene here, it’s just a little bit hidden away from the general public eye and only done in major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, etc. Thanks to the popularization of Penny Boards in Japan though, skateboarding’s popularity has gone on quite the uprise in the past 2 years with parks and skateboard classes increasing more and more.
Skateboarding in a different country is very interesting. Sometimes there are a few negative things, however I just try to keep in mind that it’s something fairly new here and there are still people not quite used to it here, but it’s getting better and I look forward to seeing how the scene in Japan will develop into the future.
Do you know Fabric? Well unless your in Yokohama Japan probably not, which is why I’m going to tell you guys across the pond about them. I first met the owner Kojima and his wife Saori at Yokohama skatepark, the park I go to all the time. I was practicing my 360 spin variations when Kojima came up to me and said “You spin like Kevin Harris“. I was shocked he didn’t say Rodney Mullen, but Kevin Harris. I replied to him and said “He was the one who taught me” and from there we hit it off right away. It turns out that Kevin was in Japan and did a demo for Kojima and his class-mates in the 80’s when he was in middle school. He told me how stoked he was to meet him back then and later showed a board he had Kevin sign from way back then.
We started talking more and I found out he owns a skate-shop called Fabric, which just happened to be a 5 minute walk from my house. This shop is sick! I go in and it’s like a basement where the ceiling barely misses my head, but it’s definitely not too cramped. At this shop there isn’t a skate wall, but more like a skate ceiling with boards covering the place. What really caught my eye though, is that Kojima does his own boards, and they are absolutely sick! He makes all kinds of shapes, experiments with them and then rides them. He loves to experiment with different shapes and graphics and each one looks just as sick as the next. Couldn’t have found a more core shop with such incredibly awesome people running it. These people really deserve every bit of success and more that comes their way.
Right now, I regularly stop by the shop and talk with Kojima and his wife about various skate related things and have incredibly fun conversations with them as well as skate with them on occasion and that’s when I take a step back and realize something. If I never studied Japanese, these incredibly awesome people would have been impossible to make a connection with. I am truly grateful now that my high-school offered so many Japanese programs to travel abroad as well as study the language. This is just another example of what travelling abroad at a young age will give you. A whole different view of the world with a new fascination and appreciation for other cultures and languages. We like to think that English is THE language, however I strongly have to disagree. There are so many other cultures and languages to experience with so many different communities that are not as small and tight-knit as we might think with new friends and new adventures just waiting around the corner.
Thank you Kojima and Saori for your kind hospitality and really making me feel welcome here.