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Shin Sanbongi interview

22.03.2021 - ExclusiveInterviews

Photography: Ohyama
Interview: Kingsford
Translation: Keefe

You spent a lot of time travelling in 2019, filming for your adidas part and for Polar. Have you managed to leave Japan this year (2020)?
No, I haven’t.

Do you miss travelling?
Yes. I haven’t been able to go anywhere this year. If we didn’t have the pandemic, I’d love to go to the UK or Germany. There are a load of places in Europe that I haven’t visited yet.

Have you found any positive aspects to spending more time at home?
I guess so. I haven’t been on any trips so it’s been completely different to last year. Being in Japan has meant I’ve spent way more time doing things that I wouldn’t have time for usually like surfing and camping, so that has been good.

What about skating at home? Do you enjoy filming and shooting photos in your hometown of Chigasaki or do you prefer doing this on tour?
Being on tour means fresh spots, so it’s way easier to get motivated than being in my hometown. It’s just fun to be in a new country, seeing new spots. I love skating in my hometown, but it’s a completely different thing. I prefer filming on tour.

Ollie to frontside wallride, Hiratsuka

Have you found yourself thinking more about tricks and taking a more creative approach while you’ve been stuck at home?
Right now I’m skating a lot at the same spots so that is forcing me to see what new tricks I can do there. I guess that’s fun right now.

What can you tell us about the Polar video?
The video we’re working on now is focusing on Japan. It was originally planned to be released around spring this year, but as we couldn’t go on any trips it has been pushed back.

Pontus (Alv) has a strong work ethic and expects the same from his team. How is your working relationship with him?
He’s really hard working and strict, but it’s fun working with him. Going on trips and filming is fun – there are no negatives for me. I’m looking forward to working on new projects together as well.

Is he strict with footage you send him?
Yes he’s strict. He asks for more spicy footage, more fisheye or more hammers for example.

Wallie backside noseblunt slide, Asakusa

Your English is good now, but I read you didn’t speak so much when you first joined the Polar team. Did you find it difficult getting to know your teammates?
Yes, it was really hard but the guys that are a similar age like Roman Gonzalez from France took their time teaching me English and getting to know me. I get on well with everyone but in the beginning I was close with Oski (Rozenberg Hallberg), Andrew Wilson…

Tell us about your hometown, Chigasaki.
It’s a small town. A lot of people surf there but there are a lot of skaters as well. All of my friends the same age surf and skate. That’s the difference to a lot of other places – because people like skate and surf culture there is a lot more understanding for us here. There might also be a few people in Tokyo that have a similar mentality, but here people think skateboarding is cool.

How does it compare to Tokyo?
Tokyo is a stressful place. Chigasaki is way more laid back, even if you do sometimes get kicked out. They might say something like: “I understand what you guys want to do, but please would you mind not doing that here?” There are no strict kick-outs. They’re really friendly.

And am I right in thinking Chigasaki is an important place for surfing?
It’s not that famous in the surf world but a lot of people surf here. The waves aren’t so big, but when it’s typhoon season we get some good waves.

Backside kickflip, Chigasaki

Have you ever thought about moving away?
Not really. I like Sweden, but I’ve only been there in summer. I’ve seen how nice it is in summer, but as it’s a cold country I don’t think I’d want to be there all year. And the States… there are a lot of places I still haven’t been there but I don’t think I would want to live there.

Tell us about your father. I read that he has been an important influence in your life.
My father has always done what he wants. He’s had a lot of different jobs and has always surfed and skated. That’s why I started. He’s always done exactly what he wanted to.

Which came first for you, skateboarding or surfing?

I started surfing when I was around five, but didn’t keep it up. I was kind of traumatised at first because it was really scary. I quit once or twice when I was younger because of that. I played football for a while, then in middle school I started skating. I remember going to the skatepark with my father and that’s when I started skating more than surfing. Surfing was first, but I’ve spent way more time skating in my life.

How often do you surf these days?
I surf every day when there are waves, so almost every day during typhoon season. When there aren’t many waves, maybe only once a week.

Pole jam, Zushi

Have you travelled much for surfing?
Yes. Last year I went surfing on tour with Polar in Portugal. The waves there are big, but I can’t surf those huge waves. I surfed waves around my own height.

Can you talk about the relationship between your surfing and skating? You skate like a surfer if that makes sense. How does your surfing influence your skating?
Feeling the waves you learn about taking good lines, flow and how to skate transition. Doing a wallride for example is similar to taking a turn on a big wave. I feel like surfing and skating are linked like that.

Do you think surfers make more stylish skaters?
No, I don’t think so. People that mainly surf, when they skate they are too used to throwing their body weight around, but that doesn’t work on a skateboard. A lot of people try to skate like that but slam and quit. But people that surf a bit but mainly skate can take a little bit of the flow and apply it to skating. That works.

Who are some of your favourite skater-surfers?
Alex Olson I guess. He’s a pro skater but he surfs too. I’ve never seen him surf so I don’t know how good he is, butI know he surfs a lot so that affects his skateboarding. You can see it in his style. Also, Evan Mock from Hawaii. His skating and surfing are really stylish.

Ollie to wallride, Atsugi

You turned pro for Polar back in April. Congratulations. I read that was a goal of yours in your Solo interview. How was it turning pro during the pandemic? I guess you weren’t able to celebrate in the usual way.
Yes, it was a bit lonely. Pontus said he would have liked to do something but because of corona we couldn’t. He was in touch at the time and all the teammates wrote to me. I was happy about that, even without a party.

Tell us more about your first pro board, specifically the shape.
As I have a surf style, Pontus was talking about releasing a new shape around that time. He asked me what kind of shape I would like. I looked at a bunch of different shapes and the one we ended up with was the ‘surf shape.’ The nose and tail aren’t the same. It would be fun to use as a cruiser as well.

What are your plans for the future? Laurence (Keefe) mentioned you were thinking about opening a shop in Chigasaki.
I’m thinking a lot about it now. There aren’t any skate shops in Chigasaki, but there really are a lot of skaters. A lot of kids are starting now, so we need somewhere where they can not just buy a board, but also learn about skateboarding rules and culture. Of course I want to keep on with my career as a pro skater for now, with Polar and adidas, but I want to have one more thing in addition to my skate career. Doing a shop, a brand, teaching skating… I’m thinking about it now.