Featured Photograper: Agro

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Fun chat with our in-house photographer. Exploring his skate origins. Agro tells us how he got into skating, what he tries to capture in his photos and BIG plans for the Euro tour. Enjoy his photos scattered through this interview.

Hey Agro, where are you from?
Hi I’m from L’Ametlla del Vallés, the best small town to grow up, near Barcelona.

When did you start skating?
It was about 13 years ago or so, at the age of 13 in the French alps. Still remember my first board, it was a Baker, 8.5 inches wide with a graphic of a monkey working on nickel bags.

You started riding down mountains on your first day?
I wish! Back then we only shredded with snow under our feet, pavement was too hard. We only rode street style. I remember trying to bomb hills with our shortboards and crashing into those electric fences, then we desisted. What is cool though is that my little brother is doing it the right way, 10 years later on the exact same spot.

Do you still ride short boards?
I actually sucked pretty bad with a short one under my feet. In the last months, I have come back to the short board style but with big fat double-kick boards. Even when I started skating I knew that wasn’t really my thing, I wanted to do what we did  on the snow translated to pavement.
 Snowboarding is your first love?
No, freeski was. Fast carves with grip, jumping cliffs and dribbling trees in powder, that was the beginning and still is one of the most powerful feelings.

How did you finally find your happy place on a board with wheels?
I grew up on a small town in a pretty steep side of a mountain and we had great hills and no skateparks. I suck at grinds and stairs so I quit riding wheels, but at the age of 16 a friend of mine bought a freebord, one of the very first freebords in Spain. He was trying to figure out the technique. I don’t know why but after a few minutes looking at it I completely got the physics, and once you can slide urethane, there’s no turning back.

Is that your best way to translate what you did on the snow to asphalt?
At first it was. Freebord is weird because the learning curve doesn’t necessarily match the amusement one. It’s hard to get the snowboard feeling, and once you have the technique, you keep pushing further, so it becomes more singular. We were lucky to find such a new sport and be part of the growth, it’s cool to invent tricks, or be the first one to apply other tricks to a new sport.
But now I am pretty ashamed to admit I’m not riding that much freebord, longboarding got me pretty hard.

When did you start longboarding?
About four years ago my freebord fella Alex and I attended our first Barcelona cruising organised by Axel, that very first day after the cruise, I decided I couldn’t commute through the city with that six-wheeled monster any more. That was the very same day I met Axel, and the next evening he was riding at Numancia and I was uploading some of my first longboard shots.

How were you commuting with a freeboard?
Yes man! I developed my technique for the standard push and I was pretty good at it, I was good enough to speed up for gaps, but not enough to cruise.

Who is Axel?
Are you kidding? Everyone knows Axel Serrat! We all know that he rides funkier than anyone for Original Skateboards. But he is a great guy too, he organised the first outlaw, massive cruisings and he has always been one of the most prolific members of the Catalan/Spanish scene. And for me he has been a great buddy since day one, and a great man to skate, travel, partying or even being serious or argue with. We the Catalan riders owe him a lot, but I do way more than the rest.

What is Numancia?
Numancia is a paved pedestrian street which works perfect as meeting spot. It’s where the daily meetings take place. It’s our spot at least 4 nights per week. We settled roots there.

What’s special about your first longboard shots?
There were my first pics. I still remember them well, first experiences with the flashes, first popular album on FB and first “I Like” from people I didn’t even know.

Do you still have your first board?
I don’t have my first skateboard but I do remember anything on it. (the monkey had 13 spliffs on his mouth and 15 bags on the table). My first short board is still in use by a close friend in Madrid.

What is the community in Barcelona like?
The community in Barcelona is pretty grown up actually, really mature. It has always been a skate city since the Olympics back in 1992 so it didn’t go crazy with the longboard hype. There have been people riding for a long time, and people learning from them since then. I mean that the very first old guys riding are still in contact with the scene, they were the mentors of the generations following. The kids starting listen and respect the knowledge of elder riders, as the old folks recognise the talent and skills of the young blood. We are lucky to have some of the best and most humble riders in the country, so no one stands out and we are less hurt by the poser plague found nowadays in other places. It has to be said that most of the riders in Barcelona are multi-disciplinary, which raises the average level of skill.

Who were the first guys?
I don’t wanna lie, I wasn’t there so as far as I know, Pearson longboards guys and Longboard Mediterranea were the first crews/group of friends that organised events. They did the most for the basis of the solid scene we have today.

What is Pearson?
Pearson Ave. is one of the first ridden spots in Barcelona, maybe the first place where people gathered regularly, and the guys riding there back then decided to build their own boards. They started using broken beds and suddenly an affordable boards brand was created. The very first in Catalonia, they are still on the market. Awesome people who create a company just for the stoke of riding, they did it when longboard was far from being a businness and they still keep the punk philosophy.

What’s your role in the community?
Short answer version: I was the very first guy travelling around just to take pictures.
Long answer:
I’ve always been a nerd with tech specs before everyone was and I’ve been wokring in board shops for a while, so I store some knowledge I guess. I’m still the camera guy but I get involved in any project I can I try to be part of the whole scene. I had been living in Madrid for a while and I’ve been and still feel like one of them so I have the honour to be some kind of link between both scenes.
Everyone thinks bald guys are wise, and I do have a pretty long beard too so I’m very lucky to have a lot of people sharing their concerns with me and their knowledge too. I try to share what I learn in one place and bring it to another. So yeah, if you wanna discuss about the scene I’m up 24/7, I would love to learn from you and share what I think.
Oh, and I’ve got a rad van, so my role as photographer and driver is something similar to a road manager or an assistant sometimes.

What do you enjoy about longboard photography?
The reason why I love photography in general is because it reports the inherent beauty on the reality, it’s not about creating anything, it’s about extracting the art of things through your particular way of looking at them. Longboard photography is a challenge, as the motion and the feelings concerned are really intense and it has to be communicated in a single still shot.
In addition, it is technically hard, it requires skills and practice, not only talent. I do have a kind of inner hunter instinct during the session.

What is your weapon choice?
I proudly own a Canon 5D and a nice set of lenses, I used to shoot with a Canon 16-35 2.8 and a Canon 70-200 2.8 for longboard but I dream about mastering the Canon T/S 17 3.5 for action scenes someday.

I thought only the Swiss had skate vans!
Haha! You know we Spanish people aren’t as big as other Europeans, well, neither is my van. But it is a great small cube with wheels and after so many kilometers, and sketchy situations you get to know how to use the space in the best way.
But it is actually too small, so I just invested in a new old van for this Eurotour, so we will have the best conditions to report what’s happening this summer All Around Europe!

Who do you transport in your van?
Riders only. I’ve travelled with many people, my close buddies, they have all slept in several nights. Anyway if there is one person who is more attached than anyone else it’s my official co-pilot Dunia Vidal, who rode with me the 2011 eurotour and many other skate trips before and after. We risked our lives together once and we shall never forget that one!
This eurotour I’m travelling with my brother Pablo Quiles for almost 2 months. It’s gonna be rad only if we don’t kill each other before day 50.

Who is Pablo?
Quiles is pure downhill. I met him 2 years ago on his first skatetrip, we were at Malaga and he was riding for less than a year by then. I was shocked how intense his ride was, he never stopped so we didn’t get the chance to chat. We meet for the second time 4 months ago and he told me he had skated every single day since then. He is a DH maniac with skills and a very intense and noble person, so bromance occurred and we have been  travelling and planing stuff together since then.

Where will you be going for those 50 days?
All Around Europe! Haha, It’s gonna be sick, there’s some stuff to be confirmed and some other that would be better to keep secret for now. But I can tell that we will be reporting for AAS and UFO longboards on ALL of the IGSA races in Europe as well as KNK and visiting some European manufacturers and friends.

When did you move to Madrid?
A couple of years ago, I was already attached to the city before that, I came back to work in the Pyrenees 4 months later but I made so many good friends that for the last 2 years I’ve being visiting the capital twice a month. Such a great place, such good people.

How is skating in both cities different?
I guess different spots and different pioneers diverged in different schools. Longboarding is organic, and organic stuff evolves according to the environment.
That’s something I love to discuss with people from both cities. Most of us agree that the Madrid school is  more based on dancing with long ass boards and Barcelona school is more based on pumping shortboards, so we the Catalans used to carve more than the guys in the capital.
Anyway that will concern urban rides, but there’s big standup sliders and DH freaks all around Spain and as those styles increase, the difference between styles reduces.

How has your photography evolved since you started longboarding?
That’s a tough one. I’m gonna ask you for a couple of minutes as I light one…
I guess it has evolved from pure experimentation to objective achievements. I mean I know what I want and I know how to do it and if I’m lucky i get the results.
At the very beginning I was riding on my board with the camera really close to the subject and seeing what I could get through the fish eye. But now I have my own routine, my own ways to explain certain scenes or situations and I use a handful of lenses depending on the situation.
I still shoot as I did but I shoot differently too, I want the sniper feeling of a long tele and short focals. Being far from the subject and holding your breath is a really rewarding experience when you get the shot. Shooting by pure instinct was great but hunting fast guys in leathers is unique too.

What’s the most important thing you try to capture through your lens?
I want you to dream about being that guy. I want to capture the very exact moment when everything fits.
Fuck this is hard! I just want people who don’t ride to understand why we do it when they see the picture and I want the riders feeling all the stoke of the moment.

Do you make videos?
Not yet, never tried.

What projects have you been involved with?
I’ve done pretty much my own thing till now. When I got in there was nothing around, and I had no references, so I spent my first years just worrying about a nice single shot. I have collaborated with lot’s of friends and small and not so small brands in some small and not so small medias, but never saw a real chance of big project.

Lately things are bigger and more serious so are the projects. I’m really happy to help and I have so much stuff to share here in AAS before the trip. Last years eurotour was a total failure because the lack of experience and the total technological breakdown we suffered at the very beginning. So this year we are going with a solid plan to cover the events also for my friends of UFO Longboards Madrid.

What is AAS?
I’m pretty sure you may have heard about it  – AllAroundSkate, it’s a project born from the idea of gathering all those great videos produced in the old continent, as well as the photos, reports, and anything interesting going on in the longboard scene. We are very happy about how everything is going. This is also a really active site where you get to know some of the people doing cool stuff. We really pushed the nitro button and keep the rhythm up.

What’s your involvement with this project?
The project was born in Barcelona around the time I was living in Madrid, so I wasn’t there at the very beginning, but I jumped in as soon as I was told about it. I try to write some reports and share my pictures. I am aware about what is going on but I have been lucky and skipped the hard job. One of my favourite projects is the new Instagram account for AAS, Aleix, Axel & I shall be posting our shots this summer from our locations.

What can we expect from AAS this euro tour? 
AAS can be as large as the European scene is, every month we have more and more people joining us and sharing their videos and event reports so summer can be crazy for AAS for Race reports and productions! We will try to cover many events on the continent!
I will follow the IGSA races, but inbetween there are long weeks of travel through the mountains of Europe with a 24 year old van with Pablo, shredding curvy mountains and visiting great friends and manufacturers. We’ll try to update the pics and reports daily so you can keep the track of what’s going on at the races.
I gotta say that the three of us (Axel, Aleix and I) are well armed with magnetic lenses for our smartphones and we love to use them!

So we can expect live race pictures and results?
I wish I could confirm that but we are gonna depend on wi-fi connection as most of the budget goes for the gas of the ninja-turtle van.

What was your highlight of last season?
That’s hard to say, such a great first experience we had. If we talk about particular moments, I must say that the night we spent in Col de la Bonnette with Dunia, Katie, Andrew, James Kelly and Scoot and the day after the night was really special. As well as the previous days to the Verdiccio race and the party with the locals. And of course the crazy night in Slovenia! With Simon, Alex, Bo, Kiwi, Axel and Dunia. I ended up sitting on a chair in the middle of a field meditating as the sun rose.
In photography terms, everything was pretty screwed because of technical problems, but I will never forget the pictures at Col de la Bonnette.

Why was it so special?
Because it was pure stress and I loved it. That spot is more than 20km long and it’s extremely beautiful and rad all along. Plus I had some of the best riders in front of me. But I had no time to prepare for the shots, so it was pure gambling. Driving down crazy with the van, climbing up the hills, and waiting for them to appear, just wishing the clouds and the suns stay there when they come. I even remember vomiting while climbing the rocks (those damn Canadians wake up too early for a latin photographer).

How did you all end up there?
Dunia and I joined the Canadian guys in Insul and I’m pretty sure they had it scheduled by then. It’s a pretty legendary road. I totally understand why.

Did you get any good material?
I did, I’m happy enough as the conditions weren’t that good. But nothing has seen the light yet, It will pretty soon, right before the next trip!

Have you done much work with none Europeans?
Not much with longboarders, I did a lot of stuff with the Freebord guys when I was in San Francisco. It was amazing to shoot there.
I have done a couple of things with people abroad and there are some other projects that may become a reality (let’s hope so).

What do you ride?
Any board rideable on snow and concrete (except snakeboard or street skating, I suck).

Choose 3 numbers between 1-33?
1.6.22

1 – What do you take with you when you go for a skate?
I would like to say helmet, 95 percent of the time I do,  I always run out of battery or loose my earphones so I never listen to music. I gotta admit I like a cigarette after a nice session, I know it’s unhealthy but hey we’re skaters, we’re full of scars and screws.

6 – What is the strangest food you’ve eaten?
One of the most precious seafood existing is the Percebe. It grows attached to the rocks where the waves crash, people die catching it, it’s exquisite and everyone knows. What most people don’t know is that they pay up to 300 euros for an animal that is 90 percent penis, that’s pretty weird.

22 – Do you have any hidden talents?
They shall remain hidden…

Thanks a lot for your time! Always nice to talk to you bro. Have fun on your trip. Hugs.
Thanks bro, it’s been a pleasure, I can’t see nothing but letters by now but it was cool! Hope we see each other somewhere this summer.

Any thank yous?
Thanks Champs and Ricardo for being the first people who I risked my life with and being the starters of this passion 13 years ago. Thanks Roberto for being our freebord mentor and gathering my first crew (Killthemonkey for life). Thanks Axel for all I said and much more. The beer team, Madrid in general, the TeamRuin for surviving, thank you all who have been kind or absolute assholes,cause I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot.
And thank that stupid wooden toy that I can die for and is also a good reason to live.
I’m sorry, thank you.

Links
http://www.flickr.com/photos/agrodriguez/
Instagram – AllAroundSkate