Featured rider: Alvaro Bajo

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Great conversation with one of the gentlemen of the European downhill scene. Alvaro tells us about is origins skating in Madrid, chasing adrenalin and his fairy godmother.

Hey bro! Good to speak to you again, how are you?
A little bit stressed with university, but otherwise fine.

How was your weekend?
Shit, I was working in my room all week with a perfect sun outside for skating, and when I finished my last exam on Friday it started to rain. We only skated few hours, so I spent the weekend in my room editing my last video.

Do you guys ever skate in the rain?
We aren’t used to it. It’s always sunny in Spain, except for at events haha, so on the rainy days we leave our skateboards at home. Sometimes we make the effort, because when the races run in the wet, the Spanish get scared.

What is the last video about?
It’s a project I had in my mind for a long time, skate vs. bike, one of my two passions together. Top Gear used to make these type of videos, I saw one about 4×4 vs. mountain-board and thought “It would be nice to make something similar”. Apart from a TopGear report style, I wanted to show how downhill skateboarding, with a good skill level and under control, can be as safe as a motorbike or another transport on an open road. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0LCGgpTnhA

Who won – skateboard or bike?
Haha, the video shows a draw, but honestly, the bike was faster by far. Maybe on a more twisty road the skateboard may have been faster.

Did you skate or bike first?
I started riding bikes when I was fourteen and longboarding at eighteen, so motorbike first. Since then they have been alternating, I left longboarding for two years and focused on motocross. I returned to the skate when I realized that I would crash hard one day due to my thin constitution.

Which is your bigger passion?
Going downhill on a piece of wood and 4 wheels. But I really like all the slide sports Kitesurf, surf, snowboard, ice hockey.

How far did you go in motocross?
Not too far. Motocross in Spain is forbidden like downhill, to train you must go to a closed circuit, they are very far from Madrid. Its a sport of hours and hours till you reach the feeling with the gas. Also one of the hardest sports I’ve ever done, if you are not strong enough you will get hurt, and that was my problem.

Is the adrenalin from these things different?
Yes. Kitesurf is about feeling the strength of the wind and jumping 5-10 m over the water. Surfing is about that intense ten seconds that you can’t explain. I see snowboarding as very similar to freeriding, with different terrain. And hockey is a very fast sport where you don’t want to be tackled.

Which of these can kill someone easiest?
Every could be mortal with bad luck and in their way. But I think downhill skateboarding is the most dangerous of them.

How did you get into skating?
I started longboarding six years ago, then in Madrid we were “four cats”. I saw an ad in a Surf page that said “When the surf sucks, Carveboard”. I tried to find the same feeling on my skateboard by changing the bushings, and then I bought a mountain-board. The tires wore out too fast, so finally I tried the urethane by buying a longboard.

Who were the other cats?
The other cats were Ra, Jorge (LaChicaDeLaCurva), Caribbean father and son (Jose Antonio and Borja ), RD (Ricardo Damborenea), RatSliders and Revil. Red and some other people also made some appearances.

Did you have a name for your gang?
No, we were just a part of the biggest (tiny at this moment) forum of longboarding in Spain, www.40sk8.com , hosted by Red.

What is 40sk8?
Its the Spanish Silverfish, where Red posts events, news, interviews, photos and videos. It also has a big forum.

What role does it play in the Spanish community?
The forum is where you can ask for help, sell/buy, post your pics & videos, events and anything you want. Most of the Spanish scene knows about it.

Where did you skate in the beginning?
We used to skate in “La Cuesta del Angel Caido” (Slope of the Fallen Angel), the one up from Moyano. Jorge told me one day that the statue that is at the top of this slope was in honor of Lucifer, this point is 666m over the sea. Here we had one of the first photo sessions in the Madrid scene http://www.40sk8.com/galerias/carving/parque-del-retiro/ (Always wear helmet please, those were old times haha).

How has the scene in Madrid evolved since then?
Each of these first longboarders is dedicated to a different roll. Red to the forum, Caribbean and RD with the shop and slalom crew, Ra always with his sick style and big events, Jorge and me got involved in downhill and board brand, now he is making the videos of the downhill scene as MainOut Studios.

What sort of skating did you do in the beginning?
Carving and easy slides like coleman, speed-checks. Surf style, like everybody at the beginning I guess.

How has your skating evolved over the years?
After the first Black Night, I began to know more about downhill. Jorge and I tried to bring riders up to the mountains and show them the speed feeling. Now the longboarding has grown, but in downhill we were “four cats” again. After a year of skating “alone”, I left longboarding for two years, focusing on other sports. I returned at the beginning 2010, and longboarding had grown exponentially.

What do you like about downhill?
Everything! But the best feeling is having control when going down a road just like a bike or car. Drifting in the perfect place, reaching 100km/h or taking a perfect line in the corner, always under control. Here is when you really understand what downhill is.

What did it feel like when you came back in 2010?
Everything had changed: videos, brands, riders all over and style. I went to the IGSA Graveyard Call with a Brazilian tuck and Dalua style footbrake and saw all the riders drifting, I didn’t know what they were doing, but in that moment my view of downhill changed completely forever.

Was is hard to get back to where you were before you left?
It was sweet! Casually I contacted some guys and began a very good friendship. Longboarding is completely different with friends.

How was the experience of your first race outside Spain?
Awesome. The Graveyard Call in France is one of my favorite races till today. Excellent organization, fun and beautiful track, seeing all the worldwide riders. I finished 31, not too bad, with my old downhill style. Its funny when I see some photos of this race and think about how much I have changed.

What is the difference between France and Spain?
France has “more kilometers” in this sport, like Germany or Switzerland, and they organize events more frequently. Here in Spain there are 2 or 3 important downhill events per year and none of them are races. If you want to improve your downhill, you need to race, skate with 3 more riders close, don’t crash and go down faster than you can, always with an F1 or rally point of view, not sketchy.

How young is the downhill scene in Spain?
I think 7 years. It is a long time, but Spanish style. The boom came 2 years ago, and its growing so fast at the moment. Most of the beginners try to go fast and throw stand-ups in their first week, speed has something very special that other modalities don’t give you: adrenalin.

Is it a problem if riders learn standups before colemans?
Maybe. I always say that I see downhill as the end of a process that begins with carving. 1st know to skate safe, 2nd go fast. Its like the motorbikes, I’ve been riding since I was fourteen, tons of dangerous situations and some crashes. One friend bought a 1000cc bike and he hasn’t ridden a bicycle in his life, guess the end of the story.
Going fast is easy, braking is not the same.

Why does a country with so many sick riders have no races?
That’s a very good question, ask the politicians haha. Here money chooses what sports are important. A downhill race is, apparently, very simple: close a road and an alternative one, put bales to make it safe, get some friends to help and an ambulance. Organizers of Tuixent or Velefique work months on this, without tons of money, like other sports, things are slow and difficult.

Can you think of any gnarly places in Spain that could host races?
Everywhere! Spain is sunny all year and the roads are in good conditions. Pyrenees is a sick place, every road is awesome!

What would happen if Spain had more Velefiques and Tuxients?
Higher skill level, by far! If riders can skate safe and fast two times per year… WOW! In every event we always talk about the Peninsula Cup, with races in each part of Spain and Portugal hosted by the locals, but is just an utopia.

What do we need to do to make the dream of the Peninsula Cup real?
Money, time, good organizers in each point and one important guy to coordinate all.

Is there a national downhill association in Spain?
Yes, the FEDEI (Federación de Deportes de Inercia), but they look more for the “carrilanas” (a kind of gravity car) that for the light categories. The tracks are not the best for downhill skateboarding.

How hard does the economic situation affect skaters in Spain?
It affects the local shops mainly, spending 300€ on a complete board is not easy at all. The beginners are looking for cheap and quality boards = second hand. Also people think that online shops are cheaper, not always with the shipping and the customs. For me, the personal assistance is very important, if the seller skates and knows about the material, better. Support your local store!

What role does a good shop play in the community?
A good shop supports the local scene, events and riders, not only for the benefits they reap, but because they feel and live it. The same for the riders, the relation between rider – shop or brand should be natural. Like the old AEG Industries philosophy, the worker is proud of the company and gives 100% because the company gives the same and sees him as a human, not a machine.

Do you have any sponsors?
Yes! Rayne Motherf***ing Longboards, Cult Wheels and ToxicWorld.

When did you first get sponsored?
May 2010, the morning of the day I officially got sponsored, by LaChicaDeLaCurva Longskates and Toxic World. I broke my meniscus. We joked about me being like a football player of Real Madrid (don’t remember the name, I’m not a football lover) that just signed up and got injured.
Why? Here is the answer fucking knee-on-board style, guys do not try this at home.

How did you celebrate your professional status?
Forty days of no skating, like the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights. The same afternoon Jorge and Bea, owners of LaChicaDeLaCurva, brought my new quiver to my house, so I spent all this month watching the boards in the plastic.

Who is lachica?
LaChicaDeLaCurva (TheGirlOfTheCurve) is a spanish longboard brand with the quality of Watson Laminates (U.S.A.). There are 4 wood shapes: Pin-Up (Slalom), Scissors (Tech Slide), Jungla (Freestyle) and Colinabajo (Downhill). Later we released the Colinabajo and Colinalibre (a redesign of mine, with shorter WB for freeride) in carbon with foamcore. Check my “blast from the past” video with this last one in http://www.lachicadelacurva.es/.

What is their role in the scene?
I think they were the first longboard brand in Spain and organized the first SlideJams in Madrid, they were so much fun!

When did you hook up with your new sponsors?
All happened at the beginning of the 2012. Victor, Spanish Lush-Sabre-Cult distributor, talked with me about Cult Wheels sponsoring on a national level and later in the official team.
In February I organised a trip to Mallorca with my buddies Javi and Sergio, and the locals Francesc, Palex and Kati. Coincidentally, Rayne’s Graham, Les, Mark Short and Will Edgecombe were there at the same days, so we skated together that week.
The Rayne guys don’t know this part… on the last day, we were joking that before leaving they would give us the boards as presents, “ I want the Vandal” “The Supreme is for me” we joked. We flew away from the island and nothing happened, then I received a call from Sergio telling me that they had left me a Vandal and will contact with me! After 5 minutes of “ Come on Sergio, stop joking”, I realized that I would be part of this big brand.

Who are Les and Graham?
Graham is the owner of Rayne Longboards and very fast skater too. Les is marketing and sales manager, awesome guy and hard worker, always busy. He is my contact with Rayne Longboards, always spreading the stoke with all the riders.

You seem to have a fairy godmother who grants all your wishes, very lucky boy!
That’s it!

What is it like to be part of such a huge, strong family?
Its difficult to explain with words. Every board, video, publication or anything related with Rayne makes me feel something strange. I am so proud of the good work, made with care and love.

What is your role in the family?
I’m the skater ambassador in Spain, trying to show the quality of the boards and attend every event in the country or competitions in Europe. For me its important to see how a brand cares for the places where they distribute, with local riders and events.

Are there many other Europeans?
Yes! The sliders Mark Short and Will Edgecombe from UK, Max Meurling from Stockholm and Robin Sandberg from Norway. I’m sure there are more, the Team List will be updated soon on the page, until then I don’t know more teammates.

Are there many spanish longboard brands?
Yes, the industry of longboarding in Spain is growing with high quality brands like LaChica, Pipermina, Buddywood, Alain, Volatile… Ah! I forgot (XD) my very very good friends and awesome people of Goat Longboards.

A longboard made from Goats?
Haha, high quality boards made by guys “locos como cabras” (mad as goats, spanish expression). Although I’m in Rayne, with these guys, I have the same feeling I mentioed before, the hard work and perfect execution.

What is special about the feeling with the Cabras?
Gorka told me on the first night in Lagoa, between beers, the history from the beginning, amazing! I suggested he should write it, from here I want to press the Goat Family to do it. This, the stoke and the good vibes with everyone make me feel so proud of them.

Who is the maddest goat?
Unai, for sure, the media-man of the brand. When you see a guy with a skipper hat, no T-shirt and very short pants, that’s him! Check some of his magic pics http://www.flickr.com/people/unaibellamy/

Unfortunately many of us have even seen him with no pants!
Hahaha I didn’t want to talk about it!

Is Unai going to lead the Spanish to challenge the Norwegians reputation as party winners?
His hat recognizes him as the skipper of the winner party yacht.

Now we have seen Spanish on race podiums, party podiums next?
After the Kozakov documentary video, absolutely yes!

What has been your favourite competition this season?
It depends, I will say the best of each: Padova – organization, Peyragudes – speed, Descente – transponder timing, Lagoa – track. Overall Lagoa I think. I love this part of Portugal (I used to spend the summers here, kiting and surfing), the track was amazing and weather was great too, despite the wind (good for me haha). Out of the races, Velefique was simply perfect!

How was last season for you?
Not bad at all. In numbers, in 4 races of 5 that tabulates, 24th in the Euro Series, 14º of the European racers. In feelings, bad luck with the flu that affected me in Padova and Peyragudes. Next year more and better.

What are your plans for next season?
My girlfriend, Maria, and I will spend June and July in Vancouver or CA, trying to get a job, travelling to the races on the weekends and visiting all we can. August and September, some Euro tour races and beach.

Does she skate?
She tried for a time but definitely no. But she always come with me to the sessions and races, taking photos and helping in everything she could. It is a big support, that means a lot to me.

What difference does it make when she’s there watching you race?
At this moment, she knows a lot about longboarding, so she can tell me what’s going on with the fast riders and where I could go faster, she presses me haha. When I’m on the track Maria is my “manager” that replaces the false serious appearance I give, because I’m a shy guy at the beginning. The people she talks with feel a kind of “affection” towards me, and this image is the result of her sympathy and part of me I guess haha.
Have you skated outside Europe before?
Not yet!

Where do you plan to skate while you’re in North America?
I haven’t found the calendar! Basically every race that happens in June-July 2013.
Choose 3 numbers between 1-40.
2, 16 and 22.

2 – Would you rather have a hook for a hand or a wheel for a foot?
Wheel for a foot by far!

16 – Do you have a blog/twitter?
No, my Facebook is the most similar to a blog.

22 – Do you have any hidden talents?
Spatial vision and organization maniac haha.

It’s been really really fun talking to you again bro, see you in Madrid sometime!
It has been a pleasure Gbemi, or Mr. Stoke I could say. Hope to see you soon, Madrid is always open to you.

Any thank yous?
Yes, casually the people I should thank first has been named in this interview, also my family, my downhill bros and you for the big job with the European Scene.

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