Tougo Kuwamoto Close up skaters interview By Shin Inoue (Transworld Japan issue #71)

26 Nov

Tougo Kuwamoto

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Transworld Skateboarding Japan : Close up skaters interview By Shin Inoue

 

Shin: How old were you when you began skating?

 

Tougo: 

I started when I was in Grade 4, so this is my seventh year skating. I got interested in it after I saw the movie ‘Back to the Future’  and the TV program ‘Ado street Heaven’ did a feature on Ebina and introduced X Dome skatepark. As it was close to where I live, I decided to go and have a look. Makoto Nishiyama was on the TV show, and sure enough, when I went to the park I met Makoto and he was the one to start teaching me to skate. 

 

S: You’ve been going in comps since you were a kid, so you like them then?

 

T: Yeah I do, contests are fun. I started going in them a month after I started skating, The first comp I went in was a mini ramp comp at Kugenuma, that was so scary. I reckon Miyu Kasuga won that day.

 

S: Ok, so you started skating ramp?

 

T: Yeah to begin with I only skated ramps, so much so that people made fun of me skating nothing but ramp.

 

S:  You are known for doing big tricks on transition. Is that why? Do you go big on flat too?

 

T:  Flatground ollies? Yeah I’ve got those. Last year at the Interstyle High ollie contest, when Kota Ikeda set a new Japanese record, I made it down to the last three…yeah not too bad, but it really depends on the day.

 

S: Ok! So what is the trick to going big on ramps?

 

T: Hmm, what’s the secret? Well for me I really bash the tail and its all about ollieing. So unfortunately I can’t do it on vert, doing it that way I just land to flat. 

 

S:  Oh, so you do skate vert as well do you. You really are a proper ramp skater.

 

T: Yeah that’s true. I used to go in vert contests.

 

S:  Right…you really do love comps. So you’re okay for your image to be as Tougo the contest skater, right now that’s where you’re at?

 

T:  Well I have been going in conmps for years now, that’s just how it is. Testing your own skills, getting your name out there, looking at it another way that’s as much as you can do when you’re a kid.

 

S:  Over in the States as well, all the top pros seem to start out that way. Skating in contests, of course on ramps. Getting the basics down, then when they get used to skating street is when amazing things happen.

Even the guys that just skate the streets, the guys making videos with all the street knowledge, suddenly you’re overtaking them.

Well I skate street too, I love filming and I know how gnarly it is street skating. Compared to the parks, the surfaces on the streets are so rough and whatever you can lay down there is just awesome. To get the basics down, I think you have to learn that in the park, and of course you don’t have transitions on the street. 

 

You are on Nesta like Junnosuke (Yonesaka) does he influence your skating alot? You do alot of the same kind of tricks don’t you?

I’m not aware of it when it comes to airs, but sure I reference him for tricks, he can really skate, such a professional, I thought it would be great to have that kind of stability on the board, I studied it alot.

 

S: So it was Junnosuke that got you on NESTA?

 

T: Yeah I went in the Gate Contest Series and he picked me out, Nesta Brand was my first sponsor so of course it really means alot to me.

 

S: Who have you been skating with recently?

 

T:  We live close by, so Kent Terai, Makoto (Nishiyama) and Kohei Sato, besides that Taku Maeda who’s recently gone pro with the AJSA (All Japan Skateboard Association) and all the local faces at X dome cos its so close by.

 

S: Have you been out filming?

 

T:Well actually Teraken has started a team called N.U.G and there’s been talk of putting a DVD out, so I have mainly been working on that. 

 

S: So when are you putting out a video part?

 

T: Well it depends on the quality of the footage we get but we’ve been talking about putting something out this summer. 

 

S: Wow, that’s really fast. So have you stored up a lot of footage?

 

T:  Yeah well I’m not working at the moment so yeah, I have quite alot but some of  the other guys don’t yet so it will be a while yet.

 

S: Don’t you have a part-time job? What do you do outside school, just skating all the time? You must thank your parents to be able to do that.

 

T:  Yeah I’m really grateful to my parents. They are reallly supportive. Years ago, mum drove me all the way to Kobe for a  contest, but these days I get around more and more on my own. 

 

S: Which skaters do you like and who influences you the most?

 

Mark Appleyard, from way back.His style is amazing, and more than an influence, I aspired to skate like him. For tricks I would say David Gonzales. I try and copy the tricks he does. I really look up to him too. He came along to Damn Am and I met him. The guy has an amazing presence, so I took a photo together with him. I’m a huge fan.

 

S: Well I really wanna talk to you about the Damn am, which is why I interviewed you. But is it your first overseas contest? 

 

T:  I did go in the World Cup in Korea twice before, but its my first American contest. There were over 200 skaters taking part.

 

S: What was the park like? 

 

T:  Well the rails and the ramps were all set up to be really difficult to skate, There were so many skaters, it was hard to practice. It takes time to adapt to the course, and lots of collisions.

 

S:  What was so hard about it? 

 

T:  The ramps were small, but they were really steep and often it started with a curved ramp and then turned into a steep bank.It would grind but there was no coping just steel edges fitted to it.There were stairs and a hubba, but on the opposite side of the hubba was a steep transition, nothing like what we have in Japan.

So you didn’t make it through the qualifying round?Yeah, so at first everyone skates in a jam session, and people with the highest points go through. That was pretty rough.

 

S:  What sort of skaters were there then? Who can you remember that was going off? 

 

T:  For starters, everyone was outta control, not just someone. Damn am is a contest between winners of skate comps around the world, so everyone was off their chops.

 

S:  Was there a skater you remember who did a trick that was just way out there?Well everyone was just too crazy. 

 

T:  When Japanese guys go out to film a trick, and try it a hundred times, these guys were making it first try. The make rate of tricks was astonishing. I saw my first ever 360 flip late flip.

 

S:  A 360 flip into a late flip? Who was that?

 

T:  Oh, I dunno hey! I didn’t know any of them but they were all amazing. And these guys, they’d do a stair set and not lose their speed at all. Jump down some stairs and then boost off the pyramid. I guess that there is a technique for absorbing the shock with your knees on landing such that you don’t get slowed down, all of these guys were used to it which came as a big shock.

 

S:  So that was a great experience for you. Has your way of thinking changed at all since coming back to Japan? 

 

T:  Well the first thing was the high level of awareness. Everyone was just going hard. For example, the stairs are dangerous, and normally if the camera wasn’t rolling, you might just do an ollie down them, but these guys were going for it the whole time. Those guys, even though no one was filming, they were just hitting it and making tricks. And the speed these guys were going, I naturally just sped up too. I noticed myself skating much faster when i got back to Japan.

 

S:  Yeah that’s right. But if you don’t get used to that speed then you won’t get it. So can I ask you what your next goal is? 

 

T:Well having taken part in an event like this and then getting knocked out in the qualifying, if I get another chance to enter, I wanna make it through to the finals.

 

S:  That’s the way, go hard man. So finally, do you have a few words to say to Takayoshi Saito at Volcom who took you over there this time? 

 

T:  Takayoshi? Yeah, to begin with i couldn’t talk to him much, so it was a bit awkward, but when we got to know eachother he talked to me alot more, the two of us went to a pool together which was great fun, I thought it would be great to do that again. Takayoshi brought a board with him but wasn’t able to skate much so next time I would love to skate more together. Thanks Takayoshi san!

 
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