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Hop Podcast #7 Harry Clarke - living the chopstar lifestyle

This Podcast number 7 Harry Clarke aka Harry Potter aka Chopstar

I started following Harry on the international downhill scene when he appeared out of nowhere representing Australia in Europe about 3 or 4 years ago.

He is an Aussie, battling the world's best in downhill racing, and consistently doing well. In his own words, he is just on the cusp of breaking into that downhill elite with a big race win. This might be the year, he has been on the podium for a few big races this year already (3rd at Arirang Hill, and 3rd at Transylvania DH).

These are the show notes. Basically anything worth linking to that explains people and products we talk about. 

IDF number 1832

Alpen-Rauschen freeride - the best in the world? Organised by Big Mountain

Harry's first skateboard: Original Apex 37

Nine Two Five...rain or shine video 

Robert Burns

Pierre van Remoortere: a young Pierre skating

SBDW

Get spicy with a sicktail

Avoiding cows (video below)

 First race in Philippines: VLT 2013 (click on young Harry below to see him at his first race) Full 2013 VLT video here

Getting stoked on Downhill with Greener pastures videos

Harry's rich slamin history at Kozakov
2014 as a junior making the B bracket final and moving through to the A bracket

 2014 was also the year Connor Ferguson, as a junior, made the open final

Met all the Aussie crew at Mt Keira 2016 

16th in 2015 at Shortakov (short version of Kozakov). Riders mentioned:
Max Wipperman
Hertler = Sebastian Hertler
Luna = Daniel Luna
Alex Charleston and other guy = Filippo Salerni
Byron = Byron Essert 
Nico = Nicola Nuehrig

 

  

In 2015 Harry finished 43rd in the world, he is still at school! 

Veggie High 2016 wins consi final

2015 Yuping Cup at Heaven's Gate mountains  (2nd in opens)
Yuping Cup Final: Adam Yates, Harry Clarke, Billy Bones, Max Ballesteros

14th in the world in 2016

Mt Keira 2016 was Harry's first Australian race, he came with Rob = Robert Burns 

Veggie High 2016 race
Yuping Cup in China

11th at Lilyhammer

6th at Teolo - the sick video of quarter final of Harry, Mitch Thompson and Alex Dehmel and Čvančara Vašek 

Second at Insul 2016 - I did not make that clear in the interview. 
Final was Mitch Thompson, Harry Clarke, Sebastian Hertler and Max Balesteros
On the podium in his thongs REPRESENT!
Korea 2018
We talk about the internet memes that followed the Korean final. It was started by Federico with this video 
Skaters mentioned: Standy Andy = Andrew Atchison
Robert Burns 2015 Arirang Hill Korea crash - Harry rates it as one of the scariest he has seen, and it was caught on video!! See below
Robert Burn's Ahmyo video part above

Racing Set Ups

This is current as of the time of the interview which was mid 2018. We are not maintaining or updating this list.

Riding on Venom wheels

He was on Orangatang or is one or...[watch this space]
Officially now rides for Madrid boards
Skater mentioned: Max Dubler
Harry's new deck, he is riding some new designs, more than just a chopped Trapster...maybe...a new production deck in the future?
Current trucks are 160mm Rogues
15 degree back baseplate with a 50 degree front [link to where you can buy rogue precisions]
Venom Tall Barrel bushings in HPF (High performance Formula)
Front bushings 78a roadside and 81a boardside 
Back bushings are both 97a
An original Chopstar is a chopped Trapstar
The downhill small stance
Bearings: Hondar or Seismic
We are flowing a Boa bearing hook up for this year's Euro tour
Racing wheels? Magnum Mach 1 78mm
Footbrake soles: Freebrake
Re: Deck spikes, you are on your own to DIY it, it is a great idea. Skaters in the 80's did a similar thing. 
Photo by Dean Tirkot: Mick Mulhall Judo Air
Skater mentioned: Mick Mulhall doing a judo air 2016 (photo by  Dean Tirkot)
Deck mods: torque block
Bam Bam gloves
Harry's secret rain wheels...sorry secret family business, no links.
The story I mention at the end, is at the Shredemite Summer Outlaw series in Turramurra, Harry told me he enjoyed the podcast, and wanted to know who would be next. To which I replied, you. I thought Harry was going to have another big year (2018), and a podcast episode could document that! 
Thanks for listening to the podcast. Can I ask a favour? Please subscribe and share. Really share it. I do these episodes to promote the sport of downhill skateboard racing, longboarding and skateboarding. I'm hoping they will encourage young people to get into the sport. Parents encourage their children to do more. And that anyone can become a fan, follow the skaters, go to events, enjoy the sport without having to participate, it truely is a global sport that can connect with everyone. 
Corrects, comments or extra questions, please leave a comment below
Hop out.

Hop Podcast #6 - Brennan Bast and skating at 140kph (87mph)

 

Brennan Bast, known as Bassi to skaters, is one of the fastest skaters in the world and the nicest bloke you will ever meet. Everyone's mate, a gentlemen to the core. 

As a race organiser (Newtons and Mt Keira) I have a special love for Bassi, he always haybales. Literally Bast has handled every haybale the last two years at Newtons... all 900 of them, twice! He is usually perched on top of the truck, throwing bales off, or catching and stacking them. 

I have been wanting to interview him for a long time, because he was in that legendary IDF World Cup final at Mt Keira in 2016. He was on the podium at Arirang Hill and Kozakov in 2017, finished 7th in the world in 2017!

We are haybaling at Newtons, putting bales on a truck, cleaning the track, an hour earlier Bassi has just come 2nd in the Open Downhill final, and now he is throwing haybales like they are pillows. During a break, I take the opportunity to interview Brennan, while the race is still fresh in his memory. You can hear Rob McWhinnie in the background sliding his double kick on Forest Elbow.  

First up apologises for the poor quality, but please give it a listen, there is some good stories in the interview. First 10 minutes is the Newtons interview. Then I do a phone interview for another 20 minutes. I was not using a microphone, so the sound is a bit tinny. I was recording it via my iPhone voicemail, but Telstra would only give me 5 minute long recordings. So you'll notice every 5 minutes there is a awkward edit, which is me stitching the audio together. 

What do we talk about?

The final at Newtons, what happened?

The Top Speed Challenge and Bassi skating over 140 km per hour!! What was that like and we get a real and raw answer.

Photo credits to Harfang wheels (you can buy them here)

The wet Arirang Hill race this year? How dangerous was the bottom section? How did Bassi make rain wheels for 30% of the competitors! 

We talk about Mt Keira in 2016, and how he got 2nd at Kozakov (hint a satisfying pass on Carlos at the finish).

Who is the best downhill skater in Australia at the moment? 

Can Thiago be beaten at Kozakov?

If you are new to downhill, a young person starting out, Bassi has lots of tips for you. The most important aspect you need to learn. How he got into downhill, and it was a long grind of an apprenticeship with Ado at Mt Stuart. 

Bassi's shout outs were:

Ado at cr8ive sk8
Venom
Zak Maytum
Darkspeed gloves
Ronin Trucks
Carlos
Black Mamba
Vultur helmets
IDF the world downhill sanctioning body

Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes
Podcast home is here on the website 

Find us on your favourite podcast player (we like Overcast) by searching "JAMES HOPKIN".

Suggestions, comments, requests to be interviewed, please use form on the podcast page

 

Hop Podcast #5 - Dan Pape the longboarding visionary

Hop Podcast #5 - Dan Pape the longboarding visionary

Above photo by Yuji Fujiyama 

I wont lie,

Dan Pape is one of my favourite humans.

His enthusiasm, his ideas, his non stop ADHD means conversations fly around and you can get lost down rabbit holes. 

He was suppose to be my podcast number one, I pitched my podcast idea with Dan last year when I was planning to go to Japan. I caught up with Dan, talked all day, had a blast exploring Yokohama with him, and then realised I had not recorded anything! Doh! 

My headline says Dan is a visionary, or is he a polymath? Or maybe more an inventor? Longboarding's idea guy? In a way he is a skateboarding genius. He lives for ideas, it is like a type of madness for him, they flow from his brain, and he has a need to make them a reality. The difference between Dan and 99% of other skateboarders is execution. Dan lives the life, he works to make his visions come true and he has been doing this since the birth of downhill. I know that is a contentious statement, because in theory downhill has been around since the start of modern skateboarding in the 70's. For me, the epicentre of downhill and the birth of modern downhill skateboarding racing is in Canada in the late 90's and early 2000's. 

Interviewing Dan is like reaching back to those days and hearing all the stories. So many of them are connected to today's longboarding.  He are some of the things and people we talk about.

He raced at Bricin "Striker" Lyon's first Danger Bay race. He raced in Danger Bay from DB1 to DB10.

On Shore boards was his first skate project

This lead to Colabo. Team members we talk about are:

Kevin Reimer

Mike McGoldrick interview about his Nine Two Five board

Brianne Davies - Women's downhill World Champion

World's first Downhill Skateboard Video: Fellowship of the Bearing

 

 

Patrick Weir  - FOTB Drone pilot and the company he now works for is Peacemaker

Mack Dawg Productions snowboard videos that inspired Dan Pape

Lid Tech - aim to create the world's first downhill helmet 

School of Riding

Dan Pape videos

Dan's new website - check it out 

SkateSlate: we'll talk about this in part two...coming soon

Dan writes at Skate Slate Japan but more recently he has started getting creative on his new blog, covering a wide range of topics, not just skateboarding.

Colabo tee shirts!!

In collaboration with Dan, we are doing some limited edition OG Colabo t-shirts. There are two versions. The double sided one is Dan's version, and the other one is Hop's version. You choose, which one do you like best, order before we close off the deal. These are printed on demand. Order one, they are printed and shipped direct. If you are in Canada or USA, they are shipped fast and cheap because the print company is in the USA.

 

Landyachtz 2017 range - what is new, gone, and evolved

Landyachtz 2017 range - what is new, gone, and evolved

The Landyachtz range is divided up into these main categories: Mini cruisers, cruisers, downhill / freeride and hybrid.  What makes each Landyachtz catalogue interesting is what has evolved, and what gets dropped. There is such a diverse range of boards, sometimes hard decisions have to be made, like dropping a board that might have a small cult following. This year those boards look to be the Rippleridge and the Peacemaker. Stay with us, we'll go through the whole range and let you know what is new, what is gone, what has evolved and give a brief review of the decks as we go.

First, lets look at what is new

New for 2017

The new board everyone is talking about is the Stratus. Like most of longboard companies, Landyachtz sniggered at the Loaded Dancer, snubbed the growing scene and then thought Sh$% there are a lot of skaters doing freestyle, we better get on that!!
That is not what really happened, I'm just poking fun. But there are a lot of "mainstream" longboard companies making "dance" boards now :-) 

Landyachtz do a lot of testing, I'm assuming the hollowtech is up to the brutal treatment of a freestyle dancer. These boards look good. With team members like Steven Vera, these boards have been developed the right way. 

Check these boards out, Stratus comes in two flavours: Standard and Super Flexy

 

Mini Cruisers

Mini cruisers are probably Landyachtz most popular series of boards. The last few years they have just nailed an awesome mini cruiser. Deck, graphics, trucks and wheels have all been on point. I think there biggest strength is the wheels, the Hawgs they use are a fun wheel, stick in a carve but you can break them out and do a slide if you want. The wheels have been so popular they have been released as a standalone product: 63mm Fatty Hawgs and 70mm Fatty Hawgs 

The range of cruisers is much the same this year. Choose from 24 inch Dinghy, 26 inch dinghy, or the classic 28.5 inch Dinghy. There is just one Tugboat this year called the Dog Temple. The Dodger range introduced in 2016 is still there in a 28 inch and 32 inch long board.

Dog Temple Tugboat skateboard cruiser

The Tugboat (image above) is that classic 80's style skateboard. It is 9 inch x 30 inch. The classic dimension is 10 inch wide, but 9 inch is perfect, not too wide, still makes it light to get around on, you can hit up your local skatepark and look good commuting there. It is a modern concave, mild, small nose and a big kicktail. 

The Dodger series is quite unique. I would call it a European inspired longboard. In Europe a lot of skateboard design came out of the ski industry. So their cruiser decks and slalom decks looked like cut down ski decks = long and skinny. Landyachtz call them 1970s inspired. The Dodgers are only 6.8 and 7.75 inch wide, but they are 28 and 32 inch long. The front truck is close to the nose so this gives them a big wheelbase. They will skate like a bigger board, not a squirrely as a smaller board, so you can do big deep carves, get a bit of pumping going, much like a slalom board. You get the best of both worlds, smaller lighter board that skates like a bigger board...if that makes sense.

Graphics really make and break a board in this range. Two most popular boards from last year are still there: Growler and Birds. The Birds graphic is just amazing, the bottom graphic flows into the top graphic with clear grip, it just a beautiful board.

New to the range is the Hatchet Birds, using the same type of Birds graphic. Looking for the best flat land push/dance deck money can buy? You are looking at it. Maple construction, flared for bigger wheels, twin kick, symmetrical, wheels that will give a bit to help catch a shuvit. When you retire this deck, it will look good hanging on the wall. 

Although Landyachtz foundation is based on young men doing crazy downhill stuff, and generally setting the world on fire, they have expanded out the range to appeal to women. Women should be 50% of skaters, so where are the boards designed for them? You'll see the mini cruiser range is not all about skulls and beers. There are some obvious male opinionated graphics, nothing insulting, but there are also patterns, colours that will appeal to women. The boards also are reflecting women's style, the above hatchet is an example.  

Graphics good or bad or just average? You want more skulls? Or a request for a reissue of old graphics, like the Hot Sauce graphic from a few years ago! Let us know what you think in the comments area below.

Cruisers

These are the bigger boards, the most boards have been dropped out of this part of the catalogue, you probably wont notice. There is now only two boards over 40 inches: the Pinner and the Totem. Both OG boards. Decks no longer available are the fibreglass versions of the long pintails. Probably a good move, anyone looking for a 44 inch pintail probably wants nothing but bamboo and maple.

Some of Landyachtz most popular boards are in the cruiser range. The Battle Axe 35 and 40 are both still there. Nothing has changed, just a graphics update, there would be rioting in the streets if they changes these boards. If anything, the concave is a bit milder. There is no W anymore, if it is there, it is very subtle.  There is a bit of flex in the deck, which makes it a bit more fun to push and carve on. 

There have always been good value top mounts, very under rated. In 2016 it was the Stout, Malahat, and Ripper boards. This year there are two ripper boards, A maple ripper and a bamboo ripper. Simple, functional longboards. 

My two favourite boards in this category are the Mini Chief Floral and the Fibreglass Mummy.


The Mini Chief Floral is a 36 inch long pintail. How awesome is that? It's the perfect pintail, set up to cruise, push and enjoy. Not too big. Brilliant graphic that extends over to the griptape. Super fun pintail for quiver, or a great first board to start a quiver.


The Mummy has been missing for a few years. There has been a few decks about, but Landyachtz have brought it back in 2017 as a complete. This board is an excellent city cruiser or commuter. It is a skateboard size with a longboard wheelbase, so it feels like a longboard when you skate it. The wedged nose adds an extra zip to the front truck. wide platform give you lots of room. After a week of skating this board, you'll be ready for the pedestrian slalom championships...that's going to be an Olympic sport right? 

We have to move on, there are so many good boards in the cruiser section, do yourself a favour, check them out if you are in the market for a good all round longboard.

Downhill and Freeride

Although Landyachtz have an impressive range, it is all built on their core product: downhill and freeride boards. For twenty years they have cut their teeth designing and making boards that go fast downhill, bending wood that defies logic, and surprising everyone year after year with innovation. 

Losers first: this is what has been dropped. No Mini Wolfshark, no Charlie Horse, no hollowtech Switchblade in 36 or 38. Which is a real surprise, I would have thought the 38 would be the most popular size, it is in the maple series. 

This is just speculation, I have not questioned anyone at Landyachtz, but there are rumours Landyachtz are going to change how they release boards. There will be more boards released throughout the year, not all in one drop in March/April. The mainstream boards might all be released at the start of the year for the tradeshows, and so skateshops can pre-book the easy winners. The core downhill/freeride decks, as a niche market, they get revised and new boards released in the second half of the year. We'll see if that is how 2017 plays out. In the meantime, if you want a hollowtech Switchblade, there is only 40 inch, there might be a few 2016 Switchblade 36 inch decks left if you are quick.

All the OG boards are still there. Evo, Switch, Nine Two Five etc.

The only real change seems to be the Osteon. It's concave has been upgraded from medium to deep. We tried to compare 2016 and 2017 but we sold the last of our 2016 stock before the 2017 arrived. Below is Billy Bones in action on the Osteon.

In the world of hollowtech, the Tomahawk gets the nod and gets a hollowtech model. There is a maple version and new hollowtech. It is such an under rated deck, one of our favourites, so good to see there are other skaters out there that love it too. Both decks have the same dimensions, 39 inch long, multiple wheelbases, deep concave. 

Honourable mention goes to this year's Wolf Shark with the original graphic, you can read more about that here 

 

The Hybrids

I'll just say it as it is...the Rippleridge and Peacemaker are gone. In my opinion, dropping the Peacemaker was a mistake. There is nothing like it out there. 32 inch x 9.5 inch. Modern single kick, maple with wheel flares so you can rock bigger wheel. Lets all take a moment and pause in silence, remember the thane that was dumped in their honour. Where to now? Truncated Tesseract? Omen Shred Puppy? Rayne Darkside? Or maybe something like an Elephant BBQ Session? A debate for the next campfire.

New boards are: Presidente, Perfecto and Laguito. These sort of replace the Loco series. Only come as completes in Australia. Skateboard wheelbase (14) and bear trucks and Chubby Hawgs. Not trying to put them down, they are a popicle version of the Dinghy. Probably a good move on Landyachtz part, they are marketing them as the All Terrain Vehicle. They sold out fast in Australia, so skaters love them.   

That's it, that's all I got. Landyachtz put out an awesome catalogue this year, in the form of a newspaper. We gave out heaps of them at Newtons, and we'll do a limited catalogue mail out for newsletter subscribers.

What is not included in our Landyachtz catalogue, and we have not mentioned is the wheel range for 2017. The new range has not arrived in Australia yet, we'll do a blog post about the changes when they arrive. Basically all the harder duros have been dropped (nothing harder than 82a), and Street Hawgs have been changed to Adanac, Cordova and Venables.  

Here is a sneak peak...

 

The Max Ballesteros 2am Mt Keira interview

The Max Ballesteros 2am Mt Keira interview

By reading this interview, you get to be an insider, listen in on the conversations I have with some of the fastest downhill skaters on the planet. We grill Max Ballesteros, about everything.

This is a long interview format, we get into specific details, everything you ever want to ask Max but he is too fast to catch and ask! Even if you hate reading, and you are just here for the pics and vids, just read Max's first answer, which is his description of the Mt Keira final.

How does Max set up his board for a different race tracks? What does his set up look like: Trucks? Bushings? Griptape? What is the design of his new Pro deck? How he got into racing? His racing strategy. How does he support his travel? Max answers everything, and there is something for everyone in this interview, even if you don't like racing.

One of the reasons I love organising events and races is meeting and talking to the competitors, especially those that make the podium. Competitors appreciate the effort you put into an event, they usually don't mind a few questions. I am not afraid to call myself out, I'm a skateboard racing tragic. I love the sport, I want to see an Aussie World Cup champion, I'm always digging in, asking questions, finding out how someone has become the best or the fastest, any extra information might help one of our racers, get a little faster. I'm sharing it here for everyone to read.

Keep all that in mind, because after the Mt Keira IDF World Cup in February, the after party was almost done. It is 2am at the big fire pit, it is myself, Pete Smith, Bruiser (Bruce de Graaf) and Tony Streets (the ASRA crew) and unexpectedly, the winner of the race, Max Ballesteros turns up. Perfect opportunity for an interview.

Make yourself comfortable, here we go...

Max charging Max charging    Photo credit Mark Newsham Photography

Hop: I want to hear Max give us details on how the race was won, who won the push off?
Max: On the start line I was on the far right, Dalua was in the middle then Bast and Jacko far left. Dalua pushed out front like a beast and I'm battling with Bast on the kick, we were like side by side. Dalua is already a couple metres in front, just fucking blasting you know, and I'm like alright now fuck. I'm maybe 2nd or maybe 3rd but Bast had the inside on the first left, so I'm like ok, I'll let Bast go and I'll start drafting him. So he takes second, I take third and Jacko is behind me in fourth. I don't look back, so I don't know how far Jacko is. So I'm like, I gotta make a pass on Bast soon, so I can catch up to Dalua. I don't want him to pull away too much.

I'm drafting Bast for about two corners. And on that second right, I come up on his inside right on the exit and make a pass to the straight away. I had a really good line on that right sweeper and then I'm starting to see Dalua in front of me, who is quite a bit in front, maybe five to six metres. And then I'm like, alright, I'm tucking really hard, making up room, making up room. On the Scouts left I nailed a really good line, and that's when I'm sort of catching up to Dalua, so alright I'm making up some ground.

And then Dalua starts looking back and he is probably like "oh fuck" [everyone is laughing] "Max is catching up to me now" As soon as we got into the smooth section I'm on his ass getting his draft and he looks back again and he's probably like "fuuuck" but its like perfect right, I've got his draft now, I can rail some corners and make a pass here. At the crowd corner, I'm less than a metre away, I pop up, air brake, dig in, because I didn't want to get sketchy right then and there you know, just follow him and pass him at the finish I thought.

max-in-final-shredhead Max:"I'm less than a metre away, I pop up, air brake, dig in..."   Photo credit Shredhead Media

So I get in his air bubble again, drafting through the right left and as soon as we are exiting the last corner, Dalua goes through a rough patch, that is really rough, and he fucking wobbles as soon as he is getting in to tuck. And I'm like shit, Dalua is going down?! what is going to happen?

So I popped to his left, and I wobbled a little too because I am following his line and I ran through the same rough patch. So I pull up to his side and started tucking as hard as I could, I didn't know if I’ve had enough speed, because I barely had drafted him out of that corner into the straight away. So I’m tucking as hard as I can and we start drag racing side by side. then all of a sudden I got a little boost of speed down the line, I don't know what it was (Hop note: the Hand of God?).

I boosted a little ahead of him, and I'm like siiiick, I've got this. And I'm getting close to the line and I see Jacko popping on my peripheral vision close to the line and I'm like fuuuuuck.  As I was getting close to the line, I tried to send my board forward, so I kind of flared and broke my tuck a little and then again one or two meters to the finish line I sent my board forward to get that extra lean again. I didn't know who had won at that point. I thought good chances it was me, and I was like I think I might have won, but I didn't want to call it and not be the winner you know...

Tony: Have you seen the photo of the finish line?
Max: yeah it is crazy tight

A photo posted by Hopshop (@hopkin_skateshop) on

Tony: I have a question for you, while you are coming down, you have your eye on Dalua, you want first, at any stage do you look behind to see how close anyone else is? Or is the focus on Dalua?
Max: I was just focusing on getting Dalua at that point. As soon as I past Bast, my main goal was to go as fucking fast as I could to catch up to Dalua

Bruce: Where you worried about a double draft at the end?
Max: Maybe, but it didn't cross my mind at that time, I was like just going to tuck as hard as I can and get past Dalua. I knew the other guys were going to be there but Dalua was so fast, he was faster than anyone and no one could catch him this weekend. I was like, if I can catch him then most likely no one is going to be that close to me. Surprising, Jacko was right there, (that) I was not expecting.

Tony: When you crossed the finishline, do you hear the crowd or anything?

Max:  yeah, everyone was yelling holy shit, we were all clapping, Jacko was screaming, and I was like holy shit what just happened man, it was fucking hectic.

Hop: How important is the equipment? We are talking about centimetres (between 1st, 2nd, 3rd), do you think about stuff like that?

Tony: I was talking to him about that earlier, how many setups did you do on the Friday practice?

Max: The first three runs I changed my set up. Every run I changed something. First run it was bushings. Then I changed the width of my hangers. Then my last change was my wheelbase. And then I got it dialed, after three runs. Then it is just putting on fresh wheels and good bearings after that. Oh and yeah our Brazilian speed lube!! ;) That's is key.

Hop: What is the most important part? Wheels?

Max: Wheels are really important for sure. Dalua was between mine and Faceskate. Both him and Thiago [Hop's note: pronounced Chargo were changing back forth. They couldn't really tell, they were feeling they were very similar speed, but they decided to go with the Faceskate wheels. I knew my wheels were really good for that track. The whole team was fucking killing it on them. They chose to go on Faceskate, and I ended up beating them, and they were like, “we’re not riding Faceskate on the next race we are going to use your wheels bro” haha. It is crucial too, if Dalua had those wheels it would have been harder to catch up with him I think.

Tony: The bushing set up you changed as well, so what was that, I'm guessing they were all barrels?

Max: Yes, I always use Ronin Tall Barrels

Tony: What combination did you have?

Max: Usually I ride softer board side and harder roadside. Before I used to ride the opposite, but then I learned from Fred from Ronin, that if you put the softer bushing at the bottom you have an easier steer so you don't have to put in as much effort turning and you still have the stability because the roadside bushing is making your truck a little bit stiffer and stable. Doesn't rebound as much. So I just put the roadside bushing harder and then usually at the back I ride two of the same like 95a. So 92 / 95 at the front and 95 / 95 at the back. If I need to tighten my trucks or need more stability I put 98a roadside in the back.

Tony: So you run same hardness in the rear and then a softer barrel boardside and harder roadside.

Max: Yeah I run split raked, split baseplates too

Hop: How many different trucks have you used? Ronins were everywhere this weekend. Have you tried different types of trucks?

Max: I started off with Crails, then Randals, after that came the precision, GOG, and Aera’s for a few years before getting into Ronin’s, life changer!!

Hop: You like Ronins, that is your preferred truck at the moment?

Max: The Ronins are next level precision I think, they stand out more on precision than the rest. They have more technology and the support pin and all that. It is more precise, more like a race truck. I feel more stable on them and they grip more, than all the other trucks I’ve tried. Also there tons of width option and many baseplates to play with.

Hop: Yeah Fred has got it dialed at the moment. he knows his stuff.

Max: And then there is the cast trucks (Cronins) for freeriding, I can even freeride the Pro Lites too, just put on a bigger hanger, with slidey wheels, works well.

thiago Thiago leading into Crowd Corner Mt Kiera

Hop: And Thiago, all weekend we (ASRA / IDF crew) talked about the Brazilians, and we all thought Thiago would be the better racer on the weekend?

Max: He is a reaaallly good racer.

Hop: So what happened?

Max: We can all win I guess. And it is any of the top guys, not just Brazilians that can win at the moment. It’s either your day or someone’s else day.

Hop: I know he is disappointed, but does he think he did something wrong?

Max: It is just like Dalua, they both think they made a mistake, but you know that is normal, not everyday you are going to have a perfect race. Thiago lost on the semi finals, he was leading the whole run until the final straight, and he got past by everyone. He kind of fucked up on the last left, and took a little longer to get into his tuck, and I past him straight away and then Jacko draft him and then Alex as well, it was also pretty tight, I think we were 0.4s apart.

Tony: Did you tuck the whole track?

Max: No I was breaking tuck, I would break tuck in some of the corners, like break my knee I mean. The only guy who was tucking pretty much the whole track was Alex, he would not break his knee. Maybe one corner he would, but he was like with his knee behind, locked in, most of the track, it was pretty impressive.

alex-tuck Alex Charleson in super tuck.    Photo credit Mark Newsham Photography

Thiago has a video of the Consi finals, it is insane, Jimmy was breaking tuck, but Alex had his knee locked in. Hop's note to young skaters wanting to get better in downhill, what have you learnt from that statement and the video below? It is 2am, the race finished at 4pm. The Brazilians have already watched and analyzed their race footage. If you want to be a Pro then be professional. Secondly: confidence. Thiago starts the race believing he is going to win, why else would he only film backwards, that is where everyone is going to be!

max on the hunt Max: "I knew two spots I could pass him" (Dalua)    Photo credit We Ride Sideways

Tony: We have talked wheels, trucks, bushings, the board set up, what are the features you like in a board that suits your stance?

Max: My board?

Tony: Yeah - do you have your board?

Max: Yeah I have my board now

Hop: So is it the micro drops?

Max: Yeah there’s micro drops, little bit of W in the back, there’s a few ripples too

Tony: What depth is on the micro drop?

Max: ohhh that is a secret for now

Hop: Do your feet lock in for the whole run? Or do you move your feet around?

Max: I move them around, and round the corner, but not too much, when I'm drifting I move a bit more but when it is just a tuck course I move just a little bit so a cm here on corner and back

Tony: The board you have got, that's purely set up for you, that's all custom for your style of riding?

Max: Yeah I designed this board with Bustin, which is totally measured for my stance, my foot size and what I like. It suits a lot of other people too cause I have an average size but it is perfect for me. I like measured everything, got it done. and then had five prototypes and five molds made. Until we got it perfect. And I have the Ronin trucks that are pretty badass. I got them with a lower rake on the hanger. Before they came with a 5mm rake and the ones I'm riding, and Dalua is riding too are with 2 and half mm rake. So they are not as twitchy, they are a little bit like, how do I say? The Ronins are very responsive, but this version is a little bit more stable so it is not as twitchy when you move around. And the wheels which I helped design, and the griptape too, Hondar grip, tested and approved.

Hop: I have heard a lot about that Honda grip.

Max: Hondar grip is the best. You put it in and it will last two or three months. Does wear out, does not melt. Its great!

Tony: Can we go back to the trucks? We were talking about the bushings before, what about degrees of baseplate?

Max: I usually run 45 and 30. Last year I pretty much ran all year around 45/30. I use to run 45/40 before. I want to say it is easier for sliding, but it is like the 30 on the back makes it a little bit more stable through corners. You get a better and cleaner line. So it is like really good for tucking and stability but is not as loose for drifting. 45/30 makes it grippier, I have been rocking that all over, I have not been fucking too much with degrees lately.

Tony: So, baseplate degree, the deck, the grip is set, then it comes down to bushing set up, hanger width and then wheels.

Max: Yes, and I think I will just race my wheels all year because they are really good, maybe 78a Advantages for a race or two, but mostly mine, I’m really stoked on them

Hop: The RAD Max Ballesteros Advantages?

Max: The new RAD ones, the orange core ones. They are sweet. We made the Advantages wider with a thicker inner lip. It is based out of the Advantage mold but it is wider and thicker inner lip. So it grabs the pavement better and it has a higher rebound urethane.

Tony: What is the height and width of the wheel?

Max: 74mm - 61mm and 77a https://hopkin.com.au/products/rad-influence-max-ballesteros-74mm-77a?variant=31107856772

Hop: Dalua practices his push doesn't he? He has too?

Max: He has all kind of trainers and specialists behind him, he is a true professional athlete

Hop: Do you do that?

Max: I wish I could do that, I don't have enough resources and time right now. If I was focused just on skating 100% of the time and that is all I did, then yeah for sure.

Hop: So what else do you do?

Max: I work at Muir Skate . Still skate related tho haha… So when I'm in San Diego I am working three to four days a week. The days off I'm like doing chores around the house doing grown up things, and time to skate and surf, that type of stuff. If I was focused just on skating then it would be just skating. I do a little bit of gym here and there, but nothing too crazy. Thiago trains quite a bit too. Thiago lives with his parents still, so all he does is skating and training the last two years, or for a while I guess. And whatever side projects he has.

Hop: You are going to do the North American / Canadian tour?

Max: I hope so, at the moment I don't have anything set yet. I was trying to plan out my year before I came, but because everything is tight right now in the industry. So I thought I'd make Australia happen and see what happens after. It is always good to get a win to begin with, cause when I get back and try to plan out my year, sponsors will be like alright so… its good you know.

Tony: Why did you put Australia in your run this year?

Max: Because it was the first race, lets you get a good start. Not so much for points...points are good for sure...but to get a solid start for sponsors to feel good about their rider and be like, lets support this guy I guess

Tony: And your thoughts about your week out here at Mt Keira

Max: It was fucking epic man. I had a great time. The track is sick, had everything we needed. I think what I told you earlier, just more haybales, more protection. I crashed once, I didn't hit the hay but a lot of people got hurt I saw and stuff like that, other than that great event! Thanks for making it happen

Hop: If you don't win the World Cup Championship, who is going to win the Championship?

Max: Probably Thiago, Dalua or Guto...I think...it is going to be Brazil again haha

Team Brazil Photo credit to Abdil Mahdzan Team Brazil: Thiago, Dalua and Max  Photo credit to Abdil Mahdzan

Hop: BRAZIL AGAIN...WHAT!?! [everyone is laughing]

Hop: Carlos won it last year, where is Carlos?

Max: He is in Brazil right now, he really wanted to be here, but he couldn't make it happen, because of financial reasons I think. He is still figuring out stuff with his sponsors and trying to plan out the year. The Brazilian real (R$) is not worth much right now, so makes it difficult for traveling abroad. He will go to the next ones tho. He is definitely going to try to be World Champion again I think.

Hop: We have had Canadians dominate in Australia with racing, why now Brazilians? Is it just the way it is?

Max: I think the Brazilians are just more focused at the moment and have a lot of passion. The Canadians have had their top tier riders… like Scoot, Kevin and Patrick. All those guys were World Champs and they are not charging as hard right now, they are getting old maybe haha, they are doing their thing and getting married or getting real jobs, idk

Hop: Do you think they had so many good riders, they they did not let the young guys come through?

Max: There is a lot of young guys, there is like Alex Charleston now for example, he'll be World Champion if he continues charging. Maybe next year, maybe this year, who knows!?

Hop: Yeah, who knows

Max: The Americans, there is pretty much just Jimmy and Zak, that are really charging on the World Cup tour nowadays, actually Aswag has been coming up too, lots of talent but only a few really are that much dedicated

Hop: At the start of he year do you sit down and work out how do I win the World Cup? Max: No, I never have really made a plan. 2013 I thought it was going to be a good year to try but it did not work out my way, was skating well but not getting enough good results

Hop: Is it more of I'll do a few races and see how I go? Then sit down, I have a certain amount of points, I'll do these races to try and win it?

Max: It depends on each one you know, but it is always good to have a goal. I think everyone's goal is to win. So it is a matter of if you have a few good results and you get the momentum going. You just keep training hard and get better. Thiago was on the chase last year. Maybe this could be my time, I don't know. It was definitely a good start here. And I had a really good end of last year too. So if I keep this momentum going this could be it. Scott from Muir Skate was like "You have a target on your back now man"

Hop: When did he say that?

Max: He has been saying that for the last few months. My sponsors are like stoked for me too, they are like yeah dude this is your year. I hope it is, we will have to wait and see haha

podium-shreadhead Mt Keira podium 1st Max and equal 2nd Dalua and Jacko    photo credit Shredhead Media

Hop: Who are your sponsors?

Max: Bustin, RAD, Ronin, Vultur helmets, Hondar Skate, Atopic supplies, Muir Skate and Brazil

Tony: The whole of Brazil sponsors you?

Max: Yeah

Tony: That is unreal

Hop: Awesome

Max: Yeah we get athlete sponsorship

Tony: Out of Brazilian sports, you look at the soccer [Hop's note: Australian for football], the sports, everything they do: it is has passion. Every single sport that Brazilians seem to take on, it is that passion behind it. More passion than the aim to win. There is that passion behind every single athlete that comes out of Brazil. Musicians as well.

Max: You see a lot of it in extreme sports in general, not just skateboarding and surfing you know. And street skating. Bob Burnquist, Luan Oliveira: the guy that won Street League, Adriano de Souza, Medina, Pedro Barros all those guys have reached the top.

Tony: Do you mix with those guys?

Max: I know a couple of those guys but like we don't hang out really, we are like the outcasts you know, downhill skating, they are like...

Hop: The cool kids?

Max: Yeah the cool kids..the guys who are surfing, the bowl riders and Bob Burnquist, the X Games and Red Bull and all that, we are not apart of all that

Tony: I've seen a street skater that looked at a short board and liked it, flick it over and it got pressed or sanded wheel wells and said nah, that is a longboard. There is still that divide between street, park, longboard

Max: There is a little

Max: I believe something is going to change. Something big might happen like...I don't know if it is going to be in one, or two or five years. But I think longboarding will get the recognition that it deserves

Pete: Longboarding does not have a PSA like surfing does

Max: What is PSA?

Pete: Professional Surfing Association (PSA) means that a surfer has to register their sponsorship with the PSA, and the PSA make sure they are getting a proper deal with their sponsors.

Tony: (longboarding) is still a very underground sport. How far off do you think it will be before longboarding gets seen as a good professional sport in the sporting industry?

Max: Who knows? I don't know. Something needs to change. Something big needs to happen you know. We can just keep doing whatever we are doing. Like when pre drifting came upon, the old Otang days, that is when longboarding really blew up again. Otang videos, and everyone was like, I want to do that. We need something like that again. Like a professional league that is really badass, and people will be like I really want to be a part of that. I want to practice tons to be there one day.

Hop: In your skateboarding career, was there any one moment like that or has it been a gradual improvements.

Max: It has been the same thing ever since, just IGSA and IDF. I have valued IDF for what they have tried to do and whatever they have improved but I don't think it was a big change from IGSA. The only thing that changed really was the timing system. Media coverage and all that stuff did not get any better.

Hop: For you is there any one moment, was there a race you won, was there a moment that got you started on your career?

Max: I think when I won the European Championship. It was when I was like fuck, I can be good at this. It was my first international trip, and I went to Europe.

Tony: You didn't start start up into that? You would have been hanging with mates

Max: Yeah I skated a couple races in Brazil and then I went to Europe. So I raced for two years locally and then I'm like I'll give this Euro tour a shot

Tony: Did you skate with mates and stuff?

Max: Yeah with Thiago and a bunch of locals from MG Downhill. And Thiago did the European trip the year before I went. He didn't win anything, but he was pretty good already, even tho we were really beginners at that point. Thiago was skating downhill for two years I think. His first race...what did he get? I think he qualified top ten, in Almabtrieb, his first race ever. I was like, when can I go there? I didn't have the money at that time. The year after that I did, and I went with the Otang team. I skated with Patrick, Jacko and all those guys. And every race I improved in something and then on the last race of the tour I won, which was Verdicchio (that link goes to Jacko's blog post about the race!) and I was like fuck this is sick. At that time the sport was growing. And I was like fuck, I can keep doing this and travel the world. That is when it changed for me. Ever since, that is what my life has been about. Just trying to hit the next event and living the dream.

At this point, I caught up with Max later in the year with some follow up questions:

Hop: Can we talk about Mt Ruapehu? Or is it too early?

Max: Sure, no problem

Hop: What did you think of the Mt Ruapehu course? Feedback to organisers?

Max: The course is great, the scenery is unreal. They also just need more safety and better prize. There was even no medal or trophy for the winners this year.

max-in-nz Mt Ruapehu   photo credit Jake Williams

Hop: Do you think it suited the Brazilian style? (Out in front, fast tuck, rallying corners)

Max: Yes, very similar style to the Mt. Keira track. Before I went there I knew those two races were gonna suit our style the best and it was going to be a great opportunity to start the year with solid results

Hop: The Brazilians totally dominated New Zealand, can you run me through the final?

Max: It was an interesting race for us, Dalua wanted to win really bad and he told me before the race he was not gonna lose for me again. We didn’t talk or try to do any Brazilian strategy game, cause we all wanted to finish in first. So Thiago pushed out front I pushed second on his draft and Aswag third with Dalua changing his usual strategy and sandbagging in the back. After the long straight away I made a move on Thiago and was out front, right before the corner combos that's where I wanted to be, I see Dalua popping on my far right and trying to be first but he didn’t have enough speed to pass me, so he entered the corner behind and didn’t give an inch, so he obviously got to close and made contact with me taking us both down, Thiago also got unlucky and found Dalua stretched out on his way and couldn’t avoid but to crash into him. Aswag found a clear line and avoided carnage to victory! Thiago quickly got up and pushed to 2nd and I grabbed my board and pushed to 3rd.

Hop: It was reported that there was a pretty heated exchange between the Brazilians after the race. Have friendships been broken? Or was it just heat of the battle, and team Brazil is back on track?

Max: Yeah Dalua and I had a big argument, heat of the moment, he is very competitive and so am I. I didn’t make a protest for IDF or anything at the race but I tried talking to Dalua to understand why he caused that accident but it didn’t end up well. We had a tension between us for a while, but funny that you ask this now cause we just talked a few weeks ago and we are in good terms again. Team Brazil is well and strong :)

Hop: Next race was Veggie Hill in the Philippines - you were the only Brazilian doing the Philippines leg of the tour? Did you come back for that race then come back for China? Or did you stay and travel to China after Philippines?

Max: The only one yeah haha, it was good tho to have a mellower vibe and not be as tense and competitive at those events. I was just there enjoying the moment and skating to have a good time! It was a bit over a month long trip, started in the Philippines, did the VLT (which I heard it was a must going there) and then the IDF events, Veggie High, then flew to Taiwan to meet the Hondar team, China and then back to the Philippines for the last race of the Asian tour.

Hop: We talked about where the Canadians were at Mt Keira, and it was like an omen, the revenge of the Canadians at Veggie Hill - you were surrounded by them in the final - (Switzer, Harris and Carlson) - were they all eating crispy bacon on the starting line? Max: I’m sure they had their share of bacon and maple syrup on race day haha

Hop: Can you quickly run through the final at Veggie Hill?

Max: So yeah 3 Canadians and I. I pushed out second behind Riley, Danny was third and Pat fourth I think, I followed Riley close behind for 2 corners and on the third one which is a righty into the fastest part of the track I made a pass on his outside going into first. There was only one drift pretty much on the track and the pavement is pretty rough, I did my slide perfectly and was already gripping into the left right combo when Danny rammed into my back after passing Riley and coming way too hot and throwing his drift a bit later then I did. So I tried to stay on and hold him back for a few seconds and then his wheel locked up with mine and we both went down, Patrick with his ninja moves went from 4th to 1st while Riley almost crashed cause of my board and from then on it was a wide open track for Pat. I grabbed my board and skated down for 3rd. After all it was a good race, just not as fun as when you get a clean race but there’s plenty more to come. It was the second race of the year and back to back WQS that I got taken out from behind leading the final. I try to not stress about it anymore cause seems to happen more often than not. So get up smile and move on...

china-downhill-medals Yuping Cup medals

Hop: Yuping Cup was the Brazilians 1,2,3 again in qualifying. Tiago Mohr came on tour. You battled against him in a few races last year - you have similar styles? Close racing?

Max: Brazil 1,2,3 again crazy… I was stoked!! So Tiago has been coming up and skating really tight with us during practice at events, he was pointing out the other day how we have similar styles. But he is way lighter than I am so we excel in different parts of the tracks usually.

Hop: There is not much info out there about the final: You won, Tiago 2nd, Vickers 3rd and Thiago 4th. Can you tell us how the final went down?

Max: True, the Chinese have their own social media outlets so its all posted there and the rest of the world doesn’t really see it. So yeah it was myself, both Thiago’s and Max V. Thiago Lessa had the priority lane on the push and ended up kicking out front, I was drag racing the other Tiago down the straight away fighting for second and Max V in the back trailing behind us. Going into the first drift I was able to get in second behind Thiago, he threw a massive slide and I had to do the same and started following him super close after the exit, going into the second hairpin he was gripping it and I usually would carve off some speed or throw a little foot brake for safety measures, but my plan in the final was to grip so Thiago wouldn’t pull away, and last second I changed my mind and threw a small footbrake, luckily I did that cause Thiago went too hot and faded wide crashing at the exit!! I made it past him and was stoked, I already had a good lead on the other two, so I was like “just don’t fuck up now Max and you have this”... after the long windy section there’s another long straight away and Tiago Mohr started drafting me, I was like “alright let's see if he can pass”, then going into the big righty he comes on my inside to take the lead and went for the worst line you could take on it hahah, I was like “it's all yours buddy” let him thru took my normal line wide and hit the perfect apex passing him on the exit with lots of speed while he was scrubbing and almost going to the hay! From there on I had the track all for me and was way out front! Crossed the finish line with a good gap and secured that second win in a row in China, I was incredibly stoked!! China is Rad!!

max-wins-china2 Winning Yuping Cup

Hop: What did you think about the Yuping Cup course and event? Is it a fast track or technical?

Max: Its a great event, my second time there and I cant wait to go back again! The track is like a Maryhill but with hairpins I’d say, very technical but slow in some sections and you reach the top speed of 70km/h in two straightways.

Hop: After China you went back to Chilippines? None of the other Brazilians came with you?

Max: I tried bringing them with me, they wanted to go really bad after seeing all my photos from the trip and hearing all my stories but they had their flights booked and it was too expensive to extend their trip. Next year we'll be seeing more Brazilians in the Chilippines for sure tho

Hop: Did you go to Taiwan? I saw Tiago went to Taiwan? Is that the Hondar Skate connection?

Max: The Taiwan/China trip was a Hondar film trip pretty much, it was myself and both Thiago’s as skaters and we had a Brazilian camera man, Timoteo capturing everything. Amazing hills!! Video should be out soon… So Hondar is a Taiwanese brand but tapped into the Brazilian scene, the son of the owner lives in Brazil and has an office and distribution base there. They are now expanding worldwide and have already a few other team riders in Australia, Spain, Canada, Peru, etc... [embed]https://vimeo.com/172853076[/embed]  

Hop: Why go back to the Phillippines?

Max: I went back cause that other event was announced right before I booked my trip, so I thought why not? More points and who doesn’t want to go back to the Philippines?!

Hop: There were a few stand out local racers this year in the Philippines: Jaime De Lange and Tomas Romualdez - what were they like to race against? Are the locals getting better every year?

Max: The locals in the Philippines are ripping shit up, lots of young talent!! Jaime and Tom were definitely some of my favorite riders there, they are fast and have great style, the stoke is so high there that it’s contagious to everyone!

Hop: Do you think Karera sa Lumban deserved WQS status? There were only 18 open competitors.

Max: Definitely, the track is really good, fast and windy, the pavement is pretty smooth aside from a few pot holes in some corners which you gotta keep an eye on. Similar style to Ruapehu I'd say, just not as fast. There were actually 38 riders in open division, I think the reason for having a low attendance was because they only announced the race 2 months or so prior to it, so most of the international riders had already booked their trip and many skaters from the rest of the Philippines didn’t have the money to travel to Luzon since most had already done the VLT, which is a 2 and a half week trip across Cebu and Siquijor islands.

Hop: You crashed in the final? What happened?

Max: I did, I decided to sand bag and my strategy was to pass everyone on the second straight away and have enough speed to pass and create a big gap to maintain all the way to the finish line. That first part worked but going into the switchback sweepers I hit a pothole while I was leaning super hard and went down, it happens.

Hop: Thank you to Max for giving us so much of his time and answering so many questions!

Max: I just wanna give a big shout out to everyone that supports me in any way, type or form! Friends, family and fans, means a lot to get motivation from everyone I can and to see that there’s people stoked and getting inspired by what I do is incredible. I started skateboarding 10 years ago as a hobby and something fun to do, never had aspiration to becoming a top rider or anything so its amazing to be at this position right now! Huge thanks to all my sponsors for keeping the dream alive and giving me the opportunity to develop some of the gear I’m using. Bustin Boards helped me design my soon to be release pro board and has been helping me heaps with travel lately. RAD wheels for releasing my Pro wheels this year which made me faster and a way stronger competitor. Ronin Trucks for all the love and best trucks in the downhill racing scene. Muirskate for being the best shop around giving me a job when I’m not chasing the tour and Scott is such a badass I get hella inspired by him. Vultur Helmets for keeping me safe and skating super fast with my pro helmet Darth Vader. Hondar Longboards for having the best accessories I could ask for, griptape, bearings, etc and for all the help they have given me. Atopic for also believing in my skating and being my only European sponsor its rad and last but not least Brazil for supporting me as an athlete and helping me getting the green and yellow flag to the top of the podium! This year has been a hell of a ride already and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds in store for us, see you guys on the hills!!! Also huge thanks Hop for spending this time interviewing me and for being sharing the same passion for downhill skateboard racing.  

max-under-newsham View from Mt Keira rainforest by Mark Newsham

Bonus for those dedicated skaters who got to the end: I asked Max later what the Brazilian speed lube was? His answer: "Nothing crazy, its just funny that everyone see's us with it and comes asking for some, its like a WD 40 but extra thin: its called M1."