We get a lot of submissions and emails from people all around the world urging us to check out their local crew. They’re not all hits, but we have noticed a trend: some of the best new output is coming from South America.
Red Bull has been working on a video series highlighting lesser-known skate regions across the world called “Greetings From,” and we said we’d help shine some light on their episodes. One of those focuses on Santiago, Chile, which has slowly become a low-key powerhouse in South American skating.
We decided to do a little more digging on the growth of the Chilean scene, and we came across Nicolas Garay. He’s been documenting skateboarding around his native Santiago (and across the world, really) for over a decade now via his print and video project called Fuera de Foco (Out of Focus).
We chatted with Nicolas about the influence of South America on global skate culture, the future of print magazines, and what he thinks the American skate industry could improve on.
Why is it that South American skaters seem to have so much pop?
I think in Brazil they have a lot of pop because of how hard it is to skate there. The ground is bad and the streets have tons of little rocks and things all over the place. So when they actually have good ground, they pop way better.
That doesn’t make any sense though, because then New York skaters would have crazy pop too [laughs].
[Laughs] I think that it might just be their athletic genes. They’re good at a bunch of different sports and their diets are pretty good. From what I know, my Brazilian friends eat a lot of fruit and protein daily. They eat beans and legumes every day there. It gives them lots of energy for pop I guess [laughs]. In the US, I don’t think there’s a healthy food culture. Maybe that’s what helps them jump high and have that type of pop more than people in New York [laughs].
In Brazil, the summers are also longer so they skate longer. In New York, it rains and snows a lot, so maybe that’s my other theory. I don’t know if that’s correct, but that’s what I think.
How difficult is it to find popular American brands in shops in Chile?
We have everything here. It’s super easy, especially in comparison to other countries that are always saying they have nothing. In Argentina, they’re always asking us to bring stuff over, and in Peru too. Brazil has its own industry, so they work with their own brands over there too. Whenever we get visitors they take advantage and buy everything they can here. I think it’s been a pretty favorable economic and commercial relationship between Chile and other countries, like the US.
Is filming skating your only job?
No, but everything I do is related to video. I make music videos, restaurant promos, film contests, and film for Vans and DC, so I move mostly in the skating and film worlds. I’ve never had to dedicate myself to anything outside of filming.
Are there any filmers or videos that inspired you to get into filming skating?
Watching videos from Chilean filmers, like videos by Dario Covarrubias, CAF Prod, Yair Barrios, Juan Quintana, Francisco Arteaga, El Paparazzi, Obrero, José Parra, 80 Films, and more. Also, foreign films, Lakai videos, Stay Gold, Kids in Emerica.
Right now I really like the New Balance videos and what Ty Evans is doing, too. I started appreciating the cinematography in videos more than the raw skating itself. Obviously, it’s more about skating, but I do like to see the cinematography side in videos and see the landscapes and all that other stuff. It’s like half and half.
I’m surprised to hear you like Ty Evan’s work, a lot of skaters over here are not fans of his newer work.
Like I said, I like skating and I like film, and there are a lot of skaters who don’t like those kinds of videos because they prefer to see the tricks or are more focused on the trick difficulty, and Ty’s videos are too artificial for them in that sense. I like cinematography, how different cameras look, gimbals, and gear, so that’s more what I was referring to, maybe not so much how he films the actual skating.
Your videos have a very particular cinematic look to them compared to straight-up VX or HPX filming. Surely that helps with getting the other types of jobs that you do?
Of course. With that camera, I can do jobs that I couldn’t do with other skate cameras.
Yeah, I mean, you’re not gonna film restaurant promos on a VX1000, right?
[Laughs] Yeah, they wouldn’t accept that. Although there are definitely some places that like that vintage raw look. It gives it its own touch. It also works for events.
What’s the general opinion of normal Chilean people toward skating and skaters?
I think it’s the same as everywhere else. There are people that don’t like us being loud, because truthfully, we are loud, we mark up fresh walls, and we end up breaking everything, but they’re never going to understand us. Only a few people will understand us and maybe they can appreciate a photo of someone jumping over a rail as opposed to just simply using it as a support and then going about their daily routine. I think there are people that like it and some that don’t, like everywhere else. But there are not really that many haters here, really.
We just put out a video from a Japanese crew, and they’ve told us how hard it is to street skate there because of how illegal it is…
Yeah, in Chile there aren’t any laws against skateboarding or anything like that. If the cops come, you just tell them you’re not doing anything besides skating, then they just kick you out and that’s that. It’s not like they come in aggressive unless someone is aggravating them or has a bad attitude.
Can you pay off the cops in Chile?
No, it’s super hard to do that. You can get arrested and fined if you try it.
One time in Bolivia, we were filming at a spot and the owner said that we messed up the paint. He called the cops and they said we owed $250 in damages or we were going to Bolivian jail. It was a Friday, so if we went to jail, we’d be out Monday, so we had to pay up. When we were leaving, the cops were divvying up the money we gave them amongst themselves. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen in Chile.
Looks like you can sandboard in Chile. Ever tried that?
I’ve never sandboarded. I’ve never had the chance, but other people in other parts of Chile do. Here near Santiago, there’s a place where people do it.
You mentioned you run a magazine there too. How big is each issue and what’s your production time?
We do one a year, and we’re on our eighth edition. We realized we needed to publish our own material in our own medium because we had problems with other magazines in Chile. We felt we did all the filming and shooting and it was coming out in other mediums that we felt didn’t have the same disposition as us. The magazine is 56 pages, with lots of content by us, art sections, music sections, but everything related to skating obviously. We print it here in Santiago and we publish 2,000 copies per issue and it goes out all across Chile.
Does the magazine make money and are you guys able to live off of just that?
I think it’s pretty difficult to live just off a magazine. The magazine right now is just a plus on top of what we do with video and photography. More than anything it’s a reference to show brands so they can see us as something more serious and complete. We work with photographers and editors and make enough to pay them for their work, but it’s really difficult for us to just live off of it. In all honesty, we can’t do it.
Do you think print is more in demand now than it was a couple of years ago?
I think when we started, we were already in that transition from the digital to the tangible. Instagram was already around, everyone watched YouTube, and nobody had a VHS player, so I think people liked having something tangible they can have at home on their coffee tables. I think we were right at the transition.
South America has become more influential in skating over the last couple of years. I think it’s definitely time for you guys to have your own outlets and not rely on US publications. You guys can tell your own stories in your own way.
Yeah, that’s what I think too, and I talk about that with my friends and the people I work with. I think that the more mediums and projects there are, the better it is for everyone because it will make skating bigger. So if a kid in the future picks up skating and wants to make a living doing it, he can do it because we’re all working toward that goal.
If we’re chilling and just waiting for Thrasher or Berrics to publish our tricks online, we’re not going to get anywhere. We’ll just be stuck there, waiting and waiting.
Who are the next big skaters coming out of South America?
In Peru, I know a kid whose name is Renato Silva. He’s probably 20, and his level of skating is super high. I met him in 2016 in Lima when we went on tour, and he was young, and he was doing big tricks.
In Brazil Marcelo Batista. He’s a bit more known in skating, but this kid has crazy pop. He has a heelflip that’s like three or four boards high. He’s gonna be in our next magazine.
Also, Francisco Pietroboni, who is living in Barcelona, has a style that’s elegant. Mario Luraschi who is also in Barcelona has a really clean style. Jose Cantillana you guys should check out too. Matias Arraño, Ian Varas, Valentina Petric and Charlotte Reyes, I think they’re all skaters who can do big things.
What do you think could be better about the industry in general?
I think more than fixing the industry, some personalities need fixing. I’ve met a lot of skaters during my travels who are not very humble, not friendly, and closed-minded about what contests and competing in skating are all about. Let’s focus on being better people and little by little that will make everything better. If we all think positively, the world will grow positively.
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