Chico and Gino are two of our all time favorite skateboarders, they recently released a sick collaboration with their two personal projects, Chico Stix and Poets Brand. This was the perfect occasion to have a chat with them, which ended up on the pages of a brief glance issue 67, as well as on the cover and back cover of the mag. These photos shot by Jason Fong in San Francisco deserved to be printed on paper forever! Enjoy Chico’s interview. (Gino’s soon).
Photography: Jason Fong @fongstarr
Interview: Davide Biondani @davide_biondani
Starring: Chico Brenes @chicobrenes @chicostixskateboards
Do you remember the first time you met Gino?
The first time I met Gino might have been when he was on 101 and I was on World, I think at World park. Then a few years after he got on Chocolate and we started skating and filming together a lot more. I might have met him in the early 90’s when he came to SF but I can’t recall if I did.
How long have you been friends? And what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about him?
I think since the mid 90’s, and then he got on Chocolate and we all become closer. He later on moved to LA with Keenan and Pupecki close to where I was living at the time and we started hanging over at their house a lot more.
What about you? It looks like you’re still skating a lot and enjoying it… (as super super fans of your skateboarding since the very early 90’s we’re happy to see that) how are you living your skateboarding today?
Thank you. I’m having a blast skateboarding now, probably the funnest I’ve ever had. Just no pressure, no stress and I’m enjoying skating all the different shapes I’m making for Chico Stix.
It’s sick to watch people like you and others still skating at that level. I recently saw some clips of Henry Sanchez ripping. Have you seen him? You spent a lot of time skating together during the EMB days…
Henry is ripping for sure, I skated Pier 7 with him; he lives in Sacramento so I don’t get to see him as often as I did back in the days. I love seeing peers from my generation still ripping, Guy Mariano and Daewon are some of my favorites to watch.
Wallride. Photo Jason Fong.
You’re still living in San Francisco, what ties you to this city and how has it changed over the decades? For our generation of skateboarders SF will always remain that of EMB, FTC videos and “A Visual Sound,” at least in our dreams… ha ha.
I’m still living in SF, I love it here. I did the LA thing for a while, but I’m really happy to be back in SF. My family is here and this is where it all began for me, the city is definitely not the same, but is where my heart is at. I have my routine now that I’m really enjoying; family, skate, surf and running Chico Stix.
Thinking about the reasons that made you start skating and fall in love with it, if you were 12 today, would you be attracted to skateboarding in the same way?
Absolutely! I was 12 when I first started skateboarding in 1987. I have photos of me already launching off ramps in 1988. Since the very early days me and my skateboard were inseparable; I took it with me everywhere I went. I found footage of me at Disneyland with my board, and also at Church. My mom wouldn’t let me go to EMB unless I went to Church with her so I always had my board.
You’ve witnessed almost four decades of skateboarding. What do you think today’s skateboarding is missing from the past and what has it gained?
The natural plazas in the cities where skaters could go, skate and chill. Like the EMBs, Pulaskis or Love Parks. There isn’t really anything like it anymore. There’s definitely a lot more parks in our cities which is cool but nothing beats the natural terrains.
What are you up to lately? Can you tell us more about the Chico Stix project?
The last few years I’ve been riding all types of different board shapes and even a 2×4 so I decided to make some of my favorite shapes from the past and start Chico Stix. My plan in the beginning was just to make a few limited fun shapes and sell them on my site. I never imagined to sell out the first run of boards in a day or to get all the hype and traction that it has received. Really stoked.
Looking at the products you make, it looks like a tribute to the “small wheels” era of skateboarding…
That’s the era that I grew up in for sure but for now it’s about having fun, like when we first started skateboarding. That’s why I love doing all the different kinda boards. Especially the old 80’s retro shape, that’s the era when I first started skating. The launch ramp days, so doing those old shapes brings me to those simple but fun days, when we went out and skated with friends all day.
Bluntslide at EMB. Photo Jason Fong.
How did the collab with Poets come about and how did it evolve from the original idea to the final outcome?
I got a text from Gino one day asking if I was interested in doing a collab, right away I told him absolutely! I’ve been following what he’s been doing with Poets and love the direction and details he brings to all his pieces. We got on a call and just started bouncing ideas around. I knew that I wanted to do something from the 90’s era since that’s the era we both came up in. We both wore a lot of Polo, Tommy Hilfiger style rugbys so we came up with the idea to do a rugby polo and also a board with the same pattern.
How did you choose the board shape?
The retro shape was actually Gino’s idea. I was super hyped when he chose to do that because that’s what Chico Stix is about, doing all kinds of different shapes and having fun.
Chico at EMB. Photo Jason Fong.
How was working with Gino on this project?
Working on this project with Gino was incredible, we spoke a few times about doing a small video for the collab and I was actually thinking of going to NY to link up with him and skate. Then he told me that he wanted to come out to SF, that he hasn’t been here in a while and that he was down to come out. So he gave me the dates and I got him a hotel by Union Square and picked him up every morning and just went cruising around the city. It was really fun and he had a blast, also the feedback that we got was so amazing that we are thinking of working on a bigger video project. Something like the Tim and Henry “Pack Of Lies,” Gino and Chico. I could go out to NY to film, he could come back to SF and maybe to LA. Get some of our friends like Guy, Daewon, Henry, Karl to get a few clips, it could be really sick I think.
Chico, wallride, China Banks, San Francisco. Photo Jason Fong.
How was skating with Gino?
Having Gino and skating all around the city was a treat, we just kept it moving and were hitting a bunch of different spots. There was also no pressure, we had a filmer but I decided to just film everything on our phones just to make it funner.
Any behind the scene stories of the days you spent together skating and of the whole process of this sick collab?
I think the last time Gino was in SF was in 2004 while filming for The Hot Choco Tour, so it was a treat to have him back in the city. He also said that he had never been to Fort Miley, so I made it a priority to go there which turned out to be a really fun session.
How was going back with him to EMB after so many years?
It was awesome, I remember after I picked him up from the airport we went to the Ferry Building (EMB area). We had a coffee and walked through Embarcadero and sat down at one of the tables. We were talking and I had to ask him about the backside heel flip he did down The Gonz Gap in the early 90’s. That was groundbreaking and I’m pretty sure he was the second person to flip the Gap, before that it was Mark with a mob kickflip. He said it just kinda happened, it wasn’t something planned or anything like that. He also said that he didn’t like how he landed it because he didn’t roll off the stairs after.
Gino Iannucci & Chico Brenes at Fort Miley, San Francisco. Photo Jason Fong.
What’s one of your favorite memories from the EMB days? Are you still in touch with some of those guys?
My favorite EMB memories would have to be the early 90’s small wheels, cut-off shoes and cut-off bottom pants era, it was just cool to see all the guys at EMB pushing the technical side of skateboarding. I see and skate with Karl Watson probably the most, I do follow a lot of the OG members but I just feel that everyone’s busy either with family or work so it’s harder to link up.
What’s next with Chico Stix and for you in general?
I have a lot of cool projects in the works this year with Chico Stix, for me it’s more about doing and working with friends and people I admire and look up to. Just keep having fun, doing more cool shapes and more fun videos.
Thanks a lot Chico.
Thanks for the opportunity Davide, much appreciated.