It’s always great to know more about lesser seen skate scenes from around the world, we had a conversation with photographer Giancarlo Povera, editor of “elcubocr” skateboard magazine, who spent the last 22+ years shooting and documenting the skateboard scene in Costa Rica.
Hi Giancarlo, can you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m a photographer/skateboarder from Costa Rica. All photos are made with Nikon camera, iPhone and film. Ronin 24/7/365.
How long have you been shooting skateboarding?
I started skateboarding photography in the late 90’s. At university I was studying advertising and it was there that I took a basic photography course. I bought an old film camera from the 80’s, a Minolta XG-M and that’s where it all started. First taking photos of skater friends and then meeting new people and travelling to new places led by skateboarding and photography. I mentioned skateboarding first because that’s where I started from; looking at magazines and the different angles where the photos were taken, also checking videos trying to see how pro-photographers located their equipment and where they shot from. I think all skate-photographers have gone through a similar process. What is true is that you have to be or have been a skater to be a skateboarding photographer.
How is the skate scene in Costa Rica?
There has always been the strongest scene in the region. We have records that skateboarding in Costa Rica started around 1974: some surfers from California came to a famous wave spot in Mata de Limón (Puntarenas) and they brought the first skateboards to Costa Rica. From there it was only a matter of time before a stronger movement began in the country. There are approximately 3 thousand skaters and each day we grow more. The pandemic has weakened a bit the movement, such as in the support of brands and sponsorships.
Are there good skateparks?
There are few really good skateparks, and some that will be built soon, among them I can mention: Tilawa, El Mutante and Eskina Skatepark (private) located on Guanacaste, made by Kaleb Stevens (@sk8grom4life). Los Pinos in Cartago, Santa Teresa Skatepark in Puntarenas, Espinal in Alajuela (private), these last ones are designed and made by two of my friends/skaters/architects Daniel Carvajal and André Ramirez under the signature of @gala_skateparks that now are giving advice to municipalities to make skateparks better. Lately there are more parks, some are ok, some other cannot even be called “skateparks”… As with skateboarding photography, you have to be a skater to design and build a good skatepark.
What are the best cities for street skating?
The best city for skateboarding in Costa Rica is San José, the capital, with modern surfaces and more street spots. Also in the other six provinces there are good places and being Costa Rica such a small country, you can easily reach the Great Metropolitan Area (GAM) in 2 hours drive or Guanacaste and Limón from 3 to 5 hours drive.
Looking at your photos there are a lot of colors, some blue skies and really good spots…. It looks like the weather is kind of good the most part of the year…
I think most of the photos with so much color and blue skies have been taken with great luck. Costa Rica is a tropical country marked by 2 seasons a year: 3 months of summer from (from December to March) and the next 9 remaining months of rainy winter. The best way to take good pictures with natural light during the rainy season is to go out very early in the morning, because by noon it starts to rain. Every day.
Do you have any skate magazine over there?
For almost 20 years I’ve been the editor of a digital magazine called “elcubocr” but because of the pandemic I had to close it indefinitely. There are two more magazines, one printed and one digital done by two other skaters. But honestly speaking, the one that was most welcomed by street skaters was and always will be elcubocr. We were online for free from December 2001 to 2020. Almost 20 years bringing the best of the best of the Costa Rican skate scene without leaving anyone out and always seeing talent in a skater before anything else.
Skaters from Costa Rica travel a lot to closest countries like Nicaragua or Panama for skating?
Panama and Nicaragua are two countries with good skateboarding movement. Panama I think more for obvious reasons (they are not under a dictatorship and they are a country that had been a colony of the United States for almost 100 years managing the Panama Canal since 1903). Panama is an incredible and very modern country with many spots for skateboarding but the police are pretty tough with skaters. Nicaragua, however, despite everything, has excellent grounds and sidewalks and a lot of amzing spots to skate, such as the city of Granada. Another positive factor in Nicaragua is that skateboarding is “legal”, you can skate anywhere without fear that the police or security guards will kick you out.
How is life in general and as a skater in Costa Rica?
Life in Costa Rica is as we say here, Pura Vida! “Pura Vida” means “enjoying life”, no matter what your circumstances are; it is a simple appreciation of life and the awareness that life is what we do. It is a relatively quiet country where everything can be done with complete freedom. As it is known worldwide, we are a country without army since 1948 when it was abolished. As a skater it is very difficult sometimes because the police, security guards and some citizens are not “receptive” with skateboarding; while the organization of events/competitions and sponsorships are clouded by people who own the money but do not know anything about skateboarding.
Are there some “dangerous” areas in the country?
Like any other country in the world there are dangerous places where you can definitely only enter with a friend/skater who lives there otherwise is better not going. Ironically, those dangerous places are the ones where the best spots for skateboarding are.
Any advice for those who want to come and visit your country ?
Come to Costa Rica, we are close to the entire population being vaccinated against Covid-19 and it is very safe as long as you respect the health protocols. We are a humble people but with a good heart that we are always willing to help those who need it. As I mentioned in the previous question, there are dangerous places in all the countries of the world and Costa Rica is not the exception. Just trust some skater from here to take you and guide you through the best places to skate and discover. I recommend that you go to Guanacaste if you want to skate good spots and skateparks and have fun on beautiful beaches or go to Limon for common tourism. I also recommend San José and the other surrounding provinces, so you can learn more about raw street skateboarding in a third world country. Once again come to Costa Rica and enjoy the Pura Vida!