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Quiet Life_Luca Crestani Interview from issue #62.

February 22nd, 2021

If you build your whole life around skateboarding it means that you’re a bit crazy and love it more than most people do. Luca is one of the most amazing skaters I know and of whom I have taken more photos with over time. He has made the most important life decisions in order to keep skating. We have lost touch a little in the past few years, so I was curious to hear what he had to say as a mature adult about today’s skateboarding. The photos on these pages were taken in two afternoons, and quite clearly prove that he’s still in great shape.

Layback powerslide.

In what year did you start skating?

In 1990, I was 10 years old.

 Of all the various eras of skateboarding you’ve lived, which do you prefer?

For sure the period between the end of 1999 and the early 2000s of which I have good memories because that’s when I began to travel, skate the first contests, and generally leave my area more. That’s when my passion ignited, and I started to make new friends and have new experiences. That was the best period without a doubt. As a countryside skater I started experiencing the positive side of skateboarding which is that it has no limits. Wherever you go, if you meet another skater you’re automatically part of a family. Skateboarding transcends borders. Every era has its good memories.

 

Nosebonk backside revert.

What are the three best memories that have accompanied you during all these years spent skateboarding everywhere?

My very first memory is when my ollies started getting higher than 5 cm. I was in Abruzzo at my grandparents’ house, my brother and I were only kids and we’d go skate on the seafront, it felt like being in California. One day I managed to ollie over two decks and when I returned home I was so happy I told my parents and also made a mark on the wall! What a beautiful, indelible memory. It’s a feeling we all have when landing a new trick or going beyond your limits. It’s the first time you put yourself out there. That’s the beautiful thing about skateboarding that has shaped my personality over the years. Falling on the ground is not for everyone, but if you’re determined enough you can achieve the desired results and experience incredible feelings.

Another memory is tied to the first trips to go skate these contests in Reggio Emilia. It was me, Cut, Kiaretta, Uomo, and Marchetto in a car and we got there in the middle of the night and had no place to sleep. It was my first experience away from home, with no organization. It was my first taste of a punk skate tour, ha ha… it was beautiful. At the time there was a contest every weekend and we’d spend the whole summer traveling around, experiencing what skateboarding really means to me: being outside, meeting new people and having fun, that’s the driving force behind it all.

 Another one is when I became a “team manager.” After having a “skate career” you start thinking about your future a bit… between the ages of 25 and 30 I did other jobs to support myself, so I tried to survive only from my passion. I opened an association to manage the park in Civitanova in 2007. From then on I dedicated myself completely to skateboarding in order to make a living out of it, by managing the park, organizing events, and creating a skate school, etc. A life with less certainties for sure, but with more passion and determination to try to make it. As skateboarding teaches you, if you never try you’ll never know whether you’ll be able to land a certain trick… at times it goes well and at times it doesn’t, but you can learn from everything, even bad experiences.

Gap to board slide.

In light of your experience, what’s your vision of skateboarding like today?

It has changed a lot for sure, just as skateboarding has changed and so has my perception of it. It is very different from what it used to be when we started skating. There are some things I like, others less. But it’s a bit of a rhetorical argument that we all hear from time to time from those older than us. We all end up saying the same things, obviously each generation experiences things its own way. One should accept the various aspects of skateboarding; the fact that it’s been entirely recognized as a sport inevitably makes it interesting in different ways compared to how it used to be, when it was underground and difficult to come across. It was a discovery. Nowadays skateboarding is more accessible to everyone, and everyone wants to give it a try which is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it’s awesome. It has surely lost that appeal it had for us back then of trying to be a rare bird in a world where people are all a bit identical. It felt more real. But for the new generations it might also be the same thing now. It became my life, I based my whole life on my passion, I realized a dream, a small dream, but I’m happy of what I’ve been able to achieve so far.

Switch frontside nose slide.

What do you and what don’t you like?

Skateboarding has become 100% mainstream. By engaging with the Olympic Federation I realized how well under way this machine is, and how skateboarding is a part of it just like other sports. Before, a skater was a skater who did his tricks on a board, while now we’re considered “athletes.” It’s a word that greatly changes your view of things. This is positive in a way, there are kids who live skateboarding like this and it’s good that they do if that’s what they feel and can afford to do so. It’s also the beauty of it, this division between the purer aspect of skateboarding and what skateboarding has become for some people nowadays: something much more structured, with rules, and a much more professional approach to a “sports discipline”. These are completely new terms that have never existed in skateboarding. It’s definitely far removed from what originally made me fall in love with it. They’re just different points of view. There are children who started skating at my skate school who now do contests, they have fun, and honestly I hope they’ll always have fun, if for them having fun means skating contests, then so be it. Skateboarding is freedom and it’s what I will always love about it. Each person can live how he/she wants. The means we now have to stay in touch with friends and new talents around the world is what I like about today’s skateboarding, it was impossible to do in the past.

What I do like less is the fact that if you skate you’re cool, if you skate and do trap music you’re even cooler, and if you’re a model and a skater then you’re super cool. When there’s too much focus on something it hypes a different message. The fact that skateboarding is at everyone’s mercy distorts its very essence and beauty.

 

Speaking of the skate industry, what’s your take on this grueling search for new content every single day on the part of brands, which turns everything into something marketable, from sexual preferences to lemon-flavored candy?

We’ve now reached a point where skateboarding has been commodified in every way. Skateboarding is an excellent communication vehicle. It’s a fair and beautiful thing to give importance to all aspects of skateboarding, like seeing a blind kid or someone with no legs skating can set an example and give many others the strength and motivation to try. This is definitely positive. When on the other hand everything is abused to create a fake image of skateboarding then I don’t approve of that. Communication travels incredibly fast and everyone wants something new to publish. There are new brands that seem to just pop out of nowhere and you don’t really know whether there’s a passionate skater behind them or a large corporation that’s investing in skateboarding because it’s trendy.

 

After the first lockdown at the beginning of the year, it seems like skateboarding literally exploded. Shops never sold as many decks as they did last summer.

Yes! I think it happened all over the world, not only in Italy. Skateboarding is now very popular, plus the fact that it’s an individual sport pushed many people to start skating because other team sports were forbidden. “Since it’s legal let’s try it,” so you end up with parents bringing their kids to skate school. It’s good for distributors, skate shops, and for me too, because I have a lot of work teaching skating. Many will try, but not everybody will keep doing it. Although the number of practitioners will grow, even in more rural places. 

Do you like teaching skateboarding?

Yes, I do, I feel I’m pretty good at working with children and I like playing with them. What I try to pass down to them is the fact that in skateboarding it’s important to have fun, there are no rules, if a kid wants to do downhills sitting or lying down on his board it’s important that he does so. I’m super happy when I see him smiling on his board, as it makes me happy to see the progression of each kid. Teaching skateboarding is not easy, you need to be methodical and tactful, you need to know how to speak to a child and every one is different. It’s a psychological type of job, you need to understand off the bat what type of person you’re dealing with and be able to understand his abilities and inclinations. It’s an interesting job that changes every day. 

Backside ollie.

Thinking back to the early 90s, would you ever have paid someone to teach you how to skate?

Ha ha ha, absolutely not! Ha ha ha, one of the things I keep repeating to children when they feel discouraged and tell me, “I can’t do this trick” is: “yes, but you have to try, when I started skating there was nobody there to explain how to do things, and now I’m here teaching you. It took me a year to land my first ollie, but I finally made it, so if I made it by myself you have to at least try since you’re doing it with a teacher by your side telling you what to do.”

 

Any “strange” character doing skate lessons?

Over the last year for sure lots of young girls, in 13 years this is the first time it’s happened. Also lots of parents who used to bring their children who then stopped skating, but then the parents started skating and continue doing so. It’s fantastic.

 

Big Air Lab is a unique reality, maybe at a global level, with an incredible indoor bowl and a concrete street plaza outside with palm trees. You had a prominent role in the development of the project, can you tell me a bit more about it?

It all began between 2010 and 2011, I had known Mario Paolillo for some years. He had a small skate shop in Osimo which supported me and we collaborated on the management of the local skatepark. He told me of a possible project to enlarge the shop. In 2012 he found the present location outside of the urban center. It was a very courageous decision, and he could build a unique facility. From that point onwards we began fantasizing and decided to build a bowl with pool coping inside the store. It wasn’t the most popular decision, but ended up being a good one, and it also gave birth to many other bowls in the area. Giorgio Zattoni himself, who helped us to design it, got all excited about skating bowls again. Many skaters from all over spend weekends in the area just to skate the plaza which is unique in its simplicity. We created a small oasis of happiness with all the things we like, and the scene has definitely benefited from it.

 

And within a context like the Marche region, where the quality of life is very high…

Yes, definitely. We are close to the sea and the beautiful locations of Sirolo and Numana. The mountains are just a few hours’ drive away in the inland and there are people working at the store who are passionate about their sport, such as skaters, surfers, kitesurfers, or snowboarders. The surfers catch waves before going to work, the kitesurfers go during lunch break and I go skating after work, for example. We’re a group of passionate people and Big Air Lab is a landmark for the whole area.

 

You even followed the construction of all the concrete parks in the area…

Yes, I followed various projects over the years, trying to make diverse skateparks, which is the basic rule in order to make them interesting and usable. It’s sad to see skateparks all designed the same way as often still happens nowadays.

 

Frontside ollie.

For a while you were the coach of the Italian National Skateboarding team. What type of experience was it and why did you then abandon that role?

I did that for a couple of years, and the experience was definitely double-faced: positive for many aspects, and negative for other aspects that eventually forced me to abandon that role. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to bring the guys around the world so they could have those experiences, while it gave me new, important stimuli. It was a role that came with many responsibilities, and that demanded lots of organization. It was not easy to learn all the inner workings of that kind of job. I put myself on the line, there were some nice moments but also some difficult situations. I had some bad luck on various tours, I was responsible for managing very young kids in some not so friendly places like China or Brazil… in the long run this made me decide to leave this role that was using up all my time and preventing me from doing the things I had built here, like the skate school and the skatepark. They were two intense years that taught me what my true priorities were, so I decided to slow down because I had really reached my limit. I decided to spend more time at home, manage the skate school and children, spend more time with my wife and live my life enjoying the small things all around us. It was a mature decision on my part.

 

Is there anything you envy of the new generations and do you think there’s anything they missed out on?

To be honest there aren’t that many things I envy of the kids today. Actually, I think there are lots of things they will not be able to experience unfortunately. The world today is all about chasing who knows what… like being cooler, richer, more beautiful, or more pumped, and it’s easy to lose sight of the true value of things. This is my view, maybe a bit negative, not only skate-wise, but in general too. It scares me, but at the same time it inspired me to do what I’m doing and live a quieter life with the people I’m close to, and also tend my veggie garden, take care of the animals we’re raising, and basically enjoy nature itself. I think these are the most beautiful things you can do. The younger generations have kind of lost touch with “doing things,” even the most difficult things like getting your hands dirty, which can give you the biggest satisfactions. They’re lobotomized by these social networks in a world moving faster and faster every day. We’re all chasing this ephemeral happiness. We, who have lived a “before” can see this, while the younger generations are in this uncontrollable centrifuge, it’s a never-ending search. And I’m sure that it’s good to stop every now and then to recognize what’s good for you. If you think about it, this lockdown forced us to stop a second and reflect.

 

So there was something positive about all this mess and the whole lockdown thing?

For once we all, indiscriminately, were forced to stand still, and those who were able to take advantage of this period in a positive way, had the chance to “reinvent” themselves. My wife and I decided to give life to a farm with a vegetable garden and animals, to live more sustainably and eat our own food, thus improving our quality of life, working less and spending more time at home. That’s what I learned from this forced lockdown.

 

In this era where everyone is his own media, do you think it still makes sense for skate media to exist?

Good question! I can imagine the difficulties those working for a magazine have to deal with! I think a printed magazine is the best thing, and collecting them has always fascinated me. It’s important for skate mags to keep existing. They’re a niche, quality product. People with passion find a way to impassion others.

 

In skateboarding today what’s more important, the image or tricks?

Unfortunately the image, without a doubt. This is a historical period where everything revolves around the image and brands base their decisions more on a skater’s image than on the tricks he does. Technical ability is important of course, but what counts is how marketable an individual is.

 

It seems that Milan is the place to be right now, as the big marketing gurus say. After Barcelona, Berlin, London, and Paris, now it’s Milan’s turn, what do you think of it?

Yes, exactly. After having done them all, it’s now Milan’s turn, ha ha ha. Let’s say it was foreseeable, since they had done all the cities, ha ha ha. Milan is very trendy at the moment, it has an active scene, there’s a lot of hype surrounding Milano Centrale. Surely also thanks to Jacopino who helped create a focus on the city, but also thanks to other factors. It’s a positive thing, but there are very good new skaters and interesting scenes all over the country now. Italian skateboarding is not all about Milan, but it’s their moment, so let them enjoy it, he he.

 

After all these years what do you love the most about skateboarding?

Definitely the fact that I can still skate and have fun. Skateboarding has influenced my whole life and is still an integral part of it. I hope it will keep influencing me for many years to come.

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Photography & interview Davide Biondani.