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Interviews

La Kantera Book | An Interview with Javier Mendizabal & Remix

Interview by Sem Rubio from Kingpin Issue 133

In late 1987, and  thanks to the initiative of a bunch of pioneering surfers and skaters, La Kantera skatepark was built. The location was the small coastal and picturesque village of Algorta, Bizkaia. In its first years of existence a unique generation of wild skaters took skateboarding to the next level. Legends such as Alain Goikoetxea, Alfonso Lute Fernandez, Txus Domínguez, Gorka Guantez Presencio, Ivan Fano, David Albin Ramos, Jon Ander Txufo Ariño, etc. These skaters turned La Kantera into a highly respected place, and inspired the following generations of young kids, both in Euskadi and the rest of Spain, to truly embrace the skateboard lifestyle.

Almost 30 years later, La Kantera is one of the oldest skateparks in Europe, and is a reference, world-wide, for its creative and radical approach to skateboarding.

The authors of this book, Jon Amiano, Fernando Elvira and Javier Mendizábal, took on the mission to compile, in book form, the photographic memory of La Kantera, along with stories told, simply and purely, by its main actors. The book also benefits from the collaboration of some of the most influential skaters and photographers at international level. People such as Thomas Campbell, Pontus Alv, Bill Danforth, John Cardiel, Coan Buddy Nichols, Arto Saari, Steve Bailey and many others who have visited La Kantera, and are part of the history of this legendary spot.

This project took Javier, Jon and Fernando 2 and a half years of work. It’s been an intensive labor of compilation, documentation and organization of film and digital photography, original artworks, essays and writings from a wide array of personalities. Converse, the sponsor of the book, has helped once again the creative minds in skateboarding to make reality a project so precious and authentic as La Kantera 1987-2015.

La Kantera 1987-2015 is a priceless historical document and its showcases not only some of the best skateboarding ever seen in Spain, but it is also a tribute song to the magic of friendship, self-expression and the search for freedom…the pure spirit of skateboarding.

Javier Mendizabal, stalefish. Ph. Brian Gaberman

Javier, whose idea was it to make a book about La Kantera and why?

It was born a few hundreds of kilometres away from La Kantera, in a bar in Barcelona where my friend Jon Amiano and I used to drink beers and save the world. Jon and I grew up in Algorta but we moved to Barcelona when we were 20. One night Jon said: “Fuck, next year is the 25th anniversary. Would be nice to make a book.” So we spent the next six months talking about it until we decided to start digging, contact the protagonists of the story and see what came out… So we recruited Fernando Elvira, pioneer skater and local since day one; we knew teaming up with him would make it really happen. The motivation was simple, because it’s a story too fucking good not to do. We had to share the story of the origins of Basque skateboarding and the past 25 years of the mythic skatepark of La Kantera, home of an untameable group of skaters, surfers, artists and freeloaders that make La Kantera such a legendary place.

How did you gather all the material needed? What was involved with the selection of images?

It’s been a process of improvisation, of talking to people and finding the material. There were photographers that we already knew who had good stuff, people that were in one stage or another of documenting the scene – people like Gonzalo Azumendi, Jaime Marcos, Carlos Terreros, etc. They are still locals so that was easy. But then there were a lot of people that you don’t remember as a photographer or that were not working as photographers but who shot photos here and there, not skate tricks but portraits and all that surrounded skateboarding, whose photos were sick. Those were the hard ones to find, but eventually people got more and more involved. Then you have the period before La Kantera, circa 70’s-80’s, whose generation we really didn’t know about and had to get to through common friends. Photos start to pop up, colourless prints, but rarely negatives. It’s been almost two years gathering material and today, a few days away from taking the whole project to print, we got one last photo. You have to stop gathering negatives or the project really never ends. After the selection of what’s in the book and what’s not there’s a stage of looking at the images, grouping them by periods, photographer, or a thousand more categories. Finally you know all the photos by heart; you can almost lay it out mentally.

La Kantera under construction and being skated, 1987. Ph. Jakue Andikoetxea

Who came up with the design of the park?

There have been many replicas of the same mini bowl and extension in other cities, and even today it is recognised as an OG Basque skatepark shape. I think the original idea of the banks with the central ramp was copied from the one that was in Madrid (Parque Sindical, RIP), and then Alfonso “Lute” Fernández and Txus Dominguez changed a bit of the radius and designed the halfpipe. A couple of years after that, other town halls in the area wanted to build their own skatepark too, and it was like a boom where everyone started skating. So I don’t know exactly why, I assume because there was no information and they just copied the one that already existed. It was like making football fields, all the same!

Who did you grow up watching skate in La Kantera? Who was your inspiration there?

My parents live a few kilometres from La Kantera and I was 12 when they built it, so I didn’t grow up there, I only went when someone took me or when I escaped. I remember a year before La Kantera they put some ramps in one of these Christmas parks and I saw Edu “Rat” Saenz doing airs… It was the first time I’d ever seen someone doing airs. I remember his board perfectly, even the drawing on the griptape! After that I saw Txus Dominguez and I tripped on his style, speed and his improvise-it-all attitude. He has always been my favourite skater to watch and to share a session with. After that, when I was 15-16 years old, I started to skate more often in La Kantera with people my age like Txufo, Unai, Gaizko, Alain Goikoetxea…  A whole generation of skaters that went to the next level.

Iker Ondarra, frontside air at the pool party, 2000. Ph, Carlos Terreros

How do you think the building of La Kantera, one of the first skateparks in the Peninsula, influenced the whole country?

La Kantera’s influence was the scene that was born in the first years of the park. Two generations of creative skaters, as well as musicians, photographers and people with talent came together at a beach where people from the town barely visited… it was our corner. Then some magazines started to come out of it, like Tres60 skate: that influenced people all around the country. Also there was EXT, which was more of a local mag with a huge “Kanteran” spirit.

Do you think the shape of the park has “shaped” skateboarding styles any differently than, let’s say, any other skatepark in the world? 

Every skatepark’s shape always defines the local’s style… I don’t think La Kantera had done that in any special way in the world, but surely it’s given birth to well-rounded, fast and stylish skateboarders.

What does La Kantera have nowadays that makes it still so appealing to want to go and spend some time there?

It’s a mythic skatepark in an awesome place between the ruins of an old fortress above a beach… that sounds already too good. It’s also the “do-whatever-you-fucking-want” vibes you can breathe there, no trends, no fashions… People there don’t know who is the flavour pro of the month… It’s all quite anarchic and unpredictable. One afternoon you can have the session of your life with the locals, and the next day you might not find anyone to skate with, or the locals just went to climb the ruins, or any other random thing that doesn’t involve skateboarding.

Alain Goikoetxea, backside tweak air, 2002. Ph. Carlos Terreros

We’ve compiled a remix of some La Kantera footage floating around on the internet for you to enjoy. Here’s to many more years!

Grab yourself a copy of the book over on the La Kantera Big Cartel page.

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