Meeting… Michal Juras!
Interview: Mateusz Matczak
Photos: Jakub Baczkowski
“I try not to think a lot about skateboarding so I don’t get sad…”
I found out not so long ago about how raw Michal’s skating was, through a R5 part, which I wasn’t quite sure if it was a Polish clothing company of some sort… When Grey Area came out, the whole video proved me right about how amazing the little guy was, since he pretty much skates during everybody’s other part, on tope of ending it all with his own. I am very happy to be able to premiere that part tomorrow on Live, and glad this gave us a chance to learn more about Mister Juras, and share all this with you. Oh, and we’ll finally know what R5 is!
Tell me, how did all this begin, your whole connection with Pontus?
The experience with Pontus began through Kuba [Jakub Kaczmarczyk, Ed's Note], when he decided that, for our first Nike SB tour, we’d go to Malmo, mainly because Pontus promoted his spots through his movies and showed us that they’ve got a lot going on there. He knew Pontus from before, because he visited Poland ages ago, while filming for Strongest of the Strange. Later, he visited Pontus, so they were in touch. I first met Pontus when we showed up at Malmo, at the opening of the Sibbarp skatepark. Kuba only introduced me. Later, we skated together at TBS two or three times, but we didn’t really get to know each other better, mainly because I was still pretty shy. Later, Pontus came back to Warsaw to film for his new movie, In Search of Miraculous.
In which you had a part. How did this happen?
Pontus came to Poland with the idea that he would film himself and Johan. We took them for a tour of our spots, and I managed to film a couple of tricks, myself. Pontus stayed at Kuba’s who showed him his footage for Grey Area. I think that was like… I don’t know, four years ago? [Laughter] Pontus got the idea to film a full part with me. I managed to film a bit in Warsaw, and then he invited me to Malmo for a week. Basically, Grey Area got postponed, and we made filming for In Search a priority!
Frontside nosegrind up.
Around those times, you skated for 5Boro and you had to let that go. Seems that it was for the better…
That’s right. After the movie, I had a pretty good relationship with Pontus, he mentioned wanting to start his own company and said he could see me being part of it. When Polar was launched, I started getting emails about how it would be awesome if I joined his team. I thought about it for a long time and decided to go that way, although it wasn’t an easy decision, because I didn’t want to break up the long relationship that I had with 5Boro, even if it was through the distribution in Poland. I would visit the guys in NYC from time to time, but the distance between Poland and the US was just too big to keep flying over there to skate with them and film for their video. Pontus is only an hour flight away, so he can visit me, I can visit him: it’s simply a better connection.
Tell me about your reaction to the news about getting a board?
When I heard about the promodel, I asked Pontus if he was sure it was a good idea! But I have great trust in him, he’s an experienced skater and I know that he knows what he’s doing. He is the boss at Polar and I wanted him to decide about my time coming. I just kept skating and did what I was supposed to do.
You fit perfectly the mood of both Grey Area and Polar, what are your inspirations? It’s obvious from your parts that you’re not a big fan of open, marble squares, but prefer tougher, more demanding spots…
I don’t know, that just happened, due to the influence of different people. I can’t say that it’s because of one person. Watching other people ride, other styles, and also because I’ve been to a couple of 5Boro trips, riding with Pontus or Kuba, watching videos such as the Traffic or Static ones, all that inspired me to skate the rough street spots. For example, I get a feeling of satisfaction when I find a spot, and then returning to it and facing it: can I do it or not? Sometimes, I find something that seems to be easy, and turns out to not to be, but I manage to film something there.
What’s up with Rocky, who appears in Grey Area, and also the nickname “Butcher”?
“Butcher” and Rocky are two separate things. “Butcher”, from what I heard, is because people believe that when I go skate somewhere I don’t fuck around. [Laughter] I don’t know if that’s true, just repeating what I heard. And Rocky is my favorite movie. My mom showed it to me a long time ago and I never got sick of it. There were some inspiring moments in his history too, which I liked to watch. I liked his perseverance shown in the movie. You can translate that onto attempting some tricks, it can be like him fighting!
You can say that everything started from Grey Area, which you dominated; you have tricks in every part. This is probably because it took you and Kuba five years to collect the material. What are your memories from that time?
It was an amazing experience. I really enjoy filming with Kuba, because he’s a good cameraman and I never have to worry about how a trick will be filmed. He knows his job, know exactly what to do, you don’t have to tell him anything, and according to me that’s a big advantage. I don’t like it when I have to focus on the cameraman, wondering if he set everything up and so on. Also, we have so much material because we traveled a lot, we had a whole list of missions set out. [laughter] Not because we were forced, we just wanted to complete them and I did everything I could to achieve that, cause I don’t like backing out. Sometimes we would come back three or four times to one spot and tried to get something done there. I can’t remember anything in particular, but now that I think of it… Out of the tricks that I remember well, and took me a long time to get, are the ending flip off the pipe in Israel and the bump to bar ollie at pl. Konstytucji in Warsaw.
One of the targets of the movie was showing polish spots, proving that you don’t have to go very far, but you did take a few trips. Where did you go and what is your favorite memory?
Going on different trips, I tried making full use of that time, all of it. To feel fulfilled, that I did what I could on that trip, didn’t back down. I mean, its not like I absolutely had to, I just really care, and since I have the opportunity to be there, seeing the things that I always wanted to skate, I’d do what I was capable of, doing what I was supposed to. As far as my best memory, I think it’s the trips to Malmo: best spots, awesome mood, small city, everything is close by, skate spot by skate spot, you don’t have to drive far and so on. I also went to Morocco, Israel, and Slovenia and, of course, we skated a lot in Poland.
About Poland, you appear very often on R5’s montages, can you tell us what it is?
It’s a crew, that I’ve been a part of for many years now, from my compound, my hood, that I live in and where I began skating. It’s a pretty loose crew, not a company or brand. And the name comes from the times of the war, when Warsaw was divided into areas. Mine was called Region 5 (Rejon 5), R5. My brother and some friends that live close by are behind the entire project.
I went around this, but we have to talk about it, because you are in the middle of going through the worst injury of your life. Do you have a history of getting hurt?
Once when I was 10 or 11, I broke both my legs snowboarding! [laughter] While skating I tore my groin and I also got seven stitches. And I also had a pretty bad moment [laughter] when I cut my balls open trying to do a crooked grind on a five stairs. Now, it’s been eight months since my surgery. It happened during a Polar Jam in NYC, at the BQM spot where we built two banks with a ledge in the middle, we had fun and then Fred Gall decided to drop off a truck. He didn’t manage to do it, but Pontus and the rest thought that I could ollie from the truck into the bank. I wasn’t convinced, because a lot of people were watching and I thought that it would be an unnecessary show off, but then I thought it might be fun, no reason to not do it, so I went up there, and on the fourth try I unfortunately landed awkwardly, meaning on a straightened leg. I tore almost all the ligaments in my knee and I had to have both my meniscus stitched. So basically my knee exploded. I didn’t even realize in the beginning. I thought I sprained my leg or something and that it would go away in six days. But when I got back to Poland I went for an MRI, my doctor looked at it and when he told me what was going on there, I almost passed out, because I got scared I would be crippled till the end of my life, that I wouldn’t be able to cure it. Now I’ve got eight months of pretty tough rehab behind me, and we will see what’s next.
How are you dealing with not being able to do what you have been doing almost everyday for the past twelve years?
I do all the things I didn’t have time for because of skating, trips and stuff. I spend a lot of time with my friends, I do extra work at my brother’s company, I go to rehab four times a week, and I try not to think a lot about skateboarding so I don’t get sad. My doctor recently allowed me to ride my bike, which made me very happy. I ride around the city looking for new spots. But I basically feel like the girlfriend of my skate friends, because whoever I talk to says he’s going skating and I can’t join. I guess that’s the hardest part, feeling like a girl, but it’s ok… I hope it will change soon.
So, here is Michal's part from Grey Area, the Polish independent video you don't want to miss out on, and as a bonus, the R5 edit that put him on our radar: