Dialogue: Koichiro Uehara & Mike Manzoori

Text & photos: Benjamin Deberdt

We premiered Osaka Nights, the edit celebrating the teaming up of Etnies and Magenta, a few days ago, a documentation of Koichiro's unique take on skateboarding captured by Mike, one of the most creative eyes behind a lens, for many years now… We thought it would be interesting to put it all in perspective by comparing two strong characters, coming from different generations, but also quite different cultures. For those too young to remember it, Mike Manzoori is amongst the people that put British street skating on the map, in the 90's, while also developing a very creative side in all his audio-visual works. And Mister Uehara, well, he is one of the most exciting person to watch on a board, right now, at a time where his Japanese scene is at an all-time high when it comes to creativity. Those two had to meet someday…

Where is home?
Osaka, Japan.
Mike: Los Angeles is home for me these days.

Why are you in love with skateboarding?
I can’t find good words. I am just continuing to skateboard. That is answer, the reason. That is the same for all skateboarders, isn’t it?
M: Because despite all the trends and politics the magic is still the same for me. When you skate down a hill and reach the speed where you are really not sure if you can hang on anymore or not, that feels just as good now as it did the first time thirty something years ago. You could be doing any little trick for the first time, or doing an old trick again after a long time, or doing something you never thought you could ever do, all these moments create feelings that are the same wether you are 14 years old or 40. With just a little momentum you are floating still in space, looking down and see the world is moving beneath your wheels. What is there to not love about that?

 Benjamin Deberdt

"I think my friend showed me the Adrenalin video when I started skating."


Who has had the most influence on your skating, over the years?
Taiki Higashi, Jimmy Lannon and Paul Shier. I really like their styles, the skate spots they choose and their trick selection.
M: When I was young I would fan out on all kinds of interesting skaters like Ben Schroeder, Steve Claar, Chris Miller, Gonz, Cardiel, or friends who were really innovative and progressive for their time, like Simon Evans, Curtis McCann, Jason Lunn… All very unique skaters, but as I got older my main influence on skating has been my own body. When it's working then skating works and things flow, but when it needs repair, the skating suffers and so does the flow… So, you learn a lot about patience and maintenance of this body. It starts to feel like I am trying to manipulate my limbs like a puppet.

When did you hear about the other, for the first time?
I’m not sure. I think my friend showed me the Adrenalin video when I started skating. But I was impressed with him after I saw his film works more and more often.
M: I met Koichiro a few years ago. I went to Japan to hang out with the Etnies Japanese team and we did a trip up North, to Sendai. He is a genuinely positive person who has a very unique and creative approach to skating.

 Benjamin Deberdt

"[…] as I got older my main influence on skating has been my own body."


What have you learned from him, while working on this project?
M: Originally, I was supposed to shoot his shoe commercial for a few days during the end of an Etnies tour but after just one or two nights out filming, I realized I wanted to extend my trip to spend a little more time filming. So I got to know Koichiro and his friends and Osaka a lot more.
K: I felt pride to work with a professional videographer like him. I also liked his positive attitude and how particular he is about film making. And he seemed to really enjoy every session so I was hyped. That was a really fun time. Also, he is one of the greatest videographer and filmmaker in the world. But I felt he understands so many styles of skateboarding. He had an awesome carrier as a professional skateboarder and I know who he usually film with famous skateboarders in the US, so I was very happy he was interested in my style. It was a great experience and a really precious time for me.

(Thanks to Uruma Masanori for his help interviewing Koichiro.)

In case you missed it, here are the Osaka Nights those two spent together:

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