"Gringo Diaries" / PREMIERE / Chris Komodromos / INTERVIEW

« GRINGO DIARIES » recently hit our inbox, courtesy of its London, England-based author Chris Komodromos and consisting in an eighteen-minute patchwork of VX-1000 clips that were rather obviously collected in quite the atypical settings, from absurd metal skateparks in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle to crazy D.I.Y. spots built in some local's backyard, if not literally inside their house. Those « GRINGO DIARIES » were obviously brimming with tales of human interaction, so quite naturally their history raised many a question that Chris turned out to be enthusiastic about answering - the resulting complementary book is available below!
LIVE Skateboard Media: So, what is the story of those « GRINGO DIARIES »? For our readers, may you please explain its story and inception, starting with who you are and where you’re from exactly, then describe where you went to film, how you went about filming the project as a whole and the time and effort it took you?
Chris Komodromos : I'm Chris Komodromos, twenty-nine years old, from London, England. 
So originally, my trip started in California with one good friend of mine who also skated. I thought I would bring my Sony VX-1000 with me in case we wanted to get any clips, and we were also going to meet another homie of ours, Ismael [Castro], in San Francisco - who was letting us stay at his house when we landed for a couple days. We ended up spending most our time bombing hills and cruising around the city but found time to do a bit of filming at the legendary spot Pier 7.

"When the sun went down,
that was it, there was no lights
and nowhere to skate as
you're in the jungle"

George (my friend I came with) and I then headed up to North California, where we originally planned to spend a month or so with some friends who had land in the mountains, to get away from everything and chill. There was a skatepark but it wasn't close by, so we skated maybe two or three times in four or five weeks but we knew that beforehand. That's where I met Abel Mazille, who was a friend of the people who owned the property, and it turned out he skated as well so we planned on going down to L.A. after the mountain for a couple days, before we headed back to London and Abel back to France. So after our time in North California, we headed South to L.A. with George, Abel and other friends we had met. 
I had now made a decision to join the other friends who were going back to their homes in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica instead of going back to London. They offered to put me up for the duration of my stay, which I am forever grateful for - thank you Brenda, Lukas & Diego.

"He had built a mini ramp
literally in his house, next to all
his music equipment and the
kitchen next door"

None of them skated so there was no intention or idea to carry on with any filming in Costa Rica, but they told me there was a skatepark that had recently been built there. It was a town called Santa Teresa, a jungle surfer town right by the beach on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. It had one dusty, unskateable road a hundred yards parallel to the beach that stretches for about twenty-five kilometers. All the houses and businesses run alongside the road and up the hills a bit. 
Anyway, we got to Los Angeles and spent two or three days there, skating and did a bit of filming with Abel at Venice Beach and L.A. Courthouse, mostly improvised lines. George had unfortunately done something to his ankle and wasn't able to skate properly in L.A.. After a couple days, we parted ways and I headed to Costa Rica with other friends. 
LSM: The energy there looks really unique, what would you have to say about the history of all those spots you skated, and the people who make them and skate them? Besides skating, do they do any cool stuff of their own that we could showcase? Can you describe those locations, you were specifically mentioning the jungle, also that studio with the music instruments is someone’s house? What's the lifestyle like?
Chris: I would usually go to the skatepark most days, around an hour to two before sunset as it would be too hot sometimes to even skate during the day, but eventually I sort of climatized and by the end I was skating at any most times. It was a one-minute walk from the beach tucked in the jungle right next to the police station. I met a lot of local and tourist skaters who came down to the park and ended up becoming good friends with a lot of them, so I decided to start bringing my camera down to the park and do some filming.

"I never thought before
leaving the U.K. that I
would come back with so much
footage and I would meet
the people I did"

However, when the sun went down, that was it, there was no lights and nowhere to skate as you're in the jungle. There was literally only one street spot that you see Jessie Gonzalez and Milo skating with the five stairs outside the local bank and most of the time, the police or locals would tell you to stop. I believe Jessie was the only one to have skated the spot during his time in Santa Teresa and he has been there for around seven years, originally from Costa Rica.
The town was mostly full of surfers and even though a lot of those surfers did skate, they would usually skate transition at the skatepark implementing their surfing style on the skateboard. Or before the skatepark was built, there was a concrete transition bit you could skate almost like a mini but with roll-ins instead of coping and you were not allowed to do any ollies or any trick that required you to leave the ground, just carves and powerslides. It was written on a sign, I'm guessing it was to maintain the concrete. Jessie would be at the park pretty much every day as he ran a skate school there, providing lessons with his girlfriend Lindsay and friend Bruno who you also see in the video. Jessie also worked at the local skateshop, Denga, so in my eyes he was the skater who was on it the most and a very important part of the scene in Santa Teresa, he really made the park his own. They would also sometimes put on competitions at the park and it would attract a lot of people skating and watching, you could win prizes and there was also a live band playing.

"We had heard of this
concrete ramp that Barrett
had built next to his house, but
nothing prepares you for
what it is in real life"

Jessie also knew some other people who had built their own ramps on their property, so this was an option but it required to get a motorbike or an A.T.V. to get there or else you would have to walk for ages uphill into the jungle, and in the pitch black if you decided to go at night. One of them being Mark, who was an American guy who had settled in Santa Teresa. He had built a mini ramp literally in his house, next to all his music equipment and the kitchen next door.  It was around six feet high and a good size length. He had a band that would play whilst people skated and then anyone else could get involved and jam whilst people were skating. It was a really good vibe and I honestly had one of the best nights of my trip at Mark's house. We skated there three times whilst I was in Santa Teresa, as he didn't always want a load of skaters coming to his house where his family was all the time, which is completely understandable and it would have to be planned a day or two before.

"I actually only knew
one person in this video

The next ramp which you see at the end of the video is Barrett's ramp. Another American guy who had settled in Santa Teresa. His house was all the way to the end of the road, up the hill and took about thirty minutes to drive there on motorbike or an A.T.V., or sometimes people had golf buggies. We had heard of this concrete ramp that Barrett had built right next to his house and seen videos of it, but nothing prepares you for what it is in real life. It is huge, more like a mega ramp, one smaller quarter that leads to a steep roll in which then takes you to a huge vert quarter. Definitely the biggest and craziest ramp I have ever seen in real life. I only saw two people skate it to the coping and that was Barrett and Addy Greenlaw. Addy is nineteen, from Maine, U.S.A. - he was out in Santa Teresa for vacation with his brother Aubrey, who you see on the microphone at the end of the session at Mark's house and friends Steve and Mike Lynch. We only got to skate there once, as it was hard to get hold of Barrett and a mission to get to. I still can't get hold of him to this day to get his second name [laughs]. But you see him at the end of the credits, with the tattoos on the side of his head.

"Go skate and then go
watch the sunset on the beach
one minute away with a
fresh coconut that costed about
fifty pence"

Aside from the home-made ramps and skatepark that went pitch black after around six in the afternoon, we were limited to where we could skate, unless we made a trip out of Santa Teresa many miles to find the nearest skatepark near to us, which there was talk of doing at one point but it never happened. So the skaters here rarely skate anything else than what is in Santa Teresa. It's a much different lifestyle for a skater living in an urban area like San Jose, where you can find many street spots and different skateparks in one city; the skaters in Santa Teresa don't have a lot of variety to skate, thus not a lot of the skaters have room to grow and progress as quickly as they would if they were in a city. Thus it's a small scene, with not that many locals that skate regularly.
However, another O.G. of the scene is Sebastian, who you see playing the synth at the beginning of the shot at Mark's house. He owns a cafe on the road by the beach called Bali Beach Deli, who promotes local surfing and skateboarding in the town. Sebastian, who was Argentinian, originally came to Santa Teresa to surf the waves and live a relaxed lifestyle, pura vida as they say in Costa Rica. A lot of the skaters who traveled through would go eat there and enjoy spending time with the energetic, full-of-life Sebastian. One of them being Eddie Fick from Sweden, who I spent a lot of my time with. He had a company called Premium Death showcasing skating, surfing, tattooing and art, as he is also a tattoo artist and would do tattoos for friends during his time in Santa Teresa. Sebastian actually ended up selling Eddie's clothing in the cafe, which is where I got my t-shirt from! The way of life in Santa Teresa was very slow-paced and chilled, and that was the lifestyle. Go skate and then go watch the sunset on the beach one minute away with a fresh coconut that costed about fifty pence.
LSM: Did you have a specific message or intention with this video, or is it more like a personal patchwork of trips and good times?
Chris: Luckily I was prepared and bought six tapes with me and during filming in Costa Rica, I realized I would have enough to do a decent edit showcasing all the skaters I met along the way. So it came pretty naturally and as a surprise, to be honest. I never thought before leaving the U.K. that I would come back with so much footage and I would meet the people I did, so I was stoked!
All in all, it took the whole duration of the trip to collect all the footage, it was a slow and relaxed process that happened pretty organically with long breaks from skating in between. When I came back to London, I patched the footage together documenting my trip, showing you where I went and the people I met along the way. I actually only knew one person in this video beforehand, that being Ismael Castro, so it's an interesting project for me and one I had a lot fun doing, leaving me with memories I will never forget and friends for life.
So big up to all the skaters and people I met along the way. Thanks to Mark and Barrett for letting us come to their homes and skate their ramps!


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