Shin Sanbongi rides for Polar, and if Pontus Alv chooses somebody for his team, you can be sure that there’s something special about this guy, that he has something “spicy.” To be honest, I didn’t exactly know what it was before I went to Japan, because besides his footage in the last Polar video, you don’t find too many videos with Shin in them, nor are there many interviews with him on the internet – but that just sparked my interest even more. We finally met in Tokyo for the interview, and then the day after, I visited him in his hometown Chigasaki, a tranquil beach town about 60 kilometers away from Tokyo. Being there feels more like being in San Diego than in Japan. You have the beach promenade, a lot of surfers, and this easy-going feeling in the air that also surrounds Shin. While we were hanging out and skating, I realized that this actually is the thing that makes him special. He’s super chill, he doesn’t force anything, and he’s going with the flow, just cruising around, trying a trick here, a trick there, spontaneous, out of the motion. Most of the time, he gets the trick he wants and he does it with effortless style. This kind of style, you can’t learn, you either have it or you don’t. It’s like watching a chess master playing against a beginner. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
I first saw a skateboard because my father used to have one. He’s a surfer, but he also skated.
Yeah, but I used to play soccer for nine years. I went to Barcelona to play soccer and there were these two kids at the homestay. The guys were skaters and we were walking around Barcelona when I saw them skate. I was surprised because I saw a flip trick for the first time, and then I went back to Japan and tried out skateboarding but only transition at first.
We just went with our team and played against their team.
"I dropped out of high school and all I did was skate and surf, skate and surf."
Yeah, a lot of passing, sometimes long shots. I really like soccer.
I didn’t really like the team play anymore. I just changed my mind.
No, skateboarding and surfing.
Yeah, there are a lot of surfers in my hometown. My friends surf a lot and most of them have skateboards, so we usually went to the skatepark after surfing. I dropped out of high school and all I did was skate and surf, skate and surf.
My parents were like, “You like soccer? Go for it. You like skateboarding? Go for it.” They’re pretty nice. They support me.
Yes. My parents are separated. My father embodies freedom. “You like skateboarding? You like surfing? Just do it.”
"I like transitions, I like the DIY stuff, but I also like street skating. Everything, just a mix of it, marble surfing."
Just from skating and traveling. I couldn’t stay at school, I don’t really like studying. So I dropped out of high school and just focused on skateboarding. Just traveling. I couldn’t understand everything, but I just wanted to travel.
I was just having fun skating all the time, and then Uru [Uruma Masanori] from Kukunochi hooked me up and helped to get me Polar boards. We went on tour in Japan to the countryside. I first visited Malmö for one week with Uru when I was 20 years old to say hi to Pontus, and then he flowed me boards for three or four years. Two years ago, I was in Sweden. We went on a camping trip, I talked to Pontus, and he said that I joined the team. I was surprised to be welcomed to the team. It was during the same time Andrew Wilson got on.
I like the European style. I like Polar, the way Pontus is thinking. He’s a very creative guy. DIY, filming, skating – I really like what he’s doing for skateboarding. So I follow him.
I’m stoked to be on the team as an amateur, but I want to be a pro skater for Polar. So I should still continue to shoot some photos, film stuff. I have to when I want to become pro.
Yeah, after that the Japanese Carhartt guy hooked me up. When he went to Europe, he met the team manager and brought the full-length video Uru made. I had some footage in it and the team manger saw it. He messaged me, “Do you like Carhartt?” – “Yeah, I like Carhartt.” So now I’m wearing Carhartt stuff.
Yeah, that’s why I want to do this. Barely any skaters here have real sponsorships. Some ride for the distributions. They just get boards, get clothing but no real sponsor. I want to do it. I just want to go to Europe and skate. I really like the spots, the people.
Julien Stranger, Alex Olson, Grant Taylor, Jake Johnson – there are so many.
I like transitions, I like the DIY stuff, but I also like street skating. Everything, just a mix of it, marble surfing. I just like cruising from spot to spot. I don’t like to focus on one trick. Trying it over and over again is not for me. Just to hit the spot, just cruise. I like cruising.
Not really, just a skatepark, a little steep bank wall – that’s my favorite spot in my hometown. Really good ground everywhere though, a lot of wallie stuff. That’s it.
I like the people. They are really mellow. We love surfing, skating, the people are understanding when it comes to skateboarding. I like it mellow. I don’t like the busyness. There are so many people in Tokyo. Sometimes I go there to skate at night, say hi to some friends. That’s it. You get kicked out so much. I don’t like to get kicked out. Like why? We’re just skating. Japan is pretty hard to skate, at least Tokyo. It’s the hardest place to skate. We can only skate at nighttime.
Japanese people are really bothered about skateboarding. “You can’t skate here. I’m gonna call the police because you’re loud. You destroyed the bench!” and so on. People don’t really like it, but I think after the Olympics people will think differently about skateboarding. People will like it. It’s crazy.
"You get kicked out so much. I don’t like to get kicked out. Like why? We’re just skating. Japan is pretty hard to skate."
No, I don’t really like competition, but I want to go and see my friends. I think Oski is going to come to Japan for the Olympics. So probably I’ll be there, “Ey, Oski!”
I like music, guitar, drumming. I’ve played the drums since I was eleven years old.
I really like Reggae. Just a session. No singing.
Yeah, I like flow. Sometimes I wake up early, call my friends to go surfing. Finding good waves. Chilling afterwards, skating somewhere. It’s the best lifestyle.
No, that’s just for fun. I mainly focus on skating and sometimes refreshing my mind surfing. Sometimes you go crazy when you skate constantly. Then surfing and hanging out with your friends is the best.
There is a pretty famous one in my hometown. A lot of surfers come and visit. Normally, it’s small waves, but it’s typhoon season and a lot of heavy swell is coming.
You have to skate the Japanese-style skate spots. You have to go to Izakaya for sure. Drink some beer, there’s really good food at Izakaya, and you should go to a beautiful temple.
I don’t know. I think Japanese people… they are focused on doing their job quickly, very detailed.
I like quick stuff with a good flow. I like wallie stuff, sometimes flip tricks, hitting a ledge, doing a wallie, mixing different styles into something quick. I like it quick, but it’s hard. I can’t do it.