Bob with a whole load of baby fat still hangin’ on, long before he went to America, got an AH tramp stamp, rode for the Firm, Flip and then systematically destroyed all preconceptions of the Mega Ramp.
THERE’LL BE NO SHORTAGE OF RAMP ARSONISTS IN THE FUTURE OF SKATEBOARDING. Perhaps not as rash as the Brazilian scene in the late 80s early 90s, setting flame to the shit ramps provided by contest promoters, but anyone concerned with who will be nudging skateboarding in the right direction need not worry because, while the industry and all that is important to some extent, what really matters are the feet that meet the boards—wherever they are.
So, there’s a lesson in the documentary Dirty Money—named after one of Brazil’s most influential videos from the early 90s—which deconstructs not only the associations many of us hold about Brazilian skaters (clear Oakley sunglasses, jean shorts, dreads—to name a few), but who really has the power in their hands anyway.
Talking to Bob Burnquist, Alexandre Vianna and Fabio Cristiano, three of the massive crew from São Paulo that kickstarted Brazilian skateboarding in the wake of a late 80s economic plan that brought the skate industry to it’s knees (Burnquist: “We didn’t feel the crisis. But, you saw the older pros in Brazil hurting. They definitely felt it.”), it’s reassuring to think that they and their crew were kids just having fun and they could make a huge impact.
The Dirty Money documentary is now downloadable and watchable in English and Portugese here.
“IT WAS A CRAZY TIME,” Bob Burnquist said. “At one point, skateboarding was prohibited in São Paulo. You’d go skate, but you couldn’t congregate in plazas.” When the crew would get together and skate, it drew attention. “They [the police] thought you were conspiring, since we’d just come out of a military dictatorship.” There was safety in numbers, though. “If you saw someone skating, it was rare you didn’t know them. Once we connected, we started skating together,” Bob Burnquist said of the crew.
“I just picked up a camera and started filming,” Alex Vianna, who filmed and edited Dirty Money, said. “It was just fooling around.” Fed up with contests and partially inspired by the DIY vibe, good-time skating of the H-Street videos and a healthy misperception of what pro skating in more developed scenes was like, Alexandre Vianna picked up a camera and started bro-caming Fabio Cristiano, Bob Burnquist, Nilton Urina, Marcio Tarobinha, Rogério Mancha, Eduardo Fernades, Andre Qui, David Toledo, Cesar Lost, Alexandre Ribeiro, Robson Reco, Cristiano Test and Charles Chaves on the streets of São Paulo.
Long before all of his notoriety, Bob Burnquist was a normal kid like anyone else. Here’s some early 90s semi-raw footage (had to put it to some tunes) of him rolling with friends and driving for the first time.
“I REMEMBER WATCHING THE VIDEOS AND THOUGHT THEY MADE EVERYTHING FIRST TRY,” Burnquist said. “We had the influence,” Alex added, “but it was so late. We didn’t have the Internet. We would see something in the video and it’d get lost in translation. We’d see some gap, ledge or rail spot and we’d go to a bigger one. There were big pants in America and we had massive, massive pants. In our heads, it was bigger to us.”
Interested in little more than a good time, the crew filmed in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the south of Brazil. Fabricio Machado, who skated with them on their trips down south and now designs shoes for Nike, joked, “They used to come down and visit me in the south of Brazil. But, I know they came for the girls and the parties.” It was no spectacular feat, in the end—just pure fun—but when all the footage came together, Dirty Money was made. And, well, no one really knew what that meant anyway. But, they soon found out how big this little homey video would be.
“In Sao Paulo at that time, we didn’t have shops,” Alex explained. “We had a spot called the Galeria Do Rock where they had some market fronts for selling skate product. When we finished, I made copies from one VHS player to another. I would take it there and ten videos would sell out in a half an hour.”
Alex Vianna (red shirt with camera) behind the lens.
IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR ALEX TO MAKE MORE. ONE HUNDRED COPIES SOLD IN A FEW DAYS. He’d go to the market, buy 700 blank tapes—14 packs of 50, he recalled—and copy between two decks. “Looking back, you see how big it was,” he said. “Someone told me once, their first copy had a copy of the Plan B, H-Street and Dirty Money videos on the same copy. So, people in the Brazilian scene saw it as the same thing as those videos.”
“In the end of 92,” Alex continued, “I went to Manaus, a small town in the north of Brazil in the Amazon. Everyone had seen it. They knew all of us and wanted us to do tricks from it. That’s when I realized it was really big.”
In the mainstream skateboard world, one of the most preeminent legacies of Dirty Money is Bob Burnquist and, if his part in Extremely Sorry is any indicator, he’s had a hell of an impact. But, Dirty Money created the scene that helped Bob float to the top before winning the Vancouver contest in 95. “It went from nothing in 91 to us being a part of the mainstream American scene. 92 to 95 was Dirty Money and beyond. Before that, there was basically nothing. After 95, Bob came to the U.S.” Even more skaters from that time had their piece of pro skating in America as well.
I just like the subtitle in this photo. You may wonder what a musician has to do with a skate video. Well, their friends’ bands provided the tracks. Eventually, the video got so recognizable that many of the artists were using a copy of Dirty Money as their demo tape.
BUT, WHILE SOME BRAZILIANS WENT ON TO RIDE FOR BIG SPONSORS, Dirty Money still had an effect back home. One of the filmers Cristiano Mateus went on to do Brazil’s 411VM, Silly Society. Alex started 100% Skate mag, one of Brazil’s biggest skate mags.
“It was an energy project,” Fabio Cristiano said, bringing his hands together as though mashing the momentum at the time together. “When Alex made 100% Skate mag, it was an injeção…,” he added, looking for a translation. “Injection,” Bob Burnquist said.
If there’s something obvious to take away from Dirty Money, it’s that great things come from meager beginnings. But, more importantly, people often look around, forgetting they can start it all themselves. “At the time, we had no idea we were going to have such a big impact,” Burnquist said. “We were just smiling and putting together tricks. But, it shows that if you want something to happen, you should go after it. If you wait, you’re gonna wait all of your life.”
Not a great screen grab, but again, the subtitle’s great. It was that easy. Decide to make a video, make a video, transform Brazilian skateboarding, get bigger and better jobs, make a documentary made about it all.
IT’S A FITTING TAKE HOME LESSON IN ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE, but even more so in a world where kids are sitting around in abandoned parking lots or people are skating some piece of shit skate spot. It’s empowering to know that literally or figuratively you can burn down those rickety old ramps and start anew—make your own scene.
His head more in the clouds, his words more ethereal than Bob and Alex’s, Fabio Cristiano remarked about the Dirty Money era, “We just wanted to be proud.” He waved his hands around, playing with imaginary objects in the air, summing it up simply, “You just need to take a little time to make something a reality in the material world.”
Dirty Money the documentary was made by Alexandre Vianna and Ricardo Koraicho with support from the Brazilian side of Nike SB (Note: for anyone confused, the film was sponsored by Nike SB, but Bob is still very much riding for IPath). The full doc is available here. Two limited edition Dirty Money colorways are also available to celebrate the movie (only available in Brazil, so good luck sneakerheads).