Diego Bucchieri Pro Spotlight

Coming up the ranks skating bootleg boards, migrating from Argentina, and not speaking English, Diego Bucchieri’s road to the top was blazed on quite the pothole-laden road. Now eight years into the sponsored skateboarding world and enjoying life with Ed and the boys at Toy Machine, The Butcher sits down to talk about no longer having to ride tractors, how Mike Carroll came through in the clutch, and why Argentineans have the best meat.

You literally grew up in the shadow of the Boca Juniors soccer stadium, one of the most prestigious soccer teams in the world. When my father visited that area he said the streets were littered with every kid from the neighborhood playing soccer. You started skating at age ten—what was it about skateboarding that made such an impact on you, and why did you turn your back on the soccer ball?

My brother used to have a little plastic skateboard, and he used to roll around the neighborhood with his friends, but I don’t think that was my main influence to get into skating. We have a beach house in Mar Del Plata, and we’ve been spending every summer there since I was seven or eight. Our neighbor was a surfer, and he also skated, so I’d always see him skating with a real skateboard, not a plastic one. I think seeing him was what got me into it. At the same time, I was still playing soccer and doing all the things my friends were doing, but for some reason I got really into skating. I started riding my brother’s plastic board, just rolling around on my knees, and when I turned ten, my mum decided to buy me a board. It was a really shitty one, but I was so stoked. The craziest thing is that a year later, my neighbor from the beach saw my skateboard and wanted to try it. He tried an ollie, and the skateboard was so shitty that he broke it. He used to make his own boards, so he hand made one for me with a homemade press, and I got to pick the shape that I wanted! I had no idea about skateboards, but the guy made it for me, and it lasted for seven months. After that I started buying skateboards. Back then boards would last for years.

Was it hard to get skate product back then?

Well, when I started skating it was 1987, so skateboarding was in a boom, and it was pretty big back home in Argentina. There were a couple of skateparks in Buenos Aires. There were a couple of skate-slash-surf shops. They had Powell Peralta and Santa Cruz, and there were a couple of Argentinean companies that would make boards. It was still pretty underground, though—a lot of the stuff in the shops was bootlegged stuff. Instead of griptape, they had this stuff that was glue and sand with a lightning bolt spraypainted on the top—it was the worst thing. I’ll never forget that first skateboard.

Did any pros make it out to Argentina at that time?

The first demo that I went to was a Santa Cruz demo when I was twelve. Before I started skating properly, we were driving by this university, and they had a contest. We stopped to check it out, and I saw someone ollie for the first time. It was the craziest thing that I had ever seen, and I knew right then that was what I wanted to do. Seeing all that stuff and skaters on TV made me want to skate. All I could think was, “I want to do that, but my dad was so against it because all he saw was a bunch of punks and dirty dudes trying to do street grabs. After a while he got into it, though, and it was actually one of my dad’s friends who brought me my first real board. He brought me a Jeff Kendall from the States, the one with the graffiti. When I got that board, it was around Christmas, and I was sick, so I couldn’t ride it. I was in bed for 40 days. I was so sick that I couldn’t even move from my bed, so I was sleeping with my board, just thinking, “Come on! I want to go skate!

Who was the first pro that you looked up to?

Well, back then it was either Tony Hawk or Hosoi. I liked both of them, but the first guy that I really liked was Natas. One of mbrother’s friends brought a copy of Thrasher to my house, and I remember the first ad was Natas doing a boneless to frontside wallride in Venice, so I was like, “I want to do that! He was the guy. He was blonde, I was blonde, and I told my mum to give me the same haircut. I wanted to be him.

Generally speaking, South America is not exactly the best place in the world for skate terrain. Why do you think so many gnarly skaters come from there when the ground sucks?

I think it’s because when you grow up in the shittiest place with the shittiest ground, you get used to it. That’s your standard ground, so when you skate smooth ground, it’s easy. Also, I remember reading a Geoff Rowley interview, and he was saying that the first time he went to the States, everyone was surprised because he was doing all his tricks first or second try, which was really quick compared to all the other pros. He’d been in England watching all the videos, and he thought those guys were so good that they landed all their tricks first go. You grow up thinking the pros are that good, so you want to be that good, too.

What happened to us was that we’d watch an H-street video or a Santa Cruz video, and we’d see all the guys doing the tricks, and then we’d try and do the same tricks on our spots. Our spots were so shitty that it was actually way harder to do the tricks, so once you could do ’em there, you could do ’em anywhere. When I went to the States for the first time, I couldn’t believe how good the ground was. I was riding 59 millimeters and an eight-and-a-half-inch board on street in Argentina, and when I went to the States, I didn’t have to ride that tractor anymore. I got smaller wheels and a smaller board. The first time I skated a round rail was in the States because we didn’t have any rails at all in Argentina.

When was the first time you went to the States?

February ’98, and I went with my friends Spiro and Guille from Chile. We went to Miami and then San Diego and L.A. and SF.

You personified the phrase “making it happen around this point in time—what were some of things you would do to get airline tickets to the States?

Well, I had two clothing companies and three board companies, and I worked at a skate shop. I had one board company with another guy called Fine Skateboards—that lasted a year. The second company was called Vogue Skateboards, and it’s still around. Then I had my own company, Century Skateboards, that I would do with the skate-shop owner. He would give me the boards, and I’d screen them, sell them, and pay him back for how much the boards cost. That went on for a year and a half or something. I also worked at a wheat-pasting place one summer, putting posters up in the streets, and I did some commercials on TV—a bunch of different stuff. I did what I needed to do to get to the States.

The first time that I remember seeing photos of you was from a Dimitry Big Brother trip. Where did that fit in to this time frame—was it before you went to the States?

Yes, it was right before I went the first time. First of all, I couldn’t speak any English. I tried to communicate with Dimitry and tell him I wanted to go to the States, but it was hard. The skate shop that I worked for had organized for him to come out with the Axion dudes—there was (Guy) Mariano, Kareem (Campbell), Gino (Iannucci), (Eric) Pupecki, and Joey Suriel. It was the craziest team. The shop only wanted to bring Kareem, Gino, and Mariano, but Axion said they had to pay for the others because they wanted to go, too. The demo was on a Saturday, and he was leaving on Sunday at two or something. He said he wouldn’t have time to shoot, so I told him, “I’ll wake up at seven and go and shoot with you. In the end, we were out skating at eight in the morning, and by one in the afternoon, he was in the plane going back to the States. When I told my friends, they told me that Dimitry was bullshitting me and that there was no way they would print the photos. A couple of months later, I saw the photos in the magazine, and I was freaking out.

How did you end up hooking up with Phil Shao and Dan Drehobl?

I was on Real for a little bit. I was getting boards from them for the last week that I was in the States before I went back to Argentina. Then while I was in Argentina, the Think guys called me and said, “You’re on Think now, so the next time I went back to the States I went straight to Think, and that was it. When I first went out there, Phil was recovering from a knee surgery, so I didn’t get to skate with him that much, but I would go on trips with Drehobl all the time. I was so excited about everything that I would skate whatever was in front of me at the time—I didn’t give a shit. I’d skate an eight-inch board one day and a seven-and-a-half-inch board the next, because I didn’t care about anything. The day before Phil’s accident was the first day he’d skated since he was hurt, and he ripped.

How did skating with those guys compare with skating with your friends at home? Did it change the way you skated?

I was mainly surprised at the way that they skated, especially Cardiel. I went on a few trips with him—we skated some pools, so that changed the way I skated a bit, but I was more just trying to absorb everything that was going on in front of me. They all skated so fast, and they were so raw. It was so gnarly just to watch them skate. The first time I went out with Luke Ogden and Jake Phelps, they took me to all these Cardiel spots. They took me to that one rail he tries to boardslide and hits his head, and they told me Cardiel had made it. They were saying, “You should do it. Cardiel did it, and nothing happened to him. That was before I saw the video, and he knocks himself out. I couldn’t believe all the stuff Cardiel skated.

You’re strictly street nowadays, but in 1999 you won Radlands. Do you still skate any contests, and when you went into the Radlands contest, did you think you might have a chance?

Well, what happened was that in 1995 a few of my friends went there and said it was amazing—that was when Tom Penny was on fire—so I saved up the money to go to Europe and entered. At that time we had a pretty good skatepark in Argentina, so we were skating that all week and skating street spots on the weekend. I went to the contest, just so that I could go to Europe and skate with all those guys. I never thought about placing that good in the contest (sixth). All the stuff that I thought about contests and pro skaters, it all changed when I got there—it was so much different. Just seeing Eric Koston in front of me freaked me out, you know? I had this weird feeling that from watching them in videos and seeing them in magazines that I knew them somehow. I would see Koston and think, “Yeah, that’s Koston. I know him. And then I would see him looking at me like, “What the f—k are you looking at? A year after, in 1999, I went back having a good feeling, and I ended up winning the contest. Nowadays I have more fun street skating.

You moved from SF to L.A. right around the time that you quit riding for Think. Was leaving Think the motivating factor for leaving SF?

No, I moved to L.A. from SF before I quit Think. It was just a change that I needed. I’d lived in SF for three years, and all the spots that I really liked to skate were getting knobbed, and it was getting a lot harder to skate street. Around that time, I met Jaya Bonderov and he had a free room in L.A., and I thought that it was a good chance to move. Back then, everything in L.A. was new, and I was pretty excited. The change that I needed with moving from SF to L.A. was the same as the change that I needed leaving Think.

Skating in L.A. is getting pretty tough these days, do you think that we’ll see more people duping what Steve Berra has done and build their own spots?

Well, first of all you need to have money to do that, so not every skater is going nt the photos. A couple of months later, I saw the photos in the magazine, and I was freaking out.

How did you end up hooking up with Phil Shao and Dan Drehobl?

I was on Real for a little bit. I was getting boards from them for the last week that I was in the States before I went back to Argentina. Then while I was in Argentina, the Think guys called me and said, “You’re on Think now, so the next time I went back to the States I went straight to Think, and that was it. When I first went out there, Phil was recovering from a knee surgery, so I didn’t get to skate with him that much, but I would go on trips with Drehobl all the time. I was so excited about everything that I would skate whatever was in front of me at the time—I didn’t give a shit. I’d skate an eight-inch board one day and a seven-and-a-half-inch board the next, because I didn’t care about anything. The day before Phil’s accident was the first day he’d skated since he was hurt, and he ripped.

How did skating with those guys compare with skating with your friends at home? Did it change the way you skated?

I was mainly surprised at the way that they skated, especially Cardiel. I went on a few trips with him—we skated some pools, so that changed the way I skated a bit, but I was more just trying to absorb everything that was going on in front of me. They all skated so fast, and they were so raw. It was so gnarly just to watch them skate. The first time I went out with Luke Ogden and Jake Phelps, they took me to all these Cardiel spots. They took me to that one rail he tries to boardslide and hits his head, and they told me Cardiel had made it. They were saying, “You should do it. Cardiel did it, and nothing happened to him. That was before I saw the video, and he knocks himself out. I couldn’t believe all the stuff Cardiel skated.

You’re strictly street nowadays, but in 1999 you won Radlands. Do you still skate any contests, and when you went into the Radlands contest, did you think you might have a chance?

Well, what happened was that in 1995 a few of my friends went there and said it was amazing—that was when Tom Penny was on fire—so I saved up the money to go to Europe and entered. At that time we had a pretty good skatepark in Argentina, so we were skating that all week and skating street spots on the weekend. I went to the contest, just so that I could go to Europe and skate with all those guys. I never thought about placing that good in the contest (sixth). All the stuff that I thought about contests and pro skaters, it all changed when I got there—it was so much different. Just seeing Eric Koston in front of me freaked me out, you know? I had this weird feeling that from watching them in videos and seeing them in magazines that I knew them somehow. I would see Koston and think, “Yeah, that’s Koston. I know him. And then I would see him looking at me like, “What the f—k are you looking at? A year after, in 1999, I went back having a good feeling, and I ended up winning the contest. Nowadays I have more fun street skating.

You moved from SF to L.A. right around the time that you quit riding for Think. Was leaving Think the motivating factor for leaving SF?

No, I moved to L.A. from SF before I quit Think. It was just a change that I needed. I’d lived in SF for three years, and all the spots that I really liked to skate were getting knobbed, and it was getting a lot harder to skate street. Around that time, I met Jaya Bonderov and he had a free room in L.A., and I thought that it was a good chance to move. Back then, everything in L.A. was new, and I was pretty excited. The change that I needed with moving from SF to L.A. was the same as the change that I needed leaving Think.

Skating in L.A. is getting pretty tough these days, do you think that we’ll see more people duping what Steve Berra has done and build their own spots?

Well, first of all you need to have money to do that, so not every skater is going to be able to build his own skatepark. I know that some of the companies are doing it, but it’s just not the same feeling as going out and pushing around and skating a ledge in front of your house. It’s the same with the skate plazas—it’s considered street, but it’s been built for skating, so it’s not the same deal. It’s not like finding a new spot.

What’s the most extended mission that you’ve ever been on to get a trick?

When I was filming for the TransWorld video I.E., we drove from Sacramento to San Diego overnight, and then woke up at seven in the morning to go skate a spot. We got the trick, that was it, and then I went back right afterwards.

You never seem too overwhelmed by any spots or tricks. What is the gnarliest thing you’ve done that scared you the most?

Probably the double set in SF. I looked at it so many times that I had nightmares about it. I’d shown the spot to Jake Phelps, and he was telling me to do it, but I was doing contests at the time and didn’t want to get hurt because I had a contest to go to. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it at the time, so Jake said if I ollied it, he’dgive me the cover. Then I heard that Josh Kasper had come to SF to ollie it, so I went to Thrasher to see, and Jake told me “Yeah, Kasper is here, and he’s gonna do it tomorrow. I was leaving the next day, so he said, “Well, you’ll have to do it today then. I thought, “F—k that, and I left Thrasher. After a minute I turned around, went back, and told them, “I’ll meet you there at four, and that was it. Gonz was there, too, which was pretty crazy.

Reynolds works around the number three and Greco has a paper chain. Do you have any specific preparations before you try something gnarly, or do you just charge?

Instead of going to a spot, looking at it, and thinking,”I’ll come back another day and try this, I like having an idea about something I might want to do, and then just bring the photographer and the filmer and decide, “Okay, let’s do it today. That pushes me to not be a pussy. Now that the filmer and photographer are here, I better not waste their time.

Since L.A., you’ve hopped the pond and moved to Barcelona. How’s the move affected your skating?

I’m skating a lot more now than before. If I’m not shooting a photo, I can just go out and skate wherever I want without getting kicked out of a spot. I don’t think my skating has changed, but the way I work has changed. It feels a lot mellower to shoot photos and film because it’s more casual. I still make a list of all the things I want to do—nothing like that has changed. Now I just don’t have to drive two hours in the car, because a lot of the spots I want to skate are around the corner from my house.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve ever skated?

I think The City (San Francisco) is the best place. The City is the best spot, period. I used to love the Bay Blocks, but then they knobbed it, and that was one of the main reasons I moved to L.A. Barcelona is the best place now.

A lot of skaters who skate gnarly spots are looking pretty extravagant in their dress styles, but you’ve kept it pretty Dickies pants throughout. What do you make of the level of flair these days?

I think it’s just a trend. A while back, a lot of the gnarly pros like Peter Smolik and those dudes were wearing big pants—a lot of people were running it, too. There still are a lot of people running XXXL shirts. It’s just trends. I used to wear big pants when I was a little kid, but when you get older, you don’t really care anymore. I just wear the clothes I get from my sponsors. I might buy Dickies because those are the pants I used to wear, and those are the pants I like to skate, but I don’t get picky about clothes. It has no influence on my skating, although I know people that it makes a difference to. I’d rather just have shoes that feel comfortable and a skateboard that feels good than have super tight pants and a spiked belt.

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