In Brazilian Portuguese, an R sounds more like an H, so rave sounds more like haive. Adelmo lets his hair haive on the beaches of Rio. Photos by Dave Chami.
To really get a feel for this interview, I suggest you read Adelmo Jr.’s answers in a strong Brazilian accent sprinkled with a touch of reggae slang. And, to be fair, the questions should be read in a nerdy Wisconsin dialect. Accents aside, though, Adelmo Jr. is a treat to the skateboarding community. Few have the positive outlook that he has, even in the face of bad news. There seems to be a metaphor in the fact that he has patience as long as his hair and he’s only gotten it (his hair) caught in a door once in his life (it has also never fallen into a urinal). Think about it. He only “wants what Jah gives” and, although that might seem simplistic to some people, he’s got the premiere of LRG’sGive Me My Money, Chico and a potential Organika part on the horizon. Jah still giveth.
What are you up to Adelmo?
Heading back to Costa Mesa. I just took the family to SF. They’ve never been there.
How long have you been in the States now?
It’s been about 9 years.
You’ve been on Organika for a long time, right?
Yeah, and before that I was on Arcade. It was the first company that really hooked me up. Getting on Arcade made me move here. I went to Europe for a little bit, too and got hooked up. But, then I moved to the US after that.
You were on IPath pretty much from the beginning as well.
I’ve been on IPath pretty much since 2001.
But, they went through some changes recently. What ended up happening?
I was in Brazil on tour with LRG and one day I got an e-mail from our TM and they want to go in a different direction and, from what I’ve heard, a few people were left out.
That’s a bummer.
Well, I’ve been in skating for a long time and I know it’s a business, too. It’s only sad, because I think people like a company like IPath for what the company stands for and represents. But, people don’t understand, that most of the time for companies, it’s a business too.
But, you’re one of the quintessential people I think about when I think of IPath.
You know, the skate community’s a really tight knit, passionate community, you know? A lot of people that I’ve told are like, “Man, really? I can’t believe… What happened?”
So, did you lose it and go on a rampage in the office when you got back?
No, I was in Brazil. But, we had a pretty cool meeting in November. They told us it had been a good year. They talked about a lot of things, you know? So, when they e-mailed me in Brazil, it was pretty unexpected.
Sounds like it. But, you must have taken it the best out of everybody.
That’s the way I live life, you know? I have a strong faith. Rastafari education teaches that everything comes to you for a reason and Jah is my guide, you know? I only want what Jah gives. Some people go and judge the situation, but I have to appreciate what happens.
Far from home, Adelmo Jr. nollie shifties over the rail into the bank.
You have a really positive outlook on everything. I could never see you upset. But, growing up in Brazil, did you ever have to defend yourself or get into a fight?
I never fought in my life, but Brazil is a place that, through its history, Europeans came in and stole a lot of the country and exploited the natives, so until this day, you have that influence in Brazil, like a lot of robbery and some violence. Depending on the area you are, the time you are and with who you are, you can get robbed. For sure, there were times, when I was growing up, in a different area where I didn’t know anyone, and people try to approach you. Sometimes, in the way that you talk to them, you can get out of it, you know? Sometimes you gotta defend yourself, too. Some people are there trying to survive and it’s one of the only ways to get something, by stealing. It’s hard, you know?
You just made a trip down to Rio de Janeiro with LRG. It’s kind of like being back home, but how does Rio differ from Aracaju?
My city is the capital of the smallest state in Brazil, so compared to Rio and São Paulo, it’s pretty small. In my city, we still have a countryside vibe. Like, if you don’t know someone, maybe you’ve seen them before. Rio and São Paulo are just huge cities with millions and millions of people—a lot going on. Whatever you want to eat you’ll find. Whatever you want to see, you can see. The difference is pretty much that. There’s still the Brazilian way of life. Aracaju is on the coast, so people are really laid back. You go to a restaurant and you wait an hour to get your food, sometimes. But, it’s just the way it is. Like, “No worries!”
Is that where you first got into Rastafari, kind of having a laid back culture around?
Yeah, listening to music at a young age. My mom was a really athletic person and she had some records—and some reggae records—so I started listening to some. And, that kind of made me find a link to the Bible. Rastafari is based in Christian teaching. It’s just a different way of respecting the way of creations—the ways that Jah create Earth and a way of living as good as you can, respecting nature and everyone around you.
Jah make the reflection, Adelmo do the frontside 180 fakie 5-0.
It sounds like you live a pretty pure life, but you also live in the capital of the state just north of Bahia, where they have massive Carnival parties. Do you ever go down there and partake?
It’s funny because a lot of people ask me about Carnival. I used to go there when I was younger. But, then I saw so much craziness—people get robbed, people get beat. Some people go with their families and wives and people make fun of others and get in fights. The celebration is basically just go crazy for five days and the sixth day you relax and forget about everything you did. I just try to avoid it.
It’s kind of like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, right? It’s fun, but before you know it, someone’s having sex in an alley or people are fighting in the street.
Yeah, you see some people where they celebrate and there are like one million people in one place. At the same time, for people who never experienced it, it’s pretty cool. You see a lot of people trying to get girls and partying, so it’s fun, too.
I know Brazil’s known for it’s dancing—especially during Carnival—so can you cut a rug like that?
Yeah, I used to dance in those things. It’s fun. The samba—you’re in the middle of it, so you start dancing, even if you’re not much of a dancer.
The ladies approach you in the Carnival costumes and you gotta start moving, right?
You’re body start’s moving on its own.
I know the one thing everyone asks you about is your hair, so I apologize, but I want to find out a few things for myself. What made you decide to not cut it?
It’s like another rule—a Biblical quote. I follow some of the Rastafari ways of doing things and avoiding things. And, one of the things is not cutting your hair. People trip on it, like “Man, it’s getting long.” It’s something that’s part of my life and myself. People trip on it when I’m skating or don’t like it, but it’s part of who I am.
Backside nosegrind on an Australian hubba that looks like it could be somewhere in Nebraska or Iowa.
I can’t speak for other people, but I watch you skate and your hair’s hypnotizing, like a sea anemone or something. I think it’s tight.
Some people like it… it’s funny, my father one day, look at me and he was like, “Hey son, are you not cutting your locks because of skating?” Like, “did they tell you not to cut your locks?” And, I’m like, “No dad, it’s the way I choose to live—something that I believe in and follow.”
That’s a part of the Rastafari practice, though, right?
It’s not part of the whole teaching, but a lot of Rastas, they choose to follow that biblical quote. A lot of Rastas choose to avoid alcohol, avoid some foods—something that Jah request Moses to tell the people. To follow God into another life, you’re gonna have to do some things. It’s nothing you have to do. You choose to do what you want to do.
It sounds like your dad didn’t know what to think of it either.
Yeah, most of Brazilian people have had a Catholic education, so a lot of people, even Protestant people too or people who follow the Gospel, they judge it and they try to know why I would want to keep my hair like that. Anthony [Claravall] always told me, “The first time I went to Aracaju, I thought that I would see a lot of Rastas on the street listening to reggae on the streets—people like you.” When he goes, he saw everyone in my town looking at me so weird. He was like, “I feel more welcome here than you [laughs].”
For those who might not have seen you up close, do you keep the locks fresh? Do you wash it?
Yeah, for sure. You have to. Some people have criticized it, like said it is dirty. But, everything you have to do—you have to be clean, like the hair and everything.
It’s amazing how long it is, though. Have you ever gotten it caught on anything?
No, not really. Ahhh… a lot of people ask about skating and ask if I ever got it caught on the wheels and stuff, but no, it’s never happened.
Not even skating. I mean, I think of friends with long hair that’s much shorter and they get it caught in doors and stuff.
Maybe I did once, like in the car door.
The only other scenario that comes to mind is the urinal. Like, have you ever looked down or flushed it and your hair falls in?
No, I try to keep it in the back at all times. That’s never happened.
All right, enough hair talk… one of your favorite skateboarders growing up was Guy Mariano, right?
Yeah, Guy and Karl were two people… the first videos that I watched were H-Street and old Powell videos. So, I always enjoyed the way Guy skates, you know? The first time I saw Karl in a video, I was like, “Man, I love this guy’s skating, you know?” As I grew up, they were my favorites.
How did you get those videos back in the day, living in Brazil?
My city has a lot of surfers, so maybe some surfers went to São Paulo or Rio—the big cities. Some of the surfers maybe started skating. A lot of my friends were surfers, so they would be like, “Oh, I have a skate video you want to see.” I was hyped. Watching the first videos was cool.
It definitely seems like you got a lot of influence form Karl.
It’s funny. He was a big inspiration growing up. When I came here, he was always asking me to ride for his teams like, “I want to put you on this.” He always asked me to go on Organika, even when I rode for Arcade. But, I had so much respect for Arcade, because they brought me here, that I stayed loyal. After Arcade went under, it was a natural thing for me to go to Organika.
What were the first video parts you watched of Guy and Karl back in the day?
Guy—back in the day, was the Video Days part. I was a little kid watching that video part and I was so impressed watching him skate switch and skating ledges. Mouse was a favorite as well. From Karl—the Mad Circle 5 Flavors part, man [Ed. note: on a side note, Karl's Expedition One Alone part is one often overlooked that's worth seeing/revisiting]. I love that part.
Some people might surf the water in the background (or hang around and watch beautiful women in scant bikinis), but Adelmo stays pure surfs the transition and frontside boardslides off the end.
Did you trip out when you first met those dudes?
I did. Some people that I met here come and congratulate you. Like, “Man, I like that one trick you did.” You know? People I looked up to growing up.
They’re saying how they like something you did and you’re like, “No, no… I like what you did!”
Yeah, yeah… that’s true. They’re like, “I’m a fan of yours,” and I’m like “I’m a fan of you!” “Thanks for that, but you are responsible for maybe me being created.”
Despite the IPath thing, the good news is you’ve got a full part in the LRG video coming up, right?
Yeah, it’s premiering at the beginning of April. I hope people really like the video. It was amazing to go to all the places we went. Me, Karl, Chico, Rodrigo, Jack, TX, Rob, we’ve been friends for a long time and been together for a long time in the company. When the video project was going to come out, it was such an amazing thing for us, because we’d been doing that together before. To have a friendship and work toward a project together is just amazing man.
Where else have you traveled for the video?
We went to China twice. We went to Thailand. We went to New Zealand, to Australia. We traveled a lot inside the US. We traveled to Canada.
After Give Me My Money, Chico, what will you be working on?
We’ve been talking about a new Organika video. We have some footage, but everyone was doing a different project. But, now would probably be a good time to travel and work on that. Hopefully, that’s the plan.