Roll Call – Andre Genovesi

Dreamers And Warriors

By Mackenzie Eisenhour

Skateboarding is about dreaming. It’s about the transfer of subconscious, dream-like ideas into real-enough-to-knock-your-teeth-out occurrences. The biggest dreamers, those who dreamt up the major portion of skateboarding’s innovation and progress, did so for the most part on their own-almost feeding off of their social or geographical alienation. Those within California, or even the United States itself, who spent years pushing toward their collective goals, had enough battles to deal with on their own. But those who came from faraway locales like Brazil had to fight a full-scale war to get theirs.

Andre Genovesi, a Brazilian of Italian decent, fought that war. And during his first four years of skateboarding, he fought it alone. Then, with his first skate video firmly memorized, his first magazine page torn out and hung on his wall, and his homeland foundation completed, the seventeen year old saved up for a ticket to the United States and tackled Los Angeles with some serious switch-stance pop and a dream-to ride a skateboard for a living and live in the heart of his pastime’s culture. So far, he appears to be winning his war. Here’s his take on some of the battles.

Who gave you your first setup?

My grandma gave me my first setup for Christmas in ’87. It was this Brazilian board company called Pro-Life that made it. It was just this big old flat thing, 80s to the max-wide-ass trucks, copers, rails, lappers, the tail guard, the nose guard, all that. It was some crazy, bright yellow graphic.

Where did you take it?

Well, when I first started skating, I was really young and I had never seen skate videos, magazines, or anything like that. So really, I would go out alone and skate the basketball court in my town without really having any idea what other people did on a skateboard. It was just kind of up to my imagination to do whatever I wanted. I was really hyper as a kid. I never had the patience to go play ball or whatever with my friends, so I would just take my skateboard and go alone. I didn’t have to wait on anybody else and that’s what made it good for me. Eventually, my dad built me a four-foot launch ramp and I’d take it down to the basketball courts by my house every day, just doing all kinds of early grabs and all that. I still had no idea about skateboarding. I’d never seen it anywhere else. I was really young.

What was the first video or magazine you saw where you actually connected with other skaters?

Up until ’91, I was pretty much on my own. But around that time another friend of mine started, and his older brother gave us a magazine. That was pretty much our first vision of skateboarding. I remember the first video I saw was the Union Right To Skate video. |Kris| Markovich had the last part, and little |Andrew| Reynolds was in there. I got a copy of that, and I watched that video so many times. Finally, in ’93, I got a copy of Goldfish and then I was just hooked on skateboarding for good. I couldn’t believe Mike Carroll and those dudes were doing what they were doing. Around that time I started skating all the spots around Brazil, too, like the parks and our EMB spot, Amhamgabau. I met a lot of the local skaters, and they showed me new spots. After a while, I started doing all the amateur contests in Brazil. It was like every weekend.

When was your first trip to the States?

I was sixteen and doing really bad at school because I was always away doing skate contests and all that. I asked my mom about going to the States, and she was sort of against it because she didn’t have the money and she thought I was too young. The thing was, I had been saving money from doing well in the contests for a couple years, so I already had the money on my own. My mom basically said that once I turned seventeen I could go, so once I did, I bought my ticket.

Where did you go?

We flew straight into L.A. without any plan at all. Somehow, we ended upt Venice from the airport and ended up meeting some random Brazilian dude who lived in Van Nuys. He didn’t skate or anything, he was just there to work, but he told us we could stay at his house. After a minute, we got a crew together and rented our own place. All the money I had saved went real fast. It was really hard. It sucked because people like Chico |Brenes| used to hook me up, but I couldn’t afford to keep the product because I had to pay rent and eat. I had to sell all my product. We were barely making it, man.

How many years were you doing that for?

I did that from ’98 up until around 2001. Eventually I got sick of it and went back to Brazil for a little while just to refresh, but as soon as I got to Brazil I realized that California was the place to be. Not even for the industry and sponsors but just for the vibe and skating schoolyards and all of that. Being in a crowded schoolyard on a Sunday is just the best feeling. I realized that I wanted to feel like I was in the mix. I could tell that it was where the heart of it was. So I went back.

Were you still scraping by when you got second in that switch high-ollie challenge deal? That must’ve been huge for you.

Yeah, that was right when I had gotten back to the States, so it meant so much. I was looking at it and just thinking, “Ten-thousand dollars-that’s enough for me to pay rent for a whole year.”

What did they give you for second?

Fourteen-hundred dollars. Hey, I’m thankful for that.

Who do you think would win if they had a rematch?

Actually, there’s this really underground dude in L.A., Chris Franzen. I think he would win it. That dude can switch ollie anything. He is unbelievably good, man. Nobody knows. I used to skate at Lockwood a lot, and he would be there. I saw him switch heel a picnic table on flat with Timberland boots on. He’s seriously a beast. Like, the planter that Gino |Iannucci| backside flips off the bump in Yeah Right!, he almost switch backside 180’d the whole thing off flat. It was crazy.

What’s up on the board-company front? You turned pro for Arcade, right?

No. That’s the thing. I never turned pro for them. It’s funny because I’ve been doing all these pro contests and stuff but never actually had a board. Arcade was the last board company I rode for where I was like fully on and getting paid. It’s weird, but my other sponsors have been treating me well. I thought Arcade was getting really dope toward the end with Adelmo Jr., Joey |Brezinski|, and Casey |Rigney|. But I guess it was just too late to change the image at that point.

What kind of team would you see yourself riding for now?

Man, I don’t know. I like Habitat a lot. Obviously, Girl and Chocolate are sick companies. I like their teams because I feel like they’re just skaters, you know? They’re not really into all the other stuff-like the image and lifestyle, and all that. It’s just about skateboarding, and that’s the way I feel about it, too. A lot of people tend to forget their roots. We were all just little skaters at one point.

Was it weird to go back and see your old homeys in Brazil after skating in Cali for a while?

Yeah, for sure. They have this perspective of what skating is in California. To them, somebody like Eric Koston is like this huge, super large person. But I just realized everybody is the same, you know? That was kind of hard to explain to my friends back home. I still get that feeling a little bit, though, around guys like Guy |Mariano| or Gino. But even going back with the material stuff was kind of crazy. Like I had on brand-new shoes and a new setup, and people were tripping.

Is it that crazy to get product in Brazil?

Yeah. I mean shoes are like a couple-hundred bucks there, and the average person makes like 250 dollars a month. So people keep the same pair of shoes for like a year over there. They fix them with Shoe Goo and tape and everything. Even if you have a board from a U.S. company, you’re like hooked up down there.

Do you follow any of the politics in Brazil? Is there any reason why there’s so much poverty there?

For me, it’s hard to say, but Brazil has been messed up since they founded it. Even the way they founded it was like a recipe for disaster. It was never like they set out to start a country or anything. They just went there to steal the gold, take the wood, and rape the Indian girls. They brought in all these slaves from Africa and then Portugal basically sent all its prisoners there to empty the jails. So that’s just how it started. No wonder it’s messed up now. Even now, a cop makes like 600 dollars a month, he’s got three kids and a wife to feed, and he’s supposed to go arrest these drug dealers with AK-47s and he’s got a little .38 pistol. The cop has two choices-he can basically risk his life to arrest one or two guys or he can take a payoff for five Gs and let them sell as much crack as they want. That’s pretty much the way the whole country is. There’s corruption everywhere. I just saw some news on TV that five-billion dollars disappeared somehow down there-five-billion. And nobody even cares. It happens all the time.

All-time greatest Brazilian skater?

I’d have to say Bob |Burnquist|, or Rodrigo |TX| since he got back on it.

What is the most bizarre fan situation you’ve ever had?

A kid in New Zealand asked me for my socks after a demo. They were dripping with sweat.

You seem to enter and do well in a lot of best-trick contests; do you prefer the format of a “best trick” to a regular “take your run” contest?

I just feel more comfortable in that format. I can never really put a line together at a regular contest. But in the best-trick contests you can really focus on that one objective, then go for it.

Does it feel as good as it looks to hold up that big cardboard check?

|Laughs| Yeah. The big check always feels good-especially for the best trick. It’s like a direct price on the one thing you just did.

Picnic table or handrail?

Picnic table, by far.

Did you speak English when you got to the States?

No. No English at all. I had to learn just to get by. I wanted to learn, you know? I really didn’t want to be one of those dudes who didn’t learn about American culture and all of that. Like, even understanding the stuff in the popular culture-TV shows, back-in-the-day stuff, everything-I really wanted to understand it all.

Favorite flip trick?

Kickflips, switch flips, and nollie flips.

Genovesi sounds very Italian. Where does the Italian come in?

My whole family came out during the war. We still have both passports. It’s funny, because my dad just went back there a few weeks ago. I wish I spoke some Italian.

Do you plan on eventually turning pro officially?

Yeah. All my other sponsors are asking me the same thing. I don’t know. All I can do is keep skating my best, get coverage, and wait. I know it will come along sometime. I’ve just got to be patient. When it happens, it happens, right?

Have you ever seen Adelmo Jr. without a smile on his face?

|Laughs| Nope. Never. I’ve known Adelmo for a long time, too. But I’ve never seen him without a big smile. I don’t think he knows how to not smile.

hooked up down there.

Do you follow any of the politics in Brazil? Is there any reason why there’s so much poverty there?

For me, it’s hard to say, but Brazil has been messed up since they founded it. Even the way they founded it was like a recipe for disaster. It was never like they set out to start a country or anything. They just went there to steal the gold, take the wood, and rape the Indian girls. They brought in all these slaves from Africa and then Portugal basically sent all its prisoners there to empty the jails. So that’s just how it started. No wonder it’s messed up now. Even now, a cop makes like 600 dollars a month, he’s got three kids and a wife to feed, and he’s supposed to go arrest these drug dealers with AK-47s and he’s got a little .38 pistol. The cop has two choices-he can basically risk his life to arrest one or two guys or he can take a payoff for five Gs and let them sell as much crack as they want. That’s pretty much the way the whole country is. There’s corruption everywhere. I just saw some news on TV that five-billion dollars disappeared somehow down there-five-billion. And nobody even cares. It happens all the time.

All-time greatest Brazilian skater?

I’d have to say Bob |Burnquist|, or Rodrigo |TX| since he got back on it.

What is the most bizarre fan situation you’ve ever had?

A kid in New Zealand asked me for my socks after a demo. They were dripping with sweat.

You seem to enter and do well in a lot of best-trick contests; do you prefer the format of a “best trick” to a regular “take your run” contest?

I just feel more comfortable in that format. I can never really put a line together at a regular contest. But in the best-trick contests you can really focus on that one objective, then go for it.

Does it feel as good as it looks to hold up that big cardboard check?

|Laughs| Yeah. The big check always feels good-especially for the best trick. It’s like a direct price on the one thing you just did.

Picnic table or handrail?

Picnic table, by far.

Did you speak English when you got to the States?

No. No English at all. I had to learn just to get by. I wanted to learn, you know? I really didn’t want to be one of those dudes who didn’t learn about American culture and all of that. Like, even understanding the stuff in the popular culture-TV shows, back-in-the-day stuff, everything-I really wanted to understand it all.

Favorite flip trick?

Kickflips, switch flips, and nollie flips.

Genovesi sounds very Italian. Where does the Italian come in?

My whole family came out during the war. We still have both passports. It’s funny, because my dad just went back there a few weeks ago. I wish I spoke some Italian.

Do you plan on eventually turning pro officially?

Yeah. All my other sponsors are asking me the same thing. I don’t know. All I can do is keep skating my best, get coverage, and wait. I know it will come along sometime. I’ve just got to be patient. When it happens, it happens, right?

Have you ever seen Adelmo Jr. without a smile on his face?

|Laughs| Nope. Never. I’ve known Adelmo for a long time, too. But I’ve never seen him without a big smile. I don’t think he knows how to not smile.