Up In Steer, Part II: Tum Yeto criddlers sprack and lurm their way across Japan.

Photography by Jon Humphries

The following is comprised of excepts from an interview with photographer Jon Humphries after he returned for a ten-day demo tour of Japan with Jamie Thomas, Ethan Fowler, Brad Staba, Adrian Lopez, Elissa Steamer, Sen Ozawa and Taro Hirano from Wheel magazine, and miscellaneous others required to get five pro skaters from one island to another.¿J.P.

I got on this Japan tour because I went on a three-and-a-half-week Tum Yeto tour across Canada, and I guess those guys weren’t sick of me yet, so they invited me to go to Japan for ten days. It was like a week after the Canada tour with pretty much the same people, besides Elissa. At the end of it all, they were probably ready to kill me, or I was ready to kill them. One of the two.

We went to four different cities: Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, and some other suburbs of those cities. The tour was organized by Tum Yeto’s Japanese distributor Kamigawa. Brad and Ethan were harassing him the whole time because he was really trying to speak English, but every time he’d think about what English word to say, he’d go, “Errrr.” Brad and Ethan were ruthless, and they’d start saying “errrr” to him if he like took us to the wrong food place or did something wrong. “Errrr.”

Kamigawa was awesome. He was in charge of the whole tour, and he was pretty stressed out the whole time, I think. It isn’t easy to entertain skateboarders for ten days. He took care of all the hotels, food, train tickets, plane tickets; he had a couple little helpers every now and then, but he was in charge.

Brad made up all these crazy words, like his own language of crazy words. He made up the word “criddle,” which is when kids come to demos an fiend for free stuff. They’re “criddling” for stuff, or they’re “criddling” to get into the demo, or whatever. Then there’s “lurm.” I think lurming is lurking. When you see people who’re tweaked by drugs or just really sketchy and twitching a lot, those are “sprackers.” Brad made up that word, too. “G.P.” is another one; it stands for “Goin’ Places.” You say it when you see a guy who’s a trasher, who’s totally cracked out. You point to the guy and go, “G.P.”

Everybody picked up on Brad’s vocabulary.

There’s this DMX song “Party Up (Up In Here)” that goes, “Up in here, up in here!” Brad started saying, “Up in steer, up in steer!” So he and Ethan wrote it on their griptape, and eventually the Japanese picked up on it, too, because Brad and Ethan said it over and over and over. The Japanese thought it was cool because those guys were saying it, so they started saying it.

Brad’s role is to harass everybody, and go to every sticker and photo booth he sees, and to get all kinds of electronic and photo gear. He skated hard, too¿everyone did. I got a ton of photos of Brad. Yeah … up in steer. Brad and Ethan had “Up In Steer” on their griptape, and they were like, “Jon, you need that, too!” So they grabbed my board and wrote “Up In Steer” on my griptape really big.

Ethan’s funny. I took a photo of Ethan with his shirt off one day, and he got really mad. He’s like, “Don’t take it!” but I took it anyway, just to spite him. I like messing with him, because he’s constantly messing with me. We have opposite personalities. So when I took the photo he got really pissed, he grabbed my camera from me, pulled up my shirt, and took a photo of my belly. Ethan rips¿he’s amazing. He skated so hard the whole trip. I got so many photos and crazy sequences of him. Of anyone I’ve ever taken photos of, Ethan’s probably the most photogenic besides Gonz. Just the way he skateboards and the way his feet are on his board when he does an air. I could take photos of him doing ollies all day and I’d be happy. He has so much style, it’s crazy.

Jamie skates demos for like five hours straight, then he signs autographs until everyone else in the group is pissed and wants to go home. He signs millions of autographs. He’s the best demo personThere’re only a handful of people I’ve seen who are really good at doing demos, and Jamie’s probably the best. Every kid gets two autographs, and he gives tons of stuff away. He’s just really good with the kids.

Adrian’s really quiet and mellow. He sort of keeps to himself and does his own thing. He’ll skate super hard at a demo for like an hour¿he does every trick first try¿then he just chills for the rest of the demo while Jamie takes charge and Brad and Ethan skate. He’ll just rip, and then he’ll chill out. He got sick, so he couldn’t skate really hard at the end. He wasn’t feeling well.

Elissa is one of the guys; she fits right in. She’s amazing. At one of the demos, she came up to me and said, “Hey, shoot this kickflip frontside noseslide across this box on this pyramid. I’ve never done it before.”

I was like, “Okay, whatever.” I always give people a chance if they’re really that motivated. I thought it was weird that she wanted to shoot a sequence of it, because who knows how much film it takes to get a kickflip frontside noseslide with someone who’s never done one before. But fourth try she landed it. I was like, “What?” Three tries later she did another one¿perfect. I saw the negatives later, and I couldn’t believe how perfect it was.

It’s funny, there are a lot of girl skateboarders now, and all the girls obviously know who Elissa is, and they all sweat her for autographs. From my point of view, I don’t think she necessarily wants to be the pro “girl” skateboarder. She just wants to be a pro skater like everybody else. She doesn’t want to get pigeonholed or be a novelty. She’s better than most guys who skate and even lots of amateurs. We went to this double-set where people get kicked out all the time by security, so we were hurrying. I was trying to shoot Brad, Jamie, and her all at the same time, so while I was changing film, she kickflips this double-set perfectly second try. I missed it because I was trying to reload film, and she didn’t wait for me. I was totally pissed at myself, but she didn’t care. She was like, “Oh, I had too many kickflips anyway.” Double-set kickflip, second try. That’s pretty insane.

There’s a little bit of competition between Ethan, Brad, and Jamie, but at the same time they also feed off each other. I don’t know if Brad and Ethan would admit it or not, but it’s good to skate with Jamie, because he skates hard and gets you amped to skate hard. When everyone at the demo skates hard, kids are stoked and it’s easier to skate. If no one skates hard, it’s not going to be a good demo.

In Japanese culture people really tend to keep to themselves, but then when you become friends with them they’re really hospitable. They’d bring us presents. Kamigawa’s wife gave us these awesome Japanese scarves with Japanese prints on them. One of the guys from Wheel magazine had these Japanese tea cans that he kept his film in. I was really stoked on the cans because they were really easy to use and they had these little flip-up lids. I was checking them out one day, but I didn’t say anything about ’em, and the next day the guy showed up with two of them for me. I was like, “Wow, thanks.” Brad bought this crazy Polaroid camera that takes film you can’t get in the U.S., and Sen and Taro sent him more film for when he runs out.

They spoiled Brad. They loved Brad and Ethan, with that whole “Up In Steer” thing. Brad and Ethan and Sen and Taro were always in the “cool” car, and we were in the van with the filmer, photographer, Jamie and his wife, Adrian, and Elissa. Our car would be pretty quiet at times, but in the Brad, Ethan, Sen, and Taro car they’d be going crazy. Sen let those guys draw on the ceiling of his car with a Sharpie felt pen. They wrote “Up In Steer” on the ceiling of his car. They’re crazy.

Someone in our group figured out you could get these crazy BB guns in Japan. They look exactly like real guns; if someone pointed one at you, you’d be scared for your life. One day, Ethan comes back from a walk and he’d found the guns for sale at a store two blocks away. We went and bought some¿they were like 25 bucks, they cock like real guns, and they shoot these really hard pellets. They don’t look like a toy at all, and if you got shot by one it’ll give you a welt, for sure. Brad freaked out. He bought two, and Ethan and I each bought one. So as they drove around they constantly had guns pointing out the windows of the car, shooting everything they could. Sen and Taro had the AK-47 version. It looked exactly like an AK-47, and it shot like a machine gun. I could hear Ethan in the floor above us in the hotel, shooting it out the window. Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta … I don’t know how we got them back into the States.

The trip was ten days, and there were eight demos, which is about normal. The Japanese are a lot more hospitable than … like … the Germans, for example. We were definitely on a schedule, but the Japanese distributor didn’t make us eat at certain times or anything. Kamigawa was pretty organized, but at times it’s impossible to be organized, and he’d get stressed out. At the end, he was so ready to get rid of us. He was probably like, “Yes, they’re leaving!”

r life. One day, Ethan comes back from a walk and he’d found the guns for sale at a store two blocks away. We went and bought some¿they were like 25 bucks, they cock like real guns, and they shoot these really hard pellets. They don’t look like a toy at all, and if you got shot by one it’ll give you a welt, for sure. Brad freaked out. He bought two, and Ethan and I each bought one. So as they drove around they constantly had guns pointing out the windows of the car, shooting everything they could. Sen and Taro had the AK-47 version. It looked exactly like an AK-47, and it shot like a machine gun. I could hear Ethan in the floor above us in the hotel, shooting it out the window. Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta … I don’t know how we got them back into the States.

The trip was ten days, and there were eight demos, which is about normal. The Japanese are a lot more hospitable than … like … the Germans, for example. We were definitely on a schedule, but the Japanese distributor didn’t make us eat at certain times or anything. Kamigawa was pretty organized, but at times it’s impossible to be organized, and he’d get stressed out. At the end, he was so ready to get rid of us. He was probably like, “Yes, they’re leaving!”