Video by Carson Lee, photo and words by Dave Chami
I was talking to a friend recently who posed an interesting question: "Who has the resources these days to let skateboarders do cool shit?"
So I pondered on that, remembering the days of round-the-world trips, 100 dollars per diem, and company credit cards that couldn't be maxed out. These days if you get on a trip to Arizona and stay 10 miles out of town in a Motel 6, you better wake up each morning and thank the TM for inviting you. Then I get an e-mail a few months back from my friend Masa in Tokyo who was organizing a contest called Real Toughness for G-Shock's 30th anniversary. He asked if I could bring a group of six skaters from the States and if they could get some print coverage of the contest in TransWorld—they would of course pay for our flights and accommodation. "Sure, I can bring a crew out," I replied, "But to get the print coverage I'll need to shoot a street article to go with it, so we'll need a place to stay for an extra week and maybe a van and a guide too." When the response came back from Masa a few days later that G-Shock would be happy to pay for all this and that the only obligation would be for the guys to skate for a couple of hours at the contest (wearing a brand-spanking-new G-Shock watch of course), I nearly dropped my iPhone in the toilet (checking e-mails while you pee is counted as multitasking in my household). All I had to do now was assemble a crew; I needed a group of badasses who weren't afraid of cold weather, wouldn't be bummed if we were crammed into a tiny Japanese apartment where you couldn't swing a cat, all kind of knew each other by a few degrees of separation but didn't always travel together, were down to push through the city at night in search of terrain, and could get an article shot in five days of street shredding (in the end we actually only had four). These were the bros I handpicked and a list of their redeeming attributes.
The Real Toughness Crew
Jake Johnson: Wonderfully weird, takes '80s tricks to unthought-of heights, looks at absolutely everything in a way that you've never dreamed.
Wes Kremer: Honorary Japanese (Wes was born there) and also attended the contest the previous year, so he knows the lay of the land. Never tires of throwing up the Mafia sign with a grin, effortless carnage, deep appreciation of '90s hip-hop (you know, before it turned to garbage).
Lee Yankou: Thoroughbred ollies and that awesome self-deprecating Canadian humor, manners that would have your grandmother inviting him around for tea and scones. This was Lee's first time to Japan, and he wanted it bad.
Evan Smith: East Coaster who stays East Coast, shreds all day then makes music all night (Evan’s band, Starhead Body, composed the song for this video), spirit animal who lives by the code: "We're all part of the starhead body."
Marius Syvanen: The slams are as good as the makes, three extra pushes, has been on a tear as of late with no sign of slowing down.
Ben Gore: Real street (not the competition) enthusiast who isn't afraid to get grimy, best backside flipper I know. As a bonus I knew he would scour the secondhand camera stores of Nakano and dusty record stores of Shibuya with me at the drop of a 100 yen piece.