INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTO BY IVORY SERRA
No shoes, all Love… 100% skateboarder, Yeah… Lay this one down, underground… Some do it, others live it… Most can’t… Jumonji, one of a kind, understated… Bottle it up… open it up, fuck it up… Never stop, until the day we die… You can’t keep up, and never could… Just accept it, and get outta the way… You can’t stop the Real Thing… Harry Jumonji, better than Coke…“We were just skating mad fast between traffic, Chinese ladies, cab drivers, bums and crazy shit. That’s street skating. That’s why I love New York City, because that’s where my street skating started.”
Harry? Can you hear the music? It’s Lou Bega, baby! Here comes the chorus. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Harry?
Wait. I’m going to blow you up. Steve Olson got a lead in a movie. Can you believe that? Olson, I think it’s official that you earned that, right? My homie said he thought you were good in Bloodshed. You’re getting good reviews in Montauk.
Okay, hooker, what’s happening?
First of all, you should be out in Montauk right now, but you’re not in Montauk. You’re in L.A. You need to be in Montauk. The ocean is here. I’ve got my board. I skated with a pair of trunks and a t-shirt on today. Bring it back.
It’s on. That’s fine, but where do you come from?
I was born in Brazil in 1968 in a small place called Parana and then I moved to Ubatuba as soon as my parents split. Ubatuba is smaller then Montauk. It’s surfing, fishing and walking barefoot, but there’s a lot of surfing going on. Ubatuba is a place that was named after the native people called Tupinamba. Tupi is the language of the Native people. Ubatuba means muitas canoas, which mean lots of canoes. People like the wind, ocean and canoes. They live off the land. No gunpowder. No alcohol. They’re different. They’re very Indio. Indios are native people that live off the land in harmony. That’s where I come from. I have “sangue indio,” which means Indio blood.
When did you start surfing?
When I started surfing, I was about seven. I knew how to surf before I knew how to swim.
How does that happen?
I didn’t go to class like everybody else with a swimming pool. I just took a big longboard from this guy and paddled out with no leash. When it broke, they had to drag me out of the water, but it was exciting. I swam like a little puppy dog. I didn’t even know how to put my arms out.
What was it like growing up in Ubatuba? How did you get into skateboarding?
Sao Paulo has all the rich people, and they would come to Ubatuba with the Hang Ten boards made out of aluminum with ball bearings. If you went to the local sporting goods store, you’d get boards with rubber wheels. There were no clay wheels. The rich kids showed up with the Makaha boards, so cats would steal the boards from those rich kids. They’d carve and pump back and forth. It was no tricks. They were skating barefoot. So I tried it, and I was good at it. In 1976, I went to the surf shop and saw Skateboarder magazine, and it had a photo of Jay Adams flying out of the bowl grabbing his nose and tail with a Logan Earth Ski board and a Cooper helmet. I already knew how to get busy surfing, but I saw that photo of Jay, and I was like, “That’s who I want to be. I want to learn to fly on a skateboard.” When I saw that photo of Jay, it changed my life. I traded my surfboard for a skateboard. They had a skateboard at the shop that was exactly the same one that Jay was riding. It was a Logan with Bennett Trucks and Road Rider Wheels. Having that board was like having a Lamborghini. It made me feel different inside. It was heavy. It was like a spiritual experience. I had one surfboard that I was lucky enough to have this kid give to me, and I traded it for a skateboard. That’s when it started.
What did you have to skate down there?
The Brazilian cats were crazy. They had plywood leaning into the couch. They’d go up and grab the board and do half a Bert, so I started that. Then we took the plywood and put it up on top of cinderblocks. I did what Jay did and grabbed the nose and the back and that’s when I caught my first air. The skateparks weren’t open yet. The skateparks started in ‘79.
So you learn how to do your first air, but with Bennetts you can turn on a dime.
There was this hill, and if you made it to the bottom without wobbling, it was on. This was barefooted skating. Then I saw these kids skating with shoes. They were just pumping it and going up on the sidewalk and carving. This guy was skating down the sidewalk with groceries in his arms for his mom, and he was riding real gracefully. So I started hitting the sidewalk and carving and doing cutbacks into the street. That’s when I learned how to control the board. Then the guys came out of the water, and they were trying to do on land what they could do in the water. These cats could surf and skate. It was a different breed of people. Nowadays you either surf or skate. Some people can do both, but not very many people. That’s where I got my style. Skateboarding started sidewalk surfing. Then my father flipped out because I looked like a jungle kid. I was walking barefoot to go surfing and skating. My mom let me get away with murder, but my dad made me cut my hair so he could take me to Sao Paulo. When I got to Sao Paulo, there were skateparks.
How was that to hit skateparks after riding plywood on couches?
I hated the city, but once I saw the skateparks, I was happy. There was a snake run that ended in a triangle bowl. It was berserk. The guys in Sao Paulo had a team, and the name of the park was Wave Park. You had to pay $1 to get in and they would rent you a helmet and volleyball kneepads. You’d slide and just bust your shit. It was the most useless shit I’d ever seen. A year later, there were Norcon kneepads. It didn’t progress much at the very beginning. We didn’t have money to buy shit. You skated what you had. I’m just trying to be real here. I don’t come from money. Skateboarding gave me pleasure and I can never buy that. The rich kids kept giving me their boards because I was better, you know?
Right. Why do you think you were better? Was it because you surfed or what?
This is how it goes down. I knew how to pump. I knew how to manage the board. I knew how to do a cutback. The board was big too. My roots come from surfing and then getting on a skateboard. When a wave closes out, people usually pull out on the right or ride the white water. Those cats in Brazil would try to hit it one more time and come down. The body language was different. It was like you guys watching Bertlemann. The guys in Brazil were crazy. They didn’t have the equipment, but they had the heart. Those cats in the water influenced me. They really did.