So what makes a skateboarder from the U.S. decide to move to Bangkok? I was looking for a place to live in S.E. Asia that was exotic and intriguing yet had all conveniences and comforts of what I wanted.
Having lived in Bangkok for so long do you think you will ever move back to the states? That's a good question and I get asked that a lot, and so far I haven't had a desire to move back to the states. I don't really want to say "never" because I like to keep my options open, but I am pretty comfortable with how things are and I don't see myself making any major changes.
Can you explain a bit about the photo work you do out there and much photography you do vs. teaching?I am one those people that always has a camera with them, so I take a lot of photos out here because I find this part of the world really interesting. I recently got promoted to be a manager at my university, so my teaching hours have been cut back a little and I have to do some paper work every now and then, but it's cool. I am on a really big campus and I think I might be the only westerner out here (aside from my teaching staff), so I try to make the most of it. I still teach a couple of classes every term because I enjoy being in the classroom and interacting with my students so it's a really good balance between having free time to take photos, skateboard and work.
Do you ever have students who skate?Yes, I have had many students throughout the years who skate. They usually end up recognizing me when I walk into the classroom on the first day because I stand out so much in this society and they have either seen me at the skate park, skating the streets or sometimes at demos when skate teams visit Thailand. They just recently built a skatepark on campus and every now and then a student will decide to start skating and they buy a board and show up at the park and see me there skating and they are surprised.
Is it hard to get skate product out there, and what brands are the Thai kids feeling right now? When I first moved here, it was really difficult for me to find size 12 skate shoes, but that has slowly changed over the years thanks to the fact that more people are skating in Thailand and more western skateboarders are deciding to live here. Bangkok and some of the other cities have skate shops that carry stuff, but the selection is limited due to the way that the distribution is set up. As far as brands go, Real, Girl, Zero, Baker, Deathwish, and DGK are quite popular out here.
How much skating do you get to do as a guy working full time in a place like Bangkok? It can be tricky sometimes trying to juggle all the distractions that this city has, but I am happy with the amount of skating that I do. I try to skate the streets at night when there isn't a lot of traffic and the sidewalks aren't so crowded and I also keep a board in my office and skate the park sometimes after work. I also enjoy skating around campus too, but that can be a little strange because I work there and the local security on campus don't really know how to deal with me so they usually just leave me alone.
You shoot mostly, on film cameras, Leica to be exact. What is it you like about shooting film vs. digital and do you think you will ever make the switch? It's simple really, I just like the way that my photos look on film better than how they look on digital. I know a group of local Thai guys out here that are crazy about Leica gear and they always buy the newest Leica digital cameras so I get a chance to use them and stuff, but I haven't really found anything that I like more than my Leica film cameras. Also, I should say that Bangkok is an amazing city to shoot film in, the cost of buying film and getting it developed and scanned is not expensive and there are enough stores that carry black and white developing supplies to keep me stocked up.
Has South East Asia become more of a destination for professional skateboarders in the last few years? Yes, more teams have been visiting S.E. Asia after they do a skate mission to China. I think there a couple of reasons for this, first there are a couple of filmers and photographers that are based out of China that travel to S.E. Asia a lot and know the different skate spots out here and I think it's a pretty easy side trip for a little rest and relaxation in an exotic locale. Also, once the mission is finished in China, a lot of skaters are usually curious to travel around and check out different places. It also makes it a lot easier if you have a filmer / photographer who tells you amazing stories about the places out here and how much fun it is.
Out of all the crews who have visited who are some of your favorite pros and ams you have met? There has been so many skaters that have visited over the years and I have had so many good times skating, partying and traveling around with them that it's difficult to say without leaving anyone out. Kenny Reed was one of the first skaters that started bringing his friends, teammates, filmers and photographers out here that he sort of paved the way for others to follow. Patrik Wallner and Anthony Claravall are also responsible for so much that has been happening out here that they also need to be mentioned. As far as pros and ams go, in no specific order I would say Fred Gall, Sean Malto, Mark Suciu, Denny Pham, Sebo Walker, Madars Apse, Ryan Decenzo, T.J. Rogers, James Capps, Ben Raybourn, Ryan Reyes and Barney Page. I know I probably left out a lot of people, but there have been so many skaters that come out here that want to have a good time and everybody is in such a good mood, it's always a lot of fun.
Where are some of your favorite locations you have traveled around South East Asia aside from Bangkok? Myanmar, hands down it is my number one favorite place to travel around and take photos. It has been closed off from the rest of the world for about 60 years and it has slowly been opening up to the outside world that it is truly an amazing place to explore. I love to visit Cambodia and Laos too because they have such interesting histories and so many cool places to visit. There are also burgeoning skate scenes in those countries that I always get stoked to visit and skate with the locals.
What are your favorite things to photograph out there aside from visiting skateboarders? I love to photograph the people and the interesting traditions that they have. Coming from the states and growing up skating and taking photos, I have always been outside on the streets, it is where I am most comfortable at. I love the fact that there is so much happening on the streets out here and it is so visually stimulating that I am constantly traveling to remote places, meeting intriguing people and eating interesting food that I feel really lucky to be able to do this.
How important do you think it is for skateboarders and people in general to travel to a place like Bangkok and take them out of their comfort zone? I think it is pretty important because it is such a different atmosphere out here and that the skaters get to learn and see so many cool things that are so different than what is available back home. I imagine that a lot of the skaters that I have met and hung out with out here have some pretty interesting stories and good memories when they think about this part of the world.