By Paul Zitzer – "Next in, the high flyer from Brazil, Sandro Dias!…"
To the person watching a vert contest on television, that one line probably sums up the extent of their knowledge about Sandro. Someone really in the know might also be able to tell you he's a member of the 900 Club. But beyond that? He's a bit of a mystery. Hopefully, as we head into stop four of the Dew Tour, this interview will help shed a little more light on the vert skating's friendliest attack dog.
You won the Vans Invitational in 2006, what was different about that contest than the rest of the Dew Tour stops?
I have no idea. I think the judges liked me that time (laughing).
Did you do a 900 there?
No. I think maybe I did one in the prelims. Maybe. It might have been another stop. I did one 900 in the prelims that year but I don't remember which stop.
You've never done a 900 in a Dew Tour final?
I did not know that. And I should because I've seen every single final. But anyway, tell me about the time you were held up for your car.
Oh yeah yeah. That was a long time ago. I was 18. I was in a restaurant with my family, and my girlfriend at the time, and there were these two guys beside us. They ate and drank, and did the normal thing people do at a restaurant. But after that, one guy went to the bathroom, and when he came back he pointed a gun at the waiter and said, "I want everyone in the restaurant in the corner." … Then he said, "And I want everyone's car keys."
I had a brand new car – I was there to celebrate getting my driver's license with my family. It was the first day I had my license, and my car had only a thousand miles on it. So, I kept my keys in my pocket. He looks at all the keys in his hand, and he goes, "I don't want any of these cars. I want the car in front of the restaurant." He was talking about my car. I thought, "My brand new car? Oh my god!" But I kept my key in my pocket, then he said, "If this key doesn't appear, I'm going to take a different car and this girl." And he grabs my sister. My mom looked at me, and she said, "Give him your key!" So I gave the key to the guy. He pointed the gun at me and acted like he was going to shoot, then told me to go with him out to my car. So he followed me out to the car, with the gun pointed at me, and then he said, "start your car and turn off all the alarms." I did everything, and he said, "Go inside." The other guy was waiting for me with another gun (laughing). And the one guy left with the car and the other guy stayed with us. After two or three minutes the guy in my car came back and picked up the other guy. I lived.
But there's another story from I think two years ago. I was at the beach with my girlfriend. We were driving my ATV, and these guys came from the jungle and said, "Stop! Stop! Give me everything!" And one of the guys pointed a gun in the air and shot it. And then he came up to me and pointed the gun at my head and I thought I was going to die. And he was yelling, "Where's your wallet? Where's your cell phone? Give me everything!" And I gave him everything and they left. They took everything, but they didn't take my ATV. That time was crazy because he actually shot the gun.
So that's two times you've been held up at gunpoint. Did you ever get your car back?
No. I've had three or four cars stolen in Brazil.
As I understand it, you're pretty well known in Brazil. How often do you get stopped for autographs when you're in Brazil?
Oh man. Every day. Everywhere.
What are you best known for, X-Games Dew Tour, or Brazilian contests?
I think it's from Brazilian contests.
They're on TV a lot there?
So people are yelling "Hey Sandro Dias!"
People wouldn't know that here.
It's crazy. It's totally different from here. Here they have Tony Hawk, Michael Jordan, and a lot of guys. But in Brazil they have one big sport, soccer. And now skateboarding is the second biggest sport in Brazil, after soccer.
That's amazing. Do you have Brazilian sponsors? Like are you the Tony Hawk of Brazil and have some Brazilian McDonalds sponsor?
I don't know. I wish (laughing). All of my sponsors are from Brazil except Positiv.
Do you think, for your skating, it might have been a good thing to be from a country other than the US?
I don't know. It's hard to say. It was hard at the beginning; I didn't speak English at all. I still don't speak English at all but I'm getting better (laughing). But I think it's good to be Brazilian, to be different, different style, a different guy from a different country.
When was your first trip to the US?
I came with my family on vacation in '85, but my first skate trip was '88. I skated Fallbrook a lot. There was a vert ramp there. I remember skating with Ray Underhill, Danny Way, Adrian Demain, Joe Johnson. I was only 14 years old. It was nice. I came again the next year and skated Mike McGill's skatepark.
How American are you in 2009?
How American am I? (Laughing) I have a green card. I love this place. I love this place for skating, for living…I love Brazil too, but it's different. It's way better for skating here though. You have more opportunity, more ramps, more quality stuff to skate. And you get to skate with the best guys.
Is there anything that you realized about Brazil after you got to travel to other places?
I know Brazil is really dangerous to live. When you see Brazil from the outside you see how hard it is to live there. But I love that place.
Don't you have your own private ramp down there?
Yeah. I have two now (laughing). I have one for events, and I have a permanent one at my father's warehouse that I've had for 11 years.
Do people skate it when you're not around?
Yeah, they skate it everyday. They skate it more than me (laughing) … Everyday there are about eight to ten people.
Are they ripping?
Yeah, they're all Brazilian professionals. They fix the ramp, they modify the ramp, they do everything to the ramp. They just did a big extension on the ramp. I went to Brazil last time and my ramp was all different. They did big roll ins on both sides. I was like "What are they doing to my ramp?" (Laughing)
Did they do a good job?
How much time do you spend down there?
I've been spending a lot of time there. I just bought a new place in Brazil and I've been rebuilding everything. I just came to the US this time to finish the season and then I'm going to go back.
What do you do with the portable ramp?
I've been doing a lot of events. I do amateur contest with pro demos. This year we already did five contests and we have to do two more by the end of the year.
So you're a businessman.
I'm trying, but I think it's easier to skate than to do business.
Well, skating is more fun at least. Do you still live with Neal [Hendrix] when you're in the US?
Do you ever fight about anything?
No, he's pretty quiet. He's a good roommate. He's just a little dirty (laughing). He doesn't clean his room, he doesn't clean the bathroom, which makes me crazy sometimes, but he's a good roommate. Sometimes he's a pig (laughing).
What are some injuries you've had over the past few years?
This year I didn't skate for 100 days. I hurt myself on February 17th, and I came back skating for the Dew Tour in China.
What was wrong?
I hurt my knee. I hit it so hard that I did something to my PCL, I stretched it, and had to use this knee brace and do all this physical therapy and stay out.
How is it now?
It's good. I feel better than before, my whole body, my whole mind. I think I'm skating better than before. I'm more confident and having more fun.
The time off helped.
I think so. The time off was really good for me.
When was the last time you did a 900?
Have you been trying them at all since?
I tried it at the X-Games.
When you haven't done that trick in a long time, how hard is it?
It's kind of like the first time, like I'm learning it again. It's so hard.
Is it scary for you?
No, just hard, not scary.
What's the hardest part about it?
Staying on my board, sometimes I can't grab, sometimes I grab it and can't stay on. I don't know, it's just hard.
On TV we always say that the judges want the 900 and when you don't give it to them they hold it against you. Do you think that's true?
I think it's not like that now. Maybe when I did them at contests like three years ago they thought about it that way. I don't think so anymore. They know that I'm not doing it.
Are you going to bring it back in 2010?
Yeah, I want to do it again. This year. I think I'm ready to stay on. It's hard to say.
What was your best year as a pro?
I think it was 2006 maybe? I was skating good, I was feeling good. In 2007 I wasn't feeling that good, and 2008 was the worst, and this year I'm feeling better.
Who's your favorite to watch on vert?
I like to watch Alex Perelson, I like to watch Bucky. There's more, I like to watch everyone.
Who's the hardest working guy on the ramp?
I know Andy is pretty disciplined to work hard. And Bucky. I've been skating with Bucky; he's been working hard.
How many years of competitive professional skateboarding do you have left?
I think three or four more years maybe. I wish. But I think as far as progression I'm not going to stop. And I think I just started again to progress.
Why would you stop being a pro if you're still progressing?
Maybe to let the new guys work. And I want to do different things. So I'd say three or four more years, but as far as learning new tricks and progressing, I'm not going to stop.
Is there anything you're working on right now?
Yeah, I've been learning some tricks.
Are you going to break them out at the next contest?
I'll try. I'll try to do something new (laughing).
If skateboarding was in the Olympics in 2012 you'd try to be there right?
Oh yeah, for sure.
What about 2016?
I don't know (laughing). I'd be too old I think.