In the process of making his Static series of skate videos, Josh Stewart faced down armed guards in Egypt, dodged a terrorist bombing in India, and risked life and limb against the IRA. So while on the surface it may not have appeared to be much of a stretch from things he'd done in the past, when Josh recently boarded a plane to the Cayman Islands to go film some skateboarding, he was actually swimming into some pretty uncharted waters. At least for him.
For starters, this wasn't a trip for Static IV (although he assured us that it's in the works); instead it was for an MTV 2 show. And while Josh is almost purely a documenter of the streets, this mission was to take place at the mighty Black Pearl Skatepark, (Aaaaarrrghh!) one of the largest cement parks in the world. And the skaters he'd be filming weren't Josh's beloved under the radar street urchins, but rather the vert starts of tomorrow: namely Alex Perelson, Zach Miller, Josh Stafford, and Adam Taylor. We recently caught up with Josh for the inside scoop, and here it be matey.
Alex, Josh, Adam and Zach
How did you end up in the Cayman Islands?
I worked with Brendan Fitzgerald, who's one of the producers of the project, on a VBS.tv job called Skate Europe about a year ago, and he called me up out of nowhere and said they were doing a trip to the Cayman Islands with a bunch of young vert skaters. Most of the stuff I do is kind of street skating based, so it was kind of out of left field for me, but it sounded really interesting so I decided to come along.
Where are we going to see this footage?
It's tough for a freelance videographer, because a lot of times you get hired for things that you really have no idea what it's for, even after it's explained to you. But it's going to be for an MTV2 show, a reality based program. And this was for a full episode about four young vert skaters, which is actually pretty sick, because I mostly work with street skating, but I've always been a big fan of vert skating, and it's rare to see vert skaters, especially young vert skaters, getting attention in the media.
Alex Perelson – Frontside Blunt
Where did the idea to go to the Caymans come from?
They basically asked the skaters, "Where would you like to go?" I guess they'd all heard about the Black Pearl as being one of the biggest and more interesting parks in the world, so that's what they chose.
What were the Caymans like?
It's weird. I didn't know what to expect. It's obviously a very tourist-based economy, so it's beautiful on the shoreline and it's like a resort area, but it's not that built up. It feels like it's in transition. And I guess they got really devastated by a hurricane like six years and it seems like a lot of things are just slowly starting to be rebuilt.
Adam Taylor – Starfish
How about the park?
You could probably skate it for a month and every day find new ways of hitting things. It's scary. For a street skater like myself I'm intimidated by large scale ramps, especially cement, but it's designed well in that you can roll in on a lot of stuff instead of having to drop in on something. It's just bizarre to be in a place like the Cayman Islands, and it's so open, and not crowded. Like if there was a skatepark like that in the United States there would easily be 1000 kids there everyday.
But there's a street side too with ledges, and manual pads, and handrails and a pyramid. I could have had a lot of fun skating there for days on end, but I probably skated for like 20 minutes the whole week.
Swimming With Sting Rays – Nice floaties Adam!
What sort of schedule were you guys on?
It was about a weeklong trip, and the schedule was just to film as much skating with them as possible, and then fit in non-skate based stuff, like snorkeling, scuba diving and all of that kind of stuff.
If it's for a reality style program you kind of try to film everything, you know, so the viewer feels like they're sharing that same experience with them in seeing these places for the first time. Being that I'm a skateboard videographer, I was put in charge of overseeing the skating as much as possible. We had another skate videographer, Joe Perrin from Miami, so he and I tried to coordinate and talk to the skaters as much as possible, so, not so much just to get groundbreaking skating, but to really use the park as much as possible, and to show why this park is different and what's rad about it. And show how these skaters were able to use it.
PLG – Kick Flip Indy
What were Rune and Pierre doing there?
Rune just randomly happened to be there. They do summer camps there and he was one of the guest pros, and our trip coincided with his, which was rad because he skates that kind of park ridiculously well, padless. And Pierre just found out they were going and was psyched on the idea and asked if he could come down.
Rune And Zach
Okay. I'm going to give you the names, you tell me them.
Zach would be like the perfect ambassador for the whole thing. He's a really positive kid, and personable. I'd say really similar to his dad, like a genuinely good person. Right off the bat when I got there he was the person who struck up a conversation with me and made me feel welcome. He's rad.
He's originally from Florida, and I'm from Florida too. I didn't know that, but once someone told me it kind of made sense. Like I could pick up on his east coast Floridian attributes. I've seen him skate some vert contests and he's super talented and consistent. But, I'd say he felt like the youngest of the crew, like he was new to their crew. But again, he was a super nice kid and easy to get along with.
He was like the comedian of the crew. He got along with everybody. He was always joking around and giving everyone a hard time.
Alex is one of those people who's quiet but everything that comes out of his mouth is something that's worth saying. And he's not someone that's trying to chase the camera down and be the center of attention. But, he'll like creep off to the corner of the park and just to do his thing, and you'd have to catch up to him, and what he's doing is ridiculous. He seems like he's doing it because he really loves it and not for any other reason. Like he'd be skating the same even if there wasn't a camera there. He's amazing.
Josh Stafford – Back Side Smith
Who adapted to the park the quickest?
Alex. He understood how to use the park better than anybody there by far. And again, it was tough because we were on a tight schedule. I was pushing to give the kids as much time to just skate as possible, but we also had to film really badly, so the skaters didn't get a fair amount of time to figure out the park before we started filming but they were down to start filming right away.
What's the best stuff that went down there?
So much stuff happened. But the things that stood out were, first of all just watching Rune skate the park, because he'd been there already for a little while. His style and the way he used the park, and it was just sick to see him skate period. And Alex did like a step up to backside nosegrind to hop in on the giant tombstone, which was incredible, and he did it I'd say within eight or nine tries. Pierre did a really sick transfer over this hip into that massive 13 foot extension with the scull on it. That was really impressive. And Alex did several things, but he did a few lines where I couldn't understand how he fit so many tricks into them.
On a scale of 1 to 100 how much fun was it, or did the work get in the way of a good time?
Um, depending on the day I'd say an 85. Those dudes had a blast. They got to go snorkeling, and they got to go on that Flow Rider, the simulated wave machine, and they got to skate this amazing park, and I think they had a great time. But when you're talking about skating such massive cement stuff, and they were skating with no pads, so, it's like anything when it comes to skating, the process is definitely grueling sometimes, but afterwards you're pretty psyched.
Who was the best on the Flow Rider?
I could tell that Zach and Josh had definitely ridden one before. But Josh, within like 15 minutes he'd climbed up on the wooden handrail and did like a boneless 360 into the wave. He had the most balls. Alex got the hang of it pretty quickly. I couldn't stand on it for more than three seconds. But every single person got hurt, because you bail and then it throws you up over a ten-foot tall wave onto your head. It looked like so much fun, but it's really violent. I pinched a nerve in my neck that lasted for three weeks.
Zach Showing Off In The Flo Rider
Who was the cockiest of the four kids?
I don't know, out of all four of them none of them seemed like they have a cocky attitude. And that's not me just being politically correct. I think they're all pretty humble, nice kids.
Who skated the most?
Um, it seemed like at the end of the day when the lights would be coming on and we'd be packing up, Alex seemed to never stop skating. And Zach was super down to keep going too, to make sure we got what we needed.
Besides the scheduled activities, what were they all doing when they weren't skating?
Man, I mean, seriously we'd wake up and go skate the park all day long. The day would start off and everyone would go swim in the ocean for a little bit to wait for everybody to get their act together. They went out to the local spots a bit, but they were pretty busy with just skating. And there were a lot of interviews, because with a show like that, they have to fill the story lines, so after the day of skating they'd get back to the hotel and do interviews.
You usually hang out and film with street skaters, did you notice a difference hanging out with vert kids?
It's hard to say, but I think there's so few vert skaters that the way I'd hear them talking, they all knew every vert skater that would come up. But in street skating there is such a vast amount of skaters all over the world that there are cliques, and I'm sure there's cliques in the vert scene too, but it's kind of cool because it seemed like everyone is pretty well associated with everyone else and it's like a brotherhood that I don't see as often in the street scene.
What was the biggest difference between filming on this trip and filming on a Static trip?
I'm trying to think of one that's not the obvious one, that I'm not having to pay for everything (laughing), but just that it's more contained. You know where you're going each day. We're going to the park. For a street skater you have an entire downtown at your disposal and it's such a roll of the dice. You're trying to think of where you're going to go and you have to strategically plan out what time of day to dodge security guards, or when there's going to be business men in the way or people sitting on the bench you want to skate or whatever. A trip like this is harder on the skaters, because they're skating this big stuff all day, but at least they know they're not going to get kicked out.
Hanging Out In The Bowl