Interview with Pedro Alberto Rodriguez (Owner SARTAM skate shop)
‘Skate was only for rich people, because when I started in 2007 an original skate cost was very expensive. We are talking like U$200 to U$250 to get one skate at that time.’
When did the skateboard scene in Bolivia start?
I think the scene started in 1998 in the middle of La Paz.
Before there were any skateshops in Bolivia, how did people access the products?
Skate was only for rich people, because when I started in 2007 an original skate cost was very expensive. We are talking like U$200 to U$250 to get one skate at that time. There was a skateshop called “Element” and other called “skatehouse” I think. They decided to finish their business because they don’t skate and they don’t feel the skate as we do. Some people used to go to Arica- Chile for bring stuff to skate other guys used to buy stuff from e-bay, amazon. In my case my family used to travel to other countries and brought skate stuff for me, lucky.
I have seen a post from Welcome skateboards that you stock their products. Do you import your products from distributors or do you go directly to the board companies?
I’ve been try to contact Welcome Skateboards since 2018 but it was so hard to find the sales guy. Fortunately in March 2020 Daniel Vargas (The only Bolivian PRO in USA) came to Bolivia to film a little documentary about Pura Pura and I finally could get some info to bring this brand to Bolivia. I currently represent 4 brands in Bolivia Right now, ACE TRUCKS, UMA LANDSEDS, ORBS WHEELS AND WELCOME SKATEBOARDS. I always prefer to contact Skate companies to reduce the price of the boards and get the best quality, I still work with distributors for some brands but I always try to get in touch with people who skate and support national skateboarding.
What is more expensive? The shipping cost or the taxes?
Both are important, as we don’t have sea port the cost to bring stuff by air is always expensive. If we bring stuff by sea the time is longer and we pass by Chile paying other taxes in that country. Also taxes are the worst. Our government subsidizes gasoline, water, electricity and other things that someone has to pay.
‘When you start skating in La Paz Bolivia, you only do it for love. You know that you are not going to be a pro. You know that there are no big industries as from the country to make you a pro. In part it is good to know that people is skating just for fun, but sometimes this mentality get us stuck in the absence of support from the authorities.’
Who is the most talented skateboarder in Bolivia at the moment?
For me Claudio Lino, Joel Escudero, Kenneth Davalos, Franco Ascarrunz, Juan Gutierrez. They are rippers and so complete. They skate street, bowl and everything they can.
And who is the most talented skateboarder outside Bolivia?
Bolivians, we have Enrique Giles, Daniel Vargas, Ian Kreuzer.
In my research I came across ‘ImillaSkate’ where female skateboarders wear the Indigenous dress of their grandmothers to showcase their culture and promote the sport among women. What a great way to promote it.
No matter how, we need to promote the skateboard in Bolivia and I think “Imilla skate” is the best way to offer to our community new alternatives and cultures. To mix skate and Bolivian culture is the best way to improve the social troubles we have like racism and gender equality. “Imilla skate” becomes a door to girls, kids and society to involve them into a skate world.
Are there any local/national brands within the skate industry? For example I came across Republica Skateboards.
I know these brands: Classic skateboards, Tree skateboards, Republica skateboards, Masacre, Sumaj, Amazing brands. Every brand has a philosophy and I think is good to offer this to Bolivian skaters, I respect those brands and I really hope that those brands never die.
‘We have a bigger community, now the perspective is higher. We have many local brands that have been created since 2014.’
I did not expect so many national brands. This is awesome. Where is the biggest skate community in Bolivia?
We have 3 big communities La Paz then I think Cochabamba or Santa Cruz I’m not sure.
How evolved is the skateboard community in Bolivia compared to the rest of South America?
If we talk about the skateboard as a sport and Olympic stuff I think we are the last one in Bolivia. We barely could build pura pura and we don’t have the same quantity of skateparks compared to Peru, Chile or Argentina. When you start skating in La Paz Bolivia, you only do it for love. You know that you are not going to be a pro. You know that there are no big industries as from the country to make you a pro. In part it is good to know that people is skating just for fun, but sometimes this mentality get us stuck in the absence of support from the authorities.
What are the most popular skatespots in La Paz?
We have skatepark Las Cholas, Poetas Bowl, Avaroa square. Then In El Alto we have Bolivar Square, Av. Civica.
There are so many people and organisations involved in the Skatepark de pura pura. Who started it?
This was Milton Arellano who was an amateur skater in New York. He came early 2011 to Bolivia with the idea to make skateboard scene grow after years of work with Aslp (Skate association from La Paz). He got in contact with Soforthilfe and MLSL (MakeLifeSkateLife) and then Levi`s. They were the most important companies to Make PURA PURA skatepark possible.
This is amazing. It took him only 3 years to realise Pura Pura. Who paid for the land and building the park?
Levi’s and Make Life Skate Life. The government provided the land in the forest.
What has changed since Pura Pura was built in 2014?
We have a bigger community, now the perspective is higher. We have many local brands that have been created since 2014. It even makes to other cities to ask for their own places like Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
Are there any other skatespots across Bolivia? How about Santa Cruz?
Yes in Cochabamba we have Ollantay then in Santa Cruz they have a recently DIY called PUC.
Have you ever skated the salt flat? I have seen the episode on RedBull and it looks unreal.
I met Gaston Francisco (producer from the video) in 2017 after he made the video. The park is still there as they never destroyed it but unfortunately nobody knows where it is. The Salt Flat is located at Uyuni very far from La Paz like 10 hours by bus. So we need too much time to find the place and skate it.
For any tourists that want to skate in Bolivia, what is the best place to meet local skaters?
Every place is special and amazing. I would recommend La Paz because we have the best landscapes and also Pura Pura for being a mystic place. Also we have a lot of downhills you know.
What are some of the challenges skateboarding faces in Bolivia today?
Unity I think. We are a big community right now. We can face new projects together. Well here in Bolivia we have a big issue right now with Politics. Well every country does but I think we had a very serious year without a defined line to start working skate projects with the present government.
Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
There are many skaters: Jason Celaya, Julien Stranger, Joey Tershay may be. Morrisey, why not. I’m big fan of his music. Nothing personal just their experience about make their dreams come true!!!