Despite being lesser-known by the American scene, Luka Pinto has been quietly making a name for himself across the pond for the past decade as both a skateboarder and filmmaker. He hails from the small island of Jersey, located off the coast of a larger island, the United Kingdom.
I first met him on a visit to London in April 2012. He had moved to the capital to pursue an art degree at Kingston University. While I was there, he was recovering from a knee injury and was not able to skate at his optimal level. However, he was happy to push through his pain—showing me spots, filming, and drinking street beers throughout the city.
Not long after my holiday, a recuperated Luka would go on to film a video part with Atlantic Drift’s Jake Harris, which would eventually be released as the opening section of Eleventh Hour in 2013. Watching the video from Los Angeles, I was proud to see my friend flowingly weave intricate lines together through the rough streets of London.
In addition to being an incredible skateboarder, Luka has worked on numerous full-length video projects, most notably Conexiones in 2015. Following that, Magenturk was released in 2018 and highlights a trip to Istanbul with the Magenta team.
When I moved to London in 2016, Luka had already fled the Big Smoke and returned to his hometown of Georgetown, Jersey. I reached out to him recently to learn about his newest video project, Pandora’s Box, as well as ask him some questions about the island that has shaped him into who he is.—Elliott Wright
How have things been for you in this new reality that we are living in?
It’s actually been not too bad for us here in Jersey. We’re on lockdown, but it’s pretty easy to get away for walks on cliff paths and swimming in the sea which is nice. You just have to pick your spots wisely.
Hold tight all of the old people who have been told not to leave at all and to everyone living in cities cooped up in apartments. It’s got to be pretty stressful for them especially if we don’t get a bit of freedom soon.
How would you describe the island of Jersey, where you grew up?
It’s just a small island between England and France. There’s a small group of islands called the Channel Islands with Jersey being the biggest. It’s closer to France, but is technically a part of England. It used to be France when the sea levels were lower, however many thousands of years ago. When the sea levels rose, they turned into these small islands. All the road signs are in Jersey French. The language is pretty much dying out; there aren’t many people that speak it nowadays.
It’s such a cool island, there’s loads of stuff to see. There’re a lot of dolmens, which are Stonehenge-type stone structures. They were built by ancient people that mark out things like the solstice and equinox.
What sort of skate scene is there on a small, oftentimes wet, island?
It’s harder because of its size; Jersey’s only nine miles by five miles. Skating is not “officially” banned, but the majority of citizens don’t like it. There are lots of “No Skateboarding” signs up everywhere. I wouldn’t say it’s much different than England, but I think that quite a lot of people don’t understand it. They think it’s just a kind of hooliganism. They don’t realize how positive it can be for us and for young people. They would support a young person who was getting good at football (soccer), but with skating, they question it a bit more. I think that it’s gradually changing though and people are realizing skating is a good thing.
Actual street skating here, though, it’s hard to find spots. There are lots of hills and green lanes. I suppose there’s not much space; there are not any big, open spaces really.
How do local skaters keep motivated with the lack of spots?
I think because we don’t have too many spots here, it’s made everyone more eager to skate. We look at something and we’ll be like, “Oh, we can skate that in some sort of way.” When we travel and we have actual spots, everyone just goes HAM [laughs]. I’ve noticed that whenever any of the Jersey skaters go away to other places, they always make an impact. People are like, “Damn, these guys are hungry for it!”
What are some of the more unique spots the island has to offer?
During World War II, the Nazis took over Jersey between 1940 and 1945. Hitler thought it was his secret way to win the war because he could use Jersey to invade England. The Germans imported a lot of concrete and forced prisoners of war to build bunkers all over the island. They built loads of stuff all along the coastline. Me and Dillon [Catney] have been filming a separate project skating just these bunkers.
Tell me a little bit about Pandora’s Box.
I actually premiered it in Croatia in September 2019. I was going to do a Jersey premiere. I planned to do it for the start of spring, when the weather was getting good. I was hoping to hype everyone up to skate as the weather got better. If I’d done the premiere a week before, it probably could’ve happened. But the date I picked didn’t make it [due to COVID-19 social-distancing].
Previously you told me you are aiming to release a Jersey-based zine with it?
Yeah, I’m going to make a zine. I’ve done over half of it. I’ve got loads of photos from the last several years. I had 65 rolls of film. I couldn’t afford to get them developed; it was going to cost almost £700 to get them done in Jersey. But then I sent them to a place in London and it was much cheaper, like £4 a roll. They sent them back to me at Christmas with scans through WeTransfer; I had like 2000 photos from the last couple years.
What is Crew Report and where did the idea for it come from?
My original idea was to do a Jersey magazine that shone light on people that are passionate about what they do, whether it be working, music, skating or art. I wanted it to be a magazine that looks at characters. I wanted to interview people in town that no one else would, before they die off. Maybe write about something they had to say. I have loads of pictures of people out in the streets.
My plan was to do a video update on the Jersey scene. Then, when I would travel, do a little edit and zine to go with each trip and just write about the people I met.
The next project I’m going to do is about the Vladimir Film Festival. It’s an independent event in Croatia comprised of people who have made skate videos themselves. No one there is getting paid, or big business people. It’s the best skateboard event I’ve been to because there’re so many passionate people. It started off with them doing their own local thing, and now it’s been nine years. More recently, there were people from Australia, England, Russia, and all over the world. Last year Josh Stewart came through as well. He did an exhibition because it was 20 years since he started the Static series. He had cameras, photos, notes, tapes, and artifacts from filming. It was sick!
Pandora’s Box features a host of contemporary Jersey skaters. Who are they, and who are some notable Jersey skaters of earlier generations?
In terms of my generation, there’s Glen Fox, Damen Garcia, Ryan Gabison, Jake Stoodly, Anthony Anderson, Ryan Cunningham, Dillon Catney, and Jack Wilson. Also, there are a couple of Latvian guys, Gatis Valters and Roberts Krums. Shit, I don’t want to leave anyone out, [laughs].
Then there’s Eddie Da Rocha; he’s one of the younger ones. He’s the only one from the younger generation that has gone as hard as us. He’s got ADHD, and skating has helped him concentrate in life. He put all of his energy into skating. He progressed so much between the ages of 15 and 20—just mad tech down at the park. He’s proper hyperactive and he does everyone’s head in, but at the same time everyone loves him because there’s no one else like him.
I also need to mention Dylan Powell. He was making videos when I was a kid; he introduced me to filming. He’s so sick on a skateboard as well. He was always pushing it with the tech. He was the first one doing nose manual nollie flips back in the day.
In terms of the older generation, there’s Gary Chevalier, who is the generation above us. He skated for Panic Skateboards [which Joe Burlo eventually transitioned into Blueprint Skateboards]. Gary moved to London and then went to America and skated with Tom Penny and Alex Moul in 1996/1997 when they were in Huntington Beach. He went for it in terms of skating competitions and filming. He was mental back in the day, doing massive frontside airs and stuff. He’s got that same hunger running through his veins.
Are there any Jersey-based skateboarding brands?
So my friend Karl Payne, one of the older skaters, has always been there whilst we have been growing up skating. Karl and his friend Drew ran a shop called Primo, which brought us all together when we were about 10. We all used to go and hang out there, watching videos. That didn’t last too long; they went out of business because skating wasn’t as popular back in the early 2000s. Karl carried on, continuing with his own brand called Subterranean Skateboards. The team was me and Damen at first, and then he put on Dillon, Ryan, and Glen. A short while later, Eddie and Roberts were added to the squad. That was the team for years, until Glen went to Magenta. Even then, it’s pretty much the same thing—family.
Karl continued doing Subterranean, and then started Pillo Wheels as well. Somewhat recently, he opened Consume Skateshop about a year-and-a-half ago, in St. Helier, downtown Jersey. Since he’s had the shop, I’ve noticed more kids skating in general and coming in to check it out. Karl is kind of the godfather of the Jersey scene. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have a scene without him, but he’s definitely been there for all of us. He’s supported everyone, whether it be giving people boards or making videos—he’s always been involved.
How’s the pre-fab Jersey skatepark holding up these days?
We’re actually getting a new skatepark; Jersey is quite behind the times. When I moved to London at 18, there were concrete skateparks popping up everywhere. Since then, Jersey still hasn’t caught on and got a concrete park. There’s now the Jersey Skatepark Association and they’re trying to work with the government and show that it would benefit the youth to have a better place to skate.
Rune Glifberg came over to discuss the benefits of skateparks; he did a round-table discussion with the community and then he did a talk on the local radio station. I believe he’s going to be designing the new park. It was cool to meet him; he’s sound as well. He was well hyped to meet us.
Speaking of Rune, I know that there is a bit of a mushroom culture in Jersey.
[Laughs], there are a lot of mushrooms here. They grow basically anywhere that there are wood chips. Not so much anymore, but when we were younger, they would grow in car parks in the bushes. Sometimes we would walk by and just see loads of magic mushrooms in there—they are about.
It is rare to meet a skater that is as skilled behind the lens as they are in front of one. Who are some of your influences in terms of skating, and as a filmmaker?
I like that dude Joe Valdez. I saw his skating when I was in my early 20s. I had already sort of been skating like he does, because there are loads of narrow walls in Jersey and drop-ins on the side of people’s houses. Then I saw his footage and was like “Ah, he’s kind of skating a similar style of spot.” Simple skating. You don’t have to be technical to be a great skateboarder.
I enjoy Ian Reid’s stuff. A documentation of reality in front of you. He’s totally honest about it, no matter how crazy it is. Obviously Josh Stewart has influenced so many people. Modern skate videos wouldn’t be what they are today without filmmakers having been influenced by his Static series growing up. 411 Video Magazine, always good. Also, there was an old snowboard video, Still Trippin’ from the ‘90s that really inspired the way I approach making videos.
My very first video was Puzzle Video Magazine issue three but in the issue seven box [laughs]. I got that video when I was about six; my dad bought it for me from a car boot sale for £1. It had a section from Lyon, which is where we went to film when I was working on Eleventh Hour, so it was cool to see all those spots years later. That Lyon section in Puzzle was filmed by French Fred and had Stephane Giret, Hamid Bahri, and JB Gillet. It was the only skate video I had between the ages of six and ten.
Then I got Welcome to Hell for Christmas; I used to watch that all the time. I loved watching Mike Maldonado and Satva Leung. Another one at the top of the list is Dan Magee for all the Blueprint videos. Oliver Barton’s photography inspires me; he’s from Jersey as well! Outside of skating, I like Larry Clark’s films too.
Any final thoughts and shout-outs?
I always encourage people to come over. Jersey is such a small place that you can get a lot of skating done, you know? You can go to all these different coastal places, including cliffs, beaches, and woods. You can get about quite quickly; it takes a half-hour to drive across the island.
I’m excited for the new kids that are getting into skating and growing the scene. Hopefully they will get into making videos, shooting photos, and creating art of their own—that’s my final thought. And that everyone can have a jam together after this virus.
I wanna give a shout-out to Georgetown, which is where all the skaters in Jersey are from. All the Jersey crew, Murcia crew, London crew, Bristol crew, Bordeaux crew, Lyon crew, and everyone that I have met and skated with over the years. Big up!
Keep up with Luka and all things Crew Report here.
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