Underground SOTY- Hiroki Muraoka Nomination

Hiroki Muraoka has been nominated for Underground SOTY! Head over to the Theories of Atlantis site to vote!

“Hiroki Muraoka - Hiroki’s skating is a combination of speed, quick reflexes, unique spot selection, and every variation of hippie jump you could imagine, all scattered across Tokyo. His “Tone” part got us psyched to find the strangest bank spots imaginable and try some quick up-and-over ollies. He also graced the cover of Vague mag, had rad clips in the Push “Partial World Tour Video 2” and created a bunch of his own amazing graphics for his Traffic pro boards all year.” - TOA

Transworld Spot Seekers tour (2005)

Over a year ago I decided to take the leap into board-company ownership by starting Traffic skateboards. The steadily growing process requires me to cover most of the ground-calling shops, talking to international distributors, hooking up kids with product, and just all-around getting the word out. Whether it’s promoting new products as far as graphics or shapes, or just who I’m flowing boards to at a certain time, I’m consistently communicating with skateboarding on multiple levels. Thus far the response, in not just the company, has been great-gratifying in that I can still offer a unique outlook on skateboarding, and there’re those out there who share the same feelings.

Speaking with more and more shops daily, I can feel how these people love skating as much as I do. Many more of these owners are requesting demos, and I knew one day I’d have to get in the van with some heads and promote my company. I’m not really into demos and the whole atmosphere that goes along with ’em, so I had to come up with a new idea where Traffic would be promoted properly and the people we came across would be psyched and fall in love with skating again-or better yet, for the first time.

Where the traditional demo fails to provide any real interaction with kids, besides maybe their getting to skate alongside us or maybe getting an autographed picture, we wanted to get skateboarders involved on a greater level. We wanted people to test themselves by skating new things and open their eyes to what they’ve previously never acknowledged or what they never knew they were capable of. Our aim was to create something, enjoy it, and then leave it-providing a refreshing cycle that will make you skate with a smile for an eternity. If there’s always something new, how can you ever get burnt? Skateboarding is change-more in the mind than in your fashion wares. So with all this said, I came up with something that I knew would get the shops excited for us to come through.

Taking a page from what I was originally taught by my two concrete-mastering friends, Tex and Faas, we were going to set out on a tour to alter the landscapes of five cities-for skateboarding’s sake. Bringing skate reality to the “almost” spots that decorate so many city streets was our mission. This guerrilla technique, the same one I’ve been using in Philly for a few years, would be more personal than a demo, something to rally the locals together on a project for their scene-something to get the shop owners involved where they can be like, “Yeah, Ricky and the guys came in and did this with us-and for us. Go check it out.”

It would be a win-win situation for all involved. The local shops and skaters would come out on the winning end by being part of something real in skateboarding as opposed to viewing stock tricks at an easily forgotten demo. As for the team-Rich Adler, Andy Bautista, Brandon John, Henry Panza, Mike Bouchard, Frankie, Andrew Petillo, Seb, and Shaun Williams-we didn’t have the pressure of skating in front of a bunch of people who’d be full of expectations that only their video-game console could live up to.

Building a new spot from near scratch is not something you can do in an afternoon, so I delegated three days to each city: the first to suss out the city for the spot, the second to build and let cure, and the third to session. Three days per city is not the usual demo agenda, obviously for money’s sake, so to keep costs at a minimum (for our sake and the shop’s sake) I opted to get the owners to put the crew up in their homes or friends’ homes. That way the money could be spent on the bare necessities-the concrete and other materials we’d need to erect each spot, and then the celebratory requirements of a 30-pack and some food for a barbecue after killing each new addition.

For his deep foothold in the Hartford, Connecticut scene, and for their initial and continued support, it was only righto kick off the Spotseeker tour with Erik Munday and his shop, Skate Lair.

Upon scouring the city and finding nothing appetizing, we almost called it quits until the very last moment when we resorted to a spot we had been holding off on. Our newfound gem (it turned out to be much better than we had anticipated) was an old, abandoned mill that skaters had been putting ramps in but recently stopped because the property manager caught on. Everything that skaters utilized had been removed and just an empty shell stood when we arrived on the scene. The grounds were large with a few different buildings to search out. After a walk-through, we chose to build up this steep, steel bank that was previously never skated due to the gaping channel at its base.

To reap the benefits of what could potentially be, we first had to fill in the pit and then add a kink to make it easier to reach the top of this deckless bank. The thought of slipping out at the top and having your leg severed never did help a session. With a bit of luck we found almost everything we needed at the mill, including a rake and broom. While on our final liquid-nail section and just as our watchman had bailed, a policeman caught us by surprise. In a state of yearning for what the next day was to hold, we acted in complete compliance and innocent ignorance, the old, “Oh, we had no idea. But we understand, officer, and we’ll never return.”

Even after staying cool with the officer as he told us right from wrong and escorted us out, we knew that we weren’t done with this spot. While mulling over our options and barbecuing ’til nightfall, it was decided that we’d go back, but our crew of ten would be reduced to five. With flashlights in hand we descended down the trees into a big black open area where the moon was the greatest form of light. Buzzed at two in the morning and sneaking your way around this place was cool. I mean, it was dark, and I turned out to be the new watchman. I just sat there in the dark keeping my eye out for the gate in the front, a gate far enough away that we could scurry into the trees and be gone if need be. Luckily the need didn’t call for it, and we made it back in the early morning with our first spot ready for the following day.

Awaking after a short sleep on day three, the original creation, although quite abnormal for a spot, still bore fruits in the form of various ollies and Mike Bouchard’s backside disasters. We did get chased out once, but overall it was a success. With us being one for one at the plate, the post-session beers back at Erik’s house were that much better. But haste makes waste and time was sparse, so it was time to head out to Albany.

A little northwest of Hartford is The Shelter, a shop and park combo in Upstate New York. Because we’d done a fair share of celebrating our first triumph in Hartford with the Skate Lair posse, we got in a little late but managed to find our way to our host Armin’s house.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I met Ryan DeMatteo, the owner of The Shelter. He had already picked out this spot called “The Whoop,” a basketball court with banks circling the outer edges. This spot alone is so insane, but looking at it closer you see a small curb with flat space in front of all the banks-a similar problem to the spot we had just come from. We decided to bust out some cement and fill in two paths to hit up the ledge more easily with the middle to be filled in on a later date. With our concrete addition, we’d more easily be able to skate this curved ledge at the top of one corner.

Across from the curved ledge was a bleacher set atop the bank. We initially wanted to add cement here as well, but with our limited time we had to leave it as a future project for the locals. What we did do though was brilliant. The bottom of the bleacher had been thrashed from years of skate destruction, so we unbolted it and traded it with the top section, the beauty being a crisp new ledge and even two more once this one comes to see its day.

As if the awkwardness of doing this illegal concrete work in the daytime wasn’t enough, it was shadier because of its proximity to a corner that hosted four pizza joints, all of which seemed to play home to some suspect customers who were coming and going at all times of the day. The one day we built, Ryan and I held it down for about fifteen hours to make sure nobody would mess with it-and this was definitely an area where fools have nothing better to do.

By then it was clear that we were spending most of our time pursuing and building the spot rather than skating it. I’m sure all the guys would’ve loved more time to skate, but the mission was for other people, so we all kept focused. Still, Brandon John wallie blunted The Whoop, and Andy Bautista pushed a frontside krooked grind around the curve before we moved on.

Rain caused us to miss out on Rochester, although we did make it there for a day with Aaron from Krudco, so I made it up to him by letting him burn a copy of Static II. Then we made our way down to my friend JP’s house in Buffalo. This was a little resting time for us because we had nothing to do besides hold a Static II premiere, which was one of the best of the many we threw.

While skating some spots we didn’t have to manufacture, Henry Panza sliced up one of the best backside flips I’d ever witnessed-right off a loading dock over a fence. This spot was among the plenty of Buffalo representation in my part of the video, and it was rad to see the hometown reaction. They appeared more stoked and excited to see a Buffalo spot in the video than anything else. I love Buffalo-everything is fun, unlike the cutthroat world of Philly. It’s about JP and crew, Tupper Street, and the Pink.

Buffalo was pushed an extra night before heading out in the morning for our only demo of the trip. We drove straight to Ohio after the demo, but I gave my friend Kris his own private screening of Josh Stewart’s video. I knew he’d love it, so I had to make it happen. As we waved good-bye to Kris and 30 empties, we hit the road for Akron, Ohio.

Tire factories like Goodyear and Firestone ruled Akron years ago, so it’s only fitting that Rubber City Rollers Owner Jay Croft came up with the name for his shop. This was our second-to-last shop on the mission, and an eagerly anticipated one because Jay pours cement as a side job. His dad had a cement company as he grew up, so we had big dreams for the Rubber City, like building giant transitions somewhere. Jay gave us a thorough tour, and we wanted to do two spots to make up for the one we missed in Rochester. We went to a street that had a row of planters with slanted walls on them. You could make it to the top, but it was tough-Jay had always talked about building a little tranny at the bottom of each side. As the first side neared completion, Jay got spooked because it was right downtown and in plain view. So with only one side partly done we’d decided to try again later the next day.

Our second spot, not too far from the shop, was a building up for sale but not in use that had a railing up and over a one-stair. We wanted to build a little kicker off the stair so you could do tricks across or over the rail. The cement work was sketchy because the building is wide open in the middle of nowhere-the juncture of two roads, nowhere to hide or even be discreet. Just as we were mixing the cement behind the building, a trooper strolled through. While us out-of-towners were a bit nervous, Jay casually walked over, chatted, and eventually walked back with a smile, “I told him we’re working for a respected contractor in the area, putting in this nice wheelchair ramp for the new owners.” What balls! With a newfound confidence on our side, knowing that we were now contractors doing a hired job as well as giving this assistance to the public, we wrapped up the work.

When we rolled up to the spot the following day, for this, our skate day, we notice a sign atop the rail-a very plain and simple sign stating, “You must remove this today!” Another sign on the door (which hadn’t been there the previous day) read, “No Skateboarding.” I was spooked-not only did they know we were skaters, but that we’d be there that day. Never before had I been called out like this, so we drove over to the shop to see what Jay thought.

Coming to our senses in that we had just put in a full day’s work, we decided to barge it with the proper tools to remove it if prompted to. Only a few of us rushed the spot, and it was a good twenty minutes before a policewoman rolled up. The butterflies were churning, but she was super polite, saying that we had to leave and that the owner wouldn’t be too happy because only the day before he had installed a wheelchair ramp. Immediate shock overtook us all-our story from the previous day had spread throughout the precinct. Thank goodness the police and the owner never crossed paths to discover we fooled them both.

On our way out to Pittsburgh that evening, we went to the spot one more time with only camera light to aid our visibility. Maybe ten tries into the flash, I badly rolled my ankle on a kickflip. “No more flipping my board at night with a flash,” I say. The mood turned dim, and we rolled through the night into Pittsburgh.

I laid up the whole next day while everybody else went out skating. Apparently Andy Bautista came through with some good stuff on the first day, and the guys found a massive arched rail-something that looked like it belonged in a snowboard park-for the mission the next day. The rail spanned the entire van-I still don’t know how we managed to fit in there.

The next morning I met up with the crew at One Up skate shop, and we drove out to a warehouse where we propped up this rainbow rail off a loading dock. This bar was huge, and it just didn’t look right. It was obvious that should someone conquer it, it would be an incredible photo and amazing footage. Brandon’s 50-50 was the pot of gold on both sides, grinding the post all while Jerry from the shop held it in place. It couldn’t have been a better ending.

Even though I came home with a tweaked ankle and we only did four spots (half of which are still going strong), the Spotseekers mission went incredibly well. The shop owners were hyped about being part of it, and we are proud to have promoted skateboarding by alternate means. Along with the locals and shop owners, this whole experience was a tremendous effort by the crew that went with me.

Remember that not every spot is going to last, and sometimes you might not even get to skate the spot you build. Keep motivated and continue to do your own thing. Skating can be as fun as you make it. Open up your eyes and see what happens. Don’t follow the trend, but be different. Skating is too accepted these days, so please, make everybody hate us again.

Spot Seekers 2 Tour coming Spring 2019!


When I got a text from Kevin Coakley saying, "Let's do a Mexico City trip in the winter!" I immediately thought… Well, actually, I didn't think at all. I was already picturing myself under an umbrella, margarita in hand, sitting next to a tropical skate spot. "Let's do it," I texted back. Kevin was already down there on a trip and seemed pretty confident with the lay of the land. I figured, what could go wrong? After promises of pyramids, warm weather, and a cheap exchange rate, I recruited some fellow TOA affiliates: Ben Gore, Luke Malaney, and John Baragwanath. With Mike Heikkila behind the lens, and Matt Velez manning the VX, it was time to get to Mexico City and find Kevin.
Words by Pat Steiner
Photos by Mike Heikkila

Kevin Coakley, frontside boardslide shove-it over

Hanging out under an underpass when you're lost in Mexico City isn't the safest idea, but someone had to skate these humps. They were a lot harder than they looked and we all waited as Luke battled a few more tries. We could feel the vibe from the locals creeping on us and then boom Luke stomps a lofty pop shuv. Perfect timing. We all got in the van and decided to head home. After a few missed streets we found the on-ramp but there was a guy with a cone blocking it. He signaled for us to get off but we kept going not really sure what to do. We got right up to him and he ushered us into this makeshift exit lane. While sitting there trying to merge onto the highway in standstill traffic, someone noticed a pile of broken wood with yellow reflectors leaning against a fence. As we edged closer it became clearer, and then, a fit of laughter erupted. "Oh shit! That's the beam you broke!" It turned out we were at the same toll road as before and the guy standing there with the cone was the new toll beam. As we drove off in disbelief I thought to myself, "Hmm, that's not a bad gig. It's not everyday you get to stimulate job growth in a foreign city."

Luke Malaney, pop shove-it

Read the rest of the article HERE on the Transworld site.