Takeshi Yasutoko: Watch The Throne
Few skaters have been as dominant in their field for as long as Takeshi Yasutoko has been killing it on the vert ramp. Born to Japanese champion roller skaters, the Yasutoko family takes skating very seriously, and as Takeshi explains below, rollerblading was central to his childhood. If few skaters have been on top of their peers as long as Takeshi, even fewer have come from a blade-centric upbringing where success on skates was placed on the highest pedestal. From this unique background, a past spent earning ASA and X Games prize money with his brother, to a present day spent doing demos around Japan and working on his rock band, Takeshi has grown into a blader unafraid to challenge conventions. Now married and looking to the future, he has his sights set on new goals for blading, both short- and long-term. We had a chance to ask him about life, blading and family — and his is what we learned about one of the two absolute best vert skaters on the planet.
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Takeshi, hey — sorry it took us awhile to get these questions together but we’ve been busy trying to get the new print magazine wrapped. How are you doing?
Thanks for the questions — I’ve been busy blading so I’m happy.
We saw you posting some photos from Instagram the other day that showed you with some guns and stuff — what was that about?
Ha ha, that is a toy gun. It’s like a real FPS (first person shooter) game. Japanese call it the “Survival Game.”
Since we’re on the subject of non-blade stuff, what’re your favorite things to do besides blade?
I like to play the drums. And learning drums has had a favorable impact on my blading. Because with the drums, you need to think about all parts of your body — and now when I blade I can imagine and control all parts of my body.
How does it feel to have blading as a job? Wait, is it your job? How do you make money from blading?
We (me and Eito) do demos in Japan and other countries, and I work at GOOD SKATES, Inc. (“G” skate park). I teach lessons there at the park. But I’m not getting money from any blading companies. That is a very big problem.
We know your parents were professional roller skaters, so is there a lot of pressure to skate for a living in your family? Like, are other people doctors or stuff? What would you want to do as a career if you weren’t boosting on blades?
When I was young I felt pressure a lot, because my family only ever really spoke about rollerblading. But that pressure was good for me. I’ve realized this now. So I just say “Thank you” to my family. And if I’m not blading, I wanna make a rock band with my friends.
I guess skiing could be one — I saw you training on the big kicker this summer. How much skiing do you do? Are there plans to do more and compete?
I’m really enjoy skiing too. I get support from RIOT skis (Japanese brand). I probably won’t compete, but I will try to improve the connection with rollerblading.
Do you have any pictures of your first time on skates? When was that?
Maybe. My parents have a lot of pics. I’ll try to search for one.
What’s the dynamic like with Eito? You guys have been competing against each other — really with no other competition in your field — forever. Do you like that or is it a bummer?
We try to do the best blading anytime me skate. We’re just thinking about that. Besides, I am always fighting myself. It has been a great experience for me.
Besides you or your brother, who are your favorite vert skaters?
My first heroes were Ichi “Rocket” Komori (He competed at the first X GAMES) and Chris Edwards. Then Cesar Mora, Tim Ward… I have many favorite skaters! I could pick favorite bladers all day.
What about street skating — how often do you get out there for some of the randomness that comes from trying to blade a city? Do you get out with the street skaters in your area for sessions?
I’m not concerned with categories about vert/park/street. I like to mix things all together. When I get time I go blading in city, but I don’t want to fight police. Ha ha.
Who are your favorite street skaters?
Alex Broskow and Chris Haffey. They always try new moves. RESPECT.
How about tricks; what are your favorite tricks to do? Anything you’ve been trying to learn that’s proven difficult?
Double Viking flip is one that a lot of people know. I also try to do small things in big tricks. Please check my Instagram @takeshi_yasutoko!!
Who would be part of your ideal dream session, and what spots would you skate?
I want to blade with ALL legendary vert skaters.
Have you seen ON A ROLL the new video game that’s in the works. Did you back the game on Kickstarter? Has there been a Takeshi character in a game yet? (Probably but I’m totally forgetting.)
I saw it on Facebook. It looks huge! Of course I’d be so happy if my character is in there but I don’t know anything yet. I’m looking forward to the game like most other rollerbladers.
In all your years on blades, what would you say was the peak of your career (has it happened already)? Maybe not in relation to your skill, but to the visibility and financial rewards of blading. How have things changed — even for vert skaters?
My peak was probably the 2004 X Games. It was a good situation. I landed a new trick (Double Viking flip), got good prize money… Everything was great!
What setup are you skating right now? What sort of adjustments do you make to your skates to make them work right for you?
Boots: Valo TV3 Camo. Frames: CRS frame (These work good on vert too!). Liner: JUG. Wheels: Eulogy (57mm×89a). Insole : Custom insole by PAPASU. I recommend to have custom insoles made. They support your body position and relive your legs from a lot of strain.
How important is the quality of the ramp or skatepark you’re skating to your performance and enjoyment?
Good skatepark will make a good skater. A poor quality ramp is difficult because you can’t focus on tricks, and that’s when you can get injured.
Who builds and maintains the ramps at your facility? And how big is your place? How much space do you have and what all ramps are there?
We work with stage building company Red Hot. Their team makes a lot of the items in “G” skatepark.
What about sponsors — who are your sponsors and what do they do for you?
GOODSKATES, Create Originals, Valo, PAPASU, Division pads, Virus Japan. GOOD SKATES pays for my activity. Other sponsors give me Items and gear.
Take Valo for example — will you ever be on the pro team? Have you and Jon ever talked about it?
I’m not a part of the pro team. Please ask Jon about that.
You’ve done so much with blading. Traveled the world. Set records. Won events and inspired thousands. What else do you want to achieve?
I have to work to get money from rollerblading. There’s a small minority out there that get money, but the majority can’t get it. This is a big problem for the future. I wanna change this, so I am working on the problem in Japan right now.
Okay, so what’s the very next thing you have to go do?
The same as above. and I keep rollerblading until I die.
And anyone you need to thank or any shout outs you want to give?
I always get support from my wife. Thank you so much! Of course my parents and Eito, too.
Well great! Thanks for talking with us. Takeshi. We look forward to seeing what you do next.
Interview by Justin Blade
Photos by Kom Crew