A lone agent, skating apart from the rest of the team, only a mere 7,000 miles away, Hiroki Muraoka is a bit of an oasis of sorts for Traffic Skateboards. Off in the distance, out of sight but never out of mind, Hiroki is always working, filming new video parts and finding amazing unexploited spots......or he's drunk. One or the other.
When we reached out to do an interview with Hiroki, the massive distance and cultural separation made the answers to our emailed questions come across as a tad bland. After realizing that an emailed interview was not the way to go, we realized that Traffic's second most senior pro, Rich Adler, not only was good friends with Hiroki, he was also a former resident of Japan for nearly 10 years. So we tasked Rich with calling Hiroki and conducting a less formal series of questioning. The following dialogue is what ensued.....
Hailing from the sand dunes of Tottori prefecture and residing in Tokyo, Hiroki Muraoka is Traffic's newest pro. Quick feet, technical skill and an eye for decoding spots hidden in plain sight make Hiroki's skating stand out. He is great at applying his imagination on the street through skating and with a brush on canvas. Let's call him up and see how his English is coming along... -Rich Adler
R: Good morning Hiroki!
H: Hey Rich.
R: You sound tired. What did you do last night?
H: I went to Cheese's wedding party.
R: I have some questions to ask you in English for TOA
R: I like the graphic for your signature board. What did you use to create that graphic?
H: It is a collage made from skate magazines and old art magazines I bought at a bookstore for about 3 bucks. I used a razor blade, acrylic gel, and a painting knife. I wanted to include plants, coffee, beer, and skating because those are my favorite things.
R: Name some of your favorite artists.
H: Egon Shiele, Jonathan Yeo, Salvador Dali, and Gustav Klimt.
R: When do you like to make art?
H: When I get bored and have free time. Especially when I'm worn out from skating after filming, it feels good to relax and make art because my body can't move.
R: Before skating, what is important?
H: Take rest. Drink coffee. Sober up.
R: You have a sick part in Colin Read's "Spirit Quest." How did that begin?
H: I skated with Colin when I visited NYC, we got a bunch of clips, and then he decided to come out to Japan to finish a part for his video.
R: What is your Spirit Animal?
A big cat, kind of like a cheetah, but spirit quest crew called me "Evolution" lol.
R: What is the name of that crazy trick you invented? (the hippie jump ollie)
We call it a kugullie, which is a combination of "kuguru", which means "through" in Japanese, and "ollie". I wanted to do a new trick at an old spot that a lot of people had skated, so I tried a kugullie.
R: How did you come up with that? Did it help that you were 6 beers deep? How many beers does it take before it affects your skating?
Beer doesn't help my skating ever. My skating is best when I'm sober but I can film drunk too. I think after 10 beers I wouldn't be able to kickflip.
R: When you were in the US, what was the worst food or drink?
H: Root beer.
R: How about the best?
H: Burritos in SF and pizza in NYC.
R: Back in Japan, what is your idea of the perfect breakfast?
H: Miso soup and white rice, served with a sunny-side-up egg, pan-fried wiener, a side of salad, and a coffee.
R: What is a "shichi-san" haircut, and why do you have one?
H: "Shichi-san" is Japanese for 7:3. Basically, 70 percent of the hair is combed to one side, 30 percent to the other. It is a popular haircut for salarymen in Japan. I have one because I work in an office.
R: A lot of skaters probably have never seen your hair. Beanie season: when to when?
H: A lot of people like to start wearing a beanie in the fall, but I like to wear a beanie year round. Some people give me a hard time during the hot summer months, but I always feel comfortable skating in a beanie.
R: Japan is known for it's fuzzy local mascots like Kumamon and Funashi. Which is your favorite?
H: Hmmm... Deshi. Definitely Deshi.
R: Haha! You skated in NY with Ricky, what was that like?
H: He skates so fast and doesn't stop, even pushing across super busy streets. Nobody, not even the local NY skaters, could keep up with him. It was a crazy experience.
R: Wax or no wax. Why?
H: Wax, because I don't want to slam!
R: Car, train, or push?
H: I like to push. It's easier to find spots and cruising the streets is just so much fun.
R: Double flips and pressure flips. What inspired you, and how do you do them so easy?
H: Katsumi wanted to film a fakie double flip for Night Prowler so I got one for that. And pressure flips are just an old, weird trick so it surprised people when I do them. And it just feels good.
R: Alright Hiroki, that's a wrap, make your coffee and go and get more clips for the Traffic vid, and tell everyone I said what's up.
H: See you Rich!
All photos by Reece Leung