Rich Adler Photographer Interview

August 25, 2017
photos by Rich Adler

nosegrind up and down p- Yukihisa Nakamura

What’s up?

Eating some lasagna.

How long have you been skateboarding?

Twenty three and a half years. Ever since I was 11.

How did you get started and where?

I started at the local elementary school up the street from my house. Indian lane. They had some benches there, and some curbs. Some janitors would chase us out. I’m from Media, PA just south of Philadelphia.

How long before you started coming to Philly to skate?

I kept on hearing about Love Park and skating downtown, midnight missions to skate Philly. I took a train on new years eve 1996 for the first time skated Love Park on a rainy day. I remember getting in trouble for going downtown I was only maybe 14.

Kevin Bilyeu, switch flip

Did you tell your parents you were somewhere else?

I don’t think I told them anything. but one of the friends I was with his mother found out about it and called my parents and told ‘em I was in Philadelphia. My mother was kinda bummed but my dad seemed kinda excited about it.

Who was your first sponsor?

There was a company called Philadelphia Experiment that was based outta Philly and Vern Laird was the team manager. He got me on the super flow team which meant I could buy a deck for $20, once a month. I’d beat the shit out of it, and try to get another one and they’d be like, uh, we can only sell you one for 20 once a month. But still it was team, and video. I had a lot of fun. and eventually they were giving me boards.

When did you get on Traffic?

Right when Ricky started it. I was riding for New Deal before that. I was on the flow team. and naturally since we were skating together every weekend, almost everyday at that point, he put me on.

Pat Heid, front board shuv

When did you go to Japan for the first time? How long were you there?

2006, It was really sick. You can skate in any direction forever and you’ll never get in a sketchy situation. I was there on and off. I worked on a video with Traffic it was called ‘Tokyo Transfer’ went there three times for that. First time just to film it and the second two times to edit and interview people and make Japanese subtitles and stuff like that.

How is your Japanese?

Oh it’s alright. I was just living there. I moved to Nagoya and lived there for six years. I think it’s the best city for skating in Japan. Just because no ones really out there skating the streets and it’s a huge city.

Do a lot of people know English there? Do you just use that?

Not really in Nagoya. I mean in Tokyo you’ll find a lot of people that speak english. I had a lot of friends that we’d spend the whole weekend together just speaking Japanese.

Any advice for a skater going to Japan for first time?

Always gotta keep your passport on you. Because they can just stop you for being foreign and ask for ID. And if you have a pocketknife they’ll count it as a sword and you can get in trouble for that, anything over 6cm. I usually don’t carry my passport when I’m skating cause it’s gonna get all sweaty and stuff or you might lose it. There’s some awesome stuff though. You can get good fried chicken at a convince store in Japan.

How long have you been back?

Since August just this past summer. I had to pull the plug on everything and move out of the apartment. That’s really when I started taking a little more photos. When I was in Japan, a lot of my best friends are photographers out there. This guy Yukihisa Nakamura has a magazine called secret cut, he gives me my camera advice and stuff like that. But everyone out there there was encouraging me to skate more, you know. Like ‘put the camera away come on skate’. Then when I came back here there’s no one shooting photos and theres always people doing tricks. I’ve had the opportunity to shoot some pretty legit tricks. I love it. It’s a lot of fun. When I was on my way out of Japan I was really enjoyed taking pictures of like my experience in Japan. Kinda cultural stuff then when I came back to the US it seem like all I’m taking photos of is skateboarding. That’s really all I want to shoot photos of. I like other stuff, but skate photo are special. Yea It’s unique. It’s the most me. The most original thing I can offer is pictures of skateboarding. I mean anyone can take a picture of the mummers walking around or whatever. It is a lot of fun, especially when you’re with friends.

Tim Achille, nollie half cab heel

Any resources you’ve been using?

I’m constantly trying new hobbies. I kinda want to make beef jerky, a friend at work had some beef jerky he made and I was thinking about trying to do that. I want to start a beer company some day and get a skate team together, that kinda thing. Kinda like a skate shop / not brew pub cause there wouldn’t be food, but like a small brewery with skateboards hanging on the wall. Skateboarders probably spend more money on beer then skateboard stuff at the shop.

What up with the Philly skate scene?

I mean Jimmy Chung coming back that was a big inspiration. I’m coming back from living in Japan for 5 years, but this dude hadn’t skated for 18. It’s really sick to be skating with him. Aa lot people love skating a lot and they don’t really have an outlet for it. One of the things I like to do is, if I get a photo, I want to send it the person like that instant, you know. Get it straight onto my phone and send it to em. Everybody really likes that.

So you got back to Philadelphia with no Love Park?

I did have an opportunity at Christmas time to skate there two years ago. I was back for the holidays, but it was like a frenzy. Definitely not very mellow. I’ve been really enjoying municipal. It’s almost like the whole dream of Love Park is being fulfilled. You can skate there on Saturday and Sunday.

They still kick you out though?

Sometimes. On Sunday we skated there for hours on end. It’s pretty sick. They don’t like chase you down like they used to. They’re not gonna put you in a headlock, or maybe they will, but not usually. It’s not like an everyday thing.

Anthony Rosado, thread the needle

Why is there so much night footage from Japan?

Because most people even the skaters there work long hours. They’re working from like nine AM to nine at night, so the only way you’re gonna get out skating is to wait for them to get off work. I mean you can skate during the day on Sunday depending where you are you might get kicked out of a lot of spots. I remember when we were filming for Night Prowler the guy that made it Katsumi, he would get off of work at 7:30 or 8:00 come home at 9:00, sleep for like two and half hours until 11:30. Then we’d catch the last train down into the business district to go skate, then we’d come back on the first train, he’d take another quick nap and go back to work. Another difference is they don’t really skate residential neighborhoods there like they do here. I think the skaters out there are too respectful to do that as well.

Yea house spots can be sketchy.

Yea I mean we used to skate stoops all the time. I remember this one, there was two stoops in a row, like grind one and pop to the other one. One of them was at an abandoned house but the other one was at this house with this dude living in it, that was just always there. He was like unemployed or something. And one time Ricky talked to the neighbor and Ricky was like ‘I know he goes to the movies every Monday.’ So next thing you know every Monday we would go there at like 1:30 or 2:00, and skate it.

What kind of spots do you like?

It’s definitely good to have a bit of a rubble factor. Coming back to Philly from Japan everything is so perfect out there and now
out here it has this different aesthetic to it. It’s almost naturally skate stopped some of the stuff, but if you can skate it it will look unique and kinda challenge people to come out and check out the spot themselves. I really like a spot where when someone actually sees the spot in person, they’re like ‘wow I wouldn’t have understood that unless I actually came here in person’ and I guess the job of the photographer is to try their best to convey that kind of feeling. I love one-of-a-kind spots, or temporary spots.

What’s up with the weed in Japan?

All I know is if you do end up getting caught with it you go to jail for 3 months. It’s just really expensive and really hard to get. If you do go on a trip to Japan you kinda gotta just live without it for a lil. It might be harsh for
a few days, you might be cranky. There was a story about some skater who visited and he had some of it in his pocket, and I guess they searched him, and they took the whole crew, everyone he was with back to the police station and gave them all a piss test, and if they had it in their system they were jammed up as well.

Any advice for being a sponsored skateboarder?

I’m kinda enjoying not being sponsored because that’s the best thing to have no pressure. Thats the way I feel. I’m not making a living off of it. I just do it for fun and enjoy it for what it is, don’t try to take something from it other than enjoyment. Don’t feel like you should deserve anything because there’s a billion, not a billion but thousands of people that are really good at it. It’s like being good at guitar theses days. So many people are good at guitar but some people get paid a lot of money for playing guitar. I mean how rare is a chance to make it like that. Advice? Don’t think about getting sponsored just think about having fun, staying out of trouble, being with friends, meeting new people, traveling.

Ricky Oyola, back tail