Let’s get a bit of history about Atlas in here to start off with. I’ve read that you guys started in 2007: what inspired you to open up? With everything heading to online in recent years, it’s really nice to see physical stores still opening up.
Ryen Motzek: Yup, May of 2007 is when the doors opened. I myself have always been into retail. I worked for the Gap as a teenager and then got a job at Deluxe San Mateo. My biz partner Mike Manidis has deep roots in skating, was AM for New Deal, ran a skate camp during the summer, and we both thought it would be fresh to get something good going here.
There’s something about the retail experience that when done well is really cool and fun. Skateboarding being the best thing ever only makes that experience that much better (good music, classic skate videos, good product and an anti-corporate environment).
San Francisco has always been an iconic and important place for skaters, especially to us guys overseas. We had our own scenes, but we all tried to emulate what was going on over there as well. The whole EMB era was pretty significant to us. How have things changed since that time in SF? When Embarcadero went, did the scene become more disjointed?
When EMB shut down, everyone headed over to Pier 7. That lasted about 8 years. San Francisco has definitely made an effort to make spots skate proofed. Security guards are everywhere, and most new buildings come out with skate stoppers or random object in the way of ledges, rails, and other things to skate.
However, every now and then a great spot will pop up, and I will say it feels just like the old days. People from all over heading to that particular spot to get it in while it lasts. I’d say that the Bay Area in general is the spot. For example, something will pop up in Oakland, and folks from all over the Bay will head over there. Caltrain DIY R.I.P.
SF is also renowned for the quality of skate stores. You’ve got places like FTC and Skates on Haight (who I used to hit up for stickers and tees back in the early ’90s), spots like DLX and (the sadly gone) HUF… and then other core places such as yourselves. Is it a competitive environment to work in? Or does everyone look out for each other?
I’d say that SF is a VERY competitive place, which is why we decided to do our shop right out side of the city in downtown San Mateo. It’s a great place, with a thriving skate scene, and is plenty away from other shops.
Atlas seems to occupy a pretty unique area: you’ve got the core brands and support your local scene, but you’ve got a great ‘art’ side to the business that seems to add to your business, rather than just existing as a token ‘cool thing’ to have. What inspired you to represent the creative side so much at Atlas?
Our goal is to put focus on the art of skateboarding, rather than the sport. There are enough things going on, such as big dollar contests, mall stores, television and other activities that do not pay much attention to the creativity involved with the lifestyle of a skateboarder. Skateboarders have a unique way of looking at life.
Who are some of the artists that you have represented and showcased at Atlas? Have you always created products to accompany these exhibitions?
Ryen Motzek: We have showcased the art of Greg Hunt, Joe Brook, Matt Irving, Mark Gonzales, and Allister Lee.
We always have product to go along with the exhibitions. We also do artist decks with those that we greatly respect but don’t always have a function tied into the project.
Let’s talk about your local skaters and the Atlas team (if there is one!). Has that grown much from your opening days? How do you support your local skate community?
There are plenty of locals; it’s actually pretty crazy how many are in the Bay Area. In regards to our “team”, we rather consider it as something else.. Perhaps just family, or “supporters”.
How did the Cross Continental project come about? I caught a glimpse of it online, which is what led me to contacting you in the first place: it’s not that often you see something so impressive come from a collaboration between a skater, his sponsor and his local store. What was the initial idea for doing this project?
Being that Mark Suciu has been down with Atlas since day one, it seemed like a proper fit to do something with Habitat.
We had a ton of great footy, and wanted to make it a little more special that just an online release. We did a premiere at the shop, and created a limited run of decks with Habitat for the premiere. We’re hyped on how it all turned out, and the reaction to Mark’s part was amazing.
Let’s kick off with a few basics: how long have you been skating and who are your current sponsors?
Mark Suciu: I’ve been skating for 11 years and I ride for Atlas Skateshop, Habitat shoes and boards, Thunder Trucks, Sml. Wheels, and Ruca Clothing.
How long have you been part of the Atlas crew? Are you local to the store?
I’ve been with Atlas since February of 2008. I always go to the shop when I’m on my way up to SF, and whenever I need to solve some board issues or just want to hang out.
The first time I became fully aware of you and your skating would have been in the Habitat video, ‘Origin’. But having read a few things since then, you rode for Powell and Alien, right? Before you got hooked up, did you ever have any aspirations to ride for anyone in particular? Or was that never really part of your aim in skating?
Yeah, I started riding for Powell when I was 13 and left to go somewhere else when I was 16. I didn’t have anyone hitting me up, but at that time I was starting to think it might be possible to get on a company I’d always wanted to ride for.
When I was younger I wasn’t thinking so much about what boards I wanted to ride, it was more like which group of skaters I dreamed about hanging out with. And that was pretty much always the Alien team. So I waited it out a couple months and before I knew it I was getting boards from Kalis. I was so psyched. Even though they eventually switched me to Habitat and I didn’t get to skate with those guys, it was still so amazing to me.
I don’t think I threw my board the entire time they were sending me stuff, all I had to do if I was getting mad was look at the graphic and I’d be stoked.
After ‘Origin’, it seems that you racked up a steady stream of coverage, but before that, you had a lot of online footage that people often refer to. Has filming always been a pretty consistent part of your life?
Mark Suciu: Yeah, I’ve been filming tricks ever since my parents got a Hi-8 camera when I was ten, so it’s always felt natural. I guess it’s a kind of a fascination I have with the progression side of it.
Let’s get to the recent ‘Cross Continental’ project. How long was this in the pipeline? Who came up with the idea of travelling across the US as the background thread for the film?
That footage was from somewhere around November 2010 to the end of Nov 2011, and the two cross country drives were in August and Nov of 2011.
It started as just a solo Atlas part that I could put out whenever and make exactly how I wanted. Near the end of the filming I talked to Habitat and they said they wanted to back it and that it needed a name. The footage we had already told the story of the cross country missions, so I think it was Joe Castrucci that tagged the name Cross Continental on it. There was really no planning it out.
How did the ‘On The Road’ clip tie in with everything?
That was just all the footage of the preliminary tricks at the spot. We were kind of just warming up with the HD and then switching to the VX. Also, as it was a Field Log edit, it helped foot the bill for a couple of our hotels.
‘Cross Continental’ had the feel of some of the older videos that I’ve always liked. Alien’s ‘Memory Screen’ or ‘Photosynthesis’ spring to mind. Putting less emphasis on cutting-edge visuals and more focus on raw skating: The lack of any slow motion really gave it a high level of re-watch factor for me. Did you get involved with the editing or contribute ideas towards the filming at all?
I wasn’t at the editing table, but I knew all of my ideals were. My friend Miguel Valle, who filmed it, grew up with a lot of the same inspiration as I have, so we’re definitely on the same page. We would talk constantly throughout the process. I chose the first song and was picky as hell with the tricks, and he took it all from there.
Everyone who’s mentioned the film has talked about the switch backside noseblunt on the rail and the frontside varial heel into the fountain at Love Park. I really like the quick-fire bank-to-stair tricks and the line that opens with the backside 180 fakie nosegrind (which I think is at Love). Were there any other particular things that that you were really pleased to get for the video?
I would say the longer line at the SF Library and that bigspin into the rock in San Jose are my favorites. That line was probably the most thought out clip in the part and also the most exhausting. I nearly threw up after the first two hours. And the bigspin I had wanted to do the whole year I was filming; it ended up being the last trick I filmed for the part.
The accompanying Habitat board was really nice too: did you know that was coming out when the video clip was launched? Is this technically your debut pro board?
When Habitat joined in they told me about it, and I got to see the first draft of the graphic in November. I’m so psyched to have it, and also to be the reason that Atlas and Habitat got together. But no, it’s not a pro board.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2012? Anything we should be watching out for?
My friend Justin Albert and I are putting out an all San Jose part with some homies. It should be out really soon. (editor: you can check that video here!)
Other than that, I’ll be travelling around from coast to coast, just filming and enjoying it.
Filed Under: Features