The Andy Smith Interview
27 September 2011 / Posted by Brett Phillips
Images: Courtesy of Andy 'Sakamoto' Smith, Circa 2011.
There are not many times in life when you come across people that truly inspire you. You know, the kind of people that remind you of what it means to be passionate and enthusiastic about life, learning, friendships, riding, racing and everything in between! Well a little while ago now, I had the pleasure of meeting (and riding) with Andy 'Sakamoto' Smith, an Australian Gravity Sports pioneer and recent Gravity Bike convert. His desire and enthusiasm for the professional presentation of all gravity disciplines was inspiring, as was his vision and commitment to build is first gravity bike. Andy took some time out to speak with me about where he thought things were going and what was important to him. Always the gentleman, and once again reminding us why we love the gravity sports scene, this is what Andy had to say…
GBHQ: Thanks for taking time out to do the interview, Andy.
AS: My pleasure, thank you for asking me.
GBHQ: You have such a diverse and interesting background, how and when did you first get involved in gravity sports?
AS: I watched the first ESPN X-Games on T.V. and went and built my first streetluge out of wood laminates. My first boards were very basic, but by the beginning of 1996 they were becoming more refined. Towards the end of 1996, I met Andre Webber, who also lived in Melbourne, and we began riding together. My boss at the time, plus my younger brother also rode, but didn’t really pursue the sport. In 1997, I travelled to California and competed in the ’97 ESPN X-Games. I went back in ’98 and competed again, and like ’97, brought back a lot of info and contacts to try and help the sport grow in Australia.
GBHQ: Who was pioneering the sport back then?
AS: In Victoria it was Andre Webber and myself, and then a little later Adam Sparks became heavily involved. Up north, in the Sydney area, Pat Brennan was the driving force, with Daryl Fellows bringing crew onto the scene, but remaining fairly underground. Brad Sterrit is also one of the original crew. Dave Kelly, in Cairns, was skateboarding and getting into luge and was a good friend of Pat’s. Dave’s main competitive background was in the snow scene, which enhanced his skateboarding activities.
GBHQ: What have been some of the most memorable moments for you?
AS: Wow, being honest, there are too many to mention. Meeting and becoming friends with the riders from the States and Europe, guys like Stephan Wagner, Bob Pereya, Marcus Rietema, Pam Zoolalian , Martyn Evans , Steve Fernando and Darren Lott to name a few, was just amazing. Riding with the Aussie crew, and being involved with the Sony Playstation Extreme Games, competing at the Bathurst World Championships, meeting and riding with the Townsville and Brisbane crew, riding Mt Stuart in Townsville at the “Beat the Bastard” fund raiser weekends, becoming a “GOFR” (Grumpy Old Farts Racing). Having the opportunity to watch new riders come into the gravity sport scene, regardless of what they ride, is always a massive buzz for me.
GBHQ: Over the years, who has been the greatest influences for you?
AS: In the early years, I’d have to say Marcus Rietema, Darren Lott and Garrett Ewanik (RIP). Stephan Wagner was also very influential as far as my Classic Luge riding was concerned. Andre Webber for his ability, his building skills as well as his quiet nature.
In recent years, I’ve been influenced by a number of people, for different reasons. Sue Wickenden and Stacey Hall-Stokes for pushing the way forward for woman riders, in a sport which has mainly male participants. As far as G-Bike is concerned, Brett Philips and Pat Brennan have been absolutely brilliant in helping me setup my bike, as well as the encouragement to ride. Claude Gesta, the inventor and originater of Skullboarding, a man well before his t