No End in Sight
Malaga’s Juan Suarez has been representing the Andalusia region of Spain for over a decade and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
There are certain skaters that, when you meet them for the first time, you just know there is something special about them. In 2004 I visited Malaga for a week with a close friend to check out the skate spots and escape the “supposed” Scottish summer that basically consisted of rain and gale force winds. On the first day we stumbled across some local skaters and, even though my poor Spanish and their limited English made it slightly difficult to communicate, they welcomed us into their group with open arms and we spent the afternoon travelling around the birthplace of Pablo Picasso searching for things to skate. The guys kept talking about a mysterious character called “Uani”. Every spot we visited was met with another story about the incredible feats Uani had accomplished on it. After we were all wiped out from skating in the Spanish sun, we arranged to meet up with the group again the following day and the excitable bunch promised that they would introduce us to the man they had been talking about all day.
The next afternoon, we returned to the ledge spot where we first met the local Malaga bladers and, even though there were a few new faces in the group, I could instantly tell which one was Uani. He was rolling around with an unmistakable level of confidence and every trick he landed looked absolutely perfect. He made truespin alley-oop topsides look like they beginner manoeuvres and could balance one foot grinds with infuriating ease. He introduced himself as Juan Suarez and, every night after he finished work as a painter and decorator, he took us to various outdoor parks and skate spots around the Costa del Sol. Every spot turned into a competition between Juan and myself to see who could land the best trick – and I ended up losing the majority of the battles. At the end of one of our adventures, we sat down and he gave me several copies of a Spanish rollerblading publication called Soul Magazine, and in one of the issues he had a massive interview that contained some first-try-or-die hammers. No wonder the guy was kicking my arse at every spot; he was one of Spain’s most talented up-and-coming street skaters.
After this trip, Juan and I kept in touch and bumped into each other at several major rollerblading events, including IMYTA Amsterdam in 2005 and Winterclash in 2009. Each time we met, his English had improved significantly and my Spanish has become progressively worse. When I started this publication, I knew that I had to get an interview with the Malaga legend, as he has remained one of the county’s strongest skaters for more than a decade.
Suarez was first introduced to rollerblading in the mid-nineties during the “aggressive inline” boom, when it was all over mainstream media and everyone in the world seemed to own a pair of rollerblades. All the local kids in his area were into it and, as Suarez was already familiar with quad skating, he found it relatively easy to become proficient at the new craze everyone was taking part in.
“It was a real fancy youth trend in the hood where I was born,” he begins. “I used to skate on quads that I stole from my female cousin. When I started on aggressive skates it was an easy thing for me and I soon started to learn how to do my first grind. I haven’t left rollerblading since.”
Like most skaters that started in the nineties, Suarez was heavily influenced by street skating pioneers like Arlo Eisenberg and TJ Webber, but it was national hero, Alex Ecija, who the biggest inspiration. Ecija was one of the first Spanish rollerbladers to achieve international prominence in the rollerblading industry by doing well as huge events like Bercy and X Games as part of the TRS Rollerblade team. He also had a huge interview in the now-defunct UK rollerblading publication, DNA.
Over the years Suarez has continued to progress into a well-rounded blader and is now a member of The Conference’s Spanish team. You may recognise his face, or undeniable talent on blades, as he featured heavily in The Conference Spain’s recent online tour video series. However, being sponsored has not always been the most pleasant experience for the talented street skater, as he has had a few problems with Spanish rollerblading distributors in the past.
“The first company that believed in me was Razors in 2003,” begins Suarez. “It was Luciano Zurro, a man of the moment in the Spanish scene. The scene was a total disaster before Luciano came along and fixed it. He put me on my way. He saw some tricks on Internet and finally we met at a contest in Barcelona.”
A couple of years after Suarez got hooked up with Razors, he took a leap of faith and moved to Madrid in order to work for a new rollerblading distribution company that had been set up, thinking that he had finally landed his dream job. He soon discovered that the people in charge did not have the most honourable of intentions, as they were basically trying to profit from rollerblading without any consideration for how to develop the national scene. They wanted to cash in and Suarez was not impressed.
“A distribution company called New Order started up in Madrid, it was terrible. I was living in Madrid and seeing how our sport got worse and worse. People were only thinking about how to get money out of rollerblading. This was the time when I moved from Razors to Remz.”
Disillusioned by his time spent living in the capital city, Suarez decided to cut his losses and move back home where he could be around his family and skate with friends that he knew he could trust. Fortunately, he chose to move back home at the perfect time as a new distribution company was being established by someone that actually cared about the sport and its future. Since then, Suarez has been popping up in online edits alongside some of his favourite European bladers and he couldn’t be happier with his new sponsorship deal.
“I moved from Madrid back to Malaga a couple of years ago and kept rollerblading. Around this time, Jesus Caravaca set up a Spanish distribution company and did a really good job. He is an awesome person. For the last two years I have been skating for The Conference. We are doing awesome things – some nice edits and a tour. We just keep working.”
The skater may only be riding flow for the conglomerate, but he receives everything he needs to continue rolling and relishes the opportunity to travel to different parts of his country in search of new spots to conquer alongside close friends Martin Benza and Ivan Malvido.
“They give me all the parts I need,” he says. “They sent us on one of the most lovely travels of my life, The Spanish Conference Tour. They also give me good promotion because I can get footage on The Conference videos. It is awesome for a guy from Malaga to get clips next to Adrien Anne and Roman Abrate.”
Now 28-years-old, Suarez is happy to be living in Malaga working at what he calls “the most awesome job of my life” as a web designer for the University of Malaga. “It’s great,” he says. “I love the schedule because I have time to skate during the week and that is the most important thing. I hope to work there for a long, long time.”
Our sport needs more rollerbladers like Juan Suarez. He is humble, friendly and always acts as a positive influence on his local scene. He may not ever become the poster boy of Spanish rollerblading, but to all of his fellow countrymen, Suarez will always be known as one of the finest athletes the country has ever produced.
Words: Louis Flood Photos: Lino Adriano and Thomz Negrat
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