Interview with Yari Copt from Warriors Skateboards

Yari Copt

Yari Copt is a skater, shop and skate company owner and is heavily involved in pushing skateboarding in Europe. Recently we have been in contact with each other because of the latest video release from his skate company Warriors Skateboards which is one great skate video. But we also talked about the United Skateboard Photography Project and it turns out that Yari himself was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago and after difficult times he conquered cancer himself.

It was obvious to me that I wanted to an interview with Yari about his experience with skateboarding and cancer and here we go!

Hi Yari! Thanks for taking some time out for us. As the interviews we have are read around the globe, there are possibly some people out there who have absolutely no idea who you are :) Let us know where you are from, your age and how you are involved in skateboarding.

Hi! I’m Yari Copt from Lugano, in the south italian speaking part of Switzerland, I’m 35 years old and I skate since 1989. I’m the owner of The Joker shop and founder of Warriors Skateboards. I’m also the Vans Swiss skate team manager.

Warriors Skateboards grew out of a bunch of skaters into a skateboarding company. Why did you decide to start going in this direction and what is it like to be selling skateboarding products in such a big market with a lot of other companies? It can’t always be easy…

Warriors were simply a crew, a group of friends from Lugano that grew up together thanks to skateboarding. 1st generation, since 1996, were almost 30 people, then after some years a new generation started to skate and got so much better than us, real talent was in front of my eyes, so we decided to produce some decks to help them out and inspire and push them. We always did some videos and special t/shirts etc with the crew, and i designed the warriors bat logo long long time ago, so actually we were already ready since always. I never did it before cause I was a little scared to loose the pureness of what warriors is, going into business. But we discussed all togheter and thought it could even be positive for the scene and skateboarding in general to do it. We are different. we don’t have promodels, we don’t “buy” pro skaters etc. We do what we do. Skate, do great products we like, travel, produce footage, have fun. That’s what skateboarding is about, isn’t it? We have a group of friends and new kids are joining the family and the army.

Dino - Bs smith
Skater: Dino – Bs smith

Of course we have to talk about the outstanding latest film release from Warriors Skateboards, “Alice in Warriorland”. A great storyline backed by a very high level of skateboarding and a great variation of spots. How did the idea start and how long have you all been working on creating this 25 minute film?

It’s kind of crazy. I really just wanted to release a 5 minute clip to support the release of the new skate serie TRIPPY so I asked everyone to bring the last month unreleased tricks. Then, of course, everyone was not happy enough of their actual footage so I gave all of then one month to film some bangers to add in the clip. What I had the month after was almost 1 hour of new footage, mostly really bad filmed, but really good tricks..
so I cut out a lot of the bad stuff and still I had a good 20 minutes of stuff and some could even get a mini part. So then I had the idea of Alice in Warriorland to support the TRIPPY decks and in one Sunday we wrote the scenes and filmed the stupid scenes. eheh. Sunday at the local park, full of kids and families.. it was really really fun!

Alice in Wonderland cast members – Warriors Skateboards latest skate video!

Who is skating for Warrior Skateboards right now and do you still see a lot of local talent growing up in the area?

We have such a great group of young talented kids. Now the second generation is between 20 and 26 years old, there’s european high level riders as Martino Cattaneo, Igor Fardin, Kevin Blaser and the Gallicchio’s brothers, then some youngest new generation is growing fast, 13 to 18 years old really stylish and talented kids, and most of all, smart and nice kids as Gian Matteuzzi, Roy Clavadetscher and Niki Paltenghi. But as said, we also enjoy the skaters that only skate sunday afternoon and chill, they are all part of the warriors family. Anyone can give a wonderful trick or inspire us, we are all skaters taking advantage of our piece of wood on wheels. Who am I to tell who’s better? Everyone is better thanks to skateboarding.

So you also run your own skate shop, The Joker Shop in Lugano, Switzerland, which is surely great to push your own brand. Do you see having a skate shop as something you need to do to get closer to the skaters in your area, is it something you do out of personal reasons or what got you to open your shop?

I opened the Joker shop as soon as I finished my studies. Like the month after. Our local skateshop owner wanted to change business so I took the opportunity without thinking twice and got a loan thanks to my parents and opened my skateshop. I was 22 years old with not a clue of business. Having a skate shop is helping Warriors so much and vice versa. The locals are really supporting and loving Warriors (most of all) and the fact that I created the Lugano skatepark free for everyone and I push the scene with events, contests, concerts and much more, creates a lot of respect and support around the shop and the brand.

Martino - Fastplant Fakie in Lausanne
Skater: Martino – Fastplant Fakie in Lausanne

As I’m interviewing you for the United Skateboard Photography Project, the current non-profit organization we are supporting – Grind For Life – helps cancer patients and their families. You had cancer yourself at the age of 25. Could you please tell us what type of cancer it was, how you found out about it and what was done to battle it?

I was doing a skateboard demo and the flat was really slippery. I bailed a lot of times pretty hard and the same night I had a really sharp pain in my all arm and really high fever. I went to the doctor thinking I probably had broken something in this accidents in the park. After the did some x-rays for the arm the doctor noticed a big round shadow, the size of a tennis ball between my heart and lungs. After a while the understood it was a tumor.
I went straight to the hospital and got diagnosed with a cancer but they didn’t know exactly what type (we later found out it was 3 different type in one), and they started right away with chemotherapy.

I had several months of medicines in my veins, 10 days in hospital feeling really bad and then 20 days at home where the body was getting back to normal, then again in, this for 4 months. Then it reduced a lot and we gave a last hit with a stem cells transplant. I risked to die a couple of times during these months for different reasons but at the end the body reacted good, the tumor got back from 12 to 2 cm and finally I had the operation to open my chest and cut out the last 2 cm of tumor. Operation successful and now it’s a 10 years old story.

How do you see the development of the skateboarding scene, of the new skateparks and skateboarding in general in Switzerland and Europe? Has it changed a lot in the past 10 years as it has basically around the globe or are there still some of the “old” skateboarding vibes alive, not touched by the corporate “values” which have made a strong move into skateboarding?

I think skateboarding today is in a good spot but also on a brink. The commercialization of skateboarding got some good things to us, like skateparks everywhere, more money to the pros to live, a grow into the companies and lots of new kids falling in love with skateboarding. But this also got big sport corporation coming in the business and a lot of non skaters that wants to push skateboarding for the wrong reasons. I think skateboarding is unique. Skateboarding has to be there for skateboarders and skateboarders for skateboarding. Now big corporations brands are taking over (thanks to their unlimited budgets) and the small core caring skate brands that are really suffering. Young skateboarders don’t have enough knowledge and culture to know that. They weren’t there when we needed big corporation to help skateboarding survive… They need to know! They need to know that everytime they BUY Nike shoes, there is less possibility to have beautiful core brands around.. and when skateboarding will not produce enough money and this big companies will leave it, we won’t even have the small companies around. So don’t do it! And support real skateshops and skate owned companies!

Igor - Blunt Fs 180
Skater: Igor – Blunt Fs 180

If you could go skate any spot in the world today, where would it be and why?

I think the Vagabond pool in Fresno. I was there when I was young and couldn’t really do tricks in it. Now I would love to shred it.. but it’s gone.. RIP Vagabond.

Tell us some of your personal favorite tricks and what tricks do you still want to learn?

I like to skate a little bit everything. Getting old I enjoy tricks where I don’t risk too much to destroy myself so tech stuff on big quarters and any difficult transition hand made… I like to do blunt to bs noseblunt and bigspin disasters.. stuff like that.. I love to do blunts also in memory of Tim Brauch. Now I would like to land bigspin bs noseblunt. I’m almost there.. just need a free afternoon to try it a 1000 times.. but normally I prefer just to skate and have fun…

Who do you think is absolutely killing it in skateboarding right now and a skater to watch out for more radness in the near future?

So many kids are killing it today….raising the bar so high every day…too many names to be named.

What is the Warriors Skateboard team going to be doing this year, more travelling and skate tours, new products waiting to come out?

So the new Trippy skate series is out now. The new apparel collection is preselling now and will be in the shops in September. We will be traveling and filming as much as we can to release a new video next spring with the new decks production. The rest is classic warriors. Travel, fun, party, love and skateboarding.

Dennis - Bs Flip in Genova
Skater: Dennis – Bs Flip in Genova

Fede Footplant / secret spot
Skater: Fede Footplant / secret spot

Gilles - frontside tailslide
Skater: Gilles – frontside tailslide

Igor - 5-0 Up
Skater: Igor – 5-0 Up

Livio - 50 50
Skater: Livio – 50 50

Livio - boneless one
Skater: Livio – boneless one

Moris - Fastplant
Skater: Moris – Fastplant