Brandon Valjalo’s skateboarding style, technique and results have grown from strength to strength, to the point where he now stands as one of the country’s top skaters. About to travel abroad to film video parts and compete in contests, we caught up with the 19 year old to chat about his career and the upcoming opportunities.
Full name: Brandon Valjalo
Nickname: My latest one is Simba
Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
Years skating: The first time I got on a board, I was 3 years old.
Deck setup: Peg 8 inch board, Independent Trucks, Bones Swiss bearings, Spitfire Formula 4 52mm wheels and diamond hardware.
Sponsors: Skullcandy, Volcom, Red Bull, DC Shoes, Peg Skateboards and Ogio.
You’re no stranger to the local skate scene. How long have you been skating for and how did you get into the sport?
I’ve been skateboarding all in all for 16 years including the first time I ever sat on board, when I was 3 years old. There was always a skateboard around in our garage cause action sports has always been in the family, so from the age of 3 I would sit on the board and go around. But I would say that I properly started skateboarding around the age of 10, which was when I was learning to Kickflip. Basically I got into skateboarding because of my brother and his friends who always used to skate outside our house before they would go ride motocross or go out somewhere and eventually I asked to get my own proper board. From that day on I was hooked.
What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?
I would have to say a few highlights contest wise would be winning the Kimberley Diamond Cup SA Championships 2 years in a row, as well as winning the African Skateboarding Championships this year at Ultimate X. Another highlight would have to be filming for my welcome to DC Shoes video part in LA. Then lastly having the opportunity to skate The Berrics with some of the best skateboarders in the world.
What does the sport of skateboarding mean to you?
It means everything to me. It’s basically shaped me into the person I am today, skateboarding has taught me so many life lessons in itself as well as brought so many people from different paths of life together. Without skateboarding I don’t know where I would be in my life and what would motivate me to wake up every single morning.
You’ve got a sweet setup right at home, the Valjalo Training Facility. How has having your own backyard park improved your skating?
Having my own skatepark in my backyard is a dream come true and its helped me improve a lot as it has all the obstacles I need, such as a handrail, euro gap, hubbas, stairs, quarter pipes, a flat ledge and a flatbar. It has given me a place to practice every single day without having the distraction of having a lot of people at the skatepark. So I’m able to work on tricks that I struggle with as well as work on my flow without any distractions.
What went into designing the park and it’s features?
With my park I literally just told my mom exactly what I wanted, which my favorite obstacles to skate are and then I drew a rough plan on a piece of paper. I also spoke to Jamie O’Brien about what I wanted and he created a 3D sketch of the park for me. We used that sketch along with the space we had available to build the park with the same people that built our new house.
You are the SA Element Make it Count finalist and will be heading to Barcelona to film a video part with the Element team. What does this opportunity mean to you?
This is a huge opportunity. Firstly I’m stoked to be heading over to Barcelona for my first time because apparently it’s like skate heaven. It’s also a really big opportunity because my video part that I release will be aired on Thrasher Magazine’s website, which means that my skateboarding will be broadcasted to the entire skate world and community, and that means a lot of exposure is on the line.
What are you looking forward to and hoping to experience in Barcelona?
I’m looking forward to skating all the amazing spots that Barcelona has to offer. I’m really excited to skate Macba and meet all the other Element Make it Count finalists from around the world as well as the Element pros. I’m hoping to experience one of the best times of my life traveling and doing what I love. The main goal is to just have a great time and make memories that will last forever.
From there you are off to Amsterdam and then LA. How long will you be in each country and what are your plans while there?
After Barcelona I go to Amsterdam for a week to skate one of the World Cup Skateboarding contests. I’m staying a bit longer after the event to just experience the country and skate some street to try get some footage for my video part. After Amsterdam I head to LA for 3 months to skate and film, and get as much content as I can. While I’m there I also have the best facilities available, so my plans are to improve the level of my skateboarding as much as I can.
You have been to America a few times. How does the skate scene compare to our local scene?
In America they have the best facilities as well as the best skateboarders in the world, they also have the largest amount of skateboarders gathered in one area so every public skatepark you go to is packed. Trust me, there is no shortage of skateparks in America, they have so many that most of the time people don’t even know about them all. Everyone there is hungry to make it, which motivates them to progress faster than you would in our local scene here in South Africa. But, we do have the potential and the same level of talent as the international athletes, the only thing we missing is the world class facilities and the presence of the best skateboarders in the world, which plays an important part in progression as you get to see what they do, how they skate and you learn just from watching them skate. That has unfortunately been taken away from South Africa since KDC has ended.
What have been some of your favorite spots / parks you have skated internationally?
One of my favorite spots would have to be the Westchester 12 stair handrail and the Hollywood high 12 and 16 rail. These are my favorite spots because I love skating handrails and they both have perfect run up and landing. Then my favorite parks would have to be The Berrics because of the exclusivity and all the pros that you get to skate with. Another favorite would have to be the Lake Havasu skatepark because of how beautiful the whole scenery is and how big the skatepark is.
Which local spots / parks are your favorite to skate?
My favorite skate spot in South Africa would have to be either Skinner when it was still skate-able or this green handrail that I skated in Randburg. I’ve only skated it once but it was super fun and the adrenaline was crazy hitting that rail with all the homies to try get a little Instagram clip with me chatting to the security in between tries. Then my favorite parks would have to be my local YBF Plaza Skatepark because I grew up skating there or my own backyard park because I can skate without any distractions and just flow as much as I want.
Name your best local and international contests that you’ve competed in?
The best local contests would have to be Ultimate X, Kimberley Diamond Cup and Red Bull Unlocked. Then my favorite international contests are Damn Am and the Grandprix Beroun event that happens in Czech Republic every year hosted by my main dude Tomas Vintr.
If you could have the opportunity to compete in any contest, which would it be and why?
would have to say Street League. The reason being is because I like the format of the contest as well as the pressure. I sometimes feel like I perform better under pressure. It’s also one of the biggest skate contests in the world where I would have the opportunity to skate against the best skateboarders in the world, which will hopefully fuel my drive to increase the level of my skateboarding to get to a point where I am just as good as the best in the world.
What new tricks are you working on?
At the moment I am working on improving my switch game specifically. I’m also working on a few flip in flip out tricks, which you will have to stay tuned to my Instagram for.
Your 5 favorite tricks that you have dialed?
360 Shuvs, Nollie Tres, Front Blunts, Flip Front Boards and Bigspin Front Boards.
Where would you like to see the sport of skateboarding take you?
Skateboarding has taken me to so many places that I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of going. It’s helped me meet new people and travel the world, which is honestly a dream come true. In the future I would like to see skateboarding take me to the 2020 Olympics to be able to represent South Africa.
What is your ultimate goal in your skate career?
I have a couple of goals that I want to achieve, and will achieve in my career. My main one would be to win a Street League Super Crown contest.
I want to start by thanking Ryan and LW Mag for the feature. I also want to thank all my sponsors; Skullcandy, Volcom, Red Bull, DC Shoes, Peg and Luksbrands for all their support. I also want to thank my parents for all their support. My friends and fans that support everything that I do. Gotta give a shout-out to the Jungle Rush homies for making it all happen. Lastly a thank you to Tim Moolman for shooting all the photos. Thank you skateboarding!
Photos by Tim Moolman.