S-O-S: Spitfire x Samurai in Italy

Photography by Sam Ashley
Words by Will Harmon

‘Wow look at those spots!’ was the first thing I thought whilst looking through Sam Ashley’s photos of the recent Spitfire x Samurai trip through Italy. ‘Jacopo really has the whole country mapped out’ I thought to myself. Apparently, the young Italian has a map with thousands of pins connected to skate spots throughout Italy. Eager to find out more, we thought it would be best to have a little catch up with Mr Carozzi. 

Jacopo Carozzi, kickflip, ‎⁨Lignano Sabbiadoro⁩

I pinned down (pun intended) Jacopo one late-September morning for a Facetime chat. He was at home, in Milan, and he told me that this Spitfire trip was organised by his pals at Samurai Distribution. You may have heard of Samurai from seeing one of their Samurai Safari edits. The Safari trips, set up by the distributor, consist of travelling around Italy with the squad in the summer, hitting predominantly unknown terrain and camping along the way. A good portion of the spots they’d hit were discovered by Jacopo’s many hours of Google Street View research.

Harry Lintell, backside tailslide, ‎⁨Coriano⁩

‘I have known Gio (Grazzani), who is basically the main guy at Samurai, since I was super young. He’s been running Dumb skateboards for probably 15 years.’ Jacopo told me. ‘I would always see him around; like we used to skate together and all that stuff. And then one day he started this little distribution company that was mostly Lowcard, Thrasher, and just a bunch of little brands. When I got on Baker, I knew that these guys were like full-on skaters… I’ve been dealing with a lot of the distributors in Italy, and even if a bunch of them are actually skaters, eventually they turn into being serious businessmen, no matter what. And so I knew that if Gio were to start these projects, he would be like 100% in it for skaters and skateboarding, you know what I mean?’

Charlie Birch, backside nosepick, ‎⁨Lignano Sabbiadoro⁩

Jacopo went on to tell me that he convinced Andrew (Reynolds) to let Samurai start distributing Baker, Deathwish, Shake Junt, etc., then more recently this led to Samurai distributing Deluxe’s brands.
‘Basically since Samurai started distributing all the DLX stuff, Gio was already thinking about doing a trip with the guys.’ he said. It was becoming clear that Samurai wasn’t your typical skate distributor. Not only do they distribute some of the best, core skate brands in Italy and organise trips for their riders, but apparently the crew designs skateparks as well. Sam told me that on the trip, early in the morning, whilst most people were still asleep, the Samurai guys would be up working on their laptops designing skateparks. Plus they’d still manage to join in on the skate sessions later in the day… These guys were really grinding (literally and figuratively) to make it and this got me stoked. But there was one thing that Jacopo mentioned that had himself, his friends and the Samurai guys all really worried: Decathlon.

Daan van der Linden, backside tailslide, Bologna

Decathlon, the multi-million pound business with 2000 stores in 56 countries across five continents is getting into the skateboard business. ‘I didn’t really know anything about it before I saw it on the Thrasher website. And I spoke with some of my friends about it, and yeah, it just seems like it’s gonna be like a full skate shop kind of thing, which is pretty gnarly, because it’s gonna kill all the little smaller shops or businesses.’ Jacopo said. I told him I had seen the Decathlon ad featuring Adrien Bulard as well. He continued: ‘When I saw that clip, I was like, “really?” And there’s an Italian guy, Ale Mazzara, who skates vert mostly, who actually just signed a contract with those guys… I’m not gonna lie to you, we all knew that this kind of shit was gonna happen with skateboarding getting into the Olympics, you know what I mean?’ After a quick check on Decathlon’s website I found that they were indeed selling skate brands I’d heard of; brands I was surprised that were on there. ‘The thing that I’m worried about is that since Decathlon is so big, they’re probably gonna make big orders…’ Jacopo said, ‘So they’re gonna pay a little less for all the products compared to a smaller skate distribution company. And so they’re probably gonna sell it for like five euros less than any skate shop. So of course, people are going to be pushed to go to the Decathlon to buy less expensive skate products.’ It wasn’t really of any concern when they were selling low-quality toy-store skateboard products for beginners, but when ‘legit’ brands sell to Decathlon I agreed that it was indeed a worry.

Victor ‘Doobie’ Pellegrin, frontside feeble grind, Senigallia⁩

‘I just don’t understand why you would step into the skateboarding business knowing that you’re gonna kill all the fucking small shops.’ said Jacopo.

I asked him what the Samurai guys thought about all of this. ‘They are very worried about it. First of all, because so much is going on with the price of products and stuff… Like especially the cost of maintaining a distribution. So, for example, a Baker board sells at a skate shop for €90. It’s a lot compared to how it used to be, say, like, six, seven years ago when you could buy a board for 50 bucks with grip. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I’m worried skateboarding is kind of becoming a rich kid’s sport.
So yeah, it’s kind of gnarly right now. And skate shops can’t afford to place big orders and stuff. So yeah, it’s kinda tough… And that’s why Samurai is mostly focusing on building skateparks at the moment.’

Daan van der Linden, backside 360 ollie, Lignano Sabbiadoro⁩

I quipped that ‘it’s actually the responsibility of the brands to not sell to these big box stores like Decathlon if they care about the longevity of these smaller, core skate shops.’ Jacopo agreed and said, ‘The problem is that you can’t really do much about it. And
I know they have to put food on the table, but I mean, like, how can you? It is what it is… At the end of the day, whoever has the most money is gonna fucking win.’

Alex Borgetti, backside smith grind, Bologna

All this talk of Decathlon kneecapping the Italian skate industry was pretty depressing. I really hope that things can turn around and people will realise the good distributors like Samurai are doing for our beloved pastime and they in turn support them. I was eager to move the conversation along and talk about something a little less daunting, but before I could Jacopo added this: ‘Like I said before, that’s the difference between being a businessman and skaters that are running a skateboarding business. You know what I mean? There’s a big difference… With all the money that we (Samurai) take in from orders and stuff, we just make Safaris. They are very low on budget, but at the end of the day, none of the guys are rich, none of the guys are actually making real money out of the distribution. It’s very small amounts; it’s just for the love… For the love of skateboarding, not for the money.’

Mattia Turco, frontside ollie to wall bash, ‎Lignano Sabbiadoro

This was a tempting point to wind down the interview, on a positive note, but I’d yet to ask about the pins, you know, all the spot finds on Google Street View Jacopo is known for. Well it turns out that it was actually the Samurai guys that had planned the route for this trip. It was a mix of going to visit skateparks they’d designed and built, doing a couple demos and also hitting up street spots along the way.

Chris Pfanner, kickflip, Senigallia⁩

‘When I first saw the route I was like, are we actually really going to these places? Because like, they don’t really have that many spots, ha ha.’ Jacopo said. ‘So we started in Milan, then went all the way to Lignano (Sabbiadoro), which is close to Venice, and then we pretty much just went down the coast, like on the right side of the country. Oh, actually, before we hit the coast we went to Bologna. So basically, like the first location was Lignano, which is such an OG place for the Italian skate scene. Back in the ‘90s they used to do a contest where all the Italian skaters used to go and even people from Europe and shit. So it’s kind of known as a good place in Italian skateboarding as it has these few really good spots. One is the quarterpipe at the church, then the pyramid got built like a year or two ago, which is a new one, and then there’s also just a bunch of random spots around there.’

Harry Lintell, frontside nosegrind, Bologna

‘I’d actually been to all these cities before, but there was one school in Bologna that I’d never hit, which is where Harry did the front nosegrind down the hubba.’ said Jacopo. ‘That was a pretty good spot the guys found; it had a bunch of shit.’

Looking at the pics from this article you can see the Spitfire crew skated some pretty appealing street architecture; I was eager to know how many of these locations Jacopo had found from his hours of online spot-searching… ‘​​So yeah, I kind of held the pins back to be honest, because the guys knew about all the spots in the locations we visited.’ Jacopo said. I was astonished, all the spots they skated the Samurai guys already knew about. And apart from the natural quarterpipe I’d never seen these spots anywhere before. Italy really does have a lot to offer…

Victor ‘Doobie’ Pellegrin, frontside lipslide, Senigallia⁩

Still kinda shocked that Jacopo didn’t need to use any of his mythical pins, I pleaded for more info… ‘Yeah, this is my thing. I’ll show you…’ Jacopo pulls out his iPad, unlocks it, and a map of Italy comes up with a ridiculous amount of red dots covering the entire country. His face lights up as he says: ‘There’s pins everywhere, even Milan is full. I’m saving them for the next Samurai Safari trip. Every Safari we only skate about one third of the spots in my mind, so there’s a lot more to check out.’

Chris Pfanner, ollie, ‎Pineto

In closing, perhaps the moral of this story is this: support your local skater owned shop. Distributors like Samurai depend on orders from core skate shops (we all know how valuable these places are to our little skate ecosystem) in order to fund these skate trips. Because I’d like to think we all want to see what spots Jacopo’s saved for the next Samurai Safari… I know I sure do.

Click below for more of Sam Ashley’s photos of the trip.