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The Jake Borchenko Interview

Like a salmon swimming upstream, Jake Borchenko came to smaller sized Ottawa from big city Toronto in 2022 to attend teacher’s college. Jake is an awesome skater but also a talented videographer. Due to some problematic injuries, he gravitated more towards filming than skating as he settled into Ottawa. The beginnings of what would become “PLAYBACK” - a full length skateboard video, started to form naturally. Jake is such a likeable human being and a massive skate nerd so a connection with Birling skateboard shop formed quickly. The shop decided to support the development of the video. This opened up the involvement to pretty much an entire skateboard community. Jake ended up including almost 90 skaters in “PLAYBACK”. That is no small feat! It all came together for an epic premiere at Ottawa’s historic Mayfair theatre in December of 2023. Once the dust settled, we caught up with Jake to pick his brain about the project.

Jake Borchenko Bs Smith Ottawa SkateboardJake Borchenko - Bs Smith

At the start of the 2023 skate season we put an open call out on Birling’s Instagram for anyone who wants to film a clip with you to holler. We did that without consulting you. My bad! How did that turn out?
Ha! Yeah that was a bit gnarly, but it ended up working out. I remember randomly receiving 30-40 DMs before seeing that you made that “open call” so I wasn’t sure what was going on. I’m also new-ish to Ottawa so the majority of these DMs were from people I didn’t know. For better or worse though, that Instagram post set this project up to be inclusive and open for everyone within the city.

It was my way of trying to see who out there in Ottawa was hungry for street skating and filming. What percentage of homies that hollered turned into actual skate clips?
Honestly, a good amount. For at least one clip…maybe even 70%? It’s tough to put a number on it. It was also a mix of homies that I knew and some that I didn’t. A lot of them were intrigued by the project and were looking for an opening to film a clip. Your Instagram post provided that! It was also cool how the impact of that post lasted longer than I expected. Some people reached out even months later. I was stoked on that.

Wesley Lee - FootplantWesley Lee - Footplant

You seemed to have sparked a lot of homies out of the park and into the streets. Was that tough? Some of the younger skaters have never left the park…
Not to say that I am “old” by any means but I grew up skateboarding in Toronto at a time when there weren’t a ton of skateparks. I grew up skating in the streets. That’s what I know and love, but I get the appeal of skateparks. It’s easy and fun to skate in parks, so it can be challenging to persuade park skaters to leave that environment. Saying the details out loud makes it seem funny. “Hey…we’re going to leave the park, roll the dice on a spot that might be awful and we might get kicked out…”. It helped to explain to these folks that filming a trick that’ll be included in a larger and more significant project can be rewarding. There were also a good amount of people that simply never left that park and that’s totally OK. It was cool to feel like this project planted a seed for street skating appreciation in some skaters. Tara Marie, for example, really took to street skating during the filming of PLAYBACK. She didn’t have too much experience with eyeing out spots, or even thinking of tricks and lines that are possible. We showed her a thing or two and off she went, texting me photos of potential spots etc. That’s the best!

It's like that old proverb – “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” All you can do is show a skater that there is this world of street skating and full length video projects out there, and if they take to it, sick! No need to force anyone into anything they’re not into.
Street skating is so special because it takes work. In this era of instant gratification, street skating and proper filming is just so refreshing and different. It adds value and depth to skating. It makes it more enjoyable to me.

Brett Malone - Bs NosegrindBrett Malone - Bs Nosegrind

What about the trips you guys arranged? Is that something you’re used to? Coming from Toronto, there’s enough spots to last a lifetime so you kinda don’t need to leave. Ottawa has that “home is where you hang your hat/ travel as much as possible mentality.”
I actually have travelled a bunch on skate trips, even as a kid! Those trips tended to push me out of my comfort zone but also taught me about the community aspect of skate culture by developing bonds with skaters in different areas. It made me more well rounded as a skater and as a person. Traveling and skate trips have always been important to me. Although you don’t need to travel as a skater living in Toronto, I happen to love going on trips. The weather in Ottawa during the winter season is also brutal so it just made sense to do a trip to someplace warm and keep the momentum going for the video during the winter. We picked Austin, Texas for that trip in the winter of 2023, and it actually snowed…in Texas…when we arrived. That was crazy, but anyways, the crew got along well, so we kept the vibes going and organized a bunch of trips mainly to north eastern American cities throughout the spring, summer, and fall of 2023.

Of all the cities you travelled to while filming PLAYBACK (other than Austin), which one stands out the most?
Albany was awesome. A huge part of that has to be attributed to the local skate shop out there – Seasons. I love that shop! They went above and beyond helping us out with spot recommendations and let us lurk the shop for as long as we wanted. They spoke so positively about their skate scene, and you could feel that love! Albany also has every type of spot – from perfect marble ones to rougher yet interesting ones. We visited a bunch of cities with similar vibes – Rochester, Syracuse, Hartford – and we had a great time in all of them, but Albany stands out as my favourite.

The cool thing about PLAYBACK that I noticed is that the spot selection and in general the visuals flow together and showcase this “off the beaten path” journey that you guys went on. It makes me want to jump in a van and check these cities out! When out traveling and filming, does the consistency of the footage ever cross your mind?
Absolutely it does, and that posed a bit of a challenge when it came time to edit the video. On one hand, we were trying to have PLAYBACK be a community project, which included all kinds of different people skating all kinds of different spots, but we also wanted it to have a specific look and feel to it. That just means that decisions about cutting certain clips needed to be made, and that’s typical of any skateboard video project. It’s impossible to be fully inclusive and accepting of all clips while maintaining a consistent visual vibe. Trying to keep a balance between both concepts is tough but I did my best. In the case of PLAYBACK, I was thinking that leaning more towards including as many homies as possible was going to have the most positive impact. That meant easing up the strictness of visual consistency but that’s fine. 

Andrew Manion - Crooked Grind OttawaAndrew Manion - Bs Crooks

I like that approach! There are a few different “lanes” when it comes to skate videos and they don’t need to be all scrutinized under the same lens. There are some videos that are purely about the best and most impressive tricks. PLAYBACK is more community oriented and means a lot to the locals of Ottawa, despite not having the most mind blowing tricks featured.
Totally, and those other videos that lean more into the visuals are awesome too! After Ottawa's "Magenta - Just Cruise 2" premiere, I overheard some skaters at the park saying stuff like “some of the tricks were pretty basic…” and I wanted to say to them “it’s not about that!”. Some skate videos are more about showcasing unique spots, filmed beautifully with different skaters. Not everything is about filming the craziest tricks.

Another proverb comes to mind - “Comparison is the thief of joy”.
Absolutely dude! I love watching every type of skating. I’ll go from watching street league footage to some obscure vx1000 edit from Pittsburg. I love it all.

Damn, that’s wicked. I need to work on my attitude because I gravitate to one small section of skating while avoiding all the rest.
Oh, it’s all good! Do whatever works for you, but it’s just good to keep in mind that you don’t actually have to pick a lane. You can enjoy them all. As I get older, I find myself to be intrigued by the stuff I was ignoring as a kid. Like vert skating! That’s so interesting to me now.
Ok last question, tell us about one of your top 3 tricks that stand out from the video. Is there an interesting backstory?
Off the top of my head, Matt McCuaig comes to mind…just in general. The dude’s a pure skate rat to the core but he’s also an airline pilot. He was literally flying all over the world while we were filming for this video. He’d film clips on his down time. During the pandemic, he was not working as a pilot so he pivoted into working as a city bus driver for a year or so. Talk about a perfect job for a motivated skater! He would scope out spots all over the city in weird places. He took me to one of those obscure spots. It was an electrical box, gap into a steep bank, into a hill bomb. He’d kept it in his mind for about 3 years! Crazy. One morning he picked me up and we trekked out there. He wanted to tail bomb off the electrical box and into the bank. He bailed a few then landed one, quite easily. That was like an “anti bunt”. He stumbled into this strange spot, thought about it for years then actually drove out and did something on it. Matt’s the best.

That’s the power of a skate video! Sometimes all you need to spark an entire community is to have someone like yourself and a project like PLAYBACK to structure everything. It gives people a reason to get out there! I’m sure the impact of that spark will last for years to come. Congrats on a job well done dude!
That’s very kind, thank you for that! Everyone came together to make this thing work and I’m happy with how it turned out.

Jake Borchenko and Wesley Lee
Jake Borchenko (left) and Wesley Lee (right)

Watch all parts to PLAYBACK by clicking here!

Tagged with: Interviews

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