An Interview With Yaje Popson


Photo by Brian Kelley

There is no question that Yaje is one of the most talented New York skaters to emerge in recent years. Except after gaining momentum with a multi-page Skateboarder interview, some solid video parts and flow from one of the best companies around, he disappeared. Both from Tompkins and from skate media altogether. Well, we caught up with Yaje over Skype (an in-person interview wasn’t exactly possible) to talk about where he’s been and what he’s been up to. Thanks to Emilio Cuilan, Brian Kelley and Luke Clerkin for your help.


Where are you right now?

I’m chilling in my beautiful apartment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It’s the third largest city in Brazil. I was born here and moved to New York when I was three, so it’s good to get in touch with your homeland. I moved back in the winter of 2011. Autumn and I left at the same time. No Autumn Bowl, no Autumn Skateshop, what’s the point?

Any other reasons for the move besides Autumn closing?

I initially came out to help heal a knee injury, but I stayed because we have a much better quality of life out here. My family lived in that one little shitty apartment [in New York], so this is luxury.

Is where you are a beach city like Rio?

No, but I have a house on the beach in Espírito Santo and one more house in the jungle.

Buy Outdated here

Have your knees gotten better?

My left knee has gotten a bit better, but my right knee is about the same. I went to two different orthopedists and they say different things. One says it’s a meniscus issue, the other doctor says it’s not a meniscus and not to worry about it, but that knee hasn’t changed. If you go to an orthopedist, they want to operate on you. But to be honest, I’m kind of afraid of surgery. I’m waiting it out until the day I have to, or perhaps not need to [have surgery] at all. Money isn’t an easy situation right now, so I’m reluctant to dive into surgery. It’s $20,000 for a meniscus surgery out here.

This knee injury has instigated a bit of an awakening for me. I was kinda depressed for a while when I could no longer skate. I’ve been taking it easy and eating well. I’ve been doing a lot of healing massages with oil and hot compresses. Nature is much more accessible here. The [quality of] fruit alone is a good enough reason to live out here.

Do you run acai bowls every morning?

I used to. The acai is kinda weak. They put sugar in it and the original [recipe] doesn’t have sugar.

So should fellow Tompkins skaters still eat the Rio Bowl from Juicy Lucy’s?

Yeah, because Juicy Lucy’s doesn’t put this shitty syrup in it. The acai in the States comes from a pack without the sugar. Here, it’s only served with sugar. I’ve been trying cut it out of my diet because refined sugar is poison.

Have you skated out there at all? Pushing around, anything?

No, but I miss skating so much.

yaje hippie

Photo by Luke Clerkin

Without skating, what do you spend your time doing?

I’ve been getting into painting. I’m enrolled in art classes. The kitchen is my favorite outlet at the moment. I’ve been getting good at cooking. I’m inspired by Indian, Japanese and Latin food. I’m a vegetarian, so I cook a lots of rice, beans, vegetables and lentils.

How did you end up getting on Chocolate?

I was on flow for Krooked. It was around 2008 and 2009, when America was having economic issues. I guess they started cutting back and sending me one board a month, and that was kinda short. At the time, Alex Olson was in New York and hanging out at Autumn a lot. We were talking about how I needed a new sponsor situation, and he mentioned Chocolate. He sent my tape in and it worked out.

Why didn’t you get on as an AM?

I was putting a lot of effort into filming for the video. I heard Raven got on, I talked to Sam and he said there’s “nothing we could do at the moment.” A week later, my knee started hurting again. I’ve had knee pain for ten years, but it started getting worse. I dislocated it switch flipping some stairs when I was younger, but have skated through the pain all these years. Stretching and yoga kept me going, but then I hit a wall.

Did the injury stop the ball from rolling with Chocolate, or were they done with adding new skaters to the team when they told you that?

Well, it was like, “If you’re in the video, then you’re on Chocolate.” And I guess they weren’t going to put me in the video. At the same time, Habitat was talking to me and I was interested because I have homies on that team. Then my knee failed me…or I failed my knee.

Was it a similar sort of “We’ll put you on flow and see where it goes” situation, or were you supposed to be AM?

I believe they were down for the AM status.

yaje kids

Photo by Luke Clerkin

So when are you coming back to New York?

I’m not sure yet. I have plans to travel and study. I’ve been into permaculture, which is a design system that works with nature rather than against it. It involves a lot of organic farming. There’s this organization called WWOOF that connects all these organic farms throughout the world, and provides free education and work. You work in exchange for food and shelter. Last summer, four of my friends and I traveled throughout South America. We started in Ecuador, took a bus through Peru, went to Machu Picchu, went through Bolivia, Paraguay, and ended back up in Brazil. We took local buses the whole way.

I applied for a permaculture course at an institute in Brazil. I have this house in the jungle that has been abandoned for twenty years, and I want to cultivate it. I want to plant my own food and be self-sufficient. I’ve had these three houses my whole life, but took them for granted.

How far is your jungle house?

It’s an hour outside the city. There’s a dirt road to get there.

It doesn’t sound like coming back is a major priority for you.

No, I’m kinda over the winter and city life. But once a city kid, always a city kid.

…you’re in a city now.

Ha. Yeah, exactly. I still miss New York though. I miss all the homies. I miss Tompkins. I miss going skating around midtown.

What’s your favorite T.F. memory?

Just going to Autumn in the morning, saying what’s up, and then doing the bag of tricks on the box. Then waiting for the weekend to go skating midtown. I miss filming tricks. Filming could get frustrating, but it’s really fulfilling.

How are the girls out there?

To be honest, I haven’t seen many beautiful women here. You would think there’s a lot, but there aren’t that many in this city. They all move to Rio or Sao Paulo I think.

I don’t know if you still follow skate media, but Vice recently interviewed Josh Kalis and he said you were one of his favorite up and coming skaters.

I’m honored. Dude, I still watch skateboarding everyday. I’m still obsessed with skating. I’ve been having a recurring dream where I can’t drop in. Sometimes it’s on a vert ramp, sometimes it’s on a mini ramp, and sometimes it’s on a small bank. I either fall to flat or slip out. I wake up feeling frustrated. Even last night, I had a dream I was at Tompkins with jelly legs and couldn’t skate.

You should heal up and get on DGK. Get some braids, wear baggier clothes and be their new Brazilian kid. You gotta change your name to Yaj or something though.

Yaj will be my rap name.


  1. reading this, i’m feeling nostalgia for yaje’s childhood as a skateboarder in new york city

  2. He should sell one of those houses and pay for some surgery. Or give one to me.

    Seems like a self-apologist bent on obscuring the actual reasons why he left, which included making a fool of himself in front of industry names.

    WWOOF sucks too.

  3. This bummed me the fuck out. Yaje, youre my favorite skateboarder. Please see another doctor and come back to skateboarding. I’ve been battling knee pain too since I hurt them riding a fucking dirtbike 7 years ago, it fucking sucks having to stop doing certain shit because of it and skatesessions being cut short.

    I really hope you heal up man, Brazil seems awesome though.

  4. hey yaje , i’m cori duffel and i’ve had 845 surgeries. it aint no thang to be scared of sucka fish yeahyeahyeah woooooooooo! 2-3 yrs and your knees haven’t improved any yet…wasting time homie. YEEEOWWWW!!

  5. i can relate to this so much but still sucks to read – knee problems after TF, got into art, moved away from nyc.
    keep it going yaje, this kind of life has way more longevity and long-term satisfaction.

  6. Great interview, hope he gets the knee fixed and drops in again.
    Also, his rap name should be Yaj Pop Thun!

  7. Yep, fixing your knee here costs one hell lot of money, with like 8k you can fix it, if it’s your meniscus, surgery is mandatory. Get your MRI and go visit another orthopedist!


  9. injuries are just depressing for someone who loves skateboarding. thinking your healed then stepping on a board immediately knowing its not possible to go 100%. Thanks for those parts though, that east coast style was one of a kind. At least the dude seems to be putting that energy into something else he loves. Put out just 1 more part skating brasil spots please.

  10. This kid is seriously my favorite person to watch these days (Im 30); his style is more interesting than 95 percent of pros. The trick and spot selection is so advanced. Someone buy this kid a knee. skateboarding needs this kid probably more than he needs skating.

  11. @ free bandz

    He told me to do a re-edit of his parts “but not to that ‘modern’ shit you edit to.” So unfortunately, I don’t think he’s a big Future fan.

  12. Three torn meniscus injuries, and I still held out on surgery. Have friends who got the surgery and have nowhere the same range in flexibility as they used too. Sheit, I’m with holding out on it.

  13. Yaje I love you and miss you. i’m so stoked on the good times we spent together and shredded. sounds like you have a rad thing going down there. I’ll come visit sometime. keep in touch my brother.

  14. I feel him on being reluctant to get surgery. I fucked my knee pretty bad skating and after about six months of limping around I thought surgery was the only way out. After getting multiple differing opinions from doctors I said fuck it and did about 5 months worth of intense knee-strengthening exercises along with a proper diet and was back 100% within a year from the time of injury. Surgery isn’t always the answer.

    I hope Yaje finds the way and gets better. Skating definitely needs guys like this.

  15. Aí Yaje, opera logo seus joelhos e volta a andar de skate!!

    você tem muito que mostrar ainda!!!

    Eu fiz cirurgia no menisco em ambos os joelhos e estou 100% recuperado!!!

    ando de skate todos os dias!!!

    Não seja fraco, seja forte pois sua família depende de seu talento como skatista, não decepcione aqueles que tanto gostam de você, trate de tomar coragem e operar logo seus joelhos!!!

    abração irmão, que Deus te guie te ilumine proteja e te guarde!!

  16. Interesting, the difference in responses between Yaje and Shawn Powers. Although I enjoyed Mr Powers footy in the new Dime post. Begin discussion now.

  17. Feel so bad for yaje. Being injured is the worst…both my ankles are jacked i can definetely relate.

  18. Wish i had roots and homes in Brazil, dont stress skatin too hard man keep livin the good life in South America. Sure wish i could.

  19. Every skateboarder from day one should do kung-fu / martial arts leg exercises. It’s the only way to strengthen yourself against injury, and subsequently to recover from it. I quit skating for a few years due to my knees, and took up kung-fu as something else to focus on. I’ve been back skating again for a couple of years now and have had no problems whatsoever.

    Loving the skate life again.

    Look some exercises up on youtube or something – and start doing them now. Your pop will improve and you won’t get niggling injuries as much.


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