© Wayne Reiche
Scene not Seen: Pieter Retief
Meet the man who crafts magic skateboarding obstacles out of concrete.
Pieter Retief, the man responsible for creating the curbs used in Red Bull Curb Kings, has been skating for over 20 years. While he still rides (and shreds!) he's all about creating objects for others to skate these days, happy to hang in the background and see the stoke on others.
"There is a massive pleasure in visualising an idea, putting it on paper and then making it successfully," the 33-year-old Capetonian says. And then to skate it, and watch others skate it - that satisfaction is huge!"
Pieter embodies the true spirit of DIY having been a founding member of the OG Northern Suburbs skate crew Durbanville DIY. Today that comes through in everything he produces and he's working hard to pay that ethos forward as well. "The entire process is epic, you can moan and sit back and hope that someone does something, or you can just go grind away and make it happen and then you get the satisfaction from that feeling."
These are Pieter's thoughts:
ON HOW HE GOT STARTED WORKING IN CONCRETE
I first got involved with concrete work with Marc Baker and Jamie O'Brien of the Shred. I got on the job to do the V&A Waterfront Battery Park. That was my first concrete job and during those seven weeks I really fell in love with concrete.
I'm (still) fascinated by how you can craft something from a slump of wet concrete into a polished, rock-hard surface that you can skate
ON MAKING CURBS HAPPEN DURING DOWN TIME
So when the first hard lockdown kicked in, here in South Africa, people stocked up on all sorts of sh*t like toilet paper and booze and whatever and I went to the hardware store and got bags and bags of cement, sand, steel... Basically everything I needed to graft from home. I pretty much went into my garage and thought: 'What can you make out of concrete that you can move and skate?' Boom the curbs came to mind. I checked out a few how-to videos, but kind of just started messing with basic moulds and then cast a few curbs.
ON OPEN TIME
Then when things started opening up and we had that 6am to 8am slot where we could skate in the mornings, I would load the curb in the bakkie and go find a parking lot close-by. I'd hit up all the dudes and then we would skate the curb. That kind of got the momentum started and I was fortunate to get a few commissions to build curbs from that.
ON THE ETHOS OF DIY
You either have that tinkering drive to 'do it yourself' in you, or you don't. You have to put in the time and the effort and a little bit of money and be that person to be willing to go the extra mile to make something. I have seen a bit of a growth in the area for sure though. I really enjoy helping out those guys who are amped and interested.
ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS
There are various things that trigger an idea: I'm constantly reminded and inspired to make certain pieces by my surroundings - even if it’s just cruising down the street, and I see something that is a weird angle or whatever and think: 'Okay cool, I can make something that is kind of like that.
Or, visualising a trick and thinking about what obstacle that trick needs. Lately I've really enjoyed making particular pieces with particular skaters in mind. Like Justus Kotze (who won Red Bull Curb Kings), I’ve made so many curbs just like thinking I can just see him going around this S-bend curb or whatever.
ON KEEPING IT ROLLING
I used to just go full on, just try hit it as hard as you can. But as you get older you realise you can't keep putting your body through that kind of abuse. These days it's more about the creativity in how you skate a spot and the tricks you chose rather than just going huge and sending it all the time. I also want to keep inspiring others to keep building – you know, pass on the DIY ethos – and to and keep skating. I will try to be involved in skating for as long as I can and growing the scene for as long as you can.