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Yann Horowitz Interview

Rainbow Diamond

It’s probably pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy Yann. On the ol’ skateboard, he’s great. Off it, he might even be greater… Attractive energy, attractive dude! Like the universe jerking off to Freddy Mercury and out cums this rad, down-to-earth human. That type of person that just draws you in. He’s got it! Whatever the fuck “that” is. Hats off to you, Yann. He is a fuxing G, enjoying to skate the crustiest spot rather than some perfect bullshit. Go search his name on the interweb and find him standing out next to those ledge-waxing-boring-same-trick dudes just shining like the rainbow diamond he is. I love him and so will you if you get to know him. So give him the chance and let’s all love Yann together. Here he is. Enjoy!

We met through Julian Dykmans in Berlin, no?

We did, but we also met in Barcelona before that. I was 18 years old and not tainted by the world yet – and then Barcelona happened. I was staying with [Thomas] Winkle for six months in that crazy house. I went to Barcelona to go and find myself and I think I lost myself.

Was it your first time in Barcelona?

It was. You know, it’s every skater’s dream – especially for a young skater from South Africa.

I made a promise to the girl I lost my virginity to that we were going to Barcelona one day.

And it happened?

Yann Horowitz Huricane Fakie Photo Sam Clark

Frontside Hurricane to fakie

Fuck no – I went to Barcelona, she didn’t.

“I’m gonna hold your hand while we walk through MACBA.” [laughs]

I was living in Iowa, so it was the same thing…

… small-town syndrome. But yeah, I guess we got to know each other really well in Berlin.

This was the summer five years ago, before I had Adam. Not your boyfriend Adam, though. I haven’t had him yet.

[laughs] I hope so, Jesus! But yeah, Berlin… we made history out there. I tried to skate Berlin, but I found it to be a pretty tricky city to skate and also all those fucking techno clubs slowly got the best of me.

"I realized how fragile being sane actually is. I felt out of my mind and completely crazy and I was worried I wasn’t going to come back"

I will never forget the time when X-Games James said, “I think it’s coke” – and it wasn’t! Was it 2C-B or something… in the middle of the fucking day!

That was the first time I realized how fragile being sane actually is. I felt out of my mind and completely crazy and I was worried I wasn’t going to come back, but I did. Well, maybe halfway. [laughs]

And then we decided to try it again two days later.

Yeah, at X-Games James’ house! He found us on his couch, stroking each other’s hair. He was like, “How did you get into my house?!” and we were just like, “Don‘t worry about it.”

I don’t even remember this one, but I remember the other trip when we were just flying away from the planet…

… oh, that was so off.

I’m glad the girl was ok, too.

Me too. She had never done psychedelics before, and this was a very intense one, but she pulled it together. She had a good time afterwards – she just needed to get rid of her clothes.

Yann Horowitz Slappy Swithch Crooks Helsinki Photo Sam Clark

Slappy Switch Crooked Grind

And we had to convince her that she should stop hanging on to reality.

“Everything is ok, just go with the flow! Stop fighting it, bro!” [both laugh]

“Just fly away from the planet and let your brain melt.” This was a really intense summer for me. I mellowed out after this.

I think I tried, too. Even being in Europe now, I haven’t been given any rules or regulations [by his boyfriend Adam], but the one was, “Dude, you can do whatever you want, just don’t go to Berlin!” He’s heard all my stories from that summer…

It’s nice that we finally got to meet again in Helsinki. Is there a point in time when this partying lifestyle is too much? For me, it was when I had a child.

I think that’s why we were going so hard in Berlin. You were like, “This is the last time I have before the baby comes,” and we were like, “Cool, let’s get it out of your system and then it’s daddy mode.” And it worked!

"Classic fucking tourists in Holland, killing ourselves laughing and hiding behind trees. That was so much fun"

Yeah, it kind of worked.

That’s good. Dude, I had a fucking blast in Helsinki, though!

What were you doing after Helsinki?

I had about three weeks in Holland and Sam and I just went to different cities to get photos done for this article. It was a very productive trip – I mean, we had our party weekends, but during the week, we were out just filming and skating. Holland is actually a great place! I had an amazing truffles experience in Arnhem. It’s a very fun and intense hallucinogen. It’s the part of the mushroom that grows under the ground, not on top, so that’s the grey area to sell it legally. These things kicked us in the ass and we ended up finding this park with these amazing sculptures and got lost for five hours. Classic fucking tourists in Holland, killing ourselves laughing and hiding behind trees. That was so much fun.

Wish I could have been there. And then you went up to “Pushing Boarders” in Malmö?

Yeah, that was pretty much why I was in Europe: doing this conference and this talk on the LGBTQ community in the skate industry and how to create allyship against racism, sexism, and all that kind of stuff. It was a beautiful event. At times, it was exhausting because you’re sitting through so many intense talks and trying to absorb all this knowledge. At the end of the day, your brain hardly works anymore. They booked my tickets two months earlier, so I could come to Helsinki and travel a bit before.

Because you’re gay, you got a free ticket?

Pretty much – I got to use that gay ticket! [both laugh]


Say, “What, you don’t want me there because I‘m gay?” and then people get weird and buy me anything I want. No, just kidding! [laughs]

I was really interested if there were any aspects about depression, especially with Ben Raemer’s death.

I think it’s amazing how through these losses that we have had, people are getting together a lot more. I think people aren’t afraid of expressing more emotion and love towards each other.

It’s the oncoming idea that we all have to build more community and everyone knows it.

Yes, we have to keep looking after each other.

"Take off your clothes and then you’re wearing these onesie singlets and then just slowly unbutton the back and take a giant shit down the three block"

I secretly hope that during the Olympics, skateboarders will have some protest or demonstration or something. Fuck, it’s so annoying that skateboarding is a part of it.

I had this weird fantasy about trying to get into the Olympics, and then during my run, I would do a whole Neil Blender scenario: just buy some spray paint, tag the ramps, and maybe light some firecrackers.

Yeah, that’s what I want! I’m gonna find out who is on the Olympic team and see if I know one of them.

Just try to convince them to turn it into a live art piece: take off your clothes and then you’re wearing these onesie singlets and then just slowly unbutton the back and take a giant shit down the three block.Stu Graham took a shit in the middle of one of these big contests sponsored by Boost Mobile or some shit. Security didn’t say anything, they just cleaned it up afterwards.That is fucking wild!

You were in this Park Series contest, no?

Yeah, I won it last year and it took me to China.

You’re a tranny skater, I didn’t realize. You’re a tranny or you’re a tranny skater?

On Sundays, Yannika comes out.

[laughs] What, you have a name?

Yannika would have been my name if I came out as a girl, but I became Yann. So that naturally became my feminine alter ego. What was the question? Oh yeah, I’m a tranny skater. I really enjoy skating street tranny…

… don’t dwell.

A friend of mine got flagged on Instagram for using the word “tranny”, like, “Oh, this tranny was so fun!” He got some hate mail after that. You’ve got to be so careful of what you say these days.

Fuck that shit, political correctness…

So, I love skating street transition. [laughs] I can skate tranny, but I’m not like Pedro Barros or anyone like that. I just enjoy anything, whatever makes me happy. Just don’t take me to a set of stairs or a 20 stair handrail. Did you see the taildrop off the bridge?

Yeah, I’m surprised you’re not naked.

I know! [laughs] There were lots of families around, it wasn’t too much of a safe space. I borrowed some swim shorts and we made a leash with a friend’s shoe lace. When we were walking past it, all the locals, the SLP dudes, were like, “We’ve been talking about taildropping this for five years and no one has ever done it.” They talked me into it and I said, “If anyone lends me a skateboard, I’ll do it!” and that was the worst thing to say because, of course, everyone handed me their skateboard instantly. It was scary: I had to swim down there to see if there were any rocks underneath the bank – and the bank keeps going into the water, so if you kicked out or landed wrong, you were landing straight onto that bank.

Was it first try?

Yeah, I had to, dude. If I kicked out, I would really have hurt myself.

"Trampolines make you gay, kids. Watch out."

Yann Horowitz BS Nose Pick Cape Town Photo Sam Clark

Backside Nosepick

And there is this backside nosepick on the blue thing in the interview.

That is actually in the harbor in Cape Town. We had to break so many laws to get in there. We jumped quite a few fences and there were security guards with guns everywhere. That was sketchy. We had a lookout and whenever something was moving, we would hide underneath whatever we could find and be as quiet as possible.

Can you tell the story of when you realized you were gay?

I told it on stage in Malmö as well. I was jumping on my trampoline in the garden when I was ten years old. And I was just jumping, minding my own business and then I had this weird epiphany: every time I was reaching the apex of my jump, when I was floating, in my head I was like, “I think I like boys.” And I’d jump again and was like, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure.” So I kept jumping and eventually came to the conclusion and said, “Yeah, I’m gay!” in my brain. It was quite profound. [laughs] Trampolines make you gay, kids. Watch out.

You told me once you would like to have children, no?

Yeah, eventually. But only once I’m financially stable and have my shit together. It’s not like I’m a straight person that can just like, you know, pop them out. [both laugh] But, eventually, I think I could be a really good family man.

You can borrow my kids if you like.

I’ll babysit for sure! I’ll be a good guncle!

Damn, some day we will have to come and visit you before you go to San Francisco. You really wanna go to the US right now?

I just want to go and check it out. See what the hype is about. I have been to New York and Florida when I was really young, so it will be a different experience. San Francisco has a lot of amazing history, specifically gay history. It will be nice to hang out with my people. [laughs]

I guess you can hang out with every type of people there.

All kinds of people are my people. I’ll probably be fucking starving and poor by the time I leave, but it will be worth it. [laughs]

Yann Horowitz 180 switch 5 0 Arnhem Photo Sam Clark

Frontside 180 Switch 5-0

Do you make money from skating?

Yes, Vans is giving me a good salary. Then I get photo and video incentives, I DJ and I work part-time at a bar.

I guess that’s really healthy for you, working at a bar.

It’s not actually, but I’m not drinking when I’m behind the bar.

I always did.

We’ve done this entire month sober and I’m breaking that tonight, so wish me luck. I’m on a bitchy phase.

Good thing we’ve reached you before…

… I turn back into a gremlin!

That’s why you went to bed so early last night.

Exactly. We’re breaking it tonight, but then my boyfriend and I will do it next month as well. Just keep it going.

There has to be a reason to drink rather than just because it’s the weekend. Like, “It’s Saturday, get fucked up!”

Or “It’s Tuesday and it’s raining, so…” [both laugh]

So you’re gonna go to the US, blow up, and become a world-famous skateboarder?

Infamous, maybe.

"My idea for this art show I’m doing is “butts and flowers”. I’m trying to find the best butts in Cape Town"

You bombed that hill in Helsinki naked. You’re pretty infamous for being naked, no?

Yeah, I think I’m just really comfortable with not giving a fuck. I think it was a really crazy afterparty the night before and everyone was taking bets on who was going to win that hill-bomb competition – and a lot of people bet money on me. I was feeling so horrid from the night before and was not at all sure I was going to win this thing, so I just made sure everyone got their money’s worth. I was standing next to Sam Beckett and said, “I think I might bomb this thing naked,” and he replied, “I‘ll give you 50 euros right now if you do it!” He took my clothes with him when he bombed the hill, so I wouldn’t have to do the walk of shame back up.

Walk of fame! I was sleeping at the bottom of the hill and woke up when you came in.

You woke up to my blinding white ass. [laughs] I got some Wi-Fi after that and got a message from my boyfriend saying, “Oh, so half of Helsinki gets a dick pic before I do?”

So that was Finland for you.

Yeah, exactly. That’s why I’m sold and wanna come back next year. But Dallas, my uncle is arriving in like ten minutes to pick up some furniture. I’m just gonna get dressed and ready while we’re talking.

You’re not dressed right now?

I’ve actually been buck naked the whole time.

I was just trying to convince my friend, who’s doing yoga next to me while we’re talking, that penises taste like strawberry…


To give me a blowjob, but she wouldn’t do it. I just thought it would be great if we both got blowjobs during the interview. It would be unique!

That would be a very interesting one.

Where were you born?

I was actually born in Geneva, Switzerland. As soon as my parents had three kids and Mandela came into power in South Africa, they moved back. They wanted to get away from apartheid, and as soon as it ended, they came back. So I’ve been growing up pretty much my entire life in South Africa. Do you know the horse smuggling story that my mom did? They moved their lives to Nairobi, Kenya, for two years and my mom got a couple of horses up there. My dad’s contract ended and they had to leave Nairobi within three months and move back to South Africa, but my mom could not get the paperwork to get these horses legally back into the country. She was like, “Fuck this, I’m not leaving these horses behind.” So she hired a truck and her and my sister drove from Nairobi over six days, paying authorities off, and getting through borders. They said it was the wildest trip they ever had, they slept a total of five hours on the entire trip!

Yann Horowitz BS 270 onto the Glass Helsinki Photo Sam Clark

Backside 270 onto the glass

Sick, dude! Your parents have always been down with you skating?

Yeah, they have always been very supportive. I wouldn’t let them come watch me at skate competitions, because I had this weird thing that it would be too much pressure – so they would come in disguise. Later in my life, they told me, “We used to come to all your competitions,” and I was like, “You tricky bastards!”

What is skateboarding like in South Africa, considering there was apartheid until the mid ‘90s? I’m sure it is still a prominent thing, it does not just disappear.

No, it doesn’t. You can’t change a whole country’s dynamic within 30 years.

In the US, it is so mixed. You can have the poorest and the richest kid being best friends just because of skateboarding.

It’s actually very similar here. Our crews consist of rich kids and kids who live on the streets. No one cares as long as you’re not a fucking kook… I actually don’t like using that word.

… as long as you are not a fucking dickhead. Just don’t steal on the side, don’t talk shit behind people’s back…

… don’t catcall girls …

… don’t yell at the guys who are asking you peacefully to leave …

… there are always these assholes, but they don’t last long in the crews.

What are you going to do with your future when you’re done skating? Have you studied anything?

I studied sound engineering for a while, but I realized it wasn’t for me. It just kinda ruined music for me because it made me hypercritical. So I’m actually doing a collaboration with a local fashion designer. He wants me to design a few pieces for him. I’m branching out and doing more art these days. I definitely want to stick to a more creative path, it’s what makes me happy. I think a lot of skateboarders are just naturally creative people, I don’t think it’s just a cliché.

It is a cliché! Every fucking skateboarder had an art show by now!

I might have something coming up soon as well. [both laugh]

What’s the most common type of skateboard art? Maybe some shitty 35mm photo …

… of someone walking past a building in Morocco. [laughs] My idea for this art show I’m doing is “butts and flowers”. I’m trying to find the best butts in Cape Town – guys, girls, black, white, doesn’t matter –, and then I’m going to create these floral backgrounds, so these butts are coming out of these beautifully set flowers. And maybe they will be all vaselined up, so they are just glowing and gorgeous. [both laugh]

Sick, I hope it happens! You still skate for Familiar?

I used to. I’d been pro for Familiar and it was an amazing company to skate for, but the owner moved to Portugal and couldn’t run the company from there. At the moment, Deluxe is putting me on flow for Antihero.

That’s why you want to go to San Francisco!

Yeah, I want to go there to meet all the dudes and see what it’s about.

Remember when I tried to get you on Frank? Good thing you didn’t do that, ’cause it’s dead! How are we going to end this? Shout-outs?

Shout-out to Sam Clark for dealing with my bullshit for two months throughout Europe. I’d love to thank my boyfriend for dealing with my bullshit as well and I wanna thank you, Dallas Rockvam, for calling me on this really busy Saturday.

I’m almost done rolling the joint after half an hour.