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Alex Ullmann – From now on with helmet

Actually this interview with Alex Ullmann was already planned for last fall (with the photos of Dennis Scholz), but then fate really came crashing into his life, in the form of a bad fall with the following cerebral hemorrhage and intensive care unit. Back out of the hospital Alex was still accompanied by nausea and double vision. He had bruised his optic nerve hard and these were the aftereffects he still has to fight with today. During his recovery there were also a few more setbacks, but slowly Alex is fit again, has a lot of plans and a message: ride with helmet!

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Let's start with the current problem situation. Why are you lying around at home?

I broke my metatarsus. At first I thought maybe it was just bruised, so I took a two-week break to rest the foot. Afterwards the pain was gone and I could skate again until the pain came back. So I went for an x-ray. Then I was diagnosed with a fatigue fracture/midfoot fracture. Now I have to wear a cast for the next six weeks [in the meantime the cast is off again, editor's note].

Alex Ullmann BS Smith

Backside Smithgrind | Photo: Dennis Scholz

Last November something much harder than a metatarsal fracture happened to you.

Yes, that’s right - unfortunately! I came from a job in Frankfurt and was already pretty tired, but then I went with some homies to the Giessen skate hall and we put up some mobile obstacles in the park. At some point we put a jumpramp on the curbcut. That went well until I tried to go from the bank over the table into the jumpramp - the other way around. From then on I don’t remember anything. I fell on my head, there was no laceration, just a blow on the head. Then I was unconscious for ten minutes. To all first aiders who have contributed to the fact that I am still alive now - I can’t thank you enough! Then I woke up in the intensive care unit of the University Hospital of Giessen with cerebral haemorrhages and saw everything twice. You can imagine it as if you have 3-D glasses on, but don’t watch a 3-D film. I then had quite a strong headache, was confused and at first I couldn’t even realize what had happened. My memory of that week is very hazy. I slept a lot and didn’t even notice the visit I got in the intensive care unit. A few days later my cerebral hemorrhages went back and after a week I was transferred to the normal ward where I spent another week and underwent various neurological tests.

What was it like when you realized in the hospital what had happened and you didn’t know what to do now with the double vision?

I was stunned and very afraid that I would have to live the rest of my life with this double vision. How should it go on now? How should I go skateboarding? What will happen to my independence? It was all so uncertain...

"I had major balance problems, severe dizziness and regularly had to throw up when I was riding in a car or walking. Without a supporting arm, I could no longer move outside."

Do you have to deal with nausea?

Quite, yes! I had great balance problems, severe dizziness and I regularly had to puke when I was riding in a car or walking. Without a supporting arm, I could not move outside. I spent the first weeks with Nina, my girlfriend. She supported me very much! Many thanks for that! I more than appreciate it!

After the fall you started skating with a helmet. Was that on the advice of the doctors?

At that time, skating was out of the question, but I’m sure they would have advised it. I realized relatively quickly that no helmet was no longer an option if I was to set foot on a skateboard again. I already had a similar head injury two years ago (without a skateboard). Back then I was only wearing a helmet for the first time, after that I probably took it off again for "style reasons". A third head injury is just not possible anymore... With a helmet I probably would have gotten away with a concussion.

Alex Ullmann BS Noseblunt BW

Backside Nosebluntslide | Photo: Dennis Scholz

Would another slam be the one too much?

No, it's basically just optic nerve paralysis. I was lucky. I could have gone blind. But if it had happened in a concrete park or while street skating and not in a wooden hall, I might not have been able to give this interview. For me, I have learned from this thing and now I wear a helmet. A head injury with a brain hemorrhage would most likely have been avoidable. A residual risk always remains, no matter how consistant you are. One should be aware of this.

Although you wanted to slow down, you went on a tour again in February.

At that time I just didn't want to face the fact that from now on I have to live with a double view and that I can skateboard indefinitely, maybe never again. I couldn't help it and just had to get out of the whole chaos. But it wasn’t reasonable to go on a tour with me at all. But it was one way to escape the whole thing, at least partly. I talked myself into it and played down the situation. But it was not easy at all!

"Although it looks as if everything is as usual, there is still a large portion of luck. The biggest problem was the login. The chance of hitting the rail or curb was fifty-fifty. The feeling of jumping into the void to hit it is really shitty."

Are you back to the level you were at before the fall?

It’s hard to say. The tricks work, but the feeling is still not right. Although it looks like everything is the same as always, there is still a lot of luck. The biggest problem was the login. The chance to hit the rail or curb was fifty-fifty. The feeling of jumping into the void to hit it is really shitty. Often I missed, took a lot of slams, but at some point I learned to deal with it and jumped right past to hit and log in. Once that worked out, chances were good that I’d keep going because the imagination, the feeling and the fact that I’d done the trick before was there.

We met in Cologne at the carnival 2019 and there you told me that you are planning to move to Cologne. How about that?

At that time I was really looking forward to something new, but when I had the opportunity to rent a workshop in Gießen, it was more comfortable and it just fit better. The subject has slipped into the background, but not yet completely off the table.

Alex Ullmann Nosepick Preisinger web

Backside Nosepick | Photo: Leo Preisinger

I first heard about your workshop when you built the rail for SKTWK. How long have you been doing this?

It really started in January 2019. After I finished my training at Mosaic, I registered a business and put everything on one card. I didn’t have a business plan, but I was super into it! I then worked a lot with wood and especially with metal and taught myself all this stuff. Through a friend I had the possibility to rent a workshop space, for which I gradually bought machines, workbenches and tools and had more and more possibilities. But to be able to finance this, I needed money. With Malte, a skater friend of mine and a self-employed carpenter, I went to work together more and more regularly in Frankfurt. I learned a lot from him, especially about what is important for self-employment and how things go in the independent craftsman business. Little by little, word got around that I also build skateboard obstacles and so I got jobs like a kicker for the Jam of Mainhattan in Frankfurt, a 9-meter flatrail for the SKTWK in Düsseldorf, a metal schoolyard-bench for a Nike Weartest in Berlin or a rainbowrail for the Northbrigade in Cologne.

Alex Ullmann FS 50 50

Frontside 50-50 | Photo: Dennis Scholz

There is also #dailyullmann on Insta. How did that happen?

The hashtag was created by Captain Cracker. Probably because I was skating a lot and always sent him photos and clips which he then posted with #dailyullmann.

Speaking of Cracker, what is going on with the Mob?

The Mob has changed a lot in the last months. For one thing, Cracker’s partner Micha, who had been with the company for years, has left, the mob has moved and former apprentice Karsten has moved to Mosaic. Cracker is now the Mob, a one-man show, and he manages everything from the idea to the finished product. The team is now strengthened by Leon Merschmann, Tobi Lehne, Julian Sauer and Noah Evenius. I am looking forward to upcoming sessions with the new guys!

What are your general wishes for the future?

I just want to get healthy. That my foot heals completely, the double images disappear completely and I finally get the perspective again. I want to skate again, travel more and continue filming with Domi [Schneider] on my part of the Hellride video and just be more relaxed.

"When you are in the intensive care unit with a cerebral haemorrhage, you realize how short life can be"

How do you see the helmet issue after all this?

Even if some people think it is not cool or whatever, I can only advise everyone to put one on. If you break your arm or your leg, it’s not so bad. But the head is the end! When you are in intensive care with a cerebral hemorrhage, you realize how short life can be. I was lucky that I am not now blind or paraplegic in a wheelchair. What can happen when you don’t wear a helmet bears no relation to what depends on it. It is no guarantee that nothing serious will happen, but it minimizes the risk of permanent damage! How can it be that style is more important than safety? In the skateboarding scene helmets are a bit frowned upon, aren’t they?

For over 12 year olds I would say yes. For megaramp or halfpipe it’s okay, otherwise it’s not considered cool.

Even in the bowl they do tricks three meters above the coping and just run out the bails as if it was a small quarter. If it’s going to bang, then it’s a big bang. In the skateboard industry, image is more important than safety - I just can’t understand that. What is cool? If everyone wore a helmet, it probably wouldn’t be uncool. In my opinion, not cool is when you risk your life because of an avoidable mistake! It’s time for Supreme to bring out the first helmet! If I can only convince a skater to wear a helmet, I’ve achieved everything I wanted with this interview. I hope that others will learn from my mistake!

Hellride 2020 Insta 27

Photo: Leo Preisinger

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