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Farid Ulrich – Not the boneless type

Switch tricks, mannies, and tech stuff – that’s how we know Farid Ulrich. However, the Berlin Mitte resident always had a love for transition as well and is now living it up in the neighboring Prenzlauer Berg, where a crew of do-it-yourself enthusiasts built the Greifswalder DIY. In his parents’ country house in Brandenburg, he was also able to concrete a small tranny domicile called “Wolfstone”. Although he is increasingly enjoying creating spots with a trowel in his hand, he still doesn’t really want to fit into the cliché of the typical DIY skater. Until recently, he didn’t even know the term “hesh”.

"I come from a hippie community and I feel comfortable in a DIY-hippie environment"

Farid, on Instagram Anke Engelke [famous German comedian, editor’s note] called Giorgi [Armani] and you the best German skaters. How come she knows so much about skating?

We were shooting a film with her and asked if we could do a little Insta video and she said she had time after the shoot. We talked to her for over an hour. She was really nice and then we filmed the video first try.

Let’s talk about DIY. How is the German scene in international comparison? Are there different approaches?

I think the fact that companies like Yamato have been founded out of a DIY movement is a common ground that can be observed all over the world. A lot of things are similar, but there are local specifications that have their charm. It also depends a lot on the people. Here in Berlin, for example, a lot of it came from Lennie Burmeister, who built small, steep transitions – maybe because we don’t have as much space here as elsewhere.

Portrait Biemer

Photo: Biemer

Speaking of founding a company, the Dog Shit Spot was also built by Yamato but is somehow DIY. What’s the difference between a regular skatepark and a DIY?

DIY means that you don’t have the financial resources to have all the work done professionally. It starts with the cement: do you do it by hand, do you have a machine, or does a truck with a pump come along? I helped build the Dog Shit Spot and that was very different from here at Greifswalder, where we collect water in rain barrels because we don't have a water connection.

Who owns the site there and how did it start?

It’s an old area of the Deutsche Bahn and we had filmed a clip with the Chinchilla crew there, that’s how old the spot is. There was a small barrier, a concrete slab, and a quarter. For a long time, nothing happened, but two years ago, the guys came with new motivation. Within half a year, more and more people joined and it went on. Before the summer, there was still a complete side open. Now we built a six-meter long China Bank and at the end a huge quarter.

Farid fs Ollie Boat Mark Nickels

Frontside Ollie | Photo: Nickels

How did you get into DIY?

I think my interest is so big because I come from a hippie community and I feel comfortable in a DIY-hippie environment. My father had projects like this and had a biotope and all that. Then Wom, one of my best friends, is a self-taught craftsman and together with him I built the DIY at my place in the countryside. Because I was always involved in such projects, I was eager to get more involved.

That means that you are mainly interested in the social aspect?

I think that is one of the most important things. I was at the 2er in Hannover this weekend and we were warmly welcomed and shown around. There is a lot of exchange ,and most of the time, DIYs create such open spaces. 2er is a prime example and it also happens here at Greifswalder because there is also a club next door. I was begging all the time that we build a big quarter because I think that something like that is rare in Berlin and you give something back to the scene – so there will be kids who can skate something like that.

I once talked to Pontus about DIY and he said that the nice thing is that it’s not just something that is planned, it comes from the people and they build what they need. The problem is that not everyone has the same ideas. How do you solve this?

A lot of discussing, a lot of philosophizing, and a lot of sitting down in the skatepark in the evening and thinking and finding a common solution. At 2er, everybody can build what they want as long as it’s skateable, but we don’t have that much space here.

Kickflip | Photo: Nickels

Farid Kickflip Nickels Mark Nickels

Kickflip | Photo: Nickels

Can it also become a problem that such a spot is open for everybody?

More skaters arriving and it getting full is no problem. Then every day a group of young people chill out on the side. That’s also cool, that’s what a park is for, but we had some problems with some crazy people who showed up. People who are expelled everywhere just show up in places where everyone is welcome. Even if you don’t want them there most of the time, it’s still a place for everyone and you have to tolerate them, but you can’t let them run free forever. We don’t really have the authority to expel them from the place. As I said, it belongs to the Deutsche Bahn. We are in contact with the administrator of the site and he is not really a big fan of the project right now, but he also doesn’t want to cause stress without any reason. There are plans for construction and if they get a green light at some point, that’s probably the end for us.

That’s what happened to Utopia in Dortmund.

We also founded a club through the DIY and our goal is to get a new area when the time comes, but I read somewhere that a DIY is always built to get destroyed.

In The Strongest Of The Strange, this is also displayed. Burnside is a park that has remained.

I don’t know many other projects either. I think 2er is also relatively safe. They now have a huge communal space next door. That is unique.

Switchflip Biemer

Switchflip (same spot) | Photo: Biemer

Do you need a few central figures for DIY spots like these to lead the way and push it forward or does it depend more on collectives?

I think Lennie and Jan pushed hard for the Dog Shit. With our spot, there are three or four guys who are almost permanently there. We now have the skatepark, the pizza oven, a small house, a ping-pong table, and a trampoline where you can skateboard. So the feel-good factor is getting bigger and bigger. It becomes more pleasant to be there, and as a result of that, stuff happens. Through the club, we also have the possibility to do workshops and give people a good time.

Is people having a good time the best thing about DIY?

Opinions are divided, but if I had my own DIY, I would create a hub for skaters from all over the world. However, there are others who say that this should be the spot for us.

You are also working on a project where you could possibly build something over the next few years.

It’s always stupid to advertize something that doesn’t happen in the end, but I’d like to create an international meeting point for skaters in Berlin. I’m focused on ramps and I think that I can skate ramps longer than street. I enjoy the feeling more. I don’t feel comfortable on rails, for example, and since there are not so many possibilities to skate ramps in Berlin, it is dying out somehow. At Gleisdreieck, they built a bowl and now the first talents start to emerge, like Omar Zoref. I started skating because I saw a melon grab in a mini ramp.

Greifswalder 03 Biemer

Alley Oop Pivot to fakie | Photo: Biemer

Greifswalder 02 CMYK Biemer

Nosegrab to fakie | Photo: Biemer

However, people actually know you as a street skater. How did your interest in transition and DIY come up and how has your skating changed?

I used to have two skateparks that I used to skate. One with a shitty quarter and Pappelplatz. That’s why I ride transitions and manny pads – and I used to ride the wooden bowl in the indoor skatepark a lot. I had the feeling that when I got better in ramp skating, I also got better in street. I learned things easier because I had better board feel.

Do you ride different setups?

When I was 17, I ordered a second setup because I wanted to skate halfpipe: protectors, helmet, everything. Then I warmed up in the bowl, got a wheelbite, tried to run it out, and crashed into the opposite quarter – broken rib. I haven’t had a second setup since. I left it right in the park.

How is it with skate crews? Do you have different ones? Because I have the feeling that Giorgi is not very enthusiastic about DIY.

That is generally always a difficult dichotomy for me. I really enjoy being at Greifswalder, but I can also understand why Giorgi doesn’t like it so much, because it’s a rough construction site.

"There was one crisis and I don’t get any more paychecks from skateboarding"

You ride for Primitive and the company stands for a form of skating that is relatively far away from DIY. Is that a problem?

Sure, DIY skating doesn’t suit Primitive. I only learned the term “DIY skating is hesh” this weekend. [laughing]

… and Primitive is fresh.

Primitive is fresh. That’s why I think I’m actually a relatively good combination because I’m not the boneless type. I just do tech tricks in transition parks, so I am more the Primitive skater from the DIY.

Your beard has gotten longer, but I don’t see a trucker cap and flannel shirt on you yet.

No, you won’t see that ever. [laughs]

Fsgrab Biemer

Frontside Grab | Photo: Biemer

Do you, for example, watch a Raney Beres part?

I watched it because Omar sent it to me. It’s also fucking cool skating, but when I see twenty different backyard pools in one part, I find it a bit boring. It’s also really hard to skate such pools, I just can’t appreciate it that much.

What kind of skaters do you like then?

There are always people who stand out through trick selection and style, like Cory Juneau. Instead of 540s, he prefers to do a backlip through the deep end corner, which you hardly see otherwise. Sure, when Pedro Barros rides, everyone is like, “What’s up!?” Jordan Thackeray and Alex Hallford are also way ahead – and you have to name Oski because he is unbelievable.

Let’s talk about the Wolfstone spot at your parents’ vacation home.

That’s our country house in Brandenburg, which we have had since I was born. Through Wom, we have always tried to build our own spot. We looked for vacant lots in Berlin and made our first attempts with concrete. Then in 2013/14, we drove to the country house, cleared a thicket, and started building. The first ramp was an absolute flop because we had no idea what to do. We thought we would make small squares of one meter by one meter as flat and then connect them. That was bullshit because then you have small cracks everywhere. The concrete was also much too fluid. Then we tore everything down and only in the third attempt it worked. However, recently we tore out some trees and one of them fell on the area and now only half of it is skateable. It’s expensive to build and then I am often alone there – but even if my kids renovate it, it was worth it.

Landhaus 01 Biemer

Tailgrab to disaster | Photo: Biemer

Landhaus 02 Biemer

Wallbash | Photo: Biemer

Yes, the trowel must be passed on. How did you learn? YouTube tutorials? Asking people?

Lennie always gave us tips. For example, you need special trowels to make the concrete smooth and we didn’t have a magnesium trowel. You just have to try things out until you get a routine. If you know all the steps, it goes relatively quickly. In the beginning, our formwork was also not on point until we noticed that when the formwork is perfect, the ramp becomes perfect.

Somehow mistakes are also part of DIY.

At the Dog Shit Spot, there are two bumps. One was shaped by the Yamato guys, the other by us trainees. You can clearly see the difference. The feeling for the ramp, how you shape, which trowel you use, that you notice the rounding, I only learned all that at Greifswalder.

Do you see yourself in ramp construction in the future, would you rather supervise projects, as you said before, or go for it in skating for a few more years?

I will definitely continue skating and filming parts, but COVID taught me a lot as well. There was one crisis and I don’t get any more paychecks from skateboarding. It’s hard as a solo freelancer. Actually, I should register as unemployed or deliver pizzas. Even if that sounds a bit presumptuous, I don’t want to deliver pizzas. I’d rather work in construction, that’s probably a question of personal preferences.

"For 130 €, you can take a picture of me with one foot on my skateboard. If you want to see me rolling: 500 €, if you want me to do a trick: 1,000 €"

How is it as a sponsored skater, can sponsors just stop paying you?

My contracts expired and were not extended and now I am without income. I did seasonal work in the summer, but I don’t have anything for the winter. I have this project I was talking about, which would be a dream. As for skating, I have two parts almost finished, but I’m also realistic and wondering if someone wants to support a 28-year-old, good to intermediate skater. I’m no Nyjah Huston. So putting all my energy into it without any guarantee of success might not be the smartest thing to do. I had a few good years of skating and got around a lot, but I’m old enough now that I don’t have to kiss every sponsor’s ass anymore. I’ve also had requests for film productions where they give me 130 € a day, which I now know is bullshit as a day rate. So I say, “For 130 €, you can take a picture of me with one foot on my skateboard. If you want to see me rolling: 500 €, if you want me to do a trick: 1,000 €.” I once lost a tooth at a catalog shoot. Do you think I got paid for it? I got the 180 € day rate but the dental treatment costed 360 €. You learn from these things. They don’t even pay me insurance, and if I break my foot during the shoot and I’m out for a few months afterwards, no jerk will pay me.

Do many skaters have problems with that?

I think some will have lost their contracts. Others, who are important for marketing with their reach, will stay in. Unfortunately, I am not a good Instagram skater, but for me, I want to create this space now and that’s what I’ll be busy with for the next few years. If that doesn’t work out, I’m thinking about studying, so that I have some security because now I’ll just get the shitty jobs without training. However, I am not worried, I am well. That is just the COVID phase and that will pass. Besides, I’ll get my security certificate soon, then I’ll have some security. That’s the most-wanted job at the moment because of keeping distances and so on. I have a few friends who do security for people.

Family connections?

Not really, but my uncle Ali Bumaye might need some extra security guards cause he’s extra large. [laughs]