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John Dahlquist – Homework for the principal


John Dahlquist is an extremely dedicated skater and in addition he’s also the vice principal at Bryggeriet school. So we had an idea for doing an interview with him that included his students. They got this message from us:

Your principal John Dahlquist sent us some photos for an interview which we’ll release on our website. While we were thinking about the article, the idea came up to not do a regular interview but include you in the process. It’s very common that teachers ask questions to students but this time it’s the other way round. We need your support to come up with questions for the interview. No matter if the questions are related to skateboarding or just general questions, no matter if it’s fun or serious, no matter if you want to learn something about him or just test his knowledge – whatever it is you didn’t dare to ask him so far, sent us the questions and we’ll do it for you.

John portratt sopovic

Photo: Denis Sopovic

After all these years of working with skateboarding, what gives you the motivation and drive to keep doing it?

I want to say that just the fact that I get to work with and in skateboarding is enough. And it is. Still, it is just that, to have it so close and being force fed with it, that makes me get so sick of it at times. Just tired. It is key to me to take proper breaks and do other stuff too. It seems like my other interests, having a family and other work, creates this longing to skate. So the answer is to not have enough time to skate. Or to do other stuff that inspires and motivates to skate. And last but not least the fact that I get to spend time with hungry, up’n coming helps too.

How do you use skateboarding as a tool to learn?

In my mind skateboarding has everything that learning has. Trial and error, learning for the sake of learning, lust and inner motivation. In a lot of ways skateboarding functions much better than traditional school subjects. But there is no formula as to how to use it. This has to, just like skateboarding itself, be invented every day. I have realized that I am really curious in the dynamics of learning. I have found great inspiration in trying to be good. Not saying I am. Noone is all the time. But I try to ask myself: “What can I do to make this the most meaningful, educational, fun course ever?” Sort of like finding a spot and think about what tricks would be the sickest. I rarely reach all the way but it is more fun and meaningful to aim for “amazing” rather than “good enough”. And that is skateboarding in a nutshell, too.

"I wish I could not want to skate. That would make life a lot easier."

What was your dream job before?

It was and it still is to be a full time author. And astronaut off course. I love to draw too but sometimes I feel it is better not to make the things you enjoy the most your job. But working with skateboarding has worked so far without taking away what is dear to me.

Do you shave your head every day?

No, every other day. Unless I am bummed or need to clear my head (both mentally and literally), then I do it every day as a ritual. Makes me feel clean and focused. I fully understand why buddhist monks shave to be “clean”. It works.

How many Scandinavian skaters do you know?

Somewhere between 411 and 1281.

John D Switch Drop Triangeln 4

Switch Drop | Photo: Robert Betts

How do you teach skateboarding as a subject without making it institutionalized?

In all honesty, we don’t. Just the mere fact that we have turned it into a school subject in the educational system is the very definition of institutionalizing. I want to be clear with that. I also want to take responsibility for it. This is by no means unproblematic. When I first took this job I promised not to do anything “to” my students that I was not prepared to do myself and secondly I promised always to run my ideas past them before I put them to work. My hope is that this gives me verification that I am on the right track as well as a sense that we are creating this together. These two strategies have been sort of a gatekeeper that has worked well so far. But I know it comes with risks. Skateboarding is not only a school subject. It is many students identity and passion and therefor needs to be handled with care. I have always been sceptical to organizations and people saying that they are institutionalizing to make sure that skateboarding stays “free”. We saw a lot of that prior and after the Olympics. The purpose of schools, contests, organizations is to institutionalize. Do what you will but at least be transparent and take responsibility. Now we see contests with stop watches and no extra three tries for whoever is putting on a show. How is that for keeping skateboarding wild and free?

How was it to be one of the not-so-many skaters in the earlier days of skateboarding?

It sucked so hard and we loved it. I have been skating since 1987. I won’t bore you with the stories of how sick everything was in the 90’s but I trip out on how cool I thought I was looking in the mirror with Big Deal jeans, Puma Clydes and a home made t-shirt altered to look like Shiloh Greathouse’s black t-shirt with white cuffs from Love Child. At the time I had no friends or invitations to parties outside of skating. It built both character and comradery to go against the grain. I am happy I got to experience that, even I probably would’ve had more luck in love if I did not. The best part is that I got to be part of all the other eras after that too and still be a part of the best time in skateboarding: the now.

What do the students become after graduation?

After 16 years of running this school it is hard to generalize but we can see some tendencies. More and more students go into higher education. Teaching and working with people seems to be a little overrepresented compared to other fields. So called creative work is common too such as architecture and design work. Many of our art students go into higher art studies. The local preparatory art school is jam packed with former students from here. I heard they wanted to put in a quota so that our students didn’t take up all the spots. Bryggeriet’s gymansium take over!

John boneless

Boneless | Photo: Denis Sopovic

How long have you been bald?

I don’t know if I’m bald. I started shaving my head in 9th grade and ever since I have grown my hair out every once in a while only to find out that I hate hair. If I tried to grow it out now it would probably be thin and look ridiculous. Me, filmer Love Öhrling and Mateo Bergil have a bald crew. Our goal is to raise awareness how cool it is to be balding.

Can you say the alphabet backwards?

Tried. No. I am dyslexic and always have to start from A to find out if S is before U in the alphabet. I have written three books and only found out recently that it was dyslexia, not just that I was sloppy. Today I am glad that I didn’t get a diagnosis too early. I belive in getting the right help early but sometime a diagnosis can lead to bad self esteem too. I also want to take this opportunity to plug my new book: Skate and educate – a book on skateboarding as a learning tool and my philosophy on teaching. Thanks for asking!

When will you stop working at the school?

I thought I was going to quit after three years, after doing a full run with a class. That soon turned into 16 years. I want to be a teacher (and think all teachers should) who is active in his subject. I think the answer is as long as I feel I have the energy and health (read: knees) to skate properly I will keep going. I have tried to find other jobs but nothing is even close to be as meaningful as what I get to do with our students.

"I have grown my hair out every once in a while only to find out that I hate hair"

What makes you want to continue with skateboarding?

Skateboarding is the fountain of youth for me. I get to skate with and see some of the raddest skaters and people growing up during three years of high school and then hopefully follow some of them out in the world. That is so rad and all that is thanks to skateboarding. Plus I have my own close friends that I grew up with and still hang with via skating. It is a social platform and a way to stay connected. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a manic side and can get really obsessed by things. Skateboarding is one of those things so it is not really a choice, more of a necessity. At the same time. Being full is nicer than feeling hungry. I wish I could not want to skate. That would make life a lot easier. I just can’t.

Rate Bryggeriet’s gymnasium from 1-10

9. There is always room for improvement. And to be honest. It’s a regular high school too with all the flaws and problems that all schools struggle with. But it is our struggle. And we enjoy it.

Do you like working with Steffen Austerheim?

I was looking for a colleague for a long time. When my former student turned teacher and was interested in sharing the work load with me it was the best match I could’ve ever imagined. Great pedagogue and a real people’s person. Steffen connects to the students with ease. And he just happens to be one of the best skaters in the world. I don’t mean that as a friend or a fan. He really is. He’s Shane O’Neil good. Tiago calls him “O Monstro”. Go figure. Steffen is vary calm but has a full on obsessive side and gets these crazy ideas about training, tricks and projects, too. Just like me but sometimes more manic. He makes me feel chill. Good bonus. A match made in heaven.

John d nosepick sibbarp monkeyglove

Nosepick | Photo: Moneygloves

Brent Atchley vs Grant Taylor (especially frontside airs)?

I have to go with Brent. Style for days. Can’t remember if I’ve ever seen him frontside air. Probably to disaster smack then. Thanks to whoever wrote the question for not calling it frontside indy. I taught them well.

Any memories with Ben Krahn?

I know there are Ben Krahn fans at school. So random. I saw him skate Stapel once. He ripped. Me and Pontus skated with him in San Fransisco once too. Skated China Banks together. How is that for a Ben Krahn memory? He probably would never remember it but I was star struck.

Is it a frontside nosegrind or a overcrook if performed on a rail ?

This is the never ending topic at lunch. What a school! Here is my 25 cents: Sure a proper nosegrind should be balanced on top of the ledge (or rail). Still, I would never call Julien Strangers nosegrind pop out in Sky Pager and overcrook just because he tweaks it a little. Keep in mind too that even a k-grind is a nose grind variation. In conclusion it is a nosegrind. In my book there is no such thing as an overcrook. Perhaps a cross over k-grind on the other side of the rail. But come on! It’s just a nosegrind. Overcrooks is just a more fire way to say that for the lit generation. And they are wrong. Or just pretentious. A turd is still a turd even if it is covered in gold.

John roll tailslide

Roll on tailslide | Photo: Denis Sopovic

What’s true #radical?

I don’t know. School me.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Axel Kjällmén told me there is no such thing as guilty pleasure, only pleasure. I love candy. Addicted to it. But I am not ashamed so I don’t feel guilty. I used to be into romcoms. Does that count? I thought “The Holiday” was great the first five times I watched it.

How do you keep progressing with age?

Thank you whoever wrote this! My biggest inspiration is the privilege of skating with hungry 16-19 years olds. To keep up with them and to get to be in their bubble provides progress, even if it is on my own level and only measured towards my self, not them. I still have ideas of tricks I want to film, spots I want to skate. Progression comes as a side effect. It trips me out sometimes that I still do this so long after I thought I was going to be done and over. I am curious to see how long we can keep progressing. I realize that I find endless stoke in seeing older skaters send it. Me and Pontus have had this list when we talk of skaters over 40 who are still skating. Some of my friends like Jugga and Martin Ottosson are close to me and I feel we feed off each other. I admire Rune, Jesus, Thomas Kring, Anton Juul, Reynolds, BA, Deawon and others who just keep going. I think it´s the coolest thing in the world. Persistence wins.

What are your best life hacks?

I learned a lot through knee injuries and rehab. At the time it was a nightmare but the things I learned and realized through rehab was invaluable. Some things that I consider life hacks are:

1. Have another interest than skating to keep skateboarding fun.

2. Cold swimming or cold showers. Every morning.

3. Some sort of training. For me yoga and gym works good.

4. Read books. Feed the brain.

5. Stay off the screen every once in a while.

6. Get a dog.

7. Keep a list in the phone of EVERYTHING I need to do. Everything from buying a light bulb too finishing this interview. I find that it saves me from a lot of stress to keep things on a list instead of in my head. I highly recommend it.

    "I often think of how cool it has been to have students like Oskar, Herman, Didrik and Heitor before they became Oski, He-man, Deedz and the Prince of Drip"

    Who is your favorite student of all time?

    I know the PC answer is to have no favorite, but really when you spend three years together on a daily basis you create bonds. After that it is hard to have favorites. On the same time it has been crazy fun to see some of the students grow into their characters. I often think of how cool it has been to have students like Oskar, Herman, Didrik and Heitor before they became Oski, He-man, Deedz and the Prince of Drip.

    How do you stay healthy?

    I really want to skate and I love to be energetic compared to lethargic. With arthritis and age the corridor of high performance becomes very narrow and there is a very small margin for error. Before I never cared and didn’t mind a hangover and such. Now I really enjoy health and try not to take it for granted. Therefor I try to sleep well, eat well and do the basic stuff we all know is good. Plus just keeping up with the young generation provides exercise enough. It’s the fountain of youth.

    You wrote a novel. How did that happen?

    I started writing for magazines a long time ago. For a long time paper media always needed text to go with photos for articles. I never got rejected since text was always needed. That was the best writing school I could ever imagine. Being a reader too I was always curious what it would be like to write a novel. I set a goal to write at least 100 pages. The quantitative goal took away a lot of pressure when it came to quality. After a long time, a couple of years, I realized I had written a novel. I was lucky enough to get it published. I am very proud of finishing it and getting the recognition. I want to do it again.

    John hippie jump

    Hippie Jump | Photo: Denis Sopovic

    How do you get so much done in life and school?

    Drive is a four letter word and it is spelled ADHD. I love a lot of the things I do and it is hard to say no to things. It is a bad combo. It forces me to do a lot. I get bored easily too. Doing stuff helps for that. Plus I am friends with Danijel Stankovic, Pontus Alv and Viktor Teligin. They set the bar high. Compared to them I will always be a sloppy slacker.

    What would be your dream school project?

    Designing shoes and having Janoski as a guest teacher is already a dream that came true. Guest lectures with BA, Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Ishod, Sean Malto and Johnny Wilson, too. This year my students are doing a full project with boards and sunglasses with CHPO and Lovenskate. All those things are dream projects. The biggest thing would probably be to get a project going that involves traveling with the students.

    If you could only do one trick for the rest of your life what would it be?

    Nosebluntslide. I would probably quit skating after a week of them but it would be a week of good feel.

    Favorite video of all time?

    Easy. Eastern Exposure 3. And A Visual Sound, Stereo. And Video Days. And Mindfield.

    Favorite skaters(s)?

    B.A is an all time fav. I always liked Ben Liversedge’s style too. Hjalte and Ville, but they don’t count. They’re everyone’s favorite. My current favorite is definitely Dick Rizzo. Very tasteful trick selection.

    What do you want students to bring from your teaching?

    My goal is to help every student to find ways to evolve and learn new things, be it in skateboarding or in other walks of life. I want to be a person that tells and shows that most people can do most things. I want to gas my students to do what they can do to get as far as possible. This might be to be the best in the world or just to reach the insight that we gave it our best. If I can mediate that, I will be content. I also want all my students to understand that a fakie full cab is always both fakie and full. No need to say it all. Just a cab is enough.

    What are your political views?

    I believe in solidarity as a foundation of building a society. That is the most basic and important building block to me. I want a rich state that makes sure everyone gets their rights and needs provided for. I do not believe the free market will fix everything for us. Most people would call my views left wing. Still I find that liberals have the most sympathetic view on the individual with the power to create his/her own destiny. I hope the different views can find common ground somewhere in the middle.

    How much candy do you eat?

    Too much.