When you watch Lea Schairer skating, you can see that she simply knows how to ride a board in a stylish way. What she doesn’t know nowadays, however, is how to do that without being in pain. Since we asked her to shoot an interview for Solo for the first time, she has had unbelievably bad luck with injuries. Even now, when we gave it another shot, she twisted her ankle right away. We got to a point where it almost felt cursed. However, she finally had some time without any injury this year, which she used to stack some photos. All she needed was one day in Berlin and one day in Malaga to shoot everything you can see here – which makes it the longest planned and fastest produced interview at the same time. But yeah, when she’s healthy, she’s definitely not procrastinating. She was even making stewed apples while we were recording the interview, which is a good thing since the saying goes, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.”
In April 2019, I was in Tunisia and I just normally stepped off my board, but something felt wrong with my knee. It got checked out and they only found a slight tear in my MCL. I took a ten-week break from skating and had to do that two more times cause, after the first time, I hurt myself again with a nollie flip on flat and, the next time, I dove under a wave while surfing, and it was always the same pain again. I got another MRI and then the doctor said, “You have to get surgery next week. Your meniscus is torn.” That was in November and then I had to do half a year of rehab till I could skate again. I moved to Munich and the summer was pretty good. At the end of August, I was hiking and wanted to pee, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t get up anymore. I had torn my meniscus again cause I bent my knees too much. In October 2020, I had the second surgery and then the same procedure again. Rehab and a lot of training till I was able to skate again. Then in April 2021, I dislocated my shoulder. I didn’t need surgery, but it became inflamed and I was told it could take up to one and a half years. That was the time when I thought I’d buy a piano and quit skating. But in the end, it didn’t take that long, cause I let loose and put skating out of my mind. I think it doesn’t make things better if you put yourself under a lot of pressure. So I relaxed, got all sorts of treatments, including injections in my back, osteopathy, etc., and it was fine after three months. Since September 2021, I was able to skate until now – when I twisted my ankle. Before that, I was on some Nike projects and SHRN tours. I also started filming a part, but it is going slowly. My filmer and I have full-time jobs.
"I was hiking and wanted to pee, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t get up anymore. I had torn my meniscus again cause I bent my knees too much"
Until six years ago, when I was 27, I didn’t have many sponsors. I just skated for fun, but sometimes, I was wondering why there’s so little attention on women’s skateboarding in general but also on my skateboarding. One reason, for sure, was that I wasn’t at many contests. I’m in the same generation as Laura [Kaczmarek], Didi [Diana Kränsel], Puse [Sabrina Göggel], and Kim [Wibbelt], and they were way more connected than me. I also never had any further ambitions, cause I thought you can’t make a career out of it in Germany. However, I was on some COS Cup and the Olympic team was there, and I got asked if I wanted to join them and all I had to do was to skate at some contests. At about the same time, I got hooked up by Nike. And because I was skating so many contests at that time, I got into a rhythm where I pushed myself, did some new tricks, and got to know my abilities better overall. At that time, women got more recognition, some cool things started to happen, and I thought, “Maybe there’s still more to it.” When the first injury happened, I didn’t want to let it get me down, cause I knew I could film a solid part, so I tried to come back as fast as possible. After the second injury, I thought about whether it’s worth it to fully destroy my knee just to prove myself. I still want to be able to do sports when I’m older. When the shoulder injury happened, it was already freaking me out and now my foot needs three months again. I’m at a point where skating is hurting me and I don’t know how much more I can take and still have the desire to go out and film a trick. Cause if it hurts all the time, the fun goes away.
Totally! I can feel how bad I want to skate. I like the movement of skateboarding, you’re outside, you see people – I miss that.
I cycle a lot, I do hiking, surfing, and snowboarding in winter. I’ve been bouldering a lot recently. I really bought a piano, but I’m bad at it and barely ever use it. I travel a lot, paint once in a while, and cook a lot. So there’s plenty of stuff. I enjoy the fact that my life is not entirely skateboarding.
To be honest, I’m annoyed by it, it annoys me a lot. I always try to put it in perspective though because I know at what level I could be, and I see other women and what projects they do and where they are traveling to and what I had to cancel. Plus, I would love to get my part ready. At some point, you have to be realistic, otherwise, you go nuts. So I accept that I had really bad luck with injuries.
In 2010, I skated the ESC in Basel and afterwards got on DC. It was, however, through the marketing office in Munich where I got shoes from once in a while. It was not the time where women really got supported. When there were demos or stuff like that, they didn’t plan with me. At some point, it felt like they were even surprised that I can actually skate. Then, at some point, the backlash of the financial crisis came and there was no German DC team anymore, and in 2012 I tore my ACL, so I was out for a year…
Yeah, and again at a time where I thought something could happen; but then women’s skating in Germany was kinda dead. It felt like there was a group of girls on a certain level and then nothing happened for five years.
Yeah, for a second. Puse was putting a lot of work into it, but I think there was not enough demand for a female brand in the German scene and it would’ve been too hard to distribute it outside of Germany. The potential was there, but it never really took off and it’s hard to run a company as a one-woman show. So it stopped at some point.
Definitely. I also did a kickflip down a double set, which was in that horrible Limited Mag girls issue. I skated more gaps back then – probably cause my skills were a bit more limited as well as my knowledge about skateboarding itself. I think my best years on the board were in my late 20s. At some point, you get a feeling for what you’re good at, your style gets better, your clothing choice is more on point, and in general, you understand who you are as a person and what you want to show on a skateboard. If you force it and try to skate like Austyn Gillette or Bobby De Keyzer without having their talent, it looks like shit; but if you show what you got, most of the time, it looks good.
If I jumped down a lot of gaps now, I’d feel it too much. I can skate a five or six stair once in a while, but on the other hand, why should I do it? Another kickflip down a five stair just isn’t worth the pain for me.
The title itself doesn’t really mean anything to me, but it feels good to have a fun weekend at SKTWK and get the feedback from people that they appreciate my skating. To be fully honest, however, I have a certain ambition in me and want to prove that I can do it. And I feel like, “Why should I be part of a competition if I’m not trying my best?” I still skate contests once in a while and I want to land the tricks I have in my head, but if I’m fine with my run, that’s enough for me. I think there are other skaters that perform better under pressure or want the fame.
Totally! I’m open to do stuff like that. Two friends suggested Pushing to me after I told them that I don’t just want to film a part but want to bring my personality more into it and be a bit more creative, so it’s not just one of ten parts that get released every day. It should have been three parts and we filmed the first one without any budget to see if we get funding for the following parts – but it didn’t happen.
"At some point, you get a feeling for what you’re good at, your style gets better, your clothing choice is more on point, and in general, you understand who you are as a person and what you want to show on a skateboard"
The tour went from Munich to Prague and we underestimated the difference in altitude in the Bavarian forest. We were under the illusion that we could ride a bike for seven hours and then skate some street spots we find on the way – but no chance. It also rained a lot. It even snowed – in May! It was tough but fun, and we skated some skateparks at least. I still dream about a surf/bike/skate tour.
my family, we often spent our vacations there. That’s why I have a
connection; and then I was in Biarritz for eight months for an
internship and had a good time. After I left, I thought about going back
several times, but there wasn’t really any reason to do so. My friends,
family, and job are here.
As I said, I kinda randomly became part of the team and when I competed at the first Street League contests, I was completely lost and didn’t really feel it. Then I had the injury at the same time my predecessor quit. I knew I wouldn’t make the qualifications anymore and would be too old for the next Olympic Games, but then Cola [Hans Jürgen Kuhn] asked me if I was down for the job as a coach. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should do it, but then I thought, “If I don’t do it, somebody else will do it – and maybe worse.”
[laughs] Yeah, but I wrote an official statement, they accepted the apology, and it was fine.
I think, so far, it didn’t do much for the grassroot sport in general. Maybe because it got more attention, parents are not that hesitant anymore to buy their kids a board; and through a slow process, there can be more acceptance in general, which could lead to more funding for skateparks. The funding, as of now, is only for the team.
I think it will take some more years until we know for certain. That’s what our science colleagues are researching about. Can we enhance the performance through athletic training? Does it make sense to treat it like a sport? Or is it more important to just take care that somebody is feeling good and then they will show their best skating? I’m with the latter, but it’s too early to really know. In my opinion, a lot depends on the state of mind, and a sports psychologist can help with that. What definitely helps is to adjust your lifestyle. If you don’t party 24/7, take a bit of care with your diet, and have a certain level of fitness – that helps. I’m not sure though if it makes sense to do blood or sprint tests. I mean, there’s not even something as a perfect age or body size. Sure, you could say that Nyjah or Yuto are not the tallest people, but I doubt that you can analyze the ideal body type for a contest skater – and I actually like that. I also started the job saying that if we get to a point where we can’t do it the way I see skateboarding anymore, I’m out.
Not really, just a lot of rumors that the board wanted to exploit the athletes for their own advantage. It feels like people working against each other.
I found it interesting. The concept was okay, the people involved were nice, and the photographer was good; but when skating is involved, I’m careful. I haven’t really been doing any modeling with skating in it recently.
Yeah, she’s still skating once in a while. I started skating at 11 with my brother and we knew that she skated. I found her pretty cool, but she was 21 and lived in Munich. She was pretty good and won the ESC in Basel and the Etnies Cup in Munich. When I later moved to Munich as well, we were hanging out and went skating. Our relationship through the family was always good and we’re good friends nowadays.
I definitely want to still film the part and keep skating as much as I can. Sure, my job takes up a lot of time, but I still focus on skating and want to keep up the relationships with my sponsors to be able to realize some cool projects. I’m without a board sponsor at the moment by the way.
The last month I was able to skate, I didn’t skate Welcome boards anymore. Maybe my expectations are too high, but there was not much progression within the sponsorship. I was never really sure what my status on the team was.
Yeah, I keep my eyes open.
I get this question a lot and when I tell people that my boyfriend doesn’t skate, they’re surprised. But on the other hand, how many skaters’ girlfriends are skating? And why does nobody ever ask them about it? For me, people assume that my boyfriend has to skate, but for guys, it’s like, “Oh, your girlfriend is into horse riding, makes sense.” I don’t know why it’s portrayed like that, and in the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the person. It’s totally okay that he doesn’t skate and it would be totally okay if he skated.
Okay, being on the same sponsors and going on the same trips would maybe be too much for me, but going on holidays and it being a no-brainer to take the skateboards is cool for sure. Although, think about how skateboarders act and then think again if it’s the best idea to be in a relationship with a skater. [laughs]