Let’s be honest. Imagine we would all be 22 and sacked a bomb A-level; let’s assume the sponsors are lining up with endless amounts of stuff. Money, trips and a full-length video are waiting. Most of us would pack up, say goodbye and all too soon only step by for flying visits. Markus Blessing is wired differently – but, in fact, he is the one who has earned all these opportunities through his heavy skating which at the same time comes across as very elegant. He decided to only nibble on small spoons from the honeypot that has been placed under his nose by his sponsors. We asked him how long this self-control will last and why he, coming from the area around Stuttgart, switched from Adidas to Nike.
Hello Markus, I think we have to clear up some fundamentals first. You’re a Gladbach supporter and I’m rooting for the FC. Not the best premise…
Yea, fuck. I don’t really know, how we are supposed to do this now.
Have you at least been with them for some time or just after the luck-shot of staying in the league three years ago and the following wondrous developments?
Nah, I’m not one of these bandwagon fans that have joined in the Favre-era. In fact, I have been with them for 15 years.
How did you become a VfL supporter anyhow even though you were born in Ulm?
Well as a little shithead I was obviously up for Bayern Munich as everybody here. But when all the boys started to cry when Bayern played a tie once in a while, I got fed up with it and through the fatherly influence, who has successfully been with the VfL since the 70s, I eventually became a Gladbach supporter.
“Wait a second, is that really Erik Ellington with my sequence in his hands?”
Alright. That almost sounds sympathetic, even though you did not make it all the way from delinquency… But let’s rather talk about your skating. In our first issue you provided a first-class jawdropper. What did you think, when Erik Ellington commented on your kickflip overcrooks sequence with “Markus Blessing? … Bless you!”?
I found out about it a couple of days later and thought: “Wait a second, is that really Erik Ellington with my sequence in his hands?” I couldn’t actually believe it at first and then I thought: “Okay, someone must have given him the mag”, and then I was pretty proud of myself. He wasn’t like one of my favorite skaters, but I really dig his skating. That’s something that tickles you I gotta say.
That sequence has been highlighted by a lot of people. Was it a battle to do that trick?
It was a bit peculiar, because I have never done a trick like that on a handrail before. Three days before that I went to the Berlin shelter for a little project with Nob [Szombati] and did the trick twice on the bigger down-rail, which functioned as good practice. Then I remembered that rail in Stuttgart which is not too steep… And when I actually went, there I didn’t try any other trick but tried the kickflip overcrooks straight away. Backside is not really my strong warm-up side. I think boardslides are disgusting and a backside 50 on a round rail is not that relaxed. But with overcrooks I always put my front foot on the rail no matter what, even when I fuck up the kickflip, hence there is not too much that can go wrong. And then it didn’t even take a long time. A couple of times the board turned to the side at the end, but then I got in it real good and took it home.
How did the checkout-part with Red Bull come across last summer? We would have liked to present that one too…
That was kind of a last-minute thing to be honest. Sandro Trovato from Stuttgart filmed one of those checkouts with Felix Löchel before and Felix came up to me and said: “Hey, are you down to film one of those checkouts with me too? Two minutes of crisp footage and Red Bull would cover the whole thing.” And he would make some cash off of it too. I didn’t really care at that time where the part is gonna be shown, because I had some good footage in the past that somewhat perished in those mix-parts. Up till then I had already filmed some things with Felix and was into the idea of having a small part and from there everything went really quick.
Your talent has caught the team managers’ eyes for some time now and in the past two years you could pretty much choose your sponsors. Why did you switch from Element to Titus and from Adidas to Nike?
Ok, let’s start with the boards. It’s not like I was dissatisfied with Element completely. I gotta say that it wasn’t anything financial either but rather the family aspect. It wasn’t really clear where everything is leading up to with Element. At first I rode for Element via Urban Distribution and then later on I went on one or two trips with Element Europe, Michi Mackrodt and Nassim Guammaz. But then I didn’t really hear anything from Element Europe for two years and I wasn’t in close contact with their team manager either and besides boards there was not much going on. And I realized from other friends that had board sponsors, how they have team meetings, tours and a really good time together and then I thought that I should maybe pressure Element a bit about Europe and everything so I’m not caught up in between and have to miss that team dynamic. Independently from that thought I got a call from Yannick Schall one day and he asked me what I think about Titus. He wanted to send me some boards that I should try and asked whether I’m down join them on a Vietnam tour to see how it would fit. On that tour I was pretty much going for it during the nine days of skating and Yannick said that the footage would easily provide enough for a welcome-clip, if I feel comfortable with Titus. And I have to say that I had some reservations at first, because Titus doesn’t have the best reputation – but it was a nice turnaround. The guys were all awesome and the tour was the best one I have ever been on. And then I thought to myself: “Why shouldn’t I do it? I’ll get photo incentives, the boards are wicked, the guys super nice and they are pushing it with tours and so on.”
And why did you, coming from Ulm, quit Adidas which has its skateboarding base in Stuttgart?
That was a different story. Torsten [Frank, Adidas-filmer] and Jascha [Muller, Adidas TM] are the sickest dudes and I felt really comfortable on Adidas. The team finally leveled out and it was clear who’s on and who’s not… But then Nike really opened some doors for me to which I couldn’t say no. One day Colin Kennedy [Nike SB Europe TM] called me up and schmoozed me big time, talking about a bunch of shoes per year, that and that amount of money, photo incentives, this and that amount of travel budget, tours and events. And then you start to listen attentively and think about it for real. I went over my contract over and over again and, in the end, clarified it with Jascha. It’s really important to me that this doesn’t come across as some kind of bitch-move and like I ditched Adidas. We settled everything for sure. Lem texted me straight away and teased me a little saying stuff like: “Whaddup, Swoosh-Boy…,” and so on. But then he went on saying that everyone else would’ve done the same thing. In the end, I can say that it wasn’t easy for me to let down Adidas but it was very easy for me to go with Nike. With Element it was a little bit easier to quit, because I just felt like some random guy that only gets a couple of boards.
I’m assuming that you could actually travel the world with the European Nike team right now, but you rather sit at your desk and study for university. Why are you not going all the way skate-wise?
Yea, I have been thinking that too from time to time. Seriously. In the time between my A-levels and the beginning of my studies I have been home for like three days in four months and was constantly on the road in Portugal, Scotland, Romania and I really liked it. But after my first semester I thought that studying is not as easy as you imagine. I went to Lyon with Jacopo Carozzi [also on Nike, Ed.] and he is the biggest skate-rat that has nothing else on his mind. We talked about school and stuff and he said that he’s 18 now and doesn’t have any degree but went to Australia for half a year and also to America and basically doesn’t give a shit about school. As soon as something pops up on the agenda he just packs his bags and doesn’t even care. Sometimes I ask myself why I’m stupid enough to not do the same, but then again my sanity gets a hold of me and pulls me back. Because, even if you don’t wish that for anyone to happen, I think about how Jacopo might tear his cruciate ligament once or twice in a row and then he would stand there and is totally off track with the school business and only used to the skateboard world. And since my A-levels degree was pretty good, I started studying and can still take a semester off. If there’s something big in progress like one or two months in the states or a video, I will take a semester off for sure.
Can you foresee things like that so easily?
Yes, in fact Colin as well as Yannick hit me up pretty early when they are planning something. I don’t have to give them firm acceptance right away but can see how to manage it for myself, if it works out or not. With Titus for example… – I don’t even know if I’m allowed to tell you this – whatever, Titus is planning on releasing a full-length video next year where every rider has his own part. Nike only did a ten-day Scandinavia tour this summer and I didn’t want to take a semester off straight away. Besides that, I was busy doing the interview with Daniel [Wagner] for you guys anyways.
Do your parents even know, what kind of alternatives you have to studying and what kind of responsible-minded boy they have raised?
[laughs] Yea, uhhhm… My parents know that I’m riding a skateboard and that I supposedly do that pretty well, when they get shoes from me several times a year. But they don’t believe that you can live from skateboarding all your life and to be honest I don’t believe that I could do that either. I really appreciate the chances Nike is giving me and will do my best to use them so I don’t slip out of it again, but it is really important for me to have a plan b.
Multiple people would probably be really happy when you move away from Ulm. Well I mean people that don’t live in Ulm. [laughs] Are there any good news? Wagner said that it is kind of tough to keep you in Stuttgart for longer than a day.
[laughs] Yes, I expected you to ask that… Well I have to disappoint the people in Berlin because I’m just not a fan of Berlin – I get sick of that city after three days for some reason. And Cologne? I didn’t get in contact with too many people in Cologne. I went there once or twice and it was pretty nice, but for some reason we always got rained out. Hamburg might be a little too big for me. I planned to move to Stuttgart once, but it is a less-than-an-hour drive to get there and to be honest I find the city fucking ugly to live in. And when I went there for a weekend of skating, I already had enough of the spots too. For now, I can’t really think of any city that I feel more comfortable in than in Ulm, even though I can imagine to live somewhere else one day. Ulm is just this cute and cozy city, I don’t even know why Xaver [Pfriender, Köln], Manu [Bogner, Berlin], Danjar [Adelmann, †] and the complete rest of the skate-scene migrated at one point.
Nevertheless, your filmers and photographers always fancy your persistence when you are on a mission. Why do you never give up?
There for sure is a difference depending on whether I’m on a mission or just skating around. When I’m at the skatepark and it’s one of these days where nothing works, not even the easiest tricks, then I freak out from time to time. It even happened once or twice that I stomped a board. But on a photo-mission, hey, there I just get my act together and try to be focused and believe in myself so that I don’t get mad. I see that with other guys that give their backside flip two tries, bail and then start to scream and nail their board with their fist – I’m not that type of person, not at all! At our indoor skatepark there used to be this guy that always slapped himself in the face and was screaming like a psycho. I was really scared of him as a little skater. I just think that this mounts up to nothing and rather think about what I messed up this time.
The best example for that is probably the nosegrind in the rain on the hubba that you patched up with a noseblunt this time. How did events unfold back then?
That was my first date with Daniel and back then every skater from our city wanted to go and shoot a photo with him and when he set up his equipment because of me, I knew that I would get on that thing for sure. I did a couple of 50s and all of the sudden it was pouring and Daniel wanted to pack everything up already, but since the roll up was sheltered I wanted to go for it even though the landing was completely soaked. I thought I could do it. And after some wipeouts and smaller slams I made it. Maybe that wasn’t all that bad for me, because Daniel probably wanted to shoot some more photos after that. But if it wouldn’t have been for him, I probably wouldn’t have skated that day.
When you initially met up with Daniel for the interview in Stuttgart you told him that you want to do the kickflip backside noseblunt first and throw yourself down the big stuff afterwards. I don’t know what I find more outrageous: the trick announcement or the fact that you were right…
I don’t know, if he got it right. I meant it as I just explained it with the kickflip overcrooks that I don’t really hurt myself on that trick, because the front foot is always set on the ledge. Therefore, you only bail a couple of times and can go for lots of tries. I did some other tricks on the hubba in Esslingen before and that one was definitely still on my list of things that I wanted to check off.
"But then Nike really opened some doors for me to which I couldn’t say no."
What other tricks do you have with boss-moves like that one?
Well you should for sure have a good kickflip and done some backside noseblunts beforehand. I do the kickflip somewhat over the nose, as in kickflip nosewheelies, catch it really early and turn around into the backside noseblunt as soon as I’m above the ledge.
I first thought that I couldn’t find any skeletons in your closet while doing my research, but then I heard that you can snap when you’re playing soccer…
Who told you that?
Oh alright, Bogner… Since he is a little butcher… He will straddle your legs from behind. [laughs] Soccer is a different topic though. There you are not on your own and I have always been someone who’s a little more maneuverable and swift and tricks the defender. And when someone is trying to break your legs on purpose, it’s not all that cool.
You told me that this has been talked about in earlier interviews, but I didn’t even know that… Did you have the opportunity to start a career in that field as well? Are you one of those motivity-prodigies that is pretty much able to do any sport with ease?
Well the soccer-career might have worked out, but, in the end, you will never know. I was on the field since I was four, had a good youth employment at the SV Belbingen and when we served SV Ulm 4:0 at this tournament where I scored three of the goals, this scout of VfB Stuttgart came up to my parents and asked what’s the word. But neither my parents nor I wanted it, because I never felt like bracing myself up for soccer. It always took some time till I had my shoes on and was ready to go on the field. I also played in the Baden-Württemberg-selection for some time, but they realized that it’s not really fun for me because it was too crazy. Being just twelve years old you were really trained to be little machines there and were yelled at for the smallest misplay. The fun of it was very much neglected.
I also heard that you are a wine enthusiast, which is pretty uncommon for skaters. How did that happen?
That’s true. That came about because my roommate has a hobby-vintner as a boyfriend and she placed an order once and then we had a little wine tasting here, which I thought was really good. When you start drinking alcohol you usually find wine and sparkling wine pretty disgusting. With sparkling wine it’s still like that for me but I have really started to appreciate a good red wine. It looks really gallant, when you’re standing there with a glass of red wine in your hand at some wedding and you try it and like the taste. It’s just fun for me and then I started to order a couple of bottles myself and now I have some eight different kinds and 60 bottles or so.
How much does a wine collection like that costs?
It’s not really as expensive as you might think. The wines that I get from the vintner cost around four to seven euros on average. Not too expensive.
What are your favorite kinds?
Well I like the dry red wine from Otto Menold. For example the Trollinger dry is really nice or the pinot noir. For sure a nice dark red and let it rest for one or two years. Then it’s wicked!