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Valeri Rosomako – Untergrund Interview

„I just try to stay out of all the trendy and standard stuff and look in all other directions.“ When it came to the decision who to pick for the video it was pretty obvious for us to choose Valle as the representative of our capital. The light-footed wizard straight outta Kreuzberg has been holding up the flag of innovative street skating for years, paired with his solid radness. Although he has been following the Quatersnacks phrase „If you can’t ollie up it, don’t ollie down it“, for a while now. That means best preconditions for a superb profound philosophy on skateboarding, till the eyes bleed.

Valle, you went to Israel this year with Sergej [Vutuc], Francisco [Saco] and some other friends. How did you come up with the idea?

The thought was to get different people from different countries together in one place, where none of them had been before, that was really important to Sergej. Sam Partaix from France, who has lived in Berlin at the time, Laurence Keefe, who actually is from England but has been living in Tokyo for the past years, Nick Kunz, a skater from San Francisco, me from Germany and as media team Francisco [at the moment residing in Berlin as well, editors note] who is from Costa Rica and Sergej who has been living in Germany for quite some time, but has his roots in the Balkan region, they all went with us – a pretty mixed up group that Sergej put together. Aside from Sam, Francisco and Sergej I didn’t know anyone of the guys and even if most of them have never seen each other before the climate was super good. We realized quickly that we all had the same idea of skateboarding and pretty much just are „a bunch of weirdos“ – that’s why the tour was kind of a „weirdo tour“ right from the start. When the locals brought us to some perfect ledge plaza we were always like „ok let’s skate it, but the next spot has to be weird“, and that’s how most of the spots were for the rest of the trip.

What makes a spot interesting for you?

Well, maybe that it has some special demand to ride it. For the craziest session we went to a different city and the locals told us that there will be skateable sculptures right at the highway. We just parked the car on the emergency lane and rode this rad metal-tranny-sculpture for an hour.

Valeri Rosomako – Gap to 5-0

Gap to 5-0

Your last big feature in a magazine is a while back. How did you change as a skater in the meantime?

Back then I kind of thought that I had to do some specific stuff when it came to the radness of tricks or something like that. By now I just try to stay out of all the trendy and standard stuff and look in all other directions and to push my skating how it seems to have the most fun to me. There was this time for example where everybody started to do slappy noseslides and I have done them myself of course, but this movement is not part of me, that’s why I stopped doing it. If that movement would have felt right, I probably would have continued to do it and probably tried to do slappy crookeds as well. It is still like I want to learn new tricks. Already as a kid I rarely tried to make my tricks look as perfect as possible, but rather I wanted to learn new tricks and actually today in fact it happens often that I land a trick for the first time ever when we film it. Sometimes „accidents“ happen when we are out filming, like when the board flips in a strange way and depending on what trick I’m trying maybe that other one felt better and then I rather try the other one. Especially Dan [Filmer] has witnessed that I changed my tricks quite often recently. I think that it’s better than sticking to one trick and eventually give up on it completely. I rather try something different. I guess that’s just better than being stubborn and also it’s more relaxed for the filmer or photographer. You just have a completely new situation. That’s one thing I relate to, also when it comes to relieving yourself from standards. This is not always an advantage, because you sometimes do something that is easier, but still, exciting things happen sometimes because you have room for creativity.

You can definitely see that in your part. Is it really like spots matter more than tricks to you nowadays? And would you go so far that it makes no sense to skate the same spot twice, because the bottom line is to use the space, that is provided by the city and always changes as well, as a whole?

Well, a big part of it is, of course, the kind of spot that you are at and to skate new stuff all the time and on the other hand the spots kind of determine the tricks nowadays. They inspire much stronger. A perfect curb plaza pushes me less than when I’m out with friends in some side alley and we find a new spot that feels unique and most of the time looks better on photos and videos. In the year we started filming for „Untergrund“ Jo Peters Video „Propeller Island“ just came out and still or maybe especially because of that it was important to me, to find new spots again for your video, because it would’ve gotten boring to skate the same spots again and just try to do a better trick. I also don‘t have the patience or even sometimes the time to just try a certain trick for hours. It’s way more fun to me to do an easier one quickly, because it feels better. But I wouldn’t go so far to exclude skating a spot twice. If you have a cool spot which is fun, I go there multiple times for sure and try to do new tricks or to skate the spot in a different way. That is also an interesting process. It makes no sense to me to solely skate new spots when they are shitty to skate. With Sergejs spot ideas you just stand in front of this thing with a big question mark hovering over your head, even if he has a certain thing for it ready in his imagination and you realize, that you have to put a whole lot of effort into it in order to make it work. There you have the artist rather than the skate photographer coming out of Sergej and his puristic thoughts.

How did the propeller sequence in SOLO #3 come about? Do you still skate that local-spot regularly?

The Kulturforum is actually one of the few that I skate regularly. The propeller sequence basically came from skating in Israel with Sergei, because he had a session with us at every spot before taking photos. He did many of those crazy one-foot-tricks and so it happened that I did the propeller in a different variation than I have already done in Israel.

Skateboarding as a trend sport is not really underground anymore, but skateboarding itself is

Funny that you say that, because I wanted to ask if Sergej had a big influence on you ever since he came to Berlin?

I think that playful approach to spots I was able to observe really well with Sergej. As I said I thought it was really cool to be on tour with him, because no one directly tried to do some insanely hard stuff. Everybody just skated together and during the session somehow, someone developed an idea for some cool trick and just then Sergej went to get the camera and shoot a photo. Those were natural processes how the photos originated. With most photographers it’s always like you have to tell them what trick you want to try first, because they need to know if the effort is worth it. You get out of the car and the flashes are set up – I don’t really like that. And that exact relieve of dependencies, norms and benchmarks impressed me with Sergej. That’s not exclusively for skating – also how Sergej approaches strangers, how he gets in contact with people, through which cool things develop, inspired us as a group. We arrived there with no place to sleep and without knowing anyone and through Sergej we meet the coolest crew. They were on the road with us for two weeks, drove to different cities with us, introduced us two new people there once more and they also came to Berlin this summer and we did the same thing with them here. So it’s like a gift for both sides.

How did Berlin as a skateboard-city change over the last ten years in your opinion?

Back then, when there were all the different spots around the Kulturforum, basically all the skating was going on over there and everything was compressed into this one area. Nowadays skating developed in so many different ways. Through that and through all the people moving to Berlin recently, different crews developed over the last years, with their individual (local-) spot preferences and that’s why there is not one or two big, but rather many more smaller crews that spread out over the whole city but respect each other. Another development is, that there are many places to skate or skate parks appearing everywhere, which you can see positively or negatively. With the park at the Tempelhofer Field, Hasenheide, the Maybachufer, the Wassertorplatz, the Böcklerpark and the project from adidas at the dogshit-spot many residents expel you to those places. That makes street skating a little bit harder, aside from the convenience that most skaters share, which is reinforced through those places. Sometimes it even reminds me of a somewhat smaller Copenhagen, where you have a skatepark around every corner. Of course that tempts people to chill in the park for days, but I think most of them are in the end motivated enough to go street skating instead. At least for us that’s way more interesting, because you can bring home at least one cool story every time you do that, no matter if some grandpa yells at you or someone, who does not speak any german tries to talk to you and wants to skate with your board because he thinks skateboarding is amazing. I would say most of the people are rather tolerant.

How do those new possibilities effect the DIY activities in Berlin?

We never were the big DIY kings, but we have a bunch of wastelands that we tried to use without too much effort. Meanwhile many of those areas are surrounded by fences or the spots are torn down and it takes a direction where the city allocates places like the dogshit-spot to let skaters build legal stuff there, which I think is really cool. My DIY activities consist of me trying to alter the function of a spot in a few hand grips to create new possibilities by for example setting up a piece of wood or something or prepare a roadgap with a pole or improvised ledge. And I have to say I feel like the pedestrians and the police in Berlin are fairly tolerant, because they see that we don’t break anything, but just have fun.

Valeri Rosomako – Crooked Grind Tailgrab

Crooked Grind Tailgrab

Was there also a certain approach when Dan and you started to film your part?

Well, first of all I have to say that I think that it’s super important that the people who try to realize a project like that are friends. The most parts that I have filmed till now a here with Jo [Peters], whom I have known for a long time. And now with Dan it was the exact same thing; natural and easy, because he is just someone that is open for all kind of silliness and doesn’t say: „This spot is too small or too bad“. My thought for the part was, that I wanted to skate many spots in my surrounding, which is Kreuzbeg. And because the name „Untergrund“ is ambiguous, referring to the loathsomeness of skateboarding as well as to the ground itself, we wanted to skate as many rough spots as we could and contribute to the flair of the video or at least of the title.

How underground is skateboarding really in the year 2015?

Skateboarding as a trend sport is not really underground anymore, but skateboarding itself is, because it is normal for every skater to learn new tricks and discover new spots and for that you have to wander around and go to hidden, dirty places. In the 90’s and around the millennium the people were on the search for perfect spots or plazas to be able to do their technical highly complicated tricks. Almost like they are on an athletic field. After that this turned in to huge rails and gaps that were suitable for the image of extreme sports. But in the last few years there was a return to old school tricks that you could do at every spot and that look a lot better on rougher spots as well and also challenge you and seem more interesting. Some people just want to skate everything that they see and celebrate the weirdo videos from Japan with slappy to slappy grinds on two stairs, which people would have made fun of back then. And this now stands in contrast to the extreme sport character, skateboarding has gotten over the years with big rails and gaps. I have the feeling that it’s more about fun and creativity again. Also the industry seems to generate some sort of counter-movement against the waves of commercialization within skateboarding that most skaters, especially the ones who have been in the business for a long time, consider as positive. Insofar skating is, even if it’s really popular right now again, still an underground movement and stays interesting even in 2015.