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Willow Voges Fernandes – "The Sequel" Interview

My strongest memory of Willow from back before I turned my back on Hamburg in 2017 is watching him fly over the huge launch ramp meant primarily for bikers and bladers at the I-Punkt Skateland in pretty much full-on protective gear. While that place probably hasn’t changed a bit since then, Willow himself went through quite the transformation in the meantime. On the two-week trip we shared with the GX1000 crew in Paris and Stuttgart, I kept forgetting that he has barely made it out of his teenage years. He’s calm, collected, easy to talk to, incredibly good at setting and managing his own energy and boundaries (especially for someone as young as him), and is not easily influenced. There is no doubt the “sequel” to the OG Willow, as Dustin Dollin dubbed him, has some big shoes to fill on the international stage. With career moves on the horizon and a video part in the near future, however, “Willow” is soon to be a household name again.

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Willow in Paris | FA

Yo, Willow! How are you? You just got back from Berlin?

Got back yesterday, I had a good weekend, really fun!

You had a Carhartt shoot and also went to the Vans Shop Riot, right?

Yes, we did the Carhartt shoot with Steffen Grap. We biked through Berlin all day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. hitting up small spots along the way. The Shop Riot was at the same time, so we just met everyone in the evenings. Pretty busy, but it was a lot of fun. The last party got shut down though. People started to sneak in and climb the fences. Apparently the bouncer got knocked out too.

What have you been up to since we got back from the GX trip?

Nothing really, just been chilling. I still have some issues with my knee from the slam into the downhill rail.

You’ve never had an interview in a mag?

I think I’ve only ever been in the “Going Nowhere” article. Had some ads for Skatedeluxe though.

That’s also where most of your footage seems to be. Skatedeluxe does pop up a lot when you look for your name.

True. Since I’ve been going on tours, I think it’s been mostly Skatedeluxe trips – at this point, probably Vans. During the Shop Riot, we had a meeting and Alex Forbes showed us our footage. I have about nine minutes, I wasn’t even aware. I’m so stoked to see the project come out.

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Wallie into Bank | DVL

What project does it go towards?

A Vans Europe full-length with parts and everything.

Better figure out three songs.

Yeah, crazy. It won’t all be used and a couple things are still missing, but I’m really hyped.

What was your first real skate trip?

It must have been in 2020 to Cologne with Vans Europe. At the time, I was still being hooked up by Vans Germany and hadn’t even really been on a trip with them, but Max Pack asked me to join. I had also just met him at a wear test in Breda. There was an extra spot in the hotel, so I just jumped on it. Little did I know there would be Dustin Dollin, Chris Pfanner, and all of the Vans Europe guys. I was so excited, overly motivated, and tried to skate every spot. It worked out and was a good fit. I remember the trip vividly. It was one of the best. In the middle of summer with swimming, barbecue, and skating big handrails.

Not bad for a first trip.

Surreal. After that, I started going on a lot of Skatedeluxe trips. Also always a good time with good people. We went to some cool places, like Athens, for example.

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50-50 Gap 50-50 | DVL

That one was also in Solo. I didn’t know we had you so exclusively! Stoked this will be your first ever real mag interview too. Also because I get to start at the beginning and ask this question: Where are you from and how did you start skating?

I’m from Hamburg, born and raised. I started skating when I was three. That’s when my dad first put me on a skateboard. Oddly enough, my actual first time on a board was when I was two. It’s me on a Mickey Mouse snowboard on a hill people use to sled down in winter near the river Elbe. There are photos of it. I could barely stand. My first board was a birdhouse complete, not sure if we still have it… But yes, started skating at three years old in Hamburg at Fischer’s Park. Spot still exists too.

So your dad was the driving force. He is a snowboarder though, right?

He actually also skated back in the days but more like freestyle. He did all the Rodney Mullen stuff, handstands and stuff. There’s footage of him skating one of these tiny skateboards and doing moves on the Swiss national television. I got the clip on a stick in a box somewhere here.

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Ride on 50-50 | FA

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Boardslide Pop over Stairs | DVL

I saw his snowboard video. That was quite impressive.

He actually used to live off of snowboarding for a while. The movie you’re talking about was his own idea. He gathered all the money from the sponsors and ran the production in New Zealand. At the same time in the same mountains, they were filming the movie “Willow.” That’s where I got my name, my parents were stoked on the movie.

Not sure I’ve seen that one.

It’s about a magician saving the world. Fantasy, Middle Ages kind of movie. I haven’t seen it in a long time actually.

What’s your relationship to the OG Willow?

I think I’ve only met him once or twice. He was at a demo with Ryan Sheckler and the whole etnies team in I-Punkt Skateland, our local indoor park. I didn’t know he was German, so I went and tried to talk to him in English. I could barely say anything, I was really just a kid with a helmet. I was like, “Yo, my name is Willow too,” and he was like, “Bro, I speak German.” That was my only real interaction with him. At some point, he followed me on Instagram and gave me props via DM.

I just rewatched your old “sponsor me,” lots of I-Punkt footage in there too. Seems surreal that it’s only been four, five years since that’s been uploaded.

Random phone footage pieced together. You can still see the kiddie style. For me, it feels like it’s been ten years.

"My mum used to work as a photographer and she was supposed to be shooting in the Twin Towers on 9/11, but she missed her flight."

I remember you flying over the huge BMX box all day back when I still lived in Hamburg.

I spent so much time at that place. It was too much. At some point, I was just over it. These days, I never really go anymore, only ever to skate vert.

How often do you skate vert?

I haven’t been there in months, I usually go in winter. Trying some airs just for fun, I wouldn’t say I’m progressing or anything.

How do your parents feel about your career choice?

Really good. My dad obviously can relate and basically guided me there. He’s stoked I’m going places with it. My mum has always been on my side too. Huge shout-out to my mum! My parents split fairly early, but she’s been holding it down. Our apartment used to be right next to the indoor park and when we had to move, she found something close to the IGS skatepark in Wilhelmsburg that was being built at that time, so I lived five minutes pushing from there. So yes, my parents have been super supportive and lots of motivation stems from them.

Did you finish school?

I dropped out after 11th grade. That’s when it began with going on all the trips. That’s what I wanted to do all my life, go on trips, skate, and travel. I still have options to pursue further education, but honestly, I don’t regret it a single second. My parents also agreed that that was a huge opportunity for me and just told me to really figure out what I wanted. It paid off, I think. I’d say stay in school, but if there’s something better, go for that.

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Gap Lipslide | DVL

How old is Chris Pfanner now?

I think he’s 38.

I could see you doing what he’s doing in 18 years too – being the TM and still killing the spot the hardest.

I thought about that too and what could happen in general. You get to know so many jobs in the industry over time. I think it’s pretty interesting to see what else you can do in the business apart from skating. It’s cool to see Chris as a skater being on Vans forever and now taking over the role of TM, still going on trips, and loving it so much still.

Out of all the brands, Vans (and especially Vans Europe) seems most like a family.

Super familial. I’ve always appreciated that and they also put emphasis on it. They make sure you fit into the group as a person. Wouldn’t be as much fun otherwise.

They also are pretty notorious for all the partying. How do you manage that?

It definitely is something, but I can deal with it. I’m always trying to find a good balance. You’re on tour, you’re supposed to have fun, but I also want to skate. I want to push my limits and, for that, you need to pay attention to your body. I’m often the one to call it a day early just because I really want to feel good in the morning. However, they get the job done and it is a part of it, not going to lie. Not saying I’m always the good boy, but I try to level it out. Otherwise, I can’t skate.

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50-50 backside 180 | FA

For someone your age, it’s really admirable to have that kind of clarity and self-control. I was also really impressed how fast you bounced back from some of the injuries you had on our recent trip.

You just have to react fast, no matter how stupid it feels to say, “I’m laying low today.” It pays off if you can skate again faster. Just listen to your body, be proactive with treating the injury. I also got lucky on this one. I’ve been on trips where I rolled my ankle second day and couldn’t skate anymore for the rest of the trip. Chill when you have to chill.

In Hamburg, you have a crew called “BUG.”

It used to be a WhatsApp group for the homies. Moritz Ueberall was really motivated to make something out of it and started filming clips. Back then, it was still called “homeless,” but we switched the name to BUG. BUG is the name of the dog of Moritz’s girlfriend. We’re all fans of him. Moritz started making shirts for the homies. It wasn’t too serious, but our last tape was cosigned by Quartersnacks, which was really cool. Rad crew!

In Switzerland, you’ve got another crew, right?

In Switzerland, I used to skate with Colourgroup. I haven’t in a while, but last year and the year before, for sure. I met Bobaj and we started filming. He was doing his Anahí chapters, named after his daughter. I met the whole crew from Aarau. My dad lives in Switzerland, that’s the connection.

Swiss skaters are so underrated.

A hundred percent, really crazy. I’m so stoked to see Martino [Cattaneo] take off the way he does right now. I mean his skating speaks for itself, but there’s so much more talent.

Who’s your favorite skater these days?

Always been super hyped on T-Funk. Always said it, always will. Every time I watch T-Funk footy, the energy he has, I always get stoked on skating. He’s in SF at the moment, skating a lot with the GX crew.

You also have family ties to the US right?

My sister lives in Eureka, about an hour outside of San Francisco. I just visited recently. She got married, does her thing. Last time I was there, I was just checking out the coast and went to SF, but more like a tourist.

But it could be a nice way to connect the dots.

For sure, with everything happening right now. I’d love to see the GX guys in action in SF. They know the city like no one else.

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Frontside Smith | FA

Dustin Dollin gave you your Insta name?

It was because of OG Willow. Dustin started calling me that, he was like, “You’re just the sequel.” Just to mess with me. I thought it was a cool Instagram handle, but it was taken already, so Dustin made it into “@sequeltheprequel.”

After letting you use my laptop for a second the other day, I am now subscribed to your Spotify playlist. It’s mostly stuff Shazamed on trips, right?

I just ask Siri all the songs from the van. Whenever I get home, I’m hyped about all the new stuff in the playlist.

Some that stuck with me from the last trip were “Sticky Stay” by Wailing Souls and “I don’t drink to have fun” by Drunk Dom and the Roaches.

Oh my god, I’ve listened to that one so much, almost a little embarrassed because I like it so much [sings “I just drink”]. The guitar is so good. I literally just listened to it before you called.

On a last note, you wouldn’t even be here to talk to me if your mum hadn’t missed a certain flight, correct?

Oh yeah, fucking hell. My mum used to work as a photographer and she was supposed to be shooting in the Twin Towers on 9/11, but she missed her flight. That story is surreal.

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Kickflip | DVL