Interview / Nico Uhler

Photography / Hannes Mautner

I got to know Jan at a contest in Luxembourg in 2018. No transition skills yet to be seen. Fast forward to 2022, notably to our DIY tour through France and Switzerland: Jan joined our session at Thonon-les-Bains, frontside nosegrinded the well over three meters high doorway, got baptised “Justin”, gave us shelter at Bern’s covered Mooswerk DIY, accompanied us all the way to our last tour stop in Basel, and proved a couple of months later, at the premiere of our “Doorways” video in Stuttgart that he also knows how to party… even though a little more training wouldn’t harm. Since we wanted to help him train, we decided to include Jan in this year’s full-length project, and had he not torn an outer ligament and simultaneously worked on two other parts, „We Live Here“ probably would have turned out longer than “Fully Flared”.

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Hey, Jan! Where are you right now and what’s going on? Ready for the interview? – Hey, I’m still in Munich with Tamara (Kobel), but I’m going back to Bern today and on Saturday I’m leaving again, on a Santa Cruz Europe trip to Lisbon for nine days. By the way, I sat next to Tamara yesterday when you invited her to the “Friends‘ Questions” WhatsApp group. So, I’m ready…but don’t worry, she didn’t spoil any questions for me (laughs).


Well, if the surprise has already been ruined, let’s directly hit it off with two pretty important “Friends‘ Questions”. Andrei (Balaban) wants to know what your favourite perfume is, and Gotti asks about your favourite pizza! – I think, I last used perfume when I was 13 or 14. I don’t even have a favourite deodorant (laughs). Sorry Andrei, but I can’t really answer the question. As for pizza, I like diversity. But mostly, I go for some vegetarian option because I don’t want to eat too much meat. If I had to choose one pizza, I would probably go for a Margherita with mushrooms. What’s that one called again?


Funghi?! – Yeah, right! Sometimes I have a brain like a sieve; things just slip through sometimes (laughs). Pizza Funghi with chili or truffle oil. Shoutout to Surfi from SKATE.CH! He got me hooked on truffle oil on pizza.


We’ll keep it culinarily interesting here: I’ve heard that you’re very experimental when it comes to cooking, which comes out „sometimes this way, sometimes that way“. – You definitely got that from Tamara, right?! I actually do like to cook, but I never really have a clue of what I’m actually preparing. I hate cooking by recipe.

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When you cooked for the whole crew at my place, the result was definitely pretty good. But we did not only see each other in Luxembourg this year, we were on the road together for quite a bit, working on „We live here“. Do you have any favourite stories from all the touring? – Whew, you’re challenging my sieve brain. There was so much going on during these tours. One highlight, for me, definitely was that we got so many people on board. I laughed my ass off with Max (Schröer) on our tour from Mechelen to Leipzig. Actually, I might have a favourite story. It’s from this very tour, from our first night in Leipzig… For the one and only time, we had a hostel booked and someone said that there were still enough beds for Lenny (Koller), Jojo (Ducros) and me.


Come on, you don’t have to be that nice (laughs). You can name the person who miscalculated the shit out of this.Theoretically, you didn’t miscalculate anything at all. It was just all a bit chaotic (laughs). We were still at this party and couldn’t decide whether we should sleep outside or in a hostel room, and at some point, you were just gone. Lenny, Jojo and I rented an e-scooter, left our camping stuff at Conne Island and rode to the hostel. You had told me that I was the only one on the guest list. So, I should pick up the room card alone and the other two should just follow me upstairs. So far, so good… We made it to the room, but there was only one bed left. So, the three of us snuggled up on the e-scooter again. Lenny in the front, me in the back and Jojo sandwiched between us, the boombox was playing and off we went for an hour of a ride back to Conne Island. “My heart will go on!” At some point the police wanted to stop us. Lenny said hello in a friendly way and just kept going. The police turned their car around and started following us, of course. We directly turned right, saw that the entrance door of a shopping mall was open and drove in. The police car stopped in front of the door and the cops got out. If they had run after us, they could have easily caught up with us. With three people on an e-scooter, you’re not reaching more than a top speed of 10 km/h. But the cops didn’t even try and just gazed at us leaving the mall through the open door on the other side, riding off towards Conne Island.


Lenny and Jojo joined us as mystery guests for that whole Mechelen to Leipzig tour, which was sick. I knew Lenny from before already, but getting to know Jojo and seeing him skate was a completely new experience. He has become my new favourite skater in no time. – He is definitely the most motivated skater in the world; no Instagram, no ambitions to achieve anything with his skating, except from having a good time and just doing what he wants. Him and his whole crew from Grenoble are absolute legends! Do you know how I met them all? I had been skating at the DIY in St. Jean de Maurienne, went for a swim nearby, and that’s where I met a good part of the skinny-dipping Grenoble crew. Jojo threw a stone towards Elliott (Auffray) and he hit it with his dick as if he was going for a perfect baseball home run.


Wait, what (laughs)?! It was a small stone (laughs).

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Well, I can’t come up with an elegant Segway from this story to another, so let’s just continue with the third man of your Leipzig e-scooter gang: Lenny! He sent me quite a few questions and suggestions for the interview. Somewhat fitting with the Mechelen to Leipzig tour, he told me that apparently, you not only skate better but also more than usual whenever you’ve got a sprained ankle, but still, you’re crying all day long. This little wanker (laughs). I might skate more focused when I’m kind of hurt, but certainly not more than usual. But I mean, this year’s been a somewhat special one. I had torn my outer ligament shortly before our tour from Mechelen to Leipzig, then twisted my ankle again on this tour during our stop in Hanover, and a short time afterwards again, on a Fotta tour. My physiotherapist says that there’s a 50/50 chance for my ligament to properly grow back together. If it doesn’t, I will have to strengthen the muscles around it all the more. I feel like it still hasn’t grown back together, but as long as things work out, I don’t really care if it grows back together or not.


Lenny also told me that you almost never slam – which I can confirm –, but when you do, it always “hurts very badly“… I guess, I’ve become a bit of a wimp (laughs), and Lenny is always very happy when I slam. In Barcelona, for example, the day after Noel’s (Schärer) birthday, I jumped on a 12-stair rail – hungover, not enough sleep and no energy –, missed the lock on a fs smith grind and body slammed straight to flat. Lenny had just arrived the day before, laughed his ass off and was like: “It’s already been worth it now flying to Barcelona”. 


You met our dear Lenny when you were working as a seller in a sports store, but you’re actually a trained metalworker, aren’t you? How come you ended up working in a sports store after successfully completing your apprenticeship? Was it because you aren’t as good at metalworking as you think you are? You’ve got that one from Lenny too, haven’t you?! It’s true that I never worked as a metalworker after my apprenticeship. I completed it at the age of 19 or 20. I’m 27 now, don’t really have any professional experience – plus, I have a sieve brain (laughs) – and thus, I guess, I’m not as skilled of a metalworker as I could be. I wasn’t doing too bad during my apprenticeship, though. I worked from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, and then, I would always go to the skatepark for another four hours. But I wanted to skate even more and did not feel like looking for a full-time job. But as a metalworker in Switzerland, it’s almost impossible to find anything less than full-time. That’s why after my apprenticeship, I decided to look for other jobs and found a 40% position in the sports store with Lenny.


How long were you already skating at that time? – I actually started skating when I was 8 years old. My older brother – he was 12 or 13 at the time – bought Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 for his PlayStation. Shortly after that, he and his whole circle of friends started skating, and of course, I wanted to be part of that as well. We skated on the street in front of the house and also had a really shitty little skatepark around the corner – a quarterpipe and a funbox. The landing of the funbox was in the grass, though. The surface of the ramps was made of fibreglass and the asphalt was super rough. After about a year, I stopped skating and started rollerblading (laughs). But at some point, I had reached the end of what I could do with rollerblading. It got kind of boring and I got back into skating – right when I started my apprenticeship, actually. I was 16 at the time and ever since then, I’ve been completely hooked. There’s just no end to what’s possible; skateboarding is endless, limitless.

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So, from skater to rollerblader to skater, and from trained metal worker to seller to –  as far as I know – professional skate park builder. That’s how you earn your money these days, don’t you?Exactly. After some time as a seller, I did some other side jobs – always in a way that I’d find enough time to skate. But it’s been a while now that I can make ends meet with building skateparks. Plus, there’s some loopholes here: if you earn less than €24,000 a year, you pay almost no taxes and even get a health insurance subsidy. If then you find some not too expensive apartment, you can make ends meet, even with building skateparks. The apartment thing is not so easy, but with some luck and when you know enough people, you can find something affordable. I was lucky (laughs).


Good on you! How did you first get into building skateparks?One of the main reasons definitely was Jérémy (Durand) – one of the masterminds behind the DIY in St. Jean de Maurienne. He lived in Bern for a while and gave me a kick in the ass to learn how to skate transition. For the first six years of my skate life, I only skated ledges and rails. Flip in, flip outs all day. I couldn’t skate transition at all. But after Jérémy had spontaneously joined us on a trip to Barcelona, my transition into a transition skater began (laughs). Jérémy lit the fire and also inspired me to build skateparks. I learned a lot from Damian Gilgen as well, who had helped at 2er and at the Levi’s project in Taghazout, Morocco. Together with him and many others, we helped Jérémy with the expansion of St. Jean de Maurienne. Afterwards, Lenny and I built the Mooswerk DIY together with some other homies from Bern and we renovated the local skatepark. With Wonders Around the World we went to Ecuador, where we spent a month building a skatepark with 20 people. And at some point, after all of that, we decided to start our own little company: Emotional Skateparks. We integrated it as a subsidiary into Bimano GmbH. The guys from Bimano had also helped build Mooswerk and run the local indoor skatepark, together with a climbing hall, a café and an indoor playground. All the bureaucracy goes through Bimano and I’m just a part of the skatepark crew that gets projects and builds ramps. Emotional Skateparks is Lenny and me, Mauro (Schönenberger), Simon (Küng), Michel (Meng), Ramon (Notz) and of course Pascal (Trachsel) – we call him „El Jefe“. He can do everything – no matter if it’s skating or climbing or whatever – and if he wants something, he’ll just build it himself.

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And how do you get projects with your own little skatepark company? We all skate and therefore know all kinds of people in Switzerland. So, if anyone hears about something new to be built, word goes out to us. Sometimes, the homies might even give our contact directly to the respective municipalities so that they can get in touch with us. Bimano is also very well connected and we always keep our ears open in all possible directions. We usually build one or two skateparks in spring and another one or two in autumn.


Do you have any sources of inspiration regarding skatepark projects or skatepark companies in general? – Well, we regularly exchange ideas in our WhatsApp group. If one of us is on the road somewhere and comes across a good skatepark or gets to skate some unique obstacle, we always send photos to each other. Spoff parks show up again and again in our group. The design of their parks is always completely thought out. They don’t just build one half million project after another. They also build beautiful smaller parks, and they obviously put a lot of love into every single project.


As someone who’s always on tour or on some event, how do you even find the time to build skateparks? – This year’s been a somewhat special one with regard to that as well (laughs). I’ve never been on tour so much. Before, I would mostly just go to contests, but that doesn’t give me as much as it used to. So, this year, I wanted to do everything a bit differently, regularly bought Inter-Rail tickets and just criss-crossed my way through Europe. Most of it was quite spontaneous, except of course the trips that you invited me on, or Fotta, or just now Santa Cruz Europe. At the moment, when someone asks me where I live, I’ll answer that I have an apartment in Bern but don’t actually live there (laughs). Anyways, I still somehow managed to work on a few smaller skatepark projects in between.


Damn, not too bad, building skateparks in your home country in between all them tours (laughs). But how can one imagine a day in your life when you’re neither on tour nor building a skatepark? – When I come home from a tour, I do the laundry, catch up on sleep and I don’t skate for a day or two. I’ve established some sort of routine for those occasions. I’ll be on my cruiser, pushing through the city, I’ll go swimming in the Aare river, I’ll write emails and try to get meetings for upcoming skatepark projects, and I’ll take care of all sorts of organisational things in life.

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Sounds good. I’ll take the chance now and wanna speak with you about some specific “organisational things in life”. I’ve heard that when it comes to flying, you’re not the most well-organised person on earth. Lenny and Tamara told me to ask you in particular about your flights to Ukraine and Morocco… Oh, man (laughs). In 2021, I was invited to a contest in Kiev. I had forgotten my passport at home, but was still able to board the plane here at the airport in Switzerland. During those crazy Corona times, they would sometimes only check the tests or vaccination certificates, but not even ask for the passport. So, I flew to Kiev, but then, of course, wasn’t allowed to exit the airport without a passport. I had to hang out there for a good two days, until the airline eventually arranged a return flight for me (laughs). Morocco was at the beginning of this year. Actually, we wanted to go there for surfing, but the waves were not so good – that’s how it goes with mother nature. I wanted to keep the night before the flight as mellow as I could, but there was this mini ramp jam in a suburb of Bern. Noël, Lenny and I ended up going there, we hit a club afterwards, and I woke up with the worst hangover of my life the next morning. Because of that, I forgot my wallet at home and only realised it upon arrival at the airport here. Tamara saved my ass, though. Even though she had exams at university, she hopped on the next train and brought my wallet to the airport. Big shout-out to Tamara! I made it on the plane, but you could tell that I wasn’t feeling too well. Even Lenny was nice with me, handed me a barf bag and told me that I’d probably need it. He was right!


Then better skip any sort of miniramp jam on Friday and remember to take your passport on Saturday (laughs)! Otherwise you might have some troubles getting on that Santa Cruz Europe trip that you mentioned earlier. What’s next after that one? – I’ll be back in Bern for three days and then I’m going to the finals of the Vans Shop Riot in Manchester with SKATE.CH. I’ll only be there as team manager, though. I’ll fill in for Surfi. Shortly after Manchester, I’m going on a Pocket trip to Taiwan. I’ve never been to Asia before, so I’m really excited. Then, on November 25th, there’s a contest at the indoor park over here, and then, there should be the premieres of our video coming up, right?


I’m on it! I guess, we’ll have the first premieres of „We Live Here“ in early December and once all that is done, it’ll be chill time. – Definitely! Let’s fly to Mallorca in January or so and take some vacation. We don’t even have to take our boards…


Sounds good! But before we go on vacation, I’ve got one last question for you… David (Bachl) wants to know how you manage to stay sober for a full day on tour and not go crazy with him and the rest of the crew around? – Well, what to say about that? (laughs) I just can’t drink as much as Bachl and still skate. I’ve got some more training to do (laughs), but I love the whole crew. Thank you again for organising all these tours and bringing us together! Thank you for the whole project and I hope that we’ll just keep it going from here…

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