Tags: action sports, adapt brand, aggressive inline, ben harmanus, berlin, chimera, extreme sports, freestyle rolling, germany, interview, patinaje extremo, roller, rollerblading, rolling, rouler, skate, skating
If you've never met Ben Harmanus before, from the outset he can seem a little bit scary. A man covered in tattoos who's always dressed in black and constantly throwing himself at rails all over the globe. For those who do know him, they realize this is simply a front for one of the most caring and passionate skaters in our scene. Ben spoke with Be-mag to discuss the current state of Chimera, his collaboration with the dutch boot company Adapt and the future and beyond of skating.
Introduction by Kevin Chow
Interview by Michael Bayr & Oliver Nermerich
Edit by Mathias von Gostomski
Life seems to be pretty hectic for you with Adapt and with Chimera. Can you give us a small insight into these two projects?
It's interesting that you named Chimera after you named Adapt. I guess there are many who think I am some kind of co-owner, but I'm not. Adapt is owned by Olga and Pieter and I am extremely happy that I am involved as a pro rider. If you wanna call it that way, I am a consultant too. We both share the same concept as we focus on our own online shops. Also both companies are owned by rollerbladers and have to get things done without a big distribution or investor. All in all the Chimera Adapt Conspiracy is about our cooperation. We try to help each other as much as possible...and of course Adapt uses Chimera wheels and bearings to build complete setups. It's just great to keep each other up to date and discuss new ideas. I guess our friendship will lead to good things for our community as we are all old dogs in this industry and we all made some mistakes that we've learned from. You called it "hectic" and yes, it is a lot of work, but I do enjoy running a rollerblading business like I didn't for so long.
For Chimera you have chosen the way to go direct, why did you take this decisision for your sales approach?
When I left the Conference I didn't want the pressure of a distributor telling me what to do anymore. You know what I was told years ago when I asked Julien Cudot and Joe Atkinson to join Chimera? Why do you take those kids, do you think someone will buy wheels because of them? I think it is very important to support young rollerbladers, they are the future. It's done that way in every other sport and I don't wanna discuss this kind of matter with someone who does not even know half of the trick names out there.
For now I also want to get to know the community out there. What do they want? I get so many messages and I truly enjoy the feedback. Selling directly also gives me the opportunity to get the best possible price for everyone out there as there is not too much money lost in between. 8 wheels or 20 bearings...see for yourself.
You have amassed a massive and known team quickly, how did you choose your team?
Patrick Ridder and Dom Wagner where the ones I asked first. I needed to know if they believe in my idea to start small, but sell directly. Those guys are out there for as long as I am, I've been on tour with them, had lots of fun, but also several conflicts. I guess if you call each other friends after 15 years you can trust those guys to support Chimera. Gabriel Hyden and Marc Moreno I do also know for so long and I know they are friends of my team riders too. It's important that we all enjoy each others presence and also do respect each other for some skating skills or styles. I think Chimera is very special as we just have two Amateurs. I guess some brands don't have any idea who their Am's are. I have faith in Rik van Huik and Dave Mutschall. It's not a question of skills that both are still amateurs, it's just a matter of experience...but I believe both can be the future of Chimera. I've been blading with both this year and I am impressed. I don't have to talk about the pros, you all know 'em and if you love style, speed and creativity...you'll love those guys.
Will there be any team surprises?
If you come up with that question I am sure you've heard something. The team knows that two well known bladers joined and everyones happy about it. We have announced Mr.Moreno, but there's another one revealed as soon as the team edit is done.
If you would have to describe the new team rider in a myterious way, how would you describe him?
This guy has got some signature moves I could watch over and over again. He is rock & roll, style and you can easily see that he is a fun person. I like people who can laugh about themselves.
Ok, we might know who you are talking about. Another question: What are the next wheels you will be releasing?
Oh we just started with the new online shop and our four wheels. Also we've just released the bearings. Even if people were able to buy the ESKALATION collection at the Winterclash, the complete delivery just arrived. I guess if you look at the wheels we released you can do the math and get an idea who will get a new pro wheel. With the wheels being released I'm working on another product, but I'm not sure if this is going to be released in 2012. It's on my mind for years and it's about time to get this done.
What does living in Berlin mean for your personally and in your approach to business?
There are cool things about Frankfurt, but I always felt like being in the wrong place. In Frankfurt being different, living an alternate lifestyle means being seen as a part of a disadvantaged group. Also there isn't much movement in Frankfurt. I can't tell what changed since I moved to Berlin. You will never know every cool bar or club. Art, music, people from all over the world...so many influences I enjoy in my everyday life. When it comes to business Berlin becomes more and more important for the international art, gaming and tech industry. This means whatever I wanna do in the future, this is the place to be. Also I should say that working on the future of Chimera is easier right here with some helpful guys like the Ucons, Dirk Oelmann, Dom Wagner, Jojo Jacobi, Alex Schneider or Tim Wolff around. Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long to move here. Even if I would skate everyday I would find a new spot within minutes.
We know that you are good friends with Jochen Smuda. Is there any kind of cooperation planned between Chimera and Ucon in the future?
To be honest, I really thought about some cooperation products. I still have this cool idea for a Ucon shirt and I spoke to Jochen a year ago. I bet he doesn't even remember, even if he said „Yeah, show me what you've got in mind“. We are both busy and wished we could clone ourselves to work out every idea floating around. So, no real plans for 2012.
What are your inspirations company wise?
I want Chimera to be a company you are not ashamed of when showing your friends outside of rollerblading. This means you need to know what's going on in music, art, movies etc.! For sure I get much input from my daily life. I think Berlin itself is very inspirational. The city is rapidly changing, it's rough, incomplete and unique. I like that and I believe you can see that in the new collection. I like books and blogs about entrepreneurship, very interesting. The team and designer Dirk Oelmann are influential too. In the past I did everything myself, but nowadays I like the workflow I have with Dirk, Patrick, Rik or Gabriel.
What visions do the people you work with on Chimera and your team riders need to share with you?
The vision they need to share is that all the support I get will be paid back in the future. They need to know that I listen to every word they say. I really do. Chimera is the brainchild of a single person, but once a kid leaves home there are a dozen influences. Chimera has become the teams and the communities brand and it never looked any better. Thanks so much right here.
Despite being skating for such a long time, what keeps you motivated to keep on skating?
I think I've had my ups and downs. I really wasn't motivated in 2009 and not too much in 2010. At that time I was very unhappy with the rollerblading industry. 15 years in this industry can be such a pain in the ass. I was busy with working outside of rollerblading and spend some thoughts on the Chimera reboot. When I restarted Chimera I didn't see myself as a regular pro, but I was still known so people expected to see some clips. I started blading again, week by week, without taking big risks. I think in my whole career I have never been that cautious. A big change came up when Adapt and I started talking. We got along very well and they offered me to go pro again. Also after a while we were talking about a pro model. I knew what that means. You can’t have a pro model because You were a good blader in the past. So...to answer your question: I always need a goal to reach. This can be a new trick I wanna learn, a video section I am working on...and Adapt surely brought back the fun. Also identification is important to me. I couldn't see myself in 95% of the brands out there. I will turn 34 this year and do care if my blades look classy. We have to stop the older ones turning their backs on our sport, but this will not happen with technology from 1999 and the looks of some Toys'R'Us stuff. I can feel it's changing now...I get messages from some real O.G.s which is a huge motivation. My big wish is to release another full length profile and make it a real good section.
Looking back at your skating career what were the top three moments for you personally?
Damn you for asking this question. I'm not sure if this really is my top list, but without spending hours to think about this, here they are:?? 1. Being on tour with Arne Dahlmeier, Dom Wagner, Andre Lepszy and Chris Weber for the “Feuerwerk der Turnkunst”-show. 2 weeks of show skating, lots of fun being treated like sports superstars. 2. Lacing the rail transfer at the IMYTA Amsterdam and winning the comp altogether with Nick Lomax. All I wanted was going to the next round, but suddenly they told me that round 4 and 5 are cancelled and I just won the world finals. For some kind of real street blader I didn't expect this to happen. One day before the comp the co-organizer Gjis Peetsold said: “You got a wild card. I wanna see you kill yourself or I'll break your legs”. I guess sometimes a “little” push is needed...haha. Believe it or not...the most important thing was to get this transfer done. No one can ever take this away... 3. The Winterclash 2012 was amazing. Chimera & Adapt got everything done for the show. We had this nice booth with the Adapt Harmanus One, brand new Chimera line, golden picture frames and lots of vintage decoration. We spoke to so many bladers. From this moment on you don't care about the sleepless nights you've had. With friendship, love and passion you can create great moments.
No doubt, you are a busy person with having two jobs to take care of, almost 4.000 friends on Facebook, skating and life in general. What does Ben Harmanus do when he wants to relax?
My “friends” on Facebook don't keep me as busy as my work on the Facebook Chimera page. The visits just exploded, 25 times more bladers checking in than a few months ago. Getting a lot of feedback. So, how do I relax? I like reading gaming, movies and tech blogs. A few days ago I played some XBOX games I bought in 2011, mad fun even if I still suck at the Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer mode. I love to spend time with my girlfriend. She's gorgeous. She knows I need a break, before I know.
Back in the day you were also organizing Real Street Events in Germany. Right now, there is a big lack of Real Street Events! There hasn’t been an IMYTA in years. Why do we need or not need Real Street Events?
There are many reasons for a real street series. There is no need for a skatepark or big budget for renting or building obstacles. Everyone with some good concept is able to organize real street events. We've seen this all over the world. Also street skaters need real street events to show their skills. I've been thinking about bringing events like that back, but again, Chimera and Adapt need me too...I need to focus on those companies and my other projects first.
When are you bringing back the P.I.T or a similar event?
I see, that's what you are looking for. The P.I.T. Series was big once...maybe I am not sure. If there is some power left to bring it back, I will try. Everyone out there, you wanna see the P.I.T. return? Tell me on facebook.com/chimeraconspiracy haha...
What else can we expect from you this year?
New footage for sure. I've got some nice clips for Adapt and Chimera. Additionally I am working on a video project which shall be released in October this year. Also some cooperations are on its way, but I'll let you know as soon as those really work out.
Ben Harmanus Word-Rapping:
Jochen Smuda: …fun
Essen Skate Factory: …pain, pleasure, party
MASK Incident: …Frankfurt All Stars
Soccer: … cool, but not as cool as rollerblading
Prodigy: … immortal
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