Intro, Story & Interview: Pawel Wieleba
Edits: Mark Stamer, Jorma Schneider
Photos: Jonn Rübcke, Lennart Ritscher
The I-Punkt Skateland in Hamburg is looking back on two decades where it gave birth to a large number of rolling talents and personalities that have been roaming through our sport for quite some time. There’s loads of things that could be told about what went down here during contests, sessions and the every-day craziness. But maybe you first check out this Be-Mag edit that pictures some sick skating cut together from footage of a two hours session at the Skateland a few weeks ago. Thanks again Mark Stamer for the great job. Check out google’s streetview of the location here.
Hamburg is the second biggest town in Germany (1.8 m.) after Berlin (3.4 m.) situated in the North of Germany on the river Elbe about 50 miles away from the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. Its old city and other large areas were mostly destroyed in WW2, but there are some 17th century chapels left that are still shaping the skyline. It’s also pretty obvious that lots of buildings have red brick walls, like the 19th century warehouses in the old warehouse district down at the harbor.
Sydney Hansen – 2010
Besides being quite rich, Hamburg is the city with the most bridges in Europe (!) although one might not see that at first sight. Also, one may find its citizens to seem a bit like plastic sometimes. But I’d say that the people here are mostly honest and friendly though they act just a bit too cool at first. And if not, it’s a tourist!
Like in every big city there is a huge range of cultural scenes, nationalities and tastes. You can find everything from historical art museums and operas to genuine jazz clubs and romantic cafes to brewery tours and endless clubbing routes on which you finish at some lovely drink-and-sweat-and-fall-in-love-till-dawn joint. So, if you’re not looking for a cheap flat downtown, which can be a real pain in the ass, Hamburg is a great city to live and to travel to.
Skaters like Mark Stamer, Max Visser, Jan Homann, Melvin Siemianowski, Sidney Hansen, Stain Bond or Alex Deutschmann are living in Hamburg. And those are just some of the local rollerbladers that you can run into when visting the Skateland. Another person you frequently spot lurking around the Skatepark is veteran photographer and former rolling magazine editor in chief Jonn Rübcke who was kind enough to do an interview with Be-Mag to tell you guys about way back when and on the way he is seeing things turning out for rollerblading. Jonn is rather deeply involved with things happening at the Skateland, wether it’s contests or public relations. I-Punkt Skateland and Jonn Rübcke: it’s not possible to imagine one without the other. Moreover Jonn knows some real inside facts about the Skateland and it’s history, so he is the right one to be asked.
Hey, Jonn! Great you found some time and the muse to contribute to this report! Your person should be known to most people from Germany that are involved with rolling for quite some time, but please tell the rest something about yourself. When did you get in touch with rollerblading and in what kind of ways did you contribute to its development?
Okay, so you want to hear the whole story? Well, I am working as freelance photographer since 1994. In 1995 I was traveling through California and met a group of Rollerbladers in Huntington Beach. They did some Royals on a handrail, and I took some pictures. Back in Hamburg I heard about a new Magazine being developed by b+d Publishing. I dropped some slides and had a full page in Issue No. 1 of INLINE Magazin. They asked me for more pictures and so I got into the Rolling Scene. I went to the famous Lausanne-Contest in ’96 and had my first cover, poster and sequences in INLINE.
I have to mention here, that I am not a Rollerblader myself, never even had Rollerblades on my feet in my whole life. I tried skateboarding for one summer in 1985 and started skateboarding-photography shortly after. As a photographer I am not interested in a certain sport, I am interested in people and in the aesthetics of movement.
To cut it short, I first became photo editor and later then editor in chief of INLINE. After in 2001 the publisher decided to buy SKATE Magazine and started mixing contents (Aggressive Inlineskating with Fitness and Speed), I quit and started to think about a new European Rollerblading Magazine. I mailed my ideas to Mike Bayr and the project Be-Mag Print was born. Mike, Stefan Kalt, Martin Fussenegger (of UCON) and myself then bred Be-Mag to a worldwide Rolling Magazine. I produced the first 5 issues of Be-Mag at my office in Hamburg, then Mike and Stuff continued the Magazine in Austria. Finally I started my own Magazine Roll2Soul together with Kai Weise in Hamburg. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. There was not enough support from the industry.
How about moments to remember? Do you have some favorite memories of things that happened to you back then?
So many good memories! I can’t tell them all. Driving from Hamburg to Munich with Karl Mwinga, who was smoking one bong after the other, making the 8 hours drive feel like one hour. Flying to the US with Jochen Smuda and Matt Polschak for Salomon. Strolling through ISPO trade show with Kai and meeting Dustin Latimer to say “Hi”. The trips with Mark Stamer to Paris, Palavas or Marseille. Basically all that traveling throughout Europe, payed for by a Magazine – best time of my life!
Karl Mwinga – 1996
What was the last thing you did for rollerblading and its industry?
Roll2Soul was the last obvious project I started, in 2003, but after 8 issues we realized that we couldn’t keep it up by ourselves. But nevertheless I still try to support the Rolling scene by helping to organize contests at the I-Punkt Skateland in Hamburg like the annual X-Mas Jam and the Sommerfest. The X-Mas Jam by the way has a 15-year-old tradition in Hamburg. It took place for the first time in 1995! So my part in rollerblading today is backing it up a bit from the background and supporting the interests of rollerbladers at our local park.
Mark Stamer – 1997
So you haven’t turned your back completely on rollerblading. That’s nice. How would you describe the scene in your hometown Hamburg? Have there been changes from then to now?
Hamburg is one of the few cities in Germany that has a tradition in Rollerblading and still owns a stable and fresh scene. Some years ago, it didn’t look too good, though. But now pros like Mark Stamer or Max Visser, stuntmen like Sidney Hansen or young guns like Melvin Siemianowski and many more are forming a strong family. Moreover the “older guys” that are over 25 and a lot of kids at 16 or younger are stabilizing the community. It’s all good!
Who were the skaters you worked with most frequently back in the days?
In the beginning it were the Hamburg locals: Karl Mwinga, Kai Schmidt and Jan Homann. Then came Mark Stamer who lived in Rostock. We were touring a lot together. I think while working for INLINE I met almost every Pro between 1996 and 2003 since I went to all trade shows and was shooting at all the big contests back then like in Lausanne, Paris or at the European X-Games in Barcelona.
Kai Schmidt – 1996
Are you still in touch with some of them?
Almost all of them. Definitely with those who are still skating. I hang around the I-Punkt Skateland a lot, so I’m meeting Jan, Kai or Mark rather frequently. I am always happy and stoked when I meet people from these days. Hopefully Dominik Wagner and some of the others will attend the German Championships this month in Hamburg (December 11th). I will be there for sure!
Is there a skater in Hamburg right now, who you feel is worth getting more recognition? Someone you would like to go out and shoot with?
There are some. Melvin Siemianowski of course, a 16 year old talent you may have already heard of. Also Stain Bond and new faces like Mirco Helbing. Both were steadily improving through the last years. I also love Maurice Regnaut’s skating and style.
The I-Punkt Skateland in Hamburg has been there for 20 years now. How was it possible to keep it alive despite all the cutbacks and financial crises that are happening in the social domain?
The city of Hamburg is supporting the I-Punkt Skateland since 1993, today with about 230.000 € a year. That seems to be a lot, but it’s not enough. The Skateland is still depending on money from sponsors and entrance fees on weekends. Fortunately the park didn’t suffer any cutbacks from the city this year due to a strong network between the park and politicians of all parties. One could say that the city is down with the park for I-Punkt Skateland being the best-attended youth centre in town, with more than 100.000 visitors each year.
I heard you will be publishing a whole book about the history of the Skateland. Could you briefly tell us something about its content?
The book will be about the first decade of the skatepark, from 1990-2000. It will be telling the story of its first location: an old warehouse. The old skatepark was very shabby, had a leaking roof, the floor was slippery, most windows were broken. But for taking photos it was a very interesting and rough scenery. And the skaters were rougher too, compared with today. So the book will be filled with many photos and interviews on more than 300 pages. It’s focused mainly on the skateboarders of that period, because Hamburg used to be a kind of capitol for Skateboarding in Germany with many famous pros. The “I-Punkt Team” was traveling all over Europe to skate at contests.
Rainy Day – 1995
How big of a part does rollerblading play in your book?
Only a small part. Maybe some pictures or quotes. Rollerbladers, or “Inliner/Blader” as they are called here, didn’t play such an important role back then. And they did not have a good reputation in the beginning. Their behavior was mostly childish and not cool enough, so skateboarders couldn’t really respect them and their style. It took years for at least a hand full of rollerbladers to get respected by skateboarders and finally some friendships were established.
You are mostly involved in skateboarding right now. Is it in your eyes any way more mature than rollerblading concerning the industry or the sport itself?
Skateboarding has a stronger community than rollerblading. Example: when Titus (oldest skateboarding retailer in Germany, founded in 1978) was about to open a shop in Hamburg some years ago, all the other shops were angry and afraid to lose clients. But that didn’t happen, because the new shop helped the whole scene to grow. Many kids started skateboarding in the last couple of years and all the shops benefit from this development. Some weeks ago a giant Planet Sports store opened and all the local skateshops were relaxed, because they knew that they will take profit from that.
In the Inline Industry hardly anybody believes that the scene can grow and so the mailorder shops are fighting for every client. I can only say: relax! Don’t fight each other, cooperate and help each other to get more kids into Rollerblading. It’s the only way to survive. Support the scene, support contests, sessions and tours. Every new kid that starts rollerblading today is not just your client or the one of your competitor. Every new rollerblader makes rollerblading stronger. It’s simple as that.
Mark Stamer – 2010
Seen from your perspective, that is by now outside of the rolling industry, what is it that you would condemn the most about it? What is making you lose your composure?
I hate it when people do not learn from their mistakes. Rolling is very small today. It seems like the companies spend their time complaining, instead of bundling their energy to push the whole sport. Take the invention of the UFS system as a good example: all frame- and boot-companies came together and agreed on a new standard for frames. Today it seems impossible to bring a hand full of skateshops together and create a national contests series. Rollerblading will never grow and become that popular again as long as the industry can’t push the whole sport in one direction.
Can you think of a way in which the companies that run rollerblading in Germany could – let us put it gently – be improved? Do you think there should be more cooperation or is it a good thing to have several players in the game so there is more diversity?
Diversity is always good and keeps the whole thing attractive. People love different kinds of music, clothing styles or companies/brands. The biggest improvement I am missing is cooperation. Again, one company alone or one shop, can’t do much. Only if all the companies get together, work together and develop the sport together, rollerblading will have a prosperous future.
Do you think there is a bigger chance for European or German skaters to become pro nowadays?
Thanks to new media, there is a better chance to raise attention for European rollerbladers today, than it used to be 10 years ago. But getting sponsored or even becoming pro is harder today, I think.
Anything important you want to tell the rollerbladers out there?
Respect the ones you want to be respected by. Don’t behave like a fool, unless you are a fool. Travel, discover the world and open your mind.
Thank you very much for you effort, Jonn. Keep it up!
So one last time: German Championships will take place at I-Punkt Skateland on Saturday December 11th. Visit this site for further information:http://germanchampionships.de
And to finish things up: some old-school footage edited by our friend Jorma Schneider, who is also supporting the Skateland the best he can. Thanks bro! See you guys next week!