PREMIERE: BEN KOPPL’S “EURO PART” FOR FILM TRUCKS
Individuality is something we all value as skaters, but if someone is skating a bit too much individual, they will begin to be criticized for “pretending funk” or “being too fancy”. It’s a fine line to walk, but there are few skaters who walk it better than Ben Koppl.
Ben has a fluid, improvised approach that ignores “illegal” stuff. Sure, there are glimpses of people like Leo Valls (who makes an appearance in this video) or Gou Miyagi, but Ben’s collective style is completely his own. His name is “Rollersurfer” on Instagram, and I would be hard pressed to find a better way to describe his skating.
Take advantage of its sometimes polarizing signature blend of technique, fluid and playful at the same time.
Q&A with Ben Koppl
Do you know all the names of the tricks you do, or are you just doing it most of the time?
I don’t want to talk too much about it, but I think imagining language-based tricks is really limiting – if you think in words, you will only be doing things for which there is already language.
For me, my favorite ideas are those that are inherently difficult to describe and often specific to where they occur. In that sense, I don’t care too much about the name of things, although with enough work just about anything can be put according to the language that already exists.
I love the way the towers were named back then and love the stories and history of it – people really weren’t trying to do that so you could guess what the tour was from a written description of it, and it shows. A nose clip is a pretty obvious name. On the other hand, a lein tune only makes sense if you know lein is Neil upside down, it’s an opposite grip, and who did it first.
It was like a weird coded language, where everything would seem fancy and arbitrary to outsiders, but could also contain tons of cultural information for insiders. Having said that, I’ve never felt the need to name most of what I do. These are not popular tours so it would be nice enough to do it myself. Really cool and useful stuff like a caballerial deserves a name.
How long did it take for this part to turn?
About two months out of a three month trip. I don’t think I took any days off in the first 50 days of the trip.
This part comes from an academic project grant, isn’t it? How did it all start?
Well, before the pandemic my partner Zoe and I had the idea to study different skate town planning projects in Europe and she applied for a grant while she was a landscape architecture student at the University of Washington. Ultimately the pandemic happened and although we got the funding they basically said they didn’t want to be responsible for the risks we took in doing the project but to keep the money, and if we wanted to do something on our own, that would have been great.
In a way, that was pretty lucky, as it meant we could explore more and have complete freedom around what we could possibly produce as a result. In the end, it fit in very well with the idea of doing something with Film Trucks and we managed to do something pretty cool thanks to Jeremy, Bastien and the team.
“I don’t think I took any days off to skate in the first 50+ days of the trip”
What kind of research did you and your partner have to make this trip?
While neither of us are an academically trained skate “town planner” (whatever that might mean at this point), we both got really interested in the different projects where public spaces are made skate-friendly. , how the spots that already exist are preserved or improved, and how we could do more here in the United States.
During the trip, the main thing we looked at was: how are these projects created, what kinds of processes make them possible, and what is needed to make them actually work and be popular.
It became immediately clear that the projects we saw in Bordeaux operate on a very different basis from something like Long Live Southbank doing historical preservation work or the skate spots in Copenhagen which are often simply designed by an architect who does not no patina. at all because skating is cool. Malmö is also a very special city and we had the chance to sit down and meet Gustav Eden, who is doing an amazing job there.
Do you know of any other skate videos that have come out of educational grants?
Maybe not video parts, but people certainly travel more to collaborate and share. An example of this that I really enjoyed was seeing a skate sculpture exchange featuring the Bon Voyage sculptures by Leo Valls from Bordeaux and the sculptures by Rich Holland that were originally in Malmö which also included video contests and other activations that made it even more special. I hope that this kind of intercultural exchange will become more common: skaters have a lot to learn from each other.
What are the main lessons to be drawn from the study of these European public spaces which have been made suitable for skateboarding?
The main thing I learned is that all of these different projects have played out very differently and what works in one place may not be realistic elsewhere. Understanding how municipal governments work and seeing different case studies inspired me because in the United States we only think about the defense of skateparks and sometimes ask cities not to shave classic spots.
Both of these are important, but where they are not possible, it is good to realize that you can also apply for cultural grants, install sculptures, plan events or take other steps to make the urban space more democratic. . Much more is possible when we open our minds and pay attention to everything that is going on right now.
You lived in Japan for a little while, didn’t you? What was your favorite part of life there?
Yeah. I’m a huge fan of Japanese skate culture in general and meeting and skating with these guys was a surreal experience. To me, it felt like you were a huge fan of action movies when you were a kid, you were flying to Hollywood, and boom, you’re friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and he’s asking you to be in his next movie.
How did the scene there affect your skating?
When I went there I felt like I had caught the end of a very special moment in Japanese skating. It still exists, but it is eclipsed by the Japanese competitive era, and that’s good too because there are more parks and opportunities for kids to chase it, but for me, back then , I felt like a very special type of skater was in the spotlight on totally unique skateboarders like Gou Miyagi, Takahiro Morita, Chopper and the Osaka Daggers, Koichiro Uehara, and many other great personalities to me. really showed how you can make skating your own and how important it is to find your own style.
These guys all have very unique approaches to skating that they’ve perfected, very unique fashions, and very unique scenes around them that are very culturally rich. This way of skating reminded me of the greats that surrounded me in ’80s skating, which reminded me more of comic book superheroes than a bunch of similar athletes doing stunts.
You have a lot of clips that go “viral” and are reposted by skate Instagram and non-skate Instagram accounts – is it weird that you stumble upon your own clips on different accounts?
I owe a lot to reposting pages like @Metroskateboarding and I’m lucky to be doing what I did in a time when it was possible, but when it’s not a skate page it can be a little weird . Funny when people who have no idea what I’m doing or how it might fit into a larger subculture think about it – it’s kind of weird for sure. , but in my head, it’s not just like a circus act.
“Skateboarding is objectively a bad way to make money compared to almost any other job”
Is Instagram good or bad for skateboarding as a whole?
Probably bad, but it helped me do a lot of things that I probably couldn’t have done without it. We will all know for sure in a decade.
As someone who seems to be having fun on a skateboard, do you think people take skateboarding too seriously?
It’s strange how hard people pursue their careers – skateboarding is objectively a bad way to make money compared to pretty much any other job. Having said that, I think we should all be as passionate as possible about our hobbies and interests.