Our sister from Austria is out in Vietnam spreading the stoke and saving the world, find out more about the rad albeit ginger shredder who wants to live in a windmill.
Halo Anna, how are you?
I am good. Had a good day except for almost getting run over by a motorbike, for the first time in Vietnam.
Yes, almost. I thought rush hour would be over and skated to 23/9 park. Some crazy Vietnamese kids on a motorbike couldn’t stop and hit my front wheel.
Where are you from?
Originally from Austria, born and raised in a beautiful small city in the South called Graz.
What’s it like in Graz?
Graz was the cultural capital in 2003, which we always need to say even though it was 10 years ago. But it made Graz a much more interesting place than it was before. The arts scene grew significantly since that. Plus it’s in a valley, surrounded by beautiful hills.
Skating capital of Austria?
Definitely! The thing is I actually started skating during my exchange year in the Netherlands and haven’t been living in Austria since that. But if I go to Austria I usually skate in Graz.
What took you to the Netherlands?
My plan was to do an exchange year in South-Korea, but they didn’t choose me for the place there. The Netherlands, Sweden or Germany were the last countries on the list and I always dreamed of living in a windmill. So I packed my things and moved to The Hague in 2011.
Have you lived in a windmill?
Nope, but I’m still dreaming of realizing it some time in the future.
How did you get into skateboarding?
One cold windy day in the Netherlands I decided to do something other than studying and being bored by my fellow students (with some exceptions of course). I packed my bag for a dancing lesson in a school I’d never been, walked outside the door and ran into some kids with those super cool longboards. I ran straight back to my desk, googled ”Longboards in The Hague“ and found what I was looking for – a longboard shop in Scheveningen, the beachside of The Hague.
At the shop, I immediately knew that would be the right place for me. The people I met through the shop are still very close friends of mine. A week later I bought my first second hand Tan Tien and went to Brussel’s car free Sunday with about a hundred longboarders from the NL. I was stoked! No way back, this is my sport.
How did life change after you found skating?
You know, I suddenly had something else to do except sitting behind books and my laptop. I found friends, real friends, I had fun skating every day, I learnt the language and I even fell in love and had a beautiful time with a very special person. Arto Rohde is a team-rider at Sick and he recently also rides for Bastl Boards. He taught me everything I know about longboarding. Unfortunately we came apart when I moved to Vietnam, but I am super happy that we are still really good friends.
What’s special about the Dutch community?
Haha, they don’t have any hills, but are super stoked about downhill. They are insane! I went on a couple of downhill events with them to take photographs and they ride the hills as if they grew up in Switzerland.
Arto and Koek organize weekly meetings in the centre of The Hague, where about 20 skaters come together and hang out every Thursday, skate until midnight or even later.
Did you get to skate with many women in Holland?
My best friend up there, Anja Krusche who was always shining with happiness, was my instructor and best skate buddy for the first few months, until she got too busy with kitesurfing and her Pyrenees mountain dog. We also had some pretty cool dance sessions with Carmen Doorsman, Barbara Sturm and Phaedra Haringsma. Sickboards and LGC Netherlands also organized some meetings with around 40 girls. Guess you all know our very talented twins, Marte and Femke Bosma.
What’s your favourite kind of skating?
I started with dancing, as I did Hip Hop and Locking before. But since I moved to Vietnam I finally got the courage to go a bit faster. I am just getting started though. I will attend a race in South East Asia this weekend, in Kuala Lumpur, but am not ready to do take part in the race yet. I found these guys (Ashraf Haris, Adam Akmal, Ching Ho and Farhan Hanif) from TFY Skate on Facebook who are organizing the Rimba Alam Downhill Jam 2013, the first longboard downhill event in Malaysia, and I think this will be the go-ahead for the entire scene in South East Asia.
Hip Hop on a longboard?
Haha, I’ve tried some combos, but it’s almost impossible. Maybe my cross-steps have some more rhythm, haha, I don’t know.
How was your first experience of downhill?
My first experience of a bit more speed was actually in Brussels. But this time in Malaysia I will learn my first slides to get started and practise to fulfil my friend’s wish of being able to skate down the Bear’s Guts (KNK) in 2014 with Gloria Kupsch and Verena Kern.
You know our Glori, from Austria?
Wow, she’s gonna hate you when she reads this. Glori is German haha! But yes, she’s living in Austria right now, but I met her in wait… ah, yes, at Bastl’s pre-opening party in Leipzig, together with Janko Lehmann, Wolf Neumann and Peter Markgraf.
Why do you think this event will change things in Asia?
Imagine developing countries full of people who have the same passion and the same vision of a growing longboard community in South East Asia finally being able to see how and if an event like that would work to connect those people, to make the scene and the bond between all of them stronger. Some Asian societies are more developed than others in terms of skating, such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, and others need to catch up.
This event will help me find motivated people to help getting longboarding more popular in Vietnam. Get people together, make things possible for kids without money and therefore without access to sports equipment, get the gearwheel rollin’!
When did you decide to go to Vietnam?
I didn’t really decide to, the organization I work for offered me a job here and even though I had no idea about the country I took the chance to see another world. Was the best decision in my life.
Does skating make it easier to try new things?
I think skating is a very special kind of sport, which brings all different kinds of personalities together, in a very peace- and respectful setting.
Yesterday a friend and I went to Saigon Outcast, a place here in Ho Chi Minh City, where people meet up for skating, watching movies, drinks, etc. She doesn’t skate yet, but she said she has never seen so many different people who are not judging each other and mingling. Everybody is equal and everybody has the same passion. This is something new in a world like this. People here work really hard and their family is their first priority. I wouldn’t say they compete in every life situation, but there is still some kind of “I need to do it better. Success is what counts.”
What’s the biggest culture shock?
I think the biggest culture shock for me was the traffic, the noise, the fact that Vietnamese people never stop working and that you have to drive for at least 15mins to find a quiet place to skate. There is no “I take my board to go for grocery shopping”. I mean, I dare riding on the streets, but not during rush hours.
You should have a look at this. That’s right in front of my alley: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/06/10/190468911/the-most-dangerous-traffic-circle-in-the-world
Did you buy a board there?
Haha, there is no longboard shop here in Vietnam. I was actually waiting for my board for the first two months, a quite depressing time. That board is a very special board with a lot of memories and emotions involved, custom made by one of my Dutch friends, Robin Pelgrim from Xtensionboards. It was the first of the Xtensionboards Bamboo Dancers. A friend brought it here after Christmas. And now after my vacation in Europe I brought my new one, a Bastl Bolero from the new Artist Collection.
We need a longboard shop here!
How do Vietnamese longboarders feed their addiction?
You mean where they get their boards at the moment? China… Which is probably not the best place for good boards. The quality is very low, but the big advantage is the low price.
What’s your setup?
Black Holeys and Stimulus 80a on my dancer. Paris V2 180 and Bustins on the Bolero.
What is Vietnam like for skating?
It’s still quiet, but growing. After I got my longboard in Hanoi, where I was living for the first 7 months, I met some people, foreigners and Vietnamese, and founded the Facebook group “The Hanoian Longboarders”. Our group has 22 members right now. We got a few girls in our group, but way more guys.
Is there a big skating community in Hanoi?
Skateboarding is quite big. People in Vietnam meet up before and after work to do any kind of outdoor sports. Before work means at 6.30am. Not sure if the skaters also go out for skating at that time, but the parks are full of skaters every evening.
How big is longboarding in Vietnam?
I would say the scene is bigger in Hanoi, but I’ve only been living here in Ho Chi Minh for a couple of weeks. I’ve met a handful of longboarders here in HCMC and a guy called Andy Ngo, who is probably going to help me grow the longboard family. Andy is Vietnamese, but grew up in the US. He, Boris Dufour and another guy called Thai Nguyen from Saigon Skateshop will hopefully get some boards here soon.
What do you plan to do to grow the family?
I do have a lot of plans and a clear vision of what could happen and what could change. Where should I start? The first steps are to get the “lost boys and girls” together and start some weekly meetings, open an LGC Vietnam and get some boards and hopefully interested sponsors here.
Lost boys and girls, because I had this situation of “Oh, you longboard? Wow, me too. I thought there would be no other longboarders in Vietnam.” already a couple of times. There is a need for public meetings, coordination and shared stokedness!
Where do you see it going?
Not sure, but one thing is certain: it’s gonna be awesome!
What sort of skating do the Vietnamese longboarders enjoy?
Sliding, cruising, downhill. Andy found a secret spot (psst). It’s part of the highway, a part which hasn’t been open yet, and it should be steep. We gonna go there tomorrow. I was also thinking about getting them to more downhill and maybe organize some events in Dalat or Tam Dao. Not sure if we can realize that though, but dreaming of it is the first step.
Where have you been riding so far?
Well, it’s not so easy to find the right places to skate in Vietnam, but we have some really cool spots around West Lake, which is a lake in the middle of Hanoi with a shore length of 17 km and some good roads for sliding and dancing around it. And I am just checking out some cool spots in Ho Chi Minh City, like 23/9 park, Saigon Outcast and the Bonsai Garden next to the river.
Who do you skate with out there?
At the moment with a bunch of street skaters. Some guys from Wales, the US and a big group of Vietnamese guys. The longboarders here in HCMC are still beginners, but I will get them there. I met a really nice girl called Anh and another one called Tron. I guess both of them will be keen to join our new LGC Vietnam.
What is LGC Vietnam?
Your Jacky Madenfrost asked me to open a Longboard Girls Crew for Vietnam. So I am just about to get some girls together and make our first shots for the cover and the profile pic to officially announce it.
Do you feel any difference when you skate with just girls?
Usually girls, especially when they just started skating, have more courage to try new things when they are around other girls. And we girls have our own language. I remember KNK Spring 2012, there were 2 girls from Innsbruck, another girl from Graz and I and we kinda built our own little world on the flat area on top of the hill. We were dancing and chatting and taking photographs of ourselves, while the others sweat blood downhill. We had some beautiful moments up there.
If you had started skating with only girls – you may not have fallen in love!
Haha, not sure about that, but today I would choose skating over love. Guys are just too complicated for me.
But who knows… Paulo Coelho says: “Wherever your heart is there you will find your treasure.” And my heart is somewhere between here and the Netherlands.
You read The Alchemist!
It was the only English book in a French library in Hanoi. Yes, I read it and it’s probably the best book I’ve ever held in my hands.
Did it change how you viewed life/skating?
I don’t know why, but it somehow calmed me down. Before I read it I always thought I need to do everything, see everything and achieve everything as fast and as perfect as possible. Now I know that the most important thing is to do what feels right and everything will be like it should be in the end.
In terms of skating, I always looked at others and thought, shit, I will never be able to do all this. But who cares? I skate because I love it!
What do you shoot with?
I have a Canon 600D, a Canon 40mm pancake, a Tamron 28-75mm and the usual Canon 18-55mm. My favourite at the moment is the 40mm pancake, even though it’s not the best for sports photography, I love the details.
What do you enjoy about photographing skaters?
It’s challenging! I started with photography in 2008 while working as a project-related photographer for the “Ballesterer Fußballmagazin” in Vienna, an alternative football magazine focused on background stories. Sports photography is a very tricky field, because you have to shoot fast and have a clear idea of what you want to catch without ending up having the same shots only with different people in it.
What is essential to good skate photography?
Patience and creativity. Some people are very easy to shoot, some are not. Call it photogenic or just a click between the photographer and the skater. Photography is unpredictable, every photo is part of your impression and idea of the actual result and the models expression.
I especially like the roads, patterns, and to catch the entire scenery, preferably mountains or the sea in the back and the riders expression of total enjoyment and freedom. And it needs to be as natural as possible. Haha, you see, photography is the second thing in my life where I am totally passionate about. Although I’m more into food, architectural and fine-art photography.
How does your photography impact your skate experience?
Honestly, I’m struggling.. I love taking photographs of others skating, but I would most of the time love to skate myself… Could anybody else take over the photography part next time, please?
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Travelling, travelling, travelling. Too many plans, but very short on money. I’ll be going to the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, hopefully Tibet and Bhutan. Oh and I already booked a flight to Australia in November. 3 weeks of skating and surfing.
You’re a surfer too?
Never tried it, but I have some friends there who are very keen to give me a few lessons.
What do you hope to find on your Asian Adventure?
I hope to find a lot of happy faces, beautiful roads and make my presence felt. Share my ideologies and the stoke!
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Trying to save the world. I work as a Junior Communications Officer for a so-called REDD+ Energy and Agriculture Programme of a Dutch nonprofit organization called the SNV – The Netherlands Development Organisation. We conduct projects for cocoa, coffee, palm oil, mangrove protection, sustainable shrimp production, domestic bio-gas, bio-fuels and improved cook stoves in 5 countries in West Central Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Do you guys have bacon out there?
Bacon? Lot’s of bacon here in Vietnam, but you’re talking to a vegetarian here… or wait, I actually eat fish and seafood. How do you call that? Pescetarian!
It’s been awesome speaking to you sis. Good luck with LGC Vietnam and hopefully catch up with you somewhere!
Yes, was good talking to you too! Thanks! But you said you only exist on the computer so I am not sure if we would meet somewhere in real life… Which actually makes me a bit sad.
Haha. Any thank yous?
I love thank yous. Special thanks to my family for all their support and love. The biggest hug in the world to my dad. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without his good influence and guidance. Thanks to Ishtar Backlund for being awesome! And thanks to my friends back home in Austria and the Netherlands, who are still part of my life even though I left them.