Rik van Huik discusses abnormalities in the blading industry, the strength of the Dutch scene and his impending master’s degree.
Back in 2011, the year Wheel Scene was first launched, I was scouring the internet for quality content to put on the publication’s website when I stumbled upon a random street edit that was simply titled RikRolling! The cringeworthy name instantly sent shivers of apprehension down my spine, but I decided to give the video the benefit of the doubt. After all, what difference does a couple of minutes out of my life make?
Almost instantly, a sense of relief washed over me as I watched the opening few tricks. A young, skinny skater with blonde hair styled out some nice spins into a steep bank before lacing a flawless X-grind down the infamous wooden stair ledge in Amsterdam. From this point onwards, the brief online gem featured impeccable spot selection to showcase precision rail skating, technical switch-ups and some pretty serious hammers, including a triple rail transfer to conclude proceedings. Each trick possessed a level of control that is quite rare outside the upper echelon of professional skaters and the speed with which they were executed made them even more impressive. The only fault I could find with the edit was the horrendous music provided by Dutch alternative band De Staat, who kind of sound like a poor man’s Electric Six. Yes, they are that bad.
Later that year, Adapt, the first ever Dutch skate brand was announced. The company, founded by Olga Bouwhuis and Pieter Wijnant, promised high end handmade carbon/Kevlar skates and announced that their first team rider would be none other than Rik van Huik. The local hero seemed like an obvious choice for an independent skate company coming out of the Netherlands, but it seems that his transition onto the team from previous sponsor Valo was actually much more organic than previously thought. It turns out that Rik knew Olga well previous to her venture into the blading industry.
“I was already friends with Olga before Adapt started”, he begins. “Olga met Pieter and he started coming to the Netherlands, and then I became friends with him and got involved. They wanted me to help with the development of the new skate and then I became their first team rider.”
Along with Adapt, Rik is also sponsored by Holland’s premier blader-run skate shop Thisissoul. Rik was approached by Ivo Vegter after he witnessed his undeniable street skills and respected the way he always pushed himself at competitions. Ivo once referred to his team rider as “one of the most professional and organised individuals” he had met in blading. Rik was also a rider for Benny Harmanus’ wheel company The Chimera Conspiracy for a brief period, but it turns out that a lack of communication ultimately led to the end of that endorsement agreement.
“I don’t ride for Chimera anymore. Ben, the owner, has a family. He has a son now and we kind of lost contact. I wasn’t kicked out and there wasn’t any fight between us; it just kind of ended silently.”
Keen observationalists may notice that Rik van Huik possesses a few glaring similarities to Randy Spizer during his golden era in the mid-‘90s. Just like the Senate and Roces posterboy, Rik is flawlessly consistent during competitions and knows what it takes to win. Then, just when you think you’ve simply stumbled upon another talented park rat that wouldn’t know what to do if he ever came face-to-face with a handrail, he drops an online edit that proves his street skills are of professional calibre. Oh, and Rik also rocks a mean almost bowl cut that bears more than a passing resemblance to a young mop-headed Roadhouse in his prime.
Over the past 12 months, Rik has been almost unstoppable on the European competition circuit. He placed first at the Dutch Championships at the start of the year, took home joint first at Real Street Amsterdam last summer and came in second at Shred Cologne in Germany. Remarking on an undeniably impressive string of top two finishes, he simply comments, “Those are results to be proud of for sure.”
As the 2014 competition season kicks into action with Winterclash later this month, Rik advises that he will be attending several events in the Netherlands and may even venture to nearby countries such as Germany, but travelling abroad for events is not one of his main priorities. It would be wise to gamble on Rik making it to the podium at the majority of these events.
“I’ve got the Rotterdam Invitational in two weeks, the week after is Winterclash in Eindhoven, and then in March there will be a smaller competition in the north. I will compete if the competition is nearby but I’m not that competitive, so I won’t travel all over the world to compete. I’d rather spend my money on going on holiday to street skate.”
The Netherlands has a habit of producing incredible skaters. Despite the dreadful weather that is almost on a par with the UK during the winter, Holland has witnessed the meteoric rise of all-round blading icon Sven Boekhorst and, in recent years, seen Tyron Ballantine make a name for himself as one of the most fearless and stylish street skaters on the continent. Pro skater Benny Harmanus was also born in the Netherlands, which is why he appeared in the national scene video Lomp. Rik van Huik is rapidly proving that he is the perfect candidate to continue the nation’s proud tradition of producing skaters than can dominate the top three at events and also gather impressive street footage with startling efficiency. Standing at the forefront of blading in his native country, Rik is excited to see that his homeland is producing other exciting talent. When asked to name his favourite Dutch blader at the moment, he advises: “I would have to say Robin Bosgra, just because he is so stylish. When he lands a trick it’s just perfect. He’s a bit underground, but he’s so good.”
However, when he begins to discuss international skaters he most enjoys watching, his answers include names that crop up time and time again. There are very few skaters that don’t name Alex Broskow and Richie Eisler as their favourite bladers, but when someone have been at the top of the industry for approximately a decade and they are still finding ways to innovate the sport and inspire younger generations it’s hard to find fault with anyone who recognises their efforts. “My favourite international skater?” he asks. “That would be Alex Broskow. I know it’s not original, but he is just the master of control. I’d put Richie Eisler as a very close second.”
When it comes to his national scene, Rik is brimming with enthusiasm for the point it has reached and the direction it is heading in the future. He believes that the Netherlands has a strong group of individuals dedicated to maintaining the community that has been gradually developing since aggressive rollerblading first appeared on Holland’s shores back in the ‘90s.
“It seems to me that the Dutch scene has actually gotten stronger and more active in the last decade”, he says. “This is supported by great new initiatives, like Thisissoul organising Soulsessions with the team in indoor and outdoor skateparks around the country and [MAG] online magazine publishing not only photos of experienced skaters, but also giving beginning younger skaters exposure. We’ve got a Facebook group for the Dutch blading scene that is always growing. In winter, we get together for a weekly Wednesday night session at the Utrecht indoor skatepark. In summer, there’s a weekly session at an outdoor skatepark in Amsterdam. These things still keep many bladers juiced on the sport.
His optimism extends to the industry as a whole. Despite the fact that it has been in a fairly turbulent state for quite some time now and major companies are reluctant to invest more money into a sport that they are seeing less returns from with each passing year, Rik believes that blading is in a relatively stable position and thinks people need to gain a little perspective before making absurd claims about the death of the sport.
“I don’t like all the depressing talk about rollerblading dying. Rollerblading isn’t dying; it just isn’t growing much at the moment. There are still enough people that are passionate about the sport. I’m not afraid of the sport dying, too many people quitting or companies leaving.”
However, Rik does believe there are certain aspects of the blading industry that must change in order for things to improve. He is particularly sceptical of brands that are attempting to enter in the sport when it’s at its most vulnerable and don’t actually produce original goods; they simply buy items from other manufacturers, put their logo on them, and pass them off as their products.
“If you run a rollerblading company you do it because you love skating, and I think that’s really great, but I don’t see the point in starting a company if you just put your print on generic products. If you make hardware you have to bring something new. I don’t see the point of wheel companies that just print their logo on wheels when there are already two other companies that use the same wheel because the market is already saturated.”
Rik’s strong views extend to rollerblading media and the way it is adapting to technological advances. Over the past 12 months, rollerblading has witnessed the release of two pay-to-view online releases in the form of Scumpire’s EL_CHVPO and Sean Kelso’s KCMO. He sees this as a positive indication that blading is trying to keep up with the times and thinks that anything that can help improve the profit margins for individuals creating such content is only a good thing.
“I think producing online skate videos is just adapting to the times. Who needs a DVD if you can save a file to your computer and watch it through your media player or Apple TV? If you can find a reliable way to spread your content over the internet, I think that’s just more efficient. Online videos can be sold for less because there are less overhead costs. I see it as a good development. KCMO had a few problems, but it worked out in the end.”
Another matter that has been playing on his mind a lot recently is the controversial topic of scooters, their rapid rise to mainstream popularity, and the influx of children wielding them like weapons at skateparks across the globe. Many rollerbladers tend to have a negative view on these novice extreme sports enthusiasts, forgetting that most skaters were viewed with the same disdain when they began to infest skateparks during the 1990s. Rik sees them as a golden opportunity to introduce more young people to rollerblading and recognises that they help keep facilities open for other sports.
“The scooter hype is actually a good thing for rollerblading”, he offers. “Through its accessibility, it brings kids to skateparks where they come into contact with rollerblading as well. They might try it when they get bored on their scooter, so be friendly to them and give them a positive first impression of rollerblading. If they are in your way, don’t lower yourself to their mental age by getting angry and yelling at them, just explain some skatepark etiquette to them.”
Rik van Huik is not like most skaters. To get to his current level of proficiency, many sacrifice academic opportunities, career prospects, and in some cases personal relationships, to dedicate as much time as possible to mastering their craft and, hopefully, making a living from it. Rik is the exception to the rule. He may well be one of the most impressive skaters in Europe at the moment, but he certainly doesn’t let it monopolise his time. In fact, he has juggled his various responsibilities so well that he has successfully managed to obtain a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies at the Utrecht University, but this is simply a stepping stone to the next part of his plan.
“I just finished university at the end of January, so right now I am just in-between my bachelor’s and my master’s. In September I will start a course in sustainable business and innovation. The course teaches you how to guide companies to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
Despite the sub-zero temperatures that are hitting Holland at the moment, Rik has been out on a regular basis, sometimes up to three times per week, stacking clips for upcoming projects. He is keen to release a new edit because he hasn’t had a solo section in quite some time, and he is not content with just contributing to team sections alone.
“I want to finish a new edit as soon as possible because I haven’t in almost one and a half years now. I’ve had clips in some team edits, but I want to make a new street edit for myself. I’m also looking for an internship to fill up the gap between my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “
Rik van Huik is young, smart and possesses the drive needed to become successful in whatever he chooses to pursue. There is little doubt that he is talented enough, in addition to carrying himself in a professional manner at all times, so he could easily develop into one of the leaders of the European blading scene. However, he may decide to focus all of his attention on his education and strive towards the job of his dreams. Then again, he is organised enough to achieve both.
Words: David McNamara Photos: Levi van Rijn, Thijs Tel, Bojd Vredevoogd and Dominic Swagemakers
Watch videos of Rik van Huik HERE.
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