In addition to having an incredibly cool second name, which he shares with the highly influential German author Charles Bukowski, Fred Bukowski is currently leading the charge of France’s latest generation of blading renegades. The 17-year-old had been steadily stacking sponsors over the past couple of years, with endorsements from Nomades, PMG and Seba, and earlier this year he romped to victory in the amateur division of Europe’s biggest blading event.
Before Winterclash 2015, very few people outside of France had even heard of Bukowski and those who did simply knew him as the random kid who had miraculously landed a spot on Seba, one of the most exciting brands aggressive blading has witnessed in the last decade, alongside WRS World Champion CJ Wellsmore and former Winterclash Amateur winner Antony Pottier. However, very few people were left in any doubt about his capabilities on blades after witnessing his incredible prowess in the amateur competition. The various runs that earned him a well-deserved first place consisted of the technical trick combos, creative use of the entire park and monster grind-to-grind transfers that, in total, looked startlingly similar to some of the best runs in the professional category. Personal highlights included his wall ride to fishbrain and massive topsoul-to-soul transfer on the huge Grindhouse boxes, but the trick that secured his victory was the epic topside acid to alley-oop topside acid transfer on the Grindhouse rail-to-rail set-up, a transfer which only a handful of professionals in attendance were attempting.
Needless to say, after witnessing his exceptional talent and fiercely competitive spirit, it became obvious to everyone that attended Winterclash 2015 why Bukowski deserved an enviable spot on the Seba Street team. In fact, it would seem that he won over the hearts of many of his contemporaries at that event because after he landed his winning trick he was raised into the air and carried around like a champion athlete returning to a welcome parade in his home town. Needless to say, he was pretty pleased with his performance at what is arguably the most respected blading event in the world. “I felt very happy with all these people looking at me and applauding”, he begins. “It’s a dream to win one of the largest European contests.”
Despite the fact that he was hoisted onto the shoulders of a group of adoring spectators after lacing the exceptional topside acid to alley-oop topside acid rail transfer, Bukowski wasn’t convinced he had done enough to secure victory. He even went as far as telling several of his fellow competitors that they deserved to be in the top three. “I did not necessarily think I would be victorious after landing my best trick”, he says. “I had a lot of competition with the people of my group, but afterwards I congratulated the people who I thought should be on the podium.”
Fast forward a couple of months and Bukowski was once again on the podium at West Coast Contest 2015 in Bordeaux, France, taking a respectable third place, but this time it was in the professional category. It seems that winning a competition so early in the year has kickstarted the young skater’s hunger for success and so far this year he has also competed at FISE World Montpellier and LKXA Extreme Barcelona. When asked about his contest success so far this year, he simply says, “I don’t expect to get first place, especially now that I am skating in the pro events. I just try to have fun and take pleasure in rollerblading.”
Conducting an interview with Bukowski was not the easiest of tasks as the North Sea separates France and the UK, and he wasn’t particularly confident writing his responses to my various questions in English, so we decided to find out a little bit more about the one man we believed would be able to offer a little insight into the promising teenage blader. Anthony Finocchiaro works for Seba and is responsible for creating their impressive street team. It turns out that he actually spotted Bukowski’s potential from a very early age when he started coaching the young blader at inline lessons run by PMG shortly after he picked up his first pair of rollerblades at the age of ten.
When asked to describe what Bukowski was like when he first met him seven years ago, Finocchairo regularly utilises the words “hyperactive” and “turbulent”, offering, “He was crazy enough to attempt crazy stunts like distaster kind grinds before being able to do a proper soul grind, just to make everybody laugh.”
He insists that the youngest member of his team is a positive influence on the group, always smiling and cracking jokes. Looking back on when he first started coaching Bukoswki, he says, “At this time, there was many kids who had the same skills and the wish to evolve, but I don’t know why I knew that Fred would grow differently and continue to become a really good skater. It seemed natural to place him on the team beside monsters like CJ and Pottier.”
“He has so much potential, is constantly evolving and always moving in the right direction.”
Despite being a bit of a handful when he was younger, Finocchiaro insists that Bukowski has grown up a considerable amount in the time that he has known him and handles himself impeccably, both on and off skates. “He is only 17, but so mature, and we can see it in his skating”, he begins. “He has so much potential, is constantly evolving and always moving in the right direction.”
In fact, when pushed for any interesting stories he could share with us about life on tour with what we hoped would be a wild, reckless teenager, the Seba Street team manager disappointed us by telling us that this couldn’t be further from the truth. “He isn’t the kind of 17-year-old kid who is gonna get drunk and make trouble at the after party”, he says. “He knows how to enjoy himself and have fun with everybody, but without going over the limit. He’s actually much easier to look after than CJ!”
Bukowski insists that, in addition to his various competition appearances this year, we can expect a short edit for clothing sponsor Arcena. However, when we spoke to Finocchiaro, he hinted that we may have a slightly larger project to look forward to. “I will work seriously for a real section really soon”, he insists. Let’s hope soon isn’t too far away.
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