Sven Boekhorst‘s blading accolades pretty much speak for themselves. He has won numerous major competitions throughout his career, including multiple X Games gold medals, and in 2000 he accomplished the illusive triple crown by taking gold at X Games, Gravity Games and the ASA World Championships. In fact, it would probably be easier to list the international events that he hasn’t won in his 20-plus years of professional blading. Alongside his stunning competitive career, the Dutchman features as a character in video game Aggressive Inline and in 2012 he received his long overdue debut pro skate from boot sponsor Rollerblade. He has also been actively doing his part to create more exposure for blading with his urban competition series Mind The Gap.
Boekhorst has taken a step back from competitive rollerblading, but his professionalism and productivity are at an all time high. The same year as his pro skate release, Boekhorst unveiled Cityhopper, an ambitious video project that encompassed 30 famous landmarks across the Netherlands and, combined with a portable Red Bull ramp, created some truly epic moments in blading history. Two years later, Boekhorst raised the bar once again with Cityhopper Europe, which visited London, Paris, Barcelona, Brussels and Berlin. If you haven’t seen it yet, we recommend watching it just for the alley-oop fishbrain on the eight-foot high fence with a 16-foot drop on the other side because it is absolutely nuts. Plus, it’s probably the only time you will ever see someone do a grind on the perimeter gate at the Sagrada Familia.
The question is – after visiting some of Europe’s most iconic tourist locations and turning them into skate obstacles, how can the Netherlands blading legend up the ante? Well, it looks like we are about to find out. Later this month, Boekhorst will introduce Cityhopper World, an epic blading spectacle that features the disparate locations of Shanghai, Los Angeles and Cape Town…visiting each city with his trusty launch ramp to mix things up, cause a little bit of a ruckus and introduce the locals to some premium blading skills. Ahead of the project’s online launch, we caught up with the godfather of European blading to find out more about his adventure in one of South Africa’s most populous countries.
Wheel Scene: Why did you decide to make Cape Town one of the stops on Cityhopper?
Sven Boekhorst: I believe it was like 1.5 year ago. We were looking for a country in each continent and one of the reasons we picked this country had to do with how big the market is in that country and the connection with the local distributor as we also got some support from them.
There is a big rollerblading market in South Africa? I did not know that. Can you give me an idea of figures?
We chose Cape Town not only because of the figures but also because they were changing distributor, and another reason was that we all really wanted to visit that place because of all the nice stories and photos in magazines.
What were the surfaces like? I have only been to Northern African countries and the streets and roads have been pretty rough!
I only had problems with the surface at the first spot; it was a bank going up to a fence. I was lucky I could take a big downhill run-up to get speed but the surface was really rough asphalt, which made the trick a bit more difficult. But besides that we did not had any trouble. Even in the township we managed to find a piece with pretty good asphalt.
Who was part of the crew that went there?
For the Cape Town trip there was Axel v. Dijk, Niels Groenendijk and Timmy v. Rixtel. We got a lot of local support from Chris v. Merwe, who took care of the Cityhopper ramp in his local park. At the end, we donated this ramp to his foundation Inspired2Become. http://www.inspired2become.org/f With all the other stuff Earl Abrahams helped us big time, like renting the car, trailer, Airbnb and spots.
Did you have anyone to skate with or did you have to skate alone?
Chris joined me for one day, which was fun, so I did not had to create my own session.
Which famous landmarks did you visit while you were there and how did you decide which spots to skate?
The first day we went for a free skate project on 80mm wheels to look for some spots. I had a list of spots we wanted to visit. I found most spots online by visiting Wikipedia and travel websites. The first spot we found were some banks close to Bo-Kaap (colourful houses) and at the Central Station we found an interesting red sculpture. The second day, we went by car to Chapman’s Peak Drive, this is where they are recording a lot of car commercials as it’s so beautiful. We drove there and were amazed by the nature and how nice everything was, but it was only at the end of the day we found our third spot, but for sure the trick I did in the township was the most impressive, not because of the trick but just the whole vibe over there. It’s only because of Earl we were able to visit this place as he grew up there. People were so happy to see us and were amazed by everything we did. Before going to Cape Town, I could not imagine visiting this landmark.
Did it go well or were there any injuries while you were there?
Of course I took some slams but nothing bad. I was still able to drink a beer and go out the last night.
How long were you there for and did you get up to anything else while you were there?
In total we visited Cape Town for five full days. We did a safari but even on the safari we brought the Cityhopper ramp, so I ended up doing a fishbrain stall on one of the safari trucks. I want to visit Cape Town for sure again, it’s really beautiful over there and the people are really friendly.
What was the reaction from the general public to what you were doing?
Like I mentioned before, the experience in the township was just amazing – one I will never forget. Besides that, we only met people that liked what we were doing. Not one time did we get kicked out. The only spot we took a bit more care was the red scupture as it was on a busy square close to Central Station, so we decided to go there on Sunday morning so we had the biggest chance to make it.
Did you have any local guides or people from the area helping you?
Chris van der Merwe and Earl Abrahams helped out with everything. Thanks again, guys!
Any interesting/funny stories from the trip?
It’s not a funny story, but Axel had to miss the day we went on safari and visited the township as got heat stroke. He had to stay in bed for 1.5 days and was pretty sick of it.
Did you have any problems with heat stroke? It must have been pretty tough skating in such an intense climate.
It was not me who had the heatstroke. It was Axel v. Dijk, one of the Cityhopper filmers. He forgot to put any sun cream the first day – maybe not the smartest choice!
What else did you guys get up to?
Another story was about this 17-year-old kid called Riggen we met at the township. He was the local hero over there. His story was heartbreaking. He did not know his father, his mother was an alcoholic and his house was used by locals to do drugs. But Riggen had a really positive outlook on life, you could feel it and see it. He was going for a different path than most of the people in the township would end up. He also borrowed my skates to jump over the trailer by using the Cityhopper ramp and people went crazy in the township. At the end, we gave him a T-shirt and five minutes later we could see him giving this shirt to some smaller kids.
Are you finding that skating is tougher on your body than when you were younger?
I’m 35 now. The main thing I’m feeling is that it’s more difficult to get really motivated to skate hard every single session because you don’t want to slam hard. And it’s true, when you slam it takes longer for you recover, but with Cityhopper it was something different for me. I had so much energy I was willing to try pretty much all the stuff I could think of. I felt 21 again each day I woke up. Seriously, it gave me so much energy, the thought of creating something unique and being in Cape Town for this project.
What makes this Cityhopper different from the previous releases?
We tried to look for different tricks, which worked, but which made it even more difficult to look for spots. But I guess the biggest difference is all the different cultures we visited in one year and every time with the same ramp. Just the whole size of the project is way bigger than Cityhopper Europe and Cityhopper Holland.
In terms of gaining exposure for rollerblading, do you think the Cityhopper series has had an impact?
I hope some bladers will remember in ten years some of the Cityhopper videos we did and maybe show it to their family or children that are not skating. I guess we got a lot of exposure from different lifestyle and extreme sport sites outside of the blade community and we are hoping this new Cityhopper will do even better.
What do you feel we could do as a community to gain larger mainstream exposure and increase the number of people getting into blading?
There are a few things, I guess. These two could be a good start. One – it would be good to have at least, in each big city, a local hero, an ambassador or a crew that’s organising competitions for the locals over there. You can see a big gap between bladers that have been blading for one or two years and bladers that have already found their way in the community. For the beginners or even for the bladers that are only doing it for four years, there is not really a lot of stuff going on like small competitions, shows, lessons and other stuff. It would be cool to see the older guys doing more stuff for the local kids as they are the future. Two – we don’t really have an international hero or a voice (maybe like Arlo back in the day) for small kids to look up to. I know Tony Hawk and Mat Hoffman are already getting too old, but kids and parents know them so they know the sport. Probably the most famous rider within our community is Chris Haffey. It’s sad to see that all the other pro riders need to quit their career because there is no money involved anymore. It would be great to see some USA riders organising competitions or other stuff – a bit like what Jon Julio is doing.
What are the best and worst aspects about being away from home when you are filming these projects?
The cool part is being part of a project that has never been done before and, of course, the road trip idea to all these cool countries with your friends and colleagues. Somehow you always go back with so many new experiences. The bad part? If you travel too long with the same people it can get stressful after a couple of days as you are there to “work” and you need to get stuff done. So if you are driving, for example, 4-5 hours with a trailer behind your car with 4-5 persons in the car and you still did not find one single spot, the whole vibe is going a bit down, as you can imagine.
Do you have any future projects planned after Cityhopper is released?
Not for now. Let’s first release the video and see. But we almost had all the continents in one video, so we are missing Australia. Who knows? Cityhopper Australia in 2016 or 2017!
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