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Paul Zenner – Family Ties

“He’s studying art history,” a text message I got said, just to get another one five minutes later saying, “Sorry, it’s business administration.” When I was researching for this interview, it turned out that even some of his close friends don’t know too much about who Paul is. And also in his interviews so far, you only get to know the skateboarder Paul Zenner but barely anything about the person behind the skateboard. When he’s out in the streets with his friends, skateboarding is mostly the one and only thing to talk about. And after the session, he’s heading back to Moosach, a part of town on the outer edge of Munich, to live his private life apart from skateboarding. Nobody really knows how it looks like. So, it was about time to get to know who Paul Zenner really is. Talking about life is way more interesting anyway than just talking about kickflips.

How was South Tyrol? Do you take trips to the mountains regularly?

I like hiking for sure, but it’s not like I go every weekend. But recently, I went more often with my girlfriend. It’s something I can imagine to keep on doing till I’m old.

You’ve been with your girlfriend for some time now, right?

I’ve been with her for eight years by now and it’s still really good. We got together when I was 18.

How did you meet?

Classic story. Just had mutual friends and we all went out a couple of times. You know how it goes. At the beginning, it took some time to groove into the relationship because I was still skating everyday and there wasn’t really a lot of time left for a girlfriend. But ever since we talked about it, it started to work out. It’s really harmonious.

"Most of the time, the homies are down for a couple of beers afterwards and I’m pretty much the party pooper who goes home to spend time with his girl."

And that’s not to be taken for granted. My girlfriend, for example, left me six weeks ago and the crucial point was me being on the road too much. It’s a big problem for a lot of girlfriends that skateboarding takes up that much space. But you have managed that successfully?

Well, I clarified that I will go skating every day, doing my thing. But most of the time, the homies are down for a couple of beers afterwards and I’m pretty much the party pooper who goes home to spend time with his girl. This way, I still have time for skating and my friends don’t come up short. But sometimes, I’m not there when my homies have a rad night. I mean, I have a good time with my girlfriend too of course. But that part of skating or being with my friends is missing.

Your friends told me that, in the evenings, you’d just go to Moosach and none of them know what you’re really doing there. What’s going on in Moosach?

I’m just hanging out with her and we cook or stuff like that. I have a big family… Altogether, we are five siblings and we spend time with the family, eat, play a couple of games, drink some beer. Just having family time. It’s like a really chill get-together. I was never someone who could go party till six in the morning. I prefer the cozy things.

And that’s not to be taken for granted. My girlfriend, for example, left me six weeks ago and the crucial point was me being on the road too much. It’s a big problem for a lot of girlfriends that skateboarding takes up that much space. But you have managed that successfully?

Well, I clarified that I will go skating every day, doing my thing. But most of the time, the homies are down for a couple of beers afterwards and I’m pretty much the party pooper who goes home to spend time with his girl. This way, I still have time for skating and my friends don’t come up short. But sometimes, I’m not there when my homies have a rad night. I mean, I have a good time with my girlfriend too of course. But that part of skating or being with my friends is missing.

Your friends told me that, in the evenings, you’d just go to Moosach and none of them know what you’re really doing there. What’s going on in Moosach?

I’m just hanging out with her and we cook or stuff like that. I have a big family… Altogether, we are five siblings and we spend time with the family, eat, play a couple of games, drink some beer. Just having family time. It’s like a really chill get-together. I was never someone who could go party till six in the morning. I prefer the cozy things.

That’s rather unusual for skaters to feel comfortable staying home with their families though. Most of them are just gunning it at the bar after skating.

I mean, I like going to the bar. It’s cool, but I couldn’t go every day. When I stay home at night, then I’m in good shape on the next day. I have a strong drive to be active. My girlfriend would stay in bed on Sundays, for example, and I have to get up and ride the bike or something. Just looking for spots, going to neighborhoods I’ve never been.

That’s another thing my girlfriend always got mad about. I didn’t like taking walks and she didn’t want to go on her own.

There are types of women who like to do things together. I like that too, but I also need time for myself. Just as well, I could go skating by myself after I get out of university or work. I know how people say, “Skating alone is not like skating at all.” But for me, it’s cool sometimes.

Zenner Feeble

Feeble Grind

I like that too. Sometimes I like to skate by myself five times in a row and then, the next weeks, it feels completely wrong. But let’s talk some more about your family. Someone told me that you live in like a multigenerational house.

Well, my parents are divorced and we moved to a house in Moosach ten years ago. I live there with my mother, my sister, and my big brother. Back in the days, my oldest brother lived with us, but he married, became a dad, and bought the house next door. And my brother has, like, his own apartment in the back of the garden. Plus in the middle of the garden, we have a henhouse and a pigeon aviary. It doesn’t feel like I’m living at home though. More like rooming with my mom and my brother and my sister. We are just helping each other out. Everybody goes grocery shopping and cooks, and I’m paying a bit of rent.

That’s a nice concept. I couldn’t imagine to live like this with my mother. 

Yeah, but she is so relaxed. She even get me off the hook a thousand times.

What happened?

Someone tried to frame me for stealing bikes to go home after partying. When I was drunk this one time, there was this broken bike that I just walked for a couple of meters and leaned it against the wall again. The cops drove by and I just took off through some yard, jumped from the garage and all kinds of things while my homies just stayed there and the police took them to the police station.

Munich…

Exactly, Munich… I walked home for two hours, woke up the next day, it knocks on the door, and my mother comes in saying, “Just say nothing, just don’t say anything.” I went downstairs and there are two cops waiting for me. They told me that some person told them that I was stealing bikes. I was like, “I didn’t steal any bike.” I mean, I really didn’t do anything, I just took off, which I just shouldn’t have done. Every time the cops didn’t look, my mom kept on making clear that I just shouldn’t say anything. Then they took me to the station, put me in the back of the car, locked the doors and everything. They questioned me and, after a while, I told them that I did walk that one bike for a bit. Suddenly, my mom comes into the room with a pretzel telling them that I haven’t eaten anything yet and she again whispered in my ear to not say anything. [laughs] I already did though and, after a while, they just believed me and dropped all charges. But for sure, one of the homies snitched on me.

"It doesn’t feel like I’m living at home though. More like rooming with my mom and my brother and my sister."

Did you find out who?

Yeah, but… he’s kind of an unstable person. But ever since, I didn’t have to deal with the police anymore. But I have another story from last week.

Go for it.

A friend of mine celebrated his birthday and it was the first day I went to Oktoberfest this year. We had a blast and I just drank two Maß [one Maß is one liter of beer, editor’s note] and my friend had three. It was funny as hell and we went outside and, all of the sudden, a fight breaks out. I just stood in the middle and tried to calm everyone down. When I turned around, I saw that my friend’s nose was just crooked as hell, like literally in a 90 degree angle. It was pretty much abutting his face. I didn’t know what was going on, they ran off and my girlfriend told me that the dude hit her as well. The police came pretty quickly and we told them what happened. They just wrote everything down on some scrap of paper, which looked like a shopping bill with all other kinds of things written on. Then we also had to do a breathalyzer test. And the device said that I had a blood alcohol level of 1.8. But it was obviously wrong because my girlfriend also drank two Maß and it said 0.4 when she took the test. I mean what’s their deal? The perpetrator is still unknown and that’s not the way to catch him. Great job.

Sick. That’s what’s up at the Oktoberfest.

I mean… on his birthday, really? He had a slightly crooked nose from an accident before and now he’s getting a new nose. It’s the most painful way, but at least, he’ll have a straight nose afterwards.

Kind of like a belated birthday gift.

That’s exactly what another skater, who’s a doctor, said. It still sucks though.

But usually, you are a big fan of Oktoberfest. Because in all the texts I read about you…

Yeah, for sure. And now, we talk about it again… Damn. It’s kind of annoying… Well, not annoying, but it seems like I’m just some average Joe who goes to the Oktoberfest the whole time. But the joy of going there keeps on decreasing because of stuff like that. Back in the day, I was standing in line in front of the tents at seven in the morning on the first day, but I haven’t done that in, like, four years. This year, I only went twice and always on a weekday. After some time, it just gets on your nerves.

Frontside Boardslide

Zenner Paralax

Frontside Boardslide

You are also rooted in the Ruhr area, aren’t you?

I can’t even really speak Bavarian. Whenever I come back from Dinslaken in the Ruhr area, it feels like I’ve adapted the slang. My grandparents and a bunch of cousins live there. I have a big family and we celebrate huge Christmas parties. Usually, there are like 25-30 people sitting at the table.

Do you feel more like a Bavarian or someone from the Ruhr area?

I’d say my heart is half Ruhrpott, half Munich but not Bavarian at all. I mean Munich is not really that Bavarian, right? A real Bavarian would never drink a pilsner and I really like it. Or currywurst with fries… [laughs]

But you have a Bavarian Maß on your Salut board.

I didn’t choose that though, that was Mixen [Michael Wiethaus from SHRN, editor’s note], but it suits me. I really like drinking beer just because it tastes good. A beer mug is fine with me.

You wanted to become a master brewer too, didn’t you?

Ah, man. Honestly, it didn’t work out, because I didn’t get the application stuff straight. I missed the deadline. I was mad at first, but by now, I’ve learned to deal with it.

Why didn’t you just wait and applied again?

I just took the most convenient route and started to study business administration.

Didn’t you also want to do something with renewable energy?

Now you really got me… Right, my brother told me that I can apply for ten different courses. Because I wanted to have plenty of options, I applied for ten. Then I got an email that said that I can only choose five, but it went to the spam folder and I didn’t see it. Then they split the ten in half and I got five of the ones that were my second choice. Renewable energy was one of them. I did it for one semester and switched to business administration.

It’s a fairly long way from brewing beer to renewables to business administration. That doesn’t sound like a very passionate decision.

True, I’m supposed to study full-time, but so far, I basically did it part-time. I’m in the fifth semester now and it’s time to take it a little bit more serious.

"It doesn’t feel like I’m living at home though. More like rooming with my mom and my brother and my sister."

Fabi [Lang], who is three semesters ahead of you, told me that he actually doesn’t really know why you’re doing it and, most of all, what you want to do with it when you’re done. Do you?

Who knows man? Fabi is just straight on. He knows exactly what he wants and has helped me out a couple of times too. He gave me some of his notes, and everything was perfectly in order and sorted by color, full of Post-Its, and properly underlined. You can’t compare that to the lousy notebook I have. Of course, I’d like to study highly structured, but it’s a bit chaotic. You can do so much with it. I’ve already majored in economics in high school and the obvious choice after that is business administration. Even when I can’t really identify myself with the other students…

You don’t sport a polo shirt, do you?

I’m thinking about buying one… [laughs] I go there, sit down, listen to the lecturer but don’t, like, actively talk to people. There’s no homie I like to hang out with or anything. As soon as I’m out, I’m done with it.

It’s the same as in skating. You seem to separate your everyday life from your social life pretty much because you have found the things you need in your girlfriend and your family.

That’s true. I’ve gotten some shit for it from Esel [Simon Schöllhorn], for example, saying that I’m letting them down or something along those lines.

My gosh, you don’t have obligations to go anywhere.

That’s how I see it too. But there are many people who have a different take. As if I wouldn’t appreciate them or anything.

You spend a lot of time skating anyways. I would have definitely stayed home more often if I had known that it would save my relationship. It’s not worth risking your girl.

That’s the thing.

Zenner2 Bilder1

5-0

Zenner2 Bilder2

50-50

Did you ever think about moving out from your family’s home?

For sure. I definitely want to move in with my girlfriend in the near future.

How is it being in, like, a residential community with your mother and your siblings?

My mom goes to work, I’m at university, my brother’s at university, my sister is at school. Whoever’s hungry prepares the food. We just make a big portion and everyone who comes home heats it up. There are days where we really get together though. And when someone goes grocery shopping, he shops for everyone. We have two dogs at home too and whoever’s home takes them out.

And what about the chicken and pigeons?

My little sister pretty much takes care of them. We used to have more chickens too. Right now, we only have bantams. The others were eaten by martens or foxes. That happened a couple of times… You go there in the morning and there’s only one chicken left without a head. One time, we even had hatchlings. We built an extra shed for them, so they’d be safe, but they dug their way through and ate all of them.

But besides that, you don’t have to deal with the birds that much?

I just do it when no one’s there. When we had bigger chicken, I used to go there and got eggs to scramble. That used to be my morning routine for so long. It’s crazy… The yolk is so much darker when you compare fresh eggs to the ones you get at the store.

Zenner Boardslide

Boardslide

It’s kinda perfect to basically get it straight from the producer.

Yeah and you have to take them right away because when you forget one and take it out later to make it… it’s disgusting… You have, like, a little embryo in your pan. It only happened once too, but it was so mad. And of course, we have a rooster who likes to wake up the neighbors.

And I heard that you guys have a house near the Baltic Sea.

We always get these catalogues advertising huge properties in the east of Germany and, because of the economic development, they only cost like 2,000-5,000 €. My oldest brother has always been interested in buying something like that because he wanted to lead a secluded life far off living autarchic and doing everything himself. He ended up buying a house in the east for 20,000 €. It was kind of worn down, but it’s a huge property – maybe two soccer fields with two barns. And it’s right next to the forest and 45 minutes away from the sea. Eventually, he got a child – unexpectedly – and started to build a family and bought a house here in Munich. Of course, he needed the 20,000 €. So my mother and a friend of her kindheartedly bought it from him without ever going there beforehand. And when they went, it looked really bad, like a ramshackle hut. But it’s Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania, everyone can fix everything over there. So our neighbors were asked to renew it, which took, like, two years. Now it has two bathrooms, a huge oven and everything is done really beautiful. So, that’s basically our cottage that everyone can go to. More or less on accident, but it turned out to be a really beautiful place to escape to. It’s nice because you have no service or anything. You have to climb up this old water tower to be able to use the internet. When you want to call someone, you have to walk to the street. This year, we went there for my mother’s 60th birthday, which was around the time the house was finally refurbished. We celebrated in the barn with all the neighbors and it was really funny. My brother and me even went streaking through the fields into the forest because there’s no light or anyone who’s bothered.

Sounds fairly enviable. Living in a cool community with your mom, having your family around you, being happy with your girlfriend for so long, the cottage in the east, celebrating with the neighbors, celebrating Christmas in the Ruhrpott with 25 family members. You’re a lucky man.

Yeah, if you’re saying it like that, you’re right.

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