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Martin Schiffl – Interview

Mr. Nice Guy

It’s Saturday, January 27, 2018, 8 a.m. While most are still asleep (or haven’t stopped partying yet) and can only dream about a skatepark session in the late afternoon, Martin’s workout app already yells twelve different exercises in 30-second intervals at him. After jumping jack and co. are done, he takes care of his two Persian cats with the finest food and is already on his way. It’s 2 °C [35 °F, editor’s note] outside and the desire to be back in the warm bed next to his girlfriend Vicky seems reasonable. But Martin is still going for it, as usual. Ten hours, 200 kilometers, and a front board on a rail later, he’s sitting in his kitchen with his homies Patrick Wenz and Robert Christ for this interview while Vicky is preparing sausages, mashed beetroot, and black salsify.

Robert: Hey Martin. Why don’t you start the interview by explaining how that beautiful cat portrait came about?

Martin: It’s Vicky’s shirt. And, well, we didn’t want to have a super serious portrait. We wanted it to be a little funny and not some run-of-the-mill dude-looking-into-the-camera photo.

R: I liked that you took a portrait that’s funny and that doesn’t look like you’re trying hard to look really cool. You don’t take yourself too seriously.

Patrick: Natural coolness. You look like a badass who’s petting his cat on the head while his evil plan works out perfectly. 

M: That’s a bit how we intended it. 

P: You even brushed your hair…

M: And I’m not wearing a beanie.

R: The point I wanted to bring across is that it’s rather unusual for skaters to be like that. I often have the feeling that skaters want to create a cool image of themselves, which you didn’t do. What’s your take on skaters trying to act cool?

M: I think that does happen, but you can’t make generalizations. At times, it feels like people want to bring themselves across as really cool guys. I just like when you talk to someone and realize that the person really says what they think, is honest, and doesn’t pretend. But sometimes it feels like you can’t even really talk to people because they try to be a certain way that is considered cool.

"Sometimes it feels like you can’t even really talk to people because they try to be a certain way that is considered cool"

R: There are many who are full of themselves even if they are “only” skateboarders – there are people who do a lot more important things than “only” riding a skateboard.

M: If you go to a skatepark and see someone who’s having fun it’s way more enjoyable to watch them skate. Sure, I guess everyone has fun skateboarding, but it’s different when it’s visible. The vibe is different when someone laughs on a skateboard.

P: How much fun did you have today?

M: The skatepark was super fun for sure.

P: And how fun was the other rail? 

M: It’s fun too. Of course, it sucks when you go to look at a new spot and your trick doesn’t work out because the run-up is messed up, but it’s also exciting to go there and check it out. It’s always exciting.

BS Feeble

Soloskatemagazin Schiffl Interview Parallax

BS Feeble.

R: In comparison to the other ones, the front board we shot today was planned out though. Usually the photos came about rather spontaneously. We basically just drove around and checked out whatever we came across. I think that’s matching your skating really well. 

M: If I see a photograph of a spot and bother about it for too long, it doesn’t work out anyways. Spontaneity always turns out to be the better option. 

R: That’s a really remarkable trait of you. If we go to a spot with a bunch of people, you’re usually the first one who’s on the rail before anyone even got the equipment ready and knows what’s happening.

M: If I like a spot, I want to skate it. But I can’t go to a spot that I picked myself and that only I am supposed to skate. I can’t take it when people have to wait for me. It makes me nervous and that’s never a good thing if you want to try a trick.

R: You are also one of the few people who want to land a trick before the camera is ready because you don’t want the photographer to wait too long – whereas others usually wait till all eyes are on them or don’t try a trick till the cameras are out. You don’t primarily do a trick to film it, it always feels like you do the trick for yourself.

M: Of course, I’m happy when someone films it, but the thing itself is fun as well.

R: Jumping on things and hurting yourself? 

M: Hurting yourself might be a result.

P: And we are right back at the rail that we were talking about earlier. You were sure that you’d get stuck right at the beginning and fall flat on your back – how can you still do it if you know that you’ll get hurt?

M: When I know that I’ll get stuck for sure, I won’t try it, but it seemed very likely today.

P: You were waiting for it.

M: I didn’t wait for it, I only hoped that it won’t happen. But it could’ve because that rail was way too high and my pop is way too little. Still, it’s fun to try it.

R: But you didn’t have the space to perform your little rituals. The spot’s run-up and landing were very limited, but when we usually go to a spot, you always take the same way back.

M: [laughs] You’re probably aiming at something else because those are not rituals but compulsions. Many people have ticks and stuff and maybe it’s only a tick or like a full-on compulsion. It’s not really about the route I took when going to the spot… Oh man, it’s hard to explain. When I go through something, like a tunnel, I’d always prefer to go through the same tunnel when returning, rather than taking the stairs or some other way. 

Soloskatemagazin Schiffl Interview Fron Board

Frontside Boardslide

R: What would happen if I’d force you to take the stairs?

M: I don’t have it that bad, I guess. After I informed myself a bit, I learned that it can be way worse.

P: Would you be pissed for the rest of the day or what would it do to you?

M: I’d probably feel a bit uneasy and I’d have to think about it a lot. At the same time, I know that it’s nonsense to feel bad about it. It used to be worse for sure. I used to feel a lot worse, but now I just try to not think about it, and it works pretty well. But if I’m already in a bad mood, it’s harder for sure. The feeling is hard to explain though.

P: And what happens if you skate a rail and your board flies over or under it?

M: If I do a hippy jump, for example, the board always has to go under the rail again after I landed it. And sometimes I let my board go under it on my way back to the run-up, so I’m good to go.

R: But did you always have these kind of autistic features?

"I don’t think it’s autism, it’s only a compulsion disorder."

M: I don’t think it’s autism, it’s only a compulsion disorder. Besides that, I don’t really dig having a certain structure that I have to follow every day.

P: You told me that you used to always brush the seat off before you sat down.

M: No, I had to touch the surface after I stood up. But I don’t do that at all nowadays. I don’t know, but I just let go of that. That was way back in elementary school, where you were really ashamed of stuff like that and tried to hide it. It’s probably still not the best character trait ever, but it’s important to talk about it.

R: It probably helps with your job?

M: The compulsions? No way! 

R: I mean, you work with people with disabilities. 

M: Yes, I’m working as a Social Care Worker with disabled people.

R: So you’re working?

M: Part time.

R: But why don’t you work full time and earn some cash, so Vicky doesn’t have to work.

Vicky: That’s a good question. 

M: It was a conscious decision. I got done with my apprenticeship, used to work full time on shift duty which was way too much.

R: Did you feel like it restricted your skating?

M: It restricted my time in general, but I always tried to find the time to skate enough. Sometimes I used to work for twelve days straight, two days off and then the same over and over again. Then I went down to working like 75% of that, but right now – not having to pay for a kid or a house – it’s still adding up when I’m working half time.

R: But skating was probably a major reason for you to do that, right? 

M: Yes, because skating is what I like to do most in my spare time. Additionally, I thought that it was the right time because I don’t mind working when I’m old since I physically can’t skate anymore. 

R: But you’re taking good care of yourself. You have your seven minutes a day!

M: Sure, I used to pay no attention to what’s in the food I eat whatsoever. Gummy bears and chocolate bars for breakfast. Now I try to stay fit as long as possible.

R: Did you have any trouble turning 30? Did you fear life’s over once you’re that old?

M: Not that extreme, but, of course, you wonder about that. Maybe like a mid-life crisis but not really. But you didn’t have that at all.

R: No, I didn’t care. But Patrick is about to turn 30 as well. How do you feel?

P: I don’t know… I’m having a little baby now – my belly. So I can’t really skate as good as before. Or let’s say it feels different. I have to deal with a little bit more Patrick nowadays, but it’s still fun, so whatever. Think about when we started skating: people in our city stopped when they were like 20 or 25, so we’re already up a notch. And look at Tony Hawk doing 900s at the age of 50. And Bartosz [Ciesielski] is like 40 as well. It works.

M: Especially people like Bartosz or Pat [Lindenberger] are really motivating – seeing how active they still are.

Soloskatemagazin Schiffl Interview Boneless Fs Wallride

Boneless Fs Wallride

R: But to bug you a bit more: were you afraid before you turned 30?

M: The 30s are a strange stage of life, but I wasn’t afraid. I thought about it a bit but mostly because of skating for sure. It’s a huge part of my life and a big passion and I’m super thankful for having it. I mean, how many people are there who don’t have any passion besides watching Netflix? It’s the best feeling when you have something to look forward to. Say that you come home from work or you are stressed out because of something else and you have something that cheers you up.

R: Most people are afraid to get older because of injuries. I mean, I don’t want to kiss your ass, but you’re one crazy motherfucker. Your hand has been broken for a couple of years without you realizing it and you’ve dislocated your shoulder on a regular basis for over six years – for example, when Patrick was trying to high five you.

M: That happened only once though. My shoulder used to be very unstable because back then I didn’t exercise. It used to always pop out of my joint at night because I put my arm under the pillow and when I turned around it got messed up. The doctor told me that he’d think about getting a surgery when it pops out like three times a year. I think it happened like 60 times. It used to hurt so bad at first, but after a while, I didn’t even really wake up anymore.

R: Is it still happening from time to time though?

M: Sometimes. But after I started exercising with the seven minute workout app, it got a lot better.

"How many people are there who don’t have any passion besides watching Netflix?"

R: But you still have that broken hand though. And you fall on that one pretty much every day.

M: It was broken and I only found out around one year ago. I broke both of my hands before and they both used to hurt. The right one was a bit worse and when I went back to the doctor, they told me that it was still the old one and it just didn’t heal. And then I started to go to a bunch of doctors.

R: Weren’t they wondering about why you’ve been walking around with a broken hand for years?

M: Uh, no. Doctors are kind of dull most of the time, you know. They don’t talk much. Only the specialist in Neuss said that it doesn’t look too good. The other one just asked me a bunch of questions, but I told him that I found a way to deal with it in daily life. I mean, I can’t move it as much as I used to, but I’m still able to do everything I need to. He said that I need to get surgery to avoid the arthritis getting worse. He told me that the chance of it to fully heal and grow back together is like 55%. I think the first time I broke it was in 2009.

P: How do you handle your work when you took some hard slams on a rail the day before and show up the next day all messed up?

M: Most of the time, I skate without getting hurt though. But, of course, at times my hand hurts at work after I fell on it, but that can happen while skating a slappy curb as well. But it’s not like I have to do like full-on manual labor at work. Of course, there are residential groups where you need to shower five people each morning and lift them up or something. But my group consists of kids and teenagers. The only boy I really have to help out is really small and can stand by himself. So I guess I’m lucky. As long as I can shower myself I can help him to shower. And if I can’t shower myself, I probably shouldn’t go to work either.

Soloskatemagazin Schiffl Interview No Comply

Bs No Comply Wallie

R: Talking about working and being social…

P: Martin is supplying the whole neighborhood with skate stuff, like shoes he wore once and that feel weird: “Oh man, that shoe is kind of strange. Do you want it?” – “Sure, but I’ll give you some cash.” – “Nah, just take the shoes.”

R: But it’s not like you give away the stuff your sponsors give you and just get a new one. I’ve seen you giving away boards you got yourself for free and then buying a new one afterwards.

M: Yes. About the shoes, I don’t want to sell stuff that has already been used. Especially shoes that have been on my stinking feet. But I also don’t like taking money for something I didn’t pay for. If Patrick needed a board really bad, I’d give him one for sure. I mean, if anyone is in desperate need of a board in order to skate, he should get one. You’re acting like I’m some kind of Samaritan. 

R: When you get two boards for yourself and two or three to sell, you still give away your own and pay for the other one you are supposed to sell. 

M: Yes, but I only do that because it would suck to rip anyone off. I want to support Bartosz since I ride for Freedom now. But still, whenever anyone needs a board, it’s normal for me to give him one. Not like that’s anything special.

P: I don’t think it’s that normal. I used to know people who were selling the stuff they got for free to get around.

M: That’s not cool though. Especially for companies like Freedom where you know the people who do it and you skate with them. As if I’d try to scam Bartosz after helping a kid out who needs a board. I think I couldn’t take the bad conscience.

R: And what about the sponsors who give you photo incentives? For example, you don’t keep the money you get from Reell but give it to projects like “Vielschichtig”, which is run by Patrick and other people.

M: I just used to not talk to them about it. I didn’t want to go there like, “Give me, give me, give me!” That’s not money I depend on and plan with. Same when someone owes me money. I hate going up to them being the loan shark. Money in general is a difficult topic. 

P: Don’t get me wrong, we are really thankful for your donations to support the local skate scene in Viersen. Now we’re almost done with the interview. But what usually happens at the end of every session? I mean, someone always goes like, “Alright, last one…” 

M: Yes, I know what you’re aiming at. There’s another tick: at the end of every session, I have to do a smith grind and a kickflip.

P: Did you do it today?

M: Fuck, no. There was nothing I could do the smith on.

P: I’ve seen you do it on the sidewalk. 

M: See, sometimes I simply forget.

"You’re acting like I’m some kind of Samaritan."

P: I don’t think it’s that normal. I used to know people who were selling the stuff they got for free to get around.

M: That’s not cool though. Especially for companies like Freedom where you know the people who do it and you skate with them. As if I’d try to scam Bartosz after helping a kid out who needs a board. I think I couldn’t take the bad conscience.

R: And what about the sponsors who give you photo incentives? For example, you don’t keep the money you get from Reell but give it to projects like “Vielschichtig”, which is run by Patrick and other people.

M: I just used to not talk to them about it. I didn’t want to go there like, “Give me, give me, give me!” That’s not money I depend on and plan with. Same when someone owes me money. I hate going up to them being the loan shark. Money in general is a difficult topic. 

P: Don’t get me wrong, we are really thankful for your donations to support the local skate scene in Viersen. Now we’re almost done with the interview. But what usually happens at the end of every session? I mean, someone always goes like, “Alright, last one…” 

M: Yes, I know what you’re aiming at. There’s another tick: at the end of every session, I have to do a smith grind and a kickflip.

P: Did you do it today?

M: Fuck, no. There was nothing I could do the smith on.

P: I’ve seen you do it on the sidewalk. 

M: See, sometimes I simply forget.

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