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Michael Mackrodt Interview

Holidays from Traveling

It feels like Michi Mackrodt has already visited every country on the map. In the skateboarding community, he has probably traveled way more than anyone else. But being on the road that much made it difficult to find a suitable date for a trip with photographer Friedjof Feye, which they already had in mind for a while. In the end, they figured out that they could just go during Michi’s holidays, which he spends in the South of France ever since he was a kid. His parents have a house at the beach near Bordeaux and Friedjof found it pretty interesting to cover what it looks like when a traveler is on holidays. No pressure, just see what happens. Cause although traveling to foreign destinations to film a clip is fun, it’s also exhausting and in the end, Michi’s job. But this trip was purely for the good times.

[Photos: Friedjof Feye | Interview: Stefan Schwinghammer]

You’re known as a constant traveler, but when it comes to holidays, where do you go? Is your parents’ house your go-to holiday spot?

If I give myself a little timeout, I’ll go there for sure – Hotel Mom. I’m super close with my parents and I always enjoy going there a lot. So that’s definitely the first address when I think about holidays. And it’s right next to the beach where you can go surfing. If there are waves, I go surfing and if not, I go skating. I have some friends there that also skate, there’s a little skatepark, unfortunately not that many street spots, but the ones that do exist, nobody has seen in mags. You’ll only know them if you live there, and I’ve been going there with my family for 35 years now. There are some photographers in Bordeaux, but most of the time, I can’t be bothered to ask one of them to shoot a picture, cause I just want to skate for myself when I’m there. But this way, it was pretty cool.

Are you able to fully relax on holidays, just lying on the beach and doing nothing? Or do you constantly have to do something?

[laughs] I’m not the guy that just chills at the beach. I get bored pretty soon, especially if there’s the perfect climate, the beach, the waves, a tennis club, or basketball court right around the corner. Sometimes I get a little beef with my girlfriend cause she can just chill on the beach for hours and read books, while I get nervous and want to do something. But after I went surfing for two hours, I’m also ready to chill for a while.

What’s your ideal holiday like?

First of all, a nice place and just going with the flow. If there’s a nice environment with your family and friends around, I can relax everywhere. I mean I don’t need a real holiday anyway. I can pretty much plan all of my days like I want to and don’t have to recover from a hard working week. Maybe sometimes my body needs to recover –I’ll often go to the South of France if I snapped my ankle or something – but mentally, I’m always relaxed.

So it’s not about doing something extraordinary for the holidays but more like creating a chilled environment?

Exactly! And not have the pressure to do something – nothing on the to-do list. So the thing with Friedjof was just perfect cause for me, most of the time it works best when I’m not forced to be productive. If I’m forced to go somewhere with a deadline for a project in mind, it works, too, but it’s less fun. Sometimes I’m setting up a deadline myself and that’s fine, like filming a Fishing Lines clip. Then I know it’s on for a week and it’s like a little challenge then, which is fun. But most of the time, it’s the best if you just get into a natural flow on a trip.

"If I’m forced to go somewhere with a deadline for a project in mind, it works, too, but it’s less fun."

Does skating during the holidays feel any different than doing it “jobwise”?

The main difference is that when you don’t get any footage during the holidays, you don’t have to cover any costs. If you go on a trip in a far away country with your sponsors’ expectations in mind, you have some pressure to make something happen, so you don’t just blow the money. I’d have a guilty conscience then and so I always try my best. 

Is there something special you always do when you are at your parents’ place?

Just surfing and spending a lot of time with the family. I get up early, go surfing, afterwards hang out with my parents, and go surfing in the evening again. For me, surfing is kind of a recreational sport cause it doesn’t hurt your legs like skating.

You were born in Munich, raised in Paris, live in Berlin, and spend a lot of time in the South of France. What place do you call home?

Most likely, I feel home in Berlin cause I’ve spent the last 13 years there. My flat is there, all of my stuff, my close friends. But I don’t really have a sense of home that much. Sometimes, I’m a bit jealous of my friends who come home to their little town on Christmas and know all of their friends will be there. Since I was at an international school, it’s different for me cause my friends from back in the days in Paris are all over the planet now, but it’s not that bad.

Frontside Grab

Mackrodt Paralax

Frontside Grab

Did you already have the urge to travel as a kid?

Not really. It somehow happened with the first skate trips at the age of 15 when we put some money together and traveled to contests. There, you meet people and travel further and further. At some point, you realize how rad it is to meet new people, discover new cities and that’s how it happened. It came through skateboarding cause always just going to Barcelona or Paris was too boring. Skating is a little microcosm that moves in circles anyway, so I try to make it a bit more exciting for me and if you’re willing to take a risk and travel to a country where there in the end might not even be a spot, most of the time, you’ll get a positive surprise. And at some point, you get a bit addicted to push it further and further. A vicious circle but in a good way.

What exactly got you addicted to traveling?

Discovering new stuff in the first place and on the other hand, I also like to travel to far away destinations like Bangkok, where I try to go to once a year because over time, you have friends there and get your own routine. The more you go to a place, the better you know it, and I think it’s fun to get into a routine there that’s completely different from your normal routine back home.

So when you’re in Bangkok, you know exactly what will go down?

Yeah, I know where the guys chill, I don’t have to call anybody, they’re delighted to see me. It doesn’t need to be something new every time. Sometimes, you also need to force yourself to leave Berlin cause it’s nice when you come back from a trip and get into the groove, see all your friends, and then you have no desire to go on the next trip. But then I think about how it’ll be to smell the fresh air once I get out of the plane and how hyped I’ll be.

"I skate just as much in Berlin as when I’m on a trip, but I’m not as much on street missions anymore."

When you’re in Berlin, do you even skate that much there or are skating and producing footage for you strongly connected to travels?

I skate just as much in Berlin as when I’m on a trip, but I’m not as much on street missions anymore. To keep my skating on that level, I need to skate spots I know and for that, I go to some skateparks that are chilled.

How do you find the destinations you travel to?

Usually, you have a friend somewhere that knows the place. Lately, I thought that I don’t know anything about Africa. And most of the skate trips there happen in South Africa and nobody ever goes to Central or West Africa. One of my best friends lives as a pilot in Senegal, so I thought it’d be perfect. I didn’t know anything about it, but it’s a huge country, not too dangerous – so let’s give it a try. I called my filmer who’s always down to go on a trip and we went for it. Most of the time, it’s pretty random where we go as long as we think that there might be enough spots to skate, it’s not too expensive, and it’s interesting enough that people might watch the clip. When I browse through skate websites, I think to myself, “What country would I want to see in a clip?” I like unusual stuff like Nepal.

Mackrodt2 Bilder2

Boneless

Is it difficult sometimes to convince sponsors to provide budget for trips when you tell them that you don’t know if there are even any spots?

Yeah, it’s a bit of a hustle cause everybody is skeptic at first whether they will get anything out of it or if we just want to go there for our holidays and don’t skate at all. Especially the first years I did it. By now, we did some successful trips and it’s easier. If you’re somewhere with 35 degrees Celsius and a high humidity, you’re hustling to find spots, and you get a text message, like, “Hope you guys are having fun at our expenses,” you think, “Damn – just come with us next time and you’ll see for yourself whether we’re just having holidays.” Even if you’re not skating the whole time, looking for spots is already a task. It’s cool cause you find lots of stuff, but it’s not holidays. Nowadays, most of the time we get some budget, but we also sometimes pay the trips ourselves in advance, see what we get, and check if we get budget when we’re back. Most of the time, it worked well to at least cover flight costs and accommodation, which is cool.

How many days a year are you traveling in average?

For a while, it was kinda like two, three months on the road, back home for two weeks. Three weeks on the road again, a month back home, two months on the road… Now that I’m a father, I try to only make shorter trips or to go to places where my family can join me after two weeks of skating. It’s hard to guess, but I think roughly half of the year I’m on trips.

Is there some place left that you’ve never been to and you absolutely want to skate?

I’m definitely interested in skating the highest mountain pass in North India, but it’s pretty expensive and pretty difficult to do. I already traveled through the Andes Mountains on mountain pass roads for two months and found some spots there. It’s a bit exhausting to skate 3000 m above sea level, but you get used to it.

"It’s hard to guess, but I think roughly half of the year I’m on trips."

And is there some holiday destination you still have on your list?

I’d immediately go to Cuba anytime again, that was dope. It was like a little time travel. Cuba and Myanmar were my favorite holiday destinations. I was on a trip to Cambodia and Thailand and after that, I went to Myanmar with my girlfriend for the holidays. That was one of the few times I didn’t have a board with me, which I normally have in my backpack all the time.

But it’s not that easy to go there, right?

By now, it’s quite easy. Back then, it was a bit more complicated because it still was a military dictatorship. At first, we were impressed by all the police checks, turnpikes you have to pass, and the military, thinking we could get problems or get ripped off cause they might think we have money. But in the end, the people there were really relaxed. You tend to get too influenced by what you read or hear.

Mackrodt Einzelbild2

Wallie

You always travel to extraordinary destinations. Would an all-inclusive resort even be an option for you? 

Maybe for a week, I think you can stay everywhere for a week. But maybe I’d just sleep at the resort, get a scooter, and head away from there every day. I think I couldn’t stand hanging at the pool all day with the rest of the tourists. But I’ve never tried it, maybe it’s gonna become my new mode of traveling. [laughs]

Yeah, you don’t have to worry about anything and somebody else takes care of you. Speaking about that, can it be a problem for pro skaters that you can pretty much do what you want and nobody is telling you anything? That you don’t really have to go to work and just have to skate – does it feel like a constant holiday?

Definitely, that’s one of the reasons to go on trips. You have something to do then and get new input. Otherwise, you’ll get completely dull if you just hang at home or train at the skatepark.

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