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Michi Mackrodt – Berlin homeground

Strictly speaking, Michi Mackrodt is too old for the diminutive, but if you want to utter the word “Michael”, a lump immediately starts forming in your throat. He just belongs to this type of people that have managed to grow up, and at the same time, preserved a young, curly-haired charm beyond the age of 30. For example, we had to postpone the interview because Michi texted me last-minute that he unfortunately couldn’t make it today because he’s in the delivery room right now and his second daughter had just been born. He added, however, that he would have time on the next day, between being in the clinic and taking care of his oldest daughter. Where “real” adults live in a state of emergency for at least two weeks, he faces the challenges of life in a rather relaxed manner. Even when you look at his old parts, hardly any differences to today become apparent. Michi has always been an extremely stylish skateboarder, and style never goes out of fashion. His desire to travel has not diminished either, but by now, he is more often on the road as a team manager – even there, he is still known as “Michi” and not as “Mr. Mackrodt”.

You left for the winter, right? Where’d you go?

I went to the Canaries with my girlfriend. I wasn’t really into it at first, because I thought it would just be another boring Spanish island, but it was so sick. We hopped the islands for six weeks. Every day, there were unbelievable waves for surfing. The islands are really small but incredibly diverse, you can forget the south though. Actually, you could do a photo series of red-headed Englishmen. No matter if the sun is burning or if there’s a full-on storm blasting, they’ll be downing beers at every corner midday. Besides that, the landscapes are amazing.

So you went there with your girlfriend and extended the stay to film later on?

I went there with my girlfriend for vacation only. I skated a little but only in the parks. They have a bunch of pretty good ones over there. We came back and I was hanging out with Palermo [Julian Weigand]. We didn’t want to spend the next two weeks in the Shelter [Nike’s indoor skatepark in Berlin] because there was cold weather coming up and ended up flying back two days later.

"Either people dig the way you skate, appreciate your character, and support you or you can be unbelievably good and nobody cares about it."

Pretty spontaneous. What’s your daily routine when you’re not on a trip?

I try to stay fit, skate every day, and take care of my family – but I’m not that motivated to go out and film here. We have already checked out every spot back in the Anzeigeberlin [former Berlin based magazine] days with Adam [Sello]. Berlin is pretty much done for me by now although my feet do start to itch from time to time.

Because there are new spots or because you came up with new ideas?

A little bit of both, I guess. I start thinking about new ways to skate old spots, or I haven’t seen them in such a long time that they start to interest me again. You get tired of them when you have to take all the people who come to visit to the same spots over and over again.

It’s pretty sick that you skate every single day.

At least rolling around a little, mostly in the first half of the day. I hate to arrive on tour without having the perfect feeling for my board. You look at the spots and have to get back into it at first. If you skate one spot a day, even if it’s only for an hour, you don’t have to put up with that and at least have your go-to tricks at hand. You don’t feel as lost.

At what time do you usually go out?

Usually from 11:00 or 12:00 till 3:00 or 4:00. Then I pick up the little one and spend time with my family, and before skating, I usually do all the shit I have to do on the computer.

You got into a little bit of team management for Nike, right?

I help out at Nike Europe from time to time whenever they plan a trip or whatever. Someone is always on a trip and if Vaughan [Baker] is on the road somewhere himself, I jump in.

Did you plan it out like that or did it just happen?

Things just came together. I didn’t expect to be able to survive on it in the first place. However, surviving on it is still kinda hard. The free time you have makes up for a lot of it, but it wasn’t planned at all. At one point, you just realize, “A company is supporting me and you gotta give back a little.” So you plan some trips, pull yourself together, and do things. I’m not the type of person who kicks back and waits till the next trip is scheduled. So I plan them myself.

Has it gotten easier to live off of skateboarding in Europe? Around the early 2000s as a pro, you were basically forced to live in the States.

I think that it’s easier when you’re living in the States, but there’s still a bit of luck to it. Either people dig the way you skate, appreciate your character, and support you or you can be unbelievably good and nobody cares about it. There’s no golden rule or anything. Maybe it’s even easier to live on a low budget in Europe.

But wasn’t it much harder fifteen years ago?

For me, it was harder back then, but I don’t know how it was in general. It’s still not easy. It’s not like the money is rolling in like it is for some American pros you talk to. They skate for a couple of years on a crazy level and are set for life.

Somebody told me about a tour he was on as a Euro rider and he just got kind of two pairs of shoes a month while one of the US riders bought his girlfriend a new BMW over his phone on the trip. He was a bit demotivated after that.

That’s how it is.

Is it true that you quit Element?

Yes. I quit, but I don’t think they had any big interest anymore either.

Like a relationship run cold?

It’s a long story. They changed their policies and wanted to save money. So I said thanks and bye after I received my last paycheck.

Are you trying to get a new board sponsor now or does it even matter nowadays?

For me, it probably doesn’t – I’m too old anyways. I’m not the type of guy who comes knocking at some doors.

Soloskatemag Michimackrodt Pic11

Wallis Backside Grab

Wouldn’t that be a good chance to start something on your own? A German brand with the range of Polar, Magenta, Sour, or Palace?

I don’t know if I could do anything like that, but I thought about doing something.

What kind of ideas did you have?

Actually, I thought about doing a shoe company years ago. I was skating for Element shoes as well. It was at the same time when Nike SB started it’s program in Europe and they asked me to ride for them. Element wanted to market their shoes and asked me to stay with them to help out. Since I was so thankful for everything they’ve done for me so far, I stayed. After four years, Element said they are gonna stop making shoes. Right then, the guys from Nike asked again. That was a pretty cool gesture after I refused the first time. Most of the other guys didn’t end up getting a new shoe sponsor, which sucks because they pay the biggest part of your bills.

That’s how it goes, you lose your shoe sponsor and you’re done.

Back to working at a bar or going to the welfare agency.

It’s super expensive to start a shoe company. I heard that you need around 50,000 dollars for the mold of one sole.

Yeah, and then you need to produce different colorways and so on. I got some samples, but they were far from what I expected, and I figured that I gotta spend way too much till I have it the way I want it to be. My father wears the samples when he’s on vacation though.

"I thought about doing a shoe company years ago."

Did you already have a name for the brand?

[laughs] I’ll keep that one to myself. Maybe I still need it someday.

But back to Nike, what’s your task? Are you planning the trips?

Colin [Kennedy] and Vaughan plan them and I jump in to manage on the trips. When they’re busy, I also book flights or hotels for some of the guys and stuff like that. Just taking care of everything, so people can focus on skating. Even the easiest things can take up so much time and when you’re going to different countries with skaters from all over the world, you have to coordinate and plan it out – especially when you’re going from one trip to the next. It’s just cool when someone does it for you.

But the weed supply is something they take care of in a second.

For sure, they are brilliant at managing that themselves three cities in advance.

How is it different being the team manager in comparison to being one of the active skaters on tour?

It’s cool but so much different. Of course, I think like, “Damn, I would really love to skate that spot,” but I don’t want to make everyone wait because some tricks might take longer. Even though the guys probably wouldn’t care, I’d feel bad for that.

Soloskatemag Michimackrodt Pic3

Frontside Flip

How do you feel about all the young talents coming up right now and how do you compare them to how it was when you were that age?

I think it’s still pretty similar to how it used to be. Instagram was a game changer though. Everything is pretty much revealed in advance because someone posted a story about it or whatever. That kinda takes away the moment of surprise that you used to have when you were waiting for a video to come out back in the days. It doesn’t really matter when you ollie into a sick bank for your Instagram feed and then kickflip into it for the video. The surprise is gone, but that’s how business works nowadays. It’s the best marketing tool, but I think it ruins skateboarding to some extent because it’s supersaturating. We kinda try not to post photos from the spots when we’re traveling – although I barely have any followers anyways.

It’s all about the fame that comes along with it. Everything is measured in likes.

You can see that on tour. The one with the most followers is being filmed and not the homies. They just get little guest appearances or whatever.

People just try to push their channel.

Yeah, that’s the biggest change, but the level of skating itself has become so high. It’s still a bummer that it’s all about the craziest tricks and not about having a nice spot and trying to arrange or conceptualize it in a broader sense. That makes for a good video, but I think there are still people who have a sense for aesthetics and make cool clips with good music and special spots.

It probably developed in both directions. Around the early 2000s, it felt like everything is becoming bigger and bigger, and people were trying more and more crazy things, but then people also started getting into the no-comply mode. Style was way more important for them.

That’s true, there’s something for everyone. The problem is just who will be able to make a living off of it? Probably not the most stylish ones.

"The one with the most followers is being filmed and not the homies."

It’s all about the fame that comes along with it. Everything is measured in likes.

You can see that on tour. The one with the most followers is being filmed and not the homies. They just get little guest appearances or whatever.

People just try to push their channel.

Yeah, that’s the biggest change, but the level of skating itself has become so high. It’s still a bummer that it’s all about the craziest tricks and not about having a nice spot and trying to arrange or conceptualize it in a broader sense. That makes for a good video, but I think there are still people who have a sense for aesthetics and make cool clips with good music and special spots.

It probably developed in both directions. Around the early 2000s, it felt like everything is becoming bigger and bigger, and people were trying more and more crazy things, but then people also started getting into the no-comply mode. Style was way more important for them.

That’s true, there’s something for everyone. The problem is just who will be able to make a living off of it? Probably not the most stylish ones.

Soloskatemag Michimackrodt Pic5

Frontside Ollie

I’m not sure. Style is always a personal thing. Brands like Fucking Awesome, for example…

True, they do sick stuff, but most of the money is at Monster, Red Bull, and maybe the Olympics.

Did you ever get approached by an energy drink company?

No, never. I haven’t been in the dilemma of having to decide whether or not I want to represent energy drinks. The money sure would be tempting, but it’s pretty much like you’re required to wear a helmet to show the logo. I think there are better ways to communicate that someone is riding for your company.

At Street League, I saw that they have these Velcro things on their beanies, so they can change their logos.

Only remember to put on the right logo for the after-party to attract the girls.

You think that’s a factor?

Definitely for the 17-year-olds. I went to Kazakhstan and this guy was as proud as a peacock because he got a Red Bull beanie. He said, “Everyone knows that only real athletes get these.” He definitely thought that he was gonna get chased by the ladies.

Seems to work cause I also heard from people that had to be asked to remove the Red Bull cap cause they weren’t riding for the brand anymore.

Another thing that changed in skateboarding over time is definitely the cocaine consume.

Yeah, that’s something I also recognized.

That’s so crazy. Back in the days, everybody was smoking weed, and now, no matter where you go, somebody is always talking about cocaine. Well, everybody has to know for themselves. It’s not my cup of tea. I find it silly, but not only in skateboarding, it’s everywhere. If I go out in Paris to the bars where back in the days people were standing in front to smoke a spliff, now everybody is offering you cocaine, asking if you want to join in at the restroom; and I’m like, “We’re just having a fun time, a good conversation” – I don’t even want a coffee. [laughs] The inhibition threshold is definitely lower, but maybe I’m just old.

"Back in the days, everybody was smoking weed, and now, no matter where you go, somebody is always talking about cocaine."

Talking about being old, recently I wondered if people are still interested in interviews at all. Are you reading them? Or how do you consume skateboarding?

I do read interviews, but most of the time, I read tour articles if somebody went to an interesting country and you get to learn about it.

You try to really get a grasp of the country and its people when you’re traveling, right? Because I was on tours where I realized that I basically hadn’t seen anything of the city.

When I go to a country that I have never been to before, I usually try to arrive a week earlier or stay longer. That’s why my favorite tours are the winter ones because I can escape the cold. I can skate, surf, and travel a bit and definitely get to know the country. It’s harder when you’re on tour with ten people. You just get an idea of how it is, but it’s already different when you’re somewhere with a friend and filmer only. That’s a different mode of traveling already. On one hand, you have more weight on your shoulders. No one can save your ass when things go bad.

Soloskatemag Michimackrodt Pic7

50-50

Going out with just a filmer is kind of the concept of Fishing Lines. Would you say that the way skateboarding developed played right into your hands regarding that idea? Because around 2000, the concept of Fishing Lines wouldn’t have stood a chance.

You’re right for sure, but that’s not how the idea came about. It was pretty much a coincidence. After we filmed the Element video, I was just over driving past all the sweet spots because the team manager said, “We need bangers.” I was wondering, “Isn’t skateboarding supposed to be something distinct where every person expresses their individuality freely? Or at least shows what kind of skating they’re into?” On the other hand, it was cool to have the drive to try things that you wouldn’t try on a normal day. After the video was done, I went to New York to visit Patrik Wallner. We cruised through the city, filmed all kinda things, and made a little clip just for fun. We wanted to play around with the camera and skateboarding again.

So these clips reflect how you want your skating to be like?

I think it’s difficult to judge your own skating. Cruising around for Fishing Lines doesn’t exclude doing bigger things. It depends on the spots we find. What I liked about Fiddy [Friedjof Feye] is that, when he came to Berlin and hit me up, he had some things on his mind which were sick, so we didn’t just wander around looking for random spots. He knew how he wanted it to look.

He took photos of the ground as well. When I moved to Berlin, I had to realize that it bothers me to not be able to get out the door and push around. Doesn’t that pose a limitation to your quality of living?

I’ve just accepted it, man. I just take the motorcycle or the car and go skate a spot. The ground is so shitty. I’d consider it a reason to move away for sure – especially during winter when the streets are full of grit, salt, and pebbles. It’s the worst, I don’t even know why I’m still here. Probably because the scene is relaxed and you have a lot of options. Everything is smooth in Paris, but at the end of the day, they always skate the same spots.

"Isn’t skateboarding supposed to be something distinct where every person expresses their individuality freely?"

Have you ever considered giving up your base and take the nomad life to the fullest since you’ve already been traveling a lot?

For sure, but I always thought that it would be good to have a home base. Just a place where you have your stuff. My girlfriend is also bound to Berlin because of work, but I always wanted to spend a year in Asia or South America. I’m still fine with the longer trips I took and the overall quantities. Berlin has never become boring to me because of that as well. I don’t know if I’d survive an office in Berlin.

So traveling will always be a necessity?

Yes, everyone told me that we won’t be able to travel anymore once we get our daughter and it ended up being even sweeter to travel with kids. They co-discover, you pay way more attention to your surroundings, and the people are even nicer and don’t try to rip you off. Sure, it’s nice to be on your own from time to time as well, but it’s sweet. You don’t have to worry about anything because the kids are amazed by pretty much everything

Soloskatemag Michimackrodt Pic9

Backside Nosegrind Pop Out

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