Interview | Julia Kühne from Berlin

We met 22 year old Berliner Julia Kühne at her new favourite spot, the Skatepark at the Poststadion. She started skating in 2011 following the break up of her football team and she says of her new found enthusiasm for skating, “there is no end in sight.”
A friend suggested she watch some skateboarding videos on Youtube. She started clicking on one after the other, hoping she could do the tricks she saw in the videos. She was captivated.

When an internship she was doing came to an end, she got 50€ as a farewell gift and went out straight away to buy her first complete skateboard.
She practiced outside her front door on the sidewalk. Sadly there wasn’t a skatepark nearby. “There was wheelchair access in my street and those were my kick flip ramps.” she laughs. „They weren’t high, but for me it was the beginning of something really big.”

First Julia went street skating everyday, seeking out spots where other skateboarders were hanging around and then one day to her delight there was a skatepark right in front of the house. Julia says, “It was awesome.” I can tell by the excited look on her face how much time she spent there, and what skating means to her.

When a bowl was added to the park it was the perfect spot.
After such a career it’s not surprising that Julia is the type of skateboarder who says “Give me something and I’ll skate it… it doesn’t matter what.” There’s no distinction for her between street, bowl or park etc..

“Why should I limit myself to one thing, that’s what makes skateboarding so exciting. Somehow everything comes together and if you get involved with it, it opens up completely new possibilities for you. Be flexible and open, then you‘ll have more fun.”

What does skating mean to you?
“It was like a crutch for me at a time when I wasn’t doing so well. I didn’t want to get involved in the typical teen activities… school bullies, drinking, smoking weed, trying to be cool, or hanging out senselessly, so it was a little lonelier in my world. With skateboarding I found something that gave me the support I needed not to feel totally lost. In fact it was great.
With skating I continued my sports activities, but I had more of a variety and more a challenge. To learn all these new tricks, not only with my body, but to get my head around them, to process them, and to implement them in different spots and terrains. That was coordination on a whole new level. (A big change from chasing a ball in the past.) But skateboarding can also be a bitch. It can hurt a lot (laughs). Never mind. It’s so worth it and I found my best friends by skating. It’s priceless.”

What’s the worst thing about skating?
„The costs.” (We all laugh and nod in agreement.)
„Back when I wasn’t sponsored and needed a new deck, I went to Titus (I just didn’t know anything else) and asked for their used decks. I had a new one twice a year. When it came to shoes I had used ones from other skaters or bought them on ebay. Sometimes I even climbed up the neighbourhood trees to fish the sneakers from the streetlights in the hope that they would fit, and their previous owner only used them for driving. Because I’m a goofy, hopefully the olli-foot-shoe would be in good condition and I could tape the other one.“

But today you’re sponsored. How did that happen?
„At some point ‘TEN Skateboards’ came up to me. They supplied me with boards but the rapid wear and tear was too much for them I guess. After that came ‘over’ … but that didn’t last long either. After those experiences, I thought to myself, okay it was nice, but I would prefer to go to my local shop and just buy the decks I like and nobody has to ask for anything. Then one day you are a local customer and get a local discount and I like that. Support your local scene. Remember that out there.”

In your opinion, is part of it having sponsors? Is that a goal if you’re going to be around for a long time?
„I think it has something to do with your status. Your standing in the group in which you move. I think you should just look at what kind of person you want to be. If you want to get a sponsor just to be a fame bitch, you shouldn’t do it. Nobody wants to see that. If you want a sponsor because you like the brand, and really want to represent it, have a relation to it, and the brand wants to work with you, as long as you’re not only another marketing tool, then do that. You’ll learn how to give and take.”

You’ve been sponsored since you joined the Olympic ‘rookie’ team. How did it feel when someone you don’t know suddenly sent you a request about your Instagram account to tell you about the Olympics, wanting to get to know you?

„I thought it was spam. No honestly. That was so unreal and then nothing came back after I replied. I thought it was probably aTrojan or something. I was just waiting for my phone to crash. Instead I got another message. Then a meeting. And then it became somehow real, and it felt really cool.
In my circle of friends some of them would say I was one of the best riders in Berlin, but I always thought they were just saying that. They are my homies. They just want to motivate me. Then there was this stranger who had me on her radar bringing me into the team. Thats when I had a proud grin on my face.”

It’s been two years.
„Yes and I hope I’ll be there for the third year as well. I want to continue with it.
I had to check it out for myself. I didn’t enter contests before and was thrown directly into the deep end, (Note: Julia was the first contestant to be taken to the Mystic Cup) just because she thought it would be my thing.
There were a lot of negative thoughts about all of this and I was insecure, but now I know, everything is wild.
I see this as an opportunity. I can travel, discover skateparks I wouldn’t have experienced in my life otherwise. I’ve been learning a lot more since then, because the skateparks outside of Germany are built on a completely different level – or are just different. So I try hard and give my best, because I don’t want to lose that. I am also very ambitious.”

Is skateboarding becoming „professional“ or serious now?
„Woah…how are you going to professionalise skateboarding if you use skaters to manage it, while working together with other skaters? (laughs). And those who are in charge don’t understand the skate mentality. That’s pure chaos sometimes, but in such a charming way. I’m quite sociable and I can handle anything. Others can have very blatant demands on the process, because they think – I’m an athlete now, I’m at at the Olympics and I’m a professional.
It’s the first one. You should just keep the course steady and see what happens. Be thankful for everything that makes this possible for the team and the skate scene.”

How important do you think role models are, do you have any yourself?
„I don’t have any posters on the wall, if that’s what you mean, but there are people who have influenced me positively on some days. If I am not in a good mood and watch a clip from one of my favorite skaters, it picks me up again and I grab my board and go out and skate again.
It’s also cool when you watch a trick on Youtube, learn it yourself and then stand next to the inventor and think: „I thought he’d be bigger!“ she tells us laughing and then describes her encounter with Steve Caballero in California and how that was really damn great. Sometimes she might be a little „Fangirl“ after all, she confesses.

How does it feel to be in the same contest with all the pros at once?
“They’re only people like you and me. If they’re cool with me, I’m cool with them.“

„More decent parks. On a European level we just can’t keep up. It’s not going to be fun in the long run.
More skateable sidewalks would be great… what’s with all the cobblestones?
I’d rather have more small skate shops you know. The ‘core shops’, than the big stores that are actually in bargain outlets and big shopping centres. But I’m afraid it’s no longer feasible. When the big distributors are gone, we’ll just buy all of our boards from Aldi.“

What would you like to tell the future generation of skaters?
„Don’t give up, even if it’s hard or you fall down alot. You’ll fall less over time, but then it might hurt more.” Julia laughs again at this. “…shit.“

Anything else you want to say to the world out there?
„I love you all my friends! And thanks to Speed Rat Wheels, Barrio Skateshop, Koloss Bearings and Cleptomanicx.“

Thanks Julia, it was a pleasure.