We have all the opportunities in the world and blading can turn into whatever we want to, just because it's all on us and no one else. It’s in your hands, in my hands, in our hands.
Not long after the biggest blading festival of the summer, Summerclash, came to an end, its organizer, Jojo Jacobi, agreed to tell us, specially for Blade.rs, what's it like – to be the father of two of the most important blading events, the editor in chief of the well-known Be-Mag and in general, one of the most active animators of our beloved sport.
But before proceeding to read the interview, I recommend that you read this other one for the Wheel Scene first, as it will give you a better understanding of the importance of his activity and how much we owe to him.
- Для русской версии интервью жмите тут!
Questions: Valentin Malanetski (valentino )
Photo credit: Felix Strosetzki
Hey! Where are you right now and how is life going, after getting out of all this Summerclash madness? What did you do since then and what are your plans for the rest of this summer?
Hey there. I´m at home in my little apartment in Berlin.
After Summerclash I went to Andorra to MC the FISE World Series stop over there. From there we flew right into Denmark for the Roskilde Festival where we did some skate shows and listened to wonderful music. Two weeks later I visited another music festival in Germany and I also went to Ventspils in Latvia to MC the Ghetto Games Festival. So I definitely can’t complain. Good times on the road and the days I’m home I’m spending in front of the computer to work on be-mag.com. Which is absolute fun right btw, now since everything is taking shape and with Freddy White there’s a new great member of the team pushing things forward. So yeah, life is good.
Oh and the rest of the summer will be spent working on be-mag, enjoying the last warm days in beautiful Berlin, judging the Shred Cologne event and hopefully flying to China to MC the Fise World Series stop over there.
Let's talk a bit about Summerclash 2014. We all know what was the worst part of it (the unpredictable rain that made a proper pro-contest impossible to happen), but what was the thing that you liked the most this year?
The thing I liked the most was once again how people from so many different countries are gathering in one place and building their own little universe for a weekend. The vibes on the camp site and how everyone is walking around with a smile is definitely the best part about it. And of course the concerts and parties were amazing and something new to try for us. Turned out great in the end so that made me happy too.
When, and how did you have the idea of creating another world-class blading event? How is this competition evolving, comparing to the previous editions?
Ever since the first Winterclash I was thinking of a Summerclash. In 2008 we did it for the first time and it turned out great, but since the Mellowpark moved to a different location and we had that big drama with Winterclash in 2009 and 2010 we didn’t have the energy and space to do it again the years after. So I’m glad that it all came together in 2013 and of course this year again.
I never wanted the Summerclash to become a summer version of Winterclash. It’s not about the crazy stunts and the competition only, it’s about spending a whole weekend (up to 4 days if you prefer) with so many people in that small universe called Mellowpark. I wanted it to be a real festival, with everything that belongs to it. And with having our first concerts this year we did another step in that direction.
According to the WRS, Summerclash is a 3-star competition. Comparing it to Winterclash (which is rated at 5 stars), how would you describe the spirit of Summerclash? What are its main features that attract more and more riders and blading enthusiasts from all over the world, for one fantastic week-end at the Mellowpark in Berlin?
I don’t really care about the star system anymore. We had most of the top riders from all over the world on spot and all of them had a good time — and so did all of our other visitors. That’s the most important to me.
And the spirit is what I tried to describe above. It’s not only about the competition but the whole spirit of a summer festival. And from what we hear from people, that’s exactly why everyone is coming back and what everyone loves about it. It's much more relaxed than other events and that’s exactly what we wanted it to become.
Who are the people you work together with to organize Winter- and Summerclash? Who makes your team?
In the months before the events are taking place it’s basically a team of three people. Robert is I charge of everything design related but over the years he turned into something much more important. He is giving our events a face and a identity and even in times when my spirits are low and I don’t feel it anymore he gets me back on track with another slogan / graphic / advert. Just yesterday I had such a moment. I wasn’t feeling super hyper motivated to start working on Winterclash, but he came up with the slogan for this year’s event, picked a couple of awesome Alex Schneider photos and created the face for the next Winterclash. When I opened that e-mail I immediately got motivated and felt the whole thing again. It’s hard to put in words, but he just really understands what our events are about and what emotions we go through while being there.
Besides Robert there is Doreen. From managing the volunteers a few years ago she turned into my right hand during the preparation and the event itself. She is taking care of the whole ticketing, shipping, volunteers planning, registration and so much more. It’s important to have a person like her on my side to stay focused and keep working hard.
Then there’s the teams of Area 51 and Mellowpark. These guys are working so freakin hard to get the new obstacles done in time and prepare the venue so it’s ready for the event. They are working at the bars, running the whole sound and electricity part and so on.
A week before the event starts the event core team is arriving. We are group of close friends (mostly around 10 – 15 people) and everyone takes care of everything. From ramp branding, finishing the ramps itself, cooking for the whole team, driving around all day to buy things we need, clean the whole place or setting up the camp site and basically getting everything ready for the two big days.
During the event one important part is the tradeshow and we got ray (Till for Summerclash this year) taking care of that. He is dealing with all companies, making sure everyone feels comfortable, setting things up and making sure that too many companies fit in a too small tradeshow area.
Next to that we got a great team of volunteers. It’s between 30-50 people doing everything from handing out wristbands, working at the bars, securing the emergency exits, keeping the park clear (or at last under control) and so on. And not to forget the photographers and filmers, all our close friends, making sure the event looks great afterwards.
Oh and don’t forget about Miguel Martinez, our event MC. This guy is making sure the show is on all day all the time. And did I mention our awesome judges, the on-spot registration team, the coordinators between registration, judges and the MC?
If you include the live-stream crew, the securities and the first aid staff as well we are easily around 120 people working before or during the event.
How this kind of competitions are judged, how difficult is it to judge in real-time and if it happens that most people do not agree in the end with the judges'? Who are the most frequent judges for your events?
Most competitions are more or less judged the same way. You focus on how difficult the tricks are, how good the park is used by the rider (only the same obstacle all the time or all over the park?), if the rider can surprise you, if they are pulling something more creative, if they are fluent or if they are stopping after every trick, if it looks good or sketchy…
But of course there are loads events with the focus on one best trick too and even in the most creative event you cant ignore that once super sick trick — so in the end it's not only about the judging criteria, but also about having good judges with a good feeling for blading itself and for the right decisions in the right moment. Blading is so diverse, it's impossible to invent a judging system that would work at every event with so many different types of blading.
Real time judging sucks and is only used for TV events I believe. It's even more important to have a good feeling for blading while judging those.
And of course, it will never happen that everyone agrees with the judges. That’s simply because of the different styles in blading. Some people like this better than that. And if your friend got the best 450 Kindgrinds or a double backflip, of course you just don’t even want to think about why that super creative, super fast, super stylish rider took first place before your buddy.
The most frequent judges at my events are Freddy White from France, Bart Laubsch from Germany and Kevin Chow from Canada (living in BCN). Big Al from the UK and Chucky from Spain where also part of our main team for a long time, but life came in-between.
During the years, you proved to be spectacularly nimble, especially after the fire in 2009, when you had only one day to move the whole Winterclash in another country! And being also a visionary, you tried, in 2010, to pull out the blading from the darkness for the average man, to bring it to a larger scale than ever before. How difficult is it for you to organize it? Did the incident in Belgium in 2009, or the lack of interest from the non-rolling people demotivate you in any way? How do you see the future of these two events, Winterclash and Summerclash?
2009 and 2010 were definitely the hardest and by far most crazy years for us. But looking back I can honestly say that it only made myself and our events stronger. It's not possible to put in words how much we’ve learned from that two years and in whatever direction I might go in life, this two years definitely helped and shaped myself as a person and organizer.
Did it demotivate me in any way? Of course. Especially after 2010 I didn’t know what to do with my life and I had no idea how to continue. But today I can say it was worth it going through all of this and still having to deal with the financial loss. It helped us define what Winterclash should and need to be. It’s a core event and doesn’t belong in huge venues. It’s a celebration of our sport and a family meeting. We don’t need a huge non-blading crowd, we need this weekend for ourselves to come together and enjoy blading and all its little extras. So in the future there wont be any other attempts to push Winterclash towards a mainstream audience or into bigger venues. We will stay in skateparks and it will be our little thing. Ours and no one else’s.
Summerclash on the other hand is still young and can go different directions. I like the current vibe, it being a much more chill event with a true festival spirit. But it definitely has the potential to turn into something much bigger. So who knows what will happen in 3 years from now.
For the last ten years at least, you always had the opportunity to monitor the life of inline skating from its top, as the organizing process of Winterclash involved close interactions with almost all the big figures around the world. How much, and how did the blading world (and industry) progress? Is it on the right path? How do you see its future?
There are ups and downs. Even when you think things are going all right, something happens and the numbers are getting even worse. But at the same time we are in a pretty healthy state right now since there’s no money and everyone that’s left is in for the love. But also people need to understand that it's not “sell out” and lame if a company or anyone in blading actually tries to earn money. Because that’s the only way of pushing things forward and not having to leave. So it's still weird times with loads of stupid things going on, but at the same time it feels great as it is right now. We have all the opportunities in the world and blading can turn into whatever we want to, just because it's all on us and no one else. It’s in your hands, in my hands, in our hands. And once people realize how easy it is to contribute and therewith support and form the sport, we can push blading who knows how far!
Could you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with Be-Mag and other media-related projects? How did you get involved with it and how did you become its editor in chief?
Ever since I started blading I wanted to be more involved. I started doing events around 2000 and I also wrote my first articles for a German magazine called Roll2Soul pretty early. My connection with Be-Mag started a bit later. I worked for Ignition Skateshop and Leo Donhauser and myself took a trip to Vienna where we were hanging out with Stuff and Mike from Be-Mag. Afterwards I started writing articles for the magazine and we stayed in touch. One or two years ago I got more involved in the print magazine since Felix and Bart here in Berlin took over at the time. I thought I could add something good to it and ended up becoming the editor in chief for print. Well, and after Matt Dearden and myself realized that it's almost impossible to reach a large number of people with blading.info, I decided I want to bring my version of good content to as many people as possible and the only logical way was be-mag.com. Since Mike and I talked about it for a while already, it was easy to agree in the end and here I am, being super proud and happy to be able to lead Be-Mag print and online into a new and fresh direction, working together with a group of awesome guys and great friends.
How often do you skate? When did your last edit came out? The last one I could find is from 2007, so if you didn't skate for a while as a pro, is it something imposed by the circumstances, or do you think that… you've just had enough?
Yep, my last edit is from years ago. There’s some unpublished footage still and maybe it will be out some point this year, but the reality is that I don’t enjoy doing it anymore. Maybe once every 3 months. I don’t know why that is and why I’m just not having fun. In the beginning it freaked me out and I tried to push it. I still wanted to film stuff and be able to do shit on blades, but after a while I realized that it’s stupid to push it. It’s only making it worse. I´m sure it will come back one day but for now I definitely enjoy myself much more sitting in front of the computer working on be-mag or our events. All my energy right now is going into be-mag.com and I’m enjoying myself more than ever and finishing another articles almost gives me the same feeling as landing a trick did to me. Sounds weird, but that’s what’s up.
Do you have a job, when not busy organizing events?
Nope. I was working in a market research agency a while ago but it just kept me away from doing the things I wanted to do. Now I’m all on my own and a combination of Winter- and Summerclash, announcing blading events and working on be-mag, helps paying my rent.
Once the 2010 debts are paid, things will get much easier for me and everyone involved and once that’s done I definitely also want to organize a music festival. I have tons of ideas, so I’m sure I wont get bored and will always find a way to pay my rent, stay alive and work on thing I love to work on.
Who supports you mostly besides the people who actually work there?
Well my family always did. And even in times when everyone said it's stupid to continue they where proud, they were there for me and they always let me do my thing.
And of course my friends. Doesn’t matter if they are involved in the events or not, I have the greatest group of people around me and I would have given up years ago if it wouldn’t be for them!
I want to take this moment to, once again, thank every single person that is involved. There is no words to describe how proud and happy I am to work with such great people. Everyone has so much love for what they do and I wouldn’t be here anymore if it wouldn’t be for them! I hope they are aware of that!
And we thank you for being so well-intentioned and open to us! Thanks for agreeing and doing this. We wish you the best, both with your events and your more personal life.