Swiss downhill legend Beni Weber tells us all about his career racing luge, skateboard and buttboard. The stoke of skydiving and the true spirit of the downhill community. Tell a friend.
Good morning Beni, how are you?
Good morning, I’m good, had a long night at a little festival.
Were you performing?
No no, just consuming, some local bands were playing.
Where are you from?
I’m from Switzerland, specifically a town called Wintherthur. At the moment I live in Pfungen. A little village near town. Very peaceful place.
What was it like growing up in Wintherthur?
I liked it a lot, lots of cool places to skate and the scene was quite big back then.
How did you get into skateboarding?
I think I got my first Penny board when I was 8. When my family moved to town, I got a larger plastic board from Saturn. It was a crap board but I liked it. Unfortunately it got stolen and a friend of our family built me a new one. It was a straight plank with big round wheels. That was the board I started skating lots with. Did my first drop-in and ollies on it.
When I was 12, I saved enough money to buy my first proper board. It was a Nathas Kaupas or something like that. A big fish. Then double tail boards came on the market and the whole thing changed a lot.
Why did double kick board change skating for you?
It just made it way easier. But in the end, I never really got good at street skating. I always prefered sliding and cruising.
Was skating popular in Europe back then?
It was growing at a rapid pace. I remember one day, the H Crew Team was in town and my mom took me there. It was so cool to have those pros skating with us.
The thing was, it was a mission to get the town to build skate parks. People didn’t want the skate kids to hang around in their neighbourhood. So we only had parking lots with home made ramps as a park. But we had a couple of really cool street spots like the Technikum.
Has your love remained strong over the years?
I still love skateboarding, it’s one of the best ways to get around and everything I did involving skateboarding has definitely shaped my life to where it is now.
When has your love for skating been strongest?
When I was 14 and we had our first cool skate park, I really was super amped, everyday after school and on the weekends. Then there were a lot of on and offs during the time I was doing my apprenticeship as a landscape gardener and skateboarding became more than an easy way to get around. I started to do a bit of mini-ramp skating as the Block 36 opened in Winterthur. That was awesome, a huge indoor skatepark with everything you wish for. Unfortunately they had to close it about a year ago because of lack of money and the city didn’t wanna support them.
I began downhill skateboarding and street-luge racing for the first time around 2000. I was back on track and I knew I had to try this.
How supportive was your family & the city?
My mom always liked it till I started downhill. She was always worried about me getting hurt. But after she saw me racing for the first time, she accepted it totally and I think she was even proud of me.
What led you to skate down hills?
Another huge thing in my life since I was young is snowboarding. We always went training on the Kaunerthal Glacier in summer time and, one day, on our way down to the valley the road was blocked. That was the first time I checked street-luge racing at the legendary Hot Heels Austria. My buddy Ronny Meier and I were immediately super amped to build our own luges, got longboards and started shredding local hills.
Do you prefer racing luge to longboard?
When I was still racing street-luge and buttboard were my absolute favourites. Since I don’t race any more, I prefer longboard.
How did seeing racing at Hot Heels influence you?
For me it was love on first sight.
Who were you skating with back then?
Ronny was the first mate I skated downhill with. As soon we started racing in 2003, a lot of new friends were made. Roli Hafner, Aki von Glasow, JoJo Linder to name a few of the Swiss guys. With the travelling, the amount of good friends just grew endlessly. Bassi Haller, Eugen Forschner, Moadl from Germany, Leander Lacey, Richard Knaggs, Simon White, Waldo Swiegelaar from South Africa…the list of friends i love riding with is super long.
Do you still skate with any of these guys?
I sometimes do at freerides and every time I meet some of my friends. It’s good to have those events, always very cool to see some faces I haven’t seen in a while.
Was anyone racing longboards before your generation?
Yes, they held Hot Heels Austria for many years already, and the international scene was quite big already.
Who were the downhill skaters you looked up to in Europe then?
The Frenchies were always very fast, loved to see them racing. Roli Hafner and Aki were super rad. In Streetluge it was Yvon Labarthe, Gauthier Dekynt and Robert Lämmlein. My biggest idol was Leander Lacey from South Africa.
What did you learn from these guys?
Every race, every freeride, I saw something new or saw people doing things differently and I tried them. Guess I learned a good aero position Leander. Yvon,Gauthier and Robert are really good lugers and it was always good to ride with them, if you wanted to be fast, you had to beat them.
Why did you look up to Leander?
He is so fast and flat on his board, kind of what the ideal racer would be. And he is a dare devil and a very nice person. I still think he could win any race. Very talented guy.
What was DH about in those days?
Family, good friends and super flipping rad parties.
What set-up were you riding?
My first luge was a home-made aluminium board with foot pegs, a true mission to travel with! I made about three major changes till I bought a really cool Andy Lally Luge, pegless, in 2004. I still ride this Luge and it works still fine. The first trucks I had were Z-Rollers and then I changed to Randal Floating Trucks. Loved and rode Flywheels on my Luge and Flashbacks on my Buttboard. On my Luge I only changed to “modern” wheels a couple of weeks ago at the Alprauschen Freeride in Austria.
How about longboarding?
I had a lot of different boards but now I ride a sweet Pan from Fibretec longboards. Standard 180mm Randals and I like the Orangatang wheels. I never was a tech freak, so in general, I just ride how it comes. No big changes of bushings or bearings.
In your racing years – what skateboards did you have the most fun riding?
I only raced stand-up for one season, 2008, and then I used a FibreTec drop-thru. I was always too scared to race stand-up. I prefer the Freerides to do that.
How did you do in that season?
I think I only qualified for one race. But for me it was just doing something different. There was absolutely no pressure and I just did it for pure fun.
When did you decide to start competing?
It was clear for me from the beginning that I wanted to compete. When I realised that I could travel the world and do what I love, there was no holding back.
What have been your most memorable travels since you started this adventure?
The trips to South Africa have always been special, I usually stayed for a month or two to visit Hs. The trips to Brazil were super rad, skateboarding is so big there! I got good memories just about every trip.
How much preparation did you have to do before your first race?
I had to get leathers from a 2nd hand shop. Buying hardware for the board was quite hard because the skate shops here didn’t have any downhill stuff. It got much easier as soon longboarding started to become bigger.
I trained for about two years before I had the balls to race. I remember when I drove up Hot Heels for the first time, my 2nd race, I was so scared and asked myself ‘what the hell am I doing here’.
“I trained for about two years before I had the balls to race. I remember when I drove up… for the first time… I was so scared and asked myself ‘what the hell am I doing here’.”
What is Fibretec?
Fibretec is a Swiss downhill board brand. A very cool crew in Zürich designing very cool boards. Awe Reincke!
There seems to be a great relationship between DH skaters in Switzerland & South Africa. Why do you think this is so?
South Africa is such a cool place and the folks over there are super chilled. I can only speak for myself, when I went there for my first time to race, I fell in love with the country and the people I met there.
Have you been back often since?
Kent says you won the championship racing on one of his boards!
That’s right, thanks Kent! If you read this, come by my house, guess we need to have a dop!
What races did you attend in 2008?
Stand up, I did Peragudes, Almabtrieb, Mary-hill and a couple more. I think Darnethal.
Did you race Buttboard & Luge at the time?
Yes, I did. I started to lose fun racing towards the end of 2007. I just wanted to skate and didn’t like to wait, sit around and pay lots of money and not get runs in. That’s why I decided to do stand-up; no pressure, just fun. So, all the practice runs I did were stand-up runs and only one on street luge.
Will there ever come a time when skaters don’t have to sit around?
I hope for all the racers that there will be. Haha!
What will bring this future?
Good question. I think all the people who organize events are doing an awesome job. It’s a ton of work and lots of responsibility to organize such an event. To get a wild bunch of skaters to be on time is probably one of the hardest tasks ever.
What organisations made races happen in those days?
IGSA, the French guys, Stephan Risch.
Was 2008 the first time you skated outside Europe?
No, in 2003 I went to South Africa for the first time to race. 2008 was my last season racing. I started a new business and just couldn’t afford travelling any more.
How did you find Maryhill?
Maryhill is an awesome track, specially for stand up. For streetluge, to me, it was not fast enough.
What’s the difference between racing stand up and back down?
I got the biggest respect for the standup riders, to race so fast, that high off the ground is hectic. I prefered to be a bit closer to ground. What the standup riders are doing these days with sliding into corners is absolutely amazing. No hands down and stuff. With Streetluge and Buttboard there is less risk i think.
With stand up racing, you see a lot of evolution; with approaches to racing and the emergence of ‘’no hands’’ racing. Does this happen in buttboard/luge?
Guess I’m the wrong guy to ask this, since I don’t race any more. I kinda lost track of what’s happening there. You should ask Michael from Spain, he is the Top Street luge rider at the moment.
“…that’s the cool thing about skateboarding, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, no matter what background… just ride, have fun and keep it safe.”
Must be nice to have the greatest luger as a European!
I haven’t met him, I only see that he wins race after race. He seems to be a cool guy from what I hear. I don’t think it matters where you from. As long you have fun with what you are doing and inspire others to do well too. That’s the cool thing about skateboarding, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, no matter what background… just ride and have fun and keep it safe. More or less haha.
What’s your favourite thing about skateboarding?
The family, friends & fun. And the excitement of racing, the speed.
What’s your most memorable season of skating?
2006, I won the overall World cup in Streetluge and Buttboard, that was super rad. But all seasons were awesome, every year I had some great moments… like beating Leander in Buttboard, winning Teutonia on Streetluge, visiting South Africa. It’s been so much fun racing, the travelling and visiting friends is the best part about it.
How did it feel to beat someone you looked up to so much?
Super cool, I’m sure we got quite drunk that night.
Any win was good. I think the best after race party we usually had at Almabtrieb.
How did you get Bekks into skating?
I think the first time I met her was at the COASH race. She was a dirt-surfer back then. We went skating together and she got good real quick. I really like her style and she is a super cool lady.
Are you doing anything to keep new blood coming into it?
To be honest, not too much. But whenever I see young kids with longboards I support them with help like shuttle rides. The other day, I visited a friend in the Alps and on the way up a bunch of young Germans were just preparing to do a run and I stopped to chat. It was quite funny because, when I asked them if they liked the road, they were kind of intimidated and were like “we will keep it safe and we’ll stop for cars”, but then I told them that I was skating that road lots about 8 years back. That changed everything, I guess I look too old now… haha.
How is your year going?
Skatewise, not much really. Did the Alprauschen Freeride in Austria, a beautiful event. Very fast and kind of steep, I decided only to do Streetluge on that one.
Otherwise, very busy. Six years ago I started a business doing Body Stress Release, releasing muscle tension. And as everywhere, back pain, headaches, sore necks are very common here too.
I started skydiving in 2014 and got really into it. So most weekends I’m on a drop-zone to jump out of planes. Lots of fun and I highly recommend it.
Do you have many skaters subscribing to your business?
There are a couple of riders I gave Releases at an event.
Is the stoke from skydiving different from being on a board?
I like to say that skydiving is total freedom and that goes for skateboarding as well. Can’t really tell if there is a difference. Both are a super good feeling.
What are your plans for the future?
This year I will go to the Jochpass Freeride, maybe the KafiSchnaps Freeride. In business, I want to continue what I do now with Body Stress Release and I want to become a skydive instructor.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Apart from working my ass off you mean?
In summer, I love hiking. In winter, snowboarding to do awesome freeride runs in our beautiful alps. Skydiving, cycling and enjoying nature.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-30.
5, 13, 21
5 – What is your favourite skate video?
The Search for Animal Chin/Bones Brigade.
13 – Do you have a pet?
A beautiful cat named Lucy.
21 – Would you pick the red or blue pill?
Ask the Rabbit…
Beni Beni. My none namesake! Thanks a lot for taking out the time to chat. Respect!
Thank you Gbemi, feeling honoured.
Any last words?
Thanks a lot to anyone who supported me thru my racing years with Hardwear or Bed and Breakfast…special thanks to Cloud9 Distribution and Shop, Nadia & Timo & Daniel, awe