Featured rider: Dominik Kowalski

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Dominik tells us everything about his skating history. His mentor Donald and shares lots of thoughts about why skateboarding is so special to him.
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Hey Dominik, how are you doing?
Very well! Thanks a lot! Hope you are doing fine too!

Pretty rad, good weekend so far?
It’s alright, weather conditions could be better, but I surely find my time to waste it.

How do you occupy yourself?
I am just coming back working on my old-timer. A 1975 Ford Taunus coupe. I’ll try to finish it next year at the latest, but since I have lots of other stuff to do, it’s sometimes hard to get the time for it. There comes skating, seeing friends, playing some guitar, my girlfriend and of-course my goofy cat. Most of the time surely goes for my job. As it is not a 9-5 average job.

How is a goofy cat different from a regular cat?
You think it´s running switch all the time! 

What job is this?
I work as a stuntman. 

Have you been set on fire?
Yes. But unfortunately had nothing to do anything with the job!

You encountered a dragon?
Maybe the victim of it.
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How does your stunt training influence your skating?
Maybe it is the other way around. Because of skateboarding, I received the knowledge and experience of how to fall, and be fearless.

Nothing scares you?
No, that I can’t say. Maybe it is more the ability to overcome fear. 

Did skating make you fearless?
In many ways yes. I had the chance to try myself, on solid concrete, and sharp edges… no pain no gain. I think I had it before, skateboarding was just the way I could experience all that. 

When did you start skateboarding?
I started when I was 14 years old. I did other stuff before, like rollerblading, got really good at it, but it became boring after a while. I remember watching a clip my father took of my blading… spinning around making 360 and weird moves. After that, I never touched them again. Than I saw Back To The Future… oh man! I wanted to be a skateboarder! 

How is riding a board different from fruitboots?
Haha is that what you call them? I like not being attached to something. You have way more possibilities riding a board, and it somehow feels way more like being free!
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Where were you skating in the early days?
Basically on the streets of my neighborhood. Only tricks on the flat, maybe small ramps, curbs and stuff, but street skating only. I didn’t live close to a big city, so even mini-ramp was kind of exotic, but I kept riding like this for the next 8 years. Off course I visited some skateparks, skated some different terrain, like handrails, gaps and stairs but that was my thing, learning tricks.

What direction did your skating take after that?
I think the problem was that many of my friends, one after another, stopped skating. They went on to other things. I did a foreign exchange student year in Georgia. I skated there with my best friend almost everyday. After that, when I came back, lots of my old friends moved away, or didn’t want to skate… and there is nothing worse than skating alone. There was a lack of motivation.

What motivates you to skate?
Friends. 

When did you get back into it?
I was living in a bigger city now. Somehow, after a time of silence, got back in contact with some of the old farts, and saw that they had moved on. All of a sudden, they had these  boards, which were way longer and they were sliding, doing colemans and 360s with both hands, so I went out with them for some sessions and quickly learned what they knew. It was kind of rad. Seeing skateboarding from a very new perspective, and that was just the beginning. Later I would discover slalom too. My whole approach towards skateboarding opened a complete new chapter for me.
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How did these longer boards change skating for you?
It changed the style of riding. I started enjoying and even celebrating what had come to me. I am glad about living here and now to benefit from the modern architecture and the feeling of riding on smooth surfaces.

If you could have been born in any other time, past or future, what would you choose?
Certainly don’t know the future, and it is so close, so I guess the past. And I would do the same again and again.

I was sure you would want to be Dominik ‘’McFly’’.
Back than yes! For sure….but well, I have grown too. I love my life as it is… don’t wish to be anyone else, but me.

Who were you skating with back then?
Mostly my friend, who lived in the next village. Andi Schönberg. I had to walk over fields nearly 5 km to get there. 

How did you discover slalom?
Fun story. I just found longboarding kind of exciting, so I wanted to organise a night-run. Down a hill, like a little deathrace. I wanted to have bands playing, a fireplace, and all my friends to party with. On a sidenote, back at my parents place, who used to travel all the time, I had the most epic parties ever. Once the house was full with over 150 people….we couldn´t even fit them all in…anyway…I wanted to have a fullmoon night run, and I would call it: moonlightride! I was already making flyers, and talking people into it.
Then one guy said: “Are you sure you want to hold it on that date?” I said: “ Sure, why not?”, ”because the European slalom championships are here in this town that day”
Slalom? Ok! Never heard of it, but decided to buy myself a board, go there and try it out. It is a long story in between this story and getting there. In the end I went there and I think I was second to last! haha.
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Did you have the party in the end?
Sure! But I didn´t get all wasted that night still had another run the next day. And I was really stoked on it, so I was more having a big chat with everybody. 

Who did you enjoy chatting to there?
Alex Luxat
, he just kept on talking.

How did you get to the Slalom Championships?
Oh shit, don´t remember all of it. Only know that I was in a completely different city. I heard the alarm, I wanted to hit the snooze button, and check the time. But it wasn´t the clock I had in my hands, just the ashtray from last night… all in my face! Good morning!
I had a decent hangover which prevented me from thinking straight. I was still in need of a helmet, and I needed to get on a train, and still didn’t know were I needed to go from there! So, next supermarket! I remember they had some helmets a few weeks before, but as they change their equipment quickly, I wasn´t really sure of one. But I found 3 helmets left. One was way too big, and the 2 ones left, were in either black or white. I took some time over which one to pick, I couldn’t decide.
After a while a pale dude, came into my vision. I quickly asked him which he would pick. He said the white one. Ironically in the same second, a black dude came from the other side into my vision, and I stopped him and asked the same. He said black. I had to take the black one! It was a sign…hahaha. Anyway, I caught the train at the last minute then I was there with a super flexy tiny board, with cherry bombs and a helmet from the supermarket. Stoked!
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Once you go black…
Yeah! I’ve had a black helmet since.

What did you enjoy most about that first competition?
It was racing. I’d never visited any contests before. Never wanted. But the fact that it was racing, not judging… appealed to me. It was just different and new. Whatever you do for the very first time is exciting. I live for that feeling. When it becomes routine, I don´t want to do it anymore I wanna bail out and reconstruct.

How do you find novelty in skateboarding?
Sometimes the old stuff is so old it feels totally new again. Learning new tricks, getting faster speeds, new moves, new spots open up new ideas. Most importantly, the people you skate with.

What did finding slalom do to your life?
I found something I am really good at. I always wanted to become a man of sports, but I never ever wanted anything ordinary. Never wanted to become that. Skateboarding, as I know it, was that loud and noisy kid which never did as he was told. So there I managed to combine 2 of those things!

Where do you skate now?
Nowadays I am blessed to skate with many different people, different terrains and spots. I often go on little roadtrips to skate hills, bomb, slide and jam or go to some parks. We’ve got quite a few built recently. But the ultimate is still the factory bowl in Düsseldorf, Germany. My Board sponsor and mentor (who was the first to bring me on a team, and to slalom) built a huge skatepark with a big bowl, a hidden pool, miniramps midramps, and a street skating area… all private. Whenever you want.
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Who is your mentor?
Donald Campbell
. He organised many contests. Developed his own brand, and the skatepark, everything form nothing. He is a big part of my life.

What does he inspire you to be?
Being a 100% skateboarder! He’s been there. I can always count on him, so can he!

What is special about Pavel Skates?
It’s not a mass producing flat and dead label. It’s all about individuality, and that skateboarding is not something to make money out of.  He developed a Label that is partly admired, often hated. Everything you want to be, everything but ordinary!
The Brand was founded in 1983. The first German skate brand. Pool boards at it´s beginnings. In 2001 he started making the first custom slalom shapes. Ever since, coming out with new shapes and designs. And for 2 years also making wicked downhill decks.

What is skateboarding about?
I can only speak for myself. But it’s about Friendship, a way to express yourself, to find yourself, to give you something nobody can take away….joy. Learning, accepting….it´s a guide…a tool….a statement. Resistance. A way to escape ordinary life….Pleasure and pain!
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When did you join the team?
Early 2005. I gave those damn cherry bombs back. There were many boards laying around. I asked if I could try them out. He was on the phone all of the time, not paying much attention. After I tried all boards, I went to him and said. “Yours is the best one!”. I didn’t know he made it by himself or whatever. Before I left he asked me if I wanted to join a team. I said I´ll think about it. And one day I saw his car, parked somewhere, I turned sideways went onto the gravel, through the bushes and went straight to him and said Yes! That was half a year later!

What is a cherrybomb?
Uh… those were the days of Biker Sherlock and x-games. Uhhhh you don’t know, you freshy! Haha!

Educate me old man!
I think they were from excate. They also made trucks, later electric boards. These wheels were way too big and slidy.

What is your role in the Pavel family?
I am the trouble kid. 

When did you start competing?
November 2005. The french pirates organised little contests, leading up to a World Cup in May. 

Who are the pirates?
A group of Skaters based in France, organising some events, skating together… just like we are the Gang Of Germany organising events. 

No relation to the trucks?
Yes! and creators of the GOG trucks.

Which of you created the trucks?
Frank Beste
. Super smart and nice guy skating for 3 decades.
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Is there a big slalom community in your city?
I think if you compare it to other cities, or even the whole country, I would say most definitely yes! Since the EC in 2004, which happened in Cologne, many started, or started again. But as popular as it gets, it’s a small niche.

What is the skate community like in Cologne?
Besides Berlin or Munich, it is the skate city of Germany. We have a healthy skate community. First known for the “Kölner Dom”, a big place to skate street. Nowadays it also attracts a lot of longboarders. The city is pretty flat, so getting from one point to the other, is real easy. 

How is skating in Cologne special?
There is a lot of stuff going on. Parties, contests, labels. It´s alive and well, like a well fed animal. For instance we had one of the biggest green skate crowds in Europe last year. Don’t know what the actual number was, but it was surely something over 300 people skating the same road.

Who are the guys keeping the community stoked?
Off course the skaters. But also I have to give credit to Heiko Schöller owner of the concrete wave shop cologne. He puts a lot of effort into his shop. And is in contact with so many people. He gets things done. And gets people out there. He also organises parties and shows. Super nice guy!

How does having such a sick shop affect the community?
It gives all of those monkeys stuff to play with!
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What has been your involvement since the EC in 2004?
My first contest after that was Nov. 2005 on that french pirate thing were I got 5th. Than I made my first podium on my first world cup race in 2006 in Paris. I became amateur European champion, and got 2nd at my first WC in Brixlegg as an amateur, after that I decided still early in that year to go pro. I entered my first pro contest in late 2006 in Statesville, NorthCarolina, the first day I earned 1st qualifying position, ended up being 3rd. 2007 I basically started of where I had left. Became European Champion and got 2nd in the WC.
2008 was my real deal. I won every contest I entered, became European- and World champion and 1st in the World ranking with a maximum amount of points being possible to get, which no-one ever has achieved before. I’ve entered over 120 contests and been European Champion for the 6th time. I think my current standing is 2nd in this years world ranking(as of the time of interview). 

What setup did you compete on in the beginning?
Airflow, gullwings, and CHERRYBOMBS!

Were you surprised at how well you did in 2006?
No. As I saw them doing it, I thought I can do that too.

Is there any thing in slalom left to acheive?
A tight slalom WC title. I suck in tight… it´s too tight! 

What are the different disciplines of slalom?
You’ve got tight, which means the cones are between 6 and 5 foot apart, and you have lots of them.
Then you have a special or hybrid course, which may start tighter, and open up in the middle, and even has some more open spots. It can vary between 6 to 10 feet.
Giant Slalom is where the cones are spread more openly, mostly on a steeper road. Distances may vary between 10 to 25 feet. Like  alpine skiing with their gates. Most fun it is!
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Which is your favourite?
Giant Slalom, since you can enjoy the time riding a bit more. It is more of a question to flow, and really feel the ride instead of waving your arms around like crazy 6 times a second. 

How are you working to get that tight title?
I don’t. Have I mentioned that I actually never practice.

What setup did you become number 1 on?
GoG trucks, ask bearings, my Pavel Signature model and some secret wheels from another dimension. 

When did you develop your own deck?
Even before I got on team Pavel. In fact, this goes way back to the back to the future time when I went into the woods, cutting wood, making my own board, and cutting my sisters roller-shoes in half.

What’s special about the DK?
It´s simple, it´s light, it´s wide, strong concave for the front foot, mellow kicktail for the back. It pumps so easy! And it holds speed, love it! 

Has it changed since it’s inception?
The shape did change a bit, as did the specs. But all in all, it kept on being the same – A freaking cone killing machine….harrr!
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 Have you noticed much growth since you started?
Longboading is really blowing up! You see them everywere. It’s crazy. Slalom mostly stayed the same, since it is really special, and lots of things to consider when you get started. Buying a longboard is so easy, you just go! And here is the scary part, which shows that I do feel fear after all. I fear what maybe already has happened that skateboarding becomes ordinary!

What are the implications of skateboarding becoming ordinary?
Go to a sport market, ask for a skate or longboard…Wanna have a tech deck longboard??? 

What is the problem with tech deck longboards?
I broke my middle finger on it doing a one finger carve. Now it keeps on standing up and it smells bad!

Will slalom ever explode like longboarding?
No. I don´t think so. It will come and go, or… I don’t know. I can’t know the future, but it seems like little waves coming and going ever since.

What European countries have thriving slalom scenes?
I guess Germany, than comes Latvia, Sweden and Spain, are the ones I see these days. It used to be Switzerland, Italy and France. 

Where is your favourite place in Europe to race?
I had a blast in Sweden. France is nice. Oh man, too many to list. I like travelling, seeing new spots… so it might be the place I end up next!
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What other types of skating make you happy?
I like pool skating. In fact. I am taking this coming year, to mostly get back to street skating and only riding bowls and pools. 

No more slalom races?
Maybe only Tight Slalom. 

How does expressing yourself vertically differ from when you do it between cones/in tuck?
It works the same. I stand on the board, I ride, I smile.

Have you competed in any other disciplicnes?
When I went on slalom races, I also started to enter DH contests. Which became one of my favorites. I won some local ones and my best was I think 8th place at the Kozakov challenge 2010. I surely won that party along with many others.

You’re not Norwegian, you can’t win that party!
Sultake!

Is that your war cry?
No, theirs! You had to hold your drink and look up to the sky… and hooppp! 

How is going fast downhill different from going fast between cones?
DH is very pure, very simple. It comes to the single point of rolling. Slalom is more technique and it comes to a point of physical fitness. In DH, you basically need to be calm and balanced… on your board.

Does your slalom technique help you race?
For sure! Any kind of skating, is good for your skating!! 

When did you start racing downhill?
It was in 2006 at the Euros in Insul, Germany. My second one was in Are, North of Sweden.An Epic event. The party was crazy, like a pool party of sweat. Damn, I had I really good time.
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What is the downhill community like in Germany?
Pretty chilled. I think we have many people just riding some hills, having fun. You can take a hand full of all of them, and there is a peak of maybe 10 to 15 people, who are really into racing and going for the hunt. A decent hot spot is Stuttgart for sure. The city has hills all the way around the area and the roads are in good shape. My good friend and Teammate Sebastian Hertler is from that town, who recently got IGSA European Champ. Really stoked for him! I love riding with him, it is always about riding close together. Sometimes less than an inch! But beware, there are a lot more coming out of the steeze house rippin hard!
Another hotspot is those crazy boys is Munich. Their Master all in front Mr. Stephan Risch, who has influenced not only the German or European DH scene. In my opinion, he is a real Icon. Loves to skate ever since he started, organised one of the most outstanding races, and has created today’s most accomplished DH racing Helmets.

When did you first hook up with Sebastian?
I was at the German Championships. Naybe 06 or 07. Really early years. I raced on my slalom board and didn´t even end up so bad, with I think 8th place. I remember looking at pictures of the race, and I noticed that guy riding for the first time. I really could see his mind working haha. His expression was so focused. I knew this guy would become really good. After a year, Donald told me I had a new team member. It was him. I wasn’t surprised.

What makes Stephan an icon?
His dick!? Haha.

Does it have a name?
Penman… Mark Penman.
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Do you have a favourite race?
Almabtrieb. Whenever/wherever it is. If a race is being held under this name, I know I can expect nothing but a great time.

What makes it so good?
I know it’s special, maybe it´s only my own good vibes I am bringing, but everyone brings theirs too. It´s a celebration of the Downhill family. 

How excited are you about it’s return?
There is just no question about it! I am really excited! 

What has been your favourite season so far?
Maybe it was 2008. 

What did you enjoy most about that season?
I traveled the most that year. Many parts of Europe at the end also Brazil. Skating everything, all year long. It was a beautiful ride.

How was this season just concluded?
Was actually fine. Skating wise, well… way less, since my job is really picking up. Still traveling a lot, which is awesome, I bring my skateboard with me, just like some of my colleagues. I could´t race that much, I managed to finish a pretty good season in slalom, being best European and 2nd in the world ranking, got European champion again, and 3rd overall at this years world´s.
I needed to decide, what I would race or skate this year. So slalom it was for this time. I did more DH races over the past years, and I wanted to give it a bit more attention this year. Next year is a totally different thing.

What are your plans for the near future?
Finish that rusty old car. Proceed with my job, take a step back and skate hard wheels, and short decks. All in all I want to explore more like I always did. Go on having a blast, riding with friends, going on trips and at the end just enjoy the ride.

Choose 3 numbers between 1-39.
ok. 4 18 38…..did I win the lottery?

4 – Who is the best person you’ve seen skating?
My teammate Kevin Wenzke! 

18- What is/was your favourite Cartoon?
The Coyote. 

38: Ari asks:Would you rather have a dorsal fin or gills?
No Fin. No Thanks.

It’s been really really fun talking to you bro, hopefully next time I see you, you’ll be doing great!
My Pleasure man! Thanks for this. This interview got me remembering and memorizing some good stuff. Keep on going!

Any thank yous?
Yeah. Please! I would like to thank my family all my friends, skate or nonskate. My stunt team members, and I need to thank my sponsors without who I never would have such a great time seeing new things and representing their names.
I would like to thank Donald Campbell from Pavel Skates. GOG trucks. Cult Wheels. You guys are the best! Stephan Risch for his Risch Helmets – they saved me so many times.
Vox Footwear, Link Distribution, ASK Bearings, Concrete Wave Skateshop Cologne! Also my newest one: I would like to thank the guys from Superslick Clothing for their support! I am really honored and proud to present for these labels, in the name of skateboarding! Thank you!

Links.

https://vimeo.com/34353373

http://www.zideo.nl/playzideo/6b3469556f563972#

http://www.skatecultwheels.com/blog/dominator

http://www.aerohelmet.com/Website/Risch-Aerohelmet.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPOgfEUXycE

http://www.concretewave.de/

http://www.pavel-skates.com/cms/

http://superslick.de/

http://www.voxfootwearinc.com/

BIG THANKS TO OLI DEHMEL FOR THE SICK SHOTS!

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