Hey Zoltan, where are you from?
Prague, Czech Republic.
When did you start skating?
When I was 5, in 1986 or something like that. I started riding with my knees and hands on the board, just like a dog, pushing with one leg. Nice and fast ‘till the moment, when one of the wheels got stuck in a hole. I flew about 3 meters and hit the concrete with my head. After that I quickly started to teach myself to skate stand-up in the belief that this will be safer. What a mistake! So I switched to lying again – buttboard.
Yup, I had one of the rare plastic boards (Lotus), then a longer board consisting of a mix of wood and plastic. Big wheels, Cryptonics made in 1981 somewhere. Would you believe that I’m riding these wheels ‘till now on one of my boards? My lucky wheels. To import a skateboard into this country was a very difficult act, but after 1985 or so it became much easier.
Do you still buttboard?
Yup, I love buttboarding, of course. For me it is much more interesting than stand-up, but you know, everybody loves something.
Is it easier to get a board in Prague now?
Of course, we are a post-communist country now. Democracy and a corporate system are in a full scale here, so it’s the opposite question. How could you NOT buy something like a board, if you can choose from tens of them and all of them are great.
Does anyone in Cz make boards?
Yes, we are still making buttboards and a lot of Czechs are making their own longboards. Some of them I would say are poor students but the main part, I think, are just guys interested in downhill and they want to try as many shapes of boards as possible. So I think that in every big city, there is at least one guy who is familiar with the right type of wood and workshop.
When did you get your first longboard?
Phew… Let me think – 2005 I ordered a board called Tuna from a US company, but the board was 160 cm long. The length was actually the problem – nobody wanted to ship it to the Czech Republic. Post office, DHL – none of them. I found a friend, who studied in the USA at that time, he came back to the Czech Republic and his girlfriend followed him a few weeks later. She took the board with her on the plane. It took me half a year to find him. I ordered from Jogi (Germany) 97 Flywheels and RII 180. This too, was a great feeling – to skate for a first time stand-up on this kind of board. Stable like a tractor on the road.
Why did you want something so big?
I wanted it because I was very afraid of riding stand-up and bigger to me back then seemed to mean safer. Walkways and roads here are full of potholes, so I chose the biggest wheels on the market at that time, in the hope that they would go through the holes. And they did. The board weighed over 7Kg, but it could go everywhere. It’s not possible to turn easily, but at the sight of me coming along the walkway with it everybody jumped away in fear.
Before 2005 had you done any longboarding?
Nope I was a pure buttboarder, and a skateboarder of course, ever since I was a child.
Have you tried commuting with your buttboard?
Nope, buttboard is for downhill, but there were times when I had only a buttboard and I used it for travelling. I still have my first board with the old wheels, 160 cm Tuna. Last year, I found that there are bigger wheels on the market so I ordered them (110 or so ABEC 11) and I used a Rayne board. The board is very low weight, but with these wheels were back somewhere around 5 Kg. The problem is that in Prague there are cobbles everywhere, in the historical centre of the city etc, and on the roads and walkways there are potholes. So bigger wheels go faster and will go over holes more easily. It’s simply a logical consideration.
Do many other people in Czech luge?
Nope. When we started years ago we were just like 3 riders. We are still 3. We have a young blood who just started, I think that riders will recognize him, he is a small boy called Dominik, from a village close to Kozakov. By the way, I would like to say thanks for the support that Chris Mc Bride, Nic McKirdy and many many others gave him.
What have they done to support him?
It was an intensive time, as Kozakov is each and every year. The first year, we just told all the riders that we were going to organize a charity. Bring your old wheels, or parts. We completed around 15 boards and brought them to a Foster House and provide riders with photos from the event (thanks once more to everybody, who contributed!) The second year, riders came to the hill asking what we will be doing this year. It was then, when we go tin touch with this child, who helped us a lot, and he was so friendly! So I asked other riders, if they wanted to do something, put spare stuff together, so they could give him a board for free (You have to know that the average salary in this part of the country is around 400 euro a month). He got some wheels and trucks, and we as the Kozakov organisers found a deck for him. He was so happy! Next year, even more riders came and they wanted to support him as well. So I asked them once more, if they could contribute somthing to cover his needs. He moved to his village under the Kozakov hill with a brand new Flying Dentists board including the entire set-up and a longboard. Thanks to everyone for helping him!
Who are the 3 musketeers?
Seta, Pokyc, and I. Just three ordinary guys from Prague city and we are waiting for Dartagnan Dominik to come of age and join our ranks.
Dominiki from the story – How old is he?
Not sure, think that he is about 15 now, but he still looks like a very young guy.
Is he beating you downhill yet?
Nope, but he has a big advantage. He can ride the Kozakov hill all around the year. So one day definitely he will beat us! And of course, we are older and older guys, riding safer and slower, are more afraid. But he will get into a top condition in a few years time.
Does he longboard as well?
I believe he started this year.
What is your involvement with Kozakov?
It’s hard to say. Sometimes, I’m just a cleaner. The next moment, I’m serving beers for riders. In another, I’m solving some other problems, talking on my walkie-talkie and trying to organise what can’t be organised. Sometimes I’m referred to as the main organiser. Sometimes I’m shouting, sometimes I’m smiling and always I am drinking nonalcoholic beer, because there is never enough time to eat, so this may help me to survive. And rarely I happen to sleep. God, I love to lie into my bed at home at Sunday night. Just lie down, because my brain is still working at 150 percent and is unable to understand that this week-lasting party came to an end, and that I can calm down now.
When did you first get on the team?
When I started to organise it in the Czech Republic. It started all in 2003 or so, we all were in different parts of the country. Our gang of 3 buttboarders was still the same. It took me half a year to get 6 other people together and organise the first event. Back then I had the dream to go to IGSA races. We started to talk about it how to get ready. I ordered a book from Daren Lott about streetluge etc. etc. Then, the next year, a few other guys showed up and it was bigger. The year after that Thomas turned up. That was the last true punk session. A year later, there was a party at the north part of the Republic. And our first participation in IGSA races. Big event for us. So big! The problem was that we trained very isolated. So our top speed was around 70 Km/h. No hard pushing, no considerable experience with rain. I still remember when I stood beside the road, just watching the guys passing. They were so incredibly fast and still having fun? Unbelievable. During this year we contacted Marcus Rietma to give us a permission to organise a race called Kozakov. We got the European Championship, years after the World Cup race.
Why did you start that first time?
Because I like to connect people and to make them happy – that’s it. You can see it during the Kozakov races. So many smiles, and a happy atmosphere, people from all over the world meet and talk about their lives.
When did Kozakov become a World Cup race?
That’s a hard one, I’m not good with dates. In 2010 we first got the licence to do it. The previous year there was the European Championship and I’m glad about that.
Did you ever think your baby would grow to be one of the favourite events on the calendar?
No, I just wanted to get the best out of each race and put it together in the hope that I made it with my friends Pokyc and Seta with all our heart. But it will be just another ordinary race. I think the people make this race awesome. Yes, we have relatively cheap beer and yes, there are quite a few women on the hill (nice women! Whoever has ever talked to Tereza at the bar will agree without a doubt). But people have to contribute to it, and this has been working out well for three years in a row now. Look into their faces, when they are riding and racing. Smiles. Joy of riding. That is what I think it is all about. I forget what is going on at home and about my problems. I have a totally clear mind, Nature passing by at 100 Km/h and nothing else, then a road and a few friends around me.
Finally the competition is actually divided into two. One consists of riding, of course and the second is simply partying. The last one in the tent who is drinking wins. That is a challenge, because some riders want to win both disciplines, which is hard.
How come no Czech rider has won yet?
Well Mischo was close to it. You know, we as Czechs will beat the rest of the world without any problem in a minute, that’s for sure. But we don’t want to show the rest of the world all our tricks and we don’t want to see the whole world crying because we are simply the best in the downhill scene. So we chose to win in every tent by drinking the most beers.
Joking apart. We are not lucky. We have good riders but they have aren’t lucky when they’re racing. That’s all. Maybe one day we will win a World Cup championship. I think that 50 percent of racing is luck.
I heard the Finnish won at every tent, and you had to be carried home..
Me? For sure not, I’m the most tired one as always, not drinking more than a few beers and fast to the bed. The question about the drinking in a tent (and holding our colours) think that it will be Pokyc or Seta, they are the partymen and I’m glad that somebody is there, still in contact with all the riders, I haven’t had the energy to do that.
And as I can say, one of the hardest partying teams are the guys from the north. It is very very hard to beat them and only dirty tricks such as beer bong helps the other nations to defeat them.
Do you organise any events between Kozakov?
Nope. After every year, I say that there won’t be another year of Kozakov. Not anymore. So exhausted from doing all the stuff and my companions aren’t looking much better. But after a month, we get refreshed and restless, what will we do, and then the next month we start to organise. As Koma Kino tells me every year: “The best time to start organising next year’s race is the last minute of the present race” and he is totally right.
What is the local reception like?
People like us. We are bringing fun and joy to their hometown. We aren’t causing any trouble. We are very noisy during the night, but the party is on the top of the hill where hardly anybody lives, so the noise is mainly a problem for the riders in the camp. Entry is free to watch the race, so they can take the family on the hill on a trip, from the second part of the hills paragliders are starting. So basically very positive.
Which year have you enjoyed the most?
Every year is great. The first one was unbelievable for us as the organising team. We had an idea about what to do, but nobody was exactly sure about it. We had 160 spots, all of them full. Payment was on the hill but 35 riders didn’t show up. I was depressed like never before in my life, it was sure that we would lose so much money! On the last night, after the ceremony, Alex Luxat stood up and started a charity for us. He collected so much money! And much more, he sold his leathers and helmet and gave us all the money. Because of this we survived. Alex, I can’t say how much you helped us, thank¨you and thanks to everybody, who helped to rescue the Kozakov race!
Every race for me is like this: Start organising on the hill, work work work nap. work work work, nap. End of race. I would like to say that I’m enjoying the race as everybody. But that is not true. But I have another small passions apart from organising. Like when a first rider pushes down the road his first day of freerides. I always want to be there. For me it is unbelievably strong to see it real. To see that we made it. Another year is here, another year of riding, partying having fun for almost 200 people from all around the world. I never have time to see the second group starting, but this makes me so unbelievably happy that I’m remembering this small fragments of every race. So I can’t say that I have enjoyed a year. I’m enjoying every year. As Alex saved us. That was so unbelievably nice of him and a strong experience for me.
You sound like you’re in love with the Kozakov challenge. How much of your year do you dedicate to pleasing her?
As I mentioned before. Koma told me that the best start to do the next race is the last minute of the present one. And it is completely true. In approximately one month we finish the paper work around it. Then there are around 2 months when we are talking about “never ever again” and then it starts as always with hard work accelerating towards the closing date of the race.
Koma is an absolute legend!
Of course he is. There is no doubt about that. His races are one of the best, he has so much experience. The same is Stephan Risch. Both of them organise races for 10 years now, they know what to do and when to do it, so if one of these guys comes to me and tells me that this and that should be better, I’m not asking, because there is no question, and we are trying to do our best to repair what is broken.
What is your relationship like with other event organisers in Europe?
For me Koma is a man who is also a IGSA representative. He is helping us together with Marcus and now with Norman Kinnish. He is a source of very valuable informations, experiences and a very very good person, of course. And I still can’t believe how he managed to organise the last Peyragudes, for the most part alone and he survived without losing his mind. The same with Stephan Risch. He has years of experience as well and he organises very good races.
I think to organise an event like this, is an adrenaline sport itself. We are just a bunch of a very very mad guys, trying to do it. And not only this, we are not able to teach ourselves that it is a mad thing to do but we want to do it next year and the year after. I don’t know the other guys much. Federico is organising something in Italy. He is also a buttboarder and streetluger and everybody knows his famous companion Carlo. I know them because we are riding in the same category at IGSA races.
What is the hardest thing about making the Kozakov challenge?
I think with everything, to accept already beforehand that we will forget something and we won’t have much time to solve it and we will have to solve it properly at the last minute. So my mind is still thinking around the organisation, still trying to ensure that everything will be ok. But for sure, something will go wrong, but I as an organiser don’t want to let it go wrong. It is something like a time lapse, and I’m still circling around it for the main part of the year. My mind is still trying to predict what will happen and because of this what must be done to prevent mistakes, what to prepare, who has to do what and when.
I thought you would say getting sponsorship was the hardest.
No, if you mean the material stuff, then it is to get the hay bales. It is before the harvest here. No farmer wants to store hay for us, and to make the boxes is an old thing, how to store hay, so not many farmers have the right machines. And if they have, they don’t have enough stored hay. Because every year we need 2000 hayboxes that is 4 fully loaded trucks. Some of them are transported to the hill over distances of 150 km. That consumes a major part of a vacation taken from my ordinary work, to travel all around the Republic trying to find any spare hay which can be boxed and shipped at the right time.
How was last season for you?
As every year. Nap. Travelling to the hill. Work work work. Nap. Repeat this 7 times, then drag yourself home and think what the hell has happened that this was the fastest week of the year (once again).
But if you think of the season as a participant in a community like ours, I would say, the scene here is not growing. It explodes. You know, the number of new riders in 2004 was three. But now? I’m not sure , what happened. I can frequently see people with boards all around Prague and in smaller cities. It is unbelievable how the scene is growing, how fast. So the last season was one big surprise for me.
Why do you prefer buttboarding to stand-up skating?
I had started as a classical skateboarder. As every child. Then I came back from a party one day in the morning and saw an hour-long documentary about street luging.
I absolutely don’t know, something on Discovery, it was 5 am and I was drunk. And that was it. I knew this was the sport I wanted to do from the first moment on. There was no question about it. So I just followed my feelings and made a first very very bad buttboard. I think that a lot of guys are longboarding, because it is partly fashion and you can easily get in contact with girls. You are the rude guy, of course! Buttboarding and streetluging is not fancy. You are lying on the board, going at high speed. No fancy views for girls, just pure passion (sorry to the entire longboard community for my honesty).
By the way, watching this documentary was something completely new for me, a whole new world, I haven’t seen any picture or anything like that before. And now booom, here comes buttboard and streetluge. That was sometime around 2002. I just tried to search all around the web, what does it means to ride something like a buttboard. There were not many people replying to me and helping me. One of them was very very involved and at the end of a month-long conversation he just said “Ok, so you are living in the Czech Republic? We’ll have a race next to the German border. So I will come and bring you spare wheels and we will talk.” That was Chris Mc Bride. He came here, I had a few beers (and he had litres of coke of course, whoever knows him, knows that he doesn’t drink alcohol, but drinks cola like water), and we talked.
You know, once again, there was no information about it there, nobody was riding something like this and for me it was just research and scouting what to do. Here, nobody had experience. Because of him and the wheels he brought (of course I still have them, my monthly income as a military service-refusing worker was 180 EUR, so you can imagine what it meant for me to get such great wheels). We started to ride buttboards here and he gave me the energy to start putting people together, actively trying to find them and because of him we started the DH community a few years ago than we would have done without him. I thanked him personally in front of all the people on Kozakov in the first year, he got his own hay bale filled with 20 small plastic bottles of Coke. Because of him we started. BIG THANKS TO YOU CHRIS!
But you would think guys who were used to lying down and going fast would get more women.
Well it is a matter of how to look on this sport and what to expect of it. Some want to be famous, some want to impress girls, some love the sport and all of them are mixed together. It is not just about the passion, let’s be honest, a lot of riders are not doing this just out of passion.
Yes of course, not everyone is in it for the fun of skating.
Yeah that is completely true. But even if he/she doesn’t understand the love other riders are putting into this sport, they understand how to behave in this type of community, what the habits are and how to be the part of the gang.
The insider rules of this gang called ”Downhill Family” are so great and so brilliantly set by the people themselves that it puts a smile on your face, and this is rarer and rarer in a global society. This is just one small part of things I love about the downhill scene as a global thing.
I think I’m starting to understand why you had so few riders, it’s too expensive right?
Well the situation changed a lot. I’m a proud Czech so I wouldn’t use that word, but we were a lot poorer than we are now. When I started, the normal income here was about 600 EUR a month. Now we doubled it with almost the same price for skateboard parts that means it is much more affordable for us now. But that is just one point of view on what happened. You know, there was this critical point, when just a few people knew about it to the nearly nobody knows about it. And at this point, when everything is good, people will get in contact with it and they will start to use it. So I think that more and more people get involved, their friends get involved and then it goes very very fast.
When you talk about the downhill family you mean the longboarders and buttboarders?
I mean all the mad men and women, using their sick boards to ride downhill, using just gravity, so yes, and dirt bikes, inline skaters, skullboarders and basically all of us.
What is the difference between all the different types of Luge? Classic vs Street?
Well, I can’t say. I just have a flat buttboard all the time. But what we called a “buttboard” here in the Cz was at the beginning a very very huge board, just plywood with trucks and wheels. It was so heavy! Now we have the IGSA standards. When we first visited IGSA races, our boards were not constructed for such speeds, we often got wobbles and many many problems. After riding a hill with other guys like Chris Mc Bride, they sat down with a pencil and a piece of paper and showed us why the board is so unstable etc etc. So I think the difference is very big.
There is a basic difference. Streetluge can have more than 2 trucks and they are not limited to 70 mm wheels, what gives them much more grip in the turns and more speed, because of the wheels. They used leg holders, but 90 percent of the lugers removed them. Without them, the boards are sneaky like hell, and that is what riders need, when they are going to do a hard turn.
Skullboarders are the maddest guys I have ever seen. Lying on the board on their belly, head down that is something! And they are breaking by pushing a rubber in the middle of the board. Maddest downhill sport I have ever seen.
The longboarding community online is very visible, how does someone find luge on Facebook?
Longboarding is, as I see it, now pushed as the gold part of all the family. I understand it. Riders don’t have to have so much gear, just a helmet, gloves, board. It’s easy to encounter someone riding a longboard. Many riders were skateboarders before, and it’s much easier for them to switch. These are just a few reasons why longboarding is more visible than luge. We are less organised, our ranks are not so supported and visible. So I’m not sure, how to find luge pages on Facebook. Because basically I don’t need facebook to find information.
For a new person who is interested to learn longboarding, they can find a local crew on Facebook or find a session on a forum, how does it work in buttboarding?
Well, this is not the right question for me, considering that we are still 3 here (waiting, untill number 4 will get old enough). Basically, if you want to start here, we are at main events with longboards, ready to talk about buttboard, if we are not on the site with buttboards. If anybody wants to try it, we have spare buttboards, we manage a time and road, and anybody willing to try it will get a chance to try this amazing sport. But because of making the Kozakov race, most of the energy regarding downhill is invested into organising Kozakov.
What is the European luge community like?
And again I’m not the right one to ask. I have been just on a few IGSA races, but I think that concerning behaviour, how open people are – there is no difference, the habits are the same just like the rules. We can’t say that there is any difference in luge community and longboard community. I have longboards as well. Ask Yvon Labarthe, he is riding anything possible. The same with Will Stephenson. We are mixed together, as I said. The habits and gang rules are the same as for the rest of this society.
What plans do you have for this coming season?
Do as good as I can Kozakov, there is not much energy after that, but hopefully I’ll visit a local freeride near to Polish border. There is a great road and all the people from this country are going there. There is not much time but mainly energy to go to other races worldwide. I’m an ordinary employee, with limited time of vacation. So I spend most of it on making Kozakov, the rest I spend elsewhere to relax from Kozakov.
How many people are you expecting at Kozakov this year?
We have set the top as last year to 180 riders. With this, the riders have about 10 runs of freeride a day. More would mean less riding for everybody and that wouldn’t be good. Because I’m a rider too, I fully understand that everybody wants to ride as much as possible. The second part are people who come to the hill with the riders, of course the Czech community and for the last night, people who just attend the final and the party. The final night we’ll have around 300 people I think.
If someone wants to come, how can they get involved?
Riders has time for the priority registration until 2nd April. Then, at 21.00 CET we opened the registration for everybody. Last year we sold all the remaining spots in 28 hours, so they have to be ready at the right time. If anybody is willing to volunteer, of course, we need helping hands anytime, but we can’t offer much in return.
Yeah, or just a freeride or something, we will make a deal, that’s for sure. Free hands are always needed.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Hahaha. Not sure if I want to tell it. I’m playing Airsoft, that is how I relax. Just lying in a ghillie suit in the totally calm woods in the middle of a day or night, waiting for my target. That is the absolute opposite to the Sector 9 campaign and Eimer Mayers campaign, but for me it is not a war, just a game for a few hundreds of people. Some of them are taking it seriously, but come on, we are firing on each other with plastic bullets. And if I would do it on the computer, which is much easier, there would be no real nature and the opponent is limited by the game features. I’m not a green brain. This is a great opportunity to spend a weekend in the woods, just staring at the woods, no noise around, except for nature. I love it!
Secondly I partly work at a shop, selling hobby toys (modern tabletop wargames) by Games Workshop. It is a British company selling this for more than 25 years. So I’m painting my models. Like a little child.
Haha what is Airsoft?
Do you know paintball? Airsoft is a bullet without paint. The weapons have a longer range, they are much more accurate, and there are 100 models, sometime cops have problems to distinguish a real from an airsoft gun on a longer distance.
Have you thought about skating downhill and having a fight with your Airsofts?
Nope, but other guys from the Czech Republic had a fight with water weapons on a longboard at full speed. They put it on the internet, you’ll find it easily. It must be nice to ride downhill and at 40 Km/h your visor is full of water. And if you want a rarity, hopefully you have seen the photos of a guy riding naked at Kozakov? That was one bloody mess, after a few litres of alcohol he seemed ok, but the following morning…
Did he break anything?
Yeah that was a very stupid idea, but you know, when people get drunk… So he made it until the first half of the road naked. His back was completely scratched, half of his butt and legs as well. Really terrible to see it. When people get drunk, weird things happen.. Luckily he was not riding fast. Imagine, if he had made it to that narrow part, where you can reach 100 km/h… It was stupid and he was extremely lucky.
Choose 3 numbers between 1-24
5, 15, 24
Did I win something?
You won some STOKE!
5 – Who is the best skater you’ve met ?
Hard to say, but without Chris Mc Bride we wouldn’t have started. Without Will Stephenson, Scoot Peers, Edgar de Wits and many other advisers we would still have bad boards. Without Alex Luxat’s help we would have not survived with Kozakov. Without Stephan Risch’s example of joy, we would have been doomed and of course without Mischo Erban’s easy connection to our riders (he is half Czech and he speaks very good Czech) our riders would have had a problem. So let’s just thank the whole downhill family, that is easier.
14 – Favourite band?
We talked about it. Hard to say. NOFX, Pennywise, Rentokill, Czech punk bands…
25- Would you rather be a penguin stuck in a lion’s body, or a lion stuck in a penguin?
I would want to be an astronaut in a spaceship watching them from the orbit.
Amazing!! Thank you for all your time and for making such a huge contribution to the downhill family! Wish you all the best for Kozakov this year and FOREVER!!
I’m glad that we made it. Thank you very much. See you man at the Kozakov tent!
(Edited by Annkathrin Buchwitz)