JEllis, king of the dancefloor tells us about his travels around Europe, leading a Simple longboard life and the importance of a good beard!
Hello Jeff, how are you?
Pretty good, thanks! I just had a huge bowl of pasta and probably won’t be able to move for the next hour.
What was in it?
Not much really. Zucchini, onions, garlic and mucho chilli!
Where’s the bacon?
Bacon and I went our separate ways a couple of years ago. We split on good terms, though.
Does she ever call?
In fact, she did a number of days ago. Here in Berlin, there’s a vegan supermarket in which I managed to find vegan bacon. It’s nothing like the original but it’s something.
Where are you from?
For six years now I’ve been living in Berlin. Before that I lived on a small island in the north of Germany.
Nice place to grow up?
Apart from beautiful landscapes and the sea, there’s just a whole lot of nothing. I always wanted more so I eventually moved to a bigger city. When I miss the sea, I’ll try to be as spontaneous as possible and go somewhere.
What did you hope to find in Berlin?
Mainly change. I wasn’t satisfied with my life at the time. But it was only later that I found out that it wasn’t really the location but me who caused this.
What do you like about the sea?
I think this is sort of a cliché response, but the sea is peaceful. If you need to clear your head you can just sit down and listen. It makes you realize that there’s more than you out there.
What did you think your life needed to be complete?
Less. And it still does.
Do you ever play in the sea?
Last year, I tried surfing for the first time. I managed to get up on the board a couple of times but most of the time I was just gurgling water and licking salt. I had a great teacher, though. Without him, I would hate surfing right now. (Hi, Allfredom!)
When did you find skating?
I first found it in my teen years, when I bought my first skateboard. But other than a small ollie I was never any good. I’d eventually leave the board somewhere in the attic of my parent’s house. About six or seven years later I saw my colleague ride somewhere with his longboard and I thought it looked ridiculous. But when I first tried it I was stoked. I went to a store and bought my first longboard. It was an Earthwing Superglider I think. It had a huge tail and I found out that I could still ollie, except higher. The next weeks I took the board everywhere and I ollied everything. Then a lot of stuff happened and now I’m sitting here, talking with you.
Why is it so important to you?
It’s important to me because it got me out of this deep hole I got myself into when I first came to Berlin. I sort of isolated myself from everyone and I left everything behind. I wasn’t keen on going outside nor meeting people or doing stuff. When I started skating again everything changed for me. I was excited to get up in the morning, I met a lot of cool people and I started to travel and see things. It changed my perspective on the world, life in general and myself. I’m still changing with every day and I’m enjoying myself now.
How did that longboard feel different to the early days?
I’m not quite sure. The very first thing that comes to mind are the bigger wheels. I could go anywhere at decent speed and there were no damn pebbles anymore that would leave me laying on the sidewalks – in tears of pain!
It’s not often you hear a longboarder talking about their love of ollieing!
That’s true. But it’s just so much fun. I’m not a good street skater at all but ollieing is still very dear to me. When I go grocery shopping I always take a short board and ollie my way to the store.
Are people your favourite thing about skating?
Not really. I enjoy meeting new people and I enjoy getting to know them, too. But my favourite thing has to be the way I can express myself. To be creative. To be persistent in learning something and then having the pay-off in succeeding. And of course being able to travel while doing all of that. Even though you’re generally doing the same thing it never feels old because you’re either doing it somewhere new or with someone new.
Aside from skating, what are your other creative outlets?
Other than that, I consider myself pretty boring. I enjoy a good movie, good food and traveling. I’m now fond of slacklining, I tried making music (which turned out to be noise) and well, that’s pretty much it. I can’t draw, I can’t sing, I can only twerk on a wooden plank on wheels.
Who were the first people you met?
My parents, duh…
Well, the first person longboarding I remember spending a lot of time with is a cool little guy by the name of Philipp. I saw him nose wheeling on one foot across the abandoned airfield Tempelhof and it was just sorcery to me because he would never stop. He can hold them forever and sometimes he’d even juggle doing it. He is still a very dear friend to me and one of the reasons longboarding became such a huge thing in my life.
What have you been changing into?
In comparison to my skateless days I am now a little friendlier and more open minded. I used to take myself way too seriously and now I can say that I turned into a little more colourful person. I’m trying to have fun now as opposed to just getting by earlier.
What was the first event you attended?
The first event I attended was the TangTang Contest in Paris in 2012. We rented a van with a couple of guys and went there. We would get there at six in the morning without having slept at all. But we had fun regardless. It was also the first time I met the crazy dutchies from Zwolle. They freaked me out at first but now I know they don’t mean any harm.
How long after you started was that?
A little more than a year, I’d say.
What led you to compete?
The fact that we were there. Peter Markgraf and Simon Arsenidis had some spare seats in the van so me and a friend got in. We didn’t really think about it. We’d just give it our best and see what happens. I even got 3rd place. But I still think I got lucky. haha
Who are Simon and Peter?
Simon is one of the coolest guys you can meet. He has the biggest heart. He can do 720 pirouettes, you know? In skating that’s like… I don’t know… an eagle with four wings and four eyes. DOUBLE THE POWER. He also rides for Airflow.
And you know Peter. The first German Champion in Longboard Dancing and I think one of the most well known riders throughout the German scene.
Is there a community in Berlin?
I’d say so. There are a lot of really talented skaters and the spots are getting more crowded every year. Everyone can do something special and no one skates the same. It’s fun to watch.
What sorts of skating is popular there?
Berlin is flat. So there’s mainly freestyle and dancing. I also heard about a couple of guys doing slalom. There’s this one hill where some people are racing and doing freeride but I’m not really familiar with that scene. But I’m trying to get warm with hills as well. Skate everything and stuff.
Who are the crazy dutchies?
The crazy Dutchies are a bunch of amazingly talented skateboarders, who are also incredibly loud and fearless. If you sit on the sidelines while everyone is skating they’d shove it in your face and tell you to skate. OR ELSE!
Or else mushrooms in your tea?
You have no idea!
When did you start dancing?
I started dancing about a little less than three years ago. Like most guys I loved what the Adams were doing, but what really hooked me were the videos Luutse Brouwer did. Not only the way he was skating but also the attitude he was transporting through his videos. I watched the videos countless times and I learned every step he was doing until I eventually found myself somewhere in there and started doing my own thing.
Which was your favourite Adam video?
It has to be the video for the Loaded Dancer. Every once in a while I go back and watch it and see whether there’s one of my newer tricks in there and it is. Only higher and more stylish. They do everything. And make you feel like a fool.
Who is your Adamina?
Again, Philipp. There’s no one I spent more time skating with. We also copied the double team moves from the video you’re referring to only to hurt ourselves. But we kept going until it started to work somehow.
Have you gotten to skate with Luutse?
Fortunately, I have. When he visited Berlin I was lucky enough to meet him and lucky again when he liked my skating. I got on the team and now we skate every now and then. Not as often as I’d like it to be but it’s okay for now and it’s going to be more often.
What’s your favourite thing to do on your board?
My favourite thing are Nose Manuals and G-Turns. The normal ones, the hard ones, every sort of turn or line that involves two wheels.
How do you feel when you dance?
Like a penguin on acid. I jump around and twist and turn until I can’t see straight. It’s bonkers.
Did you have fun at Tang Tang?
I really did. It was also the first time I saw Lotfi Lamaali in action. A friend of mine poked me in the side and pointed at him and I think I stood there with my mouth open for an awkward amount of time because the guy was so smooth in everything he was doing.
What was your winning move?
I wanted it to be a varial kickflip but I fucked up. I always fuck up my final move. It’s sort of my thing.
But I didn’t win anyway. Gijs Schalkx did.
How would you describe your style?
I always try to go fast because it feels the best. I also like to step as far on the rails of the board as I can because the board reacts more drastically. Thus, making it look a little unnerving to watch, I suppose, because it often looks like I’m falling off any second.
What other adventures did you have in 2012?
None really. The real adventures started in 2013 and 2014 turns out to go along the same lines. I can’t wait for what’s going to happen!
Are any of those your sponsors?
I’m a very proud member of the Simple Longboards Team, yes.
When can mortals like myself get a Platypus?
It depends. Do you still have your soul?
I am not Ginger, sir.
Who else is in the family?
Luutse Brouwer & Kimmy Pletting – maker of it all and our Mrs Manager. The fantastic Bosma Twins. Marte & Femke. If you see them skate at the age they are, you really start to think about your skating because they are so so good.
The annoying Jon Haarhuis. He’s small and doesn’t shut up. But he backs it up on the board. Also, flap.
Jan Möbus – one of my best skate buddies. Lives practically around the block and has insanely gifted feet.
Guleed Yussuf, who is a master on the penny… uhhh Yusuf! He also doesn’t have a soul anymore. He traded it in for style.
The team is really growing right now. Recently Melanie and Debby from Cologne got into the team who are extremely fun to be around and always in for a laugh. Also Lennart van de Peppel, who actually is a Freestyle Skateboarder with a cool beard.
And last but definitely not least Peter Lahr. He is a true artist. He makes all the beautiful films Simple is so well known for. He is the most fun to be around and passionate about everything he does.
How important are good beards to skating?
Not only important but almost mandatory. They reek of stoke (among other stuff if you don’t wash them).
Did you have fun last year?
A lot of fun. The year started with a trip to the Canary Islands where we stayed with the guys and gals of Longboard Famara which was an unforgettable trip for me. But of course the most memorable event of 2013 had to be the European Dancing Championship in Berlin. There were so many cool people in attendance and tricks were landed and laughs were shared and to top it all off I somehow managed to win the thing despite the crazy competition.
Why is everyone going to the Island?
Because the guys are just the best. They make you feel at home the moment you see them. They share everything with you. Also, they have this cool dog called Funky who always watches whether you land a trick or not. Apart from that, the island is magic. It’s volcanos, it’s stars galore, it’s a roaring sea. You just don’t want to go home anymore.
Was it fun inviting everyone to your city?
You bet. There were many faces we already knew but there was double the amount of faces we didn’t. We made a lot of new friends. We showed people around and had parties. I think there wasn’t even one person in attendance who didn’t have fun there. What more can you ask for?
All hail Jeff, bearded boogie king.
What was your finishing move?
My finishing move was the “Futbol” which was invented by this guy from Spain called Blin. I fucked it up, though. As I said, it’s my thing.
Where has 2014 taken you so far?
In 2014, I’ve been to a couple of contests and I was able to capture some more trophies and one of the coolest things I’ve done so far was riding between the quarter intervals of a Basketball game with two friends of mine. There were more than 3000 people in attendance and even though they probably didn’t know anything about longboarding they cheered and made us feel quite special. We hippy jumped over the mascot of the Braunschweig Phantoms haha.
And of course, Eindhoven. Yes, it’s basically a contest, too, but it felt like more than that. It was sort of a Berlin reprise but it had a different feel to it. It felt like a huge party. The organizing was top notch and so was the level of the competition. I missed the event in 2013 but I’m not gonna miss it in 2015!
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
This year I’m going on a surf trip which I won in Eindhoven (more salt licking and water gurgling). Other than that I’m planning on going to Madrid in some form to meet up with Daniel Sam and the local skate scene.
I’m not entirely sure what else there will be. There are many plans but nothing is set in stone yet. I’m trying to be spontaneous as well.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
VIDEO GAMES! FOOD! SLEEP! TRAVEL! The good stuff.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-37.
8, 17, 27
8 – Do you have any recurring dreams?
I wish I could tell you a cool story like transforming into the Hulk every night and beating up Godzilla but unfortunately I don’t.
17- Favourite socks?
The ones without holes in them.
JEllis. This has not been at all unpleasant. You’re the first vegan I’ve interviewed, and you seem just as abnormal as the rest of us. Hope to see you and your hairs somewhere soon.
When we meet, you can touch them. It’s been a pleasure!
Any last words?
I DRINK PAINT!