Our featured Legend is one of the cornerstones in the foundation of the Czech longboarding family. Read more to find about the man behind the formation of the first longboard shop and website in the Czech republic. And why the Kozakov challenge is like going to Thailand.
Dobrý den! Thomas, where are you from?
Ahoj, originally I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC Canada.
When did you start skating?
Funny enough the first time I ever skated was when I was 7 in a Czech city called Děčín. We came to visit our grandparents and friends and there in Decin was the first time I saw a half pipe- back in 1989.
In terms of longboarding I bought my first board in 2004.
Where do you skate now?
I skate anywhere possible. Now I’m Living in the Czech Republic I skate as much as possible here in Prague, and other cool events abroad. Wherever my longboard takes me!
What was your first board?
I bought it off a girl from the coast longboarding forum in Vancouver. A Surf One deck with a big butterfly graphic, wide Indys and a set of 70mm Kryptonics.I still have the deck and wheels lying around somewhere. I fell in love with the sport from that point.
When did you start skating in the Czech republic?
When I decided to move here to go to university in 2004. It was either stay in Vancouver or start something new in Europe. As soon as I moved here with my first deck I used it to commute around town.
What was the local skate scene like then?
Wow! So tiny. The only mention about longboarding or downhill was a crazy group of buttboards from Prague and maybe a half dozen longboards scattered around the country. I went to one of the very first downhill meeting in 2005 to a hill just outside of Prague called Český Šternberk – it was surreal to see others that wanted to ride hills. Back then it was crazy – bad pavement, substandard boards but a totally stoked group of riders who were passionate about going down hills on skateboards. One of the first memories from Prague is a garage bomb meeting with some young groms in 2006. At that time there were maybe 20 riders in the whole country.
Who organised that event?
Jan “Zoltan” Profousek. Jan is the main organizer of the Kozakov Challenge and is the grandfather of downhill gravity sports in the Czech Republic. He started and maintains the core group of czech buttboarders. I read about the event on an online forum back then and decided to head out there. It was at that event the downhill community formed a kind of national identity.
How has the scene progressed from the days of 20 riders?
A lot! The scene has grown like crazy here in the Czech Republic and I am blessed to have seen it grow from day one. The scene has grown from give-or-take 20 riders to over 130 riders at the last freeride event we held in 2011. The riders skill level is insane. What took us years to perfect these kids are figuring out in months. The learning curve and stoke among the czech community is really strong. I have to say that this year there are going to be a lot of longboarders cruising the countrysides! In my opinion the main progression of the scene is; we are using the longboard community to help others through charity events and food banks for example…
How does the community get involved with charities?
In 2009 we collected boards, parts and decks from riders that came for the first ever Kozakov Challenge. We assembled them and in late 2010 after scouring the community we donated 14 completes to an orphanage in the city of Chotěboř. Also we collected some cash for the MOVEMBER mens health movement in November 2011. The last charity we did was for the local Prague Food Bank during the Christmas season. Give to those that need it most.
Truly awesome. What has been the response like?
As far as we know great. I think that we the longboard community could and should do more for those around us. We also help physically and mentally disabled children learn to longboard at an annual event here in Prague.
What has been your role in all this?
Well I guess you could say myself, with the help of the close-knit Prague longboard community were the ones that put all the initiatives together. Big props to Jan for doing the collection of decks in 2010. I feel that it’s everybody’s role to help out. We plan many more similar events for this year.
You have a local crew?
Sure if you put it that way – my closest friends and longboard family Palba Praha. I trust each and everyone of them 100% – on and off the hill.
How have you been driving the community?
When I became involved with the start of the first czech longboard website I began to realize that this was a real part of my life, almost a calling. The feeling of cruising on four soft wheels and leaving everything else behind is what still motivates me today. For me the growth of the scene is almost like a child. It starts as a little trouble maker but it grows and matures into something nicer. Seeing the stoke from the sport in the eyes of new riders is what pushes me forward. I travelled in 2007 with Michal Černý to Poland for the Szczyrk downhill event and from that day on said I want to be a part of this great scene. It then progressed as we organized our own events at Nová Seninka and travelled around Europe to other events. A few to mention would be the Need For Speed Gravity Race 2008 near Krakow, Poland where a czech rider who was on the podium at the event ended up in polish prison (for smoking pot in a Krakow park), Rock n Roll in Thalgau in 2008, Kuresček 2011 and last but not least last years KNK Longboard Camp. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything on the planet. In a nut shell longboarding has become a key part of my life, my travels, friends and fun!
You made the first Czech longboarding forum?
The first real Czech longboard website to be exact (http://www.longboard.cz/),with the first Czech longboard forum. It was late 2006 if I am not mistaken. Unfortunately we lost most of the old threads when we updated the site in 2011.
What is the purpose of the website?
The website was started as a place to showcase the Czech longboard community. A place to post pics, videos talk about the emerging scene – in reality I began the site because I wanted a place for Czech longboarding to call home. In my opinion it is an integral part of the local Czech and central European longboard scene. Thanks to the site, riders can catch up on the latest Czech videos, longboard events and have the possibility of showcasing their videos and helping the local scene grow. In addition the site helps promote all aspects of the sport and bring the community together.
Is there a Czech longboard association?
Yes, the Czech Longboard association ( Česká Longboardová Asociace), how did you guess? I am the proud chairman of the association.
My spider sense was tingling! You’re a busy boy.
I try to keep as busy as possible. It was founded in 2009. It is a loose group of devoted longboarders who want to help grow our number and awareness for our sport. The main reason we set up the Č.L.A. was to promote our events towards the public and increase our chances of setting up freeride events within the borders of the Czech Republic. Power in numbers. We have seen the awareness of longboarding grow with more people wanting to become a part of the scene and grow the sport. I am chairman since 2009 and was elected based on a majority vote back in 2011. Other founding members of the Č.L.A. are Joshua Shaněl, Adam Ulrich, Adam Roguljič and Jaroslav Kejř.
Is the national organisation made up of smaller associations?
Not really, the community is spread throughout the country but there is no other active association within our borders.This is why we decided to start the association – to bring everyone together. No mistake, there are numerous strong pockets of riders around the country but none of which are at an organized level. There is of course the Czech Slalom Association and Czech Association of Skateboarding. These however show no interest in the longboard community, yet.
Are there neighbouring associations?
From what I know there is the S.L.A – which is the Slovakian Longboard Association made up of the country’s most talented riders. In terms of Poland I know that they too have a Poland Gravity Sports Association of some sort but I am not sure what they have been up to lately. The relationship among us all is really good and, in my opinion, quite strong. We have met up at many events around Europe including the Kozakov Challenge and we are all stoked to show that central European riders stick together. A great example was the Czech – Slovak crew at last years KNK Longboard Camp. You could definitely see the brotherhood!
Aside from your neighbours, what is your relationship with the rest of Europe?
In my opinion the Kozakov Challenge has been a good postcard for the Czech scene and community – fast, sometimes reckless , lots of partying and in general good vibes. I think the Czechs have made a name for themselves in terms of European events. In 2010 a van-load of top Czech riders toured the continent for all the euro IGSA races. We have definitely made some great friends along the way – whether Norwegian, Swedish, French, German, Italian. I think we can be labelled as a strong part of the European scene. Oh yeah I almost forgot – most riders remember the local ladies!
Well, Kozakov in 2009 was an interesting sight to say the least – lots of single ladies who wanted to party with the world’s best riders. Not to mention the fact that they are some of the most beautiful women on this planet. Thumbs up!
I wonder what people would think if they knew it was Thomas Kahle dressed up as a pretty girl in 2009.
Hey, you never know. Like going to Thailand. But in all seriousness I know nothing about that! Once you come this year to Kozakov you’ll see what I mean.
Who needs Thailand when you have Kozakov?
There always has to be a myth behind the legend, otherwise the story would never go on. Come, See, Ride and know for yourself. This year the Kozakov Challenge is from the 25 till the 28th of July. Get ready. You can definitely expect the world’s best all wanting the title. You will also see quite a few Czechs trying to beat them. In reality this year will be huge at Kozakov. All we can really hope for is good weather. we have been plagued with less than great weather the last two years.
Yvon’s video and GP ep 5 showed some wet riding.
Last year the riders had the chance to qualify on a shortened track in the wet. In 2010 the race was won based on qualifying times with no riding in the wet. It’s important to realize is the track is quite fast with high speed top and bottom sections. All in all in 2011 the track dried up on race day and everybody had a great chance to race on a dry track.
Do you guys get to skate the track year round?
We try to practise as much as possible, when the road is clean from all the winter debris. When May comes around we go and practise sections of the hill. The locals already know us and ask – you guys are training for the race? You bet!
Back on the subject of European collaborations, what are your feelings on a pan-European association?
I am all for it, if it is going to be European wide there has to be a strong structure involved as well as a strong push towards a common goal. Lots of time and effort and some money is needed to really bring together Europe as a whole. If we would able to do events using a European wide platform – sounds good to me. There is also something to be said for creating national level organization – with which we could better tie together the whole continent.
What benefits would it offer to the riders?
A better organization of events throughout Europe. Whether they be races, freerides, Greenskate initiatives, etc. In my opinion, if we created more European directed events we couple push the sport at a more continental level. The more time we all put towards such initiatives the stronger we will be a whole.
So we can expect to see you getting involved with this soon.
I will be glad to help out. Bring it on !
What local shops out there are supporting the scene?
Wow, now that is a tough question and in my case will be slightly biased. Our shop the ONE15 Longboard shop here in the heart of Prague. We are actually the first and only longboard only shop in the Czech Republic.We opened in late 2011. There are however various local online shops that help to stoke the fire that helps the scene grow.
I like to say we promote the community from within, grow awareness and are at the top of the list in terms of charitable events and fundraisers.
Dude! You have a shop as well?
Yeah, I know. I just can’t live without it. All day everyday. We have been selling boards for a couple years but finally decided to take the real plunge and open a real shop. We are proud to be the first to truly believe in our sport and open a shop where new riders can gain experience and exposure to the sport. It’s also a great place for families that want to ride as well. It was a lot of work but in my opinion well worth the struggle – it’s a labour of longboard love!
Where is ONE15 located?
ONE15 is conveniently situated on a hill just above the downtown core in Prague in a part of town called Vinohrady. Being on a hill has it’s advantages when my commute home is all downhill! You are welcome to stop by if you happen to roll through Prague!
We stock a strong selection of Landyachtz, Rayne , Sector9,Fibretec and ABEC11 among others with some surprises for 2012. Quality is key!
We will when we get an invitation to one of your local events!
It’s in the mail! I will make sure to invite you to one of our local events this year!
What do you do when you’re not skating?
I try to surf as often as possible, snowboard when I have the chance and one of the things I enjoy most is heading back to Vancouver when I get the chance to catch up with family and friends. With the opening of the shop I was unable to go surf in 2011 – a bummer but well worth the time put into ONE15. I also really enjoy travelling and once in a while have a beer with friends.
One last question. Choose 3 numbers between 1-23
3 – What impact has longboarding had on your life
A huge impact. 7 great years on board and a huge new family of friends to go with it.
15 – What colour is your helmet?
Back in Black.
20- If every job paid the same amount, what would you do?
It’s been a great pleasure talking to you Thai man. Looking forward to skating with you.
Wow, thank you – it is an honour to be able to share my stories with you and the readers of All Around Skate. Any time you want to stop by Praha – you are more than welcome. Let’s help spread the stoke of European longboarding.
You are a legend! Thanks for your time.
Thank you Gbemi for YOUR time!