I met Lisa van Leeuwen, 20-year old flatland skimboarder, online a few ago. I was impressed by her love of the sport right away and she quickly became someone I looked out for and supported. This interview includes the European skim scene, which will excite a lot of you interested in The European Skimboarding Cup. It is an honor doing this interview with Lisa! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did putting it together.
Words By Kelli Bean
Above photo at Barcelona Extreme Festival, Spain by Marc Costa Lucero
Q: Let’s start off with where are you from and where you are living now?
A: I’m half Dutch, half Italian. I was born in Leiden, The Netherlands and this is where I’m still living.
Q: You are a flatland rider, have you skimmed waves before as well?
A: I have tried riding waves a couple times. Holland is not very good for wave riding so I only get to try it on some beaches in France. I had a lot of fun the few times I tried!
Q: How long have you been skimboarding?
A: The first time I ever tried skimboarding was in July 2004 when I was 10 years old. I have been skimming every summer since. I would say I started skimboarding more seriously since 2010 when I was 16 years old.
Q: How were you introduced to the sport?
A: Like many other young kids I was only skimboarding during summer vacations. I couldn’t do tricks and I rode a simple board from the local surf shop. I was 16 when I found out through a friend that there was an actual skim association in Holland that organizes contests. I was hooked ever since.
Q: Where do you normally skim and with whom?
A: I usually skim with Max van Leeuwen, Adrien Raza, Luke Dirks and Mees Oostdijk at the Zevenhuizerplas in Rotterdam. Unfortunately Luke has moved to South Africa. I also skim with the guys from the North of Holland (Brend, Kor, Jorn, Sebastiaan, Mathijs) and with the guys from the South (Jermo, Dali, Maxim, Thijs).
Q: Which riders influence your skimboarding?
A: Mainly the riders I skim with. Also Lexi Hutchings used to be an inspiration. Really too bad I dont see any new footage lately. Also skimming with other girls (Iza Batko, Aleksandra Dubas, Marta Czarna!) influence my riding. It pushes me to try new tricks and try even harder.
I understand your sentiment about Lexi and missing new footage of her talent. Let me share with you in hopes it brings a smile to your face – Lexi will be collaborating with DB Skimboards as well as myself to bring some new footage to all her fans in 2015!
Q: Describe the skim scene in The Netherlands for those of us who have never been.
A: The Dutch skim scene isn’t really big. There is a group in the North, in the South and the Rotterdam area. I know there are many other skimboarders out there I have never met. I think it would be nice if we managed to connect everyone. This is a goal of the Dutch Skimboarding Association. The DSA has an important role in the Dutch skimboard scene. They organize a tour of wave and flatland skimboard competitions and they go to events (festivals and other extreme boardsports events) to promote skimboarding and give clinics.
That is amazing!
Q: Which riders are pushing the sport right now, in your opinion?
A: Adrien Raza, Max van Leeuwen,Mees Oostdijk, Arjan Boom, Adam Szablak, Daniel Preiss,Friedrich Fluh, Semjon Szillat, Leo van Gemmern, Brend Plantinga, Kor van der Vegt, Jorn Plantinga, Sebastiaan Breitsma, Mathijs Volker, Michal Puchalski, Kuba Groth, Mariusz Wojt, Jedrula Tomaszewski, Remigusz Miczek, Marek Wolkanowksi, Gaba Kulka, Iza Batko, Isaac Thomas, Blake Zimmerman, Goon crew, Bick Skimboards crew.
Q: Which companies are pushing the sport right now in Europe?
A: I would say my own sponsor, SkimGuru. SkimGuru is involved in the Dutch skim scene and supports the European Skimboarding Cup. Also Seventyone is doing an amazing job!
Q: You are in a relationship with professional skimboarder Adrien Raza, who is the 2014 European Skimboarding Cup Champion. Does having the same passion for the sport benefit your relationship?
A: In a way it definitely does! We do skim a lot together and we both go to the same competitions. That means we get to travel together and explore the places we go to. Last year, for example, we went to the Barcelona Extreme Festival for a stop on the European Cup. We decided to stay a couple days longer and enjoy the beautiful city.
That’s wonderful. Let’s shift into competition now.
Q: When did you start competing?
A: I started competing in 2010. I joined the last event of the skim season. At the event there were only Dutch skimboarders and I remember how they taught me to go over my first ramp. After that year I joined many (nearly all) Dutch competitions. It became a way to see my friends from all over the country again.
In 2011, I joined my first “not Dutch” competiton. Me, Adrien, Luke and Max went to Scharbeutz, Germany. I competed with guys only and I dont remember much of my own performance.
January 2012, 2013, 2014 I went to the Boot Dusseldorf Indoor Skimjam in Germany. The first time was very overwhelming because in a skimpool you don’t have much space, so everyone lines up and looks at you.
2012 was also the year I went to Poland for the first time to join the famous Polish Skimboarding Open. It was a great experience and my first time competing with only girls. I don’t remember what place I took that year, it wasn’t great! 😉 The year after (2013) I did a little bit better and ended 6th.
In 2014, apart from the European Skimboarding Cup stops, I also went to Swider Skimfest in Poland. I took 2nd place. I also got 3rd at Polish Skimbording Open behind Iza (1st) and Marta (2nd).
You have an impressive contest history spanning over the past four years!
The European Skimboarding Cup takes place over 6 contests.
Q: How many were you able to participate in 2014 and what was your overall experience like?
A: I was able to participate in 4/6 contests. I missed the contest in Sweden and the one in Latvia.
The first stop took place at the Boot Show in Dusseldorf. The skimpool is placed with many other extreme watersports. Although the contest itself isn’t huge, there is always a big amount of spectators which makes it very exciting.
The second stop was the Dutch stop. It took place at the opposite side of the lake, where my homespot is. This was a cool stop because I made it through to a second round.
The third stop was in Barcelona at the Barcelona Extreme Festival. We skimmed an inflatable pool which was placed inbetween a mountain bike megaramp and a skatepark and there was an awesome view of Barcelona.
The last stop I participated in was the Polish Skimboarding Open (PSO). The spot was prepared on the beach next to the sea and around the event there were loads of other things going on.
It is exciting for the flatland community in North America to witness The European Skimboarding Cup’s success in 2014. We have multiple board companies along the west coast but we are overall lacking the competition component. European companies take initiative and I find this inspiring, to witness flatland companies understanding the importance of offering their team riders and groms who love their product a way to come out, compete, meet the pros and have a great time.
Q: What do you love about competitions?
A: Although Holland is a really small country I don’t see my Dutch skim friends very often. These contest days reunite us. For me that’s the best thing about competitions. And of course the same goes for contests in other countries. I have been to Poland four times now and when I go back it’s great to see everyone again. It’s always a warm welcome. Another good thing about contests is that you’re pushed even more to try new tricks or new obstacles. You can learn a lot from the people participating.
I agree. Good luck at the first stop of the 2015 European Skimboarding Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany this weekend!
Q: What was the experience like for European skimboarders during last year’s Polish Skimboarding Open when some of DB Skimboards team riders traveled to the contest?
A: It was really cool to have met all the people we had only seen in videos. The funny thing is that in Holland/Europe we don’t really treat our pros like pros and they don’t act like pros; they just skim with everyone else and are easily approachable. It was nearly surreal when the DB team came and they had an autograph session at PSO. Quite cool!
Q: What do you think about flatland connecting between Europe and North America?
A: I think it could be very interesting but we are not quite there yet. Both scenes should first grow separately. Only when they are both ready it would be time to start thinking about connecting them. I can’t say anything about North America because I don’t know the scene too well but I think Europe is doing very well. The European Skimboarding Cup has a major role in connecting European countries.
Q: Do you have any ideas on how to bring the continents together more?
A: I think it would help if companies sponsored more internationally so the team would consist of people from different continents and/or countries. Traveling from Europe to America is really pricey. In my opinion that’s the biggest barrier. So bigger sponsorships and also more prize money to (at least) make up for the plane ticket would be a start. Generally speaking, more money flowing in the sport would help bring the continents together, in my opinion.
I agree with you, as this being a positive step forward. Seventyone recently picked up Canadian rider Anna Penn.
Q: What do you think about this new partnership?
A: I think it’s really cool! Especially for female skimboarding. Skim companies are already sponsoring male skimboarders overseas but as far as I know, no women. So I think it’s great Seventyone picked up a Canadian rider. I think it would be a good thing if American companies would also sponsor more girls in Europe!
Q: Who are you sponsored with?
A: I am sponsored by SkimGuru. SkimGuru supplies me with boards, clothing and supports my traveling to competitions.
Q: For groms wanting to be sponsored, what advice would you give them?
A: Compete!! Doesn’t matter in what category, just go for it! From day one I competed against guys, simply because there were no girls to compete with. At first it was scary and I was afraid to make a fool of myself. I’ve had quite some pushes in the back from my mum at the beginning but now I really enjoy competing with the guys. In a way there is less pressure and you can learn a lot from them.
Q: Which boards do you ride?
A: I ride a customized medium standard DB Skimboards board. I also own a 2010 Lexi Pro, love the design but it’s a little bit too flexible for me.
Q: What are your favorite tricks?
A: One of my favorite tricks is the frontside big spin. Otherwise I like trying new ramps and fun setups. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite trick now but this year I finally learned how to do 360 shuvs and that was a big relief.
Q: Where is your all-time favorite skim spot?
A: For pure flatland skimboarding I love a spot in France called La Baie des Trespassés. It’s just an endless slide! I also love the skimpark in Sopot, Poland. Unfortunately it wasn’t there last summer.
Q: If money was not an issue, where would you love to travel to skim?
A: I would love to skim the Virgin River in Utah, USA. Also I would love to travel through Europe and meet people from all different countries. Recently I found out people are skimboarding in Finland and Russia and I’m sure there are communities in other countries I don’t even know about. I really like how skimboarding connects people from different countries.
I love that aspect of the sport as well. I recently found an Instagram account from Moscow to check out!
Q: What are some goals you are thinking about for the 2015 skim season?
A: I definitely want to try to participate in as many competitions as possible. My dream would be to be part of the top 10 in one of the stops of the European Skimboarding Cup. In terms of tricks, I want to learn how to pop.
These are great goals.
Q: Let’s wrap things up. Besides skimboarding, what makes you happy?
A: I like cooking and sports. I really enjoy all types of sports; surfing, bodyboarding, snowboarding, skiing, yoga, pilates, tennis, and fitness. When I was young I also loved gymnastics and Judo.
Thank you for doing this interview with me Lisa! It’s always a pleasure connecting with you.
Q: Do you have any shout outs before we say good-bye?
A: First I really want to thank my sponsor, SkimGuru, for believing in me and putting so much effort in the sport. A big shout out to all the amazing people I have met the last couple of years in skimboarding. Also, Kelli keep up the good work! 🙂
Thank you Lisa, I will!
Photos by Marc Costa Lucero, Jean Michel, Cris Bertona, Seventyone, Adrien Raza, Lukasz Gieraltowski Photography, Marianne Mentink and Lisa’s mum.