William Frederiksen is one of the key players behind the Danish skate scene,
who through the recent years has put Copenhagen on the skateboard map, with a big fat highlighter.
On a daily basis he pulls the strings for Copenhagen Skatepark and the local scene, though the biggest spectacle
among his creations, without a doubt, is Copenhagen Open. We caught up with him on the Danish scene, his current projects,
skate-olympics and heart-shaped stories.
Interview and photography by Emiliano Meucci and Simon Skipper
On the Bispebjerg Bridge spot
E: What you are working on at the moment ?
W: I’ve got a couple of projects. You could say I am working on opening X-hall but that would be a lie because it’s not really me it’s somebody else and it’s going super slow. If I was working on it it would be open by now. I am working on the bridge spot, trying to make it, first of all, legal, make it stay, and make it bigger and cooler. I am also working on the same deal for Hullet DIY, because that’s really illegal. It would be cool to somehow secure that… Because it could be that some guy will come with a bulldozer tomorrow and pull it all down. So the area is always at risk to getting sold, so there might be some dude who is like: “let’s tear this whole thing down”. Then I am involved with Gadeidræt, our platform that gives away a lot of money for street sports 4 times per year. And planning CPH OPEN off course.
E: Usually when you have to, let’s say, save a DIY spot, you have to sell it to the municipality in a way that is helpful, one way or another. You just have to basically talk and say, look the young kids are going there, learning how to skate.
W: Yeah that’s the plan. I mean, with Mjølnerparken, the bridge spot, I told them like 5 years ago that we should build a skatepark there. Drug dudes and gangs, crime people down there. So I was like, let’s build a skatepark, we will get rid of them, everyone is happy and they were like: “no, if we build a skatepark, there will be just more customers for the local gang people.” And I was like, fuck that, it’s not how it works, skaters come, they might smoke some weed down there or they might not, one thing’s for sure, the gang members would go away. Anyway, they told me no, and once the police say no, you cannot go any further with it. And then of course, shit got built down there anyway, and now I am back in the dialogue again and I can tell them, “I told you so!”. Grandmas are stoked down there because there are no gang members.
E: It’s a perfect example since the place was just a shithole.
W: It was terrible. So yeah, in the council everything takes a long time, you know. It could take a year from when an idea is born until something actually happens. So it [Bispebjerg Bridge spot] is a good example of that.
William shredding at Copenhagen Skatepark.
W: So originally, it was built by a bunch of roller skaters, maybe nobody knows them. But that’s how it started and they did a very terrible job managing the place so then X-Hall was given to the council.
S: When was it first built?
W: 2004 or something like that, and then it was sitting there for x amount of years and then they [the municipality] came and said “Ok, we are building a recycling station”. And they said, can you move X-hall, or if you have to move X-hall, how much is it gonna cost? And I was like uhh it will be very expensive because X-hall was shitty, it was like 2 containers next to each other, a fucking festival toilet and shitty ramps. So I said, we will do it, but then we upgrade it. There are 6 governing parts in Copenhagen and one of them is Kultur- og Fritidsforvaltningen (department of leisure and culture), the one that I am employed by, and then there is something called “Teknik- og Miljøforvaltningen” which takes care of roads and parks and all that stuff and garbage disposal. So our governance said, ok if we have to move this for you guys, you’re paying all the expenses and doing the moving and everything. And the Teknik- og Miljø governance, they don’t build stuff, especially skaters’ stuff so once they got the job, they didn’t really take it. It wasn’t a high priority case with them and moving over to the other spot meant that we needed to get a whole new entrance because you couldn’t get there without crossing someone’s else property. So that was the first thing.
That took around 2 years, because Novozymes owns the whole property and then there are community organisations and some other stuff there as well. Novozymes is trying to sell the ground, so they didn’t want a deal with the council that would allow the skaters to just walk around there, then they wouldn’t be able to sell the space to someone else. So that took a long time. Then they started the actually planning of the construction, that probably took another year, then it became way more expensive than it was supposed to be which is something that always happens in every single project. No matter if it’s the council or the government or whatever, everything always seems to get more expensive than planned. So we needed more money, and more money takes some time to get. And then it was finished about 2 years ago, and I was just waiting for them to finish so we could build the ramps. We then went in, we built the ramps, built the concrete, it took about 2 months and it was done as I promised and it wasn’t over budget or anything
Then the tar started dripping from the ceiling, tar from the railings up there. It got all over the ramps, and we had to put a new roof in there and, of course, no one wanted to take responsibility for that. We told them from the start: “Dude, tar is fucking dripping from the ceiling” and they were like “Mmmm, yeah….” When we were done, it was seriously dripping from the ceiling, because the hall was built when it was cold, and then summer came and the tar started dripping. So it had to go back to Teknik og Miljø for more money and that took another year. Then the funds were granted and we built the roof. Now the roof is built and the skatepark is there and it’s ready for opening, but we need a permission to open it, something called ”ibrugttagningstilladelse” [permit for active use] and that’s basically what we are waiting for now. We are also waiting for a contract with BaneDanmark who owns the spot we are renting and some discussion is still going on with Vejdirektoratet – which is a whole different story, a ton of bureaucracy.
…[It’s right next to the highway], so they are very adamant about it. You can’t have lights, you can’t have any distracting tits in your face when you are cruising around – no graffiti, stuff like that. So yeah it’s the most boring story in the fucking world. But you have to understand that it’s Kultur- og Fritidsforvaltningen, Teknik og Miljø, BaneDanmark, DSB, Frederiksberg Kommune, Vejdirektoratet, Novozymes, Copenhagen Skatepark and Københavns Kommune. 9 fucking entities that all have something to say and give permission, and that takes a lot of time. Like in opposition to building some DIY shit under the bridge, it’s two different worlds here. It shouldn’t have taken so long, for sure. I have been asking all the time: “Is there anything I can do to speed up the project or progress?”, and they said no, because there are all these entities that need to get together all the time.
E: Wait, is it Frederiksberg Kommune or København Kommune ?
W: It’s both. So we [the Copenhagen municipality] own it and Frederiksberg Kommune kind of help us, they gave us some money for the construction. The building is geographically located in both municipalities, since the border goes straight through there so that’s also a bit of a bureaucratic hell. The last thing I heard is that it opens this summer but I am not sure, you can print that in the article, but I am not going official with promises. It’s gonna cost money to enter and it’s going to be similar to Cph Skatepark. if you have a monthly card for Cph Skatepark, you can go to the X-hall as well, same deal.
E: That’s good, people are gonna be happy about that.
W: Yeah, people are gonna be really pissed off that it costs money to enter.
E: I don’t know, that’s kind of normal.
W: Yeah, whine to your parents, get some more pocket money. Earn some money, whatever. It’s the 9 entities that creates this chaos because a process like this shouldn’t take more than half a year actually. It would have been easy if it was a job inside one department, the Culture and Leisure department. But now it’s like, every time you have to meet, you have to gather 9 people to sit around a table. It’s insane.
E: Yeah there was so much talking, people getting mad because some other people got to skate inside.
S: I guess it is because some people charmed their way inside and then some stuff got out on social media and then everybody is jealous. If that never happened nobody would be bitchin’ the same.
W: Yeah that was a pretty bad move because people knew that it was done so they were like “can we come and skate?”, not really because it’s not open. And then [Thomas] Kring asked “can I come and skate” and I was like “yeah, if people can call you and you let them in, then I will give you a key”. And we thought that people would just go to Kring, So we gave him the key and said “you take all the people who wanna skate out there”, but of course that’s didn’t include everybody.
On CPH Open
W: I grew up with going to Münster Monster Mastercup, seeing Ray Barbee and the guys, live, in front of me, and I thought: ”AWESOME”. Ten years ago, the pro skaters weren’t really kind to Europe. They might have gone on some tours and stuff but there wasn’t like a massive pro skate European gathering. I like the way Tampa kind of took care of that pro contest, where it was all crazy and stuff. So that was our original idea for Copenhagen Pro – Let’s bring pro skaters back to Europe and shine some light on our skatepark, kind of create something that would create some exposure on Copenhagen Skatepark and make it world famous. We did that for 6 years for Copenhagen Pros. And at the end of it, you might remember, we kind of started doing stuff outside of the skatepark and that was a big eye opener for us. We were already getting bored doing the Cph Pro inside the skatepark. We were also seeing that none of the pro skaters were here for the contest, they were here for smoking weed and drinking beers and getting laid with beautiful danish chicks. So we were like if they are coming for Copenhagen and not for the skate contest then we might as well go all in, what’s copenhagen, how would you cruise around with your skateboard under your arm in CPH and what would be the coolest way to cruise around.
So that’s how we started thinking about CPH Open; opening the city for all these things, going to Tivoli, going inside the city council and going to crazy stair sets that you would not really have access to otherwise and creating new skate spots, like Refshaløen, and leaving a mark. So that was sort of how Cph Open became what it is. It is all on a voluntary basis, and I guess there is a lot of speculation about that. I remember “Prygl i Parken” back in the day, and they were these super famous parties in Fælledparken. I remember the organisers there, Steen Kelså, Søren Aaby and all of those dudes, and I was like, they have to be making millions, all that beer and shit, and I was a kid myself, not really hating on them just thinking of it as a matter of fact, they must be making a lot of money. And then you try once and you are like, how can anybody, anywhere make money on parties, festivals and stuff? So yeah, it’s all something I have chosen to do within the job I have, because I believe that doing CPH Open is for, some people, you know, it’s a very positive thing for the city. I think it shows the version of CPH I like, for other cities to see, it might not be the version of CPH everybody agrees on but its our version of how we felt CPH should be portrayed.
E: Do you think that last year it got a bit out of hand ?
W: No, I mean it wasn’t out of hand. We can deal with rowdiness, there is just like a bit too many people.
E: That is, in a way, a luxury problem .
W: Well it is, I mean if you are in the festival business, but we are in the skateboard event business, we wanna produce good content so people would come over and have a good time. You’re not gonna have a good time if you travel from Lisbon to be in a queue because there are too many people in the skatepark. You’re not gonna have a good time if you are a local in CPH and you have to wait half an hour to take a piss or half an hour to get some food, and then you can, say, get in more toilets and more cooks but then it becomes this massive blur, where, for me, that’s not a side of Copenhagen I wanna watch. You wanna see that shit, go to Distortion. You wanna see the real Copenhagen, small, cool parties. I think that a thousand, maybe fifteen hundred people is a perfect size for a small cozy thing, once you go beyond that it just becomes this fucking monster.
S: Yeah, I mean do what you find real, I guess. I think one of the things that impresses me the most is how CPH Open really links with the idea of CPH being open and tolerant, going in the city hall and some of this things where you think… I mean even as a Dane, you are like ”how is that possible?”
W: It is way easier than you think, actually. I mean if you look at it, you know, the streets are ours, it sounds a bit corny, but it’s true. If you wanna do something at Rådhuspladsen, you just apply, and if nothing else is going on they are like “there you go”. So it’s actually not rocket science, nothing mysterious, and it’s definitely nothing special we do. It’s the attitude among the politicians in power, in the council of CPH. It’s their attitude toward the city, I mean the mayor thinks this is how we should we use the city. When they do Distortion it’s like a thousand complaints per day. I mean, no shit, a whole department of four people handle the complaints alone. The answer they give is like “you think it’s noisy, get the fuck out to the countryside, it’s Copenhagen, its noisy, it’s a big city, we do shit here, it’s active” So fucking keep voting on the right people and we be able to keep it that way. Stop voting and Copenhagen will be super boring.
S: Do you think that making these kind of projects over the years has changed the attitude of the politicians or organisations, people outside of the skateboard world?
W: I think the general idea of what skateboarding is has definitely changed a lot since Copenhagen Skatepark became a player in the council system. I guess you can say because we have definitely shown that skateboarding is more creative and more serious than how the council looked at skateboarding before. I think we have taken away a lot prejudice towards skaters, we take this shit very, very seriously and we are in the street and we are not hurting anybody. We are getting kids active and in these fucking iPhone days that’s worth a lot. Politicians have these slogans like “active city” and “alternative ways of living in the city” and skateboarding fits just right into that political agenda of how a modern city should be. Skateboarding has kind of evolved into something more serious and more like “this is who we are”, we are not fucking graffiti, scooter, whatever, hip-hop. We are skaters. Period. Among skaters there might be some weed smokers, some might be hitting the gym, some skaters might be doing graffiti, some skaters might become doctors. We are skaters first and foremost.
The whole scooter thing, where people from outside are like, this is the same, it has wheels, you can go to the park together, yeah we can but we don’t want to because it’s fucking skateboarding. I think that everybody should do that because I can understand if you are in the small city and want a skatepark it’s quite difficult to say like “this is a skatepark and nobody else is allowed”, but I think you should do that, because every other fucking single sport does that. I want a badminton hall, I want a handball hall, I want a football pitch. They are not like “I want a football pitch where you know handball and chess tournaments are going on”. You know, nobody would do that. This approach is something that skaters should take and then the council can say “well you can have the skatepark if you let the scooters in”. Then you say “ok, but it’s a skatepark built by skateboarders”.
It’s super difficult to sell that, because people will be like “why don’t you like scooters” and I fucking love scooters. They are adorable, sweet little kids – get the fuck out of my way. I mean, it’s like you never ask a football player “why do you hate handball so much?” There is no hate, but I swear to God if they were playing a football match and a crew rocks up and starts playing handball, the football guys would be like “what the fuck?” They would be pissed off. And nobody would ask “why do you hate handball?” Obviously that’s exactly what’s going on in our skateparks, so people should be really, really careful when they open some ‘Multi-park’ and they go to the council and they sell it to them like “Oh everybody using this, that’s just this one big similar thing” and they are fucking up the skateboarding for the rest of us. We are Skaters, nothing else. Very serious.
E: This multipark thing is very trendy right now. People do ramps, trampolines, all mixed together.
W: Skateboarders are introverts. We don’t want to be around other people playing sports and shit. We wanna do our own stuff.
S: What are your best memories from CPH OPEN ?
W: My favourite memory is meeting these kids from Long Island, NY, and it was this past year after the Meatpacking session. We were so lucky because it rained. The rain was a fucking saviour. I could see people getting rowdy in there and I was like, it should just rain. Then there’s also not so much to clean up after people pissing and all that stuff. Then the sky just opened and it rained. I was like “yeaaahhh!” then I was walking through the Meatpacking District and sat down to smoke a cigarette with some guys before heading home, and I just asked them “what are you guys doing?” It turned out that these were kids from Long Island, NY, that had never been outside of The States, they were like 18 – 20 years old all of them, and they had a blast. They were sleeping in Wonderland, slumming it, real skate rats. I sat talking to them for like half an hour and they didn’t ask me what I did and I didn’t tell them, so it was just like a first hand impression. And they were like “We can’t believe what’s going on here, some stranger just handed me a six-pack yesterday, I can’t believe it”, they were so stoked. That was the best, I think, to experience their first-hand impression of Copenhagen, never having been outside of The States before. So funny. The day after, I called them over the megaphone and hooked them up with beers. Yeah, I think that’s my fondest memory.
On the Olympics
W: I think that the Olympics is fantastic for competitive sports. Skateboarding is not a competitive sport, so I don’t think that skateboarding should be in the Olympics at all. I think it’s pretty sad that it is in the Olympics now, because there are so many sports where you can put on a uniform and go and beat somebody, be better than some other dude. I watch the kids when they skate, and not a lot of them are out there to become better than someone else. They wanna improve themselves, find their own style, find their own creative input/output in skateboarding but they are not out there like “I want that gold, I wanna be better than you, let’s fucking skate and see who is best”.
I think that skateboarding is one of the last sports left that has that option that you can just go and skate. I think, obviously, we have been walking down this Olympics path for quite some time with Street League and X-games and stuff but at least Street League and X-games is something we own you know, it’s ours, our “olympics”. The winner of X-games is kind of determined like “you are good at winning X-games” but it never determines like “you are the world’s best skater” or anything, that’s like saying “oh that’s the world best painting” or “that’s the world’s best piece of music” You can’t say that. You are the world’s best musician. “Eeeh ok, what does that mean?”.
E: But you know, they can go on some trips, there must be some money coming in that helps in a way or what. Could that help skateboarding in any way?
W: That’s what I hoped for the for the skateboard side of the Olympics. In reality, however, it’s a bit different. I was invited to join the World Skate Federation because they kind of want a broad spectrum of people who have anything to do with skateboarding on a global scale. To be the ambassadors, if you can say that, the work group that brings skateboarding to the Olympics. So I have been going to these Olympics meetings for the last 5 years. I always find myself asking “Why I am here?” I do events where it’s more like the Olympics of weed and beer drinking. “Is it because you want more beer at the Olympics?”
E: They want some parties?
W: Yeah, they want some parties. That’s been quite interesting. I could tell you the whole story but it’s really nothing new. They try to make it into an Olympic sport, that kind of sucks, everybody thinks it’s a bit weird. Everybody sees dollars signs in their eyes. They are like “Eeee, we are going to be rich, everyone is gonna get paid!”, which is weird because if you know anything about the Olympics, there is not much money there at all.
What I do find interesting though, is that there will be more money for the young talented skaters to go on trips and stuff. All my life I guess, or while I’ve been working for the skatepark, I have always been like, fuck, in Denmark we can’t sponsor Mads Christensen because you know, you can’t get the big sponsor. You know he is probably one of the best skaters in Denmark, but he is not going to get a big sponsor so he wouldn’t have to work so he could just focus on his skating. Then he’d have to go to California and then he might make it and I’m like, I wish we could just give him something, not make him a millionaire but just give him a salary once a month, so he can skate. Mads Christensen, that’s all he should be doing, skateboarding. I guess you could say that about every single skater out there should just be skating but you should really get some money for that amount of talent.
I think that’s kind of interesting following the Olympics. I am definitely down to work for that to happen. On a heart shaped note, we are organising official disqualifiers for 2020 in Tokyo so you can go to Tokyo, come to our competition in Tokyo where you will be disqualified if you have any illegal substance in your system. If you don’t have any illegal substance in your system and you are clean, then you can get disqualified from the disqualifiers.
E: Is Denmark gonna have a team? Are we gonna be there?
W: Anyone can start an Olympic team You don’t have to have qualifications. Obviously for you to get support you have to have some kind of level, that will be decided by your national Olympic committee. So every country has a national Olympic committee and following that they have a national skateboarding committee. If you are in Germany, you’ll get shitloads of money, if you are in Denmark, probably not so much. Here will be something like the Danish championships, we will have like a Danish Master’s and they do the talent programs with the winners.
The way it’s gonna work in the Olympics is like this, there are 20 medals. There will be a Street and a Park competition. Street will be like Street League and park will be like Vans Park Series. It’s not going to be called Street League or Park Series but that’s the format. Then you’re gonna have 20 male skaters in Street, 20 girl skaters in Street, 20 male skaters in Bowl, 20 girl skaters in Bowl.
Now, the way they pick out the 20: there has to be someone from the host country Japan, there has to be one Japanese dude in there. Plus there has to be at least one person from the Asian region and then that leaves us with 18 spots. Those 18 spots are gonna have to be divided throughout the continents, so everybody will be represented. There’s also gonna be a global ranking system so you need to be in the top 18 of the global ranking system to become a part of the Olympics. It can only be 3 skaters from each country.
Let’s assume that the top 3 skaters are American. One, two, three, guaranteed spots in the Olympics. If there is an American in fourth place, he doesn’t go, it’s gotta be from a different country. So let’s assume that the top fourth, fifth and sixth are Brazilians, so they go there. If the seventh place is a Brazilian, he will not be allowed, it will go on to the next country and so forth. It will be three Americans and three Brazilians, no doubt about that. That leaves us with 12 spaces for the rest of the world.
The way to get in there, let’s say you are Alexander Risvad, then you need to compete in the World Cup (there will be a World Cup), where you can score points, or at some of the Street League stops, or if there is a regional Vans Park Series you can go there and get some points. If we do decide to do a Danish Championship in skateboarding that would give you some points. The point system is also developed by the IOC (International Olympic Committee). This might change but that’s the idea at this moment.
E: Interesting stuff coming around.
W: There you go, you heard it first, the One Love Skate Mag.
E: Does Denmark have an Olympic Committee?
W: Kind of. We have what we call “Arbejdsgruppen”, which I am a part of. We are trying to get funding, because there is no funding as of now. We have applied for a bit of funding but it’s not much. Another thing is that skating is officially in the program for now, but it’s not guaranteed for 2024. So if in 2020 someone breaks their fucking neck and there are beers and strippers and the disqualifiers take over the whole scene, that’d be one big scandal and they can pull the plug for the next time. If it goes well and everybody is happy, then it will become a part of the Olympics for 2024 and then there will be proper funding. Right know it’s up to the national committees to find some funding, and they don’t have much. Hopefully the Olympics will help kids to get paid or definitely to get to travel a bit, maybe to have a bit of physical training going on also. Not that I like to involve physical training programs in skateboarding, but on the other hand so many of my favourite skaters are not skating anymore because their bodies are fucked. That could have been avoided if they had worked out and been more sensible with training.
W: Some skaters do that on their own anyway.
W: They started to do that and that makes sense.
E: You wanna keep skating as long as possible.
W: Exactly. Another news flash is that the street skaters will have to wear helmets.
E: Really? They’re gonna have like a whole uniform?
W: Yeah they gonna have like a uniform, but not the lycra shit. Ok, you can wear pants and the t-shirt and you can bring your own pants as long there is no logo or anything. Then it’s quite interesting that the shoes are a part of the equipment, they’re not counted as clothing, so if they’re part of the equipment then you can choose your own shoe. This was quite a big thing because if the shoes were a part of the uniform, you would be forced to skate in a certain type of shoe, which many people probably wouldn’t be so stoked on. This is also just how it is right now, so that might change….
E: So they’re gonna have their sponsors shoes?
W: I think so. The board, I am not so sure about. I know that they are not allowed to have logos and that stuff. Nike will sponsor the entire Olympics, so there can’t be like Adidas logos and so. I don’t know how that will work with the shoes.
E: One way to find out.
W: Fuck that. Come to my disqualifier contest.
E: Anything else you wanna add?
W: Well… What we have been doing for the last 15 years has really created a healthy foundation for skateboarding to thrive in Copenhagen. I think that all skaters should be very aware of how lucky we are in Copenhagen, and I think they should build on top of this. I am not saying that they should go out and build vert ramps or make another Cph Open, but be appreciative of what we have here. Skateboarding is both give and take. When you get a skateboard and you start skating, you’re taking. You know, skateboarding is giving you something, and you are taking it. After a while, if you skated long enough, you need to pay back. I’m not gonna tell you how you should do it, whether it’s opening a magazine or getting a broom and fucking brooming out Wonderland or just having and spreading a positive attitude.