Well, another Paderborn BBQ Freestyle Contest is behind us. The 2019 event, held on Sunday, July 7, 2019, featured the biggest field of amateurs in years (possibly ever). The Pro division was strong, with German legend Guenter Mokulys, England’s Tony Gale, and American Mike Osterman, along with many other Brits, Europeans, and a few Americans. The Legends division was smaller, but the competition was tight, with some great skating by all. More on the contest later.
Best of all, my wife was with me this time. For years I’ve wanted her to meet all these beautiful weirdos I call friends, and this was the year. First a quick recap of Week One, since this year I decided to get to Germany early enough to not be jet-lagged on contest weekend.
Monday, July 1: Leave Dallas — direct overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Good flight, if a bit cramped. Took a pill to help me sleep. I don’t remember sleeping, but I must have as I felt pretty good the next day.
Tuesday, July 2: Arrive in Frankfurt about 10am. We rent a car and head toward Heidelberg, where we meet our dearest and oldest friends Beverly and David, who were there on their yearly trip with a group of highschool students. We checked into our hotel, found the parking platz that evening, and had a wonderful time with our old friends. Amazingly, I felt very little jet lag.
Wednesday, July 3: We head toward Dinkelsbühl, a medieval walled city, after a shopping stop in Rothenburg, another walled city. Had a good afternoon in Rothenburg, then drove to our lodging in Dinkelsbühl, the Pension Baumeisterhaus, run by the owner, Petra Steinacker. Spotless and comfortable room. Very very nice. She was waiting for use outside, and directed us to a parking spot right by the house. This is a bit deal, because parking for newcomers is often a concern. You don’t really know where you can park, and it’s a potential pain. We were there for two nights, and each morning we had a delicious traditional German breakfast to fill our fuel tanks. We found some good food that night, and some ice cream, and then ventured outside the walls toward Skatepark Dinkelsbühl — arguably the worst skatepark I’ve ever skated but one of the most appreciated! It was just a few days until contest time and I’d not been on my board for about a week. Not good. The park consisted of a mini halfpipe and a funbox, both on some pretty rough asphalt. The bike path asphalt between them looked really good, but as soon as i took a push the softness of the surface became apparent. Like skating on a sponge. Horrible. Still, I skated for about 20 minutes — just enough to start loosening up. There was a kid sitting on the platform of the miniramp rolling a joint. He was wearing a baseball cap that said “WEED”. The local cops rolled up and he split — and they didn’t even go after him! What a country! hahaha. They just ran him off. I appreciated his applause when I landed a trick, so THANK YOU, WEED BOY.
Thursday, July 4: First full day in Dinkelsbühl. After a good breakfast, we set out to explore the town. We’d been there 13 years before with Bev and Dave, and were looking forward to learning more about the city. We started at a local museum about the city, and thanks to the English recordings made available, were able to learn a bit about Dinkelsbühl’s long history. We did a little window shopping, had lunch, took an afternoon nap, got some dinner, and went back to the skatepark. My second session there was better. Not great, but I felt like I was getting my legs back under me and getting used to the time change. The surface was still horrible, but beggars can’t be choosers. At least I was rolling. I skated for about an hour, going through my usual footwork sequences and a few tricks. My plan this year was to concentrate on constant movement and flow, punctuated with tricks and not focussing on them. Whether or not this would be a “winning” strategy was debatable, but it’s the way I skate, and you really can’t change you who are in this respect. They would see “me”, not some bullshit version of myself I’d invented. Anyway, I felt better this evening. Better on my board. It isn’t easy to travel internationally and jump off the plane and skate.
Friday, July 5: We had breakfast, said our goodbyes to Petra and the Pension Baumeisterhaus (fully intending to return in the future – it was a wonderful and relaxing place to be – just what the doctor ordered), and headed back north for another short stop in Rothenburg before heading further north to Paderborn. The drive to Paderborn, from Dinkelsbühl, is in theory just a few hours. Like driving from Dallas to Austin. But summer in Germany means road construction, and you can always add at least an hour to any trip. Don’t plan to cut things close, or you will likely be screwed.Anyway, we made it to the IBB Blue Hotel, on the outskirts of Paderborn. A nice hotel. We paid for the larger size room, which was a smart move. Very comfortable. Not really in the “cool” area of town, but not far either (it’s a small city). Easy drive to Skatepark Goldgrund, where the contest is held. When I got back in the car to move it to proper parking, it wouldn’t start. Seems it was out of this stuff called “AdBlue”, which is a liquid that interacts with and somewhat counteracts diesel exhaust. Thing is we had no idea what it was, or that we needed it, or that Hertz had sent us out in a car that was NEARLY EMPTY of the shit. If a car has NONE, it will NOT START. Luckily there was a filling station down the road. I procured 5 liters of AdBlue, filled it up (there’s a port right next to the diesel fuel port), and the car was running again. Low marks to HERTZ for not having the car prepared. Any rental car should go out fully prepared. Would you send out a car without any oil? Probably, if you are Hertz. Hertz, you suck. I will never rent another car from you. Best part – upon returning the car two weeks later, no apology. The refunded the 10 Euros for the AdBlue, but no apology at the counter for sucking. Yeah, I’m a bit pissed about it. I will have my apology and more, mark my words. Anyway, we went and had a freaking fantastic pizza nearby at Pizza Toni, at Heiersstraße 37, 33098 Paderborn, Germany. A small place, but the pizza was from heaven. So, so good. And we needed it! DELISH! Then we headed to the skatepark. I knew the Swedes were already in town, and that the great Marius Constantin and his Romanian Freestyle Crew were there. I was so happy to see Marius, and even more for my wife to meet him. We hung at the skatepark and I got in a little rolling. I was relieved to be skating on a good surface and to feel assured that my ability to skate hadn’t suddenly disappeared after the weird surface in Dinkelsbühl. I knew I’d be OK. I was feeling good, the park is known territory for me, and I could tell that while I might not win, I could do what I set out to do. We headed back to the hotel and hit the sack.
Saturday, July 6: Street contest day for the BBQ Contest. We got up, enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the bakery next to our hotel, and got to the skatepark about 10am. You have to get there early to get a little freestyle practice, because the street skaters are flying everywhere. We met up with Michael Erskine, his wife Dawn and daughter Ruby, and Toni sat with them while Michael and I get some practice. I was feeling pretty good, but very much conserving my energy. It isn’t hot there by Texas standards, but it would be a long day in the sun watching the street contest and enjoying the whole thing. My goal for the morning was to pick out a few vectors through the park and decide where I wanted to do certain things, as the park isn’t perfectly flat and there are a few street skating obstacles to avoid. About noon the Brits showed up. I love all those guys, but the guys from that first Paderborn Road Trip in 2015 hold a special place for me. Seeing my podcasting partner and friend Tony Gale, Alex Foster, Simon Mrozinski, and Denham Hill — so so good. And so good for my Toni to finally meet them in person. Means the world to me. That first trip was probably the highlight of my skateboarding life, and I wanted her to understand the magic of this place and this community. The street contest was fun to watch. About 5pm we split back to our hotel to freshen up and then we picked up Michael Erskine and his family, went into the central area of Paderborn, and walked through a lovely rainy evening to a great Indian restaurant to enjoy a fantastic meal and even better company. Michael was part of that first road trip, is close to as old as me, and his family is delightful. Such a great day and evening.
Sunday, July 7: Freestyle Day. The main event. The greatest grassroots freestyle event in the world. The mystical energy of the natural amphitheatre in which the park sits. Everyone shows up to practice. The contest will start about 2pm. Yoyo Schulz arrives – my old friend, one of the best dudes ever. The man who kept freestyle alive in Germany, and got this contest started. Yoyo, we all owe you so much. Words cannot do you justice.
This year was perhaps the biggest turnout in the amateur class ever, with 20 entries. Beside all-around great skating by everyone, this year featured the return of Finland’s Jari Paakari to the contest scene, and the first contest of 13-year old Daniel Popescu from Romania. Jari got 2nd, and Dani Boy got 5th (a great showing for a first contest!) Big congrats to Robert Wagner, who gets better every year and got 1st! Very stoked to see Americans Nick Beaulieu and Bryce Noe! Both rippers!Every year I meet new people, and this year I was really happy to meet Nenad Kocic, of Switzerland. Been friends with and following him on the internet for a while now. So cool!The Pro division had some heavy talent. Everyone ripped. Top three were Guenter Mokulys of Germany in 1st, the USA’s Mike Osterman in 2nd, and England’s leading proponent of not doing footplants or street tricks in a freestyle run, Tony Gale. All three were incredible. I don’t know how the judging really works in Paderborn, but history tells us that consistency counts for a lot. If you come off once or twice, and Guenter stays on, then Guenter is going to win. He’s a freestyle machine that rarely makes a mistake. That’s not an insult — more like praise. Entering his late 50s, Guenter is still hanging with guys 30 years younger. He’s a true competitor. Osterman brought his smooth style, great tricks, and connection with the crowd. Mike is fun to see skate. He always appears to love what’s he’s doing — because he is. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Third place winner Tony Gale as usual left very little in the bag, pulling out certainly the highest difficulty stuff of the contest (though not HIS hardest stuff, which is saying a lot). Tony mixed in smooth footwork with his trademark bangers. Again – if he or Mike had stayed on, they may very well have won. It is that tight.
Legends division included me (Bob Loftin – U.S. and A), Michael Erskine (England), Yoyo Schulz (Germany), Eli Meyers (Germany) Eric Schäder (Sweden), Krister Philgren (Sweden). Yoyo is hard to beat. He easily earned more points than the rest of the field, but the points were tight between places 2-4. Krister ended up in 2nd, I got 3rd, Eric in 4th, Michael in 5th, and Eli in 6th. Results don’t necessarily reveal how fun it is to see someone skate. I think the entire group of six was pretty amazing. Eli was certainly one of the most fun to watch of the entire contest. Michael’s first run was fantastic, and it’s been noted he actually seems to enjoy skating! Eric brought some technical tricks you don’t often see in the Legends or Masters division. Krister (barely old enough at only 42!) did some nice footwork and handplant stuff. I lumbered around like a dancing elephant, and Yoyo blasted around the way he does. Honestly, after my 1st run I figured I was in last place. It was horrible, but I guess my 2nd was OK.
I haven’t seen it yet. It is nice to be appreciated, and the congratulations after my 2nd run from Tony Gale and later from Alex Foster and Paul Brunninkhuis meant the world to me. Alex is simply one of the best and smartest people in the FS world, and I love the way Paul skates. For him to tell me he liked my skating is a trophy in itself. He’s a good, good dude.
While the results were tabulated, a best trick contest was held, and won by Daniel Popescu! He was beyond stoked! I sessioned a bank in the skatepark with Alex Foster and Gretch. It’s a bank in the lower part of the park. I wish I’d had my bank/ditch board!
As the gathering broke up many hugs were exchanged and goodbyes said. It is always emotional. It’s such a great weekend you don’t want it to end, but if it were an every week kind of thing it wouldn’t be special. So best it is once a year. We beat it back to our hotel, cleaned up, and once again met Michael and his family for dinner, this time at the Road House Diner (things close up early in Paderborn!) Next morning we got up and hit the road for the wine country.