Sebastiaan Vijverberg Interview
I only knew a handful of things about Sebastiaan Vijverberg before being asked to do this interview. I knew that he used to skate for Osiris a couple of years ago, that he’s the TM for the Dutch Vans team and that he kickflip frontside boardslid the hubba that projected Jerry Hsu’s head into a wall. When I started asking around to learn a bit more about him I heard that he had gone through a couple of ups and downs but that he’s the kind of guy that always gets back up. I also learned that people really like him, that they specifically look forward to seeing his part in Bombaklats, and that they feel the need to say both these things out loud. When I finally met Sebas, or Siebke, as his friends call him, I expected an intense personality that cares a lot about skateboarding and isn’t afraid to speak his mind and I was right in doing so.
Interview by Bram De Cleen
All Photos by DVL
Sebastiaan Vijverberg’s Free interview. Go for it. What do you have to tell us?
I don’t know. Where should we start?
You’re in Nuremberg now, visiting Chris Pfanner with Vans, right?
With the Dutch team?
It’s a Belgian tour, so us Dutch guys are here as guests.
Are you team managing?
Because it’s a Belgian initiative I’m here as a skater, not as a TM, so food, hotels, drinks, everything’s being taken care of for me, which is a nice change for once. Usually it’s me doing these things for everyone else.
How did you end up being the team manager for the Dutch team?
Let’s see… Rik Van Dyck gave me a chance to be a Vans team rider in Holland, actually not even that… He flowed me shoes for a year, then I got on the team and he kind of took me under his wing and taught me, step by step, that there’s more to it than just skating – basically how to help the riders and take care of them.
What do you mean exactly?
Let me see. Oh man, this is a full interview. Fuck.
I’ll start over. I was on flow for a year, then I was a team rider for a year and by that time Daan van der Linden was on Vans as well. It was pretty clear already that his skating would take him places but he was running pretty wild at the time and Rik, the TM at the time, asked me to kind of look over him in order for things not to get out of hand, as I was the oldest guy on the team. For a year or so, we went on a lot of tours and did a lot of things with Daan, Nick Bax, and all the other guys. Everything worked out fine and I ended up being the team manager.
Okay, so that’s your current situation. You used to have a pretty legit deal with Osiris six or seven years ago, your name was in their Transworld ads etc., how did that come about?
I was on the International Team, we got paid a bit less than the US ams, but we were pretty involved. We had amateur status, more or less.
At the time this was still really special. There was Wieger, for example, but overall it was really unique for a Dutch guy to be in that situation.
I would never compare myself to someone like Wieger.
I wasn’t doing that; I just used his name to illustrate the situation at the time.
It was definitely a special situation.
There’s Daan, now, and Youness, Phil’s been in Thrasher, you know what I mean. It’s become more normal now than it was at the time.
Absolutely. I spent some time in Orange County. Fred Van Schie lived over there, and I got along well with him, he used to take care of me when he still worked for Sole Tech in Holland, so he showed me around in California, and introduced me to some of the people he knew over there. One day we went skating with two other guys, just a nice session in San Diego on a nice Sunday. We skated a parking lot and a mini ramp afterwards.
No one told me anything, but the two guys there worked for Osiris and were there to check me out. Fred had already talked about me and had showed them my footage. I would’ve stressed out if I had known this, but I didn’t so I skated well, had a good time and got on Osiris. That’s how it happened.
Pretty smart of him not to tell you anything…
For sure, I don’t deal with pressure very well. It was a pretty fun time from then on. I skated with JT Aultz, Shuriken Shannon, Marius, all of those guys.
Around what time was that?
Transworld’s Feed The Need had just come out. We skated a lot; I went on tour with them as well. We went to Hamburg, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona and Madrid. It was pretty strange, all of the food and drinks were paid for and then everybody got 50 euros per diem just to spend on our own, basically to get wasted.
What did you do with yours?
I saved it. I had booked a holiday after the tour, to a stupid island, just to party with my friends. I saved about 30 euros every day of the tour and had myself a free holiday, afterwards, so I can’t complain. I just got really hurt in Paris, on a hubba. That was the only bad part of the tour.
I remember seeing that sequence. Kickflip frontside boardslide…
Yes, that one. On one of the tries I kicked the microphone off Russell Houghten’s camera, I got a heel bruise and felt really guilty afterwards, so I wasn’t really focused anymore. Then I broke my board, set up a new one and eventually made the trick and celebrated.
The caption said you couldn’t walk anymore afterwards.
That is true, I didn’t skate anymore on the rest of the trip. I was hurt from the moment I had kicked off the microphone, but there was so much adrenaline running through me that I still did it. With everybody there, betting money on every try, I kept going. I saved a bit less from my per diem from that day on.
Was that the end of you skating for Osiris?
No, I got back to Holland after the holiday and I was so sick of sitting in cars and being brought to huge spots to see JT Aultz jump right on them. I’m not the craziest skater and when I got back to Holland I realised there was an ocean between us and I thought (whistles): I’m going to do my own thing again. Around that time some things had happened, coming back home after such a long time was intense as well, and I ended up having a psychotic episode. I can’t really say much more about it. I was young, had spent some time without all my friends and family, I had a lot of money at my disposal for my age at the time, and when I got back it had all become a bit too much for my brain to handle.
What happened then?
When I was still really sick I got a postcard from Osiris, signed by all the guys, wishing me the best and stuff. This was nice but by the time I had somewhat recovered and felt like myself again a year had gone by and they told me they wouldn’t renew my contract. Obviously this didn’t really help me feel better. For a while after that I didn’t really have any sponsors and just skated.
You didn’t have a board sponsor?
Well, I had been getting boards straight from Deluxe for a year or three. I got Real boards, Thunder trucks and Spitfire wheels as well. Then when Osiris didn’t really pan out the Deluxe deal slowed down as well, and it went back to getting boards from the Dutch distributor (Left), which was fine. Deluxe then changed its distribution in Holland, and I was offered to jump ship as well. As I felt loyal to Left, who had always helped me out, I didn’t make the change and stayed with them and just got random boards from them for a year or two. They ended up fucking me over so hard. I don’t know if I should even talk about this. I should, actually. They made me do a Disney commercial. They told me that if I wouldn’t do it, wearing a helmet and a blue Left T-shirt, they would kick me off of everything.
I thought, ‘fuck’. I should’ve just said no but as I said, I wasn’t feeling too confident at the time and ended up doing it. When that came out I was so ashamed and angry, and ended up moving over to Hardcore Distribution, where I still am right now.
I can imagine the commercial sucked.
It was very very bad.
What did you have to do?
They made me say a sentence.
Ah, man. (in commercial voice) ‘Hey, do you want to learn these cool tricks as well? Send your info to Disney X-team’.
Imagine, as a young kid that’s already having a rough time, then they tell you if you won’t do this shitty commercial you’ll lose all the sponsors you’ve been working so hard for. Of course, this whole ordeal didn’t help with my recovery. For a while, I didn’t feel like showing my face anywhere. A year, or a year and a half after that I was doing better again and that’s when I met Rik Van Dijk, and that’s when he started flowing me Vans and kind of gave me the opportunity for a fresh start, which I’m really grateful for. That’s five or six years ago, now.
I know you’re a complete skate nerd and that you’re very passionate about the act of skateboarding itself…
But most of what we talked about seems to have more to do with sponsorship than anything else. Skateboarding and skateboard marketing are very intertwined, especially for guys that want to live from it, but they are two completely different things. What do you have to say about this? Did things start looking up again when you were back at home just skating and filming with your friends? Was the whole prospect of a career too stressful for you?
The prospect of a career was definitely too stressful for me; I don’t do well under pressure in any circumstance. That being said, I think there’s a difference between external pressure and the stress that comes from pushing yourself. Being pushed to my boundaries by team managers and promises of this and that didn’t work for me; it was too much. I’m not blaming anybody though; I was too greedy myself as well.
So yes, everything went better from the moment I felt comfortable and at home again, but I’m perfectly capable of stressing out in this situation as well, just because I try to push my own boundaries. Sometimes when I’m trying a trick I completely lose it and this doesn’t have anything to do with sponsors, not even with footage, I just always push myself. I’m a skateboarder, so this part of my personality comes out when I skate, but not because of it. I just always want to get something done and if I had never become a skater I would’ve shown the same behaviour in something else, be it fighting, drinking or something completely different.
Because I’m the team manager now, everything works out a lot better. I’m using my urge to get things done in a positive way with the guys I work with. I’m not being pushed myself and I understand what can happen when you push somebody too hard, so everything I’ve learned and experienced has become an asset.
That sounds like a comfortable situation, after all. Is there anybody you would like to thank?
Rik Van Dijk at Vans, Davy Van Laere for shooting photos with me, Krooked, Thunder and Spitfire, Poler and Skatestore for all the gear. The Bombaklats crew and everyone else that has helped me out over the years. Cheers.