Wieger Van Wageningen Interview From Issue 4
In the 17th Century, seeking trade and a better life, the Dutch travelled to the New World and established a colony on Manhattan Island in what we now call New York City. They proclaimed the settlement ‘New Amsterdam’. Four hundred years later a young Dutchman followed a similar path seeking a better life in ‘the land of opportunity’. But homesickness and his love of PSV Eindhoven cut his habitation in the New World short. Friends, family, football and home comforts were just too important. In an effort to learn more about this ginger Dutchman we interviewed the man himself: Wieger Van Wageningen
Interview by Will Harmon
Wieger can you tell us about the vert ramp story from when you first started skating?
Ok so I was eight years old and I had just started skating on the street you know? I think I could do an ollie like two centimetres high. So I went to this vert ramp in Eindhoven with my parents… So we get there and there’s all these people skating, with pads of course, and I was like ‘Fuck! I wanna do this too!’ So when the others stopped skating I decided I wanted to drop in on this vert ramp. I had dropped in on a mini-ramp, so I thought I could do this too. So the last thing I remember I was standing on the coping thinking: ‘Should I do it? Should I not?’ I was having doubts and then the next thing I know I wake up in an ambulance. So I wake up and my dad is lying next to me in the ambulance. ‘What the fuck happened?’ I think. So what happened was that I tried to drop in on the vert ramp, it went wrong of course and I fell headfirst and knocked myself out. So my dad had a car phone, one of the first ones, this huge thing. So he ran to the car to get on it and he broke his leg on the way.
Then my mom had to go to the car and call the ambulance. So yeah…
Oh man that’s a gnarly story! Guess that put a damper on your vert career. So this was in Eindhoven where you grew up… At what point did you move to Amsterdam where you live now?
I’ve lived in Amsterdam for eight years now, so most of my life I grew up in Eindhoven. I think I moved here when I was 23. When I was eighteen I moved to the States for a little bit. So coming back and forth travelling and whatnot I just stayed at my parent’s place in Eindhoven. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I moved to Amsterdam on my own.
So when you went out to the States when you were eighteen is that when you met Joe Brook and Anthony Claravall? And how did this lead to you getting on The Firm?
Well actually I met those two when I was fifteen. They came to Eindhoven, but they had been in Rotterdam. So my parents happened to be on vacation so I told Anthony, Joe and some other guys they were travelling with that they could stay at mine. So they stayed for two days and we skated and Joe was feeding my cat whipped cream, he was having the best time. We made pancakes and it was good times. We skated and we filmed a bunch of shit for a 411VM Europe section. But I think Anthony always kept me in mind. He had sort of a bond with Lance (Mountain) at The Firm. So then I saw Anthony the year after that at all the European contests and then in Barcelona. There I also met Rodrigo (TX) and that’s when I got my first box of boards from The Firm when I was seventeen. Then Anthony invited me to go to the States the following year when I was eighteen. So that’s what I did and I skated with The Firm guys for three months.
Didn’t you ride for Cliché for a short period of time?
Yeah ok, so going back to that time I was in the States for three months… So I met Anthony out there and I kind of had a hard time skating all the spots. In Holland the biggest stairs we had was a six-stair, so it was kind of like a culture shock seeing everyone skating handrails and big stairs and I couldn’t really do it. So I felt like I had failed; I only filmed three tricks in those three months. So I think Lance dropped me off at the airport and he was like: ‘Yeah we’ll keep in contact.’ That’s what he said and so that kind of made me feel like he didn’t want me to skate for The Firm. So I went back to Holland and then I went to Barcelona for a while and I met up with some of the Cliché dudes and then Jérémie (Daclin) asked me to skate for Cliché. So I was like: ‘Yeah! Of course.’ Then my first ad came out after two months and Lance saw the ad. So Lance called me up in Barcelona… He was like: ‘I thought you still skated for The Firm and then I see this Cliché ad?’ And then I told him how I thought he didn’t want me on the team. So we kept talking for an hour and a half. I explained to him how I thought I’d failed, but then he explained to me why he wanted me to ride for The Firm. So shortly after that I went back to the States and stayed with Lance for like three months.
So you had to tell Jérémie you couldn’t skate for Cliché and you were going to skate for The Firm again?
Yeah it felt horrible. I was so young and I didn’t know how to deal with it. And then we didn’t really talk for years, I mean our paths didn’t really cross, but then not too long ago I went to Lyon to film with enjoi for Oververt. And that was the first time I talked to Jérémie after all those years and it was super cool; we hit it off. No hard feelings or nothing and he actually invited me to be the guest on a Cliché trip after that.
Ok so to back up a little, there was a time in between when The Firm ended and you got on enjoi. What happened then? And also how did you get on enjoi?
Yeah I think there were two years in between. It took a while to get a sponsor. Of course I always skated for Nike, and we were filming for Nothing but the Truth, and then I was with Paul Rodriguez and he tried to get me on Plan B, but that didn’t really work. And then Hunter Muraira (the Nike SB TM at the time) is from San Jose and is friends with the enjoi guys and he thought I’d be a good fit for the team. So enjoi invited me on a trip to China and on that trip we just clicked. So in the middle of that trip Matt Eversole just asked me if I wanted to ride for them and so I was like: ‘Yeah!’
And you’ve been on Nike SB from really early on…
Yeah I mean when I got on they already had a pro team. But then they wanted to get an Am team and yeah, I was the first amateur on Nike SB in the States. Then they got Dan Murphy and Omar (Salazar). We were the first three Ams.
Since you’ve been on Nike SB from almost the beginning, how have you seen it change over the years?
Well of course there are so many skaters on Nike now it’s not really one team anymore. Well, maybe it is, but it’s a huge team. There are so many different projects going on. Back in the day, if we were going on a trip, the whole team would go on that trip.
Yeah I seem to remember being in Barcelona way back when and you were there with the whole team filming Nothing But the Truth. Everyone was there.
Yeah everyone was there, but still it was only two apartments. If you were to do that now you’d need a whole block. I mean now you have the Nike Brazil guys… It’s more international now, more countries… Which is awesome actually, it’s not a bad thing. It’s not that you travel with one big group anymore; it’s different projects.
Has there ever been any pressure from your sponsors to move over to the States?
There was a little bit of pressure from Nike when I didn’t have a board sponsor. So at that time was living in Hollywood for five months filming for Nike, but I didn’t have a car or a driver’s licence even. So without a car LA is a kind of lonely place. But you know I skated everyday and filmed a lot of tricks. But I knew I didn’t want to live there. It didn’t really feel like I was at home. When I go back to LA now it’s completely different and I have loads of friends, but it was different for me back then; I was quite lonely at that time. And also back then PSV, my football team in Holland, made it into the semi-finals of the Champions League. So I had been in LA for five months and I was feeling a bit homesick and especially when my brother called me up and told me: ‘Yeah we made it! We made it into the semi-finals! Woo!’ I mean we’d watch the games with the whole family so I had to get back. So I think I called up Hunter and the guys and told them that I had to be back for the match. So they were cool about it, got me a ticket, and the next day I had a yard sale in West Hollywood and sold half of my furniture and stuff and gave half away. And then the day after that I was on a plane back home.
Yeah Marcel (Veldman) said to ask you about the PSV shrine…
Yeah in my parents basement we have a wall painting of the PSV stadium. (Laughs)
Besides yourself, who is your favourite ginger skateboarder?
Besides myself! Ha! I’m going to go with Chet Childress.
(Ben) Raemers alluded to the fact you have a good Kid Rock story. Can you tell us that?
I was dating this chick; this was a while ago, like six years ago, and we had been dating for half a year at the time. She was a photographer and she went to go shoot a Kid Rock concert. So that night I went out with a friend of mine and stayed at his house, and so I woke up and called her the next morning… But she didn’t answer her phone. So I called her back, but she didn’t answer her phone three times. So on the fourth time she answered her phone and I was like: ‘Hey where you at? What are you doing?’ She sounded kinda nervous and said: ‘Oh I stayed at my dad’s house.’ Ok weird, cool.
So I didn’t trust it and I took off on my bike, rode to her dad’s house and called her again: ‘Hey I’m in front of your dad’s house, where are you at?’
‘Oh I just picked up my bike in front of the place where the concert was’, she said. So I went there and she came from a total different direction. So this was about 11am and then we spent the whole day together. So around midnight we are watching the news together on TV in bed… Kid Rock spotted in Amsterdam! And you see her on the news walking out of the hotel with Kid Rock.
On TV! Holy crap! So what did you say to her at that moment?
I didn’t say anything; I just grabbed something by the bed, threw it against the wall and then I left. What are you gonna say you know? My phone was blowing up. My friends saw it; everybody saw it. That’s actually one of my favourite stories. I tell that one a lot. It was the easiest breakup I ever had. I was sad for like three days and then I just realised she sucks.
Great story. And so after filming with Anthony Claravall for 411VM back in the day and then your Firm part, now you’ve linked up with him again to film this new part – sort of a reunion of sorts yeah?
Yeah we actually filmed another part after Can’t Stop The Firm as well. It was the first 411VM of the new volumes, when they did a redesign. Yeah so we decided to link up again to film this new part. It’s awesome; it’s like good old times. We’ve been to lots of different places: Portugal, Shanghai, Seoul, we just got back from Taiwan. And we have one more trip to Guangzhou in January.
Well can’t wait to see it! Cheers Wieger!