Keeping the Fish in the Bowl: Fernando Bramsmark Interview
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the concept of star quality. That presence when someone walks into the room and without knowing the person you realise there is something special about him or her. The more thought I give it, the closer I come to the conclusion that it has to do with three things: humility, confidence and style. Someone who is humble does not have to seek the affirmation of others. They know their self worth and can listen to others with interest instead of doing everything they can to shine the light on themselves. Self-confidence cannot be faked. It shows in the way one carries oneself, the body language if you will. Style is about being original and not a copycat. Fernando Bramsmark has an obvious aura of star quality. His humble style and confidence shines through in everything he does. We sat down with the darkest shining star in Malmö and got his story from Colombia to Sweden and further out into the world. This is Nando, a good guy with a bad nollie heel.
– John Dahlquist
Fernando Brasmark as told to John Dahlquist
From Colombia to Malmö
Everything started in Colombia where I was born in 1993. At the age of three I was adopted by my Swedish parents and got a new home in Malmö, Sweden. My brother, also from Colombia, and I were raised in Malmö and still live here. My brother was adopted a couple years before me, we are not biological brothers but we grew up together. We also have a sister in Sweden, but another family adopted her before my brother came to Sweden. My brother and sister are biological siblings. We all keep in contact still. It’s cool to have a spread out family.
I’ve gone back to Colombia once to help my brother try and find his roots. It was 2008, I was 15 back then so I was still kind of young but I tried my best to support him during the things he went through on that journey. I was chilling a lot too at the same time; for me it was kind of a vacation. I would love to go back for more of that some day. Perhaps skating will take me, who knows?
When I was adopted I knew Spanish but didn’t have anyone to talk it with when I came to Sweden so that language has sort of gotten lost since then. I still understand a lot of words but this fact would play an important role in a sketchy situation 20 years later when I was on tour in Argentina with Grant Taylor, Cory Kennedy and P-Stone. But let’s take it from the start and work things step by step.
As a kid I was very energetic. My conclusion is that I found a good home with two very mellow parents who always supported me. They have always told me that I can decide what I want to do but that I have to respect other people. That was their most important message to me when I was growing up.
I started skating when I was around 11 years old. My dad would take me to the skate park, Bryggeriet, everyday after school. That’s where I learnt about skateboarding and for the longest time that was all I skated. I would skate the park all year around. There were no other skaters in my neighbourhood so I wouldn’t really go street skating. Little did I know that Bryggeriet was going to become my actual school many years later. The only time I would skate ‘street’ in the beginning was in the evenings during the commercial breaks of the Simpsons and some other shows on TV. My dad and I would skate street then. My dad wouldn’t skate but he would run next to me making sure I didn’t fall. That became a daily routine, blow off some steam before it was time for bed.
My parents always supported me and they’ve always understood me. We’re not genetically equal but we have a lot in common and have always gotten along well. They are a little bit older, born in the fifties. They are both 67. They have another outlook on things in general I would say, but they have always focused on enjoying the things they do and no matter what I have gotten into they’ve always been down to support it. As a kid I would get into all kinds of things like sports and hobbies only to leave it three weeks later or after two months. Sometimes I’ve come back to things after one or two years. But skateboarding stuck from the get-go because I didn’t have to listen to anyone and I could do whatever I wanted on my board.
My parents know I’m flexible with things and I think that has rubbed off onto them as well. My dad is the kind of person that gets to things straight away. As for me I might chill with stuff a couple of days or weeks before I get to it. I’ve always been like that; I’m not that structured.
They’ve never told me what to do but focused on things that made me feel well.
My mom always told me ‘take everything day by day and that the future is in front of you, so take good care of it.’ I think that has rubbed off on me too. They’re good words to live by.
From Malmö to the world
Later on Bryggeriet became my high school. It suited me well since I was already a local in the environment. Since I have some problems with concentration and dyslexia I haven’t always been so good at school. But when I got the chance to start at a school with skateboarding I got more motivated. Before that I never took school seriously, I always went to school but I hardly ever did my homework and that was fine with my parents. In high school I could use the breaks to skate and then take care of classes. In a way it was the same thing as when I was little, instead of skating at the commercial breaks during the Simpsons I would skate during recess!
It got me better at skating and I got my high school diploma that I promised my mom. I still keep my diploma and grades at home. From what I understand it’s good to have if you want to apply for other jobs in the future. They might come in handy one day.
During high school I started to travel more and got hooked up in a way that led me out in the world. Right after graduation I took off and have been travelling as much as I could ever since.
The fish market
As a person and skater, I am very spontaneous. I don’t plan much. I try to take things as they come. I guess that’s why school was hard at times too. When it comes to tricks I’ll feel things out and maybe try something a couple of times. Even if I’m close I might go onto doing something else if I’m not feeling it. I’ll just try something else at another obstacle or spot. Sometimes it’s a make and sometimes it’s not: I just go with my feelings. I try to be more on point and planned when I film something with somebody.
Sometimes I have tricks in mind and spots I want to skate, but it doesn’t happen that often. I’d be lying if I said that I’d planned tricks more than six times in my life!
Since I like to skate everything I guess I’ve learnt to do a lot of different tricks, but I don’t think I’ll ever learn how to do good nollie heels on flat. I’m talking nollie heel here, not nollie rocket heel. When I do them it looks like I’m going straight to nose manual. They’re a disaster most of the time!
If I could only do one trick for the rest of my life I think I would have to go with the stalefish. As a youngster I learned how to tweak a stalefish before learning how to do good ollies on flat. I got to keep that fish in the bowl!
I get my influences from all over the place. If I had to single out a few favourites I would have to say Grant Taylor first. We’ve been on trips together. He is so rad and fluent and isn’t defined by a certain style. He flows like water, flies high and has the quickest feet too. It’s like he is built to skate. Heavy Maka skater, full rev!
I like Ben Raybourn too. I like his personality and he doesn’t seem to take skateboarding too seriously from what I understand. He just likes to skate. It’s as simple as that.
I have to add Lucas Puig too. His style and his tricks on ledges are amazing and so energetic. And he has a good nollie heel!
The list can go on forever but I have to throw Jacopo Carozzi in there too. Every time I see him he comes up with new tricks that I didn’t know he could do. He does the gorilla grip where he grabs the board by his toes. He’s just gnarly, let’s put it that way!
Last, but not least I have to say, Andrew Reynolds, the Boss. He seems to have a positive outlook on skating and the whole industry. The level and skill he has at such an age is really inspiring to me.
To sum things up I like the ones who keep it classic.
Even if I like the classic styles the best I think it’s cool with new trends too… It pushes skateboarding forward. As long as you do it because you want to and don’t care what others think, then it’s cool! With all the clothing trends and social media I think some do it to get attention and to feel good about them selves. I’ve never really been into getting attention. I don’t really thrive on the attention of others. I respect that some need to get affirmation from their peers. I don’t mind, it’s just not for me.
Skating with Beyoncé
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world; that’s the best part of my life. I can’t say I’ve seen the whole world, but I’ve been to North and South America, Africa, Oceania, and Europe. There are still a lot of countries I am yet to go to on these continents. I think the outlook on skating differs in different places. In Europe it’s so obvious: you have your Spanish ledge skater that kills it with the flat tricks or flip in, flip out from stuff, the British skating cool crusty grey old spots, bowl skaters from Sweden and so on. I like that. I think it shows in my skating that I am from Malmö. The bowl scene here was the thing that got me good at skating bowls and later the opportunity to travel and skate. Malmö in general has created a lot of opportunities for me and other people. There have been big competitions and that has given me a chance to try competing and of course also hang out with some of the best skaters out there. There are good street spots here too and Copenhagen it’s not too far away. If you think about it, Malmö is way better than it’s supposed to be. Most of the year it’s dark and cold; the weather really sucks. We have about five months of outdoor skating. Still all these good skaters come from here, to this dark place that is Sweden. But there is a lot of cool stuff going on here too. Sweden’s a mellow country, it has a well-structured society and there are loads of good people.
I like to compare it to music: imagine that you are into music and all these great musicians come through your town. One week it’s Beyoncé you see and then the next week it’s someone else.
It’s almost like there’s always somebody visiting the city or moving in. I’ve been fortunate enough to hang with a lot of different people, sometimes even without leaving my hometown. That has showed me things I would never see otherwise. I think the fact that I’ve gotten to experience all the things I have through Malmö has motivated me to do more and get out in the world to see more, meet new people and so on.
The boy who cried wolf
I have been on a lot of crazy trips. Last time in Argentina we went skating outside of Buenos Aires. I was with a big group including P-Stone, GT, Cory Kennedy, Jake Phelps, Peter Hewitt, Pat Mclain, Mark Hubbard, Raven Tershy and Diego Bucchieri. P-Stone kept telling us to watch out for shady people. Nothing happened but he kept going on about keeping our heads up and being careful. It became a sort of ‘the Boy who Cried Wolf’ story. Nothing ever happened and P-Stone’s nagging became a bit old.
But sure enough, driving back into town we got pulled over by two cops on motorbikes. One older guy and one younger cop came to the car and started speaking in Spanish. They singled me out and brought me out of the car first to check my passport, I was not even driving the car. They kept speaking Spanish but I had no chance of understanding them. As I said before, I probably understand a thing here and there but right there and then I was totally lost. I should have kept up with my Spanish from Colombia!
After a while we understood that they were considering taking us to jail. We had no clue for what and it turns out they wanted a bribe. Forty dollars later we were on our way. It was just such a trip that it was cops and not street hustlers that got us in trouble. My take on it is that the older cop was teaching the younger one how to make some extra money. Damn street rules!
Later that night we barbequed on the street outside of the apartments we were staying in and hung out with a guy I got sketchy vibes from. When he left us for the night I realised that somehow he got a hold of my wallet. I still have no idea how he did it. He must have pick-pocketed me because it was only back at the apartment I realised I got robbed. I was so bummed until I realised I had put my money and cards in my sock. I came to this understanding because my leg started to itch, probably because of the cards. The guy got nothing but an empty wallet. I thank P-Stone for that. Apparently I listened to him and stashed my stuff in a safe place. He was wrong the whole trip but the last night it turns out he was probably right the whole time. Or at least two times in a day.
Not to worry, not to slam
Nowadays I try to take care of my body the best I can. I’ve had a bad ankle for a long time now. Thankfully Nike has a guy in Copenhagen that helps me out with my ankle.
Last year was a nightmare. Pretty much all of my right side was weak. I had problems with my shoulder, groin, knee and ankle on that side. I think I slammed too much on one side in a short time, that’s why I didn’t skate too much last year. It was very annoying, to say the least.
There is a good guy in Malmö, Anders Nilsson, who helps a lot of skaters. He’s good ‘cause he always finds a way to make things better and he’s super down to help skaters; he’s stoked on what we are doing.
Anyone who skates with me knows I take slams pretty hard from time to time. Sometimes I land good things and sometimes
I just end up in a pile. To be able to survive both I try to keep fit on a regular basis. I never go to the gym but I work out with my body weight. I just do basic stuff like balance training for my ankle, the plank and stuff like that to get a strong core and good balance. I swim sometimes too.
I also do some stretching. It’s exaggerating to call it yoga, it’s more like yoga moves for stretching out my body. Anders taught me the benefits of stretching and keeping your body soft. It’s important and makes you feel a lot lighter I think.
Impossibles and nollie heels
The thing that gets me really stoked is to skate with a hyped up group. I need a good crowd and a good vibe. It doesn’t have to be the best skaters but I like to be around people who hype things up and some good music too. That might be the most important part… I’ve always been into music and matching music with moods. I have done a lot of other sports before like golf, tennis, karate, gymnastics and swimming. Needless to say: it’s hard to listen to music while doing karate or swimming. Therefore skating suits me well. Just crank up a good tune; I love that. A good tune and a couple of slams of course – then I’m good to go!
I don’t get really angry that often but one thing that really bothers me is people who say things are impossible – it’s just a bad mind-set that will never lead you forward.
Fifty years ago they said it was impossible to place all the people in the world in the Grand Canyon. Today we know it’s possible to fit everyone and then some more. People who see problems and not opportunities can get me irritated from time to time. I mean like, if you are flexible with people and things, life gets easier to live and your mind will be more prepared for new things and accept stuff without making it too hard for you to go through life.
Right now I just want to get my ankle into skate mode again, get my body fully into shape and l then I’ll learn proper nollie heels!