The Wonderful Adventures of Sarah Meurle
In the fairy-tale book ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’, Swedish school children get to learn about geography. It was written in 1906 by Nobel Prize Winner Selma Lagerlöw. By following Nils Holgersson riding on a goose’s
back through Sweden pupils were taught about the country and its regions. Nils’ journey, much like Sarah Meurle’s, started in the countryside in the South of Sweden, far away from the big city and the urban possibilities to skate.
Sarah built a ramp in her barn to get her first tricks dialled. Nils flew on a goose’s back as a small kid. For Sarah it was well into her high school years that she first got on a plane to leave the country. Until then her travelling was limited to car rides with the family. Her first journey on a plane, at age 17, was a filming trip to Barcelona.
Since then, Sarah has done laps around the globe and established herself as one of the international Swedish OG’s.
As the first student from Bryggeriets Gymnasium to turn pro she was the first to pave the way and was later followed by Heitor Da Silva, Oski, Deedz, Simon Isaksson and Ville Wester to name a few.
But skateboarding has never been her only passion. Along with her pro career she has also fit in both education as well as loads of photography work along with curating exhibitions, guest editing magazines and other creative endeavours. The list is long and so is Sarah’s longevity in skateboarding. Sometimes you see her and sometimes you don’t, but Sarah is in it for the long haul.
This piece was written between trips filming for a new WKND video going from Malmö to Atlanta and then to Palm Beach. Sarah is hard to pin down so we had to take help from her friends for this interview. Spread over the world friends, colleagues and fans got to write questions for her. This is an attempt to catch part of the wonderful adventures of Sarah Meurle.
Next time you look up into the sky and see a goose, look closely, Sarah might be on its back on her way to yet another adventure. –John Dahlquist
Nicole Hause: What advice would you give your 25-year-old self, knowing what you know now?
Sarah Meurle: To go to Uni was a great idea, I’m really glad I have that experience with me. Don’t stay in relationships if they aren’t the best for you. Check in with yourself more often, go to therapy ASAP to get some good tricks and tools and follow your own route.
Will Harmon: I know you attended the first year of Bryggeriets Gymnasium. What was your parent’s attitude towards your choice of school? And how has the school changed since you attended?
They were supportive, I was so into skating and when the school opened up it felt like an obvious choice. I also loved the idea of having a reason to escape the small town where I’m from and go to high school in Malmö. It’s pretty insane to open up anything from scratch – especially a school, and the first couple of years are most likely not gonna be the best ones. The downsides weren’t with the skate program, but the fact that there was no reputation yet so the non-skate students, the ones who were studying media (about half the class), seemed like they just ended up going there with no motivation and that created rowdy classrooms. You would probably expect the opposite but the skaters were actually the ‘good’ students.
I felt lucky as I could have more of an understanding for travels and being away from school a lot the last year I went there. And the skate classes, plus the fact that we always had access to the skatepark, was amazing. A big difference with Bryggeriets today is that the school is famous now. It’s well known all over the skate world and it holds a lot more power and opportunities for the students now than it did back then, which is very cool.
Andrew Considine: So I’m assuming you had straight A’s in skate school, but where did you flop? What were your flaws?
I thought I had to study so hard when I was in 9th grade to get into a good school, someone really must have tricked me. So when I actually came to the skate high school everything was easy. I had always thought I was shit at maths but turns out I just didn’t understand the teacher and when I got a new one in Malmö she helped me figure it out. I think I was definitely sleeping in history class though; that one is interesting now when I’m older but I didn’t get it then. If you could put a grade on my switch flips I would really flop.
John Dahlquist: What is it like to balance skateboarding with photography work?
I juggle it in between trips, when I’m at home I have more time for photography. When I travel I shoot a lot but I usually prefer experiencing where I’m at in the moment and edit and work on photos when I’m home. I’ve definitely put skateboarding first these past two years and the time I’ve put into photography has been less, but it still has evolved more lately probably because I’ve been doing it for a long time.
Filip Almqvist: How do you manage to check in three bags on every tour, be so organised as a person, yet so unorganised with your stuff?
My brain definitely operates in some sort of organised chaos. To me it makes sense to bring everything I might possibly need on a session, so things have gotten out of hand a bit lately when we’re in LA ‘cause we basically jump in Grant’s car and stay out all day, so optional shoes are a must, any cameras I wanna shoot with, etc. I can’t just bike home and grab another sweater or go grab a jacket. All things must come. They’re not necessarily unorganised though, I know it’s insane but I do know where I keep everything and maybe that’s what it looks like inside my head as well.
It does disturb me that I just can’t choose to pack like two pairs of pants and some white tees and be fine with that. I love having options.
Nils Svensson: In your opinion, what is a good photograph?
If I develop a roll and get excited about let’s say three out of 16 images, they are usually the ones that surprise me in some way: when a mistake is added to the equation, when the light hits just right, or if there’s something in the image I didn’t even realise while I was shooting it. There is no certain formula, but if the image can tell a story and make you think or feel in some type of way it’s doing something right.
Danijel ‘Jugga’ Stankovic: What was it like to film for the first ever all girls skate video Gizmo?
It was a new experience for me to get treated like a priority and having the support to film for a part in that kind of way. Being in a big production like that gave me a lot of motivation to try a bit harder. I was also tripping on being on trips with Elissa (Steamer), ‘cause she is the most legendary person ever.
Love Öhling: What are your long term career goals for skating? What is your dream project to work on?
I’m not really a career person in the way that I have a plan set out ahead of me. Perhaps I would for the next six months, but not for the next 10 years. Things I do are often opportunities I’ve thought through, that give me a good gut feeling, that lead me somewhere and I’ll give it my all and then take it from there. In skating I have goals to put out parts and contribute to the skate scene in different ways – for photography I have dreams to publish books and have exhibitions connected to them.
Makke Bengtsson: You have been struggling with a foot problem for a long time. What do you do to keep yourself skateable fitness wise?
Yeah the ankle keeps haunting me, I actually just rolled it again two days ago but it’s almost as if it’s so worn out that it’s not that noticeable.
I do a lot of ankle rehab exercises, with elastic bands, toe lifts and so on. This winter I started taking foot baths. Hot & Cold. I massage it and I skate with an ankle guard. I also started training just my big toes since they need extra strength – fully looks like I’m Uma Thurman in Kill Bill just wiggling my toes back and forth. Rehab training is extremely boring!! Besides the ankle, I have a workout routine I do which is a mix of moves I learnt from physiotherapists and yoga classes.
Arin Lester: As a skateboarder and photographer who sees yourself in magazines both behind and in front of the lens, how does that feel?
Right now I’m equally as excited if I get a photo published, whether I’m in it or behind it. If you shoot a good photo it basically feels as if you’ve landed a good trick as well.
Samantha Narvaez: What are some of your funniest memories from your recent travels?
The Australia trip with Nike SB was a constant haze of laughter… One day I got the fake birthday surprise at a Thai restaurant in Sydney. The staff came in singing with ice cream, balloons and everything, even a gift from the staff. I had to pretend like it was really my birthday and ended up carrying these balloons with me for the rest of the night. Flynn said they chose me because I’m silly.
This Hyperion Dist trip (WKND, Rassvet) I’ve just been on to West Palm Beach/ Miami ended up with us laughing to tears in the car because Andrew (Considine) said I would go into Goblin mode, which doesn’t make any sense at all but somehow it ended up being really funny 10 days deep when you’ve just been making fun of each other the whole time. Pat (Franklin) made up a new way for the pronunciation of Copenhagen and whenever he said it I couldn’t not laugh. No matter how smart you were prior to being on a skate trip it definitely simplifies things during that time period in a lovely way.
Tom Karangelov: What inspired your trick selection? I’m thinking about tricks like pole-jams, wallies,
I think I was quite influenced growing up with having Pontus Alv around. I always secretly admired what he did: the wallrides, pole-jams and skating interesting spots… But the ones who really took me in were the Streetlab team. I looked up to Danijel Stankovic, who is now like another older brother to me, so much. He’s more of a flip and pop god and I really admire that as well. Noseslide combos came later, it was something I realised I could do like five years ago and then just kept on doing it from there. I do remember this one local Malmö skate vid I had on DVD, which me and my friend Jakob would watch every day when we were fifteen, and this OG Malmö skater known as Kingen does a noseslide to crooks or maybe even crooks to noseslide and I was always really curious how that worked. Guess I finally found out!
Grant Yansura: What do you like about the US and what don’t you like about the US?
I think American culture is interesting, fun and familiar, so in a way I feel really at home in that. It feels like a very social and outgoing environment to be in compared to the more withdrawn Swedish style. I think it’s good for me to be in.
On a more negative note though is that the political system and the welfare clearly is not working out. Seeing that take shape in forms of poverty versus wealth is really sad; don’t like that. Also guns are scary.
Py Nilsson: Who are the most important people in your life?
Many of my close friends are spread out, since I’ve lived in different cities. I keep visiting these places or they visit me. It’s nice to be back in Malmö now because that skate scene is also what I grew up in. My parents and my two older brothers… My grandma who passed away a couple of years ago was the GOAT, it always warms my heart to think about her.
Alana Paterson: What is your greatest accomplishment? What do you hope to still accomplish?
I’m not sure if I have one thing in particular like that, but looking back at a really shy teenage girl who went through some tough late teens and grabbed a hold of skating as a way out in the world is something I’m really proud of.
Ah so much to do, so many things to accomplish… But I think it’s more important to live a good life and spend it with people you love, so that is my priority and main wish to accomplish in life.
Ryan Lay: You are kind of an interdisciplinary boss who seems to excel in more than a handful of things beyond just skating. I am curious if at any point in your career you were just purely a skate rat and if that was healthy for you or if you find that you have more of a balance juggling different passions?
I think I was that skate rat kid in the beginning when skating was new to me, from like 13-16. Like a relationship, for the first three years you’re really in love with it and it’s all you can think about then it evolves into something more solid but less obsessive. Having ankle injuries and not being able to skate early on taught me that I couldn’t rely just on doing that. Maybe I would’ve done more if I could have… Taking photos became important to me. I think I really realised though when I graduated high school and moved to Barcelona to just try and skate as much as I could, even though I wasn’t making any real money off it (I had some money saved up from a contest or two). After three months of living that skate life I felt unfulfilled and uninspired. I definitely need a balance of doing other things as well and exploring art through photography helped me find new ways to approach life and expand my worldview a bit.
Working a full-time job and skating on the side was also a good motivation to actually have less time to do it so when I did I was on it. But it also took a lot of energy. When I first got on Nike I was studying full-time so sometimes it was hard when it came to travel. There’s a fine balance, nowadays I feel like I’m skating more than I have been the past ten years. And I’m really motivated: it comes down to having people around that inspire me and make it fun. For me right now I think 70% skateboarding and 30% other things is a good equation.
Pat Franklin: How has finding more mainstream success later in your career affected your experience within the industry? Was that validation always important in continuing to pursue skateboarding as an occupation?
I think it’s so sick and really amazing it almost brings me to tears when I now see non normative skaters becoming represented in the big magazines, having ads and are on the teams of larger brands. Because I’ve seen these skaters and known about them before all of this and it’s definitely motivating to be a part of that change and see myself in there as well.
I was ready to do what I’m doing now when I was 18 but the industry wasn’t ready for it. To not be bummed about that and instead to enjoy the support and opportunities I’m given now is the way I like to look at it. To answer the question, I pursued it for so long without having that validation, so yeah, I think I’d be doing it, but definitely would not be able to go all in on it and would probably have been more like 70% photography and 30% skateboarding.