Core Values – Catching Up With Madars Apse
Words by Arthur Derrien
In the lead-up to this article Madars was kind enough to offer me a little summary of what he’d been up to in the last few years as we hadn’t chatted much since the days of him living in London, and this email ended with ‘I am 33 now, skating since 11 and wanna skate forever you know?’. I’d completely forgotten we were the same age, and had no idea we’d been skating for the exact same amount of time. And I’m not sure why, but it weirded me out a bit… Madars is someone I’ve always admired both in terms of his skating and his ability to make mature decisions. When he was in town all those years ago it was to finish his bachelor’s degree, and being at the time often surrounded by people that could skate all day because they did it for a living, I found solace in knowing that I knew a ‘pro skater’ that was putting themselves through the same nause as I was, i.e. going to Uni, even though they kind of didn’t have to. I know: extremely childish.
He’s also someone who I noticed very early on would go out of their way to make others feel comfortable. I met him when we were in our late teens on one of my first proper skate trips, which was for DC Shoes, and we were going around France with Stephane Larance as the TM, the whole French team, and Jack Curtin and Chany Jeanguenin (!) as ‘guests’ for some reason… Needless to say, I felt ridiculously out of place. I also got sick almost straight away, so was out of action for the first few days and had to face the ‘So are you even gonna step on your board today?’ comments most mornings. And although he probably doesn’t even remember it, this guy did everything he could to encourage me and get me to stop pranging, which played a huge part in me deciding to stick it out on what turned into one of the most memorable trips of my life.
Anyway, long story short, that’s why it felt extra nice to read that he was doing well, that he was in a happy, solid relationship, that his girlfriend had got him hooked on surfing and snowboarding, that in the context of his Red Bull ‘Skate Tales’ show he’d recently been to the States, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Japan… I was stoked for him, but also kinda envious. It also did something to me that I knew was inescapable when we agreed to do this piece… It made me address my feelings towards the elephant in the room: Red Bull. My stance on them has always been pretty straightforward: it’s a company that operates outside of skateboarding’s delicate little eco-system (your local SOS does not benefit from what they do in any way whatsoever), with its sales going towards making extremely rich people even richer. They put BMXers in hot air balloons to sell you energy drinks that are bad for you: they’re bone. Easy. Talking to someone you admire as a skater and respect as a person about why they chose to endorse a product like this one: not so easy. So it started to make me question this logic that until that point had been an unshakable truth… Do I really have a leg to stand on when most of the interviews in this magazine get conducted at the pub, with a huge percentage of them depicting some form of mashman ridiculousness for comedic purposes? Could that not be seen as glorifying something arguably worse? And if I tried to explain to an alien, or to an elderly relative even, that skating for a big energy drink company is really wack, even though you get paid loads, and get to travel all around the world, but that skating for a massive sportswear multinational is extremely cool, reckon they would get it? Yup, I was clearly spiralling. How does one stop spiralling? You face your fears… So we had ‘the chat’.
‘I’ve been skating for Red Bull for 17 years now,’ Madars explained, ‘and when they reached out to me at the age of 15/16, all I wanted was to be a core, core skater. I didn’t want to be a contest skater with big logos and look like a NASCAR driver, you know, I just really wanted to be just like my favourite skaters: normal people that can do amazing tricks on a skateboard. And yeah I was a bit sceptical at first, but I got to travel so much, see so much of the world, meet so many people, learn so much, and you know the support they’ve shown me since, after all these years… I can only be thankful for that.’
When asked how he feels about being one of the few respected pros who have managed to navigate having a foot in both the energy drink/corpo sponsor world and the traditional skateboard world with tons of legit magazine interviews, videos parts, etc. he went on explaining that certain things along his journey had essentially made it a no brainer for him. ‘The first couple of years when I was on Red Bull, for the manager, who is a good friend of mine, the main goal was for me to finish university. He was honestly supporting me because he wanted me to grow as a person, you know… I was at a stage where I wanted to quit studying because I couldn’t afford the tuition fee but he pulled me through it, and that made me appreciate it even more. And after all these years I can say it, yeah, I’m a full on 100% Red Bull athlete. Especially now that things with DC are kind of stopping, Red Bull has become my main sponsor, and you know, I’ve got to eat and support my family.’
Madars went on sharing that every month he supports his father who, following several strokes, now has a health condition that requires a lot of care, which made me feel like a little bit of a dickhead for pursuing this line of questioning and obviously put things into perspective… But seeing me slightly thrown off by the information, and in typical Madars fashion, he didn’t hesitate to lift the mood: ‘oh but don’t worry he’s good, he’s happy, we still argue every other day and drink vodka together ha ha.’
Interestingly our conversation also led us to examine something that under the surface inevitably played a huge role in us even having this conversation: what it means to be ‘core’. ‘Maybe I’m also not as hardcore a skater as some.’ Madars told me. ‘If being a hardcore skater is caring only about a certain type of skating, caring about fashion, maybe I don’t fit into that. I see someone like Andy Anderson, who is obviously very different from all that, and I think that’s really cool. That’s why with my Skate Tales show I’ve pushed to explore all these different kinds of skating… I think it’s amazing that there’s people out there like Kilian Martin who have been skating forever in a way that’s completely different and love it just as much as we do and have the opportunity to keep doing it… I know it probably sounds cheesy but there’s beauty in everything I think. If something is an NBD or a trick I haven’t seen before, that’s the most important thing for me really, I’m going to double tap.’
And reading between the lines here, I think there’s some truth to this. As Ted Barrow kindly reminded us in his Iannucci Made Me Hardcore piece last issue, there’s no set manual dictating the list of what makes a person or a set of actions ‘core’ and not ‘core’. It’s your own influences and set of rules that dictate what will make you feel this way. And that thought was firmly lodged in my brain when later on in our chat he told me ‘and also it means that I can just continue to skate as much as I want and not be stuck in an office, you know?’ Something that was obviously met with ‘what, like me?’ And as I replied to him that no offence was taken, it did make me wonder if making (what I’d consider to be) sacrifices in order to actually be out doing what you love the most every single day really is less ‘core’ than being stuck behind a laptop all day worrying about how the piece you’re working on might contribute to Red Bull’s growing influence on our culture… Maybe it is. Maybe not. Maybe who cares as it’s all so subjective anyway. It’s his journey not ours, and what we’re getting from it is another few years of gorgeous crook pop-over shapes and a reminder that Madars is still the lovely human he always was.