An interview with Stan Postmus, the guy that brought part of the culture of the skateparks in the West Coast of the USA to Amsterdam; the one that made the Amsterdam Junkie Jam, pushed hard for Marnixstraat to happen and the wizard behind organizing Amsterdam’s newest.
Confusion: Hey Stan, what’s up!?
Stan: Que pasa tío.
Confusion: Man now that I know you were behind Marnixstraat, I need to ask about that first.
Stan: The thing was that the contrast between my situation in the States and my situation in Amsterdam was so big that I felt a little hungover; not sure what I was doing moving back here. There was an indoor skatepark at that time (’97), but it closed almost instantly [it was called 3rd Floor]. It’s a funny story, somebody during a party that had nothing to do with skateboarding, opened the elevator shaft and fell down and died, so the city council was like “What! a skate park!? I don’t wanna deal with it”.
Confusion: It was a squat skatepark?
Stan: Yeah. Well, it was squatted and allowed. But when they knew the situation, that someone died there, it was deemed “unsafe”, so the skatepark had to close.
So at the time the main spot in Amsterdam was the Museumplein where they had a good miniramp and a good vert ramp and the city removed it – a little side note is that those ramps used to be part of the Powell Peralta warehouse and they were sold to the municipality for a Guilder [around €1].
They were ramps built for indoors, so after a couple of years they were just beyond fixing, you know. So 3rd floor skatepark closed, they removed the Museumplain ramps, so I was like fuck, skateboarding is dying we gotta do something about it, and ah, the first thing I did was organize a demo at the main shopping street when you come out of the station, right in the weekend in between the contest in London, Radlands, and the contest in Germany, because every year all the pros woud come to Amsterdam in between – to smoke of course.
So I got some obstacles together, grabbed some stuff from the street like a wallie pole or a self-made manual pad from a table, and we called it the Amsterdam Junkie Jam, because there were still some heroin junkies in Amsterdam back then and there we made a big sign saying “we need an indoor skatepark” and we got signatures and got the local newspaper to come.
They destroyed another spot in the Jordaan, and then I started really making a fuss and I went to the local city council office, I was still an angry young man, and the guy across the table was “well , you got a point”, and the dialogue started. When they were re-developing the Marnixstraat they were “well, let’s re-develop the small park, and maybe that’s a good place for a skatepark”, and I was like “Fuck yeah, it is.” So we made some designs.
Confusion: You and?
Stan: Me and an architect company.
Confusion: What year was that?
Stan: It has to be something like 2002. It took another two or three years until it was finally finished, and I know the moment it was finally done and ready to skate because it was the same month that my daughter was born, so that’s pretty easy to remember: May 2005; so it’s turning into a 15 year old bowl this year.
Confusion: Ok, now let’s talk about Zeeburg: when and how everything started?
Stan: So, I always tried to keep the dialogue going as I understood that if you want public places to skate you need the city council, because obviously you’re not gonna find a commercial partner to build stuff in public facilities.
So I always kept my foot in the door. And ah… maybe I’m romanticizing a little too much, but I remember clearly that I was cycling to the indoor skatepark [Noord] in the middle of winter, and I don’t like skating indoors too much, and I remember cycling down to the ferry to go to the Northern part of Amsterdam, being really cold; and I already travelled to Sweden a bunch of times where the guys are really DIYing, and I always would love to do that in the Netherlands, I always had this dream of, like you know, have a big skatepark in my hometown, right?, and I cycled past this abandoned industrial area where there was a foundation, like an old floor of a hall that used to be there, and it was like this light bulb moment when I was like “we can just build stuff there”, you know?, and I turned my bike around, never made it to the skatepark that night, went down to that foundation; checked out, feeling the floor, seeing if it was big enough, and I was like “I’ll just start a DIY here”, because if you start a DIY you’re basically telling the city council “Hey, if you don’t build places to skate for us, we’ll do it ourselves”, you know!?
And like one or two weeks later I called some friends of mine: “Hey, meet me at this place tomorrow, we’re gonna clean up and build stuff and skate there”, and that was a big step for those guys to take, because we knew each other, but they were like two generations younger than I am, so they were kind of like “hmmmm, ok?”, but they showed up, four at first and that number grew as more people got inspired.
Stan: And I got shovels, and wheel barrows, I was prepared. We started building little stuff. You know, first a curb, then we found loads of stones that we used to build obstacles. I built a website saying like “Hey man, we’re gonna build stuff to skate, give us some money if you want” and… we built stuff to skate. The 6th of June 2012 we poured the concrete. It was rad, dude.
Confusion: 100% DIY, right?
Stan: Yeah, totally DIY. That was the power of the place. With that project documented properly I went to the city council of Amsterdam, on 11/12/13, and I explained “Hey all the cities in Europe are building professional skateparks, either you work with the skaters or maybe, not out of choice, you’ll be working against them.” I laid out a plan, with loads of examples, and at the end of the speech I was like “this is what we’d like to accomplish, can you help us get there?”
I think that was a pretty powerful message, asking them for help while at the same time providing them with all the answers. And the person in charge of sport and public spaces this same evening said “All right, let’s do this.” And finally, half way last year they started to build it.
Confusion: So it took five years from approval to starting construction?
Stan: Well, that approval on 11/12/13 wasn’t an official approval, but a “Hey, we’re backing this project.”
Confusion: So you feel the dream you had when you came from US is done?
Stan: (laughs) Well, that’s never done.
Confusion: What were your inspirations to design it? Any classic spots?
Stan: Well the skatepark has three levels. There is the curves at the entrance to the park, and there is the middle section which is a traditional street course, and there is the high section where all the trannies are.
The curve ledges were inspired by Love Park. We wanted to have a skatepark that doesn’t look like a traditional skatepark, but it looks like an inviting space to stay at, so this is where the plaza entrance idea came from.
The middle section is the classic handrails, bank to bank, quarterpipes, banks and hips and so; and with the trannies I wanted them to be one a massive big pool, because we have no proper verts in the Netherlands; I wanted to have like a flow bowl, you know, with different hips; and then I also wanted a backyard type of pool. I know some of the Flip guys from my time in the US, and I spoke to Rune Glifberg about doing a replica (or a tribute) to Arto’s pool in Hollywood and through Arto and Lance, Rune knew all the dimensions so it’s kind of like an Arto 2.0 in Amsterdam.
Confusion: What was your favorite ripping spot before this new one?
Stan: Probably Marnixstraat.
Confusion: What about the size of the bowls, is there like an upcoming revival you guys are expecting?
Stan: We were missing it in our country. I’m gonna get a lot of haters. I can’t even do a backside air properly, but I’m not doing it for me. I think vert skating is radical and if you build it, people will start skating it.
Confusion: In Berlin, they just did a fund-raising night to save the bowl at the Skatehalle, where did you get the support/conviction to build those?
Stan: It goes back to the vision I had in the beginning: we have to go a bit further in the learning trajectory of the kids.
Confusion: What about the DIY scene here in the Dam?
Stan: There is not really much happening right now, although hopefully kids are digging their way somewhere now. I’m thinking about starting something myself, you know. I have a project that might happen one or two months from now.
Confusion: What are your general feelings about the scene here in Amsterdam?
Stan: Amsterdam has a big scene. That goes without saying. There is a lot of street skaters going up and down and filming, in that sense the culture is doing great. I’d love to see more diversity, because it’s mainly street skaters that skate skateparks, we don’t have that many good street skating spots, so a lot of the skating takes place within the skatepark, which doesn’t have to be bad, but, you know, it’s only a small fragment of what skateboarding is about.
So obviously the skatepark Noord, the Olympiaplain is a huge meeting point. As a 44 year old, I’m not too excited about doing a tailslide on a curb anymore, you know. I hope this new skatepark is putting in the next gear.
Confusion: Did you have a lot of support from local players?
Stan: All have been very helpful. We’ve done three design meetings where loads of skateboarders, BMXers and even inline skaters showed up. So we took that interaction very seriously.
Confusion: How is it here: everyone by themselves?
Stan: The same as everywhere. Some shops have their rivalry, but at the same time our culture is very small: we all know each other. We all skated together. Competition can be good.
Confusion: What’s a scene you look up to?
Confusion: Where do you see the scene going?
Stan: I see two paths: one treats skateboarding as a sport where judges have to judge according to a set of rules, performance based skateboarding. And there is the other side, that is more tapping into the creativity as some culture. Those two overlap some time. I don’t see it as a sport, but, hey, if people want to take it as a sport and create possibilities for more facilities that are fun to skate, well, I’m all up for it.
Confusion: Aite, sweet, thanks man.