Interview by Bram De Cleen (with help from Ben, Mikkjel and Laurenz). Photos by DVL.
Jarne, what are you doing right now? Where?
Just got back to the hotel after a day of skating, I’m in Barcelona.
Did the skating work out?
Not really, I hung up on a feeble on a flat bar and smacked my knee on the floor. Didn’t really do anything else after that. I did get some stuff yesterday and the day before.
Did you just go there to escape the winter?
No, I’m here to film for Element. But I probably would’ve been here anyway. I can’t handle an entire winter in Belgium.
You’re in your first year as a free man. You’re finally done with school. How does that feel?
Pretty good, I’ve been travelling and skating a lot. But I have to go back to another school in May. I didn’t get the diploma last year and I want to get it so I didn’t go through the whole thing for nothing.
What was it you studied?
Welding. Just welding.
I don’t know, auto mechanics would’ve been too much theory.
The first year of secondary school was mixed between welding and auto mechanics, the second year you had to choose between both, and I picked welding because there is less theory to it. Actually I wish I would have chosen auto mechanics.
It would’ve been handy. I would’ve been able to fix someone’s car if there was a problem. Or my own car if I would have one. Welding is useful too, though.
Have you used your welding skills outside of school already?
Not at all, actually. But I can do it, so if ever something needs welding…
It could come in handy at the skatepark, for example.
It hasn’t, so far?
No, but I’ve used the grinding wheel!
Like I said, I’ve never used it outside of school, but if I ever need to, I got the skills.
Can you see yourself being a professional welder in the future?
If only I knew that… Something that involves skating, maybe. Whatever, as long as it’s not welding.
I did a couple of internships for school last year. All the guys that worked there have about ten diseases each. You’re stuck in a warehouse the whole day, constantly huffing black smoke. At the end of the day I always coughed up black phlegm. I never want to do that again, really. I’m sure that as an intern I got the worst jobs, but still… It was really hard work. At the end of the day I was always really tired.
Could you still skate afterwards?
No, my legs were always super sore. Sometimes, when I got to actually weld, it was better, but most of the time I was exhausted. Standing on your legs the whole day, the smoke…
Maybe being a welding teacher would be a bit more mellow.
Yeah, maybe, but I didn’t get the diploma in the end, so I guess not. They really fucked me over. The first trimester of the last year I had been on skate trips the whole time, so around Christmas I asked them if it still made sense to come to school the rest of the year – if I would still be able to get good grades and pass the year. They told me I would, and that my grades depended primarily on how I do at the internships. I did well at all the internships, got good grades and then they didn’t let me pass because I scored badly at maths.
I really can’t get my head around mathematics.
Did you put in the effort?
Yes, most of the time I did. I even took these extra lessons. It didn’t work out, though. So no diploma for me.
The thing is that I asked the principal in advance. “Yeah, yeah, you can still get the diploma if you do good at the internships.” Looking back, they made me do them for nothing. Two full days of shitty work every week, for six months, for free.
Your mother has always been really supportive of your skating, and everything that comes with it, but what does she think of your scholastic efforts? Is she angry because you didn’t get the diploma?
No. She was actually the one that said I should maybe just quit, because I hadn’t gone to school the whole first trimester, anyway. Obviously, she would’ve preferred that I got the diploma, but she doesn’t have one either and everything turned out fine for her. I’m sure she was really sick of my constant complaining as well. I had been whining about school for an entire decade.
Uh, welding, and that I never want to be a welder. That’s about it.
Sometimes it was okay, though. I definitely got to know some crazy people.
All the guys that worked there, fuck. They’re part of the reason why I would never want to work in a place like that, though.
What were they like? I remember this one story about escorts.
There was this one guy that worked full time and did a lot of extra hours, just to pay for whores every other weekend. He spent the weekend with the whore, and then came back in to work, to then do the same thing over again. He was such a nasty guy, smoking cigarettes under his cap while welding, in the middle of all the other black smoke. He was disgusting but very funny. He’d been doing the same thing for ten years at least. And he’s probably going to do it for the rest of his life.
Some people can do that.
There were some younger guys too, always coked up. Every hour or so they’d have to go to the bathroom again: “I’m not gonna make it to the end of the day if I don’t.”
Haha. It was the same at all the companies I worked for.
Why do you think it’s like that? Why are they all like that?
I don’t know, because they all went to trade school, and in Belgium trade school is basically a bunch of guys that didn’t make it through the last year of primary school. Usually this means you’re not the most obedient student, to say the least.
Now that I think of it, I didn’t meet a single normal person during that whole time.
I have always thought of you as a clever boy. How do you think you ended up stuck between those guys? Why didn’t you go to a regular secondary school?
I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I would’ve gotten through it. I have a hard time focusing on certain stuff. Actually, until the fourth grade of primary school I was always one of the best of my class. I knew the answers to most of the questions they asked and I was always the first to respond. Then this one teacher really humiliated me. Maybe that has something to do with it. She told me I was useless and stupid. I started putting in less effort from that day on. Actually, now that I think of it, I never really tried hard anymore after that.
I had to stay longer in her mathematics class, because I didn’t understand something. I’d always had some troubles with my concentration, and when it was just her and me, after the class, I kind of acted like I was trying to solve her question while I was really just thinking about other stuff, stressing out on her. Of course, after a moment, she asked me for an answer and I had nothing. She went nuts and said, “You must be stupid, then, really retarded.” After that I went for a little weep on the playground.
That’s kind of harsh.
Even last year, in mathematics, I still had trouble. My end results were usually right, but I didn’t get to them in the right way. I guess numbers work differently in everyone’s head.
It’s only mathematics, right? You excel in other fields. Women for example. You grew up as the only boy with three sisters. What was that like?
Pretty good. I think they all liked having a little brother. They all took care of me really well.
Do you think you understand women a bit better because of them?
Yeah, maybe. Maybe I know how to talk to girls a bit better because I was always talking to my sisters. Then again, if it had really helped me then I wouldn’t be stuck talking to different girls at the same time.
Maybe you have a bit more knowledge than your experience can handle. You usually have some girl drama going on, right?
I guess. So does everyone else, right?
I just live in Mechelen, where nothing ever happens, but I go to Spain or other places to skate sometimes and I think that makes them think I’m kind of special.
So they have the hots for the little skater boy that is in the magazines and travelling around the world.
Yeah, maybe, kind of…
Are those the type of girls you’re into?
Not really. I’m not saying they’re bad girls.
Do you ever use the skater boy thing to get girls?
No. Well, maybe it happens sometimes, when I’m drunk.
When you’re drunk. That’s another thing. You like to drink a beer, right? Do you think you party and drink more than other people your age?
That depends on who you’re comparing me with. Definitely not more than the guys I went to school with. They really went for it. Maybe a bit more than some other skaters of my age – sometimes they are a bit surprised. I don’t know, maybe I grew up a bit differently than they did, or I just started a bit earlier.
Can you skate hungover? I know I can’t.
I’m pretty lazy when I’m hungover but then I start feeling guilty so I usually end up looking for something I can do while I’m in that state of mind. Most of the time this means a drop-in or something like that, something that requires mental absence. There are other times when skating works out fine when I drank the night before. The brain somehow works differently than it does on normal days, and all of a sudden I can do things I couldn’t do before.
You definitely went through a Jump-Off-A-Building phase when you were younger. Do you still feel that urge nowadays?
To jump off of random high stuff? No, not really. Sometimes, when the spot is right, or like I said, a good drop-in when I’m hungover, but definitely not as much as before. Looking back, it was stupid to do that kind of stuff, ruining my body like that.
You had some trouble with your right knee when you were still really young.
There was this one piece of bone that seemed to pop out of the joint, sometimes. But I figured out which movements made it pop out and I just don’t do those anymore. It usually happened when my right leg did too much of a tuck knee kind of move while my foot moved to the right. It hasn’t happened in a long time, so I’m pretty sure it has healed. It had to do with the cartilage. I was eleven when it started happening. It was right after I jumped off of that high block in Hasselt. That probably didn’t help much.
That high block?
Yeah, not even a gap, ha ha, just a big block. I went about two kilometres per hour and jumped off of it. I had ollied it first, and then when we passed the spot again on the way back I tried to 180 it. It was more than twice my height.
The skating you’ve been doing the last couple of years sure looks better and less painful.
I’m pretty sore most of the time, to be honest – at least when I’m trying to get really good stuff. The tries you end up landing never look painful but that’s because you’re landing the trick. They usually come after two or three hours of trying hard and failing, the stuff that you never see footage of. And then there’s usually a day or two of not being able to skate afterwards.
That’s why people like Phil (Zwijsen) stretch all the time, and drink a lot of water.
Ross (McGouran) just came back from a three-week trip to New Zealand. He stretched every day, ate fruit the whole time and stopped smoking weed.
He says he feels great.
Can you see yourself doing something like that?
I don’t think I could stick with it for very long. I could do it for a while but I would probably stop once I felt better.
Feel good on the board for a couple of days, do some good tricks and then go out to celebrate and ruin it all.
Are you enjoying all of this? What would you want to happen in the next couple of years?
I’m definitely enjoying my life right now. I want everything to keep going in the same direction. I want to keep skating and travelling, basically. It’s as good as I thought it would be.
Random ender. What is the best thing that has ever happened?
I don’t know. I don’t really know everything that has ever happened.
If I have to choose something I would say the invention of the bed. The matress and the covers. A warm nest. That would be it for me.
Jarne is supported by Element, Nike, Independent, Lockwood Skateshop, Muckefuck, RVCA and Area 51 Skatepark.