Kilian Heuberger: The incredible tale of a skateboarder's fight against brain haemorrhage. (From issue 112)

Portrait Kilian Heuberger
Photos by Phil Pham. Text by Jan.

“Kolerian – The hate monger from river Isar” is what the spine message on Kingpin 88’s German issue translates to. It was the April issue with Kilian Heuberger’s interview entitled “Power Up” – Killah’s comeback after a severe ankle injury that had taken him out of the game for almost a year. – Well, that was the plan…

Right at the start of the conversation recorded in February, Kilian had outed himself as self-confessed hater, a skateboarding misanthrope. Him being one of the most possessed shredders out there needed no introduction.

But when the mag went to retail in early April and Kilian was holding his collection skate photos in hands for the first time, he had just successfully cheated death and was layed up in a hotel in Salzburg, Austria. Flat on his back, having just woken from a multiple day coma; the right side of his body paralysed, his faculty of speech slimmed down to the word “Ja” (Even “no” was gone at that point!). On March 30th an inherited blood clot in his brain had burst, a ticking time bomb detonated; mid-session at a comp in Austria.

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Kinked boardslide.

A twist of fate? Maxed out on the karma-credit overdraft?

“It just got into me,” Kilian says, approached about the fateful day, and it’s up for speculation what he is really insinuating. “I remember I fell, but got up and went on to make the trick…” But climbing up the ramp reaching the deck he felt dizzy.

Robert Klausner, Kilian’s Austrian skate buddy who was standing on top of the deck later stated, Kilian had looked as if he’d had a bunch of mushrooms for breakfast that seemed to be kicking in heavy, “I looked right through him and seemed fully baked.” Kilian was

carried off on a stretcher, lost consciousness in the helicopter, and awoke in the hospital days later. It was a shock to everyone but most of all, to his greatest helpers in these tough times, his then girlfriend now current wife and his brother. “Suddenly I woke up, turned around over in my bed a few times and went on to vomit out around two litres of greenish slime.”

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Ollie.

Yet, even such zombie-esque moves would never prompt Kilian to question his return to the plank – in whichever possible way that might be, ignoring the negative outlook from his doctors, who set regaining the ability to walk as a high goal.

“What if…? – there’s no point in asking such questions”, says Kilian, who profoundly believes that for whatever obstacle set in front of you in life, there is always a way to conquer it.

Challenges that make you stronger in the end. And whoever knows Kilian as a skater – ambitious, unweary, stubborn – will not be surprised by the fact that he managed to work his way to regaining control over his legs, step by step, over six month of rehab. – Though, it was, he says, “no chicken feed.”

“The way priorities shift in such times is unimaginable to outsiders.”

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Backside 180.

Setting foot back on the board the first few times was hard. Little ollies, little 180s, that was it. Where, coming back from such a blow, the sheer act of riding again might have given exaltations to the less determined, Kilian was still having a hard time with it. On the darker days he was questioning his fate: “In those moments everyone quarrels, doubts and questions: ‘Why me?!’”

What made it all a lot harder, was knowing you were once able to do all this. You know how to work the trick, it is just that your body needs recalibrating in order to achieve coordination. A frustrating experience for someone who once was able to pull magical tech-moves, terrifying rail manoeuvres or contest winning stay-on runs out of his hat, even when he had just pulled his head out of his arse from a long night out. “It was my current wife who pointed out to me, how glad I should be just being able to spent time on the board at all.” Enjoying the little things, instead of going ape shit chasing yesterday’s status quo. Something that remains a challenge for Kilian to this day: “What makes you better?” He asks himself, speaking slow and reflecting. “Isn’t accepting things stagnancy in the end? And who would want that?!”

Looking at Kilian’s skating today, you notice a focus on the more simple moves. More tranny, easier moves, quick satisfaction. “A fifty on a rail just comes much quicker than a nollie flip crook on a curb. It is a much simpler movement, all you need is guts.” And like someone who has won a test drive in a Ferrari and now wants more, he adds: “…but one more nollie flip crooks would certainly be nice!”

Even without a Ferrari Killian’s then girlfriend would take the drive from Munich to the Salzburg hospital daily, sometimes accompanied by his brother. Because what’s a two hour drive if a whole lifetime together is on your mind? “Her support helped a great deal,” Kilian says thoughtfully and loaded with meaning. These are the things that make or break a relationship and the knot was tied soon after, and also the bond to his brother was reaffirmed. However, ministration is obligating. Brother and wife raise demands: helmet at all times – too high a risk. “Reckon they wouldn’t want another go at all this shite.”

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Frontside tailslide.

Sure, at first sight a helmet is far from being representative of limitless freedom and give-a-fuck-attitude. Yet, looking at helmet-crowned Kilian standing tall on serious rails says nothing but: who cares?! Really… there are more important things in life. Kilian puts it bang-on: “you skate because you love riding.” Nuff said.

Somehow or other, he has never been fond of easy excuses: wrong board or wrong wheel size have never been an argument used by Kilian, “you can adjust to anything.”

Accordingly, the lesson “hate-monger Kolerian” is drawing from the past two years doesn’t come as much of a surprise: It is humbleness; “being pleased with just a little.” This stands true in private as with his skating, leaving the past’s pathological ambition behind.

Had the whole thing never happened, Kilian would unarguably be skating better today. But at the same time he would be, “a whole lot more unhappy,” Kilian sums it up, quick to not call it a twist of fate or stating that it is karma-related, reassuring only that the incident had no negative. “It didn’t do no wrong.”

“Ultimately,” he states, “it comes down to the fact that I dealt with it. That’s why this challenge was imposed on to me.” And slightly reaching for composure he adds: “I guess I had to learn that my skating hey-days were over.”

Clearly, a matter of figuring out his priorities. Yet, maybe much more a matter of viewpoint, as the photos on these pages should indicate.

And one thing is for sure, chance, karma or fate – which ever way you twist and turn it: this dude lives and breathes skateboarding and lets nothing in this world get to him, not even the unearthly: “I for sure won‘t find God because of this… not for such trifles!”

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50-50.

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