Published on July 19th, 2012 | by Adrian Simpson0
Jan Profous (Zoltan Buttboard): The Interview
In the run up to the Kozakov Challenge we spoke to the man who made his downhill skateboarding dream a reality. Jan Profus was born behind the Iron Curtain in the then country of Czechoslovakia, but was a boy with a very western passion – skateboarding. Here he talks about being one of the pioneers of the sport in his homeland, how his event started and just what life was like trying to be a skateboarder in the Communist era.
Adrian Simpson: When did you start skating?
Zoltan Buttboard: When I was 5, in 1986 or something like that. I started riding with my knees and hands on the board, just like a dog, pushing with one leg. Nice and fast ‘till the= moment, when one of the wheels got stuck in a hole. I flew about 3 meters and hit the concrete with my head. After that I quickly started to teach myself to skate stand-up in the belief that this will be safer. What a mistake! So I switched to lying again – buttboard.
AS: What’s the worst accident you’ve had?
ZB: At Peyragudes. I made a bet with one of the Italian guys. He was so fast… I remember my decision just a few seconds before the crash. "I will not brake, till he will not brake" But he actually did that, his braking was much better than mine. I tried to turn, but I was too fast. So I hit with my foot, it turned my whole leg and fired me from the board on the road. Luckily there was only two of us and I did not break any bones, but still, till now, I can feel it from time to time.
AS: How difficult was it to learn?
ZB: For me, it was very difficult. There was nobody to teach from. So I had t understand everything from a few videos on YouTube and Darren Lotts publication. That everything was a try. How to brake, when to brake, how to use body… It was a nice scouting. Today, we can teach this in a few runs. Half a day and you fluently know the basics.
AS: How did the Kozakov challenge begin?
ZB: When we got permission, we had a road, but we were not sure, that it is ok, for European championship. So we invited Stephan Risch and Eimer Mayer to ride with us and say, if this is a road in IGSA standards. When Stephan firstly ride that, he was happy, so we were happy. I asked Eimer, if 200 hay bales is enough and he started to laugh a lot. He said: "You will need a little bit more. Let’s say 2000" And that is true, his prediction was more than accurate, we have 2000 of them every year.
AS: How big is it now?
ZB: Well I think that quite big. I’m glad that riders like it. I mean whole races. Party and racing. Road seems to be fast enough, surface is smooth, turns are hard. Parties during night are one of hardiest I have seen around downhill races, beer is tasty and cheap… What else did I forgot?
AS: How was anything to do with skateboarding viewed by the Authorities back in the 80’s?
ZB: Ugh. Well I was a young guy… From my view, child living in a communist state, it was ok. Normal was, that I needed a flat battery into one of my machines and I had to wait for 3 weeks, until factory made them and shipped them to the stores. You haven’t a chance to get them all around the republic. I remember as well a line of customers, waiting on toilet paper, oranges, or bananas. You had to have a friend’s at the store, they called you, that for example toilet paper will be at the store at that date, at that time and you had to be ready.
So from this, skateboarding was something very very rare, expensive and always out of stock. I hadn’t a chance to buy it at any store around the republic. You had to have special financial cheques called "Bons" with them i had a chance to go to special store called "Tuzex." That were a classical shops with "capitalistic stuff" and there i could exchange them for a skateboard. Other possibility was to ask somebody, going to a capitalistic part of the world to bring here one board. I was too young on it, but my parents told me, that after 1985 things get easier and life as well. Not much, but in comparison what was before, it was easier. SO get a board here was easier as well. I’m not sure and I want to blame here, but I think, that I have seen one of the skateboards around 1988 (before revolution) at one of the shops. That is about the hardware. To ride somewhere, that was something amazing. People were turning heads, I was happy, that I have a board… Nice. children, who haven’t had a chance and wanted one, they made some of them as well, spare parts were sold on a black market… It was a weird time. But to skate, that was strong and great feeling. Communist didn’t restrict it, but for them it was a capitalistic sport aided by the lazy kids. But they haven’t found anything, that could be harmful on it so they let it be.
AS: Which country has the best buttboarders?
ZB: Italy, Because of people around Federico. USA (Chris, Darren…) Austria (Alexander, Flying Dentist…) I think. Everybody will tell you something different though.
AS: How are you viewed in the skateboarding world?
ZB: I’m not sure, that I’m in a the view, I think that people barely know, who we, organisers of Kozakov are, and that is ok for us. We don’t care about it much, just want to make as good races as possible. And party of course. As huge party as possible as well. Sometimes we ride buttboard on IGSA races, but not much often, we drink a lot and we are having a fun as everybody.