So…You Can Longboard Dance?

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So...Thrill Magazine has come on board amongst a whole realm of sponsors in support of So… You Can Longboard Dance? World Cup 2018 event in Eindhoven on April 21/22nd. Bianca Kersten, the brains behind this incredible event, gives us an insight into the history, preparation and future focus of the event.



Thrill
: Tell us how it all kicked off?

Bianca: It started 6 years ago when the longboarders in Eindhoven wanted to go skating indoors because of the bad weather. Jan, the owner of the venue, Klokgebouw, once said I could do something there. We knew each other from when I managed another venue for the previous owner. So… I asked him if we could skate in one hall when it was empty and he said ‘yes’.

We invited more people from The Netherlands and then Belgian riders also came, so we thought it would be funny to organise a Holland vs Belgium contest – before we knew it, the whole world came!

Photo: Ben Donoghue

Yes, I am the main organiser. My background is in festival production and event organising so, for me, it was possible to make it into an event – and we had to! So many people were coming that we needed medical aid, a bar, a sound system and so on. The joke is that we never expected it to get this big 🙂

Maarten Frouws and his friends already organised ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and we thought it was funny to keep the tradition by naming it after a similar television show (and they were involved in organising this competition as well). That is how it got named ’So You Think You Can Longboard Dance?’ The second year we changed it into ‘So.. You Can Longboard Dance?’, less long and to avoid possible copyright issues.

Photo: Cecile Orlandi

Now to me, it’s still just a bunch of people skating together. There is no way to wrap your head around the fact that people actually take a plane from Korea to get there! I’m grateful they do, though … but it’s insane! I never planned SYCLD to get this big and I think this is maybe the key: SYCLD doesn’t have to be anything. There is no ulterior motive for organising it other than the love to have the whole world experiencing the enjoyment that you feel by getting your feet on a board and to inspire those who don’t know it – that is my personal goal! My greatest enjoyment is to see those smiles! People who get grabbed by the feeling of passion, stoke and belonging!

T: How do you handle the inevitable bureaucracy?

B: I have much experience in organising events so the organisational part is, for me, no rocket science. I ran a marketing agency in a ‘past life’ and am used to walking in ‘suit n high heels’, if you know what I mean 😉 I used to be involved in 150,000 visitor festivals. To me, this didn’t give me joy anymore because at some point it gets to be about money and politics.

Actually, this year for the first time, I’m confronted with people who think I could do SYCLD more commercially and more ’polished’ business-wise but, with SYCLD, it’s a conscious decision not to go this way. I enjoy having some things not set, to have only companies involved who have a heart for this, no matter how small. For me, this event should be a blessing to organise and I refuse to talk to people about square meters of banners at the event. I only want people walking around who want the best for everyone, for the whole scene. And so far it’s like that. No negative word ever! 🙂

Photo: Timber Boards

On the other hand, all that is there (even when it’s small or simple) should be done to perfection. If you do it, do it well or not at all. All who are involved do it because they love it. The support and the foundation for the event are huge. Combined with me having a project organising company within street culture and action sports, having time to organise it and the kick-ass venue, all of which we can use for almost nothing … that is a puzzle coming together, all the pieces have to fit and they do!

T: Surely you’re not running this single-handedly?

B: There is a whole team, right from the beginning, managing the competition. I love to longboard but don’t know even 1% of what these people know. The whole judging team from day one is still involved in the decision making. Some are not judging some years but still contribute or come back. They are the ‘think tank’ which is actually discussing the future of this sport. It’s a bit insane if you think about it but well, everyone takes this as a huge responsibility. And I’m grateful, how much of a blessing is that?

This, I think, is a good combination; people with a lot of knowledge and someone who can bring all that knowledge into one decision, without an opinion where I should have none. 😉 Jelle grew into the one person I discuss everything with. Of course, every year a lot has to be arranged and decided. I’m the worst person to work with (very bossy and stubborn) but to Jelle, I actually listen! Hahaha! I think it’s good to have one person making all decisions in the end (faster) but a lot of the decisions I make are actually his advice which I agree on. Jelle and the judging team could take over the whole event tomorrow and that gives me huge peace of mind. Last year, for instance, I was in intensive care in Spain the week before the event but I knew all would be okay even if I couldn’t make it to Holland.

Photo: Sabina Edwards

T: The location has been provided free in the past but I think that changed? How do you manage to keep this a free event?

B: Although the event is free to spectators, actually taking part in the competition itself costs €15. Although the owner of the location even paid for some expenses in the first year (no words how grateful we are to Jan!) we now manage to pay the expenses he incurs. Even with that, this is a venue which would normally cost tens of thousands of Euros to rent! That we can use it is such an enormous blessing!

This is why I really urge people NOT TO take food and drinks into the building and buy from the stalls inside. The income from the bar, for instance, goes to the venue and that is the least we can do out of HUGE respect!

We get funding from the city of Eindhoven which covers medical aid, the sound system etc. which makes it a lot easier to organise. It’s not easy … money wise. This year, we are introducing prize money so we now ask all sponsors for cash. We need a mainstream sponsor like an energy or telecom company. I hope that will happen in the future to be able to have some financial air 😉

T: How many people came/competed at the first event compared to 2017 – how many are you expecting this year.

B: The first year I don’t know … hundreds? First, it was half of the venue for 1 day and now it’s the whole venue (5000m2) over two days. I guess 1200 people a day. This year there will be around 250 competitors, at least.

T: Tell us about China, how did that come about? How did that link into your future plans for the event?

B: The people in China asked to organise an SYCLD because it’s so famous in China. So we made it into ’Search for the Best Asian Rider’.

My goal is to organise this kind of competition on every continent so it was a great start. Everyone should be able to attend the World Cup in Holland so we want to make it possible for everyone to win on their own continent and get a flight to Holland.

Unfortunately, China will not happen again. The organisation did an awesome job but, for me, it was too hard to protect the true SYCLD spirit behind the scenes. I would have done it again but the limited financial contributions offered for future competitions were too restrictive.

But we are talking to organise in other countries, so…

… we better watch this space!

In the meantime, watch this:

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