Kingpin Magazine

The Chris Pfanner Interview – ‘Go Time’

Kingpin's German Editor Jan Kliewer chats with Chris on family life, Antihero and the American dream. From Kingpin Issue 121.

Go Time!
November in Germany…. not in Nuremberg, Chris Pfanner’s residence of choice after a multiple year stint in Barcelona, but in West Hollywood is where the Austrian’s face is greeting us from the screen of a Skype call. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Anja and his son, Max he has rented a cosy little house – sun, palm trees and hammock included. For three months they say. For now. And then…? Who knows…
For now they’re busy finding out what the Cali-life has in store for them, living their American Dream of sorts. The little one’s school enrolment still is a couple of years ahead, might as well…
Plus, looking at how tough, how uncompromising and raw Chris’ way of hucking the wheeled plank really is, and foremost: how focussed he’s been doing it since his change to Antihero, things can only go one way for him! But just which way is it now? Over the pond? Down gnarly gaps? Up the ladder? Into the “backside 180 and feeble” hall of fame…?
No matter, his heart at the right spot, Chris first of all stays true to himself and his family – from Nuremberg to Hollywood, and off for Go Time!

Hey Chris, it’s Sunday morning in California. Others are enjoying their weekend, while for you, you say it’s “go time”. You’re getting ready for action charging on your board, yeah?
That’s right. Sunday’s usually are the days when most stores are closed and even more important, most schools. This is where most of the skating here in California goes down. That is why Sunday is the day to bust – fun times jumping fences.

Who are your partners in crime on the campuses? Who is your skate crew over there?
Right now it is usually the Vans boys. Most of them live around my neighbourhood or not too far from West Hollywood: Dustin Dollin, Chima Ferguson, Anthony Van Engelen, Andrew Allen, Gilbert Crocket and also Greg (Hunt), the filmer. That was the main reason for me to come here (to California) in the first place; it’s just so convenient! I’m close to everyone. In order to really work on the Vans video, it could hardly be any better.

You said you guys are staying in LA for three months. Does that mean until video deadline?
Well, for now there is going to be a footage review in December. We’re all going to look at everyone’s material to see how everyone is progressing with their parts and where we stand with the video altogether. Then we’ll go and set a proper deadline.

Are you content with what you have so far? Did you get all the tricks you wanted? How is the part coming together?
Yeah, I’m content with my stuff, for sure. But I’m really just doing my own thing, the stuff I’ve always been doing, for four years now. But I think I got a bunch of good footy that way. However, in the end it’s always the same – you’re never done. You can always keep honing.

Well, the way I see it, you’ve stepped up your skating quite a bit within the last couple of years. Sure, you’ve always been doing big shit, but for my share you approach things much more seriously – so to speak – making full use of your potential. Good to see!
You can’t take skating seriously really, can you? But my life has changed a lot. I have responsibilities and I want to care for my family. Plus I’d be an idiot if I wasn’t making use of what I’ve got – skateboarding. It’s given me the unbelievable opportunity to provide for a comfortable life for my family and myself. You bet I’m trying to step it up. And the Vans video is the perfect occasion; deliver something proper, fucking charge it! But don’t take things dead serious…

Don’t get me wrong. But to me you seem to have gained clear goals, it feels like now you really know what you’re aiming for. It seems as if by the time you left Yama for Antihero you said to yourself: ‘Fuck, now I might as well go all in!’
Sure. Before I never had pressure of any sorts. Skating was just for myself. It was all fun; get up, see what the day holds. But once you’re holding a child in your hands, you instantly know, what really matters. Today my priorities in life are to take care of my family’s wellbeing, to provide a good life for my son. Well, of course riding for Antihero helped quite a bit gaining acceptance in the American scene…

true. It seems you’ve been received quite well over there. For a random “Ösi” (Austrian) you could have had a much harder time getting settled in Cali. I’m sure some might have gotten much more shit. Maybe your fat backside 180 in Copenhagen helped (laughing)?
Well, at least that made the Phelper (Jake Phelps) shut up quick! (laughing) He was really trying to fuck with me then, so in the end I just grabbed some random board and went for it. And after he even came and wanted his share of the cash…! (laughing) It’s all cool with Phelps though… And otherwise, yeah, for just somehow ending up there, I really can’t complain. Plus, I’m very aware this opportunity is really special and won’t come every day. That’s the reason I’m really trying to step things up.

So, how did you end up on Antihero back then?
Somehow Deluxe (Antihero, Real, Thunder, etc. distribution) had noticed me. I was supposed to get Spitfires and Thunder trucks. In the meantime Vans flew me over to the states. I did a few things, the full cab down the Santa Monica triple set, and got an interview in Skateboarder Mag (RIP). After that the dudes at Deluxe were really keen to get me on their board program. They wanted to flow me with Real stuff, but I stayed with Yama and didn’t really want to change. Then, sometime in 2007 – I was living in Barcelona at the time – Julian Stranger ended up sitting around at Macba. We started talking, had a beer or two and finally went skating together. Ultimately, we went skating together for the whole week – however, without me noticing it was the Julian Stranger I was skating with…! No clue how faded I was at the time!? Honestly, I didn’t spend one second thinking that way. He was just this inconspicuous dude. All he said was: “I’m Julian, I’d like to go skate. Would you show me some spots?”. Towards the end of the week it finally started dawning on me who he was… trippy man!

Do you think he was running some sort of try-out or concealed job interview with you, or was it just random?
No, I think he was with some Vans tour. He was tagging along just to get out of SF for a few days. Antihero also never came up in that week, only a few weeks after I got a mail from him from SF. He said he had really enjoyed the time with me and that he would love to get me on Antihero. Well, and of course Muki (Rüstig; Yama godfather) was down: “Done! You’re officially off Yama! Transfer fee: A case of beer from Antihero. That would seal the deal.” – I don’t know if there was another board brand that I would have left Yama for! But the two are just so similar… I just had to say yes!

And all the dudes on Antihero are super cool. Julian and John (Cardiel) skate, they know what’s up and never sweat me for anything. I get the best support and they have my back no matter what.

From the outside Antihero seems like this sworn in gang. Products are killer, but some of the stories that pop up kind of make me ponder: The old “hardcore-by-any-means” thing, the “we-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-anyone”… What’s your take?
But that is really how it is. It’s no PR. They embody what reflects in the products. But first and foremost everyone in the company incorporates a heartfelt love for skateboarding. And I think all of us have started it for one reason; we didn’t want to be pushed to fit the norm. That’s what Antihero will always stand for and I’m very glad to be able to take part in that.

Have you had any fond Andy Roy moments so far?
(Laughing) Well, he was our TM at King of the Road, a very entertaining two weeks! That guy can truly charge it. But deep down he is a real warm-hearted soul. I had only known him from photos before, so of course I was thinking: ‘Whoa! What’s this guy’s deal!?’. When I first met him accordingly, I was a bit contained. But then, how he approached me… he’s a good one; you’ll never believe it! Sure, his past might haunt him at times, but if you spent a little time with him, you’ll quickly notice how kind he really is; no matter if he might have one over the eight sometimes. He’s just is a bit… euphoric.

His bark is worse than his bite, yeah?
That’s it. And this goes for the whole team. They’re all just a bunch of skate rats. Everything else is hype and headlines, a bit of “The wild Antihero bunch – boozing and burning down skateparks” and such. When in reality we sit together for Thanksgiving and enjoy the turkey just like everyone else…

So how is it for you going on tour with all these legendary skaters?
Well, I’m still star-struck to this day. Look at where I’m from! From Lake Constance! And now I’m mingling with the dudes I used to watch in videos at Yama skate shop back in the day. For me it still feels like back then. I’m grateful for every moment with this crew.

Do you have influence on your board graphics?

Yeah, I do, recently even more so. Julian keeps asking me for input and ideas. I find it a bit hard though, looking at past stuff, all the killer graphics they’ve put out… I don’t want to fuck things up for them (laughs). I’d rather rely on the graphic department. But yeah, generally speaking, Novak (AH graphic designer) and Julian are always keen.

Do you visit those guys a lot in SF?
Since I’ve come over I’ve been really busy with the Vans video, that’s the priority right now. However, I’ve got a little road trip set up for next week. My little sister is visiting – her first time to California. We’ll pack up our car and go up the one (highway 1); taking some time out, two, three days up the coast, show her the Golden Gate Bridge, all chill… and while we’re there, I’ll pay a visit to the boys.

Quite a contrast to your Nuremberg or Lake Constance life, right?
For sure. Traffic alone, it’s quite intense. It took a good week or so to adjust. But it is really family friendly. There is a lot to do with kids. And it feels good to have my family with me. Only skating all the time – it’ll make your head explode eventually! With them here I can retreat, take a family trip, go to Disneyland or whatever and charge up the batteries. And when I come back I can charge on the board. We’ve really set ourselves up quite nicely here; it feels good.

It quite sounds like the three of you will permanently relocate eventually. Would that be something you desire?
Why not? Right now this is where everything I’m involved in is going down. And as I said before, it’s once in a lifetime. When we left Barcelona and moved to Nuremberg, we were also considering moving here (to California). But back then I made the mistake to move into the Six Newell house (SF skate/party squat) with my girl – not the smartest choice to make America palatable to her. We stayed for two months, of which I was gone on tours for some weeks – and my lady left alone at the madhouse! Quite a turn-off for her! That’s why we took a whole different approach this time around. Looks like we’ll be back next year so that I can finish the video. And after that we’ll see…

How do you like working with a filmer like Greg Hunt? Say, compared to Yama-style filming; what do you prefer? Do you enjoy high-end filming missions?
Haha, well, the Yama-style is this: You meet, go skate, the camera in someone’s back pack. A lot of the times it turns out no one had charged the batteries – and it didn’t matter! But seriously, it is amazing working with someone like Greg. Just think of all the sick videos he’s made, how well respected he is. It’s an extra motivation. And a lot of the times he makes me look better than I really am.

Do you have any bangers in mind that you still really want to get for your part?
No, not really. I don’t really plan my skating painstakingly. Spontaneity is what makes skating so sick, but I thought in California it was a different story! (laughing) Maybe for the people who’ve been here longer; for me everything still is so new! Every day I see new spots at least I don’t know. Most of the things I’ve filmed within the last weeks are in a two-mile radius from my house. Sometimes I go take a walk with my son and I stumble upon spots, I take a picture, send it to Greg. And he’s like: “Cool, all these years nobody has touched this!” – I like stuff no one else wants! Makes it much easier, no abd-list!

So the old backside 180 and smith grind of yours are still up for grabs! (laughing)
Exactly. I can place the five tricks I know how to do, the ones I’ve been battling myself around the globe with.

Haha! That’s sort of how you used to skate, right? But I feel you’ve also gained variety.
(Laughing) Well, you know, when I go skate, I want my board to keep rolling. That works best if you do tricks you enjoy doing. But yeah, for the video part I tried to combine my five tricks so that they might add up to seven…(laughs)

How is Cali-life compared to your time in Barca?
Man, seven years of Barcelona Babylon, those were different times! More parties for sure. Looking back I think I could have made better use of my time there, but I don’t want to complain. But since becoming a dad priorities have surely shifted.

So what are your daddy-duties?
I really do help out a bunch. At least my girl always compliments me. (laughs) But I’ve been used to it before. I have younger siblings at home I used to take care of. Changing diapers wasn’t new to me. My girlfriend is doing the night shifts; I get up early so she can get some sleep.

Do you meet other skate dads? Are there any you know around your area?Yeah, I do, Arto (Saari) is around a lot. Sometimes I meet Mike O’Meally. Yesterday we met him and his son at the playground. Arto got us a chill baby-sitter, a skate-nanny so to speak, much better than through some Internet portal! Without any relatives out here we really rely on her every now and then; you mustn’t forget yourself over all this kid raising!

So, to sum up, you feel really comfortable living in West Hollywood, have killer sponsors and are set on finishing your part for Vans. And then…?
…well, then there should be an Antihero vid at some point. Up until now filming was kind of slow, but due to the new guy on our team – whose name I can’t reveal at this point – it will surely pick up pace. I think this guy will really ignite the fire!

Come on now! Who is it?
Just this, imagine all the sickest skaters you know. Try to think who might not be content with his current sponsor and who would fit the Antihero team just perfectly. No need to say more!

All right Chris, thanks. I’ll let you off now. After all, go time now! Last question: Where are you headed today, what’s on your agenda?
There is this rail in North Hollywood. I feebled it two weeks ago and today I want to go back and get a backside 180 out of it, hahaha – combining my five tricks so they make seven!