Words and photos by Lars Greiwe.
For the ones who don’t know him, here are the basics: Mark Frölich was born on the 14th of March 1986 in Wuppertal, the city with the highest percentage of rain in Germany. He started skating at the age of 11, finished his first video part at the age of 16 and has lived in Barcelona since 2006. He is the hardest working, most able skateboarder I know, specifically with regards to what he gets back from the industry. He organises pretty much every aspect of his career by himself, from setting up the basic needs like travelling and getting product (which has lately often meant buying it from shops) to setting up his own projects when there aren’t any coming his way. Mark is not everyone’s cup of tea, he’s a straight forward guy who says you what he thinks, ready to take the consequences. His approach to skateboarding can be shocking to those who don’t know him: Mark pushes himself to the maximum, without compromise; if he sets himself a goal and things cross his way it can get real ugly. Then once you get to know him, you’ll find a warm hearted, charming, smart, conscientious and social person.The loyalist of friends and one who cares very much about his surroundings and the well-being of those around him. That’s kind of a metaphor to his approach to life. His very strong ethics about what’s right and what’s wrong doesn’t leave much room for grey area. Black or white. Love it or leave it. These qualities are rare in our society and definitely not qualities that make life easier.
(…)Talking about effort: of the people I know you are probably the hardest working one – if you can call skating work. What’s the motivation behind all this hard work?
I got the chance to do it, to live that life and I might as well do it well, no? You can do it once in your life, you know. I have always been like that, if something is really important to me, then I try to do it well. And I guess the longer you skate, the harder it gets to stoke yourself out, so you’ve got to push yourself, you know? I mean I am still happy doing a frontside noseslide down a 10 stair rail, [it] feels good. But the first time you do it, you go home and you are happy for a week. Now it has to be something else, and it’s not that things are getting easier, it gets way harder.
Ollie over to backside nosebluntslide to fakie.
Throughout the last few years you’ve produced a lot of video parts together with friends – without the industry asking you to. Is that a way of keeping you busy and focused?
I mean a lot of the parts that came out, I wouldn’t have had to do you know – sponsor-wise I mean. So yeah, I like skating, I am pretty much an every day skateboarder, so it pushes me. There are a lot of things, being a professional skater, that you think you kind of have to do ’cause it’s part of getting paid for skating, but videoparts are natural for me. Also I think it’s hard if you just film one part and then for a whole year you don’t really do anything. Skating is one thing and then getting filmed skating is another thing. There are a lot of people who are really good at skating, but when they go out and try to get something on film it’s really hard for them. I think if you film one part and then put a break in between the next one, it becomes harder, you know. Stay on track, I think it’s better.
Do you think you do more than what is expected of you by the industry?
Yeah. I am pretty sure that the brands I skate for like that, they know I am that kind of team rider, one that doesn’t need much taking care of, that I am doing my thing, filming for a video project or going to contests, getting photos in mags.. Throughout all those years I’ve done a lot of shit, you know, and I guess they are happy about that. But yeah… The way I do it is on the limit I would say.
Of being unhealthy?
It’s fun and this and that, but, if you push yourself to the limit, you don’t even listen to your body sometimes. Like, your body says, “Okay, I am fucked up and you think, “Okay, I am only here for a week, so fuck it!” If I really want to do something, I keep on going for it. I like it because it gets you tougher; it’s like that. You get used to it. But I definitely have my moments where I feel fucked up, mentally and physically, of course.
Do people give you shit sometimes, about your skating or your approach to it?
People don’t really come and give me shit or whatever, but I know a lot of people think that I am crazy or something, but I don’t know a lot of people who live skateboarding the way I do, so I don’t think they understand it. I don’t blame them, but they don’t understand it. If you push yourself to the maximum and you have high expectations of yourself, and certain circumstances block your way to achieving what you want, it’s hard you know. And I am the type of person who doesn’t want to give up. Even if some circumstances are not good, I might as well still go out and try.
So today, for instance, we went out shooting and you had a rough time before, someone tried to break into your flat and you had trouble with the lady, the dog is sick and needs attention and your head is just full. You said some people wouldn’t even go out on a day like that and you go anyway. Do you think that this is some sort of therapy for you?
That’s always the sketchy thing to do. If you are struggling in life, it’s risky to go out and try to ask yourself to do something that you know needs focus; that can be very dangerous for you. It can go really good for you or it can go really bad. I always say it’s like feeding your heart, you know? It can free your mind, it can give you confidence and make you stronger. At the same time if the session goes bad, like today for example, you get there, [your] shoes are fucking worn out and [they] feel terrible, the landing is messed up but you are start trying [anyway], and, just as you’re about to get close to making it, some motherfucker comes and parks his car right in the run-up, even though there are more free spaces. All ‘cause he’s too lazy to park somewhere else. That shit gets you down, if you have your head full, it doesn’t take a lot to explode.
Let’s talk about these explosions, they are kind of a regular thing for you. Is that just a way of overcoming your fear?
Well, like today for instance, no. I haven’t been that mad in a while. Definitely, if I want to do something and I feel that my fear is in the way, it makes me feel weak. I fucking hate that. It pisses me off. Then I scream to myself. I guess everybody has his good and bad days, but for me there can be such a difference: one day everything is cool with the board and shoes and then I put on another pair of shoes, or I change something on my set-up and nothing works and it just pisses me off.
One day you go out and kill it and the next day you go out and everything sucks and you feel like an idiot – after 15 years of skating. Some people might think, okay he’s putting it on the set-up, he’s blaming the tools for not being able to do the trick or whatever. It’s not like that, I am not a pretender, I know, in that moment, whether something fucks it up for me or not.
And if you get mad, what happens? It’s not usually taken out on the surroundings but upon yourself, like screaming at yourself…
I might scream, use some bad language, punch a wall or a tree, throw my board around – the usual shit, we’ve all seen that.
In that moment when you are so mad, do you realise what’s going on around you?
Yes and no, depends on the level of anger, if it reaches the worst level then not so much. There is a limit, I mean I still have some sort of sense of being human inside of me, but most of it is gone, yeah. So this interview is really going to help me, ha ha. Make me look really good.
What makes you feel good about yourself?
If I feel like I’m skating steezy, if I feel that I am not being a little bitch, if I feel that I’m getting shit done, if I feel that I can deal with and overcome my fear and do the stuff I really want to do, I feel good about myself. I guess I have kind of high expectations of myself, like I said: the longer you do it, the harder it gets to stoke yourself out. In general, well, I guess I am happy with myself if I feel like I am being fair to those around me, that they appear happy with me. I mean, I don’t want to please everybody, but for the people around me I want to feel that they are happy with me the way I am. It always sucks if you see someone you like suffering due to you being down or whatever.
Okay, something else: with all this hard work and energy you put into skating, and seeing what comes of it, and then seeing people around you getting flown all over the place and the big paycheques and everytthing, do you ever get frustrated? I mean that you are the one who goes out every day and has to organise everything for himself, from the filmer to the video project to buying shoes?
Well, first of all, doing things your self can make it a bit harder, but I am a skateboarder, if I have a good trick or a good session, it makes me happy. But, yeah, obviously it would be cool if there was a little more support from the industry. What’s frustrating is if, say, you are working on a project for a company and the relationship doesn’t seem even, like you feel you work your ass off for them and they don’t really care, that shit can be frustrating for sure.
NEVER LEAVE A SPOT WITH…
So you said you are not the type of guy that likes to give up. There is this one thing you always say, “Never leave a spot with a bail.” Is that something you invented?
That’s my own shit. Never go home with a bail, that’s my rule. Even if I injure myself I try to get up and do a quick trick. If you injure yourself and you are going to be out for a while then the last thing you’re going to have in your head is a slam, so you might as well do one more trick before the pain really knocks you out.
You have skated pretty much every spot here in the last 7-years, do you look more at stuff that’s out of the way now?
Yeah, a lot of these spots I skated lately wouldn’t be the first choice, cause there is something about them that makes it hard, it’s not the type of spots you want to skate every day. On the other hand it’s sick, you know, ‘cause it also pushes you.
So would you say your skating got more complicated, I mean getting to all those places, finding the crew, getting the equipment you need to fix up the place, like attaching a rock to a rail so it doesn’t shake?
If I really want to push myself, it really takes some organisation, find the place, get the crew together, get the stuff together, take some trains… It’s definitely cool to go on tour you know, you just go and see what happens, often that works out a lot better: there’s less pressure, it’s more enjoyable… It feels more like normal skating. But whatever it’s all good; a mixture of both is good, you know. Missions are good too, if you see something special and you think I really want to go there and do it and then you do it, it’s a great feeling.
At some point you considered moving away. Why, where and how?
I don’t know what is going to happen, sometimes the city really stresses me out, I feel like I’m not free and that life is on repeat; I hate that. For a lot of people around me it’s hard to make it happen here. First of all, it’s not the strongest country in Europe economically, so it’s hard for people to find a job here, then it’s a city where people come to party, to live a vacation lifestyle all year and then at one point it catches up with you. It’s definitely a city where you need to be able to control yourself, you need discipline. I know the city quite well, I’ve lived all this shit here, I’ve skated every spot, I’ve been out and about, so something else could definitely be cool.
Something that is fresh and that excites you all over again. But then it’s not that easy, if you really want to skate on a daily basis and have a gang that pushes your skating, in Europe for me there are only two places, that’s Berlin and Barcelona.
The other thing is, if you go over to the States or to Australia, or wherever. I’ve been thinking about going there and seeing how I feel, but obviously I left Germany, my circle that I had there for 20 years, then I came here and built up a new circle and it’s kind of hard to leave that again.
It’s also depending on what possibilities I would have you know, cause I am not 18 anymore, I am 26 now and if I go over to the states, I guess they don’t give a fuck about what you have done until now. So maybe at 35 I’d get a pro-board or whatever – which is probably not going to happen. Seeing as how this is supposed to be my job, you also have to think a little bit about that. You cannot just skate and think the money is available, you also have to think about where it’s possible for you.
Half cab flip.
BLACK OR WHITE
We called this Interview Black & White. Do you think life is black or white, and what’s in the grey area?
This type of talk I usually only have with girls. Hmmm, probably there are some grey areas, for example people you don’t really care about, you don’t love them or hate them, so that’s a grey area. It’s just okay, so I would call that a grey area. But if you’re saying I’m a black & white person, I guess I am. I like to have my thoughts and ideas pretty clear. That doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to anything else or that I don’t adjust my opinion, but I try to be aware of how I am living and how things are going. I know what I like and what I don’t, what seems right and what seems wrong.
But if you look around you, it doesn’t work for a lot of people living with such hard principals…
But a lot of people get lost in life, I don’t want to get lost in life. A lot of people are like that, anything can happen to them, there might be a lot more grey. I like to be stable. I like to know what I am doing and why. Maybe a lot of people ignore stuff to keep themselves comfortable in their grey area. That kind of defines how I see it: that as that kind of a person you have to ignore certain things that I don’t like to ignore. Did that sound bad?!
Does it make life difficult sometimes?
It makes it difficult at the same time as it makes it better and more simple. Everybody knows where he’s at with me. Maybe I have more confrontations than other people, but I am pretty sure that everyone knows whether or not I’m feeling them and I like to have it the same way as well. I’m no bullshitter.
You are a big fan of Lemmy not only for his music, right?
Lemmy is the man. Talking about black and white, there you go. I am pretty sure that guy is going to let you know straight away what he thinks of you, if you were to ask him, at least. If you pay a little attention to his lyrics he’s not the type of guy who ignores shit. I never got to meet him, pretty sad, I hope one day I will. I am pretty sure there are some parallels. And Bowie is Bowie, one of the best musicians ever, I would say. Good variety, fucking crazy live performance, really skilled, lots of good songs – there are so many outstanding bowie songs. Most bands they have their few songs that they are really known for, but with Bowie there are so many.
DEMOS AND CONTESTS
Basically all your skating happens in the streets and you barely ever go to a skatepark, obviously your sponsors ask you to ride demos or contests.
Demos are sick anyways. When I was a kid I thought that was really cool, I enjoyed that way more than a contest I was always super-stoked if some team came to the park and we watched them skate.
And now you are the one giving demos.
Yeah, I think that’s good. It’s great if you feel like you are motivating someone else.
So if you skate a contest, like Bomb The Line for instance, do you prepare your run? Do you plan it I mean?
Bomb The Line, I didn’t even touch the rail once before I did my line. I didn’t practice anything of what I did in the run. I just thought, “You know how to do that shit, stay excited.” You know? If you already did it 10 times before you’re not that excited anymore. Okay you get the first trick, “Baaam!” Next one, “Ah, okay. I got this!” You have this excitement you know, gets you hyped and that time it worked out. Maybe that was just good luck, [but] maybe that’s the key, you know?
So you see skating as a job, if I might call it that, you’re getting paid for it and you’re are putting all your energy into it; where do you see yourself in a couple of years, and what’s the point of doing all this if you are barely surviving?
Well I am a kind of a humble person, I don’t have a high standard of living or anything. I knew from the beginning [that] if I did the skateboarding shit, it’s not going to get me rich. I mean if it would happen: okay, but that was not the dream behind it. Let’s see where life goes, you definitely have things that you wish for, like still being healthy when I am 35, skating well, maybe living in a place with a partner or family, have a fucking dog, have a band, have my little business running that I can support my life with. But, don’t get me wrong, I am planning on having a long skateboarding career, I don’t feel ready to throw in the towel just yet. There are a lot of things you can do in life, put effort in it, be smart about it and stop bitching.
Do you have any dreams concerning your skating?
I would love to have a little bit more peace, let’s put it that way, I would like to have to worry a little less about cash, product, the outcome of my work, travelling. Dreams?… Progress, share good times with good people, hopefully push the other people around you… I really like that feeling that I’m motivating people around me, like when a kid approaches me and tells me I am motivating him to skate, that’s sick. But yeah, see more of the world, that’s so sick that through skateboarding you get to see the world…