Michael Mackrodt, a retrospective (Part 2)

Portrait: Patrik Wallner

Interview: Benjamin Deberdt

"I travel to have my own experiences, not to brag about it."

 Patrik Wallner

To follow a more “historical” first part, let’s move on to the great passion of Michi: traveling to far off lands! He is amongst those adventurers that you spot regularly on trips neither organized by sponsors nor obvious by their destination…
And when he’s not on the road, or the train tracks, you will find him in Berlin, another interesting conversation subject, as the German city has turned into some sort of an “alternative” capitol of the European scene.
Well, this should make for a nice char, shouldn’t it?

In 2006, we went to India to try to skate there… Was that your first “exotic” trip of the sort?
We went with Soy Panday, Vivien Feil, Jan Kliewer, Evan Collisson, Kenny Reed and you. That was very intense, and it was hard to come across spots. I remember our driver in Lucknow kept telling us he knew where we could skate. We thought he could get it, so he wouldn’t know. At the end of the day, we ended up telling him: “OK, show us your spot!”, thinking it would be useless. There, he takes us to some sort of temple, recently built with empty ponds all around, all made of banks… An insane spot! There you go: listen to the locals, well, most times.
But, to get back to your question, no, this wasn’t my first exotic trip, but no doubt one of the most intense. We went through so much over there…

We had picked up well-traveled people that time. How do you choose the people you go on this type of adventures?
I try to go amongst friends, so with people in the same type of things as I am, more or less. It’s important that the group works well together, and that everybody agree on the decisions being taken. As it’s hard to plan everything ahead, it helps that everybody can count one of another, that everybody tries to think of the others well-being.
So, the less you are, the easiest it is to act, if something goes wrong. Plus I hate having wasting my time waiting for someone. That’s the worst! [Laughter]

 Benjamin Deberdt

Nollie flip fakie in Lucknow (India), in 2006, on the astounishing driver's spot! photo: Benjamin Deberdt

You ever had the case of thinking: “No, that guy won’t cut it, he’s not ready”?
No, I would never say that someone isn’t ready. Only thing is I don’t necessarily want to travel with anyone. It’s not about “being ready” or not. I travel often with young Russian skaters, for instance, which are definitely not ready at all. But we have a laugh, and it’s always fine.

We could list the skaters that wander the world as much as you, and end up on those kinds of trips with Skateboarder mag, for instance. Is that some sort of Club?
[Laughter] Well, if it were a Travel Club, Kenny would be president, that’s for sure! I can only speak for myself, but I make a living skateboarding, I have to be present in the media. And when I travel for skating, usually, I’m more productive than at home: less distractions, new spots that motivate me… And I have the feeling that each trip is bringing me something, good and bad… That got to be good!

When you bump into an article from a crazy location, are you frustrated you didn’t get to go?
On the contrary, I’m pleased, and it motivates me to get moving again. For me, traveling is not a competition. I travel to have my own experiences, not to brag about it. I enjoy sharing some of my adventures, but that’s not the main reason behind my trips. I’m not jealous of the others, and I can’t go everywhere.
But if the place in the article looks crazy, I’ll see if I’m into getting there someday.

It seems you have found a good partner with Patrik Wallner for many of those trips, how did you meet?
I’ve known Patrik for a long time, now. I met him in Barcelona when he had his first job, filming for Adidas Germany. As the guys are my friends, I’d go skate with them. We got along quick, and as he was working on his very first video, Translations, he asked me if I was into getting a little part for it. I went to visit him in NYC, and then went on my own to Vietnam, Laos, etc. And out of nowhere, he joined me there to film. It was his first trip in Asia, I believe. He’s been stuck there, since! [Laughter]

Give us a short résumé of your adventures together…
A short résumé? Hmm… In Vietnam, I had talked to him about the train that goes through Siberia, and how I read somewhere that they were going to stop the line –which turned out to be absolutely false– and that I wanted to do that trip. Patrik called me a bit later, letting me know he was into doing it, and that it’d be great to make a small documentary about it –that’d be 10 000 Kilometers– from Moscow to Hong-Kong by train!
During that trip, we thought it’d be great to link Europe to Asia, then Asia to Europe, all by land. Train, bus, car, motorbike, boat, etc… Watch Killing Seasons, Holy Cow, Meet the Stans, and you’ll see there are great places everywhere, even, and more often that not, where you wouldn’t expect it.
Then, there was our little series of Fishing Lines. We came up with the idea during a NYC trip. We had no particular project, so we thought “Let’s just look around the streets, try to skate the sidewalks and film nice lines” to go against the “American style” videos with hammers all over the place… [Laughter] That kept us busy, and we had a blast skating every nook and cranny we found.

 Patrik Wallner

Tuck knee in New Delhi, in 2012. photo: Patrik Wallner

A place you’d really like to go, skating or not?
I’d like to get my own impression of Iran, for instance. We hear so much bad things in the media…

A time where you thought to yourself: “What the hell am I doing here?”
No, I don’t think so. Until now, we always found things to skate, wherever we went. For instance, deep in Siberia, we really didn’t thought there would be so many spots! We quickly realized we didn’t know shit. That opened my eyes. It’s great over there! Or in Kyrgyzstan: we found some mean spots!

Back in Berlin… At what time of your life did you move there?
After my university diploma in Munich, I told myself it was time to change pastures. My girl was supposed to go to Berlin for her studies, so we moved together. I only knew South Germany, so it seemed like a good idea. It’s been eight to nine years that I live here now.

How would you describe Berlin?
The city is big, open minded, young, innovative. Good things are happening here, and the city evolves quickly. Cost of living is low, and you don’t feel weird –unlike in Munich, for instance– if you don’t have a “regular” job, like everybody else. [Laughter]
On the other end, you have to be careful, because you can fall deep into the arty scene, here, as there is always something happening. All day, everyday!
The skate scene is great, and of all ages. Many “veterans”, super motivated, and skating at an amazing level. The general mood is great: you can skate with anyone, you’ll have a good time. The skaters’ attitude is really good.

You see yourself here for a lot longer?
I don’t know. I see myself here, but I could also move somewhere else. But, not in Germany, that’s for sure.

So, the next trip?
Not sure yet. Most likely with Patrik, in Iran! [Laughter]

Here lies proof of Michi's hunger for far off spots, in the second part of this Element production, exclusively for Live:

Live Skateboard MediaLive Skateboard Media

Wait to pass announcement...