Jo Zenk: Man on a Mission
Watch a few of Jo Zenk‘s sections and you see that he’s not just talented, but driven. He just dropped a Blacklisted edit for Ground Control that got everyone’s attention, and he’s not only part of the MNSTR BLADE crew that’s constantly putting out fresh social content, but he’s right-hand-man to one of today’s most influential blade talents, Eugen Enin. But in typical German fashion that’s not enough. Jo is pursuing his college degree, juggling multiple blade projects, and alongside that stuff tries to be a normal dude that hangs with his girlfriend and finds ways to escape the harsh German winters. See, Jo’s just like you, only a lot better at Channel 1 grinds and finding unique spots. Ha! Read up to learn a lot more about this emerging powerhouse that you’re sure to hear about for a long time to come.
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Hey Jo, thanks for “speaking” with us. Let’s start by you reminding us all of your age, how many years you’ve been skating, and what you’re doing as job.
Hey guys, thanks for the opportunity! Alright, I guess. I am 26 years old and got my first plastic toy blades in 1995 when I was five. My first real adventures with more proper blades were sometime during the next five years, so it’s hard to answer that question properly. I usually consider 2001 as the start since that’s when I skated my first contest. I had started to take blading more “serious” a bit before that. That makes it about 16 years now.
As for a job I am still studying, which I do in Enschede, an hour away from where I live just over the border in the Netherlands. I am a student of “social pedagogische hulpverlening Euregionaal” which is basically social work in a cultural context — mainly about German and Dutch aspects including both country’s work customs, law and much more. Right now I’m currently writing papers for my Bachelor degree.
What are you doing right now?
I actually just got back from one of the first indoor sessions with the crew this year in the Netherlands. So right now besides answering these questions I’m trying to relax and recover. I cooked myself a nice meal that I’m eating while listening to some fine music. When I’m done with this interview I’ll probably watch Vine St. Chapter II again.
Any more projects or trips planned?
I keep myself pretty busy so, yes — there is a lot in the works. We’re gonna hit the streets tomorrow to finish a couple projects, like another section of mine as well as a crew project, both for MNSTR BLADE. I’ve also been collecting clips on the side of my Blacklisted section for GRINDHOUSE.eu, and we have got several things planned for the next few months. Mostly indoor projects though and some crew-collaborations, as we’ve got quite a few crews in Germany nowadays.
As for trips I don’t have anything lined up right now except a much-needed vacation with my girl. Haha! I would love to get away from German winter for awhile so I will be spontaneously checking flight costs over the next couple months. Maybe I’ll find somewhere to go! But since I’m currently working towards my degree I can’t miss too much in school. Otherwise of course Winterclash is a priority for sure, but it won’t get me out of the cold! I just told myself this is the last winter I spend in this country. But I have so much footage from the past year that I can use the dark months for editing. It shouldn’t be too hard this way.
What about comps like Winterclash — do you like skating under those circumstances?
Let’s say it’s something different. Ever since my first content I’ve had trouble with nervousness right before my run. Recently I’ve gotten more comfortable with this feeling so it’s getting easier. For a long time I’d have a few beers at a comp to get my nerves under control. Though usually that ended up with me not landing my tricks. Haha.
As for “comps like winterclash” – actually are there any more? I guess you mean, like, a bunch of people in your way, a lot of organization, less free open blading, waiting hours to finally drop into your run just to blow it as your legs already went cold again! Haha. Yes, it is something different. For a long time I could not “seriously” enjoy these comps so I’d just flow around and try to enjoy the sessions, which can be hard as there is always someone yelling “stop skating” – shoutout to Miguel at this point – and let’s be honest, this is the exact opposite to the freedom we usually get from blading.
Still, I love to enjoy little sessions with the homies, a lot of them you don’t see that often, and even now at an event you don’t really “see them” but just share some sessions or quick talks together. I try to focus on the benefits and enjoy every part of it just as much as I can. Also I understand the background why these comps are they way they are nowadays, so it’s impossible to stop me from having fun at these events. For actual blading I’d definitely prefer a session but I am looking forward to having a lot of fun at Winterclash.
Tell us a story about you at an event. Either blading or just something cool or funny you saw.
Actually, I had a very nice time in Latvia this year where I spent a full week for Ghetto Games. Takeshi and I arrived about the same time so I got to meet him. He’s the best dude so that was cool. Nils usually has a crazy schedule set up for everyone and this year has no different. So as soon as we landed it was time to head directly to shoot some television commercial. And getting two or three side sessions with Takeshi on vert was a personal highlight for the trip. But the funniest thing is the drunk story.
We’d been going to the seaside every day and that’s where we met a totally drunk Irishman who joined us the water jumping waves. But when we all headed back to the beach all his clothes were gone! His friends had already headed back to their hotel so Kaspars and I helped him out until some other guy found all his stuff down right at the waterline! His wallet, phone and (broken) glasses were all about to be lost forever. He tried to give me his wallet as a thank you, but I slipped it back into his pants pocket where he’d find it later. Not to mention he was so hammered he could barely get is pants back on at all! It was too much. Super funny!
Eventually we found someone trustworthy to send him back to his hotel with but that’s when we realized he’d lost his shoes. We found them, buried them in the sand to dig up the next day, and then went back to enjoying ourselves. And thanks to a photo I took of the burial spot — we found them! No small feat considering the beach at Ventspils is the longest in Europe and pretty wide too. So he also got his shoes back. Now we run into the same guy at events around Europe! This is how you make friends in the world. Haha.
How is the scene in your home town? You and Eugen have been skating together for awhile, eh?
Oh, well the city I currently live in is not my hometown, as I was born and raised in the south of Germany near the French border. I’ve lived in Münster forquite some time now, and there are a few bladers but most usually don’t skate that much. I’d say we have about ten bladers that could join sessions but it is rarely more than the MNSTR BLADE core which consists of Patrick Smith, Aleksander Popvasilev and myself since Benni Petry, the forth of the squad, just moved away. (Check us out through our Facebook: MNSTR BLADE.) So now it’s the three of us blading together on a regular basis.
Since this is not at all enough bladers for me I am more than glad Eugen and his brother come over every now and then. They actually live in a town about an hour away from Münster, but they come around very often or we drive to other cities together. Since the scene has gotten so small everywhere it is becoming very common to drive around to meet up for sessions. I’ve known Eugen a long time actually, but blading together the way we are now just happened within the last couple years. We are both very passionate about blading and manifesting our visions, and we both know that. We found out we can achieve even more if we work together and use our potential to the fullest. It’s so much fun blading together nowadays and I’ve personally had my best two sessions I can think of with him. Both of them just the two of us blading while his brother was filming. The one session was at a small triple kink which you can see in the Zoo Revolution VX part, and the other at the double rail on the riverside which you might have seen in my Blacklisted part or in the HD part of Zoo Revolution. We really have a lot of fun and are able to enjoy every session.
Tell us about working on ZOO REVOLUTION and your Blacklist edit. Did making these projects require any adjustments to how you usually blade?
In this context I wouldn’t speak of “usual blading” as I try to challenge myself with every trick or project I am working on. That means the main project I am working on at any given moment will include the very best I ever did, or I am at least trying to aim for that.
So, filming for the Blacklisted section was challenging as it was a higher level than ever before and I was only filming with two guys that don’t live in my city. I also planned the section with a special eye for spots, searching for mostly clean and big stuff as the usual content for MNSTR BLADE consists of dirty, sometimes small tech stuff as our city usually has these spots to offer. Finding different stuff was challenging to say the least. This might be the reason why it took a year to film. The next section that’s almost done will have a lot more dirty spots.
I was already working on my Blacklisted part when Eugen and Daniel mentioned they wanted more in the Zoo Revolution than just an Eugen HD part. So alongside filming the last clips for GC I joined a few sessions to get some VX clips for the VOD. Both projects went pretty intertwined for me anyways as Daniel was one of the guys filming my Blacklisted part with Deniz Baethke filming the main part.
What this meant was that when Eugen filmed clips for the VOD I would get some for GC, and when we were both done we concentrated more on the VX part to get more footage of the homies in there. I was actually just contributing as Zoo Revolution was a project completely out of the Enin lab. I just shot some analogue behind the scenes material and some clips of mine for the VX part on the side, and was happy to be able to contribute that much. I am blessed to get a lot of motivation from Eugen and excellent filming from Daniel, and it feels good to give something back in return.
How do you choose your spots and tricks?
It depends. I usually session a spot a bit first, and while doing so I find some tricks I might film. While doing that I already know what project I want them for. So there are different levels for different projects. For the stuff at the top of that list I have a lot of expectations. Those tricks need to be original in some way. Whether it has not been done on such a spot, never been done at all, or doing a trick that is perfectly dictated by the spot.
This might be going too long, but you know architecture speaks a language only our kind of sports understand. In the end I have a certain expectation that a trick I film look a certain way. Some tricks fit better for some spots than others. They need to have something special for me to offer or they will certainly land in some leftover Facebook update or side project. I always search for something original to film as I don’t feel the need to film it otherwise. This way sometimes the spot dictates my choice of trick or I visualize a new trick or a combination I’ve rarely or never seen and search for the right place to do it.
What’s the perfect spot for you?
Depends on what expectations I bring with me. If I’ve been searching for a spot for a project, then finding that would be the perfect spot. Short of this I’d say any spot that speaks to me, inspires me and gets me to do a thousand tricks before even thinking of filming it. Sometimes also a great ramp or park can be the perfect spot for the day. It always depends. Nowadays I think every spot could be perfect and I try not to overthink everything. Accept every moment as it is and sometimes even a spot you’d consider bad can give you the best sessions.
What do you enjoy the most outside of blading?
There is so much I do besides blading even though everything seems to be intertwined. My girl is a great person to spend time with so I usually try to be with her as much as possible. Besides that I enjoy filming and editing, and I love shooting pictures with my analogue cameras. I love reading and writing, cooking, music and so much more, but overall I guess I enjoy being on my path. Trying to get more and more aware. Meditation and some yoga helps a lot and makes me enjoy these as well.
Any activity that anchors me in the present moment I enjoy.
What kind of music do you listen to? Do you play any instruments?
I used to play the guitar when I was little and I picked it up again this year. My understanding is not too deep yet but I do have a guitar in my hand at least a few times a day and enjoy it a lot.
When it comes to listening to music I can’t really shorten that into a few genres as I like so many different ones. There is a lot of Hip Hop I listen to (the old stuff, not the new shit), a lot of chilled deep stuff, lots of electronics like Drum and Bass, some classics, some natural ambient stuff, even some classical music like Vivaldi for example. So many different genres it would be too much to name. My girlfriend is on her way to becoming a music journalist besides already being a vocalist for a long time. So I always get her newest find in underground music searches. For me the feel music transmits is important. It’s the mood it puts me into as well as some kind of authenticity. You can feel if music comes from the heart and usually I don’t listen to stuff that isn’t. You know the tracks you hear and then never listen again? I usually stay at the ones that I can listen to over and over forever. The Goat track I used in my Blacklisted part I actually listened to live at Roskilde 2015 and it happened to be the best act/show I saw that year. Afterwards I immediately started with the concept of this section and even though I listened to the track a thousand times while visualizing, cutting and showing the final thing around – I still can listen to and enjoy it.
Who do you think is the best skater right now?
Eugen, of course… what a question. Actually this question is not possible to answer as it is like judging fish for its ability to climb. On a p-rail or rail-ish streetspot I am pretty much convinced Eugen is the best there is, or at least could do every trick and more than others would do. If you come around with that Broskow argument it doesn’t count as the guy isn’t even human anymore. Plus he’s had more time that Eugen, so just wait a couple more years then it will be a match. For me, personally, Haffey is the best blader ever so I guess you can’t really compare blading.
It’s the the same reason why I can’t take competitions too serious — we aren’t a sport you can accurately compare or judge. Your top soul is different from any others in some way, so how could you say this one is better than the other? I usually just compare levels of control and Eugen is ridiculous at this.
Do you have any blading philosophy?
Hmm, yes, I guess the same as in life in general. Try to see everything as delivered exactly to you for a special reason. Try to find that reason and make the best out of it. Also, failure or bad luck is usually an opportunity and offers you a chance to change your way of thinking, which can change your luck. Take the opportunities the universe has to offer and don’t cry about your poor self. You can change it in that very moment if you don’t spend it in self-pity. I know it as I’ve been there before.
Well that’s a lot of questions! Let’s close this out with you listing any THANKS or shout outs. And thanks again to you. Keep up the great blading and we’ll keep eagerly watching.
Ha, yes, some quite hard ones to answer properly! First of all I’d like to thank you, Justin, for the opportunity! Big Up. I’ve been a fan of ONE since I got into blading and it always has that legendary sense, so now speaking to you is interesting to say the least.
I’d like to thank everybody that reads this, watches my sections, writes me, comments etc. All that keeps the motivation up for sure! Even though I’m doing this mainly for myself and the crew, recognition is always a boost.
Special Thanks to all the helpers on the path. Without you guys this all isn’t possible. Especially Deniz Baethke and Daniel Enin, who filmed my Blacklisted part and were such a huge help. I can’t thank you enough. My girl deserves a medal for dealing with all the blading related priorities, haha. Thank you, babe! Thanks to the MNSTR crew for the constant motivation and reasons for me to film blading. Eugen for the motivation and strength. Everybody caring for our sport, as it is you guys keeping the dream alive. Everybody organizing anything! Bless you! Last but not least, my sponsors. Thorsten Rüffer and Grindhouse.eu for their neverending support and help. Without you guys I couldn’t do half of what I do. Best in the game! Remz for still making the sickest blades! Marco Giehm for holding it down and providing me with these blades and parts whenever I need them. Andy Wegener, Geoff Acers and Ground Control for the goods, the help and effort! Thank you guys so much.
On a sidenote: You actually never can thank enough. One of the best spells there is.
Thank you, universe.
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Follow Jo on IG HERE.
Buy Zoo Revolution HERE.
And check out Jo’s Blacklisted part right here:
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I haven’t seen a free video this good in a while. Good filming, a good combination of tech and ballzy tricks and a high standard of smoothnes. My kind of blading!