THE GRIND: Randy Abels
“A blader has perseverance — he or she might not land a trick first try, but they’ll land it eventually. Every manager, boss or employer needs or wants someone with a personality like this.” Those words are basically the reason we created this new feature, THE GRIND. Juggling the Blade Life with real life is as technical a trick as lacing a maneuver on your blades. It takes understanding your abilities, creating a plan and executing on command. It takes confidence, style and commitment. Like blading, life is a session and you can have a good one or a bad one. We suggested focusing that chicken and having the time of your life. Randy Abels our homie from Amsterdam is. He’s 33 years old and blading more than ever before. So take a page from his playbook and find your own way to make it happen. Here’s THE GRIND #1.
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Years Blading: 20 (started in ’94)
Profession: Economics teacher
Favorite Blader: Jon Julio
All-time Favorite Set-up: Dark blue Roces Fifth Element, Senate Bribes and Cozmo JJ’s. But my current set-up: Valo Lights, EB 1.5 LE skin and the new Rollerblade street wheels (they do the trick too)
Blade Goals: Having fun and as long as possible…
Randy, thanks for breaking ground with us on this exciting new series. There’s so many talented bladers that turn into talented professionals in other fields but still manage to strap up the blades and get in the streets — we want to shine a light on those dedicated rollers… and you’re up first. Cheers!
So let’s start with Amsterdam. What’s your blade education been like in AMS? Who were your forebladers?
Thanks for having me kick off with THE GRIND!
For starters, I originally come from the south of Holland, a small town called Vlijmen. I started skating with some friends of mine over there and a lot with my little brother, Deveril, who still rips! Riding around my street, clocking the time and playing street hockey was a lot of fun. But it all changed after watching The Hoax. Then we tried to copy all that stuff — grinding on banisters, curbs, stair bashing. That kind of shit was next level for us. Within a short amount of time there was a huge scene in the south of the Netherlands. Mainly because of several events and contests held around that time. I already was in contact with some of the best skaters in Amsterdam like Remy Cadier and Nils Janson who I met by doing shows and contests in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. When I moved to Amsterdam I mainly skated with them and other peeps of the infamous UH44 crew like Beer Hendriks and David Coppes. But to answer your question: my forebladers. I think I can say I was probably also one of the first generation skaters in the Netherlands, so my forebladers come from abroad — Arlo Eisenberg and Chris Edwards of course!
How and when did blades end up underneath your feet?
My little brother already had a pair of toy skates, you know the ones — orange plastic wheels that looked and sounded horrible: klak! klak! klak! klak!.
That didn’t really trigger me at al.
Like a week after my brother got his toy skates a friend of mine was cruising around my street on Roces FCO skates. Black with purple ones. I was intrigued and tried them. At first it felt really weird, but after a few minutes it became pretty natural. I think I used them for more than three hours. “A few more laps, you’ll get them back after a few more” hahahah. I went to my parents and asked for a pair of “professional” blades. We went to sport shop a few days later and I was the happiest guy on earth. That was all in the summer of ’94.
What series of events led to blades staying on your feet? Did many of your friends skateboard or bmx?
The most important are my friends. It’s pretty weird to say but almost all my dear and good friends are still blading today. So we kept on motivating each other and had fun from day one. I know people that skateboard and BMX, I tried it too but it just wasn’t for me. I can hang out with them ‘cause in the end we are all still the same in my opinion — little kids who like to play outside.
Tell us about a formidable media experience from your blade youth — be it a magazine, video section, soundtrack clip or something. We all have ‘em!
This must be Jackson 5 with the track “ABC.” This links to the Randy “Roadhouse” Spizer profile in VG3.
Back in the day it was great to have a new VHS tape and check out all the new skaters and tricks. This file was just amazing and it still is to me.
Have you ever traveled to blade? If so, tell us about the first trip and maybe the best trip.
I travelled a lot to blade. I was lucky enough to skate shows — mostly halfpipe — around Europe. The best one for me was going to Dubai for 2.5 weeks to do halfpipe shows. They flew in a halfpipe bowl and built a street park near the river. So the best thing was skating over there in the bowl, skating in the parck with peeps like Jochen Smuda, Samo Bajec, Beni Huber and some other guys! Traveling and blading is the best.
How did travelling change your perception of blading?
It’s getting out of your comfort zone and I think that’s a good thing. Seeing new places, new perspectives and of course new spots. So traveling itself gives me a better view of what’s possible and what to appreciate. From a blading point of view it’s exactly the same. Of course the parties abroad are always better, but the spots and opportunities to skate aren’t.
I know you and Sven are homies, and that he of course has had a pretty incredible blade career. What’s it like having a peer reach the top echelons while mortality remains firmly in your grasp?
Sven and me pretty much grew up skating together. We were homies since the first day we met. We skated a lot of spots together and practiced the same tricks. I can say I wasn’t as result driven as Sven. He always had a drive to achieve the most at anything he was doing. That paid out by getting added to the Rollerblade team in the mid ‘90s. I couldn’t complain at all, I also got my free stuff from my sponsor but didn’t travel the globe like a proper pro at that time. When he went abroad me and the guys skated our local spots to show him what’s up when he came back!
So what did you do with yourself during the formidable years of education and testing the career waters?
Skating has been a big influence on my education and career. Like I said before, it made me who I am today. I got my Bachelor in Economics and am now a qualified economics teacher. During my education I did as little as possible so that I could still skate and have fun with the homies. I had my part when drinking and stuff was more important, but rediscovered the balance of skating and doing all that partying stuff. When I started working after school in the media (Time Out Magazine and Vice Media) it was harder to combine. A proper career takes a lot of time. Spare time was getting rare and extra hours became standard. That was pretty hard ‘cause I still wanted to go out and skate at least once a week.
What’s it like working in an office and being the only guy showing up with weepy, bleeding knees or busted wrists?
Funny faces all the time when you limp in at work ‘cause you busted your ankle or knee. The worst is when you fuck up your hand. When I worked in the media on accounts I shook a lot hands. Image all those clean, corporate hands and then my hand with an open wound. I always had that in mind when I was skating a couple of years ago.
How’s work these days, what are you doing exactly?
I worked in the media for quite a few years. That was hard work, doing a lot of hours and earning quit well. I worked on accounts, chasing budgets and working on marketing campaigns. They wanted an audience to buy stuff, and I gave that. Got some blading stuff in as well for a Samsung campaign and a chewing gum brand. A few years ago I didn’t feel at ease anymore. I was pushing money, and didn’t really add anything to society. I got my teachers qualification and now teach at a secondary school. It’s great, I teach kids about economics, what I know, have a lot of spare time, earn my money, and are autonomous in my classroom. Besides that I still help Sven with SB-Events. And I do some stuff for Rollerblade too.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned through your career?
It’s not only through my career but also in my life nowadays with my girlfriend and daughter. I’ve learned that when it is not going very well and all, I need to go out skate a bit. That’s something that we might all feel like as bladers.
How about the coolest thing you’ve done?
Holding my little girl for my first time. That’s something amazing. Puts life in a new perspective. She’s over two years old now but already has a pair of Fisher Price skates in the room. Big up to the Blader Dads Facebook page!
Did you use skills you accumulated through blading — writing, filming, editing, networking, etc. — to your advantage to get into your current employment situation? Any tips for people on how to do that?
Blading is something very unique. I also tell that in the classroom. It tells a lot about a person. We all know that you will not land a trick easily. A blader has perseverance — he or she might land a trick first try, though most likely they will fall at first, but they’ll land it eventually. Every manager, boss or employer needs or wants someone with a personality like this. If you take a look at the people you know as a blader —different backgrounds, cultures, social status, age — it doesn’t matter. You can use this as your own “career advantage.”
Has working and experiencing more of the world from that perspective changed you as a blader? If so, can you explain it?
I think so, as I am getting older and experience new, important stuff. With my girl or daughter, you start to enjoy the smaller things in life. It sounds very cliché, I know, but is true to me. So that’s something that translates to my skating too.
How often do you get to strap up and catch a session?
This last year I’ve been skating more often than before. Because of my career switch I have more spare time, meaning more time to skate as well. The weather is getting better over here so I strap on my skates like five or six times a month. Sometimes just for an hour or two. What I also do is skate around with my girls, but it’s just not that satisfying…
Is filming and getting clips still a priority? How has that impacted your blading in the past?
Nowadays there is always someone with a good camera. So when you are having a good session and land some tricks there’s a good chance of getting a clip or a pic. Lately I have been stacking some clips with Remco van der Pol. Nothing big, all just for fun.
What kinda stuff do you do for general well-being like stretching or working out?
I should do this stuff, but I am always too eager to skate. A small stretch for my hamstring, that’s about it. Should do more though…
Do you think the actual act of blading or the connections and friendships you made through blading has ultimately been the factor that led to your longtime blade dedication?
Yes, for sure. The best thing about blading is having a session with peeps that know you well. The smallest little trick that means a lot to you will also be recognized by friends and skaters you skate with a lot. Sharing those moments together is what makes blading so special to me.
How many people do you know that are really young and talk like they’re old? What do you want to say to them?
It’s part of the game. But some kids just don’t know what’s up. We paved the road for them in my opinion. We indirectly got them into skating, there was sort of nothing when we started. But they are the future and they should have a bit of an attitude, those younger guys are the future of our sports. Keep on blading till you don’t have fun anymore, and if you stop please try them on after a while, ‘cause it’s the best feeling.
Anything else we didn’t talk about that we might want to cover?
Good point, but more to come on that soon, so hell yeah, Randy — we just did our first THE GRIND. Thanks for being part of it and we wish you continued good luck with your career both on and off blades. Till next time!
Photos by Cavin Brinkman, Remco Van der Pol, Dominic Swagemakers, and Thijs Tel.
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Moar of these please.
Great kick off. Hopefully you can phish some tricks out of this dude so we can see a little edit too. That would be ill.
Please feature Justin Brasco. He looks like the most interesting rollerblader in the world.