Chasing the Frontside Grind: One Boozy Evening With Europe's Top Skateboarder
Daan Van Der Linden is currently living every skateboarder's dream – and surpassing his idols in the process. Nonetheless, the Dutchman is staying true to his roots.
When you get off the train in Eindhoven and take a look at your surroundings, it doesn't feel like the right sort of place for a skateboarding event. Tall, grey buildings. Faceless hotels. Chain restaurants feeding businessmen before they head into the boardroom. Is this really the right spot?
I jump in a taxi across town to the Area 51 skatepark and it all becomes clear. The scenery out of the window rapidly changes from a boring, modern city to what feels like a fun wasteland run by rebels. It's like I've fallen down a trap door in Milton Keynes and landed in Berlin. Suddenly I'm outside a huge graffiti-covered building, housing one of the finest skateparks I've ever visited.
I'm in town for the launch event for Daan Van Der Linden's new pro colourway for Vans. Van Der Linden is one of the most exciting young skateboarders around at the moment. Hailing from Holland, he's been snapped up by companies including Anti-Hero, Independent, Vans and Spitfire. Not only has he recently been named 2016's European Skateboarder of the Year, he's also July's cover star of Thrasher Magazine. That's a pretty fucking big deal, being as he's only recently turned 20.
As soon as I step into the park and grab a beer, a sweaty Daan rolls in with a big smile on his face looking like he's been skating non-stop all day. We head outside to a quiet staircase where his friends are chilling with pizza and passing a spliff around. "You're from London?" He asks me, "Did you go the Volcom premiere last night?" No, I tell him, feeling slightly embarrassed. "Oh, well I really wouldn't look forward to seeing my latest video part anyway. It's playing on repeat in there and it sucks."
Trying to gloss over the fact I haven't seen 'Holy Stokes' yet, I ask him if he had to put in a lot of effort for his part in the video. "Nah man, we've just been skating and having a good time on the road. It was kind of my first rodeo, so I was just tagging along and skated any spot worth skating."
We discuss his video part, and how most of it was shot in the U.S., with none filmed in his home country or the UK. "The UK has some amazing spots, but I'm not really into the scene that you have going on out there, like the whole trendy thing. I like the old school stuff. It's cool that they do it – they're trying to do something new. But I just have my own thing."
This is something that's abundantly clear when talking to Daan: he has an old-school skateboarding mentality and isn't interested in being 'trendy' or using his skateboarding ability as a means to make money. "I guess I just never really imagined being a pro skater. It's just something that happened. It's pretty sick though!"
Daan's only 20 but has been skateboarding for most of his life. When I ask what changes once you start earning a living from skateboarding, he says: "There are some things that aren't really about skateboarding that you have to do, and things you have to do on your skateboard that aren't about the skateboarding. You'll go on trips where the main goal is to perform certain tricks, and sometimes it's a little forced. I try to stay away from that, because I feel that if everyone has a good time and that's a priority, the footage will be way better."
With a mentality that is more about having a good time and less about performing tricks on demand, you can see why Daan has chosen to ride for companies like Anti-Hero and Independent; companies that encompass the original ethos of skateboarding as something fun instead of something commercial. "When I was growing up, all I could think about was when I could do the next frontside grind, and when I'd get to be back at the park again," he says.
I ask him about the favourite skaters of his childhood, and he lists Fred Gall, Dustin Dollin and Frank Grewer as his heroes. He now skates in the same team as most of these guys. It's something that I've always had trouble comprehending, the equivalent of being a life long fan of The Clash and then being asked to join the band as the fucking keyboard player.
"At first it was kind of weird, but after you get used to it it's cool. I mean, Dustin Dollin is his own creature. I love it. With someone like Frank Gerwer, I used to see so much funny shit about him, and it's like the same in real life; it's like you're watching a YouTube video."
"That must be crazy!" I interject. He laughs, "It is pretty crazy, I trip out sometimes. I'm in the van with all these guys and I'm like, 'who the fuck am I?!' But that's the cool thing, they don't really give a fuck about what you are or who you are, they keep it raw."
I feel at this point in our conversation it's only right to ask him if there's anyone he's met in the industry that doesn't care about being a credible skateboarder, and just wants the money and fame.
"Yeah, it happens a lot," he says as someone passes him a spliff. "Sorry, what?"
Probing him on the wankers of the skateboarding industry while he's chilling outside of his own party felt a bit harsh, so I close on what is possibly the most exciting moment of any skateboarders career: becoming a cover star of Thrasher.
"Okay, first of all, I have to say I like it," he says with some authority, "but with any photos where I have to look at myself, I don't like it. But I am so hyped that I got the cover, man, it's such a cool thing. I can hang it up on my wall! It's so sick.
"The first time I heard about it, [Thrasher editor] Jake Phelps gave me a little hint when I was in the office three weeks before the issue came out. He was like: 'You got the new cover.' And I was like: 'WHAT?' After that, he never said anything else about it. I just assumed he was fucking with me, and then I actually got it! I didn't think they would give it to me, because I haven't been around that long. But yeah, it was kind of cool."
And with the understatement of the century, I head back to the park where the 'cash for tricks' bowl session is just starting. Daan soon joins and skates harder than everyone there, throwing up huge airs, flip-indys and eggplants, even though he's been skating/drinking/smoking for hours and looks completely exhausted. It goes to show that it doesn't matter how many pro shoes he receives or how many of his heroes become his friends. Daan will always be a skate rat who's thinking about his next frontside grind.