Oldterviews: Erik Chan

From 2009 till 2010 I did a series of interviews with some of the best players, go-getters, organizers and all around important people of our sport at that point. I now bring all of the interviews, for the first time collected, chronologically here on the site. 
Some of the people are as relevant today as they were back then, others have faded a little, but all of the interviews contain strong opinions, an interesting look into a footbag life and/or great advice about our sport. This week’s interview is with Erik Chan.

Erik Chan is the man! He has been playing footbag for more than 10 years and done a lot for the sport. He has a sweet website (www.hackrifice.com) with a huge pile of trick demonstrations, a well written FAQ and a good introduction to newbies. He is also a great player who have pushed the sport in many ways (currently he is making reverse whirl tricks hot). Other than that he is a great artist, an interesting blogger and a really modest guy. He is also the guy who can be found in most footbag videos on the internet.

Hey Erik.

How are you?

Hello Asmus. I am incredible.

You recently went to Europe and lived in Munich for some time. What was that experience like?

Europe was dreamy. I didn’t have much money so I didn’t get to travel as much as I had obviously wanted to, but living in Munich for a couple of months was just a blast of an experience. I stayed with my German-speaking girlfriend and we had a ton of fun. It’s a beautiful city, and the local freestylers are some of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met (Shout out to Munich Footbag!). Worlds in Prague was also fun, but the weather and organization bummed out a lot of people, especially in the light of last year’s amazing Terra Verde Worlds!

Do you think there is a difference between the European and the North American footbag scene?

Yeah definitely. Though I really only experienced the local scene in Munich, I find that the European players just PLAY, whereas the North American players are the ones who spend more time on Modified and write crap that subsequently turns off the European players from participating in said forums. I will have to re-answer this question next year after Berlin when I plan to travel more [and experience more European footbag].

Oh, that sounds exciting. What have you planned this far?

Nothing more than attending Worlds ’09.

You have a really great style. Could you say a few words on what you think is a good style and how to get one?

Well thank you Asmus! Hmm. I think that style is mostly governed by body movement (which may sound stupid, but I mean, as opposed to trick selection or whatever, right?), and that there are specific aspects in the way in which one handles him/herself that produces either good or not as good style. The two most noticeable aspects are franticity (or the level of relaxedness) and Jorden Moir’s examination of “hands”. A lot of players rush into tricks one after another, barely stalling, and attack every dex (even butterflies!). I developed my current style after sustaining numerous injuries and forcing myself to learn spinning and ducking tricks, which are naturally more graceful — this gracefulness was then more easily accessible to adapt to other freestyle elements. It’s important to develop proper breathing and to know how to relax, even when busting those 7-add tricks. Bail tricks, like butterflies, should give you a chance to breathe, and recharge energy for further tricks in the run, so it’s important to not attack the tricks (wasting energy), but to fall into them, or let them happen around you. (I should mention something about Jan Zimmerman (whom I watched “growing up”) and how he developed his famously smooth style from injury) As for hands, Jorden made a silly video that teaches you what not to do. Try to relax. I thought that his extended index and middle fingers stance would work well in reducing hand silliness. If you watch my videos, you will notice that my right hand is perfectly relaxed, though my left is gnarled like crazy; I’ve been meaning to try to use his technique to remedy this.

You been injured a lot during your footbag career. What was that like? What advice can you give to other players based on these experiences?

Oh that’s a good one. I wish everyone could learn from my mistakes and avoid injury! My initial injury is still kind of undetermined, but it was basically a tight hip flexor, which came from pushing flip atomic and PS whirls. My biggest mistake was never stretching. I never thought I had to because for 6 years freestyling I never had any pain. Big mistake. Other, more debilitating injuries developed from there, but the same prevention methods hold: Stretch. I’m not a health expert and only really know what I have been told by others, but from what I have been told personally, and analyzing the injuries of others, I am convinced that tight hamstrings are the cause of most injuries, and all of mine (including tight hips/groin, bad knees (patella femoral syndrome), unbearable shin splints (worse than I have ever had before), and really bad chronic lower back pain). Stretch those hammies! Multiple times every day regardless of whether you’re planning to play footbag or not. Also, some freestylers who are also into personal training highly recommend cross-training [to prevent injury] for footbag, and I think this will be the norm in the future.

You have been playing for more than 10 years. How has the sport changed since you started out?

I guess the biggest change has been the internet. When I started in 1997/1998 there was footbag.org and dallasfootbag.org (and a couple smaller sites, granted). They had a handful of short clips of the pros shredding, and that was it for online videos, otherwise you would personally contact the pros to order the old style ghetto 2-hour VHS tapes. There were no forums, there was the highly-filtered .org mailing list (if you think the .org forum is militant, you wouldn’t have liked the mailing list), so the community was not quite the same because people knew each other from meeting each other, not really from talking on the internet beforehand. There wasn’t really advice on the internet, you had to learn tricks on your own or with your local club (I had printed the .org move list and learned tricks from reading Job’s). There was no push for bothsidedness and Ryan Mulroney was the player everyone wanted to model his/her game after. Another big difference was the lack of internet shopping. So if you wanted a new footbag, you would order a Juice from WorldFootbag, or a Carol, or an Abshire, with a cheque sent via post.

What do you think is more important close knit community or more money in the sport?

Money? Who said that? Community for sure. I’d rather have fun with my friends than worry about publicizing the sport.

You recently hit a 7 add trick (Reverse Montage Rake) what is the next milestone you are going for?

Ha. That wasn’t really a milestone. I just wanted to beat my student, Manna, before he hit one before me. In less than a year he will completely surpass me. That’s 2 years total… Kids… I don’t really have an aim for a milestone. My body is too wrecked to worry about that sort of thing. I like osis?

Osis is a strange trick. It’s so basic still it seems to really divide people into groups. For example Cod (Michael Biarda from Poland) has his “No Osis Posse”. I guess what I am trying to say is “Why do you like Osis?”.

Well the biggest reason that I probably like it is because I was never able to really do it well or consistently. I think it opens the door to a lot of style potential. Zooming is awesome. Stepping out of osis feels incredible. Blenders (though I don’t do them). If you think about it, these things are kinda tough, and lots of people avoid doing them (how many people do you see doing stepping ducking out of osis?). Most players will bail to a butterfly after osis tricks. Not to say that I don’t, of course, but there is so much more that you can do with the trick. Like potatoes.

You invented/named some cool stuff like wonton/terraging mirage/blubberman what do you think you will be remembered for when your footbag career ends?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone really knows what I invented or named, or why they know my name. If people will remember me it will be because they see my name a lot on the internet and think I’m someone important. Which is fine, ’cause I never figured out what the big deal is about me.

You recently said “Footbag is the truth in my soul keeping me alive”. Could you say a bit more about what role footbag has in your life?

Oh yeah. Matt Cross liked that one. I just took a line from the song in that Europe video and added “footbag”. But, I mean, it’s basically true to form. Footbag is almost everything to me. It has remained an integral part of my life since I first found it 10-12 years ago, when other aspects of my life have come and gone, or changed. It makes me happy, inspired… well, this is perhaps how I’ve best described what footbag means to me: http://chan.hackrifice.com/old/020629.txt  (Note: Link is inactive)

You recently relaunched www.hackrifice.com. Why and what is the new deal?

I guess it was mostly inspired by Johnny Suderman’s Johnnysuderman.com. (Note: Link is inactive) Johnny is kind of an icon of style and power and I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t love his game. He started his own website which is kind of a video blog to replace his footblog on Modified.in (footbag forums). I saw this and his goal to kind of ween away from Modified, which has gone significantly downhill, and thought that it would be a neat aspect to implement into my club’s website. I mentioned it to Hackrifice, and they seemed quite down with it — blogging on our website and forsaking the old ways. I barely check Modified anymore. It’s great. My girlfriend would always get irritated that I had to check all the time. It was pretty irritating of me. Even the little swooshy was inspired by the swooshy on Johnny’s site. Oh, so I guess the “new deal” is that I want to keep Hackrifice fresh and interactive. Updating regularly with blog posts, weekly videos (Move of the Week), etc. (Suggestions?)

What is your next footbag project?

To form The Manitoba Footbag Association. It’s down the road.

If you could change one thing or add one thing to footbag as a community or as a sport what would it be?

Credibility? To be able to say — when someone asks, “Which sport?” — “Footbag” and have people know exactly what it is, and not feel belittled on account of the stoner stereotypes and the stagnant image of “hacky sack”. To be able to say “footbag” and have people “ooh” and “ahh” :p Naw, I don’t know if that would be “the one thing”. But it would be nice.

Yeah, that would be really nice. Do you have any shout outs?

Sure. First to Marita, my best friend for support and everything else in life, including being a supportive footbag girlfriend. All my love. A shout to Chad for being the first person to see freestyle in that movie and inspiring me to devote my life to hacky from that point on. Joel Dion and Mark Leeman for being my personal footbag mentors and getting me started. Ricky Moran for inspiring my game. Hackrifice, FAT, and Munich. Asmus Helms for honouring me with an interview. And everyone else in the sport and out. Love.

Written by Asmus Helms

Drawing by Erik Chan

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