Hi Mathias! How are you doing?
Hi! I´m okay thanks.
Let’s start at the beginning. When and how did you start playing footbag?
The summer 2004 the European Footbag Championships in Copenhagen and a footbag tour in Denmark sponsored by ”Orange” took place. Growing up in a small town, Fjellerad, I had no clue that these things where going on though. For some reason I remember it being August the 5. 2004 when Søren asked me if I wanted to give footbag a try. I had seen Nikolai and Søren playing a couple times and thought it was pretty cool. Later that year Nikolai started a footbag program at the local youth club, I guess we where around 15 young boys and girls playing footbag at the peak in Aalborg and Fjellerad.
Nikolai, Søren and you have dominated the Danish Scene pretty much since both of us started playing. First Nikolai won twice, then Søren won once and after that you won every Danish Champs you have attended. Why do you think that is?
In many ways we had the perfect footbag environment. Nikolai as the perfect mentor, the older, cooler and best footbagger in Denmark to teach us how to play, help us get the right form and to look up to. The other young footbaggers to push each other, especially Søren. We where pretty competitive. We are all determined persons as well, that´s another important factor.
I know your father is Austrian and that you have spent a lot of time with the Footbag Vienna crew. How did that shape you as a footbagger?
I had played footbag for a couple months when I first met the Vienna crew. My father went to the shred location with me off course we where there on time and stood there in the freezing cold for half an hour. We actually gave up and started to walk home. I was so disappointed. Then a guy walked pass us on the sidewalk, whom I thought looked like a footbagger. An hour later I played footbag with Ali(former european footbag president), Verena, Alex, Hanna, Denise and the rest of the Vienna crew for the first time. The impact was huge, I was so impressed by their level. They treated me really nice even though I was just an introvert little 12-year old kid.
How is the Austrian scene doing these days?
Unfortunately the Vienna crew has shrunk. It used to be the footbag club with the most girls, there where even more girls than boys playing footbag in Vienna at some points! Now there are like 5-7 people playing regular with Alex Trenner and Julian Sinnl as the most active ones.
From late summer til late autumn 2012 you did a footbag pilgrimage to the land where all started: God’s own country – US and fucking A. How did this idea come about?
I was in the danish counterpart for High School about to graduate, everybody talked about what they wanted to do in their gab year(s). I always wanted to visit USA – the land of freedom.
After some inactive footbag years I had started to play more again. There where so many places that I wanted to see, I wanted to experience the american way of life and I wanted to play footbag and hang out with footbaggers. It seemed ideal to combine those elements.
You started out in Stanford. For me Steve’s house is one of those places you have to visit in your footbag career. How was it?
Stanford was the perfect place to start. The Bay Area is awesome and Steves house is legendary. Playing freestyle and four square in the footbag room then getting served Steves delicious pizza and afterwards hot-tubbing with a view over San Francisco and the bay. So sweet!
Jeff and Alex made a video from my visit which catches the atmosphere.
Who did you play with there and how were they all doing?
I spent over 2 weeks in the bay area so I got to play with a lot of players, unfortunately I can’t remember all the names. But off course I kicked with Steve, Alex, Jeff – he just got back from Copenhagen at that time, Brian and David. Brian plays a lot and I really like his unique style. I missed out on Dave while he was in Copenhagen, so it was great to play with him and he was even better then I had thought. I would say that he is the best footbagger in the world.
Video by Alex Dworetzky
After that you went to Eugene and played with Larry Workman. I don’t know him but I like his last name. What kinda guy is he?
Jup, I met up with Larry, his wife and daughter in Eugene, where we went to a ”Pretty Lights” concert. Next day we drove to the Oregon Coast, Coos Bay, where they live. One of the most beautiful places I have seen. Larry is one of the most passionate footbaggers I know. Larry and his family are very warm hearted and really made me feel at home. He works at the local high school, North Bend, so I went there a couple times. I noticed that life at a high school pretty much equals what you see in movies. The cool guys play football and date the hot cheerleaders. What a cliché!
Larry had (he might still has) and open invitation to all footbaggers to come visit and play with him in Coos Bay. I would recommend anyone who has the chance to do it!
Then you travelled on to Portland. A couple of years ago they had a really vibrant scene but it seems like it has slowed down a bit there. Are there still many active players?
I can´t talk for 2014 but in 2012 the scene was quite active. There are so many great high skilled footbaggers in Portland and the city is awesome as well! I can understand why Portland is and has been a footbag mecca from the very beginning! As a dane and european you almost feel at home, people biking around, liberal mindsets, the weather etc..
Onward you went to the home of Grunge and Justin Dale – Seattle! How was it there?
I was very surprised by how many new and young players there where in Seattle. Justin Dale has done an amazing job building up the footbag scene in Seattle again. The club seems to be in momentum. It was really nice to visit a footbag club rising. As for my stay in Seattle – I had a blast. The city is called rain city but the sun was shinning while I was there!
Video by Justin Dale
In Missoula you played with one of the footbaggers that I most want to meet and haven’t yet. The crazy Kevin Crowley. How is he in real life?
Kevin is great, I think you two would get a long very well, you are kind of similar. I was travelling from Seattle to Minneapolis, on the way I stopped in the small college town Missoula in the enormous state of Montana. Met up with Jeremiah and Kevin and had one of the best sessions in Jeremiahs living room drinking beer, playing footbag and having a lot of fun. Too bad I was only there for about 24 hours.
After a short stop in Minneapolis you continued to Chicago and played with the Inner Circle. How is that club doing?
It seems like Inner Circle has a lot of inactive players and a couple active ones. Tom one of the active players took me around in the fantastic city. One night we had a session at Emily´s house with a lot of people showing up. Chicago really has it owns charm. I would definitely recommend a trip to Chicago instead of visiting New York for the XX time.
After that you travelled to Kalamazoo to play with one of my favorite styles in footbag – Zach Jahner. I have never heard of Kalamazoo, what kind of place is that?
The name of the city Kalamazoo is, as you have probably already guessed, native american like Chicago. Kalamazoo is a college city in the state of Michigan. If you want to see a Michigan map just look at the inside of your hand – there you go! Kalamazoo has like 3 colleges, so almost everybody who lives there goes to college. We went to a crazy parking lot party before a football game with BBQ and Jello-shots on the back of the trucks in the lot. At the time I visited Kalamazoo it was already autumn in Michigan. Zach and Anton introduced me to disc golf in the forrests of Michigan it´s hard to describe how beautiful they were.
Video by Zach Jahner
Then you travelled to Austin, Texas and did a footbag demo with your old friend Kasper Dons on guitar. How did that come about?
Kasper and I used to kick together back in middle school. Then I met him on the streets of Aalborg one day. Like with everyone else at that time we talked about what plans we had after graduating. He told me that he would go to Austin,Texas for a couple months in the autumn. He asked me if I wanted to step by and I said yes. Kaspers uncle, living in Austin, planned a show for us at the local Middle School. I did a 15 minutes dropless show in front of 1000-1500 kids and Kasper played the guitar. At the end of the show I had a little workshop on stage, when I asked who wanted to try 800 pupils raised their hand – for sure never tried that in Denmark! You have to go to Texas if you want to see real cowboys. Nowadays Kasper is a signed musician an if you tune in on the radio in Denmark you might be lucky to hear one of his tracks.
Video by Karsten Blok
Next stop on your trip was The Big Easy – New Orleans. Here you visited Mark Monistere. He seems like a cool dude, is he as cool in real life? Did he teach you Swirling set?
He is even cooler in real life. Professional musician playing saxophone and piano. You can’t find a better guy to show you New Orleans since N.O is all about jazz. It´s fantastic to walk on the street and hear live jazz from every second bar. We walked into a couple bars where he just joined the musicians on stage and did jam sessions. It seems like he is kind of a celebrity around N.O. We did school the swirling set, I hit some swirling tricks like torque and dlo bs. Unfortunately I kind of forgot about the set.
After a short stop in Washington D.C you came to your final destination New York. NYFA is probably the biggest footbag club in the World. How was it there?
”New York, New York”. I was really surprised by the size of NYFA, I recollect that there are more then a 100 members. But don´t pin it on me. One of the sessions that´s stuck in my mind is a session at Washington Square with 15-20 baggers showing up. NYFA doesn’t have top players in their organization. What NYFA has is a lot of players having a good time and enjoying footbag which shouldn´t be underestimated. As for the city and the touristy stuff movies, books and multiple search engines can provide you with the info you need.
Is there a funny story you care to share from the trip?
There are so many…It´s gonna be hard to pick just one!
Art and wine festival in Mountain view…Sneaking in on a Bollywood filmset in Chicago…Scared to death in Atlanta….Walking in Memphis at 3.00 AM…..
I´m gonna go with at story from Arkansas. I was travelling around with Greyhound. Busses and public transportation seems to be a thing that americans, who can afford it, avoid. I´m glad I didn´t. I met another USA onboard on the coaches. I was heading from New Orleans to Washington D.C. Another crazy 30-hour bus ride. I had been onboard for like 6 hours and was already exhausted. We drove through this little city called “Hope” that seemed like the worst shithole and hopeless place to me. Then a couple minutes later there was this sign coming closer. As I got close enough to read the sign it said:”Hometown of Bill Clinton”. That took me by surprise….
After USA you moved to Berlin for 8 months or so. How did that decision come about?
While travelling I got aware that I couldn’t imagine myself going back to Denmark. Since Berlin had always been my favorite city and I kept going multiple times a year I realized I wanted to move to Berlin. I applied for a couple jobs while I was still in America and had an interview 2 days after I got back. I was lucky that Mikko Lepistö had a free room in his new apartment where I could move in. 10 days later I moved to Berlin.
Who did you play with in Berlin and how was the scene doing at the time?
Most footbaggers in Berlin play net these days. All though there are still some freestylers or net players playing freestyle once in a while. Most of the time I played with Jakob and Aleksi. Often other shredders would join us like Mikko, Ilja, Matze, Max, Felix, Yves, David, Rene, Michael, Christopher, Andreas etc. We had a lot of freestylers from around Europe playing with us quite often as well. I would say that we had one of the best scenes in Europe.
Video by Aleksi Airinen
If somebody out there reading this is planning on going to Berlin. What should they do and see?
Go to ”Ostbahnhof” and walk down Eastside Gallery, the longest remaining part of the Berlin wall. You should do this pretty soon, since there are plans to change the area and to tear down some of the wall. Take a walk down ”Karl-Marx Allee”, the largest avenue in east Berlin. Go to ”Görlitzer Park” in Kreuzberg and have a session. Visit some of the great museums and galleries. In Berlin you walk around in history try to notice. If you like electronic music and going out Berlin has the world´s best clubs and nightlife in general.
I heard that you are in Austria at the moment but in general you are back in Denmark. What are the next steps in the life of Mathias Blau?
That´s correct! I´ve had a couple crazy years with ups and downs with work and a lot of travelling. The last couple months I´ve been trying to find a place to live in Copenhagen since I´m starting to study there from mid August. I´m really looking forward to settle down, at least for a couple years. This move is my main focus at the time.
What are your footbag plans this summer?
As you said I´m in Vienna at the time. So I´m shredding a lot with the Vienna Crew. I will be in Copenhagen again in a couple weeks so I´m probably gonna shred with the Copenhagen Crew and Milan Benda. Other then that I´m going to worlds in Paris. Can´t wait for that!
I would like to thank you (the reader) for your time. If you feel like doing a footbag travel now I succeeded.
See you in Paris.
Thanks to Mathias Blau
Interview by Asmus Helms