Editor’s note: 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 David Clavens.
David Clavens is a freestyler from Pennsylvania not residing in California. He is one of the best sideline and routine players in the world and have won countless tournaments like the US Open, Euros, Funtastisk and Worlds (Circle). Other than that he works for Google, is an amateur magician and he is a great guy who is always willing to throw down or give tips when requested. I hung out with him this summer and got inspired to interview him. Without any further ado I give you my interview with David “The Cleaver” Clavens:
Hey David. How are you?
Great, how about yourself?
I’m good bro. This summer you went to Europe, to compete at Euros and to visit footbaggers all over the continent. As far as I know you went to Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Prague and Copenhagen? Could you in a few words sum up the different cities – the people you met there and how it was? I know you could probably write a book about this trip but I would like to hear a little more.
Man, I could totally write a book about this. You got the countries right. I had a blast spending time with the clubs in all of the cities. I have to thank Paul C., Ales Z., Serge K., Mads, Rasmus, Kim, and you for hosting me while I was abroad which made thetrip so much better. Footbag kindness was at an all time high. My trip would not have been nearly as amazing if I didn’t have the help of all the international footbag players.
All of the cities had their own individual flavor and each one gave me different memories. In some I walked around with the locals and in others I ventured out on my own – making for two distinct versions of seeing a city, but both equally as amazing. I got to see a lot of the famous sites but also a look into the day to day lives of everyone who lived in the cities. It was a blast to be with people outside of the tournament setting, playing and hanging out in a more laid back setting. I think my trip was the perfect mix between playing footbag, hanging out, and sight seeing.
In Prague you played at Honzas infamous backyard spot, how was it to play with Honza and Ales there?
It was really great to play in a spot that I had seen on videos for years. It was a similar feeling to the first time I played at the water temple in Portland. Honza and Ales are a blast to play with and it was really nice to see Honza play in a setting where we weren’t both worried about competition. I really wish that I could play with him more, because the atmosophere is quite serious and has a really good “training” feel. I felt like I really had to be on my toes when I played with him and I think we both pushed each other a bit. It is great that he has been pushing it for 8 years now. Ales, although not in the form of a few years ago, can still hold his own in the circle and his form is so good I would watch him do butterflies and be happy.
In Copenhagen you went busking with Mads Hole like Ryan used to do it. How did you get that idea? What was that experience like?
The busking in Copenhagen was quite possibly the highlight of my trip. Basically, I had heard that Mulroney did quite well on the streets a few summers back and I had of course seen the Vasek videos in the same shopping area. When I asked Mads if I could try street performing he was more than happy to help me, outfitting me with a Frisbee and a boombox to get things started. I ended up performing three days in a row in a busy shopping area in Copenhagen, doing 2 minutes routines to some of my old songs plus the new Kesha one. The experience was great and definitely gave me a new appreciation for busking and how difficult it is. It took me about a day to really get down my speech and how to present footbag, but I think people really dug the 2 minute format, allowing them to see talent but not waste a half hour of their day. I ended up getting paid quite well and it helped me finance a fair bit of my trip. It also built up my endurance, as I was doing routines over and over without really stopping, never wanting to miss the next crowd.
I’ve been to Paris myself, staying at Arthur’s place; one of my highlights was making late night crepes and shooting the shit with them. Did you try homemade crepes? Did you try making them yourself? Can you do the crepe flip trick?
Unfortunately I did not dive into the art of crepe making as deep as you did. I had one while I was sightseeing one day but that was it. In regards to my highlight, it was definitely getting to know Serge Kaldany, who actually works in a similar profession as I do except for Yahoo. It was really cool hanging out with him and learning about his background and also talking about careers, something I don’t do with footbag players too often. Perhaps I will skool my crepe tricks next time I visit Paris.
During your trip you also won the European champs, as the first American ever if I am not mistaken. How did the top European freestylers take that?
I think Ryan was the first American to do it in the early 2000’s, making me the second. I think that going into the tournament everyone was so evenly matched that it was anyone’s game (similar to worlds this year). I do not believe that anyone in Europe was disappointed that an American won, and I am of course not upset that Damian won US Open Circle. It is just the nature of our game, this is bound to happen when top players can travel to international tournaments. I think it is a good thing in the end, and only pushes the level higher and higher.
I know you have wanted to come and compete in Europe for a long time (and we have really wanted to see you against the dictators and polish guys for some time). Did it live up to your expectations?
To begin, I feel that Europe is so diverse that I can’t really say I even got a good feel of it during my month that I was there. Like anywhere, I truly feel you would have to live in each place to get the full taste of what the country has to offer. Each country in Europe is so distinct that it would be unfair to group them all together as “Europe”. However, I will say that meeting and talking with many Europeans over my years in footbag made the transition less dramatic. I imagine some Americans who have had little European contact come overseas and are blown away, but to me I had already experienced language and cultural differences through events like worlds and such. The thing that blew me away the most were things like the architecture, seeing as we don’t really have many old buildings here in the states. Another thing that surprised me was how friendly people were to Americans. All footbag players have treated me with great kindness, but I was not sure how I would be treated by locals. I was happily surprised that I fit right in and everyone treated me like I was one of the gang.
A while ago you wrote in your blog that you wish you had the energy and drive again that you used to have. Have this summer of you traveling and playing a lot fueled this drive?
It goes in waves, and things I write in my blog are sometimes true one week but different the next. I have a very inconsistent relationship with footbag these days, going from playing 4 times a week to not playing at all. I think going to Europe kind of forced me to take it more seriously because I did not want to show up to Worlds and drop a lot. Now, with the major tournaments over and work I am not sure what role footbag will play in my life. However, there are moments where I wish I had the time and energy of my 15 year old self, as I feel there is so much unexplored area in this game.
Having traveled around Europe this summer, what do you see as the main differences between the European and the North American scene?
Great question. Having only been at Euros, it is tough to say. I think smaller tournaments like Polish Champs or Todexon would help me get the full flavor of the European scene. I think there are differences in trick selection, average skill level, and the social side of things. I think both scenes are great for their own reasons and have more similarities than differences.
You just got back from worlds and I am sure it was an amazing week as always. Want to share some highlights of your week?
The highlights of my week mostly involved competing at the highest level I had seen in quite a while. Just watching everyone do amazing routines and bust in circles was a pleasure. I think this year I spread myself fairly well in hanging out with a lot of different people and I also feel that personally I was not as hard on myself as I normally am. I wish I played more in circles but I think that is how I always feel.
At worlds you did a workshop, which I think is an awesome idea. How was the response? Did you feel that you got anything out of it?
The response was pretty good and I hope that one day the footage is released. I covered some sets and my basic ideas on skooling. It was great to see 50 people on the floor wanting to hear what I had to say, that meant a lot. The thing I got out of it was that everyone thinks of things differently and that there is no magic formula. I hope that my words helped at least a few people.
I heard you spoke about your general way to train can you tell us a little about that as I and I am sure a lot of the others who wasn’t at worlds are really interested in this subject.
I could write a book about my thoughts on training, and perhaps will leave this question open ended in hopes that the workshop will be posted. I imagine one day I will have the time to sit down and write out most of my theories on footbag. In a nutshell, it revolves around high repetitions of movements and hitting things in a style that is easily reproducible. It is focused on building a good foundation. I have not read all of the vasek manual, but there are a lot of similarities in our thinking. I am sure any advice he has on the topic would be as good if not better than mine.
And now the next chapter of you life is about to begin, working at Google, live at Steve Goldberg’s house, enjoying the Californian sun. You and Steve Goldberg seem really close. Could you tell me a little about your relationship with him?
I met steve about 7 years ago at a Funtastik Summer Classic. The story is worth typing. It was my first tournament and I had been playing for 6 months and I was competing in intermediate. I went out and dropped a ton but I tried to use the music a little bit. I remember my dad standing next to Bob Riefer watching me, and Bob telling me to just be calm and keep it off the ground. I did the routine and had that throw up feeling in my stomach that I am sure everyone has had during the first times they compete for an audience. I was not very optimistic about making finals with my performance. I remember going up to the judges table and there was Steve in his typical sunglasses. I didn’t know who he was but I knew he had judged, and I remember asking “Hey, I think I’m leaving tonight, but I just wanted to know if I made finals”. Steve looked at me and said “of course you did, man”. I tried to argue, saying that I had a bunch of drops and the other competitors probably had taken the spots in the finals. And Steve just kept saying “no, you’re good man, you did great”.
This event represents a lot and I didn’t realize it until recently. Basically, I was just some random 15 year old who probably did a bad routine but Steve had the utmost faith that I would make finals and didn’t hesitate to tell me what a great job I had done. He continued to support me, taking me aside the next year at East Coasts and breaking down my style and telling me what I was doing wrong. While he might not be able to do ps whirl, Goldberg did have a keen eye for kinks in my style and helped me fix them. Something as simple as him taking 2 hours to walk me through the correct hop on clipper really meant a lot. Since that night in Peter Irish’s basement being told how to lean forward on clipper, I have interacted with Goldberg a lot. Our friendship spans 7 years and probably more than 20 tournaments. He has helped me in aspects of my life from footbag to school.
He had the faith in me that I could get a job at somewhere like Google and has been super supportive of my move to the West Coast. I currently live on the bottom floor of his house and we hang out a couple times a week, playing footbag and making pizza. This year at worlds I finished my finals routine and there was Steve, just like at every tournament, offering praise and advice. I never really thanked Steve for his kindness and support of the sport, and I doubt many of us have. A lot of it is behind the scenes and I can only glimpse it now as I interact with him on a weekly basis. I am happy that he is in this sport and I don’t think I would be where I am without him. I wouldn’t of had a footbag.org to watch videos on when I was 14 or a contact at Google to ask about potential interview questions when I was 21. I look forward to living in the Bay Area for a while and hanging out more with Steve and the whole Standford footbag club.
One of the things I always do in these interviews is to get a question from the previous person I interviewed to ask the next one. Tuukkas question was: “When are you coming to Finland’s New Year’s Jam?”
I don’t get a lot of days off… so… yeah.
And what do you want to ask the next person?
If you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be?
Do you have any final comments or shot-outs?
Footbag is small. Let’s value each other. We can’t afford to lose anyone who has devoted time into this game.
Thanks for the interview buddy and best of luck at Google.
Thank you, Asmus.