What’s your favourite place to ride and why?
My favourite spot is Kozákov, a big hill in the north of Bohemia. For me, it’s a matter of the heart, a sacred place bound up with strong emotions, family, friends and personal growth. The first time I rode down that hill I didn’t even have the proper downhill equipment. I only had that one unstable bamboo board. I told myself that, if I survived, I’d one day get a proper downhill board and really focus on downhill riding.
Kozákov is a cult spot not only for Czech riders, but also for the international downhill community. You must approach this hill with immense respect: after the start, it takes just a few seconds to get up to 90 km/h in the first 700 metres, and then you have to take the first sharp right-hander. After a technical section in the middle, you go into the back straight, where tactics play a massive role during races. The races are often decided in the last turn, where riders achieve speeds of up to 100 km/h. This year, we held the 11th Kozákov Challenge Downhill Skateboarding World Cup. This is an annual event attended by several hundred of the best riders from all around the world, including a couple of my good friends from Australia.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve experienced while longboarding?
There a lot of experiences involved, often several in one descent. But if I had to pick out one, it would be the 2014 Peyragudes Downhill World Cup in the Pyrenees.
The three-kilometre track goes past the steep airport runway. You may know it from the Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, where James Bond takes off in a stolen Russian jet. With huge thunderstorms overnight, there was a risk that the race would have to be cancelled. Fortunately, it stopped raining before morning and the road dried fast thanks to the strong winds. As we got to the starting line, the fog was starting to lift and we saw the mountaintops everywhere.
A couple of my friends and I were the first to practise before the race itself. We asked the track marshal if the roads were dry, and he told us they were. So we jumped on the boards and headed downhill. The problem was that the lower part of the track, where I had been riding at 105 km/h the day before, was soaking wet. When I hit the wet road, I lost control of the board and suddenly found myself flying through the air. The fun part was that I was sliding down the road but still overtaking my buddy, who was riding alongside me with a confused stare.
Is it a safe sport?
That mostly depends on the individual, their approach and respect for basic safety precautions. Obviously, there is – and always will be – an element of risk in our sport. Still, if you don’t needlessly put yourself in dangerous situations, and if you are careful about yourself and others, there is much less of a risk. People should know their boundaries when they ride and stay within them. First and foremost, you must always be in control of your board. When you are first learning, you should learn how to stop safely and control the board. After that, you can work on your speed and improve your riding style.
Danny told us he crashed many times before he learnt to fly an FPV drone properly. Would you say it’s the same with longboarding?
Of course. I couldn’t begin to count the number of falls I’ve had. My motto has always been: if you don’t fall, you can’t improve! In any case, learning how to fall safely at high speeds should be one of the basic skills of every rider. When you race downhill, there are four of you at a time on a narrow road, which means that bumping into each other and falling are par for the course. Usually, you just slide on your overalls, end up in a straw bale on the roadside, pick up your board, push off again and away you go. Even the best riders in the world fall, it’s part and parcel of our sport.
What did you think of the videoshoot with the drone and ŠKODA SCALA?
Shooting with a professional drone pilot was quite an experience. A couple of times, I couldn’t believe how fast and how close between me and the car the drone was flying. All respect to the pilot for his perfect control of the drone! Riding with the SCALA behind me was great, the SCALA driver and I were in tune with each other and, even though the hill we were driving on was quite technical, I felt safe with the SCALA right behind me.
Was it something new for you?
I’ve done a couple of shoots with a car close behind me, but the racing drone was a new element. It was doing various fly-bys and it came really close a couple of times. The most important thing for me was to concentrate on my riding and keep everything else in my peripheral vision. I needed to keep my focus and avoid any mistakes. The crew’s professional approach, the excellent organisation and the great weather meant that everything went well and I really enjoyed it.