Martti Kuoppa & Viki Gomez – The Flatmatters Awards Interview

Intro/Interview: Effraim.
Photos: Provided by Martti Kuoppa & Viki Gomez.

The 2014 Flatmatters Online Year Awards for Edit of the Year in 2014 panned out much like the Rider of the Year category, Bombardaros by Martti Kuoppa and Viki Gomez took landslide victories in the Editorial Choice and Readers Choice Edit of the Year category. Over 13 minutes of quality modern day flatland by two of the finest flatland riders ever! I caught up with the both of them separately. You definitely want to read what these two legends have to say about the video and the background work and emotion that went into it! Respect!


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The Friday Interview – Viki Gomez! (Part 1)

Photos: Provided by Viki Gomez.

Who better to cap off this first 4 years anniversary week than Viki Gomez!
Chances are like me you watched in awe as the Red Bull Circle of Balance contest unfolded. What became apparent to me as the battles progressed, was the level of control, focus, adaptability and machine like quality Viki Gomez possesses.
To win the worlds biggest flatland contest 3 times passing over a ten year time period is a huge achievement, that might never ever be done again.
As I sat at the top of the bleachers trying to take as much of the event in as possible, what I couldn’t help notice, was how calm Viki was during the whole contest. The level of focus he showed during the tense battles was very inspiring.
You could sense a few riders quite rightly were just stoked to be invited and enjoying the moment, whereas Viki maintained “gameface” throughout the event. It was fitting that a bomb trick will be remembered for winning his 3rd Red Bull COB title, it was a moment I won’t forget in a hurry. I think flatland needed that! Viki demonstrated truly what it takes to win at the highest level.
As well being a contest machine, Viki is of course an artist, delivering ground breaking video parts, that have been inspirational for years, there aren’t too many riders that have truly excelled in both.
Without further a due, I’m really excited to bring the first part of this Viki Gomez interview, as I say “enjoy!”…

Basic introduction, your real name is Jorge right? How old are you? How long riding? Where are you from? Etc..
My name is Jorge Gomez. Nick name Viki from the famous cartoons Viki the Viking! I started riding 17 years ago when I was a smaller teenager with long hair and the looks of Viki. I am from Madrid, Spain. I am 31 years old, and I have been professional for 12 years and visited 50 countries so far until today. Here are my most memorable contest results since 2001:
2 times European X games champion (2001-2002)
3 times King of Ground Gold medallist in Japan (2001-2004-2006)
Braun Cruzer Tour champion of 5 contest out of 7 and tour champion (Contest like Flatground, King of Concrete, Ninja Spin, etc)
2005 Metro Jam Champion in Canada
Bmx Flatland World circuit champion (2010)
Red Bull Flamenco Flatland champion (2011)
3 times Red Bull Circle of Balance Champion (2002-2007-2012)
I love my bike and I love riding and freestyling!

Of course Viki you are world renown as one of the best flatlanders of all time, I recall the first time I met you at the Madrid Worlds in 1999, you entered Masterclass right away. Spain is not famous for its flatland scene, what got you into flatland?
Well, when I started to ride there were a huge amount of flatland riders in Retiro Park, the biggest park in Madrid City. I had a BMX but not prepared for freestyle and one day I crossed this park and I saw around 20 riders riding together, flirting with the chicks, having fun,etc…from that moment I realised that this was the coolest thing I wanted to do in my life! And I went for it!
I kind of forced the riders to admit me in the crew! Hahaha Nowadays most of them are my best friends and we laugh a lot remembering the way I wanted to become friends with them! First thing I said was: “Do you have pegs to sell?” I was a 14 years old kid with super long hair and the cap and they said I looked like “Viki the Viking” (German cartoons famous in Spain) and since that day they called me Viki! In this park I rode for 6 years and it has been the best teenager time of my life!
We didn’t only ride, we were trouble makers, but always with good and positive humour! We were a big family and I believe we still are somehow! even if life separated us due to age duties like work, family,etc These guys will forever be in my heart, and these memories are still the reasons why I keep riding! I met for once and for all the real spirit of freestyle, and I will stick to it all my life!

That’s interesting, is this the big public riding spot in the KGB video that you talk of? It’s interesting to me what you said abut family, as I remember you were always with Nathan, Martti and Phil in “The X trials days”, kind of like a mini family almost.
You are one of the few riders out there that can juggle the professional riders life of travelling, shows, commercial projects, and yet still progress in a hardcore way, delivering banging edits with new tricks/variations, how hard is it to juggle this lifestyle? 

I realised that the more busy you are the best your brain works. Therefore the imagination level that you need to put into flatland gets higher and your riding level increases as well. I remember when I was 23 and I only was riding all day long, my life felt empty and thats why I started KGB, just to keep myself busy and keep learning things in different ways. After riding ideas were coming nonstop! Everything is all about the mindset that you have. If your brain is on fire, your imagination and body will be on fire as well. So how I keep myself fit is working on new projects, brain storming and using riding as a therapy to free and/or increase my mind! At the end, I am a business man where I am the boss, the employee and the product! And by loving what I do life pays back with beautiful opportunities!

Do you progress when your on the road touring? You of course travel a lot, I saw recently Dubai, England, and Maldives, Japan, and I’m sure that’s not all…
New tricks come anytime and unexpected. Sometimes riding and sometimes in your mind. I remember talking with Akira Okamura about one of his signature tricks and he told me, “I was in the toilet and suddenly: Booom!!! This trick idea came to my mind!” Laughs!!! I realised then that I wasn’t the only one having these moments!

What are the benefits of this lifestyle in your opinion?
Everything is a benefit. And specially the way I travel! I am always with locals and this way you can experience their culture and learn from it. Therefore you progress a lot as a person and this is what we are here for. To become better people and progress! I have been in 50 countries in the last 14 years and I have learnt a lot about the world. I stopped believing about nations, countries, borders and frontiers. I believe more in the different cultures of the human race, the different visions and at the end we are all in the same planet which make us very alike to each other! And I can see that the world is getting better, I don’t watch the depressing news and I judge by my experience and everyone nowadays just want to have a good life. I think thanks to the internet people realised that love is the best way to live!

You blew up on the scene in 2000, I recall the Worlds in Koln 2000, so many fresh tricks with savvy style! You’ve been a heavy hitter since then, at what point did you realise flatland would become a job for you?
Actually since day one I got my first real BMX freestyle bike my dream became true! I knew from that day that it will never matter how hard it will be, I will always ride! I have been very lucky ,my bike saved my life in many aspects and I think that by being grateful every single day, life is bringing me more opportunities to keep on riding! All is about Karma! When I do shows I feel that people get happy, exited, kids smile, and I am so thankful to have the chance to make this happen! And with this Karma riding life just goes on!

For as long as I can remember you have always had brakes? What is your opinion about brakes, no brakes?
Well, I think brakes are mandatory to learn basics and be original making different switches. At least in the beginning. Being original is the most important thing in Flatland! This sport should be call “Originality on bike” then many people will understand what is this game all about. I went deep searching for new ways of progression! I had many masters like Martti, Nathan, Phil who taught me how important is to go your own way and I found myself using the brakes in order to find this freedom and be someone original and respected out there.
But right now, I reached a new level where I feel free with no brakes and thanks to all the basics I have learnt, I can explore into new levels and this feeling makes me really happy! Flatland is infinity, so searching is the way, but not the final form. So don’t worry about brakes or no brakes. You better worry about searching new unexplored ways. Don’t count your life with seconds, minutes, hours, days or years…better count it with the actions that you have done! For me every new original trick that I have done is an action, and this is the way I count my life in Flatland!

In my opinion the KGB dvd captured some of the best riding of all time from yourself and Martti. What’s your fondest memory from filming for that dvd, and also that time period hanging out with MK a lot?
I think everyone can feel that our philosophy in riding is about going deep in progression and show that Flatland is infinity! This DVD has this feeling and also KGB was all about it! This part of my life has been my university in business and definition of progression!
And what better and funnier than having MK as a classmate? We learnt a lot, we lost a lot but at the end we WON A LOT because we learnt big lessons! Now we are prepared in life to achieve any dream we want and having these lessons learnt is the most precious treasure you can ever wish!
MK is with no doubt one of my best friends and still the person I look up to riding wise. When you think about it, no human yet had reached his level! And this is amazing! I follow his steps and I am so lucky to have learnt a lot from him. Nowadays we meet in amazing epic places where we just laugh non stop remembering the crazy times we lived, and living even craziest times nowadays!

That is awesome! Tell me something about competing, over the past few years you came back to featuring on the podium after a few years struggling to place well, what changed for you? 
After winning COB 2007 I lost my motivation to compete. Also Martti lost it. So weird times came along for us where we saw flatland going so down. We come from X Games times where Flatland was huge! And seeing flatland going into the direction of wooden small floors wasn’t so exiting! So I decided to take a break and keep progressing at home and don’t think about contests! But if you are a Red Bull athlete, you can take a break, but eventually you will need to come back strong to compete. And I am really happy that Red Bull pushed me to comeback! After all I got 3rd place in the BFWC 2009, first place of BFWC 2010, Red Bull Flamenco Flatland 2011 and this year I have won Madrid contest, Fise in Costa Rica, Bike days in Switzerland, Colombia contest and the best that I could ever imagine! Red Bull COB 2012!!! I also want to thank my girlfriend Alexandra for being my main inspiration in life! When you love some one deep it gives you strength! And when someone loves you deep it gives you a lot of courage! She believes sometimes more in me than myself, and it’s really helpful when you are down. I thank and appreciate every moment of my life with her!

Is there such a thing as winning mentality?
The only way to success is when you don’t let your mind to come in between. If you are able to have this mindset in a contest, then you will be very satisfied about your riding! And that’s all what really matters!

So the Red Bull Circle of Balance’s back this year and you already won two of those events, the COB is pretty much the biggest and most prestigious event in flatland, would you agree that your riding seems more favoured towards the battle format style contests rather than the traditional 3 minute run format?
As I said before, everything depends of your mindset. Doesn’t matter the format, the place, the atmosphere…everything is in your mind! Set it free and you will succeed!

Tell me something about the Madrid scene? It seems to be up on the up right now, I feel a lot of positive energy coming out of that scene right now.
Yeah there are a lot of new kids riding and they are like a small family hanging out together. I like the way they support and respect me, taking me as a master for them! They are my friends and super cool guys who just have fun with their bikes and have a lot of passion in riding. Guelo is the captain of the crew, and we became really good friends in the last years! He keeps the scene alive always helping new riders to feel comfortable and motivated!

I’m always curious when your at the top of the sport, and your searching for new ideas, where do you draw your inspiration from?
As I said before, by keeping your mind busy in positive and progressive things in life, your riding will be also reflected by the right mind set! I try to learn something new everyday. Not every time is a new trick, but a new combo, a new feeling, the way you leave the spot happy and motivated looking forward to come back. And I am always feeling lucky to have time and being able to ride! So this way you can get the best out of it! Never take things for granted!

To wrap up Part 1. We can’t have a VIki Gomez interview, and not ask about Dominik Nekolny. Nowadays he’s going more towards his own style of riding, but still does a lot of your “known” old switches. Does it feel strange competing against him?
With Dominik everything has been all about mix feelings. Of course I got surprised the first time I saw him doing many of my signature tricks! My visión of riding is completley different in this sense, but then I realized that he was doing my tricks because they were hard tricks, and he has been the only one capable to make them! I just thought to my self “why someone with so much skills is doing someone else tricks?” But then I realized that he was in a learning process and besides that, I should be happy that someone is following my way, and proving that with these tricks you still can place good in a contest. I am happy to be an inspiration for someone. After the confusing times I got to know him personally, and he is a super nice guy and I always have jokes with him!

Part 2 to follow soon…. Comments anyone?

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The John Yull Interview!

Intro/Interview: Effraim.
Photos: Leo Furmansky.

Rewind to April 6 of this year, and John Yull dropped his 3 years back riding after a 15 year break edit. Mid way through the edit… I remember screaming “Why oh why did you quit John!”…
You see I have written multiple copies of this intro, and it’s almost impossible for me to not include the fact myself and John grew up together on the UK Hutch team. The memory of John hacking across a Parisian leisure centre floor, hitting the fastest backwards whiplash (DMC style) in 1989 on this way to a Worlds title still plays in my mind like it was yesterday.
John’s 3 year edit not to mention his latest Tempest edit is a timely reminder John still has it!
Now 23 years on from John’s World title winning run, John is continuing to use that riding knowledge and is killing it more than ever, truly finding his way. Let’s get this interview started..

Basic info first, when did you start riding, where you from originally, etc etc…Basic info first, when did you start riding, where you from originally, etc etc…
I was born and bred in Sutton-in-Ashfield Nottinghamshire. I started riding in 1983 when I got a Raleigh Super Tough Burner for my 13th birthday. My next frame was a Pink Hutch Trickstar and so began my union with Hutch. I entered every UKBFA contest I could in the 80’s and got sponsored by Hutch. I made my first trip to the San Diego in 1989 and was hooked I moved to Austin Texas in September 1992 and never left.

So John for the record, a lot of people might not know you stopped riding, what year did you stop riding and why?
So I think I stopped riding flatland around 1994 I couldn’t put a date on it it just slowly happened. I was so involved in Homeless Bikes that riding took 2nd place to making Shorts, shinguards shirts,Gyro covers & everything else we could produce for us, Play, Poorboy Allied, Little Devil & anyone else that wanted custom sewing done. We also started making frames in house for homeless & WAL. Things were so crazy back then! we would make anything! I was sewing 15+ hours a day.

When did you get back into riding and what made you start riding flatland?
So in early 2009 my wife Jessie said “hey you should get onto Facebook ” so I did and within A few weeks I was harassed by enough old riding friends (yes you too Effraim) about not riding that I was ordering a new bike from empire & so it all began!!

Riders who have been riding a long time, always seem to have what I call a “second wind” in their riding career and that very much seems to be happening with you right now, your progression and your choice of tricks points to experience, and knowledge of what has come before. Would you agree with that?
My second wind I like that, returning and staying where I left off was never an option for me. I wanted to embrace the new way of riding, but add MY personal touch to it! the fact that I can’t figure out how to pump one bloody tricks has lead me to where I am. Once the decades came I knew I had found my path and the ideas haven’t stopped coming.

After so long out, how long do you think you have left to ride, and continue pushing yourself?
I’m only 42 and after 15 years off I see no reason to stop any time soon I have so many trick ideas in my head I never want to stop again…..

Have you found filming your riding, has helped you progress quicker?
Filming has become my best motivation I can spend hours filming for 1 trick and it’s worth every minute! Some of the tricks I’ve done on film were only pulled that one time and that is ok with me. Just move on to the next one.
I have what I call my “personal motivational grudge” my 3 years edit was fueled by this. When I was done with the edit the grudge was over and it was time to move on.

What is motivating this second wind I talk of?
To be honest part of it is to leave my mark on flatland I feel I quit before I got to show my potential. I did ride for Hutch and Homeless Bikes, won the worlds in 1989 and had a part in Homeless Trash but I never had that killer part in a flatland video or entered a USA contest I regret that!
Mostly though I really have something to prove to myself and I can’t stop till I do that.

When you started riding again, did you start again brakeless?
No I started with the front brake on but one day took it off and never looked back. Well there was that day I put it back on and it lasted for 15 minutes and then it was gone for good. I think luckily for me after such a long brake from riding I wasn’t so attached and it felt great. I do have fun every now and again riding Tod and Randall’s bike with brakes but they feel restricted to me. I plan on riding with brakes for a month this year as part of a project but it won’t last.

What is flatland for you?
Obsession, Passion, Frustration, Enjoyment, motivation, friendship, escape,

Describe your local riding scene, how often do you get out riding?
The OG!! I feel so lucky to be part of the Austin scene I’m surrounded by so many friends and so much talent I wouldn’t want to ride anywhere else in the world! Everyone is welcome and equal there’s no pro’s or beginners just family.. I ride every day! I’m as obsessed with riding now as I was when I was 15.

What do you do work wise for a job?
I started an Aquarium Maintenance business 12 years ago when I left the sewing job. I spend my days visiting the rich and famous. I love my job.

Being an English man how do you deal with the humid hot summers in Texas?
My first summer in Texas was 1993 I lived on Kevin Martin’s couch with Lee Sultemeier on the other couch we had no AC after that summer I was sorted. The next 19 have been easy. For riding my sessions start at 9-9.30pm it’s still stupid hot in the summer but we are used to it. I have no idea how to ride in daylight it totally screws me up. I’m known as the vampire.

How hard is it juggling family life and flatland life?
I feel so lucky that my family understand my obsession. I leave to ride as late as possible and don’t get to sleep as much as I should but that’s ok with me. If you want it enough you will find time to ride!
Thank you to my wife Jessie & my kids Stella & Lucas.

Thank you John! Great catching up! Check out John’s edits I refer to in the intro below:

The Shuichi Osada interview!!

Intro: Effraim.
Interview: Effraim & Takuji Kasahara.
Translation: Takuji Kasahara.
Photos: Takuji Kasahara.

So Day 2 of the Flatmatters 4 years anniversary, and today an interview with one of my favourite current riders, Shuichi Osada!
The task of interviewing someone you quickly realise you know nothing about is an interesting puzzle to start with, you could say well thats everything to learn, but in reality where do you start? The following interview with Shuichi Osada is the result of a few months going back and forth with my friend Takuiji Kasahara in order to find out more about a rider I admire so much.
In 2011 as I looked through in access of 2,000 flatland videos. Shuichi’s riding stood out like a breath of fresh air. I had to know more about him, so I sent a few questions, and asked Takuji to chip in with a few questions that would help the flatland world know more about this amazing rider.
Thank you Takuji and Shuichi for putting the time into making this happen.
I’m really stoked what Shuichi has to say about his combos, and the concepts behind them. Hopefully you learn a lil’ something about this japanese shredder! I cannot wait to see his part on the new Zai DVD! Read on…

Firstly introductions, your age, how long riding, whereabouts in Japan are you from?
Shuichi Osada, 29 years of age, been riding 12 years is from Kisarazu, Chiba.

How did you get into flatland riding?
Back in the days when I was seventeen, X Games was big here and flatland got featured on magazines often that’s what got me into flatland. There was not much information about the bikes and I knew nothing about BMX so I bought my first BMX was for street and I was practicing flatland on it at first. 

How is the riding scene where you live?
Not many riders and riding spots here, not so good. 

Has the riding scene got bigger since you started riding where you live?
The scene was bigger when I started riding, since then it had been getting smaller and smaller and it hasn’t changed past five years.

Tell us about your new company, Buoyancy, what does the name mean? What’s the company all about?  
I wanted to name my company something related with fishing. Of course I’ll produce BMX parts other than that, hoping to organize enjoyable contests or events for riders.

Do you have any riders representing Buoyancy?
Takumi Matsumoto, Takuji Kasahara, Naoki Watanabe, Yorimitsu Miyata, Shinichi Kiba (Russia), Hiroki Iwata (Tang meng) and myself. 

Are you only selling Buoyancy in Japan, or will your products be available worldwide?
So far it’s only handlebars and basically available only in Japan, but if there is a demand for the products hopefully it will be available internationally.

Your riding really catches the eye, tell me about your riding style, what’s your vision for flatland?
The originality and riding-styles are very important things in flatland and that is what has been attractive to me. In the past few years I’ve been working on switches with swinging a frame and pivoting on the pegs at the same time because I wanted to create switches which is impossible to do with back wheel tricks.
The contest and the result are given a huge weight in current flatland scene in general and riders take difficulty in the first place, due to this, a lot of simple and cool tricks or unique tricks have been slept in our mind so I want to enjoy flatland with free thought.

Are you into contest riding, or more about pushing yourself outside of the contest environment? You compete as an Expert rider right?
I’m not a good contest rider. It’s hard to get a motivation for the constancy, also I get nervous at a contest.  I normally ride without caring about a contest. I compete as a pro. 
What inspires your riding?
My favourite riders and music.

What do you do besides riding?
I like fishing and lately been into candle making.

What if anything provided the hook to keep you riding flatland?
It’s like a cycle of that the images on my mind get realized then new images/ideas derived from it, this continues endlessly. I’m not the kind of riders who pick up tricks instantly, all my difficult tricks hasn’t come up suddenly, those came slowly from passing through the repetition of the cycle. I feel I’m enjoying flatland more than ever because I have a special feeling towards on my tricks and new ideas on my mind. Even though I’m getting aged and suffering from chronic pain on my body but it’s still ridable so I will continue to ride for a while. 

What in your eyes is a pro rider?
The riders who compete pro class that doesn’t mean they are pros. Pro rider is who earns money from riding and makes living off from doing something related with BMX. But in my opinion, doing demos/shows are different it doesn’t require high skills or it requires different skills I say. They are making money as performers. The definition of the pro flatland rider is a rider who makes whose living from the income from sponsors or making money from making parts or other BMX related things. 

Who are your favourite riders in japan?
It’s too many to list though. I like riders who has originality and own style or silhouette on their riding.  Takumi Matsumoto, Takuji Kasahara, Naoki Watanabe, Yorimistu Miyata, Shinichi Kiba, Hiroki Iwata. I asked to them to use my handle bars because I like their riding. I also like Takuma Kawamura and Hirokazu Miura and Yosuke Shibuya.  

Tell me about your bike set up? What are you running besides the Buoyancy bars?
Frame: St.martin FOOT JAM 18.8″
Fork: Magic Fruits Straw V2 Fork
Bar: Buoyancy 
Stem: Camacura makuross stem 35mm
Headset: FSA Impact
Crank: Profile mg crank
Sprocket: Magic Fruits Jellyfish V3 25T
Pedal: Primo balance Mag pedal
Seat: We the People Bel Air Pivotal(short)
Post: S&M Bikes_Long Johnson Pivotal Post
F Peg: Hommage P38
R Peg: Hommage P38
F Hub: Nankai 500AFS
R Hub: Nankai 9T
F Rim: Odyssey 7KA (36H)
R Rim: Sun Rhyno Lite
F Tyre: Ares A-Class 1.90
R Tyre: KHE Mac 1.5 
Grip: Deco logo grip
Bar end: Odyssey Par End
Grip Stop: Hommage ring grip

Who are your favourite riders worldwide?
Martti Kuoppa and Stephane Royer and others.

What kind of music are you into?
I like instrumental rock bands such as “Soft” and “Special others” and others. I’m choosing the songs according to my mood of the moment while I’m riding. 

Interesting concept (about your riding style), do you see yourself ever riding back wheel as well? It seems like in japan, riders are either front wheel or back wheel? Why do you think that is?
Even if I try back wheel tricks it’s going to be just the moves using my front wheel skills, that is a deterioration in the quality of my front tricks.  In the other words, it’s possible to create new front moves with taking new ideas from back wheel tricks done by others, so I don’t think I will try back wheel.
Like you said, you see a lot of riders here in Japan limit ourselves either front wheel or back wheel, I think it’s because of the bike setting. It’s simply the best bike setting for front and back is far different. Also I think originality and style are important things in Flatland so delving deeply into single subject is more suitable for flatland, rather than being just a jack of all trades or master of none. 

Do you have a winter spot for riding?
It doesn’t snow often in my town. It won’t be a big problem although daylight hours gets shorter and my night riding spot isn’t so good and I have my knee and elbow pain. I take it slow and I’m thinking to go to the gym to fix my body in this winter. 
Do you put a concept on your combo? If so please explain how’s it like.
Yes, I put a concept on my combo. 
My combos I created a while ago was inspired by Yammar’s tricks. I was impressed with his smooth combos which is linking a few tricks without loosing a momentum. It’s not interesting if I do same things as what he was doing so I came up with the idea which is linking many tricks by using pivots with a good tempo to make it looks like one single trick.
I thought if I could do that it would be greater. And these days, I like laid-back style music and clothes and been thinking if I could express these kind of styles on my riding. So I’ve been working on around the world style tricks with pivots these days. They are still in the works and need some time to combo them up although I think I can show it to you next year. 

Getting towards final questions. Any plans for the new products?
Yes, I have plans to produce products other than handlebars. For instance rail-seats, these days the pivotal seat is the standard and it became hard to find rail-seats even a lot of front wheel riders still prefer to use it.  

Hommage & 

Last words?
I’ll keep on riding and do my best for my brand at my own pace. 

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