1st8 Skateshop Ghent 20th Anniversary - Koen Tielemans Interview

- Hi Koen, why did you choose to start your own skateshop?
I’ve always been into skateboarding in one way or another. Started around
’78-’79 with an old slalom board I got from a neighbour. I went on and off the board during my childhood and teenage years but I never lost contact with it. Although I skated mostly in my village all the time with a friend. An occasional visit to Rollerland in Aalst happened a couple of times. I was a loner. Still am. I never had the desire to venture around.
At around the age of 15-16 the passion for motorcycles and the love for girls got the better off me.
At the age of 22 I went to the US for a one month roadtrip and a good friend asked to bring him home a new board. In Denver I bought him a 60/40 with Venture trucks. So yeah, having that board there and riding it around a bit got me that itch again.
I was at that time in search of something new in my life. A new goal. I had to quit my job a couple of months prior to the trip because of back problems and didn’t find another cool job up untill than. So the board made me think again. It pointed me in a new direction.
So back home I started thinking and making plans. A skateshop ? or a bar ?
A skateshop ! I hate drunk people !
But in the early 90’s skateboarding was lying flat on it’s back. So it was a real gamble.
But I went for it anyway.

- Why, being from around Brussels, did you choose to open your shop in Ghent?
I didn’t want to start in Brussels out of respect for Yves Tchao who just started his own shop, Ride All Day, a year before. It wouldn’t really made sence to go look for opposition when in most other cities there we’re none. I knew some people who studied in Ghent and I came to the city occasionally so I kinda knew where I was going. Also, the remainder of the post-80’s scene here was cool. Besides, commuting into Brussels every morning is shit. The 50km to Ghent takes less time.

- Which are your personal realisations of the past 20 years?
Well, I can say that I helped putting skateboarding back on the map in East- and West Flanders and beyond. Back in those days people had to come from Lille (France), Bruges, Poperinge, Oostduinkerke, Knokke, Geraardsbergen, Aalst, Terneuzen (Holland), … to find the stuff they needed. In 1995-1996 there was only Ride All Day and 1st8 as real, core skateshop. So people had to travel. 1st8 also started the first Belgian board brand, Torture, and the first Belgian wheel brand, Mobile. We also we’re the first Belgian shop with their own shop boards and shop wheels.

- What is the most radical change in skateboarding in the past 20 years?
The internet.

- Did your shop evolve with that change?
Well, we had a webpage when the net kicked in. But that was just informational.
When Facebook came we jumped on that. Very easy to inform people and stuff. We’re maybe late, but we stepepd into the world of online selling just this year. We thought we’d have our webshop/webplatform ready at the beginning of this year, but that shit takes so much work, it’s unreal. And also, we don’t want to make it quick ’n crappy. Better take some time and do it good. We see it as an online catalog of 1st8. So people can at any time check what we have, reserve it or maybe already buy it. But we’d rather see them here in the shop. Feel the wood. See the concave. Online selling is fucking up the skate bizz with the speed of a tornado, but people don’t seem to comprehend or care, so we have to kinda jump on the bandwagon…

- Do you still have ambitions after 20 years?
Through the webplatform/webshop we want to try and show people there are still true core skateshops around. Also inform people through it. About the life aside the board. Culture, music, art, local stuff, DIY-skating, … We also want to do the cool, smaller stuff. Organize a cool trip, workshops, little contests… Personaly I want to grow into my new project of making every day useable objects and motorcycle parts out of old boards.

- Which advise do you want to give to the kids?
Think before we all sink to the bottom.

- All right. Thanks Koen.
Interview By Femke Foubert.