Amsterdam Week: An Interview With Gijs Piss AKA The Inventor of the Real Street Contest

Intro by Remy Cadier
Interview by Oliver Nermerich
Photography by Joel Frijhoff, Adam Kola, Alex Schneider

Hey gijs, can you give us a short introduction? How old are you, where are you from and who the hell are you?

Well, my name is Gijs Peetsold, officially, but most skaters who do know me know me as Gijs Piss or simply Piss. I live in Amsterdam. If my name does happen to be familiar to you it’s most likely because of The Holland Pages, The Truth real street competition, perhaps a few Red Bull events and of course the IMYTA and IMYTA+ events in Amsterdam. Oh, and I’m 34.

How come your best friends dare to call you Piss? What’s the story behind this name?

When the first IMYTA came to Paris we had to be there so my friends and I took an overnight bus from Amsterdam to Paris. The only way to make this cheap but terrible way to travel acceptable is to bring and consume copious amounts of alcohol. Which is exactly what we were doing when, just after the last reststop, the bus driver announced that the toilets were broken. Jesse was the first to get into trouble and he ended up releasing the pressure in a now-empty 3 liter Millennium–edition Heineken bottle. There was one other such bottle on board, one which I was quietly sipping from while enjoying Remy Cadier’s outrage at a remark I had made belittling vertskating. I don’t know when or how he did it, but he switched the bottles. When I went for another sip, I noticed an eerie silence had descended on my fellow travellers. I knew then something was horribly wrong. But I was too late.

When did you start skating? How did you get in touch with Rollerblading?

I started skating in 1996 or thereabouts. I was living in Belgium at the time but attending a Dutch school. A few of my friends in Holland had started skateboarding. My favorite show in the whole wide world had been MTV sports so naturally, I wanted to join them and be X-treme too. I had started practicing ollies on my old toy deck without griptape but I hadn’t been very successful when one day, a guy on skates almost knocked me over at the local mall. I still remember the skates, black Bauer hockey skates with white frames. It was the first time I ever saw anyone skate but I immediately knew this was going to be more fun than skateboarding. So I bought a pair of Bauer skates and within weeks I was wrecking myself trying to 360 a local five set.

Gijs and Azikiwee at the IMYTA+

You still skate up to today. What does Rollerblading still give you that you can’t stop blading?

I’ve recently started skating again after something of a break. A break during which (like so many other thirty-something skaters) I grew fat. So I panicked and went to the gym. Which I hated. Then I tried riding a bicycle. Hated. Then I tried jogging and I even tried a diet of sorts. Hate. Finally I decided that the fitnessfreaks and diet guru’s can get together for a giant queer butt-fuck-fest and I’ll just have the steak and cigar please. Then I went back to skating. It was disappointing at first, I mean I sucked even by my own low standards. But when I decided to simply enjoy the feeling of rolling, of doing little 180’s, shifties, souldgrinds, it all came back. Now I skate at least once a week.

What are you currently doing for living in Amsterdam?

Currently I work as a senior creative for an ad agency slash video production company called Marco Klein + Partners. I create, write and occasionally direct anything from commercials to longer forms and corporate videos. I work there with one of my best friends and also a skater, Amnon Klein. He recently came out of the closet by the way. Turns out he’s a raging homosexual. Real nasty one, you know, flaming. Who’d have guessed, huh?

The older blading generation is pretty familiar with your name and your contribution to blading. Is it true you were the first person to organize a real street contest – even three weeks before JJ came up with one?

That’s true, it was the first real street competition in the history of the sport. And since it got coverage in Daily Bread and on the Holland Pages, it’s goddamn official too. You’d better recognize haha. Seriously though, that was a pure coincidence. Jon or someone else could have just as easily been the first because it was in the air. Many people were feeling it at the time. I mean, I don’t know about Jon and what his motivation was exactly but for me, I felt it was wrong to host a park comp on ramps and copings and declare the winner the champion street skater. I felt that if we were gonna have a competition for that title, it should reflect the reality of street skating, which is something that happens outside on the streets and in sessions, not inside a park with timed-and-judged runs.

I hate runs and prior to real street I had already organized a sort of anti-run-event in which you just skated a session all day. A panel of three judges nominated three skaters for the title and the crowd picked the winner by shouting out for their favorite nominee. This had worked well in the park so I simply transferred the idea from park to real street to create the perfect streetcomp. Turns out history was written. He said modestly.

Truth Real Street Comp.

Truth Real Street Comp.

Can you give us a recap on the kind of events you organized so far?

Well, I did a lot but worth mentioning are Can You Take The Heat, Red Bull High Rollers, Red Bull Grow Up To Skate I & II and the I’M To Drunk To Skate Association (or IMTDTSA for friends).
Don’t know anything about the aforementioned events? No problem. Check out Gijs’s very own event overview at the bottom of this article!

For the Red Bull High Rollers contest you held in 2003 you had a huge budget most people nowadays can only dream about. What was the budget like and how do you look back on this contest?

We’d done Can You Take The Heat and Red Bull had been so happy with it that they wanted to take it to the next level. That meant bringing out their biggest ramp, the big names and big supporting acts plus afterparty. I guess we worked with about a 100.000 euro production budget and it was my job to take care of the concept, the permits and and a lot of the production details, together with Remy and Tio.

To give you an idea: One day I’m sitting in an office with the city regulators discussing the technical properties of the never-before-used 50 meter-diameter suspended umbrella that would shield the 25 meter wide half-pipe from rain. I know absolutely nothing about the whole thing but it’s my name on the permit so I end up just giving them the technical specifications – in German – and hoping for the best. Next day, I’m doing a commercial. It features Remy, Tio and me and we’re dressed up as these High Rollers, all tuxed-out drinking champagne in the back of a stretch limo partying with these hot extra’s giving us lapdances.

A few weeks later I’m having beers with Chris Edwards and watching Takeshi touch the ceiling an incredible ten meters above the ramp. That night I’m partying on someone else’s credit card. The following day our event is featured in major newspapers. So how do I look back on that? Well I look back on it as being fucking awesome.

Red Bull High Rollers.

Red Bull High Rollers.

Your last event was the IMYTA+ in 2005. There you probably had a completely different budget situation?

Two years earlier I had stumbled upon a EU grant anyone could apply for if only they were doing something to “stimulate cooperation between young people in the EU”. The grant was 10.000 euro which in skate event terms is a large amount. So I created an ambitious plan.

IMYTA+ was conceived of as much more than just a single event. In IMYTA+ The IMYTA itself became the final event in a loosely organized tour of real street skate comps across the world. Only winners of these comps were qualified to compete. Then the IMYTA+ weekend itself also had a Truth Real Street Comp serving as a last-chance qualifier for all visitors. It also had two parties, the crazy bowl competition, the Be-Mag drinking game and loads of other stuff. It was set up like a festival spread across the city.

What were your biggest challenges during the preparation and execution of the event? What was your overall budget for this?

Something that multi-faceted isn’t easy to produce. A normal real street competition is a walk in the park (haha). All you need is a bullhorn. But IMYTA+ , different story. We needed permits. Venues for the parties. DJ’s. Staff. Production. Printed materials. Supplies. Travel arrangements for Jon and Azikiwee and the qualified skaters. Gas money. Petty cash. A phone-budget and so on and so forth. And not to forget, a very serious amount of prize money.

I kinda knew the grant probably wasn’t going to cover it. But I was in denial and I figured we’d be okay cuz IMYTA had enough value. There was potential sponsor money and of course the expenditure of skaters at the event. So I created sponsorship packages, found a few places to make money from visitors and decided to risk it.

Cover of the IMYTA+ tourist guide.

Erik Bailey, sweatstance during IMYTA+.

How do you look back on the IMYTA+? For us it was one of Europe’s biggest real street events so far. What was it for you?

I wish I never had taken that risk man. By the time the event came around only one sponsor had opted in with some actual cash. Grindhouse. Red Bull put in a token amount. Apparently not one of the other skate companies felt IMYTA+ was worth their cash. During the weekend the expenditure of the skaters also turned out disappointing. The biggest disappointment would come during the IMYTA event itself: several skate companies were using the event to promote their products, even though they had not opted into any of the sponsorship packages. One of them had even set up an entire stand without even asking. Motherfuckers. I think about that now, I still get angry.

I think that from a visitors’ perspective, the event will probably have been a lot of fun. For me, it had been all work and lots of stress. We ended up going over budget a lot and I ended up owing lots of people money I did not have. I didn’t know how to handle that at all. I panicked and you could say I went into hiding. Not answering e-mails, phone calls, that kind of shit. Couldn’t take it. And by doing so I estranged good friends like Chucky and Bisi and even Benny. That sucks. I haven’t really done an event since and after I sorta failed again with ShopKaput. Not much later I got out of skate events. Quit skating too. Didn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore.

Back to the present, What’s your take on the current state of rollerblading in general?

I actually think we’re in okay shape, in many ways. Rollerblading is very democratic, very grassroots and very DIY, you know. And that used to be its problem. “No more heroes, no more superstars”, that story, you’ve heard it, you’ve read it, blah. But times change and I now actually feel this is one of our strong points. The entire culture is moving in that DIY direction and we are already there. We know how to handle it.

You said you recently started to blade again. Does that mean you keep up with new video’s and edits floating around? Do the new faces in rollerblading still inspire you?

They do. Take a guy like Jon Bolino. Fucking mind-blowing. Montre Livingston, great to watch. CJ Wellsmore but also Tyron Ballantine… It’s also good to see that the older names are still rocking it. Haffey, Farmer, Broskow. Shows that there is staying power in Rollerblading.Then there was that 100-day tour Adam Johnson did. Straightjacket, right? Fuck man, like Hoax 2 for a new generation and like I said, with that great DIY attitude to it, using Kickstarter.

We now live in a time where skaters can have all the crazy adventures they want without the need for a big sponsor that’ll end up ruining everything anyway. We’re independent.

Let’s look in the future. Is there a chance you would do a Real Street Event again in Amsterdam?

I’ve got no cash, hardly any connections and I would have to face a few very personal demons before I’d do an event again. But…I do have a few ideas. So who knows.

I think this is a good interview so far. And I think we should stop before we both fuck this up. Or do you want me to ask you something else?

How about you stick to asking the questions, I’ll stick to answering them.

If not, here is your chance for a few last words!

Hey kids, always remember: if a girl’s too drunk to talk, she can’t say no.


1. Can You Take The Heat

Created by Remy cadier, Tio Eerhardt and Gijs P, Can You Take The Heat tried to do for Vert what Truth real street had done for street. So no runs, no judges and no instant losing if you fell. Five skaters would enter a heat. Each skater could vote for his favorite skater in his heat, but could not vote for himself. The winner of a heat would advance to the next heat, again meeting five skaters and so on, until one overall winner would receive a limo for the night and 500 euro in drinking money, which he either had to spend or return whatever remained.

2. High Rollers

Basically the same event as Can You Take The Heat but after a freak radiation accident turned it into a towering giant. This half pipe event at one of Amsterdam’s most pretigious locations had most of the big names that remained in vert skating but ended up as a head to head between Sven Boekhorst and Takeshi Yasutoko. Yasutoko won, was crowned the highest roller and drove of with 1000 euro spending money in his lady-laden limo into a city with great clubs, legalized drugs and excellent prostitutes.

3. Red Bull GUTS

That admmitedly terrible, terrible acronym stands for Grow Up To Skate. In 2004 Gijs P convinced Red Bull that if they wanted more credibility in the skate scene, they should demonstrate long-term commitment. So the GUTS team was created, a special team to support talented young skaters until their eighteenth birthday. Each year, an event would be organized to find fresh talent for the team as older teammates left. In the first year, that was a nation-wide tour featuring a hummer and a mobile skate course. The following year it was a very innovative photo-competition with national stops and a grand finale in Barcelona. During the tow-year run, Tyron Ballantine, Daan Hegt and Martin van Drunen ended up on the team while Dick Heerkens and Bas Berghuis had made it to the finals and guys like georgio Oehlers and Marnix Haak had made it to the prelims. Considering all of these guys are now very awesome skaters and very involved in the scene, the concept has been a great succes. Unfortunately, Red Bull had a change of management and after the second edition the plug was pulled.

4. The I’M Too Drunk To Skate Association

First conceived by Steven Tonnon, this event starts with a drink. A stiff drink. A shot of something like tequila, rum or whiskey. Or worse. Then the MC calls out a trick. Which you have to do. If you land it, you get another drink. And then another trick is called. So, it’s trick, drink, trick, drink, trick, drink and so on until you either fall down like a rubber stunt doll or are the last man left standing. In which case you’ve won… more drinks!