Sigurður Júlíus Bjarnason, aka Siggi Kanzki, is a skater, the administrator of the Reykjavík Board Association and the owner of the skateboard brand Kanzki, which has been on the rise lately.
When did you start skating?
I started skating in 1995, but I´m 31 years old. That was when I bought my first board, which was a Mike Carroll pro model from Girl, at Týndi Hlekkurinn. I´d been trying it out with various people for a little less than a year, but nothing serious.
How did you develope an interest in skateboarding?
I think it was just the zeitgeist, and I was a regular at Tónabær. Other than that, there was always this vibe and some had skateboards and other were break dancing and you experienced this there, and there was a lot of growth, and this was something new to me. This was really the impetus for me to start skating. Soon after I started skating and gaining balance, the skateboard became my constant companion, and I started hanging out day out and day in with my buddies, and one thing led to another.
A lot of people start skating but give it up. Why did you stick with it?
There’s like one person out of every thirty that keeps it up. I found this desire in me to keep going and I found it fun and the possibilities were endless. I experienced a lot of freedom and still do to this day, Your discovering something you didn´t know you could do, your horizons are always broadening. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but in hindsight, you are developing a certain skill, like visualizing something and making it happen. You might try it once or twice and not get it, but then you´ve tried it many times over and when you finally get it there’s this sense of acheivement. I´ve never taken any time away from skating. I don’t think many people in Iceland have done this for this long, which is twenty years.
Have you ever been skating abroad?
Yeah. When I was seventeen I went to Copenhagen for two weeks. Originally there were just two of us that went, but then we met these guys from Iceland who were on a similar mission as us. A year after that we did the Interrail thing and flew to London and took the train to Paris and from there to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to Prague, Prague to Berlin and from Berlin to Copenhagen. That was just a skateboarding trip. Then I´ve laso been skating in California. San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Being there is totally awesome and I went to all these famous spots, mainly in San Francisco, but I also saw a lot of these spots in Los Angeles. But you couldn’t stop at them, because getting across that city is slow going. Then you’d spot all these spots you’d seen in the skate videos.
The difference between California and Iceland?
The atmosphere and temperature is much more convenient there than here at home, although the summer is actually pretty nice here. But then it starts getting dark and it starts getting cold outside and it’s gets harder to get pumped and warmed up. When you’re abroad you just step out the door and you’re good to go, and your muscles are soft and good. That’s what I find to be the greatest difference. There’s a lot more freedom here in Reykjavík. Over there there ‘s more harrassment and less acceptance I think. You’d maybe spend half an hour at a spot and then someone would come and they wouldn’t be asking us to move, but just making threats and shit. I also had a weird experience going to a skatepark in Santa Barbara. I was there skating and minding my own business, and all of the sudden the park clears out and this meter maid approaches me and asks me why I’m not wearing a helmet and pads, and he’s about to give me a ticket. I don’t think that’s gonna happen here at home. The environmet over there is totally different too, more kinda smooth.
What has changed, do you think, since you started skating?
When I got into it there was always something happening with it and you were scaling new summits. You also got inspired when going to the shop and buying a new skate vid and watching it at a friend’s house. But today you can get it spoon fed through the internet, no need to wait for a damned thing. That’s what I think has changed the most.
How did you start learning tricks?
Really much through the people I was skating with, shooting the shit and such, is the main way I think. And I can’t forget that back then the urge to go skating was really strong, but I twisted my ankle real bad and couldn’t skate. And then when I was getting a bit better and started getting desperate I just started to skate switchstance to spare the ankle, because I couldn’t pull my leg up along the board, and I got hurt. At first it was really hard, I couldn’t gain any balance. Just like starting skating anew. Then, after just a week, I could do both like it was no thing. And there I was, pretty new to skateboarding, and nothing could stop me. Then I’ve seen tricks in the films as well and gained inspiration from there. I’ve always thought pulling tricks in a way that uses the spot in a totally different way than everybody else, which I find very charming and fun when I pull it off. You’ve got rely on your self a lot and you can’t blame anyone else if something gets fucked up. You’ve just got to play it by ear. The only thing holding you back is the weather, but I quickly figured that out by using garages, for example the one in Hamraborg. That was my second home if there was something wrong with the weather. I met Gusto there, among others. He was a big inspiration at the time and it was really fun to have gotten to know him back then and to see what he was doing. Everything he did was always much more extreme than what everyone else was doing.
How do you feel about the sponsorship culture in Iceland?
I´m not sure if who ever is sponsored gains anything by it. Not having to work for anything. I think it has changed the persons attitude, he may stop respecting things. If you don’t need to put any effort into things they aren’t any fun. I think it’s a bit like that. I think everyone dreams about getting handed a lot of money, but when it happens it’s not that great. People shouldn’t really be skating to get attention, it’s supposed to be fun. But you still thought a bit like that when you were young, to get a sponsor, like that was a summit to scale. But then your attitude changed and you started to see things with a different perspctive, just having fun and enjoying skating. For example, I´m really thankful for being able to skate and aim to enjoy it while I can, because I know the time will come when my body doesn’t allow it anymore.
Kanzki got started because I went to the States and came home with a suitcase full of blank decks. I’d just bought around twenty Powell blanks at the shop. Decks in Iceland were expenive and I used a lot of them, and this was just affordable. Back then I´d break a deck every two weeks, or something like that. Word just got around to the buddies I was skating with and I started selling them decks. Then I figured I should just do this, and I could hook them up with decks cheaper than at the shops. So I was both doing my friends a favor and also creating something which gained a life of it’s own. But I didn’t give it much thought, it was just the people I skated with who took it for granted. Then I went to Copenhagen and there I met a guy named Simon, who was the Team Manager for Alis at the time. This was in 2002. He grabs me at Felledparken and asks me if I’d like to go skating with them, which I did. Then he gives me his phone number and tells me to give him a call the next day, and I did. He took me to the Alis headquarters and I was very impressed with what they were doing. They had a workshop and a storage facility and were making boards. Alis was very big back then and he hooked me up. Gave me free stuff and such. Then I got some shipment from them. It was all friendly and whatnot, not really an official sponsorship deal. They did things very smoothly. They were just grabbing some guys like me to help out. Then they gave me some clothes, and when my buddies would go to Denmark and such, they’d come back with Alis clothes for me, so I was just getting gifts from them from time to time. This is when I started thinking if you could do something more with Kanzki, to blow up the scene back here as well. Which is what Alis was doing in Denmark. They were arranging contests and whatever over there, and this led to me getting a shipment from Alis and so I started selling Alis boards. Shortly after they started selling them in shops back here and I didn’t want to get mixed up with that, so I decided just to get blank decks and started Kanzki after that. Then I started getting interested in doing different kinds of graphics for the decks, and things started to snowball from there, and I started making videos and released the first skate video in 2003. But it didn’t have a name yet and Kanzki hadn’t been officially created yet. That flick was from the old Loftkastalinn park, but it was all just material I’d horded. I didn’t even have a video cam of my own and it was really just done to have a party. I´d been begging for material from here and there and borrowed cameras, so I bought a computer and edited a movie and then we had a premier bash. People paid admission to the premier and we just bought some kegs for the money and then there just was a party at the park. But this isn’t something you’d necessarily do today. This was just being young and living life. This was when I’d just started selling a bunch of boards, but I didn’t just wanna take the money for my self and just make boards, so I started making T-shirts and stuff.
Where does the name Kanzki come from?
I´d been thinkign a lot what could be used and i though Kanzki had a lot of heft and I connected with it a lot, and it was the only thing I thoght was solid.
Have you been selling this at shops?
Yeah, I sold this at a shop named Klikk in Selfoss and at Underground, which was at Ingólfstorg. These are the only shops I’ve sold this at. Apart from that I´ve just been selling this from the trunk of my car ,and still am, although Kanzki is in a bit of depression right now. I´m working on different projects and I’ve ben designing other things. Sverrir and I accepted a project last summer where we designed a restaurant in Grandi by the name of Coocoo’s Nest. It’s actually a skater who ons that, One Richard Keller from California. He got in touch with us because he knew we’d designed and built the skatepark and he was impressed with what we were doing there, so one thing led to another. For example, we were making a table for the restaurant, and it’s all made from left over timber from the skatepark. We also made a bench after that, and then I got to thinking and started designing chairs , and I´ve been making the final touches on that lately, and I like the outcome. But I´m also still making the boards and using the old stencils for that. It’s all made in a garage I have, that is really small, so it starts getting in my way really fast. I volunteered my work to the skateparks for a long time, so it was great to design a restaurant. I knew it would all pay off sooner or later. Like with the skateparks, there was a really large and good group involved with that, and we made this big dream come true to open a skatepark, and did it with almost notjing second hand.
Is skateboarding expensive?
No, I wouldn’t say so, not compared to other things. But obviously it costs money. Having to buy skate shoes like every month isn’t cheap. Then you’re really not forced to use the skatepark where you have to pay admission. But if you wanna use the proper facilities, then you pay admission just like if you’re going swimming, or something like that. It’d be really nice if the Frístundarkort would cover this, but it’s really hard when it’s this free. But obviously we wanna maintain that as well, keep it free.
Does the passion always burn, or do you think you’ll stop skating at some point?
This is something that follows you forever, but there are other things in life to consider as well once you grow older and more mature. For example you’re always considering your environment and spotting good places to skate. I don’t watch a lot of skate vids today, for instance. But it does happen. I don’t like these mainstream videos , like the hot shit du jour. I, for example, think it’s much more fun to catch up with the old dogs who are still at it, and skating from Europe as well. These down to earth kinda guys who aren’t busy being top dog. with all the bling, which is nothing but a bubble that’ll pop eventually. There are also a lot of cool skaters doing other cool things like music and art. I don’t think I´ll ever stop skating, but I´ll probably wake up one day and think, “Whoa, I haven’t been skating for a year!”. But sometimes the same impetus isn’t there to go out skating Or when I’ve got the time, there might not be anyone else who does. My family’s actually been asking me for some time if I ain’t getting too old for this and whatnot. This obviously didn’t exist when they were young and they just see some kids hanging out in a group and someone’s got a skateboard. These people don’t get it and may not understand the experience and don’t understand what it’s all about and what you’re getting out of it. But if you’d put yourself in someone elses shoes and had no interest in this and went down to Ingólfstorg and spotted three kids who’ve just started skating, it doesn’t look all that exciting. But the second you see someone with some skills it becomes exciting. The skate scene in iceland is really peaking right now. We’ve made the best in-door facilities we’ve ever had in Iceland, but we are at a cross roads regarding housing, but we’re gonna do even better next time. Hopefully the facilities and the obstacles will get better. That’s exactly what we’re focusing on right now, as well as boosting the social life involved, and to have the facilities to do something else there than just skating, because there are really strong bonds that form within the skate community. It’s really not like the older guys can’t be bothered to talk to the younger guys, but everybody is just together. All the skaters are friends. If you go abroad, to Europe for example, and you meet another skater, you can just go skating with him, no problem.
What do you think of the skate culture today and the network surrounding it?
We want to make the skatepark a bit more fancy, which hopefully we’ll manage with new housing. These changes will just be for the better. A large portion who’s showing up at the park today has never experienced the fact that there is no skatepark around. There are a lot of young kids with a lot of potential and others who’ve just gotten very good. I don’t think there have ever been as many good skaters in Iceland as right now, and there’s also a really large group of beginners. So the skate culture in Iceland is really flourishing right now. It’s just really popular at the moment, so I think there’s a bright future in it. But we have to keep going strong within BFR and with the skaters and not lose it to people who haven’t got a clue about it and don’t understand that the park needs to be altered regularly. But that’s just how it’s gonna stay. You always need new challenges, like with the bowl. We always had the dream to get one, so we just made it happen and built one. If there’s a will there’s a way, and skateboarding is really a DIY thing. We built a park in Garðabær in 1998, or that’s when we started. We took the first baby steps and went on missions and got timber from one construction site or another. And two summers later we´d built a good park. We just made ourselves the facilities we needed because we were constantly getting kicked out of places, and that’s where we hung out every day.