Skateboarding has been a big deal in Tilburg for years. Back in the day Sjoerd Vlemmings was part of the local scene. Now he’s the first coach of the Dutch skateboard team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

013straatjes interview met Sjoerd Vlemmings - Foto door William van der Voort
Photo by William van der Voort

What made you want to skateboard?
“Bart Simpson from The Simpsons. I just thought he was sick. No one in my neighborhood skated at the time. I loved it. Later on I moved to Tilburg to study physical education. Back then there was one big group of skaters in the city. We just skated and made videos. It was one big family with Hans van Dorssen (has been a part of the Tilburg skate scene for many years, red.) as the ‘godfather’. Everyone was welcome to join, however the entry level of the local skate scene was pretty high. This motivated the whole group. When the guys who skate here can do more than a standard kickflip, you want to level up to that. We’ve traveled far and wide to shoot skate videos, but Tilburg was our home. Now Hans will be assisting me at the Olympics.”

Skateboarding is recognized as an Olympic Sport for the first time in 2020. What more do you hope to achieve?
“For the Olympics I’m coaching the Dutch men’s and women’s team. I have high hopes for our ladies. It’s a pity skateboarding has been a male dominated sport for so long, but I do see more women getting interested. And getting good.”

Which places in Tilburg are good for skateboarding?
“We all met up in front of the theatre, Tilburg Theaters. The edge of the stairs there gets bigger further along which makes it perfect to challenge yourself. On top of that the ground is even. It’s an open spot in the middle of the city centre. Who’s going to stop you there? This place, popularly known as the cluster, is big enough for several people to skateboard. Which is exactly what we used to do all the time when I studied here. There are other good spots like the old planters near Manpower. Hall of Fame with their Ladybird Skatepark is awesome. We need more places like this, especially for skaters who want to compete and get professional.”