INTERVIEW BY DAVE DUNCAN
INTRODUCTION BY DAVE DUNCAN
PHOTOS BY ADAM WRIGHT AND BRIAN FICK
Rune Glifberg is one of the most talented and stylish skateboarders ever. He rips street, vert, pools and parks with speed, stylish lines and smooth trick selection. He has become a top pro skateboarder through his commitment and natural ability, all the while having fun on and off the board. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Rune has come along way to get his big slice of the American pie. I first noticed him during the European comps of the early ’90s and got to hang with Rune, Penny, Fox and the crew in England at the Deathbox factory just as they switched the name of the company to Flip. The company and team moved to Huntington Beach to make a name for itself in America, and they did! After Rune moved to California, he got stoked on skating pools, bowls, concrete parks and hangin’ with the boys. He jumped right into the heated sessions evolving his powerful style with tech, innovation and board control. Rune took his vertical assault to the limits at big-time events such as X Games, Slam City Jam, Vans Triple Crown and Marseille and won a lot of those events. Last summer when he was in the middle of the Boom Boom Huck Jam Tour, Rune took time out of his busy schedule to rip the concrete at FDR with the boys. With a positive attitude and a fresh approach he totally gets what skateboarding is all about. Good sessions, good times and good friends. Living through some tough times of the early days, he fully appreciates everything skating has brought to him. He’s got it all. 100% Skateboarder.
“LET YOUR BOARD TAKE YOU AROUND THE POOL. DON’T TRY TO GO TO SPECIFIC PLACES IN THE POOL. JUST LET YOUR BOARD RIDE YOU AROUND AND YOU’LL GET TO THE RIGHT PLACE.”
We’re hanging out here in Rune Glifberg’s kitchen. Rune is ready to rap. It’s going to be a big year for skateboarding. Tell us what’s been going on, Rune.
I’ve just been skating a bunch.
Where have you been skating?
I’ve been skating at Tony Hawk’s place. I’ve been skating the YMCA pool and I’ve been skating a little bit with Salba out in the burn zone. I’ve been skating a lot of pools. That’s been good. I moved out of Orange County. Now I’m down here in Leucadia by North County San Diego. It’s pretty nice down here. It’s a little more laid back down here.
How did you get into skateboarding and what was it like for you back in the day.
I’m from Copenhagen, Denmark. One day, one of my friends went on vacation to Texas. When he came back, he had a skateboard.
How old were you then?
I was about 11. That was in 1986.
That was 20 years ago.
Yeah. I’m going to have my 20th anniversary soon. My friend brought this skateboard back and we all started riding his board. A few weeks later, I’d saved up a little bit of money and I got myself a little banana board. It was on from there.
Where were you riding?
We were just bombing hills and riding at our school. We had an asphalt bank at the school, so we skated at school during our lunch break. We were out there charging around while all the other kids were playing football or basketball. Then a few months later, I sussed out a skatepark. I went and saw Nicky Guerrero skate there. He had just turned pro for G AND S at the time.
Was he skating vert?
He was riding vert. He was riding everything. He was doing handplants. He was doing airs. He has one of the best styles next to Christian Hosoi and Chris Miller. He was a super rad dude to see. He made it look good and easy. From then on, it was like, ‘I have to learn how to skateboard.’
You saw what was in your future?
Yeah. Nicky was a big inspiration. I didn’t see him much because he was traveling to the States and doing all the pro stuff. I was just a little kid. Whenever I did see him, it was like, ‘Wow. There’s Nicky. That’s the dude that’s doing it big.’
He was the hometown hero.
Yeah. For sure. After a few years, I started traveling around Denmark, and I did a few mini ramp contests.
Was this in the late ’80s?
Yeah. This was in ’88 and ’89. I’d street skate during the day with my friends at school. We’d bomb hills and ollie up curbs and skate whatever we could find. After school, I’d try to go to the skatepark and hit up some jump ramps and skate some vert. Then in 1990, there was a big contest in Copenhagen at the Forum called the Scandinavian Open. It was a big arena-style contest with a big mini ramp contest.
Is that where you got sponsored by Deathbox?
Yeah. A lot of U.S. pros came over like Chris Livingston and Adrian Demain. I think Lester Kasai was there. Omar Hassan was there. Omar was only 15, and he won the street event and the mini ramp event. He was a fresh young kid riding for Blockhead. He was just killing it.
The first or second package I got from Jeremy Fox at Deathbox had this board with ‘Warped’ written all over it. I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ I didn’t even know what it meant, because English was my second language. I rode it anyway. I didn’t even care it was a seconds board. I was just psyched there were some t-shirts, wheels and two boards in there. After that, I started traveling around Europe. I went to contests and did whatever was going with the Deathbox guys. We traveled to England a bit and stayed over there.
That’s where Deathbox originated?
Yeah. That’s where Flip originated. It was called Deathbox at that time.
Who was on the team for Deathbox?
It was Sean Goff, Paul ‘Rocker’ Robson, Pete Dosset and Alex Moul.
Mouly was in there then?
Yeah. He was just going pro around ’91. Jocke Olsson and Andy Scott got on at the same time that I did. There was some other freestyle dude named Shane Rouse, and there was Nordien Quatbi.
That guy was a Marseille ruler.
Yeah. They had a good team going. We were just traveling around Europe and trying to kill the scene out there.
It was the top European team at the time.
It definitely was. There really weren’t any other European companies. It was really tough to keep the company going. Jeremy’s vision was to go to the States and try it there. Then they changed the name to Flip Skateboards.
When did it change from Deathbox to Flip?
That was in 1993. The U.S. skate scene was so dominant in Europe that it was almost impossible to keep a European skateboard company going at that time. The scene was so small. Everything was turning into really street-oriented skateboarding. Everything had to be really fresh and you had to have the right image. It was all about San Francisco. Mike Carroll, Eric Koston and those dudes seemed like the only popular skaters at that time. In 1994, we made the move to the United States. It was myself, Andy Scott, Geoff Rowley and Tom Penny. We were the team.
When did Arto Saari get involved?
I think that was ’97. We were in the States a few years before Arto got involved. Ali Boulala was one of the first kids that got involved. I saw him once in Sweden in ’95 or ’96. I was in Sweden traveling around one summer, and saw this kid skating. He was amazing. I told Jeremy, ‘I saw this kid in Stockholm. He’s insanely good. We should try to get in touch with him.’ Just by coincidence, a month later, he showed up in the States at a Triple Crown contest, out of nowhere. Jeremy didn’t see him that day, so I told him what he looked like and how he skated. Then one day, Jeremy saw him at the Huntington Beach Skatepark. Jeremy still didn’t know who he was, but he saw him skate and he knew that he was the kid I was talking about. Sure enough, it was Ali. We put him on in ’96 or ’97. Then came Arto. Then it was Bastien Salabanzi. I was down in France traveling around when I saw Bastien at Marseille. He was amazing. I was like, ‘We gotta have this kid.’ I got back to the States and called Jeremy. He called the distributor in France. They knew about him, so they put him on through the distributor. They brought him out to the States soon after that. The next thing you know, he’s blowing up. Bastien was 11 or 12 when I first saw him, and he was truly amazing. He was like a kid you’d never seen before. He was so good.
So then Chalmers came on the team?
You had the international team. You were a U.S. company with all international skaters and no American skaters.
Yeah. That was never intentional, though. That’s just how it happened. It wasn’t like we were trying to be only a European team. It was just that those were the guys that fit it. We didn’t want to try to steal riders from another team. We were just trying to find some fresh riders and bring them up and let them have their own new image. That’s just how it worked out. It was never an intentional thing. It all worked out super well. Then, later on, there was Appleyard. That’s the history of it.
You helped put the team together, right?
I’m definitely the veteran rider on the team. I’m the one that’s seen all of the different stages from 1990 ’til now. I’ve seen all the different riders get on and I’ve seen them all blow up. It’s been pretty cool.
There’s a lot of history there.
That’s the sound of a pound to the heart. You know what I mean?
Yeah. You guys are doing good. You’ve got to be proud of all that you’ve built up.
Definitely. It’s a good thing to be a part of. I have the feeling of having been a part of building it and having an influence on the riders and helping everything come together.
Let’s get back to your life a little bit. It seemed like you were a vert guy, but vert was dying when you came over here in the ’90s.
When I grew up skating in Denmark, there was no concrete around. There was only flat asphalt. There were no pools. I’d seen magazines, photos and videos of pool skating from the States, and I always thought that was some of the coolest stuff. It was the more aggressive, gnarly skating. You don’t have to be doing the most super gnarly technical trick. You can just tell it’s gnarly. Pool skating was always something I thought was cool when I was growing up, but I never had any pools to skate. The closest thing I had to a pool was Marseille. It has metal coping, and it’s all smooth and perfect, so you can’t really call it a pool or a gnarly thing.
It’s more of a snake run.
That was as close to a pool as I’d ever been. When I came to the States, we were living in Huntington Beach, and Chicken’s had just gotten built. We wanted to go and ride that. That was the only aspect of skateboarding that I’d never explored. At first, it was really intimidating. Just grinding a pool is gnarly. You pretty much have to skate pools to appreciate how gnarly it is. I don’t think people really understand when they see photos or videos of how gnarly pool skating really is. Some of the tricks look really easy, but the way you get to the trick, or the amount of vert the pool has, and the kind of coping it has, make it a challenge. It’s pretty sick. I started skating Chicken’s and Kelly’s, and then I took the next step into real backyard pools. Going to skate Chicken’s and Kelly’s now is like going to the playground compared to skating pools with Salba. Real backyard pools are super steep. That’s the real deal. They’re not made for skating. You’re just trying to get a trick wherever you can.
I heard some stories about the Flip team crashing in that house when you first got to America.
Yeah. When we came over here in ’94, it was Jeremy Fox and Ian Deacon, they’re the owners of Flip, and then it was Andy, Geoff, Tom and I. We were all living in a little two-bedroom apartment. Jeremy and Ian were sharing a room upstairs. Geoff was living upstairs with his friend Luke. Tom, Andy and I were living downstairs in the living room. I was sleeping under the stairs.
You were living under the stairs?
Yeah. It was pretty ghetto, but it was also pretty fantastic. I was in America. I was in California. I could skate everyday. I had money to eat food. I was getting free skateboards. I was living the dream. In the past eight years that I’d been skating, that was what I’d dreamed of. After seeing the videos and magazines, I knew I had to get to America and skate. That was in ’94. I look back at that house now and it’s the sketchiest pad, but at the time, it was heaven. I was skating. I was in America. The stuff that I was skating was some of the best stuff I’d ever skated. It was like heaven.
That’s cool to hear that you paid your dues. A lot of people might think of you as a big skate star now. It’s rad that you appreciate what you’ve got. You’ve always been cool with all of the boys. Everyone is stoked to hang out with you. You seem stoked to be a part of the scene.
For sure. You can’t really take anything for granted. Everyone has different places they come from. Everyone has a different way of how they made it to where they are now. The way I made it was to skate as much as I could, and just be thankful for what I had. You can’t be like, ‘Oh, it’s not good enough.’ Don’t be sour about what’s going on in your situation. Deal with it. Be happy about it and just skate. Suss out the place where you can skate the most and be happy with that. It’s just like riding a pool. Let your board take you around the pool. Don’t try to go to specific places in the pool. Just let your board ride you around and you’ll get to the right place. It’s the same with life and skateboarding. Wherever your board is going to take you is where you’re going to end up. I feel blessed to have ended up where I am now. I have my family, and being here in Leucadia, I have tons of stuff to skate. It’s definitely a blessing.
It’s been a good decade, huh?
Yeah. I’ve been in California for twelve years now. I try to go back to Copenhagen every summer, but I’ve been living here in California since ’94. From my first trip to the States, it’s been a permanent stay. It’s been good.
It was around ’94 and ’95 that a lot of contests started getting televised. You had the Triple Crown contests and the X Games. That seemed like it helped bring vert back a lot. You guys were doing a lot of new tricks. It seemed like you picked up on what Colin and Danny had going on. You guys were bringing it up to the new age. Tell us a little about those times.
Skateboarding had a big boom in the late ’90s. That’s when all the good stuff happened that’s lead up to what skateboarding is right now. More parks were opening up. More contests were coming about. Skateboarding was just growing in general. There was more money in the industry to do different things. The exposure of skateboarding on TV to the general public really helped skateboarding grow. Some people might look at it as a negative thing, but you can’t be like, ‘I’m the only person in the world that skateboards. It’s just me and my friends.’ You have to look at it realistically. It’s skateboarding, and we’ve got to be happy that it’s doing good. We all have stuff to skate now. Most places in Europe have skateparks now, too. They’re building crazy parks in Asia. There are places to skate all over the world now. It didn’t used to be like that. When I started skating in the ’80s, we were struggling to find something to skate. I think it’s really important that we have stuff to skate.
What about skating street?
Street skating is a big part of skateboarding right now, but I don’t think it’s the only part of skateboarding. That’s how it was in the early ’90s, but opening up the parks has helped the younger generation get into different kinds of tricks. It’s not a one-way street anymore. It opened up a lot of different paths in skateboarding for each person to find their own style of skateboarding. It’s not like you have to do a crooked grind down a 10-stair rail and that’s all that skateboarding is. No. You can do a smith grind on a rail or a lipslide in a pool. You can go skate the mega ramp. You can go do the loop. Skateboarding is so versatile now. There are so many different directions to take it.
There’s so much new terrain, and so many people skating.
Yeah. When you go to the parks, there are also the guys who haven’t skated in 10 or 20 years and they’re out there teaching their kids to skate. When I was growing up, my mom barely even knew what a skateboard was. She never thought that I’d be able to support myself from skateboarding. She never dreamed of that. Now you have parents pushing their kids to skate and taking them to the park. It’s not like, ‘No. You can’t skate, because you’re going to break your neck.’ Now it’s accepted.
It seems like all aspects of skateboarding are getting respect.
Finally, the generations before me are being appreciated. The older generation is getting respect and skating harder than ever and I think that’s really cool. I always appreciated the older guys, because they were the ones showing the way. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing right now. Like you said, if it wasn’t for Danny and Colin doing the stuff they did, we wouldn’t be doing half of the tricks that we’re doing now. If Tony Alva hadn’t done a frontside air in a pool back in the ’70s, then maybe no one would have done airs until many years later.
It would have happened eventually, but he got it.
You have to appreciate everyone for what they do in the progression of skateboarding. Skateboarding is more open now. For a while, in the strictly street skating period, it was harsh. You were being made fun of if you were doing a smith grind on a vert ramp or in a pool. It’s cool to see skateboarding becoming a whole again, instead of being so one-dimensional. It makes it so that kids can really choose the path of how they like to skateboard. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. It makes it fun.