Intro by Daniel Nodzak
Article & Photography by Matthew Jastrzemski
Matthew Jastrzemski is an American rollerblader and photographer currently living in Zagreb, Croatia with his wife and daughter where he owns and operates a small hair salon. He holds a fine arts degree in photography and sculpture and has been rollerblading since 1989.
A few months ago we approached Matthew about helping us to highlight the rollerblading community in Croatia and the passionate skaters who do their part to keep this sport alive at a local level. Whether it’s by organizing events or going out to session with friends there are vibrant communities of rollerbladers around the world contributing to our sport and bringing with them their own unique cultures which make rollerblading a truly global community. So today we’re shining a spotlight on our fellow bladers in Croatia.
The most amazing thing about rollerblading right now, is that anyone who skates does it because they love skating, not for any other reason. Not because it’s cool, not because it’s popular, but for the love. Here in Croatia it’s no different. There are a few people still clinging to this sport and keeping the lifestyle alive, and they love it, it’s what shaped their lives.
One of the differences between Croatia and anywhere else I’ve lived or traveled is that skating itself is still very much alive. If you go to any park you will see families skating together. On your way to work you’ll see people commuting on skates. And unlike in the United States it’s not odd to see someone out on inline skates, in fact its a very normal thing, especially with young kids which gives me hope for the future of the sport.
I moved here roughly two years ago from New Jersey, and even then I hadn’t been a part of a scene since I left California in 2013. When I first knew I was going to move to Zagreb, Croatia I hit the search button on Be-Mag and typed in Zagreb. That’s how I met Josip. He’s an olderblader who’s been around the scene maybe longer then anyone here. And he’s the one who introduced me to everyone.
The People in Croatia at first glance might seem cold, but that’s just a misconception from American eyes, in truth it’s a lack of intrusiveness, it’s a respect for your personal space and privacy. Once you get over that misconception you will find some of the warmest and most welcoming people you can hope to meet.
There is no “vibe” or hating between people from what I’ve seen. In fact you won’t even get it from a skateboarder or a biker. Hell even the scooter kids are welcomed into sessions. What you will get is cheers when you land a trick, a conversation about life and a fun session regardless of what toy someone has beneath their feet. And while there are miserable people everywhere who look for any excuse to feel superior, there seem to be less here… or perhaps they understand that all these sports we partake in are limited in participants and to keep any scene healthy it’s better to stand together.
But truth of the matter is we are all older, we all have lives and responsibilities, so skate sessions are small or solo, but everyone is always welcome to join and they are always a good time.
Spins and Grinds vol. 4 was an amazing grassroots event for the Croatian championship which gives more than just bragging rights, the top three national skaters get the opportunity to enter the world event held in Barcelona, and the winner gets a state sponsorship of 100 euro a month.
While attendance might have been small, the event was amazingly fun and a great representation of the love that is in this industry. Sponsored by Mish Mash, 420 Istrian Hemp Shop, and Its Mantra. Supported by Jana and Red Bull. This was a true representation of Croatian culture: food, laughs, laid back atmosphere, and friendships both old and new.
Results - National Division:
Tin Hadziomerspahic - Zagreb, Croatia
Sven Bursic - Umag, Croatia
Matija Kunstek - Varazdin, Croatia
Csüllög Ferenc - Miskolc, Hungary
Gyömrő-Molnár Dávid - Hódmezővásárhely, Hungary
Simon Ádám - Miskolc, Hungary