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Interview: Jiri Bulin

Photography: Reece Leung.

So Jiri, set the scene for us please. Where are we, geographically speaking?

We’re in good old Gullivers in Manchester, which is Seb Batty’s local. Seb’s not here, but it’s a pub that a lot of skaters go to these days…well, the ones that haven’t been banned yet (laughs).

It’s a classic Manchester day in November; it’s dark early, it’s cold, it’s been raining throughout the afternoon. What have you been doing in the hours preceding this interview?

Today was my JJ (Jiri Junior - Jiri’s son) day, it was my turn for parent duty, so I’ve been with my son for most of the day until now. It was awesome; we went to a gallery for a play date. A couple of months ago he made a friend, so we’ve made it a regular thing to meet at the gallery every Tuesday. It ended up being a two-hour play date, which is quite a lot for a three year old; they were shattered at the end, it was pretty funny.

Our Kid kicks things off good and proper by switch frontside flipping a grubby backstreet double set.

Is JJ still napping?

Not any more. It’s a fresh thing; we’ve had two weeks with no naps. That was our choice, because if he naps, he sleeps for two, three hours, and that means that he goes to bed at 9pm, 9:30pm sometimes, which is insane.

So you’re not getting any evening time for yourselves?

Yeah, so we cut off the naps for ourselves really, so now he goes to bed around 7pm.

And you said JJ is three now, correct?

Yeah, he turned three years old two weeks ago…so he’s a fresh three.

Taking it back three years, when and how did you find out that Zdenka was pregnant with JJ?

That was pretty wild, actually; that was in Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam. We’d just bought a motorbike and we were there with two other friends, a couple. Zdenka obviously knew that something was going on, and she was kind of certain that she was pregnant, so we went to a hospital. That was all crazy because we were in a different country, speaking a different language, and just the reason that you’re at the hospital for…all of that made it pretty insane. So we found out that JJ was on the way, which made the trip a little bit shorter, and made us not go as wild, as in we were going to go around the whole country on the bike, but we only went up half way then back down. We didn’t make it to Hanoi. It was a shorter trip but it was an amazing time. How do I word this right? The pregnancy wasn’t planned, but we know how it happened, and when it happened…I think that’s a good way to say it (laughs).

Jiri helps clean up the once synthetic cannabinoid infested Piccadilly Gardens by shove-it flipping with no room for error.

Did you still have a house in Manchester when you set off for Vietnam?

That was our second time traveling in Asia, and both times we quit our jobs, handed the keys in, and were basically homeless, kind of, but we would leave some of our stuff with friends in Manchester.

When you found out Zdenka was pregnant, what was going through your head? You were a long way from home. Did you think, ‘we have to get back to Manchester’?

This traveling was a huge thing for us, so we didn’t just want to cut it off. Zdenka was looking at it differently because she’s a mother and she’s more organised than me. She was thinking, ‘this little bit of money that we do have, maybe we should save it for this and that’, whereas I was thinking, ‘let’s just keep going, go as far as we can, then go home’. That’s what we ended up doing, and we still travelled half of the country on the bike we’d bought. Zdenka didn’t feel too good at the start of the pregnancy, so we picked a surf village at the bottom of the country, called Mũi Né, and she would hang out in the hotel. I would go skating - there was a bowl in the jungle - or I’d go surfing, and she would hang out at the hotel because it was too hot outside for her. So we didn’t cut off the traveling straight away, but we did come home early.

Backside tailslide pop out, with a less than inviting Mancunian roll away.

Were you working for The Black Sheep when you left?

I was working a few jobs, but by the time I got back from the second lot of traveling, my job at Black Sheep had been taken, so I had to find something else, job wise, which ended up being gnarly as fuck. I got a job in a kitchen. It made me respect chefs so much; I would never go back to that ever again.

There’s a reason chefs have a shorter life expectancy than your normal human.

It’s gnarly as fuck. They should be getting paid the most money out of everyone. I was working at Federal, which is a big one; it’s a brunch place in Manchester.

Harry Lintell: It closes at 4pm but it’s always busy. There’s a queue from the start of the day. The menu has only a few items, but it’s super popular.

I cooked for Lizard King and that (laughs). Lizard King, (Ben) Grove and some others.

Had you any previous experience of being a chef?


Harry: You had! You worked at Maccie D’s!

Oh yeah (laughs). It was still pretty hectic, Maccies, but I don’t think that counts. So yeah, I did have some kitchen experience, but I completely forgot about that. That was my beginnings in England, and that’s because Ronald McDonald is very generous, and gives out jobs to people who can’t speak English, like me.

You can speak English.

Barely. At that time, my English was bad.

Under the gathering clouds of the Northwest, Jiri kickflip backside lipslides his way into a vibrant Manchester scene.

Were you skating much when you came back from Vietnam?

That was my last chance to go in as much as I wanted, before responsibility, so I was trying to enjoy those last few months. I only realised once JJ had shown up that I hadn’t been using my time too well, you know? I should have taken things more seriously earlier, but I don’t regret any of it. Having a child makes you realise what you should have been doing with your time before, that’s how I felt anyway. And after having a child, there’s no time to just hang out. If you want to be productive as a skateboarder, there’s never time to go chill. You always need to get productive, so you can’t just go and vibe, sit around and drink beer, you have to work for it. It made me a better person, in that way; I don’t waste my time now, I go and get shit done.

How long after JJ was born did you start thinking about skating again? Did you completely forget about skating whilst you settled into parenthood?

I was obviously trying to settle into that, and it blows your mind. You’re looking at your son, thinking, ‘whoa’. You have a little fragile human that you’re going to be looking after forever; it’s a mad feeling. But I’m just such a skate rat that skating never left my brain, not really. It’s not that I went skating straight away - I had times with him - but I found some time to get out to skate. And now we’ve got another one coming.

Oh yeah, congratulations again! Do you want to talk about that? Is it more or less daunting becoming a parent the second time around?

Now I know the deal, I’m super excited. I’m not saying that I know exactly what to do, but when it’s your first one, there’s the fear because you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing. Now I think I’ll be able to 100% enjoy having a new born. It must be easier the second time around, surely? Changing a nappy for the first time, you’re like, what the hell do I do here?’ All of those things, you’ve done them now, even the way you have to learn to speak to a child. I know the basics of how to talk to JJ, so I can use all of that in the future. I have to say, Zdenka reads loads of books about being a parent, she’s really educated, and a lot of the stuff she came to me with made so much sense, so I kind of learned from her.

This unassuming bike rack has seen some serious action of late. Jiri gets himself in the kicker enabled mix with a solid frontside heelflip.

Did you give much thought to being a dad before Zdenka got pregnant?

Nah. I never wanted to be a father. I was never against it like some people are, like, ‘nah, I’m never having kids’. In my opinion, it’s a bit wild to be thinking like that, and you’ll probably regret it at some point. I was just floating through, not thinking about any of this at all, but I’m glad it happened when it happened. I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen any earlier, or any later. I was 29 when JJ was born; I think that was a pretty good age.

Since JJ has come along, have you been more anchored in Manchester than you were before?

I’ve barely left Manchester. He’s three years old and I think I’ve left Manchester, twice, maybe three times (laughs).

If you’re always waiting for other people, skating’s never going to happen, mate.

I know Kevin (Parrott) had mentioned getting you involved with the etnies High 5 Tour in the summer, but that didn’t end up working out.

That was because we went together to Czech to see my side of the family, and it was when JJ met my dad for the first time, so that was the first time the three Jiri’s came together. I think we got back three days before the tour was happening, and we had to work.

It might be the case that you can’t just drop everything and jump on a tour for five days, but you’re still being productive on your own terms in Manchester. How has having JJ affected your approach to time management?

Let’s say night missions have become a thing. Mike (Buśko) needs to have his light batteries charged (laughs). Before JJ was born, I’d only gone on night missions in Hong Kong, because it was too hot to skate in the day. Here, sometimes we go for night missions because that’s when JJ is asleep. Mike has got time to film at night because he is also a dad, so we have to juggle it.

Harry: You’re a lone wolf though now, when it comes to skateboarding, going out on missions with Mike that no one else hears about.

Kind of. If you’re always waiting for other people, skating’s never going to happen, mate.

A special edition NCP colourway hubba finds itself being the victim of a hit and run 5050.

How is it planning filming missions with Mike? Two young dads trying to get their schedules to line up must take some work.

Seriously mate, he’s strictly business, but as long as you try, he appreciates you. Even if you don’t land your trick, but you try your hardest to go out and get productive, he’s always going to come out with you. Even if you do have this free time, you still have that thing in the back of your head, thinking you should be at home, helping out the family, and Mike gets that. He’s the fucking best. We’re happy to go on night sessions, we even tried morning sessions, before work. I have to be honest, we tried three morning sessions and they weren’t successful, but we tried. That was to avoid security at certain spots, and they were there waiting for us, at 8am (laughs). Mike is so dedicated to filming that he will work around you, and he understands that when you have a child, it’s difficult to get time to skate. He’s my saviour; without him, I don’t know what I’d be doing.

How did you and Mike first meet?

It was really random meeting Mike, because he had his crew of mainly Polish friends and younger skaters, and he already had a full-length video coming out, called Couch Raiders. I went to the Couch Raiders premiere, and I was really impressed by the tricks that were on there, and there were so many spots that people have dreamed of skating that were in that video. I went up to him personally that day, to tell him that I was impressed, but we didn’t start skating with each other for a while; he’s a very closed off person, and he doesn’t put himself on anyone. That was it for another year maybe, then one day I was skating towards Cage, and he was getting into his car with some of his mates, and I said, ‘yo, Mike, let’s go. Let’s try and do something’. And he was like, ‘let’s do this’ (laughs). That’s what kicked it off, and it’s never stopped. I had a night session with him three days ago, in the rain; we made it happen.

Harry: You’ve got the new part coming out, filmed by Mike. How long have you been working on it for?

It’s been nearly two years now. Two bloody years. That’s another thing, only once have we ever had a full day together filming, and we didn’t actually film anything (laughs). We couldn’t get anything. The rest of our sessions have been before work, after work, or after JJ. The edit has been done for months, but because it’s going out on Thrasher, we’ve had to deal with music copyright and stuff, which does make it more legit, so I understand why it has to be done.

Double set gap to frontside lipslide, solid as they come!

How did the Thrasher hook up come about?

I feel like I owe something to etnies because they really look after me, so when I had two and a half minutes of footage, I showed it to Kevin Parrott, and I said, ‘if you guys would be interested in putting your logo on this, I’m happy for this to be your video if you want to.’ And he said, ‘yeah, let’s do it’. At first, I had an absolute power tune in mind that was unfortunately too expensive to use, so I was happy for it to go somewhere where the music rights wouldn’t matter. But then Kevin asked if we could change the tune and try to get it pushed on Thrasher, as they’d seen the footage and were keen. I never considered myself to have a section going out on Thrasher, and even if it didn’t, I would still be happy. The whole part has been edited by Mark Kendrick. Filmed by Mike and edited by Mark. He picked the music as well.

So recently, I’ve seen that JJ has been going out skating. Do you think that growing up around skating has meant that him picking up a board himself was inevitable?

I was thinking about that, because JJ has been around skateboarding since the first day of his life. He’s got skateboards around him every single day, he knows that Dad goes out and skates, he knows Mum works in a skatepark and skates, and Dad works in a skate shop…but we make sure we never push it on him, because firstly, he’s tiny and skateboarding is dangerous, and secondly, if you push something on your child, they’re probably not going to want to do it. We go to the skatepark often and let him ride whatever he wants to ride, but it’s been three weeks since he picked up a skateboard and now he doesn’t want anything else. Before that, it was always the bike or the scooter…we did a lot of scootering together.

Jiri ticks nollie inward heelflip off the rather short ‘tricks left to do at Bridgewater’ list.

Harry: Skateboarding is something that JJ’s been around since such a young age, but when we were younger, we all found skateboarding ourselves, it wasn’t something our parents did, or that we were really around. I wonder if that will make skateboarding a different experience for the next generation?

I’m praying that he’s going to enjoy skateboarding, but if he does pick up something else, it doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of other stuff out there. I know there are so much good things about skating that I really hope he’s going to get into it. He’s already made good friends through skateboarding; he’s got two friends, one of them is Tony DaSilva’s son, Wilson, and they hang out down the skatepark. I follow them around, because he’s only three so he shouldn’t be left on his own in the skatepark, but they’re there, vibing off each other. Wilson is a couple of years older, I think he’s five, but it’s a beautiful thing to watch. JJ’s skating, he doesn’t need me, he’s out there and they’re friends on their own accord; I love it. Wilson is sick (laughs).

If you push something on your child, they’re probably not going to want to do it.

Ending the interview where Our Kid kicked off, with a switch backside lipslide down the M.E.N. rail.

Whilst you two are here, what are your memories of Superdead Skateboards?

Oh, wow. We’re talking Superdead? I was fresh as fuck.

Harry: I was on Jart to begin with. Well, TwoDist flow, so it was Jart boards, iPath shoes. Then when Superdead started, I was moved over there, with Andy (Scott), Eddie (Belvedere), Awadh (Mohammed), Asbo (Josh Parr), (Ben) Rowles, and (Chris) Barrett.

I was devo’d that Superdead went. I got on Superdead within two weeks of being in England, so I was lucky as fuck. It was a shame that it didn’t last. Superdead was a bit of a wild name, though; where did that come from?

I don’t waste my time now, I go and get shit done.

It was named after the artist, right? I’m sure there was an artist called Superdead (it was once a moniker of Ed Syder - ed), they borrowed his name for the brand, and he might have drawn the logo.

Did you hear the Mike Manzoori story?


You know he had a guest board on Superdead? The graphic had a dog ripped apart on it. Mike Manzoori is a mad dog person - he has many, many dogs at home - and this ripped up dog on his guest board looked like one of his dogs. I spoke to him about it and he was not impressed, in any way. He didn’t know if they’d done it on purpose, or if it was shit joke, but he wasn’t stoked on it (laughs).

Lastly, how did you feel when that first flight from Czech landed in Manchester?

Not again (laughs).

Follow Jiri - @i_usedtoskate

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