Extensive chatter with the Croatian night-grinder. Photos by Stiv Nuts, Kromo, Eman and Tuzla.
I suppose the first thing I wanted to ask about was Croatia… I don’t know much about that place at all. What’s it like?
Got me thinking at the first question… what is Croatia like? I guess it’s a republic with corrupt politicians that are ripping off their own citizens and forcing the youth out of the country in search for a better life. On the other side it is a beautiful country with the most beautiful places on the world. Which is kinda bad because nowadays you have a lot of tourists coming in and then the locals stick heads up their asses, so you sometimes feel like a stranger in your own home.
That’s why I like my hometown in the winter when the city is empty. Pula used to be much emptier in the early 00’s. The climate is awesome (could be little colder though).
What was Yugoslavia? Was Croatia part of that?
Yugoslavia was made of six countries. One of them was Croatia and the others were Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia. It was like the USA. Tito was the president and the Capital was Belgrade. I was born during the Homeland war.
What was that?
It was a defensive war for independence and the integrity of the Croatian state against Serbian aggression. It was happening from 1991 to 1995. In the ‘90s some crazy shit was happening here.
What sort of food do people eat in Croatia?
People here eat mostly meat and fish (at least I do). If my meal don’t have meat in it I’ll probably stay hungry. Croatia is well known for its ham, cheese and wine, so if you ever come here I guarantee you won’t be hungry.
Alright, now we’ve got that out the way, how did you get into riding?
When I was six years old I saw a gypsy kid on a stolen BMX and I fell in love with the bike on first sight. I never saw anything like that before and I just wanted it. There was an exact trick I wanted to do on the bike which I cannot describe, but it included jumping on the rear pegs while the front wheel was on the ground hahaha.
My mom thought it was just a phase and didn’t think that it was important to me. Maybe it wouldn’t be so important if I didn’t go crazy from waiting for a bike until the age of 11. I realised I wasn’t getting one so I started saving money every day from my school lunch, which was about £1. I never ate at school.
It was hard not to eat every morning for two years but I wanted that bike. It took me that much to save enough money. It happened to be on my 13th birthday and I was about £20 short so my mom hooked me up with it and I finally bought my first BMX. It was the happiest day of my life. Even GTA San Andreas couldn’t compare to that feeling. From that day it was rollin’ till infinity.
I must go out with my bike every day or else I get anxious and nervous.
Your cousin rides too and is particularly good at wallrides. Who started first?
Yeah my cousin Eman is really good at wallrides, but he don’t know it yet. As I already said I bought my bike for my 13th birthday, and the very next day I met my cousin Eman accidentally in town while we were meeting some MTB riders. At the time no one rode BMX, everyone was riding MTB except the two of us. I immediately asked him where he bought his bike from and how much he paid for it. Then I found out that we were sharing the same destiny.
He was saving school money for two years, like me, but he started riding two months before I did, also on his birthday. Then we started this street shit in Pula and we’ve been best friends ever since. More than an actual brother would be to another.
Who were the top dogs riding in Croatia when you were growing up? Are there many old riding videos and stuff from round there?
Well, there were a few dudes that started BMX after MTB that were really talented. They were both cousins called Marin and Ivan but they stopped right after high school.
And then there was the worldwide-known Felipe Strbad from the capital of Croatia but he’s a cop now and stopped riding over the night. I loved the dude even though he didn’t show much respect back. The day he quit he made BMX in croatia ‘die’. Everyone after him seemed to quit riding too. All the shops were closed. That’s where the story with ‘top dogs’ ends.
The scene was too small to have old videos so all the ‘old’ videos are actually from us. This is our first video we ever uploaded. I still like how it’s made and I’m proud of mine and Eman’s little project from back in the day.
What were the best spots when you were growing up?
When I was growing up I rode the same spots as we do in our new videos because Pula is a small town. I was always into ledges and wallrides. We never had smaller rails so I grew up not riding them. My favourite spot would probably be the downhill street where I film all the ledge lines in our videos. It’s awesome really. You should take Clarky with you and see for yourself.
If I wasn’t riding this much I wouldn’t complain about lack of spots because Pula has really, really good spots and they are all so close. Daniel Niles was surprised while he was here when he realised he was never more than 20 minutes away from home. Sometimes it’s demotivating when you know there is nothing new to find in your town.
How come all your footage is at night? Do you ever ride during the day, or is Croatia in eternal darkness?
I ride during the day but I cannot do anything on the daylight. It’s like I become a different person when the sun goes down. And ever since we started to film with the VX2100 it’s a waste of tape not to film at night. A lot of people hate night clips, but I love them. Usually Croatia is really sunny, even though we don’t show it a lot.
What do people in Croatia think of riding? Do you get much hassle? And are there any skateparks or anything?
I can’t speak for Croatians but I can speak for citizens of Pula. And I can tell they are pretty much ashamed of riding bikes… even the big ones. So BMX is out of the question.
In Croatia you have parks but they’re all pretty much the same. In Pula we just got one this year actually and its made of concrete and not like every other, but its more for skaters since everything is pretty low. I don’t spend much time there but when I do I practice wallrides.
Maybe a dull question, but is it hard to get bike parts and stuff over there?
It’s definitely hard to get parts over here since we don’t have shops so you have to pay for a fortune for customs and shipping. And then at customs they made up some other shipping and their own WAT even if you already paid WAT in the other country, so you pay for it twice and the price becomes enormously big.
For example when I was looking for Bob bars in the UK it was £75 and with shipping the price was £115. If you didn’t know in Croatia, the average wage is about £300, so if you pay £115 for bars you either don’t eat or don’t pay bills.
What is ‘baby gold’, and how come you sold it for Bob bars?
Baby gold is the gold that you get on your baptism. You don’t even know you’re alive and your family comes to your baptism and buys you a golden necklace or shit like that. So when I was scared the Bobs are never going to be in sales again I didn’t think twice. I just went to ‘Cash and Gold’ throughout the whole city of Pula looking for the best price I could get.
After an hour I got an okay price and sold it all. My mom was really angry at me because of it but I explained it this way: you got your gold and I got my gold. Now I’m sorry that I bought four white pairs because the Make ones and the Skapegoat ones are in stock in black and I’m stuck with four white bars that have a manufacturing error because they’re all leaned to the left.
What is Huscija? How long have you lot been filming stuff?
Huščija is a made up word that I came up with a long time ago just by mishearing some parody clip. It was funny to me and really got caught up in my dictionary. It can also mean stuff like, “You heard?” or, “Get out the way!” but lately it’s just been a name for our crew.
We have been filming stuff since ‘06 but under the Huscija name it’s been seven years now. People come and go but the realest always stay. If I had to choose I would rather have a shitty camera back again and the old crew members back, but that’s something I cannot do anything about.
What was that old fisheye you lot used to film with?
Oh boy. It was this shit…
If anything happens to this new fisheye I’m filming with I’ll just film long lens. There is no way I’m coming back to that circle even though we made some good videos with it. Before that we filmed with my old handycam and used the door spyhole as a fisheye.
How does a normal riding day go down for you lot? This sounds like a weird question, but I’ve noticed every crew has a slightly different version of a riding day, so I’m curious…
Well, unfortunately nowadays it looks like this — we go out and try not to go to the same spot we always go to, but every time we end up there because it feels like there’s nowhere else to go. Then we sit around talking about the dumbest things you can think of. I usually start doing feeble 180s and after that we sometimes play a game of Huscija (bike). We’re always talking shit more than riding. Sometimes we laugh so hard we can’t even ride. Back in the day we were much more active, but it was the because police were always chasing us for something hahaha.
Have you got any funny stories from when you’ve been out and about?
There was this one time we went to the capital of Croatia; Zagreb. Four of us went there in a Citroen Saxo that barely made it. We didn’t know where we were sleeping or anything, we just packed our bikes and camera and left. The plan was to go for five days. The first two days we slept in some coffee bar where we knew the bartender from our town. On the third day my cousin Eman fell hard on his head and had a brain concussion. Did we go to hospital? Hell no, we went to an alleyway where we all accidentally fell asleep.
I woke up and everyone was sleeping on the streets of Zagreb with all our stuff on the street. I took the VX and filmed the whole thing. You have Manci sleeping with his mouth wide open in the alley and Eman was so fucked up he didn’t know what was going on. The next day we decided to cut the trip off and came home a day or two earlier.
It’s a miracle we didn’t get our stuff stolen while accidentally sleeping on the street, Eman didn’t suffer serious health issues and yeah, the bartender that let us sleep in the coffee bar did got fired in case you wondered. Hahahaha.
Haha that’s mental. You’ve got a definite classic-era Edwin riding style. What riders are you into? What videos do you watch?
My top five are Clarky, Ratkid, Bob Scerbo, Edwin and Skyler Ellingson. The list cannot go without Sinisi, Tyrone (in older days), Eman and such. Actually to make it simple: Strangeways crew, the old Animal crew and the LA crew in the mid 2000’s. It was perfect for me.
My favourite videos are all from the three crews I just mentioned, but I’m always down to see a video where a rider cares about his fakie rollout. It seems impossible to find that nowadays.
I also loved Road Fools. They stopped it at right time because the last few were lame.
Who is Skyler Ellingson? Never heard of that one.
He’s your new favourite rider. How come you don’t know about him?
Haha, that video is mint. Classic white t-shirt style. He must have evaded my radar. What videos suck?
For me, mostly any video that comes from California or anything that follows trends. Honestly I don’t even watch new stuff unless it’s someone I know or if someone I know recommends it to me. Speaking of Cali, I still like what Joe Molina puts out, even if the music ain’t for my ears. Guy has crazy style, I love it.
I just don’t like these huge bars, fat tires and plastic parts that everyone seems to rock. I don’t like the look or the sound of it.
If your ears aren’t tuned to the soulful sounds of Joe Molina… what music are you into?
Yeah Molina is an awesome rider and a cool dude. I love seeing his clips, he does stuff like no one else and is also one of my favourites… but I don’t like that type of music. I don’t like modern ‘rap’ I think it should be considered as another category of ‘music’.
I’m into hip hop — mostly old school, and I’m a huge fan of new wave and 80’s disco music. I think it screams in videos without me even saying it.
What do you do when you’re not riding? Where do you work?
Right now I don’t work because I just kind of dropped out of college. It’s still in process. I’m not sure whether to continue or just let it go. When I’m not riding, I’m with my girlfriend, friends or up to no good haha.
I usually think about riding a lot so I spend most of my time thinking what can be put in the line. And sometimes I make pictures in Paint and they come out really good. This is one of my favourites…
How did you get so good on Paint?
With paint it’s actually all about pixels. I’m not good at art even if I want to be so I find some sort of way to please myself via Paint. It’s great when you have nothing important to do.
My tips are if you don’t have OCD don’t try, or you’ll go crazy.
How does the OCD affect your riding? I imagine it’s useful when learning complex grind combinations.
Well, I had OCD ever since I can remember but only my girlfriend got me into really thinking about it. It affects my riding in the way that I have to go out riding everyday — even if I’m sick or it’s raining. Before I start pedalling, I have to do a barspin with my leg on the ground. Sometimes I have to do three barspins before pedalling.
Also I’m not leaving the clip alone until its filmed how I like it. It may look okay for everyone around me but I might stop in the middle of filming the line and go back to beginning just because I didn’t feel like it’s done good.
When I think about it really gives me a hard time riding but I don’t care I’m used to it and its normal to me. Unfortunately it doesn’t help in my riding progress as you might have thought. It’s more the opposite hahaha.
Talking of OCD… what would happen if I touched your nose? And how much toilet paper do you usually go through a week?
Oh boy — I see you’ve been talking to Clarky. Well usually when my girlfriend touches my nose it’s like I have no nose so she must put it back again so I know it’s there. And then I have to make sure to fix the position of the nose so I have to touch it with both hands. As you can see I’m far away from a normal guy, but to be honest I don’t like normal things at all.
About the toilet paper, every time I go to bathroom I have to use the whole roll, even if it’s not needed. The good thing is that lately I found a way to avoid that problem — now I get the non-rolled paper so I just use how much I need. It’s been going good ever since. It saves a lot money.
How come you’re so into that Grand Theft Auto game, San Andreas?
It may be my OCD, I’m not sure. When San Andreas came out I was almost 13 and it kind of formed my whole childhood. I loved rap, but in 2004 we didn’t have the internet, so you couldn’t know much about it. I didn’t even know what the internet was at the time, so San Andreas hooked me up with the best music.
I always felt like that game was made just how I wanted it — there was nothing missing. Gang life — which I’m fascinated by, 80’s and 90’s music — which is my favourite, shit… you could even ride BMX in it. It’s my favourite game to this day and I play it whenever I get a chance. We even filmed GTA tributes on two of our videos. Thank you Sam Hauser!
Some people in high school used to call me CJ actually. I never liked it but what can I say?
Who comes up with all you Croatian guy’s nicknames? And where does the name Lord Leopold come from? Isn’t that a racehorse?
I came up with most of the nicknames. I must admit that it’s something I’m really proud of. They are pretty catchy and last forever. People must be careful around me or Eman or they could get marked for their whole life.
The name Lord Leopold came from when I was in the third grade in high school. I felt great that year. School was going great (although I never studied), riding was going awesome and I was pretty healthy back then. I didn’t do shit but ride after school. The most important thing was that I was aware of how happy I was at the time, so I felt like a Lord throughout that period of my life. Leopold just came right after it while I was changing my name on Facebook one evening. It just sounded right to me you know? I always do stuff by ear. If it doesn’t come to me right away it’s better not to even try because I’ll just fuck the whole thing up.
Lord Leopold was one of the most hated names at the time here because no one gives names to themselves, but I don’t care man I love it. How would you read Marko Mrđenović? Not even Croatian people spell it the right first time, so fuck it — LL it is.
About the racing horse… I only found out about that later, so it has nothing to do with a racehorse man. But I did laugh when I found out about it hahaha.
You’ve just got back from a trip to England. What did you think of it? How was it riding on the other side of the road?
The trip to London was awesome, thanks for asking. I only got to ride for three days because I dislocated my shoulder doing my everyday shit, but that didn’t stopped me from pedalling throughout the whole of London with one hand. Daniel Niles showed us the finest spots and we loved it. I’m not used to such distance in a big city but I wasn’t tired at all.
Riding on the wrong side of the road almost got me stabbed by an angry man on a motorbike on the very first evening session we had. I wasn’t trippin’ so he was cool after I explained the thing haha.
How’s your shoulder doing now?
Man the shoulder ain’t so good, I just got back from hospital this morning and my ligaments are damaged a lot so I have to wait for two months now. I’m already going crazy with no riding so I asked the doc if there’s anything I could do. He told me that in the best case I’ll have to wait one month and I have appointment again in three weeks.
I’ll do anything just to get back on the bike as soon as possible because my OCD won’t let me NOT ride. I don’t know what to do now. Also my girlfriend moved back to her hometown on the exact day when we went for London, so it’s a shitty situation right now.
It sounds it man. I think I’ve asked you everything I can think of here. Cheers for your patience with all this nonsense. Any words of wisdom you’d like to add?
We have the ability to document our history. Whoever wants to delete it can just poorly cover it. It may become hard to see your past in the future but that way you’ll always know where you came from. Sometimes I’m such an idiot hahaha.