Our Weekend with Karl Berglind

words & photos:    Robin Pailler

words & photos: Robin Pailler

It’s hard to think it’s already been a year since we hopped over to Malmö to spend a weekend with Vans ripper Karl Berglind. Time flies.

To celebrate we’ve published our print article from Vol IV below and will be sharing unseen photos and b-roll footage exclusively on our Vero page over the next 24 hours.

*THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN VOLUME IV

I wasn’t sure what to expect upon meeting Karl Berglind. Going to shoot with any skateboarder for the first time can be a little daunting. You’re never sure what their vibe might be, but you can usually gauge it from previous content, speaking to mutual friends or simply following their Instagram feed – such is the modern world.

But as I sat on the coach from Berlin to Copenhagen en route to Malmö, it suddenly struck me that I had no idea who this kid was. Couldn’t find an interview anywhere. No apparent mutual friends either. The few Malmö locals I know knew of him but couldn’t tell me anything other than, “He rips”, which I already knew from said Instagram feed. Suddenly I felt a little nervous. What if he’s this shy 18 year old contest kid who I can’t hold a conversation with because I’m too out of touch with today’s youth? Could be an awkward few days.

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As I get to Stappelsparken, Malmö’s iconic skatepark overlooked by Santiago Calatrava’s equally iconic Turning Torso skyscraper, I can already see Karl floating across the transitions. I throw a wave and he comes cruising over with a beaming grin. The first thing that strikes me is how happy he is. You can tell he’s beyond stoked to be back skating his local park. Having quit school to pursue skateboarding two years ago, he’s spent the best part of that time on the road, even renting a room at one Tony Hawk’s house for several months. Which probably explains why Karl’s so switched on. Travel broadens the mind, and Tony’s bound to have some good advice to share along the way. Despite his love for California growing up, Karl doesn’t seem blind to the superficial elements of life over there. Within five minutes, we’re talking cultural differences, Trump and the rise of right wing nationalism across Europe*. Not really the kind of icebreaking conversation I was expecting to have. 

We get back to skating; Karl’s down to film. Watching him charge through Stappelsparken in real life is impressive. It’s a mix of nonchalance and raw power as he glides through tweaking airs for fun. He tells me how his father actually helped build the park back in 2005. In fact Karl probably wouldn’t be skateboarding today if it wasn’t for his Dad.“My Dad started skating when he was 39. Just after we moved from Stockholm. He would pick me up from daycare and we’d go to the skatepark. I was probably 4 or 5 when I first stepped on a board. I was super shy as a kid and I just hated skating with people around, so I kinda didn’t skate for a few years after that and just focused on hockey instead”. 

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It wasn’t until he spent summer 2009 at his grandparents place, opposite the skatepark, that he really came love to skating. “I would just skate everyday, and after that I quit hockey, quit soccer and just kept skating”. After starting to travel extensively, Karl found himself falling behind in school; he was on the road when he was meant to be studying and struggled to find the right balance. Eventually he told his Mum, a teacher by profession, that he wanted to drop out. Amazingly, both his parents supported his choice. “I remember my Mum saying, ‘School is always gonna be there if you wanna go back’. Naturally, his Dad agreed. ‘Just as long as you’re happy’, he said. 

Since then, Karl’s been fortunate enough to travel the world skating some of the best transition out there and competing in a host of skate events alongside some of the most gnarly riders around. But he admits it’s all about keeping balance. “I feel like it’s super easy when you’ve been skating comps for a while to get defined as just a contest skater. Skateboarding can be super black and white. Like you’re either ‘this’ or ‘that’”. Despite the so-called ‘contest skater’ label, Karl’s not prepared to stop skating comps. For someone so young he seems incredibly grounded. Unlike many skaters of today, he doesn’t smoke weed, seldom drinks and doesn’t seem fazed by the need for constant Instagram validation. “I feel the more I grow up, the more I’m figuring out what I like and what I don’t like. But I’m definitely gonna keep skating those events and trying to get better”. 

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Despite his assured presence, he still admits getting nervous about skating comps, none more so than the Vans Park Series at Kroksback Park in Malmö. “Dude, I stress out so much about that. I remember last year my Mum wanted to come and watch it and I was like, ‘Please just watch the live stream at home instead’”. He ended up with a respectable third place position that year and despite a scintillating opening run in this year’s finals, Karl eventually missed out on a podium finish, with fellow Malmö local Oski taking first place on his final run. Karl’s not fussed though; he knows there’ll be more opportunities. In fact, now he has his sights set on Tokyo 2020. Both him and Oski will be representing Sweden out there. “The Olympics in Tokyo is gonna be crazy dude. We’re going out there two weeks before, just to get used to the heat. I mean there’s gonna be pressure having to perform and representing my country but it’s gonna be cool. For two days, the whole world’s gonna be watching skateboarding”.  

As our weekend in Malmö draws to an end, I realise it’s been anything but awkward. Karl’s light-years ahead of many skaters his age and despite his quiet persona, he’s got a lot to say. It’s easy to confuse humility with shyness. As we head for a swim in the Baltic sea after a final skate mission, it’s plain to see Karl’s got a big future ahead of him. Behind all his talent on a board, the Insta fame and the ‘comp skater’ label he’s unfairly tagged with, Karl’s just a humble Swedish kid finding his way through one transition at a time.

*Five weeks later, the Sweden Democrats – Sweden’s right-wing, anti-immigrant, nationalist party, won 17.6% of the electoral vote. Not great.