Wind in the Willow
Christoph Wildgrube is an amazing skater but you might never know it based off that name alone and the fact that he grew up skating in Germany. Often times European skaters have a hard time making a full-on career with skate companies based in the United States, especially if they don't make the move across the pond. With brands like Flip, Cliché and Blueprint gaining world-wide popularity, some of this is changing but it remains a challenge for European rippers to get the notice they might deserve from an industry so heavily based in the United States. Having a hard to pronounce name and English as your second language doesn't help your cause, either. Luckily for Wildgrube a memorable nickname, based on a popular American film, and skills that standout in any context helped him make real inroads into sponsorship and a shot at a global pro career. You may already know Wildgrube for his memorable part in last year's, "Extremely Sorry" video, but you're probably more familiar with the nickname a teacher gave him as a child: Willow.
Willow, you have a son?
Yes, I do. I have a two-year-old kid.
No way! That's so awesome!
Yeah it's wonderful. His birthday was six days ago and we celebrated. He's growing and becoming a man. He's already skating and all that crazy stuff.
So has having a child changed your skating and your outlook on skating?
Oh for sure man, everything is one hundred percent right now. When my girlfriend was pregnant I was scared because of the future ... I was so young, like 23 or 24. But now skating is just really planned. Now you go skate for three hours and you really skate during that time, but back in the day you would just chill and skate the whole day. Now you really skate the entire time you go out.
I could see how that would work. So tell us about the switch from Flip to Almost, how's it going so far?
Well ... I went there and it was great and fantastic times to meet all the homies (the Almost team) over there. They were just super friendly to me and they all gave me a hug. They all really liked me and it has been good ... it has been banging! They have been super human beings to me and I like that. They are giving me a big chance with my skating and I can see that and I really appreciate it.
I know you said that you guys all got very friendly when you came over to the states, so friendly in fact that you shared a milkshake with Chris Haslam and Cooper Wilt. What kind of milkshake was it?
[Laughs] It was a vanilla shake. Haslam ordered it and I was like, "yeah." When he got it he was like you have to try this one so I did. And then Cooper dipped in on that session and then we all three dipped in and we just drank it and Luis (Cruz Almost Team Manager) took a photo and that was it. Then Haslam was like, "Okay, this is your welcome to the team ad. You don't need any tricks or anything this is just your ad." And then they did it! But they put a trick in there, too.
When I saw that I laughed so hard. It was such a perfect welcome to the team ad.
I know! I thought it was going to be a joke or something until Luis came up to me and was like hey this is going to be your ad. And I love it.
It seems as though the Almost guys have a good time.
Yeah, it's totally true. They let me do what I want to do and they appreciate that.
And how did you end up getting on Etnies?
Well, that's a kind of a long story. When I was younger I used to live in Barcelona and I would skate MACBA all the time. My favorite photographer, Oliver Barton, came up to me and was like, "Hey, let's go shoot some photos." So the next day we met up and did that. Then I skated for Etnies Europe after a while and when I went to the States I had a conversation with Oliver and we became very close friends. So when he came back out to Europe with some of the Etnies homies from the States we all skated together and Oliver talked to the Team Manager and made it happen for me. I liked the whole team and they liked me so I got on the real team. And it's awesome because it's so hard for a German skater to make it on a [global] team.
Probably because they think you'll eat sauerkraut all day and stink up the van.
[Laughs] Yeah, sauerkraut and then fart all day long.
How did you get the nickname Willow?
So, back in the day I went to school, yeah I did, and there was a teacher who saw me playing on the playground and then playing in school and she got to know me and we talked a lot and she had seen the movie "Willow" ... you might have seen it?
Yeah, the one with Warwick Davis as the little person wizard.
Yeah, yeah, true! So she said, "Ok, Willow this is you. You are like this little creature and this is your name." And then all my friends start to call me Willow, because the teacher was all the time like, "Willow!"
You got your nickname from a teacher?!
Yeah, I know, it's kind of sick [laughs]. And my parents, first of all, they called me by my name, Christoph, but now everyone calls me Willow. Even my dentist calls me Willow.
Have you seen the movie, "Willow?"
Yeah, the first time I saw it I was like, "oh my ..." but then it was nice.
Are there any plans for a Willow board in the future?
Uh ... well, we start filming a video soon, and I don't know. Maybe after the video, maybe before the video. We haven't really talked about any pro things yet. But I think Haslam is super down for that, and Luis is down for that too. But maybe they want to build it up first with some amazing part and then an announcement "Maybe Willow's Pro." I don't know.
That's a good way to go about it. How did the Etnies "Story Time with Willow" segements happen?
I was with my good friend Benny, who used to be the etnies filmer and I lived with him in the States. We used to have dinner together and I would talk about my life and he would talk about his life and finally he was like, "Wow, your life is kind of crazy man, with all those stories. We should film them." So he filmed them and I was wondering if the world was going to like this but he said, yes so we just did it and that was it.
What kind of a response did you get from that?
Some people liked it but I think more people hated it. Like they were wondering why I was always talking and not skating. I think for older people it was funny but for kids they just want to see me skate more. I liked it a lot.
So did I. Do you prefer skating in Europe or in the States?
Well, in the winter I prefer to be in Southern California, but in the summer I prefer to skate all the great cities like Barcelona, Paris, Berlin. But I have made a lot of friends in the States and I love going there, too.
Is there anything exciting coming out in the future from you?
Yeah, there is a Thrasher magazine Double Rock segment thing coming out for the Thrasher website. And there's a background story for the new Almost ad in TransWorld, a "This Is My Ride" video clip for TransWorld and the TransWorld video is coming out next year and I went skating with those guys so hopefully there will be some tricks in it. I can't wait to have a photo in the States.