Interview With Stefan Hauser – Placed To Ride Skateparks

The first time I arrived in Malmo, Sweden and walked up to the Stapelbäddsparken concrete skatepark I just stopped for a second and enjoyed the sight – a endless landscape of beautifully formed concrete waves, banks and pools just waiting for me and my board to skate. A few years later I got in touch with Stefan Hauser from Placed To Ride Skateparks who is mainly responsible for this skatepark construction and many more awesome parks around the globe.

Stefan kindly took the time to answer in depth my questions so enjoy the interview and many thanks to Stefan for all the fun times he has helped us lucky skaters to have when skating one of these skatepark creations!

As always to get things started a good introduction is important: the basics like age, hometown, family would be good!

I am 39 years old. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, from the age of two, but I was born in Montreal, Canada. As an adult, I moved to the Oregon Coast. I am engaged to my lovely wife to be. We have three dogs and no cats. I have two brothers and two step-brothers, one dad, one mom and one step-dad. They all live in or around Portland, except my dad who lives in Canada. Also, I have no kids. I am pretty grateful for my life really.

We wanted this interview with you because of your strong roots skateboarding and skate park construction. How did you get started with both?

I started skating when I was in the eighth grade, age 13. I started building shortly thereafter. In the beginning, I was building wooden jump ramps, quarter-pipes and spine ramps in front of my house, kind of learning as I went along. Sometimes, we would move them to the local school and place them up to a wall or on a bank for a varied use of terrain. Skating and building were both things that came to me as a passion.

You moved (a while back) the company from Oregon to Puerto Rico – why Puerto Rico?

I came to Puerto Rico a little over six years ago to work on a skatepark project in Aguadilla, on the northwest corner of the island. Months passed and I met my wife to be on the island. Soon, she was traveling with me a lot between Oregon, Puerto Rico and Europe, specifically Sweden. Really, I would say that I lived out of a suitcase for the better half of fifteen years. In the end, it was easier for me to move to Puerto Rico than her to Oregon, though she says she really enjoys Oregon, less probably the grey weather.

In actuality, my company is still based out of Oregon, but I have been transitioning all my work to my offices in Puerto Rico. This June, I have started a new company in Puerto Rico, PTR, inc. and I will shortly close Placed To RIde, inc. after ten years in business. It is sort of sort of sad, sort of exciting and really just a reorganization of the same thing.

You seem to be a “concrete friend”, at least when building. For us non-concrete experts: what do you have to look out for material-wise when building parks – I mean, the earth is different in most places of the world, the steel foundations, the type of concrete, the machines you use. Basically what do you need to actually build a park from scratch to finish (other than money!)

As for building materials, the biggest differences in building from location to location is the type of aggregate (rock and sand) used in the concrete. For concrete finishing, I prefer a naturally round stone and sand. This may not always be available and from a structural point a fractured rock makes the concrete stronger. You kind of just have to work with the local supplier to make sure you get a mix or mixes that you need and like. This includes the use of various admixtures (chemicals) in your mix design to accommodate local climates. Other than that, the main differences in building from location to location are due to local labor laws, wages and cultural differences.

How many parks have you built up until today and where have you / Placed To Ride left your footprint on this planet?

With Placed To Ride, I have designed and built 12 parks. With PTR, I have also designed an additional 12 parks that have been or are in the process of being built. I also worked with Dreamland, prior to PTR, on another 13 Design/Build projects. That puts the number at 37, plus a few odds and ends that I have helped on additionally.

I have worked on a lot of projects in Oregon, as well as Montana and Washington, USA. I have done some monster parks in Sweden, worked in Austria, England and Scotland. I, as well, designed a bowl for the beaches of Brazil and done consultation and design work in South Africa. Lately, I have been working on designs for France, as well as my projects here in Puerto Rico.

As you have quite a few parks in your portfolio, what are the major factors that go into designing a new park and how much of your own insight/input do you feel needs to be in a design so that you are happy with the resulting park?

Every project is different and new. The site and local desires have a lot to do with what is to be built. Then I have to put it all together in a way that best suits everyone; progression is the key. Sometimes you get good input from local riders, sometimes they don’t really comprehend dimensions or dream outside their own realizations. You have to weed through it all. The main thing I need to make a proper design is time and space.

Living in Germany, I am a little jealous about other European countries getting “lucky” and having a skate park built by you. Do the cities and local skaters contact you for these contracts or how did the whole Europe connection begin?

The Europe connection is really something I was born into, as my father came from Austria. Later, when working with Dreamland in 2001, we built our first overseas project in Tyrol, Austria. The following year, I started Placed To Ride and I informally decided to focus much of my attention on Europe. I did my first solo project in 2003 for a friend in a village near the park in Brixlegg. The following year, John Magnusson contacted me to come to Malmo, Sweden, to design Stapelbaddsparken. After the design was complete, I offered my services up for the park’s construction, knowing that the design was great and that no local company could honestly pull off such a feat. In the end, I was in Malmo for over nine months. Once in Europe, more projects began popping up and the ones back home were harder to grasp since I could only be in one place at a time. Sweden had a lot of planning for every project, so I spent a lot of additional time in planning and meetings. So luck, patience, diligence and timing had a lot to do with my successes in Europe.

As for contacts in Europe, I have been contacted by a variety of sources, including skaters, companies, communities and municipalities. Usually they hear about me through word of mouth. As for Germany, I just haven’t had that good first connection. As I was once told, it is not the number of waves you catch, but catching the one that takes you all the way to the beach that matters.

Any possibility of letting us know about your upcoming projects and what we all can expect to see?

Well, I have been designing some new projects for another company in France. The first was completed last year in Chamonix. I also have another design going to tender in Salzburg, Austria, at the moment and I have several companies contacting me for consulting such as I did for Wheelscape in the UK.

First and foremost, I see myself as a designer and then a builder. Though I really love very much being on the construction site, I find it most rewarding to build my own creations from scratch. In the past, I have always made it my mission to stay to true to this philosophy. Now, and from what I foresee in the future, I would rather do other forms of construction than be stuck building others’ designs.

Back to you personally: what do you like to ride the most? Deep pools, backyard pools, flow parks or what ever comes in your path?

I have really settled into riding parks. When I was younger, I would ride more street, but I have always preferred to ride transitions, especially bowls. I like deep bowls, shallow bowls, flow, etc.

What is your current board set-up?

Creature Deck, Indy’s, Powell Park Wheel and Swiss Presiscion Cermic Bearings. The only product that I am kind of true to here are the Indy’s, yet I do have fond memories riding Thunders and my first trucks were Ventures.

Your favourite five spots to ride are:

Really there are too many good spots out there to list them all let alone only five. How about I list the spots that formed me and have the most memories (Europeskate comment: I like your question a lot better Stefan, no way possible to pin it on 5 spots!)

Grant Banks, Portland, Oregon
North Van (Seylynn) and China, Creek, Vancouver B.C.
Cannon Beach, Oregon (Old Park)
Burnside, Portland, Oregon
Lincoln City 1, Oregon
And Nude Bowl, Vagabond, Ghost Town, Bro Bowl, Pala, any great pool………

If you could skate any park you wanted today, who would you like to session it with and why?

Burnside early nineties, the intensity and comradery was there, plus I was at that younger age. It felt almost the same in the summer of ninety nine when we just finished the new Lincoln City park,and everything was fresh. Today, I would like to skate my local park, Quebradillas, with a crew of rippers.

And back to building – those Mega-Ramp topics keep popping up and a lot of skate parks are going big again. Where do you see (want to see) skate park construction heading, any notions that will help push the level of skateboarding further?

Everywhere I have been, people seem to have different desires for their skateparks. It kind of goes by what the local riders are accustomed to and their ability levels. For me personally, I don’t see the reason to build a whole park over the top when many of the local riders are always young and newer to the sport. Today, from what I gather, kids like smaller more technical parks. For me, it is always about flow and lines. I strive to make an enduring park that riders will like and the general public will see as a work of art.

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