Part 1 of the Giannis Caternellis Flatmattersonline interview caused a positive reaction on the site a few weeks ago. Rather than ask all the questions myself, I discussed with Giannis about asking a few riders to chime in questions. This second part of the interview is focussed on questions from Paul Chamberlain, Todd Carter and Rodney Williams, let’s do this!
Giannis with a move he calls the Michelin.
Paul Chamberlain: How methodical are you regarding progress and learning. I mean, do you have a plan for a year? A few months? Or just freestyle and see what happens.
Most of the time, it’s freestyle. I always had a list of tricks like dream tricks that I must learn definitely sometime like upside down decade. I pulled it, check and move on. At the moment, there are tricks that I want to chase like: Perrydoom, Monster whip, quadruple decade, the holy grail of my list!
Sometimes I have a certain combo or trick in mind and I keep trying it until I pull it, but if it takes long time I leave it aside and move on. Every trick or link needs its time, whether its one day, few months or years. I must admit that I have big respect for long combos because they need heart and stamina to do that, in flatland more is more and less is less.
Todd Carter: How do you stay motivated?
In order to stay motivated I dig into the past. I have a big collection of BMX Plus (R.I.P) and Ride USA Magazines that I started collecting from 1992 and until 2004 I have almost all issues. Pre internet era!
Every month I was looking forward to ride 30 minutes to the only shop that brings it and 30 minutes back! I love old flatland photographs even now and check them to remind me. The passion I have for our beautiful sport. I also have a lot of VHS videos and DVD’s in my office and check them too. Bobby Carter’s Diversion’s, keeping them like gems!
Intrikat videos, japanese series like King of ground and more, yesterday I was checking the “Video Name” DVD and real lying digging the part of Aaron Behnke. So underrated this guy ad so original, always stoked to see guys like Aaron doing their own thing, and this is what I always wanted to do, being and only wolf and doing my thing.
Are you into maintenance details, like tire pressure, chain tension, the right kind of shoes?
My bike is pretty ancient, like a rolling museum! The handlebars are 18 years old, seat 20 years old and most of my parts are over ten years old, but it still holds up! I am into that philosophy of don’t change something until it breaks! I know Rodney Williams understands me right now. But yes I am always into maintenance details like tyre pressure 130 PSI, checking all bike to be dialled, tighten my chain and spokes, stuff like that. Furthermore, sometimes I don’t care about the bikes situation. last summer I went to ride after three weeks riding with 60 PSI in tyres and pulled quite a lot of tricks. When I am hungry to ride I don’t care even if I have a flat tyre, if my bike wheel has a flat tyre I will go out trying front wheel stuff and fix it later. I wear everything that feels comfortable and skate shoes for good measure!
Will we see you in a live contest setting again?
I want so bad to come to a contest, even as a spectator to watch some live action, but to be honest I hate contests and don’t get me wrong, I was a contest rider. I am 5 times National Champion here in Greece, I am the winningest flatlander rider of all time in my country, I know how first place feels and it feels so good, but I tell you this Nothing compares with the feeling of pulling a new trick for the first time with any first place on the podium. Competition is only about feeding your ego and make your sponsors happy. It doesn’t push the art side of flatland because flatland is art. You can’t judge art, flatland is like painting, jams are better with no money, no judges, no pressure, no drama. Contests should be banned from flatland forever.
When I was a teenager I was such a Chase Gouin clone! I was riding in shorts, shinguards and wearing those Nike basketball shoes. Also always topless and had this long ponytail, even my nickname was “Chase” here in Greece. I was doing mega spins to perverted decades all the time, I got in love with decades because of Chase. He was and still is my biggest influence. Please don’t tell that to Chase! Around 2000 I got influenced by Martti Kuoppa, I watched a 4 hour VHS video from the Worlds in Cologne and Martti really killed the practise sessions for the whole video. I was blown away at that time watching Martti for the whole video. I was blown away at that time watching Martti doing so many tricks, all techniques, real freestyle! The funny thing is that time I was doing a lot of his tricks before watching that video, for example, front wheel undertaker which I call Johnny Undertaker and the Blender or pedalling death truck which I call the Giraffe (very tall unicycle that jugglers use.) I pulled these before i saw Martti in the video. And then I did a flashback in mind and realised that Kevin Jones did the pedalling death truck first in Dorkin’ 4 1/2, but I feel that happens to everyone. You pull a trick from your mind and you think that your are the first one who pulled it, but later you watch a video and someone else on the other side of the globe does it. The same thing happened I suppose to Kevin Jones when he invented the caboose and lard yard and in the same time Aaron Dull did the same tricks on the other side of the USA without watching, it’s another magic era without internet.
This looks painful, wow!
How do you generate new ideas?
You know, ideas can pop up from everything with my kids we watch after school, a lot of animal documentaries and the movement of the animals like Monkeys really gives me a lot of ideas for tricks, it’s funny but it works. Flatland is like an endless puzzle, one tricks brings another, most ideas come during practise and by accident. I can feel it if it is possible or not, right now everything, but without brakes some tricks are impossible.
What’s your practice time like? Do you split time between old and new tricks?
I used to have a routine, when I practiced for the first hour trying combos and single tricks. I already knew in order to be consistent for contests and shows and the rest hours just trying everything that comes to mind, but all that until 2010. I just got away from that worthless practice routine and these last 6 years I just go straight to new combos, pulled them and leave them alone, because I just want to progress. I don’t have enough time to waste. I can go out and pull 10 hard combos in one hour session or go and pull 1 combo for the entire session. Odd!
Original tricks and combos takes me more time though, because they are born from my imagination, When you haven’t seen trick be done its way more difficult to do it, its more easier to be a copycat than be original.
Rodney Williams: Is your goal like Kevin Jones /Chase Gouin ?? Total bicycle mastery?!
Kevin Jones and Chase Gouin, the gurus of flatland showed us the right way like Jesus Christ did for Chrostianity, they are the leaders and without even knowing it, they set a foundation of what it is today, modern flatland. In the early 90’s, when everyone was going cherry pickers, and Kevin was doing hitchhiker jugglers and Chase quadruple decades. Imagine how poor todays flatland would be without Kevin and Chase showcasing their riding through the Dorkin’ videos. Even nowadays, I don’t understand why some people can’t pull a hitchhiker or do a single decade. These tricks are part of the alphabet, and without learning the alphabet you can’t learn to spell. Kevin and Chase didn’t care for only type of riding, front wheel or back wheel, they experimented with everything, regular and opposite, mastering the while bike and this is definitely what I am trying to aim total bike mastery in order to be open minded and reach that level to come up with more original tricks and variations. I feel like that I am a student of Kevin and Chase, I just learn from the best and that gives me motivation to keep creating.
How long does it take you to a new trick /variation ???
There was a time when I was learning 25-30 new tricks per day, since I learned all the basics everything started falling in front of me like domino, countless tricks and variations. Nowadays I pull new tricks in every session daily, I realised after 25 years of riding that the deeper you go in riding, the more complicated flatland would be. These days I learn 2-3 tricks a day in addition with 30 new tricks around year 2000. Things are more complex now because I go deep.
Some tricks take more days to pull and some others months. It depends on the level of tricks, for example hitchhiker took me probably a month around 1998 when I pulled it. Hitchhiker kick flip took me years to pull, I must confess that sometimes I don’t want to go really deep because things get really scary, I don’t war to kill myself, just because I try a couple of really dangerous tricks. I have to protect myself because if I get hurt I will not go to work and my family will get in difficult situation, every time I go session I think of my children and that seriously has a big impact on my riding. I also don’t want to get hurt, because I need to be able to ride my bike anytime I can and be on my bike is paradise.
Giannis mid jump switch, he calls this one the Wrecking Ball.
How long is it until you feel comfortable enough to place said trick /variation in any part of a line ???
Speaking of tricks, lately I’m into left sided cross footed halfpacker, I pulled it in one session and since I can lift a cross footed tea kettle it came easily, just maintaining the balance point and put my right foot on the left leg, but taking this cross footed halfpacker to a big combo that’s a headache. Single cross foot halfpacker took me one session, but since I don’t care about consistency anymore I will put it straight to a combo and this will take me a couple of sessions. With that example I want to explain that I don’t wait that much to feel comfortable and put a trick to a combo, since I pull it once or twice I am ready to throw that trick into a combo, I just try until I make it, and of course film it!
With your huge bag of moves,front /back wheel, you’re being so dialed, do you plan on competing more?
Competing is over for me, I am not dialled anymore, and I could never deal with contest pressure. Every contest I went I was close to hear attack. In Ninja Spin 2004 I got second place in Masterclass and Alex Jumelin came to podium and whispered to me “you should enter pro class next contest” and I did. Big mistake,as I was never ready for pro. The other thing that bums me out in contests is that I’ve seen so many riders ripped off by the judges. I still can’t digest the battle between Ucchie and Trevor Meyer in Jomopro 2010. How in the name of god did Ucchie lose that battle? I still can’t forget his face when the result was announced. If I was Ucchie I would never enter again in contests.
Kevin Jones stopped contests, because everybody doing his tricks against him. Andrew Faris got bitter of contests and quit. Paul Osicka won the very first ESPN contest and disappeared. These examples speak volumes, and I can recall a lot of riders that quit, because of contests being structured wrong. Contests are the downfall of flatland and usually are all about the money, arrogance, controversy, fake fame and the riders with the most sponsors that does Kevin’s tricks and spins steamroller faster wins with the help of good old friends in the judges of course. In a flatland competition, the riders with the more difficult and original tricks should win, end of story.
Which technique was the hardest for you to master ????
I still haven’t mastered any technique! In all these numerous techniques or type of tricks there are in flatland like rolling and scoffing, there is an advanced point for each type of riding.
There are a couple of techniques that I still have a hard time trying to master, cross footed rolling tricks have my respects, cross footed hitchhiker, cross footed halfpacker, cross footed crackpacker. Everything with the feet crossed is already hard enough for a sketchy rider like me, who is lacking stability! In my mind, the rider that stands out is Stephan Hearn in the Create DVD destroying it in cross footed mode! Another really hard technique or type of riding name it as you wish, is any trick standing on the pedal. You have to be really advanced to master pedal tricks. I love pedal tricks and pedalling tricks as a result. Who can forget the insane cross footed rolling locomotive on the pedal by Dylan Worsley? One of the best tricks ever for sure, and pretty much untouched still to this day. But the hardest technique in my book is the kick flip, in all the years I am riding I can still only do probably 10 kick flip tricks. I still have a lot on my list to try like cliffhanger kick flip, crackpacker kick flip, backpacker kick flip. Damn those tricks seem really hard to pull and frightening also! I don’t know, I will think about it! It is a fact that this technique is mastered only by a few riders, its a do or not game, there is nothing to save you and when you miss the right kick you are out of the bike. respect to all the kick flip riders out there, the nickname “Boss” for Martti is not by accident!
How in the heck do you consider yourself an Expert? Hahahahhaha!!! I saw you entered BITR as an export for the video entry contest?
Actually I am an amateur for contests right now, not even close to export and definitely not a pro. isolation did its damage this least 6 years I am riding alone. What’s the point of entering a contest right now and falling off the bike trying to do a boomerang?
Seriously that entry for the BITR video contest was a fault of me, and I am not gonna hide from you that I saw it as an opportunity to fly for free to the U.S. I had in my mind that if I won that ticket I will not participate in the contest, I would only ride in the jam and practise time. But it is pretty unfair for the organisers and especially to James McGraw who is putting so much effort, time and money to that event and as I am a family man also like him, the only flatlander in the whole of Greece who is married and has 2 kids, having a full time job, dealing with wife, kids and all the rest of struggles in life. I understood that flying to Denver, Colorado and not participating would be an insult to James, so thank god I didn’t win that ticket! I just put my coin on that video contest and for the first time in my life I was very happy I didn’t win in a contest! I am only a soldier of flatland and I want to stick to that as long as I ride.
Are you ever coming stateside for jams, comps,etc?
I wish I could make it sometimes to the states. I have only travelled around Europe, I have visited 10 countries but never outside of Europe. One of my dreams is to travel to one of the York Jams in Pennsylvania, hanging out there with the Plywood Hoods, Mark Eaton, Kevin and the rest of the riders, riding all day in relaxing and freestyle atmosphere, and then visit Hawaii for the Aloha Jam with Bobby Carter and the rest of the lucky cats out there enjoying riding in wild nature and around volcanos! Because life is only as Bobby says “making dreams reality!”.
Effraim: It’s been a real pleasure catching up with you Giannis, any final words?
This interview is brought to you from the depth of my heart, with pure love and respecter for the sport. I was so nervous about this interview, I wrote that to Effraim. I was anxious, because I wanted my story to be positive and inspiring for other riders. From a real flatlander to real flatlanders.
A tree is a string when it has strong roots, this is what I’m trying to do, build string roots. Sorry for no comments, I am not cocky or anything I am only into riding and progressing. I don’t have Facebook, no twitter, I don’t even have an internet connection! I am such a neanderthal, I take signal from my good friend Nick who is responsible for all these videos of me, without him nothing would have happened. Thank you Nick for all your efforts!
I feel so obligated to all these riders or you can say our flatland fathers who pushed flatland to new levels all these years, so thats why I want to share with you guys my experiences through my bike. That’s why Freestyler series and the rest of my edits were made. I can only thank you with those videos, but I also want to thank you guys who took time to comment for my videos, so thank you Effraim, George Manos, Rodney Williams (I always have a good laugh when I read your comments!), Brant Hughes, Joel Schallhorn, Adam Diclaudio, Brandon Fenton, Aaron Frost, Mike S, Michael Sommer, Flatism, Jason Forde, Ron Minis, Kenny Lund, Jason Kale, Fred, Todd Carter, Lachlan Cameron, Mark McGrade, Ben Q, Pierre, R, Renaud, Amos, Jason, Chris Armstrong, Maxime, John Yull, Oliver, Jeff S, Campbell, Rick MacDonald, Obscure, Joshua Evans, Tucker, Mates Tucek, Joe Cicman, Denny, Dax, Masatoshi Karino, Mateus Beckmann, Freddy Brown, Malte Orth, Owen Bohn, Bobby Carter, Adam Guild, Morgann, Moya, Emer, Bruno Zebu, Alex Worden, Brandon Derbowka, Dimitris, Lisias Tabarelli, Michele Maiolini, Sietse Van Berkel, Navid Saleki, Will Redd, Luke Malone, Bryan Huffman, Gavin D, Sakis Doumas, Mr Yeloz, Sean Porter, Garyflyer, Apocalypsedude.. sorry if I forgot anyone.
Let’s push flatland further more because in the end that only matters, Flat matters!
Effraim:Thanks Giannis for taking the time to talk to me, and thanks to Paul Chamberlain, Todd Carter, Rodney Williams who helped send in some great questions.Who’s next up for a FM interview?