Mention the name of Champion Baumstimler to anyone who was rolling in the 90s and you will get an immediate reaction. Memories of burly gaps, technical rail tricks and a rumoured list of illegal activities as long as your arm are just some of the things that spring to mind. He featured in the first skate video I ever owned, VG4, and was a big part of the American scene back in the day. There has been a bit of a buzz around Champ again recently so I sent him a few questions to try and clear up some historical inaccuracies and get the low down on future plans.
Hi Champion. The last I heard from you was around the time of your second pro USD Psirus, then you seemed to drop off the map. What have you been up to?
I did drop off the map, and it was intentional I suppose. At that time I guess I was somewhat burned out on skating, I had injuries that I didn’t let heal, and I thought it was time to grow up. But looking back on it, it is something I terribly regret, although I needed to calm down a bit, I was living a pretty wild lifestyle but that’s typical of someone that age, especially someone in my situation who had basically been living a unique life. I had a son, got married and got a few college degrees (biology/chemistry and political science). I skated every now and again but nothing significant during this period. Since, I have gotten divorced and have been working. I currently manage a research and quality control laboratory in Texas. I go backpacking or drive around in the desert every chance I get, and have been skating quite frequently lately.
The rumour was that you quit skating and started breeding dogs. Is that true?
No that isn’t true, when i moved back to Texas I had a house with a few acres of land, and an old man had a kennel not far from me. He was low on space so I offered to let him keep some of his dogs on my land, and he paid me to care for them. He had well over a hundred dogs, and i think i had at most 25 at one time. But he got into some legal trouble and his dogs were confiscated. But I did that for a few years, and enjoyed it.
What are some of your favourite memories from the time you were skating?
Traveling, although it got tiresome at times, is something I am grateful I was able to experience. All the trips to Amsterdam are very much memorable. Winning best trick at the Bercy (France) competition in 2000 or 01 was really great, and spending every penny of that check on liquor and champagne was fun. Strangely enough some of the things I look back on and laugh about the most are the times when things got a little frightening, like when I was robbed in Atlanta, or when a drunk in Paris stole a bottle of Moet from us at knife point. Spending all day and night with friends skating street. All the friends I have made, Jon julio, Matt Andrews, Arlo, Lennon, Randy Spizer, Kevin Gillan, Dustin Latimer, and innumerable others. Just living care free, skating.
Do you have your pro skates hanging on the wall?
I do not although maybe one day. I have a pair of my Psirus but I have skated them over the years so they are beat, but it would be nice to hang them up, they have character. One thing I would like to have hanging on my wall is the picture of me from Daily Bread from that best trick comp in Bercy, where i’m jumping off the vert ramp over the railing. So if anyone has that, send it my way.
There have been a lot of revivals recently: Blur, the 80s, Aaron Feinberg to name a few. Is there a Champ B comeback on the cards?
Ya definitely, I have been skating regularly, 3-5 days a week, for the last 6 months or so, mainly thanks to my girlfriend Thuy whether she realizes it or not. She really encouraged me to reconnect with some of my old friends and because of their positive response and support I just started skating more often. I had become really reclusive for a while but it has been so great seeing everyone in the skate scene again. I plan on getting out and visiting Cali much more often. It is coming back surprisingly easy actually, despite an ankle injury that I am waiting to subside. Hopefully I will have my face out there again more often.
Did you have any specific ambitions in rollerblading that you wanted to achieve?
I can’t say I did, I was so young, and it was just something I enjoyed. If I would have had more foresight maybe I would have had something I wanted to achieve, but I was just living in the moment. I never went out and intended to be innovative or change people’s opinions about skating. I never cared about any of that.
Do you skate these days? If so, who with?
I do, more and more lately. There is actually something quite liberating about skating for the sole enjoyment of it. I have been trying to get the kids hyped up in my hometown and we have seen several kids pick up rolling lately. Plus they built a really nice public park here which is great. I was never good at transition skating, there were no parks around when I started skating, so it is really great to have the worlds greatest bowl in my hometown to skate when I feel like it, and the rest of the park is much more street oriented than most parks so it suits me well and gets me excited to go skate. In my hometown I usually skate with some of my old friends, Taylor Cheaney, Jon Robertson, and some young kids. I try to hook up with all the other Texas guys when I can, and Kevin Little with Sic Apparel has offered a huge amount of support and inspiration to go out and skate. I would love to skate with Rob Z from Chorpus more, and all the Austin guys like B Free, Mason, Zachary Gutweiler, and James. They are all extremely nice guys, but the few times I have been to skate with them my ankle was still giving me tons of problems so I need to make it down there when I am all healed up.
What effect did blading have on your life?
It has definitely made me a more open minded person. I have met people from differing cultures and lifestyles, and shared one common interest, so many friendships that developed would not have without blading. I was able to travel to places many people will never get a chance to see, and developed a strange sense of independence from such a unique lifestyle. Pain tolerance…
Do you have any thoughts on the modern skate scene?
Skating definitely looks cool, and because of that I am sure more kids are going to gain an interest in it. Thanks to some of the guys who had enough foresight and ambition to keep it going over the last few years I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a resurrection in the near future. And I hope that happens so some of these guys who have been dedicated for so long can make a decent living, and the pro skaters can make decent money. Rollerblading is different though, and the things that make it so great don’t translate well into the typical televised competitions where people’s runs are aired with minimal editing, so it will take more creativity to capture a larger audience. I kind of like how it is low key, and when you show up to a park and skate well it sparks an interest in people’s imagination, but I wish there was more to gain financially as well, not for myself but for many of my friends who have been advocates of rolling for so long. The main thing is to keep the younger kids interested in rolling and worry about the rest later, give them support and motivate them and it will give everyone else an opportunity to make a living doing something they enjoy. There are so many talented bladers now, so it is really fun to get back into it.
You had such a large influence on a whole generation of skaters, did you realize at the time the impact you were having? And how does it feel looking back now?
I appreciate the compliment, but I don’t think I really had too much of an influence, and if I did I had (and have) no idea, and I doubt skating would have been any different had I not been a part of it. I was just a mischievous kid who happened to like skating. Looking back on it now though it is cool seeing people do a trick and thinking to myself, “I was the first person to do that.”