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Rune Glifberg | UNLEASHED

Mar 212022

A true skateboard legend hits the podcast! Olympic Skateboarder and 12-time X Games medalist Rune Glifberg skates into Episode 27 of UNLEASHED with The Dingo and Danny.

The 47-year-old skateboard icon from Copenhagen, Denmark has quite a story. In 1995, Glifberg took a leap of faith by moving to California with dreams of becoming a pro skateboarder and ultimately evolved into a driving force in the evolution of vertical skateboarding.

“Back when we came out to the States in 1994 with Flip, you had to be in California. Otherwise, you weren't getting through. You had to be in Cali because this is where Thrasher and TransWorld magazine were. All the major companies were here and all the video outlets. If you wanted to be seen in skateboarding, you had to be here!” said Glifberg.

Respected as one of the most innovative skateboarders of all time, Glifberg has built an unparalleled career – all the way to representing Denmark in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Scandinavian ripper has won the world’s biggest halfpipe skateboarding competitions more than once, including Slam City Jam (1996, 1998), Tampa Pro (2003), Gravity Games (2001, 2004), Vans Pro-Tec Pool Party (2005, 2007, 2008), and Copenhagen Pro Vert (2007, 2009). He holds 12 X Games medals, including two gold medals in Skate Park (2008, 2009). Not to forget that the soft-spoken Dane is a playable character in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series of video games and now runs a skatepark design agency. Legendary!

 

Glifberg’s skateboard journey started at age 11 when he received an American skateboard as a gift from a friend. Proper equipment still proved difficult to attain in Europe in the mid-1980s, and the local skate scene in Copenhagen was small but fueled by true DIY spirit. “After a few months I found a local park and there was a halfpipe there, so I started skating that. Also skating to school and trying to ollie curbs and all that.”

 

Glifberg progressed at lightning speed with local pro rider Nicky Guerrero as his idol. “He’s got great style on a skateboard and definitely my biggest local influence.” Glifberg’s skills won the first sponsorship contract at a Scandinavian Open contest in Copenhagen, and he entered his first pro contest in France at the age of 15 in 1990. Next came a pro model board on UK-based hardgoods brand Flip Skateboards in 1992, as Glifberg dominated halfpipe competitions across Europe.

 

But at the time, the skateboarding universe still largely revolved around California as the epicenter of skate media and industry. So when Flip Skateboards moved the entire pro team to Costa Mesa in 1994, boosted by financing by skate legend Tony Hawk, Glifberg took a leap of faith. “We came from Europe, and we were hungry! Like, ‘We’re in the States and we wanna just skate!’”

 

Taking the risk soon paid off for the young Scandinavian, as well as his Flip teammates Geoff Rowley and Tom Penny. Boosted by appearances in skate videos such as the 411 Video Magazine series, Flip Skateboards gained traction in the U.S. industry. Glifberg turned heads with his unique approach to halfpipe riding. “For me skating vert, I was trying to emulate what was happening in the streets. Like trying to take my street tricks onto the vert ramp. Doing flip tricks without using the hands and those types of things,” said Glifberg.

 

After taking bronze in his X Games debut at the very first X Games in 1995, Glifberg became a podium threat at major vert competitions. His head-to-head battle against Tony Hawk in 1997’s X Games Skateboard Vert final remains the stuff of legend. As a top-tier pro, Glifberg appeared in countless video parts and magazines and endorsed signature shoes for companies such as Airwalk, Etnies, and Converse.

 

Glifberg’s career caught a strong second wind with the emergence of the Skateboard Park discipline, contested on pool terrain courses, in the early 2000s. He earned back-to-back gold medals in Park skateboarding at X Games Los Angeles 2008 and 2009. Fast-forward to 2019, and a first-place finish in the Danish National Championships earned him a ticket to represent Denmark in skateboarding’s debut at the Tokyo Olympics.

 

“For me it was kind of a personal challenge, being able to qualify into the Olympics against all the young dudes. I also wanted to go there and show some diversity in skateboarding, you know?” said Glifberg, who competed in Tokyo as the oldest skateboard athlete. “I mean there are a lot of 13-year-old gold medalists, so it was nice to show skateboarding in its true form with a huge age span and lots of inspiration from the older dudes.”

 

After a storied career, Glifberg’s skateboard journey has come full circle. When not competing, he now creates the next generation of park terrain as the founder of Glifberg-Lykke, an agency for skatepark design. Speaking on the current state of skateboarding, the icon said: “Skateboarding is so well-liked now. Major fashion labels want to be part of it. Everybody wants a little piece. In a sense it’s sad, but on the other hand, I think that it creates a lot of opportunities. It’s making skateboarding more like a legit thing that you can do without people looking down on you and telling you that you can’t do it!”

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