Paul Thölen just released a new bmx video, which he’s been working on secretly with his good friend Felix Prangenberg. Time for us to ask him some questions.
by MARKUS WILKE – photos by ANTON ARENS
2022 sure was a busy year for Paul Thölen. He tore up bowls in Spain, Italy and on the Gold Coast, joined the infamous Fast & Loose Crew for a month-long trip across the United States, and also entered every stop of the UCI World Cup Series.The 24-year-old also managed to finish up a new web edit, which he’s been working on secretly with his good friend Felix Prangenberg.
Rest assured that Paul did all of this with his signature style, enough altitude to reach Senator status on any frequent flyer program and a huge smile on his face. Let’s find out what Goldilocks has to say about traveling nonstop, giving up on circus tricks and filming street clips for his latest solo project.
Hey Paul, how are ya? What have you been up to lately?
Whats up! I’ve been enjoying some downtime lately. I got home from Australia just before Christmas and been hanging at home since, which I really needed after a hectic, but super fun 2022.
How many days were you actually home in 2022 and what are your favorite memories from last year?
I can’t really tell how many days I spend away from home, but definitely a lot. I’ve been on tons of trips last year and all of them were special, but I think the Fast and Loose Colorado/Oregon one was a trip of a lifetime for sure. Awesome crew, camping and the best concrete skateparks in the world just do the job.
Amazing! Traveling is awesome, but it also can take its toll. How do you cope with being away from home so much?
Since I’m traveling a lot, I made a lot of friends in so many different places and so traveling is the only way to see everyone every once in a while, haha. I just enjoy exploring new stuff so much. The boundaries of my comfort zone have shrunk to a minimum, so that even if there is just a shitty tent, no toilet or shower and only bread and aioli to live on I can cope with these situations quite well. That’s something I only learned by doing it.
It’s good to have a nice homebase, though. You’ve been living in Cologne, Germany for a while now. What do you like about living there?
That’s right! I moved in with my good friend and fellow BMX rider Marcel in 2021 and absolutely love the city. Cologne always had a big BMX and Skate scene and good spots in and around the city. Plenty of bars and hangout spots to spend your nights out as well, haha.
Speaking of partying, your new web video just dropped and you guys had a premiere at the re-opening of Halle 59 in Cologne, Germany recently. How did that go? And how does it feel to watch the video on a big screen with a bunch of your friends?
After we figured out some sound problems, it went really smooth. It was the first time premiering a video of myself and it definitely was exciting. I usually like to stay in the background a little more so I felt a little uncomfortable in the beginning, especially when I had to say a few words. But other than that it was good fun. Thanks Felix and Dany for making it possible!
Are you happy with how the video turned out?
Yes, I definitely am. I love Felix‘ work anyways and we always wanted to do a project together. I was really stoked we finally got to do it and even more on the outcome.
Let’s talk shop! How did the idea for this project come about and how long did you guys film for.
Felix and I always wanted to work on something together and since we both were stuck at home due to Covid, we thought it was the right time to do it. We filmed pretty much all of last year. Not necessarily because stuff was taking so long, but because we both started to travel again and it got harder and harder to find time slots that worked for us.
Have you ever filmed this long for a video part before?
Not really. But I definitely like to not have a fixed deadline, as it just releases the pressure.
Transition riders don’t really film videos too much anymore. Why do you think that is?
I feel like it’s harder to film a proper transition video, because there are simply not as many transition spots and skateparks as street spots. It just makes it harder to not repeat yourself, if that makes sense?! Other than that I just enjoy riding without filming anything so much, haha. Not that I don’t like filming, but everyone knows riding is little different with a camera pointing at you.
One thing that’s cool about this video is, that you’re riding a bunch of street spots in it, too. Now, you’re primarily known as a Park rider. Do you ride Street regularly?
Street riding is definitely something the pandemic got me into. All the skateparks were closed for a while, but I still wanted to ride. I also love, when transition riders come out their comfort zone for a video part and bring some transition style to the streets. Corey Walsh and Dennis Enarson are a huge inspiration for that!
There’s also some trails footage in the video. The spot you’re riding is fairly new and I know you also had a hand in it. Give us the low-down.
I think, these are the clips that get me stoked the most. Michael Hanfler and myself started a new trails spot in the beginning of last year. We put in so many hours of work and we’re super happy with how the jumps turned out. They’re big, fast and steep.
Nice! Did you guys set out to film an all-round video (Park, Street, Trails) or is that something that happened organically?
No, we didn’t have a plan for the video at all. All the street clips happened organically. The trails clips we’re something we both wanted to get. But when we started filming, it was no even sure, if we could ride the jumps by the end of the year haha.
There are a couple of guest clips in the video. Sharing the fun with your friends is a big one for you, right?
Yes, that’s what BMX is all about in my opinion. I love all the clips the homies got, Michi’s 360 over the big set especially. That was the craziest thing to happen at the trails so far.
Which trick was the biggest struggle to get done?
I’d say the 360 fast plant at the very end. I had that one stuck in my had since 2015 probably. I’m not kidding. I wanted to do it so many times already, but never came anywhere close to landing it. Then that day I somehow had a good feeling about it and the guts to go upside down. It still took me about 20 or 30 tries to actually land one and clear the box.
And which one was the scariest?
Probably the Cannonball out of the slide. I had to give it all pedaling towards the slide without knowing if the “landing” was clear. There was no way to stop once I jumped on the slide. Luckily nothing happened and no one got hurt.
That sounds stressful. Do you get stressed out while filming or are you only going for stuff that comes naturally?
I never really stress out to be honest. Of course there were a few clips that took me a little longer than others, but I always try to be relaxed about it.
The Ender was something you’ve been wanting to do for a while now, right? Walk us thru the process of finally getting this trick done.
When I was filming for a project with Markus Wilke back in 2015, I think I stumbled across the idea of it. Not because I saw it somewhere before, but just because I was getting into fast plants a lot more back then and loved dipped 360s anyways. But I still had a hard time with it ever since. Besides the one in Duisburg there are not many setups that would work for that trick, so I was unable to try it all the time. So in the end it took me years to finally land one. Once that happened, Felix and I decided this one to be the ender quite quick. It was also the very last thing we filmed for the video, haha.
What about the rest of the filming? Did you have a trick/spot list you ticked off or was everything more a spur of the moment kind of thing?
I think every single clip other than the fast plant, I decided on the spot. I always used to imagine tricks or lines in my head before actually going somewhere and it very often did not really end up the way I wanted to. So for the most part I stopped doing that. I just go to a spot and do what I feel like doing the most.
I know you’re very particular about what tricks you’re doing. A few years ago you were doing a lot of “circus tricks”, but lately you’ve been leaning more towards style, flow and unique lines. Was that a conscious decision?
I’d say, that was something that developed over the years. There was no hard cut between the two types. The Vans Pro Cup series definitely had an impact on my riding, when I first entered in 2017. I just more and more fell in love with trying to ride as smooth as possible and trying to find lines in unique skateparks. It’s such a pure form of riding, I think. I just love the feeling of becoming one with your bike and going fast and smooth without letting go off the pedals and bars. Also the geometry of my bike has changed so much throughout the years, which makes all the tricks that I used to do even harder than they already are.
Another thing you’re really picky about is your helmets. Which one is your favorite one from the TSG collection?
That’s right, haha. I always struggled finding the right helmet for my weird head. TSG gave me the Meta helmet to try and it felt awesome right away, when I put it on. It’s super light and comfortable to wear, but still makes you feel save.
In the end of the video your infamous red VW camper makes a brief appearance. I know you enjoy that van life a lot. So much actually, that you bought a mobile home last summer. How’s that been going?
Yes I have two campers right now, which is kinda stupid, I know, haha. I’m trying to sell my motor home again, though, because I’m so in love with my transporter.
When’s the next time you’ll be hitting the road again?
I might hit the road at the end of February down south to wherever the weather is better than at home. Probably something like Malaga and the south coast of Portugal as I would love to go surf as well as ride bikes.
Obviously a huge shout out to Felix Prangenberg and Anton Arens for doing the project with me. Also shouts to Vans, kunstform BMX Shop and TSG for supporting our idea. Love you guys!