I pretty much hated school. And to be honest school pretty much hated me: I had blue hair and bad grades. My options were limited to sucking it up and getting through or leaving school at an early age to further limit my future. I decided to man up and leave when it ended with my head high, if only to spite the fuckers.
Not everyone has it that easy, but thankfully education models are flexing to offer a range of alternative programs to help kids through. Skateboarding has always attracted the misfits among us, and for many of these kids the bleakness of staying in school drives them out; again, with few options for personal and professional growth.

Hinnerk Petersen and his colleague Daniel Sørensen are changing that, though. For the past few years, they’ve been leading a skateboarding-focused program called AFUK SKATE at AFUK (Academy For Untamed Creativity)—a Danish school for struggling young people that aims to spark self-discovery and growth by engaging them through various means of creative output.
AFUK SKATE immerses teens in the basic elements of skate culture: from film production to building ramps, or from throwing skate events to hosting workshops, it aims to guide teens to their independence and self-development by showing them the ropes through all elements of skate culture. Bitchslap took a few moments to chat with Hinnerk about AFUK SKATE, the vision behind it and skateboarding as a creative output.

Interview by Polina Bachlakova
Intro: Dick

Bitchslap: Hi, Hinnerk. What are you doing right now?
Hinnerk Petersen: Daniel and I are the two teachers at AFUK SKATE and we’re touring through the whole of Denmark, visiting other people who work in some sort of educational base to do with skateboarding. It’s fucking cool and inspiring to meet all these speedy talking people who have been fighting for their dreams for many years through different set ups and have done amazing stuff.

Is skateboard education becoming more of a thing in Denmark?
I think Denmark realised the potential in skateboarding and the skateboard lifestyle. Skaters from 10 or 20 years ago experienced a different culture, where they had almost no facilities to skate on. Now they’re grown ups and some have continued being passionate skaters, but developed their worlds to that passion and have continued to make a living from it in some way. Some of them established skateboard facilities, and others like myself and the guys we met on this trip have thought of ways to combine skateboarding and skate culture with educational work. 

What is your educational approach?
Our educational approach is definitely based on social development. There are all these academic or knowledge-based things we teach to help teens reach personal development. It isn’t important to us that after 1 year they’re really good at filming or building ramps or teaching other people to skate. It’s more like they’ve figured out a way to be more responsible individuals.
And that’s also the format of the entire AFUK — it nurtures the idea that kids who don’t fit into a regular educational system need a year to grow up by working with work-life-related topics. Our students are actually also paid on an hourly basis, which is a really good thing to discipline them with—if they don’t show up, they won’t get any money. 

How did you get the idea to start a skateboarding stream at AFUK?
Four years ago, I stepped into AFUK and proposed to them that they could use Copenhagen Skate Park (which I worked at) to start a new workshop to work with skateboard culture. I told them I had no education whatsoever in photography, filming, carpentry or setting up events… but it was all stuff I knew how to do through skateboarding. I figured out that those activities are actually work-life related and skateboarding can be the stepping stone to it. That’s what the people at AFUK got pretty stoked on.

I had no education whatsoever in photography, filming, carpentry or setting up events… but it was all stuff I knew how to do through skateboarding.

Did you ever struggle with going from skater to teacher?
In the beginning, I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing.” It’s been learning by doing and learning by believing. My first year was really tough because the students were really insecure and critical. They needed a grown up dude who knew how things should be done but I was myself — 26, really confused and making everything up. So they got really frustrated and we had a lot of fights about defining the whole thing.
After half a year, I was close to giving up, but then Daniel stepped in and we started coming up with awesome projects together—like establishing the first DIY skate park with concrete together with the students. That broke the ice with that generation. Ever since Daniel and I started working together, we’ve held on to the ideal of giving students the most responsibility possible to produce a proper DIY skate park or let them do something in media production. It’s a way to give them confidence. As soon as they take ownership on a project, they have some serious pride in their work. 

How do you see skateboarding as a creative release to help troubled kids get through their problems? 
Skateboarding has this huge potential of changing you. As soon as you decide you want to be a skateboarder, you step into this prefabricated world of aesthetics — ways to dress, act, meet up and experience the world around you. It’s a complete package. And this is one of the biggest gifts for a teenager — because teens are desperately searching for an identity. For our students who are a bit weaker in the sense of social and cultural capital, skateboarding is also a way for them to escape all the bullshit in their lives. It gives them a place where they can be together with other kids dealing with the same kind of bullshit.
So skateboarding is the energy behind: the idea with the workshop is not to let them become good skateboarders, but show them that they are capable of doing things and they know things that have value. And that they actually can continue to get an education and go the way they want to go. Skateboarding is the basis for all creative action they are taking.

The idea with the workshop is not to let them become good skateboarders, but show them that they are capable of doing things and they know things that have value.

What’s next for AFUK SKATE?
Right now we are meeting so many different people with different dreams, so we aren’t sure. At some point, we are thinking about setting up a skateboard high school or something. We would love to keep on growing together with AFUK. They believe in learning by failing, which is super generous and super important.

Originally printed in Bitchslap issue 23