Interview with Stoked Boardshop founder Pieter-Willem Ots.
Snowboarder Pieter-Willem Ots founded his own board shop
"I see it as my mission to make people warm for snowboarding".
He prefers beer to mulled wine and carnival in Halle to après-ski in the mountains but for the rest Pieter-Willem Ots is completely obsessed with the noblest of snow sports. "Snowboard is my first love".
Pieter-Willem (32) is undoubtedly the best known Halle snowboarder. With his Stoked Boardshop, located next to the St. Martin's Basilica, he has a strong presence in the streetscape of the carnival city. His shop, where you can buy skate and snowboard equipment, started out small. He served his first customers from his garage, later he transformed a chalet into a shop. Nowadays, Stoked is a well-known player on the snowboard market. Apart from the online shop, there are two Stoked shops, one in Halle and one in Dilbeek. In the shop there is a clothing line of the 'house brand' Stoked Brand. There is also the Stoked Board Academy, which organises skate camps for young people.
Pieter-Willem is a late bloomer when it comes to snowboarding. "I did my first season quite late," he says. A 'season' is a period of several months during which a snowboarder spends time in the mountains in order to board as much as possible. "Guests from the top sports school now are already in Australia or America at 12-13 years old with a budget from Sneeuwsport Vlaanderen. I started snowboarding at 14, I did my first season at 23. You can't do anything professionally, on a world level, because that should be the peak of your career. At 23-24, you have to be the absolute top. Then you're with the established values. Most of the top guys now are between 18 and 22-23." He has had to adjust his ambitions as a professional boarder, but that wasn't hard for him. For Pieter-Willem and his friends, his crew, the fun is central. He already made the mountains of France, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the United States unsafe. On his "to-board-list" are Japan, Canada and Alaska.
Van Dale teaches us that being "stoked" means as much as being in the clouds, going out of your mind. Besides Pieter-Willem's passion for boarding in all its aspects, he also gets excited about other things. "A good time with friends and having a beer together is what I like best. I get really stoked by anything that involves adrenaline: downhill mountain biking, parachuting, that kind of thing. Downhill mountain biking is very close to snowboarding: you don't have everything under control. You have a lot of things coming your way, you have to take a lot into account."
Pieter-Willem thinks about what gives him a rush and, as if automatically, wanders off to snowboarding again. "The feeling that you've popped something you wouldn't normally be able to do. Exceeding yourself: I think that's the biggest rush. A good sales day also gives me a rush."
Pieter-Willem has one sister, Joke, and one brother, Remi. But for now he is the only Ots who has been bitten by the snowboarding bug. "My brother is a footballer and my sister loves horse riding. I did teach them how to snowboard, us Joke, and also always took them on snowboarding trips and they do well. That's one of the coolest things: passing on the sport. I love teaching adults to teach them the joy of snowboarding as well."
Pieter-Willem's Facebook account features the quote "Don't dream your life, live your dream". For the man from Halle, these are not empty words. He gave up his job in accountancy to be able to fully dedicate himself to Stoked. "Many people are busy with things they are not interested in. Outside of that, they do their hobbies. I did the same for a long time: at a certain moment, you just have to earn your money. If you see how little starting capital you have to start something on the internet, I think there are possibilities for many people. To not dream about doing something but to just really crack it."
With his board shop, Pieter-Willem gives a lot back to the Halle community. He sponsors class parties at the local high school, donates Stoked T-shirts to the scouts for their outdoor party. He supports the sport of snowboarding by sponsoring and organizing competitions and free photo shoots for snowboarders. He has created a Stoked Team of lunges, skaters, snowboarders and artists. "That's the most important thing. Not just in our industry but in general. Even if you were to open a football store, for example. The first thing you should do is give something back to the community from whom you 'take' something. If you're running a commercial business, it seems only logical to me that you should also give something back. I believe that positive actions have positive consequences. Especially in boardsports that also increases your visibility. People see what you stand for, what you're doing."
"I've always seen it as my mission to make people chaud for the sport," says Pieter-Willem. That was also one of the ways for me to grow, by giving back. It's not like there was a strategy behind it, but apparently it helped. People appreciated that. It's cool to see that the riders don't have to be busy with an extra holiday job, but can give skate lessons with us and earn their money with that. And if they are sponsored by us, they can buy their equipment with a discount. So they can always ride with the best equipment and perform even better. It's a bit of a rolling snowball."
Interview by Journalism Student Alexander VanhalstPhoto
1: Alexander VanhalstPhoto
2: Nino Savenberg
Founder Stoked Boardshop • Loves Snowboarding, Skateboarding and always happy to help.
Last edited on