For the 90th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Aleksandar Brezak. Aleksander is a 30-year-old inline skater living between Graz, Austria and Varazdin, Croatia. He works as a project manager and developing engineer for a private company in the automotive industry.

What steps did Austria take to battle COVID-19 and how are things there now?

Austria, as well as other parts of Europe, closed their Borders as soon as COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. That was the moment I realized I would not be able to travel to Canada to visit family and friends. At that point I was in Austria, which was on total lockdown during the first three weeks. We were only allowed to leave the house to go to the hospital, purchase groceries or to help others in need. People began working from home, which is still the case for a lot of people even with the situation becoming more relaxed. Things are getting better here, with borders reopening and regulations become less strict. 

Were you skating during the COVID-19 lockdown?

I went skating with one of my friends during the third week of the lockdown. We speed skated 40 km (25 miles) along the Mur River in Graz. To keep safe we wore masks and kept a safe distance from each other and from the other people who were also using the trail. The following week the government announced that outdoor recreational sports would be allowed, except for skate parks which were closed for another week. So we decided to focus more on street skating since the chance of getting busted by cops was lower. Now we are going to skate parks more often and also made some trips to the Adriatic Sea in Croatia to skate there.

Photo by Matthew Jastrzemski

Is there anything that would make you stop skating?

Nothing. I need skating in order to clear my mind and relax. I need it to release stress as well, so I don’t think that anything could or would make me stop skating.

What other activities are you doing to occupy your time?

In the first two weeks of the lockdown I was planting a lot of vegetable seeds. Once my apartment was full of them I began gardening at my girlfriend’s house. I find that planting trees and working in the yard is a good way to relax and a productive use of my time. My girlfriend says that gardening is becoming my new addiction.

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life?

At the beginning, my ‘normal’ everyday life changed completely and things are still not quite back to ‘normal’. For example I still predominantly work from home instead of on-site in the office. Additionally, my mandatory work hours are reduced, along with my salary, due to a newly structured economic plan developed by the Austrian government in order to help companies keep their employees. So I guess that leaves me with more time for skating and gardening.

What are your major concerns right now and looking into the future?

The major concern, or let’s say fear, that I have is that the economy will collapse because of the situation in the world. I’m also a bit concerned about a second wave of infections and lockdowns. Nevertheless, we need to hope for the best and that’s what I am doing. I am looking forward to some contests in Croatia that will happen this summer. The Pannonian Challenge in Osijek, Croatia has moved this year to July because of COVID-19. People outside of Europe will probably not be able to come because of the restrictions, but I’m still looking forward to seeing some of the European blading community in Croatia.

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How is your local skate community responding?

Larger skating groups, such as City Skating Graz, that usually host public skating events every Friday during summer for recreational skating are still postponing their events. The aggressive skating community, however, is not social distancing. This is a much smaller community that has begun to take advantage of the warmer weather and open skate parks in order to blade again.


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