For the 77th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Stefan Brandow. Stefan is a 32-year-old inline skater living in Columbus, Ohio. He works as a graphic designer for a visual merchandising company and runs his own clothing brand Outward.

photo by Kyle Wood

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

The state of Ohio actually took very strict measures early on and locked down before other states, so we’ve been back to “normal” quicker than other places. Columbus is a very young city with a lot happening. Most of our big festivals have been pushed back to the fall, instead of happening this summer. Most stores and restaurants are open here, but with restrictions as to how many people are allowed in at a time and obviously social distancing is constantly promoted in all aspects of life. Some state’s responses to the virus were much much better than our federal government’s response. As a country we have no affordable health care and no support for those who lost their jobs or businesses. I feel like our country really failed it’s citizens compared to the support other countries gave their citizens and how they reacted to the pandemic.

Were you skating during the COVID-19 lockdown?

I stopped skating at spots and doing tricks for awhile to keep myself safe and not clog up hospitals just incase I got injured. During quarantine my girlfriend and I would occasionally skate our 4×80 setups around areas of the city that weren’t populated or busy, and I would go for fitness skates by myself on my 3×110 setup. Now that things are somewhat normal I’ve been out skating spots and filming tricks for videos again.

photo by Aaron Hobgood

Are you doing any cross training? 

I normally lift weights at a gym almost every day but gyms have been closed down since March. I really do not like doing at home workouts. I tried a few things at home but they just don’t compare and aren’t as enjoyable for me. We’ve been walking our dog 2-3 times a day and I’ve just try to fitness skate and run occasionally to stay active. I’m very ready for our gyms to open up.

What other activities are you doing to occupy your time? 

I’ve been surprisingly swamped with design work. As people have lost their jobs they have needed to rethink how they make money so a lot of people and companies have needed new design work. I also released a new line for my streetwear brand in March, as well working on a new skating project for the winter with some of my all time favorite skaters. We also got a Nintendo Switch right when quarantine started and it helped immensely keeping us busy when we couldn’t leave the house or work.

wall ride photo by Joe Austin (left) – fishbrain photo by Colin Batu

How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life? 

The biggest thing COVID-19 has changed for us this year is travel plans and concerts. Our international trips were pushed back and could still be cancelled, and of all the many concerts we planned to go to only one was rescheduled. Day to day life here has only changed by long lines at stores and having to wear masks in these stores. There are many more people around our parks and walking/running during the day, since they either work from home now, have lost their jobs, or their gyms are closed. Luckily skating is the main activity in my life and it has been normal to do here for the past few weeks. All in all things could have been much worse and it just ended up being a slight change to our daily routines. 

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

A concern of mine is how these shutdowns will affect small businesses and those without jobs going forward. Obviously measures need to be taken to keep people safe, but part of the reason we love our city and neighborhood so much is all the unique stores and restaurants and amazing creative people that run them. I think there needs to be a middle ground between keeping people safe and letting people still being able to make a living. Unfortunately most issues here in this country are made to be black/white and left/right, when we need to compromise and find the best situations for everyone involved not just the polarized opposite sides.

topacid photo by Colin Batu (left) – 180 photo by Craig Benabu (right)

How is your local skate community responding?

At the beginning we either did not skate together or if we did skate we stayed distant and didn’t go to skate spots. Our Tuesday night recreational skates around the city have been cancelled until mid-June as sometimes it can be a large group. The aggressive skating community here is made up of some my best friends of over a decade and they are basically the only people I hang out with outside of skating most of the time anyway. As the virus and quarantine have slowed down and we’ve realized we are all healthy, we’ve been slowing getting out to session and film together again when we can. 

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Be polite and respectful to people’s choices and decisions during these times. Everyone will have different levels of comfort going forward. We’re all in a weird time together and should do whatever we can to make people less stressed and feel a sense of safe normality when possible. 

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Header photo by Jordan Fowler


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