‘So, I took some shitty photos, made Essay #1 and people wanted to buy it, somehow.’


Sander Rodenhuis


April 2023

Tell us something about The Netherlands people do not know?
There’s more than Amsterdam! And the best skaters come from Deventer.

Who started Essay skatemag and what inspired the idea in first place?
Me, Sander Rodenhuis. It started as the product of high school graduation project. I didn’t really skate then but was always interested in it. I wanted to get into photography as well, so I figured, if I have to spend so much time on something, I might as well make it fun. So, I took some shitty photos, made Essay #1 and people wanted to buy it, somehow. Fun fact: I don’t have a copy of Essay #1 myself, as I sold them all. Right now, the main Essay team is me, Yannick Wijgman as sales guy, Julia van Luijn as designer. Then we have Ziggy Schaap and Frederick Walker as senior photographers.

You seem to have a great team backing up Essay. If you could hire one extra team member, what would it be for?
Maybe somebody for social media stuff, or an extra writer. Some kind of ATV- powerhouse scenario.

What were some of the highlights up to date?
Going on a US trip meeting a bunch of Instagram homies and visiting the DLX warehouse, Vans sending me and Ziggy to Berlin for the Shop Riot contest, seeing a random kid in the outskirts of Amsterdam joining the session with an Essay sticker on his board.

‘While he was browsing through it, I got nervous and ran away.’

Light_Boris van den Brink, bs nosegrind in Arnhem. Photo Hugo Snelooper
Boris van den Brink • Bs nosegrind • Arnhem, Holland   © Hugo Snelooper

Any embarrassments along the way?
I interviewed Romain Batard, the French filmer, and called him Romain Bardet in the magazine. Romain Bardet is a professional cyclist. Getting names wrong in general, really sucks. Also, I saw Dustin Dollin at the Dogshit spot in Berlin, and gave him a copy of Essay #2. While he was browsing through it, I got nervous and ran away.

How do you guys decide what content goes into the mag and into your social media channel?
I want to have everything in magazine always, but of course that’s hard and impossible, it would be too expensive to print so much! A lot of it is time based, how much time can we take for something? And is it worthy of print? I still try to have photos come out before videos too, so if I know the video is going to come out quickly, it’s not worth making a print article for it.

How frequent is the mag and how many print runs do you do?
We’re aiming for four issues per year now. Since the last issue we have a good system of advertising and financing, so we can afford to print around 2000 copies each issue now. Somehow, we managed to go from 100 copies for issue #10 and not getting rid of them, to having 2000 copies for issue #13 and still not having enough! It’s a good problem to have.

Rob Maatman, boardslide in Groningen. Photo Sander Rodenhuis

What are some of the challenges Essay faces today?
I can’t live off of my student loan anymore, and Essay doesn’t pay the bills either, so I have to balance working a logistics job 30 hours a week with skating and working on the magazine. It’s hard but rewarding when it works out in the end. Luckily Yannick Wijgman is now helping me on the advertising side, which saves me a lot of time. The time I used to spent chasing people for money, is now free so I can go skate, shoot content, go home and then make articles and stuff. My girlfriend, Julia van Luijn is doing 90% of the graphic design, so that’s in good hands too. And of course, it’s hard to compete with the big dogs like Free, Solo or Place. They get all the European content, while I focus almost exclusively on the Netherlands. Our content pool is way smaller, but I do want to expand to Belgium slowly.

Any companies that support Essay that deserve a shout out?
Vans for the recent support, all the brands that have ever done ads in the magazine! I hope I don’t forget someone that counted on a shoutout.

Do you think people are still interested in prints?
Yes and no! The older skaters do as they’re used to prints, but the younger ones can get interested in print if they see anything relatable in the magazine. If we include photos from all over the country instead of the standard Amsterdam/Rotterdam content, all the kids will feel like getting a photo is something to work for. They’ll see that even small-town legends have a place or medium that cares about them. As in buying print, that’s definitely something of the past. Unless it’s Thrasher, people won’t really pay for skate mags anymore as the whole system is now based on giving them out for free. I will always buy print, and other nerds will buy print, but unless it’s a special edition, Essay will be free from here on out.

‘Showing them a plan B or C. That’s my theory, I think I’m doing that right now but it’s up to the crowd to see if they agree.’

You mentioned younger generations ‘can get interested in print if they see anything relatable in the magazine’. From your own experience, what works with this audience and what not?
I think the young kids love to see Rob Maatman doing anything, like we all do. But I think what gives them the most motivation is seeing something from their area pop up. Like this kid from Zwolle, he saw his older friends get a photo in one issue, was stoked on it, went out to shoot a photo with his local photographer and got a photo of himself in the next issue. So, it’s probably a thing of showing what else is possible in this weird little world of ours. Showing the kids that it’s not always about skatepark reels and bigspin front boards. Showing them a plan B or C. That’s my theory, I think I’m doing that right now but it’s up to the crowd to see if they agree.

What are some of the other skatemags that you like reading and why?
Tough one… I don’t read too many, but Solo is always good, Free has some good stuff occasionally, but Grey is forever my favourite. They have a very dinstinct photo style too, you instantly know if a photo was shot by Joel Peck, Rich West, or Henry Kingsford. That’s my top 3 skate photographers, right there. A propos from France did some cool, conceptual issues as well.

‘you don’t want to disappoint Pontus’

Light_Jason Lijnzaat, fs lipslide in Zandvoort. Photo Sander Rodenhuis
Jason Lijnzaat • Fs lipslide • Zandvoort, Holland  © Sander Rodenhuis

Funny you did not mention Pocket from Germany. Is this due to the ongoing rivalry between the two countries?
(Laughing) No, Solo started in Germany too, just like Place who had a good run when Danny Sommerfeld was mad productive. I don’t know about Pocket, their videos are crazy good, and I always want to copy it and do the same thing when I see one of their followed ones. I think I have one physical Pocket issue, and it felt a bit weird.

Last question. If you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
Man! Maybe someone like Michael Burnett because he has tons of experience and stories. Just like Jamie Owens. Or maybe Friedjof Feye, a German photographer who’s a bit mysterious. I like to be undercover and unknown too, but now Essay is growing, I have to go out and meet people! And that’s okay. Pontus Alv is up there too, but I feel like I have to take a proper journalism course before I go to Pontus. If I can do a Pontus article, it has to be the best thing ever, you don’t want to disappoint Pontus.

If you tell Pontus that you have multiple girlfriends, I think you will break the ice just fine with him.
(Laughing) Maybe, but then I would lose my own girlfriend and that means I would have to do the graphic design myself!

Light_Allard van der Veen pushing, Amsterdam. Photo Frederick Walker
Allard van der Veen • Pushing • Amsterdam, Holland  © Frederick Walker