The discussion to pillage Europe came from their unsettled politics around February 2014. Local supplies and way of life were becoming a bore, and a bigger, better opportunity to drink beer, deteriorate private property and optimise the Tinder radar was suddenly visible. As word spread, a crew formed far and wide. Our pathway towards discovery was in full sight and the reality of ‘the good life’ was starting to kick in.
Google Maps lead navigator Simon Thorp and I departed New Zealand shores on August 12—three weeks earlier than the majority of the Platoon. We were posing undercover as skate school students and our squad was to gather critical information for beer prices, bar opening and closing hours, bikes and metro maps, in order to navigate and settle the rest of the troops when we were united. Simon and I carefully and diligently made our way through Tokyo, Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague. Up until this point, we’d taken cover with names such as Simon Lockett, Lennie Burmeister and Marek Kocek, joining them in their local township celebrations and activities. We skateboarded some of our childhood dream locations. The journey was a damn blast, but it was time to move on and meet the second squad in Paris.
After a fantastic 22-hour train journey with no sleep, nor air conditioning or phone battery, and a police interrogation included at no extra cost, we arrived in Paris. We then paid what we understood to be a taxi driver the unreasonable amount of $70 to drop us at our apartment, only to wait four hours for The Rachet (Deen Rakich) to turn up with the keys. Later that evening Jarrad arrived and quickly earned the name American Jarrad (AJ) for his loud direction-seeking requests to local Parisians.
Finally, the time had come to group up with the rest of the Platoon who were disembarking from Shanghai, China. After battling the land of Tsingtao beer drinkers and horrible smog, they began making their way towards Barcelona the same time we did. It was an exciting time, with exciting times to follow.
Flying into Barcelona, I scanned the endless sea of apartment blocks; it looked like a cityscape scene from The Dark Knight. All the Spaniards looked different and didn’t speak English or French. Thankfully my dormant volcano of Spanish erupted back to life and we made it to the apartment to meet building manager Alejandro. He was full of anxiousness about the twelve of us entering and we all assured him that we didn’t drink or party. So he left, we filled the fridge with beer, the others turned up—minus Jo and Kev, to my own surprise—and the music began.
The Platoon had officially united; stories were drunk and beers were told, and Barcelona was finally ours for the pissing. Then we woke up. The initial gasp for life in the hangover trench was not one to remember, simply because it was the same feeling as every terrible hangover, however I soon realised where I was and who I was with! So I sat up, looked right and saw a stream of buses fly past on the street below, looked left and saw a stream of snot fly in and out of Simon’s nostril and proceeded to depart the room, heading towards the social frontline of the lounge.
The smell of arse was in the air. It was like a sore ankle; the more you moved, the worse it got in every direction. That plus a headache and lack of balance made things difficult navigating through the bodies covering the floor of the frontline. I remembered where Jake’s room was and reversed back through my tracks, opening his door to discover the smallest, darkest and hottest bedroom I’d ever seen in my 25 years of life. There was Jake, looking like something I can’t even describe. The alcohol had done its damage to our vocal chords, but we conversed anyway and decided to venture to the rooms further down the hallway in search of life. Walking back through the lounge, some life emerged from Boonz’s dream sleep; he was sprawled out on the un-pulled-out pull-out couch. We hobbled towards Deen and AJ’s door and, feeling an increase in local humidity, we continued further down until we reached Crabman. Crabman had the look of exciting news on his face and proceeded to lead us to where he and Keza made peace. The sight was something familiar but not familiar at all; Keza was passed out with a classic morning glory pointer, and the best part was Crabman had to wake up to the sight! We all giggled for a while and then left him in silence.
The clouds were disappearing, the birds were chirping. It was a damn good looking day, and surprisingly it didn’t take the crew too long to gather—even Sly’s little-bigger bro Asty joined the ranks that morning. We got out and made our way to the fantastic spot known as Paral-lel, the place where every manual trick you knew of, didn’t know of and that hadn’t been done, had been done. We didn’t care though; in fact, we didn’t even skate the manual pads. We decided the best place to skate was the flatground. It was some fine flatground too; a few of us moved over into the shade and began following Crabman’s Pilates class, watching the rest of the companions roll round warming up with some solid bench ollies. It was a good time. We had all made it to Barcelona.
Just then we saw Kev, Jo and Dave Colman. They were in a bit of a state. It turned out Jo was still recovering from a ruthless face squash, grind and jolt to his jaw in Shanghai. They hadn’t slept and had just had a nightmare introduction by a local skater from Barca who’d promised them clean accommodation. Of course, the promise was all but the truth. Crabman was the man and went and rescued them from despair, bringing them back to the ransacked apartment, which was still a huge improvement on their previous night’s digs.
We were back on the beers, chilling on the benches and chilled until Boonz logged a clip of clips to spring the footage bonanza into life! My Spanish could have saved me but my directions didn’t, and I managed to get us lost underground. Boonz, Keza, Twiggy and AJ separated to locate some new Barca lady friends from the previous night, while the rest of us dined in across the road from the Universitat ledges for a quality paella. Not much else happened that night apart from skating at MACBA, while Jesus Fernandez and Daniel Lebron played classic guitar and sung in Spanish (for us, we wished) until undercover cops fined all of us, including the Spanish pros. It was quite exciting.
Though all sounded good, the Platoon was finding it challenging to transit across the city in good time, in order to touch and railslide all the sweet and famous spots of Barca we’d dreamed of and still have time for beer later. The decision to hire bikes was made. The hire of twelve tourist metro cruisers went down, ten of which turned off one way, and Deen and I went on a long covert mission round the city for the remainder of the day, taking photos, panoramas and selfies for the boys. Word on the street was that five minutes after hiring the bikes, Boonz was cut off by Kieran and went flying to the pavement, managing to bend his front wheel while flipping the bike over!
The next few days were jam packed, everyone got into the rhythm of the day and to put it honestly, some good skateboarding was had and documented. What a delight. The Kiwis were finally staking their claim on this golden ground. Like a swarm of bees on our bikes, we made it from spot to spot, raising the Commonwealth flag and moving on until eventually, we flagged and moved on to get dinner. Finding food was a whole other story; we presumed Barca was full of fantastic street paella for an empty pocket of spare change but that was not at all the case. When it came to locating an appealing place to dine, this city made it feel like you’d been kicked out of all the spots for the day and you may as well go home and skate your dad’s flat bar on the street. This was always a frustrating process and after the first week we’d figured our own desired methods for eating, often splitting the group up, then having to re-unite at another location, unless it was breakfast. If we all waited, breakfast would take us all day, so the day often started with Jo, Kev and Dave making headway on a mission.
I’ve mentioned Paral-lel once and I’ll mention it again, because it was the bomb and we went there almost every second day. To some extent, the quiet plan that Jo, Kev and Crabman set up worked out: to meet at the same spot for a warm-up, as some of us were good at getting up early, and some of us weren’t. I don’t blame them for leaving early either; the apartment had all the smells of a rubbish dump, literally four bags of empty beer cans each morning, a fridge with spilt, spoiled milk, a dishwasher that no one used, a washing machine that was always full, and most horrid of all, one small shower between twelve men. In order to even get a warm-up before sundown, they had to get up first to miss the shower traffic jam and floor flooding extravaganza that took place beginning at about 10am and wrapping up around 1pm. I should explain: Simon’s and my experiences with the place weren’t too bad, as we entered the apartment before any others and killed it with bedroom selection. We had a king size bed, and didn’t even realise till the third day that it was the only bedroom with air conditioning. It was our haven from heaven.
Heaven was Barcelona, which sometimes got the best of you. Such as poor Keza, taken advantage of by who knows who and having his iPhone stolen, and young AJ being whacked in the jaw by a human with a baton for five euros, and Boonz forgetting his way home one evening, not arriving until 5pm the next day. Typically the evening began with beers after the first trick was filmed around 2pm. By the time we’d wrapped up, we’d pick a spot such as MACBA, head there, be approached by one of many ‘Pakis’ selling illegal street beers and repeating the persuasive sales line, “Beer?”, and then buy many. Initially we found the term ‘Paki’ a sure racist one, however we soon learned that every man, hobo and skater called them this. Of all the cultural things I can remember appreciating about Barcelona, the Pakis were a surprisingly memorable one and seemed to be an important part of the smooth running party scene and social life that’s instilled within the people of the city. They were a friendly bunch with a great team spirit and the ability to suddenly vanish in the middle of a sale at the sign of police four blocks away. This is no exaggeration either; the main reason may have been due to the amount of hidden marijuana and cocaine they each held on them. We were warned and all well aware of the pickpockets, however I feel like a group of twelve skateboarders may have been a little intimidating, and we never seemed to get more attention than their conversational eye contact with a little down-gaze to the pockets and back up to the eyes, letting us know ‘you’ve been sussed out but your mates are a bit scary, please come back alone a bit later’.
Thanks to the apartment Wi-Fi, members of the crew downloaded Tinder and had some great success; the stories aren’t mine to tell, however the drinking conversations it brought were great. It became easy to spot the Tinder users amongst the Platoon during the frontline drinking sessions. To start with they’d be in deep concentration with their phone, flicking away. Now the trick here was to distinguish whether it was Facebook, Instagram, Tinder or someone taxing someone else’s phone. The Facebook user would sit relaxed in their chair sipping a beverage, gracefully swiping the screen in a vertical motion. The Instagrammer would be almost the same except occasionally stopping to double tap and swiftly continuing the vertical swipe. The Tinder user was different: hunched over with both hands on the phone, focused with an oscillating finger in a left and right motion, with the frequency often accelerating in the right direction. This was the defining feature. To identify someone taxing another’s phone required less focus; all you needed to look for was a large group of adults gathered round the phone hacker, hurriedly typing away while everyone quietly chuckled.
We were in Barcelona for three weeks, and for about two weeks of that, the full crew was there. In total I believe there were fourteen of us, and it really was a mint time away with a group of Kiwi skateboarders. Some of us had been to Europe before and some hadn’t, some were used to foreign lands, others new to them. The mix of characters made the trip memorable, and new friends were made as well. The footage and photos from our trip only show a small portion of what skateboarding is about. A trip like this is the best reminder that real skateboarding is about good people, places and atmosphere and can be enjoyed with anyone, anytime, anywhere on this great planet full of concrete and marble metropolitan areas. What was once a kick-around activity as a minor can lead to something that rules your life enough to make you quit the job you love to go skateboarding with your friends on the other side of the planet. All because on the inside it makes you feel like you’re a kid again without a single worry. What could be better than three weeks’ skateboarding in Barcelona, having genuine fun with unpretentious, likeminded people and no real world material issues determining the day by day living? Cheers, fellas!
Text by Brett Band
Published in issue #56