Mobbing Toronto

Words by Satva Leung

As the newly appointed team manager for Ricta Wheels and Mob Griptape, the first thing on my agenda was to start thumbing through the list of potential cities that would make for an ideal skate trip. You know, an abundance of spots within a small vicinity, a low bust factor, picturesque scenery, cordial locals, and maybe even a little culture via a bevy of excellent restaurants. Besides being the team manager for Ricta and Mob, I also produce a series of skate DVDs called The Streets, where we spend a significant amount of time in a given metropolitan area and completely dissect everything it has to offer for you, the skateboarder. Well, Toronto, Ontario just happened to be on that list of cities that we wanted to cover, so I figured, hey, why not kill two birds with one stone and bring some team riders up to Canada to film for The Streets and shoot an article for TWS?
Originally, the crew was supposed to be Kerry Getz, Kareem Campbell, Cairo Foster, Enrique Lorenzo, Nick Palmquist, Jack Curtin, Antwuan Dixon, photographer Scott Pommier, filmer Los, and me. Sounds like quite the varied and solid crew, huh? Ahhh, if only they all made it to town. Kerry had to sell his house, so he couldn’t make it, and Jack got hurt in S.F. right before the trip. He had called me a few days before the trip and said he wanted to go and get a trick at the notorious Clipper ledge and needed someone to film it. I was down, but in the back of my head I wanted to tell him to save it for Toronto. But what are you gonna do? I don’t want to sound like dude’s mom. “Don’t jump down those stairs-you’re going to hurt yourself!”
Kareem had a nightmare with Canadian customs. They denied him for some passport B.S. A few days before we arrived in Toronto, authorities found an Al Qaeda terror cell pretty close to Toronto, so airport security was definitely “heightened.” Supposedly the terrorists wanted to blow up the Skydome, the retractable-roof stadium where the Blue Jays play. Now all the cars that go into the stadium are required to be searched by bomb-sniffing dogs, and they use giant mirrors to peer for any suspicious activity underneath the cars. Every time we’d be skating past the Skydome, we’d have this weird premonition that it was about to explode-no joke. Anyway, with everything so “heightened,” it was no surprise Los and his scruffy beard were pulled aside for no reason when we were first entering Canada. Antwuan Dixon did not get pulled aside, but that’s because he wasn’t with us-he had to do a tour for his shoe sponsor. We’re just his griptape sponsor, so I guess we’re a couple funny faces down on the totem pole. But come on, what grip sponsors actually do tours, right? Luckily Cairo, Nick, and Enrique made it out, and Appleyard happened to be in town during the same time, so it all worked out.
Toronto really is a multicultural city. We checked out Little Italy, Greektown, Little Portugal, Chinatown, and the Kensington Market among others. It was June, so the World Cup soccer (football, if you’re not American) games were going off and people were getting crazy in the streets just like they would in any European city. As far as our skateboarding schedule went, it was good timing to watch the games as they’d usually start around noon. We’d kick back and watch the first half and then go skate amongst the many cars and flags in the streets. If Italy won, we’d see a line of 30 cars all with the Italian flags waving out the window and people honking nonstop. The only problem was if you were in a car and got stuck in the middle of this lineup, you couldn’t escape for a good half hour.
Nightlife in Toronto goes off. It reminds me of San Francisco a bit, where most of the cool spots are smaller bars/clubs and everybody knows each other. But unlike S.F., where everything closes at 2:00 a.m., you can find tons of after-hour clubs and parties if you want to pull an all-nighter. Queen Street has tons of cool bars tcheck out, and like back in the day, there were a lot of house parties too, which was refreshing. Be sure to find this kid named Flo-he’s sure to hook it up. He looks like the Asian kid in Indiana Jones, but he has all the hooks in the T-Dot including the 80-dollar faux Bape hoodies-what?! You also have to track down Dan Bochart if you’re in town-nonstop laughs with this guy. Get a couple of Steam Whistles in him and get ready. But if you want to just kick it mellow and drink a few cold ones in the hotel, prepare yourself, because it’s not like America where there are liquor stores on every corner. They have beer stores, which are controlled by the government and close at 8:00 p.m., so get those coldies at noon and put ’em on ice for later.
With its streets decorated in brick buildings, its summer nights incredibly hot and humid, and its parties often lasting until the early morn, Toronto definitely has that “East Coast” feel to it. And with the many spots littered within skating distance from one to the next, the skate scene definitely mimics that of New York or Philadelphia. The skaters travel in packs and consistently mob (no pun intended) the streets simultaneously instilling a bit of discomfort among the pedestrians. Like any city, downtown is where the largest concentration of marble-clad spots is, and sometimes the only way to get your licks in is to posse up 30 men deep and do the “bum-rush”-just barge the spots so that security is too overwhelmed to deal with all of you. We had to partake in the fun, and when you’re in town, make sure you go by Adrift skate shop or Shred Central and meet up with the locs who’ll show you how it’s done.
When the true need to hit a certain often-tightly guarded spot hits home, some locals even get so crazy as to fully lock the security guards into their own buildings by lodging their boards into the base of the door so that the door is completely inoperable, thus allowing their homeys a good few minutes before the police arrive. But another technique was the distraction trick where if someone wanted to do something at a certain part of a building, the crew would go skate the other side to bust the decoy and get all the guards to go there, all the while they’d be able to get their time on the opposite side of the building. We didn’t bust too many decoys, but our usual routine was to skate all the suburban spots in the day and hit downtown at night. There’s something about skating amazing marble spots in the hot summer nights-so good. As the city is quite huge at over four-million people, the suburban spots are plentiful. Yonge Street is the longest street in the world, so you pretty much drive up it and you’ll find all kinds of cool banks, ledges, rails, and other random hodgepodge. With all the mobbing that went on, it’s hard to believe that in the three weeks we were there, we only got kicked out of spots on two occasions. Not bad.

Satva’s Toronto Must-Hit Top 10

1. The Skydome Banks
The infamous bank-to-curb spot. Not a bust and there is the Steam Whistle Brewery right there where you can take a tour and get a free six-pack.

2. The Beaches
This nice sandy beach is about a fifteen-minute drive east on the lake, but check the bacteria levels in the water should you go in.

3. Adrift
This is the meet-up spot located in the cool Kensington Market. Tons of food around there, and all the local skaters chill there all day long.

4. Daybreak (a.k.a. Johnny Cakes)
This a good breakfast spot where everything comes with a side of pancakes.

5. Downtown In The Dark
The many dope marble spots are best to hit at night.

6. Pho 88
I love my Pho Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. This spot is open ’til 4:00 a.m. and is good and cheap.

7. Ledgeland
This spot is actually two hours outside of Toronto but has the most amazing metal ledges, hence the name.

8. Kensington Market
This area has tons of food spots, cool shops, and has that European feel to it.

9. CBC
This downtown skate spot is never a bust-just go after 2:00 p.m. ’cause all the business people eat lunch on the ledges from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

10. The Brass Rail
Mad backside lipslides down the rail-that’s it.

l shops, and has that European feel to it.

9. CBC
This downtown skate spot is never a bust-just go after 2:00 p.m. ’cause all the business people eat lunch on the ledges from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

10. The Brass Rail
Mad backside lipslides down the rail-that’s it.