Oakley China

By Dylan Radloff

Have you ever encountered a new situation or environment, be it your first day at a new school or the first time you step foot in a strip club, and you’re a bit anxious but you think you have some idea what to expect, only to discover that the picture you had in your head was completely off? That was Shanghai, China.
A month before the trip, I got a phone call from Bob Burnquist about the gargantuan new skatepark that had just been erected in Shanghai. A bit more footage was needed for the upcoming Oakley video, Our Life, and with the exception of Lutzka, nobody on the team had ever been to China.
Chris Senn, Fabrizio Santos, and Dave Bachinsky, along with photographer Chris Ortiz and filmers Ricki Bedenbaugh and James Wilschke, arrived in China three days before the rest of us and kept themselves busy filming at street spots. After a fourteen-hour flight that seemed to take a week, the remainder of the crew (Bob Burnquist, Ryan Sheckler, Rune Glifberg, and I) finally touched down. The smog in the air was so thick that the runway lights became visible only about five seconds before landing.
After exiting the plane and going through customs, we were immediately surrounded by about twenty dudes yelling, “Taxi! Taxi! Taxi!” I opted for the guy who spoke the best broken English, and he led us outside to two less-than-reliable-looking cars. No taxi signs, no credentials, no meters, just a couple of janky 1980s-era rust buckets. It’s as if these guys were in need of some extra cash and decided to be taxi drivers for the night.
Riding in a car in China will definitely put hair on your chest. No traffic laws, no driver’s licenses, just pure, no-holds-barred vehicular anarchy; every car for itself. When approaching a red traffic light, instead of stopping and waiting for it to turn green, our driver would simply lay on his horn and blast through the intersection in hopes that cross-traffic would hear his warning and be smart and/or afraid enough to yield. To make this ridiculous situation even worse, people on bicycles and scooters crowded the streets and rode around with equal amounts of bravado and disregard.
As we approached the heart of Shanghai, the enormous size and scale of the city was nothing short of mind-blowing. A sea of towering skyscrapers stretched as far as the thick blanket of smog would allow the eye to see. The building lights make Las Vegas look sleepy in comparison. One gigantic building had an animated Pac-Man light display that covered the entire structure.
After arriving at our hotel, the entire crew headed across the street to eat. Our guide Leejay recommended the place, the first of many delicious eateries. Had he not been there to steer us toward the right places, who knows what we would have ended up eating. Fourteen people gorged themselves and drank their jet lag away, and when the bill arrived, the only part of it I could decipher among the jumbled Chinese text was the number 1,050 at the bottom. After I almost regurgitated my meal, Leejay explained to me that, after factoring in the exchange rate, it came to about eighty dollars. Wicked.

As we awoke the next morning, we were greeted by acid rain and wet streets. No skating today. What better way to cheer us up than to hit the counterfeit flea market? The second we arrived at the market and stepped out of the taxi, we were surrounded by merchants who shoved pictures of various counterfeit items in our faces and yelled, “Watch!? Bag!? DVD!? Shoes!? Watch!? DVD!?” Imagine a swap meet the size of four football fields crammed as tightly as possible with any counterfeit item you could ever dream of. Diamond Rolex? Eighteen dollars. Louis Vuitton duffel bag? Twenty-one dollars. Socks? Twenty pairs for a dollar. It was literally cheaper to buy new socks and underwear than to wash the stuff you already had.
While squeezing through one of the many crowded aisles, one particularly aggressive female mercha grabbed me by the arm and demanded that I buy a T-shirt emblazoned with a giant panda bear. Now, I love a good panda shirt, but this one was about four sizes too small. Not interested. Unfortunately, the crazed shirt monster would not take no for an answer and wouldn’t release her death grip until I obliged. Sheckler had just purchased a 50-cent Taser gun, so my first instinct was to find him and have him Tase her in the face, but he was nowhere in sight. A large crowd quickly gathered, and I realized I had no choice but to give her a dollar for the crappy shirt and be on my way.
Not much better than Shanghai’s drivers and roads are its subways and sidewalks. It seems that nobody ever bothered to explain to the population of China the rule about personal space. Ever talk to somebody and they keep inching closer and closer to your face until you can smell their teeth? That’s the entire population of China. People would literally slam into each other on the sidewalk and not even break stride, let alone apologize or even acknowledge what had happened. On the subways, people’s faces would be inches away from my neck with their hot stinky breath blowing up my nostrils.
Traveling through the city, one can’t help but notice its odors. Imagine a smell you’ve never encountered before but you know it smells bad. The scent of restaurants cooking who knows what type of meat, sewage gas, automobile exhaust, and trash dumps randomly situated throughout the city combined to create a stench that would choke a vulture. The thing that made the odor tolerable was the number of incredible skate spots on every street in every direction. Pristine marble ledges were a dime a dozen. Perfect rails, banks, ledges, gaps, and hubbas were everywhere we looked. For those with an eye for spotting skateboard terrain, it was pure sensory overload.

The weather cooperated the next day. Time to hit the park. Words can’t even begin to describe its enormity. It’s a 137,000-square-foot maze of bowls, vert ramps, curbs, ledges, quarterpipes, rails, capsules, manual pads, bumps, hubbas, stairs, rails, gaps, pools, and benches. You know it’s gnarly when Bob and Rune’s jaws dropped with equal parts amazement and fear when they saw the bowls. Even more amazing than the park’s size is the fact that the layout of both the transition and street areas somehow flowed really well. There were lines for days. In the three days we spent at the park, I heard not one complaint.
Sheckler terrorized every square inch of the park with a kickflip over an eight-foot keyhole in the big capsule, as seen in his 20 Questions (TWS, August 2006), and several tricks over a gap that spanned the edge of the vert ramp to the top of a set of stairs that lay at least twenty feet away. The little man’s transition skills definitely became apparent as he launched effortless airs and stylish grinds on the monster transition.
Bob, Rune, and Chris each took turns tearing the park a new anus. To see these guys show up at the world’s largest (and scariest) skatepark and immediately terrorize the hell out of the place is definitely a sight to behold. Rune’s padless and fearless viking style had me and everyone else who was watching grinded their teeth in fright as he proceeded to own the place.
All the while, Fabrizio and Dave plotted their assault on the city in the street section.
The next few days were spent in the streets of Shanghai and its innumerable spots. One that stands out was a rail at the entrance of a crowded restaurant behind an even more crowded sidewalk on an even more crowded street. What made Fabrizio think this would be a good place for a front board, I’ll never know. As Ortiz began to set up the flashes on the sidewalk, I thought to myself that this would be an impossible feat, as the rail stood about fifteen feet from the entrance of the restaurant and ended at a sidewalk thick with pedestrians. Fabrizio, in true fearless Brazilian nature, propped the front door of the restaurant open and strolled inside with his board. Seconds later, he ran out the door full speed, jumped on his board, and popped a front boardslide into a crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalk. In amazement, a crowd of at least 100 formed a barrier and watched in awe as he tried a few more times and landed it. Cheers and screams and oohs and aahs rang out as if the people had witnessed a unicorn crap a glazed doughnut.
With the recent blowing out of Barcelona and other cities across the globe, it seems that Shanghai is destined to become skateboarding’s next hot spot. I have yet to meet a skater who doesn’t love cheap black-market counterfeits, twenty-dollar massages, and perfect, untouched marble. It’s more than a fair trade for a bit of hot neck breath on the subway any day.


e front door of the restaurant open and strolled inside with his board. Seconds later, he ran out the door full speed, jumped on his board, and popped a front boardslide into a crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalk. In amazement, a crowd of at least 100 formed a barrier and watched in awe as he tried a few more times and landed it. Cheers and screams and oohs and aahs rang out as if the people had witnessed a unicorn crap a glazed doughnut.
With the recent blowing out of Barcelona and other cities across the globe, it seems that Shanghai is destined to become skateboarding’s next hot spot. I have yet to meet a skater who doesn’t love cheap black-market counterfeits, twenty-dollar massages, and perfect, untouched marble. It’s more than a fair trade for a bit of hot neck breath on the subway any day.