Volume 21 Number 8
The separation of church and skate. (translate into greek)
Story and photos by Obaw Tiekahs
When I first learned I was going to Greece, I didn’t know what to expect. Was there stuff to skate there? What did they have to skate? Hmmm, Greece sounds good. Let’s do this.
The only thing I was told was that skaters have visited Greece and skated some good spots. I never really pressed for details. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue what it would be like, culturally speaking. I just knew a little bit about its history, its philosophers, and temples and such from history books. Now was a chance to see the evidence of Greek history in modern times–the Acropolis, city of Athens, architecture, and so on.
What did we end up skating? It turned out to be mostly new churches with nice hubbas, rails, and double-sets. In this religious country, churches are abundant. A lot of the new ones had amazing things to skate. I felt guilty. Here we are skating their nice churches with beautiful architecture and expensive white stone ledges and Hubbas. We weren’t the first to skate it, but we didn’t exactly help beautify their churches. People on the streets weren’t too happy, either. We didn’t get stopped by the police or security guards, but by ordinary citizens who were appalled by our skating and concerned about the churches.
The crew of church destroyers consisted of half the Blueprint team–Paul Shier, Scott Palmer, Nick Jensen, Mark Baines, Vaughn Baker, and their filmer Adam Mondon. We stayed at a typical Greek summer home that was situated on the southern coast of Greece.
Every day we’d wake up and venture out to the city. On the way we’d find random spots on the side of the road. For the most part we skated in the city of Athens and neighboring towns. Churches were everywhere. Whether in a rural coastal town or in the heart of Athens, people walking down the streets often made the sign of the cross–the father, son, and the holy ghost gesture–every church they passed. This meant doing it every other minute since there’s a church on every corner. These people were the police and security guards, and we were the tourist assholes ready to destroy their churches.
The first night there we met up with our American friends Elias and Simon Bingham in downtown Athens. They’d flown in the night before. They had already made a new friend, Billy, who skated pretty well, knew a lot of spots, spoke pretty good English, and was willing to show us around during our stay. We went out for drinks that night and had a good time. The trip seemed to be off to a good start.
The next night I thought my life was about to end. It started off when we were skating a double-set we’d seen on the side of the road earlier in the day. It had a nice little ledge on the side of the double-set. The ledge was also made of nice white stone slabs common in Greek architecture. People were skating the ledge and warming up for the double-set while I was setting up my flashes when a big black Mercedes-Benz pulls up. A big Greek man in a nice suit stepped out and started–I assume–telling us to leave. Being the dumb American I am, I tried to tell him we weren’t skating the ledge and gestured for five more minutes to shoot the photo on the double-set. He reached into his back waist and pulled out the biggest handgun I’ve ever seen. The guy started yelling and shaking violently. He stepped on top of the ledge above me and started shaking the gun a foot a way from my face. Sometime during the first two seconds of the gun coming out everyone did what any sane person would do, run. Here I was with my flashes and light stands out and time seemed to elongate to eternity. I threw my flashes and camera in the bag, and everry time I looked up I could see what it was like to look down the barrel of a gun. I don’t know how and when, but Simon came back and helped me grab my light stands and tripods and get me out of there. From that point on I was a paranoid freak whenever we were skating a nice spot. Day or night, I thought that someone else would be coming at us with a gun.
Then the rain came. With record rainfall pouring down and a gloomy forecast, it didn’t seem too promising for the remainder of the trip. It stopped for a few hours now and then, and we’d use those few hours to the fullest and squeeze in a little skating and a few photos as well.
On one of those rainy nights we decided to go see a movie. Simon and Scott went off to find a place to exchange their money for euros. After waiting an hour or so, we gave them a call on Scott’s cell phone. It turns out they were taken in to a local police station for not having their passports. From what we understand, they routinely take people in whether they have their passports or not for a “background check.” These background checks take roughly three to four hours to process. We went back to the house, located the passports, and handed them in. We sent Elias in with the passports while we roamed the streets nervously. Sure enough, they detained Elias for a bit and then let him go. Some five or six hours after being taken in, Simon and Scott were released as well. Being detained in a police station in a foreign country and being treated like you just killed someone is never a good thing. I was just glad everyone made it out okay.
Our last day we were blessed with a sunny afternoon. We made the most of it by skating a few spots and getting some last-minute photos before the rain clouds moved in. We ended the day with some dinner and drinks at a local bar. While we were in the bar, the rain continued to come down hard. By the time we left, we were greeted by flooded streets. We walked through puddles and hopped over rivers ’til we got to our van. Since I was the designated driver for the night, I ended up driving a van full of drunk and happy British guys through one of Greece’s worst rainstorms in recent history at three in the morning. I weaved through one to two feet of rushing water with stalled cars left on the streets while a bunch of drunk guys sang British tunes at the top of their lungs.
It was a perfect ending for our adventure in Greece. No one got seriously hurt, we got some photos, we had some fun times, and a few interesting stories to tell. A big thanks to everyone for coming through whenever we had a little sun.