by Magnus Gyllenberg
Sweden is located in the very north of Europe. It’s about the same size and shape of California, but only nine-million happy inhabitants reside here. The three largest cities are Stockholm (the capital), Göteborg, and Malmö. Sweden’s export successes include Volvo, Ericsson, IKEA, ABBA, and “the Swedish sin.” If you’ve ever heard about this far-off land, it was probably something like, “All their women are blond and beautiful,” or “It’s where the Vikings came from.” Now, all women in Sweden aren’t blond, but many of them are beautiful. The Vikings did rule this land a long time ago, but today Sweden is christened and pretty much like any other country in Western civilization. Maybe it’s a bit colder and cleaner than the average …
Sweden has always had plenty of good skaters. They’ve been invading the Californian pro scene since the early 80s. Back then you had Swedish freestylers like Per Welinder, Per Holknekt, and Hazze Lindgren, and vert skaters like Tony Magnusson. European-contest-circuit guys like Hans “Puttis” Jacobsson, Hans Göthberg, and Lillis Akesson also made names for themselves. Let’s not forget the legendary Rättvik skate camps of the mid 80s, where the Bones Brigade were frequent visitors and Mike McGill invented the McTwist. Today our best-known skaters are Flip pro Ali Boulala, World Industries pro Matthias Ringström, and Arcade pro Pontus Alv. Our unexported talent includes Jonas Sohn, Love Eneroth, Andreas Engelkes, and Ricky Sandström, to mention a few. They’re all the result of the legacy of a hard core skate scene that stuck with it even during “the hard years.”
Malmö is the skateboard capital of southern Sweden. Its scene has always been connected to Denmark, which is only a 40-minute boat ride away. Rumors of the savage Northern skater have resulted in a fear of traveling north to skate. So instead, these Skånska-speaking southerners session with the Danes and enjoy the world-famous Christiania district, which has resulted in a Southern mellowness that runs totally contrary to the moonshine-fueled Northern skate freaks. The Danish skate mag Metropolis once described the average Stockholm skater as “100-percent dedicated to skateboarding, tattooed, pierced, and the more facial scars the better.” I don’t know if all Stockholm skaters would agree with that description, but it gets rougher the farther north you go.
If you travel a bit up the west coast from Malmö, you’ll end up in Göteborg. While you’re there, you can skate The Galaxy skatepark, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a chance to see underground hero Magnus Ljungdell rip any given terrain.
On the east coast you’ll find the city most foreign visitors end up in¿Stockholm. A semi-metropolitan area and really neat scene have given Stockholm a good reputation worldwide. If you hook up with the locals (who aren’t as scary as the Danes and southerners think) you’re sure to have a good time, both on and off your skateboard. Watch out for this dude called “Crazy Jimmy,” though …
A fifteen-hour car ride north of Stockholm you’ll find Luleå, which is the mecca of the northern skate scene. You have to travel this far north to see the real midnight sun, and it’s surely rad to skate in bright sunlight at 2:00 a.m., which happens only during summer. Summers in the north of Sweden are tragically short, and therefore the northern skaters have little time for anything else but skateboarding during these months. If you arrive during the winter, go straight to Malmö, where you’ll find one of Europe’s best indoor skateparks¿Bryggeriet. Other indoor skateparks do exist, but if you’re short of time, Bryggeriet is the park you should visit.
One thing different from the U.S. is the attitude of average people toward street skating. Of course, some people (especially security guards) want to make our lives miserable, but in general you can skate most spots without getting harassed. It happens that cops stop by a skate session, but instead of hassling you, they usually just watch for a while. Street skating in Sweden is maybe not always the best, but it’s usually hassle-free. In Sweden you don’t have to sue the landowner if you break your leg skating on his property. Maybe you can, but no one needs to, because of Sweden’s national medical-insurance system.
The street surface is usually asphalt instead of concrete, and our painted curbs are yellow, not red. At times it can be kinda hard to find a good curb in Sweden; you’re more likely to find some good stairs. Most handrails are twice as high and gnarly as your average well-sessioned Californian rail. One thing is super, though¿all over Sweden there are public ramps (most of them located in city parks), and they’ve been the sites of many good sessions.
Because we can drink beer in public, we have no problem throwing a nice party. You just bring your boom-blaster, a bunch of friends to session with, and a couple of cold ones, then meet up at your local public mini ramp on a warm, light summer night, and there you go! Life in Sweden doesn’t get much better than that.