The Grand Victorian Tour

Where thousands discover wheeled delights and willful debauchery across Europe.

The following words were written on the road through Europe in the summer of 1999. Whilst reading, you may stumble (as I did) across contests organized by skaters, skaters organized by contests, riots, demos, sessions, slams, triumphs, and sleep. You may find that some events have been exaggerated, whilst others have been toned-down. But fear not, this is part of the reading experience and somewhat akin to the use of different lenses in the fine photography on these pages. The pure truth would take a month or more to read, as it did to take place. If you wanted the purest truth, perhaps you should have come along. Perhaps you will next year.

I invite you now to a town called Northampton in the heart, or perhaps the stomach, of England. Radlands Skatepark’s compact but brand-new street course brought a smile to most entrants of the eS World Cup, in fact to most entrants of the building. A back-to-back setup of ledges, bars, banks, and rails rewarded the consistent as well as more-technical street skaters. Relaxed practice-day highlights included Sean Sheffey and his unique switch totality, also hardy perennials with names like Koston, Reynolds, Templeton, and Vallely began to blossom in their usual manner. It also quickly became obvious we would be hearing a lot more about South Americans Diego Bucchieri, Rogerio Mancho, and Rodrigo Teixeiro.

Sunny Saturday saw early risers get some more practice in before the masses rolled up, and then the first of nearly 100 skaters began to take his qualifying runs. Much to my chagrin for I had put extra effort into relaying these moments to you in great detail the hours passed as a blur, interrupted only by golden moments such as a nollie flip noseslide from Rogerio Mancho, or a Liverpudlian’s destruction of a contest handrail. Brits such as Danny Wainwright, Vaughan Baker, Scott Palmer, Mark Channer, and Chris Oliver showed me and their ex-pat mates that UK skating remains as strong as ever.

The weekend’s Official Course Annihilators were Donny Barley, Chad Bartie, and Paul Machnau; they flew where others rolled, slid where others stopped, and sucked speed deep from the bowels of Middle England’s wooden wonderland. The day drew to an end with anticipation for that night the eS party, held at the local stadium, was sure to provide the stuff of future cave paintings as we entered the next electricity-free millennium.

The stadium was outside of town, so perhaps we might have remained free of trouble that night. Alas, I forgot, we are skateboarders. The wet grassy field of the stade saw a beautifully unruly soccer game take place. The rules were not posted, but obvious: If you are drunk enough, take part. Foul others at all times. Injure yourself if at all possible. If your side is losing, recruit more teammates from the stands. If at any time you know the correct score, retire to the bar for refreshments.

Post-match festivities included Welshman Pritchard’s stark-naked marathon around the track, a yellow-hose-pipe tug ‘o’ war with all in attendance on the same team, more soccer in the car lot with even less rules, riot-police arrival and subsequent bemusement, a handful of arrests, tears, laughter, chanting, and all the other ingredients of a morose Sunday morning. Never mind, coffee would fix that.

And so to finals day. A lot less skaters, a lot better skating. The top five qualifiers (Bucchieri, Mancho, Johnston, Beach, and Koston) were free to relax until the finals, leaving 37 skaters to fight for the few remaining places. The names I’ve mentioned before were joined shortly by others such as Mike Manzoori, Matt Moffett, and Finland’s Harri Puupponen.

Meanwhile, Radlands’ small, mean vert ramp played host to a slightly different affair. It was more of a session with twenty vert skaters from around the world, and just ten or so were knocked out before the finals. Britain’s Sean Goff surpsed all by making the cut. The ex-pro managed to piece together some of his best runs from the last two decades, bringing the house down in the process. At the end of the day it had to be Lincoln or Bucky, and it was Bucky’s incredible second run that sealed the deal for him, Birdhouse, and the good old U.S. of A. A laid-back best-trick contest ensued, and Bob Burnquist took some evil slams before his second-place frontside Cab nosegrind, but couldn’t beat Tas Pappas and his nollie frontside 360 heelflip. What is going on with vert skating?

So, on to the street course, and who did what, where, and when? Who did the best grind, the most technical flip, the gnarliest slam? Well, these kind of questions are best answered by images, both still and moving. You can see excellent examples on the pages around you now. The most skate-friendly contest of the tour doesn’t need statistics or comparisons, and it does pretty well without TV and soft-drink sponsorship, too. The following are the bare facts you haven’t been told yet: Scott Johnston got fifth, Sean Sheffey fourth, Rogerio Mancho third, Donny Barley second, and Diego Bucchieri was the well-deserved winner. Street best-trick went to Arto Saari with a ridiculous kickflip backside lipslide fakie across and down the bar.

Plenty more sickness infected other parts of the course, but the undisputed trick of the weekend came from 47th-place Brian Anderson. Just before the best-trick contest started, he served the tallest ledge on the course (hardly touched all weekend) with the following summons: Thou shalt be backside tailslid big-spin out with ferocity, finesse, and countless F-word reactions from nearby onlookers. The ledge succumbed to his power, and nearly let slip a kickflip version of the same. After that, I was in deep shock until Dortmund. Maybe the Globe Shoes World Championships would get to witness Connecticut’s finest living export on top form. If so, he would be invincible.

The route to Northern Germany took us via Amsterdam, but you’ve heard those tales before. Red lights, green plants, casual skate demos in July heat. Money well spent, or spent a well of money? I was glad to move on, and intrigued as to how Dortmund would compare with its 40-minutes-away neighbor, Munster.

Upon arrival at the train station, our opinion of Dortmund was instantly favorable cleanliness, organization, and an impressive little skate spot right outside. By the time we’d ended an apparently free subway ride and checked out the incredible street course at the Westfalenhallen, I was in love. The course was a thing of architectural splendor countless lines and endless runs possible. I swear you could skate that course for five minutes and not hit the same obstacle twice. I never got to try my little experiment, but I got to watch some of the best skaters in the world cruise around in a rarely seen, completely lax fashion ollieing this, sliding that, grinding this, flipping that, transfers here, there, and everywhere. Then I turned around and witnessed the existence of a wooden tidal wave masquerading as a vert ramp. “Why can’t I skate vert?” I said to myself as I watched some astronauts practicing twenty feet above my head. Well done, Dave Duncan.

The initial impression of the course didn’t prove entirely accurate. Various skaters complained that the floor was too spongy, and some of the ramps didn’t meet the floor evenly, giving you a sharp jolt as you rode up the transition. As ever, only the most adaptable flourish.

During practice Sheffey continued his domination of Europe with improvised switch skating left, right, and center. Chad Bartie rode around Dortmund as if Radlands had been a fingerboard contest; his outrageous frontside alley-oop channel nollies onto the platform dropped jaws and raised paws. Ed Templeton made all of his best tricks; perhaps he was inspired by a gang of locals who each bore a letter of Ed’s name on the front of their T-shirts. And on their backs: Toy Machine!

Ledges moaned as Gershon Mosley rocked the house, headphones donned. A couple more Brazilians were maturing under the German spotlights. The first, Nilton Neves, combined I-Path philosophies with Girl talent and made a serious impression on those around him. The second Brazilian needs a greater introduction. After seeing him skate, I am never going to complain about such trivialities as a swollen ankle or a stiff back, and nor will you after being confronted with the absolute legend that is Oggy Souza. A serious leg ailment means he has to sit cross-legged on his board and push with his hands. You’d better believe it, and he is still better at skating than you or me. I stood next to Skin and watched Oggy feeble grind the handrail directly in front of us. I couldn’t believe what I saw. There was much more practice that day, and a lot of rad skating going on, but after Oggy, most of it paled in comparison.

Friday night saw mayhem at a nightclub called Soundgarden. An outdoor vert ramp and an indoor mini ramp stood waiting for inebriated masculine downfalls, of which there were plenty. Pros got wasted, girls got tasted, and early bed beckoned beginners like myself.

Saturday was once again sunny, and the stadium was in full swing by midday, spurred on by Sheffey’s personal addition to the rather pompous opening ceremony. During eliminations, Mike Maldonado chose to actually street skate on the street course and suffered for it by placing poorly. Kareem Campbell, Gershon Mosely, Tyrone Olson, Marc Johnson, and even Sheffey himself also scored low for attempting real skateboarding during the street event.

Riding at the successful end were Andrew Reynolds, Arto Saari, Chad Fernandez, Bam Margera, Kerry Getz, and around 55 others.

Saturday night found us leaving the hall once more. An MTV Rock Night was taking place inside, but far more interesting was the chaos outside. A big bonfire had been lit, and hundreds stood around fueling the flames. Swedish skater Gustav Eden hauled his big ass over the four-foot flames to much applause from all. When riot police began to move in, tension rapidly mounted, weapons were brandished, and innocents were targeted by the uniformed donkeys. Gustav tried to up the ante: an ollie over the fire in front of the police was in order, but his ambitious attempt earned him a night in a cell. Soon the cops had vented enough anger for the evening; arrests were made, bruises gained, and beds quickly returned to.

Finals day once more, and vert was going off. Colin McKay thought it was a mini-ramp contest and promptly nollie backside flip reverted and frontside Cab flipped his way from one wall to the other. Rune simply went too fast, high, and stylish for his own good. Brazilians Diaz and Ueda were not satisfied without using every inch of the ramp’s width on every single trick they tried. Andy Mac kept up his reputation for well-mixed consistency. Tas Pappas kept his head in place by rotating at least 360 degrees on every wall, but he could not beat Radlands champ Bucky Lasek, who stayed on the hardest, highest, and best tricks of the day. A best-trick contest nearly saw Tas do a sequel to Tony’s X-Games 900, but exhaustion took him out after countless brave attempts.

The street finals arrived, and the skateboarding was amazing not least from Mike Vallely, Caine Gayle, Paul Machnau, and Jaya Bonderov. Top five were as follows: Arto Saari (Cab lipslide fakie and nollie heelflip noseslide) came in fifth, Ed Templeton (blunt and noseblunt slides, impossibles, and frontside feebles) fourth, Andrew Reynolds (frontside flips and flip grabs over the huge box) third, Rick McCrank (from-nowhere nollie hardflips over the huge box in front of a dazed audience) second. Brian Anderson’s first-place finish was one of the most well-deserved I’ve ever seen in a contest. He stormed the course with kickflip wallrides, switch nosegrinds, backside tailslides, feebles down the big rail, a switch 360 flip downhine!

Ledges moaned as Gershon Mosley rocked the house, headphones donned. A couple more Brazilians were maturing under the German spotlights. The first, Nilton Neves, combined I-Path philosophies with Girl talent and made a serious impression on those around him. The second Brazilian needs a greater introduction. After seeing him skate, I am never going to complain about such trivialities as a swollen ankle or a stiff back, and nor will you after being confronted with the absolute legend that is Oggy Souza. A serious leg ailment means he has to sit cross-legged on his board and push with his hands. You’d better believe it, and he is still better at skating than you or me. I stood next to Skin and watched Oggy feeble grind the handrail directly in front of us. I couldn’t believe what I saw. There was much more practice that day, and a lot of rad skating going on, but after Oggy, most of it paled in comparison.

Friday night saw mayhem at a nightclub called Soundgarden. An outdoor vert ramp and an indoor mini ramp stood waiting for inebriated masculine downfalls, of which there were plenty. Pros got wasted, girls got tasted, and early bed beckoned beginners like myself.

Saturday was once again sunny, and the stadium was in full swing by midday, spurred on by Sheffey’s personal addition to the rather pompous opening ceremony. During eliminations, Mike Maldonado chose to actually street skate on the street course and suffered for it by placing poorly. Kareem Campbell, Gershon Mosely, Tyrone Olson, Marc Johnson, and even Sheffey himself also scored low for attempting real skateboarding during the street event.

Riding at the successful end were Andrew Reynolds, Arto Saari, Chad Fernandez, Bam Margera, Kerry Getz, and around 55 others.

Saturday night found us leaving the hall once more. An MTV Rock Night was taking place inside, but far more interesting was the chaos outside. A big bonfire had been lit, and hundreds stood around fueling the flames. Swedish skater Gustav Eden hauled his big ass over the four-foot flames to much applause from all. When riot police began to move in, tension rapidly mounted, weapons were brandished, and innocents were targeted by the uniformed donkeys. Gustav tried to up the ante: an ollie over the fire in front of the police was in order, but his ambitious attempt earned him a night in a cell. Soon the cops had vented enough anger for the evening; arrests were made, bruises gained, and beds quickly returned to.

Finals day once more, and vert was going off. Colin McKay thought it was a mini-ramp contest and promptly nollie backside flip reverted and frontside Cab flipped his way from one wall to the other. Rune simply went too fast, high, and stylish for his own good. Brazilians Diaz and Ueda were not satisfied without using every inch of the ramp’s width on every single trick they tried. Andy Mac kept up his reputation for well-mixed consistency. Tas Pappas kept his head in place by rotating at least 360 degrees on every wall, but he could not beat Radlands champ Bucky Lasek, who stayed on the hardest, highest, and best tricks of the day. A best-trick contest nearly saw Tas do a sequel to Tony’s X-Games 900, but exhaustion took him out after countless brave attempts.

The street finals arrived, and the skateboarding was amazing not least from Mike Vallely, Caine Gayle, Paul Machnau, and Jaya Bonderov. Top five were as follows: Arto Saari (Cab lipslide fakie and nollie heelflip noseslide) came in fifth, Ed Templeton (blunt and noseblunt slides, impossibles, and frontside feebles) fourth, Andrew Reynolds (frontside flips and flip grabs over the huge box) third, Rick McCrank (from-nowhere nollie hardflips over the huge box in front of a dazed audience) second. Brian Anderson’s first-place finish was one of the most well-deserved I’ve ever seen in a contest. He stormed the course with kickflip wallrides, switch nosegrinds, backside tailslides, feebles down the big rail, a switch 360 flip down the platform gap, and a blinding bluntslide fakie on the long ledge in both final runs. The ovation was standing, the adulation complete, the prize money and the championship were in the bag. Long live Brian Anderson!

As Sunday threatened to become Monday, it was time to move on. Berlin for a day or two, and then on to Prague in the Czech Republic. The land of the 25-cent beer called out to all those with a thirst, and we replied at once, “We will not let you down.”

Prague is one of those beautiful cities you hear a lot about, yet nothing can prepare you for your own arrival. Incredible gothic architecture is set against communist skyscrapers and a super-efficient transport system. Eating out is embarrassingly cheap, yet buying a skateboard costs the same as in the rest of Europe. I guess the kids in Eastern Europe have to work hard for their decks.

The best skate shop in town, Mystic Skates, has put on a contest year after year, so they know what they are doing. Far less organized than Dortmund, and even more laid back than Radlands, it is truly a time for the skaters locals and visitors alike to hang out, enjoy themselves, and maybe even get some skating done.

The contest was held under a large, open-air roofing system, and everyone seemed pretty stoked with the course, although the vert ramp was more in the Radlands vein than the Dortmund monsterpiece. Everyone ate chicken burritos, the course was open for the kids (and I) at night, security smiled, and the parties were rad.

On Saturday Justin Strubing resumed his onslaught of Europe with backside tailslides across the Wembley gap, Javier Sarmiento did switch 360 flips on the steepest bank, Koston strengthened after a couple of wobbles elsewhere on the continent, and Danny Wainwright made fellow Brits proud by seeming to ollie over his own head at every juncture.

Saturday night saw much relaxed amusement. Dice were thrown, thousands of Czech crowns were lost, local ales were supped, and for a change, no riot police arrived to spoil it all. When the sun rose I fell into bed for a couple of hours to let the vitamins spread their wings.

Sunday was much busier and hotter, so I sat on the platform of the vert ramp to bring you the following nuggets: Mike Crum belonged in the air and stayed on the ramp for fifth place. Sandro Dias practiced his McTwists for the street course later. Tony Hawk worked hard but fell off, so he ended up in a fine bout of twenty-year-old trick nostalgia. Tas Pappas kept going up, along, and across, but he couldn’t stop unstoppable Andy Mac, who simply did not cease.

Like the Dortmund contest, which was all about Brian Anderson, Prague’s street contest was all about Rodrigo Teixiera. Two runs of countless flips (both switch and regular), grinds, slides, style, and smiles brought Prague to its knees. We all cheered. I lost my voice. Pure street skating. Of the three big contests, South America had snatched two from the North. I nearly enrolled in a Portuguese course that very afternoon.

Rick McCrank and Pat Channita shouldn’t go unmentioned the third and second placers did what you’d expect and would have made you proud. My exit from the contest was rapid due to train timetables, but I wish I could have stayed forever.

We moved onto Southern Europe, where Justin Strubing tore apart the beautiful Marseilles skatepark before handing it over to Elias Bingham, who conquered Barcelona’s incredible street spots. A few days in the Basque town of Vitoria under the care of Javier Sarmiento helped cement Spain as one of the top European locations for skating.

After a daily routine of siesta followed by fiesta, I was sad to leave for home. A tearful gray darkness fell over the Basque landscape as the train headed North for the three-day-long trip to Scandinavia. Europe was slipping through my fingers, leaving a feeling of deep sorrow. It was time to move on. Skateboarding would never go away. Neither would I.down the platform gap, and a blindinng bluntslide fakie on the long ledge in both final runs. The ovation was standing, the adulation complete, the prize money and the championship were in the bag. Long live Brian Anderson!

As Sunday threatened to become Monday, it was time to move on. Berlin for a day or two, and then on to Prague in the Czech Republic. The land of the 25-cent beer called out to all those with a thirst, and we replied at once, “We will not let you down.”

Prague is one of those beautiful cities you hear a lot about, yet nothing can prepare you for your own arrival. Incredible gothic architecture is set against communist skyscrapers and a super-efficient transport system. Eating out is embarrassingly cheap, yet buying a skateboard costs the same as in the rest of Europe. I guess the kids in Eastern Europe have to work hard for their decks.

The best skate shop in town, Mystic Skates, has put on a contest year after year, so they know what they are doing. Far less organized than Dortmund, and even more laid back than Radlands, it is truly a time for the skaters locals and visitors alike to hang out, enjoy themselves, and maybe even get some skating done.

The contest was held under a large, open-air roofing system, and everyone seemed pretty stoked with the course, although the vert ramp was more in the Radlands vein than the Dortmund monsterpiece. Everyone ate chicken burritos, the course was open for the kids (and I) at night, security smiled, and the parties were rad.

On Saturday Justin Strubing resumed his onslaught of Europe with backside tailslides across the Wembley gap, Javier Sarmiento did switch 360 flips on the steepest bank, Koston strengthened after a couple of wobbles elsewhere on the continent, and Danny Wainwright made fellow Brits proud by seeming to ollie over his own head at every juncture.

Saturday night saw much relaxed amusement. Dice were thrown, thousands of Czech crowns were lost, local ales were supped, and for a change, no riot police arrived to spoil it all. When the sun rose I fell into bed for a couple of hours to let the vitamins spread their wings.

Sunday was much busier and hotter, so I sat on the platform of the vert ramp to bring you the following nuggets: Mike Crum belonged in the air and stayed on the ramp for fifth place. Sandro Dias practiced his McTwists for the street course later. Tony Hawk worked hard but fell off, so he ended up in a fine bout of twenty-year-old trick nostalgia. Tas Pappas kept going up, along, and across, but he couldn’t stop unstoppable Andy Mac, who simply did not cease.

Like the Dortmund contest, which was all about Brian Anderson, Prague’s street contest was all about Rodrigo Teixiera. Two runs of countless flips (both switch and regular), grinds, slides, style, and smiles brought Prague to its knees. We all cheered. I lost my voice. Pure street skating. Of the three big contests, South America had snatched two from the North. I nearly enrolled in a Portuguese course that very afternoon.

Rick McCrank and Pat Channita shouldn’t go unmentioned the third and second placers did what you’d expect and would have made you proud. My exit from the contest was rapid due to train timetables, but I wish I could have stayed forever.

We moved onto Southern Europe, where Justin Strubing tore apart the beautiful Marseilles skatepark before handing it over to Elias Bingham, who conquered Barcelona’s incredible street spots. A few days in the Basque town of Vitoria under the care of Javier Sarmiento helped cement Spain as one of the top European locations for skating.

After a daily routine of siesta followed by fiesta, I was sad to leave for home. A tearful gray darkness fell over the Basque landscape as the train headed North for the three-day-long trip to Scandinavia. Europe was slipping through my fingers, leaving a feeling of deep sorrow. It was time to move on. Skateboarding would never go away. Neither would I.