The Osiris Weight – Loss Tour

“Lose fifteen pounds or your money back!”

Of the estimated 32-million skateboarders in America today, only 400 or so are pro, and of that lot, only a handful are household names, and even fewer reach the single-sobriquet status of recent TWS poll winners such as Smolik, Hawk, Muska, Burnquist, Koston, and Reynolds. But these insufferable odds didn’t dissuade people like Bob Burnquist or Chad Muska and a slew of others too numerous to mention from taking a chance on themselves, and in doing so, abandoning everything they had – their past, their peers, and their possessions – to move out to California to fulfill their dream.

And what a dream it is: sleeping eight or more to a two-bedroom apartment, getting hassled by the police every time you go to work, never knowing where the next buck, meal, or skateboard will come from, roommates changing with the frequency of a newborn baby’s diaper – the only certainty in life is its uncertainty. It is a transient, unstable life at best. But for those for whom skateboarding is more than just another fad, not just an extracurricular sport or an eventual route to Olympic glory; for those who see skateboarding as a way of life, there is no other option.

But before the allure of the glitz and glamour of the superstar lifestyle clenches its claws in your cerebellum and you spend the rest of your life pursuing the legendary pro dream, make sure it’s what you really want to do. After all, sometimes being on tour feels like work.

Granted, we did have two of the most pimped-out vans in all of Europe: each van had tinted windows and one-way see-through blinds to keep the sun and would-be robbers at bay, a Las Vegas-style lighting system that had three modes – Pimpy, XtraPimpy, and “I Want To Read,” a VCR, an adequate stereo system, room for fourteen passengers and all their belongings, as well as space for assorted riff-raff picked up along the way. And the best thing about these luxury autos was that they both came with drivers: Rags (at first, we thought it was Rex) and Sebastian.

Somehow, fate led the majority of us into the van with the responsible driver – everything that Rags was, thankfully, Sebastian was not. Rags – a former cook, runway model, merchant marine, bounty hunter, soldier of fortune, roadie for the Swedish rock group Europe, and, I’m sure, at one point, a pirate, as well as some other things I’m not supposed to talk about – was Mick Jagger’s body double (but perhaps with the pharmaceutical habits of Keith Richards). Rags possessed that toothpick-like “heroin chic” look that was so popular a few years ago, but could (and quite often did) bust out with a head-high karate kick without any forewarning. Not only was he unpredictable, but he was a terrible driver. Twice, he ran out of gas on the highway, only minutes after we (the responsible van) had just filled our tank.

Rags’ “shortcut” to Germany was anything but efficient. He had an inexplicable habit of literally driving in circles whenever the opportunity presented itself (and oftentimes I think he created those opportunities just to fulfill this peculiar fetish of his); he enjoyed accelerating quickly, changing lanes erratically, and stomping on the brakes in an apparent attempt to have those of us in Sebastian’s van rear-end his vehicle. But to his credit, he never once complained and he never lost his temper with Tyrone, who almost always rode shotgun next to him and hassled him every mile of the trip. Sebastian, on the other hand, looked like a Boy Scout who had just come from choir practice, and was just as befuddled as the rest of us by Rags’ antics.

Did I mention one of the vans had no shocks? It was the non-smoking van, so all the smokers got to poison their lungs in a sprawling, smooth-ride luxury, while those of us concerned about our health were cramped in a van that bounced down e Autobahn like a roller coaster on springs – bouncing up and down in the back seat like a ride on a wildly malfunctioning seesaw, nearly hitting the van’s vaulted ceiling. Fellow passengers complained of motion sickness and headaches, and there was no end to the potholes in sight.

It was another seven hours of this hell-on-wheels, where food was scarce and bloated bladders bounced around intestinal systems like supercharged racquetballs, contents screaming for release. And at the end of this stretch of highway, all stiff-legged, sore, cramped, hungry, headachey, tired, and bored, we emerged to hundreds of wide-eyed European enthusiasts, all eager to be inspired by a skateboarding expo of such magnanimous proportions, of expectations so high, it seems no one could reasonably be expected to deliver it under these conditions.

But that is the true test of a professional: getting the job done no matter what the circumstances. And under this pressure, pros either crumble like slate or shine like a diamond. The Osiris team, prone to the complaints of discomfort that any human would utter under such conditions, put all those hardships and difficulties behind them and exceeded the expectations of all those present. Very commendable, indeed.

Kanten, committed to giving the kids a spectacular show no matter what, began his conquest in Sweden and never looked back. Jumping over, down, and around everything in sight, he overcame some formerly undefeated obstacles: a ninteeen-stair set in Lyon and more gargantuan leaps, including a backside 180 the hard way over a double-set rail in Lyon, backside 360 ollies over skatepark pyramids to the flatground that followed, and hurling himself down any set of stairs he thought worthwhile.

Mayhew and Smolik mesmerized spectators, each utilizing his own brand of technical wizardry, flipping their boards through mind-boggling combinations with a consistency that left kids wondering which way was switch. Smolik’s status as one of skateboarding’s favorite sons was evidenced by the mobs that surrounded him wherever he went, whether suiting up in the van, rolling around the course warming up, or taking a well-deserved break; the glass eyes of a hundred video cameras were trained on him, recording his every move.

Mathias, the team’s sole vert rider, was subject to some good-natured ribbing from his teammates due to his lack of street skills (and therefore the frequent work breaks he endured whenever we visited a park without a vert ramp), but he proved worthy of his place when he hit the halfpipe, showcasing the unique style of vert mastery that has made him a standout in the field, including the front-foot impossible to lein he can be seen performing in Sprite TV commercials nightly. He bowed out of the tour early due to a back injury, not because he was trying to escape a Dutch lunatic who threatened him with a thirteen-inch knife in an Amsterdam coffeehouse.

Like the rest of us, Tyrone was unfamiliar with European customs such as paying for catsup at McDonald’s, but instead of begrudgingly shelling out a few extra shillings for it (like the rest of us did), he, at one point, shouted at the cashier, “You want me to pay for catsup? Man, we gave you McDonald’s!” Oddly enough, his scare tactic worked, and he received his condiments complimentary. What struck us all as even odder was when the normally vociferous Tyrone politely asked one waitress for another napkin and she snapped back, “What did you do with the one you had?” as if her country had an embargo on paper products or something. One slice of humble pie, please.

Although generally a quiet guy who lets his skating speak for him, Chad Fernandez doesn’t take crap from anyone. In fact, he earned the moniker “Mike Tyson” from the patrons of a Danish pizza parlor after taking a dispute that began in the eatery outside and serving his antagonist an extra large helping of beat-down on the street for everyone to see. His skating flows as naturally as his punches, and is just as impressive to witness.

For some reason, France seemed to bring about its own special set of problems, problems that transcended any awkwardness the language barrier may have caused. Although our vans didn’t get broken into in Marseilles (one of the country’s notorious crime capitals), we were robbed of many photo ops at one of the world’s most renowned skateparks, due largely to the discourtesy of the local BMXers and Rollerbladers. Besides, we were fortunate enough to experience the wonders of auto theft a few days later in Lyon, when some scurrilous dogs made off with a backpack full of Tyrone’s personal possessions (including his passport, wallet, Walkman and CDs), which put more of a cramp in his program than getting pinched in the ass by a man at a gay nightclub on a boat in Lyon.

Other highlights from France included someone making a half-hearted attempt at stealing my camera gear during a photo shoot at the Eiffel Tower, our group learning that ordering bottled water is a sin, and the team frequently going unfed (even though France is one of the gastronomical capitals of the world) as our baguette-munching tour guide would ask, “How can you be hungry? I just finished eating.”

In England, however, we felt like royalty. The distributor advertised the demos in the local skate media, drawing an above-capacity crowd that neared the 1,000-people mark at PlayStation Park in London, and 300–500 spectators each in Bristol and Derby. In addition to the huge crowds, the U.K. distributor also hooked the riders up with demo essentials such as water, fruit, a knowledgeable DJ, a sound system for MC Brian Reid, and post-demo concessions such as grandiose hotels, lavish meals and even more entertaining parties. Unfortunately, at one point, the now-injured Chad Knight (he’d fractured his ankle and pulled five tendons at a demo in Paris a few days earlier) got caught up in all the excess and fought off Kanten Russel’s efforts to drag him back to the hotel from an after party at 4 a.m., Chad was lucky enough to run into us on the street six hours after we were supposed to have left to for Stonehenge (but had spent the whole day looking for him instead), and mere minutes after we debated abandoning him. This little blunder cost the team a group photo op at Stonehenge, a double-decker open-top bus sightseeing tour of London, and to make up for lost time, we had to drive twenty straight hours from London to Germany after being awake all day.

Upon arriving in Germany, we checked into the hotel in an attempt to sleep, only to be informed that we had a demo to go to in an hour. Chad got the silent treatment for quite a while after that one.

Holland not only provided the team with some excellent photo ops but provided two separate, but related, nights of adventure for shoe designer Brian Reid. In Amsterdam, Reid, International Sales Rep Tom Tarrant and Chad Fernandez became honorary “Hooligans” after a nighttime inauguration with the local legion of this gang, during which our intrepid heroes were led into an underground bar and forced to drink and talk politics with the group for hours. Of the encounter, Reid admitted concern: “We thought it could be the last moments of our lives … it was like we were walking into their underground lair, and then they locked the door behind us. But then they turned out to be well-educated, and they served us beer and made us ham and cheese sandwiches.”

This encounter occurred merely a couple of days after Reid and I had a run-in with the Rotterdam Hooligans, while taking a late-night photo of Dave Mayhew on their turf. During his involuntary confinement, Reid, recounting to his captors his meeting with what he thought were their associates, tg his antagonist an extra large helping of beat-down on the street for everyone to see. His skating flows as naturally as his punches, and is just as impressive to witness.

For some reason, France seemed to bring about its own special set of problems, problems that transcended any awkwardness the language barrier may have caused. Although our vans didn’t get broken into in Marseilles (one of the country’s notorious crime capitals), we were robbed of many photo ops at one of the world’s most renowned skateparks, due largely to the discourtesy of the local BMXers and Rollerbladers. Besides, we were fortunate enough to experience the wonders of auto theft a few days later in Lyon, when some scurrilous dogs made off with a backpack full of Tyrone’s personal possessions (including his passport, wallet, Walkman and CDs), which put more of a cramp in his program than getting pinched in the ass by a man at a gay nightclub on a boat in Lyon.

Other highlights from France included someone making a half-hearted attempt at stealing my camera gear during a photo shoot at the Eiffel Tower, our group learning that ordering bottled water is a sin, and the team frequently going unfed (even though France is one of the gastronomical capitals of the world) as our baguette-munching tour guide would ask, “How can you be hungry? I just finished eating.”

In England, however, we felt like royalty. The distributor advertised the demos in the local skate media, drawing an above-capacity crowd that neared the 1,000-people mark at PlayStation Park in London, and 300–500 spectators each in Bristol and Derby. In addition to the huge crowds, the U.K. distributor also hooked the riders up with demo essentials such as water, fruit, a knowledgeable DJ, a sound system for MC Brian Reid, and post-demo concessions such as grandiose hotels, lavish meals and even more entertaining parties. Unfortunately, at one point, the now-injured Chad Knight (he’d fractured his ankle and pulled five tendons at a demo in Paris a few days earlier) got caught up in all the excess and fought off Kanten Russel’s efforts to drag him back to the hotel from an after party at 4 a.m., Chad was lucky enough to run into us on the street six hours after we were supposed to have left to for Stonehenge (but had spent the whole day looking for him instead), and mere minutes after we debated abandoning him. This little blunder cost the team a group photo op at Stonehenge, a double-decker open-top bus sightseeing tour of London, and to make up for lost time, we had to drive twenty straight hours from London to Germany after being awake all day.

Upon arriving in Germany, we checked into the hotel in an attempt to sleep, only to be informed that we had a demo to go to in an hour. Chad got the silent treatment for quite a while after that one.

Holland not only provided the team with some excellent photo ops but provided two separate, but related, nights of adventure for shoe designer Brian Reid. In Amsterdam, Reid, International Sales Rep Tom Tarrant and Chad Fernandez became honorary “Hooligans” after a nighttime inauguration with the local legion of this gang, during which our intrepid heroes were led into an underground bar and forced to drink and talk politics with the group for hours. Of the encounter, Reid admitted concern: “We thought it could be the last moments of our lives … it was like we were walking into their underground lair, and then they locked the door behind us. But then they turned out to be well-educated, and they served us beer and made us ham and cheese sandwiches.”

This encounter occurred merely a couple of days after Reid and I had a run-in with the Rotterdam Hooligans, while taking a late-night photo of Dave Mayhew on their turf. During his involuntary confinement, Reid, recounting to his captors his meeting with what he thought were their associates, told them, “I almost had to whoop one of your boys a few nights ago.” Apparently, this was the icebreaker, for the Amsterdam sect responded: “We hate them! Let’s drink, friends!”

When skateboard tours come to town, local men hang onto their girlfriends like Titanic passengers clinging to a lifevest, as women willingly throw themselves into the swirling, turbulent sea of testosterone that constitutes a skateboard team. Never was this more apparent than the last night of tour, in a Viennese nightclub that was like a Twilight Zone version of the movie Kids. For not only had the Austrian distributor hired strippers to put on a show for the Osiris crew in front of the entire club, but the same American culture-loving fervor that possesses all of Europe possessed these people as well, as evidenced by the swing and ska music blasting through the rooms, the Elvis impersonator with an authentic-sounding Southern drawl, and the fact that the young Viennese girls were quite literally hurling themselves at the Americans, who exercised the utmost restraint in repelling their advances. To top it all off, the regulars were so unreal in their violent, drunken orgy of lust, it left me eerily preoccupied with thoughts of the praying mantis, a creature that decapitates its mate after coitus.

Epilogue

So, little ones, before you dedicate your life to flip tricks down big gaps, and subsequent knee surgeries, remember that life for your favorite pro skater isn’t all just fun and X-Games. As many pros have stated, they didn’t start out skating hoping to make it big; turning pro was just a natural progression of where they were in life and their abilities. For those heading out in search of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that skateboarding will bring, I wish you nothing but the best. Punkt slut (Swedish for “case closed/end of story”).

s, told them, “I almost had to whoop one of your boys a few nights ago.” Apparently, this was the icebreaker, for the Amsterdam sect responded: “We hate them! Let’s drink, friends!”

When skateboard tours come to town, local men hang onto their girlfriends like Titanic passengers clinging to a lifevest, as women willingly throw themselves into the swirling, turbulent sea of testosterone that constitutes a skateboard team. Never was this more apparent than the last night of tour, in a Viennese nightclub that was like a Twilight Zone version of the movie Kids. For not only had the Austrian distributor hired strippers to put on a show for the Osiris crew in front of the entire club, but the same American culture-loving fervor that possesses all of Europe possessed these people as well, as evidenced by the swing and ska music blasting through the rooms, the Elvis impersonator with an authentic-sounding Southern drawl, and the fact that the young Viennese girls were quite literally hurling themselves at the Americans, who exercised the utmost restraint in repelling their advances. To top it all off, the regulars were so unreal in their violent, drunken orgy of lust, it left me eerily preoccupied with thoughts of the praying mantis, a creature that decapitates its mate after coitus.

Epilogue

So, little ones, before you dedicate your life to flip tricks down big gaps, and subsequent knee surgeries, remember that life for your favorite pro skater isn’t all just fun and X-Games. As many pros have stated, they didn’t start out skating hoping to make it big; turning pro was just a natural progression of where they were in life and their abilities. For those heading out in search of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that skateboarding will bring, I wish you nothing but the best. Punkt slut (Swedish for “case closed/end of story”).