Maniacally blurred and distorted by rainwater pouring down the windshield, the throng of feral Italian kids drew closer and closer to the van like a scene from The Day Of The Dead. Black clouds tumbled ominously over the surrounding hilltops, torrential rain lashing at the windows, drenching the desperate faces on the other side of the glass and flooding the street course. I hit the automatic door-lock button.

“We’ve got to get out of here, they’re mobbing the vans,” cried a voice from behind my head.

After almost 40 days and nights, we’d hit every location on the mission list with the kind of skill and ruthless efficiency you’d only expect from such a crack team of skate mercenaries. Now it was time to load up and move out. The job in Italy was done–we had nothing more for the kids and needed to get out of that sodden car park.

An ambiguous message I’d received back in London was the start of this crazy trip. The message was from San Diego, California, and it read:

Your skills are required. The Aftermath team are regrouping in Sweden for a European operation. Get to the Hotel Stockholm for Thursday night. There you will receive further instructions–T-Mag.

T-Mag was a Swedish high-altitude expert with missing fingers who doesn’t take no for an answer. Needless to say, I was on a British Airways flight the following evening.

Sweden

Stockholm airport was a clean and quiet hub of global transfer until flights 8410 and 55 from L.A. landed. Stumbling amongst the beautiful fresh-faced Scandinavians who bustled through the terminals emerged the gnarled and jet-lagged faces of the Osiris Aftermath Assault Team.

Drawn from many nations and nurtured on Californian sun, the motley crew who arrived in Sweden that night were deadly street assassins, each with their own unique talents to bring to the table–the best in their field, and the loudest in the airport.

Kit bags of equipment and skateboards clogged the baggage chute while black assault vehicles–fully emblazoned with Osiris livery–lined up outside, bringing the terminal traffic to a standstill. From the outset, it was clear that this was to be no small operation. Osiris had landed.

Later that night, behind a facade of decadence and respectability, the entire unit formed in the lobby area of the five-star Hotel Stockholm. Amidst the core battalion of pro skaters was the finest secondary unit a mission like this could need–Global Positioning Sebastian, our lead driver and human map; Mark “Straight Outta Compton” Nickles, the fastest filmer in the West; and Ed Dominick, a photographer who could give you a light reading blindfolded just by sniffing the air.

Our job was to deliver the “stoke” across Europe, keeping skateboarding alive and well even in the remotest of locations, while recording the action for the world to see. Eleven countries to hit and twenty demos to destroy. It was no mean feat, but the team to do it was gathered right there in that lobby.

As the briefing ended, we checked the schedule and found that we were all due to take a shit and then hit the sack. Naturally, we summoned the hotel manager and cleaned out his stock of bottled comfort instead. The games and gambling commenced–a theme that was to pepper the entire tour, thanks to Toan Nguyen and his loaded dice.

Meanwhile, as the drinks were cracked open, Tarrant took me aside and handed me a small digital device that I’d use to record events for release on the organization’s electronic information service.

“Rich! It’s a goddamn camera for the Web site, dude! You gotta snap out of this Soldiers Of Fortune fantasy.”

His tone seemed desperate. I’ll have to watch my back, I thought.

Watching my back the van as we returned to the hotel for the final blowout proved to be a difficult task. Bottles, mullet wigs, and a stuffed chicken were flying from the backseats as the revelry swayed the van–at 90 miles per hour. Driving from country to country under the distraction of once-healthy adults regressing to a pack of primordial beasts behind me can be very wearing on a man’s nerves. They’d fight over CDs, the backseat, and they’d fight to see who would fight next. They’d drink, piss in bottles, and on one occasion, drink from a bottle of piss–Louie Barletta was as unpredictable as cheap fireworks and twice as likely to go off.

Meanwhile, Fox Network filmer Kelly Dean stood his ground as shotgun passenger against a boisterous Chad Knight–I had difficulty finding the stick shift through the flailing limbs. It all seemed so much easier at the beginning when I felt fresh, energetic, and ready for the Scandinavian action. Our entire tour per diem was hot in our pockets, Scandinavian beauties filled every bar, and we were hornier than a Viking’s helmet. My notes from this part of the tour are as indecipherable as we must’ve been to the Swedish and Norwegian bartenders in those nighttime city attacks.

Norway

The blonde goddesses, the licorice vodka, plush hotel rooms–just fragments of recollection. I must be suffering from Tour Trauma–my mind’s trying to block it all out. I remember this much: The line for the shop appearance in Oslo, Norway trailed out of the mall into the pissing rain for over two hours. Chad smacked his head on the mini ramp at the start of the Stockholm demo, while PLG (Pierre Luc Gagnon) repeatedly smacked his board off the ceiling above the halfpipe. Damn, we’d left Chany back at the hotel. Ruben “Don Juan” Garcia ripped it up with some fruity nollie heelflip noseblunts, giving us a taste of what he’d do on the rest of the tour. We were led to the Oslo demo by a truck blasting the theme from The Empire Strikes Back from its sound system, much to the excitement of the massive awaiting crowd. While the pros were busting backside 180 kickflips over a bench from a three-step, I popped the laziest shove-it up one step and slid it hard into the next, busting my big toe.

Denmark

In a whirl of pain and disappointment at not being able to skate some of Europe’s best skate spots over the next few weeks, a small reconnaissance party and I went ahead to Copenhagen while the others flew over to blitz the SUPERJAM in Finland.

The Christiana bowl in Copenhagen is a rickety indoor home project built inside a bizarre commune unofficially recognized by the government where cannabis is legal. Christiana is a mini principality outside the EEC European Economic Community in the heart of the city. The only rules there were “Don’t run,” and there was no chance of me running. We holed up in that place for some time, and then suddenly we were in Germany.

Germany

The hotel in Berlin would be the finest we’d see on the whole tour. The lobby itself was the size of an aircraft hanger, although we made it look full when we all checked-in. Situated in the middle of the greatest choice of ledges, steps, doubles, triples, rails, gaps, Hubba handrails, and so much more–not to mention the penthouse Jacuzzi.

We’d come to love Berlin, but first we had to demo in Essen. If Berlin is the heart of Germany, Essen is definitely the asshole. Don’t get me wrong, the demo itself was killer–the indoor park is awesome, and our distributor, Moe, knew how to take care of us. But the postmodern industrialized town center around our hotel–complete with crack bums and Neo-Nazi mullets–wouldn’t make much of a picturesque postcard.

Cameras didn’t stop rolling in Berlin–there was so much video material to be filmed with Knight and Torres securing a trick each on the first day: a huge gap ollie-to-road and 360 flip to noseslide, respectively. Of course, the Kasper punctuated that session with one of his giant leaps-for-mankind, but no benihana.

Amsterdam

Up until Berlin, the mission had been smooth–free of calamity. Amsterdam wasn’t on the schedule, but we weren’t due in Rotterdam for another two days. I mean, we couldn’t just pass through Vincent van Gogh’s old stomping ground. The taboo delights of the dirty ol’ ’Dam had been much anticipated by the men, and I was in dire need of some local painkiller for my throbbing toe–the calm before the storm.

We should’ve known the prospects of being hit with any drama would increase tenfold if every one of us got utterly annihilated the night we arrived–which we did. Standard procedure dictates that if shit’s going to happen, it’ll happen when you’re least able to cope with it. Or worse still, when your team leader–the anchor of this ragged ship called “Chaos”–misplaces his head in a coffee shop the previous night.

As the bicycles and trams clattered to morning life in the streets below, a zombified Chris “Dune” Pastras was abruptly awoken from his coma. Drama was banging at his door.

“The vans have all been booted!” blurted a bleary-eyed John Dean as Dune swung the door open. John is another filmer who normally always carried at least one of his cameras, but now he clung only to his guitar. “And one of them got broken into.”

Standing there in his shorts but still not conscious, Dune tried to work out where the voice was coming from.

“And they almost towed another of the vans away, but we got there just in time, dude.”

Dune’s brain started to react to the information, instructing his mouth to say, “Mgwnugh,” sending him reeling back into the room to find his shoes. John had already run back to his room to write a song about it all.

We now had a situation. Thirty people had to be checked out of the hotel and onto the street before we got the vans back on the road. Different people deal with situations in different ways. Toan “No Wins” way was instigating a dice gambling ring on the sidewalk to ply the remaining euros from Adam Louder and Chris Dobstaff’s shaky hands. Chany dealt with daily strife by not waking up at all, and the Beast of Barletta coped by still being out there somewhere–staggering about the canals and cobbles, oblivious to any tour drama and his own whereabouts.

Chris sat determinedly in the hotel lobby with a Dutch phone book in one hand and his cell phone in the other, his brains oozing out of his ears. With more zeroes piled onto the Osiris credit card, we finally got the heck out of Dodge, only to suffer more broken windows and expense in Rotterdam. The pressure was getting to Dune. The enduring vehicle saga on top of a constant army of needs took its toll. This was most apparent when I caught him shaking his fists toward the sky, wailing, “I just wanna ride my skateboard, play the guitar, and make love, damn it!” all while wearing a T-shirt with the words “I’m Not Your Mom!” scrawled across the front.

Italy

In the van, my knuckles turned white gripping the steering wheel at 150 kph. Suddenly, it dawned on me that van number one was not in my mirror, and I hadn’t seen it since we left the demo. I signaled Papo–our main man in Italy–and he pulled his blacked-out Lincoln Defender over, halting the convoy. The entire platoon took the opportunity to empty their bladders and collectively sterilize a 50-square-foot area of Italian countryside with 90-percent-proof piss. I took the opportunity to get the hh video material to be filmed with Knight and Torres securing a trick each on the first day: a huge gap ollie-to-road and 360 flip to noseslide, respectively. Of course, the Kasper punctuated that session with one of his giant leaps-for-mankind, but no benihana.

Amsterdam

Up until Berlin, the mission had been smooth–free of calamity. Amsterdam wasn’t on the schedule, but we weren’t due in Rotterdam for another two days. I mean, we couldn’t just pass through Vincent van Gogh’s old stomping ground. The taboo delights of the dirty ol’ ’Dam had been much anticipated by the men, and I was in dire need of some local painkiller for my throbbing toe–the calm before the storm.

We should’ve known the prospects of being hit with any drama would increase tenfold if every one of us got utterly annihilated the night we arrived–which we did. Standard procedure dictates that if shit’s going to happen, it’ll happen when you’re least able to cope with it. Or worse still, when your team leader–the anchor of this ragged ship called “Chaos”–misplaces his head in a coffee shop the previous night.

As the bicycles and trams clattered to morning life in the streets below, a zombified Chris “Dune” Pastras was abruptly awoken from his coma. Drama was banging at his door.

“The vans have all been booted!” blurted a bleary-eyed John Dean as Dune swung the door open. John is another filmer who normally always carried at least one of his cameras, but now he clung only to his guitar. “And one of them got broken into.”

Standing there in his shorts but still not conscious, Dune tried to work out where the voice was coming from.

“And they almost towed another of the vans away, but we got there just in time, dude.”

Dune’s brain started to react to the information, instructing his mouth to say, “Mgwnugh,” sending him reeling back into the room to find his shoes. John had already run back to his room to write a song about it all.

We now had a situation. Thirty people had to be checked out of the hotel and onto the street before we got the vans back on the road. Different people deal with situations in different ways. Toan “No Wins” way was instigating a dice gambling ring on the sidewalk to ply the remaining euros from Adam Louder and Chris Dobstaff’s shaky hands. Chany dealt with daily strife by not waking up at all, and the Beast of Barletta coped by still being out there somewhere–staggering about the canals and cobbles, oblivious to any tour drama and his own whereabouts.

Chris sat determinedly in the hotel lobby with a Dutch phone book in one hand and his cell phone in the other, his brains oozing out of his ears. With more zeroes piled onto the Osiris credit card, we finally got the heck out of Dodge, only to suffer more broken windows and expense in Rotterdam. The pressure was getting to Dune. The enduring vehicle saga on top of a constant army of needs took its toll. This was most apparent when I caught him shaking his fists toward the sky, wailing, “I just wanna ride my skateboard, play the guitar, and make love, damn it!” all while wearing a T-shirt with the words “I’m Not Your Mom!” scrawled across the front.

Italy

In the van, my knuckles turned white gripping the steering wheel at 150 kph. Suddenly, it dawned on me that van number one was not in my mirror, and I hadn’t seen it since we left the demo. I signaled Papo–our main man in Italy–and he pulled his blacked-out Lincoln Defender over, halting the convoy. The entire platoon took the opportunity to empty their bladders and collectively sterilize a 50-square-foot area of Italian countryside with 90-percent-proof piss. I took the opportunity to get the hell out of the van.

“They’re too twisted in my van, Hans. I’m done with driving,” I explained, leaning in the passenger window of Papo’s imported SUV. Hans is our brutally efficient logistics and communications expert who has fists the size of my head.

“Okay, I’ll drive. You get in here with Kasper and Papo,” he ordered. Right then, Gianis The Angry Greek pulled up in the missing van. His cargo of Kanten Russell, Dave Mayhew, Frank Hirata, and others were all sleeping. I didn’t care anymore. A tide of calm washed over me before I started to question whether leaving Hans in charge of the crazy bus was such a good idea–considering what happened to us in England, that is.

England

The rolling hills of my homeland came as a great relief when we drove off the ferry from Holland to England. To me it meant clean clothes and a real cup of tea. The London and Bristol demos were anticipated to be huge, and sure enough, nobody was left disappointed–except perhaps Jerry Hsu, who suffered the cruelest twist of fate as we left London, after three great days in Her Majesty’s ’hood.

The Meanwhile II triple bowl is a favorite sunny-day spot of mine. And the sunshine was too glorious as we set off for Bristol to not stop for a quick slasher-sesh. Jerry was in the big bowl immediately having only just recovered from a tweaked ankle picked up in Finland. Everyone hadn’t even gotten out of all the vans when Jerry hung up on a pivot-to-fakie on the extension, falling down the transition, and knocking his elbow. I watched as his whole forearm shifted out of place, and seconds later his jaw dropped open in realization. Jerry had completely dislocated his radial head (elbow joint) from its socket.

“A very rare and difficult injury to sustain,” the nurse informed us at the hospital later that afternoon. “I’ve done it to the other arm, too,” slurred Jerry, still tripping from his morphine shots. They popped it back into place, and we made it to Bristol that night. Our distributor, Matt Law, and his UK Osiris crew kept us entertained and the hotel staff busy with their insatiable thirsts and Fight Club antics–demonstrated on Chad Knight by “Hammerfist” Horsley to the tune of a bloody nose.

I’d never seen so many skateboarders in one area in the UK in my life. The demo on the Lloyds ledges was teeming. “Dice Man” Toan was regularly seen sprinting around on his board, chased by an equally fast snake of fans desperate for the deck under his arm. Bristol was a blast, and Jerry perked up with the arrival of his buddy Alicia. Things were looking up again.

With our backs to Bristol, the plan was to head east toward the Channel Tunnel. There was plenty of time to get to our first French hotel in Rouen, but we’d have to hit part of the notorious London ring road, the M25.

Hans, having transferred in at the London stop to assist Dune, commandeered one of the cargo vans. Hans drives vans just like he rides his motocross bike, but I can’t blame him for the accident–we were attacked by a guerrilla anti-skate operative. The downpour had started way before we reached the M25. We hadn’t been on the wretched road that long before I saw signs for our exit. The convoy was in tight formation, a little too tight for my liking.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bright-red classic Jaguar XJS swerved from the right-hand lane across into ours. He was taking the same exit while braking hard! My windshield was aglow with the red brake lights of the rapidly decelerating Jag glaring through the deluge of rainwater. “I’ll never be able to brake as quickly as he will–I’m gonna hit him!” I thought.

My mind raced as my eyes darted across my view, seeking an escape route. I yanked the wheel hard to the left, came off the gas, and swerved onto the shoulder–just inches before his rear bumper. But before our van came to a halt … smash! What happened? Did I clip him? I hadn’t, but Hans didn’t stand a chance–he was right behind me. The assassin had disabled one of our assault vehicles. But what we did to his car was art. Different colored fluids pissed from underneath the crumpled classic–the Jaguar’s trunk was now in the passenger seat and its exhaust pointed to the sky. Then there was the other car–the one the Jag hit as it did at 360 shove-it to forward!

France

Anyway, the weather in France was kind to us, the general public generally disliked us, but the team pushed harder than ever. David–our French connection–made sure of that. The guys got excited when David mentioned a double-set on the way to our first demo in Rouen. The travel-tired riders soon found out he meant a double-set of demos, not steps. Still, the riders performed and then blew the roof o