(Photo above: Josh Pall, boardslide)
The joke of doing a Pass~Port trip to Greece had been getting thrown around in conversation amongst the team for years. Majority of us grew up watching Mind Field & Bon Apetit, dreaming one day we could do what no other Australian skateboard company had done and take the day-long flight across the globe to see for ourselves what this historical land of endless marble had to offer.
Photography By Thomas Robinson
Written By George Kousoulis
We were ten deep in an eight-seater van, threading the narrowest of roads and alleyways around Athens for two weeks, trying exceptionally hard not to crash into parked cars, people and street dogs.
The line-up was Josh "sober and deadly" Pall, Dean "Hermes, God of Knowledge" Palmer, Callum "beers for breakfast" Paul, Geoff "shitbag" Campbell and the legendary Glenn "broken toe, but nothing a couple pints can't fix" Wignall. Hungry young gun upstarts Mike Mieruszynski and Jack O' Grady were also there. Tom Robinson, Cameron Sparkes and myself had the media department covered and Trent Evans or as he likes to be known as on trips, "The Wallet" made up the total of ten on this trip come true.
Jack had just turned 18. He's the newest and youngest member of the team and this was his first ever Pass~Port trip. A couple days before the flight over he asked me, "What's Athens?" Haha! After checking into our apartment he was instantly well and truly settled in, playing the role of Greek Myth "Herbe" and passing off youthfulness to us all of even though he still couldn't tell you where on a map of the world he actually was if his life depended on it.
The local skaters welcomed us with arms wide open. The first ledge spot they took us to had boats sailing in the Aegean Sea blasting "Zorba the Greek," we definitely realized at this point that we had made it. The locals offered us knowledge and guided us through the smashed up, heavily graffitied concrete jungle which has been through so much, still showing scars and post trauma from the Economic Crisis it suffered a few years back. During the crisis riots, protesters would smash marble edges off ledges and walls with hammers to be used as ammo and thrown at police riot squads. This worked in our favor as many famous spots now had new, re-furbished, perfectly flush marble edges perfect for skating. Syntagma Square plaza now even has metal edge coping ledges better than your favorite skatepark. But it was not the famous skate spots we were truly after.
Finding Skankie's used condoms at every well-known spot that he had fucked to pieces in the first couple days inspired us to take some wrong turns on purpose, up and down back streets in a quest to find some untouched gold. Sparked by Josh's motivation, this was now our approach to get a piece of this city that can remain in the viewers' minds like the footage of our childhood heroes from so many years ago.
Greece has over 6000 islands. We didn't have time to go to any of them but had time aside to hit some famous beaches on the city's outskirts. However a couple days prior to our arrival an oil tanker ship carrying 2,500 tons of fuel sank off Salamis Island, causing a thick black oil slick to drift for miles around the mainland coast. We drove an hour and a half south to escape the oil zone, to celebrate Josh's birthday and to give the legs a break. While enjoying a picnic on the beach and a well-deserved swim, a few of us noticed black tar stuck to bits of our skin. We managed to still cop a bit of oily tar well out of the no swim zone. We heard rumors that a neighboring country planned this vessel to sink out of jealousy because Greece managed to make a decent amount of money from tourism over summer last year. A country that is in endless amounts of debt, trying everything it can to make things better but then getting hit with another disaster. We don't know if this is true, even Dean who knows more about Greek history and politics than most locals didn't know, so we scraped the petrol off our bodies and got back on the mission.
We encountered a few old Greek grandma kick outs while skating around but besides that nobody really seemed to bother us. It felt that if the general public had good company with friends, coffee, and cigarettes while flicking their worry beads everything is just okay and they tick on to live another day. It was good to soak simplicity like that in and take a little piece of that lifestyle back home to the fast paced complicated cities we live in.
Our diet consisted of iced coffee, souvlaki, souvlaki and souvlaki. Quoted by Callum, "Why aren't Greeks good at Soccer? Because every corner they get they build a bloody souvlaki shop on it!" This was true and deliciously convenient at two Euros a pop, available at anytime of the day/night.
Just like every Pass~Port trip, Geoff bossed around the media team while he was getting documented and got gang bashed most nights. But he didn't have to take out the shit bag. Like most European countries, the plumbing is weak. We are truly blessed in Oz with powerful toilets that can flush down basically anything that dissolves over time. So of course there was the job of taking out the plastic bag in the overflowing bin--next to the toilet with used paper in it--down five stories to the dumpster. Geoff decided the fairest way to sort this issue out was to have a game of SKATE over the actual "shit bag." It was Jack versus Geoff , neck and neck. Geoff's hours of flatground training at Melbourne's Lincoln Square came in handy as he scraped through and took young Jack down. He was now responsible for the daily dreaded task. Oh boy, I can tell you that ten grown men with a souvlaki and beer diet fill those toilet bins up real quick!
Towards the end of the trip we felt quite settled in and had confidently taken a lot of Greek culture on board. Every one of us casually throwing around words like, "Yasou" (hello/ goodbye), "Efxaristo" (thank you) and of course using the most common word in modern Greek language, "Malaka." To embrace the culture that little bit more, Trent bought a 12 pack of white plates to smash like they do at Greek weddings. We were saving the plates to smash when Jack Ollied into the gnarly steep bank (pictured in the article), but as he landed and somehow rode away we were all frozen in shock, speechless with our jaws dropped and were honestly too tame to smash the plates on the road. So we waited for the final night for Trent to take flight on his wobble board over a crusty volcano we came across on a walk home in the early hours of the morning. The location was rough, dark and kind of sketchy but everyone was hyped for Trent to get the last clip of the trip. As Trent put it down and rolled away in the early hours of the morning, a ceramic eruption took place as we celebrated, obviously bringing a lot of unwanted attention to ourselves. Before we knew it we were surrounded by a group of sketchy junkie characters mumbling gibberish. So we frantically got the fuck out of there. It was a very weird situation I can't describe but it was a close call. As we gathered around to check the footage, we realized Sparkes had filmed the Ollie but the memory cards filled up just before the plate smash and we had absolutely nothing to show for it! Maybe its a blessing in disguise? Is plate-smashing at a skate spot frowned upon by the Greeks? I don't feel like they care about too much of anything to be honest but who knows? There was absolutely no going back. I now don't feel that bad for heckling Cameron everyday to log footage and clean his camera cards instead of spending hours downstairs changing outfits (which were secretly being rated out of 10 each day by friends back home). 3/10 being the highest score. Haha!
Like most trips, it feels like it all flew by way too fast. Squeezing in anything and everything into two weeks. For now we have the memories, photos and the video to look back on proudly. It's safe to say we all one day would love to return and explore more of what this amazing endless land has to offer.