The Real Team Takes On Canada

Photography And Words By Scott Pommier

The Real team doesn’t show up on the pages of TransWorld as much as they should. It might seem like California is this united union of skateboarding to those of us who grew up outside the state and always wanted to come here, there’s always been a bit of a NorCal/So Cal divide, much like pre-Civil War America. TransWorld has always been something of a So Cal flagship. I’m sort of a latecomer to the industry, having grown up in Canada, so here’s what I’ve gathered. TransWorld used to be owned by Tracker Trucks, mortal enemy of Independent Trucks, which was in turn owned by the same dude who runs Thrasher magazine—sort of the NorCal flagship. Incidentally, Real Skateboards is also under that same tent. You still with me? So if you own Thrasher, Indy, and Real, do you really want your dudes helping to sell magazines for your sworn enemy over at Tracker Trucks? And if you own Tracker, how are you going to feel when they won’t put one of your guys on the cover of their magazine because you can see his Trackers in the shot?

Nowadays all of the skate magazines on the shelves of your local 7-Eleven have their own flavor and their own design, but they’re not nearly as disparate as they once were. You might find a Jamie Thomas interview in any of them, just as you might find a Leo Romero interview in all of them. There was a time, however, when Thrasher devoted a considerable portion of its editorial well to Wade Speyer’s socks while TransWorld was more concerned with Alfonso Rawls’ Civic hatchback. I’ll leave you to ponder who had a sweeter scoop.

We’ve all heard about how we live in a global village with a global economy and how the World Wide Web is turning this spinning orb we inhabit into the “small world that little Disney characters are always singing about. Well, in light of all of this, the old local beefs lose they’re significance. While the consumption of skateboards and related gear has increased greatly over the years, the industry is still pretty darn small. Talk shit on someone in your Pro Spotlight today, and two years later he’ll wind up being your teammate or your team manager, and then next thing you know, you’re out of a job and those G-Wagon lease payments ain’t slowin’ up anytime soon. The immortal words of bandanna enthusiast and metal superstar Axl Rose come to mind: “What’s so civil about war anyways? So there’s your slacker, modern skate history/behind-the-scenes exposé based on hearsay, lore, and conjecture. Just thought I’d try to, you know, illuminate.

I called Jasin Phares, Deluxe’s co-team manager, and told him I was interested in getting some of his guys in the magazine. We put together loose plans to do something, and after a few phone calls we had it sorted—a week and a half in Canada—Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal to be precise. Jasin and the boys rolled into town a little later than expected after a few guys missed flights, but with a lineup of road warriors like the Real team, I wasn’t exactly worried. No, J.T., no Buzenitz, and no Huf, but everyone else was there and ready to go. Max Schaaf, Peter Ramondetta, Damian Bravo, Ernie Torres, Nick Dompierre, Chima Fergusson, a flow dude named James, and a very happy-go-lucky filmer named Aaron. Even the infamous white truck made it out. Jasin drove it up from San Francisco, and it was packed with everything you need to stack the odds back in your favor on a skate mission: Bondo, lights and generator, tools, wood, and even a nice little shelf for my camera gear—this was one tight unit. We hit the ground running, and by the end of the first day I was sitting on pair of sequences and a couple of stills.

Toronto, having just endured what by all accounts was an absolutely vicious heat wave, was actually unseasonably cool, which was a nice break as East Coast humidity can zap your energy and send you running for the cool shelter of the hotel air conditioning. With the weather situation fairly stabl we quickly got into a relaxed routine of skating and going out to eat that lent itself to productivity without burnout. Even the demo schedule didn’t really disrupt the steady flow of street ripping. When you’ve got a group of guys who skate every spot you take them to, your job as a photographer really isn’t too tough.

The guys were much amused by any and all Canadian-isms. Each did their best Bob and Doug impression for the duration of the trip. I tried to tell them that “hoser and “take off were not really in common circulation. While trying to skate a spot outside an apartment building, we were booted by a lady in her mid forties who told us all to “take off! Immediately everyone burst out laughing. The scene was reenacted countless times and probably ranks as a highlight of the trip for Peter. It was only trumped after meeting the indelible Dan Bochart. Dan is a character, and anyone who passes through Toronto is likely to bump into him—and is much the better for it. The Lakai team met him on a tour and took such a shining to him that they had him narrate their whole tour video Se Habla Canuck. An ingratiating mix of humbleness, wit, and a nearly unparalleled gift for gab, Dan is impossible not to love and impossible not to quote.

Max had the most authentic faux Canadian accent with an impressive grasp of the local lexicon, sounding spookily similar to Tony Fergusson at times. Jasin’s wasn’t too bad, either, but it dipped to the Fargo/Minnesotan end. Chima’s was just all together wrong. It’s a good thing he can skate the big stuff, ’cause he’s got no future whatsoever as a character actor—as much as he liked to mimic Dave Chappelle episodes he’d recently seen. Ernie pretty well gave the whole thing a miss and opted instead to chat on the phone with his girlfriend. James hardly said a word the whole trip, but when he did he was polite as pie—nice kid. Nick was pretty quiet, too, but tended more toward sarcasm and skepticism, but, you know, in a good way.

And that’s pretty much how it went. We ate, we skated. Jasin, Max, and I nerded out on motorcycle magazines. At night we had a few drinks, went to be bed at a reasonable hour, got up at a reasonable hour, and did it all over again.

The team celebrated Go Skateboarding Day at a massive skatepark in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto. Max was set to fly home the day before, but in the spirit of the event, decided to extend his ticket to skate with his buddies. Unfortunately, he ended up rolling his ankle but is doubtlessly back in fighting trim by now.

Some of the demos were small, but the guys ripped them anyway—even in Ottawa, where the demo came right on the heels of a blazing session on some fourteen-stair rails.

Montreal was a little harder to get around, since I’m not as familiar with the lay of the land and we didn’t have a tour guide, but we still got some skating in. The Big-O is always a safe bet. The athletes’ entrance to the 1976 Olympic Track And Field stadium has a natural halfpipe with flatbottom as well as a capsule-shaped fullpipe—it shows up in skate videos every time Montreal is featured. There’s always some sort of festival going on during the summer months in Montreal, and we showed up right as a giant party was starting. In this case it was St. Jean-Baptiste, which is the French way of saying John the Baptist. Basically, it’s Quebec’s version of St. Patrick’s Day, except everyone gets drunk wearing blue instead of green. The Olympic stadium was apparently the sight of some giant free concert, so a steady stream of goofily dressed Quebecois marched past and often yelled excitedly as we skated.

We made a few more stops at some of the mandatory Montreal street spots, and then we went to the last demo, where we said tearful good-byes, promised to write each other every week, exchanged friendship bracelets and tearful hugs, and said, “Good-bye. No wait, not good-bye, I hate good-byes. How about, until we meet again?

It all went the way it’s supposed to, the way you imagine it when you’re a kid. It reminded me how simple skateboarding could be. Thank you to Jasin, Mickey, the team, Chalbert, and of course, Bochart. it’s supposed to, the way you imagine it when you’re a kid. It reminded me how simple skateboarding could be. Thank you to Jasin, Mickey, the team, Chalbert, and of course, Bochart.