Three The Hard Way: A filming mission into the European elements.

Three The Hard WayA filming mission into the European Greg Hunt

ONE of the first lessons learned on this trip is that life in Spain, as in much of the rest of the world, is taken slow and easy, and expecting anything there to be taken care of in any sort of fast, efficient, “American” way is just not possible. Spaniards see and do things differently, which can make something like flying on a Spanish airline very difficult for certain people. For example, Jon Holland somehow ended up in Miami for a 24-hour layover. On Atiba’s flight, the stewardess yelled at him for sleeping through the landing with his seat back and seatbelt undone. In total disbelief she asked, “What if the plane had crashed? Do you want to just fly around the inside?” I tried to explain to Atiba that maybe it was her responsibility, but he didn’t want to listen.

But we all arrived in one piece, and on the first day our crew consisted of Diego Bucchieri, Reese Forbes, Mike Carroll, Scott Johnston, Keith Hufnagel, Anthony Van Engelen, Atiba, Jon Holland, and me. Madrid was our first destination and much nicer than most of us thought it would be. Most of the skate spots are isolated in one small area near downtown, but they are all good, and you can skate there all day without a hassle.

It was on the first night there, when trying a massive ollie off a few stairs and over a car, that Reese ran into a street sign, slicing a deep gash into his knee. It seemed pretty minor at the time, and back at the hotel a female doctor in a sundress visited Reese and said that it was nothing, but gave him one rough Spanish stitch to play it safe. I’m not sure where she thought all of the blood that had been draining from his knee would go, but immediately after she left, his knee began to swell heavily. When Reese tried to get up to go to the bathroom his knee sprung a leak, shooting blood all over the floor and walls, and understandably he panicked a little. Not wanting to wake anybody, he tried to go down to the lobby for some help.

I was oblivious to all this until Anthony knocked on my door and told me there was a problem. Walking to their room I noticed blood everywhere. Reese was back in bed and okay. He said the doctor was on her way back, and he wanted to know if I could go down to the lobby, check things out, and maybe help clean things up a little. I won’t go into too much detail about what the elevator and the lobby looked like, but I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. When I was mopping blood off the walls of a Spanish elevator at four in the morning, I couldn’t help but to think how strange it was that this was part of my job, and how it was just one more thing that most people will never understand about all that’s involved in what we do.

Sunday was a good day. We skated, ate, and had a good time. On Monday, however, during a cooldown session at a museum, Carroll tweaked his ankle severely enough to send him home early. This was definitely the low point of the trip, but somehow Mike was in good spirits and decided he’d stick with us another day until we reached Barcelona.

Leaving Madrid that night was a struggle, as it turned into another round with Spain’s Iberian Airlines. Our flight was at 11:30 p.m.¿the last of the night¿and somehow Anthony, Diego, Jon, and I were shuffled into a baggage-check line where the counter person casually wandered off. By 11:20 we hadn’t moved, and the stress level was high, but Diego eventually managed to talk someone into checking our bags. Once we were checked in, it was 11:27, and we had roughly three minutes to cross the entire airport to our gate. The 300-meter dash is nothing to be taken lightly, especially when you throw in a 30-pound camera bag, but somehow I managed to edge out Van Engelen, who was pulling up the rear as we made it into the gate with no time to spare.

TWO down in the first three days and things were feeling a bit grim upon our arrival in Barcelona. We ied to remain optimistic, but it seemed like Iberian Airlines didn’t want to let us off that easy.

If luggage damage were to upset anyone in our group, it would have to be either Scott or Carroll. The old saying “when it rains, it pours” couldn’t have suited the situation better as Mike waited patiently in his wheelchair by the baggage carousel. His bag slowly approached, and as it drew closer it looked to be covered in some thick substance, which after closer inspection turned out to be nothing but fresh caramel. It was smeared everywhere, but concentrated mostly on the bag’s handle. Scott’s bag was violated as well, and I felt really bad for those guys¿that is until I realized that my bags hadn’t even arrived at all, neither had Diego’s or Van Engelen’s. ¡Viva Iberian!

But Barcelona definitely provided the fresh start we all needed. The city itself is amazing, the food was good, and there was a seemingly endless amount of places to skate. It occurred to me that aggro security, skate-proofing, and subversive skate tactics might be solely American phenomenons. Museums, churches, schools, and everything public are all there for the taking, and skateboarders can come and go without feeling like criminals. It’s hassle-free skating, and however hard it may be to believe, it really does exist.

I’ve got to say that technology is to Japan what frozen desserts are to Europe, and in this category Europeans are simply light-years ahead of the rest of the world. If you’re unafraid to try something new, the Euro variety is unreal, and by the time we’d reached Barcelona the consumption of cold treats had grown totally out of control. Most of us were going in for two, maybe three, sometimes even four rounds a day, due mostly to curiosity alone.

But despite the quality of our diet, everybody was skating hard, and things were feeling better. Reese was walking around fine, and we were looking forward to Cairo Foster flying in to meet us on Wednesday.

But Cairo’s arrival day came and we hadn’t heard from him. It wasn’t until we ran into my friends Alex and Cameron from S.F. that we learned Cairo had suffered a contusion (a severe bruise) on his lower back and was out for a good while. That made a total of three down, and while laying in bed on the night train to Paris, I thought about whether it really could be just plain misfortune, or maybe a reminder that the risk involved in skating right now is at an all-time high.

THREE days were left, and Paris seemed much simpler. It would rain, then it would dry, and then we would skate. Then it would rain again, then dry again, then we would skate again, etc.

It was a big weekend in France because of the Euro 2000 football championship (which is like the European version of the World Cup), in which France was battling Italy. Everybody was tuned in, so it was in between the games and the rain that we were shown around town by Stephan Larance and Huf’s good friend Samir. The spots were amazing, and like in Spain, nobody anywhere seemed to care what we were up to. Everyone ripped, especially the locals, but the weather was a definite damenper.

It was on Sunday night, while skating a desolate La Defense (Paris’ ultra-modern financial district), that France took down Italy for the championship title. We listened to the city literally erupt¿and we soon realized we had a problem. Lying directly between where we were and our hotel was the famous Arch De Triumph traffic circle, where half of France was gathering and going absolutely insane. We had no choice but to try to barge through the chaos, which we somehow did, becoming part of the madness in the process.

Monday was our final day, and the weather gave us no love whatsoever. I think everyone felt a little beaten in one way or another, and it seemed understood that the trip was just one of those occasions where the almighty element of chance deals out some bad blows. It’s simply part of what skating’s all about, which is something that’s learned and understood from the very beginning: you try, you fall, and you get back up and try again.

bout, which is something that’s learned and understood from the very beginning: you try, you fall, and you get back up and try again.