Note to readers: This was an article Luca and Alix wrote in 2012 and we never published it, I don't know why, it is really good, and I am back posting it on the blog for historical purposes. It is part of who we are at Hopkin. Luca send in an update a few weeks ago, and no excuses for not posting soon. Read on for Fjords, fires and freak accidents, some more classes in the school of Pain. A European Tour snatched away in the blink of an eye… Words by Luca Coleman & Alix Symondson Well, this story has a great start and a shitty ending so I’m sorry if you prefer it the other way round because I know I do. It was at Bo Peep Crash & Burn where I met up with our good friend & Early rider TB who told me about this mystical land that he calls home which he seemed to be missing as he stood there telling me about it. We were in wet, muddy leathers standing in the howling wind at the top of a hill in East Sussex waiting to have a run and I have to say by contrast it sounded like heaven. He spoke of a place with roads that have an 18% gradient and endless switchbacks deep in vast tree–clad gorges, surrounded by snowmelt cascading down hundreds of meters above and below you. The purest nature you could imagine with winding roads that go for miles. He said there was going to be a race down a mountain road with 4 hairpins and a bridge going over a river with a waterfall right next to it that splashes your visor with spray as you bomb down. The race was part of an extreme sports festival that was taking place during the course of the week so there was to be a bunch of crazy people there. Base jumpers, kayakers, skiers, mountain bikers, skydivers, swoopers, rafters you name it! I don’t know about you but that was all I needed to hear to get me out there. That night I asked my girlfriend Alix if she wanted to go with me to Norway. It would be a total adventure as neither of us had ever been there, or anywhere close for that matter and she readily agreed. The next day we made plans and booked our flights. We were taking a chance and camping for the week even though Norway is notorious for raining non-stop at this time of year. Fingers crossed, we packed our bags and headed for the land of the Great White North. (PICS: bag of gear, valley, house) There really is no other place like Norway I’ve ever been. It’s vast and super lush with blue sky seamlessly blending into snow-capped mountains all around you. The people there are all friendly and speak really good English (unless you look like a Norwegian) and if you get lucky with the weather there are some roads there that will melt your mind just looking at them. When we arrived we set up camp and that evening, just as we were settling down for our first night in a Scandinavian forest, and who do we see but Adam Persson, Mathias Borg & Erik Lundberg trudging through the woods. Sick. They had just driven 16 hours from Sweden! We made a plan to go and shred with TB, Terry the South African and other locals the next day… (pics: me and car, boot & flower, Adam Persson) We met up with everyone and drove out to the hills. There was a big group of us and some spots were one way downhill runs like Stolheimklaver. That place is so ridiculous…18% gradient with more switchbacks than you care to count. It’s a master class in sliding and cornering but still so much fun. TB was stoked to have taken us there and I was stoked to see Dennis Westphal who I hadn’t seen for ages…since Byron almost 2 years ago! We skated all day and headed back to camp. Because Norway is so far north it doesn’t get dark there in the summer until really late at night and even then it’s still pretty light. This means you can skate until 10/11pm at night!! (Pics: Campsite, Dennis & Kristina etc.) We spent the next few days before the race filming and skating various locations. We checked out a few of the other sports going on at the event and sampled the local cuisine which by the way is not only really expensive (like everything in Norway) but really bad…sorry but it has to be said. The only downside to Norway is the cost of stuff there. It’s hectic. A bottle of beer is like 10 bucks in a bar! This can be forgiven when you are in such an awesome place though but be warned…also maybe pack a sandwich. (PICS: ALix, Me, TB) Well, all the riders who came to the event (all 200 of them) were there to do one thing and that was race. As this was not an IGSA event it had a less serious and more enjoyable vibe with the same caliber of riders. I was stoked to be racing on such an amazing track but I knew towards the end of the tree there would be some tough competition. I was riding well and qualified 6th overall. After making it through to the 3rd round I came up against Lundberg, Mathias and a grommet. Coming into the second hairpin it was real tight and we all got tangled except for Erik who was in first. We all crashed and I got my board last and ended up getting 3rd in the race, 9th overall but I was not racing like I usually do. There was no anxiety and no pressure. I was relaxed and care free. It was a great feeling. I wasn’t bummed out, I just took it for what it was… the experience and great memories. Besides I had come to Norway to make a film and ride its gravity. Mission accomplished it was time to grab Alix and meet up with the rest of the crew for the presentation and De La Soul live!
(PICS: Series of 6) WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:
We only had a few days once we got back to London to plan the rest of our Euro tour. My mum lives on this little island off the coast of Spain, Ibiza, so we decided to take all our gear over there and drive up for Kozakov in Czech Republic. First we needed a van and we were lucky enough to find one that was perfect so it seemed like we were ready to go but then disaster struck…thieves broke into the van and stole a bunch of stuff out of it and destroyed all the electrical wiring in the process! It needed to be re-fitted and that would mean staying on another week to get all the parts. We were not going to make it to Kozakov in time for the event. Total bummer. At least we’d make it with plenty of time for the race in Italy so we set off for the ferry to Barcelona and began our epic drive north through Spain and France. (PICS of the Van) The van actually hauled ass and we made it to Italy that day. We camped out the night in a little town and made our way to Teolo, another small town in the hills that hosts the race. As we arrived in Teolo we saw Rob and Maga who had arrived that day with Alex Duss and other Fibretec team-riders in their van. I was amazing seeing everyone after being on the road for so long and we were ready to have a good time. Me and Rob had a look at the track and seeing as we were there a day early we put our free-ride wheels on and had some fun runs. The track was ok, a long straight into some chicane and then some super slow hairpins until a final sweeper takes you across the line. I was looking forward to qualifying tomorrow after so many delays and time spent organizing the trip but there was one thing that sucked already about being in Italy: the heat was crazy. It was 40+ degrees from 11am onwards and we would be racing in leather the next day. (Pics: Me & Rob) As it got dark we headed back to camp and this Brazilian dude, Andre, who has been skating forever announced that it was national Swiss day and that we had to build a giant fire…but you’re never content with just building a giant fire…you have to somehow interact with it so Rob McWhinnie did exactly that. People were jumping the fire but rob wanted to take it to the next level so he started jumping it with a board. After that got boring and his legs had no hair left on them we wondered what would happen if we threw some of Robs CO2 canisters for his BB gun into the fire…nothing at first and then a mother of a bang! Yeah! What a rad first night. (PICS: Fire jumps) The next day was practice and we suited up and headed up to the top of the hill. The start line is right in the middle of the town and these old buildings and restaurants surround you. There were a lot of people there and it was HOT. I had a few runs with Rob and then bumped into other Fibretec riders like Lluis Lins and Alex Duss and decided to have a team run. As we got to the line Alex Tongue jumped in with us and we started rolling. No one was skating too hard as it was the 4th practice run I think. As we got to the bottom of the track, I crossed the line and stood up. Alex Tongue was slightly ahead of me to the right and decided to do a heelside check to slow down before the busses to take us back to the top. I went to go around him on the left hand side but then all of a sudden he hooked up, came onto my side of the road and did another check but toeside this time. Right in front of me I had nowhere to go and tried to shoot the gap between him and the grass. There was no room though and next thing I’m superman-ing through the air and as I hit the ground my left shoulder was dislocated instantly. The pain was unbelievable. Exactly the same as when I did my right shoulder for the first time. I knew what had happened straight away. I knew what it meant. After all it had already happened to my other shoulder so I knew exactly what it meant. No more Euro tour. It sucks being a skater who can’t skate and after they popped it back in under general anesthetic in hospital the reality sunk in. It was harsh and the way it happened was unforgivable but I thought of my other friends who were in a similar situation and you grow to accept it as part of the consequences of riding skateboards. Dumb accidents happen in every sport but I had to move on. We hung out for the next couple of days but the campsite became unbearable and my shoulder was still killing me. I needed to get away from the all the ‘what happened to you’ questions from the riders and as I was with Alix we decided to go to a place called Verona which was only about an hour away. Verona is the town where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was based so it seemed only appropriate and it helped to distract me from the shattering reality of what had happened. We had a great time and it made up for all the bad stuff. PICS: Verona We were sad to leave Rob and Maga behind but I came to skate and if I couldn’t skate then I was going back to fix myself and heal up stronger than I was before the accident. I had to get over this mentally and physically and return to do what I love. We went back to Ibiza to spend our last 2 weeks in the sun. I’m having physio at the moment and maybe an MRI scan. Hopefully with exercise and training I can avoid having another operation. It could happen again but hey so could anything and I’ve already asked myself if I think it’s worth it and I think it is… Hard to say how long I’ll be out for, probably for a couple of months, hopefully not. We’ll see how it goes. Thank you to Alix who looked after me and drove the van when I couldn’t. I don’t know what I would have done without you. (PICS: Ibiza)