With the International Downhill Federation (IDF) having its blockbuster world cups like Kozakov in July the usual time for freerides and open road sessions is August. Team AOB’s (Ry Swanton, Bodhi Keen, Aaron Skippings Ben Stainer along with myself ) plan included Insul World cup, Giaosteka Freeride and Bela Joyride leaving as much free time as possible to skate the Alps. We set off from the UK for the second time this summer on August the 9th and proceeded to drive onto Insul World cup via Cologne.
Cologne proved to be especially beautiful with a historic cathedral and river. For AOB Cologne is our birthplace. Our boards are 100 percent made from veneer to finished product by the On the Grind crew for skaters in a workshop in downtown Cologne. The On the Grind crew are a bunch of hardworking skaters making top of the line boards for a few brands supported by Fun4u. We spent a day exploring the city centre on our Dancers and then helped out in the Workshop. Its pretty awesome to race someone at Insul on the weekend and then see them laying up a board in the factory on Monday.
Although some of the World cup races in Europe have been plagued by rain Insul ,nestled in North Western Germany, happened to be blessed with eternal sunshine. The track looked like a simple 5 hairpins and one 90 degree right but turned out to include 3 kinks. The advantage of Kinked corners is that everyone can choose their strongest breaking method but this in turn makes racing interesting and hectic. With the rise of Swiss foot breaking Insul made for an interesting race. Notably Pete Connolly (of the UK crew) ended up taking 7th place in the Open’s and winning the masters yet again. Pete looks like he could end up winning the Masters world tour and being crowned Champion and we are all excited to see him make it. Insul as a skate festival has a super relaxed vibe.
Berry Plasman and Olivier Gires from the IDF were absolutely on form and made sure the race ran smoothly while Stephan Kolpatzik oversaw the whole show. An impromptu football game was organized by a group of keen German skaters (who happened to be both skilled and armed with football boots and shin pads) and we all left with more scars from football than skating. Free food came with event entry; a Dinner and 2 breakfasts were included which made sure unprepared skaters managed to stay alive. Quin Boards (a core German brand also from Cologne) built a mini-ramp for the event with a whole load of comfy barrel seating for a super strong Lurk game. It turns out that when they are not designing top quality boards they spend their time making lurk equipment from board benches to the Quin table and chair set.
After Insul we then continued along on our skate adventure down to Switzerland. We had a few days free so we decided to head to a few of the classic swiss descents. There are only a few roads in Switzerland you can skate without trouble from the police and the locals who want only to protect the few spots that are still not blown. Skating is thus limited to a handful of quiet spots which the locals are happy to share.
The Entire Swiss scene meets for Giaosteka Freeride just outside of San Bernadino. Organized by a small professional crew and with camping beside a beautiful lake Giaosteka proved to be a laid back 4 days riding with friends. The course was relaxed which enabled us to ride in tight packs on our Fussion’s. The Wheel of choice for all of us was the 78a Mommentum. With just enough grip to keep up with any wheel the team spent the long weekend charging down the hill and playing drafting games on the straight. With the event starting at 1pm every day mornings were relaxed featuring games of Tennis and Mini Golf. Unfortunately Tom and Bodhi managed to end up getting injured on the penultimate run at Giaosteka. They were forced to stop by another crash in front and tumbled leaving them both with a load of road rash making the drive to Bela Joyride pretty uncomfortable.
Once we had left Giaosteka Freeride we drove north to one of Switzerlands best spots hidden amongst Boulders and Dairy Cows. Endless Freeride runs were taken on the Slide Perfect Supremacy with all three editions in use on different setup’s. We camped at the top by a small lake which Ben quickly swam in and found it to be around 12 degrees. Switzerland in general was stunningly beautiful and would be a downhill skate paradise if it were not for the police issues.
We set off from Switzerland on Tuesday beginning a long drive to the Austrian-Slovenian Border for Bela Joyride once again run by Bigmountain skate. Setup down a 10 minute long run from the border the track featured 18 corners and steep gradients. The bottom section consisted of endless hairpins you can rally around on freeride wheels while the top section had 4 interesting corners including a chicace you could go through at around 70kph.
A huge UK crew joined us there as well as friends from as far as New Zealand and Australia. Pack runs were plenty with as many as 8 runs a day efficiently achieved by Big Mountain Skate. Bodhi got out his luge and filmed for a whole day as the team just had fun. With Aaron’s ongoing knee injury from Kozakov World Cup he was limited to a little bit of skating and then a heavy icepack session. The Fussion was a perfect match for Bela Joyride and the team excelled on their boards. With locked in concave and a little drop the board made easy work of the kinks and challenging pavement Bela Joyride presented us. Evenings at Bela Featured Mini Ramp sessions and (as usual) Someone’s homemade local schnapps which proved to be blindingly strong. After a short war between Team AOB and the Dutch GUCCISQUAD we set off for Innsbruck in Western Austria to stay with Quirin Illmer.
Quirin Illmer (or Qui to his friends) is the 2015 IDF European Champion. His style features a mix of perfect technical ability and clever race decisions which have always made him one of the most heavy hitting European Skaters. After Bela Joyride Qui offered to have us stay and explore the roads around him. One of the first roads we hit was a Glacier access road which turned out to feature 25 minute long runs and have 29 corners. Straights featured speeds close to 100 KPH and on our first full descent we were all pretty shaken but excited about the run. Personally I don’t think I have skated a road as enjoyable as that. With such crazy corners and views from 3000 metres up I look forward to returning in the future. After a few full runs of what was a dream hill bad weather rolled onto the mountain and we were forced to drive onwards to an Alpine Coaster.
Alpine Coasters are gravity powered rollercoasters which have starred in many viral videos in the last few years. We were all desperate to try one and decided to go to the biggest in Austria. With Go-Pro’s attached to our helmets we flew down the track in a pack bumping each other down the mountain.
Although we were only allowed one run I would encourage anyone doing a Eurotour to check out an Alpine Coaster as the thrill is pretty close to skating downhill on a longboard. Thanks to Qui for showing us around his local downhill paradise for a few days and putting us up in Hotel Illmer.
With a short amount of time left we set off on our long drive back to Calais with a stop on the way to rest for a night. By this point in the trip we were all pretty sleep deprived and looked forward to resting in our own beds at last. However with a National UK race planned for the weekend by Brianne Collective we would only get 3 days away from each other before we were re-united to race.
Special thanks to AOB Longboards.