During the months of June and July, downhill skateboarders from all over the world congregate in central Europe for the International Gravity Sports Association Downhill Skateboard European Triple Crown. Riders come from all over Canada and the States, as well as Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Thailand, England, and central Europe.
If you can’t exactly picture what downhill skateboarding is, imagine mixing snowboard boarder-cross, road bicycle racing and motorcycle racing, with gravity as the only fuel. Also called “speedboarding”, it has been around since the early 1970s but a major international circuit didn’t form till the late 90s. The rules haven’t changed much, as most races are usually done in four-person heats, with the first two to cross the finish line advancing. Since skateboards don’t have any brakes, slowing down and stopping is done in a similar fashion to snowboarding or skiing, by pitching the board sideways, and drifting or sliding to reduce your speed. Being in a race requires total concentration on your board and your line, while also being aware of the three other racers riding inches from you. After racing down a mountain road with your friends, you get an adrenaline high that leaves your hands shaking for a few minutes afterwards and memories that you can’t forget.
It is this addiction that’s led me to a few months of planning and saving some money for the European Triple Crown tour. With all of the necessary racing gear, camping gear and clothes, packing for such a trip can be quite a challenge. Since I was traveling mainly by train I needed to be mobile, which is hard to do when traveling with over 100 pounds of gear. With one large backpack and a duffle bag, my trip started by flying from San Francisco to Stockholm, Sweden for a local outlaw race and crashing on friends’ couches. The official beginning of the tour and our destination was a small ski resort in Southern France, nestled high in Pyrenees Mountains.
After twenty-eight hours of travel we arrived at the small town of Luchon, in Southern France near the Spanish border. It took us one plane, a taxi, a few trains, two buses, sleeping on the floor in a train station and, finally, riding in the back of a van driven by a drunk Frenchman named Fritz to get there. Totally exhausted, tired and hungry, we arrived at the Peyragudes Deluxe Cup. This was probably the most beautiful setting for a downhill race that I have ever been to, we were high in the Pyrenees with a twisty steep French road to ride down for three days. Right after the finals of the race were finished, the fog and rain came. With the rest of the race cancelled due to the very nasty weather, some friends and I decided to get out of the mountains and relax on the beaches of Marseille for a few days before heading to the next event.
Dry, warm and relaxed in Marseille, we packed up everything and woke up, once again, at 4am for another long day of train travel, this time heading towards a tiny ski town in the Bavarian Alps for the Almabtrieb World Cup. After riding all day, everybody congregates around the restaurant and swimming pool, drinking excellent Bavarian beer and trying their skills on the slack line set up over the pool. A few days later, slightly bruised and battered, but stoked on my top 16 finish, I packed up my tent and gear and found a ride to the train station in Kempton, Germany.
For once, getting from Stuttgart to Thalgau, Austria via trains didn’t take very long since the cities are only a few hours away from each other. We were greeted in Thalgau by a torrential rain storm that doesn’t stop for 2 days. Thank god that beer was so good and so cheap there. Finally, after a day of practicing in the rain, we got to race on a dry road. With speeds of up to 55mph and sweeping corners, this racecourse was the fastest of the IGSAWorld Cup series.
With the last race under my belt, tired, hung over, and starting to catch a cold, I caught a train to Zurich via Munich to meet up with an old friend and skate some epic roads in the Swiss Alps, based out of Thun, 2 hours west of Zurich. I could have easily stayed in Thun for weeks, skating their beautiful 20+ kilometer winding hills, drinking excellent beer and eating Donor Kebabs. But it was soon back to reality. I had to head back to Zurich to catch my plane home. With 15 hours to kill on the flight back, I start going through my digital camera, looking at all the photos I took on the epic trip. I hope that next year I can return again and meet up with my dysfunctional family of downhill skateboarders from all over the world.
If you need any advice on how to pack/camp or generally travel light and cheap in Europe take a look at some of David’s trip necessities or stop in to pick his road-rashed mind.
Favorite gear used on the trip:
-Icebreakers 140 weight t-shirts for those multi-day train rides. No Stink!
-Big Agnes Super-light Seedhouse 2.0. This tent is light, small and very compact. Great for train hauling and capable of taking a good storm.
-Gregory Alpaca duffle bag. A bomber, waterproof gear hauler that can handle months of abuse on the road.
-Western Mountaineering Apache Sleeping Bag. With all the skateboard gear, there wasn’t much room for basic camping gear, but this toasty warm bag packs down super small.
David Price-Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works