Photos by Nicola Debernardi
Story by Ben Daeleman
Story and most photos originally seen in Confusion magazine – issue 33.
We left in Mechelen, Belgium from the Awarehouse on monday in the morning. After about a 15 minute drive we noticed something was wrong with the van. The heat meter went in and out of the red zone depending on how fast we were driving. Pretty soon after that it stayed in the red zone no matter what we did with our driving speed and you could feel the engine was losing a lot of power. Very soon we were doing 50 km/h on the highway with full pedal to the metal. We had no choice than taking the first exist, pull over the van and call the guy we rented it from. We decided to let the van cool down for a while and then drive it back to his house. We drove on the small roads with the heating full on, windows open in the hopes that we didn’t burn down the van. After a hot drive of an hour we arrived at his place and from there we drove to the garage. The mechanic couldn’t really work on it right away and said there was a chance we could make it if we’d drive constantly with the heating on full. We took the chance but after a five minute drive it already went back into the red zone. We could feel we’d surely burn down the engine if we’d go on the trip with this van. The ironic thing is that we were talking about the trip and saying: ‘fired up’ all the time about everything – funny how this actually became real! 🙂 We started calling around for another van but noticed soon after that it being mid-summer season it was really hard to find one.
Everywhere the vans were rented out. But Freek, the guy from the first van, found a company close to his place where there was a 9-seater available untill the 3rd of August. We wanted to go untill the 6th, but nevermind, better shorter than not at all so – we went for it. We took off, back to Mechelen, with heating on full blast and slept in the Awarehouse. The next morning we took off in the new van, ready to go go!! All went well. We arrived in Chamrousse in the evening and instead of the heating, we had the AC on this time. 🙂
There is no way we would have made it with the first van, all these steep, crazy, tiny mountain roads would have destroyed it completely, no doubt! At dinner at the local restaurant they charged us one euro to plug in our phone – seems like the electricity crisis in the mountains is a bit bigger. Later at the park there were lights, so we could enjoy the first session after two hectic days of leaving, not leaving and leaving in the end.
Chamrousse is such a lovely spot to spend the night and wake up under the trees with little sunbeams coming through the leaves. We took it easy that day, swimming in the lake next to the park and enjoying a good maté in the sun. In the evening there was the birthday party of Leo. He’s one of the locals and part of WAW (Wonders Around The World) wondersaroundtheworld.org. The energy that night was so great. Everybody got completely fired up, the session got heated over the doorway whilst the bbq was watching. A mellow wake up and slow start of the day the next morning after a good party. Nicola apparently made a somersault that night whilst falling down a little gap. He pulled it scratch free, thank you alcohol for being his guardian angel.
The plan was to move to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne for an evening session but Hans got stuck in a nosebluntslide battle in which he had to surrender after a hard slam on his sacral bone – he was really close on winning that battle. Hans, whenever you’re ready, the nosebluntslide will be yours! During the drive to Saint-Jean everybody got super pumped up in the van, partying, screaming, Pieter was in and out the van for downhills and I drove straight over a roundabout… nice feeling I must say! In Saint-Jean we stayed at Jey’s (aka Jérémy aka Concrete Slave) place, a super nice house with space for everyone ten minutes from the skatepark. Thanks a lot Jey for letting us stay in your house! And even more thanks for the insanely sick skatepark you all have created there!! skateandcreate.fr
In the morning we first jumped in the freezing river next to the skatepark and by the time we were back at the park it started raining. It was a nice chill session under a little party tent with high hopes the rain would pass. But it kept pouring down so at 3 o’clock we decided to go back to the house, but I couldn’t find the keys to the van. They weren’t in my backpack in their regular spot. Then I remembered the last time I had the keys was when I went back to the van in my swim shorts right before the river session. I asked them to throw me my swim shorts that I’d hung out to dry and found the keys in the back pocket of the shorts! The crazy thing is that the zipper of that small back pocket is broken, so it was all the time open with the keys in there and it’s a wild river with a lot of current. I guess the universe was with us to not let the keys take off and float their way back to Grenoble. Fired Up!! 🙂
On the way to the house we stopped at the supermarket to get some stuff to cook a meal at night and when we came out it stopped raining and a little blue spot came to smile between the dark foggy mountains. So we decided to got back to the park and cook there. At the park we met a guy from Italy, who was there with his kid. Because they had only one hour to skate they had swept and cleaned the whole park already, so great! Session was on. 🙂
Later that day I was filming Nick’s line which started with a frontside ollie over the only coping-no platform keyhole gap. My friends were like: ‘you have to film more under it, it’s gonna look nicer’ . I didn’t really feel that but still I did it anyway and after three tries he kicked away his board and it landed pretty much perfectly straight on my head. Blood was running down my face. There was a little gap on the side of my head which needed stitches. Jey called the hospital before I arrived, so no waiting game there. Everyhting went super fast, like going to a drive through. 🙂 Walk in, 2 stitches, walk out. Thanks again Jey! 🙂 By the time I arrived at the park Nick landed the line captured by Hans. It surely was not for nothing and we all lived happily ever after to enjoy good pasta made with lots of love by Nicola, Mikkjel and Muna. All’s well that ends well. 🙂 In between the cooking session, Nicola went to park to shoot Jeroen’s handplant on the rock, some proper multi-tasking in the French mountains that day.
Our last day in Saint-Jean started with a morning session on the little half bowl in front of Jey’s mansion. I was filming from the window on the first floor with a shirt over my legs to avoid getting fired-up by the mountain sun. Towards the end of the session my head started to hurt and I got a bit dizzy. I guess it was a combo of the sun and the head hitter from the day before. A cold shower was like heaven. I love cold showers, everybody deserves one. 🙂
Later we went to the skatepark but it was just too hot to skate. Going in the river with some fresh beer and maté was like heaven on earth, life is great! 🙂
After that river charge the session got fired up again at the skatepark. Pieter and Jeroen were doing the double in and over the loop so easy, like it was casual. They made it once three times in a row just to have the best picture. Donald closed the session down with a battle for a frontside feeble through the oververt corner in the back of the loop. By the time he was close, the park was completely dark and the run up was long. Pieter ran the whole time next to him in his socks to give him at least some light from the flashlight on his phone. Whilst Tito lit the corner up a bit with just one headlight, Donald was going all in on it. I was filming but could only hear him coming and when he was about five meters from the spot I could just see a shadow made from Pieter’s phone. Donald won the battle and made it clean out of there. Jey told us that the build of that corner was also a true battle of 15 hours straight working on it. The concrete kept falling down and they had to handstack it over and over again. This, in combination with the echo location in that corner and the complete exhaustion made them on the edge of becoming mad. They didn’t speak to each other anymore the last hours and couldn’t believe what they did when they did the last finish. So that corner really deserved a crazy battle in the dark to get something back from it, I call it balance. 🙂 After that, we had a small, fast dinner at the skatepark and headed back to the house for our last chill evening there. After writing down this tale at the house I went to sleep but I heard the next day that the others went hard on the dart board. Playing it upside down and through their legs. Nick won three six-packs of beer from the game, the perfect set up for two days of partying ahead of us in Switzerland.
We cleaned up the house in the morning and went to check out Thierry’s atelier a few houses further down. He has a skateboard recycling woodshop and he makes knives, jewelry and all sort of nice things out of old skateboards. I gave him 17 old boards and he gave me a super nice knife in return, good trade. 🙂 I have seen people doing this before but Thierry is really pushing it to another level. With the right amount of math he seemed to be able to choose the outcome of the colored lines, he can control it and even make round colored shapes with the lines. So dedicated! Check: @versus-imagination
We left the Alps and were hitting the road to the 10 years’ celebration of the Portland DIY check: portlandbasel.ch in Basel. Upon arrival, straight to bathe in the famous beautiful Reine. Me with my head above the water to protect the stitched wound, I could only let the left side of my head bath, better then no side. 🙂
By the time we arrived at the park the first band started to play. One of the bands that played was an old locally famous band that got reunited for the party. They were supposed to play one song but they got caught up in it and played a few more. The one song they were supposed to play was a song they made a especially for this gig about having kids in combination with skateboarding. Later that night Pieter got in a battle with the overrvert corner. He wanted a blunt flip fakie, he fought hard for it and victory was his. That night I lost everybody because I got offered a tandem ride. It was really fun to be on one, never been, contemplating to get one myself. By the time I came back to the park everybody was gone and I couldn’t enter the van for my sleeping stuff to camp in the park because they took my backpack with them. The girl of the tandem was super nice and took me to her place to offer me a mattress in the living room.
The next day we all gathered at the skatepark again. The others got a sleeping spot at Laura’s place (she was not really called Laura, but Nick was just screaming Laura to every girl, haha. Laura got in the van with us, so a new soldier to go party with us at the Beast Fest in Zürich. We arrived there but our party team lost loads of their energy in Basel the night before. The first hours just laying there to let mind and body recover from a week of skateboarding and good partying. Towards the evening the bands started to play – this gave energy to all the creatures of the night and the session was on again in the bowl. But rain was in the air and by the first drops Babz was on his way to land the shuvit nosepick on the extension he was trying for while. The drops stopped a little bit but then it started again, the pressure was on for Babz. He went on through the second round of rain drops and made it right before the concrete was too wet to get smoked by slipping out. Perfect ender of the session. We kept the party going in the rain under a party tent with just a speaker and a phone, moved it outside as soon as it stopped raining and continued dancing and laughing with just 10-15 people untill 3-4 in the morning. The locals were super tired and wanted to close it down. We could crash at one of the locals apartment but it was a bit too small for us all, so some took a spot in the van.
Our last day we spent to the river with the mega phone we found in Basel. We think it belongs to Mr. Frontside grind, we will get it back to him one day. We had loads of fun screaming Laura at girls and random stupid stuff as people passed by. Not everybody loved it so we started screaming: ‘Everybody loves it’ to try to change their mind. Didn’t always work either. 🙂
After the river we had a small session at the Beast, ate a big, big pizza with the locals and hit the road back to Basel to drop of Laura and Donny. Donny had a bus to catch straight to Paris for a family thing there. The all night drive home went smooth except for Pieter driving the van a few hours without realizing he didn’t have the lights on! Some proper ghostriding 🙂 We slept in Mechelen again, but Mikkjel and I took had two hours of sleep to bring back the rental van back on time. From the rental place, I drove the first van (which was parked there), with the heating on, back to the guys home and then back to Mechelen to go home in my bed for well deserved coma sleep! 🙂
Bonus photos not printed in Confusion Magazine issue 33: