Slaptaps Strasbourg Sizzler 2017
After a stressful day at work and some last minute cleaning (Thanks Sarah!) I was happy to go and pick up the 'UK lads' from Strasbourg train station. They arrived earlier than planned so we suddenly had an extra evening to do something with. After a few awkward handshake/high five/hug moments everyone had crammed themselves and their luggage into our pathetically small voiture.
Connaire and Niko has signed up for the amateur contest at NL, so I took everyone to the park to see how the preparations were going and to check out some of the new modules that had been built not only for the weekend, but in fact to lay the foundations for a whole new park. As we nervously walked around the park avoiding accidents we checked out the new section with a really amazing looking rainbow box rail. Being rollerbladers it was hard to look at anything else and everyone started to think about how they would tackle the object. There were some barriers up which didn't really make any sense as everything was secure. I joked that maybe the organisers were saving the first tricks for a celebrity like Alex Burston to rock a true topsoul, which turned out to be frighteningly accurate when later that night we saw Alex christening the park on Instagram. My Mystic Meg moment for the weekend.
After the visit we headed back so everyone could offload their baggage and take a quick tour of the barracks. My wife made us all pasta and we caught up on all the major issues of the day including Brexit and the upcoming General Election. I'm joking of course, we talked about the latest Eugen Enin VOD, Oysi frames and Anthony Pottier's hat. We also talked about the absence of trip regulars Matt Smith and Mark Worner. I think everyone had that blade trip excitement thing going on and it was decided that even after a day of travelling they wanted to make the most of their time and go out for an evening skate. We drove to a ledge about ten minutes away and although the floor is essentially wooden decking, Connaire, Niko and Chris strapped up the boots and started shredding it up. Myself (bad back from cleaning - no joke) and Sam (Bad knee from 20 years of blading punishment) decided to sit it out and put the world to rights while judging the others tricks. After a few hours we called it a night and headed home.
We woke up to more hot weather but it was also overcast which probably saved the day, had it been too hot I don't think we would have managed as much as we did. We took a 24 hour tram ticket which would allow us to get around easily and hit a whole bunch of spots. We jumped off the tram close to the university and looked at a few bits and pieces but ended up stopping at the famous brick banks with attached ledges. It was the perfect starting spot as everyone can skate around and have fun just rolling around with no pressure to drop hammers. Niko rolled a sharp bank that actually launched him backwards which I haven't seen done for a long time so he managed to perfect it for a picture and a clip. After that I managed to bag myself a small clip with a standard ledge line while everyone else kept skating. It was one of those sessions where the cameras definitely took second place to the pure fun of the session, at the end of the day you have to live in that moment and enjoy every second of it.
We looked at a few more spots in the area, some of them inducing an injury just sizing them up so those were best left alone, however Connaire did a nice flat rail topsoul to wallbonk 180 and then proceeded to smash Strasbourg to the ground with a savannah to drop on the ledge that Alex Burston skated for his ender in the last BHC video. Suitably impressed and equal parts hungry we stopped for lunch. After an after lunch lull of slouching around a few handrails we decided to head back to the tram to head for the famous museum spot. Chris talked us into walking around a block to see if there were any spots (there weren't) but as lady luck would have it, Niko spotted a U-bend rail in a courtyard. I guess the door is normally closed but we crept in and expected to be kicked out after a single attempt. In fact, all of the people who lived there were all super impressed, intrigued and had nothing but good things to say about the skating that was going down. It must be a real carnival to see a group of skaters in your backyard, a couple shooting photos, tripods/stands everywhere and a guy precariously balancing on a wall filming the high angles. I think most people think a music video is going down. As for the trick, the man who found the spot (Niko) was busting switch royales all the way around the curve to wall stomp/near face plant. One young lady particularly enjoyed the show while she watered her balcony garden and she threw out some encouragement and asked where everyone was from and explained that some people had been here before doing parkour and that she knew some other bladers from Strasbourg and that we were welcome back anytime we wanted. Such a positive reaction to a bunch of old guys with wheels under their shoes, if only it was always like that. We finally caught the tram while whistling The Warriors theme tune and made our way to the museum.
The museum is a classic skateboarding spot with various ledges (mostly rounded like Lloyds in Bristol) but there are stair gaps and other knick-knacks. After taking some Starbourgs (disgusting, warm beer we bought in a local supermarket) we sat and watched the local skaters and bums alike and watched a slow motion fight between two of the drunkest tramps around. Niko was lining up a sick fakie wallride gap but ended up sliding on his front in what can only be described as a reverse yoga downward facing dog, it was the end of a long day and definitely time to drink some well-earned alcoholic fluids. Most people took turns to do the odd trick here and there and I managed a little sprout of a line but I was happy with it nonetheless. After an hour or so Chris and Sam had a little look around the area and found a bank spot where something could possibly be done. Niko managed to skate the spot (ah to be young and energetic) and he got a 'spinny cess slide thingy' on film. I received a call from my wife and she was locked out of our apartment so it was definitely time to go home and we were all half dead after a vintage days street skating. We took pizzas and had a quiet night if memory serves me correctly.
It rained all night but that brought us some refreshing cool air the following morning. We started the day slow, slow, slow and recovered like troops taking a break from the frontline. People adjusted their skates, Connaire was sowing his split pants and Sam was making masks of Matt Smith and Mark Worner, the two soldiers missing in action. We watched some nice skate VODs including Joe Atkinson, Jon Bolino and Delfon Dio before deciding to head out. Although it was pouring with rain, we are now blessed with an undercover trash park here in Strasbourg courtesy of some of the Stras local bladers (merci Tanguay/mes amis!). This pretty much saved the day and everyone had some fun on the box rail and some of the other more dangerous looking obstacles. Chris managed to backslide a barrier and Niko was doing some 'kinetic blading'. Sam couldn't resist trying some aggressive blades out and slowly wamred his knee up and ended by doing some really nice, solid grinds, including some classic wheelbarrow variations. We managed to kill a few hours before calling it a day and heading back to the city for food and then home where we watched the football, the local club 'Racing Club de Strasbourg' win Ligue 2 and get promoted after a long absence to Ligue 1. it was great because we are five minutes from the stadium so we streamed the match while listening live from the windows. A great night in town was had by all where we sang late into the night and met a load of other bladers in town for the competition. Great to meet old friends and meet new ones too including OG blade heroes. After a long night we marched back home and got some much needed rest.
We all awoke to the doorbell on Saturday morning, whilst we were all worse for wear we were all excited to meet the magician Dean Bradley, who came to stay and shred from Geneva, his new home town. We couldn't help but chew the cud for a couple of hours before heading off to the NL Contest. As I say every year, the NL Contest is a great event but it is really the excuse to get us all together. We happily watched the vert contest (the true highlight of the weekend) and after some waiting around Niko and Connaire managed to get their runs in. They both skated solidly and both qualified for Sundays finals. With that job done we re-grouped with Ollie Jones and Si Coburn and decided to go street skating. We managed to hit up a bunch of spots around the European Institutions and I think everybody got a piece in. Dean shone through on all of the spots we hit up although he complained about old age the entire time! Dean managed a few pics and clips and you could really tell he's been skating with some big hitters in Switzerland. We skated all the way up until 10pm where we went back, got cleaned up and hit the town again. This time we ended up in the Fat Black Pussycat and drank until around 5am before horsing around in the streets. Dean had impressed us all with his card tricks, Niko had drank like a seasoned veteran and Connaire was off on a tour of the Cathedral... So what was the best way to feel fresh and ready for skating in the NL contest finals? Of course getting to bed at gone 6am!
After being ruthless I managed to coax everyone out of their slumber about an hour before the finals were due to start. We drove to the skatepark, Sarah drove like lightening and we managed to lose Sam and Dean who drove off in a different direction. We arrived, parked and ran to the skatepark and got signed in. We arrived just in time to see the am finals starting and Niko managed to get the boots on and start warming up in between runs. Niko looked shattered after nights on the source and barely any sleep but was skating surprisingly well. Niko is definitely one to watch in the future and I think he will be placing top 3 in comps in no time at all (If he wants to that is). The comp was going off with lots of big competition tricks, 900s, spins to grinds etc. I was probably too busy talking to people to be able to concentrate fully but Niko definitely had a good run with some great tricks. Whilst all of this was going on, we were on the phone trying to explain to Connaire, who had awoken with no idea as to where he was. Using the Cathedral as a locator we managed to talk him through catching a tram and making it to the park. With seconds to spare before his run (we had already explained to the organisers to let him skate last) he turned up as calm and cool as a cucumber. (Unlike the night before where he had a real snake wrapped around his neck, see Instagram/Facebook for that photo). After a quick wardrobe change his name was called and he literally had no time for a warm up. Connaire still managed to bang out some big, solid tricks including a handplant 720 and a darkside true top porn on the big sub box which impressed the judges into giving him a fourth placed finish. We all decided that Connaire could have easily won this competition but sometimes having a good time off the blades is just as, if not more important than a high placed comp finish.
The NL provides a really great experience, it seems to be more laid back and easy going than most events and although we would have loved to stay, party and enjoy, we had more streeting to get done. We assembled a crack squad and headed off for Strasbourg centre. I missed an exit on the motorway so I decided to show everyone a little skatepark on the outskirts. It's a terrible skatepark and it has some of those 'worst skatepark in the world' style obstacles, but it also has a halfpipe and a really long curved rail that most people had a great time on. Si Coburn was lacing the most solid tricks all the way around and Ollie landed an amazing switchup which you will see in the video. The others practiced their vert skills and I think some other knick-knacks went down that I didn't see from my vantage point. It was way too hot so after an hour or so we moved on for a food stop. After eating like true athletes we drove back to Strasbourg where there was a rail that Ollie wanted to hit up after we were moved on last year. After a good warm up he landed a few perfect maneuvers including a true top soyale and back savannah. It was at this point we had to say our good byes to the magician, Dean, who had to return back to Switzerland. It was such a pleasure seeing him and watching him blade and we were sad to see him leave. After the rail the day slowed right down, we visited a park and played table tennis and some of the guys hit a few last spots. We eventually said our good byes to Si and Ollie who attached their Salomon FSK frames on and skated off into the sunset. After a final Chinese supper we took an early night as we all had to leave for the train station at around 5.30 in the morning. More confident hugs, high fives and handshakes were completed and thus finished another eventful NL weekend in Strasbourg. I'm already looking forward to next year.
Just as a final thought, this article doesn't include around 99% of what went down and some of the great blading that was done and some of the funny moments (Chris reading from a joke book) and incredible conversations that went down. I just want to thank all of the guys for visiting. All bladers are welcome anytime in Strasbourg and a huge thanks to my wife for supporting the madness. NH.
To Check out the edit from the weekend Click Here!!
Words By Nathan Hadley
Pictures By Sam Cooper