Barcelona the ultimate skate destination? Pah! If you want sick DIY skate parks, great parties and more BBQs than is healthy, you need to get yo’self to Montreal via the Big Apple says our girls crew that headed north to check it out
Words by Helena Long, photography by Babas Levrai
‘Gnars with bras’ on tour in New York and Montreal
Back in 2010 I embarked on my first ever skate trip abroad to Barcelona. It turned out to be not only my first ever experience skating abroad, but also one of the best trips I’ve been on since. So when I was approached by Sabrina Göggel (aka Puse) among eight other skating ‘gnars with bras’ to go on a tour to New York and Montreal, I pencilled the dates down six months before hand ready and raring to go.
Eventually eight whittled down to five – me, Sabrina, Evelien Bouilliart, Didi Kransel and Iris Vanden Bulcke. Then two months before take off Sabrina broke her ankle in three places while competing in Suck My Trucks – an awesome contest that brings skater lasses and artists from around the globe to a vert, street and best trick contest at the Skate Halle in the trendy capital of Germany, Berlin.
Five became four and a half.
However that didn’t stop Sabrina – she’s Puse not pussy! With many iron, magnesium, calcium and vitamin supplements, physio workout equipment and a beer always at hand, she joined us gritting her teeth, half pained by her injury but mainly from the fact she couldn’t partake in the skating.
We all met up in New York City in July this year, where somehow we’d managed to land an amazingly spacious apartment through AirBnB which we had all to ourselves, complete with a rooftop that had spectacular views across Brooklyn and Manhattan – a great spot to watch the 4th of July fireworks.
Despite sore heads and jet lag, the next day we skated through the city – possibly the best way to explore, amidst the yellow cabs and traffic lights, hysterical street performers and iconic buildings of the city. Each day we would skate together then split up to do whatever else we wanted in the city – skate the Brooklyn Bridge, visit the 9/11 memorial – but our main mission was always to get to Montreal.
Stocked up on food, charged iPods and trashy celeb magazines we said our goodbyes to the Big Apple and settled into Amtrak’s reclining chairs and embarked on the 10-hour train journey across the border to meet photographer Babas Levrai in Montreal.
After a couple of metro stops and a skate down a hill with wheelie bags in tow, we arrived at Babas and his amazingly hospitable girlfriend Claire’s place. We took over the living room with our boards and belongings and went to chill on their balcony where we were greeted with vegetables, chips and dips! After New York we hadn’t seen a vegetable for god knows how long! We couldn’t have felt more at home.
After a refreshing night’s sleep, Babas introduced us to the Bixi Bikes – Montreal’s equivalent to London’s Barclay’s bikes – and took us into town to point out some spots, a local skate shop and introduce us to the relaxing and beautiful city. But later on that afternoon we were also introduced to Montreal’s concrete pride and glory the infamous P45 DIY skate spot; a concrete jungle of banks, gnarly quarters, volcanoes, rails, ledges and rocks. D.I.Y. or D.I.E.?!
We were introduced to the P45 DIY skate spot; a concrete jungle of banks, gnarly quarters, volcanoes, rails, ledges and rocks. D.I.Y. or D.I.E.?!
Later on that evening we were joined by some of Montreal’s finest local lad and lass rippers. Elo Jett, Clo Bergeron, Annie Guglia, Frederique Luyet and Pacco from the Skirtboarders Collective (a Montreal-based group of female skaters which started in 2002) helped fuel us – particularly Sabrina – with beer and keep some light in the place by fetching a few large twigs and sticks for a fire. There was even a traditional circle of rocks surrounding the flames. Proper caveman style! It was in the light of the fire that I discovered Clo had the most awesome pair of socks knee-high whiteys with three blue stripes around the top. Seeing I liked them so much, she gave them to me. First day in Montreal and I knew I wouldn’t want to leave by the end.
With me wearing the lucky socks, which were to be worn until a decent photo had been taken with them clearly on show, Babas took us around, up and down Montreal over the next few days, riding bikes to skate spots around the city and having early morning swims at the local neighbourhood’s free swimming pool.
There were so many occasions we will never forget such as Babas swinging tickets to the Vans Warped tour where we rode the mini ramp in front of the moshers; Sabrina and Didi heading down to P45 at 6.30am and giving their time to help concrete two quarters at this ever growing project; skating an old abandoned swimming pool just outside the city limits before heading to lake across the road to launch ourselves off a giant rock edge into the water; ending that day drinking beers and enjoying one of the best BBQ’a ever at Annie and her boyfriend Yannick’s house. He also owned a specialist beer shop much to Sabrina’s delight…
The day before we left we went out with a bang skating some amazing spots near the Olympic stadium and sessioning a great street spot of two raised pavement slabs that formed a launch into the road.
Sabrina and Didi ended by getting matching tattoos to remember the trip by: half the Canadian Maple leaf joined with half of the Quebec fleur-de-lis symbol. They got something permanent to go with the memories we’d have of our travels.
Later that evening we headed to fellow Skirtboard member Anne-Sophie’s house for another amazing BBQ and party with music, dancing (more like puppet sort of foot shuffling moves) and amazing company. It was the perfect send off from a relaxed city full of wonderful –and gnarly – local skaters who had welcomed us and showed us around.
Thanks to the Skirtboarders, Vans and Cheers!