Wild in the Streets: Romania!

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If there was one word to describe our Wild in the Streets celebration in Brasov, Romania, "gnarly" had to be it. Gnarly was seeing more than 150 people gathered for pure skateboarding. Gnarly was conquering the streets and stopping rush-hour traffic for several minutes. Gnarly was witnessing perfect frontside flips and tré flips stuck on wet marble. Gnarly was riding a skateboard behind a police vehicle together with friends. Gnarly was watching a huge crowd of skaters acting civilized for their sport.

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Gnarly was circa one hundred skaters riding the bus, all at the same time! Gnarly was getting all the legal permits from the local authorities. Gnarly was skating a perfect spot deep in da hood under police protection. And finally, gnarly was noticing that everybody got the message: That this wasn’t about competition and maximum logo exposure, but simply about being free and riding a skateboard together with your friends.

Despite the coolness factor that comes with skateboarding being illegal in its homeland, over here in Romania, we tried to use Wild in the Streets as a tool to bring skateboarding closer the local community and the authorities, and to make it more friendly and understandable for non-skaters. We did our best to picture skateboarding as a good thing, something that lies in our nature to do, and something people shouldn’t be afraid of.

Our goal was to show the community that a huge crowd of skateboarders are able to act decently, and that they deserve the right to legally ride their favorite spots. The central square of the town, dubbed Piata Sfatului, and the pedestrian area of the Valea Cetatii neighborhood, often referred to as pietonal Racadau, are marvelous skate spots, but unfortunately, closed to skateboarders. This is why we went after special permits from the Mayor’s office and the police. We managed to open these places to skateboarding for Go Skateboarding Day, June 21 with the promise that if things worked out well, the restrictions might vanish for good.

The second goal in our approach to Wild in the Streets was to raise awareness toward skateboarding in the local community, to make authorities recognize the rights and needs of skateboarders, and finally to persuade them to allocate local funds for a decent skatepark. To our surprise, people around the Mayor’s office stated that they understood the importance of building a skatepark by communicating efficiently with its rightful users, the local skateboarders, and consulting them on this very purpose. Plans and further details, though, remained to be discussed later this Summer. It became pretty obvious that Wild in the Streets developed into skateboarding’s most important business card for this area.

Our main goals being set, we decided to promote Wild in the Streets mainly via internet and word of mouth, since local and national media got stuck into a bad habit of misusing doubtful terms such as “extreme” and “adrenaline”, and are generally incapable of understanding what these events are about. We all know this is neither about “extreme” nor “adrenaline,” and abusing these words can easily create a wrong image of skateboarding. Old school word of mouth also played an important role in successfully gathering the local skateboarding community, as kids from nearby villages—where an internet connection is less probable—showed up at Wild in the Streets. Speaking of the World Wide Web, we also used an online contest to attract attention of skateboarders around the country, the prize consisting of a brand-new skateboard.

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The result of our work was way beyond our expectations, as more than 120 skateboarders (107 signed up on our lists) from all over the country showed up in the central Nicolae Titulescu park, the meeting spot at the beginning of Wild in the Streets. The plan was to create a skateable link between the two aforementioned spots, thereby generating a unique opportunity for all the participants to ride them both.

The weather didn’t really want to cooperate. It didn’t seem to matter much, though, since things went mostly as planned. The event took off, with most skaters ignoring the rain that showed up at some point. A highest ollie contest took place, and it was clearly dominated by Gavo and Bogdan, who were easily leaping over six stacked skateboards. Gavo eventually raised the bar to seven and claimed the prize for himself.

The crowd was supposed to move toward the central square, Piata Sfatului, using one lane, but since not all things follow the pre-set scheme, police officers were forced to stop traffic at around 13:00 to allow a less compact mass of more than 120 skaters pass toward the historic center of the city. The scheduled manual contest on the ledges in Piata Sfatului fell out due to poor grip on the wet marble, but the participants were creative enough to find something else to skate.

Somebody began flipping the big two set in the square, and pretty soon everybody else followed, with a spontaneous best trick contest resulting. Watching the youngsters trying sketchy maneuvers on wet marble was highly impressive. Shobo, Deks and Kami stood out of the skating mass by sticking perfect flips onto the wet marble. Kami landed a heel, Deks tré flipped the two big stairs, but Sobo landed a textbook frontside flip and the contest was his.

We used the narrow streets of the Old Center to get back to the promenade of the Nicolae Titulescu park, and headed towards the theatre, where two police vehicles waited to escort us to the skatepark in the Civic Center. Witnessing 120 skaters waiting for the traffic lights to turn green, behaving decently and generally acting as model citizens was also an amazing sight.

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But riding a skateboard on the city’s streets at rush hour under police escort was definitely the highlight of the day, and this time we managed to keep things rolling on a single lane. Jaws dropped as we passed by through the city. People just couldn’t believe what was happening before their very eyes. The so-called skatepark had been reached one of the smoothest ways possible.

Rain showed up once again, and the entire crowd rushed under a bridge nearby, looking for another kind of coverage. They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so I’ll keep quiet and let you judge the images of more than 100 skaters having a good time together, even when bad weather tries to ruin their mood. But sunshine returned, and it only took us two brooms and a bit of dedication to dry the park off and make it usable for skateboarding. To prove how the sweet name “skatepark” collides with harsh reality, we’ll just tell you that the only decent skatable elements in this area are a flat rail and an ollie box, our gift to the local skateboarding community.

However, despite the lack of ridable objects, the location was stormed by a huge amount of skateboarders, all of them trying to slide, grind, flip or “just” ollie something. There were spontaneous waiting lines for accessing the ollie box and collisions on the flat rail. Nobody got upset, though, and no heavy words were lost, since everybody seemed to understand that this whole thing was about having a good time TOGETHER. Isn’t skateboarding just beautiful?

We ran a best trick contest in the skatepark. The qualies (there were more than 50 skaters who wanted to skate the contest) being held on the two available elements. We saw such tricks as frontside boardslides by Cupi, nollie Smith grinds and half Cab frontside boardslides by Cezar, crooked grinds to shove-it out by Tusnad and lipslides on the flatrail by Tânaru, noseblunts by Octav, nosegrinds and crooked grinds to noseslides by Bogdan, five-0s and kickflip backside 50-50s by Sobo and nollie heelflips by Tânaru on / from the ollie box. But Uskat (Bucharest) and Kami (Bistrita) eventually pulled away from the rest and qualified for the finals.

There were nollie nosegrinds, frontside boardslides (switch and regular with shove-its out) and overcrooks by Uskat. 50-50s, 5-0s and a sweet 5-0 to tailslide by Kami, which made it impossible for the spectators and the judges to tell who was better, so we decided to call them both winners of the jam session. We also selected 20 better riders to skate the final contest of our local Wild in the Streets, the best line event on the smooth marble of Pietonal Racadau, arguably the crème de la crème of all skate spots in Romania.

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Valea Cetatii (The Citadel’s Valley) is a neighborhood renowned for the frequent visits local bears pay to the yummy trash cans between buildings. Some part of the city’s tourism relies upon this reputation of “civilized" bears taking it to the streets! The neighborhood’s pedestrian area, which we refer to as Pietonal Racadau, was one of the better ideas our defunct dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, if we take skateboarding into consideration. It’s sort of longish a marketplace built from gritstone and marble, graced by communist apartment buildings on either side, in one of the rather dangerous areas of town.

Due to its special geography, being constructed on a mellow slope, it is overloaded with ledges, stairs and other structural elements, which were initially meant to make traveling from the upper part to the lower easier, but which—thanks to the marble—coincidentally makes this spot perfect for skateboarding. Unfortunately, the citizens of this neighborhood aren’t exactly peaceful. They get easily annoyed by the sound of boards popping on the marble, as the place has quite an echo!

They usually end up acting violent. Fruit, vegetables and plastic bottles thrown from the windows are a common scenario, but when bricks and stones come down from the buildings and kids get beaten up by young wannabe gangsters for just riding a skateboard, you begin to wonder if it’s fun anymore and if skateboarding is worth the effort, as you could easily lose teeth or other vital organs.

The answer has always been pretty obvious: A definite YES! But recently, things got sketchier, with lots of local skaters constantly dropping (No, there is no Fountain of Youth around!) and with older ones having to take responsibility for the youngsters. Also, police officers are very strict in this area. They show up pretty fast and never hesitate to give us fines. It seems it’s a hard-knock skateboarders life. We figured that the only way to ride this spot was to get all the legal permits and efficiently cooperate with local authorities, so we did. We took Wild in the Streets to Valea Cetatii, which, in U.S. terms, is pretty much like Compton.

It was useful to find out how fast skateboarders can travel as a mass by using local transportation. When we arrived, there were two police officers waiting for us, but this time they were WITH us, not AGAINST us! It’s hard to find the proper words to describe the sight of about 100 skaters ripping the marble stairs and ledges of Pietonal Racadau. The contestants decided to hold the best line jam session on the five set and seven set, with an option open for the huge eleven set. Nobody cared, anyway. They were just happy to watch some high-quality skateboarding take place.

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Kid Timisoara nollied and half Cabbed the five, Edgar Tusnad kickflipped it and Sobo Brasov landed his frontside flip once again at the same stair set, while Uskat used his nollie skills to conquer the seven. Things seemed to get a bit out of hand as our official skating permit ran out and the police officers readied to leave us by ourselves in the cruel ghetto. Luckily, we got a reinforcement of troops, with eight other police men showing up. But, we had to promise them to end the session in a half hour to get further protection.

The eleven set option vanished instantly. Cupi’s trick was perfect, not only in sublime execution, but in almost prophetic timing and unmatched impression. When he rode away from his a la carte backside flip at the big seven, rain started coming down and we all knew it was over. The crowded roared, and mutual respect kept anybody else from skating the stairs. Cupi ruled that set and now owned it. It was time to leave the place as quickly as possible. The police escorted the kids back to the line bus, and they got back to the skatepark in the Civic Center with the same speed and efficiency that took them to Racadau. Props to Brasov public transportation, which most likely saved some people’s asses! How’s that for gnarly?

Back at the skatepark, prizes were given and prizes were taken. Kami took home the Most Hardcore award. Cupi received his prize for the phenomenal backside flip in Racadau. The youngest skater also got an award for his effort, and plenty of fingerboards, magazines and other small things were spread between the participants. While putting one and one together, we realized that we doubled the prize money during the event. The day ended with a DJ party at a local club, where two of our friends, DJ Grand and DH Nemo, spun their high-quality vinyl until early in the morning.

The conclusion is more than obvious. For us, there is no greater joy than seeing more than one hundred people skating and having a blast together all day long! Big ups to everybody involved in Wild in the Streets!—Maximilan Munteanu

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