Upon completion of the Emerica This is Skateboarding video and DVD and the resultant around-the-world premiere tour, the Emerica team decided the next logical step after filming hard for nearly two years would be to hit the road for another year to come into contact with as many fellow hardcore skateboarders and loyal Emerica devotees as possible through a series of road trips, demos and autograph signings. Legendary filmmaker Jon Miner would accompany me in order to capture the ensuing merriment, mayhem and pure skateboarding magic that would most certainly manifest. The latest installment in what has come to be known as The Kids In Emerica tour, for lack of a better name, took the Emerica team to Europe—Switzerland, Austria and Germany in particular. My name is Justin Regan—I’m the Emerica team manager and grand architect of this scheme and many others.
We landed in Basel, Switzerland the night of August 23, where the weather was hot. The country had just cooled off from record-breaking high temperatures they’d experienced a couple of weeks earlier, but the climate was still noticeably warmer than LA on a hot day, and that’s pretty hot. Believe it or not, air-conditioned hotel rooms in Europe are rare, but we were lucky to be staying on a "climatized" floor, which means "not as hot as it is outside, but still uncomfortably warm."
Waking up in Basel, we had some time before the autograph signing at the European Skateboard Championships to check out the city. We found a couple of pretty fun street spots, but more importantly, we found ourselves standing atop a fifty-foot high bridge in the mid-day heat looking down into the clear, cool waters of the river Rhine. Someone made a bet, and pretty soon we were jumping off the guardrail into the middle of the river. Betting on things would soon become our pastime for the duration of this tour. However, nobody gambled on the fact that the river’s current would be moving so swiftly, and Leo nearly drowned trying to make it to shore. Luckily for Leo, I remembered my training from my days as a First Lieutenant with the Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguards and, like Mitch from Baywatch, I sprang into action without hesitation. Unfortunately for me, years of smoking and drinking have taken their effect on my physical condition, and dragging Leo’s limp, sinking ass against the current and back to shore left me feeling woozy, sore and depleted.
For the next half hour, while the blissfully oblivious Leo played a game of S.K.A.T.E. near the riverbank with Spanky and Drew, I sat soggy and puking from over-exhaustion. That is, until a young lady sat down near me in the sun and promptly removed her bikini top, at which point I completely forgot about my nausea, Leo’s close shave with death, and pretty much anything else, for that matter. In Europe, girls are allowed to get naked anytime they get within close proximity of a body of water, and what’s even more unbelievable, they frequently do. It’s a wonderful tradition that we all agree gives the Europeans a mark in their favor.
At the Emerica team signing in Basel, we picked-up our photographer for the trip, Eric Antoine. Eric is French, but we weren’t going to hold that against him, and it turns out he’s a pretty all right fellow—if a bit opinionated at times. We also had one large tour bus for the entire trip. Our bus driver’s name was Berndt (pronounced: burnt) and he couldn’t speak a lick of English. Spanky evidently found his name enormously entertaining, because you could hear him holding back a giggle every time someone called it out.
After meeting a horde of happy Emerica fans in Basel, we headed off to Austria, where Eric knew of a perfect ten-stair hubba / rail thing along the way that Leo took the opportunity to backside 5-O and backside nose grind just before the darkness descended on our session. When night falls up in the mountains of Switzerland and Austria, it gets dark...really dark. So dark you can’t see five feet in front of you. Without a generator, night sessions are pretty much out of the question and nobody had a generator.
I have certain rules I must enforce when planning any tours involving the Emerica team. One of those rules is that they will not be forced to skate more than one demo per day. It’s just too physically demanding for these guys to skate their asses off for two or more hours, then get in a bus and sit for a couple hours to the next park, only to get out of the bus and skate like maniacs again for another couple hours, get back in the bus and drive two more hours to the next city, go to bed, wake up and repeat for fourteen days. However, I will allow up to two autograph signings per day, since they put hardly any physical stress on the body, outside of the sore signing wrist here and there. But the ingenious folks at Fusion 3 distribution (the Emerica distributor in Austria) found a nice loophole in my program.
By planning two signings per day at skateparks as opposed to shops, the likelihood that the team would want to skate each new park they visited was high—especially when you consider the fact that the Emerica team is really nothing more than a bunch of hardcore skate rats who can’t sit down at any park—despite their team manager’s pleas to leave their boards "in the bus" once in a while. The only ones who came close to actually sticking to the plan were Heath and Spanky, and this was only for one or two demos, and only because both were suffering from a similar recurring knee pain that would temporarily keep them off their boards anyway. More often than not, in fact, you could find either one of them skating insanely through their pain at most of the parks we were scheduled to "sign" at. I don’t know if that’s true professionalism or just plain idiocy, but either way, the mobs of Emerica fans that showed up were stoked.
With so many demos in Austria, you’d think one team member would stand out amongst the rest, but it seemed like there was somebody different at every demo doing the best trick or having the best lines. In Feldkirch, it was Andrew with a massive kickflip over the "snowboard kicker" (no grab, of course). In Brixlegg, it was Heath with a head-high backside 360 over the big hip, the hard way (almost a 540), and Tosh with a gap to backside 5-O and gap to bluntslide on the kinked hubba obstacle. In Klagenfurt, it was Tosh with more gapping into tricks, this time with a gap to backlip—forward and fakie—and a gap to back tail. And in Graz, it was Leo with some utter flat-then-down-kinked rail annihilation.
At least one person thought Spanky was the king of the demo in Graz, though, and she gave him a kiss in the back of the tour bus after the demo to show her appreciation. Somewhere along the way, we lost Berndt and were given a new tour bus driver in the form of Sergei. He may have known even less English than Berndt did, but like any good, self-respecting tour bus driver, he knows where all the best whorehouses in the Czech Republic are, and we were only thirty minutes from the Czech border—or so he kept telling us through our Austrian tour guide, Flo. Sergei was crazy, but we came to appreciate him very much.
Somehow, we found a day off in Austria to street skate Vienna, and with European Emerica team rider Stefan Sperka to help show us around, the spots were plentiful. Incidentally, we soon learned that Stefan had already killed most of the spots he showed us. Stefan is a beast, it should be known. On our last day in Austria, we showed-up to Vienna’s version of EMB, Donanuisel, and were greeted by over three-hundred Austrian kids in Emericas. With so many kids mobbing the scene, skating was pretty much out of the question, but we did get a chance to make some new friends in Vienna before heading on to Munich to begin the German leg of our tour.
Upon our arrival in Munich, Tosh and Heath had a bet to settle that had been brewing in the bus since Austria. Heath, a veteran of many skate tours, has long been interested in finding the point at which the body fails despite the will of the mind to overcome it. One test that Heath has had some experience with is the McDonald’s burger test. It consists of a person attempting to eat as many burgers as possible without stopping for more than thirty seconds between bites. Heath claimed ten burgers was the breaking point for most humans—based on his personal experience with this subject matter. But, since Tosh is basically a human trash receptacle with seemingly no end to his appetite, the number for Tosh to beat was decided at twelve burgers.
Tosh agreed to this number, and to make it interesting, Heath put U.S. $200 down that Tosh wouldn’t be able to finish twelve McDonald’s hamburgers in one sitting, eating non-stop and without puking for at least one full minute after swallowing the last bite. Being a compulsive gambler, Andrew had to get in on the action, and I ended up with a $200 dollar bet with Andrew—my money being on Tosh and Andrew taking Heath’s side. What Heath and Andrew failed to recognize is that, at only eighteen years old, Tosh is at least 6’2" tall and still growing. In the four years I’ve known him, he’s gone from a foot size 9 1/2 to the very impressive size 12 he wears today. This is remarkable growth, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
I reckon that anything put into Tosh’s body will be metabolized at approximately the same rate it is ingested, meaning the quantities could hypothetically be limitless. Tosh’s ridiculous eating patterns on this trip alone—even prior to the making of the bet—were a testament to his body’s voracious need for constant food supply. Andrew, in seek of more action, made another $200 bet with Tosh himself, which I was very happy about, because now Tosh had his own money on the line. Even Spanky and Leo had a $30 side bet going with each other—Spanky’s money, like mine, being on Tosh. However, Spanky’s choice to bet on Tosh wasn’t made based on the calculated reasoning that I’d used to make my decision. Spanky chose to bet on Tosh because Andrew bet against him and, according to Spanky, Andrew always loses.
Spanky was right and Tosh mowed down the twelve burgers in about ten minutes, no problems. Well, almost no problems. I guess the going started to get a little tough for Tosh around burger number eight, but he dug deep, kept smiling and forced the last four burgers down. Only later, while watching the footage, can I now recognize the pale pallor and slight sweat droplets developing around Tosh’s forehead toward the end—the only indication to somebody walking by that he wasn’t simply enjoying a simple lunch at McDonald’s like everybody else on the restaurant patio that day. Tosh tried to puke after the one-minute time limit had passed, but not much came up. Like I’d imagined, it had all been metabolized at approximately the same rate it went in. For further proof, Tosh filmed a line at a fun Munich ledge spot immediately after we left McDonald’s and ended the day with a full Italian dinner—appetizers and all. Tosh is a beast, it should be known.
The itinerary for Germany was much more laid back than it had been in Austria, with more time allotted to getting some street skating in, and the team was happy to check out what Germany had to offer in the way of spots. Germany definitely has some great spots, if you know where to find them. Fortunately for us, our German tour guide, Marco, knew where to find them. Andrew has wanted to get a nollie flip down something big for a while now, and in Wiesbaden, Marco took us to a nice big five-block for Drew to throw himself down. There was also a decent sized ten-stair rail next to the five-block that Leo and Tosh took a liking to.
In Bonn, we hooked-up with some friends who’d built a mini-ramp in an ancient-looking barn-type dwelling out in the German countryside, and they made a barbeque for us at night. Cologne is amazing for street skating, but the most fun spot is the Domplatz at the Cathedral. The only drawback is the endless mobs of tourists and rail commuters who you are forced to skate around—and sometimes into—if you want to film a line there like Tosh and Andrew did. In Cologne, Leo showed us the hubba that he destroyed when he was on tour with the Foundation guys through Europe only a month or so prior.
We also had our biggest demo of the trip in Cologne, at North Brigade Skatepark. The turnout was amazing, and it lifted the entire team’s spirits to see so many like-minded skateboarders showing up at every demo to skate with them or just watch. That night, we drove to Munster and skated Titus’ newly-renovated skatepark and watched as Tosh’s McDonald’s earnings were rapidly whittled down by Heath and Drew in bet after bet on just about everything possible.
Our photographer, Eric, had to rush home from Cologne due to family commitments, so we called-up our friend, the well-respected skateboarding photographer Helge Tscharn from Germany’s Monster magazine to come out and shoot with us on our last day in Munster. Unfortunately, Helge also had prior commitments and was unable to join us on such short notice, but fortunately we were able to hook-up with Louis from Titus Magalog, and luckily for him, he ended-up shooting the hammer of the trip. Tosh finished the skating portion of the trip on a high note by frontside bluntsliding, on his fourth attempt, a long twelve-stair skinny hubba (that was more like a fifteen-stair in length) with a straight drop on the other side and a crack at the top that he had to gap over just to get onto the ledge—beastly, indeed.
Our final day before flying home was Heath’s birthday, and we celebrated with a cake from the guys at the Titus skate shop in Munster, the site of our final Emerica team appearance, before heading off to the airport to close the books on another chapter in the ongoing Kids In Emerica tour saga—soon to be a video!