When I visited Leo Valls last year I discovered two things. First, that he is a very powerful and technical ledge skater. I just knew him as the kind of creative powerslide guy but actually he can get very tech. Switch backtails at mach 10 are warm up tricks for him. That’s just not what he wants to show when he’s filming. He does it for fun. Second, the term “skate urbanism”. Leo used it while speaking to me about the stuff he does in Bordeaux working with the city. From there on it became the working title for the issue and finally it stayed. So basically, Leo baptized this issue and also was a big inspiration along the way, always asking how it’s coming together, coming up with new ideas, helping connect us with people and just by being inspiring though his work in Bordeaux, where he was one of the main figures to change the city from banning skateboarding to becoming a skate-friendly city. You haven’t seen the documentary? You should.
The idea for this issue came up a while ago but had to be pushed back a bit. Finally we started working on it and when we had already planned most of the content we by chance stumbled across Pierre Descamps’ insta channel. He would be perfect for this issue, we thought, and it turned out that Pierre lives just 20 minutes away from me. So I cycled over to Kreuzberg to find out: yeah, what Pierre does is indeed the perfect fit for this issue. On the one hand he builds skateable sculptures, on the other hand he takes photos of spots – just spots, without skaters or anything. Urban architecture and public spaces are the main focus in his work, where he confronts popular culture (yeah, I mean skateboarding) with a more elitist one (sculpturing and photography inspired by the Düsseldorf School). He takes his art very serious but has childlike fun playing around with it. For example, by printing his photographs in a way that they look like he would’ve just ripped them out of a magazine, or by irritating city users with his sculptures that he just puts somewhere without ever asking anybody. He has pretty much transferred a skateboarding approach into art.
Eduard-Wallnöfer-Platz in Innsbruck – usually referred to as Landhausplatz – is quite a complex space. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how to begin writing about it. It’s a skateboard paradise, but it wasn’t specifically designed to be skated. It sits directly opposite the regional government building, but no one gets kicked. What’s the deal with this place? There are so many different layers to it, historically, physically and socially. The skateboard situation there is in a bit of a grey area, and I’m not just being clever by referencing the 9000 square meters of concrete that it’s made of.
When Pontus Alv released his first iconic video The Strongest of the Strange in 2005, he unintentionally started a DIY boom. It was only out of necessity however because there was a lack of spots in and around Malmö at that time, so he and some others, like John Magnusson, started building their own spots in abandoned places. After people saw that, they got inspired and it felt like all of a sudden concrete was mixed in every little village throughout whole Europe. If nobody does it for you, then do it yourself. DIY is the easiest way to get a spot, fix, or improve existing ones. Sure, it’s not really legal, but like the saying goes, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.” Nowadays, Malmö is one of the skateboard-friendliest cities in the world, with its own skateboard school, spots all over town, and great skateparks, where skaters like Oski have grown into what they are now. So if you want to get things started in your municipality, DIY might be a good first step. You might lose some of the spots to bulldozers, but some will remain. Like Pontus’s kinda private project TBS, which is still there – although Pontus moved to Portugal in the meantime.
At this year’s Copenhagen Open, a bus drove us to Roskilde (you might know the festival) for one of the missions. When we got off the bus, we started walking through a snake run that led into a ditch and what at first glimpse looked like a street spot turned out to be planned for skating. The deeper we got into it, the more obstacles appeared. There was even a bowl next to it. It was a skatepark called Rabalder Parken. The man who had the genius idea to combine a normal ditch, which is empty most of the time anyway, with a skatepark was Søren Nordal Enevoldsen, a Danish architect, who, for example, designed Fælledparken. If you talk to him, you’ll quickly recognize that he has a lot to tell about integrating skateboarding into cities and it was a no brainer to integrate him into this issue.
“You can’t move history” – that was the slogan the Long Live Southbank campaign used in order to save the world’s oldest, permanently-skated spot. In 2013, the Southbank Centre, where it is located, had announced a reconstruction of the place, which would’ve been the end of the spot. But with their work and energy, the LLSB activists found numerous supporters (including some famous ones like David Beckham, for example) and achieved their goals that neither they lose the spot nor does it get substituted by a newly-built one nearby. This July, they even succeeded in opening up a part of the area to the public again that was closed down in 2004. If you talk about initiatives to save a skate spot, LLSB is the prime example. It’s also not just any spot. For more than 40 years, skateboard life has been pulsating there in the heart of London. We talked to Stuart Maclure and Louis Woodhead, two representatives of the numerous LLSB staff, about the whole project.