The Beginning – A Look Back at Skate and Explore: Europe Pt. 1
Skate and Explore is not just branding, it’s a way of life ingrained in downhill and a dedication to the idea of exploring. When I learnt of Skate and Explore: Europe, I was cautiously intrigued. Why? Europe is one of the most toured zones in downhill; everyone knows how is looks, they know the roads – I’d even dare to say it’s always the same rodeo, year after year. However, I found out we weren’t attending an races – instead we were offered a great deal of freedom and a chance to visit places we’d never been. The Apls, Pyrenees, Switzerland and more awaited us.
When one begins, it’s easy to lose track of how many “new” places there are out there. Our Euro-tour quickly bulged into a partial circumnavigation of the entire continent – an almost ludicrous idea that included a month of time, 9,000 kilometers, and a van full of skaters and crew. Between the bigwigs and the players a plan was hatched… Our final plan: Germany, Corsica, France, Monaco, Corsica, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, and even a small religious sector just two hours outside of Milan.
4 weeks of van life, thousands of kilometers of driving, and over 20 hours of ferry rides through the Mediterranean.
An ambitious plan…but why not?
Left to Right:
Dillon Stephens, Billy Bones, and Charlie Darragh were the crew set to work on this ridiculous escapade, but it was a crew with their fair share of living through the fury that was van life. Dillon was our most seasoned rider in regards to Europe, and was probably the most seasoned fellow of the crew – which probably explains why he was able to get all the spicy ladies. Billy had traveled through Europe before but never as van captain, and this crew was well…no comment…but Billy still wrestled this trip’s execution with ease. And finally, there’s Big Lean, and he’s one that makes me thank the powers at be for letting us cross paths; we crushed some serious van time together and I enjoyed what was the luxury of shooting with someone who had such kindness, phenomenal skill, style, and humility.
Big Lean and Dillon keeping an eye on the horse poo mine field that awaits them beyond the camera.
Laid back Freiburg: our wonderful hosts and van providers know what it’s all about – their community is strong, their hills are insane, and the guys are genuinely concerned with the greater good of the sport.
Charlie lines up with our video-guy Guff on a blissful farmers driveway in the Black Forest.
The crew rolls out of Freiburg and takes the drive south through some tunnels that would have resulted in multiple losses of consciousness if one was to hold their breath.
Billy Bones ponders a morning of intense riding down the ridge-line roads that threaded through a number of farms and eventually linked up to mountain peak religious communities and beautiful vistas. However, in the morning a rider’s main concern was hitting bovine or poop.
Dillon on the ridge, tearing through the misty morning in preparation for a heavy drift. When I think of Italy I picture the seemingly endless mountain ranges and roads with countless hairpins, and outside of the Alps we were offered complex and rewarding roads that challenged you but never took you hostage…they simply disposed of you.
Billy inside the chunder.
One of the vistas I mentioned. This one shows the very tippy top of a 17-minute run to the lights at the bottom…Billy took care of it the following morning.
I honestly never saw the complete run on this road, but it never really opened up, never gave you a breath, and only got steeper and steeper and more and more populated…
A reward for a day’s effort and further confirmation of Italy’s beauty – proof that perhaps it was the absolute best location to skate down hills with serious intent.
Dillon putting a lid on the first leg of the trip with a celebratory glass of champagne on the ferry from Nice, France, on route to the island of Corsica.