HOW TO GO TO EUROPE AND NOT BLOW IT
Crossing oceans to ride your skateboard is deeply rad and I encourage everyone to make it happen. I’ve been doing it for a while now and here’s what I’ve learned. This is nominally about the Europe tour, but the lessons apply pretty broadly to skate travel.
PRE TRIP PLANNING
Have a budget. Being real about your money is important to having the trip you want.
The people you travel with have a huge impact on your experience. Make sure your squad is locked tight and everyone you’re going with has similar travel styles. You don’t want to be on the road with that one asshole who doesn’t want to play nice or on the same level as everyone.
Buy travel insurance and make sure it covers skateboarding. There’s always a chance that you’ll crash and get broke off. You want to be able to go to the hospital without worrying about money and, if you’re fully broke off, fly home without getting put over a barrel by the airlines.
Call your financial institution and alert them to your travel plans before you leave so they don’t freeze your accounts. Being stranded in a foreign country with no money is the absolute worst.
If you’re planning on camping, spend the money on good gear.
Skate gear is crazy expensive in Europe, so bring more than you need. Also, pack extra bits like axle nuts, spacers, mounting hardware and bearings. If you have extra at the end of the trip, stoke out some locals.
Don’t bring too much stuff. You’ll be miserable. (I always bring too much stuff.)
ON THE ROAD
Have a plan. You don’t need to plan every waking moment, but it’s good to have an idea of where you want to go and what you want to do before you leave. Buy a guidebook, lurk Google maps, and do your research.
Bicyclists know where the good hills are.
Google knows where the skateparks are.
Book your beds, rooms, hostels, hotels etc in advance and spend the extra $5 to get a refundable reservation in case you change your plans.
Rent a big enough car. There’s nothing worse than having to pull all your shit out and repack the car every time you need something out of the trunk. Three people in a station wagon was great.
Get the full coverage insurance on your rental car. You will damage it somehow. Trust me on this. It’ll be cheaper in the long run and you’ll have the peace of mind to do follow runs.
Budget time and money to be a tourist. Get some culture. Have a nice meal. Watch people. Check out the art museum and the historic buildings in the city you’re visiting.
Lock the car and don’t leave bags or valuables visible in cities. Getting robbed sucks, especially when they get your high end skate gear that you can’t easily replace.
Attempting to speak the local language will stoke out the locals and make them more likely to be helpful.
Take pictures, but don’t see everything through your camera. In fact, remember to put the camera away and enjoy the experience as much as possible.
KEY TIPS FOR THE NEXT EURO TRIP
Bread, cheese, and meat from the grocery store makes for a great roadside lunch and keep cost down. Europe can be expensive.
Don’t spend the whole trip going from race to race. Freeriding on your own is cheaper and the Alps are the most insane mountain range in the world. Also, Europe has a ton of underground freerides that aren’t well known in North America. Check freerides.org for info.
Go to Kozakov. It’s the best event, period. It’s cheap, well run, the track is sick, the party is next level, and you can camp at the hill with food and beer available on site. Local hotels are like $40 a night if you’re a princess like me. If you can make it to one skateboard race a year, make it Kozakov.
Avoid the cops, especially Swiss cops. Swiss cops are assholes. Downhill skateboarding is legal in France, though. Generally knowing the law of the land and actually knowing what country you are in can save you a lot of headache as a whole.
Bring a rain jacket and something warm. It’s going to rain and it can get cold up on those mountains.
Have fun and go with the flow. Hit the strip club and stay out until 5am dancing with team North America because YOLO.
If possible, get someone else to pay for the whole thing. Shout out to Madrid Skateboards for hooking it up way too hard, four years in a row. To find out more about the trip check out Skate[Slate] Issue 27 for my full story and photos.