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Something Else in a Nutshell: A flashback to Beton on Fire

The world’s only downhill skateboard race to take place on a bobsled track is coming up in a month. Benjamin Malherbe has skated the event the last two years in a row, finishing third place last year. Read his account of the event and then ask yourself if you have what it takes to hurtle yourself down the track.

(All photos by Alexandra Pauli)

Christoph Haller

Beton on Fire 2011

It was good to be back. My second time around, I felt humbled to be part of it again. To be back there. I felt, I felt very honoured, I felt emotional..with a smile on my face! We took a walk down the track as we do every year and will do in the years to come. We started low and we worked our way up…as a team. The team thing is very important. The camaraderie is very important. It’s a lot more personal than the “normal” race. There are less riders, fewer than twenty. The last two years there has been less than ten. We won’t make our start point at a place we are not all comfortable with. It’s very personal, it’s very genuine and we RESPECT EVERYONE! Last year and the year previous we got to the junior start. The organizer Phillip is not comfortable with us starting from the top and we all respect that. You may, while reading this, think “lame bru” but it’s not. You will only understand when you are there. It’s gnarly and it’s very dangerous. You need experience and unfortunately only skating this thing once a year does not count as “being experienced”. Seriously, it doesn’t matter though. It wouldn’t matter if we started even lower. The experience as a whole is insane enough. You could have 4 runs a day and by the evening you’re finished. The g-force works you hard and the amount of concentration that your brain is forced to exert is unbelievable. (You might not even need that beer).

Benjamin Hass

The thing that I find hard to accept is that you never get used to the feeling you get in this race. At a downhill race it takes a few runs until you have the road dialed and any fears you might have are usually conquered. But this is different, every run is like the first. Yes, you have the course in your head and you know the lines on some of the corners reasonably well but the butterflies and anxiety are ALWAYS there. As soon as the adrenaline wears off anxiety returns. Anxiety and energy drinks are not a good marriage. It is important to keep active between runs too. Exercise like dancing to Deep Purple helps and so does screaming. Just before a run I usually dance and scream at the top of my voice. My body kind of loosens up, I am psyched and I am then ready to go.

I have been skating for nearly fourteen years and in that time I have never ever had the opportunity, or the privilege, to shred a bob track. It is the craziest thing. Really, I am being honest, it is the single most awesome, most GNARLY experience you will EVER have on your skateboard, I guarantee you this. However, it is hard, it is very difficult to explain the feeling…it is that cool. I know, let us make a bet: If you are lucky enough to have this opportunity to do the race and afterwards you tell me it was lame, I will stop skateboarding, I will give you all my gear and I’ll start tennis.

Euro Tour 2010

I ended up in Germany sometime of June/July 2010. It was Almabtrieb. It was my first European race. I’m in Europe, I’ve left home, I’m here, I’ve done it …well done bru!

To recap a bit. When I was around 13 years old I had heard down the grape vine that Switzerland was/is the place to be. I had heard its the Mecca for skateboarding. Switzerland’s the Indo and America/Canada is the Hawaii. I wanted the Indo. I finished school in 2007. After thee years I headed to Switzerland. I had no money. The money I saved in South Africa I ended up using on a new camera for my trip and the tattoo I had always wanted. I was in Zurich and I was broke. Aki helped me with finding a job. I made a few bucks and pulled Almabtrieb. It was meant to be only that one race but from a little (a lot) of help from Fibretec I made Almabtrieb, Insul, Graveyard Call and Kozakov plus all three Koffee and Schnapps freerides in France.

Maybe it was the second day at Almabtrieb. I was humble enough as it was just being in Europe when Danny Strasser introduced himself to me. He told me about this event that was going down called Beton on Fire.  He explained to me that it was originally an inline event, and he told me how he had kinda started skateboarding on bob tracks. In the beginning I must be honest I thought it was strange, almost lame…oh how naive I was. I had never heard of such a thing, I had never seen pics or video. I barely knew what he was going on about. After some thought (about an hour), I was amped. It made sense to me and I thought there was something wrong with him. You can’t skate down a bob track on a skateboard!! But it was set. There were to be 15 skateboard spots open and that’s that. There were less than ten of us that entered.

Walking with Samy, Pat, Ramon

After Kozakov I had no more money. I remember having literally 14 francs to my name. I was back in Zurich. All alone. No family, no friends, well I had my skate family…always.

I was staying in a garden shed on top of a hill close to the zoo in Zurich city. Broke. I had a week to get my shit together and try make the event. I had no money, I say it again because really I had jack shit! But there was something inside of me ticking away fiercely that I had to do this thing. I didn’t know how but I had to do it.  It was something else, just the feeling, the feeling was an urge I’ve never had anything close to from shredding a road. This was something else entirely! So I sold my fish-eye lens to Patrick Switzer!

Beton on Fire 2010

I got myself there and signed my name on the indemnity forms. We walked down the track. We checked out the gaps, yes there are gaps! They’re pretty big and scary looking but once you’re riding you only hear them, the rest is in your head. We were all anxious, to say the least. Whatever expectations we previously had were thrown out the window. This was real life and it was a whole different deal.

Gap

The easiest thing about writing all this down is the intro, getting into it, getting there but then what? I have had almost two years to figure out words and sentences to put it all down but all I can come up with is just as it says in the title. It truly is “something else”. It really is the most indescribable thrill I have ever had. Ask Pat, ask Ramon, ask anyone who was there.

Hack and Alfred hitch a ride

It might sound rather cliche but it really is one of those things you gotta get out there and do yourself. I swear to you afterwards you will be hooked.

A big shout-out to Alexandra Pauli for sharing the stoke with her epic, cool images. Thank you!

Benjamin rides for Fibretec boards and Fat Ant bushings

This year’s event will be held as always at the Altenberg bobtrack in Germany on the 02-03 June.

For any info you might need on the event itself you can contact Phillip Auerswald at info@betononfire.de and he will gladly help you.

Check out betononfire.de for registration, prices, etc.

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  1. Morgan Staines

    Thanks for this story Benjamin! I did Beton on Fire in 2009 (inline skater) — the only American then and maybe ever. I had no idea how far out of my league I was, but Phillip, Danny, Jean-Yves, Toby and all the other riders were SO supportive. Great people, great event. Experience of a lifetime!

  2. Samy Cantieni

    SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO amped! And a little scared too… not been sating so much lately, so main goal will be to keep my crashlist clean. No crashes in 2010, missed out on the event to be part of Greener Pastures 2011, now back ob Bobtrack in 2012… HELL YEAH!


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