Feature

Foreign Exchange: Extended Family

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Feature

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With one last sweep of the room and a momentary pause by the big window overlooking the quiet garden patio behind the building, I turn and close the door to our Amsterdam hotel room for the last time. It was an incredible trip, the adventure of a lifetime, with all the necessary ingredients to be something weird and unique, lovely and arduous, romantic and heart breaking. There was skateboarding, yes, but there was something else, something specific that made the trip greater than just a skateboard tour. From moment one it was plain to see that the people involved were more than just skateboarders: They were characters, weirdos, mutants. Completely off-the-wall, genuinely unique individuals with a passion for skateboarding, but also a lust for adventure. If it sounds like the stuff of movies, the perfect collection of collaborative creatures, it’s because it was. The Foreign Exchange Tour wasn’t so much a skate trip as it was a commingling of kindred spirits. Like-minded crazies, all head over heels in love with this sport we call skateboarding. Willing to sacrifice it all for a moment of thrill aboard a plank of wood with wheels.

Justin Reynolds, lurkin' amongst the bunks at Jorplace Hostel in the Hague.

Justin Reynolds, lurkin’ amongst the bunks at Jorplace Hostel in the Hague.

Justin and Baller package Patrick Parisi cruising the scene in The Hague.

Justin and Baller package Patrick Parisi cruising the scene in The Hague.

Emile Van Rijsselberge is one of Sick Boards Netherlands premiere riders,  he's also a total lady killer.

Emile Van Rijsselberge is one of Sick Boards Netherlands premiere riders. He’s also a male model.

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The Foreign Exchange crew pulls up in front of Richie Löffler's Mantis Skate in Hamburg Germany

The crew pulls up in front of Richie Löffler’s Mantis Skate in Hamburg, Germany

Bossman Brian Peck.

Bossman Brian Peck.

Brian Peck, Mike Girard, and Amanda Powell, cruisin' Mantis skate in Hamburg.

Brian Peck, Mike Girard, and Amanda Powell, cruisin’ Mantis skate in Hamburg.

Concrete Wave Skateshop in Cologne, Germany had a happening crowd when we pulled up.

Concrete Wave Skateshop in Cologne, Germany had a happening crowd when we pulled up.

Meat and greet.

Meat and greet.

Yours truly, drawing on little kid's skateboards. Yours truly, drawing on little kids’ skateboards.

It was an overcast morning that was transitioning into an overcast afternoon. Amsterdam was good to us, but for that matter, so was the rest of Europe. From the Netherlands to Germany, Germany to France, France to Spain, Spain to Belgium, and Belgium back to the Netherlands, the whole of Europe welcomed our motley lot with open arms. One-of-a-kind individuals just as obsessed with our board-borne sport as we were. Thrilled to show us incredible locations, secret spots, inner city sessions, cool people, places, and everything in-between. We were treated to dinner, welcomed into homes, presented with brews, boards, and beats. The things dreams are made of. We did so much more than just meet and greet individuals from the sport, we were wonderfully united with an extended family of shredders from near and far. A shared passion, an obsession with a feeling produced by something so incredibly simple. These people were more than just people, they were family, and despite being more than 6000 miles away from home, we were home. Welcomed into the fold of different cultures with a high-five and an introduction.

Entering France.

Entering France.

Our Parisian pent house.

Our Parisian penthouse.

The house in which we stayed in Paris was absolutely exquisite. A royal breakfast every morning.

The house in which we stayed in Paris was absolutely exquisite. A royal breakfast every morning.

Lovers locks, on the bridge in Paris, France.

Lovers’ locks, on the bridge in Paris, France.

Amanda Powell, showing some love to lovers.

Amanda Powell, showing some love to lovers.

Gates near the Louvre in Paris.

Gates near the Louvre in Paris.

Dangerous Deen Mondt trimming the coping at a street park, just outside of Paris.

Dangerous Deen Mondt trimming the coping at a street park, just outside of Paris.

An early morning departure from Paris took us to the South of France.

An early morning departure from Paris took us to the South of France.

In flight refueling with Kody Noble and Mikey Blanco Girard.

In flight refueling with Kody Noble and Mikey Blanco Girard.

The French country side looks like a Microsoft desktop background.

The French country side looked like a Microsoft desktop background.

The glorious Pyrenees Mountains.

The glorious Pyrenees Mountains.

Kody's Kabin, somewhere in the French Pyrenees Mountains.

Kody’s Kabin, somewhere in the French Pyrenees Mountains.

Kody attempting to skate a section of the road to Chamrousse in the French Pyrenees.

Kody attempting to skate a section of the road to Chamrousse in the French Pyrenees.

Mike Girard, pretending to be a Northface model in the Pyrenees Mountains.

Mike Girard, pretending to be a Northface model in the Pyrenees Mountains.

High in the Pyrenees, crossing over into Spain.

High in the Pyrenees, crossing over into Spain.

With the slam of a car door and the background chatter of a Dutch radio program, Amanda Powell and myself sat quietly in a cab, the last two bound for the airport. It was an incredible experience, an affirmation of something that went far beyond mere languages and ethnicities. We were visitors, travelers, tourists, but despite this, we were welcomed. And while we may not speak the native tongue of these various locations, everyone we encountered understood the glorious speak of the skateboard. Transcending the countless cultural barriers were the sounds, the gestures, the lyrical motions tied to a board-borne language that adhered only to the deep-rooted aspects of style and grace.

Traveling further South, we arrive in Marseille.

Continuing South, we arrive in Marseille, and then further to Barcelona. The beautiful Mediterranean.

The final day of the tour, boards are gathered to be claimed by the lucky Kickstarter pledger.

From Spain we drove to Brussels, then back to Amsterdam to return the van. The tour had come to a glorious end.

A thank you goes out to Paris Truck Company, the members of the Foreign Exchange Tour, as well as all of the sponsors and supporters who contributed to making this trip a reality for me and everyone else involved. It was a trip of a lifetime, and my gratitude to have been fortunate enough to live such an experience goes far beyond mere words – again, thank you.

And finally, a proper nod to you for reading – now adventure to a different country and go shred with someone who doesn’t speak your language. 

Stay tuned for the feature film, coming soon.

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