Disclaimer: This is a multimedia reportage covering the travels and adventures that surrounded the 'Athens Bladehouse'
event in 2018. Beyond text and pictures, it also features videos. Those are put in small screens next to the text, the depicted happenings are highlighted in bold
To see the whole playlist, click here (spoiler!).
List of photographers:
List of Videographers
What culminates in the Bladehouse Event and the trip to Andros goes way back. Way back, because Nikos Kouros, an Athenian filmmaker, over years has built up a hub for the Athens blading scene in the house that he lives in. After coming back from studying and working in London he found his hometown scene in a state of lethargy. There were still people skating, but no regular sessions, social gatherings or sense of community. Through the years Kouros has always been the guy writing the text messages to get everyone in one session. He was missed. “I see that everywhere. People always need that one person that takes matters in his hand.” What happens to a scene if this person is missing? “They get distracted by daily life. They need to be reminded of the more important things in life.” Like what? “Like skating.”
Luckily the Athenian bladers were responsive to his wake-up call. The lot of friends became an active crew again. And the Bladehouse became a headquarter. It is not only the place for a rooftop session but also the place to hang out together after the session or skate the miniramp if it’s raining. It’s a place of encounter.
Now some years later, the gravity of this place has reached out. It is hosting gatherings that go way beyond the borders of Athens. In 2016 the Cayenne Project crew united in Kouros' house to produce an outstanding blade film. 'Delfon Dio', it is the address of the Blade House.
I want to set a monument. For the guy who created the most complete and intense event that I know in rollerblading. And for the unity that is created by this event and its surrounding adventures. Imagine 30+ people from all over Europe, with different backgrounds in profession, age and lifestyle going on a trip together. Whilst the idea of a shared European culture is taking huge backward steps on the big stage, it is alive and growing in the community founded over the course of these two intense weeks in the south of Greece.
This is the story of a reminder. One damn effective reminder.
It goes way back, because we start on a Thursday, 9 days before the actual Blade House event, this is not just a contest coverage.
I arrive at ‘Delfon Dio’ after a 10h car ride from Sofia, Bulgaria. We are late for the railbox session that has gone down already. It is a big reunion, many of us have met before, even during this year at blading events, be it in Amsterdam at the Shred Da Ground or the Abriss in Berlin. The sofas are missing in the living room, they have already been transformed into sleeping spots downstairs. The empty space foreshadows the madness that this space will house in just 9 days.
Friday morning - As people are still having breakfast, the first car is made fit to leave for the beach trip. Pipi, a local skateboarder and the carpenter behind the Blade House mini ram, is forming the vanguard of this excursion, going to the island of Evia early to find a good spot and set up camp. He shall forever be remembered as the master of trunk-tetris. His girlfriend Vivi, Soeren and myself join him on his mission to Evia island, just a 2h car ride north-east from Athens.
The first beach we arrive to is full of people and really windy. Wild camping is obviously not so wild here, everybody is doing it. After brief communication with the headquarters we decide to take a chance for a better suited place and drive to beach #2. This one is wider and has some nice shady spots, which are unfortunately taken. Still we start to build camp in the very end of the beach, next to the rocks where wind and bright sunshine unite. While we struggle to construct the first tent, we see a caravan leaving on the other end of the beach. What it leaves behind is a big space beneath the trees. They afford us shade and hold to the hammocks some people brought along as a sleeping spot. I have never asked you guys: Wasn’t the resine dripping on you all night from the trees? However, we take over the space, the rest of the crew starts dropping in and an hour later we had built a solid base.
I don’t want a spoiler here, but arriving I was asking myself what I will do in this solitary place for the next three days and when we were about to leave, I felt like we just got comfortable with the calmness of the beach life. On the third day a trip to the port town already seems like too much of a distraction.
Starting our journey like this works great in two ways. First, it is a much needed time to soak up energy for the upcoming skating and partying that will work to
squeeze it out of you. Secondly, you can disenchant from your daily routine. It creates the right setting to get involved with all the new faces surrounding you. After all, there are already 25
boys and girls from 5 different countries. But they have something in common. They share
the passion for an activity, that is a very playful one and is not considered to be taken serious by most of society. Rollerblading is something that kids do. These circumstances contain great potential for the quality of meeting each other, there is this childish level of encounter. So even though many are 25+ years old and have only known each other for 24h, they will already be stacked on top of each other on an air mattress to create the world’s largest floating human pile.
The next days are spent in a pleasant laziness, interrupted only by spontaneous downhill sessions or cruises on the rubber boat, that Pipi brought along with a little outboard motor and a surfboard to skitch on. They were well prepared - Nikos Kouros aka the Thomas Cook of rollerblading.
Embarking - Mina Koleva
Monday - Pipi is packing up the car like a boss again. I am asking him about his relation to the scene and he confesses. He is jealous of the small but tight community that he is experiencing. Pipi is playing in a punk band. A guy with a solid belly that is into all outdoor activities, someone who is good at fishing with a lance. The tattoos spread over his body speak of a more punk, DIY approach to skateboarding that he is missing in today’s scene. In Athens many kids would be more into their online representation than into a skate event happening in their city. There are so many that they don't feel the urge to support each other. He can’t identify with much of it anymore. “The less people, the better” he says. Is it though? And what about the pants?
Monday still - We are on our way back to Athens, facing heavy rain which we barely escaped from. Our campsite would probably be ruined by now. The Syeah crowd has expanded so much that not everyone is staying at the Blade House. We agree to meet up for a night session at OAKA. In the words of Martin Schiffer: “Let’s do what we actually came for.”
OAKA is what we call the skatepark built on the main olympic complex in northern Athens. In theory it is illuminated all night. Unfortunately some of the lights are broken now. So it can’t be enjoyed in its entirety after the sun has set. Talking about the olympics and infrastructure: Two weeks later we will skate an old kayak parcour at the Elliniko Olympic Complex. The whole place is being taken back by nature again, as many of the facilities built for the Athens Games in 2004. The situation around the skatepark is not that drastic, the big stadium and swimming pool is still being used for sports events. Still none of the local skaters expects those lights to be fixed soon. Comparing it to my home town, I’m happy that OAKA has some light at least. The feeling of taking off your sweaty shirt at 2 AM after a session and there is not the slightest feeling of cold, priceless. To enjoy blading in the Athenian summer you’ll have to adjust your rhythm a little. Yes, it’s too hot to skate in the middle of the day, but beyond OAKA you’ll find an abundance of well illuminated spots in the streets for extensive night sessions. The city, it’s pretty lit.
Today the session doesn’t grow too old though, as it is interrupted by the rain. I am not disappointed as I have sensed a spice of danger in the skating. Maybe it will need just another night to adapt from the beach life to the metropolis.
Tuesday - 4 days before the event, waking up to a house that is already packed with bladers. It seems there is a tendency in blading events to extend from being a one-day thing to a multi-day experience. Kouros has been doing it like that for three years now, Winterclash is building up a big side program and, writing this, I just came back from the Sofia Blading Olympics that offered 4 days of street-, park sessions and hangouts. As much as it makes this blading thing strain your schedule even more, it also intensifies the social aspect of the events. You spend more time together than just one day in a park and maybe a drunk night in a club. You meet the same people a few days in a row and you build up actual relationships with people from all over the world. In the case of the Blade House you even share a private space with those strangers for a week or more. A small cosmos evolves, a community that can be revived everywhere, as long as someone creates the occasion. For tonight, Nick has
planned an evening railbox session on the roof. Some people, I’m talking explicitly to the Bulgarians and the Czeches here, still have to get used to the idea that nothing happens before 6pm. They go for a mid-day street session in the surroundings of the Blade House.
Staying in the house must not be a bad thing, Nick’s house is basically a playground. It is a very open space, that lets everyone go at their own pace. While waiting for more people you can grab the balance board, a yoga mat, stretch or work out on the boulder board. Also there is no problem to find a quiet spot, maybe hide under the ping-pong table in the garden.
Because it is raining again, we start this evening’s session in the mini ramp. It is an unrefined jewel. You barely see anyone skating it, no matter the level of skill, without looking a bit chaotic. It is just too low and tight to apply your standard mini ramp skills. While some of us are bathing in sweat downstairs already, Kouros leads a squad of ambitious people to swipe the roof dry. The session has to happen and it does. I sit down on the benches next to the box and it is raining tricks. The level of grinderblading is super high and sets expectations for saturday’s showdown.
Just after the session we go out for a Souvlaki, a highly unusual ordeal for the locals, you order it to your home at any time. The rain starts heavy again. It seems like it is all coming down to save the plans for the upcoming days from falling in the water.
Meetup is at the top of the hill next to Kifisia station. It is not readily a spot, but if there is 10+ people with rollerblades, there will be a session anywhere. So we shred the rounded set of marble stairs and wait for people to arrive. As we are complete, we move to the first spot, just across the street, found by some explorative members of the crew. It is a rather small double set with some ledges beneath. As it grows dark and some spot lights turn on, what ensues already feels like a street contest. At least I have been to street comps with a comparable amount of bladers in recent years. Gilles and Martin follow this vibe and commit to jumping the whole thing. Spirits are high, another crew arrives from Bulgaria and we shall go on for the night cruise. It is a big and busy road going down the hill, but the size of the group spends confidence. 20+ bladers are hard to overlook.
Arriving at the next spot, a brightly illuminated school yard, parallel sessions develop. I find it remarkable that not one out of ~25 questions the
of climbing the fence to get to the spot. It is a part of our culture. Inside, some skate the down ledges, some find a gap in the back and others just dissemble a plastic trash can on the basketball court. Actually, nobody jumps the 2.5m gap from the kiosk-style-house next to the ledges. Kouros told me that as kids they used to gap it at very low speed on the regular. Skating has changed, man.