It’s funny how taste and smell can infuse a memory. Recollections of a beloved grandparent, always connected somehow to stale Folger’s coffee or a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. There’s a brand of urinal cake, for instance, that forever reminds me of summer camp and I can’t smell a sticker without thinking of that first trip to the skateshop. And even though we have all these photos and video to remind us of Mason Silva’s Skater of the Year trip to Europe, memories of our journey and the good times we had will always be laced with the acrid-bubblegum flavor of the Apérol Spritz, ice cubes tinkling in the sun.
Get in the mix with Mason and the rest on their tipsy journey from Germany to Croatia
Mad angles in Munich as the SOTY shakes off the dust with a bump to wall bash
Boogie is not a crime, but watch those rocks!
As absurd as it sounds, these skate trips almost always end up with a special drink—a slightly-exotic, often-alcoholic beverage around which everyone rallies and will forever remind its sippers of “Our Summer in Barci” or “Camping in Copenhagen“ or “That time I made all those terrible mistakes in Tampa.” Forget the warm Budweiser twelver of our forefathers, these days it’s more like a four-wheeled gender-reveal party or girl’s night out, with mixed drinks, sacks of ice and actual glassware becoming standard gear alongside griptape and razor blades. You’ve probably guessed from the ‘Gram, but the Apérol Spritz is the Official Cocktail of Euro-Skate Summer 2021, our SOTY trip included. This fanciful bright-orange trifle is as easy to suck down as a White Claw or Twisted Tea, but with just enough intriguing bitterness to make you feel like you’re getting adventurous. Not the toughest of beverages, by any measure, and you definitely don’t want to do too many in a row.
Ryan’s here for the clips and the spritz
The recipe is as follows: one part Prosecco (a cheap Italian sparkling wine) two parts Apérol (orange stuff) a splash of soda water, served over ice and with an orange slice on the rim if you’re feeling fancy. The Apérol is the funky bit, and the Internet taught me that it’s because it’s what’s called an aperitif—a harsh drink sucked down before dinner to “stimulate the appetite.” In other words, “Do you have anything to eat? I gotta get this terrible taste out of my mouth.” But seriously, folks, the kids were loving these things. Shane Farber, who turned 21 on the trip, even bought the official Apérol kit from the duty free shop at the airport to take home. Of all the technological advances making our lives easier while possibly destroying us, the most-often overlooked has gotta be the fact that, thanks to all these seltzers and coolers and shit, the kids will NEVER face the burden of learning to enjoy the taste of beer. Bring a pineapple White Claw to a boil and serve it in a hippy’s D3, it will still taste better than the warm Busch Light I forced down in the woods that summer in the scant hopes of talking to a girl. But I digress.
Jared Cleland’s fakie to switch front crooks is a work of art
Das Fuzz in Munich. Just smile and nod
Ishod has never stopped skating like his SOTY year. Lipslide to fakie a fat tube
This was the trip where everything was supposed to be back to normal. Pandemic’s over, Trump’s gone golfin’, future’s looking bright. Alas, after many of us shucked and jived or pretended to be farmworkers to move ahead in the vaccine lines, the last-minute test to board the plane to Germany ended up snagging three of the crew—all COVID positive despite being vaxxed AF. We were down to nine before we’d even taken off.
Skating with Mason, Ryan Lee and the boys through 2020 kept me sane during the darkest days of the pandemic, and it was painful that he got cheated out of not only his Skater of the Year party (and a chance to meet Wheatberry), but his special trip, too. Instead, he got the classic, old-style SOTY assignment—shoot a whole new interview in the next six weeks. Oh, and by the way, you’re gonna need an epic cover. Fun fact: Mason nose picked that rock (and shot all those other photos in his May SOTY issue) on a bone bruise and torn meniscus. You’re goddamned right he deserved a vacation. We were in the bonus round.
Head-high nose pick in Tarzan’s jungle for the May 2021 issue
With Chris Pfanner recruited as our resident pro/team manager we squinted into the sun out in front of the Munich airport, our dream team assembled. SOTY 2013 Ishod Wair has done this all before and joined tight bros Mason, Louie Lopez, Curren Caples, Jared Cleland, Shane Farber, Blake Carpenter, Matt Bublitz, Ryan Lee and Mack Scharff for two weeks across Eastern Europe—Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and 300 gallons of Apérol Spritzers to come. “Do I need to keep wearing my mask?” I asked Pfanner. “Don’t worry, you’re in Germany,” he replied, “If there’s a rule against it, someone will make a sign.”
Blake flattens out a front heel, over the glass on the magical streets of Innsbruck, Austria
FLAT BLAKEThis was my first trip with Blake Carpenter, though I’ve been a longtime fan. His team manager Mike Sinclair has always told me that Blake harbors many firmly-held convictions, and most importantly, does not like to be told what to do. This is actually a common and valuable trait among pro skaters, struggling as they are against the forces of gravity, security guards, triple kinks, etc. If you’re willing to take no for an answer, how the hell are you gonna switch kickflip back tail the Muni rail in Philadelphia? I got a taste of what else Mike was referring to early on, when Blake offered up some opinions on current events as well as the shape of the Earth. “Why can’t you fly over the North Pole? Have you ever thought about that?” he offered. “Because Santa Claus is up there!” Ishod replied. Simultaneously, Blake offered me a drink I’d never once experienced or even considered—the Florida Pickleback. This served as an excellent reminder of two things: First, nobody knows everything and there’s a lot of experiences and perspectives out there. For instance, I’d never thought to chase a shot of whiskey with some pickle juice slugged directly from the jar before, especially not at a gas station in Slovenia. Turns out, it’s delicious. I never knew. And second: it’s okay to disagree and you don’t have to be a dick about it. In that spirit, I can tell you that Blake is a total sweetheart; generous and fun to be around. I’d travel with him anywhere. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, even the general dynamics of the solar system. We can just skate around, drink pickle juice, laugh and be friends.
Switch pickle back lip on the round bar
For a mellow cat, Louie’s not afraid to seek thrills from time to time. Bump to bar, living on the edge
Landhaus Plaza in Innsbruck is not a skatepark. Which is good, because the SOTY is strictly streets. One-eighty switch crooks to fakie
PUNCHABLE“Hey look, that’s my ex-girlfriend,” Curren announced only half-surprised as we pulled into Ljubljana, Slovenia. “Yeah, that’s Kristen.” This, I’ve learned, is a very typical situation for Curren Caples. Of course he’d not only know the name of a bikini model plastered 60 feet high on a random building in Eastern Europe, he’d know her in the Biblical sense. That’s just what it’s like to be Ventura, California’s favorite son. I’ve been acquainted with Curren since he was nine or ten years old, though I don’t recall ever having a conversation with him in those early years. I mean, what do you talk about with a nine year old? My primary memories are of a little blond Muppet blasting giant frontside airs at the demos, then languishing, along with Louie, at drawn-out, 20-person, chain-restaurant meals afterwards. I also recall a lot of candy, squirt guns and other plastic crap, purchased then destroyed in truck-stop parking lots, per-diem spent appropriately, like an actual kid in a candy store. Well, some things have definitely stayed the same with ol’ C-Cup. I even saw him pick up a Super Squirter on the way to the river. What’s different these days is the conversation level, specifically Curren’s special brand of storytelling—awkward yarns, most of which involve some combination of celebrity encounters, high-end product purchases (and their inherent problems and intricacies) and misplaced aggression often involving people wanting to fight him. A typical tale may start with trying to get the steering wheel warmer for his new Tesla repaired and end with Cardi B kicking him in the nuts up in the club. He also has several stories where high-profile surf legends want to kill him—extremely surprising since Curren is usually about as docile as a boogie board. Which brings us to this hypothesis: maybe it’s his face. While I have a mug that makes people think I’m angry or have just smelled something unpleasant, perhaps it’s Curren’s face, as angelic and non-threatening as a ’90s Disney star, that draws the ire of so many wishing to punch it. Could a visage renowned for its ability to attract the ladies like ants to a dropped sno-cone have an equal and opposite effect among the bros? Is there such thing as a highly-punchable face? Very probably, but fortunately for us the closest Curren got to a K-O in Slovenia was a kiss on the cheek from Doobie. Now shut up so he can tell you about the new Tesla truck he’s on the waiting list for. The white one, not the red one.
Punching out a face-high kickflip, Curren slaps
Louie got some of the best feet in the streets and he’s a hell of a finger flipper too
This spot is called The Avocado because just like how an avocado is neither a vegetable nor a fruit, this thing is neither hubba nor rail. Front feeble fakie by Doobie, 100% Gypsy
Giorgi, stopping traffic with an elegant backside NBS
A SLOVENIA HOMECOMINGLjubljana, Slovenia was our home base for the trip and we posted up for an entire week in a four-story Airbnb arranged by the Pfan Man. Not only did the home come equipped with an outdoor kitchen/eating area, it had a Heineken keg-a-rator and a bottomless supply of mini kegs and frosty mugs. More fantastically, Skate Mental pro Giorgi “Armani” Balkhamishvili hopped on the trip from Munich as well as crowd favorite Victor “Doobie” Pellegrin, smuggled in via Gypsy caravan from France. And in the miracle department, Chris’s mom Frieda Pfanner drove out and agreed to make us home-cooked meals for the entire week! You may have figured this out by now, but Europeans live much better lives than we do, with special focus paid to the important things—friends, family, food and plenty of vacation. The Spanish even have a national nap time, for shit’s sake. Our week in Ljubljana was about as far from a US demo tour as you can get, and we broke up the skate missions with a day at the river as well as plenty of Spritzers in the shade. Oftentimes you could even post up at a cafe and watch the skate action unfold in front of you, drink in hand, boards shooting wildly into traffic without so much as a harsh glance from the locals.
Our Sherpa for the week was Matjaž Bedenik, Slovenia’s only skateboarding cowboy. We just called him Cowboy, and he rolled up on his bike every morning, smiling, ready to show us all his best spots despite working full time as a chef as well as running a skate program for the kids. Hard not to have fun when your spot guide is a genuine cowboy.
We visited the two hubbas in a row several times where Ishod got so many tricks we lost count. Switch varial heel, added to the stack
Matjaž Bedenik: The Slovenian CowboyWhen did you become the cowboy?
I became the cowboy about one year ago. The Leo Romero inspire me. I like this style, the music. I like everything. I’m different than the other guys and a lot of people like that.
Isn’t there a crazier story about how you became the cowboy?
I fell into my head. My friend give me a new skateboard, new everything. I have a backpack and go on downhill, like mellow. I wasn’t worried about nothing, but then when I fell backwards my backpack crush my head, we call small brain. I was in sleep for seven minutes and when I wake up I’m a different guy. I tell them, Take me to the big hospital in Ljubljana. They put me in a coma for 14 days. Then I wake up, it’s not big problem. Only thing is my smell. I have the smell but not good. After that I was thinking, Fuck that life. I want to do something new. I want to do something different. In my life, I skate very good, but I look like everyone else. I have the same hair as everyone. So I think, When I die, I want to say I have long hair. On my head, I have hair missing in the back.
You’re going bald?
Yes. So I think of what would be good for the hairs and I think This, yeah, the cowboy! I get the hat from the oldest skater in Slovenia. I rep it hard so he gives me the hats for free. And in Slovenia we have a lot of commercials and every time they need a skater I get the commercial. A friend of my mom, she says she sees me on the commercial but asks my mom if the mustache is a sticker. I’m like, No way! I’m the real motherfuckin’ cowboy! Everybody love it.
What got you into skating?
I was a young kid and the skate is under my block and everybody try it. I tried to do a kickflip. I can’t do a kickflip, I do a heelflip first. I have a lot of motivation. I watch the movies and they inspire me and this is my lifestyle forever.
How would you describe the skate scene in Ljubljana?
The skate scene is good, but it’s a little low. We grow up, we train and we do a lot of things and we’re better than ten years ago.
Who was the first pro skater you saw in real life?
I was in Berlin and there was Emerica and Vans team. I love Dustin Dollin; he was my good guy to skate. I see him but I don’t meet him. Later I meet all the skaters.
Do the skaters in Ljubljana ever have problems with the police?
No, the police are very okay. But if we skate in the street, they tells us to go to the skatepark. We have some small ones. But not a big deal. If you are a good guy, clean guy, they will love it.
It seems pretty mellow here. What about the locals?
We have different groups. We have the DIY group—they are like trash skaters or dirty skaters and then we have the group for like the clothing, the style skater—not so much good tricks but the style tricks, good for the edits to watch. But yeah, everyone love each other. We have the best shop, 1412 Skate Shop.
And then the cowboy group.
Yes, the cowboy group of one but everybody love it.
What do you think of the SOTY crew?
To meet you and see their level, it makes me wonder what I’m missing in my life to be like those guys, to progress faster. And I share this to the young people now. I didn’t have this when I was a young guy and I know when I show the young kids the way, they are very better than I. They can learn in two years what I needed like five years!
What’s the craziest trick you’ve seen so far?
The backside noseblunt of Giorgi because I love this trick. Giorgi is bowse.
What about Doobie? Do many Gypsies skate in Slovenia?
We have Gypsies, but not that skate. I have one friend who is Gypsy but he’s more like a regular guy.
What is your favorite cowboy song?
I like a lot of music, but Alan Jackson. Alan Jackson for me is very good because he is the basic standard and I can listen every time no matter how I feel. I enjoy his music in the moment.
What should the skaters of the world know about Slovenia?
I want to say to the world—fuck the Barcelona. Come to Slovenia! You will enjoy it!
Cowboy lassos a frontside flip and ties it to the moon
Best skidmarks on and off the road
A SUPERSPREADER EVENTLike many of you, my emotions, concerns and safety protocols have fluctuated wildly over the last two years in regards to the pandemic. From wiping down Cheerios boxes with bleach to jumping back on a plane to Europe (to attending a very sloppy pro party in Long Beach the other day—sheesh), it’s been all over the shop, though my thoughts on the vaccine were always very much in line with the Jason Dill quote we published a year ago—“If that vaccine was in front of me right now, I’d snort the motherfucker!” It felt good to be back out on the road and given the regular tests we were taking seemed safe enough. That is, until one day with the Pfan Man. Beneath Chris Pfanner’s easy demeanor and gift for affable problem solving lurks a raging bull, a skateboarding gladiator always ready to toss the carcass one more time. Chris had staked out a double-set gap to bank, even parking the van in the landing overnight to secure a clean ride away the next morning. He nailed it, of course, but not before a proper, Hall of Meat-caliber pummeling including several violent chest dives into the asphalt. This is why it was so surprising when later that day, while checking out another spot, Chris started sizing up a negligible “bump” over a 16-foot gap into the road. Cowboy’s friends pulled him in with their car, and next thing you know he’s getting whipped over the gap, skidding and tumbling like a crash-test dummy, flying much faster than his legs could ever save him. He seemed punch drunk at one point, crying and laughing to himself between tries while sponging his bloody hands across his shirt. A couple near-makes and then Pfanner landed four wheels, only to be tossed backwards into an uneven seated position. He screamed like a demon. This particular injury goes by many names—the Give ’n’ Go, the One-Cheek Sneak and even the lurid Hole Stretcher. Whatever you call it, an underwear check was in order. Though we all remained COVID free, Pfanner had experienced a personal superspreader event. He made it next try and deservedly clocked out for the rest of the trip, agony replaced by beers, high fives and smiles. What a champ.
Stretching it to the street, Pfan Man flying as usual
Euro cars are much smaller that American rides, which is good because we had to pick one up and drag it out of the landing so Pfanner could get this kickflip
We didn’t hear much about the SOTY on this SOTY trip, but rest assured he’s up to his old tricks, learning new ones, too. Fly out to uphill grind with back-breaking near-vertical reentry. You know he loves it
Another nut exported from Georgia, front crook nollie back heel
Frontside wall crawl on the way to the club
Stepping into the void, Shane Farber guides Blackhart’s Frankenstein into uncharted terrain. Exit stage right
SMELL-O-VISIONThe dudes bought weed off the Airbnb guy which meant that he and his clubbing buddies were basically hanging out with us the whole time. This weird arrangement turned out to be a blessing when he let us borrow his angle grinder to open a gate at the bottom of a one-of-a-kind roll-in to double kink rail that Shane had been eyeballing. Out of nowhere, Pfanner pops ups with an entire light kit and the mission was on. Of course Shane made it. Thrasher Mag prints no bails. Then we went out for another gigantic meal, this time at a restaurant so Frieda wouldn’t have to cook. The next day we drove seven hours to the beach, got completely french fried, then drove ten hours back to Munich to fly home. In the final hotel I ordered one more Apérol Spritz, conspiring to pour it into a water bottle to drink on the plane. In my mind I was gonna look over at the guys and fire them up with a final cheers. Instead, of course, I ended up spilling it all over my backpack, the distinct odor following me for the long journey home. That smell. That dirty juice-box smell. How could I ever forget it? How could I ever forget any of it?
We did it, y’all!