There aren’t many videos coming out today that don’t remind you of twenty other videos that came out today. Skaters love to think they’re special ‘n shit, but fall back on formulas just like Hollywood. (Currently kicking an idea around the editor’s desk where we rank the Bronze knock-offs the way NY Mag ranked the Taken rip-offs.)
Last year’s Toló video was something different. Not that it didn’t have it’s influences — the QS post for it made a tongue-in-cheek comparison to New Jersey vids — but it didn’t look like anything else being thrown out on the internet at that time or time since. It helped that it came from a secluded (by skate industry standards) former Soviet-bloc country known as Hungary, via the “Rios Crew.” Their subsequent projects have been frequent and just as fun to watch. They’re on the shortlist of videos left in Hella Clips/IG-era skateboarding that are fairly certain to earn repeat viewings.
These guys speak varying levels of English. Instead of doing a massive group interview, we had the dudes with the best command of the English language mold the crew’s answers into one unifying response. Most of the names wouldn’t make individual sense to you anyway, so here is an interview with Hungary’s Rios “Crew.”
What is the skate scene in Hungary like? Is Budapest the capital for it?
The skate scene is just as colorful as in the States, but with less skaters. The total population of Hungary is around 8.5 million, which is the same number of people you have in New York. There are maybe a thousand skaters in Budapest and let’s say another thousand spread throughout the country.
Skateboarding has been around in Budapest since the early eighties, but Hungary was still a communist country until 1989, so the first shop and park didn’t open until about 1991. Before that, you had to get gear from western countries. There are stories about guys who were selling H-street boards and other stuff before the first shop opened. There were skaters around back then, but it was never a common thing. The scene got quite heavy in the nineties and 2000s. We even had names like Rodney Mullen, Ed Templeton and Ethan Fowler in Budapest giving demos around in those years.
Every generation had a different central spot and shop. Our generation’s central spot was a square that was surprisingly built for skating around 2003, but after an accident, skating got banned there and it turned into a typical shitty pre-fab skatepark. It’s in the total center of the city and always crowded. We don’t go there.
We always meet at our D.I.Y. spot, Rió.
How did everyone in the crew first meet each other?
We have about 30 people in the crew. The youngest is 13, the oldest are over 40 and the rest is in between. Our borders opened up after the wall fell in Berlin. Capitalism and many different ethnicities began to come in, so it became like every other developed European country. We have Japanese and Chinese skaters in the crew, some from the capital, and others from different cities and towns all over Hungary. We all loosely knew each other in some way beforehand.
There was a disco that got closed because of some corruption issues, and its concrete platform was left behind. We put together some money and built a D.I.Y park on top of it with the obstacles we want, and so we could have a central spot to meet up before going street skating. Throughout the process of building that park, our crew became whole.
A lot of European cities are way more easy-going with skateboarding than American ones. What’s the Hungarian attitude towards skateboarding?
It’s the same; you’ll only have two or three tries in the midtown of the city at all the new spots. As you go to outer districts, the number of tries you get may increase. There are days when we meet ten evil motherfuckers in a row, but there are days when we only meet kind grannies and pedestrians who are amazed by skating.
We’ve had a few fights. Once, a security guy got a truck in his head and fainted immediately, but we didn’t dare to put it on the web. The best and most unusual things will still happen. We were in Split, Croatia, and Kakas tried toa rail which was at the entrance of a pub. The owner was so hyped that he told the costumers to sit away from us so he could have the run up for the rail. We got free beers, too.
From an outside perspective, your crew’s skating seems heavily influenced by old east coast American videos, but that might be a biased opinion. Do you guys watch a lot of videos from the States? Where do you draw inspirations from?
We like to watch east coast videos because we can relate to the vibe those cities have. We have seasons in Hungary, so it’s good to see other people skate in similar weather conditions. We watch videos from all around, but we will always love the first VHS tapes we got: 411, On Video, Transworld, Photosynthesis. Fortunate for us, some of the videos coming out today still look like old ones.
How did your videos begin? They have gotten a pretty good response from abroad.
It started with filming the building process of our D.I.Y. spot and it escalated from there. In the beginning, John Glenstond had a pocketcam with a fisheye duct-taped to it because it didn’t fit. We recorded each other and made a few videos with that for about a year.
Then we met Santi, who happened to have a Canon XM2 and was hyped to film, so we started to produce better quality ones. The other cameraman, B.Bence joined us a bit later on with a VHS cam and a VX1000. They both go to art school to learn filming and editing. They both have a different approach to making videos but they find a way to fit it together.
We also have a friend who DJs that skates with us, Danzel Urban District, and his music gives some kind of essence to the videos.
Why isn’t there a lot of coverage of skateboarding in Hungary? Not many teams go there on trips or anything.
Let’s start with a funny stereotype: Every second American looks for us on the map as “Hungry” and doesn’t find it, so they don’t come visit.
There actually are a few major teams coming through lately, but they only come because their brands sell enough product in shopping malls. It’s more worth it for them. We’ll have some coverage, just nothing close to Barcelona.
The spots look pretty rough out there. What’s the terrain like? Is the architecture way older and run-down than other places in Europe?
The Buda side of the city is full of hills, rough and old. The spots almost look like you’re on the countryside. The Pest side is flat with businesses, tourist districts and shit like that, so you’ll have new marble plazas over that way.
Before we joined the European Union, there weren’t many renewed squares with marble ledges because the government stole all the money. Not that they don’t steal now, but they learned how to make it seem like they steal less. We don’t have a decent skatepark, only parks built by local governments with Rhino Ramps, Concrete Rudolph and crap like that. They only do it because thats how they make the dirty money clean. They don’t give a fuck about what kind of obstacles would we need.
Lately, there have been times when local governments tried to involve skaters, but they “accidentally” somehow keep fucking up. As far as skateparks go, we’re the second worst place in the world. The North Pole is the first.
Is there a skate industry out there? Is it possible for a kid from Hungary to go pro or get sponsored?
There’s not much of industry here now; no printed mag anymore. We only have a few local companies, but there is only one we would be happy to mention: It’s called ALAP Skateboards and they make their own handmade boards out of a garage. They also have a nice D.I.Y. spot on the Pest side of the city, called Nagyicce.
There aren’t many skaters in Hungary, so it’s hard to make a living out of a simple skate shop on the corner. The skateboard industry here is pretty much in the hands of a few businessmen or older ex-“skaters.” Some of them have worked with big corporations, have shops in malls and ads in TV shows, so they suck up big money but kill all the smaller shops.
The taxation system in Hungary is tough, so it’s hard to run a so-called “core” shop with such a low skater population. There was one local shop called Lok·l and it was run by actual skaters we knew, but it closed down about a year ago. You can’t make a living off the average Hungarian skate kid who can’t afford expensive fancy apparel, and buys a board every three months or so.
The only sponsor we have is Smoking Filter FL. Skateboarding is not a sport so, so we have a few heavy smokers. Sponsorship here is different from what you know in the U.S. We should say we have “supported” skaters. Our shops are either greedy or can’t really afford to just sponsor guys because they put together a sick street video part.
It’s sad that a lot of talented kids who are as good as some of the competition sharks are left behind because they prefer to skate street. Though it doesn’t really matter if you’re not the sponsor-chasing type of guy, and you skate for yourself and for your homies.
Do you ever travel around the rest of Europe, or keep it close to home?
We have visited some closer places gypsy-style due to our low budget. We’ve been to Austria-Vienna and Croatia-Malinska, and we made friends with a D.I.Y. crew in Rijeka, the Kvarner Skateboard Klub, so we are expecting to visit each other in the future. We also have a good connection with the Shuvit Crew from Vienna and already visited each other a couple times.
Last summer, there were a group of Czech skaters who came to Budapest because they saw our DIY park on the web. That was a pretty good and new experience.