White people have a categorical list of things that they want to accomplish in their lives. Many of these have been touched upon throughout the really-funny-when-I-first-read-it-but-slowly-got-less-interesting website, “Stuff White People Like,” and let’s be serious, much of that site is overwhelmingly true. If you were to look at these categories and size them up in accordance with which ones are most complex, travel would outrank home renovation by a narrow margin, and fall slightly short of reaching the crown jewel, education.
There is a whole myriad of travel plans that white people love to talk about, and they don’t simply end at going to Paris, India, or some b-list country in Europe that may or may not have been run by a bunch of drunk Russians that eventually fell asleep in the snow, and were not seen until they were thawed out the following spring. The means of travel is an important facet of the category, because merely taking an airplane is not enough to solidify yourself worthy of extended conversations in an all-white context. At a beginner to intermediate level, there is the cross country American trip, which needs a baby blue Corvette, a grey 1955 Chevy, or whatever the hell Kerouac and those bums drove around in throughout those books they wrote. But once you begin to advance yourself in the travel category, the necessity of completing a two-continent journey becomes to loom over aging white adult life. And there is nothing more heavily romanticized, and as closely associated with old writers that died broke than extremely long train rides.
An idea that skateboarding has been toying with for quite some time is documenting itself in an out-of-context surrounding. It can be seen in everything from the days in the late-eighties when it was actually odd to see a pro skating New York as opposed to California, right through that whole Area 51 gimmick that Transworld ran with in Transmission 7, and the current day obviousness that comes with pros like Kenny Reed being that guy who will go to some country without a sewer system so that he can skate some crusty hubba ledge with a cool background. Billy Rohan basically gave us the skateboard headline of the summer by going to Iraq, so placing skateboarding out-of-context hasn’t exactly become boring yet.
Patrik Wallner’s video is a 10,000 kilometer journey from Moscow to Hong Kong on the Transsiberian Railway. 10,000 kilometers is roughly 6,200 miles. The driving distance between New York and Los Angeles is around 2,700 miles, so imagine driving from New York to Los Angeles, back again to New York, and then starting to drive to Miami, but having your car die somewhere around the middle of Georgia as a reference point for the distance. Except doing so on a claustrophobic train filled with inhospitable alcoholics, and at one point, a group of guys that were fresh out of prison.
Skateboarding has obviously been to Russia and China before, but given that immense space between Eastern Europe and the Pacific Coast, there is plenty of ground that has never been covered, and a handful of cities that most people have never heard of unless they’re used to reading New Yorker articles about the heroin and AIDS problems in Siberian cities. Beyond the known associations that sprout about with Russian skate spots all being attached to neglected, marble Communist monuments, they manage to find an overwhelming amount of cutty concrete architecture (if you want to call it that), which is a welcome departure from the marble ledges that might as well be in Barcelona without the hammer and sickle affixed to the side. When watching 10,000 Kilometers, there is a genuine feel that you are experiencing unchartered ground as far as skate trips go (at least for the middle part of the journey), and some of the few discreetly planted civilian reactions tend to emphasize that.
For all its first-of-its-kind-ness, the video strays away from the epic tone and bad pacing that tends to ruin a lot of travel videos. It never stays anywhere for longer than it should and avoids any retarded “We’re skateboarders, dude, we like, see the world in like, a totally different way, man” sort of talk that makes it hard to take anything that involves the words “skate” and “documentary” seriously anymore.
The skaters featured are a bunch of dudes from Cliché and Element Europe (Michael Mackrodt, Dan Cates, Danny Hochman, Laurence Keefe, John Tanner), and they’re all very talented, as you would expect. The only names I actually recognized were Kenny Reed, who is barely in the video, and Dan Zvereff, who switched up his skating a whole lot, and began to focus on doing well-formed nollie back heels as opposed to nollie flip noseslide nollie 270 flip outs, making his portions some of the more enjoyable parts of the video.
You can purchase it on Patrik’s website, Visual Traveling. The video runs forty-six minutes with credits, and that is a true testament to how tightly-edited this thing is, seeing as how the average skate video is eighty-minutes long these days. This one managed to wrap it up in three-forths of an hour and cover two continents. There is also a half-hour long bonus section.