A key feature to the internet’s role in spreading skateboarding across the world is democratic access to spot knowledge. You can become a local in any city with a skate scene through a mere Google search. The spots page is the most common tale of how people discover QS, and QS began as nothing more than a ripoff of the Metrospective spots page — one of the internet’s first city guides.
Anybody who has travelled in Europe (and even beyond) for skateboarding has been told about Skhateyou, which is a crudely designed skate spot guide reminiscent of Web 1.0 sites plus a Google Map. Though it is most well known for its comprehensive Barcelona page, in recent years, Skhateyou has accumulated spot maps for Chinese skateboard meccas, eastern European cities you’ve never thought to visit, and even cities in the Emirates. There’s next to nothing on Skhateyou.com besides maps and pictures of skate spots, so we tracked down the mysterious good samaritan responsible for remotely tour guiding thousands of European skate trips. (He still wanted to be kept anonymous though.)
Where are you from and how did you first get into skateboarding?
I’m from the Italian Alps. I started snowboarding at the end of the 80s with some friends. When the snow would melt, we’d bomb the hill around our place, and of course, I got an instant bug for skateboarding.
When did you first start Skhateyou, and what sparked you initially? Do people help you out with it?
When I started skating in the 80s, it was lame to skate. People thought that it was a kid’s toy and something that I would stop soon. Around 2000, I was still skating, and started to think about saying “fuck you” to everybody who thought you can’t skate when you get older. I thought “Skhateyou” could represent that state of mind; you don’t understand what I’m doing but are still judging me, so Skhateyou. I printed it on a couple of shirts for me and my friends.
I love to travel, and have always been more interested in the spot than the trick. Even a long time ago, it felt natural to shoot pictures of the spots I was skating. I moved to Barcelona in 2006 for one year, and decided to do the website. It felt logical to call it Skhateyou.com.
Do you remember any other skate websites from the time you started? Were any of them direct inspirations onto Skhateyou?
A friend of mine used to do something similar for the south of France — it was called skalpes.fr. I never really thought about it, but it was probably my inspiration. But back in the early 2000s, there weren’t too many skate websites.
What was the process of starting the website like? Was Barcelona the first city?
I was so excited to be living in Barcelona, so I tried to create something to remind me of the good times skating there — it was like doing a photo album of my holidays. I started to watch tutorials in the morning, learn new stuff, and would skate all afternoon. A bit later, I created a map with all the cities I would visit. I’m still making maps of where ever I go.
Do you travel to these places specifically to search for skate spots? What is your process in finding all the spots in a city like?
I only travel to skate. There is a crew of five or six people I travel with, and we travel with two or three people at a time — a big thanks to them, they know who they are. We usually spend around one week on location. It’s getting easier now to find the main spots before we even get there thanks to the internet. Back in the day, we had to use word of mouth, meet people at skate shops, find the locals — it was a more human process.
Where would you say is the best place for skateboarding?
Italy is the most surprising, because it’s so full of marble. Obviously, Barcelona and pretty much all of Spain is the best because the architecture sometimes looks like it’s made for skateboarding. China is totally insane — the ground is perfect and you have a crazy bench or sculpture on every corner.
I can’t remember of any city that disappointed me, probably because we don’t go to totally random places.
Some of the places on your website seem like they barely have any skate scene or industry at all. Have you gotten any crazy reactions from locals traveling to some of the more obscure ones?
In countries like Croatia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and even China, people get really stoked that we are there to skate and have an interest in their skate scenes.
In the more remote countries, it’s not always possible to communicate with people. When you can, there’s two reactions. They’ll either be like “you took a plane all the way here to skate this bench?” It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t skate that the bench in front of his balcony is different from others, and that you’d love to have 15 minutes before they call the cops. Or they get really into it. They’ll say “you need more speed,” or “you need to lean backward.” Even if it’s not always right, it’s interesting to see how some people can watch something they don’t know and try to understand. Sometimes, we’ll ask people for directions, and they’ll offer to drive us instead.
I will always remember this time in Sarajevo. We were in some sketchy projects, at this spot you could slide across a step and drop into a mellow bank. The stairway was the entry of the building. It was crazy hot and we stayed there trying for quite some time. There was an old lady living on the ground floor who was watching us through the window; we were stressing about the moment she’d complain. She opens her window and we thought, “this is it, we are fucked.” She goes — in perfect Italian — “You are so courageous to be out there in this heat.”
We also went to Jerusalem on a Friday because the skaters told us the streets are empty that day. Some guy with a whole religious outfit on passed by while we were skating and shouted at us. We let him know that we didn’t understand, and he replied in english, “A lot of people probably don’t agree with you skating on a Friday, but I think it’s awesome! Do what feels good for you.”
Have any locals — I’m guessing from the more major established cities — ever given you any problems about posting all of their spots? Do you think there is anything that should be kept a secret?
I have heard different stories about locals complaining about the website, but never actually met anyone who didn’t like it. I know skaters in Barcelona and Berlin can be conservative about their spots. I can understand people wanting to keep some spots secret, but I think as soon as there’s a picture or footage of it, you can’t claim it as secret. With social media, secrets in skateboarding aren’t relevant anymore.
Tell me a bit about Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Skating there seems so strange because of how different the culture is, and how foreign of a concept street skateboarding must be.
Just the concept of a street is foreign to them. Out there, it’s just highways, parking lots, malls, residential areas and business buildings. People are either inside buildings or in their cars. Everything is a bust. Even if the last Ty Evans production makes it look good — it’s not — especially Dubai. And this is not to mention their really bad money-based lifestyle.
How many skate spot apps have ripped off your directory? The QS one gets ripped off all the time. Have you ever taken any action against people stealing your hard work?
I get pretty angry when I see people using my pictures and locations, and trying to make money off it by doing apps, for example. I usually send them an e-mail to tell them I’m aware of it. I try to forget about it because they don’t deserve me spending any energy on them. Fuck them, spots should be free.
Yeah, the paid spot apps are especially the worst. Where do you see the website going?
I will probably put out a new map of every city I still visit. It’s getting harder to get ideas, because I’ve already been to a lot of main skate cities in Europe. I love Patrik Wallner’s videos — they make me want to go to those ex-communist -stan countries.