No, we are not above using an iPhone pic of a sunset for a headline image ;)
Truth be told, 80% of skate trips go to the same dozen places. When there’s an uptick in coverage from a new one, it’s no different than noticing a trick return to fashion, or everyone’s pants cuffs starting to homogenize. And lately, a lot of crews have been going to Greece. Not to say that skaters visiting Greece is some new phenomenon — just that this past year has felt like it produced a new “Trip to Athens!” clip each month.
As skaters, we feed ourselves this notion that we come up with every trend, but Barcelona fatigue didn’t exactly amount to us putting a blindfold on, spinning a globe, and pointing to Greece. In reality, we’re following greater global shifts in tourism: Greece had 33 million overseas visitors last year. Considering there are only 10.7 million people living in the country, that’s a lot of fucking tourists.
Much of this did not come from a good place. A few years ago, you might remember Greece going through what The New York Times described as the “worst economic catastrophe in the history of the European Union.” People stopped paying taxes en masse because they didn’t trust the government to responsibly spend their money. Banks capped people’s daily withdrawals at €60. The real estate market bottomed out. Out of desperation, Greece got really cheap for foreigners to visit. Tourism slowly began to help pull the country out of crisis.
Its troubles are not all economic. Greece has shouldered a lot of the Syrian refugee crisis, and actual neo-Nazis became one of its influential political parties. We’re obviously here to talk about skateboarding, but it is impossible to spend time in Athens without these topics coming up in conversation, because they continue to affect people’s lives each day. Even in the Parts Unknown episode about the Greek Islands, Bourdain says he “doesn’t want to talk about the crisis” in the first five minutes. He then continues to discuss it with everyone he interviews.
(And this is not to say that all is bad. Many mentioned that their schools are great and sought-after within the E.U. Everyone is bilingual and friendly. The food. Oh, and the country’s life expectancy is higher than America’s.)
So it’s cheap — accommodations can be less than $40/a night, and the best chicken wrap you’ve ever had costs €1.50 — skaters love that. But more imperative to its allure as a skate trip destination is the fact that it is maybe the most lawless place any of us had ever been to. Not “lawless” in an unsafe way; they’re just very “yeah, we don’t care what you do as long as you’re not hurting anybody” about everything, which is an ideal atmosphere for skateboarding to flourish.
Graffiti writers caught onto this years ago. I imagine they hold Athens in the same regard that we do Barcelona, in that its almost too easy. (One of the more, um, artistic members of our skate trip was painting in broad daylight when he made eye contact with a cop creeping up next to him. The cop got out of his car, and bought a bag of chips off a street vendor.)
This carries over to skate spots. We got kicked out of one place during an almost two-week trip, and it was in front of a bank while it was open. A concerned citizen tried to scold us at the new church plaza that the Primitive team skated in Never, until a middle-aged man interjected and began chatting with our tour guide. It turns out, he was the mayor of the Athenian suburb we were in, and was curious as to where he could watch Greek skate footage.
There is also something to be said about the visual anonymity of the non-obvious skate cities. What is the first Name Brand Greek Skate Spot™ that comes to mind for you? …yeah.
Athens T.F. Pretty chill.
I (and apparently everyone else on the trip) had no idea that my favorite clip from Dylan Reider’s Mind Field part was in a central Athenian plaza that is only now becoming a fixture of skate videos. Our guide said the thing that he gets asked about the most is a drab mini bump-to-bar that could easily be in Long Island, which is to say that spots in Athens do not ascribe to a singular aesthetic. You can go there and skate things that look like they’re in Barcelona, which is what the Primitive team did. You can go there and skate crust that could be nudged inside a Static video, which is what the Pass~Port team did. Or you can do a combination of the two, which is what the Atlantic Drift guys came back with.
Every video back from Athens might feel different now, but we’re all creatures of habit. You’ll start to draw parallels if the #trendwatch holds true (we ran into the Cons team on our first day…they were staying around the corner), and the Thrasher homepage continues to stack up with Greece edits as 2019 rolls on. If we can get lazy in Barcelona, we can get lazy anywhere.
New York is one of the world’s capitals for Summer Trip Montages™, and we are well versed in the carting phenomenon that makes tourists’ videos often feel like mad libs for skate spots. The same could be said for Paris, Copenhagen, and the other eminent skate trip getaways of the past ~five years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, is how special the local videos from places that we pretty much know nothing about are. The Rios Crew videos still look unlike anything else. Absurd Skateboards’ videos look like they’re from the end of the earth. Those of us passing through are seldom qualified to tell the whole story.
Maybe there’s a frequency illusion at play, but coverage from Greece started to feel like it ramped up as soon as we returned. Without fail, every new clip would coincide with a “we didn’t go to half of the spots they did!” Each one added to this understanding of how you can never appreciate the vastness of skateboarding in Athens from a ten-day trip.
We were waiting for our flight home when Free posted a 16-minute video from Greece, by a couple of the friends from S.O.S. Skateboards who had been showing us around. It revealed that we had made it to almost none of the spots that the locals skated.
Hopefully, that was the entire point ♥