This article was originally published in Kataloog Winter 2012 issue.
Sometimes you need to appreciate what others had to deal with before you came along. For the Estonian skateboarding scene during the early 1990’s, things were out of reach and hard to come by. It’s fascinating, that skateboarding got attention at all during that post-soviet society. OG skaters Maik Grüner and Juri Loginov share some memories of their own.
1992… I was working for Estline, a ferry business, which allowed me to travel frequently between Tallinn and Stockholm. I wasn’t a sailor, though, instead i was the guy selling you the tickets. Because of that, i got to travel cheaper. Once, in Stockholm, I found a cool skateshop called “G Spot” Instantly my favourite store! Bought my first “real” new school deck, Foundation, and some blank wheels. Years later, the shop changed it’s name to “We”, which eventually evolved into the popular brand WESC.
I don’t remember exactly, but I traveled to Stockholm every chance I got. I remember seeing a flyer for a skateboarding competition on G Spot’s window. Told my friends in Tallinn about it and suggested we go. Juri [Loginov] agreed instantly. Next, we needed visas. Visa-free trips to Stockholm were allowed only for 24 hours. I wen’t to the Swedish Embassy as the president of the Estonian Skateboarding Federation to apply for a visa. Getting a visa during those times was essentially a fifty-fifty situation. Luckilly, i left a trustworthy impression and we received our visas. Dainis from Latvia also joined us. Rest in peace! He was a really nice guy and knew everybody from the Latvian skateboarding scene. He was our Latvian connection!
Something important to organize before heading to a foreign country for a few days: sleeping. And we managed to get it at the G Spot skateshop! I wrote to them a couple of weeks before and received a reply: “Great, guys! Come on!”, probably thinking, that we’ll let you sleep here only this once, our soviet friends. That “soviet” stuff came up pretty often during that time period… We got alot of sympathy! Anyway, we had everything prepared before our trip: friends, visas, tickets, food, a place to sleep, etc. Our dream cruise could begin!
That “soviet” stuff came up pretty often during that time period…
Stockholm had three main skateshops in the early 90’s: G Spot, Noll-Atta and One Off – the must have skateshop-triangle. It was nice to look at products. We didn’t usually buy anything. It was more like a museum for us. Our situation with money was like it was.
The competition was held in an old warehouse called Fryshuset. It was about a hour and a half away from the city centre. Fryshuset still exists, but at another place with another design [Stockholm Skatepark, edit]. It wasn’t as exciting for me as it was for others. I had been to Stockholm many times before and it was cool to show my friends around. We arrived after the competition had started. We witnessed many radical tricks. Also, the finns were there. All of those guys competing were like our heroes! Additionally, the park had a vertramp, where Mathias Ringström and Adil Dyani killed it! The day wen’t smoothly, end with two swedes and one finn at the podium.
It was time to go back to the city, to our designated sleeping place. The shopkeepers told us to keep everything nice and clean and they’ll lock us in the shop until morning. Good! Get out already, we want to fool around with the product at the back room! That’s how our night went. Just goofyn’ with product, trying clothes and shoes on. We also found some interesting local punk music. Like Millencolin, No Fun At All and many more. We listened to that shit all night! In the morning, the shop owners made a couple more acts of good will: some discount on product. Bought some Etnies and Scam shoes and I think someone even bought a new deck! We exchanged pleasantries and the G Spot guys suggested that we get a hotel next time.
We had a nice stroll around town, before our ship left. As we arrived to port, something unbelievable had happened: The dock where the ship was supposed to be, was empty! With a slight sense of panic, we reminded ourselves, that the next ferry leaves in a day and a half. Me, as the organizer of the trip, hadn’t taken the one hour time difference between Estonia and Sweden into account. This started a whole new adventure for us.
Since we had nowhere to go, the cops took us to the city centre. We spent the night wandering around town and checking out what was happneing on the streets. In the morning, we had to visit the immigration centre. Since our visas expired the night before, we were essentially illegal immigrants. It was really popular to ask for asylum in Sweden, so we stood there with hindus, shiites, turks, bangladeshis and every other asylum seeker you can think of. They appointed us with a translator. Some old lady. A really unpleasant old lady. She had the you’re-not-welcome-vibe towards us. But, whatever. The immigration centre bought us ferry tickets and gave us some money for food. Tired, but glad to get back home from our little adventure!
It’s crazy to look back and think how long ago I started skating… Early 90’s, I believe. The craziest thing? I still do it! Not as much as i would like to, but still have a blast doing it.
Anyway, i feel like i’ve told this story so many times. But for those, who haven’t heard it yet, here it is: I started skateboarding after seeing that 80’s movie “Thrasin’ “. It was playing in the movie theaters at the time and I think I wen’t to see it at least 20 times. It blew my mind! I wanted to do the same! One of my friends was skating at the time and he showed me how to ollie. From that point on, I was hooked! All I could think of and wanted to do was skateboarding! There were like five or six of us… Probably the only skate population in Estonia at the time. We couldn’t get any gear: no boards, no shoes, no skate videos, no skate magazine, etc. We were so desperate to get any info we could. Some very old copies of Thrasher and Transworld helped.
In our first year, we were just learning ollies and early grabs off launch ramps we built from found and stolen wood. It was not like today, where kids can do every nollie trick in the book the first month they started skating. Imagine our shock, when one day we got a copy of New Deal’s “Useless Wooden Toys” video and saw that you can actually flip a board! From that moment forward, it was on!
Every day we tried to learn every flip trick possible by previously watching it 50 times in slow motion on the VCR and then ran quickly to Lauluväljak [Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, edit.] to try to land it. Lauluväljak was our spot! We were there every day after school. It had brand new asphalt and hundreds of wooden benches we could move around and skate without anyone kicking us out. Those were the days! We could skate anywhere, any time of the day or night, waxing the shit out of ledges and curbs with no one saying anything.
I think my first kickflip was on a board, that was 10,5 inches wide…
We started going to Latvia, because at the time they had a bigger skate scene and they had skate contests as well. We were super hyped about entering them! From there, we expanded our travels to Finland and Sweden. There we could buy skate gear, which was way out of our price range. We desperately tried to figure out ways to get boards! Like, we used to buy hand made boards from Latvia, which were made out of birch. They were good for a few days and then became super soft and broke easilly after that. But we were still hyped, because they were affordable. The other option was to buy an original old school fish shaped board from the sporting goods store. It was super weird, they sold Zorlac and G&S! So we bought them and used their very short nose as a tail and cut them, to look more skinnier and more modern. I think my first kickflip was on a board, that was 10,5 inches wide… We also customized our huge old school 60mm wheels to 35-48 mm by cutting them. At the time, everybody was skating those tiny wheels. Some people even called them “bearing covers”.
Only way later, after begging for a very long time, Surfhouse managed to order a few boards, which we bought right away. Next time they ordered a couple of more boards and a couple of pairs of shoes. It was a dream come true for us! Kind of crazy to think about it, looking at the selection of skate goods kids have now.
Skateboarding has changed my life in so many ways. Music, fashion, art, my views on life and most importantly: people i have met through skateboarding have become my best friends! I feel like a kid when we get together for a session.