Photography by Roger Ferrero
Words by Raisa Abal
A MAGICAL PLACE
Isn’t it curious how the human mind holds on to some moments and remembers them forever? Like those days when you do something exciting for the first time and you never forget it. I had already heard of Spotter before I moved to Barcelona, back in 2015. I thought I knew what to expect from videos I’d seen on social media… But I could have never dreamt of what I ended up finding. I was taken there by Cristian Delgado and Ainara and I couldn’t stop asking myself: ‘what is this place? Is this heaven? How can this be here?’ This is exactly what I’m here to tell you about today.
Skateboarding was changing little by little. In 2012, the DIY culture was somewhat normal throughout the US, but in Spain, the skate scene was still deeply rooted in prefabricated skateparks with lame street obstacles. Even though it is possibly one of the most skated cities in the world, Barcelona didn’t have the best skateparks, and as the skate scene got more and more corrupted by the arrival of social media, Insta clips, likes, trap music and reposts, the city was begging for new skate spots for skateboarders to reinvent themselves.
A ‘build your own spot’ skateboarding blog contest, three people and the right abandoned lot: that’s all it took to plant the seed of what Spotter is today. You see, even though this place is located in a small industrial village around 20km away from Barcelona that some would call a ghetto, Spotter has now become a worldwide reference when it comes to DIY skateparks. I’m sure you’ll have seen videos of Oski skating it, or some of the clips by P-Stone filmed there.
A MAGICAL PLACE
Spotter is a magical place: it’s basically in the middle of nowhere, nothing but pine trees, a gas station, a sports centre with huge pools (where we can bathe after skating under the scorching heat of the Catalan summer) and trains whistling in the distance. However, the first time you go to Spotter, what tends to draw your attention are the planes flying over your head. There’s a small airfield right across the road so throughout the day there will constantly be small planes hovering over the spot, so low you feel like you could touch them! This has given us a few scares throughout the years: a plane crashed into the roof of the gas station, and, just a few months ago, a plane detected a fault during take-off and had to perform an emergency landing – right on the train tracks. This time, everything was under control though, thank God.
So how did an abandoned hockey rink, filled with rubbish and rubble, become a skateboarding paradise? The answer could be: a mix of love and stubbornness. But, obviously, Spotter’s locals are the ones to blame for its charm.
Some of you might remember the first years. Miguel Gorjón, Kevin Nevado and Cristian Delgado (and his dad!) started rehabilitating the place and built a few ledges. Then came Marcos Gómez, with his wisdom, and everything started coming into shape. How could they know that it would become what it is today? ‘The Spot’, as they initially called it, was growing little by little, and new characters started to arrive. Nanaqui and Richi came for the first time to help Sergi Arenas build one of the first quarterpipes and they ended up staying forever with the rest of the Sentfields Boyz (STFS): Iván and Dani, Weeman, the Lagunilla twins, Harun… At that time, in 2013, they didn’t have any construction knowledge, but they had will and motivation! Every single one of them is peculiar in their own way (I mean it as a compliment), with very distinct personalities. I still remember watching their videos just after meeting them: they were skating naked through fire, beer cans all around, and I was puzzled by the whole thing.
WHERE DID THE NAME COME FROM?
The boys told me they came up with the name one day when it started raining and they found cover under a ramp. Francisquillo, a local from Badía, started rapping his boredom away, and in one of his rhymes, he said, ‘we’re at Spotter with Harry Potter’, referring to David Casado, who wears glasses. From that moment, ‘Spotter’ was the name – a word that, coincidentally, also pays homage to the plane spotters that look up to the sky in awe as the planes pass by.
EVERY RAMP HAS ITS STORY
Thanks to several projects supported by brands like Converse, Levi’s and Dickies, new chances to build came about. Even Spitfire launched their own Spotter wheels! The first transitions started to show up and they still remain there to this day. The boys kept building non-stop and Rocío, the lady in charge of the maintenance of the sports centre nearby, watched them at a distance. It wasn’t long until she started skipping work to hang out with the guys. They would build all day and wrap up the days with a paella by the fire. Rocío wasn’t just a great cook, she was a Badía local and knew all the key places where they could gather materials for free and keep building. She made everyone feel at home, quickly and deservingly earning her spot as ‘The Boss’.
Every ramp has its story. They never stopped building new obstacles and the area kept getting more and more full. In 2016, Richi wanted a bowl, and so he started building one under the pine tree, investing his own severance pay and selling his clothes to buy concrete. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the bowl I remember watching them skate naked, back in the day.
Right after this came Marc Manyosa. His arrival marked a before and an after in the history of Spotter. He was a real skatepark builder and offered to help with the concrete. With his help, they built the doorway and all the ramps that surround it. I think this was a turning point for the STFS Boyz, who started taking building more seriously, and, thanks to Marc, some of them have been able to start building skateparks professionally. The ledges started fading out as ramps of steep transition were built over them and Spotter started becoming the rollercoaster it is nowadays.
This might very well be the reason why this spot is so appreciated: beginners feel comfortable and welcome. You can skate without stopping, as if in a state of flow, because there’s transition at every corner. If it were a skate plaza with ledges, it would be more difficult for beginners to interact with the place and enjoy it.
You might have seen Harun around, probably skating things on fire. He once wrote a song called, ‘I’m going to set fire to my melon’, so he set his own head on fire when he played at Spottorro (or Spottorock), a festival they throw every year at Spotter to raise money for concrete.
Once, he found a bicycle-parking rail in a town I can’t name and gave it to Nanaqui for his birthday; that’s how the big rainbow rail came about. Back then, a rainbow rail in a Spanish skatepark was basically unheard of. This brings me back to the moment when Cristina Mandarina grinded it for the first time. We had to go back there five or six times (Cris is a tough woman and was doing it with no pads, plus we went throughout the months of lockdown). Thank you Cris for that historical moment, respect! This is one of the wonders of Spotter: there are always girls around. Rocío is the matriarch, but Leti (who’s translating this text), Mercè, Cris, me… we’re always around. It doesn’t matter if we’re all there or if we go by ourselves. Sundays at Spotter are sacred; Spotter is like home. Every time someone new comes for the first time, I think to myself: ‘I wish this was my first day here too.’ Without a doubt, the shapes of these ramps inevitably make you see skateboarding differently. It’s a mixed feeling of tranquillity and motivation.
The spine was Nanaqui’s mission. He found a lamppost as he returned from Valencia. He had thought of using a lamppost from the streets as coping before, so everything came out exactly the way he wanted. He brought it all the way to Barcelona and they built the double spine. Here’s your lesson: if you don’t have coping, use a lamppost instead.
A PLACE FOR ALL GENERATIONS
Ciscu and Paolo are two characters that can’t go unmentioned. Ciscu is a primary school teacher. I think that four or five years ago nobody would have convinced him that he would be part of a second family made up of skaters. A couple of years ago, he started brewing craft beer at home and decided to create Spotter Hops, thus using his craft to contribute to raising money for the spot. Just a month ago he got the boys to build a couple of concrete obstacles in the courtyard of the school where he teaches. This is the first school in Spain with concrete ramps for kids to skate. Can you imagine?
I remember when Paolo started coming out so his son could skate there with us. At the beginning he skated a little bit, but the more he came the more motivated he was, so much that now he always skates; even more than his son! Cisco and Paolo started skating later in life and they’re the most hyped. Spotter has changed their lives for the better. As adults, this place gave them something new and a motivation that they probably hadn’t felt for a long time.
Genís and Guille are eight and nine years old. For them, Spotter seems to come right out of a fairy tale. Literally! At first, when they started coming and didn’t know our names, they would give us all fictional names from popular stories. For instance, Rob was Robin Hood, Marc Manyosa was Gepetto, because he’s a carpenter, and of course Spotter was Sherwood. Guille always wanted to be a carpenter himself, and it just so happens that his local heroes are also inspiring carpenters. They always come with their dad, Sebas. These three are an example of how times have changed and, nowadays, it’s no longer ‘strange’ that your dad takes you out skating where you want to skate and even sets up his own board so he can skate with you. I remember the day when Roxana and I committed to fix the manual pad before work, and Genís and Guille skipped lunch break at school to come and skate it, even if just for a little bit.
Spotter was their refuge during quarantine, since it wasn’t regulated as a ‘public skatepark’. Throughout that time of restrictions it was difficult to know where to go with the boys, so Spotter became their first choice. Moreover, everything in the mainstream skateboarding industry right now seems to be a strict marketing campaign, and not only the kids, but also parents appreciate the fact that you can escape that at Spotter.
But Guille and Genís aren’t alone; more and more kids come to spend their afternoons at spotter, by themselves or with their parents. They discover the slappy curb and the small ramps and they hype each other up. It’s incredible, because this is not the same vibe as a skatepark in the city centre. I suppose they tell their friends all about it and, next thing they know, they’re sharing their skateboards (and skateboarding) with their friends.
Spotter has organically become a safe place where people can enjoy all sorts of things: skating with your friends, having a couple of drinks, catching up and having a laugh and even teaching your kids how to skate. Just look at how the paradigm is shifting: you can start skating at a DIY, surrounded by people who inspire you, creating and expressing yourself in the way you want; nobody judges you and it doesn’t turn into a competition. The older guys teach you how to build and you start imagining how to create your own obstacles. Richi always tells me: ‘you can do it if you believe you can’ and he’s absolutely right.
A WORLDWIDE REFERENCE
This has been a process of almost ten years. The evolution of Spotter has witnessed many styles and eras. Because it is located in Badía, they have been able to grow non-stop. This is a small, humble town, quite free of worries and pretensions. The people of Badía seem to only care about football, so nobody has bothered or cared to investigate what’s going on under the
Nonetheless, Spotter started captivating people from far away places and different walks of life. For instance, Rob is from England and he met Nanaqui and Richi in Copenhagen when they were teenagers. When he saw what was cooking in Badía, he packed his backpack and a sleeping bag and said: ‘I’m off!’. He hadn’t built much before coming here, but he found his passion and now he builds a lot, at Spotter and around the world.
Spotter is a must-see. If you’re visiting Barcelona, you have to make time to enjoy a sunny day at Spotter. Some people fall in love with this place and they start coming regularly; some people pay a visit on special occasions and others save it for a special Sunday and bring the whole crew along. People from all over the world have come to skate here; skateboarders from the USA, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Germany, the UK, Israel, Australia, etc.
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
Everything is going great so far, but we’ve always faced the possibility of getting thrown out and having the place torn down. For years there have been rumours concerning the legality of the place, and that this could happen at some point. As this forecast seems to be getting more and more real, we have decided to organise and finish creating the association that Marcos and the boys started back in 2019.
The sports centre is under construction and this plot has now been pronounced industrial land (when it was previously considered a sports ground). We’re afraid that this will increase the chances of this humble corner under the pine trees becoming a target of industrialisation and construction.
We have a GoFundMe set up (@spotter.life) and a collection of signatures running so we can continue keeping the place in good condition and at least keep our little space intact, even if they decide to build around it. We have a long way to go, but we’re ready.
This summer, Spotter will be ten years old and we really want to celebrate it with new projects. We don’t know how long it will last (we’re hoping it will be here for a while!), but we will enjoy it until the end.