The Sky Ain’t Falling – adidas in London, Paris and Biarritz
Video by Torsten Frank
Photos by Alex Pires (unless stated)
Words by Arthur Derrien
Supposedly getting shat on by a pigeon brings good luck. This superstition is one I found myself wholeheartedly believing on our first dry, sunny day in Biarritz as I meandered down the winding paths that lead you from the Radisson Blu to the Côte Des Basques, surfers dotting its glistening waves in the distance. After two days of rain, it looked like we were finally going to swim. Ironically the person our cheeky feathered friend chose to cover in runny excrement was Tom Snape, who happened to be wearing the only jumper he owned (after a luggage mishap a month earlier that lost the majority of his belongings). It could have picked anyone from our crew, but it chose the man living out of a backpack with the storage capacity of a happy meal. In any other context it would have sucked, and I can think of 50 people that would have subjected the whole world to all kinds of whining if it had happened to them, but right then and there, on an all expenses paid trip solely for the purpose of doing tricks on skateboards, and in the early, giggly stages of our hangovers, a long stretch of golden sand growing closer in the distance, it could be nothing but hilarious.
What I found out minutes later though is that I was wrong – about the good luck. As me and Snape scrambled up from the beach to the glowing terrace of the restaurant where the rest of the adidas crew was waiting for us, piles of delicious-looking grilled chipirons at the ready, we were greeted by Al Boglio – our TM for the trip – asking us if we knew the meaning of the purple flags flailing on the shore. ‘That means the water’s full of shit mate. They put them up after it rains a lot because it drags in all the polluted water from the sewage.’ Not entirely sure if he was being serious or not at this point, we chose to laugh it off. ‘Fuck it, it was worth it’ we both tell ourselves, basking in the sun, our first delicious cervezas of the day in hand. But then, just as the jokes about our dicks falling off and other likely consequences of our first dip started dying out, Snape, still barefoot at this point, walks on a wasp. Good luck you say? It’s the first time I’ve seen him without shoes on this trip and he gets stung bang in the middle of the arch of his foot by a bloody wasp. This, the day he’s expected to skate in front of 500 kids for the team’s first big demo lol. And the final nail in the coffin? ‘Messieurs dames la baignade est formellement interdite pour raison d’eau polluée, veuillez sortir de l’eau immédiatement…’ Some megaphone starts blasting in French that whoever is still in the water now needs to get out immediately because it’s not safe in there, as the water is, indeed, polluted.
Anyway, why does any of this matter? Because actually, it didn’t. Not in the slightest. Neither Snape, nor anyone else could have let anything get in the way of what we were doing here. It’s like everyone was so humbled by the idea of being able to enjoy this gorgeous town in the South of France, and being treated like royalty simply because they could kickflip kinda good, that the positivity levels were through the roof the entire time. In the past, I’ve observed the artist/unicorn/urban gigolo formerly known as Heitor Da Silva and wondered how he could possibly live such a seemingly carefree life… Constantly smiling and having a laugh, never stressed about timekeeping or any of the other boring constraints of modern society.
Well on this trip I finally got it. Being a pro skater is just really fucking great. ‘No shit’ you might think, and I wouldn’t blame you, but I personally had never before truly grasped the extent of the above statement.
For starters, you’re surrounded by other pro skaters. Sounds extremely neeky but when you look at the line-up of this trip you can see why it has its importance. And I’m not just saying that because it’s my job to be excited about skating: Lucas was fanning out on Gustav’s super powers just as much as I was, calling him ‘the genius’ at every opportunity, and laughing at this self-conjured image of him standing up straight, silently staring at a spot, blinking away as he’d internally break down the different steps of his next fucked up move without even having to touch his board. Same goes for Shin. I saw the way everyone on the trip would look at him when he’d step on his board… It’s because he’d treat a straight line like he’s being shot out of a cannon through the snake run at Kona. And you can be Tony Hawk, Todd Falcon or Ben Gilley’s mum, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to want to feel what he feels. He’s that special. You can’t be around that and not dream of going fast as you possibly can, throwing tight carves even when there’s nothing to carve, and popping split-second backside noseblunts out of any quarterpipe that’ll dare show its face.
The other thing is that unless you’re an absolute twat, which I can safely say none of these guys are, then you’re well aware of the impact you, as a pro skater, can have on skateboarders half your age. They all know this because just like you and me, they were once that kid in awe at the Biarritz demo. Or, as I explained in the previous paragraph: because they basically still are that kid. The look on that little man’s face was particularly magical because it was the board Lucas literally just switch front 360 heeled over that skatepark bump to bar, and that it was handed to him as its wheels were still spinning, but we all know that moment is going to stay with this kid looooong after those abecs reach a halt.
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Biarritz, Paris and London all had skate shop visits booked in where the idea was for each rider to set up a complete (that adidas would pay for full price to support these SOSs), that they would then give out to kids at the demos. It was an incredibly long process (as is anything when you’re in a large group like this) that took away from street skating, which for me coming into this, was the only thing that really mattered. But what I mentioned above and the Video Radio levels of passion I witnessed at the first signing completely changed my perspective on this… Like on the last night in Biarritz for instance there was a bit of a party to celebrate Lucas’ 10 years of three striped pro models, which loads of the younger skaters from around there came to, and the first thing they did when they got their hands on the music was blast the ‘Zinedine Zidaaaaane’ song as loud at they could, pick up Mr Puig, and start bouncing in him above their heads.
It was so fucking heart-warming I can’t even explain. And you could tell he was their Zidane not just because he did some fucked up shit in Fully Flared or Bon Appétit, but because they’d met him, and the interactions they’d had with him had been inspiring. And obviously he was hammered but you could tell he was genuinely moved by that. You could tell it felt amazing to know that his success was (quite literally) uplifting.
The other – again rather obvious – observation I found myself making during these 10 days of living like a pro skater, which kind of feeds into everything I was saying earlier, is how many more weird interactions you get subjected to just from being out and about so much. Given that I’m generally sat behind a computer from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, I’d say my outdoor time was probably up by about 300% on the trip, which probably played a part in how stunned I was by some of these aforementioned bizarre encounters, when everyone else seemingly barely noticed them. For instance, if somebody walks up to Gustav Tønnesen (a man known both for his reserved demeanour and dedication to making skateboarding look as good as it possibly can on VX), and tries to convince him to strap a GoPro to his head so he can self-film his next few mini-ramp runs, whilst being surrounded by dozens of long-coated influencers, all with phones out ready for some action, a Jake Snelling off his nut repeatedly crashing into the ceiling in the background, I’m going to take a second to appreciate the fact that okay, this situation is absolutely ridiculous. But nobody, including Gus, seemed that fazed by it. It’s like to them it was all just another day at the office. Same goes with unlikely situations of the more stressful kind, like when for instance we were skating this brick bank in Bethnal Green, and a charming young man who happened to be chilling in his car a few metres away from the spot told me that if we didn’t stop he’d punch my head in and run Torsten Frank over (for leaning against it). I tried to keep my calm in order to not tamper with the good vibes of the session, as these are obviously conducive to stackage… But I doubt I was fooling anyone; I was clearly a bit shook. But predictably, when I finally explained to our delegation what had just happened, and that it had felt a bit sketchy to say the least, the general consensus was essentially, ‘meh, what was he gonna do, really?’ Which brings me back to where we started, kind of…
On one of the last days of the trip I bumped into Jarrad Carlin who told me he was convinced Snape was one of the few people on this planet who might have actual ‘bad luck’. I thought back to the stories of him getting left misdiagnosed for a broken arm, and then a burst appendix, turning pro and 30 with COVID, getting stabbed in the arm on a night out… And then of what I mentioned in the opening paragraph, or, how later on in the trip Torsten missed his switch heel out of that mini-kicker (which he did perfect in like five goes), and how he ended up retrying it for hours, getting a board to the face, cutting up his lip (blood everywhere, etc.), then trying some more until he snapped his board on the one he should have properly rolled away from. But even with all that in mind, this idea of him having ‘bad luck’ just wouldn’t stick.
At risk of glorifying these guys and the lifestyle I’ve been attempting to describe even more, I’m going to go out and say that I think that it’s probably because Snape, and the rest of this lot were probably in a way made for this job. Or maybe it’s that this ‘job’ kinda made them? Either way, what I’m trying to say here is that Snape is travelling the world with Busenitz because he skates like the spiritual son of Mouse-era Mariano and Radlands-era Tom Penny, sure, but there’s more to it than that.
If he’d stayed in NZ his whole life that wouldn’t have mattered… Or if he’d gone home and given up after any of these fucked up things that happened to him in Barca… There’s a lot of shit that feeds into the mystique around all these skaters we grow up looking up to outside of their ability to land tricks, and this constant seizing of opportunities rather than dwelling on the distractions, and this ability to inspire others to seize their own opportunities is definitely a huge part of it. Or as famous actor and magician Channing Pollock once put it: ‘The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck.’ And that’s coming from a man who could produce doves out of thin air, so you know he knew a thing or two about getting shat on by birds.
Scroll through more of Alex Pires’ photos from the trip in the gallery below: