It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to call Copenhagen a skater’s paradise, with a population of just 650,000 in the central municipality, but with all the characteristics of a major European capital. The sheer density of parks and skate spots within the city is staggering, especially to a Canadian accustomed to things being much more spread out. There are areas within Copenhagen where you can find epic street spots, DIY parks, and built-to-skate plazas lined up in a row, quite literally next to each other, making it nearly impossible to skate everything despite the next spot being clearly visible from the last. Adding to this is a complete absence of hills and predominantly smooth ground, making it incredibly easy to get around. When scouting the next spot to hit, we found ourselves saying “It’s very close” to the extent that it became a bit of a running joke throughout the trip.
While it is entirely possible to push around the city, a bicycle makes getting around Copenhagen even easier, and if you don’t have a buddy to lend you one, they are available for rent for the equivalent of about $15 a day. Copenhagen’s bike lane infrastructure is massive, and this is the primary mode of transportation for locals, especially when factoring in the roughly $3/L gas prices. Bicycle rush hour is a very real thing here, but for skaters on vacation, the timing of this increased bike flow rarely affected our schedule. With the June sunlight lingering until 11:00 PM in the northern city, there was never a rush to get going early in the morning.
The late days did have an effect on our diet, as most restaurants in Copenhagen close by 10:00 PM, with the exception of the countless kebab spots. By the time the setting sun reminded us to wind down the session, kebab was usually the only option, and the amount of falafels and shawarmas consumed over my two weeks in the city felt like it rivaled my entire life’s previous intake. While delicious, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Just like the proximity of the skate spots, the decision to have kebab for dinner became an all-too-real running joke during our visit.
My two-week vacation was timed to include the four-day CPH Open event, and as much as Copenhagen is an absolute dream for skaters, the event itself left me with mixed feelings. The organizers of the CPH Open do not publish the dates of the event beforehand, and although this made planning the trip frustrating, after attending I can completely understand why it is kept under wraps. Hectic and blown-out would be two ways I would describe the festivities. Beginning with the very first portion of the Open, at the Under the Bridge DIY, my friends and I were relentlessly jostling for space just to catch a peak of the action, which was often completely impossible. On top of the difficulty to see any of the ripping, the masses of bodies would often encroach into the skating area, severely limiting the run-up and landing for the skaters, and I can only imagine the competitor’s frustration. Jostling became another running theme of the trip, to the extent that we began referring to the Open as “Jostle-Fest 2022.” And while it is great to be around crowds of excited skateboarders, the vibes of much of the crowd were not necessarily skate-based. The predominance of drunken Danish bros who would push in front of you with no regard to who’s view was being blocked gave the whole thing a bit of a sour taste. Did these throngs of fired-up kids even skate? It was impossible to tell, giving the event more of a Coachella-type festival feel than a core skate contest.
Of course, there were many positive aspects to the event as well. The sheer amount and diversity of skate talent present at the Open was incredible. While there were events that were strictly transition or street oriented, many were held on mixed terrain, creating situations where bowl skaters like Chris Russell and Pedro Barros were directly in the mix with the likes of Nyjah Huston and Jamie Foy. There were also countless legends just hanging around the events – you might bump into Ali Boulala in the coffee lineup or see Tom Penny puffing a spliff on a random bench. The godfather of Danish skateboarding himself, Nicky Guerrero, would often jump into the action to blast a backside air or an invert, and it was sick to see the younger generation sessioning alongside the ultra-OGs.
There was an event that was listed on the itinerary as simply “Jail,” where, following a session at the Rune Glifberg-designed HTC Skatepark, mobs of skaters packed onto the train and were led into a literal jail. Although decommissioned, the jail must have been in use until very recently, and still had the vibes of a fully functional carceral institution. The throngs were herded through the entrance into a holding area surrounded by tall metal fences, and for a moment we found ourselves questioning if we had in fact been duped into surrendering ourselves to the authorities. But before long, the gates opened and we proceeded into the prison yard, where a large tabletop kicker was set up next to an excavator with a fully grindable bucket. It was surreal to be partying there, openly smoking joints in the shadows of guard towers in a country where weed is still very much illegal.
Speaking of the devil’s lettuce, the place to procure it is in a portion of the city known as Christiana, or Freetown, a walled-off counterculture enclave famous for its open-air herb market. Christiania is also home to the indoor Wonderland bowl, which, although containing mostly mini-ramp sized walls, also features a break-yourself-steep roll-in and a towering oververt corner wall. Skating it is not easy and will give you a new level of appreciation for any photos and footage you have seen from the bowl. There is also a concrete loop outside of the building, which Chris Russell successfully powered up and around during the weekend.
The finals of the event were held at a the indoor CPH Skatepark, where the feeling wasn’t very open as you had to have your name on a list to enter the area – no amount of jostling would get you in. White Rock local and Powell-Peralta pro Andy Anderson was kind enough escort Phil Dulude and myself past security, though it felt strange to leave the rest of my homies outside. They would eventually make it in for the afterparty, somehow convincing the door person that Tiago Lemos had put them on the list (he hadn’t). It was a trip to see Andy, known for his family-friendly image, skating in the same heat alongside Anti-Hero’s Grant Taylor, the two clearly feeding off each other’s energy and blasting around the course neck and neck. The finals were capped by a best trick contest on a giant rail-to-bank built specifically for the event, where Nyjah Huston shut down the session with a nollie heel back lip (wearing his patented short-shorts, of course), and proceeded to be announced as the champion of the entire to-do. Say what you will about Nyjah’s style and approach to skating, but his performance was undeniable and he certainly earned the title.
Despite the jostling crowds and the relentless techno music, it was a treat to witness the Open in person – but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the event would have been much more enjoyable to attend in past years, before it reached its current level of popularity. While called an Open, it did not necessarily feel like an event for the everyman. The city of Copenhagen, however, has so much to offer skate-wise that it is absolutely worth a visit, regardless of whether you time it around the event. Just be prepared to leave with the feeling that you may have only scratched the surface of this skateboard wonderland.