A vegan, an insurance broker, a beekeeper, and a darkman walk up to a bank spot…

Always aiming to stay rust-free, JS hopped out of the van to quickly Kickflip into this bank.

Eleven hours spent flying in a tin can across the Atlantic can have an effect on your demeanour, especially when slotted in between are two layovers. Our trip kicked off with bang, shuttling a crew of jet-lagged Canadians into a skate van, only to drive another five hours up the coast of Portugal. We got a solid introductory to what southern Europe had to offer at the initial meal. Ordering what we thought was pasta, the waiter punctually brought out an armful of the largest, leanest cuts of meat we had seen. The toxic airplane food was no match for our eight euro filling, as JS Lapierre sat across the table shaking his head at the slaughter he had just witnessed. This country is a vegan’s worst nightmare.  

As you can see by the wax line, most don’t dabble higher than the third step. But if you know anything about Lee, it’s that he’s got enough hops to Lipslide the top stair with honour. 

Mornings can really turn into a drill after a while. Spending two weeks on a skate trip with the same dudes, the routine becomes uncanny: Kevin Lowry chugging coffee in the kitchen, Magnus Hanson setting up another new board on the terrace, JS basking in the sun on the grass, while Lee Yankou lays fast asleep until moments before cramming in the van. Fuelled by espresso and pastries, we always attempted to hit the road by noon. Surrounded by lively pastel architecture, rough white cobblestone, and sketchy banks, it seemed as if warm-up spots were nonexistent. To be fair, we did have our share of smooth ground, plazas, and solid ledge spots, although it seemed as if every day, first thing, someone was jumping down something big. It quickly became a joke in the van that the first spot needed to be a gnarly one.

Feeling at home at Casa da Música, with its rolling marble hills reminiscent of the Foothills between Calgary and the Rockies, Kevin calmly guides a Half-Cab over a fence and into a bank.

In our attempt to avoid the average trip to the skate mecca of Barcelona, we traveled into the northwestern part of Spain. Just barely crossing the border of Portugal and Spain into Vigo, we kept our distance from the westernized part of the country. The coffee got darker, vegetables became harder to come by, and the bank spots kept coming. It was difficult to order a coffee in English without getting a dirty look. English was used, but very broken. Our cultural stubbornness was flourishing as we relied heavily on Pedro, our guiding force of a tour guide. 

A long way from his hives, but with his bees still under his feet, Magnus prepares to stomp down on a Switch Flip.

While it may have been just luck, it did seem that weed was not scarce in Spain. Lee ran into a middle-aged woman at a gas station who sold him a cookie tin packed with weed for 60 euros. We were pulling out of the parking lot when we heard a faint “do you smoke?” shout from the distance. Just buying a pack of cigarettes inside, Lee jumped out of the vehicle expecting to be bummed for one. The language barrier was up, so the woman blurted out, “Smell my fingers!” The realization hit us as we understood that she was proving she had recently been picking weed that she had grown. Lee, hopping in the van giddy as ever, told us to follow, as we were taken down a winding trail of back allies. Foreseeing some potential danger, Kevin followed Lee into the home as she proceeded to give pricing on the weed. No scale in sight, she plopped the decorative Christmas cookie tin on the table and relentlessly packed it. Laughing hysterically, the two walked out of the house, Lee with the tin in hand, and Kevin almost in tears holding a nug that she had given him as a keepsake. There was no price per unit of measurement for weed in Vigo, only volume!

Lee is always angling to grab some air-time and caught plenty on this cruising Ollie off a tiny bump.

As Lee smoked the weed to himself—at least it seemed that way—we continued our journey of hopping from corner stores to spots to cafés. The diversity of the crew made spot hunting painless, as someone would usually shout from the van, “Oh shit! Let’s check that thing out.” For the most part it wasn’t Magnus making us stop, however, he would usually have his way with a spot whether or not he wanted to skate it. Breaking boards and focusing shirts, Magnus won the award for most product consumed.

Avoiding the meaty double-set, JS slices through a Frontside Bluntslide like it’s a block of extra-firm tofu. 

Near the end, we were running on fumes, and everyone’s achy bodies were ready to call it a trip. Initially we dreaded the long five-hour haul back to Lisbon, but it was time for a rest we all needed badly. Two hours short of our destination, we stopped at a lookout point in Nazare. Energy levels revived thanks to the beautiful scenery; we shuttled back into the van to find that Pedro’s clutch had gone. What a location to be stranded. The tow truck came, and we were left short of a van and a tour guide, relying on Pedro’s words to meet him “right back here in four hours.”

With what we hope is a healthy payday in his near future, JS prepares to lock-in a Kickflip Nosegrind.

Ambling around the oceanfront view, this was the first time that relaxation settled in. We saw the vacant beach and knew it was time to dip into the Atlantic. Without even questioning the uninhabited coastline and danger signs, we quickly jumped in the water. Sand at our toes, watching the vibrant sunset turn into night, it was just one of the many special moments we had spent together. Trekking back up the ridge in hopes of seeing Pedro with the van, he pulled up moments after with his usual smile and a twinkle in his eye. Describing the afternoon we had just experienced, Pedro’s laughter soon came to a halt as he realized the waters we had just swam in. He explained that the canyon just off the shoreline caused the waves to reach 75 to 100 feet at times. Showing us footage of surfers almost dying in attempts to surf the massive waves of Nazare, it was time for us Canadians to pack up and head home!

Words by Noah Leach

Photos by Nathan Éthier-Myette

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