05/08/2013 | by Arthur Derrien
Habitat doing Europe in a camper van
Since its creation in 2000, Habitat skateboards have been associated as a rather tight crew that quite often travel the American continent roads from Canada to Costa-Rica. Those adventures always seem fun and quite spontaneous, so when they announced a similar camping trip through the European continent, we decided to jump aboard and see how much of happy campers were really those guys. We were not disappointed in the slightest…
But, lets ask Joe Castrucci, the Habitat fearless leader about their experience about joining Frankfurt to Eindhoven, Paris, Lyon, Milan, Innsbruck, Linz, Nürnberg and Berlin, in two of those camping vans everybody loves to pass up on the highway…
With you aboard, along with young Mac, this trip seemed more like a field trip than a company skateboard tour. Was that a regular thing for you guys?
On a 17 day trip with demos and street skating, it could have gotten real old if we didn’t all try to have fun. I like coming back from a trip feeling closer to the team and skateboarding in general. It helps me get through all the long days in the office, once at home. We usually have one or two mascots around. Mac was technically there to blog, but was actually everyone’s favourite dude to mess with. We compared him being there as that kid in the movie “Almost Famous”.
Actually, explain who Mac is…
He has been interning with us for the past year and he wanted to go on a skate trip, so his parents bought him his flight as a high school graduation gift. We had room for one more so it all worked out.
It looked like this was a great vacation for you, as you were skating every spot. How much free time to skate running Habitat leaves you?
It was a seriously fun and productive tour. Skate trips are mandatory for me personally, and to stay motivated to work. I don’t really take much vacation time at home so they serve a ton of purposes. I skated more in Europe than I have in all of 2009 at home.
Who came up with the RV idea?
The idea probably started with me, but Tobias Mander from DNA Europe handled the rental logistics.
I know it’s a bit more usual in the States to travel like this, even for skate tours. Do you guys do a lot of tours like this?
We usually rent hotels like most teams but a few times a year we manage to fit in a tent travelling tour. We did a RV trip while filming for “Photosynthesis” but it’s actually cheaper and easier in Europe. You can park anywhere in Europe without problems. In the US, we would have had the police on our back everyday.
I have the feeling you’re the type of guy that has been camping a lot his whole life. Is that true?
My wife and I used to do one or two camping trips a year in the backcountry of US National Parks, but with work and kids we’re on a bit of a hiatus. I hike and garden but don’t camp as much as I’d like to. Silas Baxter-Neal is probably the most avid and experienced camper in the crew. I think growing up in the Northwest, he spent much of his youth camping.
What were the biggest differences you noticed from travelling the States and going through Europe with this mode of transportation?
I don’t even know where to begin. Europe is the easiest and most enjoyable place to travel for skateboarding. We slept in random parking lots and on random streets without a single problem. We didn’t get kicked out of a single spot, and you can park for the day and take trains to all the major skate spots. Not to mention the way the land is developed, things are much more thought out and interesting to look at from the car. We could be skating all day in a major city then be in the countryside within twenty minutes. In the US, there is so much spread out development that the drives are littered with miles of suburban sprawl and strip malls. Not to mention, you can’t get a cappuccino at a truck stop in the US!
Go down your travelling crew, and tell us for each, which were their forte and weak points when it comes to camping?
Silas was hurt on this trip and was only with us for a week, but he likes to rough it. As long as he has beer and cigarettes, he’s chilling. Guru and Getz slept up to 15 hrs a day so the campers were perfect. We would just wake up and start driving at 8:00 AM and they would sleep in the campers until we got to a demo or a street spot. Manu and Marius were the trip cooks and somehow managed to break most moving parts inside the vehicles. Manu was our group Euro and kept the mood positive with Reggae and mainstream Rap. Daryl was the new guy and this was his first Habitat tour. Towards the end of the trip, I think he was starting to lose it, but, 17 days in, I think we all were. He sat shotgun and kept me awake on a few of the long drives. Mac asked too many questions at first, but loosened up mid way through the trip. I think his immune system shut down and he spent the last three days sleeping and hugging a bottle of water. Brennan will for sure need a vacation after this one. I think we finally burnt him out, which he let everyone know daily! Honestly, everyone handled it just fine and I think enjoyed the trip. It went surprisingly smooth.
Guru and Kerry on their way to the handrail. Life could be worse, don’t you think?
What was your daily routine, from the morning on, during this trip?
The days were long. Brennan and I would wake up early and clean up everyone’s beer and trash, then just start driving. The team would slowly wake up and we’d get food a truck stop around noon. We got to most towns around 13h00, skated street, and then went to either a demo or a signing at 17h00. Then, we’d leave the demo and look for our campsite on the GPS. We got to most of the campsites around 11pm or 12 am. Then, dudes would either drink or party with the local caravans till 4 AM. We’d wake up and start the whole process all over again. I slept very little and drank tons of coffee and beer.
So, after all this, it’s your stomach and liver that need a vacation, no?
Probably more my knees, from skating, I’m immune to coffee.
Actually, compare rest stop food in Europe and the States…
You guys have it made. So many choices for food, and espresso machines. We have stale coffee, beef jerky and dream catchers at our rest stops.
Maybe there were differences in between countries in Europe, as where you can park, sleep, etc?
The best part of the trip for me was seeing all the different regions, geography, and meeting the locals. All the laws are loose everywhere, compared to the US, and we pretty much slept either in caravan parks or outside them without problems the entire trip. Paris was the most hectic and expensive but it was to be expected since it’s such a big city. Berlin was the most relaxed, and cheapest. Austria was the most beautiful and that’s where we had the craziest night on the town, which pretty much killed the quality of our next day’s demo. I was really surprised by the amount of forest throughout Germany.
Top five things to keep in mind when you hit the road with a camper van?
Remove all the furniture and small parts: they WILL be destroyed.
Keep all skateboards in outside storage compartments: the grip tape will kill the interior.
Get plenty of air fresheners, for obvious reasons…
Bring flip-flops for campsite bathrooms: they are disgusting.
Don’t shit in the camper toilet: this makes everyone’s life easier.
Top five things to NOT do with a camper van?
Shit in the toilet.
Let the toilet fill up to the brim.
Fall asleep with the battery running.
Sleep with the doors unlocked.
Is there some sort of unwritten (or written!) code when you’re travelling/camping? What if you meet fellow travellers on the road/camping spot?
I’d say we broke any unwritten or written law. At most sites, we were the only people awake past midnight and I’m sure we ruined many of family vacations around us with drunken talk and loud music!
Now, for good times sake, tell us about your worst time camping experience of all times.
We tried to force a camping trip on the East Coast of the US in like 2006 and it didn’t work out at all. It was hot as hell and the sites were super far away from anything to skate. Morale was horrible and we ended up just getting hotels mid way through. I’d say Europe, Canada, or the Northwest US are the best places to mix camping with skating and you also have to bring the right crew. Some dudes just want to skate, then have some free or solo time in a room. You have to really be able to get along with everyone since there is little to no personal space on a trip like the “Continental Caravan” tour.
Will we see you back soon on the European roads, then?
For sure, the team wants to make the EU Caravan tour an annual thing.
Guru Khalsa, nollie bs noseblunt fakie
I think the first time we skated this plaza Guru said something to the effect of immediately relocating to Berlin. It’s that much fun. I bet it helps to have fun if you can nollie backside noseblunt to fakie like this as well. In fact it seemed to me that Guru would have fun anywhere in the world, skating like he does, with a smile on his face.
This was the Habitat team’s home away from home for 17 days: The petrol station. Away from the other home, the RV, parked 2 meters away, next to an autobahn somewhere. Luckily, the German petrol stations are better stocked for beer and coffee than super markets in most other countries.
Manuel Magreiter, blindside flip
Many Margreiter has grown up a lot since I first met him. And his skating skills have refined too, in many ways. But the board knows no law. Minutes after landing this perfectly floated blindside flip to fakie on the strange gap many have battled for nothing, he started to film a line on another part of the spot. This is when his board decided she had enough, and on some basic bail, it just bumped off the ground to hit him in a ball. I didn’t dare to ask him which. As you know, when things like this happen, an awkward silence always happen for a little bit. But don’t worry, Manu was soon back on his legs, hopping along Silas toward the RV and its shelter.
Guru lost his iPod on the first day of the trip. Or someone lost it for him, depends on who you ask. If you ask me, though, that’s like doing yourself a favour. You can hear your friends talking again. You can hear the sound of your wheels rolling and your trucks grinding. There’s a whole world out there outside your headphones, and it’s filled with sounds one sweeter that the next. Guru didn’t see it that way though. He kept asking everyone “Wherethefuckismyipod, wherethefuckismyipod, wherethefuckismyipod…”
In Berlin we were booked to stay at this campsite, but they didn’t have space for our outrageous campers. We staid on their parking lot. For free. We snuck in their showers and sat outside their offices to steal the wireless. So sick. When’s the last time your living room had concrete tiles and no roof?
Marius Syvänen, gap to fs noseblunt
A lot of tricks went down on this session. A lot of beers changed hands, as people were pushing each other to land them, promising cans for landed tricks. I can’t remember if Marius got anything for this ollie off a kicker, over a bar and then noseblunt down another bar, other than a slap on the back. It’s gotta be worth its weight in beer at least, though.
Guru Khalsa, bs 50
Guru Khalsa had been eying that ledge in Créteil, located only a stone throw from the famous three blocs, and as his time there was counted, promptly went at it, after a short warm up on the perfect marble near by. Run up and landing are far from that perfection, and Guru took one slam that did not seem too much fun before nailing this backside 50-50. Sometimes, old dream do come true.
Kerry Getz, ollie in double flip
“This is great – we’re on our way to go skate, while Kerry’s still asleep!” said Joe, when we were rolling towards the demo in Berlin. Kerry was just back from the night before a couple of hours earlier. Joe woke him up and he did things like fakie fs flips down double sets in the demo, then went back to bed no our way to this spot, probably dreaming of ollie in double flips out by the looks of it.
Marius Syvänen, bs tail from flat
Marius has Finnish roots. His parents also have an empty flat in Helsinki. It’s hard to say whether it’s the roots or the convenience of the flat and the skating in Helsinki that keep bringing him back, but come back he does. Every summer. In the long winters the local skaters sometimes think of tricks for him to do on his next visit. They don’t tell Marius what they come up with, they just wait and see if he does them. Simo Mäkelä had been waiting for this back tail from flat since last summer.
Berlin didn’t have the best weather, but it has one of the best indoor parks in Europe. That park gets to see a lot of action these days. Fourstar one week, Habitat the next and people like Jürgen Horrwarth and Jan Kliewer as locals. It was pissing it down on our way to the demo, but by the time we pulled up, the sun was out, and when we headed off two hours later, the streets were dry.
Austyn Gillette, fs flip fakie manual revert
Austyn took part of the first leg of the trip covering Helsinki and Frankfurt. This was when they still slept in beds. When he saw the campers that would be their home for the next couple weeks, he disappeared like a fart in the wind. If a guy can fs flip fakie manual like this though, it’s hard to hold anything against him.