Valencia 2014

We arrived in Valencia just before midday, and skated from the train station into the city centre through the Torres de Quart, a towering stone arch peppered with 400-year-old bullet holes from the Spanish War of Independence. 

We were staying nearby in Plaza Tossal, a vibrant, nocturnal area situated between the outer wall of the city and the Cathedral. After waiting in a side street for longer than we’d hoped, warming up on a thin strip of smooth ground that cut through the cobblestone road, a man named Mario appeared and led us up four flights of stairs to the huge apartment, a far cry from the hostels and budget hotels we were used to.

Once we’d dropped off our luggage, our first port of call was a spacious, ledge-heavy skatepark five minutes from the apartment. The mellow layout and shady corners made it the perfect place for warming our travel-stiffened limbs in the sun, and after a couple of hours we were ready to explore the streets.

The centre of Valencia is an ancient labyrinth of narrow, twisting roads and passages, and at this time of day it felt like we had the place to ourselves. In Valencia the siesta is sacred. Between 2pm and 5pm, while the sun is at its strongest and thermometers stall somewhere in the high-thirties, the city shuts down almost entirely and its inhabitants disappear.

This may sound ideal, but minutes into skating a perfect kicker to ledge spot weary Spaniards began emerging from behind wooden shutters to angrily shout down at us for ruining their sleep. Feeling unwelcome, we promptly left and made our way around the corner to perhaps Valencia’s most famous spot.

It was here that we had our first encounter with the police. There are a lot of police in Valencia, and to cut a long story short they didn’t take too kindly to seven English skateboarders. Across our multiple encounters we were told that skateboarding is illegal in Valencia; that if we were seen again we would be fined; that if we were seen again our boards would be confiscated; to go back to England; and that the damage we were causing was ruining their economy.

Thankfully, most of the other spots we wanted to hit were in clusters just outside of the city-centre, in areas that I knew to be much less residential. On the second day, after a much-needed lie-in, we made the first of three visits to one of these areas: the Jardí del Túria (Túria Gardens).

The Túria Gardens are situated on the former riverbed of the Túria River. Following a devastating flood in 1957 the river was diverted, and the five-mile sunken belt of land that remained was developed into gardens for the people of the city. It’s difficult to describe the scale and beauty of this place, but imagine draining the Thames from Battersea to London Bridge and filling it with fountains, flowers, paths, ponds, football pitches, athletics tracks, cafés, and sculptures.

Here we were able to skate undisturbed at a wide variety of spots: steep banks, ledges, a driveway type thing, and fountain gaps, where Wil was more than happy to get his feet wet rather than risk his board.

At the mouth of the dry river, near where it meets the sea, sits the City of Arts and Sciences, an awe-inspiring feat of architecture and engineering. Again, when we visited here during the heat of the day the place was near-deserted, and after eating a picnic of local bread and dubious meat we began combing the area for spots.

We found the up/down manual pad conveniently tucked behind a wall, giving us enough shade from the sun, and blocking the view from the busy main road on which police cars frequently passed. As with many spots, it was a little more difficult to skate than videos had led us to believe, with a wheel-sized crack right in the middle. Despite this, nearly everyone managed to film something, with George’s manual-up to fakie-manual-down topping off a productive session.

Following two more encounters with the police (one at a secluded ledge spot which had actually been built on by skateboarders, and one at the apartment) we decided to visit the local skateshop, Cinquanta Cinquanta, to ask for some advice on how to avoid getting thrown into a Spanish jail cell. Inside the shop we were blown away by the hospitality of the owner, who showed and gave us a copy of Nuclear Emission, a local scene video; a few local magazines; and some tips on spots that we didn’t know about. When it came to the question of the police, the other guys in the shop spoke up and gave us one simple tip: when you see them, just stop skating and walk away. They also suggested we go to the Cathedral in the evening, which is where the locals meet.

The Cathedral, or more specifically The Plaza de la Virgen, is a large, bustling square paved with perfectly smooth marble that glistens under the amber lights from surrounding restaurants. The Plaza was busy, but easily big enough to accommodate the scores of tourists, buskers, vagrants, looky-looky men, beer-vendors and a large chunk of the Valencia skateboarding scene.

The locals showed us the same hospitality we had experienced in the shop, and we stayed at the Cathedral until the early hours, drinking, smoking, skating flatground, playing games of skate and even managing to film a few lines. When somebody spotted a police car, their duty was to whistle, at which point everyone picked up their boards, put down their beers and sat down on the steps. The car would then slowly pass within meters of us, but for once the police did nothing.

Finally, we understood the unspoken understanding the police had with skateboarders in Valencia. Evidently, as long as they don’t see your feet on your board or your lips touch a beer, they’ll leave you alone. This protocol, along with the way everyone froze when we heard a whistle, reminded me of Dr. Grant’s advice in Jurrasic Park when he finds himself face-to-face with a T. rex: “Don’t move! They can’t see you if you don’t move!”

On every trip we’ve been on, some of the most interesting places to visit and skate have much further out of the city, in eerie suburban developments or nearby towns. The municipality of Benetússer is six miles south of Valencia, and we had it on good authority that this was the location of some of the spots skated by Sylvain Tognelli in Eleventh Hour.

We found what we were looking for on a sleepy square in the centre of Benetússer: two raised platforms with banked sides and almost endless possibilities. We skated the first platform until the friendly locals needed it back to set-up for a wedding that evening, then moved onto the other where we collected a few more tricks for the camera.

Leaving Benetússer was a bigger challenge than getting there. We relied heavily on taxis throughout the trip and finding two to take us back to Valencia was proving difficult. During the search, we stumbled upon a small hubba spot that we recognised from the Taylor Nawrocki‘s ‘El Sol’ edit.

Despite the negative vibes we were getting from a group of rowdy shirtless señors, Warren took the opportunity to film a line here. Of course, on the first attempt his board spun out and knocked over a bike belonging to one of the group. After they inspected the bike for scratches, during which time most people would have left the scene, Warren persisted with the line, and two or three attempts later had it nailed. Relieved, we gave up the search for a taxi and caught the train back into Valencia.

As ever, the final day of our trip came around too quickly. We spent the first half at a couple of isolated ledge spots, sweating out the hangovers, and filming a few last clips before returning to the apartment early for the owner to inspect it. After he didn’t show up, but called to assure me I’d get the deposit back, we refuelled and stretched before rolling out of the apartment one final time.

We spent our final evening back at the Plaza de la Virgen by the Cathedral. The atmosphere was exactly the same as the previous visit and it was good to see some familiar faces along with a few new ones. Despite the long, tiring week, energy levels were still running high and the skate continued until some time around 4am, when Biff filmed the final trick of the trip. By this time the square had almost completely emptied out and even the street-vendors, who had fuelled the session by providing ice-cold beers from under manhole covers, were calling it a night. We said adiós to the few remaining locals and skated back through the familiar city, which was now silent, save for the click-clack of wood and urethane on marble, echoing through the maze of ancient narrow streets.