Eurothrash: Southern Overseas
I woke up around half past eight a.m. to pack for my flight to Paris with Eddie “The Facilitator” Kerkhoven and Nick “Utah” Robinson. I was joining the Southern team for a ten day road trip as the official videographer/journalist. I like to think of myself as the Water Monster wild card. We’ll later rendezvous in Paris with Roland Lugo, Danny Robins, Pierre Atruz and new Southern rider Clement Depremonville, whom only Pierre has met before in person. 11:45 rolls around and Eddie shows up at my door. Utah showed up late to the house and finally we were off to the Ft. Lauderdale airport.
We arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris where we waited a solid hour in baggage claim to find out The Facilitator and Utah’s oversized, over weight and over packed board bags somehow were left in ATL. Regardless, we found Dan and Roland waiting for us outside the terminal and we piled into our pocket-sized, European, rental van. We were packed like clowns in a circus car with little to no breathing room to spare. After getting lost and asking for directions easily twenty times, we finally made it to our hotel. Pierre and Clement showed up as we finished dinner at a local cafe and we decided to go out for some late night Paris street roaming. We met up with Pierre’s sister and her friend, and they led us around town as we sleepwalked from bar to bar until somewhere around five a.m., just in time to pass out before the sun rose.
Waking up the following afternoon we made our way towards the RV rental. Our pre-written directions didn’t do much good considering roads in France only have street signs at the beginning and end of each street. This makes driving around a lot more fun for the tourists. We finally arrived to the RV rental and inspected that all door handles stay closed and checked all screws for tightness. Back at the airport we got comfy in the RV while The Facilitator did battle with baggage claim for four hours. He finally emerged victorious with board bags slung over his shoulders. We left the airport and car surfed the jimmy janglin’ RV on the French highways to Pierre’s house, just outside of Paris.
Dan was at the helm of the RV and really worked the manual transmission well, driving the damn thing like it was a VW Rabbit. Eddie yelled with excitement and the RV came to a screeching halt. Nick and Clement were standing outside the gate to Pierre’s house. We jumped out of the RV and grabbed our skateboards to bomb the neighborhood streets. Pierre pointed to an opening in the walls and an unforgettable nighttime view of Paris was revealed. The Eiffel Tower could be seen off in the distance as the light atop of it spun around to shine right on us like a lighthouse over the sea. A faint cheer could be heard from the hillside. It was one of those views that awakens your consciousness and you say to yourself “Wow, I’m in Paris.”
By the time we hiked back to the RV most everyone was packed and ready for our road trip to really begin. The head honchos decided to drive through the night towards Germany. Dan got behind the wheel and started listing his driving demands while Pierre jumped in the navigator seat and the first shift of our long European journey began. We hadn’t been on the road for long before the fragrance in the RV started to worsen. Some blamed the French, but some blamed Utah. Come to think of it, we were three days into the trip and Utah was still in the same clothes as the day we left Florida. We made it to Belgium and the third driving shift began. Utah took over driving duty from Pierre and I climbed up into the crows nest bed of the RV. The jimmy janglin’ RV swayed side to side as semi’s plowed wind by us at 130-140 km/h.
We woke up in the parking lot at The Bricks cable park, outside of Dusseldorf, Germany. It was not quite the weather these Southern riders were used to in south Florida. I’d say it was comparable to a cold, cloudy Michigan fall day. We had some time to kill before Jan Kissmann and Lukas Suess got off work and could show us the local winch spots, so we cruised over to the local skatepark and killed a couple hours. Leaving the skatepark in search of food we found ourselves stopped in a sketchy village where multiple gypsies stared at us like a pack of hungry predators. No one felt comfortable leaving the RV except for Dan. He seemed to be unaware of the multiple mobs of gypsies forming around the RV. Dan quickly returned and we hightailed it out of there while the gypsies yelled something angry at us. We barreled down the street narrowly dodging police cars and finally drove away safely into the cold, cloudy horizon.
Back at The Bricks we all did a few laps to get our sea legs back before hitting the first winch spot of the trip, Rusty Fish. After everyone got their kicks we made a scene at the local Chinese buffet then headed back to The Bricks to settle in for the night. Lukas’s family owns The Bricks. When we woke up they had a delicious breakfast waiting for us. After breakfast, we drove to Langerfield, Germany where the Southern guys went to work on Silas Thurman’s Unit. The cable park obstacle chewed them boys up and spit ‘em out, but they looked like they were having the time of their lives. Jan jumped in the jimmy janglin’ RV and we began to move on further south, through the night, to Rouffiac cable park. This was the first time I had met Jan. I’d describe him as calm, collected, and skilled at engineering work. He built his winch and lucky for us offered to bring it along for the ride.
When we got to Rouffiac the dudes got to ride with virtually no rules. Something like that would definitely not fly in the “land of the free”. As the sun was getting closer to the horizon The Facilitator had to pry the cable handle out of the dudes hands so we could follow our host for the day, Hugo Charbit. He led us to the second winch spot of the trip, a spillway next to an old barn that was built over part of a river. When you peeked inside there was no floor and you could see the river flowing freely underneath it. This spot was gnarly to say the least. It featured almost everything you wouldn’t want at a winch spot, including a short, shallow landing littered with sharp rocks. This could have been the most torturous spot I’d ever encountered. It even had an electric fence surrounding one area of the landing when you walked out of the water. We all thought the wire wasn’t live since The Facilitator took a leak on it, but then Clement shocked himself while reviewing photos on Roland’s camera. Cold, dripping wet, and now electrically charged, Clement hucked his carcass down the drop in an effort to put the team on his back. He finally threw in the towel following a hard slam into one of the jagged rocks in the landing.
We headed back to the cable campground to regroup for dinner. From the campground we bombed a hill on our skateboards and ended up at the local watering hole/restaurant. After dinner and cocktails a local band played some surprisingly awesome rock ‘n roll. Bellies full and spirits high, a few of us trues decided to get a little wilder and hitch a ride to the local Disco Tech. It’s pretty much what you would expect it to be from the name, but it can rock your world if you’re not careful.
To my surprise, the next morning I woke up in a pop up tent next to the RV. It must have been thrown in the air and magically set up. I had nothing in the tent with me except my saddle blanket and Eddie’s sweatshirt that’s similar in color to my pillow. Today we were off to more winch spots, even further south, near Clement’s home cable in Toulouse, France.
We picked up Bertrand Oustrieres from TNS cable park and arrived at the spot. Utah decided today was his day to put the team on his back, but unfortunately the winch wasn’t having it and swimming the rope out upstream didn’t look fun. Lucky for me the dudes decided to go back to the cable in Toulouse and ride into the evening, leaving me time to catch up on sleep. We left Toulouse and drove into the night once again, headed towards Bordeaux, France, home to the hubbas featured in the Remote ad on the back cover of the first WSM issue.
We slept 2-3 deep in the beds that night in the parking lot of a McDonald’s. Even in Europe you can’t escape big American corporations. If you’ve seen the movie Pulp Fiction, then: yes. McDonald’s really does have a Royal With Cheese replacing the Quarter Pounder. Heading to the hubba spot the RV rolled into the park and onto the narrowest, sketchiest, little bridge I guarantee that RV has ever seen. The loke dogs were all watching as we drove over it, probably waiting for it to collapse out from under us. I was in the RV bracing myself for the sudden drop at any moment. Pierre was behind the wheel and never thought twice that we wouldn’t make it across.
We spent the entire day taking turns hitting the hubbas. When the sun went down we set up camp next to the spot. We had exhausted all of our party essentials so The Facilitator and I talked everyone into walking over to the park’s little food stand, where Southern footed the bill for over 200 euros worth of beer for the crew. We started a campfire and within five minutes were told to put it out. The beers didn’t last long either, and I decided it was time to call it a night.
The hot southern France sun woke us all up and the crew sluggishly geared up for another session on possibly one of the best winch spots in the world. We had it all to ourselves once again, excluding the casual kayaker coming down the stream. A couple of the Southern boys wanted another piece of that epic spot so they went to work for the redemption round.
We needed to start making moves back to Paris by that evening, so we packed up and drove 100 yards to the next spot which could also easily be the best natural winch spot in the world. This spot featured a monster sized stair set with two hubbas going down either side of a narrow water ramp, and a spillway on the far side. Besides a few table sized boulders in the landing the only drawback of this spot was swimming the rope out. Thirty yards across the river was a dock that turned out to be the perfect starting point. The owners came out to watch and tried to make conversation with me as I climbed up onto their dock. All I could say was “I don’t speak French.” She just smiled and looked on as I gasped for air in exhaustion from the swim. The fellow she was with went inside to change then swam out to the spillway and stood on the stairs to have a casual conversation with Pierre as I hit the gap. Everyone in the park loved to stop and watch as we hit both spots. Nobody could care less about kicking us out. We hit the spillway until everyone was exhausted then packed up the RV once again and headed north, back to Paris.
We made it back to Pierre’s the next day and surveyed the damage done to the RV. The Facilitator feared the worst. At this point the bathroom door had gotten a hole in it and came completely off the hinges. The screws on multiple side tables had shaken loose and the tables had fallen off. The mounting hardware for one of the passenger headrests had been ripped out of the wall, and the toilet had stopped working three days into the road trip. Considering the RV was a rolling piece of Ikea furniture with a manual and diesel engine, I’m surprised we all made it back alive. The Facilitator was pleased to say we had gotten off easy. From there most of the crew crammed into Jan’s car and headed to Pierre’s camp. I jumped in a taxi with The Facilitator and Pierre and we headed to Paris. We jumped the turnstiles for the Metro and rendezvoused with the crew back at the camp.
Marching around looking for food we definitely stuck out. We made our way further down the street and found a crazy, narrow bank crammed between a wall and a set of stairs. I made a scene hooting and hollering working up my adrenaline to drop in. Residents of the building nearby were now hanging out their window curious as to what all the commotion was about. Once the traffic cleared and my nerves got tough we checked the spot off as “conquered” and made our way to the nearest bodega to re-up on booze and baguettes. Back at Pierre’s camp we finished off our assortment of snacks and booze then caravanned back to his house to drop off the cars and jump on the Metro into the heart of Paris for our final dinner in France.
I’m glad Southern gave me the opportunity to tag along on the trip. Keep your eyes peeled for the tour video soon. France and Germany are two places I’m definitely looking forward to wander through again in the future. The winch spots are amazing, along with the food and the people. This was one trip I can definitely describe as epic. A huge thanks to Southern, The Bricks, Rouffiac Cable Park, TNS Cable Park, and Barefoot Style for helping us become eurotrash.