Sometimes in life we make poor choice, sometimes we make these unwittingly. Leaving for a Lesotho skate trip on the eve of Easter Weekend was one of these. What is normally a 13 hour drive turned into a 24 hour slog to Ramabanta, our first skate destination within Lesotho. Within an hour of leaving Cape Town we were adrift in a sea of Taxis stuck in a major traffic jam with everyone and sundry heading home to their families in the Eastern Cape. It was wild…Stuck at a standstill with Taxis to the left and right of us one builds a strange camaraderie with the people in the cars next to you. They are going nowhere slowly, just like you. It’s comforting. Nick got out of the car and starting dancing in the road, we started having conversations with the cars next to us…people were getting pissed of their rocker in the back of the taxis…there was a certain lawlessness to the whole situation. On the whole it was a very worthwhile experience, despite the grueling drive.
After hours and hours of driving, once we passed the border, things felt different. It felt like time travel. We we’re heading back into a bygone era where donkeys and horses are still a legitimate form of transport. Lesotho feels like the wild west of Africa. There are cowboys on horseback roaming around everywhere; sheep and cattle roam the streets and are a real danger when skating. The country is not geared towards you, the tourist; it is refreshing. There are no tourist stalls or attraction sites; the experience is real and unfiltered. People go about their lives with a certain simplicity, they still live off and by the land. And they seem genuinely content. They are extremely friendly. It might be the naivety of a traveller, but the harshness, the crime, the antagonistic and apathetic nature one encounters in South Africa’s bigger cities was absent. Lesotho seems to affirm the philosophy that less is more.
When it comes to skating, what I had been told to expect was pretty much what we got. The hills are unfiltered gnarlyness. My main point of comparison was Reunion Island, where we had previously done a trip to, which had hundreds of super windy, technical runs stacked with hairpins. Lesotho was different. It was loaded with sweepers and super steep drops. There are plenty of corners, but most of them are just suggestions of corners. You can slide for them if you want to. But it isn’t necessary. And the inclination is not to slide. Because you want to skate the hill how it should be skated; how the hill dictates to be skated. And if rip and grip is possible, then rip and grip is generally what one tries to do. But due to the steepness, after a few corners of said ripping and gripping, you find yourself hauling ass down a mountain pass that you’ve only just become acquainted with…it’s intimidating.
Another thing that became abundantly clear to me is the high level of skating that is prevalent in our skating scene. We have riders that can push out the same intensity and quality of content as the top international riders. Watching Decio, Tim and Nick absolutely tear it down runs like Hacheche or Mafika Lisiu is more terrifying than actually skating. The speeds they reach make you intensely uneasy, but at the same time you are aware of their focus and skill set, so this dichotomy of fear and appreciation resides in you. The younger generation also charges. These groms and post-groms are talented and driven; they push each other. Watching Giloume, Khalil and Blue push their stand-up game is awesome. I’ve seen plenty of it on footage but watching in real-life is even more impressive.
But nevertheless, Lesotho is a harsh place. It is straining on the body and even the best of riders ate a healthy dose of shit; so much so that the tour was named the #vatincreasetour because everyone was paying more taxes than usual. After two days Blue had wrecked himself beyond skating again on the trip and multiple other riders, including myself, sported numerous deep roasties. Bust Lesotho wasn’t done with us. Due to exemplary hygiene standards in the kitchen at one of our stays, a bunch of us picked up a nasty stomach bug that had us squatting over the toilet more often than over our boards. The dorm room looked like a World War 1 infirmary; skaters lying everywhere, dead silent with blood seeping from their wounds only getting up to spew either from their arse or their mouths.
But in the end it was all these factors, the wildness of the country, the friendliness of the locals and the intensity of the hills that etched a permanent feeling of having experienced something memorable into the brain. We will be back for sure.
This is one of our most iconic downhill skating photos.
It features some of Cape Town’s oldest and finest downhill skaters hauling full throttle into the drop of arguably Cape Town’s gnarliest hill. The image was captured on 35mm film by Marishka Diebold with the grain giving the photo a timeless, textured feel. The rays of sunlight pouring into the frame (much like the skaters) and the glistening of the rock face give a hint of the early morning hours at which this photo was taken. We tried to fully capture the feeling a downhill skater experiences and illuminate what emotions reside behind such a photo.
Tackling a heavy hill is a process. It is all about confidence and people go about achieving this in various ways. Some will meticulously go over their gear the night before checking and double checking that everything is right as rain. Others will keep to themselves and quietly wait in anticipation. Still others will knock back a few beers and keep the anxiety at bay by through slight inebriation and shit talk. Hell, there are even those that will go on all night benders and rock up at the top of the hill in the early hours with a whole cocktail of dubious substances revelling in their bloodstream, tottering around unsteadily on their feet. But it does not matter, because mentally they are ready. The confidence is there. Nervous smiles flicker between riders as they pop out of their cars and quick greetings are exchanged. The air is cold and the first rays of sunlight are peeking over the mountains. The uneasy sleep is immediately forgotten and the grogginess replaced by the growing gnawing in your stomach. I’d imagine this is what it feels like to go to war.
Last minute checks are made and trucks are over tightened but once that helmet is strapped on and you’ve pushed off, it goes strangely quiet. The only sounds you can hear are the labouring of your breath, your heart pounding in your ears with the wind rushing by and the steady hissing of urethane on tar. Through your fogged up visor and the blinding morning light you see riders around you jostling for position. But other than a vague spatial awareness, you care not for them. You are on your own now and there’s no turning back. There’s only one person that can get you down the hill; and that’s yourself. As you pick up speed the fog on your visor clears and the sun averts its rays as you turn into the drop. And with a sickening beauty the hill lays itself bare in front of you along with the breath-taking scenery. It is a surreal feeling. The noise of the wind picks up and drowns out your anxiety. It is instead replaced by focus. It’s fucking go-time. This is why you barely slept. This is why you got up at godforsaken hours. This is why you drank too much coffee and subsequently shat your guts out. It is all worth it.
You adjust your tuck and tense your muscles. Everything needs to be watertight. It’s time to hunt; where are these other fools? You look around trying to find the nearest rider to slipstream. You pick up on his draft and quickly get sucked in. You come up close behind him and give him a push. He motions with his hands… it’s all good, it’s all under control. It’s never felt this good to have your face within inches of another man’s arse. The first corner comes up. You look ahead, watching closely what the person in front does. Gingerly he breaks his tuck and starts air braking. Everybody follows suit. You take note of your heart pounding again. Everybody is dangerously close coming into this corner. Is there enough space? There should be; if everyone holds their line. But will they hold their line? You sweat bullets. And so does everyone else. And even though that sweat might have dangerous levels of alcohol content, dripping out of a body that hasn’t slept in 24 hours, this isn’t their first rodeo. If there’s one thing they know how to do, it’s holding their line. There’s some frantic clapping and last second adjusting of positioning and everyone hurtles into the corner together. You exit with a feeling of elation. From here on out it’s piss and before you know it you reach the bottom of the hill.
Helmets pop off revealing face stretching smiles. Everyone hoots and whistles. Fist bumps, hugs…all kinds of affection are shown. Everybody bundles into the van and the run is analysed in detail on the way back up. Everyone has their own perspective, their own sketchy situation that needs re-visiting. The anxiety is over. Now it’s time to skate. Like I mentioned earlier: From here on out it’s piss.
We are very proud to announce the release of a new T-Shirt in our clothing line up. All our T-Shirts are 100% enzyme washed cotton shirts, giving them a soft, breathable feel. The shirts weigh in at 160 gram and have a snug comfortable fit.
Too often people tend to see things as opposites, as either being black or white. But in reality it seems like things are always on a spectrum. Street skating, downhill skating, freeriding, dancing… They are all on a spectrum and they are all connected. And there are no limits to which ‘disciplines’ on the spectrum you can practice. You can choose to focus on one, or dabble in many. It’s your choice and you’re free to do as you please. The problem is that people seek their identity from one specific activity, and in doing so they criticise all others because it makes them feel more closely attached to the specific scene they wish to attach themselves too. And this breeds unnecessary antagonism. The same can be said for surfing. Bodyboarding, shortboarding, longboarding, SUP…they all take place in the ocean. They’re related, but it seems like too often there’s a childish shit-slinging contest going on between them.
There’s a lot to be learnt from pursuing multiple activities, there’s also a lot to be learnt from pursuing one activity intensely. Try not to discriminate. And rather be respectful.
If you give it some thought, this theory can be extrapolated to many other aspects of your life and in your interactions with others.
This line of thinking is what prompted us to design the ‘Gotta Skate ’em All’ T-Shirts.
Our trip to Reunion Island was something that had been bouncing around in my head for numerous years; since 2011 to be precise, when i started varsity. And while questionably little was entering my head during lectures i had the time to launch numerous forays into the unknown on Google Maps hunting for roads. First polite little trips closer to home (Cape Town, South Africa) and then longer more ambitious hunting began. And while plenty of gems were found, nothing came close to Reunion Island. The whole island was practically covered in zigzaging little lines running from top to bottom. I then stumbled on a little Facebook group of Reunion Island skaters and made first contact with the crew living on the hallowed ground. But with little time and even less money my plans were postponed indefinitely. But all the while i was lurking hard on their group trying to get a glimpse of what was going down on the Island.
Then earlier this year, my friend, cousin and all round shredder Sam sneakily brought up the topic of a Reunion trip again. Now, running my own skate shop, time was more available, although money was still somewhat elusive. I was hesitant. But Sam persisted, in his subtle way. He’d come slinking along, give quick smile, and say ‘Yo…Reunion ?’, and then he’d be off. So then one day i said: “Let’s fucking do it!”
Then we began saving up cash dollar, reconnected with the locals and made a serious effort. And from what the locals were telling us, the roads were as good as we thought. So naturally our expectations rose. So then, we roped in the third member of the Baboon skatehouse Nick, booked our tickets well in advance, and waited, froth consistently rising.
And then we heard Liam and James rocked up on the Island. And then we saw what straight up pornographic things they were doing to the roads in their edit. And again our expectations rose, this time to an unbearable level. Then finally the day came and the three Baboons got onto the plane and flew out to this mysterious little land mass in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Getting off the plane, straight off the bat we headed into a speed bump. Nick’s baggage got lost. Coming from South Africa, this was not too uncommon, so we took it in our stride. No baggage? No problem. Then, the experienced travellers that we are, we missed both busses heading to our destination. Close to giving up and curling up in a corner at the airport, we managed to haggle with a taxi driver to take us to the nearest backpackers. So far our trip was a rather challenging experience, partly due to fate, but largely due to our inefficiency.
The following day, after roaming around St. Dennis like cattle (the largest City on the island) we managed to locate the bus and make another attempt at meeting the local skaters. With all our gear in tow marching around in a sweltering heat with no plan and no idea what was going on, we were starting to get a little bothered. Again. But then we found them. And all was good. Chilling at a seaside bar each with a cold beer and a fat grin, the locals greeted us with a bemused look on their face. And we knew straight away, it was going to be an epic trip.
After a quick warm up beer we crammed all our gear into numerous cars and headed straight for the local hill. This is when our eyes were opened to us. This is when the epiphany began. The first hill they took us to was already more technically challenging than anything we have on offer in Cape Town. “Dis on iz okay…is close so we skate. Tomorrow, more steep, more corner. You will see.” And this became the general theme of the trip. We hadn’t seen hills like these. Ever. In South Africa a hairpin is something to celebrate. If you find one, everyone rocks up, gets out the car, looks it up and down, gives his 2 cents and then it gets the shit skated out of it. Until you find another one. Now I’m not one for bashing Saffa hills, but ours is the land of sweeping mountain passes and fast, open road old-school hauling ass. We don’t do corners so much. Sometimes if there is one, we’ll take it. Whereas here they were everywhere. Corners, hairpins, sweepers, s-bends they had it all. Furthermore, in SA our hills are far apart and reaching our spots can be a day trip in itself. And then more often than not the tar is chunky and rough. But God bless the French engineers. The roads on Reunion are something to behold. Proximity and perfection. Rich, smooth, black tar snaking through a lush environment; Never ending, and if you looked over to the side you’ll see the next road winding its way up the slope. All perfectly skateable.
The only hinge is cars. The Island has more cars than they know what to do with. But they drive them in any case it seems. And this is a large factor in how the locals determine their spots. Because technically every road has the ability to be a jaw dropping spot. But the locals stick to the slightly quieter areas and adhere to strict safety precautions. And this is necessary. While the hills are visually stunning, they have severe consequences. The roads are narrow, often with sheer drops and numerous cars and busses frequenting them. The margin for error is small. But the locals have learnt to adapt and progress in such a challenging environment. Each rider receives a walkie-talkie and a car descends prior to the skaters and buzzes everytime it passes a vehicle. This way the skaters get a few seconds heads-up as to when what is approaching them. This system works, but it is not fool proof and skaters still stick to their lanes.
Even so we had a somewhat harrowing experience when Nick exited a corner washing slightly wide and ended up under a car. The car rode over his leg rupturing a nerve and four layers of muscle. As Nick got carted off to the hospital this left us with plenty of time to ponder over the accident and reflect on our own delicate mortality. Of all the hills we’d skated, this had been a mild one at best. And the error of exiting the corner a little wide is one every skater is familiar with. It had simply been a case of the wrong movement at the wrong time. And it happens. As much as one can philosophize and examine these incidents I like to say: “It is what it is”. Because it is. Nothing will change what happened. And the lesson remains: skate safe, wear protection, have spotters etc. Even so, we humans are not the most reliable contraptions and eventually circumstance will catch up to us, but minimizing risk as much as is possible is something we as skaters should always strive for. Anyway, I’m happy to announce that Nick is on the road to recovery and soon he will be on many more roads again, skating the daylights out of them.
With Nick in hospital and Sam back in Cape Town (having booked an earlier departure flight) I, along with my juvenile level of French, was left to explore the island. And in this the locals were extremely accommodating. Having spent many years, if not their whole lives on this floating, drastically shaped and forested land mass, the locals have fostered a strong relationship and sense of pride to the environment and nature. And in this, Reunion has a lot to offer. From dry, shrubby areas to verdant alp-like meadows to dense forest hanging on to sheer cliffs, there are many vistas on offer, each more mesmerising than the next. And perhaps the most incredible of all is the volcano. Surrounded by a landscape akin to Mars with jagged rocks and red sand we were fortunate enough to visit it during its phase of eruption. This was naturally the first time I had seen a volcano and lava and it is a pretty awe inducing, terrifying thing; the sporadic spewing eruption and the pulsing torrent of lava give you a sense that you have seriously underestimated nature. It is so unlike any natural event I had witnessed, it seemed otherworldly.
But after all the skating, hiking and sight-seeing, it was the people that really made the trip. The temperament of the local skaters is very interesting and oddly cathartic. Simply put, they are very chilled. There is not much that will have them lose composure. Things just kind of tend to happen and if they don’t, they will at another, perhaps more suitable time. If we organised a skate we were never quite sure if anyone had understood, or if anyone intended to actually come, but without fail we had rad sessions with many very cool locals.
Inbetween my often incoherent French ramblings and their pidgin English we spoke enough to figure out that we each had stumbled upon a decent group of skaters and during the course of the trip we formed friendships that will last. And as worn out and clichéd as it might sound, it was not the roads that made the trip, but the people we met, the hospitality we experienced and the different culture we were exposed to.
Yep that’s right, I’m ending this article with a cheesy life lesson. Deal with it. It is what it is.
We’re proud to announce to now be stocking Seismic products! We heard murmurings among our team riders speaking of the incredible traction and durability of the new Seismic Lokton Grip and we already knew of the outstanding quality of the Tekton Bearings so it was an easy decision to make.
After watching plenty wheel reviews we decided to throw in some Seismic Cry Baby freeride wheels for good measure. With nearly exclusively outspokenly positive reviews on this wheel we are very excited to give them a bash.
The latest batch of skate gear came in. And it is not only aesthetically pleasing but also highly functional. It is in fact so functional that you most definitely need it in your life to take your relationship with skateboarding to new levels. But, jokes aside, we pride ourselves in the wide range and quality of products that we stock and these new items will definitely feature prominently.
We are really excited this year about stepping up our product range both regarding skate gear and our own clothing lineup. We got so many new products in just before Christmas we didn’t have time to upload them all onto the website. Now we did. And we’re stoked and here it is:
We just got a fresh shipment of Rayne gear in, including all the new boards for 2014. Here’s what’s new. Follow the links to see board prices and reviews.
G-Mack (George Mackenzie’s Pro Model for Rayne) Misfortune (the smaller version of the popular Rayne Fortune) Brightside (the smaller version to the Darkside) Otherside (you guessed it…the bigger version to the Darkside) Reaper (a smaller more compact version of the Nemesis) Terror (the smaller version to the classic freeride boards the Supreme and Rival)
This year we decided to do the drive from Cape Town to Joburg to skate the King of the Fort 2014 race. It was a looong drive with a harrowing run in with the cops.
Joburg was definitely a completely different cup of tea to Cape Town. A murky, chaotic cup of tea. Taxis own the road and nearly all the traffic lights seem to lack electricity. There was a permanent haze over the city, constant police presence and toll gates that were slowly diminishing what little cash we had with us. Needless to say we felt pretty uneasy. And then we met Nick’s dad and stepmom. They took us wrangled bunch of skaters (there were 7 of us) like we were their own kids. This was a real dealbreaker and made the trip the awesome experience that it was. There’s nothing better than being able to shower and relax after a long day of skating. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them (again) for having us.
The skate weekend was upon us and King of the Fort was a really well run, fun event. The hill is by far the slowest of the season yet no less challenging. The lack of speed means tactical drafting, overtaking and cornering are necessary to get ahead and stay ahead.
Once again we’d like to congratulate Decio Lourenco for taking first place in the Open division, as well as Nick Hook and Alex Meyer for making the consolation final. Our team riders never fail to impress with their results and skating talents.
We made a video trying to capture the essence of the roadtrip and the race. We hope you enjoy.
We are proud to announce that Cam Adams is now officially part of the Baboon Boards team. We made the decision to sponsor him early on in the year already, but it has taken us some time to get our official edit out. But our efforts have paid off and we are really happy with the results.
Cam also featured in our recent roadtrip video where we explore a sketchy mountain pass, so if you’d like give that a watch as well.