#OnTheMissionSA: Bloemfontein – In Association with Monster Energy
Check out the video from the mission, featured in AV26:
Behind the scenes report By – AD Henderson
“Don’t go to Bloem” one of the comments read when we first posted our intended destination for the start of the #OnTheMissionSA series. A quote from the last article Session ran on ‘Brick City’, as it has become known. Organising is not my strongest skill, but thankfully, over the course of 7 days we had 19 different dudes skating around the rough streets of the often overlooked town in the middle of the country.
The name ‘Brick City’ is more than merely a reflection of the terrain. ‘Brick City’ is hard and demands that you are too. You go in and you don’t come out upright. There were at least 5 ‘Hall-of-Meat-worthy’ slams – thankfully only one resulting in a hospital visit.
Thursday, 12 March 2015
We sat talking about the start of the trip as the fire burned to coals, late on our last night, Joubert remarks to Alan Marola, “AD says we leaving at 4am”. He gets there at 8 o’clock and says, “Jisses the traffic”. To which they promptly wet themselves laughing at my retarded excuses. I had to concede, Jansen phoned me to awake at 4:30am. I’d fallen back to sleep after my alarm went off. Alistair and I sorted our things into the bakkie and we rolled out at 5:30am and straight into the morning dribble into Cape Town. A hungover Joubert and an overly excited Jansen met us and we tetris-ed the luggage, boards, camera bags, tripods, magazines and the MVP cooler box into the bakkie and struck off on the N1 at 08:30am.
Beaufort West was our first ‘get out and skate’ town and we found a gem of a spot almost immediately after I got my replacement card for the one I had not been able to find since the night before. Our entire budget was in my account and I had no way to access it. Great start. I had to sit and sort it out at FNB Beaufort West. Jansen was having a fat conversation with a local who ultimately just wanted money as usual. We drove up the main road and spied the gem of a spot down a side road. As we unpacked our stuff to skate, I subsequently found the card that had gone missing. Up yours! Murphy. Anyway, the newbie for the trip, Alistair Links, started getting into a slide on the rail, forcing himself to go out fakie from the steep ending, despite the extra aggravation of swinging that back truck forward as gravity yanks you back down. An angry Afrikaans man appeared and was ‘bedondered’ that we were jumping around on his property. Well not his property, but he was obviously the one who fixed everything. He was shouting and swearing at us, eventually going off to call the cops. We tried to be nice – at first anyway. While he was off doing that, another cop came walking by with a kid in handcuffs. He said to us as he got close, “What crimes are you committing here?” We realised he wasn’t actually here to bust us when they walked on with a few laughs exchanged. Alistair put down a couple more before rolling away and the cop returned to congratulate him and see the photos. He told us he found a wallet on the kid and was trying to find its owner, so he was walking up and down the roads asking if anyone had lost a wallet. Small town problems eh. He wouldn’t let us take photos of him or the kid. He didn’t mention anything about the spot. Angry Afrikaans man didn’t pitch up again before we’d packed up and moved on. As we got in to leave, another cop pulls up, responding to Angry Afrikaans Man’s phone call presumably, but seeing as we were leaving the friendly cop just meekly reprimanded us and wished us well on our travels.
We tried to look for another spot but decided to rather fuel up and head out on the last stretch. Jansen was driving and took the opportunity to stop for some photos along the way while the rest of us stretched or farted, or time-lapsed things. The Nixon Blaster was keeping the back tuned up while the single Tombstoned CD that Joubert had brought, repeated itself several hundred times up front. Colesburg appeared late afternoon and we were itching to roll around. There were some interesting spots that we made use of with a bunch of kids passing by at each spot – all so intrigued by what we were doing. One little homie got on Joubert’s board and almost immediately could balance and mimic our pushing. It was a surprise. He stuck around with us until we set off, hopefully already scheming how to get his hands on a board.
It is over 1000kms from Cape Town to Bloemfontein. We gunned it through between stops and got to Bloem at around 9pm. We were all set to camp but our host sorted us out with a dorm of sorts, for all the rats to bunk down in. We decided on a dawn session at ‘The Hive’ and passed out pretty shortly. Just as the mosquitoes began their attack…
Friday, 13 March 2015
The sun had yet to tip the horizon as we arrived at the DIY beauty of a ramp we’ll refer to as ‘The Hive’. With the icy chill lifting and the shapes slowly becoming more defined, we got into shredding the concrete pipe as hard as our waking bodies could handle. The ramp’s location was initially the home of a good few thousand bees that had burrowed their hive deep in the red dirt. A professional was sought out to relocate the hive but after excavating for a full day and digging his own height down into the earth, it was ascertained that this hive was not going to be movable. With a heavy heart, and apologies to Mother Earth, the hive was filled up and buried. Did the bees die? No. They remained until the rains came and drowned their colony. A truly great sacrifice for this amazing DIY structure and one that will not be forgotten through the hive patterned spray-paint adorning its transition. Ironically, the only other insignia is a spray-painted Slayer logo. It’s all about balance.
We sessioned until working hours bid our host return to the four walls of his office and we set out to explore the city. With the international Etnies team having just rolled through the city, the tales of the University’s destruction were still bouncing off the lips of the locals. The motivation to go skate the Uni kind of dwindled, so we opted to seek out the gnarliest spots Bloem had to offer. Top of this list was a ditch running through the centre of town. Its endless steep banks and various bridges made for some drool-worthy ideas but few sure-fire skate opportunities. We all timidly ran up and rode down it before Alistair decided to tail-drop from the wall and into the monster. Not an easy task by any means. We skipped over the puddles under the bridge, deciding to return when the rest of the crew arrived. Maybe someone had some madness to get rid of.
In and out of the bakkie we went as we stopped and checked spots – some great, some utterly useless, almost ALL rough as an armadillo’s arse. We’d been spying the giant Madiba statue all day and eventually decided to go see what exactly was up there. We did a bit of back and forth driving before finding the right road up to the monument and started up just behind what looked to be a class of school kids. I took it slow, figuring we’d pass through them and be on our way, but I was grossly mistaken. The first batch parted and started chanting “liiiift, liiiift!” and it simply did not stop. There were droves and droves of 6 – 10 year olds all around us, teachers scurrying to keep them away from the car, all of them shouting “LIIIFT, LLIIIIIIFFFT!!?” at the top of their lungs. It was manic! I was on the verge of claustrophobia and the swarm was just getting thicker. Jansen and Joubert got their cameras out and immediately the chant turned to “TV!! TeeeVeeee!! TEEEEVVVVEEEE!” The only thing I could do was to keep us moving and hope we didn’t drive over anyone. The teachers were the ones we had to hoot at the whole time to let them know we were behind them and not stopping. God only knows what would have happened had we stopped or even just given any one kid a lift. I’m pretty sure the car would have been completely covered. Eventually after an endless winding road we broke free of the school outing and found a road away from the main monument, where the school was obviously going. We could still hear them from across the koppie shouting “Liiieeeft, Liiefft!” while we got into skating some pristine benches. The heat was testing us, like we were now so much closer to the sun by just getting up on the hill, but a few lines were tried and some more time-lapsing done while we waited for the kids to leave the monument. After about an hour we couldn’t hear the screams and laughter anymore so figured it was safe to go visit Mr Mandela and his lookout point over Bloemfontein. The bronze statue of the smiling former president was cool to have seen, and the view was incredible, however, there wasn’t much to skate and there was hardly any shade so we cut our visit a bit short and set off to scavenge some lunch before the rest of the crew arrived.
The Joburg contingent was all noise and hype. Everything was “Live dawg” and “Flexing” became the term for pretty much everything with a “young” this and a “young” that thrown in to keep it spicy. The different slang each area adopts makes trips like this super entertaining. Nuggah Binge was El Capitan of the JHB dudes even though he was outranked by Colonel Ruben Els and Hartmut Martin. When the dust of their arrival had settled and the groceries for the night fully devoured, we set off for ‘The Hive’ once again with a generator and lights in tow. The speed and pure mayhem these dudes unleash on any transition is awe-inspiring. Quick 5050s to snapped ollies and tail bashes everywhere, setting up for long-ass grinds over the Burn-Seat, all made for some gnarly lines and a seriously hyped session. D-Mil came packing, Trae Rice went flying, StuDawg and Dyamond laid the groundwork, while Nuggah Binge beat the shit out of the coping. We shredded late into the night, right up until the petrol ran out. We headed back and demarcated our respective spots on the floor of our dorm, the skate and subsequent intake of various spirits aiding our ability to find comfort, with minimal padded assistance.
Saturday, 14 March 2015
A slow start was to be expected, the wizard outfit and various breakfast provisions weren’t, but both were eagerly welcomed. Our first order of business was to check out Bloem’s only skatepark. There was some vague idea of a Demo/Jam being held there but the session got started before we had even got the Monsters out of the car and the kids were treated to some shredding from the crew. The park itself has pretty much everything you could want, without the restraints of a static ‘crete park. The makeshift boxes, rails, wallie obstacles, quarters and random other things make that park more fun than most are willing to admit. Having an elevated stage providing some stairs, drops and a handrail was the cherry on top. Dyamond and Studawg filmed some lines and we all had a good warm up session as the heat descended. Most notable was DMil’s hipper slam as he attempted to slappy off the side of the stairs. He’d already done it but for whatever reason he was trying it again and just launched himself off the ledge and onto his hip, on the flat. It was horribly hilarious. The stair set and handrail got given a proper shredding by somewhat unknown shredder Chris Staub, he came through with the banger, he backside flipped over the rail after battling it for a good while. Chris jams in Conqueror, a Pretoria-based punk band, and while his chilled demeanour makes him a legend of a dude, his skating is something I’d love to see more often. There’s a power to it that brings the heat, it’s LIVE dawg. With the hammer stacked and the toasted sandwiches devoured, we kicked ourselves back out into the streets to go see how many more slams we could stack. It was becoming a thing…
The Du Plessis Theatre was our first port of call and we were met by a large group of dudes sessioning the ledges and the flat, undercover. This was the home of the infamous 17-stair rail that JP du Preez successfully did a boardslide down a few years back. I was hoping someone would feel the motivation to take on the challenge of the rail but with the skies darkening we opted for a rail session on the shorter rails, on the other side of the building. Alistair, Dyamond and a few others started getting into it before the rain came. It was a weird rain, light and puffy almost. We took cover nearby and practiced our wallie games while waiting it out. Evan managed to ‘Wallie-nollie-one-foot’ a pillar several times while various dicking around manoeuvres were brought out to pass the time.
The rain subsided in proportion to the advancement of security. With great effort they were delayed for some time by various crew members arguing over legalities, while Brendan battled a Smith. They ascended the stairs and pretty much kicked us all out when one of his hundred ‘last goes’ worked out. The few remaining went nuts even though we only had the footage on an iPhone. Security accepted our thanks and we head out with the rain teasing again.
The rest of the afternoon went blurrily by with a flat phone and a continuous refill in my hand. We skated a lot of bricks. Especially on one hill with a cool bump. Cake Boi spotted a slight angle on a roof and set off. When I say slight I do mean like a pavement high incline on which he proceeded to flamingo boneless around on, while Jansen shouted one more and the armed forces on the other side – inside the government building – shouted at him to get down. He made the little boneless and got his ass down before getting shot at, thankfully. Everyone was preoccupied with the ensuing pyrotechnics we had planned for the night ahead at ‘The Hive’, so we jammed a few other spots and head out to get supplies.
The Petrol-fuelled night session ended up getting started with rain bothering. As soon as we’d set up it started to come down, just enough to wet everything. We shut it all down and messed around in the dark, waiting and hoping the wetness would leave. Finally, we got the lights back on and the skies cleared considerably. The juiced session just got ten-fold more exciting when Ruben filled the fire-seat with its first douse of instant flame. His hand caught on fire more than a few times during the evening but his crazy grin in the glow of each cloud of flame was hair-raising. Dudes were grinding through the flames as much as they could, before the petrol burnt up and just the logs were left on fire. The mayhem went on until both bodies and petrol supplies were exhausted. Daniel nailed the Texas Plant he’d been trying when we had to shut down the night before and Evan singed all the hair on his left side when Ruben got a bit too excited with one petrol top-up. The thing was, you had to time it right so that you hit it just after the flames surged from the ignition. Evan locked that grind as the flames were at their peak. He disappeared. We killed ourselves laughing so hard we almost forgot to keep skating through the flames. There were a bunch of drunk slams that left nasty little bruises for the next day’s worry. That night was shredded hard, it was LIVE. Nothing young about it. The Hive had been officially broken in.
Sunday, 15 March 2015
With Sunday dawning and the imminent departure of the Joburg cats rearing it’s hungover face, we got a reasonable start to the day. First stop of the day was the mighty ditch we’d spotted on the first scouting mission. The Binge wanted in. He saw the Noseblunt jump in we’d speculated about and started psyching himself up. The bank was far steeper than the footage or photo will reveal. His first few attempts at jumping in and landing in lip-slide then rolling, produced one hell of a slam in the manky-ass water in the middle of the ditch. He was grossed out. Which is saying a lot. He made it, but then looked at the footage and started swearing. “You can’t fucking use that anywhere! Even if I don’t land this…” – which meant he knew he had to go in harder and land it cleanly into the bank. He moved up, changed shirt and started his balancing act on the rail once more. Whether it was nerves or simply useless balancing skills, I don’t know, but Nuggah Binge could not balance on that tiny rail for shit. Ruben and Chris helped keep his board up and flat so he could get the stance right to jump in while the rest of us covered the angles and kept the hype by shouting obscenities at him. Jansen and I called a R300 for a land to which he replied, “At this stage money is not doing anything for me.” With countless tantrums and face-punching incidents, he found the right feeling on one, jumped off cleanly into the bank and soared down it, making it along the flat and halfway through the water before eating it onto his hip. The crew and gathered audience went bat-shit. Evan hardly shows as much hype on his own skating as he does on others and was seemingly just stoked it was over. Getting back to the cars he proceeded to get completely naked, to get all the manky-ass water off him and clean his fresh roasties with whiskey – our only antiseptic – courtesy of Cake Boi. It made some classic footage and jokes as the butt-naked beast whined about the sting. He got fresh shorts and a tee, having to do without socks for the rest of the day out, but we all kinda knew he wasn’t going to be amped on much after that. The plunge into that ditch from the top rail was definitely the highlight of the street missions and we were all so amped to see it on the cover of Session Issue 65.
With the hype still strong we hit a few spots in town that eventually led us to a rail outside a Checkers that had two very relaxed security guards. Our 4-car convoy parked off there and took turns avoiding the upright pole about 3.5m from the landing of a 7-stair rail. The Live Dawgs went to work, with everyone coming away with something, even Hartmut who got a line involving a rock wallie. Bonus points! All this while we were waiting for the kids to appear again after they disappeared at the first spot. They’d gone in search of a shop and we only realised we were 4 short when we’d already left the spot. Their phones were off and we weren’t hanging around so we let the skate gods work it out. The 4 of them found us again thankfully, just before Ruben landed his crooked grind and then puke up all the chips he’d been eating the whole morning. ‘Skate until ya puke’ is a thing.
Half of the Joburg crew had to head out that afternoon so we topped up the tanks, exchanged cash for slips and bid safe passage to one of the GP number plates. With a few more hours of light left, we carried on the mission, hitting a few spots on the way home. StuDawg took us to a rock that lay between a side road and a main road that people seriously sped down. Between gaps in the traffic, Joubert, Hartmut and Stu gave it a hard time. The rock got its own back by throwing Joubert onto his face. It was hilarious and agonising to see at the same time. His lips swelled straight up but refusing to let the rock beat us, Stu and Hartmut rolled away with Joubert safely back behind the lens. After a heavy weekend, full of hype, energy and slams on rough-ass surfaces, we were all broken. As we bid farewell to the last GP number plate we could feel the drain catching up on us.
Monday, 16 March 2015
A good night’s rest on the accumulated bedding was just what we needed, and with Chinner and Marola joining us later that day we thought we’d take it easy and knock off a few spots we hadn’t yet hit. So much for that idea. we managed to get a few clips before enduring rush hour to get back to a gap that Stu had told us someone had to hit. It was large and had a smooth downhill run-up to get speed. We’d tried the abandoned building earlier but an unexpected security guard thwarted our session. When we returned after almost dying several times in rush hour, the security guard was literally on his way down the road. We were so hyped after the struggle the day had been. Alistair immediately tested the run up and popped the gap 3rd go, and then again twice, kicking out at the last second each time. He really had it but for some reason kicked away again on one he should have put down. And that is how you dislocate your pinky toe. Not an easy dislocation you can fix but rather separating the bones and then smashing them back perpendicular to each other. We found this all out after collecting him from the hospital at 11pm that night. We’d waited doing crosswords and various word puzzles in the magazines provided in the emergency reception, until Alistair came hobbling back out saying, “Fuck this, let’s leave.” They were taking a hell of a while to see to him but thankfully we convinced him he really did need to get the toe looked at. The doctor told us he had to operate and we agreed to return once he was sorted, leaving him my card and telling him to phone us. They apparently wouldn’t let him phone, so when I eventually called he’d been out for 4hrs, groggily moaning about wanting to get hold of us but enjoying the jelly and custard too much to get it right. Marola and Chinner had arrived earlier that evening but we were all too mangled to chill and called it a night as soon as Alistair and I got back from the hospital. Dislocated pinky toe now reset and strapped.
Tuesday, 17 March 2015
With Chinner and Marola both familiar with Bloem terrain, we opted to head out to Welkom instead, to see what we could find out there. Jansen took the driving duties with Chinner’s overgrown-ass riding shotgun. We sought out the old mall, which apparently had some fun things, and it consumed us for most of the day. Obviously, everything was bricked, but there were some amazing manny pads and tiled wallie blocks in addition to the long 3 in the centre of the complex. It was by no means quiet, as the day’s trade was going down all around us, but no one seemed phased by our noise and stunts. Most were eagerly cheering us on as Joubert and Alan attacked the stairs. Local Nico Ludek joined us there and had a few tricks of his own to throw down. The best however was Chinner, trying a line that just totalled him. He went head over heels like the felling of an enormous oak tree. I somehow managed to film that exact try and couldn’t believe my luck at capturing the slam. We half laughed and wholly cringed as he damn near put his head through the bricks. He wasn’t too hurt considering, but that line would have been gold. After taking home a few tricks down the set and more than a few lines around ‘The Dip’, as locals called it, we decided to see what else the town had to offer.
Our hopes were stretched as we found brick spot after brick spot that had people complaining about us trying to skate. We ended up at the new mall, trying to get to skate the outside of their fence before the head of security and his minions decided to thwart our efforts. They weren’t understanding at all and went even further to become the biggest dicks we met on the whole trip. We gave up on the session and went inside to get supplies from the Checkers, only to be followed and then searched as we left the shops. The security at the Welkom Mall can go eat a gigantic bag of brick dicks. We desperately wanted to hit a wall at the SARS building, which we were told we could hit after 8pm, so we drove around trying to kill time. A few little spots popped up with a manny pad across an island being the most sessioned. Nico and Marola got a line or two before it got dark and we could hit the SARS wall. With the bakkie up on the curb providing light, and the plates in place to get up to it, security decided to ascend and subsequently kick us out. It was a severe fail and one that almost got heated. We didn’t have the energy to force it, so back to Bloem we decided to go. We dropped off Nico, hit the last supply store and took the trek back through the binneland.
With little energy or bodies left for more sessions, we spent the night and morning getting ready for the trip back to Cape Town. The N1 was calling and with one last visit to ‘The Hive’ to pay our respects to the DIY effort, as well as the bee genocide (which people are going to lose their minds about considering bees are dying out across the world… oops), we said so long to StuDawg and the Bloem massive, then struck off home. The drive would have been sedate and boring had we not opted to detour through George to check out a waterfall that Jansen knew of. Before we could even get there, the final slam of the trip was had… when our wheel blew out. Joubert was driving and managed to slow down and keep control as the bakkie fought to flip itself. I was filled with relief to find my spare tyre fully pumped and ready to go – something I should probably have checked prior to the trip. We took it pretty careful after that and arrived at the waterfall shortly after, for a soul-cleansing dip and a few rock jumps. Alistair just swore at us, as he couldn’t get his bandaged toe wet while we photographed and filmed ourselves bombing into the icy water. It was a great way to end a hard, dry and brutal trip. There’s always time to stop and smell the roses on a skate trip. It’s needed. It allows one to reflect and be grateful that we can do what we do, that we can take opportunities and turn them into history through nothing other than our own initiatives. Despite the hardships and uncertainty that every mission brings, skateboarders make the most of any situation, any city and any terrain.
Bloem, we will be back!