Feature: A Brilliant Ruse – Santa Cruz in Lisbon

14.03.2024 Exclusive, Features
Gabriel Ribeiro, kickflip, Forte da Casa.

Photography & words: Kingsford

More often than not, something special happens
This trip was uneventful with the exception of two memorable encounters, both special in different ways. An uneventful skate trip is usually a successful one. No one got injured or arrested and there was no drama. We stayed out of town, so rogue partying was not an option, a time-tested strategy. The team variously smoked weed and drank beers throughout, but never anywhere close to a worrying degree. Our guide Carlos took great care in taking us to less obvious spots in and around the city. Alan, our TM, never complained, made sure we were fed and watered, and excelled at eclectic van DJing and making us laugh pretty much non-stop. Nick worked a lot harder than me to achieve what I assume will be a polished, tasteful video, full of impressive skateboarding.

Nimrod Toledo, frontside wallride, Zona J. This neighbourhood is full of interesting, rugged spots and I have spent lots of time there over the years. Nimrod could have cleared a much taller hydrant.
Onni Saltevo, fakie heelflip, Chelas. Onni performed a beautiful switch 360 flip to set up for this picture-perfect fakie heel.

But back to the two memorable encounters. The first took place at a hubba in the neighbourhood
of Carnide. Gabriel was battling a 360 flip noseslide. The run-up was short, and a succession of teammates used their feet to wedge a sheet of wood in place as a sort of mini-mega ramp. Even with the ramp, and even with Gabriel’s exceptional talent on a skateboard, this was a challenge. Approximately an hour in, the police arrived. The neighbourhood seemed relaxed and friendly, but an hour of skateboarding below your home would test anyone’s patience, mine included. Carlos spoke to the three police officers, and after a few minutes they left, smiling. I asked: “Do we have a few tries left?” “It’s OK, we can stay,” Carlos replied. He had employed a brilliant ruse: he had told the police officers that Gabriel was in fact his twin brother Gustavo, who represented Portugal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The police officers were so impressed, they left us to it. I can’t overstate how satisfying this was. According to his recent Thrasher interview, Yuto Horigome tried this tactic in Tokyo, and even though he did actually represent Japan in the Olympics – and won a gold medal no less – it didn’t work. Luckily the authorities in Lisbon are more impressed by an Olympic celebrity, or the twin brother of one, in this case. Unfortunately Gabriel left this particular session empty handed, although I don’t doubt he will return and get his trick.

Jiri Bulin, backside 50-50, Mira Sintra. Efficiency was high at Mira Sintra. While Alan filmed Jiri grinding this ledge over colourful steps, Nick filmed Onni performing an impressive line at the plaza across the road. 
Jiri Bulin, frontside tailslide heelflip fakie, Carnaxide. Part of any trick landed at this well-known spot is how you deal with the curb-to-grass slope at the bottom of the bank. Jiri performed an impressive switch leap, before disappearing out of view.

Memorable encounter number two happened at the scene of this issue’s front cover. Gabriel was attempting to kickflip from the first storey of a multistorey car park, on to a narrow ledge, then drop from above head height to the pavement below. Even for someone with Gabriel’s ability, this was scary to watch. I was anxious, and things kept happening to amplify that anxiety, like random people filming on their phones. Knowing that if landed, this was likely to be the next cover and   the ender in Nick’s video, I didn’t want the trick to be posted on social media and potentially blow up and get shared in the skate community, even though this was an unlikely outcome. This is the type of stuff going through my head while shooting photos. An hour or so into Gabriel’s attempts – it took a while for him to commit – a dapper older gentleman stood next to me and watched a few attempts with unusual intensity. Before long he was on the phone, talking animatedly and looking upset. Earlier that day a passerby – who incidentally Alan had said looked like I would in 20 years, if I let myself go – had called the police on us, and I assumed this gentleman was doing the same, topping up my anxiety. Thankfully the police did not arrive and before long, Gabriel landed his trick. Amidst the ensuing celebrations I noticed him embracing the elderly gentleman, who looked close to tears.

Onni Saltevo, backside nosegrind revert, Campo Grande. This session was disturbed by students from the nearby university taking part in a praxe initiation procession, a surreal sight to behold.
Jiri Bulin, nollie flip crooked grind, Olivais. After a heated night session at this perfect out-ledge, Alan encouraged us to sample his favourite Portuguese dish at a nearby restaurant, the high-calorie francesinha.

Gabriel hadn’t told us that we were in the neighbourhood where he grew up. The elderly gentleman was in fact his grandfather, who had happened to be passing. He had been on the phone to his wife – Gabriel’s grandmother – frantically explaining that their grandson was risking his life, jumping off a building. I think the fact that Gabriel landed his trick so casually – as if he were kickflipping off a curb – reassured his grandfather, so that he could enjoy the celebrations. Or maybe he was just relieved that his grandson survived the death-defying stunt.

Jan Hirt, frontside bluntslide revert, Campolide. A few minutes after shooting this photo, Jan fell from the top of the bank backwards, hitting his head at the bottom. The noise was sickening. Luckily he was OK.
Gabriel Ribeiro, backside smith grind transfer, Almada. The weather was unseasonably warm and I left this evening session covered in mosquito bites, which made the rest of my time in Lisbon quite uncomfortable.

Even though our time in Lisbon was successful, I find skate trips increasingly stressful. The formula of moving around an unfamiliar city and trying to document street skating feels hopeless at times. Police, security, angry residents, bad weather, poaching bystanders, competing for angles with multiple filmers… at times the odds seem stacked against you. But it almost always works out, and like James Cruickshank said in our last issue, the run-and-gun nature of these missions yields more interesting results than a more structured approach would. And more often than not, something special happens – like the two encounters described above – and over time you forget the stress and anxiety, and these magic moments come to define the trips in your memory.

Watch ‘Fodas’, the accompanying video by Nick RIchards & Alan Glass, here.