(Photo above: Panos Loupis, frontside kickflip. Photo: Ortiz)
There are plenty of cities that will have you creeping around in the late night till the early morning, but only one can claim the notoriety of scenic canals, countless cyclists, daunting red lights, and endless weed-friendly café shops.
Over five million tourist visit Amsterdam each year, and most of them spend their time wandering up and down the city's narrow cobblestone streets, lounging canal-side in cozy cafes, or gazing at phenomenal art inside one of the 100-plus museums and art galleries. Along with dabbling in the loose drugs and sex laws the city has to offer.
Nonetheless, I got to experience Amsterdam from a skateboarder's perspective when I journeyed there for the Dew Tour Am Series from August 25th to 28th. This was my first time traveling international, but I was under the veteran wing of Managing Editor and photographer for Dew Tour, Chris Ortiz.
For the most part, the local Amsterdammers speak English, making any transaction extremely easy. Beautiful people from all around the world crowd the nearby parks and streets offering endless people watching. That doesn't mean you can't learn from experience, no city helps build more character than this one.
Thursday, August 24
"Goede morgen van harte welkom om in Nederland..." the only word I understood over the airliner's intercom sounded like "Netherlands." Lucky for me, I was given the perfect compact body that sits neatly in an economy seat with the leg-room of business class. I managed to keep my head in a comfortable enough position to stop it from bobbing and getting a stiff neck after 14-hours of flying from LA to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.
Arriving at the Amsterdam Marriott Hotel, where Mountain Dew graciously housed us for the next four days, our rooms weren't ready until three o'clock. Setting up a game plan over slices of bread, cheese, and cold cuts for breakfast, it was decided that I take a solo adventure in the town, since Chris wasn't feeling too hot. Camera strapped on and skateboard in hand, I pulled out of the lobby not knowing which way was North, East, South or West. Where was I to go? What was I to do? It didn't matter--all I cared about was seeing as much as possible.
The Am Series contest was taking place on Sunday, but before that we planned to meet our 10 Dew Tour Am Search contest winners, who were traveling from different parts of the world including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Philippines, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, United Kingdom and the United States. Each winner had sent in a two-minute video entry, fans voted on the video they liked the most from each country, and the winners were flown out to Amsterdam to compete.
Today was the hottest Amsterdam has seen all year long. Traveling from my home in San Diego, California I was used to the heat, but it was humid, still, and muggy. There was no coastal breeze to cool me off. Having mobbed around town taking in all the sweet women riding around on bikes to people casually blazing joints on street corners and back alleys, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel.
Before leaving my room, I hit up each of the Am Search winners in a group message on Instagram setting up to meet in the lobby. Shay Sandiford and Jason Wilson from Canada, Collin Slew and Keith Lynch from the United States were the first ones I met up with. The others were still traveling, just arriving or already exploring the city's cafés.
The five of us decided to catch a bite to eat. While sussing out our options, we ran into Mountain Dew riders Theotis Beasley, Uriel Esquivias, and Justin Schulte who were drinking glasses of wine and Heineken by the side of a canal. Having previously met Theotis in Los Angles, we were both surprised to have ran into each other. Everyone slapped hands and introduced themselves; we exchanged a few words and left them to their drinks.
Shay, Jason, Collin, and Keith were on a mission to find a place to eat. Collin and Keith settle for Burger King for the quick convince and familiar menu. While Shay and Jason stumbled upon Mr. Tongs, an authentic looking Asian restaurant. I on the other hand wasn't so hungry and headed back to the hotel one more time.
In the lobby, I ran into Am Search winner Kobe Graf from Australia and his friend Jack Brittliff. They were off to find a skate shop where Jack could buy a new deck. Afterward, I met up with the Canadians to check out the skate course Mountain Dew was custom building.
No more than a 10-minute walk from the Marriott Hotel, Museumplein Park is home to the I [Am]sterdam sign, the Van Gogh Museum, along with this weekend's annual cultural Uitmarkt festival. This was also where the course was being built. The course builders were busy drilling away at the floor and putting the final touches on.
There I ran into the United Kingdom's Am Search winner Adam Keats and his girlfriend Georgie Comerford. Collin and Keith arrived soon after from finishing their Burger King. The crew wandered around Museumlein looking for something to skate. With the sun quickly setting and not much to be found, we settled for a three-stair mini spot. Parked at the end of the stair set, a perfectly placed scooter waiting to be ollied. After giving it a few run ups, Collin had the pop to clear well over the seat. Stoked to have never done anything like that before, we all decided it was time to celebrate and creep into the early night of the town.
Back at the hotel, we added Jeff Gonzales--who originally is from Texas but now resides in the Philippines--to the crew. Jeff had quite the posse with him, bringing along girlfriend Jessica Ryon, and cousins, Katrina Paras, Fiona Mackenzie, and Louise Ferguson.
After our team dinner, we were all down to hit up the infamous Red Light District. It was at least a 20-minute walk from where we were, but it was early and we'd deal with the regret of being out late tonight, later tomorrow.
After a blistering walk, we found ourselves in the reflection of the Red Light district as hundreds of other tourist passed by window fronts looking at women in thin, lacey fabrics revealing their body's attributes. Men and women alike lined up outside of buildings with bright neon signs that read "Strip Tease", "Sex Show", and "Live Girls". The curiosity of other people had them strolling up and down narrow alleys window-shopping all the women behind glass doors, trapped behind their fantasies with no action. Searching for our remedy, the crew settled for a less crowded bar where we had our last drink before heading back to the hotel.
FRIDAY, August 25
Friday morning we decided to rent bikes and hunt for local streets spots. The crew consisted of Adam, Georgie, Jeff, Kobe, Jack, Collin, Chris and our filmer, Marc Bolhuis who had just arrived in Amsterdam on an hour-long train ride from Rotterdam.
The first warm-up spot was a slippery metal mini halfpipe that was hidden behind some trailers and tents by the course. The slippery tranny didn't faze Kobe from throwing down a line that end with a frontside blunt.
After the warm-up sesh, we followed my phone to a pin location that was given to us by the course builders. This brought us to Olympiaplein park where there was more metal ramps, a flat bar, ledges and a DIY mini table. The session got started with the mini table being the hot topic. Pinching his front truck across the top of the table, Adam was able to roll away with a frontside crooked grind. Not having any mini tables in the Philippines, this made it Jeff's first time skating one. He tells me this after landing a switch frontside 180 to five-0 grind back 180 out. Backing up both of these heavy hitters was Collin, who had a slew of tricks on the mini table, most notably a switch backside kickflip from flat that ended the session.
The next spot was a long slab of rock placed in the middle of a park. Tired from all the pushing we had done, only a few of us attempt to slide on this weather-beaten ledge. Being from the UK Adam was no stranger to rough ledges. He was able to get in a long frontside lipslide to switch crook with a little help of a tow in on a bike.
Here Am Series competitors chatted with one another along with Mountain Dew team riders, Theotis, Uriel, and Justin. After a few photos, appetizers and Heinekens the exhibition was open to the public. Part of the crew gathered together to figure out what we were going to have for dinner. Our taste buds were all craving something different, so we decided to meet in the hotel lobby later.
If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam make sure to hit up Café De Klos, a must-go-to destination for the best ribs in the world. A far cry from ordinary traditional Dutch food, this hidden gem proved they could smoke ribs just as good or maybe even better than the big smokers out in the southern states of America. The atmosphere of this restaurant can be best described as a Viking pub, with wooden tables, benches, stools and even plates that were all well worn in. The vibe was set with dim lighting, a bar shaped in a hull, a mixture of metal and punk music playing in the background and an aggressive manager that didn't take any shit from anyone, but would serve you a tall glass of beer kindly. Clutching our stomachs, Chris, Marc, and I slowly made our way back to the hotel.
SATURDAY, August 26
In the morning the crew all met at the course and everyone was antsy to finally get some practice time in.
At three o'clock a pro demo was scheduled with the Mountain Dew riders. Theotis got tech with a kickflip nose grind, Justin rolled away smoothly a boardslide shove out on the rail and Uriel backed them both up with a switch frontside Smith grind on the hubba. After their 15-minute show, the real fun was about to kick off. Theotis, Uriel, and Justin had 500 euros in hand to give out for tricks. With everyone fired up, the dudes started barging the course, hucking their best tricks for a chance at winning the night's beverage money.
Roger Silva started things off on the A-frame rails with a switch backside bluntslide 270 out. Shay nailed a Bennett grind down the A-frame rail. Jeff danced his way across the manual pad going in with a switch frontside 180 to nose manual backside revert to frontside 180 out for good measure. Adam put down a frontside Smith grind to frontside bluntslide on the handrail. The stoke cooled down from all the hammers, and we were all ready to call it to get ready for tomorrow's competition day.
SUNDAY, August 27
Sunday morning started off by bulking up at the Marriott's buffet breakfast. Taking a look outside, heavy, dark clouds loomed putting into question whether the contest would get canceled. Rain poured down as soon as we thought of it, but luckily it only lasted for about 30 minutes. The event organizers had thought ahead of time and covered the course in tarps the night before. By noon the sun came out and the competition was ready to go.
The competition hosted a total of 35 amateur skaters from all over the world including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Norway, the Netherlands, Philippines, Spain, Romania, United Kingdom and the United States. Ten of the 35 skaters were from the Am Search video contest, while the others found themselves here by competing in Dew Tour Boot Camps held in Europe.
After the 12 three-minute qualifying heats, the pack was filed down into 15 semi-finalists, three of which were Am Search winners Adam, Maycon Luan from Brazil, and Marius Christian from Romania. Maycon put on a solid run and stuck a wide variety of tricks like nose manual nollie 360 flip out, 360 hardflip, and a nosegrind to lipslide down the handrail. Adam used the entire course to the best of his advantage making sure he hit every obstacle he possibly could.
Only five semi-finalists made it to the finals, including Rob Maatman from the Netherlands, Roger Silva from Spain, Woody Hoogendijk from the Netherlands, and Simon Deprez from Belgium and our very own Adam Keats. Adam's opening run was flawless, pleasing the crowd with his frontside boardslide sex change on the A-frame rail. Rob was the only one to boardslide up the handrail. Simon stomped an impressive backside bigger flip down the grass gap. Roger Silva slayed the course without making one mistake.
At the end of the five-minute jam, the judges called for a three try "special" trick challenge. Adam managed a full Cab front board down the handrail, Roger pulled off not one but three separate "special" tricks, one of which was a switch backside blunt 270. Simon stole the show with an insane hardflip late flip down the grass gap.
When it was all over, Roger Silva took home first place along with a cash prize of 750 euros and a trip to next year’s Dew Tour in California. Adam Keats took second and was in shock to have made it onto the podium. Third place was Simon Deprez from Belgium.
From the late night strolls through the red light district, riding bikes around town, and hanging out with the crew this weekend proved to have all the right components for an unforgettable experience. Congrats to all the Am Series and Am Search competitors who came out to Amsterdam and competed. Hopefully we will be back next year to do it all over again.
Top 5 Results:
- Roger Silva
- Adam Keats
- Simon Deprez
- Rob Mattman
- Woody Hoogendijk