10 things I learned at the world’s wildest skateboarding event.
Words and Photos by Riely Walker.
The Copenhagen Open is the most chaotic, unruly, entertaining and downright enjoyable skateboarding event in the world, hands down. It’s best described as a citywide festival of lawless skateboarding where fun and spontaneity prevail over structured competition. I was recently fortunate enough to attend the week of madness and shoot some photos at the CPH Open and it was an experience I’ll never forget. This is what I learned along the way.
Photo above: Dario Mattarollo frontside flips through smoke and mirrors.
THE SESSION NEVER ENDS. Even though it has a rough schedule, the entire Open is one week of non-stop skateboarding and partying in the streets of Copenhagen. I realised this on the first night, after waking at 4am to the unmistakable sound of a giant game of SKATE outside the hotel window. You’ll hear and see skaters at every hour of the day or night, pushing through the streets or engaged in impromptu late-night sessions in various parts of town. It’s a surreal experience, made better by the fact that...
COPS WON’T INTERFERE. This probably blew my mind the most, even though I’d heard tales of Denmark’s notoriously chill police force beforehand. The only time cops were ever present at the Open was after everyone had blocked a road downtown for the better part of two hours, and a couple of cops had to clear everyone off the street at 1am in order get traffic flowing properly again. I thought Frank Gerwer was doing a decent job redirecting traffic, but whatever. The concept of several hundred skateboarders creating ungodly amounts of noise and engaging in drunken foolery in the streets after midnight and not being bothered by police is bizarre – but it’s totally normal at CPH.
EVERYONE IS THERE. Hordes of intrepid skateboarders converge on Copenhagen from all around the world, including a broad array of pros who may or may not be ‘competing’. It’s completely normal to see Gino Iannucci nonchalantly cycle past, or have Collin Provost line up behind you at the 7-Eleven. We saw Tom Penny, Ali Boulala and Arto Saari casually eating breakfast across the street from our hotel one morning – it was nuts. Every skater is equal in Copenhagen.
Jake Anderson leaping one barrel too many.
BIKES ARE A GOOD IDEA. While the CPH Open is all about skateboarding, getting around the city during the event is best done on two wheels. The ‘contest’ moves from spot to spot at breakneck speed, jumping between corners of the city seemingly at random, as if spots are decided by the drunken toss of a coin (which, in reality, they probably are). You’ll struggle without a bike.
UNKNOWN EURO SKATERS ARE INCREDIBLE. Much like Australia, Europe has a bubbling scene of underground rippers who most of the world has never heard of. Copenhagen is their chance to get amongst it, and the number of times I had to stop and ask, “Who was that?” grew every day. CPH is open to anyone, and watching a bunch of unknowns hold their own with the world’s best is one of many magical things about this festival of skateboarding.
THERE’S ALWAYS A SIDE SESSION. While the organisers did their best to create something resembling a schedule, when hundreds of skaters turn up they’re bound to break away from it. We quickly began hearing rumblings of secret side missions throughout the city, and it became a common occurrence to turn a corner and stumble upon an impromptu session at one of the city’s many unbelievable spots – or to find out about it later through Instagram. If not, the Wonderland DIY at Christiania was popping off 24/7. Speaking of which...
CHRISTIANIA IS INSANE. If you’re unfamiliar with Christiania Freetown – as I was – it’s a self-proclaimed ‘free territory’ nestled in a corner of Copenhagen where law and governance supposedly don’t exist. Between the weed vendors and hippie huts lies the Wonderland DIY, with an indoor bowl that became the unoffcial home base for practically everyone in Copenhagen. No matter what, there’d always be a solid number of skaters at Wonderland – either skating or sleeping in the bowl. The place has to be seen to be believed.
Buttery back tail by Tommy Fynn.
THERE’S ALWAYS BEERS. The amount of alcohol consumed during the week must have surely broken all kinds of records. Alcohol is expensive in Copenhagen, even to us Australians, but we soon discovered that paying for beers at CPH is for suckers. In the unlikely event that a fellow skateboarder wouldn’t offer you a free beer the moment you mentioned you’d travelled all the way from Australia, the abundance of abandoned (but unopened) beers scattered around the session was unbelievably high. We affectionately began referring to these as ‘street beers’ and adopted a ‘finders- keepers’ approach. This undeniably saved us a fortune. Street beers aren’t as bad as they sound, I swear.
IT’S NOT A CONTEST. OK, it’s technically a contest – Ishod won. What did Ishod even win? I have no idea. If you’re travelling to CPH Open to win a contest, you’re there for all the wrong reasons. The number of pros who attended simply to watch and experience it – people like Koston, Biebel, Westgate – is a testament to that. What kind of contest draws pros halfway around the world just to spectate? CPH is a beast that has to be experienced to be understood. What I saw certainly wasn’t a skateboard contest.
Death racing with Dennis Busenitz.
IT WON’T LAST FOREVER. Sadly, the CPH Open is becoming too big to be sustainable in its current form. The organisers admitted as much this year, as issues of overcrowding in certain locations didn’t please the city’s of officials. If you’re planning on getting to the CPH, you’ll want to do it soon. The chaotic, unregulated nature of the event is what makes it great, and if that unique aspect is compromised, we could see the event shift into something else entirely. Pack your bags and get to the next one before it’s too late. You won’t be disappointed.