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Photos by Joël Tettamanti & Bertrand Trichet. Words by Sylvain Tognelli. 

Had I known I would have to write this text, I certainly wouldn’t have insisted to Will Harmon on the importance of improving texts in Kingpin and in skateboard magazines in general a few weeks ago. I think professional writers should be invited on tours, as it’s the case for photographers and filmers. Now I’m here writing this text, without any notes, for the simple reason that someone has to do it.

 What you need to take with you:

- Mattress / sleeping mat (as small as possible)

- Hiking gear (good shoes - warm outdoor clothes - gloves - beanie - rain jacket - sunglasses - sun cream - backpack - hat)

- Camping gear: towel - swim shorts - flashlight - knife/fork/cup - camping bottle - nature friendly shower gel...

- Skate gear and spare parts/tools (we will stay in remote areas)

- Should you need anything special, please bring it with you, as we will stay in remote places.

Mandatory!

We will go in really nice nature places so we absolutely can’t leave any trash/rubbish around. Also, when you take a shit outside remember to hide your poo and paper under a rock...

Thanks in advance!"

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The crew for the Antiz x Carhartt WIP expedition consisted of Joël Tettamanti (a fine art landscape photographer) and Bertrand Trichet taking photos, Paul Labadie filming, Joseph Biais, Gabriel Engelke, Dominik Dietrich, Hugo Liard and myself, Sylvain Tognelli doing the skating.

It smelled like an adventure as we left from Lausanne. Bertrand and Joël were making an inventory of all the gear while the others posted one last photo on Instagram or sent one last e-mail… No Wi-Fi on the mountain! While driving through the first mountain passes I looked at the landscape and at the boards on the floor of the van. I like unusual ideas but this one could easily turn into a nightmare depending on the weather. My doubts were soon confirmed as it was already raining when we set up the tents for the first time. Joseph piped up with a soon-to-be-famous ‘’I think I’m going to leave the trip’’.

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Joël and Bertrand had come a few months earlier to check the spots (and enjoy a free holidays at the same time). The photo album included about 20 highly photogenic spots, but nearly impossible to skate most of the time. Sessions were thus quite unusual since the stage directions given by the photographers were numerous: arriving on the spot, we decide who does what trick, and flashes are set up.

To skate you have to: run uphill, jump on a board which is pinned in place by a stone, do your trick, jump off the board and fall into a precipice. Then flashes are taken off, and we get to the next spot, etc. The danger when skating in the mountains is not the same as in the city. Falling into a frozen lake, drowning in a river or simply falling off a hundred metres are ways of dying you usually don’t conceive on your skateboard, so our whole crew of scatter-brained athletes had to be particularly cautious during this trip. The challenge for the frontside wallride was to get as close to the void as possible, giving cold sweats to Bertrand and Joël. The scariest moments for me were the sessions in riverbeds next to dams. I was expecting a huge wave to come over us at any time.

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Within ten days, I think I barely spent an hour on my board: quite rare for a skate tour! I’m not very keen on skate tours in the high mountains or in countries where people are starving (which is not the case of Switzerland as you may know)! And shooting tricks in odd places is not a very original answer to the media’s lack of creativity. Basically, skateboarding is an urban activity since that’s where it develops. But skating in the countryside or in the mountains does exist though.

Still, after so many trips to the same places, I couldn’t refuse a breath of fresh air; and I started skating in the countryside close to Switzerland so it was almost a return to my roots.

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Moreover camping is great, providing that it’s somehow organised. Carhartt WIP gave us tents and sleeping bags, but I found out, way too late, that we were supposed to take care of everything else all by ourselves. Anyway, I thought we would spend two nights outside at the very maximum just for the credibility, and the other nights in comfy inns or refuges. That didn’t happen. Fortunately Bertrand, who is not that much of an offbeat person and Dominik had anticipated the rest of the crew’s lack of anticipation. It’s sometimes cool to have far-sighted people on a trip.

The notion of time disappeared within our small wandering group. We had to cook, find camps, and enjoy the landscape… Despite the first day’s doubts, boredom didn’t show up even 2,500 metres high. Everything easy becomes a challenge: brush your teeth, do the wash-up or taking a shower takes on a new dimension. We didn’t have time to relax, we were constantly being tested. It might sound a bit strict – and it was, but it’s a good way of tackling life in a group.

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Well it was, until I found myself brushing my teeth in the dark with hand cream. That’s when I suddenly realised I was over it. I discovered that I love making fires. Maybe because I realised I had to do something while the rest of the crew were cooking. It’s been more than 500,000 years since we organised evenings that way: those who cook and those who make the fire. First you have to find an undercover place, far enough from the trees, but not too far from the camp. Then you have to pick up wood. The best solution is to be fastidious so as to cover a large area and to light the fire as late as possible. Hugo and Paul were good partners for that, Gabriel always wanted to put gas in the fire because he found the process too slow. There are various techniques to light a fire but the cheapest and most effective one (reminder: we are still in Switzerland) is that of the wooden tepee around a paper ball. Chats around the fire became more and more philosophical each night, and we’re lucky our trip didn’t last longer because after 8pm, the topic of every conversation was ‘’the real meaning of life’’. With Hugo as our leader, we could have ended up creating a sect. Our ideal would have been the rejection of technology and the return to a nomadic way of life.

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One of the last nights of the tour, I walked to the fringe of a forest and sat against a tree to contemplate the stars in the sky. After an hour of listening to the silence, at some moments interspersed by the stream’s echo that the wind brought back to my ears, a strange feeling of calm mixed with an extreme sensitivity invaded me and I couldn’t reject it. There was no longer a sky, trees, stars, and a stream, but only a unique force I was a part of. The grass was growing, the stars were alive, and I was a tree. For a few minutes I wasn’t able to move and could barely breathe.

When I snapped out of it I went back to my tent as fast as possible, suspecting that someone had put drugs in my green tea that evening. These few minutes under the influence of natural DMT scared me a bit, but I would be willing to go camping in the mountains again just to live that moment once more. I’ve watched many videos of levitating monks on YouTube since, and I think I understand how it works. -Sylvain

sylvain
Dominic Dietrich, backside flip