" I remember that summer in Dublin, And the Liffey as it stank like hell, And young people walking down Grafton Street, Everyone looking so well. I was singing a song I heard somewhere, Called "Rock'n'Roll Never Forgets", When my humming was smothered by the 46A, And the scream of a low flying jet." - Bagatelle, Summer In Dublin.
They say you should never go back to your old school; the changes break your heart. Dublin is a rich city today, flush with unwisely invested EU money and a burgeoning intelligentsia which has everybody under 30 clutching some spasticated 'meeja studies' qualification. The thicks.
It was once a term of insult to be called a "West Briton" in Ireland, a suggestion that you had lost touch with your Celtic identity to become an Anglicised clone with a Ben Sherman shirt, hair gel and a vulgar taste in consumer electronics. Well, Dublin is West Britain now, a city designed around the tourists and not the people who live there. The interesting point- for me- is what that has done to the skateboard scene there.
Ten, fifteen years ago it was a much more loosely arranged city, sketchier certainly but less expensive, constricting and gentrified into a chrome and plastic wonderland. Then, skateboarding was almost cool in Dublin, one of the fringe youth pursuits that an under- funded city council could neither encourage nor curtail, and there were a few places around town you could expect to skate without any serious hassle.
Then the money came.
A terrible beauty is born
In the skateboarding scene here, a passing of the guard has taken place as the generation who skated Baggot Street, drank in the Handel bar and fell into Ri Ra skated less, drank more and couldn't get in here in those shoes. And you know what? Skating now, today, in Dublin is better for it. Gone is the short session to long drink- up, gone are the "I'M the distributor for Motobilt Ollie Knobs now!!" type- dudes who all quit anyway, and the shop/ local brand loyalty factionalism which dogs every scene where people are over it but still want to get paid.
All is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.
The first port of call- of course- is G1, the only true Dublin skateshop, the stories surrounding which could fill this magazine but suffice to say: this is where it goes on. The shop is right on O'Connell bridge slap bang in the city centre, up a creaky staircase and through a buzzer- in door for the meet-up. Back downstairs to talk to yer man who sells the evening papers outside, and a squad of us are off down the river to New Spot (one of several) down on the quays. The square is a series of marble…what are they, books?...something like that; anyway they are arranged in threes so you can either skate them as ledges or use them as a step up to trick to trick and down. It should be pointed out that they are all on different slopes and have brick bumps all round to add to the funk. Snowy had the upper hand over all of us here, with a series of controlled power moves which showed me just how much he has improved in the last couple of years. Total relaxed natural moves including the little things which show- switch backside 180s out with no pop and such. He is the champ right now.
The Dublin skaters are an eclectic mix: just out of college, just out of work, just out for a fuck around.
But Wait! says you, shouting at the page- I thought Joey Lynch was the new Lord Mayor of Dublin?
Joey Lynch, he of the comedy feet and amusing street- urchin stylings, has eased up on 'serious' skating over the last year or so, first of all to take accountancy exams (which he is too modest to tell you he got 100% in, then promptly put them to good use in joining a band. So Joey met us now at the Red ledges, skating a chewed board in slip-ons, having the time of his life.
Red ledges was a heavy skate. By this point our numbers had swollen to twenty or so, with more heads turning up every minute in the early evening sun. Just out of college, just out of work, just out for a fuck around. The Dublin skaters are an eclectic mix, its fair to say. No one style dominates and a quick look at people's rigs showed that popular companies were Zero, Habitat, Flip, Chocolate and of course local brands Boarderco and Rukos. Is this a big night? I ask photographer Richard Gilligan. No, he says, this many isn't unusual now everybody is skating together again.
Red Ledges is a re- interpreted old non- spot which new radness has brought to light. Located at the junction of Leeson Street and St Stephens' Green in the historic city centre, we never really used to skate it because the only thing which opened it up was if you could clear the pavement onto the main road. It requires a sprint and a throw down, but it didn't take long to heat up. Using half the crew to divert traffic it wasn't long before a switch bigspin clipped the kerb for the first death slam. Then Anto (who looks freakily like Janoski) and Dion stepped up to the backside kickflip and 360 flip respectively before somebody called the cops and we took off in search of a rickety, Edwardian road gap.
As before, the new blood emptied it of all previous limitations. The ollie which created the spot was topped first by a perfect frontside flip and then Gav's hardflip on the edge of control, bouncing around on the ancient streets as he approached.
Time for the best part of the session: Portobello.
Like all bourgeois places, Dublin has many pretentious little bijou dinerettes called something vaguely foreign.
Portobello is a tranquil suburb of south Dublin with the best plaza spot going. Previous attempts to hatestop it have been foiled by simply knocking the stopper flush with the still wet concrete an hour after the workmen left. Now they can't replace them, and can't remove them. Portobello has a cluster of perfect high manual pads, two of which have tricky diamond shaped watergaps behind them so you either have to step up with your feet already set, or you're snookered. Longtime face on the Dublin scene Jer Evans stopped by for some half cab noselide bigspin out shenanigans as we gave up the last of what our legs had in us. Two soaked- through T- shirts later and it was time for a little bank/ firecracker wind down in touristy Temple Bar with Bruce Kelliher before limping off to slumber. After 3 pints of ring- splitter, naturellement.
The two reference points of Dublin skating tourists know of are Baggot Street, the Bank of Ireland office front which was a hub during the mid- 90's but is now largely unused apart from when Graham resurfaced the Baggot Gap for the G1 10- year anniversary party, and the inddor sweatbox Ramp n Rail in Drumcondra, which is now right next to a poker den frequented by some of Dublin's least salubrious villains. Just so you know.
Another glorious day in the city, with Grafton Street teeming life and money being spent fast, would see us leave for a new park on the outskirts being built by Aussie legend Jeremy 'Jezza' Butterworth who had just finished building the Stabelsbaddsparken in Malmo (see this issue). The Lucan park was only about half done but we got the nod to give it a dusty test run; it was great, especially as the cement was making the coping rasp and that makes you feel all awesome. Or it does me, at least. The park will be complete by the time you read this and should definitely be on your itinerary should you plan to visit.
Eating in Dublin is a minefield. Like all newly- rich, bourgeois places, it has many many overpriced, pretentious little bijou dinerettes called something vaguely foreign. Avoid them all, because although it might say jus of this, or carpaccio of that, it is still being made by a reformed joyrider smoking spliffs out by the bins. Rule number one is avoid anywhere that ends in "-ia" or called "La-" anything; they all go out of business in 6 months before scrambling the letters round and appearing somewhere else serving the same toss. If you eat out, eat somewhere with a family name, because they have a rep to maintain. This includes Italian names, by the way: for reasons no-one has ever fully explained, Italians run most of the chip- shops in Dublin, and all of the best ones.
We refuelled in a hidden- away Italian place on Parliament Street at the edge of Temple Bar and took ourselves off to see Joey Lynch's band, who rocked, complete with belly dancer who would get it given half the chance.
After the gig we packed ourselves into the car and headed for a very, very late night/ first light 'land sharking' (as Jezza describes spot-hunting) session which ends at the best and worst spot of all time.
Out near the coast, we scale a compound wall and climb down inside fire ladders to the most skatepark- perfect transition you've ever skated. The down point is that its in a sewage outlet and the smell had us all trying to blow chunks every 2 minutes. Four very stoked, but very green brothers piled back over that wall two hours later.
After about three hours sleep and some intensive 'I can still smell it' showering later we were back on the road for our last treat of the city- a concreted jersey barrier on the edge of Dublin airport where all the planespotters congregate to out- geek each other. We ate sandwiches and tried to blend in talking about jumbo jets so we didn't get jumped by the top boys in the planespotting massive. Increase the peace, weirdos.
As Dublin becomes every day more like everywhere else it is having an inverse relationship with skatescene there: the expansion of private property has sharpened the blades of the hungry. The used- to- be- bad- guys can be found in their smoke- free, 5 euro- a pint local pubs talking about back in the day while a whole new generation with the skills and the smarts to roll with the punches re-invent streetskating in the new environment of twenty- first century Dublin.
All is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.