Text by Kirill Korobkov Photos by Lev Maslov
For Russian fans of skateboarding Vlad Esaulkov is a perfect example of to live a skater’s dream. He started skating in a provincial city which is not that good for skateboarding because of the cold climate, small number of spots and negative or even aggressive attitude of the local population towards anything new. After several years of ripping in his native city of Yekaterinburg, Vlad understood that this place is not enough for him and headed for Moscow. He has never put much emphasis on sponsorship or competition with other riders. Skating new spots and finding new friends has always come first for him. But when Vlad arrived in Moscow, it looked like a conquest of the Russian capital’s skate scene. After his first summer of skating in the capital he was seen as one of the most promising kids coming up. Ever since then he hasn’t slowed down for a minute. Due to his determination and sense of purpose he is now one of the best skaters all around Russia. But he might have something more in his sights. Just like he once left Yekaterinburg and decided to try his luck in Moscow, he may give it go outside of Russia. So be prepared. Vlad will definitely have something up his sleeve for you.
Yekaterinburg was founded in 1723. Right now it is the fourth biggest city in Russia. It is a political and economical center of the Ural region, a geographical area around Ural Mountains which are considered to be the boarder between Europe and Asia. It’s mostly an industrial city with giant factories, huge enterprises, big working class districts and not a lot of beautiful streets or other places. Because of its production sector and its size, the standard of living in Yekaterinburg has always been a little bit above the Russian average. But even so, all through the 90’s the standard of living in Russia in general was too low. Skateboarding landed in Yekaterinburg around 1996-97. The first skateshop opened its doors several years later. Vlad started skating around 2002. Nothing dramatic about how he got involved in the game. Vlad had seen his schoolmate skating and immediately realized that this was the thing for him. Soon he got his first skateboard. The day to day life of the Ekaterinburg skaters wasn’t anything diverse or original. Mostly it meant shredding the ledge by the river, where all the skaters congregated and spent their free time. Even now Vlad says the quay not far from the drama theatre in Yekaterinburg is his favorite spot ever.
Their skate sessions were constantly interrupted by local skinheads. According to some crazy logic, in the eyes of those dipshits skaters are part of black rap culture and should be physically punished for this. Bald headed guys regularly showed up at the spots trying to fight the skaters. On occasion they carried with them self made guns or knifes. Sometimes the safest solution for skaters was just to run away, but sometimes they got in fights. At the time, it was a typical situation in most Russian cities and it still happens from time to time. For Vlad, skateboarding has always been about progression. After several seasons of skating in Yekaterinburg he wanted to move forward, but the conditions of his home city limited him. Needless to say, there is no indoor skatepark in Yekaterinburg. During the winter months they skated at underground carparks with super dirty ground and ceilings hanging low at 2 meters.
So he started travelling to Moscow. Usually he was making his way down by train, traveling 30-hours in third class cars. When Vlad arrived in Moscow for the first time he didn’t really know anybody in the city. But skaters’ solidarity always helps in such situations. Soon he started to skate with the main crew of locals and was going on missions with good filmers. For the first couple of summers Vlad didn’t stop shocking the Moscow skate scene. Before him, nobody in Russia had skated such big handrails and hubba ledges. He was taken to many spots, which had been known of for years but were deemed too gnarly to skate. Usually Vlad ended up doing at least couple tricks at each of them. It’s not that he stopped killing it after first two summers since he had come down from Yekaterinburg. Everybody here just got used to his talent. In addition to his skills on a skateboard, Vlad has a really decent character. He is a super friendly, positive and responsive person. I almost haven’t seen him in a bad mood. Even after hard slams he is ready to joke and have fun. He stays cool with everybody who he has met during his years of skateboarding. One of the best things about Vlad’s is his determination. If he sets himself a goal, he will persistently, steadily go for it. Vlad says that this runs in their family. One of the biggest influences in his life is his sister. She also moved from Yekaterinburg to absolutely unknown Moscow and in a few years managed to get work in a big consulting company, buy an apartment and become a self-made woman. But Vlad is far from mutual understanding with his sister.
Last year Vlad finally moved to Moscow too. To this day, he stays at his friends’ couches, moving from one place to another. Even Vlad himself can hardly count how many apartments and houses he’s stayed in. It would seem natural that if he doesn’t have money for rent, he should stay with his sister, but she’s said that she would allow him to live with her only if he enters university. In her opinion, skateboarding is one of the most stupid activities of our time and definitely not a thing that her brother should associate his future with. Every time they meet Vlad gets a giant dose of brainwashing. She’s even offered to pay for his education if he’ll skate less and change his interests. Therefore Vlad continues his homeless life in Moscow and lives here thanks to the hospitality and kindness of his friends. By the way, his mom has always been totally supportive and has never said anything against his skating.
Vlad has recently finished filming his part for the “Absurd Theatre", the newest and possible the best Russian skatevideo ever. Production time for this flick was quite short, around 8 months from the beginning to the end. Most of the riders got enough footage for good parts at the last moment. But Vlad had enough for at least two equally strong parts. During filming he went to Belorussia, Greece, Spain and The United Arab Emirates. On each trip Vlad was M.V.P. killing one spot after another. I promise, you will be impressed by his part, so try to get paws on this video. His part is the last one, so if you don’t understand Russian titles just wait until the end.
Recently Vlad has made a career decision that I really respect. Right now he skates for a Russian board company called Union, which is run by his friends. He was offered a place in the European team of a famous American board company, but he turned the offer down. He said that he doesn’t want to change his board sponsor only because he can be on the European team. I am pretty sure that his comrades from Union would understand, if he changed Union for a well know brand, but the fact that Vlad preferred to help his friends with promotion of their newborn company shows him have a big heart.
Right now Vlad is absolutely happy with what he is doing. He is content that he decided to move to Moscow and continue to skate. He’s got good Russian sponsors; he regularly goes on skate trips, earns some money and does this doing what he likes the most. Had he staid in Yekaterinburg, it’s not very likely that he’d had done better. Most of his friends who he started to skate with got sucked into routine jobs or studying or, as it often happens to skaters, into partying. Vlad knows that he has potential and enough skill to succeed outside Russia. He just doesn’t want to rush things. He is still a teenager and has plenty of time. I personally believe that we will run into his name in foreign skate mags much more than this once. New season is coming to Russia soon, winter and snow will be replaced by spring and sun. Right now Vlad is in the best condition he has ever been in. He is ready for big deals. Looks like his sister will never allow him to stay her apartment.
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Vlad is 18 years old and he rides for Union Skateboards, Adio shoes, Quiksilver clothing and Tensor trucks