The Scene: Rotterdam with Nassim Guammaz, Tim Zom and more.

From Kingpin Issue 125 - May 2014

De Maasstad, Roffa or 010, whatever you want to call Rotterdam, it’s hands down the best city for skateboarding in The Netherlands. And even though I have been living here for close to a decade and a half, I’m not biased at all. I used to live in Rotterdam’s rival city Amsterdam before I moved here, and honestly, I still really love that city and it’s lovely old city centre.  But, it’s not as good as Rotterdam when it comes to our fine art of destroying public and private property on our useless wooden toys. 

The reason why Rotterdam is very skateable compared to many other cobblestone filled cities in the rest of our little country, is not a very pleasant one. This city got very heavily hit in World War II, and cruising around you will find many monuments commemorating those who fell during the heavy bombardments. Some are actually skateable, but not every ‘Rotterdammer’ would be pleased to see that. I will not get deeper into this subject, as we are not trying to outdo Wikipedia, so let’s move on, which is exactly what the people of Rotterdam did. Rolled up their sleeves and rebuilt their city. And that’s what pretty much is going on to this day, with new skyscrapers rising out of the ground every month, building the ‘Manhattan on the maas”. It really does have one of the best skylines.

So everything is relatively new here in Rotterdam, which makes it perfect for us skateboarders. The only downside would be that The Netherlands is pretty much flat, so not too many stairs and or rails. And if downhilling is your thing, you better buy a ticket to SF. Our biggest downhill would be the Erasmus bridge, and even though it’s fun, it’s not that high. It is one of the best-known landmarks of this city and surrounding this bridge, on both sides of the river Maas, you will find some quite good spots to skate. Actually, most of the spots in Rotterdam are very easy to get to, as a lot of them are located in the bridge and the city centre.

Also, in the middle of the city in between the two roads of the Westblaak, you will find a huge metal skatepark, which is currently the subject in a bunch of city council meetings to get it replaced by something decent. The park is pretty outdated as well and was very poorly built to begin with. Unfortunately the city wants a skatepark for every user possible, beginner to pro, but also for the very few non skateboarders that ‘frequent’ the park, scooters, rollerbladers, bmx’ers and whatever extreme sport is invented this week.

It’s like building one field for all the team sports like basketball, football, hockey etc., existing, where they all can play at the same time. Everyone knows this is impossible. Yet for all the so-called action sports, it’s a very ‘normal’ thing to do and I’m sure it’s not a problem specifically for Rotterdam.

Aside from all these problems, it would still be your best bet to find all the locals as they usually meet at this skatepark. It’s central, close to the skateshops Skatestore and Sevenply, and of course the coffeeshop. On a random day you would easily run into the likes of Nassim Guammaz, Ricardo Paterno or Tim Zom, as they pretty much grew up skating there. Also the rest of the Bombaklats crew is hanging out there quite often, usually followed by a street session anywhere in the city.

On the south side of Rotterdam, close to convention centre the Ahoy, you will find what could easily be one of the biggest skate plazas in Europe, called Zuiderpark. This place is huge, and very entertaining. But, unfortunately it could have been a lot better. A lot of the ledges don’t really grind that well, and aluminium handrails, well I’ve said enough, aluminium.

Although it’s in the system of the average Dutch guy to complain, this time they’re right, as we usually are anyway. It’s the small things that the builders change, unnoticeable to the laity, but very annoying for the users of the park. Little gutters in front of the banks (for the rain) rough asphalt (god knows why), curbs that chip (not Lay’s) and the aforementioned aluminium rails. But, still a great open space to skate, and never too busy (see reasons above). It’s a nice public park, with lots of grass, so you’ll be able to dump your girlfriend there with a blanket thinking she’s gonna have a picnic and have a skate yourself.

If one would be hungry, there’s stuff available from all over the world, after all it’s the biggest port in Europe and till 2004 even the biggest port in the world. Unfortunately there’s not much to skate in and around the port, so let’s leave it right there. It’s just a big port, no biggie, just a bunch of ships going in and out. But not far from skatepark Westblaak you will find the Witte de With straat, where you can find all you want food wise, some hostels and or hotels, coffeeshops, and as a bonus, you’re right in the centre where the magic happens.

Get some Mediterranean food at Bazar, not expensive at all and great value for your money, really big portions and on top of that the kitchen is open till 23:30, sometimes even later. If you fancy you can stay in one of their crazy decorated hotel rooms as well. Many a pro has stayed there the past decades, and ask Haslam how he loved it that the toilet had no door so he could see Willow shit while he was chilling on the bed. Where can you find entertainment like that these days? I’m sure there’s an instagram of it floating around somewhere.

If your budget is a little smaller you can get a bed in the famous Cube houses StayOkay hostel, one of Youness’ favourites, if he’s not staying on my couch that is. It’s definitely an experience to stay in one of these weird houses; it’s basically the cube of a normal house tilted 45 degrees rested upon a hexagon shaped pillar, for only 35 euros a night.

If one would be thirsty, not far from all the places mentioned above there’s a bar called Tiki’s. It’s the local hangout of most skateboarders here in the city but definitely not a skate bar. It’s more like a rock n roll garage sixties Hawaiian bar, if that’s even a thing.

Drinks are reasonably priced, and you can try to beat Zom’s high score (pun intended) on the pinball machine in the back. And for the munchies there’s the Tiki burger, both for carnivores and vegetarians. It closes fairly early at 02:00 so at that point it would be wise to follow one of the locals or the girl you’re trying to hook up with.

Please make sure that by this time it would be fair to break up with that girl on the blanket at the Zuiderpark skatepark, otherwise it would be cheating, and that’s not nice is it? Most likely you would end up around the corner in the Zwarte Schaep (black sheep) or a bit further in Rotown and/or Bar 3. If, the next morning you wake up in the park with your pants on your knees, wallet gone and a bit of a sore ass, you might have chosen the wrong (or right, whatever floats your boat) location or people to follow for the after party. But it’s nothing that a little session on the Heemraadsingel bowl couldn’t solve.

The Heemraadsingel bowl is the only concrete bowl in Rotterdam and quite frankly, it’s very fun indeed. I personally inspected the concrete bottom and transitions from a little to up close thanks to little stones that surround the bowl – another fine example of city planning.

All these safety regulations what you can’t and cannot do (yes, double negative) for various insane safety reasons and they decide to have the surroundings filled with gravel. Great entertainment for the local kids as they can spend hours to throw those in the bowl, but as we skateboarders have learned the hard way very early in our skateboarding lives, very very deadly if you hit one full speed and you turn into a human drill aiming for a shortcut to Australia. Bring a broom. Ah and watch the kids, they’re addicted to it and definitely won’t stop.

Most of these spots are very new, even for Rotterdam, but the city always had a great scene starting as early as the seventies. Now I know very little of this era, so I’ll jump straight to the late eighties. When I was still a little brat, I’ve heard about these Rollerskate evenings that were held in the Energiehal, where you could also skate, as in skateboard. I never had the chance to attend one, I grew up in the north of the Netherlands in a small town, and Rotterdam had kind of a reputation of being harsh big city. So I can’t really tell much about that either apart from a few ‘I used to skate’ types you’ll occasionally meet in the streets, and perhaps a friend or two. So let’s hop to the nineties. Did you see how I managed to skip two whole decades? Rob Dyrdek and his time machine got nothing on me.

In the early nineties one of the most notorious skate shops opened up, called Left. At one point they had the best Dutch team ever, with the likes of Piet Parra Janssen, Mischa Zwaan and a bunch of other ripper kids. They had a real ‘do not give a fuck’ reputation, intimidating, but also very funny at the same time, it might have been their accent, or just the plain fact that they were very loud. You could hear them coming fro miles away wherever they went, but they did put their money where their mouths were, they would always rip it up. On and off the board you might say. The Left video for instance, was a statement on its own and could have easily been an inspiration to the Jackass boys, with names as In De Rats En Geen Geld (In a stew and no money) and Eigen Huis In Puin (Your Home In Ruins). Left even had a commercial in an issue of 411, and luckily Google translate had yet to be invented. A bunch of short clips of random mayhem and the occasional skateboard trick to the tunes of the song “Kotsen in een kut is het mooiste wat er is”, sung and composed by a famous Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen.

It would have definitely been frowned upon; actually it would have caused a lot of ruckus to the concerned mothers of America and might have even hit Fox News. No I won’t translate it for you here either, Google it, and while you’re at it, Google the Left videos as well, great entertainment for a rainy afternoon. Left was the shit, and with the help of owner Miesj Hoffstaetter, many things skateboard related happened here in the city. The outdoor skatepark Westblaak, the indoor skatepark, demos, a brand called Colorblind and even Fluff magazine, it all started because of Left. It was a great hangout and many kids that you might know today were sponsored by Left at one point and rode for one or more brands from their distribution; Nassim, Leander Geelhoed, Louisa Menke, Zom, Paterno to name a few.

They were hanging in the shop on a daily basis ever since they’d stepped foot on a skateboard. Left really ruled the national skateboard scene.  Until Miesj decided to move to the States so he sold the company. The new owner had no idea what he was doing, nor did anybody else as they were simply not Miesj, and a few bad business decisions later, the shop is no more. The end of an era, and still greatly missed to this day.

From the ruins of Left, and in typical Rotterdam ‘if its destroyed lets rebuild’ mentality, a whole new crew started to rise, the Bombaklats kids. A group of young and talented skateboarders that are really from all over the place, but mostly reside in Rotterdam as both filmers, Sami El Hassani and Jan Maarten Sneep, live here. They’re out everyday causing mayhem on the streets, as you can see in the Bombaklats video, all the various Tim Zom clips that you can find floating around on the interwebs and this scene edit here for Kingpin.

All in all Rotterdam is a very good place to travel for skateboarders. Ok, you might be better off buying a ticket to Barcelona, as in Spain the living is cheaper, the weather is better and the spots are, as everyone knows, close to perfect. But if you’re travelling around, and most likely visit Amsterdam, Rotterdam is only an hour south by train and a great place to hit up. That is if you make it out of Amsterdam. Ah one more thing, if you happen to come especially for any kind of skateboard demo, you might wanna think again. The Netherlands is a great place for all kinds of entertainment, but somehow also an easy distraction for many a foreigner, let’s keep it at that. But we’re always, contrary to what you might have heard, very hospitable and willing to take around any crew of skaters – if you can hang of course.

So as we are approaching the end of the story, I’d like to point out that it’s great that I still have your attention, as I do get paid by the word over here. And I just had a baby. And babies love to eat and shit, and neither of them is very cheap. So I want to thank you all for your time, and we hope to welcome you here in the city of Rotterdam – the best city for skateboarding in The Netherlands. I know I’ve said that already but you can’t blame me for squeezing out a couple of more euros.

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