Vienna is wonderful: there is the old town with its café houses, monuments, grand architecture and Vienna’s “Prater” with its endless green, lush woods and the famous big wheel. Plus, the perfectly developed transport system, which makes using the car completely redundant. Well, however, there is one slight problem: Vienna’s wickedness!
As a skateboarder you tend to get around well by nature. On our trips to foreign countries, cities or villages we experience the respective mentalities in extreme. Thus, for one visiting Vienna, there is a very distinct mentality to discover: Grumpiness! And who would have thought, there is one way to amplify the Viennese’s grump: a skateboard!
It seems skateboarders’ typical spirit of freedom, ease or carefreeness is something the average citizen can go ballistic about. Even if you don’t actively skate, holding a plank in hand can make people lose it. Quick example: the other some lady verbally abused me by saying: “fucking skater” due to my open shoelaces! When I confronted her and asked what all the fuss was about, she screamed: “My teeth are killing me, I could smack the shit out of anyone I see right now!” In a strange way these are the scenes that we skaters of Vienna love so much! But the people of Vienna aside, let’s get to the main attraction here: skateboarding in Vienna.
One special thing about skating in Vienna is the fact you can easily push from spot to spot. The city is quite compact and the floor is pretty okay. Hitting up several spots per day is not a problem. However, you do have to keep one thing in mind: this is Vienna, not Barcelona! Most of the spots will have to be recognised as spots first! Some are rough or classic busts. While arguing with security guards never hurts, it usually doesn’t get you to skate the desired spot either. The same goes for the cops; usually they are pretty relaxed, but they are unfazed by clever remarks or debates. You’re best off to pretend to obey; but that’s just a side note.
There are however other spots like the “Donauinsel”, the island in the river, where you can skate hassle-free all day long. Donauinsel also is the perfect cue for a discussion about Vienna’s skate scene’s wild Nineties.
Vienna skateboarding in the Nineties
Let’s turn the clock back about two decades real quick. Right to the early nineties, when pants were phat and the frontside flips flipped through the legs. Back then, the Vienna scene was split in half: you either were in the “Prater crew” or the “Donauinsel crew”.
The Prater Crew
Located right in the middle of Vienna’s Prater (famous park) you will find an idyllic skatepark – the “Praterbahn” as locals would call it. And even though today the thing is a shadow if its former self, back in the day it used to be a sensation since there was nothing else like it. While the typical “Prater local” was hard to categorise in age, he was still very easy to distinguish: “un-cool” outfit and Shoegoo plastered shoes. But even more characteristic was the enamoured look on his face when national champ Roman Hackl was flying through the park. Gazing at Hackl in awe equals Prater local! The same but different was how the other half of the nineties Vienna scenesters could be described.
The Donauinsel Crew
To this day “Donauinsel” is our main spot. However, due to the new parks popping up, it’s pretty empty a lot of the time (just like Prater park btw). Back then Donauinsel was at its peak! People skated, filmed and chilled all over the isle, and when everyone was over skating for the moment, people used to play football. They even had D.I.C. skateboards (Donauinsel Crew) then! Skaters were swarming the place like ants. You could easily distinguish the core locals: the latest Koston éS shoe model, Tom Penny’s Flip board and baggy cargos – trademarks of the DIC! And much like the Prater crew, they had one particular skater they all cherished: their faces lit up when “Austrian street hero” Andi Luger set foot on the scene.
Altogether, the Viennese skater back then was more the rebellious and provocative type, much meaner than today’s plank pilots. As a newbie to the scene you could not count on being welcomed with open arms – quite the contrary, you would get put to the test first; much like in one of the many American high school movies. For example, it was common practice on the isle to throw unbidden visitors into the Donau River with bags and baggage; often filmed and made fun of for months after. At Praterbahn, it was mostly the beginner’s slams that were deliciously made fun of. This might sound unappealing, but that’s how it was. You had to earn respect first. Today Vienna’s skaters are a friendlier bunch; almost presentable one could say.
Vienna’s skate scene today
Today’s scene is not only friendlier, it is also highly motivated. Old or young, stupid or wicked – all do their part to push the scene. Skate videos live and direct from our lovely little capital drop regularly. At the corresponding pompous premieres all the scenes gather like mafia and talk the latest gossip. The city still has a couple of real skate shops, run by skaters not some online shop running suits. If you go there and ask for spots, they even know what you’re talking about…
For the winter there is a little indoor park that Vienna veteran, Roman Hackl set up. While most locals tend to complain about its lack of space and off-centre location, it is still better than nothing – especially after many years without any shelter whatsoever. And who would have thought, the much-loved DIY movement did not pass us without a trace! We actually do have a few projects that should be a mandatory visit for any tranny lover. Yeah, as of late we even have a skater-designed plaza right in the heart of the city. The installed floodlight even grants night sessions or a perfect end to your skate-day.
Now the alert reader might ask: “So many training facilities… but why haven’t I heard of a single one of these Vienna guys?! And they even claim to be extra-productive!” Well… thing is: The Viennese like to keep it in Vienna. Of course we do the occasional trip abroad, but move to a different city? That’s not what we’re about! Thus, the scene is rooted very deeply – everyone knows each other, including all the skeletons in their closets. That’s why we are almost invisible to the world out there. And speaking of visibility: what’s up with skate mags from Vienna?
Vienna and its mags
To begin with: there are two Austrian websites (passionateskateboarding.com and fridoentertainment.com) that bombard us with clips – but not one single magazine! Not here, not in Linz, Salzburg, not anywhere in Austria! Well, to be completely honest, there are two little projects: one run by Clemens Nechanski, named Mallgrab and another nameless mag run by Philipp Schuster and Sebi Binder. Yet, those two drop very sporadically and cannot really be compared to classic skate mags.
That’s not how it used to be, we used to have a whole bunch of mags before. It started with Bob’s Magazine a decade ago, then Avenue, Urban, Yeyo, Last Try and then on to Trottoir, which only stopped about a year ago. The reason being was always the same: high efforts, low earnings. Of course, everyone from the outside will be quick to say: ‘there are so many mags, do we really need another one for Austria?’ And it’s true, even for German standards it might be a bit boring. But for the local scene it is of interest and it is of high value to have a portal to share. It is the glue to the scene; it keeps up the motivation! So, be on the look out for the next one to step up, sacrifice their selves and make an Austrian skate mag.
Vienna – the nightlife
For some it is a widespread disease, for others Austrian warmth and friendliness, however, one thing is clear: us Viennese love our wine and beer. It is part of our culture! On top of that, I assume, most skaters won’t pass on a good occasion to indulge in the nightlife. Now, but where does the average Vienna local go to get “fucked up tonight”? During the summer we usually hang out outdoors and end up at random bars or the odd club – wherever really. There are three big outdoor locations that we use as meeting points:
The museum’s district – also referred to as MQ or Quartier – is the favourite hangout to all hipsters, vintage fans, fixie freaks and wannabe artists – here you’re going to see them all mingle. A hipster chills best surrounded by museums, bars and galleries. But us skaters also tend to get lost there. One of the Quartier’s big disadvantages is the security – not known as the skater’s best friends! So, if you like to go a bit savage, you might face a kick out. Well, not that we’re not used to it…
The “Charly”, as us skaters call it, is another traditional meeting point. In front of beautiful Karlskirche church and around the magnificent fountain is where everyone meets day or night. There you will mainly meet architecture students and alternative types. Not too long ago the place used to be highly frequented by the junkie scene. Yet, those guys were “moved” during the Karlsplatz’s “cleaning”. Funny thing was, when you talked to those guys, most of them would state they “used to skate”, and would go one to try and prove it by performing ollies, on board handstands or whatever tricks – resulting in many slams, few surprises and a lot of fun and interesting change from the everyday routine.
Heldenplatz – ironically located in front of the police monument – is another favoured meeting location. Advantage here: you can dork around a bit; decent flatground and a “wheelie base” (Viennese for manual pad) is waiting for the eager boarder.
Disadvantage: hacky sackers, slack liners and other hippies that might get intrusive in wanting to chat. You could be in for the old “Oh, I skate, too! I jet through the city on my longboard, man!”
Winter alternatives, however, are scarce. There is no classic skate bar with decent music and cheep drinks. We usually meet for birthdays, video premieres, shows, but this can often be rather sporadic. Out of desperation we might end up at Pratersauna, Loft or Grelle Forelle, usually with moderate success – if you happen to get pass the doormen that is.
In closing I would like to state that Vienna is definitely worth a visit. It might stoke out some, while others might never want to return. Discovering which group you belong to is up for anyone to find out. So pack just the bare essentials, come over and see for yourself!