The Scene: Warsaw - Kingpin Magazine

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The Scene: Warsaw

Warsaw is a real mix: all the ingredients are mixed together to create a unique combination of a post-eastern feeling (even if the “Eastern era” ended more than 20 years ago) and a big, modern European city. Skateboarding is doing pretty well here and like everywhere else experiences its ups, downs, generation changes and fashions.

Warsaw as the capital city of Poland has always been closer to the skateboard world. Skateboarding arrived in Warsaw in the eighties. The first guys were skating Rollet freestyle boards and wearing gloves with cut off fingers. That’s when the first SK8 FRONT graffiti showed up on Warsaw walls. In the nineties the local scene became quite large and cheerful (some of them are still very active – cheers Dr. at SK8Front!). And today, in the era of social media the next generation of Warsaw skaters continues to be fascinated by the piece of wood on four wheels.

Young people come here from all over the country to study, to work, and to skate – they say that Warsaw offers a lot of possibilities. And sometimes they stay much longer than they were originally planning. Many of the Polish skateboarders have their own “Warsaw episode”. One of those who has recently joined the ranks of the capital crew is Wojtek Szczot (the nollie tre guy), who had previously studied at the Maritime University at Gdynia and even sailed on ships: “Yeah, I had to do some obligatory rounds on the sea – last one was  three months on the Northern Sea, quite an intensive experience, believe me. Now I’m done and Warsaw is my place to be. My girlfriend is living here, I have a good job at the restaurant and I have good people to skate with. Plus the spots – Warsaw is hard, but it makes it doubly fun to skate the hard spots.”

The Warsaw natives call the newcomers “the jars” – after the jars in which they bring food in from their families after the long weekend – but in the end it only depends of what kind of human being you are to be accepted into the Warsaw family.

The local skateboarding scene in Warsaw is a big mix. We have: the chilled out Coachriders crew, the 3station gang, active and animating the local scene, the Grey Area crew, alternative, creative and conservative, the sarcastic Xpensive Shit crew and a few others. Warsaw skateboarders like to make these little “gangs” to create their own world.

“I like them all. They show a different perspective of skateboarding, a variety of styles and characters. That’s why I love skateboarding – it can be as personal as you want it to be,” says Kuba Perzyna, who has been filming the Warsaw scene for almost 20 years. Right now he’s working on  “Ulice Warszawy 2” (Streets of Warsaw 2) the sequel to his 1996 classic skate video. The premiere is expected to be sometime this spring.

There are many songs about Warsaw and there are a lot of people who are definitely crazy in love with the city (a lot of football fans.) Warsaw was totally ruined during WWII then rebuilt under communist urban planning and now mixed with neo-modern architecture. The city is alive and changing all the time. Every week you can find something new, but skaters have to be vigilant and respond quickly. The spots appear quickly and can disappear the next day. When there’s a monument, which looks like a perfect quarter pipe, you just have to hit it because tomorrow they will put some unskateable shit on it. Luckily Marcin Junior Pawuniak just ended his afternoon shift at infamous Warsaw Kamouflage skate shop and was down to check it out. The spot wasn’t so mellow but Junior likes the challenges and it was just a matter of time to get the flip fakie and nollie backside flip. The next day they shut down the spot with some wooden pattern attached to the monument. The construction sites of a big city are always a great opportunity to find something interesting – and that’s the way the Warsaw crew spends most of the time in the summer months: cruising around the centre of town searching for new spots.

One thing that Warsaw should be ashamed of is the amount of advertising (and its quality) on the streets – it’s a scandal. Unfortunately today the marketing budgets are ruling the city aesthetics. Warsaw looks like a giant banner and it’s at a really low level of creativity. The second thing we hate is security. Security guys are always securing with a lot of heart and they are often men of retirement age. And even if the discussion with them takes a humorous nature, they can effectively ruin any session. Another thing to curse in Warsaw are the cobblestones, squares, pavements and parked cars everywhere, but I think that now, after some time, we’ve gotten used to it.

The main Warsaw skate spot these days would be the Palace of Culture and Science (PKiN): a tall “soc-realistic style” building in the city centre built in 1956 as a gift from the “brotherly” Russian nation. With its pointed tip permanently inscribed in the panorama of Warsaw it has become one of the most famous city symbols. Warsaw skaters have been skating PKiN for more than 20 years and are still discovering new possibilities offered by this amazing building and its surroundings. It has ledges, gaps, drops, a pretty good surface and is located at the very centre of the city – a good place to start or end the day. The best way to explore the city and the surroundings of the PKiN would be to make an appointment with Tomek Ziolkowski. Born and raised in this area, he skates everywhere and everything. Tommy is one of those versatile skaters who doesn’t care about political correctness – he’s out hitting the streets hard and raw.

Recently Warsaw lost another central meeting point: DIY K.O.R.T.Y. – the spot built on the old concrete tennis court that maybe you’ve seen in Grey Area, the Polish skate video directed by the Warsaw OG Kuba Kaczmarczyk. Court spot is gone right know; it got destroyed by the bulldozers. Rest in Peace K.O.R.T.Y. and remember, do not believe politicians!

If you’re looking for other DIY sanctuaries in Warsaw you should visit the Powiśle district. Right next to the Warszawa Powiśle (famous hipster bar), under the Poniatowski Bridge, skaters have adapted an abandoned and never finished shopping mall construction site to build a narrow, fast and technical course. One of the central figures of this place is Michal Juras, who represents Warsaw for Polar skateboards. Michał is an experienced builder and not afraid of hard work. He’s also not afraid of hard skating and ripping the spot he builds at full throttle with technical finesse.

National Stadium is one of the very rare places we can call skate friendly, or maybe it would be better to call it “roller sports” friendly. Here you can find hot chicks on rollerskates, hipsters on longboards, joggers, etc. Skateboarders will also find some nice ledges, some stairs and a few other features for themselves. Anyways it’s always good to check out the Stadium because you’re not going to get kicked out and it’s good for people-watching too. National Stadium confirms its skate-friendly attitude during the wintertime: in the underground garage they’ve allowed a free skatepark. This has been amazing for Warsaw skateboarders as it’s always cold and dark for four months in the winter – nice one!

How’s living in Warsaw? The city is not easy to understand but when you do, you’ll love it. People and places make it right – politicians and traffic makes it wrong. When you’re driving a car the traffic can make you crazy and if you try riding a bike you can get killed by the traffic. The car drivers in Warsaw are very sensitive and nervous, but regular people are friendly in general. Except when you’re trying to skate some church stairs with a rail – then you can count on a furious religious fanatic grandma attack. Remember: grannies with fleece hats are not friendly.

For sure the good thing in Warsaw is food. A lot of small joints all over the city offer a great variety: from national Polish dishes at social bars to Vietnamese dumplings, Polish meat burgers or the healthiest food on the planet from Kik Fit bar. The nightlife in Warsaw is quite well developed. The summer evenings are the best in some of the city centre pubs. There’s one really famous hipster place: Zbawiciela square with the big rainbow sculpture. The rainbow is standing next to the church and it is believed that it stands for a LGBT symbol – that’s why it is repeatedly set on fire (about once every three months or so) by local nationalist right-wing militia.

There are also many other places you can go for a drink and meet some girls but the beach on the Vistula River, not far from the National Stadium with all-night parties was last summer’s place to be. And the Warsaw hot summer nights are unforgettable, or forgotten, depending on the amount of alcohol you can handle. And yes, it’s true; we can consume large amounts of vodka. After alcohol ingestion we are friendly, we dance, sing and drink even more. And of course when the vodka is coming into play anything is possible. To be brief: if you want to party in Warsaw (the local name for party is “melange”) for sure you will have a hell of a party. Just watch out for yourself. A warning for untrained tourists: Polish vodka hangovers last at least a day (sometimes up to three days) so you will lose a day of skating – don’t say you haven’t been warned!

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