Existing amongst the deafening buzz of Russia’s biggest city is a skate scene that epitomises freedom and redefines Russian youth culture. The skateboarders of post-soviet Moscow are reimagining the streets and reclaiming the city.
Moscow offers a culture shock so overpowering it’s almost hard to absorb completely. Its rich culture remains relatively undiluted by the western world, making it the perfect destination for the curious traveller. Add in some of the most accommodating and hospitable local skaters you’ll ever meet, and an excess of marble and concrete, and you also have the perfect destination for a skate trip.
The western skate world made inroads into Russia in the late 80’s when two of Thrasher’s journalists visited with a couple of skateboards. In the February 1989 issue of Thrasher—featuring a Russian skater and the words “Skaters of the World Unite” on the cover—letters from skaters of the USSR tell of a struggling but dedicated skate scene.
In a country where it rains and snows for at least 6 months of the year, skateboarding is still a struggling industry, kept alive by an undying passion and sheer determination. With the only indoor park closing in 2012 it’s a seasonal sport for many of the locals. It goes without saying that if you’re planning a skate trip here, you need to come in summer.
“Considering Moscow’s presumed utilitarian disposition, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the laidback attitude of local authorities when it comes to skateboarding.”
In Moscow skate stoppers are almost non-existent and the security guards and police are more likely to keep walking or casually watch on rather than hand you over to the KGB.
Although the local government has recently begun investing in some decent skate parks, you can’t look past the endless spots the streets have to offer. If there’s one thing we can thank Stalin for it’s his exorbitant use of concrete and marble in the construction of the brutalist architecture, wide streets, and countless plazas, which make up this skateboarder’s heaven.
If you have just one day to skate in Moscow, here’s how to make the most of it, covering some of the best street spots, places to eat and a few sights to look out for along the way.
There’s no specific spot where the local skaters eat breakfast, but when visiting Moscow you should definitely check out Brother’s Karavaev. They serve homemade breakfasts and lunches and have a huge selection of desserts. The omelette is good value for money and is a perfect pre skate breakfast.
This fun little spot makes for a good warm up skate and is a nice introduction to Moscow’s oversized building’s and soviet statues. You can’t miss the semi circular 1,700 room hotel when you come out of the metro station. Head towards the entrance and you’ll find a statue surrounded by small ledges, stairs and flat ground. There’s even a waxed-up concrete block that makes this hotel courtyard start to resemble a DIY spot.
Though you may be asked not to skate the nicely angled marble base of the statue, security will happily watch on (or walk off) while you dodge the odd hotel guest and hit the ledges.
Just over the road is VDNKh, Moscow’s exhibition and trade centre. On your way there, stop by the Conquerors of Space monument. You can’t skate it anymore, with the 24/7 security guard standing by, but the banks at the bottom once made for a very photogenic skate spot.
It’s worth checking out, even just to appreciate some classic Russian propaganda art on a typically big scale. Rodney Mullen, Marc Johnson and Kenny Reed hit this spot while filming Rockets to Russia in 2001.
At VDNKh walk through the main entrance and make your way down the main street. Near the fountain you’ll find some food outlets where you can stop for lunch. For something typically Russian, try one of the savoury crepes from the local chain Tepemok.
Once you’ve passed the spaceship standing in the main square (you’ll get used to this sort of thing… it’s Russia) keep going beyond the next building where you can hunt out a bunch of fun spots. At the front of the building with the big black dome roof you’ll find perfect ledges of varying heights.
It’s unclear what this spot was built for, but if it wasn’t intentionally built for skateboarding then it sure is a great coincidence for skateboarders sake.
To get to the next stop you’ll need to take the metro, which is an experience in itself. Moscow’s metro stations are considered to be the cities best free museums. For a taste of Moscow’s best metro stations jump off the train at Novoslobodskaya and Belorusskaya for a quick look before continuing your journey.
The train ride itself is an experience too — when you start speaking English with your fellow travellers watch as the local’s eyes shift in your direction with looks of bewilderment. Your final stop is Park Pobedy, the deepest metro station in Moscow. The escalator to the top will take you a whole 3 minutes. When you resurface, make your way uphill to the top of Victory Park.
This place was Moscow’s most popular skate spot during the noughties and is considered to be Russia’s version of Philadelphia’s skate mecca, Love Park.
Having been occupied by skateboarders since it’s opening in 1995 the stone pavers at this spot have seen better days, but once you learn to navigate the cracks and bumps you can still hit the smooth ledges and stair sets. No matter the wear and tear, Victory Park has so much significance in Moscow’s skate history that you simply can’t skip it.
If you’ve got a separate tourist itinerary, chances are Gorky Park is on there too. Amongst the gardens, merry-go-round, gallery and cafes you’ll find two skateparks. The Vans park is made of wood and rebuilt each summer while the Puma ‘Social Club’ offers concrete terrain with a DIY feel.
If you head north-east along the river from Gorky Park you’ll discover a few street spots including the giant wooden slide used as a snow slope in winter but perfect for wallrides during summer.
Since Victory Park’s popularity with skateboarders faded, Kaluzhskaya Square in the city centre has become Moscow’s new ‘home spot’. On any given afternoon you can have a fun session here with the locals. There’s a good chance they won’t speak English but since when did skateboarders need spoken language to communicate anyways?
There’s nothing but good vibes here and it’s easy to spend hours skating the marble manual pad and ledges under the watchful eye of the Lenin statue.There’s also plenty of flat ground and a few less crowded ledges leading in from the corners of the square.
Outside Mayakovskaya Metro Station you’ll find another statue looking down on a set of waxed up ledges. A few meters away there’s a couple of small set of stairs and a row of super low flat rails making this area perfect for throwing together lines.
A few pushes up the road from Mayakovsky is Butterboard, owned by a local skater and a local surfer. This burger joint opened in June 2015 and quickly became the go-to place for hungry skateboarders. It appears like a hole-in-wall place from the front but when you walk down the corridor it opens up (slightly) into a cosy skate-sticker-adorned bar.
Pull up one of the few seats, stand at the bar and watch the chef flipping burgers in the kitchen or head upstairs for more room to chill. Their special ingredient on the cheeseburger, if you choose to include it, is a slice of orange. It might seem strange but it is so good you’ll wonder why you never thought to try it before.
Known simply as ‘Slappy Spot’, the final stop of the day is perfect for a post-burger-skate. On the corner a few blocks up from Butterboard you’ll find perfectly angled marble curbs promising effortless grinds no matter the severity of your food coma.Last updated on Aug 14, 2018
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