After witnessing the madness of Cheese rolling in Copper’s Hill Gloucestershire, we set off to Gatwick Airport to fly on over to Montpellier in the south of France. For what can only be described as the largest action sports event in the world, this was a festival I had been wanting to attend for a long time. FISE puts on a whole world series of events; kicking off in Hiroshima, Japan in April, followed by Montpellier, France, the home of FISE and the original granddaddy event of the series; and finishing off the tour with the third stop in Chengdu, China.
One of the massive draws is that FISE Montpellier is a free event. That’s right! There is no need to book tickets way in advance. The whole of Montpellier, every action sports nut in France, travelling competitors and anyone else with a sense of a good time would be heading to Montpellier over the Ascension Day Weekend.
We arrived in Montpellier the day before the start of the event. It was my first time over in the city and I was expecting something completely different. You are suddenly hit by a blend of the old world with a dash of a modern art scene, right on the Mediterranean and surrounded by vineyards. This was not going to be a bad place to spend the week!
FISE takes place right on the river at Rives Du Lez only a 100-metre walk from the Rives Du Lez Tram stop and about a 20 walk from the centre of the city.
I had a feeling that there was going to be a bit going on at FISE but completely underestimated how much rad stuff they would have at the venue. What can only be described as the Disneyland of Action sports events, FISE Montpellier was next level! As soon as you get to Rives Du Lez, you can hear the commentators and fans going wild. The first day, I didn’t know where to begin; I was like a kid in a candy store.
What would appear to be the main attraction is the mega BMX Freestyle Park right by the Rives Du Lez tram entrance. The guys at FISE have 20 years of experience putting this annual event together and this year didn’t disappoint. The Freestyle Park is sick and getting to witness some of the best BMX riders in the world tackle it was all time.
You’d think that having this freestyle park set up was enough but oh no; if you walk further down the river to the south you are greeted by the Street Park; where they have both Skateboarding Street and BMX Street.
Next up is the BMX Flatland area where they had the UCI BMX Flatland World Cup. Some insane skills and balance were showcased from these guys and the crowd was going mental up on the hill overlooking the whole comp.
Carrying along the river past the Flatland and break dancing area was the Scooter and Roller Freestyle Park; another rad purpose-built park for the scooter and rolling blading enthusiasts out there.
Going in the opposite direction, there was this awesome little mini ramp right next to the mega BMX Freestyle Park and in the heart of the vendor’s village; with loads of skate and clothing popup stores offering deals. There was always someone turning up on the mini ramp for the whole 5 days of the event.
Next to the mini ramp and beside the river was the FIS Parkour World Cup course. I was a bit sceptical about this aspect of the event but after seeing the guys and girls flipping over this thing at mack ten, I was convinced otherwise.
Imagine taking something which is normally reserved to lakes and the sea and whacking it into the middle of the city; that’s what you have at Rives Du Lez. They went and built an epic cable park line right in the middle of the event venue. It was super sick to see all the amateurs and pro riders hitting the kickers and fun box along the river. This was definitely one of the highlights of the event for sure.
Two joining halfpipes created the epic Spine Ramp off the main venue right outside the Marriot hotel. With banging tunes coming out of the Radar concert stage. Some of the best French rap and hip-hop artists hit the stage with BMX, skate, scooter and inline riders going off on the Spine Ramp, much to the spectator’s delight.
BMX dirt returned to Fise at a different location on a 12-hectare site in Perols. The venue was easy to get to on the tram line and was well worth the visit to see some of the world’s best dirt BMX riders sending it.
There are a number of direct flights from Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam and from London; where we jumped on for only an hour and 45 minutes. The Airport is then only a 15-minute drive into the town. You can also take a direct airport shuttle, which departs every hour and costs 1.60 euros.
The city is located only 2 hours west of Marseille and 3.5 hours from Barcelona and Nice. Montpellier offers ample parking options with combined public transport services. There are a number of indoor and outdoor parking lots, with direct access to tramway lines 1, 2 and 4, as well as a range of local buses.
The main train station Montpellier-Saint Roch TGV, located right in the city centre. There are direct trains to Montpellier from Paris, Barcelona and Brussels.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Rives Du Lez is by the city tram, which runs every couple of minutes. Fares are only 1.60 euros for a one-way ticket but try and bring exact change as the ticket machines do not give you any. Avoid taxis if you can. We took one from the airport on arrival and set us back around 40 euros for a 15-minute ride, which I thought was pretty high; even coming directly from London! You can also jump in an Uber, as there were plenty around zipping people back and forth to the entrance of the venue.
Walking around the city discovering the old town and street art scene was cool. I jumped on a tour and headed up the Porte du Peyrou one morning before the start of the comp. The Porte du Peyrou is Montpellier’s version of the iconic Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the city’s most famous landmark. The Arc is also the entrance to the Royal Palace of the Peyrou and offers incredible views over the whole of Montpellier from the top. If you are in the area on a Sunday, you can also find a local flea market in the Place du Peyrou.
Montpellier also has a wide selection of wine bars, restaurants, cafes and more; located throughout the old quarters and squares around town. For a quick snack, we recommend Des Rêves et du Pain; known to be one of the best bakeries in all of France! For fine dining, check out Le Petit Jardin, which features a stunning courtyard garden, or Le Pastis. Both restaurants offer a simple menu consisting of seafood and chef specials. To top it off, pair your meal (or go it alone) with a glass of the local Languedocienne wine, which can be found almost everywhere throughout Montpellier’s main square.
One the last day of the FISE I went for a run along the river and stumbled across Jardin du Lez, a wicked little mini ramp and pump track on the river with a beer garden and heaps of fast food trucks flogging delicious street food. This is such a sick little spot to soak up the afternoon sun. You can even play a bit of Pétanque if you want to hang with the locals.
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