You have, in the first instance, to commend brothers Risto and Mario Kalmre for their tenacity. Putting on a non-specialist event, in a modern arena, in a small Baltic state in the dead of winter has several horses pulling against it, and yet – and yet.
The Simple Session, put simply, is a weekend-long BMX and skate contest in Tallinn, Estonia, usually in early February. Two weeks ago was their 17th edition, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to spend the weekend trying to get through as much of the action and nightlife as the schedule provided.
Rather than have a full day of either discipline, the organisers shrewdly mix the sessions so ticket holders – most of whom are young Estonians, but by no means all – get the best of both worlds. The Saku Suurhall in which the event is hosted would put most action sports venues to shame: the burgers are pretty good, the beer is cheap and plentiful, there are little retail kiosks and small marquees across the levels offering you the chance to go and have a mooch about if you get dead bum syndrome.
The weather, make no mistake, was very cold, but it doesn’t stop the ferries from Helsinki docking daily and the Old Town is of course absolutely enchanting in snowfall or not.
Tallinn is not particularly cheap to eat out in so let me give you a surefire tip, particularly in cold weather. Near the Old Town, directly across from the concert hall in a mall called Solaris (don’t be put off, malls form a huge part of leisure activities in cold climes) is a vast Latvian self-service eatery called Lido. The food is excellent, diverse, well priced and you pour your own beer. Get a seat by the corner window and watch Tallinn street life unfold beneath you.
In truth, the BMX event at Simple Session is a bigger deal than the skate one: BMX has contracted to an extent where the entire global scene comes together for many events, in a way which skateboarding only manages to for Copenhagen Pro these days. That said, the skate contest always brings unexpected faces out of the woodwork alongside a heavy contingent of Russians and the better dudes from the surrounding Baltic states as well who come as much for the parties as anything else.
The parties surrounding the Simple Session may also prove part of the draw for you: remarkably, they seem to be thrown in some of the plushest nightclubs which the Old Town has to offer, all velvet ropes and expensive drapes. Be warned, however, people here go out late (meaning early) so pace yourself on that pleasant domestic Saku beer if you want to stay on your feet long enough to witness some of that fabulousness.
Taken in the round, Simple Session is a slightly different proposition than your average contest weekend either for BMX or skateboarding. I have to say I rather liked it. The course may favour skatepark training, but I don’t want to watch half-speed ledge lines all day anyway. Good, unpretentious fun, a city absolutely worth visiting, plenty of culture if you like that sort of thing, eating and drinking from supermarkets is easy and prices are about average for Europe to do so.
For more information on the event, highlights and news head to Simple Session.
Feature image: Three times Simple Session champion Garrett Reynolds with an oppo whip into the Estonian flag set-up. Photo credit- Tim Korbmacher
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