Velefique International Freeride 2017

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or Zen and the Art of Skateboarding – Jed Chapman brings us his tale of skate at last year’s VIF17 …

“Having gotten to know Lew, Hermione and Frand (Skate to Escape) over the last three years I spent at university in the icy north-west, their love for the endless hairpins and baking heat of Velefique International Freeride in southern Spain was a frequent topic of conversation. I think it was actually during a particularly cold February skate trip, where we spent the night in a Lake District bothy, that their stories of warm mountain runs finally won me over. So this year I decided to join them as they headed back for their third year attending the event.

The Lurk

We decided to head out to Spain a few days before the event started to chill and explore the southern coast a little. So many skate trips I’ve done before have been limited to the airport and the event with little in between, so being able to soak up the country a bit more was a real highlight here. Andalusia is beautiful and far more mountainous than I was expecting. Lew had found us an Airbnb right on the beach with a small pool in the front yard and views out to sea which sounded too good to be true.

After a heinously early flight (3am beers and burgers at the airport though!) and Lew somehow managing to lose his helmet in between his house, the taxi and the airport, we arrived. Then we discovered the catch – we’d booked into THE most zen yoga retreat you could squeeze into a humble Spanish seaside villa. There were yoga sessions twice daily, strict guidelines on noise in the house and, to the dismay of the hardy northerners, no alcohol was allowed on the premises! Plus, the owners didn’t “do” coffee. Dangerous drug that. The trip soon gained the name Zenefique.

Photos: Alfie Marsh Photography

Joking aside, it turned out to be a really nice stay. The vegan breakfasts were freshly made smoothies served with local fruit, toast and vegetable paté made that morning. The owners were lovely and incredibly helpful and would sit with us most mornings at breakfast talking us through the food they had prepared and answering any questions we had about the area. We were way out of our depth on the yoga side of things so avoided the sessions there but, if you fancy finding yourself having a damn good stretch, then La Luna villa is the place for you.

We stayed there for three days and were soon joined by Longboard Scotland’s Alfie Marsh who flew over from Brussels, having been at Insul Freeride. In between beaches and cruising down the promenade, we went out exploring some nearby towns and found some fun little corners to session. The almost unbearable heat made for slippy pavement and insane amounts of sweat, so most sessions were shortlived and we opted for the beers on the beach instead.

UK Represent (Photo: Hermione Pearson)

Oli Parkinson and Blair arrived in the middle of the week and I jumped in a car with them as we all convoyed north into the mountains. After going the wrong way a couple of times and horns being blared at us for some questionably late turnings, we stopped off at a supermarket to stock up on whatever we could find to last us for the duration of the trip. (Side note – the food provided this year was actually awesome, usually pasta or legit Spanish paella served with a beer. If you don’t mind a bit of mystery meat which, to be honest, is a necessary feature of most skate trips, then you’ll be just fine).

After about an hours drive we arrived at the town and campsite area and realised that the rumours had been true – a long snake of fresh blacktop could be seen trailing up onto the mountain above Velefique. The news of fresh surface brought mixed reactions – Lew and Frand were stoked that there was the potential for even more speed out of the hill, whilst I was quietly mortified, expecting something similar to the UK’s sticky fresh blacktop that tries to buck you off at every given opportunity. (It turned out the resurfacing was only on certain corners and in the warm days to follow there was barely a noticeable difference between the new and old surfaces). We didn’t even get to properly unpack and just headed straight up the hill to see more of the track.

The views from the top of the mountain were breathtaking, plus you could see almost the entire road from a rocky ledge sticking out over the hill. The pre-skate buzz when you first arrive at a new hill is one of my favourite feelings – and it was visibly painted on everyone’s face on that mountaintop.

The Skate

After a rocky night’s sleep sharing my £15 Halfords tent with Alfie (I let him claim it after that and opted for the hire car), we were joined by Kev Hurdle and Chris Ledwith and it was finally time to get some skating in. The hill was awesome; it was pretty chill speed wise but there were more than enough hairpins to keep everyone satisfied, some nice long straights to get some serious pack run action on and speeds of up to 40mph on the final section of the track (pretty sure Frand clocked 45, but he also somehow managed to wear leathers for the duration of the event despite the heat). After the first straight – a long chunderous strip of tarmac that flung you into the first corner with a surface change right where you needed to slide – the surface was smooth throughout, with a nice balance of grip and slip. UK pack runs were non-stop and some awesome runs were had with Shred’o’Grande bossman Lloyd and Victor Reyes. I was keen to use this event as an opportunity to work on my standup as I’d recently ddialledmy standup toesides and was eager to try them on a proper (faster) hill. After a couple of minor falls, I figured I’d got the hang of it and on one of the last runs of the day decided I’d try it into one of the faster kinks on the road.

Photos: Alfie Marsh Photography

Three dislocated fingers, a large injection of anti-inflammatory into my bum and one uncomfortable night later I was sat chilling on the side of the track with beers and a camera. This actually turned out to be a great opportunity to watch the other UK riders ripping and snag some photos on Alfie’s camera. Being a four day event, I didn’t mind taking one out to rest up before going back to skating. Frand turned out to be some sort of first aid demigod and fashioned me a splint out of cut up pizza boxes to keep my crippled fingers in place whilst riding. Getting back to the hill after a breather was a blessing in disguise – this hill is a serious leg burner and the rest probably did me a favour. More pack runs followed – Frand was tanking ahead in his leathers on a new set of Biggie’s he rode the whole time, Lew and Herms were taking close film runs together whilst myself and Alfie got dicey with Oli and Blair.

Lew, Blair, Oli, Frand, myself and Alfie through one of Velefique’s many right hairpins. (Photo: Ridersfly)

The rest of the event followed a similar pattern – lots of sunshine, a good amount of runs each day and midday beers/lunch/chills by the pool that the campsite surrounded. The organisation was good and the atmosphere was really friendly and welcoming, and the hill itself was a perfect season finisher in a beauiful location – plus it’s a great way to get some final warm weather skating in before winter. This event will be a World Qualifier on the IDF schedule in 2018 which should attract a wider variety of riders and add an interesting competitive element on what is otherwise a fairly relaxed event. I’ve heard that there will, technically, be two events so don’t let news of racing put you off if it’s not your thing – there may be a freeride only event after the IDF one. You should definitely grab a group of friends and squeeze this on to the end of your 2018 calendar, it’s well worth it.”

Words by Jed Chapman

Images by Alfie Marsh, Hermione Pearson, Ridersfly, Jed Chapman

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