Words by Jeff Schmuck
Photos by Jeff Schmuck, Piotr Pinkas, lucekphoto.com & Wojtek Antonow (wzrr.ownlog.com)
When you last left your heroes we had just finished scouting a variety of metallic locations in the urban rail paradise of Katowice, Poland. After considering the overkill of options we made our way to the first beast of choice, a John Holmes-long double-barrel down rail firmly sandwiched between bucolic blocks of identical apartment buildings and children taking advantage of the snow on wooden sleds that looked as old as Moses.
There was even a little mini-skier, who was shred dogging it down the hill on wooden planks even older than the sleds alongside Charles, Kaya and Pinki as they began crushing the 35-stair 'warm-up' rail.
...and shreddin it!
And although we had without a doubt stepped far out of our comfort zone in coming to Poland, we were about to feel right at home on our first of many occasions, as once the setup was complete and the session had just gotten under way...the cops showed up.
Marek promptly bounced down the steps and spoke to the Policja, who seemed to be pretty alright with what we were doing, which needless to say, was quite the surprise for us North Americans who've been cuffed by police and chased by their dogs for similar activities in our homeland. After exchanging a few laughs with them Marek casually slipped them a couple of Red Bull's and they told us to have fun, be safe, and to please clean up afterwards.
"That's it," said Cody, who's mind was still whizzing from on the onslaught of technical rails we had just seen. "We're coming back here every year from now on."
Charles & Pinki get warmed up
Charles, Kaya and Pinki then got down to business, getting comfortable on the rail as a crowd of curious and bewildered onlookers grew.
Charles and his new Polish fans
All three were neck deep in the process of getting their bearings, when another set of Policja showed up. This time the fuzz appeared to be a tad more concerned though as there had been some complaints from the apartment buildings that were engulfing our session. Marek again handed the officers some Red Bull, who in turn smiled and informed us that there was a shift change at 9pm, so if we came back then there would be no cops on duty to bother us.
As Marek informed us of our continued good fortune, Steve and I looked at eachother and had one of those, 'are you thinking what I'm thinking moments?'
"What's up with giving the cops Red Bull all the time Marek?" Steve asked.
"Well you know, it's a nice gesture. It keeps them happy and awake on their shift. Red Bull is considered a nice gift in Poland."
Yep, we were officially bribing law enforcements officers in Eastern Europe so we could slide rails. Awesome.
As we temporarily vacated the premises until nightfall, Steve, Cody and I decided it was time to learn some Polish. I had proudly figured out all on my own that 'biedronka' meant 'ladybug,' as convenience stores called Biedronka (with a ladybug as their logo) were everywhere, but I was concerned that saying ladybug all the time wouldn't help much with the ladies. And with Red Bull throwing a highly anticipated Chinese downhill in Zakopane that weekend complete with a quiver of afterparties, we needed to be on point. So we turned to Wojtek (who from what we had come to understand was quite the ladies man in Poland) to teach us some useful phrases to help us with the hunt.
By the time we got out of the car we were well-versed in Polish pick-up lines and decided it would be a good idea to show some of them off to Kaya (who speaks fluent Polish), namely 'niezla dupa,' which means 'nice ass,' and would become our go-to phrase for the rest of the trip. Needless to say, she wasn't all that impressed.
After a few hours of rest it was time to criss-cross Katowice (which we had by then discovered was recently a model for a video game who's makers wanted a city that's skyline looked like a nuclear bomb had hit it) back to our spot.
We fired up the lights, generator and flashes and before we knew it, it was game time. Charles started things off with some stylish switch-up's while Kaya worked on greasing her first big urban rail.
Pinki then quietly but ferociously stepped it up, doing double frontside switch-up's to switch out and then frontside switch-up to backside switch-up to 270 out.
This of course lit a fire under Charles, who then proceeded to show why he's one of the most technical and fluid urban skiers in the game, with a variety of switch up's, 270 out's and presses, both natural, and unnatural.
However the highlight of the night came near the end of the session when Kaya, on her first legit urban rail ever, threw down a switch-up to switch out.
The next day failed to dawn again and much to our shock and delight, Charles and Pinki announced after breakfast that they wanted to do what would hopefully become the crown jewel of the trip...a maniacal and seemingly impossible 16-kink.
After a lengthy setup amidst passing commuter trains in need of a serious dose of WD40 and spodik-wearing Poles going to and from the local Catholic church the boys mounted the rickety drop-in ramp that was held together by meticulously-placed zip ties and went to work.
As one would expect, a 16-kink rail is no easy dragon to slay, so each of the guys put down easily over 100 tries before surprise, surprise...the cops showed up.
unfortunately, they didn't get it...
Although as we would quickly discover, it wasn't cops, but 'city guards,' which were basically people who didn't make it as cops...and they were pissed.
...and here's why.
Marek and Kaya were off having lunch at the time, which presented a bit of a problem for Steve, Cody, Charles and I...as other than being able to say 'nice ass,' which we didn't think would go over that well, our Polish was pretty rusty. As a result Charles and one of the city guards got into a hilarious and multilingual exchange that has to be seen in Everyday is a Saturday and Salomon Freeski TV to be believed, before Marek miracalously reappeared to do his best to calm the situation. We immediately busted out some Red Bull's and cheekily tried to give them to Marek but his eyes gestured that this time it wouldn't be so easy. The city guards called the guy in charge of the property, who didn't care what we were doing, and then the cops, who cared even less about what were doing, but it was too late. Day had turned to dusk and it was time to go to another spot. Marek then pulled another rabbit out of his hat by calling the good people at the City of Katowice who gave us full clearance to hit the rail the next day if we wanted. Cody continued to shake his head in amazement and disbelief.
Marek works it out...
"it's no problem."
The next stop was another night session at a lightning-quick and couloir-steep down rail, which required a tow-in from our trusty Saab to make it happen. A solid session ensued until the first and second of many things outside our control that would go wrong during the remainder of the trip transpired. First Charles came in too hot and slammed stomach-first on the rail, potentially cracking or breaking one, maybe two ribs, and then Kaya laid claim to quite possibly the gnarliest crash a girl has ever taken on an urban rail, although it would have been a lot worse if she was a guy...if you catch my drift.
Charles...about to say good-bye to healthy ribs
With Charles hurt, Kaya over it and Pinki down for anything and everything, we decided to opt out of attempt #2 on the 16-kink and take the next day off, both to rest and do some sightseeing at a eery town called Nikiszowiec aka Nikisz, which was built in the shadow of a 100-year old coal mine for the workers and their families and where time had seemingly stood still for just as long.
Kaya & Steve enjoy some Polish donuts on our day off
Nikiszowiec aka Nikisz
Following our tourist day, we were dealt another bad blow as the snow turned to rain, washing away our hopes of more attempts at the 16-kink and other monstrosities around town. The decision was then made to head to Zakopane, the main ski town in all of Poland. Little did we know that's where things would go from bad to worse...
Stay tuned for part 3 of 3 as the crew heads to Zakopane in attempt to shred some backcountry only to be met by summer-like temperatures, violent security guards, but much to their comfort, $8 bottles of Polish Vodka.