Inside the three-day skateboarding extravaganza in the buzzy capital.
Along the industrial stretch of Wilhelmstrasse, in a warehouse behind an unassuming carpark, your ears are suddenly assailed by the raucous, but joyful, clattering of boards. Hooting. Cheering. More clattering. Don’t be alarmed – you’ve just entered House of Vans Berlin.
A three-day skate extravaganza put on by the American shoe giant, the all-encompassing event fully immersed revellers in the world of skate – a delight for avid boarders who were basically frothing at the sight of the wall-to-wall indoor ramp (with different sections and ramps commissioned by Vans from independent brands), but without alienating those (me) who wouldn’t be able to do an ollie if their life depended on it.
The first day saw skaters warm up their kneecaps noisily gliding on the impressive wooden stretch. A space tentatively trialled by sparse groups at the beginning of the day was positively teaming by late afternoon. Then, as the sun fell away, the music kicked off. The doors opened to the public at 10pm, welcoming smaller local talent, such as Kiel-hailed rock band Leoniden and DJ Kate Kaputto, but the main draw saw an energetic set from Essex-hailed alt-rock successes Nothing But Thieves.
There may have been a few sore heads the next day, but there was nothing like a spell of unlikely glorious sunshine to lift spirits. And Saturday was packed to the rafters, starting with a girls-only skate camp, a progressive move from Vans to address the ingrained industry gender unbalances. Elsewhere, stans were entranced as dream-girl, skate pro and the first woman to ride The Loop (a 360° pipe), Lizzie Armanto, gave an inspiring Q&A. Other activities included lettering & sign-painting workshops, life hacks talks – with even a pop-up tattoo studio giving skate enthusiasts board-themed inkings. A bustling indoor market saw wares from independant brands selling everything from kitsch ceramics to vintage artwork and clothing merch, all playfully in some way or another linked to skate culture.
And for music, Saturday night was a biggie with German hip-hop act J Rick opening the night, and celebrations coming to a head with London-based disrupter Octavian getting the crowd pulsing with his signature high-octane set.
Another undisputed success from House of Vans as painfully quiet guests nursed throbbing temples at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport the next day…
Before we left we chatted to Lizzie Armanto about her career so far…
How did you start skating?
When I was 14, my mom took my little brother and I to the skatepark. It was either the skatepark or the library, and the skatepark seemed more fun.
Who were your heroes growing up?
I was inspired by a lot of different people both in and out of skating, both growing up as well as today. Theres’s nobody I can really think of that I would consider a “hero”.
What would you have done if you weren’t a skater?
I’d probably have continued college until I found something.
I saw last year you were the first female skater to do a 360 ramp? How was that? How did you prepare?
You don’t really prepare for something like that. You just have to try and hopefully everything clicks into place.
What do you think would surprise most people about skateboarding?
How genuine and approachable most skaters are.
What’s been the biggest pinch-me moment of your career?
I honestly can’t define one specific moment. To this point it’s the entire career that continues to be a pinch-me moment.
What do you think about gender diversity in skating? Do you think it’s gotten better?
The gap between the number of females versus males has definitely closed a bit, but there are still more males skating than females. Hopefully campaigns like Vanguards will inspire more girls to get out there and try skating.
How long have you been a member of the Vans team for?
What do you love about events like House of Vans?
It’s a great time for me to travel the world and meet cool and interesting people that I might not necessarily get to meet otherwise.
What do you love about the energy of Berlin?
There’s a lot of passion and artistic freedom in it in Berlin and that makes me smile.
What’s next for you?
A lot of contests since we’re a little more than a year away from the Olympics. I’m really looking forward to being home as much as my schedule will allow me this year.
What do you like to wear to skate in?
Vans Sk8-Hi’s, jeans and tees.