Recently, GSSA Founder Sharne Jacobs embarked on a remarkable journey to Moscow. The venture was not just a personal exploration, but a representation of GSSA's aspirations for fostering international connections and elevating the skateboarding community to a global platform. Here's a firsthand account of Sharne's eye-opening experience in the heart of Russia during the Grand Skate Tour:
When Skateboarding Takes You to Moscow, With Love
By Sharne Jacobs:
I never thought that skateboarding would take me places. Well, certainly not further than a mission around the neighborhood, maybe. But, in August of 2023, there I was on a plane, flying to Moscow for my second skateboarding mission abroad in just a year. It was even more unexpected than the last one, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But isn't that the beauty of life's adventures? You have to do the thing to find out, right?
Welcome To Moscow
I arrived in Moscow and was warmly greeted by Simon Paton, the Director of GST from the Russian Sports Federation. As it turns out, he's also from South Africa! We hopped on a train and made our way to the Skate Federation offices. I was blown away by the fact that they had an entire office dedicated solely to skateboarding. The reception area was decked out with skateboarding flags, a massive pinball machine, and shelves of skateboarding books. The offices themselves were also completely devoted to skateboarding. It was clear that these guys took skateboarding seriously. This was a dream come true for me! In my hometown, skateboarding is something I work hard for and strive to improve at. Watching the Grand Skate Tour in Moscow really showcased how functional and team-oriented skateboarding can be. It was all just so cool!
During my time in Russia, I noticed that people weren't very vocal about the political climate. I was curious and asked some locals about it, but they seemed hesitant to discuss it. They explained that protesting could land them in jail, so, for the most part, they weren't interested in speaking about it. In the end, they're just normal people out here doing the same thing as I was—having fun and, of course, skating.
The Heartbeat of Moscow's Skateboarding Scene
When I arrived at the hotel, Ksusha, the founder of No Comply Skate Crew, was waiting for me in the lobby. I was exhausted, but her eagerness to meet me and hang out was infectious, so I quickly freshened up and we hit the streets of Moscow. Meeting the girls from The No Comply skate crew was an incredible experience. They were all so cool and had such a vibe with them. They took me to so many skate spots around the city! I honestly couldn't believe how many there were.
The streets were clean, the traffic lights worked, and the public transport was efficient. Everything just functioned the way it should, unlike back home in South Africa. At times, I would catch myself thinking about things like load shedding, only to quickly remember that it wasn't something I needed to worry about while I was there. All in all, I didn't miss home one bit while I was in Moscow.
Everyone I met was so friendly and accommodating. Language wasn't much of a barrier either, as many of the friends I made spoke English well. They were happy to have me there and even said they could practice their English with me. Being in Moscow was such a surreal experience! I was so happy and overwhelmed that when I got back to the hotel, I cried in disbelief that skateboarding brought me here. I had so much fun even before the main event, the Grand Skate Tour, which I was there to attend.
The Grand Skate Tour: A Global Skateboarding Extravaganza
This event was genuinely world-class and inclusive of everyone and everything related to skateboarding. From Skate Forums, to DIY, Skate Schools, Graffiti and Photography, Moscow showed the world that the culture of skateboarding runs so much deeper than just riding a skateboard—it's honestly so much more.
It was an incredible experience to see so many skateboarders from all corners of the globe come together for this amazing event. With participants from 41 different countries, the focus was on inclusion and celebrating the passion for skateboarding.
What really stood out to me was how the event was not just about showcasing the top skaters in the world, but also about recognising those who run organisations and have a deep love for the sport. People from all walks of life came to share their stories, and it was truly inspiring to see the impact that skateboarding has on so many lives.
One of the highlights of the event for me was sharing my own story about Girls Skate SA. The audience was so engaged and moved by what I had to say that many of them had tears in their eyes. It felt like, "Yeah, I'm doing something impactful without even knowing it, just by following my passion". After telling my story I was surprised with a huge bag of shoes and skate-related goodies from the girls of the No Comply Skate Crew. It was really special.
The Grand Skate Tour was planned so well, and the attention to detail at every point just blew me away. The organisers really outdid themselves with the planning and execution of the event. It was held at Gorky Park, an epic location overlooking the Moscow River. The view was breathtaking, and I couldn't help but feel grateful to be there.
The women's competition was filled with crazy talent. It was an honour to not only witness the competition but also to be a judge in an international event. Thanks to a technical course I took with Renata Paschini, from World Skate and some previous judging experience, I was able to put my skills to the test. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish for a long time.
At the Skate School, not only were there lessons, but also an intricately designed mini tech deck skatepark. The finesse with which people skated on those tiny boards was astonishing—truly an art form I hadn't appreciated before. GST's inclusivity was evident in every aspect. There were talks from psychologists, DIY discussions, as well as a hands-on DIY experience where we:
Went to a DIY spot,
Were guided on how to build different skate elements,
And then had the bonus of skating on the structures we built.
Experiencing Moscow Beyond the Skatepark
We got the full cultural experience—visiting the famous Red Square and art galleries, as well as an actual skateboarding museum! The nightlife of Moscow was another chapter of this adventure. We found ourselves at a bar called Punk-Fiction, which had a mini bowl and live bands playing—it was the perfect setup! Moscow seemed to have everything a skater could dream of.
This experience was nothing short of amazing. At times, I find myself at a loss for words. I learned a great deal, and I believe everyone who came to GST left with a happy he
art and a suitcase full of new experiences. I know I did. This event was world-class in every aspect, and I am earnestly looking forward to the next one! The anticipation is thrilling, and I'm just eager to see where skateboarding takes me next.
Bringing It All Back Home to GSSA
The journey from the local skate parks of South Africa to the Grand Skate Tour in Moscow has been nothing short of transformative. It's a testament to the boundless opportunities and connections skateboarding can foster across continents. At Girls Skate South Africa (GSSA), we are more than just a community; we are a movement aspiring to bridge cultures, nurture talents, and create a global family bound by the love for skateboarding.
As we continue to skate down this exciting path, we are always on the lookout for like-minded individuals and organisations to join our cause. Whether you are a seasoned skater, a budding enthusiast, or someone who believes in what we stand for, there's a space for you in the GSSA family.
Together, we can push the boundaries of what's possible in the world of skateboarding. Your journey with GSSA begins with a simple step—reach out, and let's make the skateboarding world a smaller, friendlier place together.
Written by Chanti Graaff