Text by Annina Brühwiler – Photos by Maria Arndt – 8th of September 2016 – 15:00
Women’s Longboard Camp – vive la France!
This week in France wasn’t the first Women’s Longboard Camp (WLC) for me. In fact, it was my third camp, after one in Portugal and another in Stuttgart this year. Therefore, I expected funny warm ups, intense and instructive skate sessions, good food, fascinating encounters and a lot of fun. But still, all of my expectations were exceeded.
Annina Brühwiler, Switzerland
Meeting old and new friends from all over Europe
Our accommodation was located in the middle of nowhere, around one hour away from Annecy in France. The village called Aillon-Le-Vieux with its around 200 habitants looked quite boring at first sight, but all we wanted do do was longboarding, of which we got more than enough of. As soon as my friends and I arrived after a six hour ride from Switzerland, it was like a reunion with old friends. Of course, some of the girls I already knew from the other camps, but also meeting the new people was like seeing old friends. There were many hearty embraces, both at the beginning of the camp and at the end. There were women from all over Europe, some came from Vienna, London, Hamburg or the Netherlands to France. All participants arrived at this women’s longboard camp with the same simple goals: to skate among girls, to improve their skills and to have a lot of fun. To conclude, all targets were achieved.
Quantum leaps in every discipline
There are some advantages in learning in a girls only group, which should not be underestimated. First of all, seeing how a woman does perfect slides and ollies prevents you from thinking: “I can’t do this, this is the men’s business.”
And listening to the instructors stories about world cup races, the personal highs and lows in this extreme sport and at the same time to see the passion in their eyes, this made me want the same. I know that this includes falling down several times. And I did, sometimes quite badly. However, instructor Betty put it in a nutshell:
“I love to see your ambition. You know how to deal with falls: just always get up once more than you have fallen!”
Secondly, the mutual motivation pushes you to test your limits. There is no pressure, and every success, no matter how small, is being celebrated as if you had won an Olympic medal. All the instructors know exactly what small piece of advice can lead to a quantum leap in your performance. “Try not to grab the board when you do a heelside slide but hold your hand in the air”, was the simple advice from Anni. It worked out better immediately. Of course, I slid down and walked up the lightly sloping parking another hundred times, until it I felt safe. However, the next day I was able to race down the freeride track safely and with more confidence.
The third point is, that you don’t need to prove anything to anyone, but yourself. It is not about being better than another person. Every woman had to deal with her own fears and every skate session was a new challenge. While some of us were struggling with basics like foot breaking, others tried their first dance moves such as a peter pan. Some overcame dropping into the miniramp (which for me is still unimaginable), popped their first ollies or succeeded in a slide. I, for my part, was busy with perfecting my slides, with keeping calm although I had a lot of speed on the freeride track and to stand up and try it again after every failed slide. Within four days of skating, I had made a huge, unexpected progress and I think, all of us felt like this every evening: Tired, happy and so damn proud.
Still, the first workshop at the camp wasn’t about how to stand on a longboard but how to set it up. Downhill instructor Anni explained to us the components like different trucks, wheels and decks with all the screws and nuts. So we got to know our longboards better and at the same time, all of the hardware could be checked. Another important point was to check all the protection, which were obligatory for the camp. Anni jiggled our helmets and tried to yank off our knee and elbow protectors in order to check if everything fits. Then we were ready and excited for our first skate-session. To prevent us from sore muscles and strains, there was an obligatory warm up before every skate-session and a voluntary mobility course in the evening.
However, before they let us go freeriding down the hill or try challenging tricks, there was another important workshop on the schedule: the first aid course, lead by the longboard-dancing-queen and paramedic Luisa. She explained in an informative but amusing way how to place someone in a recovery position, how to cope with a broken forearm or how to remove a fullface helmet after a bad crash. To those explanations were added anecdotes from the everyday life as a paramedic and skater. Luckily, there was no horror-crash in the camp, but only one broken finger.
To make it a group experience, instructor and WLC-organisator Fee suggested, that all the women should try to ride the freeride track, everyone at their own pace. The crew had given its best effort that all the women make it down there safe and sound. First of all, we learned hand signs to communicate with each other while longboarding. Hand in the air means footbreak, circling your arm means sliding and to clap means overtaking. Furthermore, around 30 orange mattresses were put down along the track in order to cover handrails, trees, walls and fences. Some of the crew-members were equipped with mobile radios in order to block the track at the beginning and at the end. These measures were organised by Dom, who organised there several longboard camps under the name Woodwings in the last two years. Our paramedic Luisa played track marshal and spent the whole afternoon in the strong sun. Thanks to the effort of the WLC-crew, we could ride down without thinking about upcoming cars. All we had to do, was to focus on our ride and to enjoy. And we did! What a sense of achievement when every one of us, no matter what skate-level, made it down the track safely.
Wellness for body and soul
Although the skate sessions were quite intense and we were all physically exhausted in the evening, on the whole, the camp was relaxing as well. For instance, there was a jacuzzi, in which we could recover and watch the shooting stars in the late evening. The irreplaceable kitchen crew had spent hours in the kitchen to prepare rich meals for every dietary requirement and conjured up culinary delights on the table. Until deep into the night, we enjoyed some beers and had profound or just nonsense discussions, we exchanged experiences, opinions and bad jokes with old and new friends. We talked about fears and successes in skating but also in life in general. We established standing jokes, laughed until we had cramps in our faces and surprisingly, we didn’t really miss the internet connection. It was an amazing feeling to be part of this big family for one week in the middle of nowhere in France. Thus we were all the more sad about saying goodbye by the end of the camp. Some of us have made already plans for a skate-reunion in autumn. Others just desperately look forward to the next WLC. If there will be one is still unclear, but I really hope this wasn’t the last camp.
Annina Brühwiler is 24 years old and grew up in the Swiss Alps. She started longboarding in spring 2015 and now, she is happy to have the possibility to be on a board not only in winter but also the rest of the year. She just graduated in communication and is currently travelling around and looking for her inner peace. Longboarding helps!