Skating Across Israel For LGC’s OPEN Film (2013)

Updated: March 1, 2023 | Archive

Originally published in Concrete Wave Magazine Vol. 12 No. 3 Holidays 2013

In late August and early September 2013, 14 female riders from 11 different countries gathered in Israel to shoot OPEN, the first full-length female longboard movie. This is a short chronicle on how we lived this lifetime adventure.

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I was firmly holding Cindy Zhou’s hand while she was getting her first tattoo. She was getting the Hebrew letter Ayn inked on the back of her neck surrounded by 14 dots: one dot for each rider on an amazing trip. Ayn is a letter in the Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, Maltese and New Persian alphabets. It means eye, openness, spring, water … Ayn is OPEN’s official symbol and general concept for this trip.

It was the last night of our journey and we were at our goodbye party at a house in the middle of an open field, somewhere near Tel Aviv, but it felt like the middle of nowhere. A lot of people were there, in the house, on the porch, on the grass and in the halls. It was hot, humid, loud and noisy. We were exhausted and dirty, but we were perfectly fine. We all knew we were ending a journey of a lifetime. Nine of the 14 riders got the same tattoo, because that’s how much it meant to us all — a memory that will be in our bodies forever, about those 13 days in Israel shooting the first ever full-length movie about female longboarding.

The idea of this trip started some months before, when Jacky Madenfrost, Monica Madenfrost and I were heading to the Longboard Girls Crew office in Madrid on a public bus. We started fantasizing about how cool it would be to go to Israel and skate over there. We had just received a visit from our brothers at Dasilva Boards, a native Israeli longboard brand, and had made such a strong bond that we were inspired to do something with them — so why not in Israel? The excitement only grew as the idea became more ambitious.

At first we thought it would just be us with a GoPro, but the idea of taking some of the best female riders to Israel quickly started to gain more weight. The list of riders, the filmmaker, the route, the plan, the cost, the money … we got carried away so fast it was a constant explosion of ideas. Needless to say we missed our bus stop, but we had just created something that after three months of extremely hard work would turn into our biggest project to date.

In late August, the first of us slowly started arriving in Israel from our hometowns. We were all coming from different cities and countries, so the first three days until we all got there and started shooting were messy. There was no defined sleeping time or eating time. If you woke up at 5 a.m. you would find people talking in the kitchen or playing guitar. If you woke up at 3 p.m. it would happen the same. People were coming from so many countries and time zones that it was jet-lag chaos.

For the first half of the trip we rented a house in Ein Kerem, an hour away from Tel Aviv. It was a beautiful Romanic house with a lovely garden. Those first days we spent the time talking, setting up our boards, playing musical instruments, going for short walks in that small neighborhood, shooting the first interviews, talking about the longboard scene … I remember those days being very slow, but that wouldn’t last.

The first day of shooting and all the following would be hectic. DH, freestyle, freeride, dancing, skatepark, street … we had everything. We met with the local Israeli crew the first afternoon and the stoke was sky-level. I always say that the best part of traveling is meeting with the locals and having human (and sometimes alien) interactions. It was such a great afternoon. You’re in a country that is far away and different from where you live, and all these people show up to meet, skate and share some love for this sport. It’s heart-filling. I have this image of us in the van leaving and everyone outside waving us goodbye, feeling the same stoke we were feeling. Truly special.

The first days of shooting were particularly hard due to all the production issues coming up. We had the Dasilva Boards crew in charge of the local production, but moving 20 people around a country like Israel was no easy task. Solving problems in Israel is not like solving them in Spain, Canada or the U.S., where you basically know how things work. The roads in Israel can be sketchy, narrow, oily, extremely old or fantastic, depending on the spot, so every day was a wild ride.

We spent the first half of the trip in the north of the country and the second half in the south. Most of the days we split up in two groups according to the spot and the riders’ discipline.

Tel Aviv is a very Mediterranean city, so it wasn’t very shocking landscape-wise. We enjoyed the boardwalk, the beaches, bars and restaurants. The real cultural shock would come in Jerusalem. The cultural mix there is amazing: Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Orthodox … everyone living in the same ancient city packed with history. We skated the rooftops, visited the market, had the tastiest falafel of our lives and rocked the buddy system so no one would get lost.

We wanted to go to the Orthodox neighborhood but the Dasilva guys told us it was not a good idea. Their “dress code” is very strict, and not following it would bring us major trouble. I also wanted to go to the occupied territories, but again, they told us it could get sketchy. We learned a lot about the conflicts and heard very neutral people talking about them.

The Sea of Galilee is in the north, and all the surrounding roads flow into it, so basically everything is downhill. We had a rad session over there and finished the day sitting in the sea watching sunset in the place where Christians believe that Jesus walked on the water. Regardless of religious beliefs, being in these places was blowing our minds.

We moved south after almost a week. The Sde Boker Kibbutz in the Negev desert was going to be our home for the last days of the trip. We were supposed to arrive early but stopped on a slope we found and ended up spending the whole afternoon in an amazing slide session, all 14 of us. We were genuinely stoked about being together, teaching each other new tricks, trying new slides and getting them as long as we could. Rad, rad day.

We got to the desert late at night, so we didn’t really see where we were. The next morning we gathered for breakfast and Daniel Etura, the director, asked me, “Did you look out the bathroom window?” We were in the middle of the desert, right next to a crater, something I’ve never seen before. We screamed as much as we could with excitement, hardly believing our luck of being there.

The desert sessions were out of this world. The landscape, the roads, the colors … so different from what we are used to. Ramon Crater may have been one of the most amazing roads of the trip.

The south was filled with fun activities besides skating, like camel riding or going to the Dead Sea. In case you don’t know, the Dead Sea has nine times the amount of salt a regular sea has, so nothing can really live there. The water is thick and oily and you float. Yes, float — you can’t go down. It’s a really bad idea to put your head down in the water or scrub your eyes if your hands have touched the seawater, though — it’s a premium ticket to painland. But the major fear above all was the scars and the salt. Most of us were full of road rash, so this didn’t seem like a pleasant ride. It turned out it wasn’t as bad as we thought, but it was far from being fun, I guess.

The last day we came back north to Yafo, as we were meeting local Arab, Muslim and Jewish kids in the Twinned Peace Sport Schools as part of the program with Longboarding for Peace. It was an amazing and rewarding experience. Bringing people together, especially kids, through longboarding is one of the biggest things we can do. Longboarding for Peace is doing an amazing job worldwide, and supporting this cause in Israel was the only way to go when we first thought about this whole project. Three different national TV channels covered the event on the news, and it was a little step ahead to reach acknowledgment for the cause.

That night was our goodbye party at Dasilva’s and the night we all got tattooed with the Ayn symbol. That summarizes a bit the whole meaning of this trip: exciting new place, new friends, the gift of learning, rad skating and amazing adventures with eyes, heart and mind wide OPEN. Life is a journey, and we don’t want to miss any of it. Build your own adventures, learn while living them, have fun and be good.

The OPEN trailer was released some weeks ago, and it’s just a glimpse of the kind of movie it will be. We honestly can’t wait.

And we couldn’t have done any of this without the awesome riders who came and gave their best to make it big. Thanks to Daniel Etura, the director of the movie and the guy with the most patience of anyone I know so far. To the Dasilva Boards crew — Alon Meiri, Ben Kaufman, Tom Goldwasser, Ty Charap and Ido Cami — we couldn’t have done it without them. To Matt K for being the most talented follow-camera person I know and getting the sickest shots at ridiculous speeds. (He was also the most whiny person of the trip!) To the local crew, everyone we met, everyone who’s helping now and everyone who supported us with our Indiegogo campaign: THANK YOU. Your support means the world to us. Big ups for our sponsors that got us there and believed in the project as much as we do:

Loaded Boards; Orangatang Wheels; Daddies Board Shop; Sector 9; Landyachtz; Kahalani; Vault; GForm; Bustin; Riviera; the Israel Ministry of Tourism; El Al Airlines; Índigo Energías Renovables; Rayne; RipTide Bushings; Ennui; Slipstream; Concrete Wave Skateshop Cologne; Bastl Boards; Kaina; Solo Freeride; Rey Trucks; Inercia; Cult Wheels; Marta Guillén; Divine Wheels; Incus; XS Helmets; Zero Gravity; Caliber Trucks; Concrete Wave magazine; Sickboards; Toxic World Skateshop; The Pucks; Paris Trucks; Triple Eight; and Abec 11.

This adventure was epic. Here’s for dreaming big.

And me, I’m again, as part of this column’s tradition, writing this article on a plane, this time while flying from NYC to L.A. I just attended the Broadway Bomb and am heading to L.A. for new skate adventures. The Bomb was a sick event that, as usual, gathered skaters from all over the world in New York, so I got the chance to meet with great humans. I was deeply touched by meeting the girls that attended the event: Anna O’Neill, Jenica Davenport, Keyla Denise, Monica Mejía, Lyndsay McLaren, Katy Fry … they are all SO amazing and lovely and rad! Some OPEN riders also reunited in NYC during the Bomb: Cami Best, Micaela Wilson, Cindy Zhou, Gina Mendez and I. The level of excitement was over the moon, because that’s how much we love, support and care for each other.

We continue working. The female longboard scene is doing it right.

Valeria Kechichian