It’s a long standing Leo Sharp tradition that every Easter, he’ll round up a gaggle of enthusiastic skateboarders and head off on a self-funded exploration of foreign soil.
The seeds for this particular trip were sown during Leo’s annual pre-Christmas visit to Milton Keynes. It usually falls upon Big L to initiate the “shall we go on a trip?" conversation, but from what I’ve been told, the question was initially thrown out there after a couple of Wetherspoon pints by none other than Sean Smith, who then went on to establish the Instagram group chat and round up the early incarnation of the crew.
Obviously word started to get around that Sean and Leo were organising an expedition, and it wasn’t long before the whole thing started to resemble a Motive Skateboards reunion. Sean, Rob Selley and Leo and Jody Smith were all firmly on board, and Dave Snaddon appeared keen in the first instance but then slowly vanished off into the group chat shadows over time, leaving us wondering in the weeks leading up to the trip if he was actually coming or not.
In the end he didn’t, as you’ll have no doubt deducted from looking at the opening group shot.
I’m not sure that you ever need a lengthy reason for visiting Italy, but I may as well explain why we found ourselves jetting off there. A couple of years back, myself and Jordan ‘JThaxx’ Thackeray had the great pleasure of spending a Spring week with the Crestani family – namely Luca and his wife Chiara – at their countryside home near Ancona, which is a port city on the Adriatic Sea. The spots on offer in Ancona are plentiful, suitable for the legs of our assembled crew and pleasing to the eye, the people are friendly and welcoming, the food and accommodation are both amazing and cheap…for this trip, a return visit to Italy seemed like a no-brainer. I ran the idea passed Luca who was instantly keen and suggested we hit another couple of cities along the way, then that was that - we were Italy bound.
There was just one Snaddon shaped space left to fill…and that honour fell on Chelmsford local, Martin McCools perpetual ‘employee of the month’ and recent ‘Off Radar’ subject Nick Rémon, emerging from the Essex wilderness for the first time in three years in order to come explore the skateable architecture of Italy with our random squad.
All photography by Leo Sharp - text and edit by Ryan Gray.
The night before our 6:24am flight, a bus decided to burst into flames outside the terminal building at Stansted. For safety reasons, the terminal building was closed and all remaining flights that day were cancelled. As this was the Friday before Easter, you can imagine that chaos ensued. We arrived at the airport at 4am to find the building open again, but the mass amount of cancelled flights meant the terminal had descended into madness. People were sleeping on every available inch of floor, desks were overrun with travellers demanding to know when they’d be able to reach their destinations…atmospheres in airports are far from relaxed at the best of times, but this was something else entirely. As luck would have it, our travel plans were somehow unaffected by the burning bus debacle, but it was in the middle of this setting that Nick appeared, resembling something close to Tom Hanks in ‘Castaway’.
The last time I’d seen Nick we were on our way back from a Route One trip to Gran Canaria in 2015, and it was during this trip that he landed his first tailslide heelflip out. Fast-forward three years and he was on the deserted streets of Ancona on Easter Sunday, sailing away from his second ever tailslide heelflip in a mere handful of tries.
The scenic surroundings of Ancona port were recently blessed with this almost unbelievably perfect concrete ledge spot. Where Sean and Jody pieced together lengthy lines weaving several of the blocks together, Leo singled out one worthy recipient and stomped a solid switch flip over it instead.
The port in Ancona plays host to a wide variety of picturesque spots, including this hubba/bump/ledge configuration, which is conveniently located around the back of the police station. Nick got in there first and noseslid the down-ledge whilst the rest of the crew were still arriving, though Sean and Leo took a different route, hitting the ledge out of the bump and coming away respectively with a frontside smithgrind and a backside tailslide for their efforts.
On my previous visit to Ancona, Big Air was a fairly straightforward skate-surf-snow-shop with a whole host of ambitious ideas in the pipeline. Though those plans may not have been executed exactly as imagined, over the last three years Big Air has grown to become a hub of activity in Osimo, and is now home to a tattoo parlour run by Luca’s incredibly talented wife Chiara (go have a look at her work on Instagram - @bettieskler), a restaurant and bar, and – last but not least – one of the most simplistic yet hugely skateable plazas you could ever wish to come across. There’s no need to overcomplicate things here – sometimes all you require is a couple of perfect ledges and some smooth flatground. Throw in a jump-ramp for Nick and this steep bank/hip configuration and you’re laughing.
I don’t think this hip was ever intended to be flipped either, but as Nick has a tendency to make the impossible seem extremely possible, he hucked one of his infamous frontside flips over the thing several times, just because he can.
Imagine if you worked in the shop next door to this plaza, your wife ran the tattoo parlour that overlooks it and you lived a ten-minute drive away…you probably wouldn’t rip this place quite as hard as Luca does, but you’d be definitely giving it a good go. In order to acquire this bird's eye view of the plaza, Leo had to scale twenty feet up a rickety ladder onto the restaurants’ roof. I’m not one for heights so I steered well clear, I’m glad Leo made the effort to go up there though.
This plaza in the centre of Ancona and is typically the ‘go to’ spot when visiting the city. We didn’t end up trying to skate here until the end of Easter Sunday, by which time it was already dark and the area was overrun with the city's alcoholic types who localise the space ‘on the regs’. Tucked away in one corner is this up-ledge though, and as Leo still had some life in those seasoned legs of his, he took care of this back smith, enabling Sharpy to bag up one final photo for the day.
Whilst Leo was trying this, Sean, Rob and Jody did back to back ‘Around The Worlds’ whilst playing football in the square. I’m pretty sure they’re all still on a hype about that too.
As you’ll be aware if you read his ‘Off Radar’ interview a few months back, the day-to-day focus of Sean’s existence is firmly placed upon plastering at the moment, with a bit of time freed up for skating on weekends. I don’t even know when the last time would have been where Sean was able to skate for five days in a row…at a guess it would have been 2013, before he left Barcelona.
Not surprisingly, Sean was keen straight out of the Italian gate, skating all day every day, hitting every spot without fail and racking up a steady couple of minutes worth of footage over the course of the week like this was a 2010 DC mission. This tall old nosegrind revert was definitely hard fought for, though given the steez on display here, you know it was worth everyone’s time Sean seeing this through to the end.
On the drive from Ancona to Pescara, we stopped off at the seaside town of Roseto degli Abruzzo. The main draw to Roseto was the plethora of ledges and banks that adorn the seafront, though – as it was a public holiday - we instantly got the boot from those by the local police, so we ventured off into the town centre in search of other spots to grace with our presence. Randomly, we bumped into the same police that kicked us out of the seafront on our travels, who kindly offered to get us some water to ensure we were properly hydrated. Luca took a shining to this steep cobbled number that we found in a square around the back of a church, and after a bit of deliberation and a couple of preliminary roll-ins, he borrowed my filming setup and proceeded to boost an ollie into the thing.
Sean arrived on the trip armed with one pair of slip-ons, which, after a couple of days of skating like it was 2008, obviously fell apart. During the afternoon in Roseta, Sean nipped into a local store and emerged with a pair of €10 shoes which closely resembled a cut down Chukka boot, only made out of the flimsiest, least resistant materials going. The sort of shoe you’d imagine you’d get for €10.
As his slip-ons had pretty much given up the ghost, he had no other choice but to lace these bad-boys up and get on with it. Which he did, with actual success.
This bank spot was once again located around the side of a police station that was only closed on Mondays, and as we were passing on the Monday evening, Luca suggested that we gave it a look. Nick, Luca and Sean all got stuck in, though Sean – in his rebranded ‘Sean Smith 1 (SS1)’ shoes – nosepicked the cylindrical ledge in the middle, before proceeding to learn kickflip nosepicks as the session wore on. His feet were bleeding by the end of it and his recently purchased shoes were all but good for the bin, but with two clips in the bag and a new trick learnt, Sean just cracked open another bottle of Birra Moretti and watched on as Luca closed the bank session down…
I’m pretty sure that Jody has never done a switch backside noseblunt before, and there was a very small man with a suitably miniature hound in tow that would have stopped him from doing this one, if he could have had his aggy way. I think Jody had landed one, just not the one he wanted, when said Italian doylum appeared, saw what Jody was up and took it upon himself to skate-stop the block by perching on the end. Luca attempted to reason with him and asked him to take up residency on any of the other available seating platforms in the square, but it was to no avail. 45 minutes the guy sat there before eventually carrying on his way, muttering in Italian, making gestures and generally acting pissed off. Even Luca couldn’t decipher what his problem was. Anyway, a bit of warming up later and Jody stomped this perfect switch backside noseblunt home like it was nothing. Like most mere mortals, I’d put money on me seeing out the rest of my days without so much as being able to pop into one of these on a curb; I’m glad people like Jody are around handle stuff like this for the rest of us.
Consisting of a chunky three-set and a variety of ledges, this square was the perfect warm up spot and was conveniently located around the corner from our B&B. Luca flew around the place in his typically nonchalant manner, piecing together effortless lines as he went, one of which included this chain-dodging frontside boardslide. Once he’d finished hammering around the square, he took the time to teach a local intrigued youth how to roll along on a skateboard, much to the appreciation of his on-looking grandparents. Luca is definitely one of best ambassadors for skateboarding you could ever hope to meet; our seven-ply world could use a few more folk like him.
As unfortunate as it was, Rob contracted conjunctivitis right before the trip started, so spent the first few days in Italy unable to see properly, let alone stand on a skateboard. As the rest of the crew took full advantage of the terrain on offer, Rob had no choice but to watch on from the sidelines, keep rinsing his eye drops and keep on hoping that his infected eyeballs would clear up at some point. By the time they did, we were over the halfway point of the trip and in Pescara. With one full day left before heading home, Rob took a shining to this tall fountain ledge and wasted no time in treating it to a classic Bobby G front nose. Take a moment to appreciate the form on that.
Sean took the classic ‘feeble slam’ whilst trying this. You know the one – sticking on the back truck then leaping forward onto your ribs before being propelled directly into the floor…never a laugh, for anyone watching or for the person experiencing it. Luckily Sean hits the gym a couple of times a week these days so the slam didn’t faze him much, he simply brushed himself off and carried on. Oh, Sean almost managed to resurrect his previously presumed dead slip-ons too, thanks to some industrial strength superglue and a whole lot of determination. If you look closely at the foot on the left here you should be able to make out his impeccable resuscitation job.
After the aforementioned police booting from the seafront at Roseta, we decided that we should try our luck again on our final day, as we made the journey back towards Ancona from Pescara. By now it was Wednesday and the Easter holidays were no longer in effect, meaning Roseta’s ledges were now largely uninhabited. Some of the crew had started to toy with this out-ledge during our last visit, and for Luca, it was simply a case of carrying on from where he left off. This frontside nosegrind happened twice in the space of time that it took Sean to glue up his shoes and stretch off his legs.
Sean started to mess about with this backside nosegrind whilst Luca was finishing up handling the frontside one, and once Luca had rolled away from his, Sean wasted no time in backing him up and held onto this full-length number in a handful of tries.
“Nick – do you reckon you could hold onto a back lip that long?"
“I reckon so, yeah."
This one took a bit of working out, but once Nick had sussed it, the make wasn’t too far away. The attempt where Nick slid all the way to the end, he’d spied the same police that had booted us two days prior parking their car over the road, so instead of racing against the clock, he decided to hold onto the back lip the whole way and have done with it in anticipation of the polizia rolling up and starting to try ticket everyone. Which they promptly did.
And that was that, with the last of the tricks in the bag and police fines successfully swerved we headed back to the Crestani household in Augugliano where we spent our final Italian evening eating pizza, drinking beers and celebrating Luca and Chiara’s 19th anniversary.
A massive thanks to Luca, Chiara, Pirmy, Beat, Flow, everyone at Big Air, all the Pescara locals and everyone we met along the way. Grazie!