Sous-Terrain Skate

Winter isn’t a wonderland. Slush, sleet, and slippery sidewalks compliment arctic gales and 4pm sunsets. For the Northern Hemisphere skateboarder, the chilly months put a freeze on skating.

The call of indoor skateparks is deafened by helmets, giggly groms, and entry fees. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a homie with an indoor skate spot. So that’s it for six months, no more skating. 

Beneath Montreal is the Underground City, the largest underground pedestrian network in the world, which probably makes it the largest indoor skatepark in the world. The RESO is a series of walkways that links condos, business towers, and malls throughout Montreal’s downtown core. Stair sets, ramps, ultra smooth floors, and heat. Perfect for skating. Here’s how to have fun.

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  1. Drink lots first

This can be taken a couple of ways. If you stretch before you skate, this probably means you’re going to be crushing Kombucha and sipping on mineral water. If you’re cool and gnarly and shit than get your six-pack in you before you head out for the night. Believe it or not, the air in a mostly sealed underground pedestrian passage is both stale. and dry. You’re gonna get thirsty. Try and deal with it first. Plus drinking beer on private property isn’t a great idea.

 

  1. Don’t wear a lot

The whole point of going to skate the RESO is to stay warm. So don’t dress warm. Plus you are going to be constantly on the move  so you can’t really stash coats. It might look cool to tie a sweater around your waist, but let’s put function before fashion. Take your shoulder season skate outfit, subtract the windbreaker, and you’re all set. Be ready to run to the metro. Tempting death in a T-shirt and hoodie in December is a special thrill.

  1. Forget your identity

Who are you? Where are we? What year is it? These are all great questions to throw at any authority figure who intervenes with your skating. Unless you really get it wrong, the party poopers are going to be private security, which means there isn’t actual authority to worry about. Mall cops can’t write tickets. Not having ID opens up the door for some fun; you can tell the good guard your name is Billy Bones and you live at 123 Road Ave, worry free.

  1. Wait until after 6pm (but probably closer to 9pm)

If you live in Montreal, you know about the unlimited night pass. If you don’t go out after 4pm, the unlimited night pass is $5 metro ticket which gives you unlimited rides between 6pm and 5am. A two way trip is $6.25. You can do math, right ? There are spots all over the RESO, and it’s easier to metro some places. Bonaventure to McGill is a big walk. A metro pass has two perks beyond getting you on the subway. It’s proof of payment, so those pesky security suits have no reason to boot you out. And in a code red, cops hot on your heels situation, a drive through closing subway doors is an excellent escape.

 

  1.  Enter the dead zones

The gnarliest spots ever aka the death zones. No, not really. These spots are gnarly, not for their severity but for their sanctity. The RESO links private businesses with STM stations, and it seems like no one really knows who patrols the connecting walkways. The Atwater metro walkway is a poignant example. Security from the Alexis Nihon centre stroll by skaters, while the STM enforcers hang out at the top of the escalator. They don’t even bother the nightlife hanging out smoking cigarettes inside.

 

  1. Be casual, move fast

The idea is you don’t want to get caught. You are not going to be constantly skirting around security, but you definitely don’t want to hang out until they find you. The flip side is a person running through the RESO late at night with a skateboard is quite a cause for attention. Walk around as if you and your buddies are out for an evening stroll. Don’t look lost or too obvious about eyeing up spots, act as natural as you can with a skateboard under your arm in a closed mall in the dead of winter.

 

  1. Respect your neighbours

Other people who are out in the RESO late at night aren’t there to skate. They are probably trying to sleep, and skateboards are really loud. So practice a little bit of pragmatism and let those folks lie. You and the homeless crowd are going to be after many of the same spots. Those quiet back corners you don’t get caught skating in are even better for sleeping. The pedestrians who pass through don’t appreciate pinging skate wheels, so kick your board up while they go by. The sound of you skating may not travel to the nearest security booth, but people saying “Hey there’s skaters over there” certainly will.

 

  1. Get clips

Impress your friends! Wow your parents! Make it big on Instagram! It’s cool to skate indoors in the winter! It’s a little illegal, but the DIME crew in Montreal has no problem posting their media! Go find some iconic Montreal RESO spots, like the indoor skating rink near Place Bonaventure, or search out an obscure ramp that will make all your friends jealous. There’s way too many clips of people skateboarding outside, why not be the one to change up the status quo.

 

  1. Fuck underground parking garages

On paper, these seem like a great idea. Noise insulated and separated from any other buildings, dirty and durable concrete everywhere, and you’d think little to no action around midnight on a Monday. For whatever reason, these carholes are a great way to get hassled by security. Very angry, bristly security. It must be depressing to work in a cave. Don’t skate these traps, the dust and possible detention isn’t worth it.

 

  1. Do it a lot

The groove you get in when you are skating everyday is addictive. Instant tricks, comfort on all terrain, it’s sick. Skating the RESO isn’t going to be that great unless you’re pretty turned on. Skating the network often means you will be on top on your tricks, and on top of knowing where the hot- and not so hot- spots are. You aren’t going to have fun rolling your ankle on a crappy three stair and than getting a ticket. But you will have fun landing shuvs on flat ground first try and knowing what bench you can try noseslides on for 30 minutes.

 

One night Skateboarding, near Atwater Metro

Images courtesy of: @MMBMR and @ryleyremedios

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He hung up his phone and- I assume- finished off his cigarette, headed back in and told his boss he was feeling sick. It was Wednesday night after all, so the restaurant was slow and the metro would be super empty.

“I’m going to go back inside and sprint” said Chris Zenti.

 

He showed up to my place on time, frantically ringing the doorbell while knocking simultaneously. No restraint, at all. He was unhappy to realize my buzzer had stopped working the day before, so had to wait while I came down stairs to open up.

 

“What the f*ck man?” he shouted. HIs headphones were loud enough I could hear the Young Thug track buzzing between his ears. He hadn’t skated in a week, and was anxious to get at it.

 

The night prior, a chance trip to Dollarama had netted Zenti a new skate spot. Rather than pause his skating during winter, Zenti takes to the Metro stations and RESQ pedestrian paths late at night. It’s a delicate ballet, dancing around security, pedestrians and late night characters. But it’s warm, and dry, and worth the hassle.

 

His new spot was a short hallway somewhere near Atwater Metro. There are dead spots between underground malls and the Metro where security is not really sure of whose job it is to kick out skaters. Tonight however, Zenti had competition for being the biggest nuisance in the Metro.

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‘Yooooooo broooooo!” he shouted. He walked with a loping gait, either from an injury or some sort of injection. “Bro’s you guys, bro’s, shit, you from Montreal?” he asked. “Yeah, but I live here now.” replied Zenti. “Shit bro, you must get all the b*tches they love Toronto mans here.” he replied.

 

We found out much later his name was Philly. We also found out much later his “boy” had allegedly got shot earlier that day. He cheered at every maneuver Zenti pulled, oblivious to technicality or skill. “F*ck bros, you bros are cool, you know that?” he said. Zenti laughed and gave him props. Philly reclined against the escalator median, pulling a Pall Mall butt out of his North Face jacket pocket.

 “Fam, bless a mans a lighter?” he asked me. I had matches, which he made work.

Zenti was pouring sweat and covered in mud. He had been doing laps of the short hall for half an hour, running and throwing his board down, popping 180’s and front shuvs over the small bump halfway down the run. Errant chunks of road salt had caught him out a few times, sending Zenti sprawling across the dusty ground. “I literally bought this shirt yesterday.” he said to himself after a particularly dirty fall.

It was fun and games with Philly until he got aggressive with pedestrians. His loud cheers echoed while the skateboard clicked and clacked between booming popped tricks. A small symphony of sorts.

The click, clack and boom of Zenti’s skateboard mingled with Philly’s jovial cheers, making a small symphony of the Metro hall. It came to an erupt end when Philly started his “F*ck the cops!” chant.

It started at talking volume, but he was soon shouting in the face of every person coming down the escalator. Inevitably, the tone turned more vile, his voice getting harsher and his chant becoming staccato shouts of “Fuck You!” Inevitably, certain pedestrians began to take offence to his raucousness. “Ya man, we gotta get out of here.” said Chris

 

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.As the double glass doors between the mall and the Metro closed behind us, we could here Philly’s shouts begin to crack and shrill, as he sparred with the man in the black pea coat, who had taken Philly’s bait for an evening conversation.