The evening before I was due to go on my first-ever trip to Athens earlier this year in January, I realized I had no idea what the aggressive inline scene was like there. I happened to be at Bay 66 skate park, London when someone told me, “I heard there’s a Bladehouse in Athens, and they have an amazing annual competition.” I was headed to the Greek capital for three months. Naturally, I was ecstatic to hear that there was a Bladehouse happening (an institution the Athens rollerblade scene gravitates around), complete with a rooftop skatepark and a mini ramp in the kitchen.
After a few introductions over Facebook, I got myself an invite to the rollerblading Mecca of the Mediterranean where I met Bladehouse proprietor and rollerblading legend, Nicolas Kouros. After months of hanging out with Kouros, Juan Del Bare, Costas Gounaris, Eleni Geronikolou, Freddy White, and a whole host of awesome people, I had to leave the country (Thank you, Brexit.) I promised I’d come back in August for Bladehouse 9.
The annual Bladehouse competition isn’t just a unique skate competition at someone’s actual home. It’s a month-long rollerblading festival spanning the length of Greece, taking in the country’s best skateparks and idyllic sun-drenched islands.
Sadly, I could only make it to the competition itself on August 26 for three nights. As soon as I touched down Thursday night, I went straight to Oaka skatepark to meet with the homies for what must have been a 40 rollerblader session. It was good vibes all around!
Superb tricks being thrown by people from France, Belgium, Japan, Abu Dhabi, and beyond. The session went on into the early hours of the morning. By the time I got home at 04:00, I’d been awake for almost 24 hours straight.
After a day of prep, I got to Bladehouse just as the mini-ramp session was winding down and the runners and riders were making their way to the roof. The top of Bladehouse has a 20-ft curved coping ledge, a standard box with coping, and a rainbow rail on top of the box.
The big hitters were obvious — Michael Müller and Jo Zenk are pro after all. That is not to diminish the rest of the field. Everyone was getting involved, throwing their best tricks in the hat. The best part is you didn’t have to be among the top riders to be involved with the rooftop session. Everyone was throwing down! I even bashed out a few tricks.
They brought out cardboard cut outs that the everyone have to contort their bodies to air through. It’s a party atmosphere. Everyone lets loose and is having the time of their lives.
We headed down to front door of Bladehouse, which has a serious 11 set stair rail. This is an altogether different beast where only the best can play (as we all know, handrails are serious business.)
Before this year’s Bladehouse, no woman had ever done the Bladehouse handrail. This is something Kouros made the crowd aware of, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as Ichi (@iam_ichi) from Japan made a few attempts. As the atmosphere reached boiling point, Ichi laced a mizou down the marble steps sending the crowd into a loud roar of cheers. Feeling encouraged, Assia Zaharieva (@assinka.za) from Bulgaria stepped up and became the second woman to descend the Bladehouse steps. The crowd ignited into a frenetic burst of energy, shaking the nearby Parthenon.
It was the coolest moment to witness Ichi and Assia add to blade history and the crowd completely engulfed in jubilation during this special occasion. It was a beautiful moment!
Michael Müller was crowned the ‘Heavyweight Champion of 2023’ that night, with guests treated to live music to end the festivities (heavy metal followed by a classic pop act.)
The same weekend as Bladehouse, the MetroCard Classic NYC Street Invitational and Capital Rollas Jam in London. All three are big events in their own right,yet there is no doubt in my mind which city held the best event. I don’t think there is a scene anywhere in the world that can hold a candle to what Greek skaters have built. Bladehouse made Athens an unexpected center of rollerblading. To me, Bladehouse should be on the bucket list of every rollerblader’s to-do list. Maybe we’ll see each other there next time.