How a city of barely 40,000 inhabitants came to host one of the biggest action sports events in Europe may remain a source of wonder for a long time. Year after year, seeing the lovely beach town of Ventspils, Latvia, taken over by a bunch of tattooed athletes hailing from all over the world for one weekend of stunts, party and relaxation never fails to amaze indeed.

The Ghetto Games festival is a miracle in itself, and it was yet another blessing to join the 2018 edition!

Words: Freddy White
Photography: Kaspars Alksnis

Like every year, the unofficial start of the event is the often funky, 250km bus ride from Riga, the capital, to Ventspils itself, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Like any family reunion, this helps get everyone in the mood right away, and see who’s more focused on the skating or the partying. Not that both can’t be gracefully combined, as Belgian powerhouse Antony Pottier proved when he took second place in the pro finals after 3 days (and nights) of pretty much straight partying!

But when it comes to the skating itself, things do really start on Friday on the fun and colored Ventspils skatepark. Although some preferred to spend the better part of the day on the beautiful sand beach nearby, juniors and amateurs did their best to ignore the blazing heat and stay hydrated through the contest. Inspired by the history of the event and Latvian superstar Nils Jansons‘ effort to share his love for skating with the youth, Kristofers Rudzats & Vilnis Sneiders respectively won the junior and AM categories, the perfect warm-up for Saturday’s pro show!

And what a show it was! There probably couldn’t be a better way to hype up a crowd than having frequent flyer Takeshi Yasutoko drop into the halfpipe. The vert legend was joined by Mind The Gap‘s Sven Boekhorst, Mnstr Blade‘s Jo Zenk & Starlight ExpressJoey Egan for a demo than soon turned into a very exclusive contest. Technical grinds on the coping, high-risk stalls on the platform’s fence, and of course Takeshi’s incredible amplitude, double flips and overall display of unmatched skills: Needless to say, everybody was fully juiced before moving on to the skatepark for the main event!

If you know what to expect when it comes with seasoned pros like Montre Livingston, Dominik Wagner or returning (and still undefeated) champion Roman Abrate, one of the best parts about GG Fest is seeing the locals rise to the occasion! Once again, Latvia’s best up-and-comers Toms Slukins and Niklāvs Katlaps landed amazing tricks first try on the disaster box (how about Toms’ medspin 540 AO porn or Niklāvs 540 AOTP?!) More impressive even, Edgars Rozentāls‘ consistency and sweet mix of style, originality and technical moves finally landed him on a well-deserved podium!

But while the boys did their thing as usual, the real highlight of this year’s event was the girls’ involvement and their common attempt at creating a better sport for everyone. After attending Friday’s SHE FIX discussion panel and seeing the amazing contest on Saturday, it is clear that this group of motivated individuals is not only raising issues, but also offering solutions for positive, more inclusive initiatives within action sports in general. Girls not only want to have fun: They want everyone to have their fair share too, and we couldn’t be happier to see them take matters into their own hands!

Looks like the future is bright and full of possibilities: We’ll see what 2019 brings for Ghetto Games, see you next year in Ventspils everyone!

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