Photos and words by Wes McGrath
In February of 2018, I was finally going to be visiting Europe for the first time, I had joined the annual migration from Estonia to Barcelona with countless other riders, to bask in the sunshine of Southern-coastal Spain. After spending a full week in the Estonian winter at an indoor contest called Simple Session, this was a time of year I've only heard about and seen online for years... So soon before I departed on my journey from California, I formulated a plan with Joris Coulomb and Alex Donnachie to spend two weeks in a flat in Barcelona, as Alex worked on his latest installment of his personal video project called, Nearly5. During Simple Session we invited, Anthony Perrin, Austin Augie and Alex Kennedy to join the trip and make it a full house! Needless to say the line up was heavy, not only in talent but in friendship... Most of this crew have known each other for years, making the daily routine an easy one and the sessions some of my most memorable to date!
A year has past now since this trip happened and Alex Donnachie first envisioned to use this footage as a start to another full length installment of his DVD series, Nearly, as he healed up from a bad knee injury/surgery! Time passed he decided to put together this exclusive video packed full of two weeks worth of good times and great bike riding in Barcelona! I was fortunate enough to be there everyday to be apart of the action to make these photos and share them with you, finally!
Home Country: France
Sponsors: Vans, RedBull, Federal, Marie Jade, DUBBMX, BMXavenue.
"Having a chance to stay together in Barca after Simple Session was amazing! Great vibe and great energy! A good crew just out trying to get some clips, thanks a lot Alex!"
- Anthony Perrin
Our flat was up in El Carmel, a neighborhood resting in the hills just above the city center of Barcelona. Which made for great spot discovery and an exhilarating pedal downhill into the city everyday! Given the hills and steep sidewalks we were very fortunate to come across perfect rails like this one. The streets were busy, the sidewalks are full of very unforgiving pedestrians and frankly there is just barley enough room to fit on the stairs with Alex. We squeeze into position and did't wait long for Anthony to pull it right away, no problem!
Here is a little background on El Carmel: The neighborhood of El Carmel lies on the the slopes of one of the hills above Barcelona between Horta and Gracia and is one of the steepest in Barcelona. The name of both the hill and the neighborhood comes from the Santuari del Carmel, which dates from the mid-19th century and the first summer residences were built in the area from 1875 onwards. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first permanent residential neighborhood consisting of single family detached homes, such as Can Bacardí, Can Mans and Salt de les Bruixes, grew up and these houses were mainly occupied by bourgeois families from Gràcia and Horta.
The first wave of immigration from other parts of Spain came in 1929 when mainly Andalusian and Galician workers came to take jobs building the Barcelona Metro in the run up to the 1929 Barcelona Universal Exposition. However, El Carmel remained mainly two story houses until the mass immigration from Southern Spain came under Franco in the 1950s. The housing at this time was initially shacks and shanties built by the new arrivals until the were replaced by large faceless blocks of flats in the 1960s. In the last couple of decades some improvements have been made with the building of the Rambla del Carmel and Carrer Llobregós and the installation of metal escalators that help moving around this incredibly hilly neighborhood.
This photo was originally published and printed in our latest issue DIGBMX Magazine 99.9 as a full page spread. On this day we left the flat at noon with intentions of searching without any reference to locations or spots. This is quite easy to do in Barcelona with a plethora of spots and warm days, it didn't take us but a few city blocks and one giant hill to find this hidden gem of a playground. We warmed up here with the sun shinning and snacks in hand, the guys all had a go at this spot but this photo of AK in particular is my favorite!
On this specific trip, Alex showed up to the party a bit later than the rest of us... After a longer than expected stay in Tallinn, Estonia after a long week at Simple Session 18, AK ended up coming to the flat for only a short week but his presence brought plenty of laughs, good tea and mischievous outings into the night!
Alex Kennedy is hands down one of my favorite bike riders and people to spend time with, his approach to life is contagious, to most of us it's inspirational and somewhat of a mystery to the rest... Either way, if you know AK closely or only know from a distance you get a feeling of calmness from him and that feeling translates to his riding. For years Alex has wowed us with his unique and stylish street riding, gifting us with several video parts that are frequently playing in almost any BMX household.
"I bet Austin three coconut yogurt cups from the market across the street to do it it the rain. On his last try he bet me double or nothing, so I had to buy him six!"
- Wes McGrath
"It was incredible to see how calm Jo was when he was feeling out the rail, even with all the students, teachers and cars passing by, he did it perfect first try!"
- Miki Da Silva
I came to find rather quickly, that one of the most important aspects of the Barcelona scene is the friendships between the riders that live there. The city is a mecca for BMX and riders visit from all over the world to take advantage of something special, this sets the stage to form a brotherhood with people you never thought you would meet. The month I was in Spain I had the chance to meet so many different riders as well as a few familiar faces from the states. Thankfully to the hospitality of the locals I have been able to experience Barca in a way that makes me feel at home... These friendships transcend boarders and oceans, which keep intertwining as time rolls on to strengthen the international bond within BMX!
This is a small slideshow of extra photos I had from the trip, including friends, street photography and a few snaps from my assignment in to photograph Corey Martinez and Peter Adam as they filmed Corey's winning 2018 X-Games Real Street contest video!