Portrait of Raakel in his backyard.
words and photos, Nicolas Bouvy
Way out south-west there was this fella... fella I wanna tell ya about. Fella by the name of Raakel. At least that was the handle his parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. Mr. Raakel, he called himself Raakel Bloody Raakel. Now, Bloody Raakel that's a name no one would self-apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about the dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense. And a lot about where he lived, likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin'. They call Pääsküla the "Passage Village." I didn't find it to be that, exactly. Once my feet hit the ground there, I knew ain’t gonna be just a transitory journey. But I'll allow there are some nice folks there. 'Course I can't say I've seen Riga, and I ain't never been to Lithuania. And I ain't never seen no president in her damned undies, so the feller says. But I'll tell you what after seeing Pääsküla, and this here story I'm about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin' every bit as stupefyin' as you'd see in any of them other places. And in English, too. So I can die with a smile on my face, without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me. Now this here story I'm about to unfold took place back in the mid’ 80s just about the time before the restoration of Independence. I only mention it because sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? But sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about Raakel here. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's Raakel, in Pääsküla. And even if he's a lazy man and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in Harju County, which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide. But sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But... aw, hell. I've done introduced him enough.
Remains of the old wreck of a ramp.
Joking aside, enough with the Lebowski incarnation, Raakel, like a ghost, like one of Tallinn’s urban legends, is a black stray cat, that ain’t easy to sight. When for most, the story of the dude is unheard... but do not let your attention wonder off here! After more than three decades in Tallinn skate community, Raakel is the rarest of all birds, still 110% dedicated to the 4-wheeled wooden toy. His amplifier commitment goes 11! Always ‘till now, a hardened musician, was swimming in punk-metal melting pot and now releasing his own techno/electro beats for the fortunate crowd of some rare underground party.
Restoration and preparing new ribs.
End of the 80s, early 90s, seeing the old Rula slalom boards, a band of misfits from the Estonian soil were figuring out how to make them take off the ground. Mixing the flat wood-plank with modern gear smuggled from Sweden or Finland. Or the other way around. When you are in your early teenager years, ain’t got no time to wait for the shit to land in front of your porch. You have to heat up your neurons and squeeze the soul out of it, so your creativity gonna be your saviour. No instagram, just the good old house number and meeting the rare guys wondering the streets with the 4-wheeled wood stick under the arms. You’d jump on him and ask his contact right away. And Raakel is one of those Estonian primitive 90s street surfers, got the virus since he lay his hands on his first slalom board in ‘86. Met with another Tartu legend Janar Ilves, in 1990.
Janar 50-50 surrounded by the jungle.
After a good 30 min ollie session in the street, staring at each other from far away, not knowing how to interact with The stranger, they decided to make the step towards each other. So Janar taught him the magic of the ollie. Janar had a Soviet Space Program worthy DIY deck, his dad built him to match the self re- arranged Rula trucks. This shit could send you to space, that is sure (we gonna come back to you on that topic asap). It allowed him to actually pop the wood plank and take off, at a time the flat slalom Rula made your life so miserable at it. Take a sec and visualize the thing, you’ll get the idea. And so they became good friends, had one more session and then didn’t meet back until 10 years later.
Raakel fs grind.
Early 90s Raakel got his first modern deck, a California Pro 80s-like pig shape overloaded with good old plastics. Then, through a death metal band he united with Maik Grüner, his best partner in crime ‘til now. They were wearing out their shoes and decks on the curbs of bus stops. This one time, he recalls, they were going to skate the Lauluväljak and met with some young shorthaired guys with new popsicles and that made them realize how yesterday they were with their ancient looking decks, and savage and shaggy long capillarity. After dropping a little tear, nothing would stop them, and until now both are still rolling the wheels, even 30 years later.
Raakel Rock n Roll.
So here we are in 2015, I got my Belgian ass up to Tallinn, where I met Maik, the other old unstoppable skate rat from Tallinn. We directly picked up the good vibrations and in spring I got invited to come visit Raakel, his old buddy. They were assembling a micro in front of his home. Was real fun to help them and after the job done, we could finally test the new wooden wave. Was a really fast and tight ramp. In between runs we would make a nicotine/caffeine break and share old stories. He directed me to his old backyard jungle. In there was a huge mini-ramp rooting out and it felt like an archaeological quest. You can imagine the kind of sight like collapsed wood structure with the young trees ready to take over. He was convinced of the fact that the old wood would soon get used to warm up his ass in the next winter. The structure was some old wood gathered by the two from a mid-2000s Simple session competition. They just put it together and the ramp did her duty for some 10 years. But by that time, the structure was just fading away for a few years. It ain’t seen a wheel’s touch. It did not seem that it was at a point of no return tho. So my main quest here was just to harass them to get it fixed. Let’s say 40% of the wood was reusable. First mission was to clean up all the rotten wood and as winter was starting we couldn’t go any further. And the next year when the virus crap happened in spring, Estonia was kind of spared compared to most of European countries and we could still meet, so we started the work! After several evenings and a lot of greenish water-resistant paint and replacing the ribs that needed it and so the frames were assembled together. We got it ready for the plywood sheets. After leveling the whole thing, we got two extra friends Taavi and Kristjan and with 2 work sessions the ramp was finally done. The new extension (the old one was in real bad shape and had to go) was then ready for the pool coping to be laid. We really wanted to make some big ass ones and we got what we wanted.
Maik fs grind.
So here we are, the ramp was ready to be fired up and is fixed for the last three summers. Finally, so long as the elements give us a rest, the ramp is revived for Raakel to ride the wave in a daily basis. With a good Motorhead song in the back of the head.
Raakel bs grind.
Beware of Raakel, as the biggest Lemmy’s supporter, he is the Ace of Spades who takes the hand and you always gonna have a killer session. So fortunate to have him as my best pal here!
The nude ramp.
The home-made pool coping for the extension.
Jaagup bs rock n roll the extension.
Nicolas fs air.
Jaagup bs crail.
Nicolas fs grind nose grab.
Maik bs tail slide.
Nicolas Brent slide.
Risto fs rock on the extension.