Nestled in the northernmost region of Continental Europe lies Estonia. With a meager population of 1.3 million people, and the farthest distance across being less than Andrew Andras’s 24-hour Ultra-skate world record, this country seems quite small and pretty insignificant for the longboarding scene. However, when countries of this size are exposed to new ideas (or, in this case, longboarding), these ideas spread like a disease.
History of Estonian Skateboarding
Estonian skateboarding was born in 1980, when Estonia (then part of the USSR) was hosting the summer Olympics. As more western influence spread to the area right before the fall of the Soviet Union, underground punk and skateboarding shared the common cause of going against the norm. The birthplace of this movement started in the small beachside city of Pärnu, located in the south. A furniture factory based in Pärnu began experimenting with new board designs as seen in the western movies at the time. These boards, equipped with roller skate wheels, became the new underground craze. Given that there were no parks in Estonia to street skate, the early days of skateboarding were focused on the skateboard high jump, slalom and skate hokey (aka Standup Skateboard Paddling).
Early days of skate hokey / Photo Credit: Olavi OllinoSkateboard High Jump / Photo Credit: Olavi Ollino
The Longboarding Scene Today
The Estonian longboarding scene barely existed three years ago. Maybe you’d have a friend who ordered one off the internet, but probably not. Although Estonia has had quite a mature street skating scene for the last two decades and is home to Simple Session (one of the largest street skating festivals in Europe for the last 15 years), the last two years have seen an insane growth in longboard culture. Now, nearly every city in the country has a longboard crew, and a plethora of independent skate shops, local brands, and event organizers have cropped up to help develop a strong and ever-growing longboard community. So whether you are into the push, free-riding, cruising or downhill, every corner of this country now has something to offer.
Tallinn: Capital of Skate
Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn, where over 30% of the country’s population lives, is unsurprisingly the main arena for longboarding. Whether you like to distance push along the gulf of Tallinn between the Old Town and Viimsi, or visit your local Surfhouse or Surf Garden skate shop, there is plenty this place has to offer. The community is strong here. During the summer months, there are a number of cruising events and longboard clinics set up by the local skate shops and a ton of free-riding activities. More daring adventurers hit the hill on Highway 2 straight into the heart of the city at night.
Pärnu: Beachside Cruising Town
Pärnu is the birthplace of Estonian skateboarding. It is home to Estonia’s first and oldest skateboarding competition, KuldRula (golden skate). If you visit Pärnu, especially in the summer time, the entire city is skateboard-friendly and cruising is the best way to get around, whether you want to grab coffee at a local café or head on over to the beach to skate on the boardwalk area.
Joulumäe (Christmas Hill): Shred Central
If you head out a few km’s just east of Pärnu on Highway 4, you’ll find a sweet little shred spot called Joulumäe (Christmas Hill), which is a cross-country skiing track in the winter. In the summer, it’s a running track with smooth asphalt and nice hills that make for perfect slide and downhill sessions.
Otepää: Downhill Turf
Otepää is Estonia’s winter capital and has the highest points in the entire country, which means only one thing: HILLS. While the tallest mountain in Estonia is just shy of 300 meters, there are tons of places to bomb, carve, and cut. Otepää is one of Estonia’s less-skated regions, but that is already changing.
Valga: The New Frontier
Valga is one of the smallest and southernmost cities in Estonia. Despite its lack of population, it is home to the biggest longboard maker in the country, Beercan Boards, which opened up its Baltic headquarters just last year. Since this region is among the hilliest in all of Estonia, it is becoming a major hub of longboarding in the region, especially with its shared neighbor city Valka, to the south in Latvia, where the downhill scene is already well-established. Longboarding has increased dramatically in popularity here and is gaining even more strength over the course of the 2015 skate season.
Tartu: Pusher’s Haven
Tartu is in the heart of Estonia and with a population just over 100,000. With a ton of flat land to skate, it has become a major area for cruising. It boasts massive potential with new bike paths to push yourself with distance skateboarding. As it’s a university town, youth culture is vibrant here. This becomes obvious when you’re skating through downtown. Last year, the first longboard cruises were hosted here.
Longboarding has clearly been spreading over the last 2-3 years, Estonia included. If you ever find yourself here and are itching to skate, no matter where you go, there is a little something for everyone and you’re guaranteed to find a fellow skater. The community is close-knit here; it’s like a family and everybody knows everybody. And it’s a growing family, with more and more people looking to spread the stoke, bomb some hills, and shred some thane — and we welcome anyone to join us.