The Emerald Highway

There were a lot of moving parts in play as members of the Duotone and Fanatic wing team departed Germany in multiple campervans, setting out on a road trip toward the most westerly shores of Europe. Sadly, for one such member, the trip never even really got started. But for the rest, the (not so) wide open roads of Ireland beckoned…

Words: Henning Nockel
Photos: Simon Crowther (unless specified)

Photo: Klaas Voget

My first ever road trip was when I was 18. My childhood friend Basti Langer and I went to Copenhagen on a skate trip. I remember we drove there in my mom’s old VW Golf, she pretty much leant it to everybody that had a license, even friends of my sister and I. The entire trip we only listened to one record: Young MC’s Cold Stone Rhymin’. It was the only record (tape) we took to Copenhagen. It was chaotic and wild… lots of skating, and we slept in the car. I will never forget it.

32 years and a lot of road trips later, I am driving a very different vehicle to Ireland. It’s a brand-new campervan that we just picked up at the Dethleffs office in Southern Germany, which we’re supposed to spend the next two weeks in with a few other members of the Fanatic and Duotone wing team.

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Prior to this, Klaas Voget (head of R&D and Marketing at Fanatic and Duotone) and I had to travel from the very north of Germany all the way down to Munich to meet up with the film crew and to pick up the latest Fanatic boards and Duotone wings. From there, we left the next day with a convoy of two Dethleffs campervans and Klaas’ own van and headed in the direction of Paris. The plan was to pick up our French team rider Clement Roseyro and the Cape Verdian, Wesley Brito. The only problem was that Wesley arrived at the southern airport in Paris, while Clement showed up at the northern airport, both pretty much at the same time, and late at night. Luckily, being night-time, the traffic wasn’t too hectic. We decided to split up so that Klaas could pick up Wesley, while the film crew and I could go get Clement, and we could all meet later that night outside Paris to find a safe spot to camp for the night.

Photo: Klaas Voget

It was great to see Clement when we picked him up at the airport. He’d already been waiting for us for over three hours, but he is always so chill – when we arrived, he just smiled and hopped into the car. I know Clement from last year’s Mauritius trip, he is always super fun to hang out with, always positive, and great company! So we got chatting right away and meanwhile the driving flew by, right up until we caught up with Klaas and Wesley outside of Paris. Everybody was tired, so we slept for a few hours and then continued our journey the next morning, hoping to make it in time to get our ferry. Having made it through the night, we stopped at a truckstop at one point to get some food. Wesley had a packet of spicy crisps and a big Monster energy drink for breakfast… I laughed so much when I saw that. I’d never met Wesley before, but we’d been in touch a lot via Instagram, and it was great to finally meet him in person… He’s a huge guy, but has this really endearing, child-like friendliness.

When we finally arrived at the port we were already running a little late, but we figured it would be ok, since there were still several cars going through the customs checks behind us. We checked in and needed to swap between vehicles so the lady at the check-in could register us all to the vans we were booked on. All of a sudden she looked at Klaas, and asked him where Wesley’s visa was for Ireland. Wesley had a visa, and he was totally confident that it was all good. Except the problem was, Wesley only had a visa for the Schengen countries around Europe… which does not include Ireland. We’d never checked that, and we assumed Wes had. We had a problem.

Photo: Henning Nockel

We only had five minutes to get on board the boat or to stay behind. It was a tough one, we tried calling the French distributor to help us out, but they only confirmed that there was no way we were getting Wesley on the ferry. We had to make a quick and sad decision… we had to leave Wesley at the harbor. We couldn’t do anything more for him than give him money for the taxi and train so he could get back to Paris, to try and apply for the visa there. It felt wrong to leave him behind, but to stay with him would have meant we’d have lost the booking for three vans and cabins on the ferry – a couple thousand Euros – so we needed to go! We hugged our friend and said our goodbyes.

Even though it was smooth sailing to Ireland, we felt we couldn’t really enjoy it and throughout the whole time we were trying make a plan on how to get Wes back to us. Klaas made a lot of phone calls to his office and to customs and so on. But it seemed like there was no way to get Wesley to Ireland. Visas usually take a couple of weeks. Klaas was questioning whether we’d made the right decision to leave him there. But we all agreed there was nothing we could do at that moment, and meanwhile there were two more members of the team on their way from Tarifa in Spain, heading for Dublin airport, and photographer Si Crowther was also en route on a ferry from Great Britain. So we just had to go.

Photo: Klaas Voget

When we arrived in Dublin, we camped out at a local mall parking lot to wait for Si. Two hours later, Klaas and I went to pick up Nia Suardiaz and Jerome Cloetens at the airport. At that time, I didn’t know that Nia was half German, so I talked in English with her from the airport arrivals lounge to the car, where suddenly Klaas started talking German to her. We laughed and they made fun of me… fair enough I figured!? Once Jerome had arrived a little later, we hit the road together and made headway for the west coast of Ireland without delay, since the forecast was showing that the next day would hold the biggest chance of wind and waves for most of the trip.

Ireland was nothing like I was expecting it to be. I had heard so much about big storms, cold wind, rainy, shitty weather and massive seas. But it happened to be nice and sunny on almost every day of the trip. We never got a storm, and the waves were medium sized at maximum. The landscape was truly incredible though, even more wild, green and fascinating then I had ever imagined.

We did a lot of driving from west to east and from north to south and back again, scoring a lot of sessions along the way, and visiting a lot of bars and drinking a lot of Guinness. We saw beautiful rainbows, endless green hills, wild beaches, rough coastline and super narrow roads. The people were extraordinarily friendly, and the food was great. Even the truckstop coffees were good. We grew together as a team, even though we never got Wesley back, which was sad! But he ended up in Mauritius for a private shoot, because it was easier to fly him there than back to Ireland so then we didn’t feel quite so bad…

We had hoped for more wind and wilder waves, but it was great seeing all these different spots. A road trip will always hold the unexpected. It’s the unknown that makes a trip like that such a success, but it can also wear you down too. It can get to a point where it feels like it’s repeating itself and you can feel stuck at times, but that’s big part of the journey and even the wildest things can get you somewhere. The road saw us lose a friend before the trip even really started, it saw us get into arguments over dinner decisions, but it also found us empty spots and unexpected winds. It meant we met new friends and got invited into people’s houses. The fact is, on the road we grew together, and I miss it and all of them now.  

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