Words by: Erik Thorbeck
Edited by: Emmanuel Lemire
Anyone paying attention to Thrasher in the past year will have no doubt noticed an increase in footage coming out of Portugal, and Lisbon in particular. It seems this southern European paradise had long been overlooked in favour of its Spanish heavyweight neighbour. Needless to say, with a bunch of dudes looking for a place to meet up to skate in the between Asia and North America in November, the options were few, and we landed upon Portugal, after hearing of the sunshine and how cheap the wine was. We figured even if the skating wasn’t great, it would be a new place, and with cheap food and wine, paired with sunshine, it wouldn’t be hard to get in the mood to stack clips.
As part of the preparation for this year’s Lisbon skateboarding trip, I decided to create a spot map for the city. Portuguese spots are not as well documented as Parisian or Barcelona spots, where a skate trip to those cities simply involves some quick Google searches for spots. When Google-ing “skate spots Lisbon” you get a Slap message board from 2013 with the location of one spot, as well as a general list of skateparks. This meant I was going to play spot detective, a role I had honed from years of documenting spots in China (see ShanghaiSpots original spotmap).
For the spotmap of Lisbon, created for this trip, click here. For more on the process of its creation and how to find spots, read on.
A good way to find skate spots in a city you’ve never been to is to ask somebody who lives there or has been there before. But what about if nobody is responding to your messages?
Here’s another approach:
- Watch skate videos that feature the city in question
- Find a spot from a skate video and take several screenshots
- Magnify screenshots and identify landmarks within the image
- Use a search engine to get more information about those other landmarks
- Use information about the landmarks to further narrow down location of spot
Here are 2 examples of how I used this method to find spots in Lisbon:
Example 1: Aqueduct Banks
Sometimes when you magnify screenshots of spots, you get lucky and find street names, or even names of shops nearby. From there, it’s usually just a simple Google maps search, followed by confirmation from Google street view. With this spot, we had no such luck. After scouring the images of this spot, I deduced that the spot was between 2 bridges, next to a train rail, and one of the bridges looked quite historic, almost medieval. If I was going to find the spot, I knew I had to find out more about this bridge.
A search for historic bridges in Lisbon revealed that this bridge in the distance was actually an aqueduct. Now seeing where the aqueduct was, I could also see a large green park between the 2 bridges. This meant there was a good chance the spot was in that park. After a lot of panning around Google Street view, I still could not find a direct view of the spot, but I could see the runway, so I was pretty sure the spot was actually there.
Given when I knew about the spot, there was an aqueduct on one side and a bridge on the other. It was alongside a railway, and it was also in a large open green space. So after looking at a map, I was able to further narrow its location.
Fortunately for this spot, it wasn’t in a back alley, or near a random industrial building loading zone , so there were clues that I could use within the image to narrow down it’s location. Needless to say, without Google, we surely would not have found it.
Example 2: The Bakery Curved Ledge in Almada
This spot was considerably more difficult to find. There were no street signs visible in any of the clips I found of it, so it required a different approach.
The most I could find within the image was a parking sign that said “Almada Occidental”, which I later found meant “Almada West” in Portuguese. Almada is a city on the Tagus River, across from Lisbon by a quick ferry ride. Not bad for a place to start, but still not enough. The western part of the city isn’t huge, but we weren’t trying to traverse that entire area in search of this spot. So I needed to further narrow it down.
After looking at different angles of the spot, I caught a break. I realised there was sign next to the spot, and on that sign there was an imagine which looked like it might be business logo. There was no text on the sign, but after taking a screenshot of the logo, and a few reverse image searches , while adding the context “Portugal”, I was able to find out that the logo belonged to a local bakery chain called “Xandite”.
Knowing already that the spot was in West Almada, I pulled up a list of all Xandite’s locations in the west part of the city. There were about 7 locations that met the criteria. After a quick street view check of each of the locations, I soon found the spot. Success.
I caught a lucky break in finding the parking sign (indicating what part of the city the spot was in) and the bakery chain logo. But had this been next to a McDonalds in the west part of Los Angeles, it would have taken significantly longer to deduce the location. There hundreds if not thousands of McDonalds in the west part of Los Angeles. And sometimes the spots isn’t close to any unique landmarks. In North America, spots are sometimes behind parking lots or strip malls. So this approach to finding spots may not always work for every spot. However, in Europe, the cities are more dense, so when you look at images of them, there’s usually more to identify (businesses, streets), which makes it easier to then narrow down their location.
A Few Notes About Spots in Lisbon
While Lisbon is a rad city to skate, the Portuguese cobblestone everywhere is a major roadblock to getting around. Beautiful as it is, it makes it hard to cruise from spot to spot. In order to get around, we did a lot of walking, biking, and uber-ing
Still, Lisbon is a rad city to skate. It’s go chill vibes, decent weather, friendly locals, a diversity of spots, good nightlife, and cheap but delicious wine. Some from a local skate mag, Surge were kind enough to show us the locations of a few other spots that were not possible to find with the above methods. Cheers guys!
This spotmap is now public via the link below. I’m doing this in hopes that future skaters don’t need to spend as much time as I did on Google Street View.
For the complete spotmap, go to: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1_zFudJXdN52U_y4nkHp1pjjgT2OPt-U&usp=sharing.
Dino Torres: https://www.instagram.com/hot.tequila/
Conny Franko: https://www.instagram.com/connyfranko/
Christian Turbes: https://www.instagram.com/christianturbes/
Dana “Shag” Jeck: https://www.instagram.com/shaghumanity/
Erik Thorbeck: https://www.instagram.com/erikthorbeck/
Jonny Cruz: https://www.instagram.com/jonny_be_gooood/