The World’s Greatest Skateboarder is Going-Home-Shvili. Giorgi is originally from Georgia. For Pocket Vol. 2 he invited us to experience Georgia from his point of view, as authentic as it gets. Join us as we skate this beautiful country and watch Georgi pave his way to the Olympic Games 2020, where he looks to represent HIS GEORGIA.
Giorgi Balkhamishvili, Marca Barbier & Farid Ulrich
WORDS BY FARID ULRICH
PHOTOS BY BURNY
THE WORLD’S GREATEST SKATEBOARDER,
Going on skate trips is the best and most important aspect of being a professional skater.
You fly out to a foreign country, you check in to your hotel, set up your board and then you get locked up in the van for the next 2 weeks.
The trunk is full of bananas and water so there will be no unnecessary stops. There is this new ledge spot from the latest Blablabla video that everyone has seen, except you. And that perfect 14 stair rail. “Yeah dude, I heard Nyjah skated it”, mumbles someone and you’re nodding as if you would know. 14 days pass by and the only thing you really explored was the individual smell of all the crew members as well as everyone’s psychological disorder. Giorgi and I were over it and decided to do our own trip. A vacation trip. But how can we avoid getting stressed because our trip got paid?
1 involve Burny so the trip looks legit
2 get a filmer on board that unfortunately has to leave in the first couple of days
3 invite a legendary skater that will never show up (hope dies last)
4 invite a long-haired French guy who will block the shower for hours in the morning
With all that given there was nothing we had to worry about…
We were invited by the Balkhamishvilis, Giorgi’s family, to stay at their house in the suburbs of Tbilisi, capital of Georgia. Yes, it’s Giorgio from Georgia and by the way, it’s the most common name there. Also, the last names are ending on „shvili” all the time, making Giorgi a role model Georgian. It was Giorgi, Burny, Marca from Paris and me.
One of the first things we realized was the bad pollution. Everyone uses the car or a cab to get around and since there are no regulations on exhaust filters or any regulations at all, you will find yourself in a crazy traffic chaos with almost no air to breathe. Especially for skating it was super heavy. In the car of Giorgi’s grandpa was a breach somewhere, so you were sitting right in the exhaust gases. But luckily there was a little fan adjusted for the driver on the front window blowing some fresh toxic air into your mouth.
Grandpashvili is 87 years old now, smoking like a chimney, driving his car and drinking all day, so I guess nothing to worry about, right?
Since the doping affair in Sotschi 2016 we all know that it takes more than talent and hard practice to win. Giorgi’s dad has a big bag of contacts and he managed to talk to the Olympic committee to set up a meeting while we were in Georgia. On the third day, we were welcomed to the headquarter and while Giorgi had his meeting we had a short conversation with one of the guys working there. He said that in order to win it’s necessary to be open to new approaches. Practice is good, but you need that little extra to be better than everyone else.
As the door pops open and with Giorgi coming out, it was pronounced that he had signed the contract and with the help of Georgia that he was going to be “the world’s greatest skateboarder” by the year 2020.
From that point on we recognized a changing in him. It was not only his new shirt or the sweatband, it was something else. He also started skating, even filmed some tricks and shot a bunch of photos on this trip. Something rare if you know the old Giorgi. But not enough, he was out in bars and clubs every night, not taking any rest. Don’t know what they did to him, but I want some too.
If you know Giorgi’s Instagram, you know that he is one of the most creative guys out there. No surprise that his whole family has a creative touch, everyone in their own way. First up, we have Oma (grandma) and Opa (grandpa) Shvili. They both work in the garden of the house and are super proud of their own wine and cognac they produce. We got destroyed by it the first night and never touched it again. Georgians claim to be the inventors of wine (and to be the first Europeans). Mama Shvili is a famous painter in Georgia and the family is making a living by selling paintings. Papa Shvili is her manager and is a passionate painter as well. Also, Papa Shvili reminded us of Trevor from GTA V a lot. On the Polaroid up right you can see why.
Uncle Shvili lives outside the city in a house that you can only reach with a proper vehicle, super nice guy with a big smile on his face. More about him later. And we need to mention Cousin Shvili, although we don’t have a photo. He is a drifting maniac and well known in Tiflis. He took us out on some rides to tease us a little. Later on our trip little brother Shvili joined us. First thing we knew about him was that he had already driven a car on a highway when he had been 5 years old. Dad approved. Filmer Luca Shvili and OG Luka Shvili were both homies from day one. They took us around in their cars, showed us the good food spots and gave us weed for free. As you could guess, filmer Luka Shvili was also filming and since our original filmer had left, we asked him to continue the job. OG Luka Shvili is also part of the Olympic team and one of the best skaters in Georgia. His photo on the polaroid shows him on an election poster he got tricked into. We could see his face all over the city.
So yeah, we made ourselves comfortable in Tbilisi: extended breakfasts in the morning, skating for fun because our filmer had left and cheap drinks in the evenings. Not to mention the beauty of Georgian girls. For us, it was unlike any other country we’ve seen so far and different from what we’ve expected. It felt like a crazy mix of Turkish and Russian culture. The language sounded like a perfect mix too, although it has more Persian and Arabic influences. On one side, people have that Mediterranean-Turkish touch, but, on the other side, alcohol distilling and drinking habits of Russian people. They are crazy like Russians and chaotic like Turks when it comes to driving, making you fear for your life on every third cab ride. But they will let you smoke!
The best thing was the food. Georgian Börek called “Khachapuri” or “Khinkali”, Georgian dumplings. They also have the biggest Wendy’s in the world in Tiflis, putting a little US and A in there! These different cultural influences, from all sides people developed their own way of handling things. Their own culture. They do it the Georgian way.
After a couple of days, our filmer needed to leave. The same day our invited legend told us he can’t come. At first, we were a little bumped because a big part of the motivation to land your tricks is getting the clip. Luckily filmer Luka Shvili who was with us every day anyways, was super hyped to film for the rest of the trip. On our first day of filming with Luka, we met in the skatepark as usual. But unfortunately, it started raining so we decided to go to a loading dock area to skate a roofed ledge. After Marca and I had had some fun cruising around “the world’s greatest skateboarder” started trying a line and also managed to roll away from it. Way different from the old Giorgi. But Luka wasn’t happy and asked him to redo it, so he could film it better.
On the next try “the world’s greatest skateboarder” bailed a Fakie Treflip on flat, his board got in front of Luca, he accidentally jumped on it and did a half backflip off the chest high loading ramp onto his head. He was unconscious for a couple of seconds and after he woken up he had amnesia every 3 minutes. He ate 5 bananas in 15 min and still wouldn’t remember eating one. We brought him to the hospital, he got checked and luckily it was “just” a bad concussion. But he had to stay at home for at least one week. Leaving us with no filmer again. I wonder what would have happened to a third one…
One day Papa Shvili organized a minivan for all of us to go to the countryside. It took about an hour to get to this abandoned little parking lot next to some train tracks and a guy sitting under a tree with an AK in his hand. The road stopped here and led into a rough stone path into the mountains. Uncle Shvili had already waited in his pick-up truck, ready to give us a ride. We passed his house halfway up, he showed off his collection of old cars, we met his German Shepherd and last but not least he presented all of his old hunting guns.
Then we made our way up to the top of the mountains where a lonely priest was living with his giant dog. He had his own little house as well as a little church on the highest point. Far away we could see the first glaciers and after the hectic polluted city life, it was nice to be up there and take a deep breath. On the way down we took another stop in the middle in the forest to shoot some guns.
Papa Shvili transformed into Trevor again and 5-year-old Brother Shvili was allowed to shoot a gun for the first time. Back at Uncle ShvilI’s house, we ate some fresh walnuts from a nearby tree and on the way down to our car we had to chase a bunch of cows back to their owners. Regular business for them, something new to us. Definitely a day we will remember for a long time. Thanks again Uncle and Papa Shvili.
One of the first things organized on Giorgi’s road to becoming “the world’s greatest skateboarder” was getting media presence. And what is better than live news in Georgia?
Mama and Papa Shvili could help out as well, they were no strangers to this game. They explained it by a simple example from their business: They simply told people that Angelina Jolie and Beyoncé had already bought their paintings to raise the interest. No one ever will check for proof.
And we just needed Giorgi to go live and pronounce what he is about to accomplish in the next 3 years. No cuts, no censor, just Giorgi. The world’s greatest Skateboarder!
With Papa Shvili and the Olympic committee in our backs, it was easy to get into the national news and three days later we had our live link. Giorgi convinced Georgia of how important and far ahead his stunts are and from now on the world should call him “the world’s greatest skateboarder”. He got backed up by the Olympic Coach with a double-time speech about Georgian skateboarding. Brilliant.
Time went quickly like it always does. In the last days, everything is getting more exciting. The last time using the squad toilet, last time cognac from Grandpa, last time walking down little SF, last time going to our morning coffee spot, etc.
The last 2 days are important to underline your good memories about the trip. Therefore enjoy them as much as possible.
In the last night, Burny came up with this crazy idea to end our trip. He wanted to order the whole menu of our favorite coffee spot. About 40 dishes, salads, soups, pizzas, etc. We did the math and figured that it was about the same price as a regular team dinner in Germany. In the last night, Burny came up with this crazy idea to end our trip. He wanted to order the whole menu of our favorite coffee spot. About 40 dishes, salads, soups, pizzas, etc. We did the math and figured that it was about the same price as a regular team dinner in Germany. 20 min later the food wave was coming in and it wasn’t stopping for another 20 min. It was so much food that it didn’t fit onto the biggest table in the restaurant.
THE WORLD’S GREATEST LUNCH
<- SWIPE FOR THE PROOF ->
We ate as much as we could, but there was so much left over that we felt bad to throw anything away. We packed everything together and on the way to the last spot on our trip we passed it to random homeless people in the streets. We pushed to the spot to get warmed up and to stimulate our digestion after that gluttony.
After a couple of Ollies I tried to Kickflip over the rail which got super hectic. I had to run up on a high traffic road, couldn’t breathe due to the pollution, short run-up, a car so close I would probably hit it and a barrier that was somehow opened on this day. After I had landed it, I checked my shin because I had bumped into the barrier couple of tries before and realized that there was a big cut and I needed to get stitches. OG Luca Shvili gave me a ride to the hospital and I lost my needle virginity in Georgia. After that we went to Fabrica again, meeting up with the squad and having our last beers.