The “Shop Swap” concept is a simple one which strives to connect all of the awesome skate shops in Canada closer together. The idea is that a crew of skaters representing skate shop A travel to another city and work closely with skate shop B to document a short review on that city. Shortly after, a crew representing skateshop B travel to the city where skateshop A is located and also conduct a review. The reviews would be essentially skate shop A’s take on skate shop B’s city and vice-versa. Although at times, nothing more than regular old skate trips, shop swaps also act as a means for skateshop owners to discuss the industry and exchange ideas for the mutual benefit of their local scenes. They also act as mini guides to the skate scenes of cities involved while providing a taste for other aspects: nightlife, music scene, local food etc.
The Working Class crew consisted of Colby Hanson, Marty Arsenault, Fred Lanteigne and Justin Alain, while the Birling crew was Adam Wawrzynczak, Aaron Cayer, Shogo Shimizu, Scott Lauzon and Adam Leclaire.
Birling Goes To Moncton
Modern day social media makes it possible to get a feel for other skateshops and even establish connections without ever visiting the actual locations. Going a step further and turning DMs into handshakes and real conversations however, are way more meaningful. With this in mind, and with the support of SBC Skateboard Mag, I cold called Justin Allain, owner of Working Class skateshop in Moncton, NB to see if he would be interested in participating in the first shop swap. There was nothing but enthusiasm from Justin regarding the proposal and the rest, as they say, is history.
After a treacherous overnight drive from Ottawa, Working Class skateshop in Moncton was a sight for sore eyes. Justin greeted us with the friendliest of smiles and welcomed us in with open arms. Working Class is a beautiful store with an open, clean concept that makes anyone feel immediately welcome…skateboarders especially.
Like any proper skateshop, Working Class is stock piled with anything a skateboarder would need to keep rolling and includes a seating area for lurking. What truly sets Working Class aside from any other shop are two things: the tattoo parlour in the back of the store, and the granite ledge out front. Justin’s long-time friend Mike Connors operates his tattoo studio out of Working Class and does stellar work. To add to this stoke, the granite ledge outside of the shop which was generously donated by Centre distribution, is immaculate. You’re seriously never going to find a better ledge. All within the confines of Working Class territory, one is able to cop a heart-o-gram tattoo, purchase a complete, and learn kickflip nosegrinds. What order you chose to do these activities in is entirely up to you.
Our next stop from here was the skatepark, dubbed “MSP” (Moncton skatepark). Here we learned firsthand that the skaters of Moncton have zero attitude. It’s sick. When the locals are not the least bit concerned with how good you are or how “on-trend” your kit is, you make friends rather quickly. MSP is almost 20 years old, which was surprising considering how fun it is. There are definitely some quirky aspects to the park, but in general, it has stood the test of time and offers something for every kind of skater. It’s a solid training ground for the locals to warm-up before hitting the skate spots around town.
Moncton has a handful of cool spots. The city isn’t very skateable, meaning you’d need a car to properly take it all in, but if you know where to look, there are enough ledges, gaps, barriers, rails and more to keep you occupied. A lot of these spots are far from perfect, but we still had a blast skating them. It’s the kind of situation which breeds the very best kind of skater: the kind that can make a spot out of anything. In this sense, we found a common theme between Ottawa and Moncton. Both cities have a few solid spots, peppered throughout a labyrinth of places few would consider worth skating. Both cities know the true meaning of “perfect ground” via familiarization of “cheese grater” ground which is found essentially everywhere.
In between skating, we took in the sites and sounds of Moncton. Moncton is spread out rather thin, yet still contains a picturesque downtown area complete with rad restaurants and micro breweries. Above all, it’s the people that made everything more enjoyable. Everyone we interacted with were friendly and accommodating which aided in making us feel right at home. Nobody ever seemed to be particularly in a rush either. It’s the kind of laid back environment that teaches one to stop and smell the roses.
As is often the case when good times were had, the four day trip to Moncton went by in a flash. Justin and the Working Class crew are an example of the benefits a skate shop can bring to a community. They have created a hub for skateboarding to breathe in Moncton. Through the products they carry, they educate their community about the very best skateboarding has to offer. Through their actions, they ensure that any spark of interest in skating gets pushed to its full potential. It’s something that needs to be experienced to be appreciated fully.
Workingclass goes to Ottawa
So let me start off by saying that this shop swap trip was one of the best experiences I’ve had since opening the store in 2015. As I was already a fan of Birling through their Instagram page, so you can imagine my surprise when I get cold called by one of the owners pitching this article.
Our trip to Ottawa started off by getting team riders Colby Hanson and Marty Arsenault in the car and driving through the night to pick up Fred Lanteigne in Montreal. Running on energy drink fumes around 4:30am, we roll into Ottawa where we immediately crash. The next morning, we eagerly make our way to check out Birling and meet up with our new friends.
The store itself is a quaint, well thought out space with just enough product to have exactly what you want without being overwhelming. The vibe inside is incredibly inviting due to the collaborative efforts of both the owners and team who clearly have decades of experience. And if shopping isn’t your thing, stop in for a delicious coffee, which these guys make with military precision.
A short skate away, the Charlie Bowins memorial skatepark boasts a smooth, modern design in the middle of a lush public park, and like any good skatepark it’s easy to get stuck in the vortex. But that didn’t stop us from getting out there in the streets as there are lots of great spots within skating distance or short car ride away. One of the most memorable spots we skated was the legendary quarry spot which consists of some “as good as it gets” natural stone transitions. Everyone had a great time skating the smaller quarter but thing got quite heavy when Fred started trying to kicklip from the top into the larger transition.
During our down time the Birling crew made sure to show us the best the city had to offer as far as food and drink, from amazing local restaurants to the ridiculous Asian karaoke.
As I conclude my portion of the article, I can’t seem to shake the feeling of wanting to go back. Birling has created a truly special scene through their obvious passion for skateboarding and what it has brought to them. I mean, most of the owners have full time careers and running the shop is a task they share with a huge smile on their faces. It was a true inspiration to take part in this experience and I would like to encourage any true skate rat to reach out to a shop in a different city and hit the road. Thank you Birling for reaching out, and thank you SBC for immortalizing our expriences in this article.