Last month, the village of Popšica in southern Serbia hosted what organisers claimed was the country's first "downhill longboard competition and festival". The three-day event, organised by the Mozgabez skate crew, featured 30 riders from across Serbia. The eventual winner, Nenad Mihajlovic, took home a longboard tagged with "King of Popšica".
The village, nestled between the Svrljig mountains, has a population of around 150 – rising to just over 500 during the summer months. It's far from any major motorways or industries, and, as is the case throughout rural Serbia, Popšica's young people have long since left in search of job opportunities in cities.
The town does have one exciting party trick, in the form of a natural spring swimming hole where the water is forever 22 degrees celsius, attracting visitors throughout the year from nearby towns and villages.
As part of a town-wide construction project, all the roads leading into Popšica have recently been widened, flattened and topped off with a fresh layer of asphalt. That means the conditions for longboarding are perfect, which is what inspired Mozgabez to host their event in the village.
The people of Popšica were more than happy to ensure the festival was a success – doing everything from setting out food and refreshments, to catching a runaway cow that had wandered onto the track.
Miljan, who works for a local organisation that helps support children with learning difficulties, liked the Mozgabez team just fine: "We were surprised to see that not a single one of them appeared to be a hoodlum. There were no incidents at all."
The race itself featured a mile-long track, with several hairpin bends lined with bales of hay to protect the competitors – some of whom reached speeds of up to 37mph. "The track was nice and the safety measures were good," competitor Daniel Lazarov told me, despite the blood stains on his board. "And the village added a great atmosphere to the whole thing."
After the race, the locals and longboarders all went for a swim in the town's natural pool together. "It's a great thing for the village, because it attracted young people, and hopefully showed a different face of the countryside," said Popšica resident Ninko. "I hope they come again next year – they're always welcome here."
Scroll down to see more photos from Serbia's first longboard festival.