Lives In DangerThe Consolidated team’s Venezuelan ordeal

Lives In Danger
The Consolidated team’s Venezuelan ordeal.
Words by Clint Peterson

When Leticia from Consolidated first asked me if I was interested in going to Venezuela, my immediate response was “of course!” She told me all about the country-the scenery, the white sand beaches and clear blue water, the beautiful girls, and the fiestas! The farthest place I had gone out of the U.S. was Mexico, so needless to say, I was ready to go.

I was packing my things to go to Venezuela when the phone rang. Leticia called to tell me that the U.S. had just issued a travel warning because Venezuela was having some kind of political turmoil, and we couldn’t go to there until next month. I generally don’t pay any attention to politics (or the news for that matter), but apparently they didn’t want Americans there-the U.S. interfered with their president getting overthrown or something. All it meant to me was that we had to wait.

A long month passed, and it came time for us to go. Everyone felt a little nervous, but our tickets were nonrefundable, and I was itching to go. The day finally came and we got on the plane. After seven hours in a plane, we arrived to the capital city of Caracas. Extremely famished and jet-lagged, Karma Tsocheff, Roberto Alemañ, Brian Uyeda, and I retrieved our baggage, and then headed to a pastry shack. We scarfed down the world’s stalest croissants and met Marco, our distributor and tour guide for the next week.

Everyone then piled into a van and drove to Marco’s home. I guess when you rent a van in Venezuela, it comes complete with an old guy named Jack. Over the next few days, he earned the nickname “Jack the Ripper,” not because he ripped, mind you, but because each and every day our lives were in danger due to his non-signaled lane changes causing near-death experiences. We’d ask Jack after a near collision on how he knew that the guy was going to stop and he’d nonchalantly reply, “I know my people.”

But to his credit, it wasn’t just Jack who drove like this-it seemed everyone in Venezuela was trying to kill us. I don’t think there’s any sort of driving school-if you pay 25 bucks, then you can get a license. It’s so much different than driving in the U.S. It’s like taking the worst driver you know, and then adding no rules and blind intersections-buckle up!

The place was like paradise, though. Driving along, we saw these metal shanties where people lived. We’d be three hours outside of a city in the middle of nowhere and there were all these communities of people living off the land in these tiny metal shacks. They don’t like to tear down trees to build extravagant houses like we do. It was amazing.

And I also have to admit, the country’s traditional cuisine was quite excellent. Sometimes we’d eat sandwiches for breakfast, which I’m totally down for, but another food we all seemed to enjoy were these things called cachapas-pancakes made with corn, but instead of syrup, they had this really salty cheese melted on top. We all acquired a taste for them, especially Brian. He’d had them before and was shoveling them down like they were going out of style. Their fruit was also really good. At the gas stations, there were these fruit vendors hanging out selling fruit. They’d have all the normal fruit, but they’d also have this crazy fruit that we’d never seen before. Picture a giant peapod with fury white peas. But watch out ’cause those white peas had pits in them. The furry white part would melt in your mouth, and then you’d have to spit out the pit. It’s scary eating things you’ve never come across. I felt like I might’ve gotten sick, but I had to try it. Nine times out of ten, everyone ended up really liking the stuff.

We were soon woken up from our dream, though, and the next week turned out to be a week booked with demos, signings, and whatever street skating we could get in. We left our lazy American way of life behind us, and crammeso much into one day. It ruled, but it was a big change compared to other trips I’d been on-each day was more hectic than the last.

Our demo schedule was pretty harsh-I’m pretty sure we did nine demos and at least five autograph signings in seven days. Normally, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but the city had just too much to skate, and we didn’t have a lot of time. There was a constant battle between Marco and Brian, because Marco had promised several different people that we’d show up and Brian needed to shoot photos in order to get this article-it was an understatement to say it got pretty hectic.

Out of all of our demos, only one in particular stood out. We drove five hours to a town with no skate spots and pulled up to this “extreme” park, where everyone waited for a show. At this point, no one felt like skating, but we got out of the van and warmed up a little anyway. I remember someone saying, “Hey, the locals rip here!” The park had a crazy setup-it had a triple-kink handrail with no runway, some ski jumps, and some other gnarly crud, not to mention it was also a blistering 100-degree Venezuelan day.

After an hour and a half, we sat down to drink some water and take a breather. This guy (the owner of the park, I think) came up and started yelling at us in Spanish. He told us that we didn’t skate long enough and that we needed to skate for another hour. All this coming from a guy wearing a tank top who’s never skated a day in his life was the last thing we wanted to hear. Sorry, kids, we were out of there!

I don’t think Venezuela gets many pros/teams going down there. This other day we did a demo at a plaza with 400 people waiting for us to shred a funbox and an eight-stair that had a makeshift handrail. Fun session, but I snapped my board twenty minutes into it, and the crowd swarmed me like I was Burt Reynolds. They wanted my broken board, but I couldn’t give it up because I needed the trucks. They wanted anything they could get, so I threw out the few stickers I had. I then looked over at Karma, who had like 200 kids swarming him and a crazy chick trying to rip his shirt off. Sounds fun, but after about five minutes, it got too crazy and the cops escorted us back to our van. Drive, Jack, drive!

Somehow, in between the demos and signings, we got to skate some incredible places. The spots were really good, like crazy architecture-third-world style. What you see in this article is only a fraction of what Venezuela has to offer. In the middle of the cities, there were really smooth marble plazas with tons of spots all around them. Whenever we had time to skate these spots, a crowd would immediately form. That’s something that rarely happens in the States. People in Venezuela seemed to have admiration as well as respect for what we were doing-families would cheer us on. It was nice to have people on our side for once. I only wish we would’ve had more time to skate everything we saw.

Looking back, I’d have to say this was one of the best trips Karma, Roberto, and I have been on together. Thanks to Marco and everyone at Amigos Skate Shop, and a big shout out to the cops and security guards we bribed with Monopoly money. A special thanks goes to Raul for helping us out along the way.

Oh and about what Laticia said, she’s right-Venezuela does have beautiful scenery, beaches, and girls. Hopefully, on my next return there, I’ll actually get to enjoy it all.

*Viva Venezuela!

When I first got asked to go on this trip, I immediately said yes without questioning who, what, when, etc. I just heard the word “Venezuela” and I was in. Within days of the proposal, the trip was canceled because of the coup that overtook President Chavez and control of the governent. After talking to a relative (who’s lived in Caracas for the past five years), he strongly recommended that I didn’t go because of hostile times in an already dangerous environment. I, of course, considered the advice and went anyway.

I was told that the Consolidated guys would be doing a few demos during our week stay in Venezuela. With our “free days” we’d be able to skate and check out some of the beaches. Well, there were eight or nine demos, five or six autograph signings, and let’s not forget the radio-how appearance and TV interviews that the crew did on the way to the next demo. How were we supposed to get some photos for an article? On the way to next demo, of course! No real time to do spot searching or “maybe come back when I’m feeling this.” “Whoa, check out that rail!” Screech! Stop for twenty minutes, skate, climb back in the van, and continue on our way to the next demo.

This was the most spontaneous article I’ve ever done. All these photos were shot in a matter of minutes with no time to spare or waste. Keep in mind that there were extra photos and sequences that didn’t make the final cut. With all that said, I’m amazed at what these guys endured and accomplished during our week stay in Venezuela-the amount of effort they put in to each demo, while still finding some energy to take photos. A big thank you to Karma Tsocheff, Clint Peterson, and Roberto Alema§ for coming through. Thanks to all the amazing people we met in Venezuela. Special thanks to Leticia at Consolidated, Marcos and Sofia at Amigos Skateboards, and all their friends who helped out and made our stay more enjoyable.-Brian Uyeda

course, considered the advice and went anyway.

I was told that the Consolidated guys would be doing a few demos during our week stay in Venezuela. With our “free days” we’d be able to skate and check out some of the beaches. Well, there were eight or nine demos, five or six autograph signings, and let’s not forget the radio-how appearance and TV interviews that the crew did on the way to the next demo. How were we supposed to get some photos for an article? On the way to next demo, of course! No real time to do spot searching or “maybe come back when I’m feeling this.” “Whoa, check out that rail!” Screech! Stop for twenty minutes, skate, climb back in the van, and continue on our way to the next demo.

This was the most spontaneous article I’ve ever done. All these photos were shot in a matter of minutes with no time to spare or waste. Keep in mind that there were extra photos and sequences that didn’t make the final cut. With all that said, I’m amazed at what these guys endured and accomplished during our week stay in Venezuela-the amount of effort they put in to each demo, while still finding some energy to take photos. A big thank you to Karma Tsocheff, Clint Peterson, and Roberto Alema§ for coming through. Thanks to all the amazing people we met in Venezuela. Special thanks to Leticia at Consolidated, Marcos and Sofia at Amigos Skateboards, and all their friends who helped out and made our stay more enjoyable.-Brian Uyeda

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