Dodging Bullets, Vans Excursion to Mexico

Everything was going a little too smoothly. The new Vans amateur squad–Van Wastel, Jeremiah Vance, Scott Kane, and Terry Kennedy–boarded Mexicana Airline flight 252. Then, right before we landed, the turbulence hit. A very unhappy stewardess yelled at Terry because his tray table was still down and he was using his Discman. He just looked at her and shouted lyrics from a Jay-Z song he was listening to. Then she freaked the f–k out, started screaming, shook his fold-down tray, punched his Discman, and stormed down the aisle ranting something about the policía. Eventually, he put his CD player away, smiled, then kept singing. The displeased look on the faces of the other passengers around Terry was wonderful. I took it as a definite sign that the trip would be good, as long as there were no police waiting to haul Terry off the plane when we landed.

Monterey

The only thing we were told upon arriving in Monterey, Mexico was that there’d be two men dressed in black suits waiting for us. And sure enough, they were there–rocking black sunglasses and black suits, looking like professional druglord bodyguards. We rolled away in their black tinted-out Suburban feeling like we pulled a fast one on somebody, like we tricked someone into thinking we were really important. During our stay, we weren’t quite sure if these guys were hired to protect us or just drive us around, but apparently it was a little bit of both. We heard stories of wealthy Americans being kidnapped for ransom money, which is kind of funny if you think about it. Imagine if someone were dumb enough to kidnap one of us. All they’d get for ransom would be some torn-up shoes, some wheels, and if they were really lucky, a couple boards.

Usually after thirteen hours of traveling, everyone goes to the hotel and chills. That wasn’t the case with this crew–they were itching to skate, and the locals in Monterey were great. They took us to an indoor skatepark that was closed and somehow convinced the owner to open it up. After a quick warm-up sesh, the locs even broke out their lights and took us to a perfect red rail. Scott Kane noseblunted it, and Van Wastel backside flipped within minutes. Special thanks to Calysto and all the homies for showing us around.

Our last day in Monterey was spent trying to skate this silver rail at some upscale building–bad idea. Pissed-off security guards instantly swarmed us. Being skateboarders who are used to security guards, we really didn’t care, but after we saw our tough drivers looking scared, we decided that we should get the hell out of there. We ran back to the Suburban, expecting a speedy getaway only to find that the cops had roadblocked us in, and they seemed more pissed than the security. At one point, a police officer mad-dogged us and started singing the Cops “Bad Boys” song. Then they informed us that we were all going to jail for a very long time.

Words can’t explain how lucky we were that Vans employs a very smart guy by the of name Steve Luther. Steve’s fluent in Spanish, and he completely ignored the cops, which made them furious. Instead, he spoke directly to the owner of the building, and after some heated conversation, the owner said we could leave. The cops were visibly disappointed that they weren’t able to arrest us. Our crew, on the other hand, was so relieved we sung the “Bad Boys” song all the way to the airport.

Puerto Escondido

Don’t you hate it when you get on plane heading to a tropical paradise and three minutes before you land, you’re told that the dreaded dengue fever is spreading around rampantly infecting people? Yeah, that’s always a letdown. Anyway, the virus is spread by mosquito bites, and it starts with a fever followed by a pink rash that covers your entire body. Shortly after that, your bloovessels clog, your blood pressure drops, and as a result, you start bleeding from the gums, skin, and intestinal tract. This is when your body goes into shock. Hopefully, you’re somewhere near a hospital so they can inject liquid sustenance into your body with an IV tube, because by that point, you won’t even have enough energy to swallow food. There’s no vaccine and no cure. Welcome to Puerto Escondido.

Our local Vans tour guide Marco quickly told us there was nothing to worry about, but he didn’t hesitate to coat us with multiple layers of mosquito repellent. Upon hearing about this epidemic, Terry immediately demanded to, “Get the f–k out of Puerto Escondido!” But as fate would have it, an hour later, accosted by a room full of newspaper and television reporters, he’s screaming, “I love Puerto Escondido!” Damn, someone please give Terry his own TV show.

Not much skating went down in those three days, but we did check a local contest and watched a bunch of kids just destroy the course. It’s amazing to see how kids living in a place with hardly any concrete or skateable sidewalks are just ripping. Once it was time for us to leave, there was no trace of “Mosquito Repellent” Marco. A couple days later, we found out that Marco–the dude who told us we had nothing to worry about–was laid out in a hospital with dengue fever.

Mexico City

What went down in Mexico City can only be described as the “murder” session. The locals showed us an eleven-stair they said would be good for flip tricks, but it turned out the rail next to it was really really good. Evan Hernandez had just flown in and was apparently ready to take care of business. Before my camera was even out of the bag, he kickflipped and frontside flipped the stairs. I guess these tricks were just warm-ups, though, because Evan then threw down the biggest nollie heelflip I’ve ever seen. It was so good that 411 filmer Joe Krolik started singing 411’s opening theme song.

From that point on, the rest of the crew mangled the damn spot. Everyone was throwing down so many tricks that I seriously had a hard time keeping up. This can be a photographer’s dream and worst nightmare all in one. You’re running around moving flashes, checking angles, trying to figure out what you can shoot photos of without getting your equipment smashed into 1,000 pieces or taking a board to the face. Then someone lands something down the stairs, and you didn’t get a photo because you were shooting the rail. I had to call out the dreaded, “Can you do that again?” line a couple times. Luckily for me, all these guys had no problem doing the trick over again, which is proof that they’re good enough to throw it down more than once.

Tony Trujillo hooked up with us for a quick second and skated like a champ. He basically flew in, got some kind of flu virus, kickflip boardslid a rail, and then flew home. The next casualty was Terry. He backside 50-50’d this steep-ass rail, salad-grinded another rail, got food poisoning, and then escaped on the next flight for L.A. After that, Evan pulled his escape. He figured getting twenty tricks in two days was pretty good, so he broke out to tackle some spots back home.

Guadalajara

On the road to Guadalajara, we really started to miss our professional bodyguard drivers. Our new drivers were apparently just randomly picked out of the Vans Mexico warehouse. We instantly nicknamed them “Dumb” and “Dumber” because they were the worst drivers ever. One of the drivers, I think it was Dumb, reversed into a busload full of people creating a huge gaping hole in the bus. Dumb got out of the car, gave the bus driver twenty bucks, and then just drove off. After that, I decided these drivers were great. Being constantly in fear for our lives is a good way to liven up a long drive. Dumb and Dumber also got lost every three minutes and then would ask us for directions, like we had any idea where we were.

On a positive note, their horrible driving skills led us to this crazy park filled with all these huge dead trees. It was kind of creepy, actually, but inside there were handicap ramps with perfect rails and a really long rail at the entrance. Once again, it was mayhem with anything and everything getting thrown down. Later, we found these perfect benches downtown that just went on and on. Of course, the cops instantly rolled up and told us we were all going to jail. I guess this is the standard shakedown the cops to try to pull. Usually, you just bribe them and roll off, but this time they wanted hundreds of dollars. It was actually really funny because Steve just told them to go ahead and take us to jail. This really confused the cops who then decided that twenty bucks was our “fine” and let us go.

By this time, we were all paranoid that if we rolled around Mexico any longer something bad would happen. Dodging viruses, corrupt cops, and car crashes was bound to catch up with us sooner or later. So we hit the airport and split, psyched that we skated some amazing spots and didn’t die. Once on the plane, I passed out. I had beautiful dreams about American-style burritos, only to be awoken by an angry stewardess who yelled at me in Spanish, shook my tray, and then punched my Discman.

our lives is a good way to liven up a long drive. Dumb and Dumber also got lost every three minutes and then would ask us for directions, like we had any idea where we were.

On a positive note, their horrible driving skills led us to this crazy park filled with all these huge dead trees. It was kind of creepy, actually, but inside there were handicap ramps with perfect rails and a really long rail at the entrance. Once again, it was mayhem with anything and everything getting thrown down. Later, we found these perfect benches downtown that just went on and on. Of course, the cops instantly rolled up and told us we were all going to jail. I guess this is the standard shakedown the cops to try to pull. Usually, you just bribe them and roll off, but this time they wanted hundreds of dollars. It was actually really funny because Steve just told them to go ahead and take us to jail. This really confused the cops who then decided that twenty bucks was our “fine” and let us go.

By this time, we were all paranoid that if we rolled around Mexico any longer something bad would happen. Dodging viruses, corrupt cops, and car crashes was bound to catch up with us sooner or later. So we hit the airport and split, psyched that we skated some amazing spots and didn’t die. Once on the plane, I passed out. I had beautiful dreams about American-style burritos, only to be awoken by an angry stewardess who yelled at me in Spanish, shook my tray, and then punched my Discman.