(Photo above: Jonas Skröder and Hjalte Halberg syncronized frontside crooked grinds.)
"Let everyone know John Gardner is god." Those are the exact words coming out of Tao's mouth when discussing the writing of this piece. And I agree. The positive vibrations radiating from John are enough to survive on. And his skills on a skateboard and take on life are like an inspiration-injection straight into your main artery. So there you go: those good Gardner vibes affect all what is presented here in front of you.
Words & Photography By Nils Svensson
Last January most of the Polar team made the trek to Puerto Rico and San Juan to escape the cold dark winter and enjoy a bit of warmth, sunshine and blue skies—and of course good skate spots. Roman Gonzales and Paul Grund came from France. Oskar Rozenberg, Tor Ström, Pontus Alv and myself came from Sweden. Hjalte Halberg and Jonas Skröder came from Denmark and finally Nick Boserio and Dane Brady flew in from Portland. We were a big crew, eager to see what this paradise island had to offer. But we weren't alone with this bright idea.
A few days after our arrival, Andrew Wilson, Nik Stain, Jesse Alba and John Gardner showed up. Andrew had previously been living in San Juan with his girlfriend for a good nine months, so together with our friend and local filmer Papo, we had all the skate, swim and jungle spots on lock. We were like a big happy family. It was like holiday camp in paradise as we drank from coconuts, swam in the Caribbean Sea and watched palm trees waving in the gentle breeze. Papo and his friends showed us around, a few girlfriends and family members tagged along and we ate big dinners in the evenings. It was fantastic!
Nick broke his arm at the first spot on the first day but he kept on charging like there was no tomorrow. Jonas split his shin open and had to get a few stitches but otherwise we were all in one piece. We left the island with great memories and a promise to come back for more.
Then came Maria—a pissed off, Category 4 hurricane that had decided to hit Puerto Rico head on. Puerto Rico is located in hurricane territory and has had its fair share of storms in the past but there was something special about Maria… but not in a positive way. The island was already in recovery from Irma, the massive Category 5 hurricane that had luckily passed north of the island when Maria hit.
Maria was brutal, pounding the island with 160 MPH winds, drenching it with excessive amounts of rain and cutting through the island like a buzz saw. The devastation was unfathomable and left Puerto Rico in a state of humanitarian crisis. There was very little power on the island, and in many places limited drinking water, food and cell service. Many areas had been completely cut off from everything. This catastrophe involved three to four million people and help from the outside was in dire need.
Although it's been a few months since the catastrophe, Puerto Rico is still in serious trouble. From lack of drinking water and other resources to residents fleeing for the mainland, not to mention that only about 70 percent of the power grid is working. The recovery process is going to be a long one but for the more populated areas like San Juan, the restoration is a bit quicker for obvious reasons.
I'm personally really hoping to come back to this amazing island soon. Even if there's still a lot of problems and devastation, the country really needs your travel dollars to help thousands of families be able to keep their jobs and support their families.
Puerto Rico, I'll see you soon.