Converse Tour

When Felix Arguelles, Chany Jeanguenin, Roger Bagley, and I went to Costa Rica and Venezuela on the Converse tour, we didn’t know what to expect. Were there going to be skaters, spots? Surprisingly, there were a lot of things to skate–you just had to find them. Sometimes we had to make the spots work because the ground wasn’t that good, or the landing was a little sketchy. But we made do with what we had.

One thing we skated was a cement mini ramp in this kid’s backyard. But this backyard wasn’t like you’d think, it was practically a forest. There was a huge orange tree that hung over the back of the ramp. So after the sessions, this kid Nacho always climbed up there, grabbed some oranges, and chowed down on them right on the spot.

Another spot we skated was a hospital that had four awesome banks. Why is it almost everywhere you go, there’s always something great to skate at a hospital? Anyway, we were only able to skate it for about ten minutes because security threw us out. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can never avoid security.

Security was a little different down there because they carried guns, usually pistols, but sometimes they carried shotguns or even machine guns. Naturally, we would break out as soon as they said something. I wasn’t taking any chances of getting shot in the leg or something. But we did have a little bargaining power, something we didn’t expect.

When you go on tour, you expect certain things–like demos, signing autographs, or whatever–but we got The Giant. Now pay attention when I tell you this, The Giant was our bodyguard. He followed us everywhere we went. If we walked to the bathroom, he was no more than ten feet behind us. We called him The Giant for two reasons. Reason number one (the obvious one), he was about six feet six inches, 300 pounds, his head was the size of a car tire, and his fists were like two cinder blocks–definitely intimidating. We also called him The Giant because we all forgot his name and were too scared to ask.

We met up with him while waiting for our ride. We were skating near our hotel when security, of course, told us to stop. After about two minutes, a security guard came back with The Giant. Since we were staying at the hotel, they compensated us with a little protection. But we practically wet ourselves when we saw The Giant. Thank god Felix speaks Spanish. He told us The Giant was there to chill with us and watch our backs.

I’ll never forget the way people drive in Costa Rica. I thought the taxi drivers in New York got their drivers license out of cereal boxes, but damn! These guys didn’t even worry about the streetlights down there; they drove like psychos. Most of the time I just looked at the floor of the car so I wouldn’t see what was going on outside.

This brings me to the second part of our trip. We flew to Margarita Island, which is right off the coast of Venezuela, the driving wasn’t any better there–but the skate spots were. We skated this amazing spot with all these ledges and steps. It was pretty dope, on the beach, and you could skate there all day. There were plenty of other places to skate, since it was more like a city. But what’s a city without security? We got thrown out a lot, too.

The first hotel we stayed at was nice: right on the beach. Everyone knows if you’re on a tropical island, the best place to be is on the water. You could pretty much imagine what was going on.

There were a few bad points, though, that outweighed the good. One bad thing was almost every dude wore a Speedo, and that’s gross. Another thing was the hotel. One evening the electricity went out. Felix was on the other side of the room yelling, “Whee! I’m in the dark.” It wasn’t that bad, until the next morning. Felix banged on my door and woke me up. “There’s no water. Pack your bags–we’re out.”

After one of the demos and some dinner, we decided to go out. We went to some club and they were throwing Club 54, so we left. While on the street trying to get a cab, some kid we’d never met stopped his car and yelled out the window, “Felix, where are you going?” The kid had recognized Felix from the demo and drove us to another club.

Usually when you go skating, you expect a few dangers like a hipper or a shinner, a twisted ankle or knee. One thing you don’t expect is a power cable snapping, causing a huge spark, and you have to run for your life not to get shocked by it. Well, this was something that happened to us. We were street skating, and I was shooting a photo of Channy, when a damn power cable snapped and we ran for our lives. We broke out just in time–the cable nearly killed us.

While we skated away, another cable snapped and the power went out again. Felix said, “We couldn’t have picked a better time to leave.” And on that note, at this juncture in the story, I couldn’t pick a better time to leave you. But remember, if you go on vacation to either of these places, don’t forget your board and your sunblock. Now stop reading and go skate.