The island of Jamaica--located in the Caribbean--is rich with culture, soul, love, and reggae music. Yet in the same breath, you can also say Jamaica’s an island taunted by poverty, divided politics, and inadequate basic necessities. The purpose of this tour of Jamaica was to bring, introduce, and share skateboarding with the Jamaican youth. You may think that everyone in the world has been exposed to our flourishing artform we call skateboarding, but in Jamaica, due to its economy, poverty, and rough roads, skateboarding doesn’t even exist.
Our mission was to bring skateboarding to Jamaica. “How?” you ask. Well, with the help of Craig Nejedly (Satori wheels team manager) and Joey Tershay (Independent trucks team manager). First, Craig and Joey collected 120 complete skateboards, 100 pairs of shoes, and tons of stickers and T-shirts. The sponsors involved with this charity were Satori wheels, Independent trucks, IPath shoes, Lakai shoes, Vans, Girl skateboards, Lucky skateboards, Element and Twigs skateboards, Santa Cruz skateboards, Supernatural clothing, Think skateboards, Spitfire wheels, AntiHero skateboards, and Organika skateboards. All of them donated product to give to the Jamaican kids.
The next step was assembling the group of ambassadors/skaters who participated: Jake Rupp, Matt Pailes, John Cardiel, Karl Watson, Nilton Neves, Steve Olson, Lucien Moon, and Geoff Durmer. Plus, photographers Chris Ortiz, Josh Stewart, and Vern Laird. (Also, Twigs amateurs Abi and Nijah with Ademi from Frontline Skatepark came along for the ride.)
Hellshire Beach And Kingston
Our crew stayed at Hellshire Beach in The Yard with a Jamaican family--Chris, Peggy, Ricky, and Janet (Ruffneck Tours and guest house). They kept us well full of I-Tals (good food)--brown rice, ackee, beans, breadfruit, and dumplings. The beach was nine miles from Kingston, and we traveled the island in vans on the roughest roads you’ve ever seen. We found a flatbar at a hardware store and shot some photos there at night. Jake grinded a two-story-high flatbar, and Karl switch frontside boardslid in a nice plaza with some rough locals. Then we met Billy Mystic of the Mystic Revealers--a local reggae star who lived close to Damien Marley (son of Bob Marley). He hooked us up with three local television appearances to advertise our demo.
We traveled atop the Blue Mountains to see the rain forest and Blue Mountain coffee shops. Driving throughout the island was said to be dangerous because of political turmoil. A week before the elections, one political party (P.N.P.) and its rival (J.L.P.) used reggae and dancehall to compete with each other. In Jamaica, every radio station plays reggae and dancehall.
One day, we found a seven-stair gap with some rough ground, so Jake and I skated it. The people’s reaction to skateboarding was one of amazement, admiration, and encouragement. Jamaicans love talent and have “‘Nuff respect for dat,” as they say. If a Jamaican disagrees with something, you’ll hear a loud “bumboclaat,” “bloodclaat,” or “morefiah.” The slang is outrageous, it’s mixed with patois--an English language of its own, typically used by Rastas. The Rastaman in Jamaica is king of the jungle, “No one disrespects the Rasta, ‘less dey wanna be’ atin’,” as locals would say.
In The Yard, everyone carries knives, mostly to cut herbs, fruit, or coconut hollowing. One day, we even got to witness a knife versus machete fight--that’s the way disputes are settled in Jamaica. Another thing that’s different there than the States is even grandmas would be found smoking spliffs at night. About 80 percent of the population eats or smokes ganja. This wouldn’t be a true article about Jamaica without mentioning that fact. You’ll see construction workers hanging out in Kingston with what looks like cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, yet they’re all smokiing spliffs--the reality of Jamaican life.
For Saturday’s demo, we’d planned to build a five-foot by sixteen-foot-wide mini ramp on Friday night. All the wood arrived at Ronnie Williams Stadium around 5:00 p.m. Nilton, John, Joey, Matt Rodriguez, and I all put our shoulders to the wheel and started building. By 10:00 p.m., the skeleton of the ramp was built, and we were beat.
On Saturday morning, the builders all woke up early and began hammering, sawing, and nailing. Time got down to the wire, and by 5:00 p.m., the demo was about to start. The final nails were nailed down as about 200 people gathered around. Rodriguez, Rupp, Cardiel, Nilton, Joey, and Lucien killed the mini ramp as reggae and dancehall blasted from an old-school sound system. Karl and Geoff spiced up the manual pad. Everyone ripped.
I met Augustus Pablo’s brother, and then we raffled off 100 skateboards and 100 pairs of shoes. The kids were so happy and thankful--you should’ve seen the looks on their faces. They were some of the first kids to ever receive skateboards in Jamaica. Families, parents, and people all sported skate shirts and stickers.
For the rest of the trip in Jamaica, we built another ramp in Hellshire, this one was around eight feet. We skated downtown Kingston and filmed a couple lines. Everyone gave away more stuff at Hellshire and did another demo for the kids that went well into the night. Cardiel did a Miller flip and the kids went crazy. We also skated a Hubba ledge in Ocho Rios and swam in an amazing waterfall. Big ups to the Rastaman who showed us the way. Seeing kids try to drop into the waterfall was hilarious.
Overall, the trip had its ups and downs like any trip, but in the long run, the thankfulness, hospitality, and love received (and given) to Jamaica--its people and its culture--made everything well worth it. Morefiah seen.