STEPPING OFF THE PLANE IN CANCUN, I wasn't sure what to expect. As I walked outside the doors of the airport, I was hit with a warm, thick, humid slap of air. To my right was a colorful outside bar with a smiling bartender mixing up with micheladas, pouring frozen pink and yellow margaritas and cracking canned Tecates. I was definitely in Mexico. Hundreds of people--tourists, cab drivers, shuttle services and more--crowded the outside loading zone in a blissful chaos. A group of guys wearing Woodward shirts holding skateboards greeted us as we waited for the rest of our group to arrive. It was myself and Blair Alley along for the ride for TWS, which was a huge plus for me as Blair is one of the most well traveled people that I know. We got a beer and waited for the green light to head to our home for the next three nights, the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. When it was time to go, I asked Blair, "We can just bring the beers in the shuttle?"
"Hell yeah, we're in Mexico."
The drive from the Cancun airport is straight and easy and if it's your first time visiting, then there's plenty to look at. We passed a Woodward billboard and a handful of other resort-fortresses, hidden behind lined trees and tropical décor. In less than an hour we arrived to the gates of the Hard Rock and stepped off the shuttle into paradise. David Loy was in the van with us on the way there and as we stepped into the lobby he almost immediately started pouring us up complimentary margaritas that were on a little stand that read “Welcome Drinks.” I've never had such a good time waiting in line for anything. Folks old and young laced in vacation attire stormed through the lobby while classic rock 'n' roll tunes played throughout the entire hotel 24/7. It was the Hard Rock after all...
Fast-forward all the foggy details from the first few hours upon arrival and after dinner with the Woodward crew, we found ourselves at the incredible, brand new, 29,000 sqare-foot Woodward Riviera Maya facility located a few miles from the sandy beaches of Hard Rock's resort. This is the first international facility that Woodward has ever made and it was overwhelmingly awesome stepping into it for the first time. This place really reinvents the all-inclusive experience. Simply put--everything about it was amazing. The street course is perfect and has plenty to offer for all levels of skaters, the pump track was huge and like nothing I had ever seen. And the foam pit! If you've never launched into one of those things you're missing out. Beyond the skatepark, there's a crazy gymnastics area too, fully equipped with slanted walls to run on, trampolines and padded floors to do, well, pretty much whatever you want. And that's just vaguely scratching the surface. Everyone was freely testing out all the rad things the place had to offer the first night--most with drinks in hand--because let's not forget we were at a beautiful, all-inclusive resort.
To celebrate the Grand Opening, Woodward hosted a street demo one of the nights and a classic vert demo was held outside (just an hour after a tropical storm had passed through) the next evening. Despite the high temperatures, humidity and wetness, Tony Hawk, Andy Mac, Neal Hendrix, Brighton Zeuner and a handful of others got busy on the ramp where a crowd of resort-stayers and mega fans lost their minds in the stands. I overheard one guy saying he took three different taxis from Mexico City, all about $70+ each, just to get his board signed by Tony Hawk. I can't even explain the excitement on his face when he was holding that board with that signature. And speaking of Tony Hawk signatures, Jake Johnson was there with some of the Dickies crew and carried around his personal VHS copy of One Step Beyond the entire trip waiting for the right time to get Tony to sign it. The right time ended up being after the vert demo where he waited in line with the rest of the mega-fans and finally got his chance. I think he knows he could've probably just cut the line and got it, but the fact that he wanted to wait with everyone else was rad. It's just another reason why he's the best. "I just want to be his friend," he told me laughing. "But he doesn't have time for new friends." I'm sure he'd be your friend, Jake! Hats off to Tony for being such a good sport, as always. Because as I was drenched in sweat complaining about the heat while just standing there, I couldn’t begin to think about Tony who had skated for hours and signed autographs for even longer in the thickest, tropical air I've ever experienced. A true professional, that guy.
As far as the demos went, everyone was ripping. Leticia was out there doing her thing, backside Smith grinding and backside lipsliding the biggest handrail in the park. Vincent Alvarez was speeding around in true VA style. David Loy was blasting all over the place. Chris Cole and Felipe Gustavo got some highly-Instagram-able doubles tricks. Jaws was jumping off the walls and even hopped on the vert ramp for a few runs... and that's just naming a few. It was one hell of a Grand Opening to say the least.
Saying goodbye to paradise wasn’t easy, but looking back it was a perfect experience. Woodward really knows how to build a great facility and the Riviera Maya location is all time. It has everything you could ask for--including board and pad rentals, a full café and snack bar, plenty of viewing areas--and as I mentioned, there's a little something there for everyone. What a concept, too: Mom and dad can go relax by the pool drinking mai tais and piña coladas all day while the kids go and let out all their energy in a huge, private skatepark! I think they might be on to something...
For more details on the brand new Woodward Riviera Maya facility along with the Hard Rock Riviera Maya, visit the links below. And be sure to follow @woodwardriveiramaya on Instagram for tropical vibes and tons of inside looks at this one-of-a-kind skateboarding paradise.