'Do Not Stop, Do Not Ask; Follow Me!'
Those were the famous first words from our guide, Alberto Santiago, before we snuck down through the ghetto (known as La Perla) to go skate a DIY bowl nestled on the coast. We had no idea what to expect out of Puerto Rico, especially at this very moment as we climbed through a concrete jungle with locals glaring out of their windows at us. This moment was part of the thrill that comes from exploring a completely new, foreign place. Sometimes you run into bad shit and other times you find an unbelievable spot with the sun setting along the Atlantic ocean. In hindsight, that feeling would be symbolic as the rest of our time spent in Puerto Rico would be filled with the smell of the ocean, a dash of uncertainty and constant skateboarding in the sun. All the prerequisites had been met to get the hell out of dodge as the brutal bite of winter was upon us. Waist high snow banks, temperatures in the -30 range and extreme skateboard deprivation had everyone ready to bounce. The only suitable option for Max Fine, Griffin Kirby, Jim Tumey, Jamie Jeffery, Glencoe Hogle, Matt Roberts, Jesse Tes- sier and Tyler O’Grady seemed to be an escape to Puerto Rico, a tiny island sandwiched between the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans.
Gathering intel on the tiny island was a bit of a task being that Alberto wasn’t much of a talker via text or email. “You want to skate some Cali bullshit or you want to hit those raw east coast spots?” Either way, I had reason to believe we were in for some rough times and rather long missions. Regardless, Puerto Rico was going to be a new adventure so I calmly told everyone involved, “No worries, we’re good to go!” As if I had been a local myself. The beauty of uncertain travel is that when you go cliff jumping off of waterfalls or end up chasing iguanas through public parks, it makes the adventure that much sweeter. Of course, I knew ALL that stuff was bound to happen as I sat in my basement apartment stress-planning my life away.
The darkest part of the trip by far was witnessing Smirnoff IceTM nearly destroy a group of friends. You see, Getting Iced is a game where one surprises a friend with a bottle of Smirnoff IceTM by hiding it, forcing said friend to chug the contents upon discovery while down on one knee. The sweet, alcoholic beverage created trust issues that I haven’t seen displayed even in 16-year-old girls. Never have I seen a grown man so boldly refuse to help out a friend when asked to simply grab a beer from the fridge, help find a skate tool or to look for something in the trunk of a car. Nobody was safe except for our crazed guide Alberto, who simply refused to take part and would only shake his head at us as we continued on with the game like goons.
Some days, skateboarding was the last thing on our minds as we carved out seats in the sand while the Puerto Rican beer flowed and we succumbed to the Latino island lifestyle. With the sun high and coconut trees hanging about, it was hard not to think that Puerto Rico was paradise. When it did come down to the skating, it was nothing short of incredible. Whoever the fine city planners of Puerto Rico were, they saw to it that every town, no matter the size, had at least one central plaza that was built for the people. These plazas were fully equipped with various sets of stairs that had marble ledges stretching far and wide while being and closely located to a cafe that had beautiful women walking about.
We still hadn’t started peeling from our third degree sunburns and we were far from ready to say goodbye to the real Mayor of San Juan, Alberto Santiago, but our beer was running dry and the trip was coming to a close. Reluctantly, it was the end of our Puerto Rican excursion and time to venture back to the north where we could inevitably be covered in wintered depression.