Xpressed – Rolling Life Lessons on the Skate Tour of Port of Spain
by Jamal Hall – Action Sports Writer
For the last few months I’ve been personally going through one of the most difficult periods that I’ve ever experienced my adult life. So much so that I couldn’t even think about writing a sentence furthermore a full blown article, and as a writer/editor who has made a commitment to action sports athletes and fans around the Caribbean, this was definitely a problem. Not only was I going through personal issues but everything else that could possibly go wrong decided that it was time to defect.
The whirlwind of emotional turmoil stripped me of the little focus that I had left, so I decided to get away for a while. As inspirational as the sparkling surf surrounding the island of Barbados is, I felt like I was drowning in it. The air was suffocating me, everything felt heavy, I needed to be somewhere else. A place where my shoulders could take a break from carrying the burden of my seemingly over-weight life.
Recently, I found out that I have some “long lost” family in Trinidad and Tobago and I decided to go down there and reconnect. While the heartbeat of the TnT action sports scene constantly pumps active vessels of skaters, bmx riders, rally drivers and kite surfers who can easily enrich the lifeblood of Adrenaline Sun, this was intended to be a journey of self-reflection than site-development.
I travelled light. The only thing I carried with me other than a small bag of clothing was my trusty old Canon REBEL XTI and while we have other more modern shooters in the Adrenaline Sun photography arsenal, I really love that camera.
The plane ride was short, the landing was smooth and the island was like nothing I’ve seen before. “We don’t have mountain ranges like that in Barbados,” I smiled to myself as I stepped onto the runway of the Piarco International Airport from an airline which was only days away from a surprising cease-flight announcement.
All the noise which was echoing inside my head was silenced as I made my way through the arrival terminal, only pausing for a few minutes to grab a bottle of creame liqueur from the duty-free plaza as a gift for my host.
It wasn’t a busy day at the airport so it didn’t take long for me to meet up with my ride and be on the way to my home for the next 7 days. The scenery was breathtaking and almost immediately the adrenaline started flowing through my veins.
“We have to do a feature about the TnT skaters on Adrenaline Sun,” I thought to myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very prepared for any video shoots or interviews. The only equipment which I had was my camera and two small flash drives. No laptop, no mp3 recorder, no video camera but I was determined to McGyver this thing and make it work.
I made the announcement to the trini-skaters through Facebook as soon as I got in and I started to receive love from the onset. Before I knew it, skaters were adding me to their friends lists, inviting me to different parts of the island to attend events and generally welcoming me to the island. I wanted to agree to everything but I knew it was impossible because my family had already planned a tight schedule fully-packed with various outings for the short week that I was there.
After a few days had passed we had tentatively scheduled to shred the legendary Chagaramas Warehouse however a surprised trip to Tobago put that session on a hold. So I linked with Kwesi Browne and Jeremy Dookwah and we arranged what would eventually be titled: Adrenaline Sun’s “Tour Port of Spain”.
Although touring the twin island republic with my new family ties was a lot of fun, I still wasn’t feeling myself, it was like something was still missing. Then the day of the tour came. It was the 4th day of my journey and cloudy grey skies gave threatening predictions of rain. Up until now, the weather in TnT was nothing shy of tropical perfection. Today however, the sunny, blue skies were replaced by a grim, shadowy canvas that was already wringing heavy showers onto various parts of Trinidad.
Nevertheless, I packed up my camera and travelled to Port of Spain (travelling being trini dialect for using public transportation ie. maxi taxi). As I was staying in the St. Augustine area, the ride didn’t take long but I really didn’t know who or what to expect. We were scheduled to meet in Independence Square at 2 p.m. and thankfully not a drop of rain had fallen in Port of Spain.
When I arrived at the meeting point I found Cristobal Robinson already shredding a ledge. Funny enough, he knew nothing about the tour… he was just there doing his thing. I got some early photos of him boardsliding what he would later claim as a trini skater’s ledge by adorning it with stickers. Shortly, afterwards Jeremy Dookwah arrived and he gave some sad news that many of the skaters were not coming because of the threatening weather. He also said that he didn’t hear from Kwesi for the day.
So we began the Tour of Port of Spain by shredding Independence Square, the Waterfront and a few other spots in between. About 45 minutes into the tour, I was feeling really good, while it was only Jeremy and Cristobal, they were shredding their hearts out, all BOLTS! Honestly, it would have been just fine with the three of us but fate had other plans.
As we were once again crossing Independence Square from the Waterfront to head to another part of the city, I was lagging behind to review some of the photos that were taken so far and that’s when I heard it.
A car horn blasting behind me. Ordinarily, I would’ve paid it no attention, as I was a stranger in foreign lands, but then I heard my name called out in a familiar trini-accent. When I turned around I saw none other than, Kwesi Browne hanging out of a silver station wagon with Andrew Innocence in the driver’s seat and several members of the Influenced Riding Society. It was ON!!!
The love that Adrenaline Sun got from the Trini skaters reminded me of why we started the magazine in the first place. They also unknowlingly reminded me of a valuable lesson: in skating things go wrong, boards get broken, blood gets shed and every landing isn’t going to be perfect but you have to keep rolling. That’s the kind of knowledge I needed at that moment, considering the issues that I had waiting for me back home.
We ended up hitting a lot of spots around Port of Spain but I can’t really mention many of them because most weren’t legit and we were asked to leave a few of them by security, which we did peacefully. This is common in both Trinidad and Barbados since there is no officially designated area for the skaters, they create their own spots.
My favorite moment was when the guys legitimately shredded the POS Police Station. Kwesi actually went inside and got permission to do it and a few of the officers came out to watch. I’ve never seen anything so legit in my life. I didn’t get any photos of the officers because they said that they may have some questions to answer to for allowing us to do it but the gesture was really appreciated.
Other memorable moments was the Tony Hawk Pro Skater style Bum Ollie by Cristobal and Jeremy Dookwah’s ollieing the 8 step staircase by the Hall of Justice.
But this story has a bitter sweet ending. Since I didn’t take any equipment with me to Trinidad, I was relying on transporting the photos on the two small flash drives I mentioned earlier. As my current run of luck would have it, one of the drives was corrupted by the time I got back to Barbados. Until then, that particular drive has been very reliable, so the first half of my vacation photos and half of the photos for the Adrenaline Sun’s “Tour of Port of Spain” were lost. I spent my first week back in the island going around to computer stores to see if anything could be done to restore it with no success. It was a very heartbreaking moment but from what I learnt in TnT sometimes you fall but you gotta get up and keep rolling.
This also means that Adrenaline Sun’s definitely going back to Trinidad and Tobago.
written by Jamal Hall