The emperor with a big, tasty heart tells us about holding a skate session in prison, being a global shaper, nearly dying, his life’s purpose and Tortas Ahogadas.
Hello Eddy, how are you?
Pretty good, having some breakfast and checking everything up for my next trip. How are you!?
Doing good. Where are you going?
To Chetumal, in southern México. Never been there before but I’ve heard that is full of nature and beautiful beaches. There’s a Slide Jam going down called Ramonal and I was invited to assist as guest.
What happens to special guests?
They are sacrificed to please the God of the Sun, haha. You get travel expenses and help the event organisation. We will be giving a downhill clinic.
Who is the chief priest of the god?
Well, we had emperor Moctezuma until some Spanish dudes came and said that it was not cool to eat the hearts of our virgins.
I’m glad your heart is safe now, bro!
Haha you’re good!
Who else is helping with this event?
My buddy David Andrade, who has been pushing the scene in Chetumal, and Backside Skateshop. Last year they had Oscar Gutierrez (who got half the town pregnant) as guest so they are trying to keep things spicy having guests each year, which I think is a really cool idea.
How’s the community in the South?
It’s getting bigger, I believe it’s the second or third biggest community in México.
Have you done much travelling this summer?
Yes I did a few travels. I was in Guadalajara chilling with the Treee skateboarding folks for a while. Then I took a flight to Medellín, Colombia, where I did a series of chats and workshops during a World Economic Forum’s Latin America reunion.
How are Oscar, Gerardo, Claudio, Rosy etc?
Oscar was in California when I arrived to Guadalajara, he went to Catalina Classic and he is killing it as usual. I chilled with Gerardo just for a week or so, I crashed at Treee House where he and his partner in crime Fer Vega (Rosy’s brother) live, he had to go to Mexico City’s Treee Skateboarding, so we had some Tortas Ahogadas (typical food which is a big sandwich drowned in salsa, it was delicious) on his last day in Guadalajara. I checked with Rosy at Fer Vega’s Birthday, she was well, beautiful as always, and she just got a pretty awesome tattoo.
WEF and skateboarding, how does that work?
I participated in a citizen initiative forum last year, where I presented the #patinaporlapaz project and the vision of Longboarding For Peace to a whole environment of NGOs (non governmental organisations) citizens, businessmen, and government officials.
“I was invited be a member of Global Shapers… a network… led by young people… who are exceptional in their potential, achievements and drive to make a difference in their communities… I think I’m the first skater ever to be part of this community.”
After the event, I was invited to apply to be a member in a community initiative of World Economic Forum’s called Global Shapers which is a network of hubs led by young people, primarily between the ages of 20 and 30 who are exceptional in their potential, their achievements and their drive to make a difference in their communities, and I was accepted. Actually I think I’m the first skater ever to be part of this community. So, I won a scholarship by the Global Shapers community in Medellín, Colombia to assist the WEF’s and Global Shapers Latin America reunion, and because of it, the youth secretary and the mayor’s office invited me to create a series of chats and workshops.
I had the opportunity to speak in a Museum dedicated to war victims, teach how to skate at a prison for young people (16-24) where mostly everyone was convicted for murder and kidnapping, and I had a dialogue panel at the first skate-park built in Medellin about DIY skate-parks and skate-activism. The participants on the panel were Youth Secretary president Juana Botero, EVG and Performance Corporations, that lead skate social programs in Medellín and an OG local skateshop. It was quite an experience, and I am really grateful for these opportunities.
Dude. What was it like visiting prison. Did they care about skating?
It was quite an experience. I think it was the first time that something like this happened in Medellin and, I am pretty sure, in Colombia. I had 25 prisoners from 16 to 24 years old, most of them convicted for crimes associated with drug cartels (homicide, extortion, etc).
The crew invited to do this session was integrated by 5 skaters from two local organisations that also work with skateboarding inspired initiatives: Corporación EVG extremo, and Corporación Performance. I had the support of Medellin Sports Institute that provided me with 20 skateboards to make the session happen, I also had the company of another Global Shaper and friend of mine Emerson Ferreira, who has a great story of resilience, he was convicted for drug trafficking in Brazil, managed to get a career and become a teacher inside the walls of a Brazilian jail. So I was feeling very hype about having such a great crew to help me with this experience.
We arrived around 2 pm to the prison, we weren’t allowed to get inside with phones, rings, keys, wallet, cameras or any personal belongings. The place looks pretty much like a regular school but with a lot of security, I chose a basketball court to hold the session.
“Skateboarding develops this ability in all who practice it. We can forget about the world and concentrate our attention in living the moment…”
The main objective was to encourage these young fellows to skate and help them to get their mind in a constructive environment away from the struggle that they live, at least for a while. Skateboarding develops this ability in all who practice it. We can forget about the world and concentrate our attention in living the moment, which is really a powerful feeling. The guys were hyped and they all were very welcome, a few of them were kind of sceptical about skating because they were shy about their mates seeing them falling, but as they embraced the fact that falling on a skateboard is inevitable, as it is in life, a few minutes later they were having fun pushing each other, sitting on a skateboard, trying to pop ollies or just cruising.
We had lunch after the session and we had an opportunity to have a more informal chats with prisoners, who were of course tough but really vulnerable at the same time. Many of them are dealing with 20 or more years left inside, they feel the pain of their families’ increasingly shorter visits. Life can be really rough inside those walls. Having us there showing them a different reality helped them to get their heads clear for a while and hopefully some strength to hang in there and fight for their way up from the hole that they must be in, being isolated from the world.
Any progress with the inmates?
The session just lasted a couple of hours, but they were super stoked about it that they started to ask the people from Medellin government that were with us, if the sessions could be more frequent. They said yes, but I don’t know if they will go on. I really hope so.
By coincidence, I stumbled upon my state’s governor on my row seat in the flight back from México city to Monterrey, we had a long chat about prisons in Monterrey and he invited me to visit the main prison to look for any opportunities of making the prison session project that we held in Colombia in Monterrey. So, I believe this could be a great opportunity to make this a thing and start making people notice about the importance of re-insertion to society education to prisoners.
“Failure is a good way to find yourself.”
How did you find yourself on this path?
As a result of many things that I’ve been through; my career as a political scientist, passions like activism and my work developing opportunities for skateboarding in Mexico. Feeling like a million dollars and of course fucking it up many times. Failure is a good way to find yourself and always the best way to learn.
I’ve had quite a few experiences working for social causes. I’ve been involved with social institutions working for causes such as the socialization and labour rights of people with special needs, metropolitan reforestation and civic education. I’ve worked with political parties and government institutions. I’ve been involved in the organisation of social movement fronts to protest against military police fighting drug cartels on the streets; student associations, dialogue panels, congresses, radio shows.
I’ve also been deeply involved (in love) in the develop of Mexican longboard community. All of these were unique and interesting experiences in many ways with sweet and sour moments that got my mind persistent in creating this paradigm of skateboarding as a social and conscious movement in Mexico. I think I can resume it all in three moments/decisions.
- Mesa de las tablas. I was able to witness skateboarding magic. Mesa de las tablas is a community of 300 people in the mountains of the Sierra de Arteaga in Coahuila, México where Monterreal Longboard Fest is held. Alain Carvajal, longboard comrade, lives in Saltillo which is like 40 minutes away from Monterrey, he discovered the spot and invited us in Monterrey to check it out, in 2010. We found a jewel and after a short time we set up a race there, and it grew until it became a must stop in the downhill community in México. Not only skate community changed but also people living in this area, especially kids.
These kids started to borrow our longboards and they got super good so quickly having such an amazing spot in their backyard. Nowadays almost every kid in town skates or at least has tried it. The first generation now is truly a badass one, Gerardo, Uriel, Tito, Cachorro are killing it travelling and crushing podiums having nothing but fun with a heart pure and focused in living their lives to the fullest.
- Lost a friend. Ardian was a homie from Monterrey, and a beautiful human being. He died skating in Guadalajara two years ago, and he is very missed by all the Mexican community. The accident brought mine back to memory, and I decided to focus my efforts in pushing our rights to be on the streets and the many benefits of skateboarding in society.
- School Project. I had the idea, in college, of making a program with skateboarding and my university. I talked to several people but they were unwilling to take skateboarding as a sport or even as project. A few years later in March, 2015, I launched #Patinaporlapaz which was a longboarding for peace inspired project to impact vulnerable communities in Monterrey in collaboration with University of Monterrey and Crecer Libre, a local NGO that works with children in one of the most violent areas in Nuevo León.
To make this program possible, Alex Ameen and Skate House Media gave me a bunch of skateboards that were under the house ramp, plus my personal quiver and I was ready to start. The sessions are every Wednesday and Friday. At first, I was receiving between 7 and 10 kids a day and after a few months around 30-70 kids at day showed up for the sessions. The program was quickly embraced by the neighbours that sometimes pass by to see the sessions or participate in them, parents, siblings, young people, priests, gather around the basketball court where I teach kids about skateboarding, letting them find themselves on a skateboard and expressing themselves by riding it.
After a while, I decided to talk to Longboarding For Peace creator, Michael Brooke and we found out that we share so much in common such as the vision of a more emphatic world, we started a really good friendship and I had the program officially with LFP and after that I started creating more projects such as exposing authority abuses, community making and environmental education.
I think skateboarding gave me the opportunity to finally find a balance between what I learned from college, my profession and my passions: -r-evolution and skateboarding. I was able to make possible the idea of skateboarding as a tool to help social causes in México, having worked with Non Government and Government Organisations, leaders of communities, civic hackers, universities and international organisations such as the World Economic Forum.
Where are you from?
What’s special about Monterrey?
I think Monterrey is one of the most legendary downhill skateboarding stops in México. It is known as the “city of the mountains” because it is literally a city surrounded by mountains, so you can have a good downhill sesh almost in every part of the city. We also used to have big music movements and a pretty awesome night life but It’s been little rough over the last years because of drug cartels and police wars, but it is getting more chill and recovering little by little its charm.
“…trying to survive while going fast on a skateboard is priceless.”
How did you get into skateboarding?
When I was a kid, I used to borrow my cousin’s skateboard, my parents didn’t really approve it but I was obsessed with skateboarding. I got my first real skateboard when I was around 9. Dropped it out later because I got into music, I’ve had a punk rock band since I was 13 and we played a lot for several years and left skateboarding a little behind.
Then, in 2008-2009, I started skating again with one of my band mates, who bought a longboard (which I really didn’t like) we started to do downhill runs, and the speed had me. It was super fun, we didn’t know anything about this whole downhill scene or gear, so we started using rocks to slide when it was too fast.
“I broke my nose in 4 parts and I had a pretty deep wound in my forehead… I was laying on the ground dripping blood, I couldn’t help to think that I wanted to finish the run, it was nuts.”
I think it was the very essence of downhill not even knowing what you’re doing but trying to survive going fast on a skateboard, is priceless. After watching a few Original and Loaded videos, I decided to buy a “downhill skateboard” to go faster, it was a Loaded Tan tien, and then life hit me out of nowhere: in my first weekend riding my longboard, I got hit by a car, I wasn’t wearing any pads or helmet at that time, I broke my nose in 4 parts and I had a pretty deep wound in my forehead. When I was laying on the ground dripping blood, I couldn’t help to think that I wanted to finish the run, it was nuts. Paramedics showed up and they took me to the hospital (it was my first time ever in a hospital). I believe these kind of accidents scare you away from the sport or whatever you’re doing, or encourage you to keep going, which was my case. I started to step up on a skateboard a month after the surgery, I didn’t want to let fear get me and not be able to skate again. So, I started skating like a maniac, fast as I could, now all protected of course, and got my first sponsor a month later, which was a local longboard shop called Cual Crisis, and a year or so later I started skating for Landyachtz.
“…stepped on a skateboard a month after surgery, I didn’t want to let fear get me and not skate again… I started skating like a maniac… and got my first sponsor a month later… a year or so later I started skating for Landyachtz.”
Could you have died?
I remember wondering if I was going to die when I was laying on the ground covered in blood, it felt like it to me, everything was going black and I had a full recap of my life and all that it’s supposed to happen when you die.
I was skating against the traffic flow and a lot of things could gone worse… The dude that hit me was accelerating turning his head back to check out traffic and I was also looking the other way so it was totally unexpected, we crashed at full speed. I smashed my head between the front window and the hood.
My brain was in risk of swelling and if that happened, they’d have had to induce a coma and perform brain surgery. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. It cost me a lot to walk by myself again. I stayed in bed for like a week straight. Every time I tried to move, even if it was just to reach for something, I felt like I was going to faint, it was rough. I had two tubes and a splint inside my nose to keep it together. I still remember the first time I felt water on my face when I was allowed to wash it after they finally took out the tubes. You really start being thankful for everything that you have at the most essential level. I strongly believe that gratitude will save the world and ourselves.
Are you still grateful?
Every day. I believe it sounds kind of religious. I am really not a religious person, but I do believe in the great power of empathy and living in the moment, so I try every day to be conscious of my life and the world around me, that keeps me motivated and going with a purpose.
“I believe in the great power of empathy and living in the moment”
How did life change after that crash?
When I was on my way to the hospital, I started thinking so much about all the things that I was doing that led me to take sorts of decisions and how I really wanted my life. I was working at that time doing event logistics for a political party which was both interesting and horrifying at the same time and I was on a radio station show about political analysis.
After the crash, I started skating a lot and, all of a sudden, my whole life was involved with skateboarding, it literally went downhill.
You know the thrill, you start going to classes in your all fucked up clothes, maybe still bleeding, and after a while everyone starts looking at you weird, as if you went crazy, and you certainly are. There’s nothing sane about going 90km/h on a skateboard. It was quite a challenge for me finishing school and hitting races and organising events during the weekends then rushing out to make it on time for tests on Monday.
“[my purpose is] the socialisation and professionalisation of skateboarding as a sport, lifestyle and art form.”
Many people wouldn’t have come back to the lover who broke them, why did you?
It allowed me to express myself, to get to know me, and the feeling of needing nothing else but air. It uplifted me, gave me the chance to recover my hope in humanity. I found a vocation and a purpose too.
What is your purpose?
The socialisation and professionalisation of skateboarding as a sport, a lifestyle and art form.
We hear a lot of emphasis on drug wars and ‘El Chapos’, how bad is it in real life?
México is a very big country, and quite a contrast in its population. There are people that are super rich and there are really poor people too. This disparity makes people manage to survive in a world where opportunities are very selective. That being said, necessity is a big issue, the lack of jobs, lack of education makes getting into drugs business really profitable, and sometimes the only choice to support a family. Capos like “El Chapo” or Pablo Escobar symbolise the struggle of surviving and actually being successful when you are in a truly economic disadvantage.
Cartels employ large quantities of people of all ages as gunman, dealers and vigilantes. We have around 5 cartels that control some regions of México, but in some other places the region is fought over. On top of this, government has been applying a war against drug policy, so they often create new and better trained policemen, but it became chaos over the last 8 years, all these different police forces were fighting with all these different cartels making México literally a war zone that made sometimes around 100 deaths a day. Cities like Monterrey, became hostages of insecurity, businesses were closing and people were afraid to even go to the park.
The discomfort of citizens in some regions like Michoacan (Southern Mexico) got so high that they were taking guns and kicking everyone out, policemen, military, government etc. And they started to solving their own problems in an autonomous way.
Nowadays it’s more chill in main cities such as Guadalajara, Mexico, and Monterrey, but there’s some big shit going on as we speak in the south. Mostly armed paramilitary movements financed by drug cartels, and teacher syndicates fighting the government. It is bad in some parts, pretty chill in others, but you can feel the environment of people waking up and actually fighting back injustice. I see México as a unique case of study that’s worth seeing for yourself.
What’s the difference between the South and the other regions of Mexico?
Culture, North is too Americanized.
In bad ways?
No, not in a bad way, it’s just like in the style of architecture, culture of entertaining, etc. South -s specially isolated communities – is a slightly different political context more oriented to protest and riot because has been neglected by the State for so long.
“Skateboarding is a synonym for revolution. We defy gravity with balance and creativity.”
Is skateboarding how you fight back?
Yes. Skateboarding besides making every skater happy, allows us to do so much for the world even if you don’t notice it. Skateboarding is a synonym for revolution. We defy gravity with balance and creativity. We are the evolution of the mind, the bridge between body and spirit, thinking the unthinkable, doing the impossible. Skateboarding doesn’t recognize race, social status, religion, sexual preference, not even specie, it is what it is. You are what you are on a skateboard.
“Skateboarding doesn’t recognise race, social status, religion, sexual preference or even species.”
If you are what you are on a skateboard, and the skateboard is itself only when it’s under you; then, there is no skateboard, there is no you. You are skateboard. It is you.
Skateboarding is a great ground to challenge yourself at every level. I believe skateboarding reconnects to your inner you, therefore with others. “You become what you think about all day long” R.W.E. We’re no one, yet everyone, everything.
Are you having a good year?
Yes I am pretty hyped of how things had turn out this year, and its looking good for the rest of it too.
When will you be president?
I am waiting for a vacant as world emperor haha. But, I hope never. I feel like the presidential figure is obsolete. It’s a great excuse for people to have something or someone to blame.
“the presidential figure is… a great excuse for people to have something or someone to blame.”
See you in Europe sometime?
I am looking forward to, never been before.
Pick 3 numbers between 1 – 23.
3, 11, 23
3 – what crime are you most likely to go to prison for?
Protest, arguing with cops, getting politicians uncomfortable, becoming a persona non grata for the Government. You can even get killed for that in México.
11 – Justen Ortiz asks: if you could combine 2 animals to create the most deadly animal on earth, what would those two animals be?
I love you Justen!
I’ll go with cockroaches and men: one sort of immortal and the other well, the most destructive animal ever existed.
23 – What is life?
To Live is Life.
Eddy! This was a glorious journey. So many good vibes. Keep on doing it.
Thank you for the interview, brother. I had a blast, it is definitely one of the best I’ve ever had.
Any last words?
Skateboarding is a growing sport, we haven’t yet seen it’s frontiers of how far can it go. We are currently experiencing a new level of professionalisation of skateboarding now in the Olympics, perhaps it’s what we need to keep this up and to evolve our roles as skaters and as a sport. I definitely see this as a great opportunity to increase our presence in the world into so many things, but we need to be united and willing to take a stand to get things happen.
Thank yous/shout outs?
I want to thank to my sponsors Landyachtz, Bear, Hawgs, Daves Hippy Oil, Trip House Co, Duck Van Sliders for being there for me always! Billy Meiners, Riley Harris, Pat Schep for being a great support. Justen Ortiz for believing in me and give me an opportunity in Landyachtz.
Thanks to Michael Brooke for being a legend and inspiring us all abroad the world to believe and be witness of the incredible things that happen when skateboarding. Shout outs to the volunteers, the crews, sponsors and riders that had been participating in LFPMX and #Patinaporlapaz activities: Bern Unlimited, Epix Drinks, Landyachtz Longboards, Skate House Media, Treee Skateboarding, Nahuales Crew, Juan VanDusen, Gerardo Moreno, Fabián Gutierrez, Douglas Connel, Eli Puente, Marcelo Rios, Patricio Garza, Sebastián Garcia, Kevin Ukrez, Charly Rodriguez. My mom. I want to also thank for all the job that is and has been done in the name of the skateboarding/longboarding scene everywhere: video makers, skaters, brands, crews, shops, Respect! we have nothing without you guys.
“You are what you are on a skateboard.”
To photos interview related: https://we.tl/5SRs3zp8w5
To Longboarding For Peace México FB www.facebook.com/LFPMX
To my FB page www.facebook.com/edd.avina
To my new blog/page eddavina.wix.com/edcetera