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Story and Photographs by: André Rober Beriau

Tightening the bolts on a fresh deck is a combination of positive and negative anxiety. The positive; that fresh snap of a crisp board, tail without chips, zero wheel bite, dirt-free grip. Every deck brings the same level of excitement that came with the first purchase - whether on one’s own or from that strange uncle who always bought the best presents - and included batteries. There is the mentality that comes with each new setup, the notion that this one will make that tré flip come around a little faster, those frontside airs a little more boned out, and these sunset sessions last a little longer. On the surface they are all the same; seven plies, concave, more kick in the nose. Underneath though, it all changes. Too much concave. An 1/8th inch too narrow. The tail could be flatter. The shape is good. The graphic is lame. Who cares? Wait, it measures 32.5 inches instead of 32? Ah, whatever. Each of these minuscule factors makes a significant impact on trick landing, session enjoyment, and style. Picked out and set up, there are those negatives: dialing in the flick, softening the grip, boooard! Tail chip? Nope, just a dent. No, you cannot try it. Yes, it is a Santa Cruz. Those first pumps around the pocket of a bowl. Those first snaps of an ollie into the bank. Those first clangs of the back hanger locking in to a five-0. Those feelings all make the negative dissipate. Will that tré come around any faster? Fat chance. Will those frontside airs get boned out at all? Hardly. Will these sessions last any longer? Not if it’s after June 21st.  None of that makes a difference, though. Stop thinking about it. Finish setting it up. Go push around.


Story and Photographs by: André Rober Beriau

Carnival lights whirl in the slow release of a long exposure. Across the harbor, families walk the alleys of fried food, rickety rides, and gimmicky games. Their faces are illuminated in the flash of blues, reds, and whites. It’s an American convention. Born at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the carnival is meant to amuse and entertain. Large or small. One night only or a weeklong. The amusement lasts as long as the Ferris wheel spins. Warm air hovers over the scent of fried dough. A burning July sun sets behind the noise of metallic swinging chairs. The humidity wraps itself around the hand-worn plastic of a dart. Cork guns fire through the laughter, knocking over waxed cups with prizes written on the front: Big, small, mystery, whoopee cushion. From the Flying Bob ride, a light bulb clinks its polyphonic tingle across the open pavement. Parents look nervously at carnies. Carnies look skeptically at parents. Tickets are always sold in sets of five; access to rides divisible only by even numbers. The schemes are well planned, despite what visitors think of the employees - there are clever tricks laced deeply into each facet of the fanfare.


Couples hold hands high over the luminescent chaos below. Teenagers’ - eyes wide, hearts full - braces stick to candied apples. Their fingers, saturated with the sweat of their sweetheart after a turn on the zipper, pull apart pieces of cotton candy. Parents linger on the edges, hidden from the discerning eye of their children. In any town, on any summer evening the carnival brings carnal joy. So much of the youthful experience of fear and freedom can be chalked up to a night under the glimmer and glow of this traveling show. This night there is a different crew. Who can say the people who run it are any better than the previous one? From the look of the staff to the cleanliness of the grounds there is a feeling of well-managed normalcy. No one with a single tattoo, placed indiscriminately on his or her neck by a friend who happened to own a machine. Uniforms are clean. Hair is combed. Straight, white teeth. Cheeky smiles. The company seems to drive away the cliché image that has come to haunt these pre-harvest season fairs.


Twelve miles from the border is an office with a single table and two benches. A man places an “out” stamp inside a random passport page. Today is the 12th. The stamp claims April 13th, 2012. It is just after 4:30p.m. in the town of Zimmi. If the driver can “run” to the border we’ll cross, on the cusp of its six o’clock closing, and be Liberia side by nightfall. The driver hustles the passengers; purchasing food, stretching, and going to the bathroom, back into the vehicle.


Evan sits behind me in the middle row of the station wagon. The yellow, dirt crusted, Peugeot stops at the base of a pothole-riddled hill. From the roof the apprentice shouts that there is an axel problem. Passengers offload. Under the vehicle the driver and apprentices mend the slipped axel with metal wire and rubber cut from an inner tube. Twenty-minutes passes. We load back. Evan’s head bobs as he wakes and sleeps. The driver is conscious of time and axel. He dodges the VW Beetle sized puddles as best he can. Another thirty minutes later the axel is out again. The passengers exit, ease themselves, and enter back.


Hope of a crossing is fading with the light. Through the tall, sunburnt and dust covered grass, villages begin to grow in size. The road condition is improving - slightly. Ahead, houses appear, zinc shacks and single unit shops present themselves in larger numbers. We cross a rope flagged with rags and plastic bags.


Passengers begin to scatter. Apprentices and police officers are offloading possessions. People move about. Our surfboards are unloaded. I pull my pack from the roof as passengers scramble for their things. Half a dozen police standby.


“Stop! Stop!”

“What? This is my bag.”

“This is a police order. Are you above the law?”

“No. This is my bag, sir.”

“No. You do not unload your bag.”


My ability to assume grace under pressure fails me. Evan cuts me off with a quick, “Dude, no. Leave it.” The other passengers and their possessions are gone. At least six different officers and “officials” approach and tell us the same, different things. The time is no later than 6:15p.m. We sit on a bench outside the Gendema Police Station. My bag is only feet away. The border is less than 500 yards to the south. I take a pull off of Evan’s warm beer. Tomorrow. If a person meets Gendema after 6:00p.m it is law that their possessions spend the night under the safe gaze of the police. I don’t fucking think so.

Evan scouts out a guesthouse. The town is illuminated by kerosene lamps and candles. From inside the telephone charging centers and video clubs, Freetown’s latest hip-hop artists blend in a wall of bass-filled noise. Police officers attempt to talk with me in Mende. With gritted teeth I respond in Krio and inquire about the bag. Nothing. Eight o’clock in the morning. When the border opens. Blood boils.


There is a guesthouse for 30,000Le for two. I advise Evan to go, wash and sleep - I’ll stay at the station, he should not have to suffer. He stays. True solidarity. Evan sits with the police while I scrounge food. When I return Evan goes for acheke, a mix of pasta, garrie, fish, eggs, mayonnaise, ketchup, and lettuce. Three and a half hours have passed. I have spoken a lot, to many different “officials.”


“It’s a good thing I’ve been in Salone for a time.”


“If this was my first and only experience in Salone…Well, I would not tell people outside good things.”

“Why? We keep you safe. Tomorrow you can go.”

“Right. For now you treat me like dog shit. And it hurts my heart.”

“LIke dog shit? You know what is dog shit?”

“Yes. It is the shit from a dog’s asshole. It really hurts my heart.”

“Shit from a dog’s asshole? Wow.”

“Yeah. Not good. There is the apprentice. Before you said if the apprentice comes I can take my bag.”


The apprentice opens the door of the car. I explain to him what is happening. He is summoned by the police official. Evan returns with food and beer.


“So. How can you help me?” Asks the official.

“Help you?”

“Yeah I got your bag for you.”

“Eh? You like soft drinks?”


“Beer? I’ll buy you a beer?”

Story and Photographs by: André Rober Beriau



Al Garete En Puerto Rico

Story and Photographs by: André Rober Beriau

Above the canopy of El Yunque National Forest clouds of dense, evaporated water begin to blow west across the island. From one angle, the edges of the ocean brush against the white sand and lush greens of Puerto Rico. From another, it is only a vast wash of foliage that climbs up until it is met by a thick veil of rainclouds - pushed by trade winds from the southeast. Locals and tourists drive the rain-soaked PR-191, stopping on blind turns to view las cascadas or las buenas vistas from roadside turnouts and Yokahú Tower. Slivers of hiking trails that lead to waterfalls and more intimate parts of the rainforests split off from the highway. Along pathways and up the stairs of lookouts, multiple languages carry over the sounds of coquí frogs and San Pedrito birds. The mixture of human life is as diverse as the animals and plants that are endemic to this area.


Trapped by a tarpaulin of moisture, depth of field is limited to a few hundred feet. Warm, wet air condenses on the skin, cooling any heat generated from walking through the damp pathways leading to Mount Britton tower. Over the calls of birds and amphibians, voices are heard, but faces are never seen. The pavement is cracked or broken into pieces of loose gravel. Named after botanist Nathaniel Britton who - with his wife Elizabeth - spent time in the 1920s documenting local tree and plant species, the trail covers .8 miles one way, and leads to an observation tower that takes its name from Mr. Britton. Faces of hikers appear from the mist when pausing to take a photograph. They are quickly lost again, ascending or descending the slippery walkway of roots and shoots. The peak reveals nothing on this morning. Blank. White. Beautiful. There is no closer opportunity to have a head in the clouds than now. There has never been a time when that phrase is more appropriate.  Dana and I hike through these sections of El Yunque.  This trip is shorter than the last, and we only have one day to ourselves before our red Nissan becomes an adult clown car.

We pulled into Rincon at sundown last night in time to siphon off an hour of daylight in front of Taino Dive shop. Three hours of solid shoulder to head high waves peel through Domes this morning. Light, variable cross-shore winds have driven most out of the water and onto the beach. Changing tides and a reduction in swell forced the last few in one-by-one. Looking out to sea, one only remembers how many people are also staring at the same blue void when turning to paddle for that lone ripple. Dropping in becomes a level in Frogger. Turn high? Stay low? Shoot the section? Pull off? Crowd thinning occurs only when exhaustion and hunger fully set in. Every wave becomes a contest - an eyeball game of priority and measurement making. Tourist. Kook. Local. New Yorker. Springbreaker. Longboarder. Local Longboarder. Maybe a local. Too many descriptors exist for the number of estimates being made on all those who paddle around. Each one feels the same. Some are naturally entitled. Others want to think they are. Watching people get repeatedly snaked or shacked provides ample entertainment between sets. From the hood of the car, Kyle and Dylan observe all the late-drops, collisions, poorly timed exits, and back flop duck-dives.  


Pressed on in the dirt parking lot at Steps Beach, Dana gives her mask a dry run. She checks the tension, adjusts the straps, and fits the snorkel.  The piece of swell that pumped in over the weekend has receded to a plate glass surface.  The forecast claims high seas tomorrow, dropping in size over two to three days. Exploring the reefs becomes the next best choice for water time. Around her, cars of tourists - and locals with a mid-week day-off - filter down the single-track road leading to the reef. The sand has yet to reach foot-searing temperatures, and the water’s surface has not been agitated by the wind that will come up with sun-rising regularity. Under the water, the silent hustle of snorkelers applying sunblock, fitting masks, and tripping over fins is placed on mute. Dana’s hair follows the rhythm of undulating current that jostles the myriad grunts, parrotfish, and blue tang over reef shelves. Snorkel tips and matted hair bobbing along towards friends or fish follow blasts of water at the surface. Inside of an hour, the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve will swell with human traffic. Unaware, and surrounded by blue, Dana swims through the schools, learns about the marine life, and listens only to what the sea has to say.

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