skinema book

My friend Augie sent me the link to this documentary on the Cuban skate scene almost a year ago. I quickly pitched it to The Skateboard Mag as a piece to try and get the word out. Due to lack of photos the story never ran. But as we enter into a new year, with a new president I find myself thinking more and more about this issue, and how different my life would be without skateboarding. I wouldn't have started writing, I wouldn't have the friends I have today, I wouldn't have seen the places I've seen, I wouldn't own three stores dedicated to it. I'm very thankful for what skateboarding has given me and when I see kids like these in Cuba struggling just to do what they love it breaks my heart. And so me and some of my friends have decided that in 2009 we're going to make a trip to Cuba and bring these guys some product. Me, Ryan Clements and Barak Wiser from S.P.O.T. are talking their Boards For Bros Program International and are talking to Red Bull, Jim at DLX, Augie from Acapulco Gold and a bunch of other brands to get involved. We're hoping to get the entire skateboard world behind this movement. The beef America has with Cuba has nothing to do with us or these skateboarders. In the upcoming months you'll see more about this on other sites and we'll have a call to arms for you to send your old wheels and bearings and whatever you can spare that isn't shot.

Until then,

Happy New year!


Have you ever pissed and moaned about a chip in your board? A minor flat spot on your wheel? A floating axel on your truck? If so, then chances are if you watch Englishman Phil Brown’s documentary about the Cuban skate scene in Havana, Cuban Skate Crisis, you’ll feel like a petty asshole at the end of it. I know I did.

My buddy, Augie from Acapulco Gold Clothing sent me the link to the footage a while back and simply said, “We need to set up a trip to Cuba and help these people out.” Then a month later I saw an Anti Hero tour article in Thrasher that echoed Augie’s sentiments: the skaters down there are fucked. Because of the U.S. embargo on Cuba skaters there are unable to purchase boards, decks, wheels anything they need to skate. Most skaters there are forced to ride the same deck for years. And if they snap that deck? Well, they can either try and repair it with nails and tape and some serious rigging as Cuban Skate Crisis shows us but the truth of the matter is a Cuban skateboarder is basically S.O.L. until another kind skateboarder ventures to Havana and brings more product.

44 year-old former 80s British Pro Skater for Cherry Bomb, Alan Morrison, usually makes a trip once a year and takes as many boards as his luggage weight allowance will permit. The last trip he took over 15 decks and 10 sets of wheels. “The skaters are so thankful that they offer up their homes for me and my girlfriend to stay. The first time I went, 6 years ago, I didn’t see any skateboarders there. I saw kids pushing around on steel-wheeled scooters. It was almost a flashback to the ‘60s. I thought, ‘next time I go back I’ll take a board and give it to the kids once I’ve finished. When I went back I met Che, who is in the video, and gave him the deck and he was overjoyed to get this really shitty set-up I’d given him.”

Since then, Alan has seen Cuban skaters starting to really kill it. “The skaters are progressing in Havana,” he explains, “but it really depends on how much equipment they can get a hold of and how many skaters there are at one time and there certainly are a lot more now. The Cubans aren’t allowed to get satellite TV but there are black market satellite receivers so they do get to see the X-Games and such off the U.S. television; so they are quite up to date with their tricks. But they are quite cautious. They won’t do stuff that might break their deck for instance.”

What are their thoughts on Phil Brown’s depiction of their plight? Morrison tells us, like all skaters, they want to be known for having fun, not for their hardships: “The Cubans in the video were slightly disappointed with the video. They want people to come over and have a good time and they thought the video made them seem like they were complaining about how difficult they have it. But it’s not inaccurate. They have a quite a struggle.”

Yesterday we had a demo at the Sayreville Skatepark and some 10-year-old kid yelled at me for not getting any free stuff. He asked me why he should even bother coming to the demos if he wasn’t going to get anything. I couldn’t believe the audacity. I thought of the Cubans and how thankful they’d be just to see a pro skater. I told the kid he won free memories and those would last him far longer than any deck or size small t-shirt.

If you would like to help the Cuban skaters, there’s a shop in Germany who has set up a fund called that collects used boards to send over. Or if you know of anyone going to Cuba or you, yourself are going, take some old product. The stuff you have under your bed that you think is crap could change a Cuban skater’s life. And please, when you can’t land a trick because you think the board is supposed to do the work and not you, don’t be a prick and focus your deck. Remember these parting words from Alan Morrison, “When Cubans see people focusing their decks on the skate videos they go crazy. They almost want to cry. They can’t understand why anyone would want to smash their skateboards. They understand how precious each board is.”

Click Here to watch this movie

When we bought our own house I decided I was going to be The Crazy Christmas Lights Guy in my neighborhood. I would, over time, amass more lights than a small city and light up my house so it could be seen from outer space. People would come from far and wide to see my crazy Christmas light house.

We had been in our six months before I told my neighbor my plan.
"Oh," he said, "just like the guy down the street?"
"What guy?"
"the guy down the street."
"Which street?"
"That street." And he pointed. and my eyes followed his finger to the next street over.

Turned out my neighborhood already has a Crazy Christmas Lights Guy.
And you could see his house from outer space.
And people come from far and wide to see his crazy Christmas light house.

That first year I set up my lone Homer Simpson inflatable figure with heavy heart. I no longer wanted to bother, knowing someone was already doing it. Then I went to see the guy's crazy Christmas light house and my heart went a flutter. I was filled with the spirit of Christmas. I was suddenly inspired to decorate my house in an even grander fashion. Not to out-do him but rather to compliment him. Who says there can't be TWO crazy Christmas light guys in a neighborhood?

Not I.

And so, each year on the 26th day of December I hit up every Lowe's, Home Depot and any seasonal store and buy up whatever lights they have left at 75% to 90% off. Last year I got a robotic talking Santa that sings songs and waves! I know I have a ways to go to even be compared to the other guy but I have time. It's only our 3rd Christmas and I'm already getting people slowing up and gawking at the house. I give myself five years and they'll be pulling over to take pictures.

Merry Christmas everyone.

The Nieratko

The inspiration

Getting started

Deer boxes

Creepy Santa

Our house so far

Thanks for the hand, Fatboy

Meatball undressed

Meatball dressed

Many years ago I found myself at The Carnies discussing one of my favorite topics, my wife’s retarded Uncle Lonnie. He is the greatest person that I have ever come across and I love to talk about his zany ways. He has a mouth like a sailor, talks like one of the Three Stooges, quotes TV Land and loves The Beatles. And depending on the day, he will tell you he’s either 4 or 7 years old. He is more awesome than any of us can ever be. I remember saying to The Carnies that Lonnie had a HEART OF GOLD and before long, with the assistance of a few more bottles of white wine we had come up with a more PC anagram for retarded people, H.O.G.s. And so it was that we never said the word ‘retards’ again. Mentally challenged folks, with their Hearts Of Gold, have been referred to as H.O.G.s ever since.

Last year I meant to post Lonnie’s Christmas Party. But I forgot. Here’s a clip from of it. Well last week we went to Lonnie’s Hog O‘ Ween Party at the Elks. As you would expect, it was epic. I knew once Janine started screaming for the “DJ” (guy who changed the CDs on the book box) to play Who Let The Dogs Out that words alone would not capture the moment. So instead I filmed as much as possible. I think it helps capture the awesome. I say next year we run a bus trip to the party and we all go.



Lonnie gets ready

HOG parade!

HOG parade gone wrong


Janine was Dorthy


Stoked face

Addidas Tim O'Connor Roast Hosted by Chris Nieratko

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