PROTO EN MEXICO A PHOTO DOCUMENTARY

Written by Parrish Isaacs

Edited by Matt McKeen and Andrew Broussard

Photos by David Coe, Fernando Felix, Babo Oscar Diaz

ThE EMBARKMENT

As many adventures before, our journey began at the TGE warehouse in Vista, CA. Our crew for the trip consisted of Andrew Broussard, Chema Cardenas, David Coe, Matt McKeen, Jake Sorensen, Alex Steadman, Kirk Svensson, and myself. Since we had to make a flight in Tijuana at 4PM, we decided everyone needed to travel with only a backpack and their scooter, to save us time riding the train down to the border. However, when traveling with PROTO, saving time is never the case. Our trip would be eventful before even getting to the airport. The crew split up, with McKeen, David, & Kirk heading directly to the station in Oceanside, while the rest of us piled into the Vista time machine for the seemingly imperative task of acquiring wristbands for the South Sur Dream afterparty. After a trip to Walmart and Party City for the $50 wristbands, we made it just in time to catch our train to San Diego. Once we got on the train, we realized Andrew had purchased the wrong tickets; but it didn’t end up being an issue since Andrew somehow managed to negotiate with the train workers.

BORDER CROSSING

The closer you get to the border, the more morsels of Mexican culture you are exposed to; you begin to feel the struggle of so many people to come here and try to support themselves and their families. The disillusionment is almost palpable. We got off at San Ysidro, where we crossed the border on foot. Crossing the border into Mexico wasn’t an issue, until we realized that we all needed Visas (because we would be there for over ten days). Americans used to be able to walk over the border without even seeing an immigration patrol, but since Trump has taken office, Mexico has stepped up the requirements on US citizens coming into Mexico. Once we were in Tijuana, we scrambled into two taxis, and made our way to the airport. When flying with a scooter in Mexico, the airlines insist that your scooter gets wrapped by this strange service where they basically saran wrap your luggage to keep it safe. We ended up having two sets of four scooters that had to be wrapped together. The employees of the wrap service were extremely confused on where to begin, juggling our scooters amongst themselves, it was quite a funny sight. Once our scooters were in their blue plastic cocoons, we carried them over and checked them. We then waited for our plane; David, Jake, Kirk, and I taking advantage of our new found ability to buy beer.

THE ARRIVAL

We arrived in Guadalajara around nine PM and met up with Alexander, Andrew’s younger brother, who was in town for the South Sur Dream premiere. After some haggling and shopping around all the different rental places at the airport for an hour, Andrew had found us an awesome van for the week ahead. On our way to Chema’s house, we stopped at a taco stand to eat; many of us getting our first glimpses of Guadalajara late at night out of the van windows, and while sitting on the sidewalk near the taco stand. Upon our arrival, Chema’s mother and dogs gave us a warm welcome, and we quickly went to sleep so we could get up early for a jam at Chema’s local in the morning. Chema’s house is definitely set up a little differently than a house you would usually find in the United States. Chema’s father modeled the house off of a traditional house from the Mexican countryside. First off, you pull your car directly into the house, there is no separation between the garage and the rest of the house. Then, there is a large center patio room, which has a roof that is slightly raised from the walls of the house so fresh air can get in. All of the other rooms have sealed off roofs, and are accessible from the patio. The house is full of beautiful teal-blue tile work, it was a very nice and unique place to stay.

SOUTH SUR DREAM JAM

When we arrived at the park in the morning, we were greeted by more scooter riders than we expected, probably around 50. Many of them have pronounced barspins, smiths and double pegs, and foot placement that reminded us all how much influence Chema has on the local scene. We rode with everyone who showed up at the event for a few hours, and then there was a contest that some of the team was judging. The contest started a lot later than expected because of technical difficulties and people arriving late. Everyone got two runs through the park, but with a bit of a language barrier, it was definitely somewhat hectic. Chema’s homie Jacobo from Chihuahua ended up winning the jam with ease. Unfortunately, it started raining, so the BMX jam planned for after was rained out, and had to be rescheduled. The attitude towards scooter riding was definitely more open minded than most places in the United States, and we noticed a lot more bikers than skaters. We ended the day with a little product toss in the rain, the kids were stoked and we were tired, but we were also given hope for the scooter scene in Mexico.

PREMIER + AFTERPARTY

For the past three years, one of Chema’s close friends, Oscar Babo, a local filmmaker, had been working on a documentary about Chema. It chronicles Chema growing up in Guadalajara and coming to the states to pursue his riding further. One of the reasons we had come on this trip was to be there for the premiere. It was held at Cine Foro at the University of Guadalajara, organized by Babo and his crew. We were all impressed by the film; it really shows the difficulties Chema faced growing up as a scooter rider in Mexico. From acquiring scooter parts, to the daunting realities of life that we all realize as we get older, Chema has worked so hard to get where he is today. Most scooter riders know Chema for his epic parts in the PROTO full lengths, but few know how much harder it was for him to get there than everyone else. Chema is seriously one of the hardest working scooter riders in the industry; and I hope everyone gets the opportunity to see Babo’s film. After the premiere, we signed some posters and hung out for a while, then there was an afterparty at a restaurant downtown. Many of Chema’s friends and family, along with some local riders, were there to celebrate. First was dinner in the restaurant, and then we went upstairs onto the third story patio, overlooking the grandiose cathedrals of downtown Guadalajara. Many cervezas were drank, and a couple pinatas broken. We felt welcomed, and stoked for the week ahead.

THE FOURTH DAY

The fourth day marked our first real filming day, the whole crew was ready to get it done and stoked to be together. Our first spot in Guadalajara was the famous red rails, which ended up being one of my favorite spots I’ve ever been to. You would recognize them from some of Chema’s footage, or Elmer’s ender in Armageddon, as well as countless skate and BMX videos. The spot consists of these perfect little curved handicap rails, as well as a nice long mellow down rail at the entrance of the park. We were quickly introduced to a similar, yet noticeably different police presence. There was this dude hanging out near the spot who was a little sketchy, he even tried handing me something while I was trying one of my tricks. The police came up to see what was up with him, and the first thing you notice about police in Mexico is that they’re usually carrying assault rifles on their shoulders. According to Chema though, most of the police aren’t even trained to use these guns, they are just used as an intimidation tactic. The first mishap of the trip ensued after most of us had gotten our clips, when Alexander tried to ollie over one of the rails on his skateboard. He had moved to Louisiana from California 4 years prior to work on oil drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and hadn’t been skating as much as he used to. He bailed and landed weird on his knee, and ended up tearing his meniscus and his ACL, which would later require surgery. Nevertheless, he is a great dude and kept in good spirits, he was great to have on the first leg of the trip. A few of us got clips at a spot we’d been seeing in videos for years, and we headed out. Vibes were good and we were happy to have had a productive sesh.

THE INCIDENT

Early the next morning Chema and Andrew drove Alexander to the airport to catch his flight back to the United States with a looming doctors visit on his horizon. The rest of us woke up to what we thought would be another normal day of filming, and the crew was really excited because we were going to another one of the amazing, famous spots that Guadalajara has to offer: the street halfpipe. The halfpipe is a drainage ditch that sits at the edge of a large public park. The halfpipe is about as perfect as it gets for a street halfpipe. It’s about nine feet deep, and although there are some little kinks in the transition, it's pretty unbelievable how good it is. You can even do lipslides and boardslides on the edges where coping would be because of how smooth the concrete is. We were just filming and riding, David had filmed a line and some of the other dudes were trying to decide what they wanted to do. Andrew, who had been spending an awful lot of time in the office managing the company and off his scooter as of lately, was starting to feel warmed up and started trying a trick. Andrew footage is rare, so Chema and I were quick to tell people to put their phones away and get out the real cameras; with Chema on long lens and me on fisheye, Andrew seemed stoked to get his first clip in a while. Andrew was trying to do a deck check to alley-oop backside air, and was getting close when the seemingly unimaginable happened...

On one of the attempts, he checked the coping a little too hard popped out instead of up and ended up getting tossed out and down into the flat of the ditch. He landed hard with his left leg straight out taking all the weight of his fall twisting his ankle backwards then sitting on it. Later we would find out that all the ligaments in his ankle were torn along with a broken fibula and fractured tibia. Andrew immediately cried out “I'm done! I'm done!” and the session was over. We immediately called an ambulance, but much to our dismay, the ambulances were on call and apparently out already. The operator suggested for us to make a splint for Andrew’s leg so we started finding random pieces of wood in case we need to tie his leg together. The locals in the neighborhood started to crowd around to survey the scene. This was not the first time they had seen someone broke off in the infamous street halfpipe. Andrew did his best to remain as calm as one can laying on the ground with a crooked leg in Mexico while trying to formulate ways to fashion his own splint out of sticks and shoelaces to get himself out of the ditch.

After an hour, and a few more calls to the hospital, we finally got an ambulance headed our way. When they arrived, we noticed some fundamental differences between the Mexican EMTs and ours. Firstly, they only sent two EMT’s to come get a dude with a broken leg out of a drainage ditch. Secondly, only one of them climbed down into the ditch, the other EMT just handed Jake the stretcher and bag of first aid equipment and remained up top with the locals. There was clearly a language barrier, so Chema was translating from the EMT to Andrew. Almost immediately, Chema informed Andrew the EMT was going to set his ankle, which had Andrew pretty freaked out and trying to figure out what was going on. So, with no pain medication and only a random ditch stick for Andrew to bite down on, she pulled his foot straight enough to fit into the splint; but that wasn’t even close to solving our issue...

We still had to get Andrew out of the ditch. The stretcher seemed like more trouble than it was worth, so Jake and Alex helped Andrew walk to the entrance of the ditch, which was a narrow little rock wall that’s even pretty sketchy to traverse without a broken ankle and leg. Andrew proceeded to do one of the gnarliest things I’ve ever seen as he hopped up the narrow ledge and out of the ditch unassisted. He was holding onto the fence and pulling himself up with his upper body, I was amazed by his bravery and ability to deal with the situation. After slapping a few PROTO stickers on his makeshift splint, Andrew allowed himself to be wheeled into the ambulance and taken to the hospital where they would X-ray him. We followed in the van and then found ourselves a nice a bar to reflect on what just happened.

THE DAY AFTER

We woke up the next morning, somewhat shook from the day before, but we knew we still had to stack clips and photos and it was David's last day on the trip. Guadalajara is full of cutty spots, so many that we could just ride out of Chema’s house and push through his neighborhood. Andrew stayed back at Chema's house making travel and surgery arrangements since treatment in Mexico was not an option while the rest of us cruised around the hilly streets to see what we could find and Alex, David, and Kirk managed to get some lines. David tried to hit a huge street gap and ended the session with a gnarly slam, going out with a bang, we took him to the airport and wished him farewell on his upcoming trip to Asia. The rest of the day was spent scoping a few more spots, and then it was tacos y cervezas time. Andrew should have flown home for surgery but he stayed to finish critiquing and revising South Sur Dream with Babo that night, getting it ready for the second premiere in San Diego before SD11, less than 2 weeks away.

THURSDAY

After another pre-sunrise airport mission with Chema, Andrew was headed back to the United States on crutches for emergency surgery. No goodbyes, only good lucks. Our plans for Thursday were to head to some spots in an area Chema said we would need a local to be with us for, because of how hood and territorial the area was. To get there, we ended up taking this crazy dirt road winding through fields at the base of a mountain. There were little to no houses on the road, and we only passed two or three other vehicles. At times we weren’t sure if our trusty rental van was suited for the conditions at hand, but we made it through and it was sure worth it. We picked up Chema’s friend Juan, a local biker who knew all the spots in the neighborhood. The area was reminiscent of housing projects you would find in an American city; at one point they were rather nice, affordable housing, but the years had taken their toll and created a somewhat isolated low-income area. Many of the buildings were tall, made out of cement and very plain. They had large white numbers and letters on the sides to denote which buildings were which, and were colored an orangey brown.

Juan took us to some of the most unique spots of the trip, the first of which being a crazy crusty out ledge Kirk stepped up to tangle with. After Andrew’s incident many of us were spooked on gnarly spots, including myself, so we weren’t really sure if it was possible, but Kirk was sure he could get it done. While Kirk was trying his trick, the neighborhood began emerging from their homes to watch. A young kid who lived in one of the buildings brought out a bucket of water and a cup for Kirk to drink from. Although Chema had said the area was dangerous and sketchy, we were greeted with nothing but hospitality. The day ended in us getting caught in a crazy rainstorm, and again, it was tacos y cervezas until the next day.

viernes y sábado

Friday was our eighth day, and despite prior mishaps, some of the guys were dead set on getting clips at the infamous halfpipe spot. Jake, Matt, and Kirk got their tricks, and with a successful mission and pretty chill day behind us, nothing could prepare us for what would ensue Saturday. We started Saturday with some Amazing spots, one was a white quarterpipe you have to drop down a ledge to hit. Chema said he thought we would get the boot, but we ended up getting as long of a session as we needed on it. Then, we found a perfect pyramid on the side of the road Chema didn’t even know about. Guadalajara seems to have an endless abundance of unreal spots. You just go around a corner and the neighborhoods keep unwinding and revealing little nooks and crannies. The spots however, are not for those who complain about imperfections. Even the best spots are as crusty as they come, but for us, that was a bonus. The spots in Guadalajara are reminiscent of Baltimore or Philly, but with the added aesthetic of Mexican art and architecture. We went to some more planned spots, and Jake absolutely destroyed them, getting some clips that you’re going to have to wait until November to see.

MCKEEN GOES TO JAIL

We thought the day was wrapping up as we headed to our friend Ronco’s taco stand that we had been frequenting all week. All was fine and well, we were eating Tacos and a few of the guys grabbed beers from the corner store. I was sitting across the street with Jacobo and Matt, when out of nowhere, two police officers rolled up on the sidewalk on their motorcycles, followed by two police pickup trucks. Without saying much of anything, they pulled Jacobo and Matt up by their arms, handcuffed them for having open containers, and put them in the back of the pickup truck. Once again all of us were shocked by the situation in front of us, we called Chema over who spoke to the police and found out where they were being taken. We got in the van and followed closely behind to the police station. There were two other men in the back of the truck with Matt & Jacobo who were clearly wasted from a day’s worth of drinking. Matt told us later that one of them tried to sneak open a Tecate from his bag which ended in a tug of war with the cops until he threw the beer over the side. We were perplexed when we pulled up to the police station and realized it was also a hospital. All the people working there seemed nice enough though, from what the locals were telling us, the best case scenario would be a small fine and we’d get them out in a few hours. Worst case was that they would be in there for 72 hours and both miss their flights home. Chema ended up talking to someone in the station who informed us we could pay their fine and have them out within a few hours. So, per usual, we found a bar and Chema waited for the call. We got the call and went to pick them up. The fine ended up being well under $600 pesos for both of them, which translates to around $30 USD. We actually spent more on drinks at the bar while we waited for them.

After getting Jacobo and Matt out of jail, we decided the night wasn’t over yet. We drove out to some bars in downtown Guadalajara to celebrate Jacobo & Matt’s liberation. It’s astounding how many people Chema knows in Guadalajara, a city of four million people. When we were downtown people would recognize him, even when we were out filming at spots and in areas far from the center of the city. Feeling exhausted from all the series of events, I went back to the van while everyone continued onto more bars and clubs. Very late in the morning I saw Kirk running over to the van by himself, which I thought was rather weird. Turns out, everyone had just seen a super drunk dude throw up while riding his motorcycle and crash into a trashcan on the sidewalk. The dude was knocked unconscious with one shoe off while the guys and a few bystanders tried to revive him and pick up his bike. Apparently, he wasn’t very accepting of their help. He got up insisting he was fine and tried to start his bike, but his key was bent and he was in no shape to be operating a motorcycle. He started to get violent and got into the face of Alex to engage a fight. Then one of the local riders, Marcos, stepped in and kicked the dude’s bike over and then took his keys. We drove past the guy on our way out just as it started to rain. He was cluelessly trying to start his motorcycle, unaware he didn’t have a key. We got back to Chema’s around 5 AM, passed out and didn’t wake up till the afternoon.

Bittersweet goodbyes

After that, we were in the final stretch of the the trip. We cruised a few more spots, avoided drinking on the street, and walked around downtown to get b-roll. Downtown Guadalajara is beautiful, there are crazy cathedrals and old architecture everywhere, although they are constantly drowned out by new stores and tourist traps. Overall, I think we had an amazing trip. The spots were better than any of us could have imagined, and although we had some crazy mishaps, we came out with a ton of photos, a trip video, and clips to be saved for the next full length. Mexico is eye opening, life there is definitely harder than it is here in the United States. People have to work longer hours for less pay, but everyone is so generous and caring. The city is full of art and culture, but also corruption and deception. By the last day, the crew had dwindled down to Chema, Jake, Kirk, Matt, and I. We got on our flight home with one of the craziest trips of our lives behind us. Coming back over the border was bittersweet, it was a relief to make it back safely, but there was a lot about Mexico we were going to miss.

PROTO EN MEXICO Trip Video

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