"RED FLAGS" - CONS IN TAIWAN
From The Skateboard Mag's Issue 141
Text: Stuart Gomez
Photography: Jon Coulthard
Taiwan is a beloved filming destination for traveling skaters, with a culture that is full of charm and character. Last spring, the CONS team spent ten days in the cities Taipei, Keelung, and Taichung, experiencing the best of an island with an independent sensibility.
Taiwan is considered by many to be an island paradise. The country’s original name, “Formosa,” (meaning “beautiful”) was coined centuries ago by Portuguese sailors, deeply impressed by the nature and culture. These days, the major contributing factors to the island’s ambiance are the abundance of ornate temples and the thrilling weather patterns (typhoons, tropical storms, and landslides are common). Eli Reed pays respectful homage to the elements with a frontside hurricane at a temple overlooking Keelung’s harbor.
Louie Lopez landed at 6:00 A.M., ate breakfast, then landed a first try frontside tailslide. Of course, no one was surprised: immediate, jet-lagged bangers are typical of modern global skate missions. How does a skater endure a fourteen-hour flight, hit the very first spot, and land his trick perfectly right off the bat? The answer could be nervous energy; or the brief shock of being in an unfamiliar land; or just plain, unrestrained excitement. This strange phenomenon is the gift that keeps on giving.
Taiwan’s infrastructure continually reveals hidden gems. There’s a good chance that there’s an incredible skatespot being built somewhere on the island at this very moment.
The local citizenry have a unique sense of duty that is difficult to fully comprehend. They will protect the skatespot by bombarding the skaters with questions: “Don’t you realize that there are people here? Don’t you see that you might hurt the people? Don’t you know that this is marble and once you break it it’s broken?” The Taiwanese believe strongly in giving/saving face, so outright harassment would be out of the question for them, but their sense of community pride adds another layer of tension to each trick. They care about their environment in a very real way; they care so much that this Mike Anderson switch wallie 50-50 almost didn’t happen.
This spot is located smack-dab in an insanely busy intersection. There are three busy streets coming at you, and every time that the light changed there would be over 50 scooters coming through there, hauling ass right at you. You need a higher level of tolerance to deal with this type of sensory overload. Traffic is inevitable. Zered Bassett deals with it by crooked grinding.
The decades-old Wan-an (roughly, “Safety For Everyone”) is an annual island-wide drill, usually performed in the springtime, and instituted for increased preparedness in the event of a Chinese air attack. Throughout the island, air raid sirens blare for 30 minutes as the streets are cleared; people are expected to drop everything and head inside. This year’s drill happened right in the middle of the team’s stay, and it was an eerie reminder that Taiwan is a uniquely strange island. Formosa, indeed.
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