Photos, Recipes, Stories & Tips
As the Catalan wind blows, you feel warmth on your skin and fuck-you-freedom in your bones. With a large percentage of Barcelona still identifying as anarchists, this Spanish city has fertile ground to grow and nourish an underground skateboard scene that has earned rank as The Skateboard Capital of the World. I wanted to study the Barcelona skate-or-die culture not as a tourist passerby, but from the inside. I turned to my friend Corey Henderson, skateboard cinematographer and creator of Segatron Media and Trabajando Skate, to get me in. He suggested I stay with Joao Santos.
“Joao’s kind of a big deal in the skate scene. He’s respected internationally,” Corey explains. Besides Joao being a skateboarder who lives in Barcelona, I knew nothing else about him. A few text message introductions from Corey, and before I knew it I was staying with Joao at a skateboard co-op in a gnarly neighborhood just south of Las Ramblas. A nook that used to be (and still kinda is) the home to heroin addicts, prostitutes, and misfits of society, La Raval district. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I was safe I swear!)
I learned that Joao is an orphan from São Paulo, Brazil who hustled his way to Barcelona to live his love of skating. He’s still hustling till this day. Joao manages the skateboard co-op that houses more than nine skaters at a time. Whether you’re passing through or there to stay for a fortnight, months, or years — all skaters are welcome as long as you pay up and pull your weight. Cleanliness and environmentally-friendly practices are paramount to Joao. “Sure, cutting back on napkins, water, and electricity saves money…but it’s also just plain wasteful, sabes?,” Joao explains to me as he gives a quick tour and shows me my room.
A consortium of soft spoken Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, and Italian and a familiar herbaceous scent emanates off the walls that are ubiquitously decorated with retired skateboards and a one-of-a-kind graffiti can installation by famous Barcelona street artist, Me Lata, that reads: OPEN YOUR EYES. “How’d you get your hands on that art piece?” I ask Joao and crew. They explain that it was a gift, Joao is friends with the artist.
I observed skateboarders and shred-sledders at MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art) for four days. All hailed Joao and his tiny white dog, Thunder, as they strolled by. Such respect was shown that I imagined if Joao had a pinky ring, it would certainly have been kissed. Fist bumps, kickflips, heelflips, nollies, shit-busting, and cheering. It soon became clear that Joao was kinda…sorta…the Godfather of the skateboard cult scene.
Back at the co-op, these boys could throw down some serious food. The six residents from Brazil explained that they use Spanish ingredients to replicate recipes from their childhood from Brazilian jungles to the stolen street food of Rio de Janeiro. Bone-in short ribs, perfectly cooked yuka, hand peeled mushrooms — the way an uncle taught them. Food was served with frozen pineapple-kiwi smoothies and tart limonada. Meals were patiently made, always shared, and dishes were a team effort. No complaints, no bitching, just pals in the kitchen cracking jokes and helping each other.
I have captured these candid moments and more in the below gallery. Gracias y disfruta.
Recipes and a short story coming soon!
Disclaimer: Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.