‘My uncle and my grandfather who were both architects were there since the beginning of the construction of the (first) skateboard bowl’
Tell us something about the Dominican Republic that people don’t know.
The Dominican Republic is between Haiti and Puerto Rico. Skateboarding has always been part of the identity of the Dominicans.
Do you know when skateboarding started?
Mid-50’s to 1960 by Californian surfers.
Tell us something about yourself?
My name is Diego Verdaguer and since I was little I have been passionate about skateboarding. I love technology, video making, machines and ramps. I’m a skateboard coach and certified skateboard instructor, I’ve worked at summer camps for more than 7 years. In my first house, which was an apartment with my parents, where I lived since I was born until I was 9 years old, in the bedroom window you could see the skaters skating at the Mundo Sobre Ruedas skating rink. I saw a skateboard at an early age. Then over the years I learned that my uncle and my grandfather who were both architects were there since the beginning of the construction of the skateboard bowl. My uncle gave the idea and told the owner about making a skatepark. And that’s how it was done, the first skate park located in Santo Domingo.
So, your uncle had the idea to build a skate park? Was he a skateboarder as well?
Yes, he and my grandfather were present. They molded concrete parts. The skatepark was made of concrete which came from the US. They pour the concrete mix into a mould and then when cured is shipped overseas.
Back to you again.
Skateboarding caught my eye, and I thought I wasn’t going to achieve as much coordination on a wheeled board to do it so well, as I could see some Airs and some Rock and Roll from the window with my brother. I understood what they were dealing with. To do on the wheeled board was something special. To be in that place was special too. They were there to skate. Once I dared to go, I remember that the park was perfect and smooth in some parts. Over the years, every time I went with my grandparents, who lived near my house two or three blocks away, all the young people would skateboard and spend all the time in front of the house. Little by little it was drawing my attention until one day my older brother, who is a musician, bought a skateboard. My brother Julián is a great motivation for my skateboarding. Looking at him skate when I was just starting out helped a lot.
‘Why should we trust a person that has turned their back on their own country for a couple dollars?’
What are some of the best places to skate in the DR?
The Malecon of Santo Domingo if you want to go rolling and see the Caribbean Sea. The country is full of spots, but it is always good to guide yourself with a local skater. You can skate in public parks, without worrying about fines, in the streets you can ride without problems, and you can find a variety of spots. Street is like everywhere else; you go in the back of a supermarket or a gas station and skate there. There are stairs and good street spots. If you search, you will find.
Any trouble with the police? When I was in DR, we always had to bribe the police even if we have not done anything.
Yes, sometimes but they know you are into sports, and they don’t bother you.
Some talented local kid making a name for himself?
Not locally. It is not possible to make such an easy name. I know many who have to give up skateboarding and at some point, when they can, they return. Regular people are afraid and do not dare to try it. They prefer to discredit skateboarding. Most of the Dominicans would not let their children skate as an accident could happen and we live in a difficult country if we talk about health services and human rights.
Is there a local kid making a name for himself who doesn’t live in the DR?
Yes, we have. They make more money which is a fact. That is why they left this place. I can say that no one trust you if you leave this country. Why should we trust a person that has turned their back on their own country for a couple of dollars?
You are the founder of “Santo Domingo Skate”, where you specifically promote freestyle skateboarding. What projects are you working on right now?
Now, we are working on making the freestyle a local favorite style and that more skaters look forward to joining the fun.
Why freestyle and not street skating?
Because freestyle is the cool and fun part of the skateboard. Freestyle is a style that reappeared a few years ago. Trust me that is very fun and there are many tricks to try. The more tricks I do, the more complete as a skater I feel.
I must admit. I lost contact with freestyle skating for a while. Who are some of the best-known freestylers in the world?
Killian Martin, Andy Anderson, Rodney Mullen and Isamu Yamamoto.
‘The country has more money than what we know.’
What are some the challenges that skaters in the DR face every day?
Dominican skaters have no clothes, food or money and the feeling changes a lot when we talk about skateboard when you have no food or clothes. One USD is $55 Dominican pesos and with the lack of support for skateparks and other project, people tend to show their worst behaviour.
What are some of the challenges that people in the DR face every day?
There are always challenges, surviving is a challenge. Personal integrity in the Dominican Republic: We are always exposed to not value it since here people earn money promoting a lifestyle of excess. The country has more money than what we know. People can be more friendly, but people without basic needs things change when you look the whole picture. We don’t know what is next.
Last question: if you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
A skateboard brand owner to share his experiences on this market.