Interview with Chris Salloum
‘Minimum wage is around $2.50 US and crime, ranked 5th in the world. Specific to skateboarding, imagine making $2.50 US and hour trying to save up to buy a skateboard for $300US.’
Tell us something about Trinidad people do not know?
Skateboarding exists in Trinidad!
Trinidad and Tobago is responsible for the only new acoustic instrument of the 20th century. Born out of our oil industry, the Steelpan is considered the islands’ national instrument.
When was skateboarding first introduced in T&T?
Skateboarding in Trinidad dates as far back as the 80’s. We have been trying our best to get the timeline in order, but the truth is skateboarding has phased its way in and out multiple times. Regardless the styles and fashion influence has prevailed throughout the years, I believe catalyzing the growth of the culture and bringing us to where we are today.
What are some of the best skate spots in Trinidad?
“Warehouse” is number 1 on the list. It’s an abandoned warehouse that burnt to a crisp years ago that has earned titles such as ‘the skatepark’ and ‘The home of skateboarding in Trinidad and Tobago’, and you won’t find it unless you know what your looking for. Rusty nails, broken glass, bat shit, and occasionally, models. In Port of Spain, there are some sick street spots such as treasury, uptown mall, and NAPA. Treasury is the best 4 stair you can find. If you learned how to skate stairs in Trinidad, you learned there. Uptown mall is a strip mall with sick street rails and some tables but security can be tight. Finally, NAPA (The National Academy for the Performing Arts), smooth ground and stair sets in every imaginable size, again though, good luck with security. Over in Tobago, if you’ve got the right phone number, there’s a perfect mini ramp as well as some mid sized handrails.
Are there any official skate parks?
A big nope.
How close are you in getting one?
I’d say no more than a few years away, god willing.
Is the government involved in the skate community?
The government legally recognizes a skateboard as a toy and not as a piece of sporting equipment, however the TTSDA (Trinidad and Tobago Skateboarding Development Association) stand for is working on it.
‘Regardless the styles and fashion influence has prevailed throughout the years, I believe catalyzing the growth of the culture and bringing us to where we are today.’
Because it is classified as a toy, is it therefore taxed higher than a sporting equipment? If so, how much are we looking at?
Yes. In Trinidad and Tobago, we have a sporting goods tax exemption. So, where as ‘sporting goods’ are tax free, a skateboard can be taxed up to 20%.
Any talented kids that are making a name for themselves on or off the island?
Phil Hajal, Trinidad born, sick vert skater. He’s skated alongside some of the best, never met him though. My friends and I are running it in terms of the street scene locally but all in the love of. I luckily have been blessed with the opportunity of a shop sponsor while I was living in Canada, but the shop only lasted for a year. I’ve also had the opportunity to compete in a regional contest in Barbados which was awesome, didn’t win, but waiting patiently for the next one. No one’s pro, but no ones against contests, we are a niche community. The focus has just always been spreading the love.
Is there anything from the other islands, that you like to have for your own? If so, what would it be and why?
A proper training facility. In my opinion, the islands right now are not too far apart in terms of competitive ability which makes our regional competitions super interesting but have you seen Jamaica’s and Barbados’ parks!?!? In 5-10 years, if we don’t get a proper park organized we’ll be out of the running’s for sure.
Are there any local brands (decks, clothes)?
I’ve got something in the works for decks, but as all in small deck companies know, wood supply.
What do you mean?
It’s a tough market, we’re just a few friends so its not like we can push a lot of volume locally. Decks shortages have been occurring worldwide with the big manufacturers and distributors, so it’s difficult to be prioritized when our orders aren’t of the size of the bigger brands. Also keep in mind that the bigger the order, the more in taxes I would have to float out of pocket. Just for the love. My mission is to get affordable priced decks of good quality available locally for the masses.
‘Phil Hajal, Trinidad born, sick vert skater. He’s skated alongside some of the best, never met him though.’
Any other local brands?
For clothes, I gotta big up jive clothing. Jair, a kid I grew up skating with had a dream and he’s doing superbly. Recently dipped into the shoe game too! Check him out!
You are part of TTSDA -The Trinidad and Tobago Skateboarding Development Association. What projects are you guys working on at the moment?
We recently partnered with Operation Sole Skate, an awesome group of dudes! With help from them and DHL international, we were able to get about 70 pairs of shoes as well as used decks and more for skate kids that need it. Unfortunately, due to local covid guidelines, our distribution has been held back months but hopefully soon regulations will ease and we will host the distribution. Other than that, our direct mission is focusing on building a foundation for skateboarding in Trinidad and Tobago through the effort of community and sponsors. We do this by fighting to have skateboarding recognized as a sport in Trinidad (to bring down the prices on gear), hosting local contests, and bringing together communities through skateboarding.
What are some of the challenges people face in the Trinidad every day?
Minimum wage is around $2.50 US, unemployment rate was 6.7% in 2020 which is worse now with covid and crime, ranked 5th in the world. Specific to skateboarding, imagine the making $2.50 US and hour trying to save up to buy a skateboard for $300US. It’s not easy, especially for the youth.
Last question: If you could interview a person, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
Shane O’Neil. I’ve looked up to him for as long as I could remember skating. Besides being a beast on the board, he has never lost track of friends and family. Wouldn’t know where to start but I’d likely ask some questions around that.