Jacagua Extreme Downhill: Dominican Republic
All photos by Pam Diaz
Article by Marisa Nuñez
Dominican Republic is part of a small island located in the heart of the Caribbean. It, and the country of Haiti make up one island, DR taking up just about 2/3 of the right side. It is also home to the Caribbean’s highest mountain peak, Pico Duarte, and to Lake Enriquillo, the Caribbean’s largest lake and lowest elevation point. Quisqueya, as Dominicans often call their country, has a year-round average temperature of 78*F (26*C) and great biological diversity. Spanish being the national language, Dominicans carry the Latin/Caribbean vibes heavily, and they are well-known to give high importance to their sport and music.
The Dominicans are such a great crowd of people. Not just saying this because they bought me a plane ticket to skate with them in their country, but because they truly are great people. They seem to have a lot of energy and passion for anything they put their interest in. I was approached one random day by Pam Diaz, a Dominican slide champ, with the offer to go visit and skate with them. I was stunned, but not hesitant to accept. Their intention with their offer was to show off their piece of the world to the people close by who they knew would be stoked to experience it. We were all stoked, and we made it happen.
The downhill skateboarding community in DR is relatively new. Records of people actually skating the slopes go back only about three years. Manuel Pacheco was one of the first guys to skate the hills on a longboard. He explains to me how he first discovered the sport, “One day I woke up with an urge to ride again, since I hadn’t street skated since I was 8 or 9 years old… I went online and stumbled upon Daddies Board Shop and bought my first longboard. Then, after some crashes, I started assembling some slide gloves for protection, which are now called ‘Los BotiGloves’ and the rest is history. Who knew this was going to end up being one of my true passion… What an amazing journey!”. Manuel is a great guy who is full of energy and love for everyone. He fell in love with the sport and is doing everything in his power to blow it up in his country. Pam Diaz is the girl-shredder repping for her island. She has only been skating for four months and is already winning slide competitions. A true natural, and a beautiful personality with unbeatable energy. This chick is fearless and is consistently working on her progress. Pam explains, “I first got into this sport through some friends I used to visit to take pictures of them longboarding. I thought it was all about freeriding and when I first saw it, it was love at first sight. The only thing was that I was just recovering from an accident and I couldn’t start practicing it at that moment, so I had to wait until I lose the fear.” Pam broke her jaw bone skating and was still stoked on the sport. That shows some true passion and dedication. So inspiring, coming from a lady.
Upon my arrival to Santo Domingo, I was greeted with huge hugs and kisses. We went straight to this radio station’s interview to chat about the event that was about to take place and introducing the sport in general. I was extremely nervous at first, but with a couple beers in me, we rolled through it beautifully. You could tell that people had no clue that longboarding even existed. The radio station lady was like, “Que? What? Low-boarring??”. So we dropped some knowledge on them, and they were stoked. Downhill longboarding is the newest and greatest thing in the DR. Let it be known!
That night we met up with the rest of the crew and the Boricuas (the Puerto Ricans), who were heading out to Jacagua, the race hill, that night. The Guzman brothers, Jomar (Sector 9 skateboards) and Jose (Rayne Longboards, Abec 11, and Aera trucks) had just arrived to Santo Domingo and were pumped to go skate. We made the three hour trip to Jacagua and crashed at Javier Reyes’ house. Beautiful big house at the top of a tropical jungly hill! The next day was race day. Everyone got up early, ate a big breakfast that was prepared with much love by the house maid, and we made our way out towards the Jacagua hill. We first stopped by this fun road called Jobos and took a couple of group runs to warm up. Shortly after our arrival, it started raining! So we rushed to the race hill to try to get some dry runs in, and we did. It really started to pour after our second practice run. The road was already gnarly, with two hair pins, three sweepers and a top speed of 40mph, and the rain made it even gnarlier. Everyone held off on the skating for a bit, thankfully the sponsors who were supporting brought tents and everyone took shelter. The slide competition commenced and everyone was throwing it down to the fullest. There were about 30 competitors, and of them, four girls. Of the boys, Miguel Cabreja placed 1st, Diego Verdaguer placed 2nd, and Giancarlo Di Vanna placed 3rd. Of the girls, Pam Diaz placed 1st, I placed 2nd and Vanessa Torres placed 3rd. The downhill race took place later when the road had dried up, mostly. About 20 skaters entered the race and I was the only girl. Ready with the GoPro strapped on, I took position in my heat. Unfortunately, I fell at the top, right before the first hairpin and wasn’t able to follow the heat to get the footage, but I still had fun by myself all the way down.
In the final heat, it was Jomar Guzman (Puerto Rico), Roberto Gonzalez (Puerto Rico), Miguel Cabreja (Dominican Republic), and Ras Carlos (Dominican Republic). Jomar took 1st with about a 15 foot lead, Roberto took 2nd and Miguel took 3rd.
After the race, everyone headed out to this patio area with a beautiful view of the town for the awards ceremony. Rather than a ceremony, it was more like a party. There were loudspeakers, a DJ, a band, and a bar. Have I mentioned yet that Dominicans know how to do it right? Well they do! We danced, gave out prizes, gave speeches on how awesome the day was, and it was so much fun!
The next day we headed out to the north for some beach action. But before that, Jose bombed this gnarly, super fast hill that was right outside of Javier’s house. This hill had never been skated before because no one dared to. Jose made a bit of history that day, and everyone was so stoked. We went to this beautiful beach called Playa Grande to swim for a bit, then we headed to this crazy lake called El Dudu, that is surrounded by rock cliffs. Manuel and I jumped off the highest cliff into the water, it was about three stories high, so sick. We swam and relaxed for a while before we headed back to Santo Domingo. On the way home, we passed through this amazing road called Los Haitises. It’s a long and curvy road that was cut into the mountain, one of their most epic skate spots. They say you can reach speeds up to 50mph, and it was a beautiful sight. Unfortunately, we couldn’t skate it because it was pouring hard. I made a mental note of that place for the next visit though! We arrived to Santo Domingo that night and had dinner at Diego’s house. His mom made a Mexican style feast for everyone and we chilled and watched all the footage we collected the day before, such good vibes.
I was particularly amazed by how quickly they organized everything and made it come together. It was a very short-notice trip and they turned it into a downhill skateboarding festival of epic proportions. Pam explains, “One day we were skating, like everyday after 6PM and talking stuff, I was talking about Marisa saying that I would love to skate with her someday soon, one of us, joking, said, ‘Let’s buy her the plane ticket’ and I was like ‘IT WAS THE BEST IDEA EVER’, after that I talked to her and she said yes. So we started making the collection of the money for the ticket and when our friends from Santiago (www.aboutaboard.com) heard the news they started working on the first Downhill Competition in the Dominican Republic called Jacagua Extreme Downhill. It was crazy, we didn’t have enough time but WE MADE IT HAPPEN! I’ve never seen so many people in Jacagua, NEVER. That day was one of the best days of my life, one of the greatest happiness, to see my country growing in the sport, getting culture, people smiling, supporting us, it was more than what I expected.” Huge props to them for making it happen, and they did it better than I could have imagined it. The trip overall was an amazing experience. It was so great to be able to get to know and skate with all these people, they are so stoked on the sport and are willing to do whatever it takes to get more people in on it, just to share some good times.
I asked Manuel what he thought of us after the trip, he replied, “The ‘TEAM 5 HUNDRED’ YOU GUYS ROCK!!! For me, meeting Marisa was magical, those eyes must be illegal and riding with her was such a great experience, she’s got one of the most incredible tucks I’ve ever seen, I mean, from behind, she looks like a flamingo, incredible!! Jose Guzman, NO WAY!! He’s an amazing guy, super cool to hang around and his brother Jomar, OH MY GOD!! I’m speechless!! I really LOVE ‘em all and hope to ride with them sometime SOON!!” Lol thank you Manuel, we all had an amazing time with you too, we will surely spread the word about your beautiful country and the amazing roads it has to skate, and we’ll be back very soon!
This was the beginning of a new movement in their country. They have so many awesome spots to skate and probably many more that haven’t yet been discovered. It’s so great to see this sport bringing people together and creating so many things that otherwise would have never been discovered or experienced. Now they are more than willing to push their limits and to share with the world what they have discovered in their island so far. The next event will be in October, a longboard clinic with special guests, James Kelly and Louis Pilloni. Get ready to see some more of Dominican Republic! Spreading the stoke worldwide!