By Ryan Clements
I guess Birdman thought I did an okay job announcing that charity demo in Vegas
a few months ago because I got an invite to announce another one in Abu Dhabi for Tony and friends. The text he sent me read, “Hey, it’s Tony Hawk. We have some demos in Abu Dhabi coming up and need an announcer. You down? For reals…” I replied, “You tell me when and where and I’ll be there.” It took a bit of schedule-juggling to make it happen, but there was no way I was turning down a trip to the Middle East.
Honestly, there are many places that I would like to visit, but United Arab Emirates wasn’t on the top of the list. Regardless, the inherent nature of a skateboarder is to travel, so plans were made and I was off on my journey. The culture over there is pretty foreign to me. It’s just one that I was never really interested in before. But after visiting, I definitely have a new appreciation for the people.
Here are a few random UAE Fun Facts that I picked up along the way:
- Everything is bigger/better/faster in UAE. They have the biggest building, biggest mall, and are currently building the biggest airport in the world. In addition to that, everything seems to be brand new and kept in immaculate shape.
- You can’t take pictures of government buildings. Two of the members of our crew learned this the hard way and were taken into custody for taking a shot of a building that said “Drug Enforcement.” They had to go to an arraignment, their passports were taken, they missed their flights, etc. What a mess...
- Weekends are Friday and Saturday. Sunday is a full-on weekday/workday.
- Tattoo shops are illegal. I got a lot of stares and looks from locals.
- You can’t look at porn websites. Trust me on that one.
- Tony Hawk is always, without a doubt, recognized by random people, in random places, doing random things.
- Alcohol is legal, but strictly monitored. There are no dive bars and places like that to get loaded that I saw.
- Advertisements for alcoholic beverages is not permitted. The “Jim Beam” car at the race we were at had to redo all of their graphics to say “The Team”…the car, their uniforms, everything.
Thanks to Tony, Steven, and the entire crew for the amazing opportunity and experience.
My layover from Tampa was in Chicago. The picture is terrible, but when you live in Florida, seeing snow is pretty cool. Plus, I was traveling alone and trying to entertain myself.
I left Chicago at 8pm on Tuesday night and arrived in Abu Dhabi at 7pm on Wednesday night. They are nine hours ahead of EST over there, which totally messed up my internal time clock.
Thursday morning I woke up super-early and took a stroll around the hotel property. Their steakhouse could double as a gay bar. By the way, being gay in UAE is strictly prohibited.
When the sun finally came up, I went out back of the hotel and snapped photo of what I think was the Gulf of Oman…not sure on that one.
The crew got together and headed over to the Yas Hotel to meet up with Tony and get some practice on the vert ramp. Staab’s purple hair got the most stares the entire trip.
This is what Jared looked like prior to getting detained for taking a picture of a government building.
This is a sign that Jared should have probably stopped shooting photos of Jesse in order to avoid detainment.
Hurry up and wait! The ramp wasn’t done on Thursday afternoon. L to R: Andy Mac, Steven Perelman, Jared Prindle, Jesse Fritsch, Kevin Staab, Elliot Sloane, and Neal Hendrix doing his best Village People impersonation.
The guys finally got their practice on when the sun had set. This is Tony with a melon to fakie.
Jesse’s fs grind isn’t even worthy of a cover on Frontside Grind Magazine. Note from Rob: He's got one coming soon...
But his indy to fakie is worthy of something for sure. Thanks to Jared for the good photos. You can definitely tell who wasn’t using a point and shoot.
Back in the Yas Hotel I had some Arabic coffee and dates.
Friday morning I was hanging around the hotel room and thought, “This is interesting.” L to R: Hose with spray head, toilet, mini-sink that was lower than the toilet. I was told that the reason for this is because Muslims wipe with their left hand and then clean it off. Keep in mind that there is toilet paper available.
There is mad construction going on everywhere in UAE. These guys were seven-stories up building this crane when they noticed I was shooting pictures of them. One guy started motioning towards his chest and I wondered what he was doing. Then I realized that I was only wearing boardshorts and they were tripping on
Later on Friday, pre-demo games of SKATE and dork tricks sessions were happening when Andy Mac posted up on a street plant.
The view from the top of the ramp.
The kids were SO amped on all of the skating. Jesse signs while “Mohammed” mocks. Kids are the same everywhere.
Andy Mac, like the true professional he is, brings his own glossies to the demos.
Steven, Tony’s event coordinator, is talking to this Muslim chick. I had to ask to find out, but the reason that the women wear those kits once they are “of age” is to keep the men from being “tempted.” This doesn’t stop them from wearing make-up and flirting though. This particular girl didn’t flirt, but she has medium high-heels, designer jeans, and a nice rack under that kit…and she left it half open on purpose for us to see. Girls want attention regardless of religious beliefs. She was quite sexy. I think that made me more “tempted.”
We were actually doing the demo at an Australian series car race. This is right when the Formula 1 style cars took off. It was SO loud!
After the demo on Friday afternoon we got VIP treatment at Ferrari World, where we got to go right to the front of the line to ride the fastest roller coaster in the world. It was nuts!
L to R: Elliot Sloan, Jesse Fritsch, and Andy Mac posing in one front of one the many vintage Ferraris.
On Saturday the demo wasn’t until 8:45pm, so we took a day trip to Dubai, which is about an hour from Abu Dhabi. These are wild camels off the side of the highway!
Serious UAE propaganda right here. This is the “president,” but I think more appropriately we could call him a dictator.
Neal posed in front of the tallest building in the world. Ironically the photo was shot from the biggest mall in the world. Tallest, biggest, you know…that’s what UAE was all about.
From there, Tony got us into the world’s only seven star (even though that doesn’t even exist) hotel, Burj Al Arad. It’s $5,000 per night and you normally have to stay there to even get across the bridge onto the island that they built specifically for the hotel. We didn’t stay, but Birdman treated us to lunch. Thanks Tony!
I’m not normally a fan of buffets, but this was no ordinary buffet. Made to order sushi rolls. Hell yeah.
The chef recognized Tony and came over to the table and said, “I’m big fan of Tony Hawk. This is special steak just for you.” Too cool, but the Dutch folks at the table next to us couldn’t figure out the reason for the VIP treatment. They asked and I was like, “Oh, we’re just here in UAE to skateboard.”
Elliot ordered a cappuccino. Yes, those are gold flakes sprinkled on top. Ridiculous.
Before heading back to the race track for the last demo I snapped this pic of downtown Dubai from the hotel on the island. That body of water is the Persian Gulf.
Demo machines: Tony and Kevin knock out the meet and greet prior to skating. After the demo we all headed back to our hotels in preparation for an early departure.