With the passing of Bernardo Bernard, skateboarding has suffered a great loss. The hole in Hawaii’s skate community will never really be filled. Truly, Bernardo carved out a strangely shaped, understated, multifaceted, and often mind-blowingly original space in the islands he called home. The past few weeks have ushered in a season of enlightenment, as his family and friends have awoken to the glowing spectre of Bernardo’s achievements on concrete, canvas, and across countless hearts. Although I knew Bernardo for half of my life, I am only beginning to fathom the secret power his influence had on me as I reflect on the numerous moments I have been challenged, inspired, and mystified by his quiet strength. However, as we collectively discover his many talents and recall his long string of accomplishments, what we seem to be most completely solidifying is Bernardo’s identity as an artist of a rare type–one whose skill was matched only by his humility. Few of us are even wise enough to think of striving to such aspects, let alone capable of doing so with the off-handed, fun-loving spirit Bernardo encapsulated. In all of his art, performed on a skateboard or painted with a brush, the effective imprint is the same: something mysterious, abstract, honed, experimental, and thoroughly evident of broad imagination, passion, and creativity.
Putting ornate language aside, I feel like I should say more simply that Bernardo was gnarly. He was hopping on handrails down staircases counting higher than his age, going switch stance, while most of his peers were fooling around in the parks. I didn’t even really know that he and I were the same age until recently. When I was younger and heard what Nardo did, I always assumed it was by someone much older. But no, he was just doing bigger stuff, and doing it better, than the rest of us. He spent a lot of time doing things, much more time than talking about doing things. That is part of what got me writing today, after a long hiatus in which I allowed myself to be sidelined by a bunch of silly bits of life’s business. It’s sad, but true, that it sometimes takes tragic awakenings to make us realize how much more we can and should be doing.
On the other hand, the community here has an amazing way of coming together and turning negatives into positive affirmations of love and commemoration. In a uniquely Hawaiian way, legacies are incorporated into the present. This was the case last Sunday night, when Aala park was infiltrated by Bernardo’s friends, family, acquaintances, and fans for a celebration of his passion. In an awesome homage, switch backside heelflips, Bernardo’s specialty, became the trick of the night, and many whizzing and flailing boards bore testament to the trick’s difficulty. In the end, the chaotic congregation of talent broke down into a torrent of skaters taking laps around the park, busting tricks, eating shit, and pulsing with the cyclical life comprising a beautiful skate family that never forgets its fallen.
Watch the video. Special thanks to 808 Skate.