Legends Never Die
A remembrance of Bernardo “Nardo” Bernard
Text by Phil LeRoy
The smooth concrete, marked and worn, reflects a deep orange color as the sun begins to make its final descent after a hot day on O‘ahu. Dozens of skaters buzz around A‘ala Skatepark, hitting different sections, high giving, grinning and dodging stray boards. Beyond the fence, friends and family gather around tents in the grassy field, barbecuing, having drinks, and sharing stories. The smell of charcoal, swishers, and sweat lingers in the air. All of the A‘ala skaters are there, except for one; perhaps the one that had the most presence in the entire park: Bernardo Bernard.
The death of Bernardo Bernard, or “Nardo,” as many of his friends called him, came as a numbing shock, especially to those in the skate community in Hawai‘i, where he was from, and in San Francisco, where he continued to make a name for himself with his all-out creative approach and style. The 26-year-old skater and artist was hit by a drunk driver sometime after midnight this past May as he was leaving a graduation party while skating to a friend’s house near Ka‘a‘awa on a dimly lit and infamously dangerous stretch of highway.
Bernardo’s creativity on and off a skateboard gained him sponsorships with brands like In4mation and landed him spreads in the likes of Thrasher Magazine, Baysick, 808 Skate, and Transworld Skateboarding. It was Bernardo’s approach to life that set him apart but also pushed others at the same time. He was the antithesis of a culture where a misguided bump or obstructing a skater's path can quickly turn into yelling or worse.
Christopher Awong, wholesale manager at In4mation and close friend of Bernardo’s, admits that his confrontational approach has changed since the passing of Bernardo. “I’m known for getting in guys’ faces, yelling, starting fights, and sending off a bad vibe,” Awong says. “Bernardo would come to any park and everybody could vibe off of his positive vibe just rolling around next to you. He would bump into somebody, and he’d do that certain smile and laugh and say, ‘Ohohoh yeahhh, it’s all good,’ with that huge grin and everything would be okay.” A lot of people complain in skating, but Bernardo was never one to partake, “not even about the heat,” Awong recalls with a laugh.
Bernardo’s humble, jubilant, and profound approach to skating was indicative of his disparate nature off the skateboard as well. “He didn’t speak that often, but when he did, it was usually like, whoa, where did that come from?” says Reid Taira, a childhood friend. “I think Bernardo had so much on his mind. He was such a creative guy; he was not thinking about one thing at a time.”
Bernardo was always on the move, physically and mentally. His upbringing was constantly transient. Growing up in an unstable household, he was continually moving from friend’s house to friend’s house, always traveling, never settling in anywhere. But whether it was the West coast, East coast, or in between, Bernardo gained friends wherever he went. His financial situation was bleak, bouncing from job to job, but he worked hard to sustain his passions: art and skating. The money he did have went to canvases, which he stretched himself. “He had so many unfinished art pieces,” says Taira. “You could tell he had an idea, then when it’s almost done, he gets another idea, so he switches to that one. And that’s how Bernardo was; he wasn’t satisfied with one idea. He was always on the go, doing something else.”
Although Reid and Bernardo got into skating together as kids, he admits that Nardo was always steps ahead of him. Bernardo was always pushing it, skating switch, doing heels flips when everyone was doing kick flips, or later the trick Bernardo would be universally admired for: the switch backside heel flip. It wasn’t simply the fact that he could do a trick that difficult; it was the style, the consistency, and the approach.
As the last light of the evening moves in, along with the rain that finally made its way over to the park from the mountains, everyone scatters from the park toward the tents where they seek refuge. The sound of laughter and the smell of fresh rain on hot concrete fills the park. Bernardo’s younger brother, Bradley, skates by and busts a heel flip. He just finished sixth grade. A few skaters are left astray on the outskirts of the tent for a moment until arms pull them in, making room.
The strongest recurring theme throughout Bernardo’s short but fulfilling life was his indomitable ability to put others ahead of himself. Whether it was his skating, his art, or his friendships, his approach was something that spilt out of him with creativity and an inimitable thirst for life. He saw the world in a way that takes others a lifetime to see. Bernardo was always moving, born in this world, but not of it, gone, but not forgotten.
“Nardo Forever” stickers can be purchased for $2 at In4mation, 808 Skate, or APB. For out of state inquires, please contact Reid Taira at firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds go to Bernardo’s family.