The Bold And The Beautiful

November 20, 2020

Those who have had the fortune and blessings required to hit a grand slam in a major-league baseball game know that it’s a unique feeling, difficult to replicate with vibration-equipped VR gear or the powers of one’s wildest imagination. Bedreaded San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. met and introduced himself to that feeling one bubbly and Covid-free August night last summer, whamming a certified whammer in the eighth inning against some hapless Texas Rangers.

But Fernando Tatis’ power move was met not with lusty cheers and pumping fists, at least not entirely. The circumstances of his grand slam — the Padres already far ahead late in the game, the struggling Rangers pitcher having already thrown three balls — placed Fernando Tatis at odds with the mystic and unwritten arcana of the baseball codes, in this case, it being considered bad form to run up the score against a floundering opponent. His meaningless four runs, much like a misassembled Denny’s breakfast platter, became the subject of heated debate for weeks among players, managers and the vast digital peanut gallery.

Mason Silva, prodigious gap/rail/ditch/all of the above destroyer, struck again last weekend, casually uploading to ThrasherMagazine.Com another 4-plus minutes of tremendously heavy footage, at the tail end of a SOTY campaign that carries all the inevitability of a blurred stair set looming on the edge of a vignetted fisheye lens. The past few years’ kinked-rail sweepstakes has produced a new breed of steely-eyed and deadly confident Rustyholders, but Mason Silva lifts the bar as far as relentlessness — he has put out four video parts this year, all of them blistering, full of impossible-seeming stuff, and you’d take long odds putting down any money that he won’t be back at the table before mid-December.

The SOTY video deluge has a way of dominating any other ‘conversation’ at this point in the season, for better or worse. Tom Knox’s beautifully constructed, brick-strewn London symphony for Jacob Harris’ sterling ‘Atlantic Drift’ franchise got a couple good days of high-profile burn before Mason Silva resurfaced, and that’s it. The statement-of-purpose punk howl from the Glue collective got a deserved center stage — but just for a bit. As of this typing, John Shanahan’s Chicago-shaded DC Shoes vid has the big top window, but Mason Silva’s boardslide-to-boardslide thumbnail’s still up there, quietly dominating.

Skateboarding has long nursed conflicted feelings toward effort. It takes some, of course, to steady one’s self for the drop in, to crack the first ollie, to labor hours in pursuit of the trick. Reared safely beyond shouting distance of coaches, referees and gamekeepers, giving too little effort has often been easily excused, even celebrated — witness the decade-long legacy riding of first-generation Girl and Chocolate pros, or Geoff Rowley’s tune-in/drop-out monologue for Tom Penny’s recycled-footage ‘Menikmati’ part. Too much effort, though — even in the modern era of agents, round-the-clock content production and overall ‘professionalization,’ there can be pitfalls.

For proof, consider the world of Mega-transition skating, which more than other disciplines has revolved around competition, at least financially. In his 9 Club appearance, helicoptero wrangler and veteran Flip man Bob Burnquist related a story about skating a MegaRampTM rail competition with Danny Way, among others. Bob Burnquist, noted switchstance practitioner, said he began dropping in switch, and soon was approached by Danny Way, who was doing the same.

BB: He said, you know I’m trying the switch 50-50. …He was like, when we grew up, talking about him and Colin, when one of them touches a trick… and I get that. And I wasn’t planning on doing the switch 50-50, I was planning on doing a switch nosegrind, because I knew he was doing that. This is strategy, competition mode — if I play ping-pong with you I’m not gonna want to lose. I can still be your friend, and be totally fine. But in that moment it seemed like this front came, and I respected it, but it kind of bummed me out a little bit. 

…I kind of pulled back. When I skated the contest, I didn’t really go for stuff. I just was kind of holding back, and that kind of hurt me a little bit, because I don’t like doing that.

Bob Burnquist went on to explain how the experience motivated him to film all types of crazy MegaRailTM tricks for Flip’s 2009 vid ‘Xtremely Sorry.’ But a couple years before that, Bob Burnquist had seen the backlash that can come from not holding back. At the 2007 X-Games*, Jake Brown blasted a 360 ollie over the contest’s 70-foot gap before taking a 540 23 feet above the MegaQuarterPipeTM deck. Later, he spun a 720 over the gap right before popping too far off the quarterpipe and plunging 45 feet to the flat. After Jake Brown was helped get up and incredibly walked off the ramp, and things settled down some, Bob Burnquist dropped in, sailed a switch backside 180 over the gap, then launched a 16-foot-high 540, winning the contest. Jake Brown got second, and Dave Carnie rendered his verdict:

DC: after that slam, I think the gentlemanly thing to do would have been to have just ended the contest right there and given it to Jake. He was in first place. He had won. But no, Bob had to go and take his extra run and try and win it. As I’ve said, he didn’t win it, but the fact that he wanted to beat a fellow skater who had just taken one of the hardest slams ever isn’t really congruent with the spirit of skateboarding. Or even the spirit of sport, for that matter. When did “winning at all cost” creep into skateboarding?

In the marathon that the SOTY race has become, Mason Silva doesn’t seem like he’s trying to take anything from anybody, laid low by injury or not. He is in his proverbial window; can he be expected to let up? How is it possible that he hit the top rail three times in that one ditch clip from the Spitfire part? Does Primitive’s ‘Fourth Quarter’ closer Miles Silvas have more ammunition after his own Spitfire and Primitive minutes over the past month? Is the fact that Tom Knox is helping raise three small children at home through the pandemic being accurately factored into his SOTY bid? Since Mason Silva seemingly is healthy, fearless and ahead in the count, could he maybe please ollie again the stair-to-bank gap from his Thrasher cover, to get a better video angle?

Pusher Man

November 8, 2020

Across his three-decade career, Gino Iannucci has been many things, to many persons: embodiment of detached cool in World’s golden age, skate celebrity roomie, successful hesh-fresh bridger in the gap/rail era, vanguard enlistee for Nike Inc., retail boutique proprietor, graybeard fashion model. Whereas his reputation for yeti-like elusiveness overlooks certain late-period productivity bursts, he remains enswaddled in mystique. In the geometric sum total, Gino Iannucci is the preeminent living example of skateboarding as qualitative versus governance by contest score, ollie height, or NBDs crossed off that cosmic list.

Respective paychecks aside, Gino Iannucci’s subcultural durability has outlasted any number of hot-shoe contest killers, a fact unlost on Nike’s brandwise strategists, who made him one of Nike’s initial signees for the sportswear conglomerate’s final, successful push into board-skating. His enduring presence on the roster helped counterbalance Nike’s pursuit of more obvious Street League contenders and future Olympians. Even if he increasingly leaned upon skatepark one-foots and giving interviews, Nike and other sponsors enjoyed a direct link back to the Gonz backside heelflip, the nollie switch k-grind shove-it out, the Roslyn banks greatest-hits list. As the old Slap message board saw went, “I’d rather watch Gino push.”

The phrase may now face the ultimate test. As Nike and Adidas show signs of culling their skate programs, Gino Iannucci seems to have come to the end of his swoosh-clad run, with recent Adidas-sporting IG story clips earning giddy reposts from the likes of bearded beach kingpin Lucas Puig, and demonstrating Gino Iannucci’s still-considerable clout with bros of a certain age. Almost entirely absent from the FA video output since signing six years ago, he has of late revived his Poets imprint and in recent weeks has posted promotional vids almost entirely reliant on his famed left-foot propulsion technique, in one hopping up a curb and then riding off a sidewalk, in another cruising down a mellow rural road, before the other day including a skatepark pyramid nose manual and pivot fakie.

Could it be that Gino Iannucci is following in the careening, center-line footprints of his East Coast forebear, Mike Vallely? In the 2001 black denim document ‘Label Kills,’ Mike Vallely’s section revolved almost entirely around pushing, an unconventional move later immortalized by Mike Vallely naming his punk band ‘Revolution Mother’*. At a time when professional clout chiefly was measured by stair count, Mike Vallely’s choice to showcase the push and its direct descendants, such as the boneless and no-comply, was to VHS watchers equal parts confounding and inspiring. But similar to the Hot Boys’ 1974 hit ‘Respect My Mind’, it signaled Mike Vallely was thinking bigger and broader, setting a trajectory toward a more malleable ‘personal brand’ and career that would place Mike Vallely variously on hockey rinks, fronting Black Flag, and astride Paul Blart, Mall Cop, in thin air.

Can Poets sink or swim on the strength of Gino Iannucci’s push, or will it require some handrail-assisted Miller flips to ‘seal the deal’? Do you think Gino could take Paul Blart? Could instructional Youtube vids and advanced AI technologies help mechanics-challenged youngsters and career-extending oldsters alike fine-tune their own push techniques? Have the stars already foretold an inescapable destiny in which Gino Iannucci and Mike Vallely join forces on the hockey rink to lead a final showdown against the forces of evil, perhaps with Paul Blart as a stuffed-shirt official?

*Also likely referring to multiple revolutions of the board’s wheels while pushing

Dawn Of The Dead: Anthony Van Engelen, The Zombie Spot, And The Unholy Consequences That Could Follow

October 18, 2020

In skateboarding nothing stays dead for long. Tricks, fits, careers and companies are unearthed, rehabilitated, and marked up for a searching and seldom satisfied tribe whose tastes run fickle and are always averse to any whiff of the stale. The professional class’ collective acceptance and eventual embrace of the softgood-consuming public’s okayness with something less than relentless trick progression helped usher in a nostalgic wave where one-downs are cool, ‘Tilt Mode’ stunts are a cottage industry, and vibe rules.

And yet some things remain beyond the control of mere mortals that direct industry hype, and consumers who rule upon it. Just as generations of advanced deck technologies continually are cast aside in favor of the good ol seven-ply maple stick, the hassle-free concrete pads and ample parking of the skatepark era has failed go temper street spots’ allure. And so when the bulldozer and the excavator loom, scuffed sneakers shuffle into city council meetings, petitions are launched and campaigns mounted; sometimes they work (Tompkins, South Bank, Stalin Plaza), sometimes they do not (Love Park), sometimes the answer remains murky and scary (Brooklyn Banks). But always, the outcome lies somewhere beyond the skaters’ control.

Now we find ourselves in a tingly season when spirits rise, and sometimes, the dead walk again. Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen, that Dr. Frankenstein and Igor of the early World vibe, this week affected a minor act of spot resurrection. Possibly using the Necronomicon but in a cool way, their FuckingAwesome imprint — itself a revived and broadened onetime ‘streetwear’ concern – plucked from the ‘Mosaic’ and ‘DC Video’ period the curved metal bench hit early on beside a building by Kenny Anderson before Dill and AVE and possible co-conspirators transported it to the downtown LA wasteland spot alongside a miniature pic-a-nic table, a makeshift jump ramp and other detritus of the time. After Eric Koston anointed it at the height of his powers in ‘Yeah Right’ it seemed to pass into shadow, until returning as the surprise guest for a host of tricks by Anthony Van Engelen and Guy Mariano in FuckingAwesome’s excellent three-banger ‘Dancing on Thin Ice.’

But like the cat brung back to this earthly realm by the haunted and poorly maintained ‘Pet Semetary,’ what lies ahead for the revived bench is unclear at best. Defying the laws of nature, and unspooling the mortal coil, can have unintended consequences that even the most learned computers are not able to accurately calculate. Hubba Hideout’s third and final act saw a truckload of glory-hound tricks that affected less and less as names and moves were hurriedly tacked on to the bottom of that storied list. Plan B’s revival seems to have been a commercial success, if carrying little of the company’s 1990s impact. Alien Workshop’s reboot has put on some worthwhile talents, but otherwise coasts on 25-year-old graphics and varied success in recapturing the singular audio-visual presentations of its past. After respawning from a Mike Carroll break, the pink board from ‘Yeah Right’ quit skating and instead seemed ready to take up surfing.

Is the curvy metal bench officially ‘back from the dead,’ or with AVE’s last trick in the vid is it now officially ‘killed’? Does it stagger around at night, seeking to feast on miniature schoolyard pic-a-nic tables? With some love, tenderness and bravery related to the roving police, could the Brooklyn Banks rail return? Could DNA be extracted from the tile in Josh Kalis’ garage to eventually re-grow a new Love Park, and could it be safely skated long enough to film a new ‘Sabotage’ entry before it runs amok and destroys the idyllic tropical island where it was placed?

Experimental Drugs, Dead Gods And Locust Swarms: Runners And Riders For 2020 SOTY

October 11, 2020

And this calamitous year shifts now into high gear for the final quarter. The USA president, administered experimental drugs to save his life from a bat-borne disease. Eddie Van Halen, guitar diety, claimed by the Grim Reaper. Brawny hurricanes pummel our valuable beaches and locust swarms afflict Africa’s farms.

Anti-Hero Skate Boards, that atoll of relative calm betwixt the news cycle’s fearsome winds that also employs Frank Gerwer, this past week took the unusual step of sponsoring and affixing its famous eagle logo to the vice USA presidential debates (seen above) to remind those seeking cranium-ready sand openings that Skater of The Year season is again in full swing. Must Chris Pfanner’s cool-headed and European approach to existentially risky handrails be considered in any such conversation? Will 2020 be the year that ‘at last’ delivers the coveted Rusty artifact to the doorstep of a perennial contender? Could a hazy concoction of absentee ballots, hanging chads and unknowable identities of persons most mysterious forever cast an asterisk-shaped shadow over this, the first SOTY of these new roaring ’20s? Let’s read on.

Alexis Ramirez: With a solid grip on curtain-closing activities in Sk8Mafia’s video productions and a pungent tailwind from 2014 SOTY Wes Kremer, Alexis Ramirez has impressed with various IG-ready full-circle planter grinds while covering nearly all bases in last summer’s ‘2020 Promo’, from rooftop bomb-drops to rainbow-ledged SD schoolyards to the big bars. He returned this week, with another six-minute segment that drafts off the life-affirming TikTok of the moment and includes a head-scratcher of a backside lipslide bounce-out.

Louie Lopez: The first line in that ‘Lola’ part from August pretty much says it, 360 flip up a curb, hop up onto a ledge, frontside shove out to backside nosegrind on a planter, precise and easygoing and velvet-soft. Louie Lopez is one of those skaters whose highly nonchalant execution can distract from the hairyness of the tricks and situations, like his backside lipslide shoves-out for instance, and stuff like the tailslide pop to tailslide in his concurrent ‘II’ vid for FuckingAwesome makes it all look like kind of a lark. He’s got a Thrasher cover and likely more on deck, but is he the ‘right’ SOTY for such a grim, tumultuous year?

Mason Silva: Owner of the year’s most beastly Thrasher cover so far, the whiff of inevitability follows yung Mason Silva, hopping from Element to NorCal’s storied Deluxe kingdom and dropping video parts with unsettling regularity. It’s a real shame about the filming on that gargantuan bank ollie, but the dude skates like he’s got plenty of gas in the tank and the sponsorship firepower to make a formidable fourth-quarter press. The remarkable clips in the Nike part, Mason Silva’s effort toward a ‘Dylan’ statement-of-purpose, are too many to fully list — the 180 fakie manual half-cab out at the bumpy NY banks, the halfcab wallride over the rail, the snowboard kicker 360, the #fakiehard — and at this point it seems much like his award to lose.

Evan Smith: The starry-eyed rambler’s seat among likely finalists seems de rigueur in these last few years, as does multiple crazy parts from him within the 12-month calendar. There was his blurred, kaleidoscopic part for Anti Hero’s Grimple imprint, where he at one point did a kickflip backside wallride backside 180 out on a roof, and then another 5 minutes for DC Shoe, including that long k-grind drop down to backside 50-50, kickflips over and down and through a bunch of stuff and the occasional, sort of incongruous Droors shirt. A rumored new board company could provide the platform for yet another Evan Smith vid by early December, but you wonder whether his moment to capture the SOTY trophy is passing, sort of like longrunning runners-up Dane Burman and Clive Dixon, both of whom registered powerful footage this year — Clive Dixon noseblunted the Staples Center ledge to one of our time’s illest-advised musical selections, remember — but seem again like long shots as the time draws nigh.

Tiago Lemos: There is a sort of confusing sequence toward the beginning of New Balance’s August ‘Trust Tiago’ vid where some dudes seem to be cutting/removing a bar after Tiago Lemos skates it, symbolizing the international discomfiture over his not having been awarded top prize, gilded crowns, chestsful of golden doubloons and other special honors corresponding to the skill level required for the fakie flip backside nosegrind shove-it out and other feats that Tiago Lemos has completed for several years now. Hopefully his moves toward deeper-pocketed sponsors over the last couple of years are supplying certain amounts of golden coins. As far as SOTY goes, Tiago Lemos must continue to be included on any contenders’ shortlist, and not for nothing he’s put out two more video parts this year, including the head-exploding emoji repeater hardflip frontside noseslide toward the end of his one for ‘Crupie Wheels.’

Elijah Berle: Flicka was the name of a mysterious mustang with a dangerously waving dark mane, and so we shall call Elijah Berle, who assumes a sort of ‘dark horse’ position with not a lot of footage or coverage to show as the seasons change, but now a bracing cover hinting at the long-deferred promise of video footage commemorating his migration to the lush but increasingly crowded FA stable a couple years ago. Elijah Berle’s teeth-chattering handrails and transition charges are Thrasher-approved, but it seems like he’d need a document of Tyshawn Jones proportions to command the nod after working away in the wings most of the year.

North To Japan, Through Time’s Gelatinous And Quivering Halls

October 4, 2020

Where are the sacred scrolls and ancient tablets kept in a land ruled by subjectivity and the qualitative achievement? A place where stats and standings that provide the written record and ground historical narratives for other physical pursuits instead are relegated to an easily ignored, if well-appointed, backwater? Despite the press release-conversant, gift shop-ready Skateboarding Hall O Fame proclaimers, the permanent record here lives in the photograph, the png, the Hi-8 tape, the video file, and more than any of these, the volatile, flighty and always correct views of the kids. It is a realm made squishy and malleable by time’s passage, where Frankie Smith’s kickflip backside noseblunt once again is an ABD for future pyramid-ledge comers after Adidas re-upped its ‘Reverb’ offering from last winter, music rights appropriately massaged back into place. Hazy memories of decades-old video soundtracks resurface, dreamlike. Keith Hufnagel, gone much too soon, leaving a sterling track record on the industry side of the ledger — started from a storefront, put on generations of quality and often otherwise overlooked skaters, stayed respected with nary a bad word from ex-riders — which ought to be lionized on par with his catapult ollies.

Retro futurist John Shanahan, who knows his history, is in the news again, capturing the November Thrasher cover with a pole jam reversal of the up-rail frenzy from some years back. It is an underdog contender for sure versus Dane Burman’s more cover-ready but ultimately contents-bound Staples Center 50-50 two-step. The strongest flick of John Shanahan’s latest crop however comes in his interview, blasting a Japan air out of an embanked crimson sculpture somewhere within the churning womb of the United States.

Like other lasting works of poetry, various readings can be made from John Shanahan’s Japan air — an even further throwing back to theoretically simpler, or at least more insular, jump-ramp days; a reluctant flyout lover’s lament for cheap and accessible intercontinental travel in these pandemic times. More plainly it can be regarded as 2020’s strongest entry into the mystic annals of celebrated Japan airs of our times — approaching Mike Carroll’s timeless ‘Beauty N The Beast’ Thrasher cover, which remains regarded not only as one of the best magazine covers ever, but also alongside the Caves of Altamira and various Pen & Pixel Graphics Inc. works as the greatest images ever committed by humankind to physical matter. John Shanahan’s proves a worthwhile companion to Tony Cox’s own 2004 TWS cover, Justin Strubing’s lesser-seen version on the same spot, Daniel Kim’s switchstance stabs, the don Tony Hawk, and so on.

However unlikely it may have seemed in the yellow-hatted ‘Mean Streets’ days, with the prospect of a DC shoe part to come by mid-November, must the relentlessly productive John Shanahan be considered a capable and credible SOTY contender? Could such a choice demand a revisitation of BA’s timeless P&P cover? Will the worldwide celebrations of John Shanahan’s Japan air — along with the melon and, in certain slide situations, the crail, continuing as the few acceptable grabs on street — lead to a rereading of history and an ill-considered revival in tuck-knees and stalefishes down gaps by persons with beards and tight t-shirts?

Nickel-Plated Pockets

September 19, 2020

It is an interesting time in the shove-it industry. Over the last several of years, it seemed like the shove-it was making a serious bid against the kickflip for market share over bumps-to-bars and cans, after the backside bigspin overpowered the backside kickflip in the ratio of victory-lap tricks. The recent indulgence in conventionally ‘ugly’ and ‘dad tricks’ even has found a place for the fakie frontside pop shove-it, among the least aesthetically pleasing forms. As skateboarders push out the walls to make things freer, fairer, less strictly hierarchical and more open, it is clear that the shove-it has benefited.

As a trick, the shove-it always has stood with a more utilitarian bearing than its chief rival, the kickflip. This is because the 180 degree rotation swaps the typically longer and wider nose with the shorter and sometimes more tapering tail, potentially altering the way you pop the next trick, what the next trick even will be, or any number of other butterfly-winged effects on the planet around us. A kickflip, or any of its fakie/switch/nollie versions, solely flips the board in place, leaving it in position to immediately be popped again in the pusher’s preferred position. One can kickflip a board, land and keep going, unhassled. The shove-it leaves the board in a different place, and perhaps, one’s mind as well.

Now comes Blake Norris, student of the old SF spots and gods, with a grab bag of a trick list — an inward heelflip lipslide, a blaster of a backside heelflip and a half-cab into the bloodthirstiest bank as yet unknowed by Milton Martinez. Between the China banks, the hills and a crazy one on Clipper, Blake Norris mid-line screeches a backside powerslide that quickly spins 90 degrees further into a shove-it, midway through a downhill line. For sure it’s cool to look at, as a trick, but it retains the shove-it’s purposefulness, moderating speed at the same time.

Could broader incorporation of powerslide shove-its into the ongoing hill-bomb wave, possibly elevated by the GX1000/Supreme axis, mount the shove-it’s most serious push yet to counter the kickflip? Who’s done a frontside powerslide shove-it? Speaking of shoves, will Blake Norris’ wallride nollie backside bigspin on the fence squeeze grudging approval from longtime detractors of the unfairly maligned bigspin varietal?

Due To Skating To An Unreleased Steely Dan Demo And Other Services Rendered, Niels Bennett Hereby Is Named Your 2020 Skater Of The Year

September 6, 2020

Think about the totality of human history. Go ahead. It’s about 200,000 years. A long time, but not that long. Some highs (discovery of fire, the toboggan, automatic bill-pay), some lows (the extinction of the unicorn, alarming levels of space garbage), and in between numerous creamy middles. Yet perhaps the most shocking conclusion over this period is the relatively small number of people have set skate parts to Steely Dan songs.

‘Bro,’ a knowing bro may say. ‘Recall Mike Santarossa, later to be Prime’s most reliable nollie backside kickflipper, skating to “Do It Again” in a demo footage-heavy section for Powell’s “Scenic Drive” that also included the rarely spotted half cab to frontside smith grind 180 out.” This is a fair point, driven home with bloodcurdling abandon by the fact that the terminally smooth Tony Ferguson in ‘North 2’ later would reprise the same song. A deep-thinking bro may go on to highlight how ‘Dirty Work’ soundtracked the latter half of Dan Narloch’s boss level section in the late ’00s Midwestern seminality ‘Boondoggle,’ or that Studio snippeted ‘Boston Rag’ to open its 2012 ‘Mood Lighting’ project. It would have been really difficult for Logan Lara to avoid incorporating ‘Reelin In Tha Years’ into a ‘Boys Of Summer’ release at some point.

And yet all of these choices made by individuals over the last ~25 years fall short in their own ways, for instance by leaning heavily on the somewhat generic if well-executed ‘classic rock’ projections of the early Steely Dan catalogue, before they fully steeped their music in jazz arrangements, kicked off all those other dudes, and plowed through hundreds of millions of dollars in studio time for days-long pursuits of the perfect take. Here in human history, and indeed the planet’s own, Scott Johnston stands apart in Mad Circle’s Bay Area document ‘Let The Horns Blow,’ using ‘Peg’ in a choice that has reverbrated and frequently gyrated through time.

With untold eons yet to go, now comes Niels Bennett, onetime amateur for Girl, this week promoted into the professional ranks via the svelte and vaguely clown-themed ‘Nervous Circus.’ After introducing Australian ripsaw Rowan Davis, some frontside flip reminders from Tyler Pacheco, a couple Sean Malto clips that suggest he could be aging beyond 17 years old, and four straight minutes of Griffin Gass’ thundering, early-Andrew-Allen-meets-Primitive tech, Niels Bennett sails in with a satisfactory-sounding backside 5-0 and a string of high-fives to his forebears. There is a Rick flip, a frontside heelflip bigspin at Fort Miley, a fakie frontside flip the hard way over the Keenan Milton rail in LA, a fakie backside nosegrind 180 out at New York’s pyramid ledges that must for sure have been done before, but this good? The switch frontside bigspin is a post-millennium take on that one planter gap a bunch of those dudes used to skate and he has previously provided Chaffey materials.

Mark Suciu, who may be viewed as a spiritual predecessor to Niels Bennett, embedded similar themes into his ‘Cross Continental’ part in, wow, 2012. But in addition to a vicious and strategically placed fakie ollie and the incredible looking bluntslide to backside tailslide across the Flushing grate gap, Niels Bennett presses humankind forward via the incorporation of ‘Let George Do It,’ a deeply mined demo gemstone cast off by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen early in their 1970s vision quest. The song is in one swoop a sturdy vehicle for Niels Bennett’s loose limbed and cerebral tricks, a nod to his probably more fastidious Chocolate forebear, and a recognition that musical supervision decisions still exist that will stand up across human centuries, while remaining beyond the psionic clutches of Youtube’s copyright beholders.

Are unsleeping and relentless song-recognition algorithms to blame for the Siberian unicorn’s untimely extinction? When’s the last time you turned up the volume when ‘Is There A Ghost’ began bleating out of the speakers? Are switch frontside bluntslides for Griffin Gass similar to a 50-50 grind for everybody else? Does the dreamsicle color scheming of Niels Bennett’s debut OG model fill you with a childlike sense of longing for times past, or an inescapable woe over spilled popsicle sticks coagulating into sidewalk blobs, and guiltridden memories of slain unicorns?

Hits Similar

August 30, 2020

A hot and tense summer, now bookended by horror and heartache. The world is in motion. There is a feeling of general unmooredness, less and less seems clear. Boys of Summer is selling a sweater that prominently boasts the Century 21 logo. Onetime gap phenom Auby Taylor recently released perhaps the best vert part in years. 10C41 has been previously discussed. Mixed media artist Chris Joslin this week captured the international malaise in a shirtless Instantgram post:”@Rockstarenergy,” he wrote, “hits different with some @ChickFilA.”

True enough. And so it is that skateboarding subconsciously reaches for comfort in the familiar, a well-worn anchor in the storm. Last spring, asphalt-leaping SOTY frontrunner Mason Silva offered a ‘Real to Reel’-flavored introductory part for the storied NorCal board concern. This summer, Brandon Turner stole the show in Sk8Mafia’s new vid, 20 years on from ‘Fulfill the Dream’ precociousness and channeling all that’s come since into a switchstance benihana. This week, roadworn Austyn Gillette followed up Former’s uncommonly heavy ‘Cheap Perfume’ vid by returning to the Habitat team, via a winking ‘welcome back’ clip featuring an obligatory acoustic guitar. Elsewhere, retro shoe models, including some that had no business reemerging from the CCS catalogues of yore, run rampant across shoe walls.

The biggest beneficiary may be Julian Davidson, lately of Element, this month resurfacing via professional endorsement deals for the Jamie Foy-led Deathwish Board Co as well as the percuolating Emerica Shoes. In a hotly gesticulating realm and arena which seems, on any given day, to be governed by track-panted Europeans, New York sidewalk spot impresarios draped in clip art, or Floridians, Julian Davidson is a departure in every way — a born-n-bred SoCalian from Long Beach, reared up in Element and TWS vids, whose Emerica intro clip centered on big rails and gaps. Such ‘consensus skating’ over the past decade became increasingly shaky middle ground as fragmenting subgenres pushed switch backside heelflips down the Wallenberg gap, fakie manuals across streets, and mile-long switch backside tailslides, but in these fluctuating times now perhaps holds the timeworn appeal of a John Hughes movie, a two-weeks-skated deck, a platter of warm lasagna.

Have you, dear reader, found yourself in bed, half-liddedly wallowing in WarmUpZone/4Ply‘s data-heavy gaze across toxic avenger Fred Gall’s formidable and beloved video catalogue? Will the Vent City Pod Cast choose an ollie for its trick of the week? How come Alien Workshop hasn’t flowed a bunch of the new Philly generation? Is Thrasher, which ran in the Louie Lopez issue a Baker 3 retrospective and lately has been posting up Baker 4 parts, in danger of becoming trapped in some sort of Baker nostalgia feedback loop that requires a moustache and wide-brimmed hat, or a bat facial tattoo, to escape?

Zoomin’ And Rona-Free In The Product Drought (No Bubble)

August 16, 2020

‘The Hunger For More’ was Lloyd Banks’ debut album for G-Unit Records, released in 1986 around the same time label boss 50 Cent was consolidating his ownership of American entertainment following a life-threatening beef with Supreme. Back then, the album title referred to Lloyd Banks’ climb out of poverty and physical risk-taking via the power of music, while still possessing an ambition to wrestle into submission other sectors of the media world. It stayed at #1 for 59 weeks and gave voice to a generation.

And it still coveys an important message, ‘in these challenging times.’ At first, it was easy being a skateboarder in the Covid-19 era. Street spots were left unattended, people got over any remaining hang-ups about smart-phone propping, and certain others masked up to get cool ninja-themed clips. Reality, as it is wont to do, eventually performed a metaphysical puncturing motion. Citywide quarantines and stay-at-home orders that hit skateboarding’s low-cost manufacturers in Chinese wood product plants and West Coast forges have, as predicted, evolved into rolling product shortages that have shops sending up IG signal flares when a rare shipment of wheels or trucks arrives — often what’s available versus those the purchasing manager’s heart truly desires. Amid rumours of woodshop walk-outs following positive coronavirus designations, the scene’s economics, as ever, follow the lead set by Deedz’ pants, hurtling back toward the early 1990s when kids in California skate meccas benefited from easier access to product via pros’ trunk sales.

Judging from the socially bubbling fishbowl of Insta Gram.net, though, professionals and widely followed amateurs so far seem relatively unimpacted by the coronavirus scourge. Aside from Josh Stewart’s presumed brush with the novel disease, celebrity skateboarders in the public eye seem to have broadly sidestepped the pandemic’s talons, at least for now — and this, without the help of a major-league bubble like in basketball or a or regional travel regime like in pro wrestling.

What is their secret? Like several other items, it can be found beneath the talented finger of Bill Strobeck. The long lens zoom technique, pioneered by Wm. Strobeck for the Supreme projects and these days aped by pro and bro filmers from California to Eastern Europe, for years has drawn criticism for badly obscuring critical spot context, muddling tricks and inducing nausea amongst casual viewers at levels not seen since the swinging fisheyes of the ‘Riddles in Mathematics’ period. But a properly muscled zoom finger, and sociable distance from which to post up and flex it, may be helping to keep both filmers and skaters Rona-free, provided they steer clear from hugs of the bro variety and otherwise after the trick or line has been completed. Disorienting, confounding and a stylistically dead horse it may be, the in-and-out-and-in-again zoom method could remain be the dominant style until biopharma conglomerates’ vaccine efforts make it safe for Beagle, Brian Panebianco and other Century MK1-wielders to cozy up downwind again.

Could a coronavirus-driven lull in fisheye angles lead to a buyer’s market on VX1000market.com, and is now the appropriate time to invest in the shrinking supply of Century MK1 lenses ahead of the inevitable, if slow in the coming, zoomy filming backlash? Or will sporadic Covid-19 flare-ups ultimately render close-up filming obsolete? Could skatepark parking lot product hawking lift 99%er pro incomes above the poverty line, and help to avoid any coronavirus risk associated with food delivery work? As hardgood warehouse stockpiles dwindle, are team managers nervously ignoring “boards” texts from riders?

The Score

August 9, 2020

Summer 2020 scrolls along, with an Olympic-sized gap. No festival of rings for anointed contenders to probe and poke and wrest precious metals and network television clout — it vanished in a puff of sanitizer-scented mist, possibly to be reconvened in a post-vaccine era. Its absence most acutely is felt by months-in-the-manufacturing, themed merchandise, turned out into a cold world without a torch-bearing promotional partner to light the way. Shops and distributors, fingers crossed for a THPS-flavored bump in Olympics completes and associated foot traffic, instead were mandated to close doors and dealt product shortages by a global pandemic that seems only to strengthen.

There are bigger reckonings though, and longer-running scorecards to scrutinize. George Floyd’s May 25 killing by police instantly embroiled an already-on-edge country in mourning, seething anger and some amount of soul-searching over how cops treat Black people, how cities and the government and banks and businesses and the law position people of color relative to everybody else, how we all look at and talk to each other. As people took to the streets, it was a lay-up for skateboarders to join in. Before municipal tax districts invested in sanctioned free-skate zones, law enforcement historically had provided the opposing force to distill skateboarding’s anti-authority posture and outlaw attitude, setting in motion generations of nose-thumbing board graphics, questionable fashion choices, a thousand energy drink commercials. The latent property destruction innate to street skating and the subculture’s own brushes with police brutality gave plenty of common cause for turning out in the streets, IG-ready photo and video ops an added bonus. With a recession looming, companies from WKND, Quasi and Bronze to Fuckingawesome and Supreme pledged in total hundreds of thousands of dollars to Black Lives Matter and other causes, including a gobsmacking US$1 million promise from Palace.

Was skateboarding ready to reckon with its own racial scorecard? Street skating’s advent in the mid-1980s provided a broader playing field for skateboarders of all backgrounds — racial, economic and otherwise — to get down without ready ramp access, and by the early 1990s, kids from a range of races featured prominently in the videos and mags. Documents of skateboarding’s golden age, from the freestyle interludes in ‘Mixtape’ to Larry Clark’s lawless teenage trage-fantasy ‘Kids’ to the credits of ‘Trilogy’ projected some kind of mellow melting pot, that beyond the reach of parents, principals, police and various other authority figures, skateboarders had this figured out better than everybody else.

The reality was murkier. Thrasher’s excellent September issue, anchored by a series of lengthy interviews by and of Black skaters from nearly every era, tugged back some of those gauzy drapes to recount racially biased contest judging, weirdness and unease on tour in middle America or walking across the street in the city, an epithet on a note stuck beneath a windshield wiper for a Black dad to find and have to explain to his little boys in a skatepark parking lot. On Instagram, Nak’el Smith aired out his own dealings with racial disparities ranging from the risky to the mundane, like Black kids on the session knowing they’re likely to take the most heat if the policy show up, to gassed-up white pros believing they possessed a hood pass.

Tony Vitello, rising to the moment on behalf of the magazine of record and his NorCal family dynasty, set out the challenge at the end of May: “Now is the time for skateboarding to lead by example, to show the world how it can be done, how it needs to be done. Starting NOW.”

As pro skaters and companies added their voices to deafening calls for society to take a hard look at itself and figure out how to fix things, other voices began speaking up. Women who lived in and around skating’s often insular, always male-driven sphere began to tell of how they’d been taken advantage of, manipulated and abused by famous skaters — in some cases implicating pros who days before were posting messages of inclusion and societal self-assessment. Like the video of George Floyd’s last minutes alive, Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting, the account of Breonna Taylor’s shooting in her home by police and the others before, these women’s stories are tough to read. In some cases, they’ve prompted a response. In others, what happens next remains to be seen. If skateboarders — the pros, the companies that sell stuff off their names, the kids and adults who hold them in esteem — are serious about making things better, for everybody, these things can’t be ignored or forgotten about or buried in the feed.

When police brutality protests ran hot it was easy for skateboarders to feel like they were on the right side of history. Is that true? When the score is tallied will it show skateboarding did better or worse than other sports, pastimes or subcultures as far as including and treating women, people from other cultures, people who are gay or trans or anybody else? What stories will be told when Thrasher or someone else traces the progression, trials and triumphs of Patti McGee, Cara Beth Burnside and Elissa Steamer, up through Alexis Sablone, Marisa Dal Santo, Lizzie Armanto, Samarria Brevard and next-ups like Nelly Morville?