Two Wrongs, A Right, And The Gargoyle’s Secret Formula

December 9, 2018

At a time when so much of what we know seems in flux — meat grown from animal cells, NASA robotically probing risky asteroids for humankind’s own graven purposes, rampant varial flips — there is a reflexive urge to set things in order. Ledge skating’s tenure-track man of letters Mark Suciu made his own offering this month, creating exclusive content with Thrasher that set out a number of aesthetically acceptable ledge combinators and warned impressionable yung booger-sliders away from a few others, including the oft-maligned crooked grind to backside lipslide.

Among the regimented rules of skateboarding, where ‘no rules’ is the ruling rule among many other unofficial rules, the crooked grind to backside lipslide’s longstanding pariah status stands out, maintained even as similarly ill-advised ledge combos ran rampant across copiously waxed blocks following ‘Fully Flared.’ Born of those spastic curb cauldrons in the early 1990s, the crooked grind to backside lipslide lay low for a certain number of Earth years until Bastien Salabanzi donked one down a semi-legit handrail in ‘Sorry,’ drawing immediate reprisals in the shallow backwaters of the early message-board days and inspiring several other related atrocities over the years to come. It was a time of war, girth and widespread musical pirating.

Yet even as aesthetically middling ledge combos (see the 5-0 to switch crooked grind) and clearly ugly ones (see any that begin with a boardslide) remain part of 2018’s conversation, the crooked grind to backside lipslide still is taboo, even after stylistically endowed persons including Silas Baxter-Neal have tiptoed up to it via the crooked grind to backside tailslide and ruffled relatively few internet feathers in the process. Weighed against the lipslide to switch k-grind that arose from the Guy Mariano/‘Fully Flared’ school or the twirly lipslide spinaround to frontside bluntslide, the crooked grind to backside lipslide on paper appears to have just as much to recommend it, if not more — there is no greasily scooting of wheels from one position to another; it involves the backslide lipslide, one of the better-looking tricks on either rail or ledge; and properly executed, it returns to the preferred regular-stance rollaway rather than to fakie.

Unlocking the value of this much-derided trick maybe requires a much-derided skater. It is Chad Fernandez, so belittled by his onetime Baker Boys bros and a prime actor in Osiris’ greatest ‘Storm’-era excesses, who retains the best on-film execution of the crooked grind to backside lipslide. A novice beerbuyer’s age in the past, the future gargoyle wrassler closed out his part in Transworld’s little-recalled ‘Interface’ vid with a ten-second clinic on the necessary ingredients for a successful run at this trick. Filmed long-lens from the side, Chad Fernandez picks an elongated and mostly flat rail that allows for the crucial nuance — a lengthy crooked grind, rather than the brief tap that sets other renditions up for immediate and pathetic failure — before dropping back to a backside lipslide that’s just long enough to make the point before landing back to regular. This skater-trick intersection, counterintuitive to the hilt, reveals the best in each — and also the sadly ingrained prejudices still allowing both to be too-easily dismissed, 20 years on.

Does this clip negate the long-held notion that two wrongs do not make a right? Would this one be harder or easier switch? Could Mark Suciu prove his willingness to accept an intellectual and stylistic challenge by filming one, perhaps up and then across the chunky red kink-ledge at Manhattan’s Columbus Park, which he combo’d in his Adidas shoe video earlier this year?

A New Gilded Age For Skate Videos

December 2, 2018

There is more hugging in the new Supreme vid than you might think. A heartfelt Tyshawn Jones embrace features in promotional posters tucked into Thrasher and plastered across New York City in the run-up to the billion-dollar streetwear barony’s new full-length, emphasis on the full. Bloby pickup Kevin Rodrigues collects three after one clip, Sean Pablo rolls straight into a businesslike squeeze after successfully stepping to a backside lipslide on the Jake Johnson rail, and Sage Elsesser appears to willingly accept the outstretched arms of Andy Roy. Dudes sitting and watching tricks hug. ‘Blessed,’ which surpasses President Trump’s most-recent State of the Union address in length, freely ladles out the love: These young men bound by the red box-logo are older, better and seemingly tighter than ever, drawn close by their good fortune, high-value boxes, and a tinge of tragedy. Each heavy clip, many slathered in slow-mo, culminates in relief in the trick conquered, exaltation in the accomplishment, and joy in bro-dom. Bill Strobeck’s title, obligatory quotation marks included, says it all.*

This universe is a far cry from headbutts dealt to uppity sneakerheads, but going strictly off the skating, ‘Blessed’ justifies its celebratory vibes. Ben Kadow, he of the thousand-yard stare and latent disgruntlement, hurls himself onto rails and electrical boxes out the gate, but even he eventually succumbs to a satisfied grin by the time he chews through a couple boards on a jagged crescent-shaped lipslide. Rowan Zorilla, who still looks odd decked out in Supreme gear, delivers off-kilter jaw-slackeners including a China Banks nollie flip, another wallie noseblunt for the 2018 tally, and a how-the-fuck nose manual wallride. Sage Elsesser steps to Pulaski’s dishes from another, lower level; Kevin Bradley presses pause on his piling-out campaign to throw a beautiful over-bin heelflip and huck at the Brooklyn Banks. Splindly Blue Steel-worker Sean Pablo flicks a rather mean backside flip to fakie 5-0 at the bank-to-hubba spot while a new generation of tween onlookers man the fence, and elsewhere gets unexpectedly gnarly, backside lipsliding the Jake Johnson rail and taking a picture-perfect line down a three stack under security duress. For goodness’ sake, Na’kel Smith makes slamming look fun.

It is Tyshawn Jones, however, whose curtain-dropper asserts a measure of severity and awe, turning in what must be the heaviest east coast video part since Jake Johnson tore down walls in ‘Mindfield.’ It’s just a handful of clips here that wouldn’t stand as enders for other, lesser pros, and some whose like hasn’t much been seen before — the switch backside 360 over the can, say, or the enormously lofted fakie float over the bar. Bill Strobeck’s lingering and oft-zoomy lens soaks in the pain, struggle and eventual euphoria permeating the last few tricks, and it’s hard to turn ‘Blessed’ off without the feeling that Tyshawn Jones has changed the conversation at some level. (And then there’s the nollie flip.)

The onetime Fat Bill evolved out of the primordial VX-toting ooze to become one of the relatively few videomaking iconoclasts out there, with a fairly set group of muses, a much-derided/much-copied style, and legit classics to his resume. Surely ‘Blessed’ applies to its editor/director as much as any of his leading dudes, and he is savoring their shared moment — but at 84 minutes, he overextends himself, and there are points where ‘Blessed’ drags despite its adherence to a more classical part-part-part structure. Despite all its montages and occasional interludes, ‘Cherry’ kept things moving for a fairly brisk 40 minutes. Here, you’re watching screwed footage of Ben Kadow on a light-up wheeled cruiser for 40 seconds, or waiting as la smoke curls for the duration of Jason Dill’s ‘Trilogy’ part. There’s a lengthy EMB session capturing the crew’s chemistry, but it gets you wondering whether Bill Strobeck’s real aim is to memorialize and immortalize two years of these Supreme kids collectively ‘in the window,’ traveling the world, wearing expensive clothing pieces, and living their best lifes before the vagaries of adulthood encroach — versus constructing a more functional, digestable skate video. His filming, reliably aped here and there by Johnny Wilson, in some cases only obscures any perspective of the trick or spot at hand. There are Madinna and Motley Crue singles, incongruously.

Wave aside for a moment though what ‘Blessed’ is, or is not, and instead slow-mo pan across what it says — at a time when Instagram, Youtube and other FAANG-funded suspects are meant to have brutalized attention spans and left the full-length skate video for dead, we arrive at the end of 2018 with a bushelful of projects, some ranking among the decade’s most vital. Quasi, Polar, Bronze, GX1000, Element, Foundation, Primitive, Alltimers, Cons, Vans, Girl and Transworld all put out meaty and worthwhile video releases this year; even Etnies saw fit to offer its first in 23 years. The bloat of ‘Blessed’ itself can be celebrated, in that its frenetically collabing, billion-dollar benefactors believe in not just the concept of an hour-plus vid but will support the dude with the vision. Years after ‘Pretty Sweet,’ ‘Stay Gold,’ ‘Fully Flared’ and other big-ticket productions were declared in sotto vice to variously be ‘tha last video ever,’ a bumper crop of great videos, worth revisiting as a whole or in parts — the opening Portland tear in ‘We Blew It,’ Jake Johnson’s uphill roof flip for Converse, Buggy Talls’ switch 180 manual impossible out on the big block in ‘Its Time,’ Jeff Carlyle’s vein-pumping arms-down descents in ‘Roll Up,’ etc — suggest a new gilded age of skate videos at hand.

With internet users reportedly cutting back on Facebook pokes and youngsters formulating fewer Tweets, is it too early to declare the World Wide Web ‘totally over’ and with it, mouldering and half-sensical blogging outlets? Would there have been more hugging in the GX video if dudes weren’t moving so fast? Does Sean Pablo’s extended middle finger segment suggest he’s embraced Richard D. James as his next stylistic touchstone? Will Bill Strobeck’s use of ‘Birthday Boy’ boost Ween sufficiently in the skate video music supervision power rankings such that kids next year will soundtrack IG clips to ‘Touch My Tooter’ and ‘Poop Ship Destroyer’?

*Also, weed

Horsemasters, Horse-punchers And The Intergalatic Pistol Whip

November 18, 2018

In the 2004 coming-of-age musical ‘Mean Girls,’ a quartet of junior high-schoolers skip town to search for a dead body, braving a vicious junkyard dog, a deadly freight train and menacing bullies in a journey of self-discovery and humanoid bonding. Along the way they bicker and fight, but when the pistol goes off in the final act, nobody snitches, and they all are one step closer to that exhausting and pressurized land: adulthood.

As another year darkens and draws to a close, who is the dog, the dead body, the pistolier? It sounds like a cool card-based RPG but really it is the story of the skateboard culture. Besides obviating magazines and videos as content gatekeeping mechanisms, Instagram’s rise as skateboarding’s universal center has enabled widespread broadcasting of hard feelings and beefs, with Dan Plunkett, Richie Jackson, Bobby Puleo, and Marc Johnson airing pro-level grievances, and that’s just in the last few weeks.

Palace, that UK-based maker of tailored track suits and premium triangles, for years has done double-duty as a moneyed backbiter and/or uncomfortable truths-sayer, depending on where you sit. In all-caps product descriptions and tour-article photo captions, Palace has tweaked and aired out would-be riders like Tiago Lemos and ‘that white guy on Numbers and Adidas who skates rails,’ as well as rival deck merchants such as Eric Koston and Guy Mariano’s Numbers New Edition.

This week it was Alien Workshop and Habitat, panned in a Blondey McCoy photo caption for being ‘fully dogshit now,’ a blow irksome enough to draw a profane emoticon rejoinder from bookish ledge savant and marquee Habitat pro Mark Suciu. Set aside, if you will for a moment, AWS’s historical role as an obvious graphical and thematic touchstone in Palace’s occult-scented earlier years, or the painful generational shift at hand over the last few years as the upstarts eat the old guard’s lunch. It feels here a wee bit like Palace is punching down, given Alien and Habitat’s years of struggles as a hot-potato asset tossed between corporate overlords and distributors, while Palace is out here opening glitzy outlet stores with fuzzy novelty letters, and playing the ponies with the wealthy horsemasters of Ralph Lauren.

Does Palace really just need a better foil? One wonders whether their bullet-pointed, Londonite verse might eventually take aim at Supreme, Palace’s closest competitor in cobranded clothing collections and vulturist resale premiums. As many of their multi-decaded contemporaries like Alien, Girl and Zoo York are in retreat, Supreme is ascendant, in the midst of a trans-continental premiere tour for Bill Strobeck’s ‘Blessed’ movie and meanwhile promoting collaborative products with North Face, radio-controlled car makers and da X Files, to name a few. Given Palace’s predilection for poking fun, it’s tough to imagine them not giggling over the Superb ‘Blueberry’ parody a few years back, or group chats evaluating the various outfits on display in the new vid, even as their respective retail bosses jockey for position and consumer favour in the same discretionary spending-heavy locales.

Could a well-timed and high-profile company-to-company beef bolster the promotional cycle for whichever company next comes with a full-length vid? Would such a rivalry, fanned to the overheated levels required for modern internet discourse, result in a Disco Demolition Night-style clothing immolation, ranking among mankind’s costliest bonfires ever? Do Palace and Supreme’s mutual love for Lucien Clarke and (one naturally assumes) Jamal Smith neutralize any possible negative vibes?

The Great American SOTY Chase of 2018

November 10, 2018

First it was a blue wave, then a red wall, smashing out a purple rain (or golden shower) over a green revolution and sporadic outbreaks of orange justice. This year, the campaign for Thrasher’s Skater of the Year appears colourful and relatively wide open amid tentpole video releases, a revitalized underground contest circuit, and Viceland continuing to provide a televised venue for which ascendant bros can make sacrifices unto the skate-goat, to the extreme. Who in the skateboarding business has the power and position to contend for Thrasher’s ultimate prize?

Corey Glick: Moustachioed Midwesterner Corey Glick’s punch-through in 2018’s back half may provide some balm to that sore question — whether it’s possible these days to capture the Rusty trophy without the backing of deep-pocketed footwear marketers, corn-syrup/caffeine mixologists and other moneyed interests. The current Foundation squad seems as painfully working class as they come, which seemed no impediment to Corey Glick’s KOTR heroics on the Super Co’s behalf, or maybe, it helped. The TV turn and last year’s ‘Am Scramble’ attendance places him in the conversation, and his scorching section in Foundation’s ‘Souvenir’ promo is a persuasive argument, wherein Corey Glick took the lead among an unlikely crop of wallie-to-noseblunt slide clips this year, and sailed an unbelievable, barely-on-his-soles ollie to wrap the vid and secure the professional bag. The backside noseblunt shove-it heavily contends for trick of the year.

Zion Wright: There is a whiff of inevitability around the yung bro, possibly wafting by association from Floridian colleague and 2017 FLOTY to SOTY Jamie Foy, who Zion Wright seems to match in handrail fearlessness and maybe surpasses in terms of transition 540s. The newly incorporated Vice component may have shrunk the number of years dudes need to suffer and burn on the national scene to qualify for a SOTY nod, though by the time of its airing Zion Wright had already half-cab backside smith grinded Hollywood High’s long pole, along with that 50-50 to backside tailslide in Philly and the no-hander QP backside 360. Last month he captured December’s cover and odds seem better than even that he releases some other type of part before the year’s out.

Austyn Gillette: His tricks settling into a nicely grizzled groove as the days of gangly switch feeble grind shove-its fade, modern man Austyn Gillette maybe is a long shot for this magazine award, stacked clip-for-clip versus various uber-achieving peers. Within the realm of the qualitative, where tricks are the products of hand-labour and all moustaches neatly trimmed, Austyn Gillette’s ringing ‘Radiant Cure’ part crunched hubbas and rewound shove-its, flexing one of the industry’s most reliable switch 360 flips. He poured his heart out to Thrasher in one of the year’s more penetrating interviews, later tucked in for the nigh-unpronounceable EPØKHE clip and put on a late-summer clinic at LES. His weightiest contribution may have been to inspire one of the decade’s most impassioned trick-nomenclature debates.

Evan Smith: The Thrasher clan has celebrated Evan Smith’s spastic precision for years, and between his MVP KOTR acronym-hoarding and the follow-up interview feature in his cover-photo issue, the High Speed powers that be seem to have fully embraced his wide-eyed, chronically curious personal brand. Finally receiving a Skater of the Year honour would be a long time coming for Evan Smith, who’s been a credible candidate for the last several years, offering both blockbuster-level tricks and a tall measure of sweat-lodge creativity, which tends to put some distance between the visionaries and dudes who can just do every trick. In 2016 he brought mirror-image, gap-incorporating kickflip wallrides; this year it’s a frontside kickflip water-whip and street 540s. He is the heaviest favorite.

Mason Silva: A no-frills ripper who put in ‘King of the Road’ miles on this year’s winning Element assemblage, Mason Silva’s also dispersed video parts for ‘Peace’ and the leather-and-wetsuits handstitcher set at Former. You can tell Mason Silva is a workhorse by the way he takes frontside bigspin tricks over rails and gaps the hard way, or the early pop commitments required to travel fakie over bump-to-bars and handrails. He arguably could come with still more footage before the year’s out, but then again on the other hand, his crewcut and love for the frontside 360 seem reminiscent of Jeremy Wray, a perennial Skater of the Year runner-up.

Tyshawn Jones: This generation’s undisputed king of New York romps through the city with the Gonz and promises a landmark part in Bill Strobeck’s soon-to-debut ‘Blessed’ opus for Supreme, and given that most of the yung restauratuer’s moves this year have been made in and around NY, odds favor a Jake Johnson ‘Mindfield’ tilt at the gnarliest and hardest-to-tackle spots on offer across the five borroughs. One of those — a train station ollie that Quartersnacks placed a bounty on months back — just landed the first Thrasher cover of the New Year, and earned the AVE endorsement.

Legacy Maintenance And Mutation In The Days Of Goldfish Focus

November 4, 2018

The time was the early 1980s and in that potent cosmos knowed as Hollywood, stars were aligning so as to align several of music’s biggest stars and birth the greatest musical album ever conceived: Queen frontman Freddie Mercury cowriting operatic party anthems with Michael Jackson, the undisputed king of entertainment. Although their respective musical prowess suggested little beyond certified platinum plaques for days and lofty wages, the artistic chemistry would be fouled by an interloping llama of some description.

According to an interview conducted with the Times of London, Queen’s former manager, Jim “Miami” Beach claims that Mercury called him and said, “Can you get over here? You’ve got to get me out of here, I’m recording with a llama.” Jackson was also reportedly less than thrilled with Mercury’s behavior during the recording session. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Mercury subsequently fell out with Jackson because the U.S. star objected to Mercury taking too much cocaine in his living room.”

On the surface, it’s just another cautionary tale about U.S. llamas, rival species and greedy excess. More deeply, it is a story of personal collaboration, llamas, and the challenges of building a chemistry strong enough to stand through the years. Like many of the 1980s’ greatest lessons, one can draw a direct line toward Element Skate Boards, which recently released its newest video, ‘Peace.’ Twenty-six years into its branded lifetime, the Twigs parent is feeling itself, springing for the considerable talents of Emerica’s Jon Miner to sort a 60-minute full-length from its deep and diverse benches, theoretically to bolster Element’s mystique and power in the board marketplace, while handing a breezy, wet, and flaming hot baton made of dirt to a new guard.

And what of that baton? By the power of the bankroll, Element’s clung to some clout over these many years, overcoming eyebrow-raising maneuvers such as a Billabong-cobranded Times Square outlet store and major-league fan service to corral a talented but usually incongruous mixture of riders, ranging at various times from Julien Stranger to Jeremy Wray to Chad Muska to Ray Barbee to Dennis Durrant to Terry Kennedy to Natas Kaupas to Kris Markovich to Stella Reynolds. Tracing the OG team to Element’s roster as of ‘Peace’ — it is sure to fluctuate again soon — would require several pages for one of Thrasher’s nerds-only company lineage features, and would rival the Bible’s ‘begats’ for reader patience.

Tenuous as Element’s current iteration may be to the ‘Skypager’ lineup or even the prior decade’s ‘This Is My Element,’ Jon Miner gamely coaxes out a cohesive if unwieldy production, strung together with static long-lens shots and a fair helping of psych-rock pulled from the ‘Made’ bins. Bionic Barley heir Brandon Westgate cranks once more down the SF hills to Operation Ivy’s buzzsaw bounce, rocketing over a king-size street gap and frontside flipping what appears to be an entire loading dock. Granola-grimy Tyson Peterson pulls a shocker of a kinked rail dismount and looks as confident sitting on backside smith grinds as he seems to be copping thrift-store trouser pants. Dominick Walker’s TSM cover footage is bananas, Greyson Fletcher catches one of the season’s most lovely and frightening kickflips, the lanky Madars Apse’s Barcelona board bonk and similar antics read like a Polar tryout, or maybe raised glass. Terminally brolic Mason Silva is positioned as ‘Peace’s’ closer, boosting fakie over the back of a rail to 5-0 and uncorking one of the wilder bump-to-bar wallride combos in a while, but it is starry-eyed wanderer Evan Smith, again, serving as the current Element generation’s spiritual core — beautifully switch backside flipping a bench, helicoptering off that silvery wedge for all the Spanish oldsters, and perhaps most dangerously of all, attempting to break Marsellus Wallace’s cardinal rule after a wallie late-shove gone wrong.

Is Element’s perpetually churning team a strength or weakness? Amid the recent media campaign for ‘Peace,’ Tyson Peterson in Thrasher speaks on his longtime Element fandom in terms of Brent Atchley, a dude off the team 10 years ago — and Bam Margera, whose pickup by Element during his ascent to MTV reality television staple marked one of the more surreal team roster mutations from the Chris Hall and Harold Hunter days, or even Reese Forbes and Kenny Hughes.

Meanwhile over at Girl, a 25-year-old entity that has derived much of its powers from maintaining a direct link to its storied pros and past, the dudes seem like they’re trying to tell us something. “We know where we’re going/but we don’t know where we’ve been,” croon the Talking Heads to Niels Bennett’s pre-intro sizzler in Girl’s crackling new ‘Doll’ vid. “I can change,” bleats James Murphy in the obligatory, sentimental-yet-lighthearted closing-credits number, as those yellowy letters scroll. “We sit back on Malayan islands/sipping mixed drinks out of broke coconut bowls, we wilding” croons Ghostface Killah amid Griffin Gass’ punchy, driving last part.

It is the sound of Girl breaking with its past, to some extent; eight minutes of ‘Doll’ unspool before there’s any tricks from a pre-9/11 rider, and then, it’s second-genner Brandon Biebel. The OGs skate for only about 30 seconds in the vid, and whether or not that’s OK is moot in 2018 — the ravages of time and adult living make anything else unrealistic, and Girl’s new hair relaxer-rejecting brood proves more than capable of carrying the half-hour ‘Doll.’

The dozens-deep pro rosters and overwrought theatrica of preceding Crailtap productions mostly are shunted to the side, allowing viewers to marinate in Niels Bennett’s sand gaps line, bounding fakie over one of Venice’s fat ledges, Tyler Pacheco’s loosey-goosey nollie heelflips and frontside bluntslides, Griffin Gass’ brawling rampages through alleys and fountains, and that one kickflip backside noseblunt. There’s winks and nods to past bits like Rick Howard’s dawdling rodent and Keenan Milton’s Rick Moranis moment, but the generational shift at work benefits even the skits — session screenwriter Colin Read, of ‘Spirit Quest’ fame, captures Spike Jonze’s brand of winking creativity using basically a board and a camera for a worthwhile entry in Girl/Choco’s anthropomorphic board series.

As the human attention span shrinks to rival the goldfish’s, ’tis it better, in pursuit of longevity and countercultural heft, to regularly shed teamriders every few years or hold to the original foundation of dudes as long as can be? Did everybody take note of Tyler Pacheco’s fakie flip in this? What about the alternate ending for the board revenge skit? How come nobody ever coined the nickname Matt “Miami” Beach?

Who Wants To Ride For Girl Skateboards?

October 13, 2018

Finally, some shame — Rick Howard, in a sorely missed skate photo for a recent Lakai ad, included a disclaimer specifying that the Anti-Hero setup that the Girl impresario is very visibly tailblocking belonged not to him but rather to photographer Mike O’Meally. Set aside boring questions of professional obligation and instead marvel at how the asterisk is more surprising than yet another appearance by the clean-scalped eagle beneath a Girl dude’s feet. It is 2018, robot cars have drawn first blood, and Kanye West tells us from the Oval Office that “time is a myth.”

For much of the past decade, various Girl teamriders not actively involved in weightlifting and yearslong DL stints have often veered between devoted Anti-Hero fandom and at times making the Torrance empire built from EMB bricks and SoCal picnic tables into an effective subsidiary for the tent-dwelling bowl tribe out of the Bay. Brian Anderson, who would eventually join Anti Hero, has talked openly of riding the boards throughout much of his Girl tenure, while Cory Kennedy in recent years took only cursory efforts to make it look like there was anything else guiding him in, out and around PNW concretes. The van door seemed to fly open for such deck double-dipping with the fabled ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tours — an inspired combination at the time, a clear passing of some subcultural torch in retrospect — and subsequent collabo product runs, while Crailtap employed a team-building playbook that at times seemed cribbed directly from the stripey socks/Dickeys/blaze orange beanie set.

For longtime devotees of the Art Dump, SHT Sound and goldfish-toting retirement home scammers, it’s difficult to separate dudes’ seeming lack of enthusiasm for skating their own boards with the company’s at times painful evolution, as the onetime family has splintered across the FuckingAwesome, Numbers, and other camps. For over a decade, damn near everybody wanted to ride for Girl skateboards. The World defection bomb-drop on the industry set up a 10-year run that elevated the original squad to all-time status and provided the currency, cultural and hard, for acquisitions to set up the next generation — Rick McCrank, Brandon Biebel, Robbie McKinley, Brian Anderson, Paul Rodriguez, Jereme Rogers.

Halfway through the ‘00s though the unthinkable occurred, with Paul Rodriguez stepping out, for a rebooted Plan B of all things. A crack had appeared; more than ten years on, the skate biz has learned that its institutions are not immune to the cultural fracturing that has laid low the top-40 radio hit, the water-cooler conversation-starter, the very special TV episode. The exodus from Girl began with next-generation pillars Jereme Rogers, Alex Olson, and spilled over to foundational names Koston and Mariano.

Tyler Pacheco, Simon Bannerot, Griffin Gass and Niels Bennett want to ride for Girl Skateboards. As per their recent Thrasher interview, they skate the boards. This clutch of curly-haireds, entrusted to guide the venerable company through a third decade, keep the bases covered across wallrides, hill bombs, bowls and those Southern California schoolyards. They feature in Girl’s imminent and anticipated ‘Doll’ vid, an am-focused affair that somewhat lowers the stakes; with 2017’s ‘The Flare’ making no bones about the fact that OGs Carroll, Howard, and others are throttling back with age, ‘Doll’ augurs to present a clean slate that maybe can be judged on its own merits by kids with only a vague grasp of Girl’s weighty legacy. In the Thrasher interview, Tyler Pacheco eloquently suggests that he and his bros aren’t encumbered by the historical gravity of a Girl nod, though they’re down for the cause:

How important is turning pro for Girl skateboards to you guys?
Manch: Not important at all.

It’s not a goal?
Manch: No. I mean, I already know Mike; I already know Rick; I already know Chico and Kenny and everybody. Shit, I’m already pro in my mind! I don’t look at it like that. Yonnie went pro and that’s my fuckin’ homie. When he first went pro I was like What?! Then two months later it’s like he’s my normal homie I kick it with. But it’s amazing. I was psyched when he went pro. ‘Cause everyone else I knew was on the fuckin team, It’s just like Wow, we’re all a part of this awesome fuckin’ company. No matter how far it’s gone it’s just great to be a part of it. I’ve always looked up to it and I’ll always hold it high in my heart.

What is success for Girl in 2018? Will a pro board for the preternaturally talented Niels Bennett at long last put some respect on the Slap boards’ name? Could a slimmer budget, driven by general hardgoods market saturation and rising freight costs, steer ‘Doll’ away from the high-concept, high-def sledgehammer approach of the Ty era and back toward the shoestring creativity that scraped raw the underbellies of ’80s sedans and affixed a Charlie Chaplin ‘stache on Eric Koston?

Lory Vincent, Call Your Office: The Enduring Legacy of ‘Haulin Ass to Hall and Oates’

September 23, 2018

Birthdays in the maple-and-urethane sphere are volatile aftairs, equal parts euphoria at making it thus far in compiling a body of work, and trepidation at drawing side-eyes for being past the prime, ripe for replacement or worse yet, parody. Ten years in, Powell, Girl and World were near the height of their respective powers; at 20, it was a different story, with partners and prowess faded, half-joking talk of curses and financial sponsors pondering various asset combinations to recapture growth. Make it to 30 and you are entitled to coast on reissues, at 40, open your own museum.

For videos it’s different, as the internet age places years-ago classics and ahead-of-their-time overlookeds into constant combat with the daily deluge of parts, semi-lengths and tour clips. Here, the skate-culture snake or cobra or whatever nibbles at its own tail, occasionally taking a bite: Witness Pontus Alv’s overt callbacks to H-Street vids in Polars’ recent opuses, Bronze’s highly eroticized Adio and Alien Workshop pastiches, Girl’s wink toward a Cory Kennedy ‘Yeah Right’ part in 2015’s ‘Wet Dream.’ Marc Johnson, promoting a new deck-and-t-shirt concern Business & Co., this month unveiled a YouToob mashup featuring some regularly referenced Neil Blender and Sean Young footage, along with scenes from recent Habitat collabee ‘Twin Peaks’ to say… something.

To call the history of single-artist soundtracked skate videos patchy is to be charitable. Element’s ‘This Is My…’ full-length, sonically appointed by Odd Nosdam, reclines couchbound on the mostly-inoffensive-but-barely-there end of the spectrum; on the other pogos Flip’s ‘Xtremely Sorry,’ cast out of a poorly-attended Midwestern Warp Tour stop on general principle. ‘Haulin,’ as well as higher-profile but less-on-the-line efforts like DNA entrustung Mr. Dibbs to usher in Habitat’s inaugural offering for the ‘Photosynthesis’ midsection, suggest dudes may have been doing it wrong. Some twist on Bill Clinton’s ‘92 campaign-trail warhammer such as ‘it’s the songs, stupid,’ probably applies.

At the time of its 2008 publication, ‘Haulin Ass to Hall and Oates’ struck many as an unlikely combo. For many years, the Bronx’s Big Punisher stood as skateboarders’ primary musical idol, an individual of limited means who traded upon his skill, creativity and sheer force of will to amass fame and wealth and extreme physical mass. Those were the dreams of many tween skaters. And yet on the low, Hall and Oates potentially surpass Pun’s achievements, while aligning closely with the evolving skate-ethos. Daryl Hall’s multi-instrumental mastery carries weight in skating’s still-going ATV age, and his knowing way with women — at least in song — serves as a high-water mark for the confidence skateboarders require to manage personal brands in a new and virtually streamy media environment. Separately, John Oates’ moustache exemplifies today’s ‘send it bro’ spirit. As a team they are the best-selling musical duo in history and have achieved success selling t-shirts at above-market rates, a cornerstone of fiscal prowess in today’s skate game.

Released 10 years ago this year, Ian Shulman and Tom Carter’s most enduring contribution to the skate video canon mingles Hall’s and Oates’ glossy but oft-dark tales of late-’70s love on the rocks with that damp grittiness particular to the Pacific Northwest. At a time when jangling indie rock reigned supreme in vid soundtracks and Transworld’s fading video legacy fell back on incense-scented vinyl, Two Hawks Young switch bigspin boardslides one of the chunky Hendrix rails to ‘Baby Come Back;’ Mike de Leon rocks fat tongue Reeboks and launches a serious wallie, while Daryl Hall stands stoic awaiting ‘Maneater’s signature sax bleat and on-screen text deadpans, ‘Montage.’ A yung Matt Gottwig sails a gap to nosegrind, Owen Jones hardflips into a wallride to fakie, John Oates ice grills the camera and Ryan Strangland flicks a magical-looking heelflip backside tailslide to fakie.

Will ‘Haulin Ass to Hall and Oates’ ever attain its rightful place within the skate video pantheon, or will it primarily remain valued for helping clear skateshops of lingering and unworthy kids at closing time? Must Joey Johnson’s nollie noseblunt and other ledge tricks truly rank among the greatest post-‘Trilogy’ uses of the Gideon Choi pants? Do you agree that Chromeo looked sort of shook jamming with Daryl Hall at his house?

Got To Give It Up… But To Yog-Sothoth Dudes?

September 16, 2018

It has been a big month for Gershon Mosley, one of the unlikelier phrases one may expect to read in 2018, year of the dawg. But there he is, pumping footage on IG, pontificating on Mark Suciu and Chris Joslin and Jason Lee with Jenkem, chopping it up with the Nine Club on the factors and feelings behind his fade from the industry round about a decade back. To hear him tell it, leaving behind a professional career was a sacrifice worth making to keep his skating pure, and to loosen corporate reins chafing the soul of a spiritual wanderer:

GM: I left for multiple reasons. Part of it was my life. I couldn’t stay in San Jose when I left Santa Cruz. I couldn’t afford rent. Also, I wanted to get away from there because that’s where I spent so many years growing and the world is bigger.

I had to separate the art from the business. When people get mad, they’ll say, “Skateboarding sucks!” But it’s not skateboarding that sucks, it’s the business and politics of it that suck. We’re so self-centered and so lost in just wanting to do that thing, that we don’t see the bigger picture when we say that shit. I’ve heard so many people [say it] and they quit skating altogether. Some of them still have issues. They’re still ego based. But if nothing else, skateboarding should have destroyed the ego.

It’s nothing new to put the trick, the road trip, or even the after-hours lifestyle before one’s physical human body, or mental health, or academic pursuits. But the current adulting trend — positioning earthly pleasures, financial gains and even the proverbial good times with the hemmies behind skating’s fishscale purity, with sometimes a dash of careerism — remains in full swing. Two-thirds of the interviews in the October Thrasher extol the virtues of a sober lifestyle; cover man Brandon Westgate again details the rustic charms of his dirt-under-fingernails lifestyle on da cranberry bog, fixing machinery and popping mad crans. Across the Atlantic Ocean, over centuries renowned for its depth and waves, Max Geronzi, among this generation’s most naturally gifted Frenchmen, is putting a prime period of popsicle-shape filming to the side while he inexplicably engages in a longterm engagement with a retro shaped board that appears free of any concave but nonetheless capable of lofty kickflips.

For independent shops, it is financial sacrifice being considered, as Theories of Atlantis, DGK and Deluxe nudge purchasing managers to pony up a handful of additional wholesale dollars for decks that in some cases are also available online via companies’ own web-stores. Efforts to squeeze a bit more juice from the commoditized deck-berry are understood, given deck marketers’ unwillingness and/or failure to persuade the unflowed masses to pay more for their seven plies’ worth of maple over the past couple decades. But it remains unclear whether shops are paying for anything more than maintaining status-quo brand access.

All such trade-offs possess their own merits and potential pitfalls, ranging from limitless riches to spitting out scurvy-rotted molars while starving to death in gaol. Yet in Canada, a darker practice seems to have taken hold. A thick and putrid whiff of the occult emanates from this year’s Dime Glory Challenge, kicked off with what appeared to be a clique of berobed pagans toting a baby, which promptly was elevated up toward the warehouse ceiling in what can only be assume to have been a gnarly and unspeakable ritual geared toward hyping up Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath and various other Great Old Ones. None dare call it coincidence — that World Champion of Skateboarding Wade Desarmo casually slew one of his several minions just ahead of what was anticipated to be the strongest challenge ever to the belt by one Ishod Wair… who would unluckily roll his ankle on the Wallride ChallengeTM shortly before the most important game of SKATE of his lifetime.

Is human sacrifice what’s hot in the streets of Montreal? Will Miskatonic University replace real-estate speculation as the extracurricular path of choice for aging pros looking to augment on-board professional prospects? Did the Dime dudes get that baby down? Will skateboarding’s notoriously rapid generational churn soon spur a backlash against sober, thoughtful life choices, and bring about a new era of ‘hammer’ tricks, illegitimate children and unpaid debt?

The Great And Secret Show

August 26, 2018

Savor it — the feeling of place, and knowing that one fulfills an important role in this cosmic AD&D 3rd Edition game that continues to unfold like a customized DM screen. In Western Hemisphere cities, the skateboarder takes on the form of an elongated dowel, with a flat head and bristles, a broom pushed across the urban plazas and beneath the highway overpass, shaping DIY transitions and waxing ledges and in the process sweeping aside society’s even less-desirables, the crack addict, the homeless alcoholic. Ocean Howell, in an interview following the inaugural ‘Pushing Boarders’ conference, describes the concept thusly:

The one I was thinking about was Burnside: that’s a classic one. So they started pouring concrete up to the pillars underneath the bridge and then the city (the Oregon Department of Transportation more precisely) comes and says: ‘what the fuck are you guys doing? We’re knocking this down. This is unauthorised.’ And all the surrounding property owners said, ‘don’t you dare! This was an open-air drug market and a big problem. These guys are scrounging, drinking beers and shouting but they’re fine.’ People’s cars aren’t getting broken into, it’s less threatening on the streets because you know the lower rung of people who are really hard up and so therefore commit actual crimes, they’ve been scared out. So that was the rationale by which they allowed Burnside to remain. Not because they were trying to support youth. I mean that was a supplementary benefit.

WH: You think their PR people tried to spin it like: ‘yeah we’re going to help the kids’?
No, it’s to help property value. And that is a tool in the tool kit of urban planners in the United States now. And they know; if you get one alone in a room they’ll be perfectly frank about it. Why do they site parks under bridges? Because that’s always where you get a rung below you, on the social scale… Right? And I mean there’s a good case to be made for doing that though… It’s very complicated because you know what skate culture is like and especially at a park… It’s a supportive community for kids who might otherwise end up in that situation. In Portland there was other places where they were proposing to put parks and the homeless advocates didn’t want it because they knew that that meant moving out their clients. They knew that was a tactic.

Last year, Ricky Oyola described similarly summed up the swapping out of various human classes:

‘If these little kids aren’t scared, why should I be scared; I’m a 30-year-old man coming home from work.’ Once it’s safe for young skaters, it’s safe for young male office workers. Once it’s safe for male office workers, it becomes safer for female office workers, then for older folks, and so on.”

Where does this leave the broom? Once refuse has been satisfactorily brushed aside, research shows that brooms typically are placed inside a “broom closet,” which The Free Dictionary defines as “a small room for storing brooms and other cleaning equipment.” In our day to day lives, we have knowed these “small rooms” as skateparks, safely fenced enclosures in which skills can be practiced in a structured and professionally designed environment, properly zoned, with the appropriate payments made to the planners, designers and contract players. The “other cleaning equipment” can be understood to refer to scooter kids and 2018’s surviving rollerbladers.

A bleak fate, even if bands of skateboarders were to somehow collectively embrace their broominess and enlist themselves in service to municipalities for targeted DIY spotbuilding/undesirable relocation campaigns, compensated with golden doubloons and five to ten years’ worth of footage, photos and good times with the homies. But as with any human endeavour, in the metagalactic sense, this all is only temporary.

Just as we now entrust computers to handle many of the complex and mundane details behind everyday life — processing financial transactions; opening doors for the baggage-laden, the armless and the just plain lazy; milking cows; flying fighter jets — it’s reasonable to assume that machines shall assume more difficult tasks over time, possibly including gourmet meal preparation and navigating crab-fishing vessels. Where this leaves humankind is less clear. Deeply rose-tinted glasses may be required to envision programming and electronic maintenance jobs replacing one-for-one those automated in truck-driving, lumberjacking and salesmaking.

And the brooms? Similar to how homo sapiens has dotingly organized the world’s less-dominant species into a system of parks, preserves and zoos, charitable post-singularity AIs could adopt a similar stance, repurposing established cities’ and towns’ increasingly antiquated infrastructure as free-range habitats for humans. Just as human-run animal parks strive to replicate natural environments, it is doubtless somewhat potentially possible that computers will seek to recreate ‘natural’ human surroundings and experiences such as malls, botanical gardens and monster truck rallies. In this instance, the skateboarder sub-class likely would be released from skateparks’ artificial approximation of real street spots, freed to interact and butt up against various other groups carrying on the roles of property-owners, security guards, the homeless and so on.

With several generations now raised within a ten-minute SUV ride to the nearest municipally funded skatepark, can they or their parents be persuaded to resist the allure of additional professionally poured concrete without corresponding social services and funding directed toward those in need — who may already have been shifted out of sight and mind thanks to earlier spatial realignments? Was Anti-Hero’s ‘eviction’ series a nose thumbed against gentrification or a winking acknowledgement of the company’s own role in the greater scheme? Did Turbo predict the joy, frustration and inner turmoil of such societal brooming in his iconic ‘Breakin’ scene three and a half decades ago?

Natural Born Hoarders

August 20, 2018

Dig if you will, this Instagram StoryTM from the past week; Josh Kalis’ royal blue Lamborghini plum full and overflowing with magazine-stuffed mailers, antique sneaker boxes, cardboard deck shippers. And even more laying on the nearby grass. This unlikely scene brought to you in part by Josh Kalis’ social-media cattle call for autograph seekers, volunteering to sign by mail copies of his late-career Thrasher cover blast — but also via a growing and steadily less-satiable desire for some physical artifact registering one as a knower, if not participant, in some secret circle, some had-to-be-there, grit spun into gold on the spinning wheel of time’s passage, various other painful metaphors.

Is the skateboarder a natural born hoarder? That muse that reformulated schoolyard banks into asphalt waves and disableds’ ramps into springboards for high-bar vaulting is kin to the spark behind the Psycho Stick, Fucked Up Blind Kids, Modernist Chairs and various others — but for a limited time only, as seasonal order sheets and mailorder catalogues open wide their maws for fresh products, series graphics, new colors, and exclusive collabs by, for and about the homies. As nostalgia deepens to the point that people tune in to watch retired and beloved pros flipping through old CCS catalogues, each new print ‘Thrasher’ and ‘TWS’ issue begins to look like a collector’s item, every board on the shop wall a potential hanger, every pro with a couple video parts under his belt a legend.

The bulldozing of various multimillion dollar pro sporting stadiums has left any number of garages and basements festooned with sets of numbered, uncomfortable, plastic fold-down chairs, suggesting if nothing else a missed revenue source for cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco as beloved ledges and hubbas fall under the pavement saw. But as our collective grip upon the baubles, trinkets and other physical links to the past grows increasingly white knuckled, it’s worth pondering whether such an instinct for preservation perhaps springs from the activity’s fundamentally destructive nature — wood scraped and snapped into splinters, metal beaten and ground into bizarre shapes, concrete corners rounded off and cracked away, urethane coned and yellowed to a cloudy-urined hue.

Jake Johnson, to QS: “That’s what brought so much attraction to skateboarding in the first place. The message had to do with breaking down societal standards, and destroying personal property.”

Is the destruction-driven quest for preservation arising from some pit-of-the-stomach guilt, fear of forgetting forevermore some sentimental article in a long-ago attic or basement, an unhealthy obsession with clinging to one’s youth, or some festive combination of all these? Will the science-minded deck restorers turn their talents toward reviving wrinkled and water-damaged Active catalogues for ultimate posterity? How long until a ‘Storage Wars’ episode stumbles upon a unit stacked tall with boxes of some pro’s forgotten decks, shoes, t-shirts and stickers, initially thrilling the bidders yet ultimately crushing them upon their reveal as mid-00s Dwindle graphics and Macbeth footwears?