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?

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 8 – Justin Henry, ‘Mother’

July 3, 2020

Jazz-funk acolytes Psychic TV used their sunny, swinging ‘Godstar’ to smuggle a dark and conspiratorial fable of Rolling Stones member Brian Jones’ untimely death onto blithely unaware mass media platforms. Justin Henry, Ohioan, drapes an easy grace over otherwise jarring and scary tricks in his big introductory part for Quasi’s 2018 classic, making it easy to gloss over the fact that he somehow didn’t catch a wheel in the corrugated dumpster cover on his backside nosegrind, or slam facefirst into the irate, phoneless SFer’s house on the frontside wallie to frontside wallride, or crush his ribcage dropping from a kinked round bar to another one in the midst of a backside 50-50, and so on. He is here much in the beginning of his arc, a young power with a blue collar name from a blue collar state, shuffling through half the tricks in the book across spots from coast to coast, getting yelled at, yelling back, leaving you to wonder what the hangtimewas on the double rail ollie, or the Mike Maldonado measurements on the hop up and over the tall Florida block. When he pushes you can feel the world at his fingertips.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 8 – Shiloh Greathouse, ‘First Love’

July 2, 2020

Would the mid-’00s shift away from handrails and gaps have come without the nudging of an early ’90s World OG? The ingrained contrarianism that already has the clock ticking on Big Boy pants and nylon suiting suggests probably yeah, but Shiloh Greathouse’s return via Transworld’s late voiceover-era entry ‘First Love’ gave momentum to the corduroy-and-vulcs movement that really got going with 2004’s ‘Static 2,’ staking out sidewalks and curb cuts in the after-black hammer heartland of Los Angeles. Reoutfitted in polo shirts and slimmed down jeans, Shiloh Greathouse in this one began tapping the multisyllabic ledge combos that would fuel much of ‘Fully Flared’ a few years on and helped return the no-comply to prominence after more than a decade in the wilderness. You see the grace in how he comes off his backside ledge tricks, like that noseblunt in Sacramento, and some of these clips, like the JKwon backside lipslide to backside tailslide and the 5-0 to backside bigspin out, would sit comfortably in a modern-day Primitive or WKND vid of one’s own choosing.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 8 – Sage Elsesser and Kenny Anderson, ‘Purple’

July 1, 2020

The ‘Cherry’ class of 2014 has a steely-eyed SOTY, a movie star, and a seven-day-weekender, so Sage Elsesser’s segue into an old-head role seems just fine, as long as he doesn’t permanently hang up his board in favor of his musical career. The dude’s imperial pop and frontside-leaning body contortions on his lipslides and tailslides helped Ben Chadbourne mix up the styles in Converse’s 2018 full-length and avoid the repetitiveness that bogged down ‘Away Days,’ though the height blasted on some of the tricks here, like the chest-high heelflip over the sidewalk gap or the fence 50-50, borders on cartoonish. Put Sage Elsesser on the unspoken list of those who can get away with street grabs, and Kenny Anderson, in the smooth chaser role here, on the one that permits 180s in the middle of manual tricks to be done by certain persons at certain times, in accordance with certain permits.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 8 – Jeremy Holmes, Hype ‘Believe’ Promo

June 30, 2020


The history books need more room for Dallas’ Jeremy Holmes, heavy ’00s hitter whose body of work in Youtube form exhibits some DVD-to-digital picture distortion that doesn’t yet command the sort of nostalgia reserved for the stressed VHS effect. He remains though one of the decade’s great ledge operators, working ‘Time Code’ spots, good with loose-fit switch 360 flips or a fakie hop up a curb to start a line, authoritative when he’s slamming down his wheels on the ledge lines under the roofs in this part for the Popwar reheat, Hype Skateboards. There’s some good filming like on the line-ending switch manual and a couple clips that oughtta be canon, like the hands-behind-the-back landing on the backside 180 nosegrind or the nollie backside 180 switch backside 5-0 shove-it, in a line, with extra undershirt points. The only thing this part really misses is one of his nollie backside noseblunt slides, like the one that shut down the Macba slot for a few years.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 8 – Nick Jensen and Kyle Wilson, ‘Nick and Kyle’

June 29, 2020


Kyle Wilson’s ringing Palace clip the other day is gonna be a hard one to beat in this summer’s IG stakes, and sharpens the appetite for more — in the meantime there is his sizzling shared section with Nick Jensen that arose from Free Mag’s 2017 ‘Nik Stain Campaign’, wherein the Isle dad went harder than he had in a minute with a lovely switch 360 flip, a switch backside smith grind in a line, and one of those well-worn switch backside flips. Kyle Wilson spreads around his feather-floaty ollies and backside flips, lightly sets down a nollie frontside 180 in a claustrophobia corridor, and goes TJ up one of London’s most beloved manual spots. There’s not a lot of instances of rocket form looking good, and one of them is on his nollie heelflip over the bench here.