Another Tantalizing Push Taken Towards a Pugilistic Payday

February 27, 2017

The struggling skateboard industry this weekend mounted a fresh effort to coax digitally transferred dollaradoos from skateboarders’ apparently refilling attention-span glands (based on the roaring success of the recent renaissance in hour-plus podcasts), united with the no-fi production values associated with various ‘raw files’/‘b-sides victory-lap double dipping that invite the still-hungry skateboarding content glutton inside the gruesome and glorious video part-making process.

Carefully tearing loose a page from Thrasher’s steadily thickening online-content playbook, Street League-backed telephone application developer ETN, an assumed acronym for Extreme TV Network, where TV is short for television, this weekend broadcast Aaron ‘Jaws’ Hamoki and Tommy Sandoval stepping to the UC Davis gap for the thrillment of multiple subscribing app-downloaders around the world. The format recalled Thrasher’s ‘Bust or Bail’ series that pledged cash dollars for bar-lifting tricks at famed spots, although in this instance a financial pledge was made by app downloaders to pay either $8 a month or $80 a year to tune into similarly star-powered spot assaults yet to come, as well as a range of other ETN offerings including a skateboard game show.

At a time when no less prolific a professional than 18-parter Marc Johnson pleads for folks to maybe dial down the daily firehose of skate videos, citing fatigue, it requires balls of the UC Davis gap carcass-tossing sort to not just launch a new online and mobile TV channel, but to charge spendable money for it, given the ever-thicker churn of video parts, Instagram clips, days-in-the-lifes and certain other what have yous, plus the Slap boards. While ETN’s fruitsome spread of shows suggests no more free live-streaming of venerable contests such as Tampa Pro, the idea of televising heavy-hitter sessions like Jaws’ and Tommy Sandoval’s campus romp presents its own basket of yowling logistical dilemmas. If you’re a pro with the control and cojones, a combination knowed by industry men as ‘controjones,’ do you film it for your video-part ender, hoping for some Thrasher website push before the part finds whatever second life it may on You-Tube, or do you chance trying it on ETN before a potentially smaller audience that may or may not be the only ones to ever see it, depending upon how the footage is controlled? If you are ETN, do you recruit the Kyle Walkers of this world, who landed his SOTY Thrasher cover in about 45 minutes as per Michael Burnett’s reporting, and risk leaving sadistic penny-pinchers distraught that they didn’t get their money’s worth? Do you veer toward a wider stable of shakier-legged amateurs with less to lose but who may loose more fireworks? Is there some creamy middle of name-brand dudes who are good but not ‘too good’ to achieve maximum subscribership and critical re-ups? (For kids aroused by ETN’s promise that you can try it for free and “bail anytime,” cancelling the deal allegedly presents its own challenges.)

All this though is only precursor to ETN’s true potential and inevitable destiny. Skateboarding’s inherent penchant for drama, betrayal, vengeance, despair and triumph, along with its devotion to convoluted and soapy storylines, long has drawn comparisons to professional wrestling, where the pay-per-view model yielded enough thumping paydays and created enough American jobs to recently land wrestling tycooness Linda McMahon atop the U.S. Small Business Administration, providing the capacity to use the Boston Crab on nettlesome, job-restricting regulations. After Mike Carroll aired out Marc Johnson on Jenkem.com last fall, former teammate Chris Roberts and camera-pointing journeyman Roger Bagley were the first get Marc Johnson on record with his own version of events, a coup. Now, there may well be a market for a video app that shows you Marc Johnson, Joey Brezinski and maybe some of the Primitive dudes going manual-for-manual at the Santa Monica Courthouse. But if it got out that Mike Carroll and Rick Howard maybe were going to show up? Or if Tas Pappas and Tony Hawk were one weekend heading to the same ramp? In such cases the question may be not how much one could charge, but how many yachts one can reasonably enjoy.

Is this ETN’s launch suggestive of the suggestion that the skateboard media sphere is not yet so heavily saturated as the board-making biz? How does the concept of promoting an hour-plus of roll-ups and attempts square with Street League’s ambition to draw in the more-casual sports watcher, for whom the typical skate contest run format was deemed overlong/boring? How difficult is the sale proposition for any skate video material whatsoever when you have Foundation giving away jaw-slackening footage from Corey Glick and Cole Wilson, for nothing? While on the topic, is Cole Wilson out of his damn mind? Could there possibly be any better venue than this emergent ETN for a prolonged, mysterious comeback mounted by a shadowy gap-jumper who eventually unmasks himself after jumping some giant gap to reveal his identity as Josh Kasper, whose fondness for pro wrestling is well-documented?

Events on the Horizontal Horizon of the Eventful Event Horizon

February 20, 2017

“Blessed be the ties that bind,” the good book says, referring to the festive ties donned by Medieval lords on the occasions of their weddings to matrons true of virtue and plump of size, who in turn wore flowery gowns and pointed hats in keeping with the custom of the time. The old saying however also could equally apply to the metaphorical plastic zip-ties that once bound the international skateboard community as tightly as the wrists of a newly gagged hostage, but now have been stretched, frayed and slicked with blood after a 20-year ride in a darkened trunk, bumping through energy drink-sponsored contest spectacles, international footwear investment and reality television seasons.

In this brave and bawdy 2017, year of the Rooster, what can draw together late-90s puffy-tongued plaza revivalists with mega-ramping park prodigies and their pastel-draped, body-varialing brethren? Time was, a big video could command the culture’s attention through months of ‘coming soon’ magazine adverts, a few carefully blown deadlines and a riot-inducing premiere. But ‘event’ vids increasingly have become the domain of the major shoe company, and that cupboard looks increasingly barren as Nike, Adidas, Emerica and Vans all have shot their respective full-length wads over the last two years, with mixed results; nearly all now seem to have sworn off the sort of hourlong teamrider-wrangling that takes years and increasingly seldomly stands up under colossal expectations erected with promotional hashtags, tossed-off teaser clips, and internet punditry.

Foundation last week premiered the latest entry into one of history’s stalwart video legacies, ranging from ‘Supercollider Superconductor’ to ‘Rolling Thunder’ to ‘Art Bars’ and ‘That’s Life’ – a heavy underdog narrative was built into the roll-out, including teamriders funding their own trips and pay whittled down to board royalties, making one wonder whether ‘Oddity’ should get you psyched on this latest iteration of the magic F or just hope these legitimately gnarly dudes find themselves a better deal. Ahead lies Transworld’s ‘Riddles in Mathematics,’ extending another beloved video dynasty with a knockout lineup and a GZA-cribbing title, helmed by Chris Theissen, whose Bordeaux-sipping extreme close-up techniques in last year’s ‘Substance’ bypassed perspective and boosted Dramamine sales. The majorest upcoming video may be Lakai’s ‘Flare,’ though with only four names remaining from the decade-ago (!) ‘Fully Flared’ lineup after former pro-model flarees succumbed to the gravitational pull of Nike, Adidas and old age, and much riding on emergent hot shoes such as Tyler Pacheco, Simon Banerot and Cody Chapman, it seems as much a reboot as anything — though the droney zooms and slick panning activity characterizing recently departed flare pilot Daniel Espinoza’s Royal Trucks part, assumed repurposed from his Lakai footage, looks very much prettier/sweeter versus any type of filmographic departures in the Federico Vitetta era.

After witnessing the coming-togetherness spurred by Brian Anderson’s coming out, Dylan Rieder’s death and earlier, John Cardiel’s ‘Epicly Laterd,’ are skating’s shared cultural events leaning less on videos and contests and more on personal narratives like SOTY? Can ‘Sabotage5’ transcend the tragedy of Love Park’s demise or only leave lingering questions as to what the fuck Philadelphia was thinking, and how did the resurrecting Alien Workshop not get behind a group of dudes so heavily infatuated with one of the Sovereign Sect’s most enduring heydays? Will Palace ever get around to doing a ‘proper’ video or are their mixtape-style releases like last year’s ‘V Nice’ so good they needn’t bother? Is Birdhouse gonna take another run at video history with Jason Hernandez behind the lens? Will Danny Way’s now 2-year-overdue video part ever drop or will Bob Burnquist come with another project that pushes it back again? Hasn’t it kind of been a long time since Krooked made a video?

In Which Rakim Is Ignored and Various Techniques Sweated

February 5, 2017

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One effect of the seldom-challenged objective to get more kids into skating, backed broadly by companies and other entities whose welfare entwines with selling skate-related goods and services, has been the homogenization of tricks. Whether a factor of once-platinum selling trick tip DVDs or YouTube channellers, mathematical norms seem to support the theorum that with more people skating and learning tricks via common and standardized sources, form and approach seem bound to gravitate toward some common center. The coveted Penny/Reynolds flick is no longer a technique possessed of some dudes and not others, rather it is the norm, increasingly rare to deviate from.

The thrillingly unorthodox cover of his month’s Thrasher features Jim Greco, who put the flick debate on front street with his Feedback dissertation on ‘mob’ vs ‘flick’. The Thrasher feature for Jim Greco’s most recent late ’80s video revival piece, after last year’s enjoyably indulgent/indulgently enjoyable “The Way Out” vid, includes a photo showcasing classical mob styling on a schoolyard bank, suggesting that Jim Greco, who once strove to curb his mob, now may be embracing it in some throwback move consistent with his recent nostalgia tripping among first-generation Birdhouse videos, the H-Street era and other childhood recollections of one who grew up on the opposite side of the continent.

Whether or not ‘mob’ kickflips look good, as a retro affectation or not, is a matter for the courts to decide and above the pay grade of poorly managed blogging web pages. However, the recently proffered notion that Chad Muska’s ‘illusion’ frontside flips looked good, wrongheaded as it is, speaks to a similar, latent yearning for diversity in trick form that seems to have been squeezed out in the online video age*. Setting aside the singular proclivities of ‘mob’ godfather Mark Gonzales, the comparative spread between a Kareem Campbell kickflip, a Tim O’Connor one and a range of others throws into relief the relatively few outliers from the norm today, such as Brandon Westgate.

Beyond throwback questionings, could skating’s politics-bucking globalization push offer a cure? In the far corner of this hemisphere, Magnus Bordewick and his Torey Pudwill arms suggest it may be so. Following his thumping ‘Firetre’ part from a year or so back the tricks in his ‘Tigerstaden’ section erupt as much as they flip; the 360 flip and bigspin kickflip slow-mo’ed on his Instagram have the board nearly going vertical as his feet kick at the camera frame’s edges.

Could any budding diversity in trick form collide with a wave of anti-politically correct sentiment now sweeping the Western world? Have body varials opened peoples’ minds to alternative trick-doing lifestyles? Could biological differences between males and females, both mental and physical, influence trick-doing styles as a wave of fairer-sexed video parts greet the new year?

*A more preferable alternative to the current technique might be Ryan Hickey’s

If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Break It, The Flare Edition

February 2, 2017

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The Easiest Ways to Get a Curse On You While Skating and How to Avoid Them

January 27, 2017

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Plenty of perils await budding skate careers, silent as crocodiles laying in a musky swamp for gold-laden explorers to test their luck short-cutting through the shallows. Prescription pharmaceuticals, mental illness, alcohol, the fairer sex and race cars have claimed more skaters than the police, security and bail bondsmen put together. But none threaten so fiercely as a mystic curse that can sap one’s ollies and tar the immortal soul.

Curses remain poorly understood in general but that is because most people overthink them. Any negative spell cast upon you by a magic user or supernatural being could be considered a curse and they vary in terms of their power. A casual hex could translate to a rolled ankle and premature end to a session whereas a powerful enchantment could erode your mind or kill you. It is best to always assume the potential to be cursed is near at hand to maintain ultimate protection. Below several common ways to get cursed are briefly explored.

Collide with a witch: Witches in many nations are assumed to pose threats only around Halloween when their pagan feasts are celebrated by millions the world over. But what about the off months? It is during these times that skaters need to stay vigilant against the potential to crash into a witch whilst she is going to market or simply hanging around town. Unlike centuries past when birthmarks, non-bleeding freckles and superfluous nipples could be relied upon to identify a witch, nowadays it’s common for people to go around in long coats with gloves and a hood, leaving no way to tell. When Satva Leung jostled a friendly looking Golden Girl in Union Square he may have narrowly escaped punitive magic, only to later…

Anger religious authorities and/or minor dieties: You could run afoul of powerful or empowered beings any number of ways, by skating sacred spots such as houses of worship, sacrificial altars and tombs that may look to the unaware like a ledge or a crusty bank. Similar to dealing with aggressive cops, the best response may be supplication and penance-seeking, and failing that, tearfully begging on one’s knees for forgiveness and mercy. The old saying still applies: An ounce of tearful begging is worth a pound of supernatural terrors and a potentially shorter lifespan.

Cavort with demons and spirits: Much like the cautionary tale of ‘Grizzly Man’ Timothy Treadwell, engaging in extra-normal practices and trafficking in reissued occult materials may seem natural to begnarled thrill-seekers, but doing so plunges one into a risky realm populated by older beings that may regard conjurations and certain dangerous magics with the same dreary disregard a skater may have for spinning a shove-it or focusing a cracked board. Sometimes it’s safer to hold to the human side of the fence, however greener the supernatural grass may appear.

Coming next: How to remove a curse.

Lil Wayne’s Poseur Card Revoked on Podcast Testimonialism

January 14, 2017

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Most people enjoy being the dominant life form in whatever room, building or landscape they may occupy. Cactuses, sperm whales and the common housefly all stand meekishly in the shadow of humankind’s achievements, which include mastering fire, developing the multibillion dollar telecom industry, and the Garfield coffee mug franchise. Even the largest and most ornate beaver dams and termite mounds are a joke compared to man’s buildings which literally tower over other species, often dominating them in their own habitats.

In recent decades skateboarders similarly have differentiated themselves from other members of their species, displaying a capability to navigate backyard transitions and flip boards underfoot, at first in a stationary freestyle way, and later while maintaining respectable speeds. Possessed of a tribal instinct forged in the flamey fires of societal rejection, skateboarders identified themselves with lopsided haircuts, freeform denim and flat-soled suede sneakers, snarling at pretenders trying to cop the look without paying dues in parking-lot hours and spilled blood.

Does the poseur, which once jockeyed with jocks and security guards for archvillain status, conceptually survive in this brave year of the rooster, 2017? Fattened on mall money and transfixed by sly winks from extreme-intrigued ingenues, collective guards have fallen away. Advice on appropriating skate stylings have become common enough that Jake Phelp’s occasional grouchy grumping over Thrasher tee-sporting celebrities is seen as increasingly quaint.

Now comes Lil Wayne, née Dwayne Carter, Cash Money Records’ Danny Way, an industry-reared wonder boy possessed of once-in-a-generation talents, later estranged from early benefactors and in later years, outpaced by onetime proteges. In his post-platinum era wanderings, which also has included guitar solos and bowling, Lil Wayne picked up skateboarding, following earlier lines drawn by Pharrell ‘Skateboard P’ Williams and Lupe Fiasco. Eagerly written off after publicly declaring his dedication, Lil Wayne somehow stuck with it, living down ill-considered proclamations of prowess and conceiving the obligatory terrible clothes company. Along the way the ‘A Milli’ author earned love from actual skateboarders the old-fashioned way*:

Conor Champion: “He’s a little kid that just started skating in a grown millionaire’s body. Out of everything he could be doing with his free time, he’s choosing to be at the skatepark with us at three in the morning. You have to realize he could be doing literally anything in the world at that moment.”

Now, as far as wiling away hours at the park as a barometer of love for skating, many 10-year-olds measure up. Investing more than half a decade and then shaking off a droughty croak to muse for an hour over truck heights, the tradeoffs of filming in parks, getting kicked out of parks, lighting up spots with Iphones and hanging out behind restaurants to skate a bank-to-wall at 4:00 in the morning — that’s a horse of a different color, unsaddled by celebrity dilettantes and fair-weather penny cruiser pilots outfitted by 401(k)-toting stylists loathe to shovel the manure of bailed kickflips and gashed faces. With a profane pithiness suited to the penman responsible for one of rap music’s greatest verses, Lil Wayne justified himself last month on Chris Roberts’ ‘Nine Club’ podcast:

Lil Wayne: “I hate to use the word perfect but I’m the perfect guy to explain it. I’ve experienced a lot of great fuckin feelings. I’ve seen checks with a lot of zeroes on them bitches, with my name. I’ve experienced a lot of wonderful… moments with women. I’m talking about fucking her while her movie’s on in the background. With your music on the radio. I’ve opened a lot of great doors, I’ve seen a bunch of smiles on a bunch of faces…. I swear I don’t know if there’s a feeling that comes close to landing on them four wheels.”

Will Baby try and put the kibosh on Lil Wayne releasing a video part while still under a CMB contract? Does employing a housekeeper for one’s private skatepark and also a co-located bowling alley qualify Lil Wayne as ‘upriver’ on Jason Dill’s famed skate-scale or does it require a different benchmark altogether, like maybe the Russian deeps of Lake Baikal? Was all of this foretold after Ty Evans placed Mannie Fresh music into ‘Fully Flared’ for Lucas Puig, JB Gillet and JJ Rousseau, a music supervision masterstroke that may also have absolved Ty Evans of any number of indie-rock missteps over the years?

*Not like that, you pervert

1. Jerry Hsu – ‘Made Chapter 2’

December 31, 2016

Peter Hewitt, whose influence in steering the Anti-Hero eagle may be understated, reframed the concept of suffering for one’s art in the run-up to the 2013 Skater of the Year award, in which he opined on who had or had not endured punishment and pain enough to have earned the nod. In an age where skating seems to owe career devotees less than ever, and when suffering of the physical and/or economic persuasions generally seems at an all-time high, the punishment ledgers ought to reflect that Jerry Hsu is fully paid up, as he further emerged this fall from his post-‘Stay Gold’ lull towing his best shit since ‘Bag of Suck’ a decade ago. His battered body, marinating gently in Los Angeles-area schoolyards, seems to have recovered and his moves in ‘Made Chapter 2’ are as liquid and surfy as he’s ever had – scootching down ditch walls, nollie heelflipping off walls, twisting out of multi-part picnic-table tricks that are comfortably in the hunt with any pursued by kids 15 years his junior. There probably is a list out there of dudes still coming with new tricks on handrails as they push into the third decade of their careers, and it would not be very long, but Jerry Hsu would be on it via this part’s ender.

2. Hjalte Halberg – ‘I Like it Here Inside My Mind, Don’t Wake Me This Time’

December 30, 2016

In Polar’s kinetic, nervous and occasionally poignant ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind’ – the best-crafted, most cohesive ‘company’ video this year and maybe for the last few – Hjalte Halberg brings probably the most straightforward street-purist approach, helping ground some of the body-varialing and handrail-bonking flights of fancy from Dane Brady and the Blobys, and (along with Aaron Herrington and Pontus Alv) injecting some of the diversity often lacking amongst an industry where the easier path sometimes comes off like targeted appeals to specific niches. Hjalte Halberg in this vid rains down force and precision on his Copenhagen blocks, blasting backside flips from bumps and rifling off some of the fastest heelflips committed to digital video. He seems immune to friction and there are moments, like when he’s backside 180ing out of a manual, where he seems maybe not fully in control, but these are rare and pass quickly. Between his video with Bobby Worrest and various other footage Hjalte Halberg could’ve made his own whole video of this shit over the past year.

3. Tiago Lemos – ‘Press Play’

December 29, 2016

Tiago Lemos is Brazilian and switch ollied over the back of a handrail into a switch backside smith grind. Tiago Lemos wears baggy khaki shorts and fakie hardflipped out of a switch frontside crooked grind on a thigh-high picnic table. Tiago Lemos still skates for the small board company that put him on after he got to the US and he nollie inward heelflipped into a backside lipslide down a handrail. Tiago Lemos switch backside tailslide switch flipped out into another switch backside tailslide that he slid the length of a two-year-old alligator. Tiago Lemos did a switch bigspin to switch backside tailslide on the J-Kwon gap to ledge and only turned pro in April. Tiago Lemos knows the names of the forgotten gods and does gully tricks like a switch backside 5-0 180 out on ledges tall enough to choke a giraffe.

4. Jamal Smith – ‘V Nice’

December 28, 2016

Palace’s ‘V Nice,’ documenting some Los Angelean residence by the famed swishy short manufacturer, arrived like a heady midsummer night fever dream, one where Lucien Clark had a part in Trilogy and Danny Brady seized control of an anti-aging serum that also contained plans for as-yet unfathomed bank-to-bench moves at Lockwood. Whether or not Jamal Smith’s powers to go viral have obscured over the years his excellent skating is a debate for podcasts yet to come, though only after flavored soda waters have been sipped empty and the clock has passed the 45-minute mark. Currently, it seems clear that Jamal Smith is among the most inventive minds working in the frontside shove-it medium; in ‘V Nice’ he is hitting PJ Ladd levels over the Santa Monica sand gaps and pushing one of the grimier switch 360 flips on the market. And his grinds sound good.