An Imaginary Time-Traveler’s Reckoning on Winner Status, and Dylan Sourbeer’s Line Holding the T-Shirt In His Hand

October 22, 2017

“When I got to Alabama it was every bit as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was the only skateboarder in my school and I was seriously teased to such a gnarly degree,” career burler Jamie Thomas reminisced to the Nine Club hosts this week, describing a sneering ostracization known to Middle America skaters coming of age in the late 1980s. “I was really intimidated. It was a lot of jocks and preps and it was a lot of them and only one of me. I was completely by myself. It was like being in the prison yard.”

Whether Jamie Thomas the alienated high school freshman would recognize his weathered, lionized and moustachioed self nearly 30 years later is a question best addressed through a sci-fi buddy film centered on antiquated communication technologies. Were such a time-hopping Yung Chief to stumble through those folding, see-thru doors into our modern landscape, it would doubtless appear disorienting and off. In this world, foreign governments make unsolicited offers to pay skaters to quit their day job and skate for years at a time. The dude who filmed Rubbish Heap is an Oscar laureate, on the same professional level as Martin Scorcese and Three 6 Mafia. The Wall Street Journal reports that international skateshop chain Supreme is worth a billion dollars, surpassing preppy mainstay Abercrombie & Fitch. And Palace has invented a machine that takes in fashionistas’ pounds sterling and spits out long-dead hallowed grounds.

Would we forgive our imaginary, time-traveling underclassman JT for thinking that skateboarders, over the past thirty years, had secured some sort of ‘Bad News Bears’- or ‘Revenge of the Nerds’-style victory over oppression — when Nike, that decades-long guiding light to the world’s ‘jocks,’ now builds skateparks and revives spots, and skateboarders run tastemaking TV channels? Could the bliss injected by such emancipation from high school’s social gaol overpower nagging, murmured questions over any sense of shared struggle lost when a countercultural tribe finds that prefix effectively erased?

Were those misgivings enough to obscure the marvels of sassy digital assistants and movies streamed in high definition to pocket-sized telephones, our imaginary, time-traveling teenage Jamie Thomas may have hit the road – to Philadelphia, where late 1990s throwback shoes, denim and pinner decks sprouted from the cracks of a dormant scene over the past ten years from the sort of soil that’s becoming an endangered habitat as inner cities scrub up and gentrify. Here, skateboarding’s ‘loser’ status remained time-capsule intact, huddled among various drunks, junkies and lurkers on a couple blocks’ worth of concrete and stone that never seemed much needed by city officials, salaried professionals or money-folding tourists. Here, skateboarding failed to ascend society’s greasy rungs, despite a direct appeal from Love Park’s designer, the X-Games’ civic endorsement and a $1 million offer from newly flush DC Shoes to legitimize skating that was going on anyway and free cops to pursue other crimes.

It is this bitterest pill – Love Park’s final destruction — that Philadelphia’s Sabotage crew pops into their mouth, grinds between their teeth, swallows and then licks their cold-cracked lips in the fifth installment of one of the rawest video series going. From start to finish ‘Sabotage 5’ is a gloriously losing war against capitulation to the inevitable. Like any decent funeral, this eulogy is delivered by the immediate family, rather than transient pros, with the locals turning in their last tapes skating Love Park as it was, and a grip of tricks as it is dismantled. Zach Panebianco’s part opens with a fence hop to eleventh hour fountain ollie, and closes with another jump deeper into the park’s then-exposed guts. Brian Panebianco, who along with Ryan Higgins has done more than anybody to elevate the downtown Philly scene, goes two songs deep and switch varial heelflips the ‘little’ stairs onto some straggler sections of tile. Joey O’Brien, last seen in ‘Sabotage 4’ tunneling beneath Love for one of the most memorable lines there ever done, captures the backside bigspin that eluded Mark Suciu; Brian Douglas regulates the levels between filming last-weekend lines; and Tore Bevivino links some brain-scrambling moves across the fountain ledges. It is Dylan Sourbeer who gets in the last licks, at times doing his own dismantling of Love Park’s blocks and steel to open up new angles — and deservedly closing down one of these vids with a deep supply of ledge lines, a lengthy nosegrind across the exposed dirt and a can-topping kickflip from one propped-up tile to another that carries some type of finality. Some chest-puffing moments of defiance pop up – “it don’t look over to me” goes one lurker’s memorable exhortation – but by the muted closing section, it is clear which side won.

Would our time-traveling underclassman Jamie Thomas, after shaking ‘Sabotage 5’s technical ledgery from his mind, find in Love Park’s final chapter some sour recognition of the outcast status he once lived? Would the cut of Kevin Bilyeu’s jeans at least look familiar? Did yall catch this clip of Brian Wenning and Josh Kalis skating Muni the other day? Does a year burdened with melancholy and loss, make ‘Sabotage 5’ more affecting than it might otherwise have been? Does Dylan Sourbeer’s line at Muni holding the t-shirt in his hand provide a new benchmark for future human achievement?

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Video Days Skate Solutions

October 16, 2017

Skateboarding’s different. But that’s why you still do it. Think back — how many of your high school crew still skate? College? Forget about it. Lance Mountain and Ray Barbee called it — some people can’t stop, even though injuries linger for longer, tricks trickle away, and life in general bogs you down.

Sound familiar? The spirit’s more than willing — can’t sprain that. The flesh, properly stretched and foam-rolled, is as ready as it can be. But the day-to-day grind of a 48-hour workweek, delivering kids to soccer games and holding down a household makes linking with any of your remaining crew like solving a Rubik’s Cube — you’re lucky to line it up a couple times a summer. Even when your tricks are there, it can all feel fleeting.

Like TK said — get there while you can. You’ve picked up a new trick or two in the last few years that some of the homies still haven’t seen (and maybe don’t believe). There’s a few spots around town you’ve yet to bless with your go-tos. Maybe even a couple minutes of footage left in your feet. Too bad none of your squad is free during the hour or two you got free in a typical week. And when they are, who wants to tote the camera?

Or you could hit us up. We’ll meet you at the spot, the ramp, the park or DIY — you pick the place and time. Our filmers can help figure the best angle for your trick or line, whether it’s a switch 360 flip or a straight ollie, and get into the trenches with you if it turns into a battle. A fisheye’s a beautiful thing — take that curb up a foot or two. Come up in the 1990s? We tote VXs and can capture the clips for you. Want HD? We shoot that too, if you’ve got the cloud space. Super 8, VHS? Hit us up and see what we’ve got available in your area.

Filming isn’t all we do. If you’re long on trick ideas but short on spots, we keep pins*. Rack up a summer’s worth of clips and don’t feel like stringing them together? We edit too. Think you got a good photo or two in you? Our guys shoot stills. Bail shots aren’t identified; we keep it discrete.

We can skate on your schedule. Our hourly rate covers one-off sessions with a swipe of the plastic, or if you’d rather keep it consistent, set up regular, recurring sessions with direct deposit. Got an hour or two suddenly free at lunch and feel like getting busy? Pull up our app to see if any of our filmers are free and nearby. Check our rates page for all the options.

Maybe you’ll roll another ten years — maybe fifteen. But if you want to capture tricks while you’ve still got them down, we’re out here. It’s not about sponsors — check out our kids’ division about gathering footage for a come-up — this is about catching the best times on your board while they’re still going down.

*All tickets and associated legal fees are on you, the client.

SOTYs Yet to Come, Seen Through the Truth-Telling Prism of Freshly Spilled Guts

October 1, 2017

In ancient Rome, soothsayers would seek prophecy, divine guidance and betting tips in the entrails of sacred animals, surveying plumpness of spleen and colouration of liver to help foresee military conquests and innovate the hot dog. Just as Jupiter, Mars and various other heavenly bros guided the blessed knives of bloody-fingered oracles, so does Boil Ocean Web Page probe the still-steamy innards of skating in 2017 to predict contenders, near-missers and hangers-on that define our reality today as the 2017 Skater of the Year campaign, still looking wide open, careens into this year’s final quarter:

Louie Lopez: Of all the Flip ‘Xtremely Sorry’-era tween pickups, it has been among the windingest roads for once-Lil Louie Lopez, who took his time choosing a path betwixt the contest-circuit hittingness of Luan Oliveira, David Gonzales’ Hot Topic handrailing and the towheaded glamour often associated with Curren Caples and Ben Nordberg. For yung LL, there is a middle way flavoured with GX1000 hills and wallies; it already would have been a noteworthy year for him, what with a pop-shove powered part for Spitfire, a Thrasher interview heavy on shitting-related questions and a slot on the Thrasher/Spitfire trip, but he also delivered among the year’s most memorable Instagram clips — possessing all the elements, a banging trick, legendary spot, beer, freaking out squares. And he’s probably got another video part in him by early December.

Tiago Lemos: Could it an unacceptable breach of protocol to award Skater of the Year to an individual increasingly suspected of being a Greek demigod of yore? Seeming to operate in near-perpetual bio-mode, Tiago Lemos still has yet to report confirmed kills of multiheaded and mythical beasties. He has, however, spent much of 2017 pushing switch mongo from one of the world’s most gargantuan switch backside tailslides to sliding a similarly sized one into a fakie manual to fakie flip out, alongside hucking humongous backside flips, surviving the fiery judgement of Fort Miley’s tall bar, and rebounding from his Dime Glory Challenge game of skate drubbing with another waist-high switch k-grind, apparently the minimum height at which this dude operates.

Shane O’Neill: Continuing his explorations of technical skating as abstract art, Shane O’Neill’s mind-numbing ‘Levels’ part in late summer posited skating as a video game in which the buttoned-up Ozzian advanced by defeating gradually more difficult ‘boss tricks,’ including a nollie backside flip late-shove-it down a solid assortment of stairs, a switch heelflip switch feeble grind on a fun-sized rail, and a fireball-heaving tribute to business partner Paul Rodriguez’s climactic Tampa-house-bringer-downer from ‘Street Dreams’. Whereas questions remain as to whether Shane O’Neill actually pushed up to his road-clearing switch kickflip opener/cover, he makes another compelling case for vanquishing the skate careerist’s Bowser, given a lesser-noticed VX part earlier in the year, services rendered in years past and likely gas in the tank for continued video achievement before the year is out.

Evan Smith: The stringy haired, starry-eyed savant seemed to have just missed Thrasher’s brass ring last year, his eye-popping kickflip wallrides ultimately falling to Kyle Walker’s kink deluge. But Evan Smith shambled on, going bananas off pillars and somehow deciding to disaster out of a switchstance manual in a 2017-opening Spitfire part. He’s since matched feats with Wes Kremer in the DC vid, shaved with puddle water, and delighted Jake Phelps with a relaxed attitude toward fearsome handrails on the Thrasher/Spitfire trip, while earning redemption points for voyaging beyond Starheadbody songs for his parts. You could choose worse.

Riley Hawk: Just as Bucky Lasek found his own lane as a domestic manservant for Tony Hawk in ‘The End,’ Riley Hawk, once a pint-sized counter-pounder, has emerged from the family breakfast nook to carve his own cavern from the sheer rock face that is the skate industry, winding down the first Lakai full-length in a decade with a knack for kinks, a willingness to fingerflip out of nosegrinds and an ironclad grip on grinds of both the Barley and Bennett persuasions. Whether he has offered enough to Thrasher’s goatheaded gods or suffered suitably to become the first second-generation SOTY is a question strictly for the hooded priests who tend HSP’s sacrificial pyres, but you could sort of see it.

Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg: Polar’s diminutive and demonic secret weapon from ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind…’ over the past year sprouted into an all-points threatener in the mold of Grant Taylor or Tony Trujillo, flowing and blasting through transitioned concrete on several non-contiguous continents in the service of rarified endorsees Spitfire, Thrasher and Nike en route to an on-the-money professional induction. The young Swede has put in the requisite miles for Thrasher — at one point supervising a fishhook-and-thread stitch job on the sadly departed P-Stone’s lacerated ass — and remains a footage machine, whipping out lipslides to smith grinds and towering kickflips in between pocketing contest purses. Of note, maybe: It has been sixteen years since the Thrasher nod went to a Euro.

Jamie Foy: Young but a handrail workhorse, Jamie Foy’s burly physique, Floridian mane and can-do mindset have enamoured him to the Thrasher bosses, who cheered his addition to Deathwish and Shake Junt Griptape Co USA before recruiting him to Thrasher’s kickoff ‘Am Scramble’ trip. Jamie Foy’s contempt for fear and double-barreled approach occasionally recall a Revolution Mother-era Mike Vallely, except with 360 flips, though it remains unclear whether this may work for or against him in the modern SOTY stakes.

The DC Blog Post or, Finding Yourself and Redefining Success After Your Parent Seeks Protection from Creditors

September 16, 2017

Like a healthily scuffed Lynx arcing across a sunny SoCal sky following an AVE post-bail heaving, the erstwhile DC Shoe Co USA is in transition. Gone are Street Leaguers Nyjah Huston, Mikey Taylor, Felipe Ortiz and Chris Cole, on whose backs DC once sought to build a contest-circuit machine to rival the likes of Nike and Adidas. The flag logo that once represented the action-sporting nation DC once aimed to forge — a more perfect union of skateboarders, BMX bicylclists, motorcross motorcyclers, surf-riders and assorted well-wishers. It’s a smaller tent now, refocused on that seven-pointed star and the normal/extra-boldface/bold typeface pattern that crowded an older generation’s heads with highly motivational and semi-coherent calls to action.

It’s been a long time for DC in skateboarding’s lonely wilderness of what is not so cool, a foggy landscape of mall stores, mail-order warehouses and board shorts with flames on the side. Few find their way to the other side. Like Es shoes, DC remained in thrall to the tech shoe’s hoary bulk as Nike found its simpler, streamlined toehold in the Dunk and set about directing the conversation in the post-9/11 years. DC gained its own corporate firepower following its roll-up by surf log manufacturer Quiksilver, and outfitting Rob Dyrdek and other lords of MTV reality provided cushion enough for DC to maintain its industry position through the vulc-sole wars of attrition, if not necessarily retaining space on shop walls. A succession of designers proceeded to bastardize the Lynx into steadily less-recognizable forms, Euro SuperTour jerseys mouldered away somewhere, and Danny Way and Colin McKay didn’t show for the Plan B vid. But, DC shoes still was there.

For skateboarders of a certain age it’s odd to think of DC, which did so much to shift skate shoes from relatively simplistic Vans and Jims toward sportier stylings and techish accoutrements in the late 1990s, as a legacy act. But here we are: The seeds of DC’s attempted return to its late 90s/early 00s vitality were sown by the retro-minded Pennsylvanians behind the Sabotage vids and #skateshoewars, copping online vintage Lynxes, Kalises and various others as they simultaneously reclaimed Love Park from the authorities. Unlike Alien Workshop, DC recognized a new generation preparing to don swishy pants and opened its East Coast flow spigots, and now spot-searching Droors-endorser John Shanahan helps DC find a path after long years of wandering.

Against this backdrop arrives the winkingly named ‘The DC Promo’, feeling more vital than any DC video project in years. DC seems focused on capturing the world-conquering prowess that drove its inaugural full-length, a quest made easier by the fact that after the LA schoolyard groundwork laid by the Girl and Plan B camps, DC convincingly placed longhaired sweathogs like AVE and Ryan Smith alongside ledge grimers such as Brian Wenning and Stevie Williams, also with some vert ramps and Mega RampsTM. ‘The DC Promo’ is not so different, proffering perpetually adolescent Tristan Funkhauser as an olive branch toward the flood-panted deities of wallies and body varials — his incredible wallie frontside 360 is well-served by Chris Ray’s incorporation of the after-black hammer. Carlos Iqui and the too-long overlooked Tommy Fynn spin some wild handrail tricks, noted clotheshorse John Shanahan cracks an immense fakie shove-it over a bar and be still our hearts, for about 30 seconds, Colin McKay and Danny Way get busy on ramp coping. Wes Kremer and Evan Smith, who made a convincing enough odd couple in Thrasher’s recent interview issue, turn in a fairly blistering tag-teamer with Evan Smith inventing a new approach to an aged Philly spot and Wes Kremer further proving out 2014’s SOTY nod with a mindbender of a last trick. But the moment really is Tiago Lemos’, a time when switch backside tailsliding the Mission District 3-up-3-down can be goofed as a warm-up clip, irksome physics get brushed aside by waist-high kickflip smith grinds (both ways), and Marcus McBride’s block hops get Xeroxed for one of the more memorable lines down the SF pier in a while. This dude is operating on a whole different wavelength right now, and it’s a privilege to watch it unfold.

How much of DC’s turn away from prime time action sporting and podium-climbing pros, and refocus on skater-run events, pumping out videos and re-outfitting team riders in glossy jerseys, was forced by Quiksilver’s bankruptcy and resulting belt-tightening? Does the existence of new Danny Way and Colin McKay footage render the question moot? Yall saw these right? How much of the recently departed riders’ salaries have been redirected toward Tiago Lemos’ bank account as a preemptive hedge against the inevitable swoop by Nike or Adidas? How frantically are DC’s marketing overlords looking for ways to get him booked on a Thrasher trip before this year’s SOTY race winds down?

Summer of Bad Vibes

September 5, 2017

Summer’s strength wilts and, seems like before we’re really prepared, darkness steps out. On the world stage, blunt talk of nuclear war; fires rage across the continent; monstrous storms bringing flood, pestilence and misery; and last month, the sun itself blotted out. Steely Dan is permanently fractured with Walter Becker’s death. And tragedy again in skating as beloved dad, bro, lensman and barbecue grandmaster P-Stone is lost to a car wreck, the driver Girl’s Cory Kennedy, booked on a 0.10 DWI charge, and carrying this burden for the rest of his life.

What else? The Ride Channel, that once-churning aggregation portal that Quartersnacks perceptively pegged as a HiphopDX for skating, is itself deteriorating — adding items of varied relevance now just in fits and starts, and in a troubling suggestion of early-stage dementia, each day posing to its pensive visitors the same question: Why Isn’t Chicago a Bigger Deal in Skateboarding?

Mike Munzenrider’s dutifully researched feature offered a range of answers — weather, cops, general not-giving-a-shitness — and these may well be. Does Chicago need to be a bigger deal in skateboarding? Chaz Ortiz, when he’s not buying out the bar with high-level mages, seems to be making a mighty effort to reclaim and elevate the greater metro area that set him on the path to X-Games glory, while making restitution for Trueride-flavored lines like this. But even in his most powerful Diamond t-shirt, Chaz Ortiz can’t carry 2.7 million souls on his back alone — Chicago’s been second, third, whateverth too long, plenty grimy but too Midwest to chart with the cellar-door-turned-bump-to-bar-wallride pro contingent that gravitates toward East Coast crust. In Chicago, crime wars fill the streets with dead children and the money always seems to be running out.

Not that the town has no talent. But it’s on some other shit. ‘Realm,’ the latest in a string of increasingly gnarly videos from Chicago’s Deep Dish collective, opens on a bombed-out husk of a city shot through with militarism on the march and authority’s heavy hand always just beyond the frame. The skating happens in the shadow of architectural marvels and across crumbling foundations, by streetlight and under those battleship-gray skies. CJ Kelly draws night lines down the block that go on forever, his noseblunts and wallrides bumping off poles and fences. Nico Rizzo tosses a nutty manual to no-comply down some steps, DJ Plummer scrapes off sparks and Mason Barnard whirls one of the crazier manual tricks in some while on a fat marble bench. It is wildly panted Brett Weinstein who breaks the knob off though, bigspinning both ways up an industrial-strength Euro gap, popping tricks over puddles, backside lipsliding up and through viaduct crust and, at the end, climbing up and down through the bowels of the Chase building to unload a pile of lines. This dude hits some minor-key harmony between Gino ledge tricks and the going transfixation on wallies and varial flips, and gets in one of the crazier transfer ollies since that kid jumped out to Jason Dill’s ender block.

Probe deeper though and you come to Chicago’s Ssquirted collective, which has been making videos for five or six years now that seem geared to disorient and abrade, placing viewers inside dimly lit rooms where stuffed animals are ominously scattered, and weirdly costumed characters preen just out of focus. In vids like hoEphase and this year’s bracing ‘PSYKO’ and ‘bLoWiE BuNnY’, voices get pitched down, skate footage slowly rotates and threats of violence and occult imagery fade in and out. A lot of stuff drips. The tricks blur between all this like one of those dreams where you can land everything until your grip loosens and the lights go out and you find yourself with blood-drenched hands clawing at your board.

Are the dissonant and sometimes harsh vibes out of Chicago the right ones for skating at this summer’s jarring end? Will these harsh and forbidding vids pull more people to skate Chicago or keep them away? Did Darkstar anticipate some of this doom and pathos when resurrecting its unoly knights? What’s next?

Summer of Good Vibes

August 21, 2017

The heady daytimes of midsummer were made for growing green things, construction projects and loving refurbishments, laying supplies and fortifications for the long winter nights ahead. What with its rolling papers and noon wakeups, skateboarding leans toward the lazily fiddling, devil-may-care grasshopper in the tale of old, or perhaps a chaotic Fraggle. But the bold ant, in its levelheaded industriousness and generous way, can provide an alternate insect avatar, and skating must never overlook the rebuildatory tendencies of the lowly Doozer. Half-submerged in a midsummer night’s dream of positive vibes, Bowl The Ocean site examines three visions of a world that is not yet the future, but could be.

Clint and Reef, Ollie Men: Since time’s beginning, skateboarders of all stripes have celebrated that singular and uniting thrill, the big jump. Even so, one of the biggest ollies of recent years has sown division. After dueling ollies down the Wilshire 15 and over the yellow poles (implanted for pure gnarlieness enhancement) appeared last year on the Instagram pages of Birdhouse bad boy Clint Walker and FA-affiliated ATLien Reef Johnson, Jenkem magazine probed the backstory — whereas Clint Walker had tamed the massive gap and sat on the photo in hopes of bagging Thrasher’s cover, comer-upper Shareef Grady unknowingly did the same ollie and, over Clint Walker’s career-minded protestations, they both wound up pushing their tricks to the socializing internet masses to get what shine they could. The scenario was a debacle made possible by a unique fender-bender involving old and new media, and though few hard feelings were aired publicly, nobody seemed satisfied with the outcome, which also had the effect of clouding a legitimately heavy trick.

This year, Jason Hernandez is videotaping Clint Walker and the rest of Tony Hawk’s brood for what’s being billed as ‘The End’ for a new generation. Clint Walker, who has nollie heelflipped atop bone-crushing canyons and conquered fear itself, will have an assuredly crazy part. But what about that one ollie, now loaded with so much baggage? An old caveman saying from the planet’s spryer years holds that ‘the crazy thing about baggage is that it’s lighter when a friend helps carry the load,’ and the statement never was truer than when applied to the Birdhouse video in progress. Imagine a break in the middle of Clint Walker’s section where he rolls up to the Wilshire 15 and Poles, then it cuts to him jumping it, but the camera keeps rolling and then Yung Reef comes right behind him and jumps it too, riding out into a torrent of bro hugs and high fives. The vibes would runneth over.

Lakai Collabo Matchup: Even upon opening a new chapter with a winning full-length built around mostly new faces, storied shoe group Lakai faces turbulence, over the past month reportedly having to send back and reprint all physical DVD copies on some music rights shit and Fort Miley burler Jon Sciano leaving, apparently to skate for Vans. Amid Lakai’s various high-profile team defections over the last few years, Blackpooler Danny Brady has held tight, getting a shoe design recently for his efforts.

Lakai’s collaborative shoe projects have run an extremely varied gamut of partners, from culture warrior Lena Dunham to certain Wild Things to further investments in pastel paneling via several sneakers colored by Illegal Civilization person Nico Hiraga. But the Danny Brady link provides a lane for Mike Carroll and Rick Howard to potentially something together with Palace, which has made deluxely curated bathrobes and swishy shirts with any number of mega sports gear manufacturers such as Adidas and Umbro and Reebok. Palace’s teaming with Bronze helped elevate the New York bolt factory to a sought-after street fashion sensation. A similar project could further invigorate Lakai and keep Danny Brady shod on his current productive path.

Brian Wenning For Hire: For those fumbling toward some nightlight amid dark hours of the soul this summer, Brian Wenning’s recent podcast unburdenings have left DNA Distribution devotees of a certain vintage aglow. By all accounts, Brian Wenning reached the bottom of his own self-fulfilling prophecy and a humble halfway-house rebuild seemingly has done wonders for his self-regard, career reassessment and, importantly, his switch backside nosegrinds. Slimmed down and again in DCs, Brian Wenning is starting to look like he never went anywhere, venturing back onto the road and appearing to deeply enjoy himself.

His could be a feel-good summertime story, especially as Habitat prepares to reissue one of his OG graphics in what looks like a tribute to clamoring back onto life’s board. But Al Davis, another former Habitater asked and answered what must be the ultimate question in the matter: ‘PUT HIM BACK ON!!!!’

Was Nyjah’s Rave the Most 1990s Thing So Far This Summer?

August 5, 2017

Who killed not only Tupac, but Biggie, Big L and nearly shot Harlem crooner Keith Sweat over a girl? What did Tupac tell Nas after dissing him on camera in Bryant Park, what made Beanie Siegel blast a cop in Philadelphia, who did Madonna secretly set up to the feds, and what did Big Punisher look like when he was skinny? It’s all revealed in an engrossing Twitter ramble archived here detailing the most celebrated rap goons of the 1990s, who they beefed with, who they bankrolled and their deepest desires. This series of anonymous Twitter tweets rapidly has become required reading not just for rap music CD owners ‘of a certain age,’ but also many starry-eyed wonderers and would-be corporate climbers unafraid of plush jumpsuits and going upside a rival’s head with a bottle of champagne in the club. It was a decade of power and song, when Bill Clinton ruled from sea to sea, riches poured from freshly manufactured Internet computers, and bus-sized crocodiles wallowed in their own filth before stalking platinum-selling country music artists across the Great American West.

Truly, the 1990s is in again full swing. Last week Aesthetics and Elwood impresario Sal Barbier delivered a lengthy dissertation on shoe designerism and dreams of speed metal guitar wizardry amid Plan B’s mystical formation and Sole Tech’s triple cell division. DC affiliates John Shanahan and Josh Kalis have been hyping with Stevie Williams a Droors revival and around box-canyon campfires, whispers of an OG Lynx reissue. Living tributes to the decade’s virility now run the gamut, from the Flexfitted cut-and-sew of the latter years to the flapping cotton of the goofy boy era.

The title of 1990s grand master can ultimately be decided solely by a gory, wig-ripping battle royale set atop a mountain peak. But all of these recent activities overlook the most powerful recent entry that is an actual rave hosted by repeated contest winner Nyjah Houston, dripping with sports cars, autotuned lyrics, complaining neighbors, and Life Extention apparel. Webster’s dictionary defines a rave as an event containing techno music, DJs, dancing, garish outfits, sunglasses and positive vibes, and so it is obvious that Nyjah’s daytime soiree meets the classical definition of a Rave.

Raves were an important square in the cultural crazy quilt that was the 1990s. Ravers were lovingly tweaked via Fuct clothing while providing future inspiration for future lines of meticulously designed T-shirts. For many, these ‘techno campouts’ represented the future promise of endless possibilities and potential — much like Nyjah’s rave video:

“I remember reading a quote from Steve Albini in which he said that a thousand people standing in a field listening to electronic music and high on Ecstasy aren’t going to change the world,” Orrall says. “And I disagreed with him.”

Can a well-attended patio party, unmolested by cops, change the world or at least crown the summertime king of ’90s shit? After exhausting early 1990s fashion tropes is the next logical move to unearth Christian Hosoi’s spandex dabblings, or did the girl jeans period already effectively achieve this? Has a common love of raving united Ty Evans with Nyjah Houston to reclaim the glory of the ‘Feedback’/’Modus’ TWS vids? Do you think Nyjah will get a face tattoo?

‘People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Lakai Limited Footwear for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That’s what ‘The Flare’ is about. It’s about fun.’

July 30, 2017

What if you’d been told, on the occasion of ‘Fully Flared’s premiere nigh ten years ago, that Anthony Pappalardo’s part would provide a primary guiding light for the shoe supplier’s next full-length video — would you have believed it? Similarly could any 80’s baby have guessed that it would be Crailtap’s joint tour vids with Anti-Hero that would set the Girl and Choco camp’s course for much of the ’10s? What would you say if some time-mastering pixie had whispered ten years ago that Lakai would require the vision of a Mattel toy company exec to navigate the wiles of a marketplace commanded by Nike and Adidas? Could a mere humanoid imagination conjure a world in which Jake Phelps is a recognized television personality, Dr. Dre works for Apple and apologizes for his gangsta past, a new Star Wars movie comes out every year, Gucci Mane lives a life of domestic sobriety, and former reality TV game show host Donald Trump leads the free world?

It’s true, all of it. Now comes “The Flare,” Lakai’s first formal video project since Barack Obama’s inauguration, perceived by some as a comeback, executed more like a reboot. Any lingering pathos or hard feeling from recent years’ departures and drama is shoved to one side by a grinning Italian who opens the vid with the type of low-fi inventiveness that once drew wiggly yellow lines across California streets and breathed life into a fuschia-hued setup. Following any initial disorientation and upset stomachs, Federico Vitetta dispenses with much of the high-tech effects and in-your-face emoting that at times distracted and dragged on the Ty Evans-helmed productions, instead plunking in moustachioed passersby on horseback, operatic music drops and occasional WWFing of trash cans, lightening the load carried by Altamont Capital’s newest flarees.

Whether the intro’s orbish viewfinder is emblematic of some proverbial rolling stone, casting loose all moss and withered tendrils of the past as it rolls beneath that flatbed trailer, is a question best left up to individual viewers and low-scoring undergraduate term papers. Lakai’s slate is not wiped fully clean — Simon Bannerot, a curly-haired hucker with a lovely fakie frontside kickflip, is tagged in by ‘Fully Flared’ curtain-hoister Mike Mo Capaldi to fulfill similar duties here, gliding long frontside noseslides, nose manualing down steps and launching what’s got to be one of the more daring wallies this side of Lizard King’s parking ramp blast. Sebo Walker goes in with Cory Kennedy fits and a princely De La Soul tune for his gnarliest part to date, Jon Sciano tosses an M-80 of a 360 flip over a garbage bin, Raven Tershy goes the distance on the Andy Roy bar and twirls a magnificent Cab disaster, Yonnie Cruz cracks a switch ollie into one of multiple hairy hills. Jesus Fernandez’s ledge tech remains in ascent — he gets onto the Dylan Rieder block switch — while Vincent Alvarez strings together a marathon line at the LA High School banks, and Stevie Perez jumps a rickety bar to a backside smith grind and traces some fairly tech lines through various European blocks. Riley Hawk chisels further his own legacy via speed-metal fueled 360 flip noseblunts and screeching kickflip 360 wallride.

Mike Carroll and Rick Howard pop in here and there, Mike Carroll taking a version of his downtown Los Angeles line from ‘Fully Flared’ to a narrow ledge, and Rick Howard shove-iting onto well-worn New York concrete, but the most direct references to Lakai’s prior tentpole come from Tyler Pacheco, a young box-wallriding blazer who seems to have memorized that vid’s lines and lore on his way toward meeting and skating with his childhood heroes. For all its storied catalogue, though, the Crailtap camp never has seemed particularly stuck on legacy-burnishing when it comes to their videos, and the passage of time, trends and team members merits a different context in which ‘The Flare’ ought to be considered.

Probably it is true that this video will not alter skating’s course the way ‘Fully Flared’ did, and may not attain ‘Yeah Right’s’ level of envelop-pushing handrail pyrotechnics, or capture an era like ‘Mouse.’ Does it have to? It’s worth considering that before Lakai offered up MJ’s 13-minute opus, brought Guy Mariano’s career back from the dead, and helped establish Lucas Puig’s international sensationdom, it was Mike Carroll and Rick Howard’s chosen roster of style luminaries and promising youngsters who collectively weren’t setting out to craft some vision of skating to come, or on any mission to refurbish any beloved brand name. Toward the end, what’s arguably ‘The Flare’s’ biggest twist doesn’t involve a bunch of fire or green screens but rather a clever spin on skating with the bros.

Was this type of team reset the best thing to happen to Lakai? Do any full-length vids have the capacity these to change the conversation and hit as hard as ‘Fully Flared’ did 10 years ago? Will Tyler Pacheco set off a multiyear trend of table-bonking flip tricks capped off with the ‘Carroll Thumb’? Is Jesus Fernandez an odds-on favorite to win, place or show in the race for the year’s best hardflip?

PJ Ladd, Bearing the Weight of History’s Expectations Amid a Multiyear Video-Part Drought, and Also Some Discussion of Mystical Bears and Their Rumored Powers

July 23, 2017

In Richard Adams’ ‘Shardik’ a primitive people discover a long-prophecized god-bear, departed many generations earlier. The plus-sized mammal is worshipped by some and denounced as a property-wrecking menace by others, ultimately sowing divisions and touching off armed conflict before going on to collect royalty payments and licensing fees for use of his likeness by various professional sports teams and honey vendors. It is a lesson for our times and enshrined in our country’s tightest document, the USS Constitution.

Raised among Boston’s bruins, PJ Ladd is among the skating tribe’s most prodigal sons, gifted immense talent which he may not necessarily have squandered in the post-‘Really Sorry’ years — but certainly has been hidden beneath a bushel, to trangress into the deadly sin of proverb-mixing. It is inaccurate to claim he’s had no parts since — there was Es shoes’ last full-length gasp, a noteworthy DC intro, scattered park footage and assorted detritus — but the Plan B vid no-show sounded an ominous tone, and Colin McKay’s subsequent ‘Black Swan’ invocation eroded hope for the autumn of this wonderful, horrible skate career.

Does US sports apparel manufacturer New Balance and its ‘Tricolor’ executive production team deserve credit and reciprocal shoe-purchasing decisions for coaxing forth the most complete PJ Ladd video section since the Iraq war’s onset? Credit may lie with trusted filming hands, team manager life-coaching hammers and related Vince Lombardisms, promises of forbidden treasure hoards or (most likely) some potent mixture of these. The question itself is moot, the proof lies within digital video footage files spread across three minutes like $240 worth of creamsome pudding.

There is a line here, when the jittering percussion fades to a soothing drone and any remaining eyebrows lifted by PJ Ladd’s marmalade scruff relax to Cro-Magnon levels — it kicks off with a switch 360 and meanders with enough spark in the flips and power in the push to briefly resurrect those Coliseum ghosts. And much is forgiven. PJ Ladd, who once changed skating’s trajectory via an out-of-nowhere skate shop video mainly on word of mouth, owes the world in 2017 probably not much, enjoys a secure legacy. But you can still hope for more, and even if it doesn’t hit with the same impact, one can wallow in a fistful of PJ Ladd lines and ledge moves from Boston’s famed Eggs spot and be satisfied.

Some cosmic block now lifted, will PJ Ladd’s recent bout of filming develop into a full-blown fever in which he, like the recently revived Aphex Twin, unloads a succession of new footage and unburdens various archives unto a gobsmacked and blissed-out public? Does the fact that PJ Ladd is filming more while the ‘Tricolor’ vid’s release is delayed heighten your hopes? Has PJ Ladd, by growing a Grizzly Adams beard, communed with mystical bears of old to attain still-greater powers such as tearing the doors off cars and swatting salmon from rushing river rapids? If you are a bear is eating a whale an ender-ender?

The Power of the Deck-Buying Dollar, and the Promise of the $30 T-Shirt

July 16, 2017

The internet’s cultural side-loader washing machine swirls. What once was, is again, sometimes faded and sometimes pinked by rogue red garments. In the civilian world, tragedy plus time equals comedy; in skateboarding, fashion and hardware trends plus a period of years divided by the internet’s recyclatory properties (which are a constant), factoring the quotient by the strength of the counter-prevailing fads of the day, equals attractive brand-building opportunities that can help to finance electric cars with an auto-pilot option.

Santa Cruz, whose venerable skate dynasty doesn’t preclude opportunistic chintz-grabs, this month has revived its early 1990s technology breakthrough, the Everslick, presumably upgraded to avoid the sogginess that turned so many back toward conventional decks by the turn of the half-decade. As skaters nationwide discovered low-cost ledge lubricants to be had in the supermarket’s canning section, Alien Workshop, World and others abandoned slicks, relegating the technology to the same hardware-fad dustbin as Bridgebolts, Rip Grip, copers and Gullwing’s incredibly heavy plastic-coated hangers. But with deck shapes then already well on their way toward a homogenized popsicle shape, shelving the slick also marked a fateful step away from one of the few deck innovations that briefly commanded a premium price from penny-pinching skateboard consumers — and provided a fleeting glimpse into a future where peddling decks could be something other than a low-margin, efficiency-maximizing commodity business.

In this year of our lord 2017, the deck buyer’s dollar has never been more powerful. Through the 20/20-enabling hindsight view afforded via the internet’s continually expanding archives, skateboard purchasers can gloatingly look 25 years into the past to see mailorder clearinghouses hawking decks for $45 apiece. Adjusted for inflation, those same objects ought to change hands for about $76 at current rates, but U.S. shops, internet portals and even the lowly mall asks only around $55 as the industry has failed to provide a justification for lifting prices incrementally skyward over the years. The world has not stood idly by; wages, logistics and other costs grew while the skateboard business repeatedly cast their votes for Ulysses Grant as their preferred candidate for boards. This has lead deck makers and distributors to move manufacturing overseas to cut costs, whilst chipping away at shop margins, and diversifying into shoes and clothes to subsidize deck enterprises in the grand quest for profitability or its less attractive sibling, break-evenness.

It did not have to be this way. The wooden baseball bat —- derived from hardwood trees and among the sporting world’s closest kin to the seven-ply deck —- has not been subject to the same price-point stagnation. Despite occasional mutations in shape and diversification away from ash into maple and birch, the wooden bat has changed relatively little over the past 30 years, if not the past 130. A basic wood bat retailed for around $20-$35 in 1992; similar models today fetch $30 to $160, scaling upwards based upon pro endorsements, premium wood selections and high-tech processing techniques to command enlarged dollar piles from wood-shopping baseballers.

The same embrace of that unbottleable qualitative that produced Natas Kaupas’ hydrant spin, the Fucked Up Blind Kids, and Gou Miyagi is at play here: The visceral pleasure to be milked from sliding silkscreened Canadian hard-rock maple across concrete or stone cannot be replicated through aluminum or synthetic hybrids, probably to the detriment of performance enhancements that might put more balls into end zones or players on base in other, more regimented pastimes. And the same frugal Ludditism that has fueled the past decade’s revival in low-profile vulcanized shoewear translates to a collective “meh” towards innovations such as Almost’s “Impact” decks, corrugated bottom plies and unique wood mixes.

Should board makers dreaming of fatter profits look to the cotton T-shirt, where token shifts in construction and fit allow those with the strongest graphics and market position to nowadays ask $30 or more for an otherwise commoditized garment? Has the remarkably visionary Jason Dill already been applying this concept to boards? Was the riser pad the air bubble of hardware? Do Paul Schmitt and Rodney Mullen possess a secret storehouse of advanced board technologies long-shelved due to fears the seven-ply maple-worshipping would never accept them?