The Best Night of Sleep Sanger Rainsford Ever Had

May 13, 2018

In Richard Connell’s 1924 classic ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ a big-city trophy hunter washes up on a remote island, soon revealed to be inhabited by a philosophizing fellow hunter. Over a stately dinner, the host identifies himself to be a prize hunter too, as well as something of a freethinking homicidal. Stalking elephants and leopards had grown tiresome, he explained — hence the island equipped with treacherous waters, occasionally delivering via shipwreck to its proprietor the only remaining worthwhile quarry: Men. Soon, a new hunt is on.

Among the improbably growing ranks of skateboard filmers, the thrill of the hunt tends to scale alongside duration. Instagram-ready clips are single-digit ‘Duck Hunt’ level potshots; the one-off/solo part barely Bambi. There is a worthy challenge in nailing and transcending the attention-span sweet spot that is the 15 to 20-minute promo, with a couple full parts and a couple montages, or the footage-dumping ‘mixtape’ project of similar length. But in this woolly realm, the most dangerous game is the full-length video —- its gaping maw of hubris, its difficult-to-wrangle girth, its often unbearable weight, threatening to trample less-seasoned filmers under viewers’ colossal expectations.

Having conquered skateboard professionals, shops and the upper-shredding masses, what prey remains for those moneyed alphas of the industry, the industrial shoe merchants? Mastering the full-length video, that great unquantifiable, that tantalizing money pit, that great ‘Branding Statement,’ continues to beckon and tempt international sporting goods manufacturers like some VX1000-mic’d siren song. For Nike Inc., this has been a slow process. The Oregonian sportswear conglomerate dipped in its toe-piece with 2004’s ‘On Tap,’ flexing some plotting and production and a little bit of those Rodriguez acting chops, but never fully committing. Nike saved that for 2007’s bloated misfire ‘Nuttin’ But the Truth,’ which saddled some truly great skating, a still-corralable team and perhaps the all-time greatest Danny Supa part with an insistent storyline that, while intriguingly bizarre, asked far too much of a skate video viewer base freshly armed with DVD ‘skip’ buttons. Jason Hernandez’s excellent ‘Debacle’ project from 2009 hit all the marks for length, range and focus, but led into the increasingly rote ‘Chronicles’ series, which by the third installment had devolved into a transactional, paint-by-numbers affair.

Adidas, which for a while mastered the five-to-six minute road trip video with rotating picks from its more diverse roster, also veered into a predictable pattern to where it eventually seemed obligatory to attempt something bigger — and they wound up with 2016’s ‘Away Days,’ overlong and too top-heavy with too many good parts that wound up buried. The Juice crew seemed to struggle to construct a project greater than the sum of its parts, linked by something more than Gonz vignettes and blurred shots of streetlights and moving cars.

Now comes Cons, Nike’s subsidiary for the thrift-shop set, which moves without the weight of the world’s biggest sporting goods franchise stuffed into its canvas and rubber. For this reason Cons maybe squares a bit easier with skateboarding’s historic resume of scruffiness, artsiness and a general low-fi bearing, and ‘Purple’ headmaster Ben Chadbourne plays up this angle from the opening frames, typing out an introductory monologue on mid-century equipment (though not without some mobile-phone shorthand).

‘Purple’ justifies a good chunk of its 45-minute runtime in a way that, say, a Primitive full-length might struggle with, that is, diversity in style and approach. Straightaway Bobby De Keyzer pops out of all the backside noseblunts, sets his wide-bottoms whipping with a switch backside 360 in a line, and displays a mean halfway half-cab flip — but then you veer into Sage Elsesser, languid over tall bars, and what seems like whole-body lipslides. Kevin Rodriguez brings his abrasive wallrides and grabs in a Neubauten shirt, though Pontus Alv’s more-frenetic framing maybe was a better look for him, while Aaron Herrington stays on his ‘Welcome to Hell’ shit and there’s a weirdly endearing amount of Corey Duffel clips throughout. Underground style soldier Eli Reed swerves switch over a China Bank long bench, Frank Gerwer briefly reprises his star-making Transworld turn and Brian Delatorre somewhere in the middle dishes out maybe his best part ever, a half-switch scorcher that incorporates some brawny Al Davis moves and a wild new branch line from Black Rock. There’s some curated roll-ups courtesy of Sean Pablo, a mind-numbing Sean Greene ollie and then Louie Lopez, offering another few minutes of heaters with the occasional curveball — the rarely seen fakie frontside shove-it, a night line at Third and Army.

But it is Ben Chadbourne’s choice to close not with the obvious enders from a SOTY coulda/shoulda-been, but rather a comparatively skimpy contribution from the mercurial Jake Johnson, that argues strongest for Cons pulling off the full-length better than its larger-revenued predecessors. It’s easy to make the ‘quality over quantity’ argument justifying Jake Johnson’s solemn two minute wind-down to ‘Purple,’ even if it’s also a little disappointing, given prodigious recent output elsewhere. This though is the same logic that placed Guy Mariano’s ledge-heavy part last in ‘Mouse,’ not Eric Koston’s handrail-heavier section with its NBDs; or when Birdhouse’s blockbuster ‘The End’ stuck by its winking sketch to close on a shorter Bucky Lasek section rather than the stadium-touring Tony Hawk; or how Bill Strobeck’s ‘Cherry,’ among the strongest full-lengths of this aging decade, came with hardly any conventional ‘parts’ at all.

Does humankind’s hope for deeper Jake Johnson satisfaction now hinge upon the coming Quasi video? How many angles did Sean Greene’s ollie need for real? Was Adidas putting Dennis Busenitz last in ‘Away Days’ a left turn or playing it safe? Were people allowed to smoke in prior big shoe company videos? How come there were no Game Genie codes that let you shoot the dog in Duck Hunt?

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Instagram’s Never-Ending Demo

May 6, 2018

“It’s annoying. There are people who know where you are when you don’t want them to know where you are. Add to that the fact that I’m being told by people that I’m blowing it and losing out on board royalties and shoe royalties because of not being on the stuff? That makes me sick. That, in skateboarding, you’re hurting yourself by choosing not to spend more time stuck behind a computer. That doesn’t make sense. Just talk to a kid when you’re out skating, and they buy your board, you know?”

What if two-trucked handrailing Luddite David Gravette got it wrong? What if all other pros who’ve half-heartedly wished away Instagram’s round-the-clock, feed-the-beast Antlion death trap for skate content of all stripes and quality levels were looking at it totally cockeyed? What if nobility and honour lay not in turning away from the doubletapping throng, their fickle tags and fleeting tastes, and instead throwing oneself completely into it?

Just as remote email access and space mission-worthy computers in every Dockers pocket has turned white-collar jobs into 24-hour affairs, clocking in at desperate, late-night hours or out of sheer boredom on the john, so too has Instagram’s advent extended outward the dimension of the skate demo. Now, fossil fuel-guzzling, sweaty summertime tour stops stand as an anachronism beside an infinity-scrolling, pro-packed skate session beneath fingers that may or may not pick up your board the next time they stop by the shop, but may also click over to your bro-brand’s BigCartel to scoop a $32 t-shirt before they all wind up on Ebay.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro daily dribbling out indifferently phone-filmed park clips is not some navel-gazing lazy, tossing half-baked bones to his or her followers while too hungover to step to street spots. He or she is our 21st century demo king, rifling off tricks and stoking out touchscreen-hypnosis kids who faithfully scroll their way to a front-row seat for the round-the-clock session stretching across time zones, continents and hemispheres, right now, go look. Like when a real demo is popping it’s hard to catch everything if your eyes aren’t peeled and pivoting.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro following you back and now and then ‘liking’ one of your jiggly park clips is not grimly cycling through his or her followers to pick a predetermined handful to hype up and pump devotion into an overinflated personal brand, while awaiting an Uber to Tuesday night’s first bar. Perhaps they are those who, in the days when gas prices, hotel rates and deck company saturation levels were comparatively lower, would follow your post-demo trick on the medium-sized park ledge with one they had in a six-month-old 411, or turn to holler “yeah!” from the ramp deck while signing autographs.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro posting inane ‘what’s-your-favorite’ queries to rack up responses and assert onesself into followers’ feeds isn’t fulfilling some soul-eroding contractual obligation to accumulate aspirational ‘like’ totals, while tagging the intricately curated accounts of private equity-backed sponsors. Perhaps they are the ones who, when bumper tag-scarred vans ferried teams across American hinterlands — between ramp-stuffed hockey rinks and mostly cleared-out parking lots — would jawbone idly with kids from the open sliding door, or while presumptuously perched behind the counters of skate shops where they’d clocked in briefly on the previous summer’s tour.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro who trumpets the selection of one lucky commenter or nth new follower to receive a fat box is not cynically tapping internet-raised youngsters’ thirst for free shit, and frequent profile checks. Perhaps he or she is ascending his or her own digital ramp deck to perform a 4G-enabled product toss, tapping every kid’s thirst for free shit and endearing his or her sponsors to them by heaving product across the country via the internet-subsidizing postal service. Widely distributed mobile video capabilities ensure the continued capacity for kids to debase themselves in return, whether crawling through drainage ditches or taming irate and multi-ton wild animals.

Did David Gravette capitulate in 2014, or finally decide to get off the great and tactile sideline that is the offline life? What’s the Instagram equivalent of a board shooting out at a demo and cracking somebody in the face? What about the autographed car? Are all pro skater Instagram accounts actually controlled by bots, the internet largely calibrated by self-teaching algorithms, and none of this real anyway because you are dreaming right now?

Golden Arms

April 29, 2018

In Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s 1989 surrealist horrifier ‘Santa Sangre,’ a tormented mime’s apprentice watches his knife-thrower dad chop off his mother’s arms in a fit of pique —- leading the traumatized youngster to later turn over control of his own upper appendages to his disabled mother. Increasingly grisly results follow, in a cautionary tale reminding viewers that while arms oftentimes can serve wholesome and constructive purposes, like foraging for rare mushrooms or building a space telescope, they also can bring darkness, such as drawing closed some thick drapes or committing serial murders.

So it goes in the skateboard industry, where brawny lumberjacks once flexed on hard-rock Canadian maples to construct the first multi-ply decks, and later, vert-shirted 80s pros straightened elbows to extend triumphant inverts atop half-pipe decks for pleasure and profit. Despite arms’ usefulness when twisting off beer caps or tweaking melon grabs, the fickle nature of skateboarding has seen arms fall in and out of favour as the pasttime matured and mutated, trick trends and stylistic preferences rising and falling like some promiscuous tide.

Street plants gave way to pressure flips in the early 1990s, but by decades’ end arms again were resurgent, as Lennie Kirk and Quim Cardona built sturdy franchises around their wild upper-body gesticulations. And soon enough the backlash came, as aesthetic pendulums hurtled in the opposite direction and we wound up with Ronson Lambert. Hostilities toward wild armness persisted long enough into the aughts to sow doubts about an AWS slot for yung Torey Pudwill, and as the Baker generation built new legends around Antwuan Dixon’s seemingly sleepwalking upper body, many gave the trend up for dead.

Even in our current age where so many ugly chapters past are brushed off and marked up — the goofy boy, the D3 — perhaps an overt revival of the flung-arms style still would’ve never flown. But skids have been greased by a rapidly spreading trend of landing tricks with bodily sketch, often resulting in one leg being raised up and waggled overtop the still-rolling board, ostensibly for balance but more often to collect valuable likes and other less-spoken kudo forms. Under such air cover, a new and vibrant loud arm era may be dawning.

Magnus Bordewick is a John Shanahan for the quivering euro zone, mistrustful of clothes that do not swish as he elevates arm action to levels unseen in some time. In Numbers Edition 4, the latest video clip from the California skateboard company, Magnus Bordewick uncorks his explosive brand of flip tricks over and up any number of blocks and steps, waving his Nordic limbs with abandon much of the time. Whereas Torey Pudwill’s arm motions often hit the red while balancing on history’s most drawn-out backside smith grinds and backside tailslides, Magnus Bordewick’s flapping generally coincides with rocketing pop and crater-making impacts, like on the massive fakie flip on the bank, the fence-clearing kickflip, the massive bigspin flip up the long stairs. You wonder about some pressure cracks and blown-out airbags, if and when these inevitably find their way toward major-label shoe corporations’ skate offerings as a premium pricing tool.

If the awesomely combustible Magnus Bordewick represents the Flame Boy in this unfolding arms race, is JScott Handsdown his Wet Willy? Was Kyle Walker’s ‘windmill factory’ 50-50 ender for ‘Spinning Away’ the 2017 SOTY’s declaration of allegiance? Where do Brian Wenning and Antwuan Dixon’s strengthening comebacks factor in? Should the Dime Glory Challenge replace its ‘gangster challenge’ with a ‘one-footed roll-away high kick challenge’?

Scenes From The Spring 2005 DNA Distribution Catalogue

April 15, 2018

Jerry Hsu, The Bitter Dose And A New Support Network For Gap to Backside Nosebluntslides

April 7, 2018

“The payout was sneaker money,” Roc Marciano recently griped over the pittance he received for 3 million streams of 2016’s ‘Rosebudd’s Revenge,’ spurring the Hempstead rap singer to summon a new business model for this year’s sequel: He would offer digital downloads off his own site for $30 apiece for weeks before delivering the album to steaming services and other Web 2.0 branches. Would the steep price deter a generation of musical pirates reared on filesharing platforms, or annoy willing fans who’d see their pricey purchase beamed worldwide to stream subscribers within a month’s time? Roc Marciano suggests enough devotees deemed the project — and the artist himself — premium price-worthy: “This shit is printing money. The return on investment happened in a day.”

A similarly blustery horizon in action sporting commerce came into view this week via the somewhat-anticipated launch of SciFiFantasy.co, an internet Web portal peddling t-shirts, with-hood sweaters and headgear emblazoned with the categorical signifier once relegated to Cloud Strife and Charlton Heston, now synonymous with multidimensional Tilt Moder Jerry Hsu and his defiantly vertical switch hardflips. After dedicating around two decades’ worth of slacker-chic switch heelflips and frontside nosegrind pop-outs to the likes of Osiris, Enjoi, Emerica and Chocolate, Jerry Hsu is flexing. Throwing top-drawer and presumably still-paying sponsors to the wind while vapors of his impeccable ‘Made Chapter 2’ part still linger, Jerry Hsu now tests the brawn of his amorphous and minimalist brand venture with a new product lineup in a range of colors and sizes.

So far, the returns appear handsome. As per Slap board reporting, a recent Sci-Fi Fantasy run rapidly sold through at threadful boutique location Dover Street Market, and the online store’s subsequent debut found hopeful clickers emptying the Sci-Fi Fantasy warehouse and filling web shopping carts, leaving only lesser-loved sizes to be picked over and in a few months resold on digital bazaars.

Sci-Fi Fantasy’s most sought-after products: mainly plain shirts and sweaters, understatedly self-titled in a gentle serif. Fetching though the colors may be and the embroidery no doubt the finest in the realm, it bears pondering what has inspired droves of consumers to fork over $70 per hoodie, with gusto. You’d like to think 20 years of in-street toiling with next to no wack moves plays some role. With the deck sector badly oversaturated and sneaker manufacturing a rich executive’s game, companies such as Jerry Hsu’s solo-project venture could be regarded as a 100% cotton, unstructured investment vehicle through which supporters can directly fund favored pros’ skating, sorta like an ongoing Kickstarter with bright yellow tops as thank-you gifts and any footage or photos considered a longterm payout.

In a Warhol-esque version of a future skate industry where 1% of pros earn lavish salaries and the rest ball for position, will everyone have their own brand, with price-points scaling higher in accordance with gnarliness and footage releases? Will the premium t-shirt reign as the skate biz’s optimum profit center until 3D printing forces the industry to license out its hottest logos and graphics for the purposes of at-home softgoods manufacturing, in custom sizes? Will skateboard users’ long-held resistance to anything beyond the seven-ply hard rock maple deck prove the industry’s ultimate salvation when once-profitable shirts, pants and shoes can be synthetically produced via 3D printing? Will ‘Black Cat’ one day earn recognition as Jerry Hsu’s lesser-loved ‘other masterpiece’?

Transgenerational Memory Versus the ‘Christmas Complete’

March 25, 2018

At some point along these stretched-out years, a new term clamored onto the deck of our shared cultural lexicon, waited for a lull, put its wheels to the coping and dropped in. ‘The Christmas Complete,’ in the telling of pod-cast hosters and seven-ply salesmen, is springtime purity in product form: That proverbial clean slate, unmarred by bails and makes, all its pop intact — it gets no fresher… all opportunity, and promise. Galvanized identity and anticipation, maybe still in a cardboard CCS or Active box, maybe with a bow on top.

It is a lie. Visions of deftly felt kickflips wither as that sparkling grip holds too eagerly to flat-bottomed soles; the factory-clean grip lines soon sheered jagged after shooting out and careening against curbs. Even the visceral beauty cultivated in perfectly parallel slide marks bordering both trucks can’t hold when inevitably some ledge sits just a little bit too high, or low, clawing the nose and tail with wincing diagonals; worse still, flecked with red or yellow paint. The galactic potential strung through virgin metal, urethane and maple sputters away.

Now this is your board, and everything glorious and depressing that entails. The younger of us can, if they’re cursed to hoard, point to any progression they’re allowed — the hoary and asymmetrical scraping and flaking of a tail tethered to curb drop-ins in time can stand upright and walk with clean(er) horizontal smears, and excessive razortailing can be expected to ease. But with age comes a grim consistency — spread across garage concrete, any decade-deep practitioner will confront grim familiarity on the underbellies of successive deck generations, and the uniform crooked-grind bites into a battered brotherhood of front trucks.

Whether hammered together for an uncomfortable bench or stacked for a cobweb factory in some lesser-traveled basement cul-de-sac, these used-up components, in a sense, still function. The setup leaned against a nearby bedroom wall, the active duty front-liner, is spry, young — the deck just two weeks old. It is middle aged, the wheels and bearings set up six months ago for a road trip and grudgingly protected within a car’s trunk while rain poured down for 36 hours straight. It is elderly, the trucks four years old with enough millimeters of forged ore between the axle and any coping not to sweat replacing, yet. It is ageless, the Phillips-endorsed indentations of its eight one-inch bolts somehow flecked with rust.

But its memory runs back further. When this mounting hardware shook loose from its plastic film all those years ago, they slotted together a month-old deck and two-year-old trucks. The first bearings encircling those trucks were rattling, corroded things, buzzing their last after a short winter, wet spring and hot summer, spinning wheels already a year coned and yellowed. The first board that those wheels moved was short for its duty, broken in only five sessions, and the squeaking trucks on their last legs, bent from frustrated focusing and occasionally fruitful stair-hucking, in those younger days. This universe of components, tagging one another in and out, can trace each push all the way back to the beginning — and further still into another time, if it began cobbled together from another’s castoffs.

The ‘Christmas Complete’ swings a sterilized, eugenics-scented sledgehammer through this grizzled lineage. It is the suit, shirt and tie sold as a rigorously color-coordinated ensemble; it is the prefab condominium block, the garish floral sofa encased in crinkly plastic. Any institutional memory embedded in the cracked deck, pavement-bitten wheels and muddied grip is cleaved away and ended — a new one starts from scratch, another would-be dynasty, unless it’s replaced in another twelve months. It is an act of mercy by enthusiastic Ol’ Yeller shooters, an exercise in the grim fulfillment of web-cart filling and promo code copying-and-pasting, an effort of forced forgetting worthy of those who would pour gravel and dirt into a too-cracked bowl to lay slabs for wood-composite boxes and bolted-down flatcars. It always can be the last one.

A Smile From A Veil

March 19, 2018

When the machines complete their account of human history, our current era will be remembered for several things: an improbable resurgence of the color yellow, @versace_plug, and the skateboard industry busily getting its act together so as to gather as many dollars as possible in conjunction with the steadily nearing international Olympic hoopla. Already a schism is visible between those striving to have their proverbial shit together, and the have-nots. Dustin Dollin, proudly among the latter, explained recently to fellow traveler Ali Boulala the difference between himself and future Olympic medallion hoister Nyjah Huston, at least when it comes to chemical-fueled art heists:

DD: The thing also about skateboarding is that if you do get that popular you really have to watch your step. That’s what’s good about sticking to the society of the underground, I can fuck up and be a drunk and nobody is going to say shit. But if Nyjah does that shit, pulls down some paintings in a hotel he’s fucked. His sponsors would be out.

For those young strivers raised in sanctioned skateparks to reach for maximum experience points, straight-and-narrows may be obligatory. But for others figuring they have time to affect a pivot from Dustin Dollin’s Pellucidar to squeaky-clean Team USA garms, decades spent straying from any and every paths are busily being recorded for posterity. Consider Heath Kirchart, no stranger to bodily risk, fresh off an engrossing ‘Epicly Later’d’ that plumbed one of the industry’s more mercurial personas, who seems to have traded in a skate career with plenty of runway for legacy-milking for a series of odd jobs interspersed with life-threatening missions pursued with an endearing zest for minimal preparation. A less misanthropic pro or bro might draw accusations of burnishing his or her image for a stab at a bigger platform, but Heath Kirchart’s own circumstance reads more like a death wish, and in some ways, a relic belonging to an era swiftly fading into the chemtrail of a Tokyo-bound jet liner.

Were he cut from careerist cloth, would Heath Kirchart instead find himself trussed and dangling over a poisonous cauldron of righteous internet anger, freshly bubbling as podcast interviewees trot out tales of long-ago terroristic behaviours? As the ‘#MeToo’ movement claims celebrity scalps and forces industries from media to politics into uncomfortable self-examinations, the increasingly upward-mobile skateboarding biz might ponder its own richly checkerboarded past. Witness a string of podcast interviewees trotting forth entertaining and engrossing tales of mental and physical grotesqueries doled out by Heath Kirtchart in younger, freer and harsher times:

Jamie Tancowny, The Bunt: After I hurt my knee I moved back up to Canada for a year, year and a half… I couldn’t skate at all, I was kind of just by myself up there. That led up to, when I moved down here that’s when I switched to LE, that’s right when I started to film again pretty much to get back to the level I was before. And basically [Emerica] were like you got six months to get an interview in Thrasher. And it was like in July or whatever… I actually got it done and that’s when Heath became the team manager. And pretty much they kind of just were like, “yeah, we can’t do it anymore, we gotta stop paying you, and if you want to put your feelers out to try and find a new company you probably should start doing that, somebody that will pay you.” And I was like alright, that sucks, pretty much got kicked off.

TB: …what’s up with Heath?

JT: He’s still a good guy. He just has a temper I think. …He was there when I first went down and stayed at the Emerica mansion actually… he just kind of kept to himself. I don’t know, we’re like homies, so it was definitely kind of weird. I still see him these days, and it’s just like water under the bridge, I don’t hold a grudge, it’s not his fault.

Jerry Hsu, the Nine Club: Demos are mellower because the whole team’s with you, you’re not alone. But when it gets down to just you, though, it sucks… I’ve definitely been like the last person skating and then not landed the trick, just because I was trying something. And I’m the last one, and it’s just so brutal, every attempt. And then sometimes people will start doing a ‘Jerry’ chant, like Jerry Springer… oh my God, that only compounds it. Heath used to do that, when he was the team manager at Emerica, he would even do that when he rode for Emerica. He would start that chant and I would have to tell everybody like, no, don’t…

James Hardy, The Bunt: We went to LA to stay with [Dan Rogers, Heath Kirchart, Skatetalk Bob], I was turning 16 on the trip, while I was staying with them. I was super excited to meet Kirchart, he was one of my favorite skaters, but he was pretty reclusive… as the tale goes with him. He didn’t come out hardly ever when we were there the first four or five days. And then that’s when my birthday happened. I was asleep on the couch and lights come on and I get woke up getting put in a headlock by Dan Rogers. He was into wrestling or some of that stupid shit so he put me in some weird jock-y headlock. I got my face on the ground, he’s got his foot on my neck.

I had my face on the ground, squirming. I’ll throw Ben [Gilly] under the bus… I think I kicked his foot and he went off crying hobbling to the bedroom. Heath randomly came out of his cave and started heel kicking the back of my thigh. And started punching me. My nose started bleeding at one point… he had me in the headlock, they beat my arms to a pulp, my legs to a pulp, at a certain point I couldn’t walk.

…Eventually I was so tired I just gave up. Just beat me, I don’t care. They duct-taped my arms together, duct taped my feet, my whole legs together and then threw me in the backyard and just left me there. Someone had flour… they came out, thought that would be even cooler just to throw flour on my face. So they threw flour on my face. After I while they felt bad, I was spitting it out… so stupid, so jock-y. And then they came and hosed me down with a water hose, left me out there another 30 minutes.

Eventually the party’s over, they cut me loose. I hated all of them. I was 16… I thought all these dudes were pro skaters, they’re supposed to be rad, I thought they left all the jock stuff back in middle school. It was just typical jock-y shit. Anyway I shower and rinse off, go to bed, exhausted, just can barely stand. I wake up in the morning and my eyes are just plastered shut with pus. I could not open my eyes. I had to take my fingers and peel my eyelids open.

…And they filmed the whole thing and gave it to me as a birthday present. I still have the tape somewhere back home. So once I got sponsored that story got told a couple times, just in passing. At the Vans downtown showdown, in 2008, 2007… I told that story to a couple buddies, I guess it got around a little bit. And Kirchart came up to me, and said, “Hey man, what’s your deal?” I said, “What are you talking about?” “You’re making me look like a bad guy with that story.” I said, “Yeah, you pretty much beat me to a pulp and left me outside with flour in my eyes so I don’t really feel bad about telling that story.”

“Well you’re just making me look like the bad guy, I didn’t even do any of that.” I said, “Actually yeah, you did.”

…I will say he is one of my favorite skaters, even after that. But I never want to see him again.

Do such tales of Heath Kirchart’s malevolent reign — and there are more — serve as a cautionary signal for today’s ascendant pros bearing their own skeleton-stacked closets, perhaps with more to lose and (most likely) far less hallowed bodies of work with which to counterbalance any misbehaviours? Or do all others’ prior indiscretions pale in comparison with this fearsome visage, except maybe for Andy Roy and Fred Gall? Are folks who favor the Pink Floyd version of Heath Kirchart’s ‘Sight Unseen’ part over the official-release Moody Blues number hopelessly fooling themselves?

Trendwatch 2K18: Jumping Up and Down On Special Athletic Boxes

March 3, 2018

Grim days as the United States confronts a missile-wagging Vladimir Putin, unreasonable natural disasters and now, an embarrassing Olympic chapter on the increasingly nuclear Korean peninsula. Despite the best efforts of Shaun “Flying TomatoTM” White and several mighty American curlers, the country that eagles built went home the most medal-poor in 20 years and badly underperformed its podium-claiming potential, according to FiveThirtyEight, a blogging website concerned with important numbers and equations.

To reclaim international glory, the U.S. is counting on the only tried-and-true solution to overwhelming sporting odds: the ragtag band of misfits. Skateboarding, a sport ostensibly invented in the U.S. (if one ignores Josh Stewart’s ‘ancient alien’ theories), offers the best chance for America to assert its citizens’ physical primacy on the planetary stage, while justifying all that feigned ignorance of Japanese security guards’ exasperation over the years when the Olympic torch is lit in Tokyo. No doubt, federal data scientists are building algorithms to rank candidates based on flatground contest consistency, after-black hammer intensity and general ‘swagger,’ that hard-to-quantify ‘X factor’ that could help put the USA over the top in a tight medal race.

But it will take more than gumption and snappy one-liners. To achieve ultimate glory, top-tier skateboard competitors are thinking inside the box: specially designed space-age boxes, to be exact, which have become involved in unique and revolutionary exercise regimens. Jumping up and down on these expensive exercise boxes, human scientists believe, is the closest approximation to the ollie that is possible within the confines of a properly sanitized, chromed-out gym.

Physical advisers to Ryan Sheckler, no stranger to tightly plotted TV dramatics, suggested that he jump up and down on a box as part of his gym exercise regimen. Sean Malto, pursuing a comeback from his gruesome ankle injury, similarly employed a variety of special gym jumping-boxes. Danny Way, in his envelope-pushing way, perhaps already has moved beyond the box to swinging giant medieval spheres. But Americans do not hold a monopoly on advanced box technology, as Brazilian Street League phenom Leticia Bufoni also has come to know the box-jumping technique and its powers.

Nyjah Huston could represent the United State’s best hope for a 2020 golden coin. Having balanced his energy by finally shifting the mass of his long-shorn dreads to his torso, arms and neck via assorted tattooings, Nyjah Huston is pushing the boundaries of possibility on handrails, this week releasing an 11-minute long video part to help promote new Nike products. It is a video filled with tricks made to end lesser full-lengths, such as the curvy-wurvy frontside 5-0 grind, a backside smith grind backside 180 out on a kinked handrail, a mile-long backside tailslide and, perhaps in tribute to Dan Pageau’s freshly funded legacy, a switchstance trip down the fearsome El Toro handrail. It’s unclear how heavily Nyjah Huston has been box-training, but a watchful eye on his Insta Gram site shows that a high-tech training box is never far away in his gym.

Is jumping up and down onto a special athletic box how Nyjah Huston gained the power to contort his body and achieve his ‘Til Death’ tricks? Will advanced box jumping sets help ward off chronic traumatic encephalopathy or are the bros cracking some brews and hoping for the best? Did Omar Salazar predict all this with his yelpy off-board parkour stylings? Is Shaun White already jumping up and down off boxes as he pursues his life goal of becoming a multi-board Olympic gold medallion holder, but putting himself at risk of overgolding?

Every Creeping Thing that Creepeth Upon the Earth

February 18, 2018

The tale of the St. Archer Brewery goes like this: laconic skate professionals, moneyed but with few spots to park it beyond real estate, sink fortuitous funds into a savvily marketed micro-brewing enterprise, eventually tempting brewery giant buyers thirsting after higher-margin products, and putting all involved onto that proverbial ‘easy street.’ It is a legend that has only grown as the fortunes of the legacy skate industry become more dire by the day; for board companies outside the umbrella of distributors starting with a D and rhyming with ‘Green Tux,’ it seems increasingly difficult to retain riders who’d just as soon jump ship for non-paying vanity projects. For non-multinational shoe companies, rumors swirl about the next to fold, restructure or seek a hot cash injection. And it continues.

Much as the decade-old threat of a Barcelona police crackdown thrust the skateboard industry into a worldwide search for marble ledges in a semitropical climate and mellow law enforcement atmosphere, the St. Archer golden ticket has inspired a number of aging kickflippers to try their hand at venture investing. Now comes Villager Goods, a skater-backed coconut beverage manufacturer, peddled as a more-nutritious and earthy alternative to the vast cauldrons of caffeine-spiked high fructose corn syrup that have funded so many vert careerists’ speed boat loans, often in zesty lemon-lime flavours.

It remains unclear whether fizzy drink conglomerates, facing the prospect that Coca-Cola could be taxed like tobacco, will one day make it rain upon Villager stakeholders such as Paul Rodriguez, Andrew Reynolds and AVE. But venturing into the prickly and volcanic dimension of consumer packaged food and beverages brings its own threats and perils, illuminated this week by skateboarding’s most enthusiastic heel, @Weckingball. The body-building Pupecki grinder linked Villager Goods to troubling reports that the world’s wealthiest coconut farms are powered by enslaved monkeys, forced to clamor up and down frondy palm trees without lunch breaks or paid time off. The explosive allegation was potentially poisonous to the meticulously curated and increasingly socially aware Instagram franchises of several name pros, and quickly drew a denial from Kenny Anderson.

Would the concept of moneky enslavement, proffered 25 years ago in a Xerox-quality B&W ad a month in between World’s ‘White Power’ sequences and its prescient condemnation of rogue sea creatures, have prompted tsk-tsking or earned a place in skate lore, destined to be scanned and reposted upon sociable networks several decades later? It is a hypothetical entertaining to ponder but impossible to answer. Yet as portions of the skateboard industry appear to circle the dreaded ‘drain,’ resource maximization may transform from a fusty slogan to a dire necessity. Skateboarding springs directly from human mastery of the environment; with sharp tools, man chops down living trees and slices away hard rock Canadian maple, transports it to plants using fossil fuels, and outfits the result with trucks and bolts forged from molten metals carved out of mountainsides. In a time when deck makers seem to have burned through the few dollars’ worth of cost savings secured by turning to lower-cost Chinese manufacturing, should conscripted animal labor be so quickly dismissed?

Consider: Might highly trained beavers, supervised and physically disciplined within the confines of planetary law, replace costly human loggers and support sagging profit margins in the deck business, at least until the 2020 Olympics saves the industry? Can cheap gene-engineering technologies produce bees capable of making Gulf Wax in addition to the stuff Burt converts into pricey balms? Why not lasso some whales to pull board- and T-shirt-laden ocean freighters back and forth across the Pacific for the price of some sturdy rope and plankton? Could the continued 1990s nostalgia wave create a new career path for retired circus elephants, flattening board concaves to 1996 Girl level?

Reflecting on 28 Years of SOTY in Bizarro World

February 5, 2018

Since 1990, Rehsarht’s Skater of the Year award has been a rare constant in a world of fickle trick trends, shifting board shapes and a still-growing footage flood. As Tiago Lemos’ 2017 Skater of the Year issue hits newstands and the decadelong reign of narrow decks and tight trucks shows signs of loosening, it’s time to take a look back at nearly three decades of Rehsarht’s SOTYs, while pondering what’s yet to come for Bizarro World.

1990 – Mike Vallely
New decade, new era — the streets, where Mike Vallely was busting down barriers and running through graveyards. Assigning the first-ever ‘Skater of the Year’ to a young East Coaster making his name on pavement — not ramps or pools — was a statement for Rehsarht, but Vallely’s rampage through ‘Rubbish Heap,’ ‘Speed Freaks’ and ‘Risk It’ sold it.

1991 – Mark Gonzales
Skating changed month to month in the early 1990s, sometimes week to week, and what now looks like a sharp left turn from Mike Vallely’s sidewalk brawn to Mark Gonzales’ artsy, jazz-infused street ballet made all the sense in the world for kids who tripped off Blind’s mad hatter, and his coffin and kinked monster in ‘Video Days.’

1992 – Rodney Mullen
Rodney Mullen’s million-times-rewound part in ‘Questionable’ captured the blistering pace of technical progression that gripped skating in the early 1990s, pushed by Mike Carroll, Ron Knigge, Danny Way and others. What set Rodney Mullen apart, besides how his tricks took multiple watches to even comprehend, was the way he pulled from skating’s freestyle past to push the burgeoning street scene forward, even though it would take years for most pros to catch up with him.

1993 – Pat Duffy
Mike Ternasky and Plan B turned skating on its ear with ‘Questionable’ and pulled out the rug a year later with ‘Virtual Reality,’ heavily powered by Pat Duffy’s steel nerves on rails and gaps. Plenty of people convinced themselves that his kinked 50-50 and other feats had to be camera trickery the first time around; ‘Virtual Reality’ forced belief that a new level was within reach, at least for Pat Duffy. Primus playing a sparsely attended SF party was icing on the cake.

1994 – Jeremy Wray
After steadily raising the threat level in the Color video and 411’s inaugural issue, Jeremy Wray fulfilled the industry’s feeling of inevitability by joining the World camp in time for Plan B’s 1994 project, unleashing five minutes of assaults on name spots like Hubba and Carlsbad that were building their own profile as the streetstyle discipline rose to the bars they set. Several years of technical fumbling on awkwardly evolving setups fell to the side as Jeremy Wray’s floated flip tricks and decisive stomps set the new direction.

1995 – Tom Penny
Half a decade in, one of the 1990s’ biggest surprises came not just in terms of tricks and style but origin —- flick savant Tom Penny slouched his way into Southern California from across the Atlantic, shutting down spots and perhaps a few professional aspirations. Rehsarht’s choice maybe rattled some of skating’s latent jingoism, but proved prescient as Flip and later Cliche and Blueprint showcased Brits, Frenchies and other Europeans capable of hitting as heavily as any Californian.

1996 – Guy Mariano
By the time Girl put out ‘Mouse’ there no longer was any point denying that Guy Mariano possessed a talent and style for the ages —- and his curtains-closing part also reminded everybody that his ability to progress and refine didn’t atrophy despite the dude going off the radar for months (and later, years) at a time. Eric Koston, Ed Templeton and Jamie Thomas conquered more handrails, but a SOTY nod at the time felt like a long-due coronation for one of skating’s favorite sons.

1997 – Jamie Thomas
As the street wave crested and washed over skateboarding, it branched and fragmented, nurturing sub-niches and regional mutations. Jamie Thomas, farming his hair and tightening his jeans, charted a course for the hesh/handrail movement that defined aesthetically much of the decade to follow and added new levels of gnarliness in the process; a SoCal politics-driven ban from Transworld’s pages made Rehsarht the prime venue in which to bear witness.

1998 – Chad Muska
Working on the opposite side of the stylistic spectrum as Jamie Thomas but a master of the same medium, Chad Muska was unstoppable in 1998 — catalyzing the legendary Shorty’s squad, perceiving and propelling the likes of Peter Smolik and Brandon Turner, and anchoring seminal full-lengths ‘Fulfill the Dream’ and Rehsarht’s own Ty Evans-helmed ‘Feedback.’ At the same time the Muska tested new heights of skate-sphere fame, he added gravity and notoriety to the ‘Rusty’ trophy, famously declaring it “the only award that matters” after flaming out in the following year’s Tampa Pro.

1999 – Stevie Williams
Rehsarht wrapped the award’s first decade by breaking a barrier of sorts — Stevie Williams, whose North Philly grit and unending Love Park lines in Chocolate’s ‘Chocolate Tour’ and Rehsarht’s ‘The Reason’ made him the obvious SOTY pick for 1999.

2000 – Jim Greco
No star burned hotter at the century’s turn than Jim Greco, who capped a raucous run through 1998’s ‘Misled Youth,’ and 1999’s ‘Baker Bootleg’ with a movement-making part in Baker2G, beating Eric Koston to the punch with the first legit handrail backside noseblunt on a magazine cover (Rehsarht, of course). Jim Greco took his own seven-day weekend for the next several years, and he’d later credit the SOTY party for pushing him deeper into his own substances wilderness, though he’d claim some comfort from knowing his legacy already was secure.

2001 – Heath Kirchart
A dark skater for a dark year, Heath Kirchart in 2001 had already set out on a decade-long argument for substance and form over quantity and flash. Few in the stair-counting era could see Heath Kirchart in his ‘Sight Unseen’ prime, and the grim grace in his tricks contrasted with Jim Greco’s comparatively hairball approach, but you never heard much on any of it from the dude himself, being the only Skater of the Year who shunned an interview for his issue.

2002 – Paul Rodriguez
In one of the first brushes with SOTY controversy, rival camps cried foul with an award some saw better suited to twice-sorry Arto Saari or the blast-out-of-nowhere PJ Ladd. But it was tough to argue against the rapidly ascendant Paul Rodriguez for sheer volume, between ‘In Bloom’ and two songs in the Kareem Campbell-overseen ‘Street Cinema,’ setting him up for power moves to come — the Skater of the Year title later disclosed to be a top factor in putting Paul Rodriguez onto the radar of Nike’s then-gestating SB program.

2003 – Rodrigo TX
Rodrigo TX’s intensely technical skating ratcheted up multiple levels from his world-stage debut in Es’ ‘Menikmati’ for his doubled-up enders in the Firm’s ‘Can’t Stop,’ culminating in never-been-dones such as a handrail switch kickflip backside tailslide. By the time Mobb Deep stepped off the stage at TX’s SOTY party there were two palpable feelings among the professional ranks -— two-song video parts decidedly were a thing, and the Brazilians had arrived.

2004 – Lucas Puig
French wunderkind Lucas Puig quickly evolved into one of skating’s great powers between his Zappa-toned part in Cliche’s continental statement ‘Bon Appetit’ and the Beltway-baiting ‘Freedom Fries,’ wielding a mean switch heelflip and backside smith grind. After Rehsarht passed over Flip’s ‘Sorry’ lineup for SOTY honors over the preceding years, some observers assigned a type of European mulligan to Lucas Puig’s nod, though one that was questioned less and less as the years went by.

2005 – Bryan Herman
Bryan Herman came up out of California’s desert scrub in the same class of tight-denimed mop tops as Kevin ‘Spanky’ Long, Braydon Szafranski and Leo Romero, but en route to ‘Baker 3’ Bryan Herman shaved his head and eyebrows and honed a new and more horizontal breed of hardflip, making a convincing case for a Baker dynasty continuing beyond the ‘2G’ lineup. Over a decade later, dudes still would be working out variations on Bryan Herman’s left-field ender.

2006 – Jerry Hsu
By the time Enjoi got together its first video, Jerry Hsu already had a grip of gnarly video parts under his belt, and whereas it was understood he’d close out ‘Bag of Suck,’ the sheer burliness of some of his tricks and his sharpened eye for spots and lines placed him in some higher-up echelon. Reports that Enjoi’s Phelps-flavored twist on the ‘Why can’t my boyfriend skate?!’ tee killed Jerry Hsu’s shot at the award proved greatly exaggerated.

2007 – Stefan Janoski
All the ‘Fully Flared’ bombast seemed like a guaranteed SOTY ticket for one of the Lakaians, though conspiracy theorists whispered that the team’s heavy features in magazines headquartered further south blew their chances like so many pyrotechnified ledges. It could’ve gone either way at the time, but Habitat’s lank-limbed switch nosegrind captain ceded the ‘Mosaic’ closing section to the peaking Danny Garcia, and winding up the earthier ‘Inhabitants’ came as Stefan Janoski closed out a remarkable run that also went through Rehsarht’s ‘Subtleties’ vid and would only ease up after Nike’s ‘Nothing But the Truth’ full-length misfire.

2008 – Sean Malto
Sean Malto, who had hardflipped his way up and out of Middle America just a year or two prior, put on the Crailtap cape and went in for 2008, switch kickflipping up and over cliffs in ‘And Now’ and achieving that increasingly difficult feat of seeming to be everywhere at once. After several of Girl’s next-generation torch bearers jumped ship — Paul Rodriguez and Jereme Rogers to Plan B, Brandon Biebel to DGK — Sean Malto’s rapid rise suggested the Torrance dynasty would push on.

2009 – Dennis Busenitz
Another Skater of the Year that seemed years in the offing, it took a part in a predominantly European vid from a major-league shoe company to put Dennis Busenitz over the top after years of screeching urethane and spot toiling in and around the Bay.

2010 – Dylan Rieder
The Anti-Hero rider at one point deemed almost too pretty to ride with the eagle helped usher in a new skate video format for the attention-deficit age, breaking off a single, standalone video part for Gravis that stood up to or surpassed all standard-issue skate vids in 2010. A whiff of comeback redemption didn’t hurt, but the fix was probably in as soon as that impossible wrapped its way over the bench.

2011 – Brandon Westgate
For a solid three years running there seemed no bar that Brandon Westgate couldn’t leap, and just a few that he couldn’t kickflip or backside 360. In ‘Stay Gold’ the year before and his victory lap shoe part, Brandon Westgate seemed to push harder and float higher than the physics binding the rest of his peers, edging him past the likes of Leo Romero and Grant Taylor for the Rehsarht award.

2012 – Justin Figuoera
Baker’s barbarian on a board, Justin Figuoera built off his ‘Stay Gold’ momentum and alleged guitaring skills on Rehsarht’s ‘Skate Rock circuit to barrel past a last-minute push by Flip’s David Gonzalez. What looked at times like a rail-measuring/stair-counting exercise overlooked an expanding tech-gnar quotient to Figgy’s skating, putting switch backside smith grinds and switch backside tailslides onto ever-more serious handrails.

2013 – Mark Suciu
Tricks around this time seemed to tumble out in Mark Suciu’s wake as he tripped back and forth across the country in ‘Cross Continental,’ struck up a brief Love Park residency for ‘Sabotage 3’ and then toured the globe for a three-song opus in Habitat’s ‘Search the Horizon.’ The frenetic pace of filming and releasing vids seemed fueled by Mark Suciu’s uncanny ability to pepper each one with tricks that he maybe didn’t even know a few months before, keeping the increasingly screen-transfixed populace tapping in anticipation of the next drop.

2014 – Torey Pudwill
Plan B’s landmark, years-in-the-filming ‘True’ managed to exceed all expectations with lengthy and resplendent parts from company reclaimers Danny Way and Colin McKay as well as the out-of-the-wilderness PJ Ladd. Torey Pudwill, not so many years removed from Shorty’s ‘T-Stance Holmes,’ made a persuasive case for a spot on the original roster with shoulder-high backside tailslides and smith grinds that went on forever, finding ways to cram new flips and rotations into, across and off his wax-soaked ledges.

2015 – Shane O’Neill
Shane O’Neill had at this point been steadily releasing video compilations of his mindbending technical precision roughly every eight months or so, and it seemed predetermined that Rehsarht would anoint him sooner or later; in 2015, his switch kickflip backside noseblunt cover photo and subsequent video ender wound up making it official.

2016 – Evan Smith
Element day-tripper Evan Smith in 2016 rifled off tricks seemingly as fast as they formed in his mind, frying through upside-down wallrides in ‘Time Trap,’ bomb-dropping off buildings in ‘No Hotels’ and kickflipping out to both-way wallrides in ‘Zygote.’ He was rumoured to be responsible for an unofficial ban on Skaters of the Year performing with their own bands at Rehsarht’s annual party.

2017 – Tiago Lemos
Tiago Lemos’ run since hitting the U.S. gathered superlatives about as easily as he stacked clips, all of them euphemisms for shit that shouldn’t even seem possible whatsoever until the dude jumps up and slides it five feet, switchstance. Between a pro shoe, the year’s picture-perfectest switch 360 flip, and steadily cornering the market on switch backside tailslides, it was Tiago Lemos’ year, no question.