Banger Fatigue And The Yearlong Week

December 4, 2022

‘Apocalypse fatigue’ is a vocabulatory buzzphrase leaned upon to capture a sense of dissociation, listlessness, and spiritual shell-shockedness, used early on in the context of eroding public focus on climate change, more recently applied to the Covid-19 pandemic, geopolitics, threats from malicious asteroids, and so on. A sense of international malaise, weaving somewhere between wonder and a concussion, can similarly be applied to the climax of skateboarding’s 2022 awards season, in which around a half hour of bar-raising video footage has been published to digital internet players over the course of a handful of days — stretching the limits of what seems possible and sometimes leaving the viewer to do little else but laugh at the absurdity of a nollie backside heelflip backside lipslide down a 12-stair handrail as a set-up trick, or popping a frontside noseblunt up the NY pyramid ledges. 

Between Nyjah Huston’s 12 minutes of handrail and hubba obliteration — including three tricks at Clipper in the same session involving switch or nollie heelflips in — and Tyshawn Jones rifling off a succession of back-to-back flip tricks over garbage bins higher than some pros could even ollie, not to mention the kickflip over the subway tracks, the skateboard media consumer can be allowed a bloated feeling of overwhelm. In between all this, Tristan Funkhouser smoked SF again and Louie Lopez still looms. Somewheres, kids are staring at their boards, feeling mildly bludgeoned and wondering if something is drawing to an end, and you feel for the Thrasher brain trust having to sort through it all and make a ruling

In past epochs, progression has come and gone in great waves, oriented as much around sub-disciplines as anything else. Christian Hosoi, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Danny Way, Colin McKay and various other 1980s superheroes pushed the vert medium to a certain threshold before the bottom dropped out of the industry and street skating rose up, hurtling toward a flurry of flip-trick technicalities that crested and fell back even more quickly. Zero, Baker, Flip and others later hoisted the handrail era, which eventually was supplanted by the time of ledge dancing brought on by ‘Fully Flared.’ The outfits changed, and most of the names on the title cards, but they all eventually ran out of steam. 

As the focus shifted over the past decade from the professional class collectively questing after biggest/longest/hardest and toward a more fragmented universe in which specialized practitioners mine their chosen seams, progression in this IG/personal brand era revolves heavily around the individual. Now it is Sean Green and Jeff Carlyle driving forward the hill bomb, your Jamie Foys and Nyjah Hustons on handrails, Mark Suciu and Shane O’Neill and so on for technicalness, and so forth. There are not many persons doing things at the level to which Tyshawn Jones has elevated monstrous pop, or Nyjah Huston’s brain-numbing array of handrail stunts. But individuals get tired. Their bodies break, and sometimes they want to chill. 

Turning the calendar toward a fresh year means the revolving door can admit whomsoever wants to get super gnarly for the next annual cycle, and there can be no doubt that there are garrulous contenders now planning their 2023 campaigns. But after the events of the past week — Nyjah Huston taking the k-grind on the Dylan Rieder rail all the way down through the kink, whatever you call the fakie version of a nollie backside over-crook; Tyshawn Jones 360 flipping gaps that previously had only been ollied, hardflipping a 10-foot-tall bump to bar — it is hard to imagine another go-round, even kind of exhausting. 

Despite the eat-what-you-kill, increasingly productivity-oriented biz of pro skating, would anybody hold it against Nyjah Huston or Tyshawn Jones or Tristan Funkhouser or Louie Lopez or the rest of the fourth-quarter strivers if they kind of relaxed next year? By not lacing T-Funk with a shoe deal, is Vans missing out on making it a four-way SOTY contest with Nike, Adidas and Converse? With Nyjah Huston’s street filming obligations assuming to have been fulfilled for the time being, does his training and narrative-building for the 2024 Summer Games begin in earnest? Is it a coincidence that two of the current epoch’s most intensely skilled skaters also rank among its loudest dressers? After this past week does everybody maybe need a nap?

The Ballad Of The Expedition One Sticker From 2014

November 20, 2022

Oh say, oh say-ho!

Buried at the bottom of the shoebox again
Don’t try and ask me just how long it’s been
Sometimes we’re rifled through
Now and then they’ll take a few
But I stay, ‘cuz I’m just an Expedition One sticker from 2014.

Never been peeled and pressed onto a board
Nor slapped on a sign or a hand-me-down Ford
I’ve still got my backing
And newer stickers keep stacking
On me, a never-used Expedition One sticker from 2014.

Oh say, oh say-ho!

A stick in each hand as I bang, drum and pound
A song none will hear, a rhythm making no sound
I’ll play day and night
Just don’t ask me why
No answers for an Expedition One sticker from 2014.

What’s got a head but no hope or dream?
What’s got a mouth, but no words to sing?
If you said a bottle you’re right
I’ll be here all night
No one needs an Expedition One sticker from 2014.

Oh say, oh say-ho!

Can’t tell you for sure where things seemed to go wrong
Old heads, old graphics mostly done when I came along
Flannels, fishing and beer
Prebookers weren’t trying to hear
Or me, an Expedition One sticker from 2014.

DGK, Gold and Organika, we were slipped in a pack
A little promo for the kids, try and build the hype back
For months, years I wait
To be forgotten, my fate
The unlived life of an Expedition One sticker from 2014.

Oh say, oh say-ho!

Kelly Hart speaks to thousands, but no words for me
Palace remakes Welsh’s board (but it ain’t EXP)
Kenny Hoyle’s a legend
‘Alone’ is remembered
but not I, an Expedition One sticker from 2014.

Heard there’s a land where old stickers are loved
Good condition fetches bids 20 bucks or above
Not for me though
Not yet ten years old
See, I’m just a beer-shaped, drum-playing, lonely old Expedition One sticker from 2014.

Oh say, oh say-ho!

Warm Fuzzies, Cats And Dogs, And The One Line That Remains Uncrossable

November 12, 2022

Winter early moves to wrap its frigid grip around the U.S.A. Walmart, King of The Stores, has already unveiled its holiday offering-deals. In the bristleish and untucked realm of the skate-board, the season of warm fuzzies already is at hand.

In the U.K., department store operator John Lewis released its annually anticipated holiday ad, which this week cascaded across screens of varying size via a thumbnail image of a days-bearded middle ager squeezing on a helmet, prompting reactions ranging from ‘don’t I know that guy’ to ‘I am that guy.’ As an apparent product of the secular advertising industry, the bulk of the ad cuts unnervingly close to the bone for those old enough to lack the schedule flexibility to hit anything but the most-packed or least-lit park hours, but young enough to reject throwing in the towel (or resist You-Tube perusals at work). The majority of the ad plays the DadBro’s quest for a kickturn less for laughs and more along the lines of some pitiable yearning to reclaim youth or maybe a midlife crisis, until a knock at the door puts the whole thing into a much different context (that’s also very 2022 in its take on who’s down these days). After years of harnessing 720s and kickflips to market carbonated beverages, the dairy industry and the U.S. military, it is a welcome shift.

Half a hemisphere away, in a California schoolyard (but not that kind), the seven-ply Sterling Coopers of WKND up-loaded a ‘Clueless’ style walking tour through the brandings, identities and cliques currently occupying various positions across the industry, Internet and life generally in ‘Alan Gelfand High.’ The menagerie, festooned with neck braces, noxious fumes and pregnant cheerleaders, skewers the nature of the industry and skating itself, sometimes gently and sometimes less so; Paul Rodriguez, Big Nakie, Nora Vasconcellos, Heath Kirchart, Rowan Zorilla and various others all are allotted screen time to illustrate the ecosystem’s wide-ranging coexisters, until arriving at the one line that narrator/guide Bob says represents “social suicide” (which is to say, rollerbladers), presenting the WKND team-riders with a stark choice.

It’s a well-crafted and details-laden reframing of a familiar story in service of a collab product line between WKND and blader brand Them Skates. The project seems geared toward furthering and challenging the more-accepting place that skateboarding is now in, where varial kickflips and other dad tricks are freely filmed, the most questionable music selection and fashion choices of the early 2000s are embraced, and vibe triumphs over podium placements and NBDs. There are long rambles to be penned about inclusivity and how far things have come and how far they have yet to go, but there can be no doubt that things are in a different place than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago.

And yet, there is a line that WKND’s norms-challenging commercial avoids entirely, a group for which John Lewis’ heart-warming TV commercial opens no doors. While collabing with a rollerblader company in 2022 is to sample the often lonely, widely derided outcast path required to be a skateboarder in the early 1990s — from the comfort of what’s now a firmly established and generally understood subculture, if not a particularly celebrated or lucrative one — the quantity of heart and flame emojis in response to ‘Alan Gelfand High’ heavily outweighed the raised eyebrow ones and the relatively few expressions of outright disgust from the old guard. The truly daring collaboration, though, would be in the less-underground and more vigorously reviled realm of the scooter, its clanking platform and unwieldy handlebars challenging all notions of style and execution and geometry, its ranks made legion by innumerable preteens flopped across skatepark quarterpipes, a wreckage of GoGurt entrails leaking behind them, phalanxes of red-faced parents bearing water bottles and sunscreen forming a fearsome rear vanguard.

In this story, are the scooter riders of our day the ugly duckling rejected by its snooty swan peers, or a demon to be recognized for its unholy nature and summarily cast out? Are Los Angeles-area trailblazers 10C41, who released earlier this year on their channel a scooter vid called ‘RazorBLADE’, once again way ahead of the curve in pushing of envelopes? Does the heavily underground nature of the modern rollerblader scene make them by default cooler than skateboarders, with all the day jobs, confused looks and jeers from passing cars to prove it?

Wrath, Reality And The Raw Deal: Runners ‘N Riders For Thrasher Skater Of Tha Year 2022

October 30, 2022

In these topsy turvy times of celebrity curses and automated internet warfare, when superheroes serve mainly as anchors for movie franchises or heavy-class ocean freighters, what truly matters? If you answered ‘nothing’ you have achieved a level of nihilism that may qualify you for hawking used autos or maintaining any number of illicit substance problems. If you answered Thrasher Magazine’s ‘Skater of tha Year’ award, you may possess sufficiently heightened awareness to accurately recognize the lesser import of golden medallions, money cups and corn syrup-and-caffeine-drenched riches of various description. Who has a line on it this year? Who is bound for eternal glory, and who for the flamey fires of darkest Hades, or maybe both? Let us read along and find out.

Louie Lopez: A perennial contender over much of the past decade and in the discussion once again, the ‘Rusty’ trophy may be starting to resemble Lucy’s football to the Lou stans of the world. His bona fides at this point are not debatable and he’s this year made vids for FuckingAwesome and Spitfire, held down a Volcom tour clip, produced one of those less-common covers that commands repeated close examination and came up with possibly the most-reposted trick out of CPH Pro. He’s just had another interview-length feature in the mag with a bunch of photos that suggest more footage to come, and he’s still got a month or so to film, so odds are he could produce two if he was looking to turn up the volume.

Tristan Funkhouser: Baker’s can’t-drive-55 grease fire had so far probably the most classically ‘Thrasher’ video part this year in last spring’s Baker production, mixing his typical hairball shit like the drop down to nose manual on the Union Square block and the ferocious rip all the way through the China Banks with other pulls from his increasingly deep bag, like that switch heelflip down the SF triple set. He was all over last summer’s GX video too, most crazily the nosegrind down the Mason Street rail into the hill, and maybe will have some more before the year is out. That jaw-dropper cover shot of the frontside ollie across the long China Banks bench, a trick that was landmark enough to cap off a documentary, and with the checkerboard slips and Jagermeister shirt, seems a credible deal-sealer that would be tough to argue against.

Tyshawn Jones: After flying the FuckingAwesome coop earlier this summer, Tyshawn Jones now is fully in album mode, in the past month putting out an all-time cover for the magazine and unloading the first of at least a couple promised batches of footage in a ‘Hardies Hardware’ video that seemed comprised mainly of clips that would rank as enders for a good deal of other dudes. His bar for the tricks and spots he chooses and judicious dispensing of footage and photos makes his stuff hit harder when it lands, and it’s a strong case when he’s firing on all cylinders like this. But there’s way too many credible candidates year in and year out to hand the award to the same dude twice; the Thrasher brain trust should let Tyshawn’s current run, like Ishod’s and Kyle Walker’s in various years past, function as further justification for the years they won, and show that the title is just as much a bet on longevity beyond one or two big years or vids.

Fred Gall: In years past a half-joking response to this question that after a 25-year run now seems fairly credible, Uncle Fred has evolved from a beloved ODB-style wildman into one of the culture’s more unlikely elder statesmen, maybe even more deeply beloved. This year he did a heavy video part that stands up with some of his best stuff going back to the Sub-Zero days, has been DIYing spots all around New Jersey, presided over a more-official relaunch of his longtime homies’ board company, is helping people kick drugs, and stood for a rare portrait cover for Thrasher wearing a stained shirt and war-weary stare. It’s probably not him this year, but imagine if it were.

TJ Rogers: The leading contender for biggest pants on a Canadian — itself a heavily contested title from year to year — TJ Rogers also has represented one of the more upbeat storylines in another tumultuous year, battling cancer and appearing in recent months to have gained the upper hand. He has pumped out video parts while doing so, with some heavy stuff like a really scary nollie backside 180 over the fence at Hollywood High and an earmuff headphone save after a big backside lipslide; whereas 20 years ago riding for Blind and Es could put a pro like Ronnie Creager comfortably atop the sponsorship food chain, these days it gives TJ Rogers kind of an underdog sheen.

Jeff Carlyle: His shaved head/beard combo helping to pick him out in the various GX1000 productions, Jeff Carlyle could be argued to have gotten the gnarliest in ‘Right Here for Pablo’ a few months ago, hitting up a burly rail while the authorities close in, going back to back with Jake Johnson on a bump to bar to ledge, backside lipsliding to plunging down Mason Street, and certain other notables. All that being said, while Greyson Fletcher and Nick Boserio have done a lot to bring the flowing wizard whiskers to the fore in recent years, history shows that nobody has won Skater of the Year whilst sporting a big, full beard.

Over 15 Years Hence, Are The Notorious Red-And-Black Legged Pants At Risk Of Becoming Passé?

October 23, 2022

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” These are the now-famous lyrics of Batman’s 1989 hit single ‘Batdance,’ and eerily prescient ones at that — from topping the charts amidst the George Bush Sr presidency, Batman his own self would soon succumb to those ill-fated familiars that dragged down many of his ’80s pop contemporaries — drink, drugging and crushing self-doubt, costing him collaborators, his major-label deal and nearly his life, until mounting a comeback on the mixtape circuit several years later. 

It is a horrific parable knowed all to well to Batpersons. But what about the rest of us? There can be many applications of Batman’s particular flavour of bumper sticker-ready, vigilantistic sloganeering, but the one that demands immediate action relates, like so many things, to pants. It has been scientifically established that fit, material and the incorporation of extra pockets follows a fairly rigorous 8-12 year time cycle, with denims, chinos and corduroys rising and like the oceanic tides. Other, more exotic approaches, such as the Muska-bunch or the graphical sweatpant, surface more sporadically, and then there are the periodic transgressions, when things are deemed to have gotten ‘out of hand’ and appear to require course-correcting or some kind of cultural gut-check. 

So it was back in the mid-00s, when yung Garrett Hill donned a pair of customized jeans with one red leg and one black prior to 360 flip 50-50 grinding a round handrail for an Osiris Shoe Co ad and subsequent Zero promo. The trick rated among the era’s gnarliest and rarest filmed, at least for those not named Forrest Edwards, but it was the pants selection that would go on to live in infamy. As Garrett Hill himself related to Thrasher’s Michael Burnett in 2014:

The immediate reaction was obviously, “What the fuck?” Some people were hilariously offended. It was so funny to read the comments. Some people reacted like I had legitimately offended their mother!

It was true. Though skateboarding’s broader acceptance of its proximity to the fashion sphere would be several more years and several shiploads of digital clout still in the coming, pants for years had ranked just behind shoes as objects of both performance demands and stylistic scrutiny, particularly among the pack-hunting skateboard consumer. The knives were out for Garrett Hill’s red and black pants, and their like would not be seen again for well over a decade. 

Does a point arrive when a long-derided misstep can be reconsidered as a work of ahead-of-the-curve daring, or even overlooked genius? It was Tyshawn Jones, 2018 Skater of the Year and recently of the FuckingAwesome imprint, who in Supreme’s ‘Blessed’ initiated a reconsideration of Garrett Hill’s pants decision, wearing some eerily similar black/red legged track pants in which to nollie backside kickflip the Blubba; thereafter, Vincent Nava plumbed similar depths before departing sadly way too soon.

This year pants with two different coloured legs have threatened to push into the mainstream, with cut-and-sew pop shove-iter John Shanahan’s Pangea Jeans label offering multiple styles for $150 each; whereas asymmetrical pants have yet to rise to the ubiquity required for CCS and Active to market their own pricepoint versions, here and there, kids like Juan Pablo Velez are chipping away at the symmetrical pants standard. 

In the Thrasher interview, Garrett Hill suggested that he foresaw all of this:
Any chance of bringing these pants onto the Zero soft goods roster?
You know what? When do bands do big reunion tours? After ten years? I’m going to wait until the 10th anniversary and then bring them back. Take them on a reunion tour! Black and yellow? Might be fuckin’ orange and green? I don’t know. I’m gonna blow some minds with these pants!

Where there once was seen a stylistic tar pit, do pants with two different coloured legs now represent a potential goldmine, or is this all only a case of the sun occasionally shining on the dog’s proverbial rear? Are these type of unorthodox pants not much of a leap after various dudes for several years have experimented with bifurcated shirts and two different coloured shoes? Having challenged nearly every fashion convention available, are the 10C41 dudes now turning their attentions toward aggressive scootering?

As Above, So Below — Tyshawn Jones And The Power Of The ‘Event Trick’

October 9, 2022

In an increasingly fractitious USA, the dark turn brought by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had the somewhat bittersweet side effect of being that rare event that found Americans of nearly all political stripes and persuasions in agreement — a rarer and rarer occurrence in a land wherein the populace seems intent on sorting itself into ever-more specific subgroups of their own choosing. Timelines are tweaked to reflect favoured realities, the hit radio single or must-see TV event now relics of simpler and perhaps more naive times, replaced by self-targeted streaming series and machine-learned DJ programs that fine tune algorithms to dial up personalization, and tune out the rest of the world. The local sports franchise may briefly unite a riven city, and culture-capturing beguilers including ‘Olde Towne Road’ may still prove themselfs occasionally impossible to avoid, but these more and more seem exceptions to a deepening rule of fragmentation that shows little sign of reversing.

The seven-ply hard rock maple contingent has long satisified itself with the idea that it blazes trails and sets agendas for fashion conglomerates, artistes and less-evolved species such as scooter handlers; sometimes this proves true, like when Gilbert Crockett’s fixation on Depression-era paper bag pants eventually trickles into the fashion pages of the Wall-Street Journal, and sometimes less so, like paying women pros in line with what men make. The same entropic forces have been at work for years, though, with the street-vert dichotomy splintering into subdisciplines and microgenres that now range from SoCal handrail persisters to Love Park ledge religionists, beverage manufacturer-bankrolled mega ramp athletes, hyper-urban night skating in Japan, and Bobby Puleo carrying his torch for Texas’ 1980s backyard ramp scene. On the contest circuit, there are efforts to harness the political polarization that the much of the US seems to have adopted as its national pasttime.

This week within the span of a few minutes Thrasher, Tyshawn Jones and Atiba Jefferson digitally threw down a photo of the reigning king of New York kickflipping over the tracks at the 145th street subway station, fresh off the presses as the cover of the magazine’s December issue. IG stories proliferated and forceful emojis deployed as people raced to estimate the distance and speculate on the gnar factor of blind bumps or the science of electricity transference; a snippet of an apparent video “will” that Tyshawn Jones recorded before squaring up to the platform gap and an Atiba Jefferson selfie at track level upped the how’d-they-do-it drama that would easily make a mini-doc, like Thrasher did with Jaws’ Lyon 25 jump.

The danger factor, instantly interpretable trick and beautifully simple composition of the photo — plus the footage not yet out — added up to a seldom-encountered ‘event trick’ and immediately catapulted it into the ranks of all-time classic Thrasher covers, Jeremy Wray’s water tower ollie the most direct translation for the still-flummoxed masses. Over the near-eternity represented by a 24-hour period or so on IG, the trick consumed the entire skateboard sphere, bowl barneys and manual pad savants united in shock, praise, thrill and wonder. For Tyshawn Jones, it’s the best yet among a four-year run of four Thrasher covers, which at 23 years old places him alongside Andrew Reynolds, Lance Mountain, Marc Johnson and Jamie Thomas in terms of the number of times he’s been on the magazine’s front.

Since Tyshawn Jones and Atiba Jefferson were sporting masks on the way to the spot, how long has this trick been in the can, and was the Supreme IG video clip, featuring Tyshawn Jones in a different outfit throwing down his board in a subway station, indicative of another trick like a backside kickflip or switch ollie? How seriously do you think were any discussions around timing attempts to include in the photo subway train lights down the tunnel? By how much does this photo up the risk of harm or even death for less-able contenders looking for a shot at glory, like Jamie Thomas’ Leap of Faith? Will the perhaps-near discovery of alien life bring together the earth’s people in a new way, or only drive them deeper into alien-appeasing and alien-opposing camps? For the Thrasher mini-doc, did Thrasher bring along Mike from the Bronx like Jaws did with Ali for the Lyon 25 melon grab?

Grass Is The New Cellar Door

September 26, 2022

A little over a year after carving purpose-built Olympic coping for the enduring glory of the Republic of Finland, Lizzie Armanto could be glimpsed ripping a giant exploding volcano earlier this month up in Montreal, Canada, rapturous roars erupting from the crowd with each trick like so many molten vibes. The fiery spectacle sponsored by noted Canadian pants vendor Dime was the capstone to a girthy contest season that careened from a steadily expanding rainbow slappy rail at the Dime event to a FuckingAwesome/Hockey street jam that featured a flaming police car, and a quarterpipe-enabled slam-dunk contest put on by Canadian podcast brand The Bunt. Prize money flowed directly into bar tabs and pride of position was considered the ultimate triumph.

The deepening circusization of the contest circuit is not only a much-needed and happily welcome corrective from the totally shocking and entirely unforeseen governance and financial problems gripping the USA Skateboarding Olympic operation. It also speaks to a restless, searching spirit a-foot in the once sub-culture. East coast crust mining has expanded into Midwestern rust belt towns, while internationally able pros and bros drop pins in increasingly exotic locales. What does it say when the marquee contest in the city of New York, a skate mecca for lo these past 80 years, revolves around a basic trash can?

This apparent listlessness and malaise has helped to broaden the lane for talents including but by no means limited to Dan Mancina and Felipe Nunes. For others, it is pushing tricks toward less orthodox and greener pastures. The quest for handrail dominance as the central pursuit of the professional class petered out sometime around the early ’10s, and not long after, some ceiling seemed to be similarly hit for ledge-dancing; in the years hence, taking tricks to harder-to-skate spots has become its own discipline, at times seeming the dominant one. But just as a certain pants sizing parameters can be plucked from retro archives, updated with modern materials, marketed for an inflation-adjusted MSRP, and then just as quickly be cast into the abyss, so progresses the drive to find some as-yet untapped spin on timeworn tricks.

As it turns out, the answer can be found in one’s own backyard. For decades an occasional seconds-filler in credits sections, or subject of grainy super-8 for the feels, grass has suddenly moved from background contrast to center stage, elevated in recent years by the likes of Aidan Mackey’s off-road bombs and Dane Brady’s Lincoln line in ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind/Please Don’t Wake Me This Time.’ This summer has brought rapid growth in grass-oriented tricks, including Sascha Daley tangling with a kickflip grass hill bomb at the beginning of his ‘El Caliente’ vid, Sammy Montano working in both a grass throw-down and ride away on a traffic barrier smith grind in a vid for Globe Shoe Co AUS, and bearded Sourman Simon Isaksson backside flipping into a switch manual down a grass bank in some ‘Solution III’ b-sides. Victor Cascarigny’s OJ Wheels video kicked off with a ride up over and across a couple dried-out grass planters, while Griffin Gass applied a plant rights-friendly mirrored manual duo to some astroturf that has been deemed to count for Web Log rationalization purposes.

Is this new willingness to skate grass a terrainial innovation that stands to unlock a fresh universe of spots, like Bob Puleo’s celebration of the cellar door did for otherwise skippable alleyways in the ‘Static II’ era, or is this all only a troubling indicator that supplies of more conventional spots are running dangerously low? Will twin tracks of beaten-down turf come to be known as the same sort of telltale sign as a wax-darkened ledge, or the notorious ‘black rainbows?’ Are the XT Dirt Wheelz set to make a Tail Devil-style comeback from the back pages of 1990s magazines, or will expanding drought and rising temperatures make once-unskateable soils as dry and hard as concrete?

Game Of Benches: Betrayal, UHauls And The Dangerous Season That Lays Ahead

September 10, 2022

The Queen is dead, and much that once seemed certain now crumbles away. As the House of Windsor proceeds with succession, in true ’20s fashion the digital news feeds are populated with graphical flow charts illustrating who is next in line for the centuries-old monarchy, the fealty of the kingdom’s territories and claims, wealth in spices and rum. The lessons from the planetary docu-series ‘Game O’ The Thrones’ are that behind the scenes, in rooms and whispers and shadows, for those who covet power unto themselfs a ruler’s passing is the time to raise armies, lay traps, and seize power. 

America has not formally recognized a king since 1977, when Elvis Presley abdicated his position to go undercover as a smooth-talking mummy fighter*. Nevertheless, the same temptations and hunger for power and dominion lurk in the hearts of the free and the brave. This past week, the States again have become fraught with uncertainty and festering factionalism. It was nigh two years ago that FuckingAwesome, a powerful house in that shrinking and increasingly fragmented kingdom of the hard-good, resurrected the fabled green, curvy bench, knowed to some as the AVE bench, from the gaseous swamp of memories past. Quartersnacks told the tale of AVE’s long quest to reclaim what was rightfully his; he used the green bench to conquer the switch backside noseblunt slide and then turned it over to the people, bequeathing it about a year ago to NY’s Tompkins Square Park in a ‘flex’ that was hailed for its generosity of spirit and human purpose. From far and wide, pros, Joes and certain others journeyed to skate it, or at least gaze approvingly upon its gentle curve, its surprising length, and sturdy square legs.

Then one late summer’s day this month it vanished, only to reappear the next day in Philadelphia, where its verdant steel planks graced Muni and Temple before, some days later, disappearing again. Briefly feared lost to forklift-operating officialdom, it instead appeared to surface in Richmond, under the control of the Bust Crew. The still-ongoing Midatlantic caper has at various points involved Harry Bergenfield and Naquan Rollings trading shots in the New York Post, an apparent ruse involving a fictitious receipt, and Anthony Van Engelen’s phone getting blown up by NPR and other national news outlets tumbling over one another for a piece. 

Skateboarders are renowned for their ability to innovate, copy-paste and beat things into the ground. While it is entertaining to imagine crews from DC to Montreal and Chicago or SF pulling up box-truck rental rates and pooling gas money — the Palace dudes have likely already crunched numbers on air freight to London — it is easy to see it all spinning out of control. Lust for the green bench and the untold power it conveys has now been loosed in the hearts of the ambitious and ruthless; unmoored from Tompkins, the bench now has proven free for the taking, portending a volatile season ahead in which alliances are raised and betrayals plotted, armies form and clash, and as the sky darkens, nocturnal brawls between territorial gangs, sort of like ‘The Warriors’ if a couple of the dudes were always lugging around a big piece of furniture. 

Could this whole thing have been orchestrated by FA or Vans or Pig Wheels to generate excitement, breathless media coverage, internet ‘takes’ and maybe, some valuable lessons about togetherness? Does the regional competition for control over the green bench risk spreading further, threatening a version of the 1990s East Coast-West Coast rap music feud, except this time with a lot of internet memes? Has anybody switch frontside blunted the bench? Will an elder statesman like Fred Gall eventually need to step in, calm everybody down, and when no one is looking claim the bench for one of his DIY projects?

*a lot of people appreciated it too

Escapists

July 21, 2022

In the 1994 Rick Ross blockbuster ‘Speed,’ main character (also named Rick Ross) is a man who refuses to be pinned down. Haunted by a past he cannot put behind him, chronically unable to drive 55 and enveloped in weed smoke, he is in each moment running from the last. On an empty by-way near Miami — a sweltering port metropolis where people go to cast off their pasts and sometimes, themselves — Rick ‘Rick Ross’ Ross escalates a routine radar trap into a manic flight from Johnny Law, scrambling past the leather-gloved grip of justice and hurling himself over a guardrail, entrusting his fate to the the Atlantic’s chilly bosom. The stakes are his life.

Are the rest of us any different? The seven pressed maple plys, the circular urethane and the shiny metal trucks, properly nutted and bolted together, function variously as a mental off ramp, a time machine, an escape hatch of the soul. The physical transport element is window dressing for the transportative powers of simply rolling down the street, capable of teleporting a person into a different mood, an earlier age, a livelier body less beaten down by time, injury and much toil. Skateboarding has long been a refuge for the kid with the shitty home life, lonely at school. All-consuming battles for tricks can carry a sense of obsession and even futility, but carry the side benefit of blotting out the stress and hurry and noise that can consume the remainder of the day’s waking hours. Pros and others speak of ‘blacking out’ moments or more in the final pursuit of landing some long-fought trick; the ensuing euphoria is often cited as one of the things about skating that draws and hooks people, and the forced mental tunnel-visioning required to get there is probably a main factor behind skating’s Venn diagram overlap with addiction.

Videos can be similarly transportative. Whereas a single-trick clip shows a moment in time, footage of lines thrills with possibility — the far corners of some spot hinted at the edge of the fisheye lens, the uncertainty of where the run will go or what trick will come next, how long it can be pushed. Pontus Alv, a master of the form, grasps this: “What I always try to do is to hide the future for the viewer,” he said in Solo in 2016. “When you film from behind you see where he goes and watch his foot position and figure out what he’s gonna do. I always start filming a line from the front, cause the viewer has no clue then. The more you can hide, the more dramatic it gets, the more energy you add to it.”

Locales work the same way, with the vast and seemingly untapped plazas showcased in Lordz ‘They Don’t Give a Fuck About Us’ as important a part of the video as Bastien Salabanzi, William Phan, Alex Carolino and Florentin Marfain, vicarious spot tourism for US heads that went levels deeper than what Flip and Es and 411VM had brought. Michael Mackrodt built his one-man ‘Fishing Lines’ franchise around exotic spot-seeking in places like west Africa and Siberia. One of the most engrossing videos of the 2010s, ‘Ordos’, included no big-name pros of the day, mainly starring a near-empty city in Inner Mongolia and all the boundless, otherworldly potential it held.

Next in this lineage comes the Nocturnup Taipei video published earlier this month on Free, part of an ongoing project from Daryl Dominguez and Nick Richards that centers on skating some of the world’s most congested cities at night. The practical result is to film tricks that’d be impossible during the daytime crush of pedestrians and traffic, but the sum is much more than the excellent clips — plunging the viewer into a twilight maze of grimy loading docks and indoor malls that never close, a haze of smeary streetlights and crowds of idle scooters. The half-dozen skaters in the crew pop up grates to jump street gaps and do Miles Silvas tricks on tile ledges, threading among midnight street festivals and lone sidewalk sweepers. All around the city reaches into blackness, until the sun starts to rise as Daryl Dominguez battles a 360 flip bomb drop.

Will escalating jet fuel prices and the threat of global recession further throttle wanderlusting pros, and keep the world’s remaining untapped skate spots the domain of their locals for a few more years? Has Michael Mackrodt assumed Kenny Reed’s historical role as the plug for handrails not yet frontside crooked grinded by Jamie Foy, or stonework plazas not yet worked over by Mark Suciu? What was Rick Ross’ plan after jumping into the channel?