“Nobody pays taxes on Mars,” the old saying goes, and it rings as true today as it ever was. For the astronaut, moustachioed and physically capable of handling several Gs, space travel draws a fat, black dividing line between youth and that which comes after; no man, they say, is the same after penetrating celestial orbit. For the ancient dinosaurs, to enter middle age was a feat accomplished by only the clever and ruthless, and these became chieftans and enriched warlords.
Today little has changed. History barrels forward similar to a kettle of fine fish packed into a barrel and rolled downhill and, come this time next year, handrail skating will be 30 years removed from those nervy days when Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas took it in their heads to ollie air up onto safely secured hand-bannisters and chart a bold and zesty course toward best-trick contest purses, ponderous stair counts, bike-lock controversies and the occasional bloody discharge. There was a gawky, turn-of-the-decade adolescence, followed by a coming of age under the dauntless feet of Duffy, Kirchart, Thomas and Muska, and the bigger-longer-taller maturation spree pursued in the early aughts by the Flip-Zero-Baker contingent.
Wither the handrail in 2015? In the last year and a half Transworld has featured just a single handrail trick on its cover, as page counts dwindle and TWS embraces wallrides and assorted transition terrains. Over at Thrasher, which cover-wise years ago threw in its lot with the Wade Speyer side of the tech-vs-gnar continuum, handrail tricks as a percentage of covers each year seem to have plateaued.
Is handrail skating becoming engulfed in a midlife crisis, with nollie heelflip crooked grinds widely regarded as passe, 39 stair curvers suggesting some possible upper limit and El Toro gelded? Resurgent bowls, abrupt transitions and even the vert ramp seem to have splintered handrail skating into restless and nomadic tribes, including displaced wallriders, wall-rejecting against-the-grainers, deep-crouching over-the-toppers, body varialing rewinders and a Mariano-bred stripe of small-bar uber-tech.
Recent signals however suggest that a certain purity of the round slanted bar continues to draw admirers, even without a fire-engine red, glasspacked sports car or wallie on. Australian dervish Jack Fardell, in the process of extensively notching some unholy San Francisco skatespot bedpost, commanded Thrasher’s May cover with a rabid 50-50 grind down a kinked beast that had bucked known master John Cardiel more than a decade back. Further south Paul Hart, a Floridian partly responsible for shifting Cliche’s center of gravity increasingly west of the Atlantic, recorded a sit-and-stare worthy nollie backside noseblunt to fakie sequence that naturally occurred also near the end of an Arto-aspiring ‘Gypsy Life’ section.
Is a midlife crisis a healthy and productive exercise for handrail skating generally? When handrail skating begins wearing tight polo shirts with the collars flipped up, pumping weights and loudly quoting Rae Sremmurd lyrics, at what point should a friend intervene? Will people start painting gray handrails black and then denying it? Will photoshopping gray handrails black represent the greatest ethical quandary to confront Instagram accountholders in the years ahead? Could Thrasher re-run this Kasai cover next month without anyone being the wiser except probably Jason Dill?
Tags: Chad Muska, Cliche, crises, Eric Koston, eye for an eye, FA Worldwide Ent, give up the goods, Guy Mariano, handrails, Jack Fardell, Jamie Thomas, John Fitzgerald, Midlake, Pat Duffy, Paul Hart, prelude to panopticon, Ryan Reyes, start of your ending, survival of the fittest, The Dauntless is the power in these waters, Thrasher, Transworld, your beefs is mine