Death walks among us in this jaunty new millennium, they say, here and there and potentially also sometimes as a pale rider astride a dangerous Harley hog belching out noxious smokes that also can kill grass and dandelions. Never missing the chance to blow out a trend, the skate biz has always embraced its own terminal fixation, a chattering anxiety that year in and year out raises and lowers Vegas-styled odds on the next industry crash, which company isn’t paying its riders and is destined for that great physical print Cali4nia Cheap Skates catalogue in the sky, and which named pro may already have committed career suicide via an ill-considered musical indulgence or poorly chosen street grab.
Yet just as street skating’s lust for ledges and handrails yielded a cottage industry in skate stoppers that occasionally assume whimsical ocean shapes, brisk business is done among content merchants eager to pierce the slow and sluggish hot-air balloons of musty conventional wisdom with javelins of pure moxie, alternately declaring the full-length skate vid, the over-40 pro career and the conglomerate-owned hardgoods brand ‘not dead’ with varying zest-levels. This month, the Skateboard Mag entered such bold sweepstakes with an editorial missive geared around the notion that feature-length movies (including but not limited to ‘We Are Blood’ and a feature-length documentary about Chris Cole) not only are alive and well 15% of the way into the 21st century, but that they may hold the key to fixing skateboarding’s long-festering ‘image problems:’
The type of interest that these films inspire from non-skaters has always been a powerful tool to bring awareness to skateboarding, counterbalancing some of our image problems in a very positive way, occasionally even improving our chances for public skatepark support. (Let’s face it, as corny as it may be, hearing your mom talk about “Z-Boys” and 900s is actually a step in the right direction.)
Here are the hard facts cluttering the picture as surely as sharp pebbles threaten the course of a major contest engagement: Attrition grips the skateboard sphere. The International Association of Skateboard Companies, that past campaigner against blank decks, figured in 2013 that the number of those consumers who can scientifically be deemed ‘skateboarders’ had constricted by one-fourth between 2007 and 2011, shrinking to 6.3 million over five years. Casual, regular, frequent and most troublingly the intensely coveted ‘core’ demographics all appeared to flee their boards in droves, dumping skating at an even faster clip than those binning their Razor scooters, and far lagging the comparatively robust growth in ‘adventure racing,’ squash and lacrosse, fam.
The IASC document submits television and general couch-potatoness as top culprits, but ratings data indicate that millennials also are slithering free from the digital wiles of broadcast programming. Distressing though it may be, The Skateboard Mag may be right that the only truly blameworthy visage may be viewable in a viewing mirror.
In the span of just about a week, Boil the ocean internet web blog was able to compile an array of image-damaging content features and fiery remarks that reflect poorly on the extreme sport that once seemed on pace to unseat baseball as the sport of the future:
Small beatings from Thrasher’s EIC. Thrasher commander Jake Phelps is widely recognized as one of the oldest persons involved in the skateboarding industry, yet his elder statesmanship toward parental authorities came into question this week when the Jake Johnson issue dropped into subscriber mailboxes. Penning a rare tour article*, Jake Phelps recalls with curmudgeonsome glee how he and Tim Upson years back were run up upon by a gaggle of German 10-year-olds who, after baiting Jake Phelps with a professed interest in his ‘load’ (skate board) switched to pillage mode and set to ransacking his group’s knapsacks: “I ran back and the riot was on — punching out ten-year-olds is the price they pay for rat packin’ out shit,” he intones. Several moms are known to have ten-year-olds of their own — what are they to think at the prospect of a 32-year-old Jake Phelps traveling through time to whup up on their present-day children who may deign to pick through any skateboard-bearing luggage a time-traveling Jake Phelps may have borne through alleged time wyrmholes?
Leaders of the ‘F-word’ world. Using vulgar language in a major skateboard magazine — in this case Thrasher — that’s widely read by kids puts the black leather jacket on skateboarding, but aiming swears at the potential next U.S. president puts the illicitly purchased cigarette in skateboarding’s curled lip. Anti-Hero skateboards saw fit to live up to its moniker in its latest Thrasher ad, spouting an apparently unprovoked ‘FUCK DONALD TRUMP’ and ‘FUCK TED CRUZ’ scrawl in the usual semi-legible handwriting. Lest any foul-mouthedness toward leading politicians be explained away as unhinged rants from over-the-hill discontents, Sean Pablo — sponsored by the unprintably named Fucking Awesome World Entertainment — offered a verbatim vulgarity from skating’s younger generation in a Skate Warehouse interview this week. (Anti Hero and Sean Pablo’s super PAC affiliations remain currently unknowed)
Production values from the bargain ‘Rack.’ Johnny Wilson’s most recent video injection sees noseslide sportster Hjalte Halberg’s East Coast summer vacation continuing as he pushes brawny lines through Philly and New York, while Antonio Durao’s switch 360 flip takes all stair-set comers and John Choi pops a silky curb cut backside flip. But smudges and dirt on the otherwise pristine HD lens occasionally mars ‘Rack,’ giving outsiders freshly treated by Ty Evans’ immaculate drone-cams the impression that rival moviemakers don’t care enough about their equipment — or production values — to break out a purpose-made microfiber wiper, the type of thing a skating-friendly mom might tuck into a pocket tee before folding her arms and shaking her head and half-smiling out the front door as her boys hustle to the nearest skatepark.
Respect for others out the window. Longtime Santa Cruz holder-downer ATV Emanuel Guzman possesses enough wiry sprock to handle both switch backside 360s and deep-end coping, but his ‘Magnified’ clip from Thrasher this week won’t win him many fans among parents — or apartment bloc overseers. In the span of just 45 seconds, we see Emanuel Guzman and his friends attempt to bribe a female professional (who potentially suggested they reapparate a nearby skatepark) before ignoring her call to police, blasting a tight-quarters windowpane ollie and departing with cries of “fuck yooouuu, bitch.” (No indication is given whether this actually may be her surname just spelled differently, or how many O’s in “yooooouuu” they intended to use.) Thrasher’s description of the video claims that Emanuel Guzman “has a history of clips like this,” though it does not specify which web browser he may use.
Three stripes and we’re out. One may expect Adidas, an established worldwide leader in footwear branding technology with firm commitments in place on chemical runoff and workplace diversity, to know from setting positive examples. But Adidas’ new clip advertising ADV Superstar sneakers soundtracks Tyshawn Jones’ brain-boggling ollie over to pointer grind to a curse-packed rap song by celebrated rapper Big L, which glorifies bullying less-skilled artists and advocates physical violence and physical gunfire as solutions to perceived problems such as being bad at reciting raps. Are hovering moms really going to ask to click back to Tyshawn Jones’ hardflip again when Big L is reminiscing about leaving a nameless female conquest’s ‘thighs dented’?
*On a serious tip Jake Phelps really needs to do these more regularly
Tags: Anti Hero, Convulsion, Emanuel Guzman, Grave Wisdom, Harley hogs, Hjalte Halberg, IASC, Jake Phelps, Johnny Wilson, Morpheus Laughing, Nature's Revenge, pointer grind, Rash Reflection, Reclamation, Sean Pablo, Shore Lined Poison, Spasmolytic, super PACs fam, TFWO, Too Dark Park, Tormentor, Tyshawn Jones