Archive for November, 2015

Atomic Drop

November 29, 2015

This fall, using now-retired Osiris pro and eponymous mutual aid organization leader Josh Kasper as a cipher, Jerry Hsu might have inadvertently blown the lid off one of the industry’s most jealously guarded secrets — that the dramatic plotlines and festering beefs underlying so many video parts, graphical concepts and magazine ads may be meticulously scripted to wring maximum discretionary dollars and tweenage emotion from each expertly slow-motioned ollie over an earmuffed DJ. To wit:

I don’t want to throw him under the bus too hard here but how he would go about these demos…I heard he was really influenced by pro wrestling and that made a lot of sense to me. He would apply that same mentality to his skating. Like, I know he would bail tricks on purpose at demos just to dramatize his skating. Ollieing off vert ramps and constantly trying to hype up the crowd, literally trying to get them to chant his name.

Josh Kasper’s Europop and benihana stylings have made him the muse of a generation, but Jerry Hsu may be tapping into a deeper and more engrossing narrative. Just a few years before Osiris’ Flexfitted heyday, pro wrestling was confronting its own flagging powers as the detritus of the 1980s, which staked millions upon matchups between brawny tycoons and vengeful snake handlers, had receded in the face of the grungier, grittier 1990s, setting the stage for the neon-spandexed heroes of the ’80s, such as Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man, rebrand themselves as black-clad villains out to remake the enterprise in their own graven image. To some, these were dark days, the nights filled with loathing and doubt and greasy endorsement contracts.

Have Eric Koston and Guy Mariano opened the door for their own face-heel turn following the official announcement of their long-rumoured exit from Girl last week? Some plot cues could be found: Guy Mariano clad in all black, Shooter McGavining the camera while Instagram followers* mourn his departure from the Crailtap camp that provided both the aquatic catchpad for the then-spent rocket of his 1990s ascent and an expanded platform for his late-00s relaunch. Eric Koston, who seems in the post-Lakai years to have gravitated away from the board concern he and Guy Mariano helped elevate to the tippiest of tops in the 90s as well as the affiliated clothes company they cofounded, has yet to offer any parting pleasantries to Girl, which bid farewell to the duo last week in an understated manner similar to that which once characterized the company’s 1990s print and video output. In the glorious bro-hug emoji that is the ‘Boys of Summer’ video, Eric Koston’s footage is placed in a Nike-aligned segment separate from Rick Howard’s and Mike Carroll’s, whose decades-tested tag teaming carries a bittersweet twinge this time out given the changes at Crailtap.

Should Eric Koston and Guy Mariano, two legendary talents entering their professional autumn years with families to provide for and their legacies already safely carved in the hardest-rated urethanes, blaze a new career path by embracing filthy lucre with no apologies, a direction that seems inevitable for pros entertaining corporate sponsorships that have in recent years required increasingly convoluted and amusing justifications? Could Street League boost ratings and garner heavier-hitting corporate sponsors by augmenting its ‘impact section’ with scripted and intense rivalries, surprise interferences in high-pressure runs and the occasional tossed folding chair? Is Tim O’Connor best positioned to thrust fuzzy microphones into the frothing maws of ranting champs and goad them for more, and could Rob Dyrdek cut a convincing Vince McMahon figure? Might dropping all his big-money sponsors in favor of skater-owned startups, dressing in all white and pivoting away from the calf sock improve Nyjah Huston’s SOTY odds, or at least result in more wallrides?

Guy Mariano, Nike Inc. Link to Provide Manna for Listicle Authors Hoping to Round Out a ‘Top 10 Heaviest Roll-Aways Ever Filmed’

November 20, 2015

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Indelible tricks can launch careers, shake the streets and leave marks lasting decades. Rarer are tricks that work the other way, taking their weight from years of struggle, a hallowed spot or some other type of heavy backstory. Guy Mariano’s funeral-garbed ride out of the Crailtap camp and into the arms of Nike approaches a ‘Fully Flared’ level combo of mixed feelings for aged viewers and, one assumes, Guy Mariano himself. How now to adjust the 1990s Doomsday Clock?

Odd Couple Therapy

November 14, 2015

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Sun Tzu, the famous tactician for whom our shiny star and exotic animal exhibits now are named, defined total victory not as the end of any battle or campaign or war but rather when one’s opponent is paying hefty and recurring fees to operate a pancake franchise in his former territory, and comping the victor all premium toppings. This battleground truism rings as accurately now as it ever did in the comparatively topping-poor days of Mr Tzu, and in particular regarding the security guard, that grimacing, oft-charred coyote to skateboarding’s trim and turnt up roadrunner.

As skating’s profile has expanded and been deemed more lucrative by television channels, beverage conglomerates and concerned parents, the by-definition fraught and frosty security guard/skater dynamic has mutated its way through several forms and appendage assortments. Once squarely classified as paid haters indulging jock-minded power trips, the security guard has been alternately corrupted, co-opted and caricatured as the relationship’s balance of power has skidded and slid toward skateboarders, who today wield an an increasingly outsized cultural cudgel and cheap video recording equipments.

Travel back, if you would, to 2003, when skaterboarders in the employ of Emerica shoes took some of the early, halting steps toward sidelining security guards’ stature and dignity by filming the bribery of one in pursuit of jubble-set glory, the stairs’ blurry-faced would-be defender capitulating with the dangling of a $100 bill and a warbly ‘okay.’ That same year Rob Dyrdek did the concept one better, hiring his own security guard and cementing the dollar’s supremacy over the once hallowed security guard code. For a generation of stretch denim-purchasing yungsters the precedent was set; in subsequent Baker productions, Jim Greco would go on to good naturedly tussle with security guards and play at parlor-trick hypnosis for laughs, while elsewhere security went cheerfully ignored, or worse, reduced to asking politely.

Where does all this leave the rent-a-cop as 2015 staggers out? No longer threats and by now passe to debate, they seem to have been relegated to moving obstacles for those confident and daring enough to put a trick in their face, such as LRG nollie inward heelflip blaster Miles Silvas, or several, as the GX1000 consortium recently demonstrated in Japan. Ty Evans’ slo-mo drone ballet ‘We Are Blood’ positioned security as worthy if ineffectual water-fight opponents, while the prospect of fleeting Vine fame inspires some in the profession to abandon their fraternal code and defect.

Yet as security guards’ total defeat appears close at hand, one may ponder a certain pocket of emptiness in skating’s collective soul*, upon which a phantom finger may be hard to place. Bart Simpson, that 1990s skate standard-bearer and this decade a regular feature upon Justin Figuoera’s Ebay vintage apparel purchases, once complained of a similarly eerie malaise upon triumphing over his own authority dispenser, Principle Skinner:

BS: It’s weird, Lise. I miss having Skinner as a friend, but I miss him even more as an enemy.

LS: I think you need Skinner, Bart. Everybody needs a nemesis. Sherlock Holmes had his Dr. Moriarty, Mountain Dew has its Mellow Yellow, even Maggie has that baby with the one eyebrow.

Has skating, imbued with greater cultural clout and youthful impunity, at this point effectively shaved the one eyebrow of the world’s rent-a-cops? If Mello Yello were pulled from the marketplace, would Paul Rodriguez’s tricks bubble with the same sweet zest? Will skating and security guarding only truly set aside their differences and come to understand and respect one another after they are both framed in a drug deal gone bad and jailed among the many bloodthirsty criminals they helped put away, forced to rely upon their wits, brawn and one other to break free, clear their names and reclaim their badges?

*could also refer to gaps in peoples’ Collective Soul album collections

Aggravated Breed

November 7, 2015

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Justin Brock’s part in Nike’s 2009 all-am ‘Debacle’ six years later remains rightly heralded as a triumph of chunky wallrides and massive frontside bigspins, yet its underlying theme of hard labor as a unifying force, if not a humanizing one, remains dusty and obscured like a dust-covered, obscure book somewhere. Bankrolled by the biggest employer in skating and soundtracked not coincidentally to blue-collar bards Skid Row’s number one platinum single ‘Slave to the Grind,’ Justin Brock meditated upon themes of toil and control, driving home the point by sporting spectacles that reflected the drudgery of the assembly-line worker, whose dreams of becoming Montana’s poet laureate or a champ bass angler are rendered wholly unrecognizable by smeary, sweat-fogged safety goggles.

Now it is nearly 2016*, the fall breeze bears whiffs of a fresh Nike video release, and pros are considering their futures. Haves increasingly are separated out from have-nots: Witness the footage largesse of Nyjah Huston, allegedly on the cusp of his own Nike payday, releasing a video section in accordance with various contractual niceties rather than any particular team effort, only to slide off the Thrasher front page in a matter of days. Chris Joslin, whose skills on the gaps left him somehow overdue for a professional nod only about a year after manifesting on mobile screens, achieved his own signature board after heading to the Eastern Hemisphere to film a part in under two weeks, a future seemingly assured so long as his ligaments stay game. Elsewhere the industry’s economic contraction ensures that the rich tradition of pros and would-be pros with day jobs continues, nodded to recently by Aaron Herrington and, in the TWS issue sporting his skyscraper backside tailslide on the cover, Jon Nguyen:

TWS: Do you drive Uber cars to supplement your income too? How is that?
JN: Yeah, I do. It’s fine. It’s work. It’s relatively easy. If you don’t mind driving, it’s not a big deal. It’s kind of cool because I can just do it whenever I need to. If I’m really hurting for money, I can just push it and work like a week straight too.

How does it work? You’re just in the system and if you want to give rides, you clock in?
You sign up to be a driver and then you just turn the app on and set it to driver mode when you want to work and you’re ready to go. You get paid weekly; it goes straight to your bank account. They take like 25 percent or something, but it’s so convenient. You don’t have a boss and then if I’m going on a trip, I can just not work for a couple of weeks. They’re just trying to make money, so they don’t give a shit about you. But I’m just trying to make money too, so I don’t give a shit about them.

Are those would-be careerists that lack any fiscal lifelines dangled by a diversified sporting goods merchant, soda company or televised competition circuit boxing themselves out of any path toward a secure and comfortable life beyond the world’s urine-soaked hubbas, bondo’d handrail approaches and urethane-scarred walls? According to 360 flip smith grind popularizer and onetime beanie magnate Josiah Gatlyn the answer is a tantalizing ‘maybe,’ as per a widely-circulated YouToob comment that dared to call into question skating’s long-held subcultural maxim which positions the ‘office job’ somewhere toward the bottom of Dante’s flamey underworldly rings, probably around ‘anger’ and ‘heresy.’ Josiah Gatlyn goes on to suggest such verboten concepts as pursuing education and recommends cutting any street dreams with a healthy splash of pragmatism:

The average career only lasts around 5-10 years tops, and I’m pretty sure there’s only been about 10-20 professionals (at the very most, I feel like there are way less) out of thousands who have even gotten close to making enough money that they wouldn’t have to worry about getting a career job after their career was over. I have no idea why people assume that professional skateboarders make so much money. That’s absolutely not true. Basically, every pro will eventually be spit out into the real world. That process only gets harder and harder the older you get. From age 20 – 25 are the most important years of your entire life and regardless if you’re a skateboarder or not, if you do not figure out what career path you’re going to take, you’re going to struggle pretty hard.

The skateboard business, awash with young souls eager to quit high school and skate for boards, beers, airfare, hotel rooms and per diem, seemed in no mood for Josiah Gatlyn’s broadsides, and an unlikely figure emerged to rebut them — Sierra Fellers, whose own career seemed on the wane after Foundation dropped him, but who maintains with the Ramshakle company. Sierra Fellers’ response Ride Channel article wonders whether Josiah Gatlyn is making excuses for not wanting a pro career badly enough to make whatever steep sacrifices may be required, and taking the ‘easy way out’ by returning to the ‘real world.’

Recently I’ve asked a lot of people about what happened to him and what he was doing, and everyone I’ve talked to said that he was bitter at the skate industry and gave up to be a designer. Which, sadly, after reading the YouTube comment that’s been circulating, seems to be true.

When you do what you’re truly passionate about, it’s usually so much harder and more work than anything else. It would have been a lot easier for me to get a “normal job” and start working on my promotions. If anything, skateboarding has been the main source of education for me. All the traveling, skating, having a good time, and even the partying have taught me way more than I could have ever imagined to prepare me for the “real world.”

Could Sierra Fellers be correct? Speaking from experience, former Foundation 360 flipper and first-wave PissDrunxist Tony DaSilva recently described to Jenkem his own leisurely and mellow path back to the real world as being lined with plush comforts such as indoor pollution clouds, general societal disconnect and close proximity to hot, hot truckstop fellatio:

Many of us that step out of the skate industry after making a living at it are left over as society’s bottom feeders. We don’t have anything to offer. We don’t have a degree. We don’t write with proper grammar. We speak our own language.

I started realizing we’re all a part of the same day-to-day struggle. We’re all scrambling to figure out where the hell we’re going. And that through skateboarding, I had retained and gained a hell of a lot more life experience than most of the people I was getting to know. This was the factor that separated me from all of them, but it was becoming one of the pieces that now gave me more confidence.

It was skateboarding that gave me the tools that enabled me to transition into the “real world.” I couldn’t see it at the time though. The thing that I thought had kept me so sheltered and embedded in a niche culture, was ultimately what prepared me for what was next.

Is Sierra Fellers’ plight for street-dreaming dreamers to keep chasing those nocturnal transmissions a pure-hearted effort to talk the next generation’s Jake Johnsons and Paul Rodriguezes from tossing their skills and promises of video parts yet to come into that fetid toilet bowl that is the 9-5 lifestyle? Or is he carrying water for a secretive cabal of vampyric industry heads who require a steady supply of youthful aspiration and low-cost human tissue to power their mechanized operations, similar to the global baller robots profiled in the ‘Matrix’ movies? It’s often hard to tell with baller robots, and so these questions must be asked.

Sierra Fellers’ response to Josiah Gatlyn does regurgitate one of skating’s more timeworn tropes, which is that despite all the various injuries and indignities, skating as a career is a rich, fulfilling wonderland versus the vacuous, soul-corroding netherworld represented by the dreaded ‘office job.’ It can come off rather rich coming from the genetically and geographically gifted who are lucky enough to entertain the choice, and whereas skating’s far from the first sphere to hum the semi-sensical ‘do what you love’ mantra, it seems fair to wonder whether nurturing personal wish-fulfillment scenarios and squinting at longterm security through meager monthly minimums and ready-to-flip flow packages can persist as one’s third decade approaches.

Among the world’s ditchdiggers, insurance claim adjustors and adult cinema custodians are there solely embittered quitters to be found, who otherwise might have blessed the planet and achieved their dreams as opera singers, socialite-philosophers or addled weblog authors? What then of our ditches, insurance claims and adult cinema floors? As the skate biz constricts and veteran pros bat eyes at high-toned corporate sponsors in hopes of stretching their own careers a few more years, do the web mavens, graphic artists, logistics staff and talent managers ponder their own monetary sacrifices to continue under the industry’s independent division, versus buddying up to more corporate concerns? For their own good, should pros consider the maxim of Pontus Alv, who figured the optimum lifespan of a board company at about ten years, with regard to professional careers?

*Partially because the Mayan calendar flubbed the alleged 2012 apocalypse