Archive for September, 2016

Term Limited

September 24, 2016

old_muppets

Aging may be the great skate industry adventure of the ’10s, as grizzled pros test the tolerance of weathered ligaments and brittling bones in an ongoing quest to avoid that unholy wyrm, the Real World, and its most loathsome prison, the Day Job. There are a few who two decades ago may have seemed obvious candidates if one were to choose a moon-shotter capable of stretching a pro career into a third decade, like Eric Koston or Daewon Song or Marc Johnson. There are are others whose misadventures with substances and the US legal system made them less obvious picks, such as Jeff Grosso and Fred Gall and Guy Mariano. Yet here we are.

Jason Dill, a veteran who never really warmed to half-measures when it came to things like video part construction, socks height or New York City nightlife, appears to have embraced old age as lustily as any slot-playing, shuffleboard-pushing thee-time divorcee. Witness his silver fox persona, his grayed and thinned hair, his floral shirts, the Britannicesque recollections of days gone past and concepts ripe for resurrection. As he raises a brood of young street urchins with life partner Anthony Van Engelen, Jason Dill also has honed an ability to emotionally wound that appears as needle-eager as any sourpuss granny. From his recent Playboy interview:

I’m now past my third year of FA. I’m proud of what we’ve done. If you are a company making stuff, you need to have it in the back of your head that, hey, I might have to kill this thing one day for the greater good so it doesn’t look like a bunch of bullshit. Imagine if Mark Gonzales got to end his skate company, Blind. How would we look at it today? Imagine if Mark had made some deal with Steve Rocco, the owner of his distributor, early on, like, “I’ll totally do this, but when I think it’s time that this is done, I get to put out an ad that says, ‘It’s done. We killed it. It’s over. Thank you.

Jason Dill didn’t have to take it there. For skateboarders ‘of a certain age,’ Blind’s last 15 years or so as a stable for a Canada-heavy lineup resembling a Digital Video Magazine board team will always take a back seat to the ‘Video Days’ lineup and, later, the Ronnie Creager and Lavar McBride-led ’Trilogy’ generation. Nowadays, you’re hard-pressed to place your hand on a Blind board outside the Tech Deck assortments cradled within the boxy bosom of Walmart. In fact, they’re outlawed. But with his reminder that Blind’s heyday now lies a beagle’s lifetime in the past, Jason Dill’s prodding of old sores is an exercise in discomfort matched only by grouchy grandmothers’ bitter questions over the fate of hand-knitted blankets long ago vomited upon, washed and relegated to life’s basement closets.

Time’s grinding passage has yet to reveal whether Jason Dill or Pontus Alv — another long-in-the-tooth owner of an insurgent board company that lies under his control, and who has expressed similar sentiments — will avail themselves of a Hunter S. Thompson exit strategy, rather than some much-later forced transfer to a mall store-ready nursing home. Do they possess the financial and testicular fortitude? The skating mind seems wired for Quixotic pursuits that can batter the body, plague the mind and sometimes, sear the soul — literally throwing one’s self down a set of stairs over and over again, sometimes for days on end. Quitting while one is ahead, whether in the sense of a sound body or arrest-free permanent record, may not pay dividends in the form of shoe contracts and soda-pop endorsements. For every Heath Kirchart and Scott Johnston showing themselves the door rather than be escorted out by younger, abler-bodied teammates, there are multiples of beloved pros whose ratio of video footage minutes to pro deck graphics looks increasingly lopsided.

Can pros turned board company proprietors be relied upon to serve as judges and executioners weighing the street cred of their own enterprises? Should company owners freely discuss the concept of forced euthanasia, for will this only perplex the Dutch? Does Darren Harper’s trick-trying persistence make him more likely to seek revenge for a five years-old board to the head, or vice versa?

Deuce Deuce

September 18, 2016

racquet

“Never go full Ponte,” the old folks used to say; the thinking was, you couldn’t beat an original. Prodigal Brazilian son and recent abductee aboard the refurbished Sovereign Sect, Yaje Popson, tiptoed his magical feet right up to the edge this week aboard a burly and crimson hued 50-50 probably headed for his third or fourth video part in the last 52-week period. And yet in the great outfit sweepstakes that is this American experience in 2016, year of the aardvark, it was not even the most boisterous. That bouquet went to Australian baseball cap reverser Shane Oneill, who blew several minds via filming a backyard NBD while dressed as a tennis ball.

Far from an isolated case, Shane Oneill’s flourescent fit not only is safe for nighttime jogs, but also symptomatic of a broader industry infatuation with small, fuzzy balls and the raquets that brutalize them at high speeds, sometimes for cash prizes. Quietly applauded from the stands by multibillion dollar athletic gear manufacturers and occasionally lavendered monarchs, these power serves, double faults and love-loves seem to have displaced past and passing infatuations with hockey, soccer and skydiving.

Has skating reached peak tennis? Between Lucas Puig’s shorts and a recent resurgence in body varials, there are several signs. Gino Iannucci recruited Wimbledon-winning lefty John McEnroe Jr in serving up a line of Nike tennies, a volley later returned by Cory Kennedy, reviving the onetime Yugo of tennis sneakers for the rubber toecap set. Adidas has offered its own set and Alex Olson’s 917 is about to unveil a new line of tennis gear for skating.

Whereas the two disciplines have long occupied opposing orbits — so much so that Nike creatives mused 20 years ago on a societal role swap — there are rumors and clues that this now may be coming true. While skateboarding’s emerging coach class and trained image-cultivators groom once-useless wooden toypersons for Olympic podiums and endorsement photo ops, tennis seems intent on embracing a grittier, grimier persona more appealing to moneyed millennials raised on high-stakes, mixed-martial art bloodsports and aggressive dubstep mp3s. The Wall Street Journal wondered recently whether tennis could use more brawls to appeal to a fist-pumping, jello-shooting ‘Jersey Shore’ demographic, envisioning a pugilistic endpoint after tennis already has embraced the primal grunting, shouting and equipment-smashing that have been hallmarks of skating for generations. Tennis’ governing powers too seem intent on trying on rebellion’s black leather jacket and dangling cigarette, dabbling in scandal ranging from doping to match-fixing to the occasional off-colour comment.

As tennis’ stars age, will aping skateboarding provide an elixir of youthful advertising audiences or will tennis’ wealthy overlords catch onto the notion that a sizable bulk of pro shoes and contract dollars are tied up in veteran pros whose salad grinding days of filming feature length video parts may lie years in the past? Does the number of tennis pros who string their own racquets compare favorably or unfavorably with the number of pro skaters who grip their own boards? Will wooden decks one day apper as antiquated as wooden tennis racquets? Will a day ever arrive when skaters are not judged at least in part on their pants? Should it? Does anybody got a link for Chris Cole’s switch ollie over the tennis net that ran in a contents section around the ‘Dying to Live’ era?

Ain’t No Goddamn Son of a Bitch

September 3, 2016

daan

Is there anything sadder than a paint-caked curb lashed down with skatestoppers? If you answered ‘the state of the skate biz in 2016’ you may award yourself 40 weblogging points and accept this Internet page’s personal thumbs-up. Fear and sorrow ride high in the saddle as the year grows bristly hairs upon its chin and makes layaway payments on an adjustable bed. DC Shoes, owned by decreasingly bankrupt surfboard concern Quiksilver, has parted ways with time-travel machine owner Rob Dyrdek. Famous cocaine salesman Rick Ross not only has become the latest tattoo parlour client to fly the Kayo coop, but he is suing his former Dirty Ghetto business partners to the tune of 80 large. The Selfish Skateboards web page has gone a year without updating.

If there are islands of stability to be charted amid these stormish seas of action sporting commerce, and are not already amongst the eternally sunlit empires of the swoosh and the triple-stripe, they lie somewhere near those ungently gentrifying environs of the Yay Area, emblazoned with eagles and explosively shitting pigeons. Anti-Hero’s devotion to the ATV discipline, affinity for picking SOTYs and uncanny ability to ride trending waves from trucker hats to windbreakers and custom totables not only has sold boatloads of boards and clothing items, it’s inspired a sister tribe of sock-making disciples and inspired fawning collabs from SoCal schoolyardsters Crailtap and the logo t-shirt millionaires at Supreme who, a dozen years back, may have furrowed their brows at the one eight’s scuffed shoes and beer-dampened sleeping bags sooner than toast them with a wizard staff.

How to wield such ultimate power? Amateur ankles and knees represent a money pit forever fillable with t-shirt and deck revenues. Anti-Hero admirably has steered clear of any power-drunk signing spree similar to those that vaulted Es shoes and Plan B to dizzying heights from which their teams could only wobble and/or slam, alternating hires of top-drawer properties such as Grant Taylor and Chris Pfanner with heartwarming acquisitions of aged criminals such as Jeff Grosso and Andy Roy. But the resident alien-steered eagle this year made its most bald-faced power move to date by not only scooping Dutch M-80 Daan Van Der Linden, whose 0-to-100 tear this year has slingshot him from a Euro-scene ‘Say My Name, Say My Name’ T-Eddy candidate to presumptive Skater of the Year nominee with a professional board. The debate isn’t so much whether the nod is deserved but what else he could possibly have done to justify the advanced timeline, which seems even to have surpassed Chris Joslin’s rapid flow-to-pro launch.

Blinkered victims of too many misspent hours mired in idle skateshop-counter arguments may also ask what it means that in 2016 Anti-Hero is the de-facto landing pad for a Van Der Linden. Whereas his mindbending pointer grind revert on that curvy over-vert thing in the Volcom vid and steady hand on the coping would hang in any Anti-Hero video, his handrail frontside feebles and noseslide nollie heelflips out suggest that 15 or even 10 years ago he’d more likely have been nabbed by Flip or Girl or Zero or Cliche as some late entrant capable of filling out a surprise intro for a yearslong video project.

As style battery Brian Anderson seems on the verge of signing up and unattached, button-up personas as seemingly distant from the beers-and-bowls universe as Walker Ryan ride the boards, is Anti-Hero in danger of flying too close to the proverbial sun? In retrospect was ‘Beauty and the Beast’ less a meeting of So-to-NorCal minds and more the passing of some cosmic baton? Between the Volcom parts, the Bru-Ray clips, the Thrasher cover and the wallride, is SOTY 2016 Daan Van Der Linden’s to lose? Did Rick Ross launch the most successful music career from a prison since Johnny Cash?