Archive for March, 2018

Transgenerational Memory Versus the ‘Christmas Complete’

March 25, 2018

At some point along these stretched-out years, a new term clamored onto the deck of our shared cultural lexicon, waited for a lull, put its wheels to the coping and dropped in. ‘The Christmas Complete,’ in the telling of pod-cast hosters and seven-ply salesmen, is springtime purity in product form: That proverbial clean slate, unmarred by bails and makes, all its pop intact — it gets no fresher… all opportunity, and promise. Galvanized identity and anticipation, maybe still in a cardboard CCS or Active box, maybe with a bow on top.

It is a lie. Visions of deftly felt kickflips wither as that sparkling grip holds too eagerly to flat-bottomed soles; the factory-clean grip lines soon sheered jagged after shooting out and careening against curbs. Even the visceral beauty cultivated in perfectly parallel slide marks bordering both trucks can’t hold when inevitably some ledge sits just a little bit too high, or low, clawing the nose and tail with wincing diagonals; worse still, flecked with red or yellow paint. The galactic potential strung through virgin metal, urethane and maple sputters away.

Now this is your board, and everything glorious and depressing that entails. The younger of us can, if they’re cursed to hoard, point to any progression they’re allowed — the hoary and asymmetrical scraping and flaking of a tail tethered to curb drop-ins in time can stand upright and walk with clean(er) horizontal smears, and excessive razortailing can be expected to ease. But with age comes a grim consistency — spread across garage concrete, any decade-deep practitioner will confront grim familiarity on the underbellies of successive deck generations, and the uniform crooked-grind bites into a battered brotherhood of front trucks.

Whether hammered together for an uncomfortable bench or stacked for a cobweb factory in some lesser-traveled basement cul-de-sac, these used-up components, in a sense, still function. The setup leaned against a nearby bedroom wall, the active duty front-liner, is spry, young — the deck just two weeks old. It is middle aged, the wheels and bearings set up six months ago for a road trip and grudgingly protected within a car’s trunk while rain poured down for 36 hours straight. It is elderly, the trucks four years old with enough millimeters of forged ore between the axle and any coping not to sweat replacing, yet. It is ageless, the Phillips-endorsed indentations of its eight one-inch bolts somehow flecked with rust.

But its memory runs back further. When this mounting hardware shook loose from its plastic film all those years ago, they slotted together a month-old deck and two-year-old trucks. The first bearings encircling those trucks were rattling, corroded things, buzzing their last after a short winter, wet spring and hot summer, spinning wheels already a year coned and yellowed. The first board that those wheels moved was short for its duty, broken in only five sessions, and the squeaking trucks on their last legs, bent from frustrated focusing and occasionally fruitful stair-hucking, in those younger days. This universe of components, tagging one another in and out, can trace each push all the way back to the beginning — and further still into another time, if it began cobbled together from another’s castoffs.

The ‘Christmas Complete’ swings a sterilized, eugenics-scented sledgehammer through this grizzled lineage. It is the suit, shirt and tie sold as a rigorously color-coordinated ensemble; it is the prefab condominium block, the garish floral sofa encased in crinkly plastic. Any institutional memory embedded in the cracked deck, pavement-bitten wheels and muddied grip is cleaved away and ended — a new one starts from scratch, another would-be dynasty, unless it’s replaced in another twelve months. It is an act of mercy by enthusiastic Ol’ Yeller shooters, an exercise in the grim fulfillment of web-cart filling and promo code copying-and-pasting, an effort of forced forgetting worthy of those who would pour gravel and dirt into a too-cracked bowl to lay slabs for wood-composite boxes and bolted-down flatcars. It always can be the last one.

A Smile From A Veil

March 19, 2018

When the machines complete their account of human history, our current era will be remembered for several things: an improbable resurgence of the color yellow, @versace_plug, and the skateboard industry busily getting its act together so as to gather as many dollars as possible in conjunction with the steadily nearing international Olympic hoopla. Already a schism is visible between those striving to have their proverbial shit together, and the have-nots. Dustin Dollin, proudly among the latter, explained recently to fellow traveler Ali Boulala the difference between himself and future Olympic medallion hoister Nyjah Huston, at least when it comes to chemical-fueled art heists:

DD: The thing also about skateboarding is that if you do get that popular you really have to watch your step. That’s what’s good about sticking to the society of the underground, I can fuck up and be a drunk and nobody is going to say shit. But if Nyjah does that shit, pulls down some paintings in a hotel he’s fucked. His sponsors would be out.

For those young strivers raised in sanctioned skateparks to reach for maximum experience points, straight-and-narrows may be obligatory. But for others figuring they have time to affect a pivot from Dustin Dollin’s Pellucidar to squeaky-clean Team USA garms, decades spent straying from any and every paths are busily being recorded for posterity. Consider Heath Kirchart, no stranger to bodily risk, fresh off an engrossing ‘Epicly Later’d’ that plumbed one of the industry’s more mercurial personas, who seems to have traded in a skate career with plenty of runway for legacy-milking for a series of odd jobs interspersed with life-threatening missions pursued with an endearing zest for minimal preparation. A less misanthropic pro or bro might draw accusations of burnishing his or her image for a stab at a bigger platform, but Heath Kirchart’s own circumstance reads more like a death wish, and in some ways, a relic belonging to an era swiftly fading into the chemtrail of a Tokyo-bound jet liner.

Were he cut from careerist cloth, would Heath Kirchart instead find himself trussed and dangling over a poisonous cauldron of righteous internet anger, freshly bubbling as podcast interviewees trot out tales of long-ago terroristic behaviours? As the ‘#MeToo’ movement claims celebrity scalps and forces industries from media to politics into uncomfortable self-examinations, the increasingly upward-mobile skateboarding biz might ponder its own richly checkerboarded past. Witness a string of podcast interviewees trotting forth entertaining and engrossing tales of mental and physical grotesqueries doled out by Heath Kirtchart in younger, freer and harsher times:

Jamie Tancowny, The Bunt: After I hurt my knee I moved back up to Canada for a year, year and a half… I couldn’t skate at all, I was kind of just by myself up there. That led up to, when I moved down here that’s when I switched to LE, that’s right when I started to film again pretty much to get back to the level I was before. And basically [Emerica] were like you got six months to get an interview in Thrasher. And it was like in July or whatever… I actually got it done and that’s when Heath became the team manager. And pretty much they kind of just were like, “yeah, we can’t do it anymore, we gotta stop paying you, and if you want to put your feelers out to try and find a new company you probably should start doing that, somebody that will pay you.” And I was like alright, that sucks, pretty much got kicked off.

TB: …what’s up with Heath?

JT: He’s still a good guy. He just has a temper I think. …He was there when I first went down and stayed at the Emerica mansion actually… he just kind of kept to himself. I don’t know, we’re like homies, so it was definitely kind of weird. I still see him these days, and it’s just like water under the bridge, I don’t hold a grudge, it’s not his fault.

Jerry Hsu, the Nine Club: Demos are mellower because the whole team’s with you, you’re not alone. But when it gets down to just you, though, it sucks… I’ve definitely been like the last person skating and then not landed the trick, just because I was trying something. And I’m the last one, and it’s just so brutal, every attempt. And then sometimes people will start doing a ‘Jerry’ chant, like Jerry Springer… oh my God, that only compounds it. Heath used to do that, when he was the team manager at Emerica, he would even do that when he rode for Emerica. He would start that chant and I would have to tell everybody like, no, don’t…

James Hardy, The Bunt: We went to LA to stay with [Dan Rogers, Heath Kirchart, Skatetalk Bob], I was turning 16 on the trip, while I was staying with them. I was super excited to meet Kirchart, he was one of my favorite skaters, but he was pretty reclusive… as the tale goes with him. He didn’t come out hardly ever when we were there the first four or five days. And then that’s when my birthday happened. I was asleep on the couch and lights come on and I get woke up getting put in a headlock by Dan Rogers. He was into wrestling or some of that stupid shit so he put me in some weird jock-y headlock. I got my face on the ground, he’s got his foot on my neck.

I had my face on the ground, squirming. I’ll throw Ben [Gilly] under the bus… I think I kicked his foot and he went off crying hobbling to the bedroom. Heath randomly came out of his cave and started heel kicking the back of my thigh. And started punching me. My nose started bleeding at one point… he had me in the headlock, they beat my arms to a pulp, my legs to a pulp, at a certain point I couldn’t walk.

…Eventually I was so tired I just gave up. Just beat me, I don’t care. They duct-taped my arms together, duct taped my feet, my whole legs together and then threw me in the backyard and just left me there. Someone had flour… they came out, thought that would be even cooler just to throw flour on my face. So they threw flour on my face. After I while they felt bad, I was spitting it out… so stupid, so jock-y. And then they came and hosed me down with a water hose, left me out there another 30 minutes.

Eventually the party’s over, they cut me loose. I hated all of them. I was 16… I thought all these dudes were pro skaters, they’re supposed to be rad, I thought they left all the jock stuff back in middle school. It was just typical jock-y shit. Anyway I shower and rinse off, go to bed, exhausted, just can barely stand. I wake up in the morning and my eyes are just plastered shut with pus. I could not open my eyes. I had to take my fingers and peel my eyelids open.

…And they filmed the whole thing and gave it to me as a birthday present. I still have the tape somewhere back home. So once I got sponsored that story got told a couple times, just in passing. At the Vans downtown showdown, in 2008, 2007… I told that story to a couple buddies, I guess it got around a little bit. And Kirchart came up to me, and said, “Hey man, what’s your deal?” I said, “What are you talking about?” “You’re making me look like a bad guy with that story.” I said, “Yeah, you pretty much beat me to a pulp and left me outside with flour in my eyes so I don’t really feel bad about telling that story.”

“Well you’re just making me look like the bad guy, I didn’t even do any of that.” I said, “Actually yeah, you did.”

…I will say he is one of my favorite skaters, even after that. But I never want to see him again.

Do such tales of Heath Kirchart’s malevolent reign — and there are more — serve as a cautionary signal for today’s ascendant pros bearing their own skeleton-stacked closets, perhaps with more to lose and (most likely) far less hallowed bodies of work with which to counterbalance any misbehaviours? Or do all others’ prior indiscretions pale in comparison with this fearsome visage, except maybe for Andy Roy and Fred Gall? Are folks who favor the Pink Floyd version of Heath Kirchart’s ‘Sight Unseen’ part over the official-release Moody Blues number hopelessly fooling themselves?

Trendwatch 2K18: Jumping Up and Down On Special Athletic Boxes

March 3, 2018

Grim days as the United States confronts a missile-wagging Vladimir Putin, unreasonable natural disasters and now, an embarrassing Olympic chapter on the increasingly nuclear Korean peninsula. Despite the best efforts of Shaun “Flying TomatoTM” White and several mighty American curlers, the country that eagles built went home the most medal-poor in 20 years and badly underperformed its podium-claiming potential, according to FiveThirtyEight, a blogging website concerned with important numbers and equations.

To reclaim international glory, the U.S. is counting on the only tried-and-true solution to overwhelming sporting odds: the ragtag band of misfits. Skateboarding, a sport ostensibly invented in the U.S. (if one ignores Josh Stewart’s ‘ancient alien’ theories), offers the best chance for America to assert its citizens’ physical primacy on the planetary stage, while justifying all that feigned ignorance of Japanese security guards’ exasperation over the years when the Olympic torch is lit in Tokyo. No doubt, federal data scientists are building algorithms to rank candidates based on flatground contest consistency, after-black hammer intensity and general ‘swagger,’ that hard-to-quantify ‘X factor’ that could help put the USA over the top in a tight medal race.

But it will take more than gumption and snappy one-liners. To achieve ultimate glory, top-tier skateboard competitors are thinking inside the box: specially designed space-age boxes, to be exact, which have become involved in unique and revolutionary exercise regimens. Jumping up and down on these expensive exercise boxes, human scientists believe, is the closest approximation to the ollie that is possible within the confines of a properly sanitized, chromed-out gym.

Physical advisers to Ryan Sheckler, no stranger to tightly plotted TV dramatics, suggested that he jump up and down on a box as part of his gym exercise regimen. Sean Malto, pursuing a comeback from his gruesome ankle injury, similarly employed a variety of special gym jumping-boxes. Danny Way, in his envelope-pushing way, perhaps already has moved beyond the box to swinging giant medieval spheres. But Americans do not hold a monopoly on advanced box technology, as Brazilian Street League phenom Leticia Bufoni also has come to know the box-jumping technique and its powers.

Nyjah Huston could represent the United State’s best hope for a 2020 golden coin. Having balanced his energy by finally shifting the mass of his long-shorn dreads to his torso, arms and neck via assorted tattooings, Nyjah Huston is pushing the boundaries of possibility on handrails, this week releasing an 11-minute long video part to help promote new Nike products. It is a video filled with tricks made to end lesser full-lengths, such as the curvy-wurvy frontside 5-0 grind, a backside smith grind backside 180 out on a kinked handrail, a mile-long backside tailslide and, perhaps in tribute to Dan Pageau’s freshly funded legacy, a switchstance trip down the fearsome El Toro handrail. It’s unclear how heavily Nyjah Huston has been box-training, but a watchful eye on his Insta Gram site shows that a high-tech training box is never far away in his gym.

Is jumping up and down onto a special athletic box how Nyjah Huston gained the power to contort his body and achieve his ‘Til Death’ tricks? Will advanced box jumping sets help ward off chronic traumatic encephalopathy or are the bros cracking some brews and hoping for the best? Did Omar Salazar predict all this with his yelpy off-board parkour stylings? Is Shaun White already jumping up and down off boxes as he pursues his life goal of becoming a multi-board Olympic gold medallion holder, but putting himself at risk of overgolding?