Archive for August, 2020

Hits Similar

August 30, 2020

A hot and tense summer, now bookended by violence and heartache. The world is in motion. There is a feeling of general unmooredness, less and less seems clear. Boys of Summer is selling a sweater that prominently boasts the Century 21 logo. Onetime gap phenom Auby Taylor recently released perhaps the best vert part in years. 10C41 has been previously discussed. Mixed media artist Chris Joslin this week captured the international malaise in a shirtless Instantgram post:”@Rockstarenergy,” he wrote, “hits different with some @ChickFilA.”

True enough. And so it is that skateboarding subconsciously reaches for comfort in the familiar, a well-worn anchor in the storm. Last spring, asphalt-leaping SOTY frontrunner Mason Silva offered a ‘Real to Reel’-flavored introductory part for the storied NorCal board concern. This summer, Brandon Turner stole the show in Sk8Mafia’s new vid, 20 years on from ‘Fulfill the Dream’ precociousness and channeling all that’s come since into a switchstance benihana. This week, roadworn Austyn Gillette followed up Former’s uncommonly heavy ‘Cheap Perfume’ vid by returning to the Habitat team, via a winking ‘welcome back’ clip featuring an obligatory acoustic guitar. Elsewhere, retro shoe models, including some that had no business reemerging from the CCS catalogues of yore, run rampant across shoe walls.

The biggest beneficiary may be Julian Davidson, lately of Element, this month resurfacing via professional endorsement deals for the Jamie Foy-led Deathwish Board Co as well as the percuolating Emerica Shoes. In a hotly gesticulating realm and arena which seems, on any given day, to be governed by track-panted Europeans, New York sidewalk spot impresarios draped in clip art, or Floridians, Julian Davidson is a departure in every way — a born-n-bred SoCalian from Long Beach, reared up in Element and TWS vids, whose Emerica intro clip centered on big rails and gaps. Such ‘consensus skating’ over the past decade became increasingly shaky middle ground as fragmenting subgenres pushed switch backside heelflips down the Wallenberg gap, fakie manuals across streets, and mile-long switch backside tailslides, but in these fluctuating times now perhaps holds the timeworn appeal of a John Hughes movie, a two-weeks-skated deck, a platter of warm lasagna.

Have you, dear reader, found yourself in bed, half-liddedly wallowing in WarmUpZone/4Ply‘s data-heavy gaze across toxic avenger Fred Gall’s formidable and beloved video catalogue? Will the Vent City Pod Cast choose an ollie for its trick of the week? How come Alien Workshop hasn’t flowed a bunch of the new Philly generation? Is Thrasher, which ran in the Louie Lopez issue a Baker 3 retrospective and lately has been posting up Baker 4 parts, in danger of becoming trapped in some sort of Baker nostalgia feedback loop that requires a moustache and wide-brimmed hat, or a bat facial tattoo, to escape?

Zoomin’ And Rona-Free In The Product Drought (No Bubble)

August 16, 2020

‘The Hunger For More’ was Lloyd Banks’ debut album for G-Unit Records, released in 1986 around the same time label boss 50 Cent was consolidating his ownership of American entertainment following a life-threatening beef with Supreme. Back then, the album title referred to Lloyd Banks’ climb out of poverty and physical risk-taking via the power of music, while still possessing an ambition to wrestle into submission other sectors of the media world. It stayed at #1 for 59 weeks and gave voice to a generation.

And it still coveys an important message, ‘in these challenging times.’ At first, it was easy being a skateboarder in the Covid-19 era. Street spots were left unattended, people got over any remaining hang-ups about smart-phone propping, and certain others masked up to get cool ninja-themed clips. Reality, as it is wont to do, eventually performed a metaphysical puncturing motion. Citywide quarantines and stay-at-home orders that hit skateboarding’s low-cost manufacturers in Chinese wood product plants and West Coast forges have, as predicted, evolved into rolling product shortages that have shops sending up IG signal flares when a rare shipment of wheels or trucks arrives — often what’s available versus those the purchasing manager’s heart truly desires. Amid rumours of woodshop walk-outs following positive coronavirus designations, the scene’s economics, as ever, follow the lead set by Deedz’ pants, hurtling back toward the early 1990s when kids in California skate meccas benefited from easier access to product via pros’ trunk sales.

Judging from the socially bubbling fishbowl of Insta, though, professionals and widely followed amateurs so far seem relatively unimpacted by the coronavirus scourge. Aside from Josh Stewart’s presumed brush with the novel disease, celebrity skateboarders in the public eye seem to have broadly sidestepped the pandemic’s talons, at least for now — and this, without the help of a major-league bubble like in basketball or a or regional travel regime like in pro wrestling.

What is their secret? Like several other items, it can be found beneath the talented finger of Bill Strobeck. The long lens zoom technique, pioneered by Wm. Strobeck for the Supreme projects and these days aped by pro and bro filmers from California to Eastern Europe, for years has drawn criticism for badly obscuring critical spot context, muddling tricks and inducing nausea amongst casual viewers at levels not seen since the swinging fisheyes of the ‘Riddles in Mathematics’ period. But a properly muscled zoom finger, and sociable distance from which to post up and flex it, may be helping to keep both filmers and skaters Rona-free, provided they steer clear from hugs of the bro variety and otherwise after the trick or line has been completed. Disorienting, confounding and a stylistically dead horse it may be, the in-and-out-and-in-again zoom method could remain be the dominant style until biopharma conglomerates’ vaccine efforts make it safe for Beagle, Brian Panebianco and other Century MK1-wielders to cozy up downwind again.

Could a coronavirus-driven lull in fisheye angles lead to a buyer’s market on, and is now the appropriate time to invest in the shrinking supply of Century MK1 lenses ahead of the inevitable, if slow in the coming, zoomy filming backlash? Or will sporadic Covid-19 flare-ups ultimately render close-up filming obsolete? Could skatepark parking lot product hawking lift 99%er pro incomes above the poverty line, and help to avoid any coronavirus risk associated with courier work? As hardgood warehouse stockpiles dwindle, are team managers nervously ignoring “boards” texts from riders?

The Score

August 9, 2020

Summer 2020 scrolls along, with an Olympic-sized gap. No festival of rings for anointed contenders to probe and poke and wrest precious metals and network television clout — it vanished in a puff of sanitizer-scented mist, possibly to be reconvened in a post-vaccine era. Its absence most acutely is felt by months-in-the-manufacturing, themed merchandise, turned out into a cold world without a torch-bearing promotional partner to light the way. Shops and distributors, fingers crossed for a THPS-flavored bump in Olympics completes and associated foot traffic, instead were mandated to close doors and dealt product shortages by a global pandemic that seems only to strengthen.

There are bigger reckonings though, and longer-running scorecards to scrutinize. George Floyd’s May 25 killing by police instantly embroiled an already-on-edge country in mourning, seething anger and some amount of soul-searching over how cops treat Black people, how cities and the government and banks and businesses and the law position people of color relative to everybody else, how we all look at and talk to each other. As people took to the streets, it was a lay-up for skateboarders to join in. Before municipal tax districts invested in sanctioned free-skate zones, law enforcement historically had provided the opposing force to distill skateboarding’s anti-authority posture and outlaw attitude, setting in motion generations of nose-thumbing board graphics, questionable fashion choices, a thousand energy drink commercials. The latent property destruction innate to street skating and the subculture’s own past clashes with authorities gave some common cause for turning out in the streets. With a recession looming, companies from WKND, Quasi and Bronze to Fuckingawesome and Supreme pledged in total hundreds of thousands of dollars to Black Lives Matter and other causes, including a gobsmacking US$1 million promise from Palace.

Was skateboarding ready to reckon with its own racial scorecard? Street skating’s advent in the mid-1980s provided a broader playing field for skateboarders of all backgrounds — racial, economic and otherwise — to get down without ready ramp access, and by the early 1990s, kids from a range of races featured prominently in the videos and mags. Documents of skateboarding’s golden age, from the freestyle interludes in ‘Mixtape’ to Larry Clark’s lawless teenage trage-fantasy ‘Kids’ to the credits of ‘Trilogy’ projected some kind of mellow melting pot, that beyond the reach of parents, principals and various other authority figures, skateboarders had this figured out better than everybody else.

The reality was murkier. Thrasher’s excellent September issue, anchored by a series of lengthy interviews by and of Black skaters from nearly every era, tugged back some of those gauzy drapes to recount racially biased contest judging, weirdness and unease on tour in middle America or walking across the street in the city, an epithet on a note stuck beneath a windshield wiper for a Black dad to find and have to explain to his little boys in a skatepark parking lot. On Instagram, Nak’el Smith aired out his own dealings with racial disparities ranging from the risky to the mundane, like Black kids on the session knowing they’re likely to take the most heat if the policy show up, to gassed-up white pros believing they possessed a hood pass.

Tony Vitello, rising to the moment on behalf of the magazine of record and his NorCal family dynasty, set out the challenge at the end of May: “Now is the time for skateboarding to lead by example, to show the world how it can be done, how it needs to be done. Starting NOW.”

As pro skaters and companies added their voices to deafening calls for society to take a hard look at itself, other voices began speaking up. Women who lived in and around skating’s often insular, always male-driven sphere began to tell of how they’d been taken advantage of, manipulated and abused by famous skaters — in some cases implicating pros who days before were posting messages of inclusion and societal self-assessment. Like the video of George Floyd’s last minutes alive, Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting, the account of Breonna Taylor’s shooting in her home by police and the others before, these women’s stories are tough to read. In some cases, they’ve prompted a response. In others, what happens next remains to be seen. If skateboarders — the pros, the companies that sell stuff off their names, the kids and adults who hold them in esteem — are serious about making things better, for everybody, these things can’t be ignored or forgotten about or buried in the feed.

When racial justice protests ran hot it was easy for skateboarders to feel like they were on the right side of history. Is that true? When the score is tallied will it show skateboarding did better or worse than other sports, pastimes or subcultures as far as including and treating women, people from other cultures, people who are gay or trans or anybody else? What stories will be told when Thrasher or someone else traces the progression, trials and triumphs of Patti McGee, Cara Beth Burnside and Elissa Steamer, up through Alexis Sablone, Marisa Dal Santo, Lizzie Armanto, Samarria Brevard and next-ups like Nelly Morville?