Archive for September, 2022

Grass Is The New Cellar Door

September 26, 2022

A little over a year after carving purpose-built Olympic coping for the enduring glory of the Republic of Finland, Lizzie Armanto could be glimpsed ripping a giant exploding volcano earlier this month up in Montreal, Canada, rapturous roars erupting from the crowd with each trick like so many molten vibes. The fiery spectacle sponsored by noted Canadian pants vendor Dime was the capstone to a girthy contest season that careened from a steadily expanding rainbow slappy rail at the Dime event to a FuckingAwesome/Hockey street jam that featured a flaming police car, and a quarterpipe-enabled slam-dunk contest put on by Canadian podcast brand The Bunt. Prize money flowed directly into bar tabs and pride of position was considered the ultimate triumph.

The deepening circusization of the contest circuit is not only a much-needed and happily welcome corrective from the totally shocking and entirely unforeseen governance and financial problems gripping the USA Skateboarding Olympic operation. It also speaks to a restless, searching spirit a-foot in the once sub-culture. East coast crust mining has expanded into Midwestern rust belt towns, while internationally able pros and bros drop pins in increasingly exotic locales. What does it say when the marquee contest in the city of New York, a skate mecca for lo these past 80 years, revolves around a basic trash can?

This apparent listlessness and malaise has helped to broaden the lane for talents including but by no means limited to Dan Mancina and Felipe Nunes. For others, it is pushing tricks toward less orthodox and greener pastures. The quest for handrail dominance as the central pursuit of the professional class petered out sometime around the early ’10s, and not long after, some ceiling seemed to be similarly hit for ledge-dancing; in the years hence, taking tricks to harder-to-skate spots has become its own discipline, at times seeming the dominant one. But just as a certain pants sizing parameters can be plucked from retro archives, updated with modern materials, marketed for an inflation-adjusted MSRP, and then just as quickly be cast into the abyss, so progresses the drive to find some as-yet untapped spin on timeworn tricks.

As it turns out, the answer can be found in one’s own backyard. For decades an occasional seconds-filler in credits sections, or subject of grainy super-8 for the feels, grass has suddenly moved from background contrast to center stage, elevated in recent years by the likes of Aidan Mackey’s off-road bombs and Dane Brady’s Lincoln line in ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind/Please Don’t Wake Me This Time.’ This summer has brought rapid growth in grass-oriented tricks, including Sascha Daley tangling with a kickflip grass hill bomb at the beginning of his ‘El Caliente’ vid, Sammy Montano working in both a grass throw-down and ride away on a traffic barrier smith grind in a vid for Globe Shoe Co AUS, and bearded Sourman Simon Isaksson backside flipping into a switch manual down a grass bank in some ‘Solution III’ b-sides. Victor Cascarigny’s OJ Wheels video kicked off with a ride up over and across a couple dried-out grass planters, while Griffin Gass applied a plant rights-friendly mirrored manual duo to some astroturf that has been deemed to count for Web Log rationalization purposes.

Is this new willingness to skate grass a terrainial innovation that stands to unlock a fresh universe of spots, like Bob Puleo’s celebration of the cellar door did for otherwise skippable alleyways in the ‘Static II’ era, or is this all only a troubling indicator that supplies of more conventional spots are running dangerously low? Will twin tracks of beaten-down turf come to be known as the same sort of telltale sign as a wax-darkened ledge, or the notorious ‘black rainbows?’ Are the XT Dirt Wheelz set to make a Tail Devil-style comeback from the back pages of 1990s magazines, or will expanding drought and rising temperatures make once-unskateable soils as dry and hard as concrete?

Game Of Benches: Betrayal, UHauls And The Dangerous Season That Lays Ahead

September 10, 2022

The Queen is dead, and much that once seemed certain now crumbles away. As the House of Windsor proceeds with succession, in true ’20s fashion the digital news feeds are populated with graphical flow charts illustrating who is next in line for the centuries-old monarchy, the fealty of the kingdom’s territories and claims, wealth in spices and rum. The lessons from the planetary docu-series ‘Game O’ The Thrones’ are that behind the scenes, in rooms and whispers and shadows, for those who covet power unto themselfs a ruler’s passing is the time to raise armies, lay traps, and seize power. 

America has not formally recognized a king since 1977, when Elvis Presley abdicated his position to go undercover as a smooth-talking mummy fighter*. Nevertheless, the same temptations and hunger for power and dominion lurk in the hearts of the free and the brave. This past week, the States again have become fraught with uncertainty and festering factionalism. It was nigh two years ago that FuckingAwesome, a powerful house in that shrinking and increasingly fragmented kingdom of the hard-good, resurrected the fabled green, curvy bench, knowed to some as the AVE bench, from the gaseous swamp of memories past. Quartersnacks told the tale of AVE’s long quest to reclaim what was rightfully his; he used the green bench to conquer the switch backside noseblunt slide and then turned it over to the people, bequeathing it about a year ago to NY’s Tompkins Square Park in a ‘flex’ that was hailed for its generosity of spirit and human purpose. From far and wide, pros, Joes and certain others journeyed to skate it, or at least gaze approvingly upon its gentle curve, its surprising length, and sturdy square legs.

Then one late summer’s day this month it vanished, only to reappear the next day in Philadelphia, where its verdant steel planks graced Muni and Temple before, some days later, disappearing again. Briefly feared lost to forklift-operating officialdom, it instead appeared to surface in Richmond, under the control of the Bust Crew. The still-ongoing Midatlantic caper has at various points involved Harry Bergenfield and Naquan Rollings trading shots in the New York Post, an apparent ruse involving a fictitious receipt, and Anthony Van Engelen’s phone getting blown up by NPR and other national news outlets tumbling over one another for a piece. 

Skateboarders are renowned for their ability to innovate, copy-paste and beat things into the ground. While it is entertaining to imagine crews from DC to Montreal and Chicago or SF pulling up box-truck rental rates and pooling gas money — the Palace dudes have likely already crunched numbers on air freight to London — it is easy to see it all spinning out of control. Lust for the green bench and the untold power it conveys has now been loosed in the hearts of the ambitious and ruthless; unmoored from Tompkins, the bench now has proven free for the taking, portending a volatile season ahead in which alliances are raised and betrayals plotted, armies form and clash, and as the sky darkens, nocturnal brawls between territorial gangs, sort of like ‘The Warriors’ if a couple of the dudes were always lugging around a big piece of furniture. 

Could this whole thing have been orchestrated by FA or Vans or Pig Wheels to generate excitement, breathless media coverage, internet ‘takes’ and maybe, some valuable lessons about togetherness? Does the regional competition for control over the green bench risk spreading further, threatening a version of the 1990s East Coast-West Coast rap music feud, except this time with a lot of internet memes? Has anybody switch frontside blunted the bench? Will an elder statesman like Fred Gall eventually need to step in, calm everybody down, and when no one is looking claim the bench for one of his DIY projects?

*a lot of people appreciated it too