Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

Escapists

July 21, 2022

In the 1994 Rick Ross blockbuster ‘Speed,’ main character (also named Rick Ross) is a man who refuses to be pinned down. Haunted by a past he cannot put behind him, chronically unable to drive 55 and enveloped in weed smoke, he is in each moment running from the last. On an empty by-way near Miami — a sweltering port metropolis where people go to cast off their pasts and sometimes, themselves — Rick ‘Rick Ross’ Ross escalates a routine radar trap into a manic flight from Johnny Law, scrambling past the leather-gloved grip of justice and hurling himself over a guardrail, entrusting his fate to the the Atlantic’s chilly bosom. The stakes are his life.

Are the rest of us any different? The seven pressed maple plys, the circular urethane and the shiny metal trucks, properly nutted and bolted together, function variously as a mental off ramp, a time machine, an escape hatch of the soul. The physical transport element is window dressing for the transportative powers of simply rolling down the street, capable of teleporting a person into a different mood, an earlier age, a livelier body less beaten down by time, injury and much toil. Skateboarding has long been a refuge for the kid with the shitty home life, lonely at school. All-consuming battles for tricks can carry a sense of obsession and even futility, but carry the side benefit of blotting out the stress and hurry and noise that can consume the remainder of the day’s waking hours. Pros and others speak of ‘blacking out’ moments or more in the final pursuit of landing some long-fought trick; the ensuing euphoria is often cited as one of the things about skating that draws and hooks people, and the forced mental tunnel-visioning required to get there is probably a main factor behind skating’s Venn diagram overlap with addiction.

Videos can be similarly transportative. Whereas a single-trick clip shows a moment in time, footage of lines thrills with possibility — the far corners of some spot hinted at the edge of the fisheye lens, the uncertainty of where the run will go or what trick will come next, how long it can be pushed. Pontus Alv, a master of the form, grasps this: “What I always try to do is to hide the future for the viewer,” he said in Solo in 2016. “When you film from behind you see where he goes and watch his foot position and figure out what he’s gonna do. I always start filming a line from the front, cause the viewer has no clue then. The more you can hide, the more dramatic it gets, the more energy you add to it.”

Locales work the same way, with the vast and seemingly untapped plazas showcased in Lordz ‘They Don’t Give a Fuck About Us’ as important a part of the video as Bastien Salabanzi, William Phan, Alex Carolino and Florentin Marfain, vicarious spot tourism for US heads that went levels deeper than what Flip and Es and 411VM had brought. Michael Mackrodt built his one-man ‘Fishing Lines’ franchise around exotic spot-seeking in places like west Africa and Siberia. One of the most engrossing videos of the 2010s, ‘Ordos’, included no big-name pros of the day, mainly starring a near-empty city in Inner Mongolia and all the boundless, otherworldly potential it held.

Next in this lineage comes the Nocturnup Taipei video published earlier this month on Free, part of an ongoing project from Daryl Dominguez and Nick Richards that centers on skating some of the world’s most congested cities at night. The practical result is to film tricks that’d be impossible during the daytime crush of pedestrians and traffic, but the sum is much more than the excellent clips — plunging the viewer into a twilight maze of grimy loading docks and indoor malls that never close, a haze of smeary streetlights and crowds of idle scooters. The half-dozen skaters in the crew pop up grates to jump street gaps and do Miles Silvas tricks on tile ledges, threading among midnight street festivals and lone sidewalk sweepers. All around the city reaches into blackness, until the sun starts to rise as Daryl Dominguez battles a 360 flip bomb drop.

Will escalating jet fuel prices and the threat of global recession further throttle wanderlusting pros, and keep the world’s remaining untapped skate spots the domain of their locals for a few more years? Has Michael Mackrodt assumed Kenny Reed’s historical role as the plug for handrails not yet frontside crooked grinded by Jamie Foy, or stonework plazas not yet worked over by Mark Suciu? What was Rick Ross’ plan after jumping into the channel?

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 10 – Devine Calloway, ‘Let’s Do This!!1’

July 5, 2022


A shining example of classically cornball TWS editing and a ‘big’ song in the post-Ty Evans/Jon Holland era, Devine Calloway launched the second act of his career via Chocolate and DC after previously popping up as a braided City Stars shorty. It was a time when you could kick off a video part with a nollie backside bigspin and pack a suitcase full of New Eras for an international flight, and Devine Calloway was peaking, one of the first dudes to take the recently reclaimed backside bigspin down sizable gaps and making rarely recommended stuff like the nollie varial flip and 360 frontside pop shove-it look kinda incredible. He’s in the breeze, flannels flapping, floating over that SF street gap, board always spinning back to his feet with plenty of time to spare. 

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 10 – Ray Barbee, ‘Can’t Stop’

July 4, 2022


In between getting ripped off by multiple generations of Chocolate team members, Ray Barbee played a cigar-chomping card sharp in the Firm’s big 2003 video that turned into a swan song for the ex-Bones Brigadier brand that brought up Rodrigo TX and Frank Gerwer, among others. Ray Barbee was a vet a few times over at this point but there he was, hitting the Barcelona spots like Sants that were starting to bubble and running through the current LA schoolyards, parking lot gaps and sidewalk bumps with that impossible-to-replicate smoothness, fully decking tricks in the deep end and plunging down big banks. 

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 10 – Adidas, ‘Greece’

July 3, 2022


Before ‘big shoe’ consolidated its power and sorted pro skateboarding into three major camps, the sportswear conglomerates’ contracting activities produced teams with a certain eclecticism of lineup that went a long way toward establishing the programs’ credibility and capacity to add something to ‘the conversation.’ They resulted in vids like this 2012 Adidas one, a high point of the Juice Design-steered, geographically organized period, which caught a good deal of the early triple-striped squadron in top form. There’s Pete Eldridge blasting monster switch tricks with the ‘Bootlet 3000’ shotgun blasts echoing somewhere, Lucas Puig still in the early innings of a peerless twodecade run, Silas Baxter-Neal doing a load of tricks he probably still could do, and a pre-thickening Jake Donnelly, massively tweaking switch flips between sun-bleached boat rides, rubbery synthesizers and umbrella drinks. You assume there is a Tim O’Connor clip in there somewhere. 

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 10 – Steve Durante, ‘Inhabitants’

July 2, 2022


For a minute or two in the waning days of the Dubya Bush administration, Steve Durante looked about ready to form Habitat’s new core. A Jerseyite rocking a Fred Gall bun, Steve Durante translated the Wenning hunch and ledge tech to the pivot fakie/brown cords era, ratcheting up the difficulty quotient a notch or several with tricks here like the switch frontside shove-it 5-0, the switch backside lipslide variations and the nollie noseblunt pop-out in the middle of Cincinnati’s most knowed loading dock ledge. This dude was one of the few on the national scene putting in time in Philadelphia during the lull between the Stevie/Kalis era and the Sabotage resurgence; the line here through the Muni plaza still could slot seamlessly into any of the latter crew’s vids. 

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 10 – Spencer Fujimoto, ‘Peep This’

July 1, 2022

There is a looseness to this part that kicked off Zoo York’s 1999 comp vid that now looks like some product of a less-calculated age, when people would do their thing in the sessions over the course of the season and when the filmer put it together you’d maybe wind up with a tight couple minutes, multiples of the same trick and a ratio of orange t-shirts to overall footage that’s probably yet to be surpassed. Both Spencer Fujimoto’s nollie backside flip off the Keenan Milton bump and the one over the Brooklyn Banks wall are gems, and rather than making it the ender, the section starts off with the heaviest clip, the frontside shove-it into the courthouse bank. It clicked though in a vid that was more about the mix of heads, the lines and the crowded streets, versus the still-nascent arms race for enders.

Primitive Skateboarding Proudly Presents: Achievers

June 12, 2022

Time was, in that loose fit coming-of-age movie set knowed to some as the mid-90s, it was ‘cool’ not to skate. Long before the ‘no days off,’ on-my-grind 24-hour hustle culture, before pros were contractually obligated to help sponsoring companies stake their claims to the eye-glazing forever scroll, there were times when a year or two might pass between photos or video footage of skaters such as Guy Mariano, Rudy Johnson, Joey Suriel, Fabian Alomar, Gino Iannucci. Part of it was a slower media cycle, and the physical limitations of the day’s rickety imaging technology, but for some holding down pro boards on the era’s top companies, it seemed also something of a ‘flex’ — sitting in the back of the pro skater classroom, blowing rolling blunts and chopping it up about cars and girls, while the try-hards busted their asses to catch up. Menace, one of the 1990s’ most celebrated and influential board companies, never put out a video.

That harshest of mistresses, reality, eventually caught up with that approach — and, in a different way, with Menace, which went through several copyright-forced name changes and a team revamp that resulted in the eventual City Stars video opening with onetime Prime pro Caine Gayle and leaning heavily on newly signed kids Mikey Taylor, Ryan Denman, Justin Case, Devine Calloway and most of all Paul Rodriguez, who ended the thing with a two-song section. Since that time, the influx of ‘real money,’ competition and the bottomless thirst of social media has brought skateboard companies to a point where they can’t go a few months without putting out a video before being called out for low productivity. Pros can expect the big sportswear and beverage checks to come with what-have-you-done-for-me-lately strings attached or to turn serious injuries into their own their own media cycles. Meanwhile the divide deepens between the pro skating careerists and back-of-the-classroom types, the top 40 single-crafters and the indie artists.

When P-Rod expanded Primitive into a board and clothing concern around eight years ago, he’d already cemented himself as a senior member of the former camp. He was rumored to be the first skater to land a seven-figure shoe deal with Nike, a gamble that paid off for both parties, Nike taking a decisive step away from the ‘90s vets who gave the company’s third shot the credibility it needed to hit, and a step toward the Olympian platform it was always destined to become. Paul Rodriguez backed up his jumping ship from Es, which had given his early career a ‘Menikmati’ sheen, by reliably turning in top-shelf video parts that were undeniable in their gnarliness, if not always inspired.

Primitive has maintained this approach as it has come to rival team-wise any of the Girl or Es or Plan B lineups in ‘stackedness.’ ‘Define,’ the full-length released last week that carries a statement of purpose via its 68 minute runtime alone, is heavily shock-and-awe in its execution, with zero filler from a team built squarely upon capital-P professionals. No sketch and special meter always flashing, ridiculous lines are the norm — Wade Desarmo, early on in the vid, shows the commitment to quality in real time after doing a picture-perfect nollie flip backside nosegrind revert on one of the Muni benches, less than a second later calling to the filmer — “yes or no?” (Response: “Go.”) In an age where ‘everybody’s good’ and the explore page on IG coughs up middle America skatepark clips to rival one’s favorite pros, this is how you stand apart: Miles Silvas and Carlos Ribiero doing line-ender ledge tricks before hucking switchstance down the 14-stair Muirlands handrail, Spencer Hamilton alleyooping flip tricks over rail after rail, the general absurdity of the things that Tiago Lemos does, and the proprietor, Paul Rodriguez, tapping in from injury and business-handling to switch backside smith grind lengthily curving ledges, flipping out.

The steadily expanding team’s commitment to high productivity is more remarkable still when considering they aren’t even expected to do this stuff. “Don’t hold your breath,” commented Primitive EVP Heath Brinkley during his 2018 ‘9 Club’ podcast appearance, regarding the prospect of full team vids. Whereas video was generally regarded by Heath Brinkley as “the most important platform,” the timescale involved with the longform skate video made them a bad bet versus three or four smaller projects spaced out over the course of a year: “Do I want the guys to go out for two years and kind of go dark and really hammer down on a full length, or do I showcase them multiple times throughout the year?” Since then Primitive’s put out the smaller projects and cranked out four full-length vids in five years. 

Primitive could be called a factory, pumping out its highly rated ‘Testing’ clips and full-lengths at a more regular pace than any other board maker recently, but it may be better regarded as a startup, staffed by intensely driven cream-of-the-croppers with a stake in the outcome — part of P-Rod’s plan when starting Primitive was to give its pros a bigger stake in their board sales than the company received, a potential motivator, not that they seem to need it. The result has been a team that easily appears to be the multinational athletic sportswear manufacturer’s vision of what skateboarding can be, but maybe really is a product of it — training in gyms, eating right, group dinners and drinks at the bar, sure, but probably not greeting dawn by getting kicked out of the bordello, and heavy helpings of drive and focus.

How might Primitive’s top-of-its-class achievers fare faced with a list of fearsome and grotesque King of the Road challenges? Are the company’s Trapper Keeper style graphics on the low some of the best out right now? Is the ‘Primitive Fade’ destined to become the chosen hairstyle of summer ‘22, and is this the most Canadian Spencer Hamilton ever has looked? Do Primitive’s various and sundry collab partners, recently including Kikkoman and Megadeth, aim for Palace and Supreme but land closer to Ralph’s? Would a collab with Trapper Keeper maker Mead Schoolgoods Inc. complete the circle?