Summertime Mixtape Vol. 6 – Lindsey Robertson, ‘Dying to Live’

June 25, 2018


A jaunty reggae tune for a one-man stress section introed at the time a singular figure — a glasses-wearing Florida kid enamored of heelflips, frontside noseslides and off-kilter tricks such as the (probably correctly) rarely spotted street stalefish. Lindsey Robertson’s part arrived at a time when a major board company still could uncork unknown talents in big videos, and Zero got somewhat questionable moves like the heelflip indy grab over with some help from the murky Jefferson Airplane single and a structure that sort of inverted the Zero template, opening with repeated slow-mo knockouts. Would that your summer is carefree enough to launch massive ollies, throw a shaka and then casually observe your own hand motions.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 6 – Girl ‘Road Trip,’ 411VM Issue 39

June 24, 2018

Arriving shortly after Rick Howard and Mike Carroll joined forces with Ty Evans, this entry closed out 411VM’s midperiod and set the stage for the bloated, high-concept video escapades of the 2000s that would help sink 411 itself and eventually become an albatross for nearly all companies possessing the dollars to still attempt them. This clip also marked a historical juncture for Girl itself, featuring the handrail-heavy pickup Rick McCrank in his absolute prime and Eric Koston still ascending toward the height of his Sparkles-era powers. All the Ty-isms are there too: an intro that spans a third of the clip, stridently emotive techno-pop, high-fives and camera mugs, slow-mo. Rick McCrank whipping a switch ghetto bird on a battered QP, Mike Carroll refurbishing some of his ‘Modus’ moves like the nollie flip to backside 5-0, Rick Howard shove-iting into and out of a backside nosegrind, Eric Koston going the distance on a wiggly bar, everybody in Es shoes, launch ramps and an ostrich — nobody in 2O00 could touch it.

Midwestern Exposure: Rust, Rubble and Rural Decay in ‘Grains’

June 10, 2018

Since fisheyes first were directed toward emptied swimming facilities, skate videos have possessed a flavour of the cultural tourist and voyeur, maybe: initially exporting southern California’s sunbleached concrete and asphalt-sculpted schoolyards, later letting couchbound pipe-packers tag along on late-night Manhattan missions, Europe’s summertime tour circuit and SPoT’s debauched drainage ditch runs. Rocketing board and shoe sales — fuel’d by THPS, Extreme Games and bulk-buying mall stores — bankrolled weekslong filming trips and demo tours to steadily more exotic locales: Watch enough vids from the 2000-2005 period and you’ll swear you know your way around Barcelona; earlier, Brazil got its own full-length and 411 eventually dedicated a series to various other Kenny Reedisms.

The skate industry’s subsequent economic ACL blowout and chronic fiscal pain since then bit deeply into travel budgets and placed a fresh focus on mining domestic urban crust and freshly combing flyover country. The widely shared misery of global economic upheaval and longterm decay have proven fertile, as Alien Workshop’s rekindled squad repeatedly probes Detroit’s sprawling grit and Rick McCrank centers an entire TV show around the concept. “Rural America is the new inner city,” the Wall Street Journal declared last year, pointing up employment scarcity, more people dying than being born, and a deepening pill epidemic. Bucolic visions of pitchforks and ice cream cones and golden-hour little league victories where losers walk away raring for the rematch are fading to the tune of dimestore murals on main street, exposing chipped brick and maybe a coupla shitty tags.

It is this graying canvass that Kevin DelGrosso and Chad Matthews stretch further into the Midwest’s lesser-traveled underbelly. Their video ‘Grains,’ filmed across the soybean belt of Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio, veers far off interstate arteries and urban sprawls to extract tricks from crumbling loading docks in Joliet, dilapidated stadiums in Gary, polished-stone plaza ledges in downtown Peoria. In between years-dead narrators relaying factoids on corn production and Farm Belt infrastructure, ‘Grains’ picks through abandoned small-town storefronts, creaking trainyards and literal rubble for an hour’s worth of wallies, backside bigspins and rusted-rail boardslides to fakie.

Early on Riley Vaughn boosts a massive no-comply over a barrier and guides some drop-down manuals into an empty fountain, later Patty Barnas flicks a lovely backside flip into a different one; Seth Neetz gets down on some electric boxes and Brian Mangerson whips manual spins onto a pyramid spot that could’ve been ported from the greater NY area. One of the burlier parts goes to Eric Thomas, who brings a Muska-level noseslide and ollies out over a rail to a nervy nose manual to drop. There’s a kind of thrift-store grab bag of spots — plenty of ditches and under-bridge banks to walls but some real gems, like a brick wave in Gary and the dreamy wallride spot in Michigan City. Also some backroad artifacts and anachronisms: a Destructo trucks tee, multiple instances of the heelflip body varial, Blues Brothers graffiti, a pop-shove it to frontside smith grind, Zubaz shorts. The vid’s makers cop to a preference for the old-fashioned and antiquated, from the VX-1000 to the opening recommendation to watch on a TV screen, versus laptop or phone.

Could an influx of summertime spot-seeking pro tours inject a meaningful boost into groaning rust-belt economies, or would all out-of-town funds inevitably pad already-fattened pockets of liquor store tycoons? Will emptying-out rural towns eventually give way to village-sized DIYs, expanding upon the urban foundation spot concept? Will the threat of catching stray bullets at Lockwood come to be replaced by the possibility of a ‘Children of the Corn’ scenario in which bloothirsty tweens in old-school attire capture and gruesomely sacrifice unknowing passers-through to a nameless being that roams the fields?

‘Grains’ can be ordered here.

Rogue Wave

May 25, 2018

Here’s the sequence of events: Just as Jason Jessee’s after-credits part in Converse Shoes’ debut full-length ‘Purple’ rolled on Thrasher and various other internet video portals, links, photos and Instagram posts began to be traded among skateboarders who’d begun connecting a few decades’ worth of dots: A biker magazine interview from 20-some years ago, in which Jason Jessee throws around racial epithets, photos before and since then of him rocking swastikas, and some signature products with the same, some of this seemingly recent. The Slap Magazine message board thread quickly burned into double-digits and accusatory comments popped onto Jason Jessee’s Instagram account, along with Converse’s and those of his various other sponsors. Jason Jessee soon issued a brief video and handwritten apology in the event anyone took offense, non-specific in its nature aside from an apparent reference to the biker mag interview from way back when.

At that point, the matter seemed settled in the minds of many fans, photographers, and other pros — whatever was in Jason Jessee’s past was atoned for and indeed, an outpouring of praise and loving emoticons followed upon his social-media channel. Santa Cruz reposted his video, and backed him. Those who responded with lingering questions — why pull on swastika gloves for a video clip? Why sew a swastika patch onto a jacket? Did anybody ever question all this? Is that it, and everything’s supposed to be good now? — were left to wonder. Some who pressed the issue on Instagram were branded haters fixated upon the past by others who deemed it water under the bridge, or no big deal in the first place.

After nearly a week, NHS/Independent/Santa Cruz/OJ posted an anti-racism graphic and disavowed hatred — and a day later, Andrew Murrell laid out the whole episode at Vice. In that article, Jason Jessee apologized further and said in the past he’d used Nazi imagery to provoke reactions, and because of drugs; NHS and Converse said they had no knowledge of any of it, and both ‘indefinitely suspended’ him from their teams. Gentle Jones, the author of the Slap board thread, claimed vindication.

Jason Jessee, whose frontside ollies up to this point had formed a foundation for his recent revival as a sort of crazy-uncle persona built around vintage motorcycles and wacky quotables, now can show whether or not he’ll continue to use these images, or sell them. He said in his initial statement that he has evolved, though the Slap message board dates some of this to the recent past. Some of his teammates have professed faith in his character, and publicly rallied around him. There’s some incongruity. It’s been noted elsewhere that Jason Jessee has been the only white member of a Latino lowrider car club and recently recommended listening to Kendrick Lamar. Going forward, he will be under a microscope.

Elsewhere, there have been attempts to defend the swastika as a derivation of the ‘Surf Nazi’ era, geared toward freaking out the squares. It seems a fairly safe bet that there are creative juices enough within skating to figure some method for achieving this without symbols that directly link back to a state-orchestrated campaign that murdered millions of children, moms, dads, and grandparents. And remain tied to violence that’s on the rise again.

A bigger question remains for the skateboard industry generally, which up until the past 36 hours mostly looked as though it would move along and bury the matter beneath a pile of fresh Instagram clips, capsule collections and good times with the homies. The skateboard magazines by and large have had nothing to say, neither have the loquacious podcasts. Between Dave Mayhew’s post-retirement video part and a boardslide to darkslide to boardslide driveway clip, Skateline NBD — which one could imagine going in on a topic like this — skipped it.

Ryan Lay, fresh off an Etnies part and knee-deep in charity work, addressed it early on. A few days later, Deluxe impresario and industry leader Jim Thiebaud came with an introspective post over the weekend: “Any form of racism doesn’t belong in our community of skating and I have long worked to support that belief. …I should have been more responsible to my convictions, my core beliefs and acted on those. I regret that.” Mackenzie Eisenhouer and Josh Kalis posted messages.

As skateboarding tries to hold to a rebellious stance and outlaw bearing, there’s perhaps some tribal instinct to circle wagons when a longstanding and celebrated member comes under any type of fire, and a reflex to thumb noses at authority. Nobly intentioned maybe, if increasingly quixotic, as sanctioned skateparks take market share from street spots in Instagram clips, and skaters begin jockeying to enlist for national Olympic rosters. But what is it that’s being protected? The bottle-lightning Teddy Barrow captured via @Feedback_TS is skateboarding’s schizophrenic relationship with criticism. Everyone’s got opinions, and nobody wants to put the homies on blast. It’s always easier to focus on the positive. Did Jason Jessee’s sponsors or teammates pick up on any of this over the years? Did anybody speak up? Would others back someone who did? Would a weblog site larded with run-on sentences have done a post? Would you?

Those questions will be relevant beyond this week. In two years’ time, the Olympics promises international media attention and scrutiny for the contest’s newest broadcast event, the likes of which the skateboard business hasn’t seen before. If some skeleton rattled out of an Olympian’s closet just ahead of the torchlighting, would the organizers, secular media and international public look for accountability among sponsors, teammates, and skateboarders generally? And would they find it? For better or worse, skateboarding’s reliance on the qualitative versus quantitative has deeply entwined pros with companies, particularly given the commoditization of decks, wheels, the vulcanized suede shoe. Pros are the brand and the brand is its pros. The brands and the pros and the skateboarders are the culture.

There is another audience. Kids who’ve been intimidated or bummed by sideways racial comments, prejudice, or outright violence, and who maybe responded to the idea of a more open-minded, self-reliant pasttime free of rules and teammates and coaches and winners and losers, anytime, anywhere. They have been watching a lot of other skateboarders, companies, pros, magazines and maybe their friends for the past week, apparently carrying on business as usual. Kids have long memories. Ask Corey Duffel, whose own youthful off-color remarks still get brought up 15 years later, despite having not been quoted saying anything remotely similar since. In another 15 years it’s going to be these kids doing the interviews, hosting the podcasts and writing the stories. What will they remember?

The Best Night of Sleep Sanger Rainsford Ever Had

May 13, 2018

In Richard Connell’s 1924 classic ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ a big-city trophy hunter washes up on a remote island, soon revealed to be inhabited by a philosophizing fellow hunter. Over a stately dinner, the host identifies himself to be a prize hunter too, as well as something of a freethinking homicidal. Stalking elephants and leopards had grown tiresome, he explained — hence the island equipped with treacherous waters, occasionally delivering via shipwreck to its proprietor the only remaining worthwhile quarry: Men. Soon, a new hunt is on.

Among the improbably growing ranks of skateboard filmers, the thrill of the hunt tends to scale alongside duration. Instagram-ready clips are single-digit ‘Duck Hunt’ level potshots; the one-off/solo part barely Bambi. There is a worthy challenge in nailing and transcending the attention-span sweet spot that is the 15 to 20-minute promo, with a couple full parts and a couple montages, or the footage-dumping ‘mixtape’ project of similar length. But in this woolly realm, the most dangerous game is the full-length video —- its gaping maw of hubris, its difficult-to-wrangle girth, its often unbearable weight, threatening to trample less-seasoned filmers under viewers’ colossal expectations.

Having conquered skateboard professionals, shops and the upper-shredding masses, what prey remains for those moneyed alphas of the industry, the industrial shoe merchants? Mastering the full-length video, that great unquantifiable, that tantalizing money pit, that great ‘Branding Statement,’ continues to beckon and tempt international sporting goods manufacturers like some VX1000-mic’d siren song. For Nike Inc., this has been a slow process. The Oregonian sportswear conglomerate dipped in its toe-piece with 2004’s ‘On Tap,’ flexing some plotting and production and a little bit of those Rodriguez acting chops, but never fully committing. Nike saved that for 2007’s bloated misfire ‘Nuttin’ But the Truth,’ which saddled some truly great skating, a still-corralable team and perhaps the all-time greatest Danny Supa part with an insistent storyline that, while intriguingly bizarre, asked far too much of a skate video viewer base freshly armed with DVD ‘skip’ buttons. Jason Hernandez’s excellent ‘Debacle’ project from 2009 hit all the marks for length, range and focus, but led into the increasingly rote ‘Chronicles’ series, which by the third installment had devolved into a transactional, paint-by-numbers affair.

Adidas, which for a while mastered the five-to-six minute road trip video with rotating picks from its more diverse roster, also veered into a predictable pattern to where it eventually seemed obligatory to attempt something bigger — and they wound up with 2016’s ‘Away Days,’ overlong and too top-heavy with too many good parts that wound up buried. The Juice crew seemed to struggle to construct a project greater than the sum of its parts, linked by something more than Gonz vignettes and blurred shots of streetlights and moving cars.

Now comes Cons, Nike’s subsidiary for the thrift-shop set, which moves without the weight of the world’s biggest sporting goods franchise stuffed into its canvas and rubber. For this reason Cons maybe squares a bit easier with skateboarding’s historic resume of scruffiness, artsiness and a general low-fi bearing, and ‘Purple’ headmaster Ben Chadbourne plays up this angle from the opening frames, typing out an introductory monologue on mid-century equipment (though not without some mobile-phone shorthand).

‘Purple’ justifies a good chunk of its 45-minute runtime in a way that, say, a Primitive full-length might struggle with, that is, diversity in style and approach. Straightaway Bobby De Keyzer pops out of all the backside noseblunts, sets his wide-bottoms whipping with a switch backside 360 in a line, and displays a mean halfway half-cab flip — but then you veer into Sage Elsesser, languid over tall bars, and what seems like whole-body lipslides. Kevin Rodriguez brings his abrasive wallrides and grabs in a Neubauten shirt, though Pontus Alv’s more-frenetic framing maybe was a better look for him, while Aaron Herrington stays on his ‘Welcome to Hell’ shit and there’s a weirdly endearing amount of Corey Duffel clips throughout. Underground style soldier Eli Reed swerves switch over a China Bank long bench, Frank Gerwer briefly reprises his star-making Transworld turn and Brian Delatorre somewhere in the middle dishes out maybe his best part ever, a half-switch scorcher that incorporates some brawny Al Davis moves and a wild new branch line from Black Rock. There’s some curated roll-ups courtesy of Sean Pablo, a mind-numbing Sean Greene ollie and then Louie Lopez, offering another few minutes of heaters with the occasional curveball — the rarely seen fakie frontside shove-it, a night line at Third and Army.

But it is Ben Chadbourne’s choice to close not with the obvious enders from a SOTY coulda/shoulda-been, but rather a comparatively skimpy contribution from the mercurial Jake Johnson, that argues strongest for Cons pulling off the full-length better than its larger-revenued predecessors. It’s easy to make the ‘quality over quantity’ argument justifying Jake Johnson’s solemn two minute wind-down to ‘Purple,’ even if it’s also a little disappointing, given prodigious recent output elsewhere. This though is the same logic that placed Guy Mariano’s ledge-heavy part last in ‘Mouse,’ not Eric Koston’s handrail-heavier section with its NBDs; or when Birdhouse’s blockbuster ‘The End’ stuck by its winking sketch to close on a shorter Bucky Lasek section rather than the stadium-touring Tony Hawk; or how Bill Strobeck’s ‘Cherry,’ among the strongest full-lengths of this aging decade, came with hardly any conventional ‘parts’ at all.

Does humankind’s hope for deeper Jake Johnson satisfaction now hinge upon the coming Quasi video? How many angles did Sean Greene’s ollie need for real? Was Adidas putting Dennis Busenitz last in ‘Away Days’ a left turn or playing it safe? Were people allowed to smoke in prior big shoe company videos? How come there were no Game Genie codes that let you shoot the dog in Duck Hunt?

Instagram’s Never-Ending Demo

May 6, 2018

“It’s annoying. There are people who know where you are when you don’t want them to know where you are. Add to that the fact that I’m being told by people that I’m blowing it and losing out on board royalties and shoe royalties because of not being on the stuff? That makes me sick. That, in skateboarding, you’re hurting yourself by choosing not to spend more time stuck behind a computer. That doesn’t make sense. Just talk to a kid when you’re out skating, and they buy your board, you know?”

What if two-trucked handrailing Luddite David Gravette got it wrong? What if all other pros who’ve half-heartedly wished away Instagram’s round-the-clock, feed-the-beast Antlion death trap for skate content of all stripes and quality levels were looking at it totally cockeyed? What if nobility and honour lay not in turning away from the doubletapping throng, their fickle tags and fleeting tastes, and instead throwing oneself completely into it?

Just as remote email access and space mission-worthy computers in every Dockers pocket has turned white-collar jobs into 24-hour affairs, clocking in at desperate, late-night hours or out of sheer boredom on the john, so too has Instagram’s advent extended outward the dimension of the skate demo. Now, fossil fuel-guzzling, sweaty summertime tour stops stand as an anachronism beside an infinity-scrolling, pro-packed skate session beneath fingers that may or may not pick up your board the next time they stop by the shop, but may also click over to your bro-brand’s BigCartel to scoop a $32 t-shirt before they all wind up on Ebay.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro daily dribbling out indifferently phone-filmed park clips is not some navel-gazing lazy, tossing half-baked bones to his or her followers while too hungover to step to street spots. He or she is our 21st century demo king, rifling off tricks and stoking out touchscreen-hypnosis kids who faithfully scroll their way to a front-row seat for the round-the-clock session stretching across time zones, continents and hemispheres, right now, go look. Like when a real demo is popping it’s hard to catch everything if your eyes aren’t peeled and pivoting.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro following you back and now and then ‘liking’ one of your jiggly park clips is not grimly cycling through his or her followers to pick a predetermined handful to hype up and pump devotion into an overinflated personal brand, while awaiting an Uber to Tuesday night’s first bar. Perhaps they are those who, in the days when gas prices, hotel rates and deck company saturation levels were comparatively lower, would follow your post-demo trick on the medium-sized park ledge with one they had in a six-month-old 411, or turn to holler “yeah!” from the ramp deck while signing autographs.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro posting inane ‘what’s-your-favorite’ queries to rack up responses and assert onesself into followers’ feeds isn’t fulfilling some soul-eroding contractual obligation to accumulate aspirational ‘like’ totals, while tagging the intricately curated accounts of private equity-backed sponsors. Perhaps they are the ones who, when bumper tag-scarred vans ferried teams across American hinterlands — between ramp-stuffed hockey rinks and mostly cleared-out parking lots — would jawbone idly with kids from the open sliding door, or while presumptuously perched behind the counters of skate shops where they’d clocked in briefly on the previous summer’s tour.

In the never-ending Instagram demo, perhaps the pro who trumpets the selection of one lucky commenter or nth new follower to receive a fat box is not cynically tapping internet-raised youngsters’ thirst for free shit, and frequent profile checks. Perhaps he or she is ascending his or her own digital ramp deck to perform a 4G-enabled product toss, tapping every kid’s thirst for free shit and endearing his or her sponsors to them by heaving product across the country via the internet-subsidizing postal service. Widely distributed mobile video capabilities ensure the continued capacity for kids to debase themselves in return, whether crawling through drainage ditches or taming irate and multi-ton wild animals.

Did David Gravette capitulate in 2014, or finally decide to get off the great and tactile sideline that is the offline life? What’s the Instagram equivalent of a board shooting out at a demo and cracking somebody in the face? What about the autographed car? Are all pro skater Instagram accounts actually controlled by bots, the internet largely calibrated by self-teaching algorithms, and none of this real anyway because you are dreaming right now?

Golden Arms

April 29, 2018

In Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s 1989 surrealist horrifier ‘Santa Sangre,’ a tormented mime’s apprentice watches his knife-thrower dad chop off his mother’s arms in a fit of pique —- leading the traumatized youngster to later turn over control of his own upper appendages to his disabled mother. Increasingly grisly results follow, in a cautionary tale reminding viewers that while arms oftentimes can serve wholesome and constructive purposes, like foraging for rare mushrooms or building a space telescope, they also can bring darkness, such as drawing closed some thick drapes or committing serial murders.

So it goes in the skateboard industry, where brawny lumberjacks once flexed on hard-rock Canadian maples to construct the first multi-ply decks, and later, vert-shirted 80s pros straightened elbows to extend triumphant inverts atop half-pipe decks for pleasure and profit. Despite arms’ usefulness when twisting off beer caps or tweaking melon grabs, the fickle nature of skateboarding has seen arms fall in and out of favour as the pasttime matured and mutated, trick trends and stylistic preferences rising and falling like some promiscuous tide.

Street plants gave way to pressure flips in the early 1990s, but by decades’ end arms again were resurgent, as Lennie Kirk and Quim Cardona built sturdy franchises around their wild upper-body gesticulations. And soon enough the backlash came, as aesthetic pendulums hurtled in the opposite direction and we wound up with Ronson Lambert. Hostilities toward wild armness persisted long enough into the aughts to sow doubts about an AWS slot for yung Torey Pudwill, and as the Baker generation built new legends around Antwuan Dixon’s seemingly sleepwalking upper body, many gave the trend up for dead.

Even in our current age where so many ugly chapters past are brushed off and marked up — the goofy boy, the D3 — perhaps an overt revival of the flung-arms style still would’ve never flown. But skids have been greased by a rapidly spreading trend of landing tricks with bodily sketch, often resulting in one leg being raised up and waggled overtop the still-rolling board, ostensibly for balance but more often to collect valuable likes and other less-spoken kudo forms. Under such air cover, a new and vibrant loud arm era may be dawning.

Magnus Bordewick is a John Shanahan for the quivering euro zone, mistrustful of clothes that do not swish as he elevates arm action to levels unseen in some time. In Numbers Edition 4, the latest video clip from the California skateboard company, Magnus Bordewick uncorks his explosive brand of flip tricks over and up any number of blocks and steps, waving his Nordic limbs with abandon much of the time. Whereas Torey Pudwill’s arm motions often hit the red while balancing on history’s most drawn-out backside smith grinds and backside tailslides, Magnus Bordewick’s flapping generally coincides with rocketing pop and crater-making impacts, like on the massive fakie flip on the bank, the fence-clearing kickflip, the massive bigspin flip up the long stairs. You wonder about some pressure cracks and blown-out airbags, if and when these inevitably find their way toward major-label shoe corporations’ skate offerings as a premium pricing tool.

If the awesomely combustible Magnus Bordewick represents the Flame Boy in this unfolding arms race, is JScott Handsdown his Wet Willy? Was Kyle Walker’s ‘windmill factory’ 50-50 ender for ‘Spinning Away’ the 2017 SOTY’s declaration of allegiance? Where do Brian Wenning and Antwuan Dixon’s strengthening comebacks factor in? Should the Dime Glory Challenge replace its ‘gangster challenge’ with a ‘one-footed roll-away high kick challenge’?

Scenes From The Spring 2005 DNA Distribution Catalogue

April 15, 2018

Jerry Hsu, The Bitter Dose And A New Support Network For Gap to Backside Nosebluntslides

April 7, 2018

“The payout was sneaker money,” Roc Marciano recently griped over the pittance he received for 3 million streams of 2016’s ‘Rosebudd’s Revenge,’ spurring the Hempstead rap singer to summon a new business model for this year’s sequel: He would offer digital downloads off his own site for $30 apiece for weeks before delivering the album to steaming services and other Web 2.0 branches. Would the steep price deter a generation of musical pirates reared on filesharing platforms, or annoy willing fans who’d see their pricey purchase beamed worldwide to stream subscribers within a month’s time? Roc Marciano suggests enough devotees deemed the project — and the artist himself — premium price-worthy: “This shit is printing money. The return on investment happened in a day.”

A similarly blustery horizon in action sporting commerce came into view this week via the somewhat-anticipated launch of SciFiFantasy.co, an internet Web portal peddling t-shirts, with-hood sweaters and headgear emblazoned with the categorical signifier once relegated to Cloud Strife and Charlton Heston, now synonymous with multidimensional Tilt Moder Jerry Hsu and his defiantly vertical switch hardflips. After dedicating around two decades’ worth of slacker-chic switch heelflips and frontside nosegrind pop-outs to the likes of Osiris, Enjoi, Emerica and Chocolate, Jerry Hsu is flexing. Throwing top-drawer and presumably still-paying sponsors to the wind while vapors of his impeccable ‘Made Chapter 2’ part still linger, Jerry Hsu now tests the brawn of his amorphous and minimalist brand venture with a new product lineup in a range of colors and sizes.

So far, the returns appear handsome. As per Slap board reporting, a recent Sci-Fi Fantasy run rapidly sold through at threadful boutique location Dover Street Market, and the online store’s subsequent debut found hopeful clickers emptying the Sci-Fi Fantasy warehouse and filling web shopping carts, leaving only lesser-loved sizes to be picked over and in a few months resold on digital bazaars.

Sci-Fi Fantasy’s most sought-after products: mainly plain shirts and sweaters, understatedly self-titled in a gentle serif. Fetching though the colors may be and the embroidery no doubt the finest in the realm, it bears pondering what has inspired droves of consumers to fork over $70 per hoodie, with gusto. You’d like to think 20 years of in-street toiling with next to no wack moves plays some role. With the deck sector badly oversaturated and sneaker manufacturing a rich executive’s game, companies such as Jerry Hsu’s solo-project venture could be regarded as a 100% cotton, unstructured investment vehicle through which supporters can directly fund favored pros’ skating, sorta like an ongoing Kickstarter with bright yellow tops as thank-you gifts and any footage or photos considered a longterm payout.

In a Warhol-esque version of a future skate industry where 1% of pros earn lavish salaries and the rest ball for position, will everyone have their own brand, with price-points scaling higher in accordance with gnarliness and footage releases? Will the premium t-shirt reign as the skate biz’s optimum profit center until 3D printing forces the industry to license out its hottest logos and graphics for the purposes of at-home softgoods manufacturing, in custom sizes? Will skateboard users’ long-held resistance to anything beyond the seven-ply hard rock maple deck prove the industry’s ultimate salvation when once-profitable shirts, pants and shoes can be synthetically produced via 3D printing? Will ‘Black Cat’ one day earn recognition as Jerry Hsu’s lesser-loved ‘other masterpiece’?

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.