1. Jerry Hsu – ‘Made Chapter 2’

December 31, 2016

Peter Hewitt, whose influence in steering the Anti-Hero eagle may be understated, reframed the concept of suffering for one’s art in the run-up to the 2013 Skater of the Year award, in which he opined on who had or had not endured punishment and pain enough to have earned the nod. In an age where skating seems to owe career devotees less than ever, and when suffering of the physical and/or economic persuasions generally seems at an all-time high, the punishment ledgers ought to reflect that Jerry Hsu is fully paid up, as he further emerged this fall from his post-‘Stay Gold’ lull towing his best shit since ‘Bag of Suck’ a decade ago. His battered body, marinating gently in Los Angeles-area schoolyards, seems to have recovered and his moves in ‘Made Chapter 2’ are as liquid and surfy as he’s ever had – scootching down ditch walls, nollie heelflipping off walls, twisting out of multi-part picnic-table tricks that are comfortably in the hunt with any pursued by kids 15 years his junior. There probably is a list out there of dudes still coming with new tricks on handrails as they push into the third decade of their careers, and it would not be very long, but Jerry Hsu would be on it via this part’s ender.

2. Hjalte Halberg – ‘I Like it Here Inside My Mind, Don’t Wake Me This Time’

December 30, 2016

In Polar’s kinetic, nervous and occasionally poignant ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind’ – the best-crafted, most cohesive ‘company’ video this year and maybe for the last few – Hjalte Halberg brings probably the most straightforward street-purist approach, helping ground some of the body-varialing and handrail-bonking flights of fancy from Dane Brady and the Blobys, and (along with Aaron Herrington and Pontus Alv) injecting some of the diversity often lacking amongst an industry where the easier path sometimes comes off like targeted appeals to specific niches. Hjalte Halberg in this vid rains down force and precision on his Copenhagen blocks, blasting backside flips from bumps and rifling off some of the fastest heelflips committed to digital video. He seems immune to friction and there are moments, like when he’s backside 180ing out of a manual, where he seems maybe not fully in control, but these are rare and pass quickly. Between his video with Bobby Worrest and various other footage Hjalte Halberg could’ve made his own whole video of this shit over the past year.

3. Tiago Lemos – ‘Press Play’

December 29, 2016

Tiago Lemos is Brazilian and switch ollied over the back of a handrail into a switch backside smith grind. Tiago Lemos wears baggy khaki shorts and fakie hardflipped out of a switch frontside crooked grind on a thigh-high picnic table. Tiago Lemos still skates for the small board company that put him on after he got to the US and he nollie inward heelflipped into a backside lipslide down a handrail. Tiago Lemos switch backside tailslide switch flipped out into another switch backside tailslide that he slid the length of a two-year-old alligator. Tiago Lemos did a switch bigspin to switch backside tailslide on the J-Kwon gap to ledge and only turned pro in April. Tiago Lemos knows the names of the forgotten gods and does gully tricks like a switch backside 5-0 180 out on ledges tall enough to choke a giraffe.

4. Jamal Smith – ‘V Nice’

December 28, 2016

Palace’s ‘V Nice,’ documenting some Los Angelean residence by the famed swishy short manufacturer, arrived like a heady midsummer night fever dream, one where Lucien Clark had a part in Trilogy and Danny Brady seized control of an anti-aging serum that also contained plans for as-yet unfathomed bank-to-bench moves at Lockwood. Whether or not Jamal Smith’s powers to go viral have obscured over the years his excellent skating is a debate for podcasts yet to come, though only after flavored soda waters have been sipped empty and the clock has passed the 45-minute mark. Currently, it seems clear that Jamal Smith is among the most inventive minds working in the frontside shove-it medium; in ‘V Nice’ he is hitting PJ Ladd levels over the Santa Monica sand gaps and pushing one of the grimier switch 360 flips on the market. And his grinds sound good.

5. Daan Van Der Linden – ‘Holy Stokes’

December 27, 2016

Every few years some new kid arrives and inspires comparisons to Tom Penny — Andrew Reynolds, Ali Boulala, Eric Fletcher, Wes Kremer — now comes Daan Van Der Linden, racking up unbelievable tricks and co-signs galore since emerging from his Dutch incubator that presumably also gestates ideas like the rarely glimpsed Madonna noseblunt or the handrail hippie jump. Daan Van Der Linden’s own feather-light ease extends as much to his preternatural ability to survive rough spills as it does to jaw-droppers such as the frontside crooked grind pop-over, the early-grab rail ride, the pop-shove it off the vert wall and the cliffhanging frontside wallride. His skating doesn’t seem weighted with much self-awareness when it comes to the heaviness of some of these tricks, perhaps insulated by some Penny-type fog.

6. Evan Smith – ‘Time Trap’

December 26, 2016

Like a chanting guru with his beard on fire, Evan Smith seemed to ricochet through 2016 rifling off multisyllabic tricks and dense parts and crazed contest appearances in some type of glassy-eyed Zen state – Kyle Walker earned Thrasher’s top honor on some legitimately video-game scale handrails and showed impossible-to-fake poise on massive stuff, but an easy argument could be made for Evan Smith’s technical inventiveness and unpredictability, which didn’t impugn any capacity to keep doling out footage. Along with his ‘Zygote’ and ‘No Hotels’ sections, ‘Time Trap’ has probably his craziest line of the year, wallriding and blasting a giant 360 flip mid-hill bomb before whipping himself to the pavement on an ill-considered switch 360, maybe a good summary for Evan Smith’s ongoing arc – bonking trash cans and hurling caballerials over playground slides like those dreams where you can land any trick you try, which is maybe close to daily life for this dude.

7. Daniel Kim – ‘Spirit Quest’

December 25, 2016

‘Spirit Quest’ beat its 1:20:00 clock with moving mirages like Daniel Kim’s mindbending mirror wall-push sequence towards the beginning of this section, which takes a couple watches for slow-witted captains of windbag web blogs to fully comprehend. In a star-crossed year, Daniel Kim indulges a taste for exotic and enigmatic tricks that may never be as huggable as a hardflip or backside smith grind: Switch japan grabs, the pop-shove it nosegrind tailgrab and his barrier-clearing switch kickflip tailgrab mix Daniel Kim’s robust ‘Belly of the Beast’ tech with the type of cosmic syrup Jason Dill maybe was sipping when he conjured a 25-year-old coping trick on the cover of Thrasher in ‘Mindfield’-era Alien’s waning days. Few were those bringing wholly unthought of tricks to the table this year, with or without one white glove.

8. Kevin Kowalski – ‘On One’

December 24, 2016

Kevin Kowalski is just a young Oregonian with Bob Burnquist backyard bowl dreams, who wound up recording one of the more volatile transition-oriented sections this year that goes long Madonnas and occasionally surprises with out-of-nowhere speed bursts. This section benefits from some risky in-bowl filming (possibly via Chris Gregson) and the type of wild hairs that lend themselves to scratching Bertlemanns at the top of cradles and looping full pipes in the blink of an eye. Kevin Kowalski barrels through that one graffiti house ramp like a loosed rhino but tucks enough finesse into his back pocket to match switch frontside blunts with the likes of Vincent Alvarez, to what one assumes is obligatory squalling Nordic metal.

9. Sylvester Eduardo – ‘5BNY’

December 23, 2016

There are a range of persons, places and things in skating that credibly qualify as a damn shame, among them a relative scarcity of jazz music recorded before the 1980s. Into this breach marches 5Boro’s Sylvester Eduardo, who opened the ‘5BNY’ vid late last year while this list already was in progress and so became counted within the current fiscal year for skate blog technicality purposes. More generally it seemed like its mixture of John Coltrane, crisp cityscapes and Jordan Trahan’s indelible flip tricks slipped into that unfortunate year-end black hole made deeper by insidiously backward-creeping year-end awards and lists. Timing seems no particular concern for Sylvester Eduardo, who can put down sizable shove-its and bigspins with little to no setup, who hurls himself over Blubba and cranks burly switch 360 flips, elsewhere 180ing the hard way onto some of New York’s more well-known hunks of brick. The backside kickflip he cracks ahead of the over-and-down caballerial deserves enshrining in a high-class, expensive luxury shrine someplace.

10. Tyler Bledsoe – ‘All Clear OK’

December 22, 2016

For one of the only companies among the new crop intent on harpooning the full-length video cetacean, Quasi is taking their sweet time, averaging so far one part a year, which is all to the good since it feels like they’re still figuring out their motion-picture aesthetic without veering too much onto Bill Strobeck or Mike Hill territory. Between the slow-mo trash bin bash and the crab-walking hoedown, Tyler Bledsoe’s ‘All Clear OK’ scrapes a little bit of both, but the opening automobile wipe to backside flip and the backside smith grind drop-down are promising indicators of any longer-playing project to come. Tyler Bledsoe, who’s gone dark a few times here and there in recent years, resurfaces to a throbby techno track in savage mode with a teeth-rattling street gap nollie 360, a deceptively hard entry into the Pupecki grind annals, and a round-the-world backside tailslide ender, and who else has them like that.