Tilt Mode released ‘Man Down’ at the height of the collective’s cultural and military might, spreading its power across several otherwise drab and peaceable continents before the dueling demands of heavy duty sponsorship and real life in general intervened for many of the mode’s most heavily tilted. Here though was crew captain Marc Johnson having a good time in baggy shorts as the Rolling Stones stuffed their noses with disco-era stardust, enjoying his enormous talents amongst playgrounds and makeshift jumpramps before stretching it to its breaking point a few years later in the Lakai vid — his embankment backside 360 kickflip here is a much more relaxed edition than Alex Carolino’s in the contemporary Lordz vid, and tricks such as the switch backside nosegrind and the 5-0 backside 180 are for the ages. At a time when triple-striped shoes again adorn Marc Johnson’s feet after an acrimonious split with a shoe sponsor, it would be a treat to see him do another one like this.
Of the many ‘what-ifs’ associated with all-time top fiver ‘Mouse,’ the potential for a full-on follow-up to Gabriel Rodriguez’s ‘Paco’ closing section forever will be up there with the prospects for a healthy Mike Carroll and a reenergized Jovontae Turner. He does come through in this Choco-trio section with some massive tailslides and two of the grimier fakie tricks to chunk out the courthouse ledge, before Daniel Castillo comes with a good Venice pit line and some below-the-knees cargo pockets, the height of fashion for summer 1996. Shamil Randle gets in two of the video’s best-looking manual tricks in the same line plus the rarely-seen fakie frontside shove-it, possibly an asterisked outlier to Jimmy Gorecki’s generally on-point ‘Trilogy’ rule.
There are videos rightly and wrongly misplaced within the eddies of the space-time continuum, and despite Carlos Ruiz’s Heath Kirchart-baiting spot checks, a late-arriving stop on Kris Markovich’s decades-spanning board sponsor tour, and a fine Ronnie Creager part, Blind’s Bill Weiss-helmed 2005 vid ‘What If’ did little to stake out turf far from your typical Digital issue of the day. It did have this Aaron Artis part that gets over on some swervy turns, floaty kickflips and a sunny song, with an untamed melon grab taking the Pacific Northwesterner over a Spanish hump and the Hollywood High spikes. The powerslide surf spray revives long-suppressed memories of July afternoons lounging beside stagnant ponds of gray water, sipping a highball of unleaded gasoline.
Tum Yeto hoisted itself to perhaps the hoistiest of its various golden ages in the waning months of the 1990s partly thanks to visceral and brutally earned slam sections that reserved a singular ability to snuff any spark to skate that the preceding video had kindled. Jarring bails pepper this 411 road trip through Canada, populated by a wrecking-ball cast belonging at this point to another age: an Adio-endorsing, lion-maned Jamie Thomas; Mike Maldonado, decked out in corn rows and late shove-its; Ed Templeton impossible tailgrabbing with a few hundred miles’ worth of buffer from the Huntington Beach Pier fleshpots; Elissa Steamer at her pre-Bootleg peak; handrail doubles runs; Adrian Lopez, full cabbing John Drake’s ender spot from ‘Time Code;’ board-catching dome pieces; a miniramp-wrecking Bam Margera, face as yet unlined by the gravities and scars of a reality television career. This clip, considered in some circles the greatest 411 tour part evar, also features a content-complementing, classically licensing-friendly Dischord catalog pick.
Midsummer days hot enough to put the sweat on you by 8 a.m. call to mind the carefree love that can blossom in young muskrats’ hearts, and of simpler and more wholesome times when highlights from a 411 commercial and a nice backside 5-0 on a ledge were legit inclusions for a video-opening, pro-inducing video part such as Nate Jones’ in Real’s century-launching ‘Real to Reel.’ Besides Nate Jones’ immaculate kickflip stylings, the rarely seen overhead angle to a street gap and the rarer-still acceptable varial flip, Nate Jones’s breezy, no-muss part captures him midway between the baggy-hoodied, yellow-teed everyman and the patchouli scented Bay ramblor that would years later claim his pro career. Beyond the snapshot of SF in a more livable time, you can catch glimpses of a spiritual forebear to Brian Delatorre’s GX hills handling and Dylan Rieder’s ‘Mindfield’ ender.
The annals of skate history are littered with x-rays, unpaid medical bills, jail sentences and as-yet undiagnosed cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy that would argue against the timeworn slogan that skateboarding is a youthful fountain worthy of Juan Ponce de Leon’s most brutal fantasies. And then, there are those who seem to truly defy age’s gravitational yankings, such as Daewon Song, Louie Barletta and, in the dirtier, ghettoier and kidlike column, Rodrigo Teixeira.
Renowned under his AP Stylebook-friendly acronymical abbreviator, Rodrigo TX is that unlikely child prodigy whose career has achieved not just a second act but a third and now perhaps fourth, as his immaculately curated flippery augurs for the pinnacle, or one of them, in Adidas’ overstuffed tongue of a full-length ‘Away Days.’ Some of these dudes in a few years’ time will rightly be regarded as swishy pant bandwagoners and then there are others, such as TX and Great Yarmouth whirlwind Chewy Cannon, who look born into them, and rarer still is the type of finesse that allows TX to crib ‘Menikmati’-era moves like the nollie flip noseslide and make them look not just crazy good but a welcome alternative to a tenement city’s worth of wallies.
While former roommate Mark Appleyard opted to take years off before repositioning himself in skating’s orbit like he never floated away, Rodrigo TX seems to have redoubled efforts year to year, cranking out video parts while honing his tricks to finely shaped points, such that his fakie flip for Adidas not long ago merited hushed discussion among the all–time greats. Draped in monochromatic stripeyness Rodrigo TX’s ‘Away Days’ clips like the fakie frontside boardslide, the frontside tailslide kickflip out and the one where he does Mikey Taylor’s DVS ender switch bedazzle the watcher in a video chockablock with hyper-clean ledge skating, and then comes with rubbernecker-friendly fare like the nollie inward heelflip backside 180 to make sure everybody’s paying attention. TX’s Muni frontside heelflip rivals Lucas Puig’s for best in the vid and that last backside flip needs to go into a time capsule.
Does Rodrigo TX’s Adidas sponsorship, similar to Bobby Worrest’s Nike deal, rank as one of those rare cases that makes perfect sense for all involved given dues paid, legacy ‘skate’ industry bridges apparently left standing and peak on-board performance capacity still somehow yet ahead? Is it possible to say that somebody else did that backside kickflip or is such a statement impossibly untrue? Are Carlos Iqui and Tiago Lemos together the new Rodrigo TX or is Rodrigo TX the new Rodrigo TX (and also the Rodrigo TX of the Flip years)? What if somebody told you there was a video with Rodrigo TX, Silas Baxter Neal, Nyjah Huston, Bobby Worrest, Rick McCrank and PJ Ladd?
There are some queries that must be considered as the ultimate questions of the time. Is it really what it is? Do gentlemen really prefer brunettes? What is the sound of one hand clapping? Do Gs get to go to heaven? If you couldn’t see the sun rising off the shore of Thailand would you ride then if I wasn’t driving? Has We The Best Season returned? Are you new around here or something man?
In our current big-footwear era of skateboarding, one question goes like this: Do international shoe manufacturers prefer small board companies? You sort of wonder. As Palace and Adidas and Skate Mental and Nike respectively grow cuddlier in the process of producing product lines, fewer such efforts appear to invite the creative hive-minds powering the likes of Element, Flip, Plan B and Zoo York to apply their MS Paint sorcery to established shoe-wall sellers. Meanwhile, the fingerprints of publicly traded footwear conglomerates increasingly seem to smudge the smartphone screens of board-company team managers:
Jamie Thomas: we bent over backwards for trevor for years. all was good, but as we were working with him on his boards, we started hearing that Nike was encouraging him to ride for skate mental because supposedly it would help his situation at Nike; Even though his graphics were done and his pro board was scheduled to be released in 2 months, he hit me up and said thanks for everything, but I’m gonna ride for Skate Mental.
Mike Carroll: Remember with Karsten [Kleppan], when we put out the intro to Lakai video part and then a week later Karsten got on Nike? It’s just like, what the fuck. And then that (Nike) dude Kaspar hit up Sam [Lakai’s Team Manager] and was like, “I know that Karsten’s off of Lakai now, but we want to get him off of Element. We want to get him on a cool company, would you guys be down to sponsor him for Girl?” It’s like, are you that retarded?
Jenkem’s text-messaging theorist: Nike backing riders to ride for small board co’s or start up their own small start up’s to dilute the market with heaps of small brands so the main camps like crailtap, black box (now dwindle) can’t focus on their own shoe programs and have to put their time and resources into keeping their board co’s alive in an over saturated market. Leaving it to them, Cons and adidas which works perfectly because they all co-exist this way in every other sport.
Is ‘small board company’ the proper terminology tho? Of the current Nike skateboard team, about half (16/34) skate for what could be construed as a ‘small/startup’ board company. But it may be more instructive to examine multinational sporting gear manufacturers’ history when it comes to sponsoring dudes who skate for a board company that is affiliated with a ‘legacy’ skate shoe company. In 2007, Nike’s inaugural and unfairly maligned full-length ‘Nothing But the Truth’ included parts from six dudes (out of 22) whose deck sponsors also ran a competing shoe outfit. By the time 2011’s ‘SB Chronicles 1’ arrived, the number had declined to two out of eight; it was 2/7 for ‘Chronicles 2’ and Cory Kennedy was the only one in last year’s ‘Chronicles 3’. Of the 24 bros in ‘Away Days,’ one skates for a board company that also peddles shoes, and on the Converse skate team, it’s one of 13.
Why might a big giant shoe company like its skaters to promote smaller/newer/upstart board companies? The idea of Jenkem’s texting thinker has some logic to it, though the deck sponsor’s ‘marquee’ position as it relates to pros’ pocketbooks has long been on the wane relative to shoes, as former DNA Distribution ‘business guy’ Chris Carter pointed out five years ago. As far as resource drains go, at a time when Brian Wenning and Jereme Rogers are able to formulate heat-press ready artwork and online storefronts, while micro-brands such as Jim Greco’s Hammers and Jeremy Klein’s revived Hook-Ups are able to secure premium pricing on limited runs, the actual overhead of doing a board company could or should be relatively low, assuming that a generation of even top-drawer pros have become accustomed to slimmer signature-board paycheques.
Would encouraging pros away from board companies/distributorships that also run shoe companies make sense for the majors? The post-getting-on-Nike moves of Trevor Colden (Mystery –> Skate Mental) and Karsten Kleppan (Element –> Skate Mental) make you wonder, and of the current SB team, about one-third, from Paul Rodriguez to Koston/Guy to Gino Iannucci, have departed such board companies for startups with no affiliation over the years, for various reasons. A widening gap between the board sponsor and shoe sponsor as far as pay, travel capability and general influence would cement the shoe merchants’ first right of refusal when it comes to Instagram clips, tour edits and coveted under-deck sticker placement real estate, and enhance capabilities to promote uniform-like outfits readymade for sweeping up spilled popcorn after matinee showings of ‘Zootopia 2: Zoological Boogaloo.’
Or does all our convoluted and conspiracy-minded nail-gnawing overlook the razory principle of Occam, which in this case might be that upstart board companies are cooler now and, given board sponsors’ functional functions as image-drivers, asa shoe purveyour you’d want the dudes you sponsor to skate under a small company’s cooler halo? Would this suggest that international shoe enterprises are chipping away at some image-management role traditionally performed by agents, increasingly beloved of pro skaters thirsting for soda sponsorship dollaridoos, but a timeworn rival of sporting giants when contract negotiation time rolls around? Should sponsor-juggling skateboarders seek the council of Jay-Z, a wheelings-and-dealings man who has had a pro-model shoe for rapping, helped manage a team and wrangled deals for pro athletes, by signing up for his exclusive Tidal internet music streaming business? Could board companies take a page from shoe companies and start encouraging teamriders toward Tumblr- and BigCartel-empowered wheel groups? Does all this silly noise obscure the shadowy role of the premium-fit cotton t-shirt as the true and honest currency of the realm?
*Note: DC is considered affiliated with Plan B for our simple-minded purposes here
“Skateboarding is now 1 step away from the Olympics,” Ride Channel mystics pronounced this week, with all the hollow reservation of an over-the-hill fighter demanding through spat-out teeth and blood to be put in for another round, and all the limp-necked surrender to be revealed in a fistful of counterfeit blimp tickets. This pursuit, once the domain of renegades, outcasts and losers, now is not called but rather ordered up to the big leagues, its youthsome mettle having proven a fuel too valuable for ratings-hungry sponsors to let sit unburned for another decade while the Olympics’ viewership virility flags. The 80s gave, the 90s took away, the 00s gave back — to some — and though a declining number of hard-good consumers and an ever-thickening stew of bootstrappy board companies slicing thinner and thinner pie wedges to share amongst independent and multinational competitors alike, skateboarding’s talismanic powers to restore youth, when its bones are ground into a fine powder and snorted through a €100 bill, have become impossible for the Olympics to ignore.
It is difficult to envision Olympic podiums, matching uniforms and the brassy pomp of various national anthems when Ryan Garshell, Yonnie Cruz, Al Davis, Brian Delatorre, and Jake Johnson are battling irate homeowners, ditching cops, spraying graffiti and barreling crossways into traffic in the bracing and much-awaited ‘GX1000’ vid. Like the ‘Sabotage’ series emanating from the other coast this vid seems less about polishing tricks and placing them on a pedestal for admiration than hunting them through hills and alleys, wrestling them to the ground and cutting notches in the belt after wiping any blades clean of blood let by both parties. The way they let the hill bombs run out with no music has an intensity impossible to concoct with slow-motion drone filmography, and its montage structuring is refreshingly dense, difficult to digest in even a few watches how tech Yonnie Cruz gets in those hills or the burliness of Al Davis’ wallies or all the things Brian Delatorre can do at crazy speed, setting aside the added challenge of having the police, the homeless, and various powers of SF-dwelling Silicon Valleyites arrayed against them.
And yet several planes of existence above, the Olympics may not be so different. Marauding from country to country, city to city, this nationless entity allegedly flouts rules, stokes anger and resentment among locals and from time to time gets kicked out. Some would argue the Olympics embraces a ‘skate and destroy’-like ethos as it briefly sessions municipalities and leaves economic and structural wreckage behind. The Olympics meanwhile cashes its endorsement checks, immortalizes its achievements on high-performance video media, and looks for the next spot.
Should skateboarders, rather than fearing and loathing the Olympics’ crass pyrotechnics and ferocious currency-dealing apparati, embrace it as a spiritual partner in lawlessness amid a more existential battle against local, state and perhaps federal authority figures as well as various other haters? Could Yonnie Cruz handle one of those abandoned Sarajevo ski jumps and bobsled tracks? Switch? Will a future Olympics judging panel be forced to review the GX1000 files as a reference point for tricks that Jake Johnson previously has proven are possible to be wallied into? Did the Cool Runnings dudes pass a test detecting drugs capable of enhancing performance and/or reality? What about Yonnie Cruz’s switch backside 360 tho?
Mike Carroll, who knows a thing or two about dipping out on sponsors, hit up Jenkem the other day ostensibly to discuss “the future of Crailtap” but really to confront and publicly grapple with the proverbial and newly striped elephant in the room, Marc Johnson’s heavily rumored ship-jumping from Lakai to Adidas, eventually turning into one of the more noteworthy airings out in recent memory. Making clear his beef was not that Marc Johnson left, but how — popping up in the new Adidas vid without prior warning to Lakai’s owners/team/staff and with a loading dockful of fresh pro-model shoes rendered abruptly obsolete — Mike Carroll got his Rocco on in the age of information immediacy, booting Marc Johnson from Chocolate mid-interview:
J: What are you gonna do with that upcoming Marc Johnson Lakai product? What does a company usually do when this sort of thing happens?
MC: Send it all to his fucking house, COD with a fucking strap on, and no vaseline. Well what we’re gonna do now, first things first, I’m gonna kick him off Chocolate. I’m not gonna text him, so he can read this or someone can tell him. Maybe he’s already quit in his mind, who knows. Marc, is kicked off of Chocolate as of right now. We’ll deal with whatever we have to deal with. Shoe wise… we have a lot of shoe production in the works… Normally when this happens to companies we’d usually take legal action, but that’s something we think is not in our character to do. But I’m starting to consider it, but that’s not really on the top of our priority list.
The resulting social media froth, whipped higher by pent-up angst as more and more top-tier professionals slip into the gravitational orbit of multibillion dollar sports shoe manufacturers, has cast a pall over Adidas’ video release as well as the signing of Marc Johnson and Daewon Song, and perhaps tarnished the Adidas skateboard division with an elbows-out corporate tone that previously had mainly been Nike Inc.’s domain. Lakai meanwhile looks further sidelined following the recent exits of Guy Mariano, Nick Jensen, Na’Kel Smith, Miles Silvas, Lucas Puig and Eric Koston for Nike or Adidas.
But the situation can still be fixed. Here is Boil the Ocean web log site’s 10-point plan for patching up the relationship between Marc Johnson, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard, burnishing Adidas’ image, plugging any sales hole for Lakai, and more.
1. Marc Johnson calls up Adidas on his cellular smart phone and designs a plan for Adidas to buy all the unsold Marc Johnson Lakai shoes, both current and past models, currently in production or in the warehouse. Adidas also could buy several sets of Carrolls in full size runs.
2. Adidas employees and Marc Johnson package up the Lakai shoes and donate them, along with a matching quantity of Adidas skate shoes, to Skateistan, Cuba Skate, Skate for Change and similar charities promoting skating in risky and impoverished nations.
3. Marc Johnson personally delivers some of these shoes and skates a demo or two with a T-shirt that says “sorry Mike & Rick” written on it in marker. He posts to Instagram pics of him posing with kids holding up a box of Lakais and/or Adidas and handwritten signs personally saying sorry to various Lakai staff members and former teammates.
4. Marc Johnson persuades Mike Carroll, Rick Howard and the rest of the “Fully Flared” lineup to gather for a reunion demo where he gives a heartfelt speech thanking the Crailtap posse and fondly reminiscing on their years together, while more donations are collected for skatepark funds and organizations.
5. After burying the hatchet, Marc Johnson, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard hang around the park for hours afterward mending fences and reminiscing, until they realize that the money collected for the skatepark funds has been gaffled by a shadowy thief. The trio leap upon matching neon coloured crotch rocket motorcycles and plunge into the LA expressways in pursuit.
6. After pulling alongside the skate funds bandit, also astride a fast crotch rocket bike, Rick Howard, Mike Carroll and Marc Johnson trade punches with him at 130 mph, pausing only to swerve past slower-moving vehicles and struggling to maintain control of their bikes. After one final blow, the thief’s hood flies back to reveal he is none other than ex-Pope Benedict XVI, wearing an eye patch and spitting curses in Latin at the pro skaters.
7. The former supreme pontiff takes advantage of his pursuers’ shock and disgust to haul off and deliver a punishing haymaker to Mike Carroll’s jaw, stunning him and sending him reeling off the back of his bike. His face inches from the pavement’s blur, a sinewy hand closes around his Fourstar jacket collar and yanks him back up onto his bike, which miraculously steadies. “Still teammates — for one more night,” growls Marc Johnson, before twisting the throttle to pull up alongside Pope Benedict XVI. The two grapple briefly before a vicious kick knocks Marc Johnson loose, and the ex-Pope veers right to sideswipe Rick Howard before speeding ahead, up a dangling ramp into the trailer of a semi truck. Pope Benedict XVI hops off his bike, turns and tosses a small, blinking sphere toward the pro skaters, grinning as the trailer door rattles shut.
8. “Thermal detonator!” Rick Howard hollers, crashing his bike sideways into the others and knocking them clear before the bomb’s white flash blasts Rick Howard’s motorcycle out from under him and sends him tumbling into the breakdown lane. “Feels like the ‘Mouse’ intro,” he rasps. “Now get that bastard.” Marc Johnson and Mike Carroll nod, rev their crotch rockets and roar off after the rogue Pope. They tail the semi until dawn, far into the desert where finally it reaches Pope Benedict XVI’s secret mountain compound — an impenetrable structure of steel and rock, girdled in sheer cliff faces and watched over by lazily looping vultures. Marc Johnson and Mike Carroll exchange a glance and draw their pistols, nodding. “Just like the old days,” Mike Carroll murmurs as he fills a spare clip with bullets drawn one by one from his belt. “I thought those days were done.” “Let’s go,” says Marc Johnson, making for a break in the cliff. They scale the wall, silent and methodical, neither looking down and neither pausing when his fingertips begin to bleed. When they heave themselves atop the cliff, gasping, Marc Johnson immediately gets low. Just a few feet away, Pope Benedict XVI stands with his back to the pro skaters, punching feverishly at flashing buttons on a vast control pad. Before him, bolts of raw electricity begin arcing between a series of tall metal coils, and the air begins to thrum.
9. “That’s a relativistic heavy ion collider,” breathes Marc Johnson. “He’s overcharging its computing grid…” “…To rip thousands of tiny black holes in the space-time continuum,” Mike Carroll finishes. “And if we don’t stop him, he’s going to destroy L.A.” Marc Johnson is already up and firing, his left hand fanning the hammer on his Colt Python as he sprays the ex-pope’s base with hot lead. Mike Carroll rolls and unloads his own pistol but stops before his clip runs dry; Pope Benedict XVI has spun to face them, laughing, the bullets sailing wide and high around him. “Fools,” he rasps. “You’ll never attain true power.” Hands raised over his head, the former pontiff pivots to point at Mike Carroll, sending a blinding rope of electricity leaping from one coil to wrap the Crailtap Distribution co-owner in a hot, vibrating grip; with a thrust of his other hand, a second bolt entwines Marc Johnson, and both begin to squeeze. Pope Benedict XVI’s laughter grows louder until he abruptly stops, twisting his lips in horror. A rocket-propelled grenade screams down and strikes him square in the chest, bursting his torso into liquified nuggets of blood and tissue and bone that drench the sand and the control panel, shorting out the ion collider. The coils fall dark and Marc Johnson and Mike Carroll sink to the ground, gasping. Two cans of Bud land beside them, and they squint through the glare to see Rick Howard ambling through the dust, a still-smoking rocket launcher slung over his Girl OG tee. “They didn’t have LaBatt.” He cocks his head and regards the carnage. “But I wasn’t about to miss this party.” After locating the semi, Mike Carroll pulls it around to the heavy ion collider and stuffs a rag into its fuel tank, Marc Johnson lighting it with a cigarette. Rick Howard grabs the bag with the $45 in skatepark funds and the pros climb astride their bikes, rolling onto the asphalt as flames engulf Pope Benedict XVI’s compound behind them.
10. Rick Howard and Mike Carroll return to Los Angeles to film for the Lakai video and Marc Johnson starts work on a welcome clip for Adidas.