For all the mumblings of Peter Pan syndrome and deferred adulthood attached to pro-level boarding careers and various man-amhoods, such pursuits are not built for the emotionally unhinged: Marking one’s day-to-day progress by recording hard-fought clips destined to be trimmed to a few seconds each and pasted into a Thrashermagazine.com web-video in a couple years’ time, clinging to fleeting victories during which a hammer is performed, landed and hand-on-death-lens marked, then past, perchance to plow through a 30-pack and next week try for another one. Anthony Van Engelen speaks of grappling with emotional voids after completing big video projects, and witness the deep valleys leading to an uncertain but undeniably triumphant peak in Jamie Thomas’ cold war with the not-long-for-this-world Clipper ledge.
Love/hate relations betwixt bros and boards are to be understood and forcibly massaged when circumstances demand. But what of those emotional snake-runs entangling teamriders and sponsors, which have taken to marketing themselves as families and brotherhoods? Chris Cole and his new Plan B family exhibited their unbridled giddiness upon his joining the ‘Tru’ Tank this month, cheesing and fist-pumping and committing various spelling transgressions as the onetime Zero heavyweight apparently shelved any plans to market decks on his own and instead chose to endorse monocoloured boards with skulls and guitars manufactured by another company.
It’s hard to imagine the Black Box camp not feeling some type of way after clicking on this clip, given Zero’s role plucking Chris Cole from the World camp and providing a hard-rocking hessian launchpad for the next dozen years of his career; to boot, Chris Cole just a year before seemed to identify with Paul Rodriguez’ abrupt flying of the Plan B coop as a cue to carve out one’s own deck-centric microbrand: “I think at some point Paul figured out it wasn’t about Plan B selling Paul Rodriguez skateboards anymore, it was about him selling Plan B, and that’s the point where you start to realize you could be doing something more.”
Any career-minded gnar merchant gathers a certain amount of lumps along the road, and Jamie Thomas like other pros-turned-entrepreneurs signed up for an extra helping by starting his own companies and seeing dudes he put on later pack up and leave. But Zero proved to be one of the relatively few sellers of skate goods to not only publicly acknowledge the departure of a team lynchpin in Chris Cole, but go so far as to post a brief retrospective video and wish him well.
Few others do — Brandon Westgate’s decision in April to join the Element family after seven years holding down the Zoo York family passed with little notice on Zoo York’s Instagram. Gino Iannucci’s Slap board-shaking jump to Fucking Awesome just shy of 19 years as a red block head drew nary an official peep from the Crailtap camp, though months later his former teammates can’t finish interviews without being asked about it. Whereas Mic-E Reyes headbutt sendoffs now rank as just another hallowed memory of 1990s realness and sour jpgs are a Web 1.0-ready if rarely utilized substitute, the default seems to have become an Orwellian electronic eraser applied to the team webpage, removal of the defector from relevant social media hype circles and moving on.
Like insurance and the signing of openly gay athletes, is skateboarding again in danger of being outpaced by major-league sports when it comes to acknowledging contributions from longstanding-but-departing riders? The Seattle Mariners deployed a warm statement of gratitude when outfielder Ichiro Suzuki bounced after more than a decade on the squad, and later publicly big upped him when he got his 4000th hit playing for the Yankees.
Besides agreed-upon stacks of legal tenders, what if anything do companies owe their independent contractors who toil atop handrails and within ditches in the name of endorsement deals? In Alien Workshop’s ultimately transient dissolution last year, some of the then-remaining abductees seem to have received no official word of the shutdown at all, much less any word of thanks:
Jake Johnson: It’s a strange one. Nobody said good bye. Mike Hill didn’t throw in the towel. It’s strange. It was on the internet.
Omar Salazar: I never spoke to anyone. No one ever called me, I’m just like, who is running this thing? They got rid of the only dude who I was talking to [Chad] who told me to stick around. And that’s how you get rid of people after all these years? I was bummed and then got hurt.. But no phonecall. No Rob Dyrdek phonecall… I mean jesus, who are you, man? I thought we were homies, bro [laughs]. Just kidding. Whatever.
…And I still haven’t got a paycheck like, oh, here you go, thanks for your time. Cause I could sure as hell use that for my medical bill right now. Thats all I gotta say about that.
Should the resurfaced Alien Workshop, now promoting a new tribe, offer some parting nod to the former pros who hung on til the bitter end? Did Rocco write the former sponsors of riders he stole publish thank-you notes, or rather did he demand such sponsors publicly acknowledge the service of their former riders for purposes of free promotion? Do digital thank-you notes count? What is the Instagram equivalent of a dismissal-by-headbutt?