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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
“I’m a gamesman, you know?” said Eric Koston, introducing his and Guy Mariano’s new skateboard company last week via a Thrasher website interview. “I just love to game.” Webster’s dictionary defines gamesman as one who practices gamesmanship, that is, ‘the art or practice of winning games by questionable expedients without actually violating the rules.’ Has 2016 been the year of the gamesman? It’s a question more safely handled by mystical baked goods and psychic rodents, but like all great ponderables, it can be annoyingly answered with another question. What ‘rules’ govern the skate biz? Don’t shit where you eat? No snitching? Render unto Dyrdek what is Dyrdek’s?
To many, the skate industry is a wily mink, lovely to behold and yet lucrative to trap, skin and sew into a coat for attending carpeted movie premieres and smoke-smuggered steakhouses. Between the expanding galaxy of digital media platforms, a professional roster that expands at the bottom via freshly anointed hot shoes and at the top via veterans dusted off for a few more go-rounds, and a general force of entropy at work among skate companies, Guy Mariano and Eric Koston may believe there to be more than one way to skin this proverbial mink mentioned in the proverb at the beginning of this paragraph. To wit, it’s not even that much of a thing what the company is called:
Guy: Just Numbers.
Eric: Edition. You’ll see as the brand rolls out, but it is Numbers Edition.
The Numbers debut video similarly pursues a deconstruction of the skate video as we knows it today. Mainly from a bystander’s point of view, it takes in everything from bails to chitchats about freeway driving conditions to Miles Silvas’ impeccable fits and switch kickflips, generally from a detached distance. Timeworn trappings such as lighting rigs, generators and fisheye lenses make no appearances, leaving our Sun and streetlights to provide a sometimes dim view on the happenings as drone-y, piano-y music softly builds a sense of dread, despite indications that Guy Mariano’s ‘Tactical Manual’ ledge fixation may be cooling. You may begin to wonder: What is about to happen to these folks? Will Consolidated’s nightmarish OD clown suddenly accost the teamriders? Will a plane crash in the background, or will a monstrous creature from beyond lumber into the frame and a ‘Cloverfield’-stye found footage escapade ensue?
With a new clip for the de rigueur Numbers/Nike collabo sneaker set, has the long Antonio Durao footage drought finally come to an end? What do all those double-digit numbers at the bottom of the Numbers ad refer to anyways? Is ambient techno the natural next step after Palace and Bronze had skaters worldwide turning up to house music? Could Rick Howard and Mike Carroll conjure the ghost of World past and recruit Greg Carroll to head up a new skateboard company called ‘Letters’ with graphics designed to poke fun at the Numbers slash/box logo, gradient color graphic themes and the personalities of each teamrider?
As the information age and its college dormmate, the digital revolution, fire up the bong and begin to shake their 1D20s and 1D12s, all becomes clear. In this smartphone-cradled realm, plated armour and halberds are enchanted with mystical powers via every new social media connection, and the currency of the kingdom is not gold pieces, but the minutes and hours that a web site is able to waste for people while they are at work or school. It is a fertile and lush land where ancient treasures lay hidden beneath piles of broken links and half-remembered Geocities pages.
What remains though when advancing into a mine long abandoned by content-hungry Dwarven lords? Torch aloft, our adventurers descend past craters and caverns where long-ago interviews with Fred Gall, Andy Roy and the Muska were extracted; deep pockets still are visible where the Steve Rocco doc and Disposable book once lay, chasms representing the riches of the John Cardiel and Ali Boulala Epicly Laterds, and Gio Reda’s Brian Anderson feature. There still are bits and pieces to be chiseled loose, drawing weekly bands of podcasters to run their fingers across well-worn walls and sift piles of cast-off ore cluttering forgotten crannies.
Do hidden gems still lurk? Yet-untold stories revealing and seminal to know? It is a question of value judged by the many-tentacled beholder’s cursed eyes. Deep, deep within these caverns and shafts, work still is done. In recent years the enchanter MuckMouth, guided by the chaotic-good sages of the Slap boards, set forth on a mission to track down and electronically quiz nearly every half-remembered pro or amateur who contributed footage to company vids or 411s over the past three decades, from Eric Sanderson to Jason King.
The roustabout bard Jenkem, who some believe on a mad quest to put down to parchment each minute that passed during Rocco’s reign in the castle World, this year brought forth from these blasted pits the endearing tale of the World Industries customer service rep, JD, heretofore remembered only in a few thousand novelty trading cards packaged with a magazine printed more than 20 years ago. And last week the leather-armored mercenary HavocTV unveiled a surprisingly engaging 29-minute documentary on Carlos Ruiz, known mainly for backside lipsliding El Toro 10 years ago, around the apex of the hammer era before trucks loosened up, ATVs reignited transition and wallies garnered fresh relevance.
Before the crackling hearth within the Foaming Stein tavern, grizzled warriors deep into their cups will mutter that these mines have been stripped to worthless hulks, that delving into these clean-scraped bowels wastes time and hit points better reserved for still-rising formations charted by Jason Dill, Lev Tanju, Pontus Alv or Alex Olson. But if you find your way to the darkened table in the back, there sits a hooded figure, sometimes spinning a yellowed Nicotine wheel, paying bounties for artifacts he insists still are hidden within this slate and limestone:
The car rental agent who handed over jeep keys to Josh Beagle and Ronnie Creager prior to the filming of ‘Barbarians at the Gate’: Little is known about this rental agent who literally provided the vehicle for what still stands as the best tour video of all time, a document of nudity, crack cocaine abuse and the St. Louis Arch that set an early direction for Heath Kirchart and diminished several farmers’ yields across the U.S. grain belt. Key questions: How did he first get into renting automobiles to people? What were his early encounters with Josh Beagle like? How would he describe the jeep’s condition upon checking it back in? What is life like after renting cars to pro skaters?
The bus driver for Osiris’ ‘Aftermath’ tour: It is widely agreed that anything that ever happened in skateboarding, past or present, occurred on Osiris’ 2001 ‘Aftermath’ tour — and this dude would have been behind the wheel the entire time. Who hooked him up with his first bus? Does he remember where he was when Cliff Burton passed? Which weapons did he use to enforce the legendary ’number one rule of the bus’? Which Osiris pro would he have trusted to take the tiller in the hour of need? If the answer is not T-Bone, why not? Have any subsequent bus driving assignments held a candle to the auspiciously titled ‘Aftermath’ tour?
The investment bankers who managed Big Brother’s $600K sale to Larry Flynt Publications: Jenkem’s highly entertaining 2014 interview with World Industries’ former CFO tugged back the curtain on the financial fence-jumping and knob-cutting that went into World’s sale of Big Brother magazine to the Larry Flynt empire. What other Rocco deals were there? How ugly a mess were Big Brothers’ books? How were valuations calculated for the souls sent in by Big Brother readers responding to an offer for a free World t-shirt in the Andy Roy issue, and did these souls then transfer to the purchaser of World after the $29 million changed hands, or does Rocco retain these in some foot locker within his beachside residence?
The shock election of Donald G. Trump to the U.S. presidency last week sent up a massive “ZOMG” shaped smoke signal from the collective skateboard camp. While New York’s useful wooden toy ambassador Billy Rohan sought to build bridges between Tompkins and Trump Tower, international ripples and wrinkles almost immediately rippled and wrinkled up as the globe at large cocked an eyebrow and looked over the tops of its glasses at a Trump-headed United States.
Already, there are signs that cross-border skateboard relations may be fraying. Fresh off the Brexit break-up, Liverpoolian ditch-slasher Geoff Rowley cut his remaining ties to the Americanized Flip, while Brazilian-born Rodrigo TX bounced from North Philly’s DGK. And late this week, reports of Cliche’s demise under Dwindle left an Eiffel-tower sized hole in skating’s increasingly Francophiliac soul.
Whereas much of the Trump campaign focused on trans-oceanal misdeeds by China and Mexico, his threats to rehash NAFTA, the Bushian trade policy beloved to Canada’s shivering cabals of beerbrewers, mining conglomerates and wealthy bears, posed a risk too great to go unchallenged by Dime Mtl’s specialist bowling posse. In a swaggering display of cross-border belligerence, Canadians scrambled several athletes to wear sunglasses indoors and create a show of force in a bowling alley, a shot across the bow of Canada’s neighbor to the south following months of heated campaign-trail rhetoric.
The aggressive bowling video, unnerving in its feats of raw agility and power throws, seemed calculated to strike at Trump’s vulnerabilities. Dime bowlers, enriched by their own line of clothing items and yellow shirts, don’t wait for the strike to be scored, they “just start kissing,” no Tic-Tac. The cross-alley throw, bouncing into the gutter and then out again to pick up a spare no Wisconsin pollster could have envisioned, is a clear metaphor for Trump’s come-from-behind win. And yet as wall after wall of pins fall to the Dime squadron’s merciless strikes, the video file seems to defy any attempted fence-building that could slow the flood of cheap Canadian goods, manufactured by low-paid penguins and elk, into the trembling hands of U.S. consumer-purchasers.
How many hours will it take Lucas Puig to go to Palace? With Miles Silvas apparently headed to GuyKo’s Numbers, is Max Geronzi the world’s hottest free agent? Is Canada feeling itself, after Dime already upended the dominance of the U.S. contest circuit via its Glory Challenges, and its endearingly urbane Bunt aims to do likewise in the increasingly vibrant skate podcast market? Does the involvement of Jamal Smith and Forrest Edwards suggest Canada already has cultivated sympathizers on U.S. soils? Could a trade war erupt over hard rock Canadian maple and tall tees, or would a stronger Canadian dollar drag down overseas sales of premium quality Dime shirts?
The key to unlocking value in any low-margin business is to maximize efficiency. This is the core truth of commerce and business underpinning a meritocracy in which the fastest copy machine is showered with honorariums and shiny treasure, where specialized mining equipment sniffs and scrapes out rare earth minerals and makes rich men of those who once swung picks, where clean factories churn out safe, packaged meal pills to cheaply feed a growing world labor base and quell any angry strife that could negatively impact production schedules.
Fragmentation and heightened competition from both nimble upstarts and well-heeled corporate gargantuates has similarly trampled profit margins in the skate biz with a trampling motion similar to that of an interplanetary trampling elephant. All around, there is a great diminishing, or distilling, depending where you sit: magazines skimpier, as photos, interviews and footage stream daily off mobile-optimized cloud platforms; years-in-the-making videos winnowed down to one-off web parts and Instagram snippets that ebb and flow on tidal transfer speeds; pro model shoes reserved for an anointed few, while the rest pick out seasonal color schemes.
In a fractured age is the team roster next for culling? The sprawling headcounts still collected by the Baker Boys, Crailtap and FuckingAwesome/Hockey contingents argue otherwise. But increasingly difficult-to-capture attention spans have sent up signals that tag teams, rather than baseball diamond or football field-ready lineups, are better suited for plattering more-meaty video offerings relative to the drip-drop of individual internet parts. Bear witness, would you, to the Bobby Worrest/Hjalte Halberg “Looks OK to Me” double feature that sort of awesomely and ominously asserts itself as the stoke-per-second leader in video releases this year at a svelte 9:46 minutes.
These brothers in Swooshdom maybe aren’t an immediately intuitive matchup, per se. But rattle through enough immactulate back-to-back ledge/flatground combos that, when drizzled out over enough countries’ spots, consistently hollering and clapping for one another, and associated homeboys collected along the way (Reese Forbes – fantastic), and it clicks in the spirit of Keenan Milton and Gino Iannucci, Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen, Brian Wenning and Anthony Pappalardo, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard. Hjalte Halberg’s pop shove it frontside crooked grind line and Bobby Worrest’s line at New York’s three-up/three-down are among tons of highlights, along with the grate tricks and the entire Pulaski park section.
As two-dude videos come back into vogue, could a two-man team that is cheap to send on the road, less prone to complex beefing factions and capable of filming one another become the ultimate in independent contractor efficiency? Has the cozy relationship between Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad made the time right for Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik to rekindle their partnership? Is Bobby Worrest’s fakie flip and switch shove-it landing in time with the snare hit a quiet nod to Rob Pluhowski’s often overlooked and downbeat-friendly Element part and/or a sign that videos could revive the days when wheel impacts comfortably coexisted with metronomes?