Posts Tagged ‘Almost’

The Power of the Deck-Buying Dollar, and the Promise of the $30 T-Shirt

July 16, 2017

The internet’s cultural side-loader washing machine swirls. What once was, is again, sometimes faded and sometimes pinked by rogue red garments. In the civilian world, tragedy plus time equals comedy; in skateboarding, fashion and hardware trends plus a period of years divided by the internet’s recyclatory properties (which are a constant), factoring the quotient by the strength of the counter-prevailing fads of the day, equals attractive brand-building opportunities that can help to finance electric cars with an auto-pilot option.

Santa Cruz, whose venerable skate dynasty doesn’t preclude opportunistic chintz-grabs, this month has revived its early 1990s technology breakthrough, the Everslick, presumably upgraded to avoid the sogginess that turned so many back toward conventional decks by the turn of the half-decade. As skaters nationwide discovered low-cost ledge lubricants to be had in the supermarket’s canning section, Alien Workshop, World and others abandoned slicks, relegating the technology to the same hardware-fad dustbin as Bridgebolts, Rip Grip, copers and Gullwing’s incredibly heavy plastic-coated hangers. But with deck shapes then already well on their way toward a homogenized popsicle shape, shelving the slick also marked a fateful step away from one of the few deck innovations that briefly commanded a premium price from penny-pinching skateboard consumers — and provided a fleeting glimpse into a future where peddling decks could be something other than a low-margin, efficiency-maximizing commodity business.

In this year of our lord 2017, the deck buyer’s dollar has never been more powerful. Through the 20/20-enabling hindsight view afforded via the internet’s continually expanding archives, skateboard purchasers can gloatingly look 25 years into the past to see mailorder clearinghouses hawking decks for $45 apiece. Adjusted for inflation, those same objects ought to change hands for about $76 at current rates, but U.S. shops, internet portals and even the lowly mall asks only around $55 as the industry has failed to provide a justification for lifting prices incrementally skyward over the years. The world has not stood idly by; wages, logistics and other costs grew while the skateboard business repeatedly cast their votes for Ulysses Grant as their preferred candidate for boards. This has lead deck makers and distributors to move manufacturing overseas to cut costs, whilst chipping away at shop margins, and diversifying into shoes and clothes to subsidize deck enterprises in the grand quest for profitability or its less attractive sibling, break-evenness.

It did not have to be this way. The wooden baseball bat —- derived from hardwood trees and among the sporting world’s closest kin to the seven-ply deck —- has not been subject to the same price-point stagnation. Despite occasional mutations in shape and diversification away from ash into maple and birch, the wooden bat has changed relatively little over the past 30 years, if not the past 130. A basic wood bat retailed for around $20-$35 in 1992; similar models today fetch $30 to $160, scaling upwards based upon pro endorsements, premium wood selections and high-tech processing techniques to command enlarged dollar piles from wood-shopping baseballers.

The same embrace of that unbottleable qualitative that produced Natas Kaupas’ hydrant spin, the Fucked Up Blind Kids, and Gou Miyagi is at play here: The visceral pleasure to be milked from sliding silkscreened Canadian hard-rock maple across concrete or stone cannot be replicated through aluminum or synthetic hybrids, probably to the detriment of performance enhancements that might put more balls into end zones or players on base in other, more regimented pastimes. And the same frugal Ludditism that has fueled the past decade’s revival in low-profile vulcanized shoewear translates to a collective “meh” towards innovations such as Almost’s “Impact” decks, corrugated bottom plies and unique wood mixes.

Should board makers dreaming of fatter profits look to the cotton T-shirt, where token shifts in construction and fit allow those with the strongest graphics and market position to nowadays ask $30 or more for an otherwise commoditized garment? Has the remarkably visionary Jason Dill already been applying this concept to boards? Was the riser pad the air bubble of hardware? Do Paul Schmitt and Rodney Mullen possess a secret storehouse of advanced board technologies long-shelved due to fears the seven-ply maple-worshipping would never accept them?

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Daewon Song’s “Love Child” Recreation Exposes Vital Weaknesses That Our Enemies May Already Be Exploiting, Dudes

June 21, 2010

Former World Industries Man Daewon Song had the internet agog last week when he made the choice to re-film a few clips from his landmark “Love Child” section along with a heap of other zany moves that indicate his already freakish skills have only mutated bigger and more transition-savvy tentacles over the past couple decades. Daewon Song was roundly praised for his choices and we applaud him as well, except with the Zen-approved one hand’s worth of clapping because this seemingly fun exercise exposes a gaping weakness of modern skateboarders that puts the whole operation at risk.

Basically several generations’ worth of product upgrades and fashion cycles have seen our legs atrophy from the pinnacle of the early 90s, when miniscule wheels, sub-Abec 26 bearings and yards of cheaply dyed denim ensured a minimum five pushes between each trick. And on actual paved surfaces, as opposed to the custom-poured park surfaces of the current era. It’s no accident that among the most severe blows landed against the drill-bearing aggressor in Plan B’s early 90s document “Virtual Reality” were several beefy kicks. And similarly, unsurprising that no physical violence ended up transpiring between Mike Plumb and the shouty Baby Schizo the other weekend, as neither wanted to throw out the first feeble roundhouse attempt in a widely televised event.

The truth is that complacency has led us down this unhappy road, to a place where Will Smith’s child-star could whomp our collective behinds, where rollerbladers’ calves may be considerably more toned, where we stand little chance in grape-stomping contests or a race to the top of the Burj Khalifa. I think we can make this work again but it likely will require discipline, an aged/possibly alcoholic mentor and at least a couple training montages set to appropriately motivational tunes.

Now That’s What Boil the Ocean Calls Skateboarding (’00s Edition): 40-31

November 7, 2009

A general disclaimer about the list to follow ought to start with noting that most lists of this sort are pretty much bullshit anyway, designed to ignite pointless debate and sell women’s health magazines or ad spots on VH1, and this one may not be much different really. However, given that this is an internet blog site, and the end of a decade is approaching, fate holds that a list must be made. I thought about whether it should be billed as the 40 “best” videos of the past decade, or the 40 “most significant,” or the 40 “most favoritest of BTO” but in the end we’re opting to call it something altogether different and stupid and just get on with things. Special shout to Skim the Fat, where from I got most of these images, is that site still going? Anyhow, numbers 40 through 30:

40. “It’s Official,” 2005
its_official

An overall pretty awesome video marred by a Kanye-heavy soundtrack and a few too many Lenny Rivas quotables, Kayo Corp’s stab at a “Trilogy” featured the national debut of gap-gliding Kenny Hoyle and SF sweatpants fan Robbie Holmes, alongside solid turns from all-stars Jackson Curtain, Karl Watson and a damn Marcus McBride part. I don’t know if Marcus McBride is the Z-Ro of skateboarding, exactly, but he’s something. “Official” probably could’ve done with more Richard Angelides and some editing where Quim Cardona was concerned but this video is one that probably doesn’t get rewatched as often as it should. Chany Jeanguenin skates vert in it.

39. “Skate More,” 2005
skate_more

Daewon Song’s self-reinvention for a post-picnic table world helped vault him to SOTY status off the back of DVS’s debut full-length, but the Python-flavored “Skate More” also boasted the feel-good part of the year straight from the happy feet of Jeron Wilson who floats the slickest heelflip that Jason Dill had ever seen. 2005 was a banner year for Keith Hufnagel as well, putting out two ollie-riffic sections, and this DVS video also offers a glimpse of the ever-shifting Dill in his New York denizen phase and the mixed bag that is Jereme Rogers’ best part to date; also Busenitz/Zered Basset and a more-interesting-than-usual Mikey Taylor contribution.

38. “Get Familiar,” 2006
getfamiliar

Chris Hall’s sneakerhead-financed East-by-West coast document should’ve maybe leaned a bit heavier on the retro elements, like I always thought the electro songs used for the intro clips would’ve made an interesting soundtrack for the whole thing. “Get Familiar” though was a worthy addition to a long line of self-produced East Coast videos with a pretty stacked lineup in a still-skinny Bobby Worrest, a skinnier yet Zach Lyons, EE vets Barley and Forbes and the resurgent duo of Joey Pepper and James Craig (the backside bigspin flip is a career highlight). Curveball parts come from Daewon and Mark Gonzales before gun-slinging Darren Harper controversially closes the video with some baggy denim stylings, crazy pop and that silly floater of a switch frontside shove-it.

37. “Waiting For the World,” 2000
WFTW

It’s kind of fucked up how John Rattray’s section in this video was this devil’s bargain that earned him the glitz and glamour associated with Zero, Elwood and Osiris sponsorships, while at the same time siphoning away Blueprint’s heaviest dude, but these things happen. Nowadays WFTW looks kind of dated, especially Paul Carter’s Osiris pants and the Souls of Mischief song, but in 2000 the video itself was a serious stylistic push forward (the intro in particular) and generally served as a statement of purpose for the British skateboard scene, especially for those of us outside it, putting everybody onto the likes of Paul Shier, Colin Kennedy, a pint-sized Nick Jensen and the loopy genius of Mark Baines, leading up to John Rattray’s Britpop-powered star turn.

36. “Cash Money Vagrant,” 2003
cash_money_vagrant

There was really no reasonable or feasible way for Anti Hero to try and follow up “Fucktards” but their stab at a semi-conventional video in the midst of restocking the team for the concrete park decade is laudable enough and a fun one to throw in now and again. Young(er) and dirty Frank Gerwer does half his frontside k-grinds on Firm boards and Tony Trujillo rejects the Transworld gloss that helped mold his SOTY bid, alongside contributions from Cardiel, Hewitt and most of the other Anti-Heros that matter. It’s short, there is a little lo-fi themed skit that ties the whole thing together and they make it safely to Benecia at the end (spoiler alert). Interestingly, this site is selling a copy for $1300.

35. “Dying To Live,” 2002
dying_to_live

In some ways it’s easy to bag on this vid, what with Jamie Thomas’s very dramatic intro, the beginning of Adrian Lopez’s career slide and Jon Allie’s sort of boring opener part. But as with most Zero productions the editing is sharp, the music fantastic and there is enough good here that “Dying to Live” probably can be considered fairly underrated at this point – Ryan Smith in his young and hungry days, paired with Nirvana, Matt Mumford to Queen, bespectacled Lindsay Robertson’s crushing slow-mo intro, and Chris Cole kickflip backside noseblunting a damn handrail amid a characteristically ridiculous part that capped his fresh-to-hesh migration. And, it had a sweet friends section, something that’s kind of fallen by the way-side in recent years.

34. “7 Year Glitch,” 2002
7_year_glitch

It seems like forever ago that New Deal even was a company and most of these dudes have been scattered to the four winds at this point, and where Fabrizio Santos is concerned, this all may be for the best. But this video, which preceded New Deal’s folding pretty quickly, contains one of the better Ricky Oyola lines captured on video, a lot of good Europe footage before all the spots were played, and the type of diverse lineup that’s generally been tossed in favor of appealing to this or that sub-sub-demographic. There is vert skating and Rob G has a nice run that’s filmed via a stationary long-lens, also, Chad Tim Tim at the early stages of being underappreciated for more or less ten years. Probably you could trace Kenny Reed’s nearly decade-long wandering in the international wilderness to the filming of this project, and maybe the marathon backside 5-0 to backside tail in particular. The one with the kid on the bike.

33. “Baker 3,” 2005
baker3

The Baker Bootleg video formula refined and distilled, taking the sometimes-interminable 90-minute slogs through the chopped-n-screwed Baker world and squishing it into something resembling a more straightforward format. Baker 3 also introduced the world to polar opposite ams Antwuan Dixon and Theotis Beasley, and helped Bryan Herman transition from a browless Reynolds fan to a grown up hardflipper with a world-class 360 flip. Somewhere in there Spanky skates to Morrissey (I know!) and Reynolds stretches his editing legs with some weird effects. Thinking back on this vid now I remember being vaguely shocked that Erik Ellington was capable of backside noseblunting a handrail, and after reading the recent Greco interview, I’m reminded that it was a bummer he didn’t end up using the Queen song for his comeback section.

32. “Bon Appetit,” 2003
bon_appetit

This video rightfully put Cliche on the global map, even though it retreaded that tiresome Yeah Yeah Yeahs song for the nth time and wasted so much top-drawer footage on endless region-specific montages – where is the rationale, I ask you, in sprinkling JJ Rousseu nosegrinds here and there in some Japan part when he could’ve had a full-length section to himself. French Fred’s editing choices aside, “Bon Appetit” dodges classic status but still boasts Lucas Puig’s best part to date (the nollie backside noseblunt), Jan Kleiwer getting his Hufnagel on, Rousseau in top form and a part from when Cale Nuske’s knees still worked that contains exactly one line, which is sick. Also, you should know that Ricardo Fonseca’s ponytail is meant to symbolize the virility of the European skate scene as a whole.

31. “Cheese & Crackers,” 2007
cheese_crackers

Chris Haslam and Daewon Song conspire to build a better mini-ramp mousetrap. Kind of like if the Tilt Moders got locked in a garage for a weekend with a miniramp and a sheet of high-powered blotter acid. When street skateboarding moves beyond its current love for manageable transitions this video could possibly become the current era’s “1281” but there’s a general retardedness that helps smooth out the troublesome physics problems associated with doing blunts behind a curtain, and all manner of other nonsense these dudes get into. Friends section features Carroll and Alex Olson and the human dynamo that is Giovanni Reda, remember, and Lewis Marnell’s bonus part is nice also.

2. Torey Pudwill, “Dudes Dudes Dudes”

December 29, 2008

If you would have told me a year or two back that Torey Jamison Pudwill, Valley boy of the flappy arms and unlikely name, would manage one of the better video parts of this year… well I’m not sure what I would have said. Probably I would have made a guttural/gurgling sound expressing general disbelief and disdain for the self-styled future teller. But as it turns out I would have been better off directing said gurgling sounds toward my own self in anger and shame, as this Pudwill section from the DVS promo last summer still possesses a certain wow factor* months later, packed as it is with unguessable trick combos and those off-kilter landings. Damned if they haven’t grown on me, somehow. Pudwill cracks tricks high, sits on feeble grinds and bounds out of nosegrinds, nollies over rails into manuals down banks. He skates fast. He executes crane style on the humongous backside kickflip photo in the new Skateboard Mag. And have you seen this new Venture ad? Insert gurgling sound of your choosing and also read the accompanying interview:

How did a white guy like you develop such monstrous pop?
I’m black from the waist down.

*Closely related to the Now factor, as in “Now that’s what I call music Vol. 29”

“This One’s For You, Rod!”

October 28, 2008


That’s a man…

Almost to me is kind of like Frankenberry cereal, “King of the Hill” and late-period Big Brother, in that I don’t necessarily support it myself but I’m glad it’s around. If that makes any sense. As a company I’d still file it under the Deca/Artafact/Prime umbrella of general World generica but their commitment to having fun with the company along with letting Sheckler go makes Almost a lot more palatable. And “Cheese & Crackers” is fun to put on at a party.

Anyway this repro of an old Mullen ad/graphic has elicited an LOL from me each time I’ve flipped to it on the shitter. Cooper Wilt talks about it in his Slap interview:

“We shot it because it seemed fitting. Haslam has those long locks that flow so beautifully in the wind. We actually shot it without Rodney’s knowledge; after we shot it we were all psyched on it, but we were afraid Rodney might get bummed. But he saw it and he was psyched and thought it was funny.”

Addendum: the Almost website actually has a fairly entertaining blog, in which they express wonderment over the way their own boards are built and post sweet high-dive videos.