Posts Tagged ‘Benny Fairfax’

The Sun Rises on a New British Empire, Which Also Includes Francis Showerface As Well As Chewy Cannon Nosegrinds

November 6, 2017

When did the sun set on the first British skate empire? Views differ, but the rubbery, tearing sound of overreach could be heard in the intro to Blueprint’s generally great ‘Make Friends with the Colour Blue’, when the squad that built a movement on overcast skies, soot-stained streets and ‘Wandering Star’ opened with sun-sloshed Los Angeles art installations and the jaunty notes of ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul.’ Like tea-thirsty monarchs of old, the British Isles grew to become a realm too small for Blueprint, and waiting for the world took too long; Europeans and Americans were signed and it was off to the New World to compete with Southern Californian palm tree tenders on their own turf and terms. An effort noble in its aim, perhaps, but doomed.

An amusing exercise a month or so back, when Grey published the instant-classic Rich West shot of Mike Arnold’s phone booth hippy jump, was inventing metaphors to read into it. Like, might this board and body barreling through a derelict telephone compartment represent a magazine transcending the digital wave pounders painfully remaking the media sphere? Do the stomped-off nose and tail demonstrate the bloodthirsty courage of the forest mammal, caught in a trap, chewing off its own leg to escape, the sort of frantic bravery required to persist as an under-the-radar talent pushing U.K. skating through a global industry slump? Something to do with the fractious Brexit vote and Michael Gove’s perplexing applause technique?

It feels like another British wave is cresting. Around seven years back the initial Palace clips began to surface. Blueprint foundered five years ago. In 2015 the venerable Sidewalk mag wound down its print edition, later that year Free emerged. Blueprint fragment picker-uppers Isle’s ‘Vase’ debut vid at the end of that year polished Paul Shier and Nick Jensen’s already-secure legacies, but more notably launched Tom Knox and Chris Jones onto the global stage in one of that year’s most cohesive videos. The vibrant and jellyfish-scented ‘Atlantic Drift’ series since then has elevated them further and granted an international platform to dad-bodded Mike Arnold, who put his own dizzying spin onto the one-spot part at Bristol’s Lloyds Amphitheater.

Now comes ‘Palasonic’, a long-in-the-waiting ‘official’ full-length from those skate-cum-fashion standard bearers of the British Islands. It lands as much of Palace’s squadron seems at the height of their powers — Lucien Clarke is ripping Carroll spots, Danny Brady still is going in 15 years after ‘First Broadcast,’ Rory Milanes appears still well in his window, Chewy Cannon has had several years to hone and hopefully rebroaden his spastic wallie/360 repertoire, Shaun Powers has established his international artistic bona fides, Jamal Smith filmed 1995’s best 411 commercial. In recent months Palace rebuilt Radlands and got Lucas Puig.

Can Blondey McCoy’s much-reposted collision-turned-cartwheel off a purple hack be infused with some similarly labored metaphor for the Palace full-length finally dropping? Has the GX1000 crew’s recent focus on hill bombing left an opening for the Haight Street-originated hippy jump to be colonized by the British? Can human achievement in general surpass Chewy Cannon’s bank-to-ledge nosegrind or can we only hope to match it?

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Did $10,000 Cheapen the Battle at the Berrics?

March 8, 2009


Rolex watches and colorful swatches

So first off, let us one and all congratulate Mitchell Maurice Capaldi on a tough-earned but convincing win last Monday (?) in the Battle at the Berrics, and also for fulfilling the hopes and dreams of myself and no doubt thousands of others who chose him as the ultimate flatground power what seems like years ago. Alas, it’s over now, the absence of those three-minute slices of nail-bitin’ board-flippin’ thrillage making our hangovers that much bittersweeter, our Sunday mornings that much foggier. Life goes on, even as some of us wonder why, and to what end. BATB round two? Hopefully they wait at least six months and don’t let the thing get played out before throwing in some bizarro twists: ’80s board round, manual round, blindfold round, mega-ramp round, blindfold megaramp round, etc.

Whether you were feverishly pressing the refresh button at the stroke of 12:00 a.m. PST, tsk-tsking the jockification inherent in filling out a winner’s bracket or rolling your eyes at the entire spectacle, it probably is safe to say that the Berrics Battle currently is for sure the biggest and most important contest in skateboarding. I mean, Jake Brown had to fall off a fucking skyscraper for the X-Games to draw any attention from the non-Fuel TV-watching population recently; I’m assuming either Ryan Sheckler or Greg Lutzka won the Dew Tour last year, and probably nobody cares either way. The Maloof thing was notable for its course, Leo’s trick and, in retrospect, the namesake bros’ Scrooge McDuck-type frivolity and general money-throwin’, but that’s about it.

On the other hand, roughly the entire skateboarding planet now knows who Benny Fairfax is, and he didn’t even win the thing. While I understand his board was in the works at Stereo before his unlikely rise to flip-trick hierarchy and amazing comeback against the fearsome PJ Ladd, I could imagine the British buckaroo joining the professional ranks off his showing in the BATB alone. Kind of like what Tampa Am used to do for a kid, before all those Brazilian tweens took over.

Which is partly why, along with the general minimalism of the whole affair (bare bones tricks, warehouse floor, no announcer, handful of randoms as spectators) I sort of agreed when a buddy of mine expressed mild distaste for the last-minute addition of the $10,000 purse. While I don’t know that it would have had any affect on who participated, how hard they tried, etc. it sort of threw something off – sort of the opposite effect prize money has with regard to an X-Game, where at least dudes are getting paid big bucks for wading through the pool of energy drink banners and slang-slinging Fraggle Rock announcers.*

No doubt Mitchell Maurice deserved more than fleeting internet fame for winning the battle, and lord knows we could all use ten thousand dollars right now. Perhaps he is upside down on his mortgage, which I understand to mean that fluctuating financial markets have flipped his house upon its roof and he needs expensive contractors to put it right side up again. Yet Tupac teaches us that money is the root of all evil, and for a contest that defied so many of the usual constructs that make most skateboard competitions boring, lame and irrelevant, it would have been cool if the end result could’ve been refreshing in the same way.

*Berra’s dig at EXPN et al was appreciated, though