Posts Tagged ‘Elon Musk’

Purple Sprite, Narrowing Palettes, And The Trilogy Conundrum

September 26, 2021

It is the nature of the human animal to prod and push and gesture wildly at boundaries. Elon Musk, noted billionaire playboy by day and alleged costumed superhero in evenings, is developing a spaceship to land persons as yet unnamed on ‘Planet Mars.’ A Harvard genomic master intends to make un-extinct the powerful wooly mammoth and set them loose upon wild tundras, for profit and pleasure. Nude mountain ascents have become so commonplace as to be regarded as gauche. China intends to have a functioning weather-control system in place before ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind/Please Don’t Wake Me This Time’ turns 10, and out in Texas they’re working on warp drives.

For several years, skateboarding’s ‘pro elite’ lusted after spins. Time was, the more rotations you could wrest from the vert ramp’s miserly lips, the taller you stood amongst the several dozen other skaters who drifted in that overcast subcultural wilderness that was the late 1980s. This of course followed on the parking-lot pirouette challenges that made hallowed the names of yesteryear’s freestyle kings, and later, pre-Nike skateboard footwear barons. Later on, people built names and fiscal fortunes on many times they could flip the board, how many stairs they could jump, how many kinks they could clank through.

The year is 2021 and skateboarding is all business. Commercial behemoths such as Nike Inc., Red Bull GmbH, PepsiCo Inc. and Frog Skate Boards have seeded their statistical analytics into the modern youth, who heavily fixate upon monetizing social media followings, tabulating trick totals to piece together podium-climbing Street League runs, and stacking minute upon juicesome minute of footage to propel various SOTY campaigns. For pros of a certain age, the business world presents the last and greatest realm in which to level up — a thistly thicket where survival depends on wits, savvy, debt tolerance and nerve, where contest dominators such as Tony Hawk operate on an even playing field as street-level operators such as Steve Williams. And, those who choose to make a go of selling boards in this turbulent hour chase a singular goal, an achievement as elusive and rarified as landing ‘the 900’ — running three separate board companies under one roof.

Such a feat of course was first accomplished by Steve Rocco’s World Industries, under which in the ‘early 1990s’ a whole crop of sister brands sprouted — Blind, 101, Menace, Plan B, eventually the mighty Prime.* Since then, doubling up with a sister brand to house the proverbial homies has become de rigueur — Girl/Chocolate, Alien/Habitat, Zero/Mystery, Baker/Deathwish, FuckingAwesome/Hockey — but precious few others have made the leap to three. The venerable DNA Distribution offered the internationally flavored Seek in the early ’00s, but hobbled it with furtive visuals and no video push. Crailtap at various points flirted briefly with Ruby decks and briefly incubated Skate Mental but neither became a full third under the Girl umbrella. Giant’s period running the power trio of Element, New Deal and Black Label proved short-lived. Street Corner’s confidence in its abilities beyond maintaining the stalwart Think brand at one point was enough to back the sadly short-lived City as well as the not as sadly short-lived Lucky board concern. Black Box distribution gave Garrett Hill and Forrest Edwards a brief shot on the pricepoint-oriented Threat before the center of gravity shifted and retrenching became required. In the post-Rocco era, only the steady hands at Deluxe have been able to consistently manage such multiples, from Real and Anti-Hero to the once-vibrant Stereo and since, Krooked.

Now comes Jason Dill, unlikely industry kingpin, whose FA/Hockey pro stables steadily bulge, and a line of would-be flowees extending around the proverbial block. Jason Dill, who knows something about flying close to the sun, has pondered and shied from a third board company in the past, a rumored ‘Funeral Home’ concept that supposedly was to have included Austyn Gillette and Jake Anderson, among others. The purity-of-youth bottled in Michael Nicholas’ excellent ‘Untitled’ seems to have Bill Strobeck thinking otherwise, though, with key men of the crew regularly popping up in winking Instagram postings centered around a ‘violet’ theme that the Slap boards brain trust already has tagged as the company’s name; other Supreme-orbit talents including Efron Danzig and Kris Brown have been rumored to be in the mix.

If pursued, the venture would represent a bold wager on the demand elasticity of the Supreme/FA merchandise and the wallet-depth of skaters and those willing to spend to present as skate-adjacent. A third FA appendage risks cannibalizing the dollars, euro, yen and cryptocurrency currently dedicated toward Hockey lightning bolt hats, lovingly embossed FA decks and Supreme mattresses; as the global economy wobbles, FA and Hockey already are pushing the envelope to lift the price ceiling on 7-ply maple sticks above the $55 purgatory that has mired the hard-good industry for ye, these past 30 years. Meanwhile shops ponder the constraints of the physical board wall, along with the capital intensiveness and logistical hoops that e-commerce represents in the eventual post-Covid19 era.

Do Jason Dill and William Strobeck, who survived the harshest diversions that New York had to dangle in the early ’00s, retain enough subcultural surefootedness and business knowhow to shoot the moon and successfully maintain a third board imprint? If ‘Violet’ indeed is the name, does it compensate by representing the ‘safest’ name choice of the three after Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen already persuaded shop owners to plaster a big f-word across their walls, and followed that up by naming a sister brand after a major-league sport with no wheels involved? Does ‘Hockey’ sometimes remind you of the short-lived ‘Bike’? Between Blue, Crimson, Yellow brand, Bronze, Silverstar, Platinum and Golden State Wheels, are potential colour-themed names for skateboard companies running perilously short after only about 70 years?

*Named in memory of Transformer great Optimus Prime

This Week in Skate Tech, In Which We Reference the Legendary Manticore and Also Bridgebolts

March 5, 2016

genetic-shoes-lasek

In neon-toned and bumbling eras past, technology’s reputation was to be bemusedly regarded and toyed with, or ultimately cast aside. Powell Nose Bones, Rip Grip, lappers and Bridgebolts vied for premium positioning within griptape-scarred glass cases, promising attractive profit margins and incremental on-board advantages. As these were briefly coveted, idly worshiped and soon cast aside, skaters remained in thrall to the Old Ways, gleaning yearly glimpses at the future handed down by Thrasher’s pagan oracle Mephisto, engaging in various griptape superstitions and praying to volcanoes.

What changed? Like most facets of modern skateboarding it can be traced to the 1990s, when cheap electronics baptized a new generation of videomakers, stuffed-tongue lucre-funded and Flash-laden websites for DC Shoe Co USA, and a Storm surge of yellow t-shirts ultimately birthed the Osiris G-bag (whose influence has vibrated across the decades). As a generation of ramped slo-mo induced motion sickness sufferers can attest, it soon became impossible to avoid wallowing in digitized video parts, lovingly retouched photos and ender-level tricks captured within cassette tape-sized telephones and beamed within seconds to tens of thousands of screens worldwide, enabling near-instantaneous commentary on pants size.

Now, a bold and bristly vanguard of new products stands intent upon elbowing its way to the front of the technological queue, competing against steadily rising sneaker prices and highly designed special fitting t-shirts in the perennial combat for skaters’ discretionary spending:

Nike SB Eric Koston Hyperfeel 3: Eric Koston’s latest attempt to match the runaway success of his early Es shoes* manifests itself as a genetic hybrid of shoe and sock, doing one better the interior-sock playacting of shoes past such as the old DC AVE, and suggesting mystical powers similar to those enjoyed by fantastical mash-ups such the liger, pegasus, manticore and chimera. Superlatives aplenty adorn this garish creation, including the timeworn ‘game-changing’ and ‘disruptive,’ always an ominous sign. Only time will tell whether the sock component passes the oft-brutal smell test represented by the wafty smell that comes from days-unchanged socks, and whether this crossbreed proves itself a reliable steed such as the mule or a doomed hybrid like the aquatic car.

The Curb Stone: As the 1993 expose ‘Jurassic Park’ demonstrated, the laws of unintended consequences ride high in the saddle when man plays god, occasionally requiring lofty insurance payouts. So it is with the Curb Stone, an upgraded rub brick purpose-made for simultaneously smoothing and slicking ledges with a high-grade composite material conceived to dominate various concretes and cements. Useful for sure, but potentially unlocking a Pandora’s Box with its power to reshape the world around us. Holding the authority and gusto to create ledges, hubbas and wallride-friendly surfaces anywhere within reach, will this Stone inevitably result in pristine mountain ranges and national monuments such as Mt Rushmore refashioned to fit our purposes and rack up valuable ‘Likes’ on sociable computer networks?

Chocolate’s ‘Carabiner Cup’: Water quality and availability is widely predicted to be the cause of future wars and strife, and such trembly fears have unleashed investment dollars that would head such global conflicts off at the proverbial pass while also handily clipping to one’s belt loop. Chocolate, that supplier of graphical socks and party cup sets, has introduced a Carabiner Cup capable of resolving world water availability threats through a unique and burgundy coloured technology that makes seawater drinkable with the help of a gentle flame. The years ahead will reveal whether Chocolate’s powerful scientists stay on a helpful path for people or become twisted and grotesque beneath the crushing weight of their own intellect, musing about atom bombing rival planets on late-nite TV.

*Such as that “other” Koston 3