“There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it,” grumbled the dark lord Sauron in a recent and grumbly voiceover advertising the new Star Wars movie. “The dark side, and the light.” The vibrant world of wookies and hard-partying ewoks again has fallen into strife and discord, lousy with massing storm troopers and crashed spaceships. It represents an extension of what is perhaps the nation’s best-known workplace drama, in which the rigors of toiling under the Emperor’s exacting standards caused Darth Vader to crack and fail to recoup the Empire’s lofty investment in the initial Death Star, then resign his position before construction on the second could complete.
Darth Vader, like so many other career professionals laboring under layers of blubbery bureaucracy, encountered distressors* that occasionally drove him to lash out at colleagues and competitors, employing telekinesis and a lazery sword in equal measure, often illegally. As hinted by the Star Warrior-baiting Santa Cruz decks of yesteryear, Darth Vader’s broiling frustrations may mirror those gripping the skateboard sphere in these, the autumn days of 2015.
Like an incredulous Death Star space welder handed a snorkel, a flathead screwdriver and an unconvincing clap on the shoulder, stakes and requirements for workaday professional bros seem to ratchet ever higher while the constraints of a turbulent global economy seem intent on culling the industry herd. Once high-flying board affairs like Alien Workshop, Zero and Girl are undergoing painful evolutions, while rumors swirl around the future of Dekline shoes and Adio has taken to advertising former team riders in its bid for continued relevance. Signature-model toting professionals increasingly are expected to bear the responsibility of marketing themselves via crowd-courting internet pages, and we live in a time when not only is it unshocking to see a marginally-known amateur break off tricks like Gabriel Summers’ shiveringly gnarly nosegrind, it also is de regueur do it nominally for free. Olympic endorsement contracts would beckon skateboarding’s sobriety-compatible 1%, while remaining ne’er do wells contemplate crowdfunding raisers to sop up medical bills.
Are stress levels within skating’s grand talent pool rising to a Vader level in which colleagues get choked out at sit-down meetings? You hear these things, but it is hard to know for sure. There are signs and siguls, including but not limited to growth in powerviolence-sprinkled parts and graphics, or soundtracks bearing murderer music. Vignettes tucked into ‘Sabotage 4’ and the ‘Our Life’ video, two of the grittier and grottier outputs of recent weeks, feature fights with cops and passersby, recalling a previous industry crunch that manifested itself in part via board-to-drill combat.
Veins of latent but palpable anger burble beneath the overcast surface and betwixt combusting switchstance tricks in Gilbert Crockett’s ‘Salt Life’ video part for the redubbed Quasi, an outfit forged from the wreckage and occasional raw feelings of a highflying corporate adventure gone kaput. Quasi’s initial video look transposes some of the hi-contrast and sharp cuts of their graphical concepts, anchored in a somewhat deeper trench of Gilbert Crockett’s technical skating, including a crunchy switch backside smith grind and one of the more eye-popping switch shove-its in recent memory, and peppered with enraged grunts and a viciously celebratory board beating.
Has the quantity of cathartic, building-slapping wallrides and wallies risen in lockstep with the industry’s general level of fiscal insecurity? Will snapchatted pro boxing matches emerge as a multipronged answer to slackened incomes and late night instagram sniping? May all of it be symptomatic of a divide-and-conquer conspiracy among deep-pocketed sportswear and drink manufacturers? Does the environment grow ever riper for a Bo Turner comeback?
*versus happier eustressors trafficked among those hard-partying ewoks and jawas