Posts Tagged ‘Girl’

Legacy Maintenance And Mutation In The Days Of Goldfish Focus

November 4, 2018

The time was the early 1980s and in that potent cosmos knowed as Hollywood, stars were aligning so as to align several of music’s biggest stars and birth the greatest musical album ever conceived: Queen frontman Freddie Mercury cowriting operatic party anthems with Michael Jackson, the undisputed king of entertainment. Although their respective musical prowess suggested little beyond certified platinum plaques for days and lofty wages, the artistic chemistry would be fouled by an interloping llama of some description.

According to an interview conducted with the Times of London, Queen’s former manager, Jim “Miami” Beach claims that Mercury called him and said, “Can you get over here? You’ve got to get me out of here, I’m recording with a llama.” Jackson was also reportedly less than thrilled with Mercury’s behavior during the recording session. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Mercury subsequently fell out with Jackson because the U.S. star objected to Mercury taking too much cocaine in his living room.”

On the surface, it’s just another cautionary tale about U.S. llamas, rival species and greedy excess. More deeply, it is a story of personal collaboration, llamas, and the challenges of building a chemistry strong enough to stand through the years. Like many of the 1980s’ greatest lessons, one can draw a direct line toward Element Skate Boards, which recently released its newest video, ‘Peace.’ Twenty-six years into its branded lifetime, the Twigs parent is feeling itself, springing for the considerable talents of Emerica’s Jon Miner to sort a 60-minute full-length from its deep and diverse benches, theoretically to bolster Element’s mystique and power in the board marketplace, while handing a breezy, wet, and flaming hot baton made of dirt to a new guard.

And what of that baton? By the power of the bankroll, Element’s clung to some clout over these many years, overcoming eyebrow-raising maneuvers such as a Billabong-cobranded Times Square outlet store and major-league fan service to corral a talented but usually incongruous mixture of riders, ranging at various times from Julien Stranger to Jeremy Wray to Chad Muska to Ray Barbee to Dennis Durrant to Terry Kennedy to Natas Kaupas to Kris Markovich to Stella Reynolds. Tracing the OG team to Element’s roster as of ‘Peace’ — it is sure to fluctuate again soon — would require several pages for one of Thrasher’s nerds-only company lineage features, and would rival the Bible’s ‘begats’ for reader patience.

Tenuous as Element’s current iteration may be to the ‘Skypager’ lineup or even the prior decade’s ‘This Is My Element,’ Jon Miner gamely coaxes out a cohesive if unwieldy production, strung together with static long-lens shots and a fair helping of psych-rock pulled from the ‘Made’ bins. Bionic Barley heir Brandon Westgate cranks once more down the SF hills to Operation Ivy’s buzzsaw bounce, rocketing over a king-size street gap and frontside flipping what appears to be an entire loading dock. Granola-grimy Tyson Peterson pulls a shocker of a kinked rail dismount and looks as confident sitting on backside smith grinds as he seems to be copping thrift-store trouser pants. Dominick Walker’s TSM cover footage is bananas, Greyson Fletcher catches one of the season’s most lovely and frightening kickflips, the lanky Madars Apse’s Barcelona board bonk and similar antics read like a Polar tryout, or maybe raised glass. Terminally brolic Mason Silva is positioned as ‘Peace’s’ closer, boosting fakie over the back of a rail to 5-0 and uncorking one of the wilder bump-to-bar wallride combos in a while, but it is starry-eyed wanderer Evan Smith, again, serving as the current Element generation’s spiritual core — beautifully switch backside flipping a bench, helicoptering off that silvery wedge for all the Spanish oldsters, and perhaps most dangerously of all, attempting to break Marsellus Wallace’s cardinal rule after a wallie late-shove gone wrong.

Is Element’s perpetually churning team a strength or weakness? Amid the recent media campaign for ‘Peace,’ Tyson Peterson in Thrasher speaks on his longtime Element fandom in terms of Brent Atchley, a dude off the team 10 years ago — and Bam Margera, whose pickup by Element during his ascent to MTV reality television staple marked one of the more surreal team roster mutations from the Chris Hall and Harold Hunter days, or even Reese Forbes and Kenny Hughes.

Meanwhile over at Girl, a 25-year-old entity that has derived much of its powers from maintaining a direct link to its storied pros and past, the dudes seem like they’re trying to tell us something. “We know where we’re going/but we don’t know where we’ve been,” croon the Talking Heads to Niels Bennett’s pre-intro sizzler in Girl’s crackling new ‘Doll’ vid. “I can change,” bleats James Murphy in the obligatory, sentimental-yet-lighthearted closing-credits number, as those yellowy letters scroll. “We sit back on Malayan islands/sipping mixed drinks out of broke coconut bowls, we wilding” croons Ghostface Killah amid Griffin Gass’ punchy, driving last part.

It is the sound of Girl breaking with its past, to some extent; eight minutes of ‘Doll’ unspool before there’s any tricks from a pre-9/11 rider, and then, it’s second-genner Brandon Biebel. The OGs skate for only about 30 seconds in the vid, and whether or not that’s OK is moot in 2018 — the ravages of time and adult living make anything else unrealistic, and Girl’s new hair relaxer-rejecting brood proves more than capable of carrying the half-hour ‘Doll.’

The dozens-deep pro rosters and overwrought theatrica of preceding Crailtap productions mostly are shunted to the side, allowing viewers to marinate in Niels Bennett’s sand gaps line, bounding fakie over one of Venice’s fat ledges, Tyler Pacheco’s loosey-goosey nollie heelflips and frontside bluntslides, Griffin Gass’ brawling rampages through alleys and fountains, and that one kickflip backside noseblunt. There’s winks and nods to past bits like Rick Howard’s dawdling rodent and Keenan Milton’s Rick Moranis moment, but the generational shift at work benefits even the skits — session screenwriter Colin Read, of ‘Spirit Quest’ fame, captures Spike Jonze’s brand of winking creativity using basically a board and a camera for a worthwhile entry in Girl/Choco’s anthropomorphic board series.

As the human attention span shrinks to rival the goldfish’s, ’tis it better, in pursuit of longevity and countercultural heft, to regularly shed teamriders every few years or hold to the original foundation of dudes as long as can be? Did everybody take note of Tyler Pacheco’s fakie flip in this? What about the alternate ending for the board revenge skit? How come nobody ever coined the nickname Matt “Miami” Beach?

Who Wants To Ride For Girl Skateboards?

October 13, 2018

Finally, some shame — Rick Howard, in a sorely missed skate photo for a recent Lakai ad, included a disclaimer specifying that the Anti-Hero setup that the Girl impresario is very visibly tailblocking belonged not to him but rather to photographer Mike O’Meally. Set aside boring questions of professional obligation and instead marvel at how the asterisk is more surprising than yet another appearance by the clean-scalped eagle beneath a Girl dude’s feet. It is 2018, robot cars have drawn first blood, and Kanye West tells us from the Oval Office that “time is a myth.”

For much of the past decade, various Girl teamriders not actively involved in weightlifting and yearslong DL stints have often veered between devoted Anti-Hero fandom and at times making the Torrance empire built from EMB bricks and SoCal picnic tables into an effective subsidiary for the tent-dwelling bowl tribe out of the Bay. Brian Anderson, who would eventually join Anti Hero, has talked openly of riding the boards throughout much of his Girl tenure, while Cory Kennedy in recent years took only cursory efforts to make it look like there was anything else guiding him in, out and around PNW concretes. The van door seemed to fly open for such deck double-dipping with the fabled ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tours — an inspired combination at the time, a clear passing of some subcultural torch in retrospect — and subsequent collabo product runs, while Crailtap employed a team-building playbook that at times seemed cribbed directly from the stripey socks/Dickeys/blaze orange beanie set.

For longtime devotees of the Art Dump, SHT Sound and goldfish-toting retirement home scammers, it’s difficult to separate dudes’ seeming lack of enthusiasm for skating their own boards with the company’s at times painful evolution, as the onetime family has splintered across the FuckingAwesome, Numbers, and other camps. For over a decade, damn near everybody wanted to ride for Girl skateboards. The World defection bomb-drop on the industry set up a 10-year run that elevated the original squad to all-time status and provided the currency, cultural and hard, for acquisitions to set up the next generation — Rick McCrank, Brandon Biebel, Robbie McKinley, Brian Anderson, Paul Rodriguez, Jereme Rogers.

Halfway through the ‘00s though the unthinkable occurred, with Paul Rodriguez stepping out, for a rebooted Plan B of all things. A crack had appeared; more than ten years on, the skate biz has learned that its institutions are not immune to the cultural fracturing that has laid low the top-40 radio hit, the water-cooler conversation-starter, the very special TV episode. The exodus from Girl began with next-generation pillars Jereme Rogers, Alex Olson, and spilled over to foundational names Koston and Mariano.

Tyler Pacheco, Simon Bannerot, Griffin Gass and Niels Bennett want to ride for Girl Skateboards. As per their recent Thrasher interview, they skate the boards. This clutch of curly-haireds, entrusted to guide the venerable company through a third decade, keep the bases covered across wallrides, hill bombs, bowls and those Southern California schoolyards. They feature in Girl’s imminent and anticipated ‘Doll’ vid, an am-focused affair that somewhat lowers the stakes; with 2017’s ‘The Flare’ making no bones about the fact that OGs Carroll, Howard, and others are throttling back with age, ‘Doll’ augurs to present a clean slate that maybe can be judged on its own merits by kids with only a vague grasp of Girl’s weighty legacy. In the Thrasher interview, Tyler Pacheco eloquently suggests that he and his bros aren’t encumbered by the historical gravity of a Girl nod, though they’re down for the cause:

How important is turning pro for Girl skateboards to you guys?
Manch: Not important at all.

It’s not a goal?
Manch: No. I mean, I already know Mike; I already know Rick; I already know Chico and Kenny and everybody. Shit, I’m already pro in my mind! I don’t look at it like that. Yonnie went pro and that’s my fuckin’ homie. When he first went pro I was like What?! Then two months later it’s like he’s my normal homie I kick it with. But it’s amazing. I was psyched when he went pro. ‘Cause everyone else I knew was on the fuckin team, It’s just like Wow, we’re all a part of this awesome fuckin’ company. No matter how far it’s gone it’s just great to be a part of it. I’ve always looked up to it and I’ll always hold it high in my heart.

What is success for Girl in 2018? Will a pro board for the preternaturally talented Niels Bennett at long last put some respect on the Slap boards’ name? Could a slimmer budget, driven by general hardgoods market saturation and rising freight costs, steer ‘Doll’ away from the high-concept, high-def sledgehammer approach of the Ty era and back toward the shoestring creativity that scraped raw the underbellies of ’80s sedans and affixed a Charlie Chaplin ‘stache on Eric Koston?

Lory Vincent, Call Your Office: The Enduring Legacy of ‘Haulin Ass to Hall and Oates’

September 23, 2018

Birthdays in the maple-and-urethane sphere are volatile aftairs, equal parts euphoria at making it thus far in compiling a body of work, and trepidation at drawing side-eyes for being past the prime, ripe for replacement or worse yet, parody. Ten years in, Powell, Girl and World were near the height of their respective powers; at 20, it was a different story, with partners and prowess faded, half-joking talk of curses and financial sponsors pondering various asset combinations to recapture growth. Make it to 30 and you are entitled to coast on reissues, at 40, open your own museum.

For videos it’s different, as the internet age places years-ago classics and ahead-of-their-time overlookeds into constant combat with the daily deluge of parts, semi-lengths and tour clips. Here, the skate-culture snake or cobra or whatever nibbles at its own tail, occasionally taking a bite: Witness Pontus Alv’s overt callbacks to H-Street vids in Polars’ recent opuses, Bronze’s highly eroticized Adio and Alien Workshop pastiches, Girl’s wink toward a Cory Kennedy ‘Yeah Right’ part in 2015’s ‘Wet Dream.’ Marc Johnson, promoting a new deck-and-t-shirt concern Business & Co., this month unveiled a YouToob mashup featuring some regularly referenced Neil Blender and Sean Young footage, along with scenes from recent Habitat collabee ‘Twin Peaks’ to say… something.

To call the history of single-artist soundtracked skate videos patchy is to be charitable. Element’s ‘This Is My…’ full-length, sonically appointed by Odd Nosdam, reclines couchbound on the mostly-inoffensive-but-barely-there end of the spectrum; on the other pogos Flip’s ‘Xtremely Sorry,’ cast out of a poorly-attended Midwestern Warp Tour stop on general principle. ‘Haulin,’ as well as higher-profile but less-on-the-line efforts like DNA entrustung Mr. Dibbs to usher in Habitat’s inaugural offering for the ‘Photosynthesis’ midsection, suggest dudes may have been doing it wrong. Some twist on Bill Clinton’s ‘92 campaign-trail warhammer such as ‘it’s the songs, stupid,’ probably applies.

At the time of its 2008 publication, ‘Haulin Ass to Hall and Oates’ struck many as an unlikely combo. For many years, the Bronx’s Big Punisher stood as skateboarders’ primary musical idol, an individual of limited means who traded upon his skill, creativity and sheer force of will to amass fame and wealth and extreme physical mass. Those were the dreams of many tween skaters. And yet on the low, Hall and Oates potentially surpass Pun’s achievements, while aligning closely with the evolving skate-ethos. Daryl Hall’s multi-instrumental mastery carries weight in skating’s still-going ATV age, and his knowing way with women — at least in song — serves as a high-water mark for the confidence skateboarders require to manage personal brands in a new and virtually streamy media environment. Separately, John Oates’ moustache exemplifies today’s ‘send it bro’ spirit. As a team they are the best-selling musical duo in history and have achieved success selling t-shirts at above-market rates, a cornerstone of fiscal prowess in today’s skate game.

Released 10 years ago this year, Ian Shulman and Tom Carter’s most enduring contribution to the skate video canon mingles Hall’s and Oates’ glossy but oft-dark tales of late-’70s love on the rocks with that damp grittiness particular to the Pacific Northwest. At a time when jangling indie rock reigned supreme in vid soundtracks and Transworld’s fading video legacy fell back on incense-scented vinyl, Two Hawks Young switch bigspin boardslides one of the chunky Hendrix rails to ‘Baby Come Back;’ Mike de Leon rocks fat tongue Reeboks and launches a serious wallie, while Daryl Hall stands stoic awaiting ‘Maneater’s signature sax bleat and on-screen text deadpans, ‘Montage.’ A yung Matt Gottwig sails a gap to nosegrind, Owen Jones hardflips into a wallride to fakie, John Oates ice grills the camera and Ryan Strangland flicks a magical-looking heelflip backside tailslide to fakie.

Will ‘Haulin Ass to Hall and Oates’ ever attain its rightful place within the skate video pantheon, or will it primarily remain valued for helping clear skateshops of lingering and unworthy kids at closing time? Must Joey Johnson’s nollie noseblunt and other ledge tricks truly rank among the greatest post-‘Trilogy’ uses of the Gideon Choi pants? Do you agree that Chromeo looked sort of shook jamming with Daryl Hall at his house?

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 6 – Girl ‘Road Trip,’ 411VM Issue 39

June 24, 2018

Arriving shortly after Rick Howard and Mike Carroll joined forces with Ty Evans, this entry closed out 411VM’s midperiod and set the stage for the bloated, high-concept video escapades of the 2000s that would help sink 411 itself and eventually become an albatross for nearly all companies possessing the dollars to still attempt them. This clip also marked a historical juncture for Girl itself, featuring the handrail-heavy pickup Rick McCrank in his absolute prime and Eric Koston still ascending toward the height of his Sparkles-era powers. All the Ty-isms are there too: an intro that spans a third of the clip, stridently emotive techno-pop, high-fives and camera mugs, slow-mo. Rick McCrank whipping a switch ghetto bird on a battered QP, Mike Carroll refurbishing some of his ‘Modus’ moves like the nollie flip to backside 5-0, Rick Howard shove-iting into and out of a backside nosegrind, Eric Koston going the distance on a wiggly bar, everybody in Es shoes, launch ramps and an ostrich — nobody in 2O00 could touch it.

In an Age of Plenty, the Challenge of Getting Past Lavar McBride’s Arms When He Nollie Backside Flips the Hubba Hideout Stairs

May 21, 2017

The larcenous subtlety of the X-Games, now legal to drink at 22 years old, lies in its unassailable hamhandedness. From its early, lingering and loving embrace of the “extreme” label even through the market segment’s maturation into ‘action sports,’ to its endorsement of the MegaRampTM and multiyear employment of frequent seagull target Sal Masakela; even as contest-course stewards seek to more tightly bottle and present street skating’s outlaw allure, there could only be one competitive franchise when duty requires blurting onto the interwebs ten minutes of fresh video part footage from the likes of Ishod Wair, Tiago Lemos, Cole Wilson and Na-Kel Smith. If it isn’t the best contest, strictly speaking, it’s probably the easiest spoonful of corporate-sponsored tournamentation to be gulped amongst a medicine chest otherwise proffering antiseptic runs formulated with rocks to fakie, and board-in-hand youngsters hustling up embankments and across quarterpipe decks.

Between sequences extolling the powers of Home Depot’s flooring products, Tiago Lemos’ fakie 360 flip switch backside tailslide pop out and Ishod Wair’s nighttime run through Muni are ladled liberally onto a La La Palooza of skating scooped up over the past week or so. Consider: May 12, Adidas releases a ringing video from a London trip, loaded with Rodrigo TX’s impeccably swished-out technicalities*, the magic-footed Gustav Tonnesen and freshly resurfaced matriculant Mark Suciu; it is this type of clip Adidas’ Juice crew does best and crafts better than nearly anybody. A day later, quasi-Texan Keegan McCutcheon delivers a fulsome spread of shove-its and various relatables over bars, including the hallowed wallride shove. In there somewheres was Mark Del Negro’s ambidextrous arrival via Philly on Hopps, Mark Humienik’s Sable section boasting a blistering noseblunt shove-it, and a Niels Bennett footage dump from Venture, in which a wallie 50-50 on a rail and a humongous switch wallride draws another mop-topped gangler ever closer to the still-glowing OG bathroom sign. On May 17 yung Polar wonder-bowlrider Oskar Rozenberg put out a street-heavy part for Nike, going GX in the SF hills and helping shake the Brooklyn Banks from a seven-year hibernation. And then Thrasher began dropping the Creature video, with full-throated David Gravette and Milton Martinez entries.

A daunting and woundrous time it is for footage consumers, who entertain the challenge of processing and absorbing valuable experience points from video parts with nearly each meal of the day, to say nothing of posting and or in-person pontificating on each amongst one’s chosen bros. For those with the skill, mental gonads and ill judgement to angle for their own slice of the day’s skate video watching capacity, with all of its punishing fickleness and readily rendered harshitudes, it’s gotta be awful tough.

And yet there lurks another threat to these freshly scrubbed video parts, nervously approaching their public debuts with each pixel the upload progress bar adds. Like an icey iceberg sailing deeper into frigid arctic waters, this danger is largely hidden and only grows, sometimes with only small and pointy bits visible to the non-radar enhanced eye. It appears to you in the form of Lavar McBride’s arms, downward cast after flicking one of mankind’s greatest nollie backside kickflips down the Hubba Hideout steps in ‘Trilogy,’ twenty-one years in the past. Maybe it appears as Tom Penny blurrily pushing through the parking ramp in TSA’s ‘Life in the Fast Lane,’ or maybe Steve Durante switch heelflipping into a switch frontside bluntslide, or Diego Najera’s still-incomprehensible switch varial heelflip. Those lionhearted bros offering up new video parts to the internet’s altar not only compete day-to-day with their contemporaries for its fleeting and capricious favour, but now with the entire history of what has come before.

Of the nollie backside flip’s many historical high points, are Jim Greco’s Baker2G edition or Jake Johnson’s in Mind Field able to command as many repeat rewinds as Lavar McBride’s one with the arms? Where were yall when Lavar McBride was trying to teach you to nollie flip at the DMV? How many minutes in a typical day need be devoted to consuming new footage so as to convincingly hold one’s own on the Slap boards? Where will you be for the X-Games’ dirty thirty?

*just for the record

As Skating Leads a Parade for Brian Anderson, Does a G-Code!!! Hat Remain Strapped to Its Collective Noggin?

October 1, 2016

juvenile_tha_g_-_code_slowed_chopped-front-large

This week skateboarding rejoiced, heralding the justifiably jubilant event that was Brian Anderson’s coming out, while collectively exhaling at the acknowledgement of 10 years’ worth of rumors traded between parking-lot lines and across skateshop counters. Brian Anderson’s moment carries weight. Unlike Tim Von Werne’s buried interview and Jarrett Berry’s noteworthy/novelty cover turn for Big Brother, this arrives freighted with a universally beloved style, a caseful of contest trophies, parts in the best videos of their eras, and a Skater of the Year title in its most worthy form — a nod that proved out for years afterward. If you were to tally some imaginary checklist for gay people’s ideal skate ambassador, BA leaves few empty boxes.

Gio Reda’s at times shaky doc gets over due to Brian Anderson approaching the discussion with the same type of nonchalant grace that repopularized the hurricane grind, and steered a backside smith grind down the UCI hubba. There’s an all star cast of well-wishers, some understandable gravitas — BA’s simple reason for waiting this long to make his statement, being “freaked out” — and in the long tradition of skate vid skits there’s humor of both intentional (Biebel, Bluto) and unintentional (the hurried assurances that skaters are not Brian Anderson’s type).

Even with relatively little at stake as his pro career ticks past the 20-year mark, Brian Anderson deserves enormous credit for taking a step that can immeasurably help current and future gay kids who skate, and improve skateboarding’s increasingly tough-to-make case as a semi-lawless sanctuary open to whoever, be they misfit, malcontent, mordantly mundane, or otherwise. Even as skating emerges from the dregs of premium-extended cable packages to ascend the most lucrative podiums of international Olympic telecasts, it has failed to keep pace with even the most mainest streamy major league sports, those at which the four-wheeled persuasion still would look down their chipped noses. Gay NFL and NBA players already have identified themselves; some ex-baseball players have been out for years. Even the U.S. military, whose advertisements still draw derision when they grace skate mags’ supposedly less-conforming and higher-minded pages, six years ago dropped ‘Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.’ For all the comparisons skating has drawn between itself and art, figure skating and rock music, it’s lagged these too.

If there is any silver lining the rainbow-coloured flag skating now heartily waves, it is that Baker’s ‘G-Code!!!’ hat sales may not have been in vain. Despite Brian Anderson’s sexuality having been more or less an open secret among skaters for more than a decade, to this blogging web page’s knowledge he never was called out publicly on it, nor put on the spot in any interview. Skateboarding is terrible bad at keeping secrets and in some sense it may have been assumed as common knowledge. But decades of ducking the law’s long arm, ignoring posted prohibitions and any number of other related illegalities seem to have kept some anti-snitching sentiment embedded in the industry. Missteps get called out — Jeremy Laebreres rowed back after an ill-considered Patrick Melcher recollection and Wes Kremer’s SOTY status didn’t absolve him from narrowed eyes after recently putting Smolik on front street. BA’s personal business is not in that pejorative realm, which maybe makes it that much more impressive that it wasn’t trotted out for him at some point.

Will BA’s big step prompt any of the supposed half dozen or so other gay pros to similarly raise their hands? Is this the type of after-black documentary hammer that assures Giovanni Reda hangs onto a pro-model slot on Viceland some five or ten years after he’s filmed anything? Where were Donny Barley and the Muska in the doc? How will history judge Andy Roy’s ‘snuggle bandit’ interview in the arc of skateboarding’s gradual embrace of its gay brethren and sisters? Could a renewed thirst to film tricks flow from Brian Anderson’s recently reinvigorated Instagram activity?

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 4 – Gabriel Rodriguez, Daniel Castillo and Shamil Randle ‘Mouse’

July 8, 2016


Of the many ‘what-ifs’ associated with all-time top fiver ‘Mouse,’ the potential for a full-on follow-up to Gabriel Rodriguez’s ‘Paco’ closing section forever will be up there with the prospects for a healthy Mike Carroll and a reenergized Jovontae Turner. He does come through in this Choco-trio section with some massive tailslides and two of the grimier fakie tricks to chunk out the courthouse ledge, before Daniel Castillo comes with a good Venice pit line and some below-the-knees cargo pockets, the height of fashion for summer 1996. Shamil Randle gets in two of the video’s best-looking manual tricks in the same line plus the rarely-seen fakie frontside shove-it, possibly an asterisked outlier to Jimmy Gorecki’s generally on-point ‘Trilogy’ rule.

Big Shoes Small Boards

June 19, 2016

carroll-focus

There are some queries that must be considered as the ultimate questions of the time. Is it really what it is? Do gentlemen really prefer brunettes? What is the sound of one hand clapping? Do Gs get to go to heaven? If you couldn’t see the sun rising off the shore of Thailand would you ride then if I wasn’t driving? Has We The Best Season returned? Are you new around here or something man?

In our current big-footwear era of skateboarding, one question goes like this: Do international shoe manufacturers prefer small board companies? You sort of wonder. As Palace and Adidas and Skate Mental and Nike respectively grow cuddlier in the process of producing product lines, fewer such efforts appear to invite the creative hive-minds powering the likes of Element, Flip, Plan B and Zoo York to apply their MS Paint sorcery to established shoe-wall sellers. Meanwhile, the fingerprints of publicly traded footwear conglomerates increasingly seem to smudge the smartphone screens of board-company team managers:

Jamie Thomas: we bent over backwards for trevor for years. all was good, but as we were working with him on his boards, we started hearing that Nike was encouraging him to ride for skate mental because supposedly it would help his situation at Nike; Even though his graphics were done and his pro board was scheduled to be released in 2 months, he hit me up and said thanks for everything, but I’m gonna ride for Skate Mental.

Mike Carroll: Remember with Karsten [Kleppan], when we put out the intro to Lakai video part and then a week later Karsten got on Nike? It’s just like, what the fuck. And then that (Nike) dude Kaspar hit up Sam [Lakai’s Team Manager] and was like, “I know that Karsten’s off of Lakai now, but we want to get him off of Element. We want to get him on a cool company, would you guys be down to sponsor him for Girl?” It’s like, are you that retarded?

Jenkem’s text-messaging theorist: Nike backing riders to ride for small board co’s or start up their own small start up’s to dilute the market with heaps of small brands so the main camps like crailtap, black box (now dwindle) can’t focus on their own shoe programs and have to put their time and resources into keeping their board co’s alive in an over saturated market. Leaving it to them, Cons and adidas which works perfectly because they all co-exist this way in every other sport.

Is ‘small board company’ the proper terminology tho? Of the current Nike skateboard team, about half (16/34) skate for what could be construed as a ‘small/startup’ board company. But it may be more instructive to examine multinational sporting gear manufacturers’ history when it comes to sponsoring dudes who skate for a board company that is affiliated with a ‘legacy’ skate shoe company. In 2007, Nike’s inaugural and unfairly maligned full-length ‘Nothing But the Truth’ included parts from six dudes (out of 22) whose deck sponsors also ran a competing shoe outfit. By the time 2011’s ‘SB Chronicles 1’ arrived, the number had declined to two out of eight; it was 2/7 for ‘Chronicles 2’ and Cory Kennedy was the only one in last year’s ‘Chronicles 3’. Of the 24 bros in ‘Away Days,’ one skates for a board company that also peddles shoes, and on the Converse skate team, it’s one of 13.

Why might a big giant shoe company like its skaters to promote smaller/newer/upstart board companies? The idea of Jenkem’s texting thinker has some logic to it, though the deck sponsor’s ‘marquee’ position as it relates to pros’ pocketbooks has long been on the wane relative to shoes, as former DNA Distribution ‘business guy’ Chris Carter pointed out five years ago. As far as resource drains go, at a time when Brian Wenning and Jereme Rogers are able to formulate heat-press ready artwork and online storefronts, while micro-brands such as Jim Greco’s Hammers and Jeremy Klein’s revived Hook-Ups are able to secure premium pricing on limited runs, the actual overhead of doing a board company could or should be relatively low, assuming that a generation of even top-drawer pros have become accustomed to slimmer signature-board paycheques.

Would encouraging pros away from board companies/distributorships that also run shoe companies make sense for the majors? The post-getting-on-Nike moves of Trevor Colden (Mystery –> Skate Mental) and Karsten Kleppan (Element –> Skate Mental) make you wonder, and of the current SB team, about one-third, from Paul Rodriguez to Koston/Guy to Gino Iannucci, have departed such board companies for startups with no affiliation over the years, for various reasons. A widening gap between the board sponsor and shoe sponsor as far as pay, travel capability and general influence would cement the shoe merchants’ first right of refusal when it comes to Instagram clips, tour edits and coveted under-deck sticker placement real estate, and enhance capabilities to promote uniform-like outfits readymade for sweeping up spilled popcorn after matinee showings of ‘Zootopia 2: Zoological Boogaloo.’

Or does all our convoluted and conspiracy-minded nail-gnawing overlook the razory principle of Occam, which in this case might be that upstart board companies are cooler now and, given board sponsors’ functional functions as image-drivers, asa shoe purveyour you’d want the dudes you sponsor to skate under a small company’s cooler halo? Would this suggest that international shoe enterprises are chipping away at some image-management role traditionally performed by agents, increasingly beloved of pro skaters thirsting for soda sponsorship dollaridoos, but a timeworn rival of sporting giants when contract negotiation time rolls around? Should sponsor-juggling skateboarders seek the council of Jay-Z, a wheelings-and-dealings man who has had a pro-model shoe for rapping, helped manage a team and wrangled deals for pro athletes, by signing up for his exclusive Tidal internet music streaming business? Could board companies take a page from shoe companies and start encouraging teamriders toward Tumblr- and BigCartel-empowered wheel groups? Does all this silly noise obscure the shadowy role of the premium-fit cotton t-shirt as the true and honest currency of the realm?

*Note: DC is considered affiliated with Plan B for our simple-minded purposes here

Let’s Pretend We’re Married

April 30, 2016

purp

Skating last week waved a black lace garter goodbye to one of its longest-burning signal flares, Prince, a towering figure whose resolute outsiderness, restless creativity and sexual horsepower presaged skating’s passing indulgences into blouses, smouldery brooding, paisley and motorcycles. His purple fingerprints linger in skating’s infatuation with eagles, seagulls and pigeons, Corvettes and berets, whilst his Paisley Park compound providing a blueprint for many of today’s self-contained content factories. Indeed, Prince is rumored to have been the soft-spoken and hypnotic voice delivering a series of wee-hours directives to a succession of skate-biz power brokers, for decades anonymously guiding the industry from a what is widely assumed to be a love symbol-shaped telephone.

Eric Koston is as easily pegged a Prince disciple as any working pro, from skating to ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ to social media adventures and releasing multiple purple coloured shoes*. One could ponder whether Eric Koston’s late 1980s-‘Yeah Right’ run matched Prince’s prowess over his first 14 albums, and just as Prince in the mid-1990s famously severed himself from Warner Bros, the record-labeling bros who had released his music for nigh on two decades, Eric Koston last year stepped away from his own 20-year employers at Girl, and now appears set to further immerse himself in Prince’s legacy as he speed-dates deck merchants while developing his own board imprint.

This weekend Eric Koston surprised few with the unveiling of a deck series for WKND, after foreshadowing a master plan that also involved endorsing some funny arted decks created by Brad Staba’s Skate Mental company. The polyamorous moves harken back to Prince’s high-heeled hopscotching from record company to record company after the Warner Bros kiss-off, even if the frosty vibes emanating from Eric Koston’s parting ways with Girl didn’t rise to the level of scrawling ‘SLAVE’ across his face. Alternately one could posit Girl as Eric Koston’s Vanity, from whom he moves on to a string of bosomy and multi-instrumental paramours, sometimes while jamming on synthesizers.

Are Eric Koston’s indigo-tinted industry maneuvers helping to usher in a post-board sponsor era in which deck makers become loose, image-oriented collectives for pros and various bros to shack up for a time, under some ‘gest’ or similar rubric, before drifting apart? Is this threatened obsolescence of the deck-company team an extension of the much-maligned hookup culture, hunted to extinction by smartphone-eroded attention spans, ringtone raps and seven-minute abs? Just as Prince ultimately buried his +4 Axe of Creative Control with Warner Bros, will an aging Koston eventually return to Girl in a deal that grants him full rights over his ‘Goldfish’ to ‘Pretty Sweet’ raw footage, which later will be turned over to the courts for a years-long legal battle amongst Koston’s heirs after his sudden death traumatizes millions and reveals that he left no will?

*Generally purple and gold, referencing the colours of the LA Lakers**
**A team originally from Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Atomic Drop

November 29, 2015

This fall, using now-retired Osiris pro and eponymous mutual aid organization leader Josh Kasper as a cipher, Jerry Hsu might have inadvertently blown the lid off one of the industry’s most jealously guarded secrets — that the dramatic plotlines and festering beefs underlying so many video parts, graphical concepts and magazine ads may be meticulously scripted to wring maximum discretionary dollars and tweenage emotion from each expertly slow-motioned ollie over an earmuffed DJ. To wit:

I don’t want to throw him under the bus too hard here but how he would go about these demos…I heard he was really influenced by pro wrestling and that made a lot of sense to me. He would apply that same mentality to his skating. Like, I know he would bail tricks on purpose at demos just to dramatize his skating. Ollieing off vert ramps and constantly trying to hype up the crowd, literally trying to get them to chant his name.

Josh Kasper’s Europop and benihana stylings have made him the muse of a generation, but Jerry Hsu may be tapping into a deeper and more engrossing narrative. Just a few years before Osiris’ Flexfitted heyday, pro wrestling was confronting its own flagging powers as the detritus of the 1980s, which staked millions upon matchups between brawny tycoons and vengeful snake handlers, had receded in the face of the grungier, grittier 1990s, setting the stage for the neon-spandexed heroes of the ’80s, such as Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man, rebrand themselves as black-clad villains out to remake the enterprise in their own graven image. To some, these were dark days, the nights filled with loathing and doubt and greasy endorsement contracts.

Have Eric Koston and Guy Mariano opened the door for their own face-heel turn following the official announcement of their long-rumoured exit from Girl last week? Some plot cues could be found: Guy Mariano clad in all black, Shooter McGavining the camera while Instagram followers* mourn his departure from the Crailtap camp that provided both the aquatic catchpad for the then-spent rocket of his 1990s ascent and an expanded platform for his late-00s relaunch. Eric Koston, who seems in the post-Lakai years to have gravitated away from the board concern he and Guy Mariano helped elevate to the tippiest of tops in the 90s as well as the affiliated clothes company they cofounded, has yet to offer any parting pleasantries to Girl, which bid farewell to the duo last week in an understated manner similar to that which once characterized the company’s 1990s print and video output. In the glorious bro-hug emoji that is the ‘Boys of Summer’ video, Eric Koston’s footage is placed in a Nike-aligned segment separate from Rick Howard’s and Mike Carroll’s, whose decades-tested tag teaming carries a bittersweet twinge this time out given the changes at Crailtap.

Should Eric Koston and Guy Mariano, two legendary talents entering their professional autumn years with families to provide for and their legacies already safely carved in the hardest-rated urethanes, blaze a new career path by embracing filthy lucre with no apologies, a direction that seems inevitable for pros entertaining corporate sponsorships that have in recent years required increasingly convoluted and amusing justifications? Could Street League boost ratings and garner heavier-hitting corporate sponsors by augmenting its ‘impact section’ with scripted and intense rivalries, surprise interferences in high-pressure runs and the occasional tossed folding chair? Is Tim O’Connor best positioned to thrust fuzzy microphones into the frothing maws of ranting champs and goad them for more, and could Rob Dyrdek cut a convincing Vince McMahon figure? Might dropping all his big-money sponsors in favor of skater-owned startups, dressing in all white and pivoting away from the calf sock improve Nyjah Huston’s SOTY odds, or at least result in more wallrides?