Posts Tagged ‘handrails’

Has Handrail Skating Entered Middle Age?

April 17, 2015

muska_handrail_help_call

“Nobody pays taxes on Mars,” the old saying goes, and it rings as true today as it ever was. For the astronaut, moustachioed and physically capable of handling several Gs, space travel draws a fat, black dividing line between youth and that which comes after; no man, they say, is the same after penetrating celestial orbit. For the ancient dinosaurs, to enter middle age was a feat accomplished by only the clever and ruthless, and these became chieftans and enriched warlords.

Today little has changed. History barrels forward similar to a kettle of fine fish packed into a barrel and rolled downhill and, come this time next year, handrail skating will be 30 years removed from those nervy days when Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas took it in their heads to ollie air up onto safely secured hand-bannisters and chart a bold and zesty course toward best-trick contest purses, ponderous stair counts, bike-lock controversies and the occasional bloody discharge. There was a gawky, turn-of-the-decade adolescence, followed by a coming of age under the dauntless feet of Duffy, Kirchart, Thomas and Muska, and the bigger-longer-taller maturation spree pursued in the early aughts by the Flip-Zero-Baker contingent.

Wither the handrail in 2015? In the last year and a half Transworld has featured just a single handrail trick on its cover, as page counts dwindle and TWS embraces wallrides and assorted transition terrains. Over at Thrasher, which cover-wise years ago threw in its lot with the Wade Speyer side of the tech-vs-gnar continuum, handrail tricks as a percentage of covers each year seem to have plateaued.

handrails_graph1

Is handrail skating becoming engulfed in a midlife crisis, with nollie heelflip crooked grinds widely regarded as passe, 39 stair curvers suggesting some possible upper limit and El Toro gelded? Resurgent bowls, abrupt transitions and even the vert ramp seem to have splintered handrail skating into restless and nomadic tribes, including displaced wallriders, wall-rejecting against-the-grainers, deep-crouching over-the-toppers, body varialing rewinders and a Mariano-bred stripe of small-bar uber-tech.

Recent signals however suggest that a certain purity of the round slanted bar continues to draw admirers, even without a fire-engine red, glasspacked sports car or wallie on. Australian dervish Jack Fardell, in the process of extensively notching some unholy San Francisco skatespot bedpost, commanded Thrasher’s May cover with a rabid 50-50 grind down a kinked beast that had bucked known master John Cardiel more than a decade back. Further south Paul Hart, a Floridian partly responsible for shifting Cliche’s center of gravity increasingly west of the Atlantic, recorded a sit-and-stare worthy nollie backside noseblunt to fakie sequence that naturally occurred also near the end of an Arto-aspiring ‘Gypsy Life’ section.

Is a midlife crisis a healthy and productive exercise for handrail skating generally? When handrail skating begins wearing tight polo shirts with the collars flipped up, pumping weights and loudly quoting Rae Sremmurd lyrics, at what point should a friend intervene? Will people start painting gray handrails black and then denying it? Will photoshopping gray handrails black represent the greatest ethical quandary to confront Instagram accountholders in the years ahead? Could Thrasher re-run this Kasai cover next month without anyone being the wiser except probably Jason Dill?

Some Kind of Monster

November 30, 2013

torben-ulrich

Nyjah Huston is in the news again, this time seeking to reel in among the biggest and slipperiest, if not necessarily the most lucrative, fish of the skate-award realm: Thrasher’s often-legendary Skater of the Year award, which if nothing else remains a monument to the grand intangibles in a world increasingly dominated by quantitative benchmarks such as Street-League scoring points, unique page-views and ‘likes.’ Before running out the remainder of the year swilling macrobrews and lighting cars on fire before giggling and bearded photographers, Nyjah Huston in his just-released ‘Fade to Black’ part cranks the Old Metallica, dons several colors of Thrasher branded t-shirt apparels and deploys any number of massive backside lipslides, kinked 50-50s and blizzard flips onto handrails in his bid for the SOTY prize.

Like many Nyjah Huston video parts before it, this year’s comes packaged as an ‘event’ chock full of feats that go several stairs further than others have dared, and inevitably has ignited frothy debates over the ‘jock’ nature of Nyjah Huston’s skating. A gently probing analysis of the topic reveals a more fundamental question, however: Are skateboarders, who draw their identities from an athletic activity, by definition ‘jocks’?

When weighing such weighty questions, it’s helpful to begin with the basics. Webster’s dictionary defines ‘jock’ as an ‘athlete, especially: a school or college athlete,’ derived from the noun ‘jock strap.’ The stretchy but supportive apparatus that embraces sportsmen worldwide today originally was invented around 4,500 B.C. by Tunisian animal husbandrists, casting about for methods to speed spice-laden camels across North Africa’s arid plains.

Modern-day skateboarding has had little use for what we now understand to be the commoditized jock strap, eschewing more-formalized undergarment support in favor of short-shorts in the early days of taming backyard transitions, to the no-safety-net stance of the early 1990s’ goofy-boy scene. But as contest purses grew more lucrative, skateboarders began to gravitate toward more form-fitting garments previously regarded as the exclusive realm of Ed Templeton and Mario Rubalcaba. The advent of stretch denim largely obviated the need for classical support regimes and some skateboarders now even have adopted tighty-whities, a mindset unthinkable just a decade ago.

Gleaming trophies and contest hauls go only so far in rationalizing such an attitudinal shift, however, and so to better understand the gravitational forces and wearable whims at play, Boil the Ocean sought out H. Stoss ‘Boss’ Perot, professor of chemical and metallurgical anthropology at the highly regarded East Wangle University. Boil the Ocean Web Site was particularly intent on engaging Professor Perot’s viewpoints given his long-running research into the fibrous content of modern-day jockstraps and designer sweatpants, a marketplace now cornered by just three multinational gargantuates — ancient trade-houses of vast means.

“There’s far more afoot than people understand,” Prof. Perot claimed while on the phone from his research facility where he looks at elastic bands. “And far more at stake. I believe this shift reflects a systemic risk that has gone unaddressed, if not willfully ignored, for far too long.”

We departed immediately for Prof. Perot’s facilities, as per coded instructions faxed over so as to elude what the academic referred to cryptically as ‘overeager aficionados’ of his singular research. Yet upon arrival we discovered the once-immaculate lab, typically festooned with stretchy materials of all types, ransacked and smoldering with no sign of the professor. A breathy croak emanating from beneath a pile of debris in one corner offered sign that the destruction was not total, and we rushed to dismantle the wreckage.

A toothy, bearded maw presented itself; that of an orangutan, a specimen out of the northeastern hills that was known to me as Mike. “They’ve got him,” Mike rasped, before lapsing into a pitiable swoon of the sort only a highly intelligent primate can truly manage.

Our mission revealed to us, we sped directly to the local ammunition dump before taking a back-room table at a friendly ale-house to plan. Pots of coffee, roasted meat and strong drink emboldened us to our cause, which became increasingly clear to be a suicide mission. The orangutan kept silent counsel at the table’s far end, slowly twirling a Bowie knife amongst his spidery fingers as his cigar burned to a stump. “So it must be,” the creature muttered, to no one in particular. “The hard way, as it ever was.”

Bizzell Hutchinson, that tavern’s deeply whiskered proprietor, had time only to throw wide the door and bark “we’ve got company” before the mortar fire began. Rockets screeched down, peeling back the roof and walls in great fiery curtains as we scrambled across the floorboards and broken mugs. Half a chair careened by and through the haze Mike, machine-gun braced against his shoulder and clattering, still gnawing his cigar and faintly, grinning. The elastics cartel had located us.

TO BE CONCLUDED…

On The SOTY Campaign Trail, Justin Figueroa Seeks Common Ground With Steve Jobs, Michael Kors and Barack Obama

November 5, 2012






By now it is a widely believed factoid that Justin ‘Figgy’ Figueroa adheres to a strict, ah, drug regimen to keep his mind limber for the purposes of switch backside flipping down stair-sets and tossing his stringy mane around, possibly as part of an arcane mating ritual. Several years into his on-board career however there are signs that the requisite tattooing, boozing and all-around tramp lifestyle are designed toward a more fundamental discipline built to keep the Baker rail jockey’s brain fixated on the hammer at hand. Specifically, his choice to employ the same gear day in and day out suggests that like luminaries of other fields, Justin Figueroa hopes to focus his mojo and trim away the clutter:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
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The wizarding statisticians of InTrade, Fivethirtyeight and the recently revamped Sands resort in Las Vegas allow generous odds on Justin Figueroa claiming the golden-pantsed statue awarded annually by Thrasher, pointing toward his heavy featuring in High Speed Productions-branded internet content this year and a ‘Wayne’s World’-like interview conducted rather enthusiastically by Jake Phelps in the most recent issue of Thrasher. The ender section in the Thrasher-distributed Baker vid seems a closing argument, arriving in time to potentially shut doors on Austyn Gillette and David Gonzalez, whose own, recently released and quite gnarly Thrasher offerings lack the urgency and the depth (respectively) that the onetime Emerica flow rider has on display.

Themes of control and a certain primal urgency are evident in this video-section, as Figgy towers over handrails and casts himself upon the concrete, potentially in repentance for the lyrical transgressions of one Shane Heyl. We in the past have mumbled on ‘drama’ in his way of landing tricks and it is here in the bend of his left foot upon landing the frontside feeble grind revert and in the slight wobble during the final moments of the kickflip frontside boardslide on that one big green rail (which has a particular hurting put upon it in this part). He has enough of a capacity for oddball tricks (nollie 50-50) to keep things interesting and the technical capability to make a trick happen the hard way (switch backside tailslide back to regular at Wilshire) when the opportunity is there — and then there’s the tricks, such as the curtain-lowering k-grind, that don’t even seem real. As an irresponsible web log functionary I have my own views, but Thrasher could do worse than to back this dude for this year.

Babes In Useless Wooden Toyland

December 13, 2009


Suffrage the joy

It hit me watching Zero’s mildly psychedelic new offering “Strange World” that a company concerned with some of the more macho aspects of skate endeavors has drawn into its orbit two bookends of female street skating, that is, mid-90s Toy story Elissa Steamer and new blood Marisa Dal Santo, who seem to share a similar sensibility if not on-board choice of terrain. The possible reasons are as varied as the public projection-fed interpretations of Jamie Thomas’ motivations. Those inclined to believe in the coldhearted capitalist caricature may see this as Black Box’s calculated maneuver to corner the burgeoning female skateboard market. Or perhaps it’s an outcropping of Christian charity, in this the Xmas season. The favored explanation around this blinkered corner of the internet is that Jamie Thomas is a sex maniac and having more women in his employ is one means of expanding his sizable harem.

If the aim is dredging out double X chromosome-tinged photos and footage though, the notoriously slothlike and often laid-up Elissa Steamer may be a shallow reservoir. Her trick count comes up kinda short in what was pitched as her Zero board-earning debut and while it’s possible she’ll have more stuff in Nike productions still to come, you’re kinda left wondering what coulda been. The tailslide and frontside boardslide shove-its are cool tricks and incorporating hill bombs is a good way to up the gnar factor, maybe they need to send her back to SF and get her back on a program with Brian Anderson or something.

The new lady on the scene Marisa Dal Santo brings the heat however, cribbing well-advised moves from the likes of Fred Gall, Donny Binaco and Mike Ruscyzk in ways that put to rest concerns that the Chris Nieratko makeover might see her embrace a more polished and feminine persona. With Steamer’s Toy Machine rise as the benchmark for successive challengers to queen-bee status (Torres, Sablone, Caron) Dal Santo does her share of envelope-pushing and bar-raising via the kickflip f/s boardslide, a fairly major varial heelflip and the 14-stair frontside boardslide. There were several times I jealously muttered “damn” watching this and afterward I pondered briefly whether she ever imagined one of her video parts leading into Jamie Thomas’ section.

We are about to be a decade deeper into this mess, and the debate over girl skateboarders rages on. To wit:

I’m just saying skateboarding is based on skill. So if girls are not as skilled, I don’t think they should be getting magazine articles, pro boards, pro shoes, and the likes. What’s next? Someone getting a pro board because they’re fat and it’s way harder to skate when you’re fat instead of skinny?

A fair point, even if it risks wandering into some kind of affirmative action bar fight, but there may be broader implications here than just whether or not a video is entertaining. Photos, footage etc help establish what is possible and relevant, showcase progression and build the foundation for what’s next – in this respect we’ve traveled from tripping out over even seeing a girl in a video to the first womanly Mctwist. Are the chicks supposed to progress in secret, or some type of separate-but-equal feminine sphere, akin to “international” board/shoe teams? If women are to achieve the same parity with men they have found in basketball, NASCAR and international warfare they need at least the chance to act on the same stage. After all, look what the critically acclaimed documentary “Most Vertical Primate” did to break ape skating out of the underground, and indeed, Ryan Sheckler is now a well-known aerosol deodorant pitchman. It makes you think.

Bird Flu 2

March 2, 2009


Yeah right

I guess if we’re gonna annoint the straight ollie onto rail as a hot trick trend, then this mindbending Skateboarder cover of Leo Romero going in through the out door certifies the reverse rail ride once popularized by the likes of Ed Templeton, Ricky Oyola and Jeremy Wray as officially returneth. Time and general physics will determine how far people are able to expand beyond recent 50-50 variations from Anthony Pappalardo, Alex Olson, Olly Todd and others, along with the occasional crooked grind or boardslide, but for the time being I’m assuming lil’ Leo holds the distance title. Next question: after-black hammer for Baker 4 or homage to a new boss?

3. Nick Trapasso, “And Now”

December 28, 2008

I’m not sure if Arizona Nick Spicoli fully delivered on the promise of his amazing “Suffer the Joy” part with last summer’s entry to the TWS canon, but even if time decides not, he’ll have a nice long career to work on it. Provided the word “work” enters into dude’s vocabulary. Either way he remains the reigning king of “what, me worry” wooze, twirling switch 360s and b/s tailslide shove-iting handrails as the mood strikes him, yucking it up in between with passersby in whichever hemisphere he’s currently drifting through. Holland and Ray could easily have gone overboard with the tie-dyes, weed and Lennon, but they seem to have realized that watching Trapasso flick and giggle his way through a four minute part doesn’t require much embellishment. Sort of like how you don’t necessarily need an HD TV to enjoy a bag of hot Cheetos, a Seinfeld rerun and a fully loaded bowl of Wheaties.

If the link above stops working there is also this Mag Minute clip that includes one bad mammajamma of a hardflip.