Posts Tagged ‘Prime Skate Boards’

The Thick Of It

April 24, 2022

The global battle against misinformation flared last week in the studio of the Nine Club, where host Chris Roberts put the ‘View’ for the switch heelflip set on pause for a few minutes to share his personal turmoil, bouts of gut-wrenching stress that verged on nausea: “The last couple of days have been really tough.”

This all was brought on by the pod-cast’s previous longform interview with Mark Oblow, longtime industry head of Prime, Gravis and other team/brand management positions over the course of several decades, who opted about 20 minutes into his nearly three-hour interview to veer abruptly into one of the darkest chapters in skateboarding’s history — Mark ‘Gator’ Rogowski’s 1991 murder of Jessica Bergsten — relating a version of the story he said he had “pieced together.” Preserved here, he characterized her death as an accident chalked up to drugs and “rough sex,” that Mark Rogowski, who “wasn’t that type of person,” later turned himself in and helped authorities locate the body. He then went on to chuckle over how he ever since avoids getting rough in bed; the Nine Club hosts offered “wow” and “really” as Mark Oblow segued to a related story about later trying to work prison connections to protect Mark Rogowski from other inmates.

Articles from the LA Times and Village Voice covering the murder and trial are archived here, citing trial documents and Mark Rogowski’s own words to contradict in graphic terms this version of the story, including that Mark Rogowski confessed to initially bludgeoning Jessica Bergsten with a Club, that he had hated and resented her, and that her decomposed body was found by campers.

On IG, Youtube, the Slap Boards and elsewhere people reacted with shock and revulsion. The rape and murder Mark Rogowski committed was the subject of the 2003 ‘Stoked’ documentary and occasional message board threads since. Whereas much of the unwritten code that guides, binds, strengthens and constrains what remains of skateboarding’s tribalism is wrapped up a kind of living oral history, handed down over shop counters and traded whilst sitting on curbs, the digital age has set down half-remembered stories and rumors in pixels and binary machine languages, sharpening them, memorializing them for posterity and permanent scrutiny. In this case, the ‘receipts’ were not hard to find. Mark Oblow soon apologized for what he called “ignorant and insensitive comments,” saying that for the past 30-plus years he had believed a version of the story told to him by Mark Rogowski.

Chris Roberts apologized as well, and vowed to do a better job of policing content on what’s become one of skateboarding’s biggest platforms. “We want to be able to question a guest, challenge a guest, on what they’re saying, if it’s inaccurate, we want to be able to have that discussion and feel like we can get in there,” he said on the Nine-Club ‘Experience’ episode several days after the interview aired. “At the end of the day we don’t want anything to come out of our show that’s inaccurate, misinformation, disinformation.”

It’s a noble sentiment, if a dauntingly lofty one. Setting aside whether the Nine Club itself is equipped to identify and push back on improbable takes or wrong-seeming recollections, given the hosts’ seeming preference for going into interviews cold, there are limits that would challenge even skilled interviewers like Eric Swisher, Tim Anderson, Mike Burnett and Willy Staley, possessed of historical knowledge, the inclination to research and the tact to wade in deeper. Time’s passage, the frequent involvement of intoxicants and general human subjectivity are always gonna cast a certain gauze over the specifics of tales like Tom Penny shutting down a session in hiking boots, or the particulars of those World wheel invoices.

A bigger hurdle though is that more than ever, a given pro or industry bro has no particular need to subject themselves to potential tough questioning. Ascendant talents and established luminaries alike have their own social media platforms to post photos and clips, vids can go straight to Youtube, limited edition hand-numbered whatzits and premiumly priced apparels can be marketed directly to the fanbase. The longform podcast or published textual interview can be trimmed of controversial or uncomfortable subject matter, by appealing to friendship with the interviewer or the potential discomfort of a mutual sponsor.

It’s also unclear whether the skateboard media consumer, by and large a population intensely invested in the logos on their and others’ t-shirts, care deeply about how high up a given anecdote or tidbit lands in the great coordinate plane of narrative content, with truthfulness as the Y axis and entertainment value the X; an ‘Athletic’ or ‘Sports Illustrated’ for skateboarding has yet existed in part because there’s no significant, sustaining demand. Thrasher’s expanding space in recent years for exploring mental health and addiction, and making room on its platform for women, gay, lesbian, trans and other participants raise an interesting question as to whether that’s changing.

Should that grotesque take on a still-horrific crime have been edited out of the Nine Club episode to begin with, or was it preferable for it to be posted and to have had the whole ensuing discussion? With CNN+’s sudden plug-pulling, is there a guest pod-cast hosting spot for new free agent Chris Wallace? Who’s going to host an affordable housing debate with Mikey Taylor, or a digital asset bubble assessment with Stevie Williams and Justin Eldridge?

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