Posts Tagged ‘professionalisms’

Primitive Skateboarding Proudly Presents: Achievers

June 12, 2022

Time was, in that loose fit coming-of-age movie set knowed to some as the mid-90s, it was ‘cool’ not to skate. Long before the ‘no days off,’ on-my-grind 24-hour hustle culture, before pros were contractually obligated to help sponsoring companies stake their claims to the eye-glazing forever scroll, there were times when a year or two might pass between photos or video footage of skaters such as Guy Mariano, Rudy Johnson, Joey Suriel, Fabian Alomar, Gino Iannucci. Part of it was a slower media cycle, and the physical limitations of the day’s rickety imaging technology, but for some holding down pro boards on the era’s top companies, it seemed also something of a ‘flex’ — sitting in the back of the pro skater classroom, blowing rolling blunts and chopping it up about cars and girls, while the try-hards busted their asses to catch up. Menace, one of the 1990s’ most celebrated and influential board companies, never put out a video.

That harshest of mistresses, reality, eventually caught up with that approach — and, in a different way, with Menace, which went through several copyright-forced name changes and a team revamp that resulted in the eventual City Stars video opening with onetime Prime pro Caine Gayle and leaning heavily on newly signed kids Mikey Taylor, Ryan Denman, Justin Case, Devine Calloway and most of all Paul Rodriguez, who ended the thing with a two-song section. Since that time, the influx of ‘real money,’ competition and the bottomless thirst of social media has brought skateboard companies to a point where they can’t go a few months without putting out a video before being called out for low productivity. Pros can expect the big sportswear and beverage checks to come with what-have-you-done-for-me-lately strings attached or to turn serious injuries into their own their own media cycles. Meanwhile the divide deepens between the pro skating careerists and back-of-the-classroom types, the top 40 single-crafters and the indie artists.

When P-Rod expanded Primitive into a board and clothing concern around eight years ago, he’d already cemented himself as a senior member of the former camp. He was rumored to be the first skater to land a seven-figure shoe deal with Nike, a gamble that paid off for both parties, Nike taking a decisive step away from the ‘90s vets who gave the company’s third shot the credibility it needed to hit, and a step toward the Olympian platform it was always destined to become. Paul Rodriguez backed up his jumping ship from Es, which had given his early career a ‘Menikmati’ sheen, by reliably turning in top-shelf video parts that were undeniable in their gnarliness, if not always inspired.

Primitive has maintained this approach as it has come to rival team-wise any of the Girl or Es or Plan B lineups in ‘stackedness.’ ‘Define,’ the full-length released last week that carries a statement of purpose via its 68 minute runtime alone, is heavily shock-and-awe in its execution, with zero filler from a team built squarely upon capital-P professionals. No sketch and special meter always flashing, ridiculous lines are the norm — Wade Desarmo, early on in the vid, shows the commitment to quality in real time after doing a picture-perfect nollie flip backside nosegrind revert on one of the Muni benches, less than a second later calling to the filmer — “yes or no?” (Response: “Go.”) In an age where ‘everybody’s good’ and the explore page on IG coughs up middle America skatepark clips to rival one’s favorite pros, this is how you stand apart: Miles Silvas and Carlos Ribiero doing line-ender ledge tricks before hucking switchstance down the 14-stair Muirlands handrail, Spencer Hamilton alleyooping flip tricks over rail after rail, the general absurdity of the things that Tiago Lemos does, and the proprietor, Paul Rodriguez, tapping in from injury and business-handling to switch backside smith grind lengthily curving ledges, flipping out.

The steadily expanding team’s commitment to high productivity is more remarkable still when considering they aren’t even expected to do this stuff. “Don’t hold your breath,” commented Primitive EVP Heath Brinkley during his 2018 ‘9 Club’ podcast appearance, regarding the prospect of full team vids. Whereas video was generally regarded by Heath Brinkley as “the most important platform,” the timescale involved with the longform skate video made them a bad bet versus three or four smaller projects spaced out over the course of a year: “Do I want the guys to go out for two years and kind of go dark and really hammer down on a full length, or do I showcase them multiple times throughout the year?” Since then Primitive’s put out the smaller projects and cranked out four full-length vids in five years. 

Primitive could be called a factory, pumping out its highly rated ‘Testing’ clips and full-lengths at a more regular pace than any other board maker recently, but it may be better regarded as a startup, staffed by intensely driven cream-of-the-croppers with a stake in the outcome — part of P-Rod’s plan when starting Primitive was to give its pros a bigger stake in their board sales than the company received, a potential motivator, not that they seem to need it. The result has been a team that easily appears to be the multinational athletic sportswear manufacturer’s vision of what skateboarding can be, but maybe really is a product of it — training in gyms, eating right, group dinners and drinks at the bar, sure, but probably not greeting dawn by getting kicked out of the bordello, and heavy helpings of drive and focus.

How might Primitive’s top-of-its-class achievers fare faced with a list of fearsome and grotesque King of the Road challenges? Are the company’s Trapper Keeper style graphics on the low some of the best out right now? Is the ‘Primitive Fade’ destined to become the chosen hairstyle of summer ‘22, and is this the most Canadian Spencer Hamilton ever has looked? Do Primitive’s various and sundry collab partners, recently including Kikkoman and Megadeth, aim for Palace and Supreme but land closer to Ralph’s? Would a collab with Trapper Keeper maker Mead Schoolgoods Inc. complete the circle?