Posts Tagged ‘Wade Desarmo’

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?

Got To Give It Up… But To Yog-Sothoth Dudes?

September 16, 2018

It has been a big month for Gershon Mosley, one of the unlikelier phrases one may expect to read in 2018, year of the dawg. But there he is, pumping footage on IG, pontificating on Mark Suciu and Chris Joslin and Jason Lee with Jenkem, chopping it up with the Nine Club on the factors and feelings behind his fade from the industry round about a decade back. To hear him tell it, leaving behind a professional career was a sacrifice worth making to keep his skating pure, and to loosen corporate reins chafing the soul of a spiritual wanderer:

GM: I left for multiple reasons. Part of it was my life. I couldn’t stay in San Jose when I left Santa Cruz. I couldn’t afford rent. Also, I wanted to get away from there because that’s where I spent so many years growing and the world is bigger.

I had to separate the art from the business. When people get mad, they’ll say, “Skateboarding sucks!” But it’s not skateboarding that sucks, it’s the business and politics of it that suck. We’re so self-centered and so lost in just wanting to do that thing, that we don’t see the bigger picture when we say that shit. I’ve heard so many people [say it] and they quit skating altogether. Some of them still have issues. They’re still ego based. But if nothing else, skateboarding should have destroyed the ego.

It’s nothing new to put the trick, the road trip, or even the after-hours lifestyle before one’s physical human body, or mental health, or academic pursuits. But the current adulting trend — positioning earthly pleasures, financial gains and even the proverbial good times with the hemmies behind skating’s fishscale purity, with sometimes a dash of careerism — remains in full swing. Two-thirds of the interviews in the October Thrasher extol the virtues of a sober lifestyle; cover man Brandon Westgate again details the rustic charms of his dirt-under-fingernails lifestyle on da cranberry bog, fixing machinery and popping mad crans. Across the Atlantic Ocean, over centuries renowned for its depth and waves, Max Geronzi, among this generation’s most naturally gifted Frenchmen, is putting a prime period of popsicle-shape filming to the side while he inexplicably engages in a longterm engagement with a retro shaped board that appears free of any concave but nonetheless capable of lofty kickflips.

For independent shops, it is financial sacrifice being considered, as Theories of Atlantis, DGK and Deluxe nudge purchasing managers to pony up a handful of additional wholesale dollars for decks that in some cases are also available online via companies’ own web-stores. Efforts to squeeze a bit more juice from the commoditized deck-berry are understood, given deck marketers’ unwillingness and/or failure to persuade the unflowed masses to pay more for their seven plies’ worth of maple over the past couple decades. But it remains unclear whether shops are paying for anything more than maintaining status-quo brand access.

All such trade-offs possess their own merits and potential pitfalls, ranging from limitless riches to spitting out scurvy-rotted molars while starving to death in gaol. Yet in Canada, a darker practice seems to have taken hold. A thick and putrid whiff of the occult emanates from this year’s Dime Glory Challenge, kicked off with what appeared to be a clique of berobed pagans toting a baby, which promptly was elevated up toward the warehouse ceiling in what can only be assume to have been a gnarly and unspeakable ritual geared toward hyping up Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath and various other Great Old Ones. None dare call it coincidence — that World Champion of Skateboarding Wade Desarmo casually slew one of his several minions just ahead of what was anticipated to be the strongest challenge ever to the belt by one Ishod Wair… who would unluckily roll his ankle on the Wallride ChallengeTM shortly before the most important game of SKATE of his lifetime.

Is human sacrifice what’s hot in the streets of Montreal? Will Miskatonic University replace real-estate speculation as the extracurricular path of choice for aging pros looking to augment on-board professional prospects? Did the Dime dudes get that baby down? Will skateboarding’s notoriously rapid generational churn soon spur a backlash against sober, thoughtful life choices, and bring about a new era of ‘hammer’ tricks, illegitimate children and unpaid debt?

Protection Money

March 7, 2015

wade

Somehow, as global intelligence and stylistic nets began tightening around the turn of the century, the 5-0 achieved a Keyser Söze-esque exit that eluded other tricks. Kickflips? Jim Greco was on the case in ‘Feedback,’ laying down a red line between ‘flick’ and ‘mob’ that left room for the Gonz but few others as Tom Penny’s shredded Accel toe caps ascended to deity status. Snowplow nosegrinds were sidelined after Anthony Pappalardo and Brian Wenning came through in ‘Photosynthesis,’ reserving any deck contact for an early pop out. Even a freshly celebrified Chad Muska couldn’t preserve the ‘illusion’ frontside flip from the Andrew Reynolds movement, and Bryan Herman did likewise for hardflips a few years later.

The 5-0 kept on skidding its tail into a fresh millennium though. “Mileage,” a naysayer may neigh. “How much better is a truck-balanced 5-0 going to look, anyway.” Well, how much ‘worse’ did a classically vertical hardflip in the Kareem Campbell mode look than the commoditized version available today in most city-sanctioned street plazas? The answer may confuse and arouse, but rarely satisfy.

Erstwhile French Canadian Wade Desarmo these days often occupies what could be construed as the ‘style’ wing of the DGK/Gold Wheels spectrum versus the increasingly convoluted flip-in and/or -out combinations forged in the J-Kwon smithy on recent weekends. It was sort of hard to tell through the compressed vision of the ‘Parental Advisory’ VX footage, but time seems to have worn away the past decade’s profuse denim and freely flapping basketball jerseys, leaving in place a journeyman hardflipper who nowadays mines a sensibly pantsed seam somewhere in that rational no-man’s land between stylistic spectrum endpoint-holders Dane Vaughn and Dustin Montie, with tricks increasingly resemblant of Mark Appleyard in his oversleeping SOTY heyday.

Is Wade Desarmo, whose appearances in last month’s ‘Gold Goons’ and last year’s ‘Blood Money’ quickly become highlights on repeated viewings, the case-maker for a balanced 5-0 grind? He hardflipped beautifully into one in ‘Parental Advisory,’ script-flipping of a sort versus a similarly balanced 5-0 that Marc Johnson varial heelflipped out of in ‘Modus Operandi.’ ‘Gold Goons’ is a worthy successor to ‘Got Gold’ in all of the necessary ways and the eponymous goons produce obvious highlights such as Rodrigo TX’s tailslide kickflip with the Keenan Milton mail in the back pocket, Tiagos Lemos’ massive switch backside tailslide on the stage and run through Carroll’s loading dock, Carlos Iqui’s hardflip b/s nosegrind revert and switch frontside 360.

Many of these tricks nevertheless would leave the 5-0 grind feeling safely skidding its tail through another decade, aside from a hardflip or varial heelflip between friends now and then — if it were not for again, Wade Desarmo, fresh off a switchstance Pupecki grind back to switch, still facing the ledge with one of the more ominous look-backs since Birdhouse flew Rick McCrank to a nighttime jam session at the San Dieguito handrail, perhaps signaling that the 5-0 grind may yet be revisited before completion of the looming presidential campaign.