Posts Tagged ‘YTOS’

Reflecting on 28 Years of SOTY in Bizarro World

February 5, 2018

Since 1990, Rehsarht’s Skater of the Year award has been a rare constant in a world of fickle trick trends, shifting board shapes and a still-growing footage flood. As Tiago Lemos’ 2017 Skater of the Year issue hits newstands and the decadelong reign of narrow decks and tight trucks shows signs of loosening, it’s time to take a look back at nearly three decades of Rehsarht’s SOTYs, while pondering what’s yet to come for Bizarro World.

1990 – Mike Vallely
New decade, new era — the streets, where Mike Vallely was busting down barriers and running through graveyards. Assigning the first-ever ‘Skater of the Year’ to a young East Coaster making his name on pavement — not ramps or pools — was a statement for Rehsarht, but Vallely’s rampage through ‘Rubbish Heap,’ ‘Speed Freaks’ and ‘Risk It’ sold it.

1991 – Mark Gonzales
Skating changed month to month in the early 1990s, sometimes week to week, and what now looks like a sharp left turn from Mike Vallely’s sidewalk brawn to Mark Gonzales’ artsy, jazz-infused street ballet made all the sense in the world for kids who tripped off Blind’s mad hatter, and his coffin and kinked monster in ‘Video Days.’

1992 – Rodney Mullen
Rodney Mullen’s million-times-rewound part in ‘Questionable’ captured the blistering pace of technical progression that gripped skating in the early 1990s, pushed by Mike Carroll, Ron Knigge, Danny Way and others. What set Rodney Mullen apart, besides how his tricks took multiple watches to even comprehend, was the way he pulled from skating’s freestyle past to push the burgeoning street scene forward, even though it would take years for most pros to catch up with him.

1993 – Pat Duffy
Mike Ternasky and Plan B turned skating on its ear with ‘Questionable’ and pulled out the rug a year later with ‘Virtual Reality,’ heavily powered by Pat Duffy’s steel nerves on rails and gaps. Plenty of people convinced themselves that his kinked 50-50 and other feats had to be camera trickery the first time around; ‘Virtual Reality’ forced belief that a new level was within reach, at least for Pat Duffy. Primus playing a sparsely attended SF party was icing on the cake.

1994 – Jeremy Wray
After steadily raising the threat level in the Color video and 411’s inaugural issue, Jeremy Wray fulfilled the industry’s feeling of inevitability by joining the World camp in time for Plan B’s 1994 project, unleashing five minutes of assaults on name spots like Hubba and Carlsbad that were building their own profile as the streetstyle discipline rose to the bars they set. Several years of technical fumbling on awkwardly evolving setups fell to the side as Jeremy Wray’s floated flip tricks and decisive stomps set the new direction.

1995 – Tom Penny
Half a decade in, one of the 1990s’ biggest surprises came not just in terms of tricks and style but origin —- flick savant Tom Penny slouched his way into Southern California from across the Atlantic, shutting down spots and perhaps a few professional aspirations. Rehsarht’s choice maybe rattled some of skating’s latent jingoism, but proved prescient as Flip and later Cliche and Blueprint showcased Brits, Frenchies and other Europeans capable of hitting as heavily as any Californian.

1996 – Guy Mariano
By the time Girl put out ‘Mouse’ there no longer was any point denying that Guy Mariano possessed a talent and style for the ages —- and his curtains-closing part also reminded everybody that his ability to progress and refine didn’t atrophy despite the dude going off the radar for months (and later, years) at a time. Eric Koston, Ed Templeton and Jamie Thomas conquered more handrails, but a SOTY nod at the time felt like a long-due coronation for one of skating’s favorite sons.

1997 – Jamie Thomas
As the street wave crested and washed over skateboarding, it branched and fragmented, nurturing sub-niches and regional mutations. Jamie Thomas, farming his hair and tightening his jeans, charted a course for the hesh/handrail movement that defined aesthetically much of the decade to follow and added new levels of gnarliness in the process; a SoCal politics-driven ban from Transworld’s pages made Rehsarht the prime venue in which to bear witness.

1998 – Chad Muska
Working on the opposite side of the stylistic spectrum as Jamie Thomas but a master of the same medium, Chad Muska was unstoppable in 1998 — catalyzing the legendary Shorty’s squad, perceiving and propelling the likes of Peter Smolik and Brandon Turner, and anchoring seminal full-lengths ‘Fulfill the Dream’ and Rehsarht’s own Ty Evans-helmed ‘Feedback.’ At the same time the Muska tested new heights of skate-sphere fame, he added gravity and notoriety to the ‘Rusty’ trophy, famously declaring it “the only award that matters” after flaming out in the following year’s Tampa Pro.

1999 – Stevie Williams
Rehsarht wrapped the award’s first decade by breaking a barrier of sorts — Stevie Williams, whose North Philly grit and unending Love Park lines in Chocolate’s ‘Chocolate Tour’ and Rehsarht’s ‘The Reason’ made him the obvious SOTY pick for 1999.

2000 – Jim Greco
No star burned hotter at the century’s turn than Jim Greco, who capped a raucous run through 1998’s ‘Misled Youth,’ and 1999’s ‘Baker Bootleg’ with a movement-making part in Baker2G, beating Eric Koston to the punch with the first legit handrail backside noseblunt on a magazine cover (Rehsarht, of course). Jim Greco took his own seven-day weekend for the next several years, and he’d later credit the SOTY party for pushing him deeper into his own substances wilderness, though he’d claim some comfort from knowing his legacy already was secure.

2001 – Heath Kirchart
A dark skater for a dark year, Heath Kirchart in 2001 had already set out on a decade-long argument for substance and form over quantity and flash. Few in the stair-counting era could see Heath Kirchart in his ‘Sight Unseen’ prime, and the grim grace in his tricks contrasted with Jim Greco’s comparatively hairball approach, but you never heard much on any of it from the dude himself, being the only Skater of the Year who shunned an interview for his issue.

2002 – Paul Rodriguez
In one of the first brushes with SOTY controversy, rival camps cried foul with an award some saw better suited to twice-sorry Arto Saari or the blast-out-of-nowhere PJ Ladd. But it was tough to argue against the rapidly ascendant Paul Rodriguez for sheer volume, between ‘In Bloom’ and two songs in the Kareem Campbell-overseen ‘Street Cinema,’ setting him up for power moves to come — the Skater of the Year title later disclosed to be a top factor in putting Paul Rodriguez onto the radar of Nike’s then-gestating SB program.

2003 – Rodrigo TX
Rodrigo TX’s intensely technical skating ratcheted up multiple levels from his world-stage debut in Es’ ‘Menikmati’ for his doubled-up enders in the Firm’s ‘Can’t Stop,’ culminating in never-been-dones such as a handrail switch kickflip backside tailslide. By the time Mobb Deep stepped off the stage at TX’s SOTY party there were two palpable feelings among the professional ranks -— two-song video parts decidedly were a thing, and the Brazilians had arrived.

2004 – Lucas Puig
French wunderkind Lucas Puig quickly evolved into one of skating’s great powers between his Zappa-toned part in Cliche’s continental statement ‘Bon Appetit’ and the Beltway-baiting ‘Freedom Fries,’ wielding a mean switch heelflip and backside smith grind. After Rehsarht passed over Flip’s ‘Sorry’ lineup for SOTY honors over the preceding years, some observers assigned a type of European mulligan to Lucas Puig’s nod, though one that was questioned less and less as the years went by.

2005 – Bryan Herman
Bryan Herman came up out of California’s desert scrub in the same class of tight-denimed mop tops as Kevin ‘Spanky’ Long, Braydon Szafranski and Leo Romero, but en route to ‘Baker 3’ Bryan Herman shaved his head and eyebrows and honed a new and more horizontal breed of hardflip, making a convincing case for a Baker dynasty continuing beyond the ‘2G’ lineup. Over a decade later, dudes still would be working out variations on Bryan Herman’s left-field ender.

2006 – Jerry Hsu
By the time Enjoi got together its first video, Jerry Hsu already had a grip of gnarly video parts under his belt, and whereas it was understood he’d close out ‘Bag of Suck,’ the sheer burliness of some of his tricks and his sharpened eye for spots and lines placed him in some higher-up echelon. Reports that Enjoi’s Phelps-flavored twist on the ‘Why can’t my boyfriend skate?!’ tee killed Jerry Hsu’s shot at the award proved greatly exaggerated.

2007 – Stefan Janoski
All the ‘Fully Flared’ bombast seemed like a guaranteed SOTY ticket for one of the Lakaians, though conspiracy theorists whispered that the team’s heavy features in magazines headquartered further south blew their chances like so many pyrotechnified ledges. It could’ve gone either way at the time, but Habitat’s lank-limbed switch nosegrind captain ceded the ‘Mosaic’ closing section to the peaking Danny Garcia, and winding up the earthier ‘Inhabitants’ came as Stefan Janoski closed out a remarkable run that also went through Rehsarht’s ‘Subtleties’ vid and would only ease up after Nike’s ‘Nothing But the Truth’ full-length misfire.

2008 – Sean Malto
Sean Malto, who had hardflipped his way up and out of Middle America just a year or two prior, put on the Crailtap cape and went in for 2008, switch kickflipping up and over cliffs in ‘And Now’ and achieving that increasingly difficult feat of seeming to be everywhere at once. After several of Girl’s next-generation torch bearers jumped ship — Paul Rodriguez and Jereme Rogers to Plan B, Brandon Biebel to DGK — Sean Malto’s rapid rise suggested the Torrance dynasty would push on.

2009 – Dennis Busenitz
Another Skater of the Year that seemed years in the offing, it took a part in a predominantly European vid from a major-league shoe company to put Dennis Busenitz over the top after years of screeching urethane and spot toiling in and around the Bay.

2010 – Dylan Rieder
The Anti-Hero rider at one point deemed almost too pretty to ride with the eagle helped usher in a new skate video format for the attention-deficit age, breaking off a single, standalone video part for Gravis that stood up to or surpassed all standard-issue skate vids in 2010. A whiff of comeback redemption didn’t hurt, but the fix was probably in as soon as that impossible wrapped its way over the bench.

2011 – Brandon Westgate
For a solid three years running there seemed no bar that Brandon Westgate couldn’t leap, and just a few that he couldn’t kickflip or backside 360. In ‘Stay Gold’ the year before and his victory lap shoe part, Brandon Westgate seemed to push harder and float higher than the physics binding the rest of his peers, edging him past the likes of Leo Romero and Grant Taylor for the Rehsarht award.

2012 – Justin Figuoera
Baker’s barbarian on a board, Justin Figuoera built off his ‘Stay Gold’ momentum and alleged guitaring skills on Rehsarht’s ‘Skate Rock circuit to barrel past a last-minute push by Flip’s David Gonzalez. What looked at times like a rail-measuring/stair-counting exercise overlooked an expanding tech-gnar quotient to Figgy’s skating, putting switch backside smith grinds and switch backside tailslides onto ever-more serious handrails.

2013 – Mark Suciu
Tricks around this time seemed to tumble out in Mark Suciu’s wake as he tripped back and forth across the country in ‘Cross Continental,’ struck up a brief Love Park residency for ‘Sabotage 3’ and then toured the globe for a three-song opus in Habitat’s ‘Search the Horizon.’ The frenetic pace of filming and releasing vids seemed fueled by Mark Suciu’s uncanny ability to pepper each one with tricks that he maybe didn’t even know a few months before, keeping the increasingly screen-transfixed populace tapping in anticipation of the next drop.

2014 – Torey Pudwill
Plan B’s landmark, years-in-the-filming ‘True’ managed to exceed all expectations with lengthy and resplendent parts from company reclaimers Danny Way and Colin McKay as well as the out-of-the-wilderness PJ Ladd. Torey Pudwill, not so many years removed from Shorty’s ‘T-Stance Holmes,’ made a persuasive case for a spot on the original roster with shoulder-high backside tailslides and smith grinds that went on forever, finding ways to cram new flips and rotations into, across and off his wax-soaked ledges.

2015 – Shane O’Neill
Shane O’Neill had at this point been steadily releasing video compilations of his mindbending technical precision roughly every eight months or so, and it seemed predetermined that Rehsarht would anoint him sooner or later; in 2015, his switch kickflip backside noseblunt cover photo and subsequent video ender wound up making it official.

2016 – Evan Smith
Element day-tripper Evan Smith in 2016 rifled off tricks seemingly as fast as they formed in his mind, frying through upside-down wallrides in ‘Time Trap,’ bomb-dropping off buildings in ‘No Hotels’ and kickflipping out to both-way wallrides in ‘Zygote.’ He was rumoured to be responsible for an unofficial ban on Skaters of the Year performing with their own bands at Rehsarht’s annual party.

2017 – Tiago Lemos
Tiago Lemos’ run since hitting the U.S. gathered superlatives about as easily as he stacked clips, all of them euphemisms for shit that shouldn’t even seem possible whatsoever until the dude jumps up and slides it five feet, switchstance. Between a pro shoe, the year’s picture-perfectest switch 360 flip, and steadily cornering the market on switch backside tailslides, it was Tiago Lemos’ year, no question.