December thumps down as a heavy coda to an an already laden-down year, skateboard and otherwise. That means it’s superlative season – time to, er, lighten things up with pointless awards. Most of my peers don’t actively care about the Skater of the Year award, though the chatter surrounding it suggests otherwise; the last two year’s fueled by the perceived snub of Tiago Lemos. If you don’t care about an award, can you still consider someone stubbed?
For what it’s worth, despite the continued prowess of Evan Smith (though I personally don’t care what he did on King of the Road), upstart ability of fresh pro Zion Wright, and rampage of Mason Silva, I think they got it right this year. Tyshawn Jones attacks his career as a skateboarder with a level-headedness that recalls someone considerably his senior – he doesn’t deluge his social media with throwaway tricks or constant updates – yet reliable releases solid photos and footage in tasteful installments. He hosted a jam built around his obstacle of choice, or at least highest visibility – a vertical NYC Parks Department trash can, opened up a restaurant in his home of the Bronx (not skating but certainly pushing skating), and wrecked shop with one of the parts of the year. The level of skating in his supreme part is only paralleled by the homages in it. Seems he only skated classic spots. Dude is at least in a small way changing the conversation about what a young pro can and should be, not to mention one from New York City.
Flat out, it’s sick to see a young black man from New York City get the recognition he deserves for the things he did. There’s not much else to say but heap more deserved praise on him. His style has a power that also drips in nonchalance. Cool, calm, and collected describe everything he’s done all year, even when battling with security guards. While still young, occasionally catching him skating around town or at the TF when he was truly a grom in stature was always a delight. This “sponsor-me” footage, posted by Ty Lyons, was emailed to him in 2012. That’s six years ago. I don’t think I have to go any further in explanation as to what got me stoked about it. Progression, in all its forms, is fucking awesome, y’all.
photo by Norma Ibarra
While it would have been rad to see these words in her own zine, it was still a pleasure reading this quick bit on Vice from the Skate Witches’ Kristen Ebeling about a trip they took to Havana, Cuba. I finally learned the name of that DIY spot and loved the more nuanced description of the skate scene from an American’s woman’s point of view. Everything else I’ve caught has been dudes. The way the machismo embedded into much of Cuban culture expressed itself in the skate world was not something I had previously thought about with regards to skateboarding in Cuba, even though it touches many aspects of the culture. Reading how the skaters came to address these differences and work together seemed emblematic of the type of community growth being fostered by the organization Cuba Skate that Kristin and co. got to be a part of. I gotta get myself back to Havana.
Since my first visit to Ghana in 2013, when I brought a skateboard and barely used it, I’ve been interested in the continually growing scene there. It’s a scene I thought didn’t even exist. I was wrong. This bit I wrote about it earlier this year describes a part of it as I saw it from afar.
Now the year’s almost up but I’m still seeing growth coming from Accra, the capital and biggest city in Ghana. Through two instagrams, skatenationghana and surfghana, I keep myself updated. Then the homie Cephas hit me up and offered some explanation on one of the latest developments: a small league and contest circuit forming, from the ground up, in Ghana. That’s what got me stoked. My knees been wonky the past few weeks and I’ve mostly been off my board so it brings me great personal joy to see people across the world thriving with skateboarding. The more eyes we get on stuff like this, the more it’s going to continue to thrive.
In Cephas’ own words:
League SB is a skateboarding contest series held every year from September to November in Ghana. Apart from the maiden season held in 2017, which was based on a round robin format, the following seasons are based on a two phase elimination mode namely; Qualifies and Semis before the final contest of the season. Every skater with a League SB profile is eligible to skate the qualifiers for a chance to book a spot in the semis. Skaters who qualify to the semis will have a chance to battle it out to make the 6 competitors list to skate the finals and a chance to become league champion. Top 3 competitors at the finals gets rewarded with the table topper being named league champion of the season. The aim of the league is to establish a revenue earning competitions for the local skaters in Ghana.
Nothing else less known really did it for me last week so this was far and away what did. Late post, nothing special.
Inching closer and closer to performance art, Abe Dubin aka Orangeman offers up another seemingly-inane challenge to what skateboarding can be defined as. This
clip art piece is not for all: the first person I sent it to said they had to stop watching after two minutes because the thought of rubbing sandpaper on friction-heavy surfaces was stressing him out too much. Indeed, the slow build-up to crazier and crazier griptape setups heightens in anxiety as the clip progresses, the frenetic editing getting more and more manic and the number of extremely close-up, self-filmed angles multiplying as the frontier of griptape uses gets soundly moved up a few notches. Soon, Orangeman himself is wearing griptape shoes, skating griptape spots, and foregoing an actual deck all together. This thing truly approaches the avant-garde work of early 20th century Dadaism, the anti-establishment, gleeful rejection of everything that was happening in the art world and full embrace of absurdity. The anti-art, or “anti-skateboarding,” of this piece’s true virtue is the sincerity of its creator. Like a kid in the pre-internet days filming Hi-8 skate videos in his driveway, it doesn’t seem Orangeman expects there to be an audience for this. Its very existence is a subtle challenge to what skateboarding is and I think we’re dealing with the work of a real auteur. For the record, I watched this nearly 8 minute clip about four times this week. Not only did it make me want to skate, but it made me want to interpret the world around me differently and create something. This is a special little piece.
As seen in the above cover screenshot’s Vimeo Staff Pick laurels (artsy move), this choice is even pretty obvious to the non-skateboarding web-clip-seeking creatures. Glory push indeed, and glory non-push, flick, balance, and pop. Not much else to say here – this is was the best skateboarding out there all week.
Disclaimer: This is published Tuesday, October 30th but is the Stoke of the Week for last week, Oct 22nd. Regular update this Friday again.
This clip seems like a lazy excuse to do a summer trip to New York. There’s almost no Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle branding (no logos, no animated turtles popping up, etc…) which seems like a weird way to push one of those hyped-up collaborations denoted with an “x” but, in the end, is for the better (who cares about that cross-branding when focusing on the skating?). The opening cartoonishly wide shot of the everslick, pop-colored TMNT graphic, which sort of looks like a mall board, and a low-angle shot of a sewer grate prepped me for some kind of sewer system/manhole-centric visual experience but what followed was a very standard “Californian-youth-come-to-New-York-and-absoutely-crush-the-most-known-trendy-spots-of-a-few-years-ago” exercise in trip-clippery. I was on vacation myself, though, and hadn’t watched (or done) much skateboarding so was pleasantly surprised when I clicked this Santa Cruz clip for no real reason other than historical fandom of both NHS clips and the Turtles and realized it was in New York. Thinking about New York City is a pretty surefire bet to get me stoked. Or sad, because I miss it.