Cyberspatially speaking, I exist in a very middle-of-the-road realm of the commercial and independent skateboard internet presences. I generally enjoy Shane Aukland aka the Sk8rat’s videos and YouTube channel so when he posted Travis Harrison’s part from Paradigm I gave it a look. Upon its completion, I thought to myself “What’s Paradigm?” In one click I had my answer: Paradigm is a random video from July by a random kid – to me at least – named Stone Hendrickx, which absolutely cannot be his actual name and if it is…cool. When I’m working at a computer I like to keep a running tab of skating open in a separate browser to periodically and clear my mind for a few minutes. I popped Paradigm into one such cue and, over the course of 4 or 5 viewings in as many days, I found I had finished the video. One of my favorite things is to watch a random kid’s skate videos, don’t get me wrong, and I love the accessibility that things like the internet and YouTube have afforded, but it’s not likely I’ll watch a full 30 plus minute video out of nowhere. I don’t expect you to either, but for whatever reason I kept coming back to this more than anything this past week. Though there was solid skating and a handful of veritable bangers, maybe it was just seeing some random kid’s video that did it. Very refreshing if you’re not expecting it.
Publishing video content is so damn easy, I love it. I remember all sorts of wild data conversions, through physical cables and internal computer workings, as a kid to get some footage imported and then re-exported. It’s really just a few clicks these days. I like to imagine the clips coming straight from the source; the same person shooting, editing, exporting, and hitting that upload button and then it’s out there. This is the same process for anyone, companies or individuals, but I have to assume that if Nike is releasing a Shane O’Neill part it’s going through a bunch of oversight and review channels before some assistant finally uploads it. Still fun to watch, but this clip from someone, clearly from Chicago, who runs a Vimeo called “Such Luck,” which features montages and full length videos (a 4-part series titled “Farecard” – dig the urban vibes) of his scene in Chicago, feels fresh from the tap. I’ve skated in Chicago a handful of times and always have a blast and love this insight into a specific individual’s local skateboard atlas. The creator seems to be someone after my own heart, making this a seasonal montage representing footage filmed from June 21st through September 21st. Summer 2017, hell yeah. I found it via Kyle Beachy’s twitter, which is as close to word of mouth as it gets out there. A wonky fisheye to boot and this is a perfect blueprint for what gets me stoked: friends in a city I’m not from at spots that I’ve never seen but look like I can skate who are far from professional skateboarders doing it for the fun of it and putting it out to 71 views 5 days into it’s release. It deserves more because this is the shit that makes me stoked to skate.
PROFESSIONAL BONUS: “Welcome in the Eurogenous Zone”
I saw CCS tweet once that the Ryan Lay Welcome pro board is their biggest seller. I didn’t check that fact but if so, that’s nuts. My buddy with a small skate company who deals with shops also said that Welcome boards move fast in the brick and mortar realm. The people are putting up something Welcome is putting down and the team is basking in it. This tour video is really fun and, probably because it came out of the gates with “Get into the Groove” by Madonna, immediately contagious. Can Welcome afford the rights to a Madonna song?!? Or did they just go for it? I don’t remember Madonna being skated to since Jake Stewart and Glenn Suggitt got it to “Like a Prayer” in RDS/FSU/2002. Man, that video had a good soundtrack. I had a bootleg version of that on my computer which I watched over and over at the time of its release with some friends who no longer skate, one of which insisted that “Like a Prayer” was a song about giving a blowjob because the narrator is down on her knees in the midnight hour feeling somebody’s power and taking them there. Ridiculous.
[it appears WordPress doesn’t support embedding of the above video, so you’ll have to click through the link.]
Week two and it’s already gotten complicated for me. Thing is, I’m writing a much longer piece (which I’ll share here when it’s done) that relates to the video that got me most stoked. Said video is actually from April but my publisher sent it to me not more than an hour after I got off the phone with Micheal Langan, Cote First Nation Canadian aborigine, owner of Colonialism Skateboards, and lifelong skateboarder. So at first, in the interest of not scooping myself, I almost didn’t want to post it. Then I realized: who gives a shit? I’m no journalist. Matter of fact, I’m setting up a jar on my desk to toss a dollar in the next time I use the word “scoop” in any way that doesn’t pertain to ice cream or cleaning up after a dog. Canadian television doing an actual news story about the most righteous skate company I’ve possibly ever seen got me fucking stoked!
People talk a lot about the different avenues and ways skateboarding expands the world, opens minds, and educates. This is, far and away, the best representation of that I’ve ever seen. Mike Langan is a Canadian indigenous artist and skateboarder who wanted to help educate people about the history and legacy of colonialism in Canada (something that is almost NEVER talked about in the United States). Befittingly, skateboarders are great activists when it comes to their micro-communities. What Mike’s done is seamlessly blend his love of skateboarding with national and, due to the interconnecting lineages of worldwide colonialism, global issues in ways that I’ve never seen before. His vision is astute, his breadth of knowledge expansive, and his art direction skillfully contextualizes each board in pop culture and history. Colonialism Skateboards is skateboarding at its best.
Having at first wavered on my choice, here’s some clips that got me moderately stoked that I wrote a few sentences about.
BONUS #1: WKND – Commercial Zone, Fall 2017
What’s up with WKND? Their last video was a too long, over-the-top, baseball concept collaboration with Nike that was extremely boring to watch. This was the opposite: a shaky, soundless diddy cut to “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen with a totally buried lead of custom street signs advertising WKND’s new (construction zone related?) fall gear. I couldn’t entirely discern what the new products they’re selling look like, though they were presumably wearing them, but this definitely made me want to hit the streets with a crew.
BONUS #2: Philly Santosuosso Venture Trucks Ads
I caught this ad in Thrasher while on the toilet and immediately sent a photo of it to the group text, instantly feeling the itch to skate for reasons I shouldn’t have to get into. Then I caught that Chromeball Incident called it the “Ad of the Summer” via Quartersnacks and immediately sent a screengrab to the group text, feeling validated. Thanks to whichever one of you scanned it because it didn’t even cross my mind to. This is so sick.
I sometimes don’t notice when I’ve been sitting on a random street corner, or a dusty unused parking lot, or the back alley loading dock of a random business for hours. When I do start to notice is when I start seeing the same people there. A pattern of life begins emerging, as predictably rhythmic as waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth. I start to notice the comings-and-goings of a seemingly deserted place; the deliveries, the refuse removal, the inspections, the staff parking, the smoke breaks, the urinations, the arguments, the drug use, the naps. We share public space with all sorts of people.
About anywhere that can be classified as urban will eventually have people there. The amount of standing around in one spot that skateboarders do, an experienced shared only maybe by city maintenance employees, film crews, or construction workers, is unparalleled. Like police on a stakeout, you do a lot of observing. You begin learning who is passing through and who claims a more personal relationship with the space. Much of this gets internalized and often re-externalized through skate videos, documentary objects of a time and a place that can do as much to represent the culture of a location as the tricks that went down there. It’s a biased, subjective view, though, and is almost always presented as some crazy or cool-looking shit that happened while the more important skateboarding is going down.
There is probably another group of people who spends more time in forgotten corners of the city than skateboarders: the people who may call these spots home. If you skate somewhere regularly, it’s not hard to learn to identify them. They live there. So, as skateboarding takes place in the streets, it often intersects with the lives of homeless people who live in the same streets. Sometimes, this grows into a friendship and the sharing of a space more closely aligned with a potential utopia than what modern zoning laws intended for. More often, this intersection makes its way into videos. Quick clips of “kooks,” “bums,” and “loonies” are everywhere in skate videos, usually featuring a person deemed as crazy doing or saying something outrageous or silly that impedes the act of skating. Most often they’re presented without context or a moment to reflect on what using them is doing.
Skate videos are made to show the act of skating in an effort to influence further acts of skateboarding. There usually isn’t much more criteria for critique than how stoked a video got you. But videos themselves being made and put out into the world is, invariably, a critique on the world, or at the very least represent a viewpoint of the world, and thus are worth being critiqued themselves. They have value and say something, and what is being said is always worth critiquing, or, more accurately, worth thinking about on a critical level. To many, skateboarding isn’t just about the stoke but about the experience and connection with the world. So it’s likely that there are real, actual relationships between the homeless people featured in videos and the people filming them. But, to be honest, most of the time when I see it represented in video it’s just because it’s cool or funny. They are almost never contextualized, characterized, or even made out to be actual people who are potentially anything other than a freak sideshow to the main affair. I know skateboarders and have seen many behave with respect, humility, and tenderness to all people they experience while out skateboarding. But why isn’t this represented in the videos?
This documentary by Brian Panebianco of the LOVE Park-based Sabotage video series was a departure from that. He spent a LOT of time at LOVE Park. Enough time to move beyond the normal representation of the world surrounding a spot, to shift his lens from the act of skateboarding to focus onto something else for a while. In this fantastic, raw VX 1000 short, seemingly with footage from 2011, Brian gives us a character portrait of a homeless man who spent much of his time at LOVE park. He discusses his relationship to the skateboarders and about the codes and complicated rules of living in the streets. He describes how life is lived, unofficially representing a community of people living for the same things as everyone else; sleep, safety, sex, companionship. Like a preacher with no congregation, he speaks with reverence of the underground tunnels he and about 30 other people slept in. Seemingly filmed in the time that drips through the cracks at a session, the footage is raw and, like skate videos, often out of context and as I watched I began to wonder if he had any right to film and share what he did. Then I remembered his tenure in LOVE, his legacy of videos, and what it’s like to be a skateboarder in a space. He was not there randomly filming. He was a presence in the park and had been filming there for years and years, giving him a comfort and access that was as authentic as the footage he captured. The result is a portrait in which nobody seems to know he was filming, even as they stare straight into his camera.
I’ve seen the kind of footage skate filmers shoot – how much extra stuff they have; b-roll, street life. More of them should be doing stuff like this with it which, without a skate clip in it, made me want to go skateboarding.