Don’t ask, but this is the clip that got me most stoked this week. The “Repro Print Division Skater Owned Shop Screen Printing Tour?” How did they get those aluminum cans to maintain their shape? Fill em with crete? Will I ever learn how to silkscreen? The thing I enjoyed the most was the size and shape of that beer can coping ramp and all the tricks done on it – just might have to get a similar quarterpipe going for myself. As much as I unsurprisingly liked Primitive’s Never video (I’ve always supported their dedication to longer-form web releases and selective tech know-how) the no frills of beer can coping ramp clip just got me this week. That and a Kris Markovich part-ography I pieced together while in a YouTube hole. Maybe I’ll toss a link to that up soon.
Before we get into the clip, I’d be remiss not to share this article by Kyle Beachy about Jason Jessee, racism, apologies, white privilege, progressiveness, rebellion, and the spirit of fucking-skateboarding-for-crying-out-loud.
People have tossed this extremely, extremely sloppy comparison out but I refuse to refer to this as skateboarding’s “#MeToo moment,” as reducing any of this to a hashtag or moment does a disservice to skateboarding, the #MeToo movement, victims of sexual abuse, victims of racism, or anyone speaking up about what’s wrong. This is stuff that needs to be addressed as soon as it comes up and it’s came up so it needs to be addressed. No Nine Club beating around the bush here or King (who’ve already removed the “shit” from their magazine title due to advertising and stockiest pressure) publishing and then rescinding this article or Jenkem being pressured into feeling they need to make an excuse for why they didn’t want to publish an article by a freelance writer. Free Skateboard Magazine proves once again how they’re one of the best skate mags out by saying the only reasonable thing “OF COURSE we needed to publish this” and getting Kyle Beachy’s words out. Jessee may well be sorry for what he said and did and is now a different person and, if so: good. I don’t think we want to create a world where he isn’t allowed to re-enter the industry – the ostracizing of perceived villains is not an environment where healing and moving forward can take place. Why would people who’ve exhibited similar behavior feel a need to publicly atone if they know it spells out expulsion for them? It very much needs to be exposed, though, and this is a step in the right direction. The words are clearly powerful and the white guy powers-that-be are shook. Up with skateboarding, fuck the patriarchy. Onwards to the stoke:
“I don’t know if this is worth filming…”
“You never know.”
So went the call-and-response thesis statement from skater to filmer almost a full 10 minutes into this 11-minute-and-change clip. If it wasn’t worth it, well, it was already too late for me. The subject of the exchange was a fakie manual on that good hexagonal new seaport ground — the shot cutting off halfway through the manual. That sums up nicely the nature of this whole clip of shaky, raw phone footage (some of my favorite kind) of cruising around downtown Manhattan, no clear goal in sight. Shredmaster Keith and Dick Rizzo and some other rippers are teamed up with a spitfire/anti-hero t-shirt donning Jamie Foy for unexplained reasons and they do the old soul cruise bit but, when it involves Foy, the soul cruise comprises of rifling off first try 5050s in front of unimpressed security guards on un-skateable handrails and throwing kickflips into back smiths and big spins into front boards on the skateable ones. The crew is obviously impressed.
The clip comes courtesy of Extra Crispy NYC, who’s YouTube channel describes themselves as “Events Photography/Video in New York City.” I have no idea who’s behind this little outfit which seems to have the LES Park as its spiritual home. Indeed, many of the clips are focused there (this one even starts at the park) and some heavy sessions are documented. When I scroll through the uploads, though, there’s quite a prolific resume of skateboarding documented in and around the five boroughs, including but not limited to quick sound bites from Shane O’Neill at Street League in Newark (211 views) to titles such “HUF and Chocolate NYC” (64,000 views). There’s adidas demos in Tompkins Square Park, Damn AM NYC Coverage, DC Demos in Jersey, Harold Hunter Day, that 2017 Alex Olson-sponsored halloween jam, various locals at LES and on, and on, and on. Quite a diverse portfolio for an operation with zero bells and whistles.
In this, there’s rad black hubba footage, a barrage of fun Foy flatground tricks (heelflips, impossibles, a switch flip), and one of my favorites – a session on the seaport ledges skate stoppers – as if kickflip back 5-0 wasn’t sick enough, homie comes through and nollie shoves into one. It’s also really cool to see Foy’s skate rat tendencies outside the content released by all his sponsors. Regrettably, he wasn’t able to skate any of the police plaza rails. The light barely changes over the course of this 11 minute clip which leads me to question how long a period of time it was shot over. What did all this footage collecting take? An hour? Two? Three, tops? The affair ends with Shredmaster Keith cruising solo uptown under the FDR, leaving me wondering if the session was even planned in the first place or if he just happened to find Foy solo ripping around downtown and joined forces.
There was a lot of stuff that caught my eye when perusing Extra Crispy’s channel, but this random footage of Mike Vallely at the brooklyn banks in 2017 in a blue helmet was notably sick. It seems like a totally random occurrence for whoever extracrispynyc is to be there filming. I think it’s just someone with a camera who gets around? This video has 53,000 views! Varial hand plant! Board switcheroo thingies! Tailblock! Sick.
A group of Jersey ragamuffins go to Barcelona to skate the winterized back alleys of some famous spots, other non-famous spots that may as well be somewhere between Newark and Trenton, get in the way of taxis, play pool, and have pasta parties at home – basically every possibility they already have for entertainment on any given night in the Tri-State Area. But the flavor of this trip shines through so clearly that you can’t help but feel as if you’re there with them. Of course any group of friends who can skate is going to have a good vacation in Barca. And if you’re going to go there on vacation, of course you’re going to film a clip. The “If a tree falls in the woods…” argument doesn’t work here — filming in Barcelona is mandatory for any skate rat who finds themselves there, especially if they’ve been doing it long enough to pay for a plane ticket. These are adults on vacation acting like kids and it’s getting me stoked just writing this.
In its very best form, there’s a special kind of communion skateboarders share with their environment, both in the most private and most possibly distracting ways. Skateboarding can be done alone or with any number of people. Both have their merits and the Venn diagram overlaps differently for everyone. When done with others, though, there is an indisputable kinship. This is best done in large groups, so this week is dedicated to skate mobs.
Which brings me to the Skate Witches’ Witch Hunt: Fuck. Yes. Profanity necessary, but not even close to as necessary as this is for skateboarding. The hard work of Kristin Ebeling, Shari White, and everyone involved in their Skate Witches zine hits the biggest vestige of mainstream skate authenticity with a King of the Road-inspired scavenger hunt. It’s scope is far less than KOTR‘s – everything takes place during one day in Seattle as the ninth annual Wheels of Fortune event takes place – but endlessly more rewarding. And Wheels of Fortune, a showcase featuring female-identified (cisgender or trans), trans, and gender non-conforming skaters, could not be a better backdrop for the celebration.
Kristin, who’s day job is directing the Seattle chapter of Skate Like a Girl, is fantastic on camera, blending charisma and bluntness without an ounce of bullshit. She’s incredible at what she does, here to open up skateboarding for all and you know it when you watch. In the above recap video, she explains how Witch Hunt teams have a day to complete as many challenges as possible from a given list and that the team with the most completions wins. There’s also the audience “people’s choice” award, which is where the activation of Thrasher’s millions of readers comes into play. Go vote in it. Show them that we want more media like this.
In addition to some of the more physical challenges you’d expect, the Hunt is peppered with seemingly silly goals, mostly involving notable men in the industry or key micro-aggression focal points. Yes, Nyjah, it does indeed still get brought up that you said girls shouldn’t skate. While he’s since walked his comments back and seems to genuinely understand what was wrong about them, the Skate Witches are letting us know that this type of attitude about skateboarding is still alive and well without letting it define Nyjah. We can all smile about it, him included, but, no, we haven’t forgotten.
Similarly, there’s a challenge where a team member gives a male at a skatepark the unsolicited advice to “just bend your knees and commit a little bit more,” a refrain uttered in some fashion countless times across the globe to non-male skateboarders as if they didn’t know. One team gleefully delivers this to a smiling Andrew Reynolds: ballsy. In one deft five-second shot, Steve Berra’s whole empire is called into question with the “Juliette Lewis’ Ex-Husband Challenge,” in which skaters are to make an obstacle out of junk and film a trick on it. There’s also the “Ryan Sheckler Challenge” – crying real tears on camera – an activity associated with women that is pointedly focused around a male here, and the “Scare a Boy Challenge, which Team WERK expertly pulled off when a topless member dove off a dock into a lake to the shock of an adult sight-seer.
While specifically inspired by King of the Road, I engaged way more with the Witch Hunt even though I spent less time thinking about it. There’s no Thrasher cover or television advertising budgets here but in provocation of thought this went well beyond the gags and good times of its inspiration. In this context, the tongue-in-cheek challenges begin to address real issues in a way the skate rat antics of KOTR haven’t. Take two jokes; the butt-chug of KOTR, in which you funnel a beer through your rectum, and the Witch Hunt’s burn your bra challenge, in which the whole team burns their bras together. On the surface both are jokes. The KOTR challenge is rooted in a juvenility that says butts are funny (true), getting drunk is fun (also true), and uses alcohol in an overtly sexual manner to mine for shock and awe (er…). This isn’t even close to what the Witch Hunt attempts. Their challenge is a group embrace, a recognition of some of the barriers that exist in skateboarding and the world. In other forms of society, are bras really necessary? It’s important that this question is not overtly asked. This is skateboarding, and the Skate Witches treat it that way, but behind the humor is a deft truth: we are categorizing ourselves. The Skate Witches offer us a streetwise communion, a stoking of our collective metaphorical cauldron with the undergarments of the industry.
BONUS STOKE – Jenkem’s “Hanging out with Gangcorp”
Here’s some pure stoke from Jenkem’s “Hanging Out With…” series that offers a lens on another young upstart mob of skate rats/witches/communal people. Real rawness is hard to come by, especially when its represented in a refreshing fashion, and Gang Corp has it effortlessly.
Here’s a little shot of weekend stoke: little imprint Carvan Skateboards (full disclosure: two of my buddies own and operate this brand) has added midwestern ripper DJ Brown to the squad. Movie soundtrack darlings Hot Chocolate provide the backing music here and it instantly turns the stoke meter up to 11, only to be decreased a bit by constantly cutting back to shots of the band’s music video. For me, the continued reappearance of Errol Brown on screen takes me a tad out of the skating but, you know, I never mind Errol Brown on screen in any other context so I’ll let it slide. The real winner here is DJ Brown’s ridiculous ollie. It’s got power, grace, and slop all in one. He’s able to use it to heft himself onto and over some serious obstacles, 5050ing around stomach-high curved ledges while grabbing Indy or contorting himself around jumbo trash cans out of curb cuts. Real magic occurs when the ollie morphs based on what spot DJ is skating. It has almost NO verticality to it when he’s hucking himself down some insanely huge gap or stair set. In these instances it’s more like the kid at the skatepark who jumps off the top of the quarterpipe to the flat bottom – zero pop and pure speed, no tweak whatsoever as the back truck never makes it above the front, legs extended fully as body and board trudge through the air. Probably unsightly to some, to me it’s pure and real, a visual representation of the trick’s difficulty as well as a reminder that sometimes aesthetics aren’t what’s important – it’s the feeling of riding away. When you take this approach, everyone’s a winner, baby. That’s the truth.
Is the Kodak Moment officially the iPhone Moment, yet? Culturally canonized ad campaigns aside, I’m sure Kodak, the 138-year old titan of American film production, is shaking in their canisters. Constant references to the decline of film use are comical understatements at this point, the medium being all but officially dead amongst the commercial users who gave Kodak their unparalleled prominence in all things film and print for the entirety of the 21st century. Even their packaging, functional printing, and graphic communications arms are suffering as more and more media outside the motion world are going, and remaining, digital. Kodak is now attaching themselves to convoluted digital blockchain cryptocurrencies, an industry insanely above my pay-grade that I don’t even want to take a crack at understanding right now.
With the digital revolution already a thing of the past (even saying the term digital revolution in 2018 feels ridiculously outdated) – the blood spilt, the heads rolled – I don’t know where film goes from here. It’s not really dead, but it’s definitely not growing. I do know that the feeling and look of film is, as of yet, not replicable. I also don’t think the tactile, thoughtful process of loading, developing, and printing film and the artistic results it provides is mirrored in the digital world. For me, that process informed my reading of Ben Ericson’s, a pacific northwest-based filmmaker, short film (you get to call them that when they’re actually shot on film) of Griffin Gas skating around Seattle over a few days in summer and in winter. The clip (going back to my layman’s skate terms) is an impressive portrait of skating around a city and, for my money, seemed to do a good job of representing Seattle on screen. The facts that film needed to be loaded and unloaded in the streets and has a finite amount, thus limiting the amount of tries to land tricks, makes it even more impressive. The kicker, though, is that there is sound recorded in sync that seems to be coming from the actual action we’re seeing on screen. Bystander and security’s quips are heard and the sounds of skating match the ground it’s done on. Unless the whole thing was sound-edited impeccably, which would be a feat in its own. There were some annoying extra sound effects (random swooshes because a train went by or an eagle screech simply because a shadow of a bird was in the shot) that took me a bit out of the world but for the most part, I was engrossed. And, of course, the film is beautiful. Griffin’s powerful skating didn’t hurt one bit either. Long live film, long live skating.
Somewhat linked by a “things that are almost entirely gone” theme was this update on an old Berrics segment entitled Off the Grid, the only segment I really liked. It’s a pretty silly conceit to get skaters to film a cruising part in the streets by throwing a dart or something on a map and going to that location – I’m pretty sure it’s fudged. But, as I’ve said before on this blog, I’ll take any excuse to watch Tony Karr skate. These clips still go. Tony Karr always goes. Get in the streets!
Sifting through the shitload of quality clips that hit this week I’ve noticed a trend: Nike is all over the damn place and not just on your shop’s shoe wall. I watched three clips in a row, all of which had no upfront marketing, that ended with some kind of “Nike SB” logo. They’re going all Lyndon Johnson on us and winning over our hearts and minds via independent projects and snatching up smaller-market faves like Kyron Davis to bring to the masses. Creepy. Still, they’re paying for the folk we want to see skate, travel, and get some footage which should progress skating, and the industry, right? Sure. Still, something dubious is going on. Which is why it brings me pleasure that, even with all the great Nike-associated work out there this week (Hectic, Gronze Island, George) I was most stoked on a wholly independent affair.
And really, nothing gets me more stoked than seeing people I know ripping. Even people I loosely know, as is the case with everyone in this clip from Tony Choy-Sutton, who puts these little videos out at least once every year or two. None of the people in his clips are pros and Tony is not a professional skate filmer yet their tricks are constantly among the best stuff happening in New york and Tony’s camera is steady and measured. The transitions may be a bit unoriginal but are pulled off in totally original ways, the music moody enough to not distract from the skating but still have a vibe, and the spots ridiculously varied, especially for New York. It looks like he put a sharpen filter on a bunch of this mini DV footage which gives a lot of it a surreal quality. I’m not sure if that’s on purpose for a weird effect, on purpose to correct mistakes, on purpose just for shits and giggles, or not on purpose at all and I’m seeing something that isn’t there but I’m feeling the look. I’d give you all sorts of other pointless analysis of this clip but there’s really no reason, it freakin rips and I think you’ll be able to see why. These aren’t professionals, they’re not sponsored in any meaningful professional way, and no one is shouted out whatsoever. Is anyone wearing Nikes? Who knows and who cares.