Skateboarding media is at its best when the communion of its participants is represented to the viewer. 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 inspiration and 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.