38. The Skate Witches’ “Witch Hunt”

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.

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37. Caravan Welcomes DJ Brown

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.

36. Ben Ericson – Griffin Gass / Pacific Standard Time

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.

BONUS STOKE

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!

35. “GAS” by Tony Choy-Sutton

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 (HecticGronze 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.

 

34. Noise! – A Ghanaian Video Contest

Noise! is a Ghanaian skateboard video contest put on by Surf Ghana in which a team of a filmer, skater, and Afrobeat musical artist create a skate video. This team aspect and the mandated afrobeat soundtrack lends the project a unity typical of the collaborative nature of Surf Ghana, founded by Sandy Alibo. While I knew the contest was happening I’m a bit late on seeing these videos and forget what kind of prize was awarded. Still, I know awards and prizes are not the point. Everything I’m seeing in these videos I’m liking, starting with the rapid growth of a Ghanaian scene built from the ground up. I’m seeing skaters learning about themselves and their environment and themselves through their environment – drastically different things. In the suburban Accra streets and dense inner-city plazas I’m seeing a progression and storyline, spiritually parallel but distinctly unique to my own early proving ground counterparts in suburban New Jersey and spot-rich New York. What begins as a flirtation with ollies and shove-its in neighborhood streets and driveways matures into a sleep-depriving obsession and itch to see, learn, do, and skate. Along with this exploration creativity festers, skits naturally growing from the fissures of a camera and an idea as skateboard dreamscapes cross with various levels of crusty environs into deep studies of editing and music. I’m seeing an antidote to explore-feed trick and fashion trends, a deeply intimate look into the development of a culture.

I hit up Sandy to get her take on what the Noise! contest is really about, how she cooked it up, and hopefully to fill in some of the gaps.

Hi Sandy! How’d Noise! work?

The Instagram Contest opened for Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria from March 8th to 24th. There was no limit on teams but the 8 winning teams got the opportunity to participate in the Final Contest in Accra which lasted 8 days.

For the final contest teams were a trio of one filmmaker, one skateboarder, and one afro beats maker. They shot and edited a video and posted them to Instagram.

How’d you think of Noise!?

Noise as a project was a way to create a link between content creators, Afrobeat artists and skateboarders. It was really about showcasing content makers, skateboarders and an alternative way to push Afrobeat as that kind of music is indigenous to Africans and their roots.

What does Noise! represent to you?

A new way to push the invisibles: content curators, movie directors, and beat makers. And bringing the idea that collaboration is the best way to spread our love for skateboarding!

What’s your favorite part of the contest?

My favorite part was a skateboarder named Lee making a video one hour before the deadline. The main idea is so good, fresh with one main sequence shot, no editing planned, the camera is a simple smartphone and shakes like crazy but the music track from DJ Spilulu helps him to push the concept so he got more views on Instagram than the official winners!

What’s your hope for the future of Noise!?

My hope is that next year we will expand it for the whole African continent, and we will get more than one hundred videos with talented people to share with our community. Outside of Noise!, Surf Ghana plans to be part of Ghanaian festivals this summer to make skateboarding accessible to the masses. And we are currently working on a new event planned in June in Paris to fundraise for our next skatepark!

There ya have it! Here’s the remaining three finalist videos that were screened at Republic Bar and grill in the Osu neighborhood of Accra. I’m embedding them in order of my personal favorites, the first being up top and the next three below, but they all have undeniable talent and vision.

33. “Cruising in NYC on a Fake Summer Day” by MoonBear

One of my favorite things about our current time’s technological revolution is the degree to which young people can find and develop their voice. Video-wise, the accessibility of cameras and the platforms for distributing your work create a rich and textured forum for emotion and curiosity through which people figuring out their place in it all can share their discoveries with a vast, diverse community. Oftentimes acting like a public diary, the social media channels of such performative thinkers include all sorts of random little clips filled with day-in-the-life images, musings and tonal textures that create moods and vie for attention in the monoculture stream. There’s a lot of visual goop out in the world in this day and age; social media testimonial nonsense, stupid AF web slang, “____-isodes,” system updates, software versioning, special effects goop, or endless races to have the newest hardware. It’s hard to sift through it. Yet somewhere in between it all, behind the paradoxically ethereal and whirling machinations of the internet and endless marketing of its providers, in the nether beneath the vast sea of Silicon Valley servers, at the intersection of expression and representation, is the distilled ambergris that delivers on its promise of connectivity and connection: you can use this stuff to learn about who you are and, hopefully, understand the world a little better. We’re in a new era of that adult-creating process of finding one’s identity and, in following some young skaters, I’m rediscovering parts of my own identity. I’ve posted MoonBear’s clips before but, like any good artist, she keeps giving me reason to come back for more. In viewing the shaky visuals of my beloved New York City asphalt giving way and gently sloping west to the Hudson River I felt the bliss of being alive and on a skateboard and in the greatest city on Earth. That’s a feeling I scour video clips on the internet for daily, always inclined to watch New York-set videos first. Sometimes, a company or independent filmmaker will portray the city in a way that moves me. More often, they don’t get it right, the sleek images of grit and grey grime that have monopolized representations of New York fail to ring true with the vitality of a city of such personality and stature. That a young black woman in New York is willing and able to give viewers a direct line not only to her joy at spending a spring day aimlessly cruising around downtown Manhattan with her friends, but to the living, breathing heart of the city is a radical thing; that her joy is transferred to me, on the other side of the country, through the power of technology, is damn near transcendent.

32. “GRAINS” by Kevin Delgrosso

There’s two specific things that are usually going to pique my interest in an independent skate video. A look into a local scene I don’t see represented in most other skate media is the first solid starting point. Secondly, I like that scene to be built around some generally centralized urban location. Metropolitan areas are just what my brain is wired for. As a result, growing up in New Jersey, I always had an affinity and interest in the trail of industrial rust-belt cities snaking off inland into the mystical midwest. It’s a trail I always associated as starting with Newark – the farthest east wing of the midwestern manufacturing arm that, aided by the railroad system, was able to house factories once former coastal port towns became too expensive for businesses.

When I began visiting midwestern cities in high school, I started with the biggest – Chicago. Satisfied with the size and breadth of this true American city – as intricate an inland amalgamation of immigrants and layered politics as any other in the country – I began branching out. Over time, I saw a few more places; Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Madison, Indianapolis, Bloomington. Their scopes and architecture reminded me of Newark, as did the breadth of their spots. The skating in these Midwestern Cities was raw and spontaneous in the way I was used to.

GRAINS is a local video in that tradition of hard-working skateboarding. It’s a Chicago-based video that has sections focused on the spots and cities around it. Many of the sections are available online, including some focused on specific localities; Gary, Indiana; Peoria, Illinois; the midwest’s cellar doors. I was introduced to it this weekend and watched all the parts I could find from it for free. Then I ordered a $5 DVD. I think you should do the same. It was made by Kevin Delgrosso and is a real cool look at a real cool scene.

Buy GRAINS here