Katsumi Minami and the ideal Japan

Japanese skateboard brand Evisen unveiled a candy coated quickie for us yesterday from the 2017 Evisen Video. It features it’s founder Katsumi Minami. I find it delightful.

It completely reenforces the no-doubt completely unrealistic perception of the entirety of the island nation of Japan as a clean, beautifully tiled, crisply angled abstract urban playground. The marble embankments are unmarred, the ground is often brightly colored, and there are imaginative railings everywhere.

The editing is rapid but rhythmic and conspicuously cut to the music without shame. The filming is so tight on the spots that one wouldn’t recognize them from afar. Smooth lumps of concrete connect to ledges and banks. It is hard to tell what is a skatepark and what is a plaza sculpture and what is just straight up architecture. ALL the ground is neatly tiled and well lit at night. There are no pedestrians.

And the tricks are creative and accessible. It’s reasonable to think that given access to spots like this, a little time, and some funky beats, even I could be doing some of these tricks. It’s a sensation one rarely gets from skate videos anymore. Katsumi and the ideal Japan does that very sacred thing that all decent skate skate videos should accomplish: make you want to ride a skateboard immediately.

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Favorite part of 2018: Ethan Loy in Peace

I think we can all agree that 2018 was a pretty great year for skate videos. With nearly every day birthing a new release with at least a few mind benders and nearly every part begetting what would’ve been considered the greatest skateboarding trick ever conceived if this were just a decade ago. I expected to find myself burdened to pick just one part that stood out forward from the rest.

In a world where quintuple kinked rails are common, skateboarders openly defy security in nearly ever full length, and kids are doing tricks on moving construction vehicles for instagram, it would take something different to burn into the brain and bring me back. Perhaps something slower, something more meditative.

I didn’t expect to find it in an Element video. I really didn’t expect to find it in the middle of an Element video. And I certainly didn’t expect to find it from the lesser known amateur sibling of a more well known pro skater in the middle of an Element video.

Ethan Loy‘s part in Element’s Peace video breathes deep and give us a chance to contemplate. A lot of this feeling is provided by an unlikely pairing with the exotically global tinged stoner rock of Om. Much like Heath Kirchart’s Sight Unseen masterpiece set to the improbable but perfect soundtrack of the Moody Blues, we are given space to experience the skating rather than being battered with an onslaught of heavy tricks in rapid fire. And much like Heath in Sight Unseen, slow motion is used to marvelous effect.

One loses all sense of physics as the opening up-rail boardslide seems to illogically keep its momentum. One feels the claustrophobic constriction of a sweaty underground skate spot, nosegrinding between a metal ledge and a glaring florescent light. One feels a genuine sense of surprise when Loy opts to wallie or jam into rail and ledge tricks.

The pacing is restorative. The tricks are well selected (although how many parts are gonna end with that old motorcycle tow-in chestnut). The filming is crisp and clear. Ethan’s look is clean and austere, yet novel for lacking energy drink logos, forearm tattoos, and/or hair dye. The music is driving, yet soothing, emotional and uncluttered. The whole thing has a relaxed atmosphere, without any of the skating being relaxed at all. The part effectively  resets what should have been an unbearably long full length video.

The strength of Ethan Loy’s part is definitely in the sum of all the elements, not just the tricks. So if he was to have one of those “War & Peace” rough cuts on Thrasher, it definitely won’t convey what worked so well. In the meanwhile, maybe it’ll get released in free sharable format once Element has squeezed all the revenue from online purchases. I’ll post it here if and when. Until then, Peace is available for purchase through iTunes and what have you, and totally worth the 13 bucks.

post photo by Jake Darwin

Zion Wright – Jupiter Rising & Real Part

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and Zion Wright just released his second full part of the year earlier today on Thrasher’s website. Real Skateboard‘s Skater of the Year intentions are loud and clear. So let’s not waste another moment and dive right into Jupiter Rising while revisiting his Real part from June and see how his candidacy stacks up.

First off, don’t be fooled by that 8:54 running time. There are 3 minutes of credits featuring a photographic retrospective of the part you just watched and what could easily be interpreted as an acceptance speech. Still, 5 minutes of skating is damn impressive and even with all the high fives and roll away footage, it’s pretty cram-jam with skateboarding stunts.

It is quite a compliment to Zion that such advanced handrail tricks as backside 360 ollie to frontside boardslide or kickflip frontside 50-50s or long tall overcrooks have been denigrated to “stock” status. But, alas, here we are and here are tricks we’ve seen in a part just five months ago (and also on King of the Road) and I find myself craving just one goddamn manual. Would it kill you to skate a ledge or do a wallie or something.

With that in mind, the bowl footage we get stands out as some of the strongest arguments in favor of Zion’s SOTY aspirations. Aired McTwists and kickflip Indy grabs gives some much needed depth to the part. The last two SOTYs were awarded to rail jockeys (one of which also rode for Real). So with just a few choice filming missions, Zion could easily recategorize himself into the ATV slot. It would give him a boost above the current crop of Tyson Petersons, Ducky Kovakses, and countless other round rail pinchers and carcass tossers numbing up the feed these days.

Half-cabbing into these things is still next level, though.

Jupiter Rising has to be digested in tandem with the bafflingly titled “Real” part from June. I actually prefer the “Real” (I’m already annoyed at having to put the title in quotes to distinguish it from other parts he may produce with his board sponsor, Real) part. But, really, the parts are just so similar.

Would one 12 minute part have been better? I would argue that it is wiser in this day and age for footage stacking skateboarders in their prime to break apart lengthy, multi-song parts into several digestible nuggets, and then release all but one of them at the end of the year.

Drums and Space: Yaje Popson – Brick

Way under the radar in 2018 was an entertaining quick part from Alien Workshop professional and aromatics hippie Yaje Popson. Don’t let the long hair and brightly colored pants relax you into interpreting this as a feel good cruise. Brick is a gritty East Coast urban psychedelic attack. Its a bit disorienting but thoroughly enjoyable.

The filming is close, the music is distorted and rhythmic, the editing is tight on the tricks, and interstitials zoetrope animations strobe. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes, we approach the maximum tolerable length for a video like this to be comfortable. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of Thiessen’s unmistakable nauseating fish eye movements until the last trick. Five minutes of this would has the potential to get brutal and completely negate the skating, but two and a half minutes is perfect.

Tossed into the part is a surprising trashcan wallride grind at Philly’s Board Game plaza. The banked ledge backside lipslide is pretty tasty, and I’m still impressed by people skating those little lumpy garden edgers. With the exception of the terribly documented ‘ender’, the final 6 tricks kill it, with the best moment the easy style on that penultimate switch backside lipslide to regular.

I can imagine the new Alien squad often feel like they are fighting an uphill battle for legitimacy; A challenge they seem to acknowledge. But if they can keep producing regular parts like this (and add Suciu to the team already), we’ll all forget Dyrdek ever existed.

Grant Taylor and the birth of the commonplace ATV

Looking back, the first tremors of the coming seismic shift in skateboarding are all present in 2009’s Debacle video from Nike footwear. I recall sitting at a computer and streaming a full length skate video for the first time, in High Definition no less, and thinking the game done changed.

And it wasn’t just watching a skate video on a computer screen without paying a cent. Nor was it the fact that I actually enjoyed and accepted a Nike product as a legitimate skateboarding artifact. The game change was seeing Grant Taylor skate and realizing he could do fucking anything, anywhere. Be it backyard bowls or European plazas, tech to rails or blasted airs. All fluid and easy.

But Grant Taylor wouldn’t go on to be another once-in-an-era superhero like Cardiel. He, along with others like David Gravette and Aaron Hamoki , were just the vanguard of what would become a regular occurrence among the young sponsored ranks of the future. We’re not talking Tony Hawk awkwardly skates a handrail out of career preservation necessity… We’re talking total domination of all styles of skating.

All this progression greets us a decade later in the contemporary era where we have such all terrain innovators as Oski Rozenberg or street maniacs who seem as equally at ease on a roller coaster rail as twirling transition 540s or ally-ooping oververt park pockets. Your Zion Wrights, your Evan Smiths. An era where a strickly park dog like Cody Lockwood just tosses in a gnarly street rail here and there.

As we truly revel and grow jaded in the common era of everybody-can-do-everything, let us look back or even look right and left, and appreciate what Grant Taylor begat.

Pedro Delfino

Pedro Delfino has a literal death wish

Floridian and future CTE sufferer Pedro Delfino made his official debut for Deathwish skateboards recently and that skull thudding slam to start it off has given concerned citizens plenty of justification when they tell a skater to get off their roof. Rarely are we, the online skate video viewers, subjected to the realistic consequences of stunt level skateboarding. Seeing Pedro’s limp unconscious carcass on the ground (twice!) for a ‘welcome to the team’ video that was already below the fold within 24 hours makes one wonder if it is all worth it.

All horrifying realities of our hobby aside, Deathwish has done well to add Delfino to the team. He adds some needed pool skills, is clearly willing to sacrifice everything for the footage, has a great eye for one-hitter street spots, and his dumptruck style is a welcome change from the bland precision of many of latest crop of overachieving ams.

Maybe it’s just the concussion footage, but it really seems like Pedro Delfino is skating out of his depth and barely escaping the tricks he is initiating. It is thrilling. Plus, his first ever published photo in a magazine happened to be one of the best Thrasher covers ever.

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Bobby Worrest’s cartographically chronological skate part – Real Street 2018

Like the 411 commercials of old, ESPN’s annual round-up of Real Street skate parts are made to be forgotten. Not extreme enough for the mainstream X-Games home audience, not associated with Thrasher enough to count towards Skater of the Year, not long enough to be considered a full part, not core enough for skating’s core to care, library track music too generic to ever be mistaken for a classic track, and usually the whole minute disregarded out of hand.

Why would skateboarding’s top professionals dedicate precious footage towards such an ephemeral outlet? The prize money, of course. We’re talking an alleged $17,500 Disney dollars for first place, with a solid $2,500 just for entering. Worth a footage dump for sure.

Hidden within the Cobra Coles, Cole Wilsons (two time reigning X-Games Real Street Gold Medalist), and Jumpin Joslins of 2018’s competition we discover Bobby Worrest taking us on a trick filled tour of his previously killed hometown turf. Bobby charges the obstacles of Washington DC’s Freedom Plaza like General Casmir Pulaski charging against the British forces (look it up); But this is more than a one-spot-one-day gimmick.

“So our original idea was to do one long line that’s a minute long through Pulaski [Park],” tells filmer John Valenti. “We filmed our edit during peak summer and it was so hot and Bobby was trying the long, difficult line. It wound up being too much with the heat. We then realized it wouldn’t work after a couple of hours trying. So we settled on a different concept. We planned on starting on one end of the park and beginning each line where the last left off.”

The 6 lines in the part draw a definitive path on the map through the spot starting from the northwest corner and heading east. Ledges, stair sets, and an overturned plastic traffic barrier serve as anchors in the geography, connecting the end of one line to the beginning of the next. The obstacles’ matching spacial orientations gives continuity to the scenery.

It’s a video concept perfectly suited to such a storied skate spot as Pulaski Park. When we watch skate videos, we mostly get distorted images of single obstacles. And even the long-lens establishing shots rarely give us a perspective of the spot as a whole. Even the recent use of drone footage is more often than not disorienting and fails to convey a relatable skaters-eye-view of things. Most spots are legendary not for a single obstacle, but for the collection of great obstacles. While some attempts have been made to convey a larger sense of the landscape (Ricky Oyola’s real time narration of his line through Philadelphia’s City Hall from 411 #13 comes to mind), it is shocking that a concept as obvious as ‘linked lines’ hasn’t been put out there.

Of course, all this high-minded analysis gets us nowhere without the self-assured style of Bobby Worrest. Our familiarity with the image of Bobby skating Pulaski gives a casual confidence to all 17 tricks (I’m including the ollie onto the ledge). The switch pushes and planter ollie invoke the power, mirrored 360 flips over tipped obstacles conjure the Underworld Element nostalgia, and that backside lipslide just overflows with that Worrest nonchalance.

When Bobby kickflips over a handrail and rolls into Pennsylvania Avenue I find myself wishing he had taken a left turn before heading out of the park. Certainly a few more tricks and something on that out-ledge were to be had over towards the General Pulaski statue. But time had run out. John Valenti reveals, “The hardest part was squeezing all the lines together to make sure it was exactly one minute. I wound up filming the view finder from my camera and editing on it to see if we had enough or was over the time limit. We had to re-film two of the lines to get a couple of seconds shaved off.”

As far as I was aware (until some know-it-all on the SLAP Boards pointed out Dane Burman’s 2012 Volcom to the Team clip), Bobby Worrest and John Valenti have delivered the first topographically sequential skate part ever. The jaw dropping yet yawn inducing Miles Silvas One Stop part released 3 months before the Real Street drop similarly draws an unbroken line through the entire part, but the slant with that video is clearly the single unedited 5-minute take. With Silvas’ line in mind one can imagine how a single, relaxed, multi-minute line through Pulaski would feel when compared to what we got. For my money, one long lazy line doesn’t contend.

The constraints of summer heat and a time limit made Bobby’s part something different, something better. It is about a spot, but unlike Worrest’s previous single-spot part at Pulaski, this one places the obstacles within the context of one another. The opening curb hop and final pushes away from the camera place Pulaski Park within DC’s surrounding streets. The progression of tricks chart a path through the plaza and out into the city.

As more and more legendary American skate spots fall under the jackhammer of development and skateboarding intolerance, I find the video preservation of such things all the more crucial to our culture. How could a kid whom has never been to New York understand or appreciate the layout and connection of all the obstacles of the Brooklyn Banks? Is it possible to convey the utterly stupefying architectural layout that was Philly’s City Hall and Love Park being right next to each other? Is there any way for a video to communicate the thrill of skating from Hubba Hideout through EMB and over to Pier 7 in a matter of 3 minutes?

Perhaps not, but videos like Bobby’s Real Street get us as close as possible.

 

Cody Mac

Cody Mac and the Think Skateboards farm system


If ever there was a minor leagues of skateboarding, it would be the post Speyer/Drehobl era of Think Skateboards. It was where talented skateboarders like Danny Fuenzalida, Jake Nunn, and Sean Payne would toil in obscurity, never graduating into the major leagues. It was also the team where such future (nick)name-brand professionals as Lizard King, the Duffman, and Diego the Butcher would get their start before moving on to relevant board sponsors. One could put Street Leaguer and 2006 Tampa Am winner Cody McEntire onto that roster as well.

Let’s take a moment to enjoy the debut of Catfish in 2008’s Digital Smoke and Mirrors video, before Cody got all hair gel and toothpicks. It is just a great part with so much precision in the landing, so much tech on the minis, and some seriously large drops. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he owns backside flips, but he definitely was leasing them in this part with the option to buy.

The filming isn’t all that fancy, with the exception of a few French-Fred-lurking-around-the-corner shots. It keeps the tricks as the focus and doesn’t distort the drops. Simple Man from Skynyrd adds a little emotional depth and timelessness to the whole thing. All in all this is a powerful debut from Cody Mac that he has yet to match, but it sure is fun watching him try.

Riley Hawk 1991

Riley Hawk gets stoned – Quicksilver in 2011

Hudson Hawk was born in late 1992, his parents apparently completely unaware of the terrible Bruce Willis movie that had stunk up theaters the previous year. Once they realized their mistake, they started calling him by his middle name, Riley. Not long after that he started skateboarding like his father. A little over two decades later he had the final part in Lakai’s The Flare.

But somewhere in between, Riley Hawk transitioned from Tony’s son who is also coincidentally sponsored by Birdhouse to “Daaaaamn!” One can see the metamorphosis was well underway in 2011 when Quicksilver released an unnamed online promotional part. Let’s take a look:

You can practically smell the reefer kicking in throughout this video. Riley’s little kid grown-out buzz haircut is turning into flowing headbanging locks. A Black Sabbath forearm tattoo shows up. The t-shirts get more and more metal as the tricks go from tech to tech-gnar. He starts to look less Birdhouse and more, well, Baker.

In less than 3 years after this video’s release Riley would turn 21, get completely covered in tattoos, be named the recently digitized Skateboarder Magazine’s Am of the Year, and go pro for Baker skateboards. His promotion to professional status would set off a chain reaction that would lead to the end of Jeff Lenoce’s career, compel Braydon Szafranski to sell luxury pajamas from the Playboy Grotto, inspire Spanky to sober up, and , in the unlikeliest of occurrences, force Shane Goatmouf Heyl to courteously relinquish his Baker pro board with grace and dignity.

Robbie Gangemi and Busta Rhymes – Zoo York 1997

With Chaz Ortiz fulfilling his contractural obligations and setting sail, I think it is safe to say that Zoo York is officially out of the business of supporting skateboarders. Not that they really had any credibility remaining. Zoo York was just a embroidered satiny shell of skate brand squeezing its last drops of street cred to sell another logo shirt to the branded masses. But it wasn’t always this way.

Zoo York’s 1997 masterpiece, Mixtape, stirred together everything we dream of when we wax nostalgic for 1990s New York skateboarding. Freestyle lyrics flowed via the Stretch & Bobbito radio show – showcasing the skills the youthful generation of rappers who would soon come to dominate hiphop. Graffiti and music and stylish clothing choices and raw city skating all came together in a perfect blend of what we all imagine NYC in the 90s to be.

My favorite part from Mixtape, the part I go to over and over again, isn’t from Kids motion picture celebrities and New York legends Harold Hunter or Jeff Pang, but from Boston’s Robbie Gangemi.

His smooth style doesn’t conceal the raw power this skating has. Every trick, even the flatgrounders woven through the sidewalk pedestrians, are lofted. That front foot catch on the Brooklyn big Banks hardflip, the roller rink indoor park hip to rail backslide lipslide, and a few other illusion frontside flips are all just gorgeous. I love the look of night footage filmed with only a camera light. And the straight-on backside 50-50 to end the part is easily the best trick in the whole video.

Robbie would quit Zoo York the next year and eventual start Vehicle, one of many struggling East Coast centric board brands that should’ve been huge. The near impossibility to clear the music and video rights from the skaters, Stretch and Bobbito, the rappers, and the beats they are rapping over has made Mixtape a hard video to locate and one that will never see an official digital reissue. I don’t think the contemporary Zoo York really has much interest in it anyway.