Favorite Part of 2019: Leo Romero in Programming Injection

For the intro of Plan B’s 1992 Questionable Video, Matt Hensley was more-or-less forced to ‘retire’ from professional skateboarding by revered showrunner Mike Ternasky. Apparently Matt was getting too old and wasn’t progressing enough. He was 23. Ternasky did the same thing to Sal Barbier the next year in Virtual Reality. Part of what prompted the launch of Girl skateboards was Mike Carroll’s fear that he might be told to retire next.

Back then professional skateboarding was a very young man’s game. Nowadays, we have the opposite problem. Few skaters definitively announce their retirement from professional skateboarding. Instead, they hang on to such life-preservers as the legend/reissue vortex, vanity company after vanity company, the “I stopped skating at a professional level long ago but still have my name on a board somehow ” limbo, or the old “board-royalties onlyprogram. Nowadays, some pros aren’t even pro.

A pro skater’s mid thirties are where the line gets drawn. Like it or not, if we were to measure rails, count stairs, and tally-up improbable tech consistency, you will lose to the younger generation. You can cling to the professional purgatories mentioned above (go ahead and click those hyperlinks), you can join the literal handful (Heath, Scott Johnson, and -um- maybe Cario Foster) who actually went out with agency and dignity, you can have your board unceremoniously dropped without fanfare, or you can do like Leo and go out there and skate and make a great fucking skate part for your board sponsor.

Certainly Toy Machine’s Programming Injection wasn’t the best full-length skate video of the past year. Leo Romero’s part in that video part wasn’t the gnarliest, or the techest, or the most relevant of his career. Heck, it wasn’t even the gnarliest part of the video. It didn’t even get one of the 27 nomination slots in Transworld’s Best Video Part of 2019 online poll. But I watched it a lot when it came out a few months back, and I still enjoy watching it now as I write this.

Leo’s part was the sum of a lot of good things coming together to get the stoke flowing. Good trick selection, a decent song, not too much redundant footage, and a surprising discipline in the choice not to have cutaway shots of him playing acoustic guitar. Ed Templeton’s artworks and sarcastic word balloons, while being core of Toy Machine’s branding over these 25+ years, has definitely become a liability at this point.

Some of the joy is certainly derived from this part was that I was ready to count Leo out. He definitely could’ve coasted through this video with a few tricks in the montage section next to Billy Marks and Matt Bennett and we wouldn’t have been all the disappointed. He could’ve pulled a Janoski and cashed his signature shoe checks (admittedly not Nike-sized, but still) and maybe busted a slappy-crooks or something in the next Tum Yeto tour edit. But no. Leo locked into those rails straight up (none of the 90-10 shit), slammed onto his face while staring right at the camera, busted a line with two ‘uphill’ tricks, and still had enough in the tank to give us an ender worth talking about.

Looking at last years pick, I must acknowledge my own preferences for shorter, surprisingly catchy middle-of-the-video parts from regular-footers we didn’t expect much from. I clearly have a type.

Quartersnacks: Best Skate Parts of the 2010s

Quartersnacks just released the results of there survey of the most popular individual skate parts of the past 10 years … the “twenty-tens”? “twenty-teens”? As a connoisseur of oft-forgotten skate parts, I wasn’t surprised to see some of my picks not make the Top 25. But, overall, I think the outcome for a crowdsourced list like this was remarkably spot-on. I would be in heaven if they gave up the raw data they collected so us spreadsheet nerds can dig deeper, but in the meanwhile I can rest easy knowing that we all did the right thing by acknowledging Dylan as the most important video of the past decade and that Bobby Worrest was in there… twice.

There were a few unpleasant surprises on the list such a Bobby DeKeyzer being in at number 16 (not even the best part in that video), Welcome to Granti-Hero in there at 19 (Grant is amazing, but this was not a great part by any means), anything from Pretty Sweet (especially Guy’s part), and no Wes Kremer at all. I also think we might have selected the wrong Ishod and Tiago parts.

On the plus side I’m glad that we had the cognizance to elevate Tom Knox, Lucien Clarke, Dane Brady, and that Bobby/Hjalte shared part onto the list.

Even better than having a one-stop shop for perusing some of the best skating the internet has to offer from last ten years is that the top ten parts each got a quality analysis from some of our favorite contemporary skate “journalists”: Boil the Ocean, Kyle Beachy, Adam Abada, Frozen in Carbonite. Plus some other folks who tweet a lot.

And, for the record:

  • Dylan – Dylan Rieder
  • Luxury and Loudness – Bobby Worrest
  • Chicken Bone Nowison – Dustin Dollin
  • Cross Continental – Mark Suciu
  • De La Calle / Da Rua – Tiago Lemos

Mark Suciu, Verso, and the Chiasmus vs. the Blubba

Verso, the Mark Suciu skate video that delivered on all its promises, exists in three movements. In the month since its belated debut so very much has been written and diagramed and decoded in regards to the final portion of the video. You know the section I’m talking about – the part with the sort-of mirrored tricks. The “chiasmus“.

If you took the red pill and followed Mark down the rabbit hole then you now live in a place where we are saying trick names like “Nollie Frontside Heelflip Fakie 5-0 Frontside Revert” and then basking in the sublime symmetry created by the “Nollie Backside Heelflip Nosegrind Backside Revert” that happens 40 seconds later. You are cool with a premature video premiere coming with a prerequisite artist statement. You understand that the last trick, a simple grind, isn’t an ender… it’s a bookender. You comply with demands that one show respect by not mentioning Verso in the comments of his friend’s part’s release announcement less one steal said friend’s thunder. You have embraced a world where the ender is a concept featuring 14 interrelated tricks. You know what chiasmus means.

But perhaps you aren’t the type to delve deep into a skater’s intent. Maybe you don’t view skate videos as something to solve. Conceivably, that Thrasher interview is just too damn long and academic.

Perhaps you took the blue pill and woke up in a world where Mark Suciu, the kid who (along with Dylan) upped the value of the internet-solo-part above that of the part-in-a-team-video with his 2011 Cross Continental masterpiece, has gotten is skate mojo back. You ignore all that encrypted significance and simple enjoy the results of Suciu skating at capacity and with full Adidas funding for the past two years. Is that so bad? Perhaps it is even better.

And thus unfolds the first 2-song course of Verso: a Cross Continental continuation where Mark continues to leave his impression on global skate landmarks past and present – Lloyds, Muni, Kezar Stadium, South Bank, the Bay Blocks. But now Mark is older and wiser. His tricks are even more flawless and quick footed. The reverts are more backbreaking and unexpected. Mark goes big when needed, mixing in some solid double sets and gap-to-rails with all that ledge trickery. His hair is flawless and his pants fit well.

And then we get to the real: Mark Suciu skates New York City. This middle section is what cements Suciu’s legacy onto skateboarding forever even more so than having a namesake grind. Between interstitial cuts of subway doors and manhole cover warm-ups we are treated to one-ups at some of your favorite contemporary NYC sets and ledges in addition to some architectural treats. Mark notches his belt at the expected City chestnuts such as the 360 nollie at the D7 Blocks, the ledge dancing within the Flushings Fountain, the tech devastation of the Pyramid Ledges, and then a triad of Blubba mind benders for dessert. Toss in some stunt tricks worthy of a Thrasher cover, a few cellar door skrells, and hyphenated trick combos from rail to bench or beam to beam and Holy Cow. What a part. Just that New York section alone.

I’ve watched Verso many, many times over the past month and each time the New York section just towers over the mirrored-tricks part, yet this grouping seems already a bit lost in all the academic discussion surrounding the final act. It isn’t a stretch to say the New York Verso is overshadowed by the other parts within the same video. Which is a shame because on its own it is one of the greatest New York parts we have with wide reach. Right up there with Eastern Exposure 3, that part in Transworld’s Greatest Hits, Zoo York Mix Tape, and something else that Quartersnacks would crucify me for not mentioning should they ever read this blog.

Obviously, as I strive keep this ill-conceived Matrix analogy going, I’m more of a blue pill guy.

But maybe this isn’t an either/or situation. Maybe you snatch both pills out of Morpheus’ hands and shove them in your mouth and swallow them both before he or any of the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar can stop you. Maybe the chiasmus doesn’t have to obfuscate the Blubba.

Either way, holy shit, Mark Suciu has some fucking talent riding a skateboard.

 

Kyle Frederick – 12 O’Clock Karl

From out of nowhere with little more warning than a Thrasher Magnified and Hall of Meat and a nod from Chris Cole’s clothing brand Omit, Kyle Frederick arrived, laid down one golden track, and disappeared in a puff of cigarette smoke. From his T-shirt logos I assume he was sponsored by Mystery skateboards, but I’m not really sure. I’m also not sure why he rides a quizzically old school shape (before that was really a thing), why he immediately fell off the face of skateboarding right as things were getting interesting, or what a 12 O’Clock Karl even is.

But I really, really like this part and I think it holds up pretty well after five years. So if this is the extent of Kyle Frederick’s skateboarding legacy, I gotta tip my hat and and take it for one more wheelie popping ride.

 

Serial Hometown Turf Murderer – Bobby Worrest again!


I know, I know. How many times on this blog am I going to erupt with praise of Mr. Bobby Worrest‘s skateboarding?

Well, as long as the parts are a good as the Welcome to Venture joint that just arrived this past week (as well as a fantastic Chromeball interview), every damn time.

Bobby just keeps bringing it. The best switch pushes, the amazing Pulaski lines, the gorgeous VXness… and all this for a truck sponsor! There is so much more to like in this video than just the tall ledge noseslide 270 out (the pretzel way) that everybody is gushing over, but holy shit check out that tall ledge noseslide 270 out (the pretzel way).

 

Turn off, Tune out, Drop in: Ryan Reyes in the Ditch Dimension

Ditches are like nature’s skateparks (and I am aware of how I’m misusing the term nature here)… An imperfect and often oversized assembly of banks, walls, edges, ledges, steep-ass roll ins, and the occasional water flow to contend with. Just as Geoff Rowley transitioned from British born vegan to American citizen deerstalker, he also evolved from a street ripper to pretty much exclusive ditch dude.

From a 2015 Thrasher interview with Geoff: “It was interesting and a lot of times you didn’t get kicked out of the ditches either. We had a lot of problems down South, getting kicked out of everywhere because everyone was hitting the handrails out in front buildings a lot. I was sick of getting kicked out and not being able to sit down at a spot. When we went to ditches, you could bring a boom box and a couple of bottles of water and kind of hang out a little bit better. It felt like those old backyard-pool sessions but it was a little bit more street oriented. You’re out there with your friends and nobody’s messing with you. You can still get your kicks. You get more time on the board. More time skating versus driving around in the cities getting kicked out everywhere.”

Be it the enormity of the obstacles, the brutalist concrete look of the spots, or the chillness of a bust-free session, ditches offer all the amenities (and lack of shade) of a skatepark without the illegitimacy and background scooterings of a “park clip”. No road trip through the American Southwest is complete without clocking some ditch tricks. Also, Wallows.

Ryan Reyes has built his career on a steady dose of ditch skating with a sprinkling of unlikely wallrides, but to intentionally film and market an entire part in the ditches has its risks. One may appear a bit over-it and unwilling to deal with street hassles (ala Rowley), or maybe unwilling to really venture outside of your immediate desert geography (ala John Motta), or perhaps it’s just a themed episode of the larger oeuvre (like this). One also risks burning retinas with the somewhat repetitive sun bleached aesthetics of drainage ditches, inducing yawns from seeing the same old ditch spots yet again, as well as the dangers of heat stroke and/or flash floods.

Yet despite all of risks (and some trite video feedback effects), Ryan Reyes’ Ditch Dimension part from 2018 is a success.

I’ve always liked Ryan. He’s creative in his tricks (more or less inventing the board-jam and the railride) and his personal peculiarities (his recently overcome phobia of metal). He always seemed affable in interviews and more than most skateboarders he seems to be authentically ‘living his best life’. He has settled quite comfortably into a merry yet alternative lifestyle of a woodsy microdosing psychedelic family man with a knee brace and he is undoubtedly having a good time. It makes me happy to see someone happy to be skating.

The blunted powerslide underflip body varial is my current favorite post-hammer roll-away trick.

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.

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.