No War For Heavy Metal (Outcore)

This article about the lifecycle of tricks in skateboarding really brought back memories for me. It heavily references the early nineties, the period I was most active in skateboarding. As noted in the piece, it was a time of big pants and small wheels. Lucas Wiesenthal, who wrote the piece, focuses on a few particular tricks, one of which is the pressure flip. Wiesenthal relates how quickly tricks came into vogue and how, just as quickly, they went out. I distinctly remember the cycle of the pressure flip (and occasionally, I still think about it).

Photo by Simon_44 via flickr

Pressure flips initially seemed really cool and exotic. I loved technical flat-ground tricks and was never really into the Evel Knievel-style big scary stunts. Once everyone was doing the trick, though, I was glad to see its departure from the scene.1 Back then, once a trick was “out,” it was verboten to do it, unless you were having a larf. To do tricks that were no longer fashionable was to risk serious scorn.

And that’s basically what skateboarding was like in the early ’90s. Doing a trick that was a month past its expiry date could get you vibed out of a spot, and the self-worth of teenage skaters worldwide hinged on how closely they could emulate a group of slightly older teenage skaters from San Francisco.

Reading the article, all of this easily comes back to mind in vivid detail. I used to ask my friends who would go into D.C. to skate at Pulaski Park, which was featured in New Deal videos, what tricks were popular with that crowd. I even recognize the pressure flip trick guide from Thrasher that was linked to from the piece.2

I wasn’t as active in skateboarding later on in the decade, but I started to notice a shift that has recently become more complete. You can now basically do any trick and no one is going to hassle you. It all comes down to personal style and expression.

“Aside from maybe a street plant or something, if you do it right, I don’t think there’s really much limitation on it,” says Ellington. “It’s who’s doing it, and they’re doing it in a certain way, and they’ve got speed and they’re flowing. I couldn’t write off anything. You could kind of do anything and get away with it.”

I love this change in skateboarding. That — and the fact that I have a skatepark nearby — makes me wish I were still active in the sport today.3

via Clive Thompson

The aforementioned article got me curious enough to checkout Braille Skateboards, which makes inexpensive skateboards, offers lessons and encourages people to skate regardless of age, color, body shape or size.

  1. I could only flip the board halfway, which probably partially accounts for my glee when they became passé. ↩︎

  2. I also recognize the ad for Bad Religion’s Generator album, which I bought for Greg Graffin’s now embarrassingly emotional take on the first Gulf War, “Heaven Is Falling.” ↩︎

  3. My advancing age and increasingly fragile body keep that wish from becoming a reality. ↩︎

A Visual Sound

The skate video that first brought jazz into my consciousness in a very real way was Stereo Skateboards A Visual Sound. After seeing the movie, I started wearing brown dickies and buying John Coltrane CDs. Not everyone in the skateboarding community was into the film, with it’s mixture of black and white stills and footage recorded on Super 8. I was smitten with the aesthetic, though. It was an acknowledgement of something that I had always thought — skateboarding was just as much art as sport. To this day I can’t listen to fast, post-bop jazz without wanting to skate.

In this clip from the PBS show Music Matters, host Apolonia Davalos talks with Chris Pastras and Jason Lee from Stereo about the film and skateboarding in general.

PBS - A Visual Sound

Freestyle Fever

A fellow microblogger has been posting videos of himself freestyle skateboarding and it has reminded me of how artistic the form can be. One of my favorite freestylers is the Rodney Mullen-influenced Japanese skater Isamu Yamamoto. Yamamoto is sponsored by Powell Peralta (yep, that Powell Peralta). Looking for his videos on the Powell site led me to another amazing freestyler, Kilian Martin.

I’ve long maintained that skateboarding is an art more than it’s a sport and that is perhaps even more true of freestyle. You’re not going to see this kind of skateboarding in the Olympics anytime soon. It is marked by creatively flowing lines on flat ground. Its practitioners spin and whirl in a kind of urethane-fueled ballet.

Kilian Martin embodies an imaginative combination of freestyle and more traditional street skating. The two styles blend like peanut butter and chocolate. Martin sees the world as a giant skatepark, using trees and even rock formations in addition to common concrete elements to work his magic. It’s a joy to watch Martin practice his craft on the streets of various countries around the world (including Myanmar — not known to be a skateboarding Mecca). It’s also edifying to hear about the volunteer work he does and his ethos around gratitude and contentment.

The videography in the Skateboard Stories film of Martin is captivating. It effortlessly flows between interview footage, city skate and commercial video. Whether you are into skateboarding or not, the story and visuals are worth a watch.

Skateboard Stories - Kilian Martin

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