Friday, April 29, 2016

Keeping Things Rolling With Speedlab Wheels

Bill likes them.

When Speedlab Wheels started in 2002 it wasn't about cashing in, it wasn’t even an act of rebellion against big time skateboarding. Speedlab started because a skater named David Rogerson couldn’t find a wheel like he wanted to ride.

“Speedlab began because no one was making bigger wheels.” Explains Speedlab's current owner, Alan Keller “Back then, you couldn’t find anything over 58 millimeters.”

Now Speedlab has changed hands, but Speedlab is still all about getting skaters the kind of wheels they want and deserve but can’t always get. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bomb (Drop) The Suburbs

Not me...but pretty close

In recollecting all the shenanigans and illuminations surrounding my first ever quarter pipe session in Jimmy Wallace's driveway, I forgot to mention that I learned my first skateboard trick that day: The Bomb Drop. By today's standards the bomb drop might not be considered a trick at all, even in '88 it was already out of date for most skaters in the know, but for me, back then, it was the first thing I learned that looked like a trick and, more importantly, that felt like a trick.

And, to me, it was the most awesome thing I had ever done, on or off a skateboard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The trouble With FUN

I've always loved that little clip from Speed Freaks where the late, great Jeff Phillips declares: "I skate for fun and that's it!. If I don't have fun you see me quit." Pretty good words to live by. "Phillips' Law", I like to call it. But If I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I have always had a tiny bit of reservation about that assertion.

I do “skate for fun”, but that is most definitely not “it”. When it comes to my relationship with skateboarding, "Fun" just doesn't cut it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Keep Your Heroes. We Don't Want Them.

Slash Dog with Real Dogs. Alva at Nude Bowl on that fateful night, by Andrew Hutchison

The culture of skateboarding is largely built on hero worship. In this way, skating is not unlike conventional spectator sports. Pro endorsements are the prime mover of skate products, and the deeds of pro skaters dominate the media we consume. Still, even in an era where pros can earn seven figure incomes, the relationship skaters have with their pro "heroes" is  fundamentally different from the relationship adoring sports fans have with theirs. In fact, it makes me wonder whether the term "hero" has any place in skateboarding at all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Skateboarding is Not A Sport

You can take practically any physical endeavor and turn it into a “sport”. Just flip through the cable channels late at night and you’ll see. There is competitive lumberjacking, competitive aerobics, competitive martial arts. There's even professional eating. Turning something into a sport is simple all you have to do is impose limitations on it.  Mark Twain once  joked that the sport of golf was  “a good walk spoilt.”  It was just a smart ass remark, but the essence of sports lies in that little quip. Add in rules about teams, official measurements and require someone to carry a ball, and something as simple as walking from one end of a field to another becomes football.

Skaters have been antagonistic about branding skateboarding as a sport for decades. A lot of this comes from skating's DIY roots and the punk rock ethos it picked up in the 1980’s, but the need to refute and reject all attempts to make skateboarding a sport go beyond simple rebellious desires, it cuts right to the nature of skating itself. Limitations and skateboarding are two entities that always have trouble getting along. Entities that should have trouble getting along.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Popsicle Experiment

For the last two years I have been one of the thousands of skaters who has embraced alternate skate deck shapes. I've ridden shovel heads, punk points, curvaceous, wide bodied hybrids like the Street Plant Street axe, and I’ve had custom shapes made to my own specs, The whole time I've been pretty vocal about how these shapes can be more than just nostalgic, stylistic affectations.

About 3 months ago, for the first time in 2 years,  I set up my first popsicle deck. It was my attempt to come full circle with all my experimentations, and see how my perceived preferences stood up against the baseline of modern skateboarding.

Even in light of all of my shape advocacy, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t notice immediate advantages with the popsicle. There are good reasons to ride a standard shape, just as there are good reasons to ride a well-designed alternate shape. Teasing out what advantages come from the actual popsicle shape and which come from other factors like a shift in wheelbase size and width is a more subtle matter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Submit To The Grind: Examining Skateboarding's Original Sin

There are things in life so ingrained that we never notice how weird they are unless we take a big step back. Skate culture is full of these sorts of things. In fact, you could say it is built upon them. After all, we're a culture obsessed with finding ways to further complicate riding what is already the world's most dysfunctional vehicle.

Take grinding, and by grinding I mean all the related acts of board sliding , tail sliding, nose sliding, whatever, as well. Grinding, be it trucks or decks, is as essential to modern skateboarding as urethane wheels and precision bearings. But, step out of your skater consciousness and really ponder the grind for a moments and you will quickly realize our obsession with the grind is really fucking weird.