Monday, February 25, 2013

Skateboarding's Critical Mass: The masonite/Boneite Revolution

For me 1986 and 1987 were the years of a sort subliminal indoctrination into skateboarding. By the end of ’87 I had reached the turning point where I realized skateboarding was not going to be just a diversion for me, but a passion. These were the years when my friends and I slowly and painfully began to realize that those Nashes and Valterras we were riding weren’t going to be enough.

These were the years before Thrasher showed up in the bookstores but Thrashin' and Police Academy 4 were on movie screens. 720 appeared in the mall arcade promising answers to the tao of skating that, alas, remained elusive no matter how many quarters we pumped into it. At home, my friend Monty and I were ignoring the hackey sack and volleyball stages of California Games on the commodore 64 so we could go straight to shredding the 8-bit half pipe in the skateboarding stage. Skate Or Die came later, and we would find ourselves taking pixelized advice on equipment and skate spots from a double-chinned, purple mohawked skateshop owner named Rodney Recloose in the hopes of taking down aggro eddie. Of course when the screen went blank, no matter how well we scored head to head against Bionic Lester, we had to go back out to our driveways with our Valterras and Nashes and be Poseur Pete.

 In the living rooms of our suburban ranch houses there were sporadic commercials with tiny snippets of skating flash cut in between pitches for cola or hair gel. Each split second of shredding between money shots of Swatch watches or perspiring cans of Mountain Dew would have me putting my face right up to the screen, searching for information. In the mid 80’s, if skateboarding was the bright center of the universe, I was on the planet farthest from, but like a radio telescope operator with an open line to alien world, I was poring through the pop culture static and aggregating a transmission of skateboarding whose signal to noise ratio was slowly getting better.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Skateboarding: The Loser's Choice.

By fall of ’87 the only thing in worse shape than my cut-rate variflex board was my cut-rate team Murray BMX bike. This was a problem because, by 1987, the brief flare -up of budget board skating that got turbocharged by Back To The Future in ’85 was beginning to fade away in favor of a return to BMX. The little bubble of interest in skateboards seemed destined to be nothing more than a breather that barely interrupted the BMX mania that had been ongoing in the rural midwest since the beginning of the decade.

I had never had a good BMX bike and skateboarding had temporarily created a level of equality between me and my peers. All our boards were more or less equal in their second rate status. (not that we really knew that). But now BMX was re-asserting it dominance. On top of that there was a new type of BMX bike every kid had to have. It was called a freestyle bike, and with their rotors, pegs and neon colors, freestyle bikes were even further removed from my rusting, wobbly-rimmed department store Team Murray. To add insult to injury, my main partner in valterrorism, Monty, dropped his valterra for a hot pink GT freestyle bike in ’87.  This was a harsh blow. I was bummed not just because I was unsure who I would have to skate with while Monty was over-flipping endos on his bike, but also because his subdivision had the best driveways. The vicarious arms race that would later have every parent in his hood scrabbling to buy their little darlings the hottest car was supplying all those cut-rate carvers I had once skated with with tricked out, eye-watering fluorescent Dynos, Haros and, GTs.