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.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Talking Gear Doesn't Make You A Poseur, And Not Giving A Crap Doesn't Make You A Jock

If you are familiar with the work I've done with The Ride Channel or even hung around the Parking Block Diaries Facebook page, you probably know I put a fair amount of thought into the gear I ride. In modern skateboarding, thinking critically about what you are riding is usually a point of controversy, not for the opinions you might form, but for the fact that you have an opinion at all.

I see it all the time on my pages or in the comment sections of my articles: Someone will ask some advice about how a deck rides or ask for suggestions on what kind of wheels to get, and, soon afterwards, the snarky and even hostile comments come rolling in. For many, even asking about gear is "over-thinking" and considering the specs of different products"Doesn't matter".  Before long they always end up twisting the good ole' Zorlac "Shut up and skate" slogan into their ultimate justification.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stop acting Like The Taliban. Start Acting Like The Hell's Angels

Skaters like to wax poetic about the virtues of core skateboarding, the values fostered by the underground...they go on about how important all of that is, how vital it is, yet, when anything comes along that might (gasp) move skateboarding outside the boundaries of their own personal, subjective and usually overly idealized ideology of "core" skateboarding, they start ranting about how skateboarding is in peril of being "ruined".

I have to wonder: Just what is this fragile thing they call skateboarding that needs so much protection?  It's not something I recognize. The skateboarding that I have cherished for three decades is not some precious, fragile little flower, it's a fucking weed that won't die no matter how hard it gets pulled, stepped on, or doused with poison. It's a weed that can't be killed because its roots are too strong.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

SLAPCHAT: With Danny Sargent

If there was a Mount Rushmore of curbs, Danny Sargent’s face would be on it, three stories high, right between John Lucero and Tom Knox. At the apex of his career it seemed as if there was no angle of concrete in the San Francisco Bay area safe from the wrath of Sarge’s trucks. But now, after moving his family to Minneapolis, Danny Sargent is getting a sample of the pain every midwestern skater felt back in the day trying to emulate his video edits on sketchy middle america crete.

“Out here the curbs are all weathered,” Sargent comments. “It’s not like out west, that’s for damn sure.”

But even if he’s mostly hitting bowls and parks nowadays, Danny Sargent is still a slappy god. “For me it was always a way of life,” Sargent says. “You go out and you slappy around.. it’s just what we did”.

A beacon of inspiration for curb fiends past and present, I was honored to collect Danny Sargent’s accumulated wisdom on the intricacies of the slappy for this edition of Slapchat.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why "International No Ollie Day" Should Be The Next Big Skate Holiday

Every year when Go Skateboarding Day rolls around, I get to thinking about other holidays skaters might think up to celebrate their culture. Usually these musings are just an excuse to crack jokes and troll for cheap laughs, but this year I’ve been thinking about something more functional, more sincere. I’ve come up with an annual event that will both pay homage to some neglected elements of skateboarding while opening the minds and trick repertoires of all the skaters who choose to participate. A holiday skating, especially street skating needs.

Friday, June 19, 2015

SLAPCHAT: With Matt Field

In the mid 90’s Matt Field and his Real Skateboards teammates like Keith Hufnagel, Mark Gonzales, and Greg Hunt did just as much to bring flow back to skating as any of the Sub Zero or Zoo York crew. Although he may be more renowned for wallrides and one of the best nollie front 180’s ever popped, Field’s east coast roots and soulful style means he’s also deeply connected to the dao of slap. Subjecting Field to the slapchat grind revealed that this smooth operator had a lot to say about slapping curbs. No doubt, he’s one of us.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Branding And The Birdman: To Advertisers Tony Hawk Is More Celebrity Than Stuntman Now, But What Does That Mean For Skateboarding?

In the days before I stumbled upon my first issue of Thrasher magazine, seeing the odd skater flying off a launch ramp or doing an invert in a soft drink commercial would whet my appetite for skateboarding while simultaneously giving me no real hint of the true flavor of the culture I yearned for. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the latest Mini Cooper commercial, featuring The Birdman himself, Tony Hawk, got me thinking about the strange looking-glass skateboarding has jumped through in the last 15 years.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

SLAPCHAT With Donny Humes of Smelly Curb Zine

All photos: Jason Bash

When Ohio Skater Donny Humes started Smelly Curb Zine in 1987, skating curbs wasn’t a nostalgic trend or a time-filling gimmick, it was the status quo for anyone who didn't have access to a pool or half pipe. (i.e., almost everyone not near a coastline). As decades passed and skating changed, Humes became more than just another guy making a zine about skating. Producing Smelly Curb by hand with X-acto knives and Xerox machines even after the advent of digital publishing, Humes became a sort  Keeper Of The Curb, using his zine to help keeping skating rooted to the crete thorough all its ups and downs. Humes efforts as an artist, publisher and skater have earned him the respect of skaters around the world and secured him a place in the prestigious Grand Order Of Curb Crushers. When it comes to slappy authorities, you can’t do much better than Humes. We ran Humes through the Slapchat gauntlet, and here’s what we got. Read and learn.

First Off, what counts as a slappy? Do you have to get your trucks involved? Some folks consider a noseslide on a curb where you don’t lift your tail a “slappy noseslide” or a slapped in blunt slide a “Slappy blunt”?

The first slappy involved grinding your trucks, literally carving or slashing the curb. there are variations now because that’s what skateboarding does, it evolves and expands. Slappies are all about the grind, and feeling the concrete
and trucks rippling under your feet.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Jimmy Wallace's Driveway Part 2

This is the second part of series of posts about one of the most important days in my skateboarding life. Read the first part here.

In the 80's anyone who took a journey on a skateboard began it at a crossroads. On one side was a slight detour off the conventional teenage track: a scenic exit that lead, ever so briefly, down the “skater dude” stretch of an otherwise conventional segment of the highway of adolescence.The other direction was the wrong turn; An exit that might put you into the social badlands for years, and out of the orbit of the right clothes, the right music, and the right friends forever.

Regardless of which direction that little piece of plywood was going to take you, the journey really couldn’t begin until you had a skateboard that cost about a hundred bucks and was endorsed by some feverishly marketed pro superstar. Lifer or poseur, to be a skater You had to have the right board, and there were magazines, videos and, for a while, even peer pressure to let you know what the right board was. It’s not very punk rock, its not egalitarian, but it’s true. The mid 1980s boom that helped define skateboarding, was subsidized by trendiness, conspicuous consumption and the acquisitiveness of skateboard manufacturers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Slapchat: Special Curb Stall Edition, With Kristian Svitak

The ever popular, Truck-Grab Butt Stall

When I hit up Kristian Svitak to do a Slapchat, I figured it would be the the journalistic equivalent of a slappy on a red painted roundy. Svitak’s from the midwest, he came up at the end of the 80’s, hell, he was a teammate of John Lucero and Jason Adams for years. I just sort of assumed that this Ohio-reared shredder would have a deep devotion to the sacred slappy. 

Never take anything for granted kids, especially in skateboarding. When I called him up on the road with my standard list of questions, I got a minor shock.

“I’ve never really had a slappy phase,” Svitak explained. “I enjoy doing them...but this whole slappy thing, my buddies are always trying to get me to do slappies. ‘Hey let’s go do slappies!’ Yeah, that sounds fun, but, nothing against the slappy, but when I think about the limited time I have to skate, I want to do all sorts of things. I’ve got skateboarding ADD, I only have so many slappies, and then it’s like: ‘Is there a set of stairs around here?’”

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Ace Of Curbs

Depending on your point of view, skaters like Ace Pelka are either saving curb skating, or ruining it forever. On one hand, watching this 18 year old shredder rip a curb is a lesson in stoke. On the other, seeing him pop a variation like a slappy to ollie impossible out is enough to make any veteran curb skater question whether a good, solid, frontside slappy is enough anymore.

“I totally don’t mean to turn slappies into a tech thing,” Pelka says, defending himself. “I just like impossibles, they’re my favorite flat ground trick. I was super-pumped to do a slappy and impossible out. I tried it and it worked out.”

Of course, this does nothing to excuse him for the slappy kickflips, or all the other variations he has completely dialed. Pelka is a monster. But if he’s a monster, then he’s a monster of our own creation.

Monday, May 11, 2015

SLAPCHAT With Mario Rubalcaba

The slappy: it's oh so much more than a skateboard trick. Its an attitude, a way of life, a philosophy. Every once in a while we get a chance to ask a bona fide master of the Dao of Slap a set of questions that go to the heart of the art and cut to the very meaning of the slappy.

Our first slappy sensei is Mario Rubalcaba. Mario has been terrorizing curbs and brutalizing drums for decades. He was a pro for the legendary Alva team in the late 80’s and early 90’s, a role model for the curb generation, and the beat behind too many bands to recount, including 411, Off, Rocket From the Crypt, Earthless, and Hot Snakes. He still drums, he still rips and he’s still putting out decks with Assault skateboards. Those who pursue the way of the slap should all familiarize themselves with the work of this San Diego Curb Crusher. Here’s Mario’s perspective on the sacred slappy.

First off, what counts as a slappy? Do you have to get your trucks involved? Some folks consider a noseslide on a curb where you don’t lift your tail a “slappy noseslide” or a slapped in blunt sllide a “slappy blunt”?