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.
“Being on assault has changed my style a lot,” Pelka explains. “That’s when I started doing slappies. Before that I was just a skate stairs, skate rails type kid.”
Yes, Pelka was not born into the curb life, he was corrupted into it by his elders, lured away from the call of street league athletics and energy drink fame by hanging with the wrong crowd. It’s an old story really.
“Skating with the guys at Assault and seeing how passionate the owner of Assault was about slappies got me into it. When I finally learned frontside slappies, I was like: ‘Dude, this is the funnest thing ever. They were kind of hard for me to learn, but now its just go out, and do it anywhere...”
Curbs, and old curb skaters, have been feeling the pain ever since.
The blame for this collective, Ace-induced inferiority complex can’t be completely lain at the feet of Ned Hadden, however. Jeff Grosso bears some responsibility, as does every old guy with a library of classic clips uploaded to Youtube.
“My style has a lot to do with (Jeff) Grosso’s Loveletters To Skateboarding. I watch those all the time and I see stuff and I’m thinking: ‘seriously, I want to learn that trick’. Loveletters seriously gets me pumped. I love watching old school videos,” Pelka explains. “All the Santa Cruz videos, Speed Freaks, Wheels Of Fire...I love some old Ben Schroeder parts...and the Bones Brigade videos...Search For Animal Chin is awesome...Mike Frazier, Powell 8, that’s got stuff that would make a great vert part today...”
So Pelka epitomizes what could be called the first post-modern generation of skateboarders; A young crop of shredders as influenced by the decades-old VHS artifacts uploaded online by skating’s old guard as they are by state of the art clips and edits on Instagram and youtube.
“I just get bored of watching all the modern day videos,” says Pelka. “All that gnarly stuff, it just gets repetitive. You know, Here’s another crazy handrail trick...With old videos it’s super sick watching skating developing. It’s super rad how some dudes could film a part in a day. That’s how it should be. It’s crazy now, some guys will work four or five days to get one trick. I feel like it takes the fun out of it.”
Despite all the grumbling about “the old days” that gets tossed around nowadays, skaters like Pelka personify how the generation coming up is so much smarter than we were. For them, new trends aren’t mandates, they’re options. An Ace Pelka edit has rail combos bumping up against slappies and footplant tricks, crusty ditch skating collide with ledge flip-outs. His skating is also a testament to the near complete demolition of the wall that used to separate “transition skaters” and “street skaters.”
Pelka shreds bowls and other transitions with the same roots style he applies to curbs. Layback airs to tail...smith grind seatbelt tail grabs... bonelesses... coping clobbering lip tricks straight from the Ben Schroeder playbook...this dude is definitely about more than slappies. Of course, force him to make the skateboarders ‘Sophies Choice’ between sessioning the perfect curb or a fresh new pool, and an inevitable identity crisis snaps in.
“That’s a tough one...” Pelka says, audibly stumped. “I guess it depends on my mood. You can never go wrong with a curb. The thing is, pools are so rare. I only know of two real pools where I’m at...if someone told me they found a really good pool I’d probably have to scope it. Pools are something I’m really trying to get better at.”
So, If Pelka’s antics are making your curb game look weak you can at least be comforted in the fact that he’s doing the same thing to the bros around the bowl or the cement heads lurking at the DIY.
Then again, maybe we actually need hammer swingers like Pelka out there to keep us from leaning too hard on days gone by. Whether Pelka’s skating gets you running to the nearest curb or just running for cover, its hard to argue with his attitude.
“I don’t necessarily want to be the ‘slappy guy’” Pelka asserts. “I just want to be the ‘well-rounded guy’, the guy who has fun. That’s what skating’s all about. I don’t want to take it too seriously ever.”
That fits any era’s definition of a good vibe.
Now, get the hell off my lawn.
Ace Pelka rides for Assault Skateboards, Speedlab Wheels, Ace Trucks, Broxa Clothing and Asylum skateshop. His pro model is available now on Assault.