Thursday, October 13, 2016

Shredding Chords And Shredding Boards With Lucero's Brian Venable

The exchange between skateboarding and music is  as old as skateboarding itself, a cliche really. As a fanatical skater Lucero guitarist, Brian Venable is a part of that old story, but his evolution from skater to musician to musician/skater is a little different than the standard “skate rat starts band” trope. Venable didn't pick up a guitar until long after he had put hs board on the shelf, and even though his band shares a name with the godfather of slappies and enjoys a sizable following among skaters, Venable tracked a lot of miles on the road with the band before he finally put his feet on grip again. Now, he’s back in full-on obsessed skate rat mode. Skating has become a big enough part of his life that Lumberjack Outfitters put out a Brian Venable deck last year (which quickly sold out). Rediscovering skating has bled into Venable’s work, and how he balances and blends shredding a board with shredding on his guitar, illuminates the eternal realationship between skateboarding and music.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Wheel/Journalistic Ethics Review, Or, Why Skateboard Product Reviews Have Always Sucked

For decades, skateboard magazines have dealt mostly in celebrity.  Skaters buy mags to see and read about the exploits of famous skaters, not to get practical information that helps them skate. Sure, there are occasionally gear reviews and trick tips, but these are inevitably useless.  Skateboarding is not a spectator sport, our culture is driven almost 100% by actual participants, yet our mags are basically selling spectatorship. Compare that with the mags that serve cyclists and runners or particpants in any other physical hobby: in other disciplines, the media is driven by things like training tips and comically exhaustive equipment previews and reviews. Nobody would buy a copy of Runner’s World if it was nothing but pictures of famous runners doing laps, but that’s kind of what skaters re doing when they buy a copy of Thrasher or Transworld.

The last thing I want is for Thrasher to mutate into Golf Digest, but I’ve always felt that there is a place for something more “rider-oriented”, in skating. Figuring out how to do this, however, is not so simple, and plunges a writer deep into the weird, murky depths of skating’s unique nature, revealing just how complex and substantive skateboarding really is.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The PBD Skatecoach 8 Point Program To Get Your Ollie Back

For Go Skateboarding Day this year, I reposted a blog on why “International No-ollie Day” should be the next big skate holiday. When I put it up on the PBD facebook page, I was surprised by the number of people who commented that the ollie is no longer part of their repertoire. Some were brash about it, others wistful. Either way, as an aged skater who recently reacquired a fair portion of his pop, I felt duty bound to share some tips on how you can get your ollie back. If I can do it, anyone can.

Around 2004 I basically stopped skating street. For the next 5 years I was pretty much skating bowls exclusively. From 2009 through 2011 I was lucky to get on my board once every couple months. In 2012, when I started re-discovering roots street skating in the parking lots and abandoned strip malls of my neighborhood, my ollie was all but gone. A little less than a year later I was popping high enough to clear a medium sized traffic cone, and far enough to clear the euro at Marsh Creek skatepark. Here’s a few insights on how a nobody like me, a mediocre skater even during his best years, who only had about 3-4 hours of skate time total a week got his ollie back.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Don't Blame Jamie Or Jaws, Here's The Real Reason For The Scooter Menace

Skating often captures the imagination of those who lack the will, temperament or dedication to take it up. This is why trends like rollerblades, snakeboards, rip-stiks, and razor scooters are always yapping at skaters' heels.

The latest incarnation of this phenomenon, the Razor scooter, has been especially persistent, not to mention obstructive to the modern skateboarder.  More than one skater has placed the blame for the scooter epidemic on the high-impact, highly technical trends in modern pro skateboarding. At a glance, the connection seems plausible: Elite level Skateboarding has developed a more risky dimension than it had in the good ol days, they say. An emphasis on increasingly complex and risky tricks rather than "just rolling", is making kids take up scooters instead of skateboards. The skate world, they posit, has become an all jocks club that welcomes only the most athletically driven skaters.

Take a closer look at skateboarding, and a good hard look at the Razor scooter, and it becomes clear that the kids riding those Razors wouldn't be riding skateboards no matter what sort of stuff was going down in Thrasher magazine.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I'm Not An Old Guy Anymore, As If I Ever Was before

My days of peak skill on a skateboard are long past.  In fact, at 42, I may be one ankle injury away from never popping an ollie again. I skate curbs more than anything else. I spend a fair amount of time skating bowls, but I don't worry too much about getting up on the coping.  So yeah, I'm an old skater: a veteran, a lifer.

But I don't think I want to be an "Old Guy Skater".

I have no illusions. I am old. Older than any skater I knew when I was in my prime, and there are lots of great things about being an old guy. The emergence of an older demographic in skateboarding has had positive effect on everything from the building of municipal skateparks, all the way down to the revival of curb skating. But with the coming of the old guys has also come a lot of back-slapping and self organizing, as well as a tendency toward a sort of pouty self-imposed marginalization.

No doubt, "Old Guy Skater" groups on social media  have been invaluable in getting veteran skaters together to shred, socialize, and share spots. I frequent a couple of really great ones, and when they are done with the right attitude, they are a great resource. Still I can never quiet escape the fact that, at some level, being a part of these groups, even the positive ones, also implies that being old relegates some skaters to a separate place in skateboarding, a place of either perceived privilege, or resigned inferiority.

The thing is, now more than ever, age has nothing to do with one's place in skateboarding.  Maybe it's time to drop the "Old Guy" branding from all the groups, blogs, and other outlets that bear that tag. Maybe it is time to re-think what being an "Old Guy" means, and what we are really trying to promote when we exult in our "Old Guy" status.

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.