Since it rained like a bastard yesterday I was not able to skate. So here's another flashback to the glory days of the pandemic. Again, just rolling around.
Monday, August 30, 2021
Saturday, August 28, 2021
First time I've skated in over a week. Maybe two? Relaxing rolling in the good old Pandemic Parking Lot. I shot a bunch of video for the upcoming Neverwas 5 video. These are a couple of throw away clips.
I had a good time. I got there a little too early and the sun was still a bit bright. About 91 F. By 6:30 it was cooling down, but I had burned a lot of the vital force keeping the body cool. I'll go out tomorrow evening a little later.
Thursday, August 26, 2021
The coolest skating really has little to do with the trick being done. Body position, dynamic movement conveyed in a photograph, power, grace. It's all right here.
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
This morning as I sat here in my home office, working from home and daydreaming about skating, I was thinking about this whole "flow" thing.
As I've harped on a lot lately, I'm obsessed with smoothness and flowing, continuous, turning movement. I've been thinking a lot about that as it relates to my own skating and freestyle, but also about how it can fit into skating in general. I don't see any way I'll be back at the Paderborn freestyle contest in Germany next year. I don't think the pandemic will be subsided enough by then. That's pretty pessimistic, but my observations of humankind lead me to this very depressing conclusion. I'm assuming it will be 2023 before that can happen.
This gives me plenty of time to go completely off the deep end and move my skating the way it's already going.
I was telling my friend Terry, one of the world's greatest freestylers, that next time I'm in Paderborn, win or lose, I want to show a whole different way of approaching freestyle. I'll do this not by doing weird tricks, but by taking the constant movement and curves to their logical next level for me.
As I was thinking about this today I remembered this guy I saw skate once. I was in college at Baylor University. The year would have been probably 1985. My friend Mike and I used to skate all over campus. This was when there weren't skaters all over the place destroying stuff. One morning we rolled up to one of our favorite spots, the front of a gym with some smooth stone steps in front.
There was a guy skating in the no-cars-allowed street right in front of the gym. It was smooth asphalt. The kind that is a pleasure to ride. The guy looked older than us. I talked to him, and it turned out he was a soldier from nearby the Fort Hood army base, just out having some fun. Shirtless, baggy shorts, tube socks, and either old school Vans or Converse Chucks.
This guy was riding a typical 10x30 pig with probably some 90a wheels and Trackers or Indys (could have been Gullwings, but not much else). He was doing nothing but carving around in Figure Eights, Circles, long drawn out carves both ways, and while doing this he was stepping all over the board. Surf-style board walking, 360 spinners, riding facing backwards, etc. He never stopped turning in some way. He never stepped on his own feet, and moved with absolute fluidity and confidence. He looked relaxed beyond belief. To this day I've never seen anyone as good at that stuff as this guy. It wasn't just the moves. His movement had a rhythm to it. Every nuance of body movement was perfectly timed to match the needs of the carve, never slowing him a bit.
It was staggering. My friend Mike and I watched him, and were both clued-in enough to realize we were witnessing something god-like. No ollies. No grinds. No flips. Just pure movement and flow. There are some good board-walkers now in the longboard dance community but this guy was better. Way better. The rhythm and timing was true, purest, and personal expression. He wasn't out trying to one-up anyone or film a video or other bullshit. He was just doing his thing, and it was beautiful.
There's not a pro skater on the planet at this very moment who could do what this guy did. Not one.
I have no idea who he was. But I do know it happened. We saw this. It was not a dream.
We watched for a while, said goodbye, and skated elsewhere to do whatever shit we were into. Troglodytes by comparison.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
I don't have any video or really much of an image to attach to this post. It's just something I've been thinking about for a while, contemplatin' and formulatin'.
I want all my freestyle moves, more than every before, to connect to carving turns or happen in the middle of a carving turn or be part of a carving turn.
The complexity of footwork in freestyle has not really incorporated flowing turns. Straight lines, or close to them, have the been the order of the day. Daniel Gesmer is really the only one who has tried this to my knowledge, and look where that got him. OK, sure, there were other factors that caused this really incredible skater to be if not ridiculed at least ignored. But I think he understood, 35 years ago (more?) what is just dawning on me. It's the turning that creates flow. And that is hard to do when you are doing standard freestyle as purists usually think of it. Forget beginning or ending a flip trick or shoveit during a carving turn. I don't think I've ever seen anyone do that, but I'm going to FUCKING DO IT.
My skating has been moving this way for a long time, but I think just now the direction is clear in my mind. This is going to involve developing a new level of flow and confidence moving my feet across the surface of my board as I ride. It will likely be subtle stuff that few will appreciate. That's fine.
No one may like it but me. I don't care.
OK I lied. This clip, while super basic and experimental, involves an ATTEMPT at moving my feet during a carve. I'm getting there. This was last year. I'm moving my feet at the end of the carve here, which is better than never, but I want it to flow THROUGH the carve.
So full disclosure, of the street dudes who were pros in the 1980s, Tommy Guerrero is by far my favorite. When I first saw him I didn't get it. But by I soon did. I don't think anyone has ever had the flow this guy has. The damned casual, relaxed, flowing flow that I envy with every neuron in my fevered brain.
I know. Gonz and Natas. Gonz and Natas. Both were incredible. But Tommy had something that few do, that is unrelated to tricks or progression. Dude can ride down the street and it just look better than anyone else. Yes. I'm a fan.
I think a lot of my friends from freestyle wonder where I get some of my cockeyed notions of good, better, and best. I hope this post might explain it a bit.
First a short video from Real Skateboards for a Tommy model they did some years ago, and then a pic of the young Tommy doing something crazy on a tire.
Tommy, 1985, Embarcadero, San Francisco (of course)
Friday, August 20, 2021
This came across my Instagram feed today and immediately took me to my happy place.
It is true that Grant Brittain could make nearly anything look great (he's the photographer), so credit where it is due, but I think it must be nearly impossible to take a bad shot of Chris Strople. In the late 70s, Strople was the guy mentioned by other vert skaters as one of their favorite skaters. Inventor of the Alley Oop aerial (aerial cess slide), he's yet another skater that every skater should learn about but few will.
So put Brittain and Strople together and you really can't possible lose.
This image from the reservoir at the Del Mar Skate Ranch, from the early 1980s, has pretty much every element I like in skateboarding. None of it involves board manipulation or being in the air. This shot radiates speed, smoothness, style, and energy. To me it has everything skateboarding should have. A perfect representation of a perfect thing.
Thursday, August 19, 2021
First, I'm enjoying writing this blog. I love thinking about skateboarding, even though sometimes it keeps me up at night thinking about what I want to do next time I skate. I think that's an alright place to be at nearly 57.
Blogging like this is kind of a weird thing. You write things. Opinions. Ideas. And then you have the gall to think someone might want to read it. It seems absurd sometime, but the goal in my case is two-fold. I enjoy the process, and I wonder if my experience might speak to someone else's, even if I never hear from them.
I'm going to end of revisiting a lot of things I've written about elsewhere, I'm sure. Like this post.
Growing up reading Skateboarder Magazine I was not a Tony Alva fan. I was not a Dogtown fan. I was a little suburban nerd with no older siblings to explain what all that imagery meant and whatnot. By the time I was really becoming more aware of the larger world of skateboarding Alva and the Dogtown guys had already been far surpassed technically in their skating. I read their interviews and they didn't speak to me at all.
In the 1980s I thought the whole Alva crew thing was dumb. The leather jackets and all that. The tough guy image. If I'd known what was really going on with all that, the drugs and whatnot, I'd have found it even dumber. Watch the Alva documentary that came out last year for more on this.
A few years ago Van's published this Pass the Bucket video featuring Alva. I really love this video. I love redemption. I love seeing people find peace and serve others. Having seen a lot of footage of Alva skating banks and ditches over recent years, I have found that I love his skating. Had I been able to see him skating like this back in the old days I might have been a fan. I love his skating on flat ground. Weirdly, when I see him skating banks it looks like the way I skate banks, which absolutely shocked me.
There's a lot to love in this video. But man, the first section of Alva just skating down the street...how much more raw and basic and beautiful is that? A scruffy old dude just enjoying a stylish ride down the street, hitting little driveway banks, etc. I - fucking - love -it. The peace he shows skating down the street connects with the peace I feel at my freestyle spot/temple on a hot Texas evening, or at the little ditch near my house, or out in a parking lot exploring what I can do with my skateboard and my mind.
I'm glad Tony Alva survived his challenges. I hope he continues to thrive.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
When I saw Ray Barbee skating in the Rubber Boys part of the Powell-Peralta's Public Domain video, my first thought was "freestyle is dead."
Here was a guy doing 360 shove-its, 540 Gazelle shove-its, and all manner of other stuff on a full-sized street board. The worst part -- he was doing it well. Actually that was the best part. But it really opened my eyes to the reality of what could be one an a 10x30 short-nosed modern board (modern at the time). I immediately started doing 360 shove-its on my full sized deck. It was fun.
The truth is that for some time freestyle was as close to dead as you could get it. While for a few years after that dedicated freestylers, mostly ams, were pushing freestyle forward, the industry had already given up on it. Given freestyle's difficulty, it was never that popular in the grand scheme of things. Stacy Peralta, who is often and rightly considered a visionary, thought is should simply be absorbed into street skating.
I'm pleased to say now, over 30 years later, that Stacy was wrong about that, and I was wrong too. But I understand where he was coming from.
Vert and freestyle had diverged so much over the previous 15 years. "Street style" was in fact the dominant form of skating anyway, and really always had been. Even in the mid-70s heyday of skateparks, most people couldn't be at a skatepark. Most skating was in real, naturally occurring streets, ditches, etc. So while skaters tended to deify the vert masters of the 80s, most didn't really skate vert and never would to any serious extent. Real vert skating, like freestyle, is pursued by a small, dedicated subset of skaters who don't just dabble. Full disclosure -- I was a vert dabbler.
So when I saw Ray Barbee, what I saw was the much-needed unification of skateboarding. A way of skating that embraced it all. All-terrain, graceful, powerful, creative, energetic skating.
All these years later I realize that it did draw from freestyle, but I think it left out some very critical parts, mainly a very specific aesthetic element that freestyle has and street ripping lacks. Over the years I came to miss that element.
Categorizing something like skateboarding involves a lot of very blurry lines. I often think is is a fool's errand.
Anyway, here is some more recent footage of Ray Barbee, whom I consider to be a god of skateboarding. He has something few others do. His ability to blend styles remains unsurpassed.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Well, it was rainy today and tonight, and will be the next few days, so no skating. Which of course means I'll be thinking about skating a lot, which is entirely normal for me.
Last week's dustup on the F-Freestyle forum on Facebook got me thinking a lot about freestyle, but about skating in general. I hold a number of conflicting attitudes about freestyle.
When I started skating in the mid-1970s, pro freestyle contests were not simply done on flat ground. This was right before skateparks started having bowl riding contests, and before the first pool contest (the Hester Pro Bowl series). Up until then, most skate contests had events like downhill, slalom, high jump, barrel jump, 360s, and freestyle. Freestyle events often included banked ramps, high jump bars, and even things like folding tables skaters would do kickflips off of and whatnot. So you'd see people doing runs that included wheelies and spins on flatground, but also slides, spins, and even kickflips on banked ramps.
What I'm saying is ... freestyle has not always been a pure flat thing.
As the 1970s drew to a close, vert was becoming very advanced, and so was freestyle. While you might still see some double-board moves in freestyle, you'd see fewer props. It started to be more flat-only.
So compared to some of my friends who stated in the 1980s, I probably have a little broader idea of what freestyle can be than they do.
Now, when I began there really were no stationary tricks. I guess you might see some in-place wheelies done as a demonstration of balance, or even a kickflip done in place, but for the most part freestyle was about rolling. I remember first seeing images of people doing rail tricks and 50/50 fingerflips. It never occurred to me that you might use those surfaces of the board in those ways. I started learning that stuff, and got fairly good at a few tricks, but I've never really fully bought into the idea of a stationary skateboard trick. It seems at best a way to punctuate a line, a novelty. A worst it doesn't even seem like skating to me. TO ME. Not telling anyone not to do that stuff. It has just never been my thing. So in that way, I have kind of a narrower view of what freestyle is.
Now, there are some things that don't fit into my freestyle paradigm at all. Like putting your foot down. At all. The greats of freestyle rarely even took a push during a contest run. The energy was all generated from the skating. The point of skating was to not put your foot down. When I first saw people doing boneless ones on flat ground, my first thought was "It must suck not to be able to do any real tricks." Boneslesses and footplants and streetplants and all that stuff was, in my mind, something for people who didn't know any good tricks on flat.
I have to admit that I still kind of feel like that. I don't mind seeing a stylish, classic hand down slide being done in a freestyle run, but fuck me if I don't hate seeing a no-comply, or moves like "no-comply impossibles", which is clearly just a shitty version of a real impossible done by someone who can't be bothered to learn the real thing.
So what I just wrote is kind of harsh sounding, I guess. I'm trying to convey my own prejudices and attitudes, based on my own formative era and history in skating. No-complies can be done really well! They can be stylish. I have often done them. While street skating. Not in a freestyle run. That's just how I'm wired.
Here's another odd attitude. I have always used freestyle boards for freestyle, but my own skating is mostly the same tricks done on different degrees of flat or angle. I will always pretty much enter a freestyle contest on a freestyle board, BUT, I almost don't consider a freestyle board a real skateboard. It is more of a specialty skateboard. At least to me. If your board isn't a board you would actually ride down the street, it is a specialty board. That's how I think of these things. So in some ways, I'd rather see good, well-performed classic freestyle tricks done on a bigger board that you might actually just go skating on than super technical and difficult freestyle done on a freestyle board. Is that strange?
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. Just exploring the dusty, moldy, confusing attic of my mind.
Anyway, as this blog is an exploration of my own ideas about my own skating for the most part, here is a clip from the 3rd Neverwas Skateboarding video. It is me, skating at the elementary school where I learned to skate starting at 11 years old in 1975, and where I learned all my basics. As of today, the concrete is the same. There are a few cracks, but I still recognize every part of that surface.
While some might call this freestyle, it is really just me skating. I consider this to be maybe the purest representation of how I skate. Take away everything else but flat, and here it is, laid bare.
I'll be honest. I'm proud of this one. I shot it all with a Go Pro and a little tripod, and also a phone. I think it's the best video I've ever shot.
Monday, August 16, 2021
This was going to be about how much I'm looking forward to skating tonight, and what it means to me. Then I realized I have a work event tonight from 6-8 that will not only totally fuck up my day, but it means no skating.
And I feel like my head is about to explode with rage.
I am 100% about to lose my shit. I needed that shelter that my evening sessions provide me. Needed it bad, and now I'm not going to get it, and I could just - smash - everything.
This my sound overly dramatic. It may be overdramatic. But when shit like this happens, I just don't care about anything.
That's how much I love skateboarding. That's how much I need it.
Anyway, I listened to this and felt better.
Saturday, August 14, 2021
OK, I reverted my previous post to draft status.
I stand by all of it, but it is ranty, and I don't want this blog to be ranty.
The truth is 99% of the time skateboarding is an island of tranquility for me. Every now and then I let something get under my skin. But I usually regain my composure pretty fast.
So, what to write about? More hot pandemic action.
There's a piece of freestyle footwork I do a lot I call the Walk-Around. It is, in my mind, a very simple thing. I've been working on doing them during the middle of a carving turn, and I'll get back to that soon. Actually I kind of forgot about until just now. That's what I get for having different lists of tricks to work on all over the place.
Any, this is just three variations on doing that piece of footwork riding around on a street board. This is from May 2020, just barely into the nightmare to come.
The more I think about it, the more absurd it is for me to get upset about the purity of freestyle. I just care.
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Today at work, as I zoned out and stared into the void in a blissful state of non-mind, four new flowing footwork variations manifested in my mind's eye. They were clear, possible, and of course adaptations and variations of footwork I'm already doing.
My skateboarding friends who aren't freestylers have trouble with the footwork I do. They are all rippers in a late '80s/early '90s sort of way. Rippers. Let's be clear. But I'm a little older than them, and my formative period in skateboarding was really 1975-1980. In those days there was no flatground ollie. There was no "street style," and most good skaters learned to do a little of everything, including freestyle, which of course involves moving your feet around on top of the board in ways a modern street skater simply doesn't learn.
But -- and this is important - my friends who are into freestyle don't really move the way I do either. They do great footwork. Complicated, subtle, precise, creative, beautiful footwork. But for the most part they came into skateboarding in the late 1980s or after. They skate kind of like I do, for the most part they are more accomplished than me, but still it's just not the same.
Now, this blog is an exploration of my own experience, so please, pardon my narcissism as I go further into this hole I'm digging for myself.
Everyone has their own style. I am not unique in this respect. And I know that if I really looked I'd find someone who skates like me. But I think my way of doing footwork in freestyle, the particular body English and whatnot, actually comes from my many years of bank skating.
I grew up skating the banked driveways in the alleys of our neighborhood. I didn't know it at the time, but this poor substitute for a skatepark was actually the best training ground I could ask for. I'd go do freestyle in the school parking lot, and we'd practice slides, bank spins, and wheelies on the driveways, riding down the alleys like they were snake runs.
So the truth is that while intellectually I tend to separate my "pure" freestyle from the rest of my skating, the fact is there isn't much functional difference. I do mostly the same kinds of tricks, just on different angles. And because of the bank skating, after studying my video for years, I can see that I tend to lean into things a bit more than most freestylers, as if I'm on a bank.
Operationally, this means for certain footwork I have to consciously WILL myself to remain more upright and centered above my board. And I have to admit, this does not entirely please me. I think it robs me of some of what makes me --- durrrrrrr -- special. hahahahaha. So I just do it my way anyway, and it usually becomes something different.
Well, since I've not gotten any new footage this week, here's some bank and flatland stuff from 2018.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Looking through my Vimeo account from last year and thinking obsessively about my own skating, I realized that these videos of me skating in that parking lot during 2020 are probably the least-bullshit representation of my skating. This is really how I skate if I'm just out skating. And when I say "just out skating", I mean not going out specifically to practice freestyle or something.
And other than just "skating", I don't really know what to call it. It's not really street skating as that is normally thought of, but it isn't really freestyle either. And as much as I love real, pure, freestyle, I'm not a real, pure freestyler.
Really, it reminds me of the way we skated when I was in 6th grade, and we all just had one board, and we just skated around and did tricks. No ramps. No parks. No videos to watch (it was 1976). We just had magazines and a few books to learn from.
I'm still doing pretty much the same thing. That is weird realization to come to.
Most skateboarders, and I am no exception, have skaters we really admire and we'd like to skate like them. We'd like their tricks, or their style, or both. But ultimately pursuit of another's style is folly. We always skate like ourselves. Always. More on this later.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
15 months ago we were a couple of months into the pandemic. If you are reading this years from now, potentially even when I'm dead, "the pandemic" refers to the Novel Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic that apparently began in China in late 2019, killed about 500,000 people in 2020, which I knew was going to be a massive problem when I saw video of chinese cops in hazmat suits dragging people out of their homes, which we were terribly unprepared for since our orange dunce President had destroyed our disease monitoring programs, which was terribly mismanaged by that same president and his various bootlickers resulting in (as of today) over 600,000 dead Americans.
If you are reading this in the future, I'm sure you have seen other pandemics. They are on the way. I hope the humans of Earth, in your time, did a better job handling them.
But in April 2020 I only had a strong opinion that we, as a country, would fuck this up. A hunch. Of course I was right, but at the time I had no idea just how bad the next 15 months would get. Even now, sitting here fully vaccinated and relatively safe, things are getting bad out there again, as millions of willfully ignorant imbeciles refuse to get vaccinated, shun masks, and...oh fuck it.
I'll just go skate.
This parking lot near my house would become my psychic watering hole for the next year. For a year I abandoned thoughts of "progressing", improving my freestyle skating, or even going anywhere else to skate. This was it. Close to home, big, and best of all no one around to share the air supply with me.
I began going to this spot with a street board and doing my own weird version of street skating. As is my habit I would "film" a little on my camera from time to time. Sometimes I'd set up a live stream of my antics on Facebook and just let my friends watch me skate and I'd respond to the chat messages. But mostly I'd just roll and let the left and right hemispheres sync up and get my head strait. Relax.
Truth is that this is not really much of a change for me. The enforcement of my solitude was a change, but it tends to be my natural state when skating anyway. Always has been. As I approach 60 years of age, that meditative aspect of skating has been gaining ground. I haven't given up on getting better. I never will. But there's more skateboarding than that.
I have more to say on this, but for now let me just post the videos. It is just me rolling around doing the moves I've done thousands of times. There is comfort and joy and peace in the familiar. Nothing new here in this video except the context, and sometimes the context is most important.
Not withstanding weather, skateboarding is always there.