there was a moment in the late 1980s and early 1990s when SKATEBOARDING was in a state of transition from VERT to STREET SKATING. this had as much to do with economics and the gradual democratization of the sport (because who could afford a ramp or a pool?) as it did a grassroots movement in youth culture. POWELL & PERALTA co-owner and film director STACY PERALTA knew this and wanted to promote street SKATING as a vehicle fo kids to take up the sport (and presumably purchase his boards). enter PAULO DIAZ, GUY MARIANO, GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ (R.I.P.) and RUDY JOHNSON. all in their teens at the time, they were a cohort of young riders that did their thing together as a group, supporting and encouraging one another. they rode for a local LOS ANGELES shop that PERALTA was clued into by an assistant and filmed them for his BAN THIS (POWELL & PERALTA, 1989) release.
THE LA. BOYS (THE ORCHARD, 2016) is an intriguing documentary that examines the impact of that influential video part in BAN THIS that focused on crew of DIAZ, MARIANO, RODRIGUEZ and JOHNSON from the perspective of the industry as well as fellow riders. notable interviewees include all four riders as well as STACY PERALTA, TONY HAWK, MIKE CARROLL, ERIC KOSTON, RAY BARBEE, KEITH HUFNAGEL, CHAD MUSKA, FABIAN ALOMAR, JOEY SURIEL, BILLY VALDES and KENNY ANDERSON among various underground filmmakers and cinematographers. the sense you get is that "THE L.A. BOYS" served as evidence of an organic phenomena of urban youth creating SKATE CREWS that collectively transformed their surrounding cityscape into a seemingly endless canvas of obstacles to grind, slide and interact with. no need for a ramp or pool.
there is also the community aspect of these four riders being picked from obscurity and promoted as a collective. all four proved the ethos of SKATEBOARDING as a bonding activity that didnt necessarily need to be competitive. sure, each of them wanted to progress and due gnarly tricks, but equally they wanted to see their friends due them. its interesting given the moment SKATEBOARDING is right now, with the legitimacy of the OLYMPICS bestowing upon this underground activity a sort of forum to spread the gospel. for all that exposure, what is essentially being pushed is a competition that is divorced from the experience of the majority of riders. what is being promoted and monetized by multi-national corporations and an indifferent media ecosystem is a new animal altogether that seeks to create narratives, storylines and legacies.
in other words its all bullshit.
riding, learning and interacting with your friends. that was the message of that group of riders as pushed and promoted by STACY PERALTA and his company. i find no issue with that. seems to be a pretty sweet and hopeful vision of a supportive, nurturing environment to make mistakes and progress and build together. i can get with that.
it is really hard to not love this guy. JEFF GROSSO was the type of opinionated curmudgeon you rooted for. i think this appeal was based in his intense love of SKATEBOARDING and its all-encompassing culture. his VANS YOUTUBE series JEFF GROSSO's LOVELETTERS TO SKATEBOARDING was an embrace of the CULTURE, COMMUNITY and the wider INDUSTRY and very much succeeded in spreading that contagious passion the sport. as he would always say with his fierce call to action, "why are you watching this? go out and skate!"
on this first anniversary of his passing i wanted to pay respects and try to make people aware of his legacy. he was not the most athletic and had insecurities, but was brave enough to share his shortcomings and vulnerabilities with the world. LOVELETTERS TO SKATEBOARDING was his way of spreading the gospel and reflecting the full spectrum of talent and enthusiasm in the culture. and we are the richer for it.
i remember being in college and taking a FRENCH FILM course knowing nothing about the subject. within a few classes and a few films i was made aware of the politics and aesthetic discourses at play and how such discussions transitioned over time. in turn, i became pretty intimately aware of a number of directors, actors, producers and production companies that hitherto i was blissfully unaware of.
for me GROSSO and his LOVELETTERS are very much of that vibe. some competitors and online keyboard warriors have dismissed GROSSO and considered him a gatekeeper and a self-appointed arbiter of SKATEBOARDING history, but i feel like they miss the point. he was presenting his passion, his knowledge and his opinions. if anything he wanted to share that passion and i feel all the richer for it becoming aware of how SKATEBOARDING shifted in terms of TRICKS, CUSTOMS, TECHNOLOGY, PUBLICATIONS, GRAPHICS, PRODUCTS, OBSTACLES, PERSONALITIES and FASHION to what it is has become to day: an eternal youth movement based on individual expression that has influenced global culture. there is literally no wrong way to SKATEBOARD.
i think one aspect of his influence that is often overlooked is his push for INCLUSIVITY, especially with regards to his efforts to push companies to promote women. he in essence leveraged his influence and attempted to make the industry more accessible and to a wider demographic that transcends GENDER IDENTITY, SEXUAL PREFERENCE, GEOGRAPHY and SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS.
so yeah, in summation GROSSO in my mind was pretty PUNK ROCK. you cant watch his YOUTUBE series and not buy into his DIY ethos of just go make it happen.
go skate. no expectations, just go.
again, hard not to love the guy. rest in peace. GROSSO forever.
this is probably one of the coolest things ive seen in some time. THRASHER MAGAZINE's youtube channel presents a series of skate videos that involve a mysterious mustachioed construction worker dude who holds boards, pipes and even some box-like contraptions to make himself the object skated on by his friends. there is no doubt a fair bit of brute strength and brutally awful decision-making in order to make these fever dreams a reality.
can't wait to see more. definitely check it out below.
now this is a series i can relate to.
MY WAR!, the online video series on the THRASHER MAGAZINE YOUTUBE channel and website basically follows professional skateboarders pushing their boundaries and attempting often extremely technical and risky tricks. and failing. over and over again.
skateboarders recounting their battles include JAMIE THOMAS, AARON "JAWS" HOMOKI, CHRIS JOSLIN, SAMMY BACA, DANE BURMAN, MILES SILVAS, PEDRO DELFINO, JUSTIN "FIGGY" FIGUEROA and MILTON MARTINEZ among numerous others.
some of these tricks take multiple attempts over several years and multiple injuries. what translates is their drive and passion to see their goal through, despite the physical and mental consequences. i find it hard not to be inspired by that.
a show about failure. brilliant!
in keeping with this enduring moment of national reflection regarding the systematic racism embedded within our legal, educational, political, housing, financial and policing systems brought to national consciousness by the generational clarion call of the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement, i wanted to step aside and showcase opinions and testimonials from the BLACK COMMUNITY i have come across. this will be an ongoing series.
this time i wanted to focus on a recent testimonial given on THE 9 CLUB from the likes of MISSOURI native and professional skateboarder STEEZUS CHRIST entitled "The Plight of My Black Skin."
pro skateboarding legend RODNEY MULLEN is a magician without peer. widely regarded as one of the most inventive riders to have ever taken up the sport, he is credited with combining street and freestyle skating into a hybrid arsenal of tricks, all of which are the language of the sport today. its true that other skaters have acquired bigger fanbases, but basically everyone is speaking in the lexicon he invented.
but that is not what makes MULLEN interesting to me. if you know his background than you are aware that he was isolated growing up in a strict household and his board was his singular focus in life. in fact, his disciplinarian father let him pursue it only to demand that he hang up his passion if he couldn't make a living from it. after winning contest after contest his father took such as further proof that such were not meaningful. it is truly remarkable how such a transcendent generational talent endured despite having little to no support from those he cared most about, given his isolated upbringing. in comparison TONY HAWK grew up in a household where skateboarding was their family business, his father being the head of competitions funny enough. MULLEN sadly was in a family where skateboarding wasn't encouraged but outright dismissed.
when i think of MULLEN, i think of passion and innovation. i think of survival. i think of someone that pursued their passion with a singular drive and saw opportunities for artistic expression where others saw a common toy. for me its that vision of his that separates him from the pack for me in the same way that a MAGIC JOHNSON no-look side pass bespeaks a mind that can look ahead at what will come to pass and execute such with conviction. most of all he is an artist whose dedication is rooted in a deep love for his craft, which is impossible not to respect.
when watching his tricks i get inspired to create. his abilities transcend sport, its more like ballet. its artistic expression in motion. MARTHA GRAHAM eat your heart out.
early 20th century french conceptual artist MARCEL DUCHAMP once stated that america's greatest work of art was its plumbing. to him the object was redefined and elevated to that of art purely by the transformational gaze of the artist.
i couldn't help but think of that idea when recently watching a documentary on the legendary BONES BRIGADE 1980s skateboard team for epoch establishing skateboard company POWELL PERALTA, which notably included STEVE CABALLERO, TONY HAWK, LANCE MOUNTAIN, RODNEY MULLEN, TOMMY GUERRERO, and MIKE MCGILL and later BUCKY LASEK, MIKE VALLELY and DANNY WAY among others. BONES BRIGADE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (NONFICTION UNLIMITED 2012) was directed by STACY PERALTA of POWELL PERALTA and Z-BOYS fame.
for me what made this documentary interesting is that skateboarding for this generation provided a way of reinterpreting the landscape in just as radical a manner as the ROMANTICS or TRANSCENDENTALISTS of the past. oppressive suburban monotony and urban jungles were transformed into a never ending canvass upon which to explore. as much as these athletes provided a new touchstone that shifted culture in terms of sports, fashion, music and normative definitions of masculinity, it is this freedom that they exemplified that i still find the most compelling.
for me personally i only experienced that level of transformation with my surroundings when i got a honda click scooter in MYANMAR. man i loved that bike. life over there was pretty isolating and monotonous where essentially i lived on the same compound of the school, which felt like a prison. the military government felt rather oppressive and it was a situation where you felt like you were being constantly monitored. i only lasted a year at that school and was happy to leave. but having that bike made my year. it gave me the freedom to really explore the countryside and meet locals, talk with artists and monks from other towns and villages. even now i can still smell the air of the rice fields and see water buffalo lounging in the distance.
without that bike i literally would've been stuck in that compound with a bunch of complaining ex-patriots (mostly americans) whining about some inconsequential bullshit. instead i was out taking in the food, sights and culture of the northern region surrounding MANDALAY. there is something visceral about feeling the wind in your face and being physically traveling in space, not in a traveling air-conditioned room (a la cars, trucks, etc) that makes you really take in the surrounding landscape and notice how it shifts and alters over time. maybe this has little to do with skateboarding, but i really miss that feeling. know i understand the risk/reward of motorcycles.