photo manipulation by nacrowe
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.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
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.