Brexit Through The Gift Shop

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With an eye on clinching that (whimsically imaginary) Pulitzer Prize for skate journalism, we set about writing on the EU Referendum with impartial balance. We hit up friends in the industry, hoping for both pro and anti-Europe positions, but probably shouldn’t have been surprised when, being both skateboarders (tending towards internationalism) and businessmen (concerned with buying stuff and selling stuff), they overwhelmingly came down on the side of ‘stay in the EU for the love of God’.

This created a quandary. Should we, hungry for all the prawn-cocktail and cocaine dinners our journalistic prowess would surely bring, find a Brexiter at random to contrast with our friends at Keen Dist, or should we make a clear argument for voting one way or another? Pissing away future work for News International and a soul-sick early grave, we opted for an honest attempt to influence wavering voters. Because, quite frankly, being stuck on an island under the sole direction of gazillionaire Old Etonian xenophobes is too awful to imagine.

Thinking about something as small as skateboarding or, even worse, writing about it, can feel like the ultimate exercise in spoilt disengagement: sweating the small stuff whilst the wider world goes to hell. But knowing a lot about something little, and caring about it deeply – even something as ridiculous as grown men making four wheeled planks balance on two wheels – provides a microcosm within which we understand the consequences of those big, nebulous issues. I know shit all about the minutiae of European treaties, but do know something of the skate brands and individuals they affect, having spent twenty years soaking up otherwise pointless information from magazines and, latterly, social media feeds. That’s why skateboarding matters every bit as much as the stuff proper adults care about. If TV pundits claim to know all the ramifications of Brexit, they’re bluffing.

Some arguments for voting ‘leave’ on June 23rd are good, logical and are not incompatible with compassion and internationalism. Putting aside the Brexit campaign’s ugly stereotyping and opportunistic manipulation of communities decimated by the forces of global capital (blaming EU migrants for low pay and the loss of good jobs is like blaming oil-covered sea birds for the Gulf of Mexico disaster), the EU and its decision-making apparatus, the European Parliament, Commission and Central Bank, are deeply flawed and have acted as brutal agents of neo-liberalism. This is particularly the case with Greece, whose popularly elected left-wing Government (ordained on a pro-EU but anti-austerity mandate) have been forced into a succession of impossible situations. The EU have demanded brutal cuts, which prevent Greece recovering from recession, which in turn prevent it from paying its debts, requiring yet more cuts, and so on.

There is also the libertarian argument, with which many skaters sympathise. If national governments are bad enough, taxing our hard won wealth and demanding we live as service-dependent weaklings, pan-national government is even worse. But there are also good responses to these arguments. The EU may be flawed, but it’s easier to change, and to support our friends in Greece (and Spain), by staying in. Secondly, leaving may rid us of one layer of unwanted government, but we’re still stuck – and even more exposed to the whims of – the UK Government we currently have (quite apart from the fact that the libertarians tend to believe they are strong enough to independently protect themselves and their families – one bad slam and we’re suddenly very weak and very thankful for the health service our taxes pay for and the workers’ rights our EU membership protects, such as paid sickness absence and protection from arbitrary redundancy).

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This leads us to one of the most offensive claims made by the Brexit campaign: that the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU that could instead be spent on the NHS. Quite apart from the fact that this figure has been proven false (it’s not only a significant over-estimate, but it also excludes the funding the UK gets back), think for one moment who is leading the ‘Leave’ campaign. Press moguls, right-wing Tories and UKIP, all of whom have advocated accelerated privatisation of the health service and the end of free healthcare at the point of use. The likes of Nigel Farage support an American-style insurance systems that actual Americans have fought hard to reform (only partially achieved with Obama Care). NHS spokespeople have argued that Brexit would cause a terminal staffing crisis. This is because real terms pay cuts and reduced funding for trainee nurses alongside Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s war with junior doctors have caused an unprecedented exodus of UK-trained health professionals. Without being able to recruit from across the EU, the NHS could not currently function. In the last few years, almost every skateboarder I know, myself included, has been put back together by the NHS.

Trade is both the biggest, most frequently cited argument for the UK to remain in the Union, and the argument that makes us most likely to switch off in drooling boredom. We shouldn’t: the EU is the UK’s most important trading partner by some way. Of course it is – taken together, the EU is the world’s biggest economy (it exceeded the size of the USA in 2003). The independent Office for National Statistics estimate that more than 40% of UK exports of goods and services go to the EU and for more than 50% of imports come from the EU.

No wonder the Americans are so keen for Britain to stay in. Owner of Keen, Mike Halls (who distributes the likes of Quasi, Polar, Welcome and Hopps amongst others) told us: “We’re seen as a gateway into Europe for a lot of US brands, whether that’s direct selling to stores or simply working with EU distributors. If we leave the EU who knows if we’ll work out a new trade agreement, and if so what time frame? If we don’t, I know ourselves as a business will have a dramatic change on the export side definitely and one or two of the brands we work with will almost certainly skip us out of that ‘gateway’.”

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Brexiters have tried to underplay the impact on trade or argue that, because the UK runs a ‘trade deficit’ (the value of EU imports exceeds the value of exports), leaving the Union would “hurt them more than it hurts us” – as if noses cut off to spite faces is something worth celebrating. In a free trade area, which is what the EU fundamentally is, we get those skateboard decks and fresh Magenta t-shirts cheaper than we would from elsewhere (where distributors have to pay trade tariffs – either increasing the mark-up they have to pass to shops and then to customers, or reducing the profit margins that keep them in business).

It has been argued that, in the short term, a £ sterling weakened by a ‘Leave’ vote would be good for British products, because it will make the stuff we sell to our continental friends cheaper for them to buy. On the other hand it will make imports more expensive. As A Third Foot are Britain’s only skateboard manufacturer, in skateboarding we import an awful lot more than we export (most of our decks and other hardware, a large share of soft goods, and all skate shoes). Even if the £ recovers strongly and quickly, it creates a lot of uncertainty, which isn’t helpful for our industry – which of course needs to think long term (how much of next season’s range to buy in, etc.).

At a time when the skate industry is in flux, in both a good way, with the rise of the indie brands (many of them European), and a bad way, in the consolidation of the footwear under the sportswear giants, increasing the cost of trade with our biggest trading partner could be extremely damaging for home-grown distributors and skate shops. On this, Mike adds: “Look at UK stores which are currently buying some rad brands direct from Europe. Would they still order in knowing they have to be paying duties and taxes from our friends in France and Germany? Same again for European brands, us as distributors wouldn’t be able to soak up the margin and pricing would definitely have to be evaluated.”

jbgilletOf course it isn’t just goods and services that EU membership guarantees free movement, it’s the other ‘factors of production’ – particularly labour. This gets us to the most controversial part of the debate: immigration. The ‘right to free movement’ means any citizen of an EU member state can work, study or retire in any other EU state. This has costs and benefits – but is only a problem when we have vast inequality across Europe. You don’t leave Spain for Britain for the weather, you leave because Spanish youth unemployment is over twice the rate of Britain. That’s why we have experienced high levels of in-migration from other countries in the EU: British employers need more people to work for them than Spanish, Czech or Polish employers. Reduce the inequality, and you reduce the movement of people. Britain leaving the EU will not help those southern and central European countries recover from recession – and if they don’t recover, people will still arrive at Dover, Heathrow and Gatwick. The refugee crisis shows that desperate people will try to risk everything for a better future regardless of whether or not they have a legal way into that country. If we work together to ensure that there are fewer desperate people in the UK, in Europe, and in Africa and the Middle East, immigration will fall off the newspaper headlines.

As it is, skateboarding has benefited massively from free movement. How many amazing European skaters have you got to hang out with? In Nottingham over the last few years, we’ve had welcome additions to our scene from Poland, Italy, Spain, France and Germany. What would the Long Live Southbank desk have looked like without European free movement? Anyone who’s tried to spend time living and working in the US, or Australia, will know what a horrible nightmare a restricted visa-based immigration system can be. Skate lore is full of legendary characters like JB Gillet separated from their sponsors for stupid-ass visa reasons.

This leads us back to the cultural argument. Skateboarding is inherently internationalist. It celebrates travel and interaction with new scenes alongside localism. It enriches our lives through ‘worldwide connections’ in the words of our French bros at Magenta. This is not dissimilar to the original dream of European cooperation, seeded from the horror of the Second World War by idealistic British as well as continental politicians. The dream was to strengthen links and common interests to make future apocalyptic conflict impossible. Turning away from that dream requires a very cold heart, even if the current reality of the EU falls so far short. The people who reject this dream aren’t just the suit wearing, smooth-talking politicians, but scary looking white dudes who march through Athens, Stockholm, Cologne and Paris waving Swastikas.

Photo: David Lagerlöf

Photograph: David Lagerlöf

Finally, it’s worth thinking what the UK’s public realm would look like outside the EU. British politicians of all parties have been unwilling to invest public money in cities and towns outside London and the South East since the 1970s. Instead, the ‘regeneration boom’ that started in the late 1990s, gifting skateboarders across the North, Midlands, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with skateable spaces, was largely due to European funding – known as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) to their mums. Britain may pay in to the EU each year, but it gets millions of Euros back through these two funds and, rather than being spent exclusively in London (where private investment is overwhelming concentrated), the funds’ rules mean it has to be spent in areas of need. The skatepark revolution in Scotland is largely funded by Europe (the Scots claim that, if we leave the EU, they’ll try again to leave the UK in order to re-join Europe).

Take my usual day’s skateboarding. I get a tram into Nottingham city centre (funded by EU money). I meet my friends to skate the blocks in the vast, open area of the regenerated Sneinton market plaza (funded by EU money). At the end of the day, we may eat good, affordable food and watch the sun go down outside Broadway arts cinema bar, which puts you face to face with the 12 stars of Europe on a plaque acknowledging the funding that paid for the place. In total, more than £100 million of EU funding has gone into the regeneration of Nottingham alone since the millennium – and like Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool or Manchester – this Northern town, hammered by the de-industrialisation of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, now looks like an optimistic place to live, work or study, rather than the barren, dilapidated ‘Shottingham’ it was in 1996 when I first moved here.

Of course, you should make your own mind up – but you should think about it carefully. It’s not hyperbole to describe the EU Referendum as likely to be the most important thing you ever vote for. And for pity’s sake, please get out and vote on Thursday the 23rd. Current polling suggests only half of people under 35 expect to vote. If this is true, it’s your future, your right to travel, work, trade and study anywhere in Europe that people at the end of their working lives will be deciding on.

Written by Chris Lawton
Illustrations tweaked by Scott Madill.

If you have strong views, skate and/or music knowledge and would like to write for Crossfire, please contact us.

Skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics?

Illustration: George Yarnton
Words by: Chris Lawton

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It’s now almost certain that skateboarding will join the 2020 Olympics, alongside surfing, karate, climbing and baseball. In the words of scandal-prone ancient lizards at the International Olympics Committee (IOC), these five new sports will, “offer a key focus on youth, which is at the heart of the Games vision for Tokyo.” And they understand youth as well as the next liver-spotted octogenarian.

Although the IOC are trumpeting this as, “the most comprehensive evolution of the Olympic programme in modern history”, most actual skateboarders could not care less. The 99% will keep on slappying curbs and talking shit, same as they ever did, whilst the elite drift away into a weirdly organised alternate reality for ambidextrous teenage millionaires.

But we would be naïve to think that grassroots skateboarding will be left unchanged when the minority join the biggest and most politicised sporting event on earth. This thing we love so dearly, for all its supposed anti-capitalist idiosyncrasies, will now be absorbed into the ultimate trade show of neoliberal excess.

Despite talk of ‘legacy’ and the unifying power of sport, the experience following London 2012 boiled down to former working class estates being cleared for forests of under-occupied glass and steel, secured by private security firms and funded by murky back-handers. Allegations of corruption around the 2020 Games are already coming in thick and fast before the preceding Games at Rio have even started, including a bribe to the sum of €1.3 million paid to the secret account of a former IOC member by the Tokyo Olympic bid team.

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Then there’s the tendency of governments (both democratic and less-so) to see Olympic achievement as an exercise in ‘soft power’, an opportunity to antagonise rivals without launching anything shiny and explosive. Watch the panic if a Ukrainian skater racks up a higher score than their Russian counterpart, or a North Korean (or, just as frightening, an American if President Trump comes to be) falls hard on their arse whilst the camera pans across an undiplomatically giggling audience. Skateboarding succeeds more than many ‘sports’ in breaking down national, ethnic and religious barriers. Favourite skaters transcend patriotic allegiances. What if Lucas Puig is competing? How many will claim the most tenuous French genealogy? I’m from Lincolnshire, so I’m screwed, my ancestors resisted the Normans for generations.

If you’ve fought the boredom long enough to follow recent developments, the various bodies vying to speak for skateboarding are killing it in the acronym game. The International Skateboarding Federation (ISF) and the World Skateboarding Federation (WSF) cannot represent Olympic skateboarding because they aren’t IOC-recognised. Some dicks calling themselves the Fédération Internationale Roller Sports (FIRS) are, but represent rollerskating/blading. The IOC, being most reasonable Masonic survivors of an ancient alien civilization, have said that the ISF and WSF have to form a ‘Four Man Technical Commission’ with FIRS. The press release says “a yet-to-be appointed athlete representative is set to complete the group”, meaning maybe half of them will have actually stepped on a skateboard, but smart money would bet on them being 100% white, male and with a mean age of 50. The IOC will make their final announcement on whether skateboarding will be in the 2020 Games just prior to the opening ceremony for Rio this August, and then it will be for the Technical Commission to work out what this should look like.

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beerskate_james_scorpionSo what good can come when skaters emerge blinking from subterranean tunnels into floodlit futuristic stadiums? Some real-as-fuck brothers and sisters have passionately made the case for three potential benefits. Firstly, the Olympics will raise skateboarding’s profile with governments, charities and corporate sponsors, resulting in increased funding and better facilities. Secondly, competing in the Olympics will lead to parity of esteem for professional skateboarding against both more established ‘action’ and mainstream sports, resulting in better sponsorship deals, wider exposure, and, consequently, increased grassroots participation as a generation of little kids get new heroes. Thirdly, as Lucy Adams said in her recent Sidewalk interview, if organised skateboarding wants to be in the Olympics, it has to treat female skaters better. This helped force Street League’s hand: “Street League needed women because that’s the ISF’s perspective of how a sport is going to join the Olympics… They needed us more than we needed them – no women, no Olympics.” The IOC have confirmed that the five new sports considered for inclusion in 2020 will have “equal numbers of teams for men and women.”

This is an opportunity to kick the persistent boorish male dominance into the long grass, but I have concerns with the other two arguments. Funding may come for new parks, skate schools and coaching, but with a very particular view of what skateboarding should be: something that takes place within a designated place, and for the primary purpose of nurturing competitive potential. In the aftermath of London 2012, grassroots sport quickly fell off the agenda. Then-Education Secretary Michael Gove railed against widening participation to “non-sporty” kids. Whilst cutting £162m from school sports partnerships, he argued that the goal for school sports policy should be international competitive success.

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With this view still very much in place, projects will be favoured that funnel kids into ever more selective cycles of competition. Genuine street skating – the lifeblood of the culture – is unlikely to be looked on more benignly. The need for greater codification of ‘better’, in a way the general public can understand, risks turning back the clock to the bad old days where only hard tricks down big obstacles counted. At this time where anything goes tricks and fashion-wise, the balance could tip back more easily than you may think: kids play S.K.A.T.E by Berrics rules even on the flat-bottom of the smallest village quarter pipe.

People like me, comfortably surrounded by skate paraphernalia, need be aware of the privilege underpinning these anxieties – which can sometimes let off an unpleasant whiff of Western superiority. The skating that I love, with its deep, interlinked counter-cultural language of fashion, art and micro-brands, is a product of luxury. It is an embarrassment of riches to “meh” at a skateboarder for being “too good”, and then choose from a hundred tiny sub-strata to more closely meet our preferences. A kid in Paraguay or Liberia is unlikely to turn down a Red Bull or Monster contract because they’re too core or because that lime green logo is just too damn ugly. Several skate commentators have guffawed at the idea of countries that ‘don’t get it’ clothing their teams in matching lycra, to absurdly bumble through a misunderstood approximation of proper skateboarding. To say that a skater in a developing country won’t get it because of some inevitable ignorance is a crass example of what Edward Said called ‘Orientalism’ (a function of Western culture’s assumed superiority over the East). You only have to look at the faces of the girls and boys participating in the Skateistan and Skatepal projects to know that they ‘get it’ instantaneously, as does anyone who really gives themselves to skateboarding whatever their prior exposure to its sub-cultural complexities and unwritten rules. However much you dislike the idea of rich countries scouting pre-teen skateboarders to perform at superhuman levels, before being consigned, knee cartilage ground to dust, to a lifetime of TV panel shows and shopping-mall appearances, the potential for true internationalisation shouldn’t be downplayed.

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For those picked to represent their countries, the glare of an Olympic stadium is likely to increase their cachet, but to what kind of sponsors? The logos of bigger skater-owned firms like Deluxe, Girl, and even DC and Sole Tech are unlikely to adorn stadiums. Olympics sponsorship, including secondary endorsements in magazines, TV and online ads, is strictly controlled. In 2012, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Adidas paid £700 million for the right to be official sponsors. From this, monopolies are created and enforced. Just 15 brands are officially associated with Rio in 2016, including Coca Cola, Red Bull, Starbucks, McDonalds, Nike and lovable outsourcing specialists Atos (famous in Britain for their scandalous delivery and then abandonment of the ‘fitness for work’ assessment for disability benefits).

If you are worried, as many are, that the sportswear giants’ influence in skateboarding is already deeply damaging (read MIA skateshop owner and former Habitat pro Ed Selego’s interview for Skateboard Story), this is not going to help. For London 2012, when Adidas were the official sportswear sponsor, Olympics Chairman Lord Coe suggested ticket-holding fans might be turned away for wearing non-official sponsor branded clothing, although they would “probably get in with Nike trainers.” If Nike emerge as the sole sportswear sponsor for the 2020 Games, it may be very difficult for competitors (and perhaps fans) to wear branded footwear other than Nike SB. That will clearly have huge ramifications for forcing through a footwear monopoly in professional skateboarding that could take decades to disrupt. Carroll’s internet breaking interview with Jenkem on the timing of Marc Johnson’s jump from Lakai to Adidas indicated just how much pressure the bigger core brands like Girl are under from the ‘Big 3’ sportswear companies and their insatiable desire to dominate every market they dip their toe in. The ‘five year plans’ presented in those boardrooms are certain to include a sub-section on the Olympics as a tool for furthering market dominance.

Although the money may pour in up until 2020, Nike’s strategy with other ‘action sports’ – such as surfing and snowboarding (their surfing team were moved from Nike to its subsidiary Hurley without any notice whilst snowboarding was unceremoniously dropped) – raises questions about the longevity of this investment. Nike may currently prioritise skateboarding as one of their bespoke equipment markets, but this could quickly change in the fickle world of shareholder capitalism. Whilst Lakai, DC, Etnies, Emerica, Huf and even Vans (itself a massive corporation) will surely always have a strong skateboarding representation as long as they are trading, the experience of our new Olympics buddies in surfing suggests that this may not always be the case with Nike.

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So with all that being said, it’s hard to shake the concern that many aspects of ‘real skateboarding’ are both fragile and intrinsically worthy of protection. This incredible combination of factors that have, at this time, resulted in the ecosystem indie companies (whether or not they are enabled by the sportswear giants in order to disrupt the bigger skate brands), DIY projects, an injection of weird artiness, and an appeal to all ages within a church that expands from creativity to performance.

All this is threatened in some way by the combination of mainstream absorption – with all the rules and expectations that implies – and accelerated commercialisation. Tony Alva, an early innovator for what ‘professional’ skateboarding could look like, said to Grey Magazine: “I would rather see it stay kind of rootsy and more soulful and artistic instead of go full commercial and be in the Olympics and shit. That’s just my personal opinion. I’m not really anti the Olympics, I just don’t think we need it.” Long-time Habitat and Adidas pro Silas Baxter-Neal in his latest interview with Free magazine, takes a more optimistic view – seeing the benefits of attracting more kids from all over the world. Although initially drawn to the competitive athleticism of Olympic skating, as they get older, a proportion of this new generation may move towards the “videos and the travel side of it and more lifestyle, art form of skateboarding.” Silas sees this side as more resilient than we may fear, even under the glare of the mainstream and all the “kookiness involved”.

We’ve got less than four years to sure-up the weak spots and to change the way we consume to more consistently support those brands that genuinely move skating forwards. Otherwise the summer-long festival of naff, jock bullshit could irreparably push skateboarding towards the mall brands and some kind of horrible numbers game.

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Throwback to Day In The City 4 (2005)

ditc1Ye olde dusty hard drives in our office shelve many old photos that need airing, so first up are a bunch of party photos from 2005’s Day In The City video comp, the fourth in an annual series that Snickers sponsored back then featuring many faces you may remember from London’s ever changing skate scene. Most of them still shredding too.

Those around back then will also remember the winning entry by Jono Verity featuring Brendan Ryall and a young Tom Knox as they cruised London’s spots, plus Matt Hirst’s edit featuring Dan Beall and Jerome Campbell, and the hilarious Only Fools and Horses parody with Zorlac, Cates and Moggins repping for Death. Fun times.

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Do we really need hostesses at skateboard comps?

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As the Instagram updates of mind-blowing skateboarding started flowing in from this weekend’s Tampa Pro event with Chris Joslin’s bs flip and Shane O’Neill’s winning run, I couldn’t help but notice the scantily-clad models standing aimlessly by the podium as the winners brandished their trophies. I’d always thought it a little repulsive at the darts, with old sweaty men walking alongside models half their age, in short dresses, but somehow hadn’t noticed it at a skate comp before. Although not shocking in itself, was it really necessary? And, as we celebrate today International Women’s Day, how does this contribute to the portrayal of women’s involvement in skateboarding?

With no women’s competition or category at Tampa Pro, the hostesses (as they are called in the industry) most likely represented the bulk of female presence during the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against lipstick or miniskirts, and certainly nothing against these pretty women making an easy buck. I also know, as a marketer myself, how invaluable sponsorship from big companies such as these energy drink corporations is to some events even taking place. The first question is – why do these sponsors want hostesses at skate comps in the first place?

As big brands from outside of skateboarding get involved in events such as Tampa Pro and Street League, they bring with them aspects from other sports, and try to make skateboarding more appealing to the masses. I spoke to Nic Powley, owner of Skate Pharmacy and a long-time organiser of major skateboarding events such as the UK Skate Championships here in the UK who commented that: “I guess the people that make the decisions think it’s fun to have promo girls there but then they’re probably men and they probably don’t skate either. It’s just the usual situation of people that don’t really understand skateboarding and our culture holding the purse strings, and having the power to make the big decisions – not just about having promo girls there, just generally about how skateboarding and skateboarders are portrayed and marketed to.”

One of the things which was a little disappointing about the hostesses’ presence at Tampa Pro was the concurrent lack of women’s skating over the weekend. As Nic points out, “you don’t get promo girls in Tennis or Athletics so much – there are females competing at those events on the same days so I don’t think they’d get away with it. It seems like they are mainly used at what are considered male-dominated sports such as motor racing and football, where they feel they can get away with it.” Indeed, although Street League does feature a women’s category as well as hostesses during the prize-giving, hostesses feature mainly at events notable by their absence of female competitors.

The next question is: Is there potential to move away from this sort of thing in the future, should we (a Royal skateboarding “we”) wish to?

With the amount of innovative marketing products and channels being used and developed across the world, I’m convinced there are better ways of promoting a brand in a memorable, yet more appropriate and effective way.

I caught up with Christophe Picquard, organiser of the annual world cup competition Far’n High near Paris, where the Brazilians triumphed last year with Luan Oliveira and Leticia Bufoni winning their respective categories: “We’ve never had hostesses in miniskirts at the Far’n High. I have to say when you see them at American contests you do wonder what they’re doing there, although it doesn’t really bother me. It’s not that shocking.”

Yet does he think that sponsors request the presence of hostesses unconditionally or could they be persuaded to get their message across differently? “I don’t think sponsors put a massive amount of pressure in that way, but organisers probably don’t see it as an issue.” Powley says he’s never been forced to accept to feature something at an event which he wasn’t happy with: “I imagine a brand could easily be dissuaded from it if they felt it was something that could go against their image. I think they just apply the marketing rules for Formula 1 or football to skate events and maybe that’s not the best approach.”

A photo posted by Austin Gage (@buddha_abusa) on

Although there’s a need for investment to organise bigger events, these brands clearly want to target us skateboarders and the people we appeal to – so we do have some power to steer it in the right direction. By realising that having hostesses at skate events might not appeal to most skateboarders, by then standing our ground when dealing with sponsors from outside our world, and by continuing to push women’s skateboarding more and more at events and elsewhere, as Nic and Christophe have done, we can all keep enjoying and take pride in what we do.

Undeniably, and importantly, there are currently bigger issues to address within skateboarding. As Christophe points out, “I am more concerned about girl skaters not finding sponsors because of their physical appearance, for example.”

In the meantime however, major events such as Tampa Pro and Street League are seen by a wide audience of skateboarders – some young, some girls – as well as the wider world through the media. I’m not shocked by the use of hostesses, just not convinced it’s the best way to portray skateboarding. As Nic says: ”As a young girl looking at getting into skateboarding, you’d want to see some female role models actually doing a sport or activity rather than just being a sideshow.” And that sums it up rather nicely.

Written by Claire Alleaume

A photo posted by Sam (@sam.fny) on

True Stories – Fabian Alomar and the Stiffy Bouquet

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Take a good look at this crew photo shot by Canadian photographer Jody Morris from his 20 Plus book. It captures Fabian Alomar, Keenan Milton (RIP), Mike Crum, Gino Ianucci, Jason Dill, Eric Pupecki (and tour driver) in the midst of a banging era of skateboarding whilst on tour in Nottingham, England, 1994. Steve Rocco’s anarchic revolution was well under way by then, Big Brother was the best mag on the shelf, Sidewalk Surfer was just starting up, DC Shoes and Chocolate Skateboards were also just launching and Gator had already served two of his 31 years in the slammer for murdering his girlfriend and burying her in the desert.

“I was working for World Industries and being very lean times in skateboarding the European distributors had pooled together to do a collective tour with all the World brands traveling together,” remembers Morris. “For many of us it was our first trip overseas, and quite possibly one of the best.”

The influx of American teams over the next couple of years lead to the Generation 97 comp at Wembley Arena in London. This mammoth skate event featured an old Jag dumped in the middle the street course and saw the likes of the Gonz, Creager, Rowley, Senn, Wainwright, Koston, Duffy, Brauch, Vallely, Daewon, Templeton, Reynolds and many more sign a page in the UKs skate history book. To this day, G97 still puts the likes of Street League to shame, which isn’t hard, it was all about skateboarding.

Menace pro Fabian Alomar remembers G97 well and delved into his memory banks for a quick story from behind the scenes. What goes on tour, stays on tour…well, for at least two decades.

Fabian Alomar – Lausanne, Switzerland 1995.

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“OK, so back in 1997 we were in London to compete in a comp there at Wembley, and well, it started off good. I was skating, getting my run down and the rest of the Menace, Girl, Chocolate, World Industries heads were on the course and we were doing our thing. I remember approaching another pro skater who was talking shit about “skaters in LA all wearing gold chains and driving Honda Civics and sagging and shit” in an interview he had done in one of the mags. Of course, me being the person I am, once I laid eyes on him I dropped in from one side of the course to where he was. We won’t mention his name for his safety cause he couldn’t bust a grape then and I’m pretty sure he’s still peeing his pants when he gets confronted. Talk about ‘Turnt Down’.

Anyway, back to the story…

So, I took a break from skating and went outside to grab a hot dog from this truck that was parked out in front and flirted with the Hot Dog Girl who was serving up and let me just say this…by the time I smashed on them two hot dogs with a vengeance, I knew I’d be smashing Hot Dog Girl’s ass with fury. Yeah, I bagged that broad in no time.

So later that night we went to a wack-ass place to drink and smoke. I still remember the FUCKEN MUSIC! There was techno and fucken lazers everywhere! I was over it and remember talking to Hot Dog Girl again, grabbed her and said “let’s go to my hotel” and she followed.

OK, here’s were shit gets kinda fucking weird. I was piping Hot Dog Girl in my room – and believe me, I was really giving it to her “FRANK HURTS STYLE” with the kids in the room (Javier Nunez and Lee Smith) acting like they were asleep. They were too young to go out so they hung out in the hotel, smoked blunts, drank beer and jerked off to porn. Now in the middle of my sesh with this broad, I hear frantic banging on the door to my room, so naturally I pulled out, ran to the door with a stiffy, opened the door, and it’s Guy Mariano standing there.

My lil’ buddy is scared outta his mind (and fucked up wasted of course) and there’s this older, big ass dude right behind him yelling shit out and he looks like he wants to hurt Guy. So Guy gets behind me and throws a fly punch on him from the right and said “fuck him up Fabes”, so I threw a punch too. Naked.

This fucker got nailed twice and that was enough for him. So now Guy’s telling the story and it turns out that Guy stole the bouquet from a wedding reception in the hotel lobby, all drunk and shit. I was like “of course everyone from the wedding is gonna be pissed Guy! I mean fuck dude, you stole THE fucken bouquet of flowers and you still have it in your hand?! Give it back so all these people can get the fuck away from my door, can continue with their wedding, and I can continue penetrating Hot Dog Girl!”

So I threw it back at these fools, and by the way, I am still in my birthday suit (minus the stiffy) but I still wanna bang this broad so bad. So now Guy notices something that I totally missed. Hot Dog Girl has 666 and some Devil shit Pentagram and crazy bat shit tattoos all around her snatch. So now I’m like WTF?! I’m a firm believer in God bro, I ain’t trying to bone the Devil homie. Now me, Guy, Jav’s and Lee are trippin on her tats and this Devil / Hot Dog Girl is spread eagled telling us the story on how and why she got her crazy ass tats around her pie hole.

To make a long story short, at the end of the night I banged her with the lights on with everyone watching and making comments, and I was doing all the positions I loved in porn, even taking requests from the homies too. Yeah, those were the days. The making of FRANK HURTS. Good times!”

Words by Fabian Alomar.

If you have a True Story you want to share, write to us.

Order 20 Plus online or ask your local skate shop to get one in for you.

Enjoy this G97 footage:

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Photo: World Industries, Blind, 101, Menace, Plan B – Euro Tour – Amsterdam, 1995. Standing L to R‭: Fabian Alomar‭, ‬unknown‭, ‬Kelly Bird‭, ‬Henry Sanchez‭, ‬Keenan Milton‭, ‬Yves‭, ‬Colin Mckay‭, ‬Pat Duffy‭, ‬Chris Hensley‭,‬‭ ‬Eric Pupecki‭, ‬Kareem Campbell, Joey Suriel‭, ‬unknown‭. Front L to R‭: Ronnie Bertino‭, ‬Gino Ianucci‭, ‬Matt Hensley‭, ‬Jeremy Wray‭.

For more Fabian Alomar stuff, watch this Vice documentary.

Exposed: Mouth of the Ribble

MOTR BLINGBlackpool can be extremely thought provoking. Those thoughts mainly consisting of big plastic cocks and rock emblazoned in phrases you wouldn’t want entering your child’s mouth. Once you look behind the dazzling lights of the British town dubbed as a Mini Las Vegas, it can sure be another story.

This group of friends are hell bent on hauling themselves down almost anything skate-able and are shining a new light on this seaside delight in the form of many seaside showdowns. After seeing snippets of how these boys have worked their socks off filming for Mouth of the Ribble we asked their kingpin, Jake Powell, a few questions about his new scene flick and what went down in the making of it.

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So, Jake, all in all how long has it taken for you to gather the mass amount of footage for this film?

We properly started gathering footage around three years ago, but the last year has been the most intense, simply in terms of trying to get it finished. When we began making the film I was in my final year of university and spent a lot of my time filming, instead of studying. However, since August 2013 I’ve been in full time work. As many people know it can be very hard finding the time to film, especially when working with a crew who are free at different times, studying in different areas and of course, having to deal with the harsh reality of soaked out sessions, but that’s what you expect from living up north by the sea.

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What compelled you to make a full length film? With the pace of online content it is becoming a rarity.

My initial aim was not to make a full-length feature but to make a 15/20 minute mix edit, mainly influenced by Sam Fickinger’s BATTYLIFE video. After a while though more and more people wanted to get involved and everybody wanted a premiere. It made complete sense to make such a big thing about it due to the effort that everybody has put into it.

Obviously you are from Blackpool, was most of the footage shot there?

I would say a solid 90% is filmed in and around the Blackpool area. There are so many spots, and lots others would deem as write-offs; it isn’t unusual to have to sweep up used condoms and cigarette butts before you get to skate. Besides this the spots are sick and I hope the video really shows that. We took a few trips to Manchester visiting Lloyd Mcleggon. On another occasion the Mashlife crew gave us a tour of Huddersfield, which was extremely nice of them! That’s where Henry skated into a river in his shit-stained boxers whilst covering his pierced nipples, worried his Mum might see the footage. (Rumbled, sorry about that.)

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Retrospectively is there anything from the filming process that stands to be particularly memorable?

Honestly, there are far too many, I could ramble on for hours about the strange moments endured with these boys, I’m just going to name a few. From Josh Sanderson breaking his face whilst skating the smallest ledge in existence, down what must have been a good 20 stair to Henry rubbing his bum-hole on anything within sight. Jamie also refuses to shower for weeks on end, somehow smelling worse when he eventually does, which is why he’s ended up with the nickname ‘Pepperoni-Pits’. Seriously, fuck being in a car with him, he fucking stinks!

Jack Simmonds also bust his knee really bad whilst trying to one up his last trick. It all happened as some ripped security guard, who can only be described as a cloud, was trying to escort us off the premises so it was just all-round bad timing. I’m sure he’s just had surgery on it too, after being on a long ass waiting list, get well soon pal.

Joey Packman’s intro is absolutely insane, I’ve never seen a grown man fly like that. You’ll have to wait and see that one, but off camera he took his pants off and had managed to fall into a load of glass, it looked although he’d been stabbed up!

The main memory that springs to mind was a trip to Preston this summer. We had about five or six cars all loaded up with local talent, some of the Preston kids saw we had posted about the trip on our Facebook and came along to watch. Everyone killed it and put in their 100% to get tricks done, especially D-Bag who’s an animal. It was the first time filming with him and it’s safe to say the man is a machine. By far the most productive of all days.

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This film is entirely in VX, was this a hard decision to make with most people now leaning towards HD content?

I decided to buy a VX1000 just after my 21st birthday, which was when HD seemed to be taking over. I only really bought it to make small edits and never anticipated what it would turn into. I see a lot of people bringing out VX Parts recently, so maybe this is pretty good timing.

Finally, what can we expect from you and the crew in the future?

I would really like to aim my focus towards some smaller projects working with local shredders, park edits and much more travelling etc. I’ll most likely be taking the plunge and investing in a HD camera sometime soon. For the most part, I’ll be keeping the Blackpool scene alive. It hasn’t been this active as a community since the Banny days (RIP). Big ups to everybody and anybody that skates in this crusty, torn down town.

Enjoy this exclusive edit from the DVD featuring the St Anne’s crew charging the streets, stomping all over the lyrical spats of Blackpool MC EvilEyz. This footage was filmed only over a handful of sessions featuring Danny Moore, Leigh Devine, Yousef Souaidi, Liam Edgerton, Andrew Heppell and Danny Broadbent.

We asked some of the reprobates involved in this film to reminisce upon some of their favourite moments and experiences for your reading pleasure.

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Gabe Durkin

“One of my highlights from filming was seeing Sandy’s pale white penis dangling through a hole in the roof of a gazebo, like a disgusting fleshy chandelier. We were skating the back of a school, with a fucking stupidly thin piece of metal taped over skate stoppers that were at the top of a gnarly three block that Pendlebury was trying to varial heel, meanwhile pretty much everybody else was chilling. It was at this point, having been coaxed on by Max that Sandy decided to climb on top of the gazebo and dangle his manliness through a small rip. “They’ll take your kids off you, Sandy,” shouted Pendlebury. Classic. Pendlebury didn’t get his trick but Sandy got gnar, with his dick – his pale, dangly dick.”

Boardslide / Sam Pendlebury

Lloyd Mcleggon

“For me, it’s been more of a challenge rather than spending a period of time filming. Since I was a late addition on an already diminished length of time, I was interested to see how much I could actually get. So on the days the crew was out, it was already on my mind of how much should I aim for today? I know it isn’t always the best of attitudes but when you’ve only had four full days to film, it has to be done. I loved the vibe that was present when with the ATB crew! That is definitely something I haven’t felt in a long time, but we were all definitely in it together.

Because of my approach, I really enjoyed filming as much as possible. However, in the same breath, I didn’t enjoy the pressure I laid upon myself to film so much in such a small time frame. It was certainly exhausting.”

Sam Pendlebury

“Best memory of skating has to be when the lads from Blackpool came to Huddersfield skating with the lot from Endemic. They showed us some prime Yorkshire spots, crusty ditches and worn down reservoirs.
A good day of skateboarding and beer, but mainly beer. Whilst on the topic, my favourite memories for sure have been spent largely off camera whilst out drinking in Blackpool town. There may be many memories missed thanks to what The Mirror newspaper coined “The Booze Capital of the UK”. However, these memories mainly consist of Sandy’s occasional shuffling (once you manage to get him to drink any more than half a pint) which looks although his legs may be repeatedly breaking and fusing back together. Josh also seems to take a similar approach towards nights out whilst throwing the odd handstand in there, which consists of strewn limbs cascading into the faces of fellow club goers.

Finally, a bit of advice for anybody who wants to film a local video: Remember why you skateboard. IT’S FOR FUN! Don’t take it too seriously. Shout outs go to ATB and Jake for putting in the time and effort because I know I could not be arsed filming me for hours on end.”

Drop in / Henry Calvert / Shot by Josh Sanderson

Henry Calvert

“Firstly, apologies to everybody for exposing myself far too much and far too frequently, it’s reached the point now where Jake could probably tell me whether it’s a shaving rash or STD without even looking. It’s been absolutely amazing going to all of these great places with some of my best friends, every time we’ve been out has been emblazoned in memories. Max has been the ultimate motivator on all trips anywhere and everywhere, the drop in photo (above) is down to him calling, “Free ciggies or no teeth, your decision.” The teeth removal performed by his own hands of course. Max is like one of those super fucked skate dads who punish their kids for not landing shit, employing sanctions for not enough effort and time wasting would be a regular occurrence.

One of my favorite trips has to be going to Chorley with just a small group. Mr (Joey) Packman met up with us and it’s always amazing to see him skate with that sketchy and unorthodox approach – it simply looks magical no matter what the trick is. Later on in the day to avoid saturating the car any further with my bodily fluids, I decided to take a spill in a fountain, as it was the peak of the summer. A random woman with the raspiest, most irritating voice came over and screeched down a manhole on repeat: “GAREH, GAREH, THERE’S BOYS SLIDIN’ EVERYWHERE, SORT EM OOT!” It may have been the most comical line she’s every said in that fucking annoying voice.

Robert Sanderson

Filming for this video has been a right laugh, from skating the shitty crusty spots that Blackpool has to offer, to skating some other crusty spot just a road trip away. One standout memory has to be immediately after Josh carved part of his face up whilst in Huddersfield, I’m sure somebody would’ve mentioned this incident. Anyway, once we scraped Josh off the floor, leaving a good portion of his skin adhered to the concrete beneath him, we skated on to the next potential spot where a few Huddersfield heads are skating with Sidewalk’s editor, Ben Powell. Once Ben sees the state of Josh’s face, he rummages through the boot of the car in a Mary Poppins kind of way, reappearing moments later with a first aid kit. Josh in his half-hearted manner tosses out the phrase, “don’t worry about it mate, I’m a lifeguard”. This phrase deemed as a rhetoric throughout the day, with Josh beckoning it out every time somebody nearly bit the dust. One question I must ask Josh is where were you when those heroic lifeguard actions of yours were truly needed? You’re about as fake as David Hasselhoff. Poser.

It’s been pretty difficult this past year trying to film as I recently got married and having two kids has pretty much sponged up any remnants of a social life that I have remaining. Everybody was buzzed at the premiere. People travelled from all over Lancashire and Yorkshire to view the finished product. This was probably a regretful choice depending on how many clips they saw of Henry with his knob out.

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Maxwell Oldrid

I don’t really know where to start with this. I hate skating street but this video would’ve been shit if I hadn’t spent half of the time bribing people to do tricks with either money, ciggies or digs. That’s how half of these tricks were landed. Obviously spending far too much time with these boys has resulted in seeing multiple cocks and anus’ on a regular basis (mostly Henry’s), there’s an obscure photo of his arse hole floating around on a roll of film somewhere. whoever ends up with that in 50 years is surely in for a treat.

Durk is my favourite memory. How he came to skate with us is unknown and his origins within this universe are also unknown, he’s an international man of mystery. Also we took an impromptu trip out to Kirkham one night and came across this abandoned fire station with tons of stuff to fuck about with. Of course we become the subject of a Banksy piece, pretending we’re complete vandals and hurling fire extinguishers through windows etc etc, I have never had so much fun being an utter cunt whilst surrounded by equally as large cunts!

Pick up the Mouth of the Ribble DVD from the ATB Collective for just £5 from here.

Wallie / Gabe Durkin / Shot by Josh Stanton

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Riding through time with the Palomino

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The run up to Christmas, New Year and the first couple of weeks after are the busiest time of the year for the shop, hence the slightly late arrival of this piece on 2015. The year turned out to be another classic for fans of skateboard videos, if for no other reason than the release of Isle and Jake Harris’ Vase film. I make no claim that the choices below are the ‘best of 2015’, and to only pick ten was a struggle, but what you will find is a selection that got me stoked over the last twelve months. With the release of full length videos from Palace and Polar this year, and a whole load more projects from independent filmers on the horizon, 2016 isn’t looking too shabby either.

I really hope you enjoy re-visiting some of these, and hopefully there may be one or two you haven’t seen yet. – Nick.

Supreme/Bill Strobeck: Sickness

Bill Strobeck put together this one for the Supreme X Thrasher collaboration. Some serious skateboarding from, for me, one of the best crews of young skateboarders out there at the moment, and some killer AVE footage. Bill Strobeck’s style of video might not be to everyone’s taste, but even non-fans should be able to overlook that when the skateboarding of Kevin Bradley, Ben Kadow and the rest of these boys is just so savage.

Antosh Cimoszko: Side One

Vancouver native Antosh Cimoszko put out four really great edits in 2015, along with a ‘zine that accompanied one of these, ‘Heat’. Heat was a clip featuring Dylan Fulford and Will Blackley in NYC, but his was the first of the year and the one that brought Will and his crew to many people’s attention.

Ocean Howell Howard House Video Part

Stretching the 2015 rules a little here, but it went online right at the very beginning of the year so I’m calling it! Ocean Howell’s part from Rich Jacobs’ lost ‘Howard House’ video. Howard House was one of San Francisco’s many skate houses, home to Rich, Ocean, and many more between the years of 1996 and 2004. The footage is from 2003, and was one of the main reasons that in 2014 Rich decided to edit all his footage together to form the full length.

Kyle Wilson’s Welcome Rat Signal

Any bit of footage that young Londoner Kyle Wilson puts out is a pleasure, and his place on Slam’s already stacked team is well deserved. London skateboarding has a bright future.

Johnny Wilson: Horny

The amount of footage these guys put out is pretty inspiring. The clips they just put out in Johnny’s regular HD series are so good, and embody the spirit of the crew edits that have become so much more prevalent in recent times. Horny was the first longer video that Johnny put out in 2015. It’s great to see the rise of these dudes, many of whom are now finding themselves getting hooked up by some great companies.

Venue: Prayer

As above, a crew that is so so productive. Richmond, and Virginia as a whole has so many incredible unheard of skateboarders, and no shortage of filmers putting out regular videos, most notably Will Rosenstock. Will released Brick this year, the quick follow up to last years A-Street, as well as contributing much to Gilbert Crockett’s part in the Vans Video. This edit was put together for Thrasher and hopefully opened a few more eyes to their scene.

Bronze: Trust

Of course, the editing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the skating in Trust keeps up the undeniably high standards set by the previous Bronze videos. Bronze as a crew/brand has been such a huge influence on skateboarding over the last few years, both in the feel of the videos and the way the crew and series has morphed into what is now generally considered a brand. Every attempt to rip off Peter Sidlauskas’ editing style and aesthetic promptly falls flat on its face.

Colton Elrod/The Ends: 8.00AM

I’m not sure who put me on to this one, but it has become one of my favourites of 2015. A whole crew of guys, many of whom I hadn’t heard of, who all work in the Deluxe warehouse in San Francisco. No frills, bells or whistles, just intro, skateboarding, credits. It has a killer opening part from Adrian Vega, and Adam Becerra is certainly one to keep an eye out for in the future. The DVD came with a great photo ‘zine by Bram DeMartelaere, further proof if it was needed, that DVDs and print are in good health in the world of skateboarding.

Familia: Maverick

Such a criminally underrated company. Subscribing to the ‘less is more’ philosophy, everything always seems so considered with Familia, from the graphics on their boards (including a collaboration with acclaimed artist Roger Ballen), to the videos they put out. Maverick is three minutes of brilliant skateboarding, filmed and edited to perfection. So rad that Steph Morgan is filmed by his brother Andy, and the edit is by their brother Gavin. Cannot wait for Familia’s full length which is penciled for release this year.

lurknyc: cee-lo

Slipped in right at the end of December. Nick Vonwerssowetz returned with a new video filming with some new guys which is rad to see. More Adam Becerra footage is always great, especially when he is followed by one of the best filmers out there at the moment. Nick’s editing is always great and the soundtrack on this one is a treat. Really stoked to see him making a few bits of clothing, and to see how many people are down to spend their pennies to represent what he’s doing. Cee-lo could be the 411VM NYC Metrospective Vol. 2, this one is just too good. Big up lurknyc!

And the rest of the best….

Honourable mentions also have to go to all the Toriotoko, Rios Crew and KPTokyo edits from the year, Yardsale’s Softcore, Josh Stewart’s London Raw Files series, the Scumco & Sons edit Bite It, the first Car13 promo, the Hockey/FA videos, Alltimers’ Pickle Time, Lovenskate’s amazing Connoisseur of Quality and god knows how many more… Here’s to 2016.

Find daily radness at the Palomino shop online right here. There’s also a January sale on as you read this so grab some bargains before they are all gone.

2015 And What?

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With the time now upon us to gather in the great mead halls of our forefathers and rowdily toast another year gone by, celebrating 2015 whilst speculating on the fate the Norns weave for skateboarding in 2016, huddled beneath the world-tree Yggdrasil (whilst a grafter busily ‘cretes the other side of its ancient trunk in an attempt to out-Daewon Daewon. That boy don’t need no ‘crete to skate a tree, fool).

It’s tough to drink to 2015 – a good year certainly – without noting that things moved less rapidly than in 2014. ‘Cherry’ came out in spring that year, and almost immediately switched styles of skating and dressing across our younger brethren. Pontus had been urging us to ‘charge’ and, in doing so, add no-complies, wall rides and pole jams to our repertoire for a few years previously. But ‘Cherry’ really cemented that vocabulary in the imagination of the masses whilst encouraging kids to refresh wardrobes to an extent not seen since the Baker rock-star-come-pirate switch-up of the early noughts.

2014 also saw the indie brands square up to the skater-owned giants like plucky dwarven warriors, chopping a few heads off and doing a few things differently, whilst the strangle-hold of the global sportswear mega corps tightened inexorably. 2015 has seen a continuation of these trends. Magenta celebrated 5 years with red wine and screeching urethane, whilst Polar and Palace became legitimately two of the most popular core skate brands on earth – sought after by salon-fresh hipsters and scabrous street rats alike. All done with frequent collaborations with the sportswear giants – demonstrating how Harvard-trained boardroom strategists currently prefer to buy-in their grassroots cool through timeshare rather than take over.

officespaceThis leads us to the other development that has become clearer in 2015 – the schism in skateboarding as a professional career trajectory. From the mid-90s to the noughts, there were just two paths for the talented hopeful: to succeed at skateboarding as a full time job then either have a 20-30 year career or, more likely, move behind-the-scenes, reaping any good will accrued through stunts and video parts; or fail to get a break, live in shitty accommodation on sub-minimum wage through your 20s and maybe 30s, then resign to mundane adult life bereft of marketable skills. Both outcomes rested on the belief that, in order to excel at skating, it must be pursued full time, to the exclusion of all else. This was encouraged by industry heads as well as the natural tendency of young skaters to think of nothing else. Although skating is huge in 2015, the route to the Big Time has puckered tighter than an arsehole.

Quadrants of the internet throughout 2015 have lamented the demise of the ‘middle class’ pro skater, respected style icons but not stadium fillers like many of the OG Chocolate team (Mike York, Richard Mulder, Scott Johnston etc.). Being other skateboarders’ favourite skateboarder don’t pay the bills no mo’. Only a tiny minority of Street League-consistent superstars will emerge from a horde of really, really good kids. Those few, counted in 10s rather than 100s, will have their names embroidered next to Swooshes and will retire to Hollywood condos.

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“Fuck those guys, I’m not interested” says almost every active skateboarder over 14. Especially if they’ve tried to sit through ‘We Are Blood’. But 2015 sees an alternative to poverty pay and perma-adolescence, which any skateboarder of whatever age or talent level can attain. A route that brings about opportunities to bask in the occasional esteem of our peers through independent videos, photo zines, regional websites and bro companies – as long as one has a creative eye to bring something notable to the right time and place. 2015’s grassroots skateboarder, sponsored or unsponsored, super-talented or regular Joe, is a multi-tasker. They do a regular job that they may or may not hate – from New Jersey, NYC and New England skaters’ stated preference for set building, to Europeans who might be Uber cab drivers, teachers, writers or bin men. Then at night or on their days off, they pitch into the running of a company, contribute to media – printing, blogging, archiving and sharing – and spend time ‘creting some disused local space, campaigning for public facilities, or learning about architecture, urban planning or public action. Left-leaning economists call this the ‘gigging economy’, a phenomena in which human creativity and ingenuity exploits the cracks that splinter across late capitalism, refusing to let meaningless jobs in the service sector define who we are, whilst taking their pay cheques to pay our spiralling living costs.

Gif: Brophy in Obtuse Moments by our Tumblr bud, BetterSkateThanNever.

brophyThe internet enabled the ‘sharing economy’, but 2015’s skateboarders are working out how to turn this into a balanced, life-enhancing portfolio of cool stuff – that sacks off dreams of Street League without resigning one’s self to a damp apartment and a mournful, regret-filled adulthood.

Channel 4’s economics editor, top dude and keen surfer, Paul Mason, argued in a recent interview about his book ‘Post-capitalism: A guide to our Future’ that late capitalism, in its failure to adapt to technological change or to do away with the inefficient, unjust hegemony of the old elites, has created space for its successor. He advises us to do the jobs we hate, but “take another percentage of yourself and you put it into the emerging post-capitalist world”. This will be a world that trades on skills, knowledge, social connections and the well-being we can get from the things that have genuine meaning to us. Because we cannot, and probably should not, make a living from the ‘true’ version of skateboarding that we love so much, a thing that creates great meaning but little profit, we should do other things on the side – for the time being. In 2015 we have seen that we don’t need to forlornly push back real life, Canute-like against the rising tide. We can embrace it whilst bending it to our will, filling our time with advancing skateboarding as it should be.

So this ‘here’s to 2015’ tribute is themed: My ram’s horn full of mead is tipped frothily to the multi-taskers, the odd-jobbers, the night-time rippers and filmers, the bedroom entrepreneurs. You guys are the future for the kind of skateboarding that I care about. It’s a future that you and I can be part of without handing over $100 to sit in some air conditioned stadium and stare as one tiny, distant Swoosh guy outscore another, in an endless loop or pearly teeth and breathable sports fabric.

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And now, to 2015’s Finest Footage in my personal opinion, feel free to post your own at the end of this article:

The unanticipated breakthrough for 2015 were Budapest’s Rios Crew. These unknown, mainly unsponsored dudes deal out relatable but fucking raw skating across a variety of former Eastern-bloc architecture and their own DIY spot, capturing the imagination of tastemakers like Jenkem and Quartersnacks. Their last video offering, Jönnek – a rough edit set to music put together by their mates – made a great impression at the Vladimir Film Festival. A big, enthusiastic crew, a work ethic and an eye for spots are the only ingredients that matter for skate videos that stoke other skaters out. The Rios boys’ output is unlikely to win new converts in Ty Evans’ current target market of MILFs and pre-teens, but that’s not the point. Thousands of dollars’ worth of RED camera kit and editing suites, airplane tickets and fashion-forward wardrobes be damned: get your buddies out of the skate-park and point a cheap DSLR at them and you too can be the belle of the ball. But don’t expect to make any money out of it. This output is entirely without the endorsement of the Swoosh, the arrow and a star, or three stripes.

Dudes who have taken the Swoosh’s patronage are Quartersnacks, but one cannot begrudge them for this. Big brand attention is the consequence of wide ranging yet locally anchored commentary on the state of skateboarding, with an unashamed appreciation of the fashion, night life and skateboarding’s other extra-curricular perks and sidelines – Paul Mason’s economic and quasi-economic together.

QS celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2015 – with main man Konstantin ‘Kosta’ Satcheck still safely in his 20s, meaning that a crew blog that became a globally respected #trendwatch and #thinktank (and proliferator of entertainingly official sounding hashtags) started in his teens. Think on that, all you who passively complain about your weak local scene whilst lazily scrolling through Instagram. With more frequent collaborations with ‘New York’s Most Productive’ filmer Johnny Wilson, 2015 is a tricky year to pick just one (or in this case a co-joined selection) from the stream of skate trip, themed and scheduled start of/end of summer and best of the year edits that QS churn out. Although the transition-themed series chronicling a trip through New England is a departure from the site’s usual preoccupation with ‘low impact’ street skating, it captures many of this article’s themes: normal dudes, battling adversity, lack of investment and official disinterest to populate their own scenes with good parks and clever re-working of dilapidated street spots.

Another big birthday was celebrated by Magenta over the summer. Although they’ve just released the full length ‘Just Cruise’, the edit of their UK tour, sound-tracked with Aldous Huxley’s prophetic voice-over, stood out as a highlight of the year. Brand owners Vivien and Soy have full-time jobs, Vivien has two kids and Soy recently beat cancer, and Magenta is not making either of them rich. But the spirit of the thing: keeping your local scene lit, supporting your friends, and linking like-minded crews worldwide. Surely this is what skateboarding’s really about – whatever your personal view of powerslides and all flat-land lines. Magenta are the ultimate multi-taskers.

If Thrasher’s Skater of the Year could be bestowed on a truer epitome of the blue-collar, skateboarders’ skateboarder, charging through full-sections switch-stance as much as regular like a burly freight train, I’m unable to think of one. Anthony Van Engelen – the Bruce Springsteen of skateboarding in his earthiness and longevity – is surely a SOTY choice that only the most curmudgeonly below-the-line commentator could complain about. Even his Vans ‘Propeller’ out-takes stand as one of the year’s best edits, without even starting on the A-roll stuff that found their way into the final cut.

If AVE is the grizzled master of grown-up, burl and finesse, Gilbert Crockett is the spiritual successor – vying with AVE for best section in Propeller and cementing his place towards the top of the list of skateboarders’ favourite skateboarders with ‘Salt Life’ for Quasi.

Straight across the Atlantic, but staying within the Vans team, Chris Oliver’s ‘Excursion’ from our pals at Sidewalk adds to pantheon of lifers and grafters who combine incredible talent with a sense of being consistently over-looked. Many of my friends cite Chris Oliver as “the best skater I’ve ever seen in real life”. He continues to place high in competitions (against a majority of competitors ten years his junior), kills all variety of transition, and can put out banging, raw and good-humoured street sections like this one. Incredible board control and seemingly little fear of eating shit, but with a variety of interests including DJing and carpentry that add to the personality that comes through in his skating.

Turning it down a notch, one of my personal favourite edits of the year was Long Island’s The Northern Company’s ‘Portland Excursion’. It encapsulated the feeling of a trip with friends in a gentle, nostalgic hue of oranges and browns – lost in time, a blue grass Goonies or Stand by Me (complete with rustbelt imagery of clattering trains and industry reclaimed by nature). No single trick stood out, but it leaves me feeling content and keen to skate every time I’ve watched it – and it’s been one of the few repeat viewings in a stacked year. While you’re at it, read founders Mike Gigante and Steve Fletschinger’s interview for the Palomino for all the right reasons to start a skate company.

As we’ve mentioned in our review of the video premier, Isle’s maiden full-length ‘Vase’ stood out as DVD of the year for all these reasons.

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Finally, it would be a disservice not to mention one of this last year’s most prolific, popping up in edits across Europe and both the East and West Coasts of capitalism’s Promised Land, from QS/Nike and Transworld respectively. Like many skaters the world over, I spent a lump of my summer in Copenhagen and would give my front teeth to repeat that every year. Hjalte Hjalberg personifies all that is best in Denmark – a big, powerful, smiling bastard, annoyingly skilled but coming over as likeably down to earth, taking on the mantle of international power tech forged by fellow Copenhagen export, the late Kristian Bomhalt (RIP). As well as being pro for Polar, he’s a trained teacher and not afraid to jump into a boat and sail into the chill northern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean. 2015’s power combo of grafter, multi-tasker and champion nose-slider.

Words: Chris Lawton.

Behind the blag of Blag Rock DIY

Photos: Rich West / Red Bull UK

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Brighton’s skate scene has a pirate mentality. It always felt like walking the plank dropping into the Level back in the late 80s, you never knew whether you would be eaten alive by the Pig City locals, or walk away stoned and happy. That usually depended on what you had in your locker, what you could put down and leave on their turf – if you could get a run, that is.

The Pig City legacy from 1986 is one of hard graft, it carries a never-say-die attitude like a warning flag still fluttering in the English Channel winds. This summer, David Wheatland and Justin ‘Pasty’ Ashbury‘s latest DIY crew were on a mission to build Brighton locals a new home. Blag Rock was born and now sits tightly against the the beach getting sessioned when weather allows. Wheatland has spent the last few months arguing online with local shops about bucket collections and DIY ethics but local vibes and opinions aside, these guys made it happen with whatever they had to hand and nailed it.

David, please spill the beans on your DIY past for those not in the know.

Pig City, as a lot of your readers will already know, is the name that relates to our city, the skate scene, the establishment and the skate company here in Brighton. We’ve been creating DIY places to skate since day one of the UK skate scene and our city has a mass of history spanning four decades. I’ve enjoyed many years of DIY experience starting back in the early 90’s helping the older guys make their DIY mini ramps in Shoreham-by-Sea but we have guys in our DIY crew like Justin Ashby who also made the Level vert ramp back in the day with the infamous Pig City boys.

DIY spots come and go sadly, but how do you fund them at this level?

Our last spot was amazing but sadly got taken down, so this year we really went for it to get a rad spot that we could secure from being ripped down early. Last year we took part in the Red Bull DIY build your own spot comp and we worked with a local shop that got us the concrete and tools for free. I manage the boys and make sure I get them stuff and I been getting all the donations for them with tools and supplies.

Ph: Nick Roberts nose bonks on the Blag.

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How did finding the land at Blag Rock take shape?

I went with Fay from the Level to check out this ‘Black Rock’ spot after a local council worker and friend Ricardo said the site was available to use for a temporary “exhibit space”, so Rick and Fay set up a meeting with the seafront officer. We drove there to meet the council at the spot and to my surprise and excitement, I spotted potential building materials we could ever need there. Tons and tons of sand and hard core, pallets, scaffolding, sheets and sheets of thick ply and piles of 2×4 long lengths of timber. Without saying a word, we discussed what was required to rent/lease this nearly 100m secure compound. The main thing we needed next was was insurance. We tried to get quotes but we knew we would run out of time as there was a few companies wanting to use this spot, namely the Brighton Marina building company who we later end up calling Hanson. Pretty much all of the boys were like “fuck this, we need to get building and can’t be arsed with going the legitimate route of building at this spot”, so we pretty much went rouge and got cracking.

A video posted by @jakesparham on

So you didn’t have to sign any paper work or actually rent the area then? How did they not notice what was occurring then?

They did, but the sea front office lady was nice and the building company site director turned out to be an old friend of Danny Wainwright. We had this imaginary scale that just went up and up, a chart of how much this spot had to give over the months of build time.

If in doubt just put it in Peter Hewitt’s name.

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Who designed the layout, or did you just build as you went along?

It naturally just came into shape. We first started with a test build to check out this type of sand we have never previously used, but first, we needed shelter from the wind to chill in and skin up. Actually, the main reason is that we needed to find somewhere for Pasty to sleep, so we started off by building Pasty’s shed.

Ah, good old Pasty eh, the skateboarder with a thousand stories. I’m sure you have a few…

Haha! I have a few for sure, but Ladislav Guzsela, the site manager, told me he got knock on the door on the morning of the caravan demolition. He’d been given a short amount of time to remove his stuff and tried to wake Pasty up. As he opened his eyes, he declared that “none of this shit is mine” and went back to sleep. When Ladi left, the demolition guy said, “I’d better go and make sure no one is in there before they put a JCB through it”. When the guy went in there check, Justin was still asleep under a cover. Close call.

Pasty: Yeah, I wasn’t gonna move until Ladi smashed the window on me where I was sleeping. I wasn’t happy. I started smashing shit up while Ladi was freaking out shouting: “Get up, the bailiffs are here!”

Ladislav: The council asked as to leave the place and we didn’t so they evicted us from the caravans and after 2 weeks they brought a machine in and destroyed the trailers, where I was living with Adam {Moog). At the time loads of traveler’s where set up the road so little pikies were destroying our ramps. I let the dog chase them out.

Get to know Blag Rock from this new edit featuring Stevie Thompson and more.

Usually these things come and go so quickly, have then been threats of losing it to other locals wanting the space?

We were at the spot building just three days in when we heard that it was going to be taken over by a building company, by a guy squaring up one of the two large caravans on site. The caravans had been there for just over a year, used by a sand sculpture guy who used this area for sand creations. This guy was really sound and gave use a spare key for the gate, giving us easy access door that opened up right onto our build. We asked the guy about using the caravan next door to him and after a few days getting to know us he give Moog. Ladi and Pasty the key. Really sick van, we were so stoked.

By this time we had three quarter pipes, a pump bump and a big bit of floor space completed and our tool shed was looking sweet. We were cracking on when two guys start walking over wearing high viz apparel looking all official. We chatted to them about who we are what we doing and he told us that the site director for the building company in the Marina and that he had a massive project on the go. They wanted this land for open storage, so we asked if it’s going effect our little corner, and he said it will in a month or so, until he gets the land. As an old friend of Wainwright’s, he wouldn’t do anything to our spot with chatting to us about it, which was nice. So we’ve had it since then and seen many sessions go down.

Were any of the obstacles given local names?

We have a corner curb stone that we put in the corner as a wally transfer, which we called the hernia affair.

Where is the spot at now in terms of build?

Black Rock has been used by graf artists all round the country for 20 years, also there have been many illegal raves here so building in this spot just felt right. This place is like a desert with a fort round it. The spot was hard work for sure, but it’s come together at last. It’s a great place to chill out by the beach.

To this day it’s constantly being modified and worked on every other week. It now has cobbled coping, a big wally gap and a new drain has been laid in the deep end. We had a amazing time on this spot and I was stoked to see so many skaters pro’s and bro’s come from all over to skate it. Some of them coming down and not even going to the new Level park, just us! Next year we will get a new spot somewhere rad in Pig City, watch this space.

Follow Pig City on Facebook and pick up their clothing from this online shop. Also be aware of the fund raiser that is currently running in Brighton to help fund a new indoor park, your donations will be gratefully received.

The Best Halloween Skate Videos of 2015

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Love it or hate it, Ween brings out the dark side in everyone who skates. It’s become a staple must do in the calendar worldwide with shit going down that sometimes you’d never see in a regular session.

Here’s our selection of the very best footage we could find this year. Our own edit will be with us from the Bombshelter soon. Until then, enjoy the gallery and expect this thread to keep giving all week as new edits drop on tinterweb.

Tempe Parke’s turn out in Arizona was incredible. Session went off.

Ten grand was up for grabs at the Diamond Mine, as if you were going anywhere else.

David Fucking Gravette, you animal. He even pays homage to Natas.

Sheffield’s House Jam ripped.

This…

Chris Russell is on the rampage mate.

The Majer crew dedicated their Ween to Justin Bieber.

The rainfall couldn’t stop the session at Burnside this year.

Creature’s Ryan Reyes got the beers in for his new part.

Caveman shit went down at the Berrics.

Guretxoko Indoor Skatepark in Bilboa had a sick sesh.