If there was one thing that was unanimous in people’s expectations of the new Blueprint video was that this was not going to be simply Lost and Found 2. For some, this was the skate video equivalent of being dumped for a shitty reason, ‘you haven’t changed, but I have, sorry’ and of course would react in a similarly immature fashion. Yes, Lost and Found has proven itself to be a timeless watch and a quantum leap forward for the standards of both production and skating. Almost instantly, the high standards became disseminated throughout British productions and naturally, we turn our attention to Shier, Mr. Magee and their merry gang for that next jump. And you won’t be disappointed, unless you were hoping for LAF2, but then that wouldn’t be progression at all, would it?
Perpetual rain aside, things are immediately different; Magee as usual ignores the usual conventions of skate videos and throws the only, but not lonely ‘our mate’ section before the intro. Dave Mackey delivers a blink-and-miss-it minute of high-speed excellence, wallriding through your town like your neighbourhood spiderman. Before you can catch your breath again, the feature presentation begins with a tremendous cinematic introduction of the idiosyncratic Blueprint team. Eat up all the lovely esoteric references to the Birdhouse In Your Soul video and let the new generation Blueprint warm your life up. With some more global newcomers, t’print’s branding of the ‘cup of tea video’ is now replaced by a cup of whatever-the-fuck-you-like video. Rule Britannia is out of bounds, mate.
With no more interludes ahead (a winning decision too. How often do you get a 50 minute skate flick with uninterrupted skating?) Colin Kennedy gets the ball rolling with a stomping section of power, style and the best feeble grind you will have ever seen, no hyperbole. The music choices again are simply too perfect. It’s one thing finding a song that fits with a skater’s style and hoping that will carry it along, but here we have songs that infiltrate your mind, successfully re-contextualising each track as if it were written for that part. Paul Shier‘s trick selection and quick-footed style is a radical departure from Kennedy’s slow burning power moves but sharing that Procul Harum track simply works. And furthermore, this could be the best part from the trans-atlantic gent yet. Enders!
Back in Europe, Sylvain Tognelli proves himself to be a worthy addition to the team with a mixed bag of tricks and some very interesting lines. Danny Brady has sharpened his unique approach and crazy knees and serves up some amazing shit on some of the worst spots you can imagine. Not worst meaning worst but worst meaning best; Wave Of Mutilation has never sounded so great. This is followed swiftly by Marty Murawski who cements his reputation as an instant classic. No one skates like this guy, and no one could get away with trying to either. The same could be said with Tuukka Korhonen, who shares Marty’s section. His trick selection immediately makes him someone who is destined to be underrated, and this is a shame because Tuukka consistently kills it with finesse. Make friends with both of them.
Chewy Cannon maintains the pace from his incredible Diagonal section and doesn’t disappoint one bit – I challenge your jaw not to drop on that 5-0 grind. Once it does, don’t expect it to shut any time during the next section. Kevin Coakley, what the fuck? This is a serious competitor for my favourite section of the year, and let us not forget that this is 2010, where everyone skates with jokeshop skills and I would shell out three bucks for all of them. Coakley skates like he should have been in Lost and Found even though what he’s skating certainly wouldn’t have. If MFWTCB is Blueprint’s friend request to America then Coakley is the mutual friend that will make them choose not to ignore it. There’s no way you can hate on this. Proper spots, proper skating. Get some.
Jerome Campbell impressed me a lot. Not that I wasn’t expecting super style and quirky pop-outs, but this is a BIG section. He has the best arms in skateboarding, I’ll leave it at that. Neil Smith attacks everything and anything relentlessly; from the traditional Essex boy backflip off the swing to shutting down the hubba atop Southbank that was really open exclusively for him anyway, this section is a monster. The endgame is in sight and try not to jam to this track. Nick Jensen pokes his head in before the closer and chills his way through one of my favourite Portishead tracks. The section is typical of someone who’s well and truly blown minds recently and is now taking a well-earned smoke break, but it’s a real pleasure and one of the highlights for sure.
To conclude this mammoth piece of five years work well done, who else? Mark Baines earned this having pushed the envelope of British skateboarding for his entire career. Oddball moves, crazy style: Baines is that off-coloured U in the word colour that makes it that little more special. Sure, Blueprint have confirmed themselves as a global force, but this video achieves something more than being just a really, really good skate flick: It argues that it’s not where you’re from, nor where you’re at, but where you’re going, where you’ve been and all that bonkers shit you take with you. Ten out of ten. God Save/Bless T’Print.
I find myself three hours into a cross-Atlantic flight, mindlessly eating vacuum-packed sludge while I watch Drew’s section from This Is Skateboarding for the nine thousandth time and doing everything I can to avoid eye-contact with the strangely terrifying person I have had the misfortune of being sat next to.
It is at this moment I realise that the flight attendant is in fact Gok Wan, had he lived on Californian breakfast burritos throughout his entire life and actually didn’t know how to look good naked, at all. He even had that horrible accent. ‘Coffee Sir?’ I shudder to recall, even now. In terror, I mistakenly look at the person sitting next to me and discover what can only be Dibble’s long-lost twin brother. Shit the bed and sleep in it, no wonder I was scared (I kid, I kid). None the less, I named him Dobble. I couldn’t help but wonder though: Is this flight filled with doppelgangers a cryptic omen of what is to come? Well, kind of.
Wait, what? So here’s what this account is about. Our skateboarding brothers at Sole Tech (Etnies, éS, Emerica, Altamont) kindly invited us skateboarding media-types from around the globe to stop lurking in our respective countries and come and hang out at their labs in Orange County, CA to get an insight into the ever-progressing System G2 heel cushion and E-Suede, have a skate in the super Etnies Training Facility and get a sneak preview of some of the shoes dropping later this year. Sounds too good to be true, right?
For a while, as I looked over to Dobble to check if he was asleep so I could have a piss without talking to him, I thought it was. But after twenty-six hours of battling through snow, customs (are you SERIOUS, America?), terrible in-flight movies and vicious lookalikes I ended up in Pierre’s Marina Lofts ready for three days of non-stop skateboarding. Here’s how this epic sausage-fest went down.
The Euros arrive first, before things really kick off (in more ways than one). Our wonderful host, James Appleby from Sole Tech Europe greets us with one of the countless cans of Blue Ribbon (imagine Coors Light, but lighter) and shows us around our home for the weekend. Pierre knows how to fucking LIVE. Yet despite these fairly spectacular distractions, it’s only a short amount of time before we all nerd out and start showing each other our magazines, scene videos and exchange some stories from where we’re all from. We are skateboarders after all; contrary to mainstream belief, we’re the friendliest neeks out there. Give us a beer and a laptop and there’s no stopping us.
The Euro-pad (unsurprisingly the smaller of the lofts, and even more unsurprisingly the cleaner of the two at the end of the trip) was shared by Fred Demard from France’s Soma Magazine, Angel Sanz from Uno reppin’ Barcelona, Holger Von Krosigk from Germany’s Place Magazine, the Italian Davide Biondani and the Dutch Love-Machine, Jeroen Smeets on behalf of Reload Magazine. Straight-up the raddest roommates an awkward Essex lad from Wales could ask for; and all as passionate about this ridiculous wooden thing on wheels that has dictated our entire lives, and brought us all together for this trip. Planes, delicious Blue Beet cuisine and early blogging don’t half take it out of you mind. Get the sleep in while you bloody well can.
The day begins with James having fun pretending to be a photography tutor guiding us around Newport Beach while we all have fun pretending (badly) not to be tourists. Those cameras permanently attached to our faces weren’t fooling anyone, and there I was wearing nothing but a flimsy t-shirt during California’s ‘terrible weather’ period. James looks at me and grumbles, ‘you’re so obviously British‘. Outed!
Back at the lofts, it’s time for the arrival of the American press dudes. Without so much as a ‘Hey, what’s up?’, Etnies Marketing Head Honcho and part-time lunatic, Ashton Maxfield barges into Euro-Pad sporting nothing more than shades and a killer tache, picks up a chair and throws it out the window as if it had dissed said killer tache and spat in his face. The broken chair is then assembled into a pile and set alight; less than ten minutes later Holger runs outside and throws a mean frontside flip over the small inferno. The weekend has landed.
After geeking out over the staggering awesomeness of Mindfield for the rest of the afternoon, Pierre André and Don Brown, the masterminds behind Sole Tech and freestyle legends, introduce themselves and take us on a cruise in Newport Harbour. Meeting people of such status is often unnerving, but can of Blue Ribbon in hand and a ridiculous leather chair made of skateboards to laugh at, talking to the two is just like standing on a mini-ramp platform, chatting about nothing and happily sharing the unmatched atmosphere that is generated by skateboarding. If you want people to look after your feet when shralping, these are the guys are who you go for. Additionally, if you want people to throw a BBQ with an impromptu food-fight, these are also the dudes to see. Check out the footage courtesy of the Skateboard Mag’s three-trick extraordinaire and generally super-rad broseph, Paul ‘Animal’ Chan. Messy…
There are two perfect remedies for a monster Blue Ribbon hangover. Coffee, and -apparently- Bloody Marys. At least, this was what was on offer after shaking hands with The Boss and The Other Boss at the Sole Tech Institute. I’m not even kidding. Bloody Marys work a treat too! They go down damn fine with some tasty new shoes too, which is after all what we were all here to see this morning, after Don arrives fresh from the slammer that is. Pro tip: if you find yourself being accosted by the police who are yelling “What are you doing?! Do you want to be arrested?!” while drunkenly trying to drive some unknown dude’s boat down Newport Blvd at three in the morning, do not, whatever you do, reply with “HELL YEAH!”
All in the name – Don Brown is a Don.
First up are Etnies, and a cheeky look into the gorgeous Black Label collaboration that serves as Kyle Leeper’s new pro model. The Perro is a great shoe in itself, boasting the new Kevlar fabric addition to the System G2 Cushioning Gel. Kevlar is the same material used in bullet-proof vests, and protect your heels as if they were guarding the President through the not-so-blue states. On top of that, you have some gnarly Black Label graphic that keeps style looking tight, whilst obviously not slacking on substance. Be hyped because the shoe has dropped alongside the new Black Label video. Oh, there’s also a Thunder Collab to get hyped on – did I mention in the photoblog that the tag is a riser pad? Well, it is, and come on, how cool is that?
éS are next, and Bobby Worrest is summoned to the stage to speak a little about his debut shoe. The hangover may have got the better of him and Bobby’s conclusion on these bad boys is “yeah, they’re good. I like them.” Similar to Cardiff’s loveable Pirate Man, Bobby is an all-round nice guy, and has a soft-spot for Rambo. ‘First Blood‘ is the name of his shoe and you know what? They’re pretty damn good, and I bloody like them. A lot. I’m wearing them right now as I type this very sentence. Aesthetically simple, technologically awesome. The Sole Tech lab geeks are skaters too remember. They know what we want.
The Boss, coffee in hand, is up next and delivers a cool, calm and straight-to-the-point speech on why his new Cruiser shoes are boss, why Altamont’s Fall line-up is boss and why working for Soletech is boss. After a short video of Drew being Drew, he takes a sip of coffee and poignantly remarks how he ‘just wants to work with skaters’, with a nod towards Pierre and everyone in the room feeling some wonderful bromance. If it wasn’t for the upcoming visit to the TF, I’d have whacked my laptop out and posted in the Stoked thread on Sidewalk before BDF could say edit my post and imply that I am a gaylord. We all love the bromance.
Just before invading the mind-blowing awesomeness of the Etnies Training Facility (or Etnies TF if you want to abbreviate things and therefore resemble someone who is cool and abbreviates things) we had some more traditional Californian cuisine, courtesy of Mexico, that tastes delicious but does unspeakable things to a European stomach. In this interim, a couple of us now dicky-tummied Euros had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Carlos, a designer from Etnies Plus. Etnies Plus are already known for making some bad ass collabs with killer artists, and we were happy to hear of a future collaboration with So-Me of Ed Banger Records. I don’t know about you, but I’m hyped.
I won’t go into too much detail about the incredible TF, as any footage of the place speaks for itself. But let me just tell you that journalist types can shred too! Holger tore the place apart with style and the other French Fred got buck-wild on the mini. Animal Chan and I rinsed our three tricks for four hours and then sat back and happily watched as Malto, Bledsoe, Worrest and Mikey Taylor showed us all up. Check the brief interview I had with Mikey to hear his recollection on the GNARLIEST slam / collision I have ever seen. Ridiculous. Click here for an interview with him from this trip.
Before we hit the bars, we had an in-depth tour into the STI Lab (imagine what The Berrics might have looked like if it were designed by Steve Berra and Dexter; as in the loveable, animated, four-eyed, ginger genius, not the serial killer played by Michael Hall). Inside the labs were a lot of things, that a lot of us honestly had no understanding of whatsoever. Apart from ESPN’s Josh Brooks, who came out of his shell and revealed himself to be a secret physics nerd: so big ups to him, his knowledge of forces and his awesome RUN DMC style Obama tee. The tour itself was a fantastic insight into how these things we throw on our feet and slowly ruin are put together; just check out the pictures and peep the relentless testing each shoe is subjected to before it is deemed safe and worthy of making your feet look and feel a lot nicer.
And it was in that lab that I came to realise the significance of those doppelgangers that plagued my journey out here. It’s all to do with repetition and difference, something that Sole Tech has nailed. Steve Neale is a known bunty man (as anyone who has studied film will back me up on), but he did spearhead this particular theory on how things are constantly improved by repeating elements that work, and playing with them ever so slightly to make something new and great. Sole Tech are doing just that. System G2 was great, but adding the Kevlar and creating G2 Platinum is perfect evidence of making something great, well, greater. The same can be applied to E-Suede. Look at the comparison of suede and e-suede after 2500 rotations in the KICKFLIP MACHINE (!) to see what I’m getting at.
Unfortunately the same praise cannot be said about American Airlines, as I sit back in my chair on my flight back to London and continue to get offered disgusting coffee by an even shittier Gok Wan variation… all the while trying not to make eye-contact with what appears to be someone I will later name ‘Dubble’.
Did you know that when throwing yourself down the London Bridge ten, more often than not you exert around 18-times body weight straight onto your heel or toes?
Eternal props to all the dudes at Sole Tech for bringing us media-heads together and showing us all how these things on our feet and body we often take for granted is so generously made for us without asking for anything in return other than your support. Extra thanks to James for being a rad host, and all the safe-as-fuck dudes I had the pleasure of meeting out there. And big up skateboarding, for being the greatest fucking thing in the world.
If you enjoyed this feature, click here with an interview from back in February 2006 with Pierre André Senizergues.