April 04, 2016

Skate-Punk Culture as Seen in an Epic Topside

It is not too often that I focus on the topside of a board (though there are surely some great topside graphics out there) but that is precisely what I am going to do today. It really doesn't matter what's beneath (though if you simply must know, it's an Uncle Wiggley) because it's what's on the top that is the real story here.

What you are about to see has to be one of the most epic, homespun collages showcasing 1980's skate/punk culture that you're going to see. I'm not speaking here, of course, about a top side graphic that was screened onto the board by the maker. No, the whole focus here is entirely on what the board's owner went and did with their board once they got it home: namely, plastered it with classic band logos of the likes of The Cramps, the Dead Kennedys, Samhain, Black Flag and more, covering it all with clear grip tape. Check out the end result, it's epic (and the aging just adds to it):

When I was a kid, I grew up in a small town and one of the things I distinctly recall in the skate mags were all the advertisements for various punk bands with their unique names and cool graphics. I was mesmerized by them. This was just stuff you didn't see in those days at your local record and tape shop in smaller towns -- and, of course, there was no internet in those days, so getting the stuff meant trips to special shops in the big cities which simply didn't happen very often. When you finally got ahold of it, you hung onto it like grim death. But turning back those ads and band logos in the skate mags, they were as interesting to me as were the skate ads and skate pics, teaching me a part of the skate culture that I was not yet fully familiar with in my north-eastern, small town surroundings. I drank it all in. Every jot, every tittle found within these magazines was noted and inhaled. It was like my catechism.

Seeing this topside done up this way by the board owner brings back a flood of memories.

Here are a couple more closer looks.

March 30, 2016

Chlorine: A Pool Skating Documentary

Recently, I picked up a copy of Chlorine: A Pool Skating Documentary which was originally released around 2005. I've always had a particular affinity for pool skating because of its roots in skateboarding history -- and because of the greater diversity of what you can do in one.

At any rate, about a month or two ago I came across this particular documentary -- and I was rather surprised I hadn't heard of it. The thing is, I am fairly selective about what I'll purchase. I am not a completist. I don't need to own or even see every skate video, I don't need every book on skate art or history. What I do "need" are those that are the most authoritative and most substantial. So, having not heard of it, I wondered if it wasn't because it wasn't particularly substantial? Surely people would be mentioning it?

Well they hadn't and they didn't and what a great loss that is because I thoroughly enjoyed this particular documentary. From my perspective, it offered most of what I hoped it might. First, it had great interviews and footage of the likes of Tony Alva, Salba and Lance Mountain. Second, it gets into the history and ideals of the pool skaters and shows the fine line of legality and trespassing that they live on even still today. Third, it combines some historical footage with a whole lot of current day footage of these guys going at these pools. Oh, and you know that guy, Ozzie, who runs Blue Tile Obsession? Yeah, he's in this documentary too, draining and skating pools. It brings to life what we see in still form on his page almost everyday.

That mix of old and new is something that I always look for. I want it to feel "old school" but I want it to also be put into the present day context. That brings the old school back to life if you will (or better yet, it shows that it never died in the first place). It is a modern day, living tradition with a deep connection to the past.

The documentary has a little bit of everything and it captures well the drama and the life of the pool skaters and their run-in's with motel owners, home owners, the law, and yes, even a street gang or two.

Own it. You won't regret it.

Here are a couple of video clips from it.

March 26, 2016

Felix Culpa: Vision, Sean Goff, Bernie Tostenson and the Unknown Deck

One of the things I have said about skate art before -- or if I didn't say it, I certainly meant to -- is that the industry was so prolific art-wise that you can seemingly look at historical board art everyday and still, even after years of doing this, expect to run into something you've never come across before. It's fantastic and it's what keeps me coming back.

Today, I offer up one recent example of just that, a board that was sent in by a reader who was checking out one of Skate Culture's more popular pieces, The Skateboard Art of Bernie Tostenson. His example comes from Vision:

Our reader asks the question:

I just read your article online about Bernie Tostenson. I have a deck that I cannot seem to find another of. You can tell he took the Goff design and changed it up just a bit for Vision. Do you think this might be the first one he did for Vision? Maybe a one-off? Or very small batch?

It is a good question. He is absolutely correct that the design is clearly related to Sean Goff's Brand X "Goin Crazy" board from circa 1987. Check out the comparison of the two, taking particular note of the geometric designs, the design near the top truck and the skull on the right:

I checked out the usual sources such as AOS and wasn't able to pull it up. It seems to be a Vision team deck given that it doesn't have the name of any particular skater attached to it. One thing I'd like to know is whether Bernie Tostenson actually did this board art or if someone else did a spin-off?

I have some feelers out with a few experts, so I'll update this post if I find out anything definitive. In the meantime, if anyone has any insights on it, please let me know in the comments or send me an email.

March 19, 2016

Thoughts on the Place of Vans in Skate Culture

Recently I was contacted by one of the senior editors of the periodical AdWeek. They were doing a story on the history of Vans and wanted an angle on the brand taken from its skateboarding roots. I don't proclaim to be an expert of course, but I know what I know and it's hard not to know something about the place Vans had in the history of skate culture if you have been paying any sort of attention whatsoever.

AdWeek ran a quote in their article, From Ridgemont High to 'Damn, Daniel,' Vans Is Still Kicking It at 50, and I thought I might publish the rest of my thoughts on Vans and skate culture. (I also want this opportunity to thank Ozzie over at Blue Tile Obsession who kindly agreed to read over my comments. I wanted to make certain I hadn't said anything too -- if you can pardon the pun -- off the wall.)

So without further ado, my fuller thoughts:

Vans are intimately tied up with the history of skateboarding. Whether you wore them or not, if you were into skateboarding you certainly recognized that classic Vans logo through skateboarding magazines and through the Vans stickers that inevitably would appear on a so many skaters' boards. It was just part and parcel with skateboarding, much like certain punk bands like Black Flag were.

Part of Vans popularity amongst skaters was practical of course. The rubber soles of Vans shoes gripped well and so they were certainly one of the shoes of choice amongst skateboarders. Getting a good grip on your board is important whether you are skating banks, street skating or skating pools.

What more, Vans shoes were also intimately tied up with the history of the legendary Dogtown skateboarding scene. The Zephyr skateboarding team, who hailed from Dogtown and who helped to pioneer what would become modern day skateboarding, had blue Vans as part of their team uniform. Seeing these guys, who so many held in awe, wearing those shoes was bound to have an influence on others who wanted to emulate them. That influence can still be felt today -- and to it you can now add a bit of history and nostalgia about the roots of skateboarding.

Aside from those aspects, it's important to understand that skate culture is one that is intimately tied to individuality and creative self-expression while also having a strong sense of community. Vans shoes, with their wide variety of colours and patterns gave skaters, I think, the ability to show themselves as part of a "tribe" if you will, while also giving them plenty of room to express their own particular style. The only other brand of shoe that I would consider even remotely close to Vans in terms of their prominence in the skate culture would be Converse. While those were really popular too, I don't think anything had quite the same level of iconic penetration into the skateboard culture that Vans did.

Many thanks to AdWeek for turning to Skate Culture.

Photo credit: I am sadly uncertain where this photo originates from. If anyone knows, please let me know so that I can give the photographer/image owner their just due.