Moving Pictures: Rush’s Influence on Philadelphia Skateboarding

The Numerology of Power Trios

Sal Rocco Jr. From Big Brother Issue #2

Modern skateboarding has rarely existed without a soundtrack. It’s perhaps the reason contests are so boring as the juxtaposition between music and tricks are disjointed, without syncopation, and rarely created a symbiosis between skater and song. Even in the ‘70s when pool sharks slashed around to Aerosmith and Ted Nugent during backyard pool sessions the marriage of thick riffs and aggressive movement made sense. Shortly thereafter punk rock and later skate rock was born and skateboarding had its own sound. This isn’t to say that it was exclusively loud and macho as some skate rock bands ventured into surf music or funk, specifically the Big Boys from Austin, Texas who were fronted by Randy “Biscuit’ Turner, a hulking figure and pioneer gay punk performer. 

As the video era was born in the ‘80s, many skate productions used generic royalty-free music or solicited tunes from friends, as well as creating often kitschy songs specifically for a project. By the ‘90s the formula was tired and hardcore punk was in a lull with the keystone acts disbanding or performing out of vouge metal-tinged punk or punk-tinged metal that was mostly terrible. Hip-hop had finally broken through to mainstream radio and underground rap artists were thriving. As skating moved from backyards to the streets, many skaters adopted hip-hop or the burgeoning indie rock scene as their soundtrack. 

There was enough space between the late-’70s and ‘80s in the ‘90s for the prior decades’ music to feel retro—almost ironic much like the aesthetics associated with them. World Industries was the first brand in the early-’90s to take the skulls, neon colors, and satanic tropes of ‘80s metal and hard rock and flip them into satire. Although some skaters such as Henry Sanchez chose to use Black Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe” in earnest for his groundbreaking part in Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies (1992), using music “not of the time” was often intentionally leveraged as a joke or way to get footage to stand out. The best example of the era was World Industries Love Child (1992), where the majority of the soundtrack were funk, soul, and R&B tracks from the ‘60s and ‘70s; basically considered oldies at the time and completely unfamiliar to those purchasing said video. Because skateboarding was so small, licensing rights weren’t an issue so stealing from artists as big as the Beatles went unnoticed. 

As a child of the ‘70s, I grew up with AM and FM radio. AM was “light rock,” a place where you’d hear the sullen sound of the Carpenters or Gordon Lightfoot and FM, with its stronger almost alpha signal, was the home of rock music—rock spanning the studio sheen of Steely Dan to the scuzz of early pre-1984 Van Halen. Without the aid of MTV you rarely knew what a band even looked like so Foghat or Mountain seemed badass—tough biker dudes most likely with greasy hair and jailhouse tattoos. The concept is laughable in a world where the person checking out my non-GMO groceries at Whole Foods could have full face and neck ink, yet still hasn’t filled out their sleeves. Whatever, rock ‘n roll was mostly myth and even after the advent of the music video, it was more legend than tangible reality and it was impossible to think of Ozzy, Dio, Plant, Page, Madonna, Blondie, Prince, Bowie, Freddy or MJ as regular people–they were above the planet.

I quickly discovered college radio and mined the left of the dial, where I learned that there were independent and lesser-known bands that were more interesting and more relatable than what was on the big FM stations. It was hardcore punk, UK post-punk, and true metal that felt darker, heavier, sketchier and somehow more affable. Shortly thereafter I found skateboarding through BMX magazines and started to pick up on the soundtrack: Black Flag, JFA, Descendents, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, The Misfits, and whatever your regional starter kit was comprised of.  Arena rock seemed corny. Sports seemed corny. Pro Wrestling was 100% corny. Monster truck battles on piles of dirt? Corny. Basically anything that happened in a stadium was of no interest in me and almost overnight, I was only fishing for anything below the pop culture radar. 

Despite my teenage denouncement of mainstream culture, there were bands that existed in both spheres, enjoying the money and recognition of rock star celebrity while still feeling salt-of-the-Earth to fans. Iron Maiden might have been the most heralded of the ‘80s, perhaps because no matter what devilish deed their mascot Eddie was illustrated in, he was still a comic character—tongue-in-cheek or just simply a product of British humor which always seemed more sarcastic and heady than the jokesters of the US. 

Post-Ozzy Sabbath was still operating making Mr. Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio’s time with the band heavy metal canon, depending on what dirt you asked. AC/DC was fine and Metallica and Slayer were still relatively underground so they stood as mid-level giants, not yet tainted by mainstream jock and future finance bros. The Beatles and Stones were ancient, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, and The Dead were case-by-case, often divided up by a fan’s socioeconomic background but there was one other group that managed to be agnostic of classification or genre in a sense, despite being one of the biggest hard rock acts from their country. Formed in 1968 in Toronto, Canada, Rush still stands an uncool band that’s simultaneously cool enough to avoid being corny because at their heart they were completely corny—nerds who never ceased to be nerds and never really attempted to be anything but three individuals who wanted to play articulate and precise rock music. 

Rush could never be replicated because they weren’t anything but themselves. They were essentially a group of virtuosos or maybe aliens that were beamed down to a high school talent show, fully formed and just rocketing off from there. Because of this, Rush maintained and still possesses this intrinsic currency transcends a type of fan. In modern terms, the most strident Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump supporters could be absolute in their love of Rush but Rush is neither a liberal or conservative band—they’re just Rush. There really are only two camps: people who love Rush and people would love Rush if they could get over Geddy Lee’s voice.

Critics have mocked the pitch of Lee’s voice to the point of cliché, much like many have done of Billy Corgan. Even Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus once lampooned Lee’s pipes in the song “Stereo” singing:

“What about the voice of Geddy Lee

How did it get so high?

I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy?”

Corgan, who was born in the notoriously tough city of Chicago, Illinois, once pointed out that Ozzy’s and Lee’s careers were forged by nasally projecting over heavy music but unlike Billy Pumpkin, their public personas or in the case of Lee, almost lack of bravado made them icons not whiners. 

In 1989, if you met a burly looking punker and behind the passenger seat of his rusty Ford Pinto was a shredded plastic bag full of cassette tapes, it wouldn’t be strange to find a copy of 2112 along with the Exploited, Rudimentary Peni, Samhain or whatever else you’d expect but if a copy of Cinderella’s Night Songs or God forbid, the Christian rock of Stryper, you’d start masterminding how to bail immediately. That’s because Rush—even though you were never going to have a beer with them—appeared to be regular people and Cinderella and Stryper were wearing costumes, playing music with the intention of getting big. Rush was just playing music, much like most of us were just riding skateboards. It felt like they’d be doing it in a bar if not a sold-out arena much like skating existed for many in mundane parking lots as much as it did in bustling, cool cities. 

Before factory jobs and assembly lines were replaced by current-day content farms and ominous start-up roles, the major cities of the United States could fight for the proud tag of being a “working class” metropolis. There was no race for electric scooters or farm-to-table, nose-to-tail bistros. People grabbed lunch at a “roach coach” not a bespoke food truck and the world was comfortable being less cool. Sure, museums, universities and places of industry meant prosperity but the pulse of a city still beat with those who got their hands dirty making it. While it’s mostly a fallacy and olde tyme folklore but there’s something charming about a city native being so cantankerous that they champion the shitty, tedious parts of living there rather than the amenities and opportunity that cause transplants to flock there. 

In 1994 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was very much an urban landscape that espoused the concept of working class. Urban Outfitters aka Urban Gentrifiers had only recently gone public in 1993 for $18.00 a share and the Toronto Blue Jays had defeated the Phillies in the World Series that same year in six games. Philadelphia was a mix of Boston-Bitter and Jersey arrogant—irrationally confident and jaded as fuck. There were more ethnic neighborhoods than Scandanavian-inspired condominiums and it proudly wore it’s underdog warts and scars as a show of character, not inadequacy. 

1994 as it was a pivotal year in Philadelphia skateboarding history and the beginning of a trend-shift in skateboarding. The deviation from tiny wheels and slowed down skating—at least on the East Coast—may have begun prior to the release of In but Dan Wolfe’s video was the most authentic depiction of a grassroots, post-LA street skating. It wasn’t that the Philly scene or East Coast were invisible prior to Real Life but the video and its reception acted as a fulcrum for an era. 

411VM offered several East Coast check-ins including the stylized yet raw, Zoo York “Industry Section”(1993) and in Issue 3 (1993) specifically offered a truncated “Philadelphia Metrospective” later revisited due to footage being stolen due to camera theft but Real Life was Philadelphia’s first major skateboarding “moment.” It was selling their scene in motion that animated and endeared Philly to skateboarding. The parts live on YouTube and it’s easier to do the visual research yourself, rather than have me highlight why the Sub Zero crew stood out from the bright Southern California tech-boom of skating in the early-’90s. The footage is the statement and the results are quantifiable.

While the video doesn’t have the definitive Ricky Oyola part—that would come two years later in Dan Wolfe’s Eastern Exposure 3: UnderachieversReal Life was a 360 look at Philadelphia as a lifestyle and landscape. The video’s first full-part is Sergei Trudnowski, who begins with a symmetrical line at full-speed—kickflip, nollie flip, blast over a bump-to-bar—as Rush’s “Limelight” accents each push with a staccato rhythm. Skating down the street wasn’t a new concept as Natas Kaupas, Ray Barbee, Matt Hensley, and others had done this in prior videos in the ‘80s but Trudowski’s line stood out because it felt as if he was pushing down his street in his city—a crusty urban block, not a palm tree paved wonderland. Like his teammates Ricky Oyola and Matt Reason, the trio prided themselves on their footage mimicking their day-today—mimicking real life. 

“I liked Rush when “Limelight,” it first came out,” Trudnowski says. “But when I started skating in ‘85, all the dudes with long hair that listened to Rush called me a skater fag, so we always fought the long hairs or I called them “dry heads” because their hair was mad dry! On to the Sub Zero video, I wouldn’t listen to any music those fools [The Dry Heads] liked. I heard that song [Limelight] a month before we edited that video. It just stuck with me and had known no one used a Rush song in a video. I also always thought they were sick because there were only three dudes in that band.”

In 1994 videos—especially East Coast shop videos—rarely had actual premiers but Real Life was different, with Sub Zero becoming internationally known and the city being emphatically behind the work. “Limelight’s” lyrics are a coming-out and almost meta acknowledgment of being proud of the accomplishment while downplaying it being a performance and almost game with the greatest nod being the line “living in a fisheye lens,” as Trudnowski pushes along with a bowed-out ring framing his footage. Trudnowski’s part is bookended by shots of him with his daughter Sienna and later with him in full Bertucci’s Pizzeria garb, mid-shift making deliveries as many Philly skaters did at the time. It’s more than Wolfe humanizing a pro but rather a taste of Philadelphia fuckery in that no one’s safe from a friendly jab.

Trudnowski would go on with Oyola and Matt Reason to form the core of the short-lived Zoo York subsidiary Illuminati before trademark issues lead to its dissolution. The trio moved operations to East Coast Urethane (ECU), headed by Mike Agnew under the name Silverstar. Agnew’s alleged gambling problems lead to Silverstar ending despite the demand for the brand. Trudnowski contributed another full-part during his career for Sheep Shoes’ only full-length, Life of Leisure (1997), boasting the first wallie 50-50 on a handrail and an ollie over a handrail to hill bomb on a now-infamous San Francisco street. 

Ten years later, Trudnowski’s former teammate, Ricky Oyola came full-circle, contributing a full-part for Josh Stewart’s second Static video series installment, The Invisibles. By 2004, Oyola’s work ethic and nature as a mouthpiece had made him the patriarch of modern East Coast skateboarding. Though that sounds glamorous or even rock star level, the reality is that Oyola was still very much grinding out his career with family responsibilities and the weight of his independent brand, Traffic while powering through back injuries which is the most working-class shit of all time. 

With pride as his biggest barrier, Oyola reluctantly took Stewart up on the opportunity to film a part for Static II, contingent on the inclusion of his new Philly clique including Jack Sabback, Rich Adler, and “New Team Rider” from the Sub Zero days, Damian Smith.

For his return to a True East® production, Oyola bangs out his brand of creative aggression to Geddy Lee and company’s pounding  track, “Working Man.” Though Oyola had hammered out another great part in New Deal’s 7 Year Glitch two years prior, his Static II part had viewers dodging, weaving, and jabbing along to the section, much like the final fight in Rocky II before assuming his natural stance to blast once last Oyolan ollie to close things out as Neil Peart rattles away and Alex Lifeson’s power chord lingers and fades.

In thinking back to Trudnowski’s quote there’s a subtle synergy between Rush and the power trio of himself, Oyola, and the late Matt Reason. With the help of Roger Browne, the three skaters put Philly on the map by will alone, perfecting their craft sans piss pedaling, Hollywood Shuffles, and directing the flow of traffic at Love Park. This isn’t meant to sully the skill and contributions of DGK, the deep list of locals, a young, tech-forward Freddy Gall, and later generations, just a tribute and example of wanting to not only foster a scene but project their work ethic and discipline as far as it could beam. Though Reason never skated to Rush, he did appear in Real Life with Tool’s Cold and Ugly behind his stance-bending footage. As many would note, Tool was always seen as Rush’s descendants and with the passing of Neil Peart, the de facto torchbearers for 20-sided dice rock.  

Whatever your connection to Rush, lavish drum kits, wallies or 60mm wheels is, the loss of Neil Peart and Matt Reason are reminders that influence is eternal even for those unaware of it. We can’t freeze time but history is there for anyone who wants to explore it.

Gino Iannucci: Behind "61st Street"

Clear My Head, Stay Sober, the Soul Controller.

Photo by Cole Giordano

From 1997 to 2001 actor Matthew Perry, better known as Chandler from the sitcom Friends, couldn’t take any more pills, popping in and out of rehab, often showing up on set after drinking a quart of vodka. Perry’s said that he remembers little from that stretch and while superstars love hyperbole, the mix of opioids and alcohol makes the claim completely believable, especially if you’ve ever experienced the muted reality spun by excess and abuse. He cited a jet skiing accident as the entry point to his addiction to painkillers which should resonate with any skateboarder familiar with Nick Dompierrier’s struggles, chronicled in both ESPN and an in-depth interview on the Nine Club.

Despite the incredible strain he put on his body and soul, Perry managed to appear in roughly 150 episodes of the hit show with his weight fluctuating drastically, netting between $85,000 to $750,000 per show. A rough comp for this would be Slash or Duff from Guns N’ Roses, who mixed alcohol with pills, cocaine, heroin, and likely more than a Google search could produce. While they weren’t on a soundstage, they were performing before millions of fans with physicality and no mulligans, making the act even more difficult and often times, messy, out of tune, and chaotic.

Upping the physical demands of entertaining while intoxicated, former professional basketball player Chris Herren had a 70 game career for the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets where he openly stated that he was on opioids for the majority of time on the court. Herren went on to play in Europe, China, and even Iran from 2002-2006, during which time he overdosed and crashed his car into a pole after being legally dead for 30 seconds in 2004 and later was arrested in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot for possession of heroin in 2007.

A strange tie-in to Dompierre, Herren crashed his vehicle in his hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, a town miles from where Dompierre was also born and also lived, a part of the US notorious for opioid use. Also of note for the sake of trivia, Perry, though often thought of as Canadian, was actually born in Massachusetts as well.

Perry, Herren, and Dompierre have all achieved sobriety, but unlike actors and basketball players, skateboarders don’t have a set or game time. Time itself is barely a guardrail as releasing 2-5 minutes of footage over the course of 1-2 years in the ‘90s was perfectly productive. Being charming on camera, ripping a guitar solo or getting some minutes on an NBA floor are all demanding but the risk of death or life-altering injury is small compared to what many skaters attempt during their day-to-day. This isn’t meant to “rank” the difficulty of “things you do whilst fucked up,” but rather explain that addiction doesn’t care if your famous or a layperson because the odds are always in favor of the substance prevailing. Still, if skateboarding is considered a sport, it’s the only one where being intoxicated is perfectly fine until it’s not.

So while it’s up to the individual—often a minor—to navigate this world with caution, we understand the success rate of this and accept it because no one wants an “International Skateboarding Drug Committee®” or any real regulation on their personal lives. Instead, we rely on ourselves and peers to figure shit out.

To end on a positive note, I spoke to Gino Iannucci last December about his success with sobriety and the short video titled “61st Street” released with a new Nike SB x Poets sneaker. As the piece explains, the video is a reflection, a thank you, and most importantly, a positive push.

You can head to High Snobiety to read the piece and view the video but for the sake of convenience, I’ve pasted the copy below:

It’s December 30 when I meet Gino Iannucci in a cafe on The Bowery in Manhattan. Everyone around feels psychically united by a blend of holiday hangover and new decade optimism—one of the few times the city of New York feels reflective. Recently relocated from his long-time home in Long Island to Manhattan, Iannucci is upbeat. Though we’re there to discuss the collaboration between Nike SB and his brand Poets, our conversation is centered around a narrative that usurps sneakers, skateboarding or the impending new year.

“It’s different for everyone,” he replies when I ask about his six months of sobriety. “There were two back-to-back skate trips to Europe that I could barely remember, the last one ending pretty badly. I got into a program in Palmdale, California with the help of AVE [Anthony Van Engelen]. He really led me into treatment.”

Photos by David Serrano

Having dealt with alcoholism for most of his adult life and career in skating, Iannucci has talked about addiction in interviews and videos before. Sometimes it was in jest, like the time he pointed to the house arrest monitor above his Air Jordans in Yeah Right! (2003). Other times, like in his Epicly Later’d video series for VICE and in a candid interview with Jenkem Magazine in 2014, he got into the grit of the disease, detailing his experience in a shock program at a minimum-security prison in Upstate New York as a consequence for a series of alcohol-related incidents. Despite his honesty, both interviews never spoke about programs, meetings or epiphanies but instead served up bits of truth as to why he hadn’t followed up his comeback part in Yeah Right! with another full part. This is how fans of skating often quantify careers: by minutes on screen, not their poignancy.

The video, filmed by David Serrano, edited by Iannucci and titled “61st Street,” is less of a comeback and more of a meditation. Released alongside the Nike SB x Poets Bruin Low, the five-minute clip was shot entirely in Palmdale and Lancaster, a nod to the location of the facility that aided his sobriety.

There are tricks, of course, but it’s their placement, framing, and repetition that resonates. Through the washed-out grain, there is symbolism and synergy. The greenery punching through the dusty landscape reflects the shoe’s Voltage Green Swoosh but that aesthetic callback is purely coincidental. It’s the slow and often jumpy footage of Iannucci pushing and flickering on a barren highway, sometimes cast against power line masts resembling crucifixes commingling with Jane’s Addiction’s “Three Days,” that lay the tone.

“61st Street” has its allusions to Iannucci’s experience but on its own what’s relatable is its honesty. Agnostic of theme, it depicts the humble battle for fulfillment that anyone who’s skated can relate to—turning a stretch of pavement, a slight bump or a curb into satisfaction. Watching Iannucci spin a back 360 ollie off a curb cut is as fulfilling as his iconic one in Yeah Right! because you see the work that goes into skateboarding. Like Jim Greco’s recent skate films Jobs? Never!Year 13, and The Way Out, “61st Street” may come from a serious place but it’s still light and it’s still skateboarding.

“One of those tricks—just a little clip, actually—legit took three days to get a good make,” he says laughing. “Skateboarding is no joke in your 40s.”

Greg Hunt on Jason Dill

The Bizarre Tale of an Unpublished Piece

This one was odd. In 2018 I was asked to interview former pro skater and current filmmaker, Greg Hunt about his photo book about Jason Dill titled Ninety-Six Dreams, Two Thousand Memories. Greg and I hopped on a call and the interview went really well, I wrote up the piece quickly to coincide with the pre-order for the book, and filed it with my editor.

I followed up and was told the piece wasn’t running and accepted the kill fee. Just kidding, none was offered but whatever. Anyway, months later a piece ran in the same publication about the book and I thought that was strange but I have no quarrel with said publication and understand that things shift so my piece ended up as a Google Doc that just hung out in my drive.

Later that year I was working on a hit for Transworld Skateboarding Magazine titled 101 Snuff: 25 Years Later and wanted to interview Jason Dill as his and Gino Iannucci’s parts are what made Snuff so memorable to me. Before we started digging into Snuff, Dill explained that he requested that the interview with Greg about said book didn’t run at his request because he felt that hyping up a pre-order was corny.

That’s Jason Dill and I think it’s rad that he cares enough about everything he’s involved in to curate it tightly. So, yeah, it was a drag to not have the piece run but guess what? Now it can and since the book’s long sold out, you can just enjoy some thoughtful musings about its creation below and most importantly, some great quotes about Dill and how his obsessions influence Fucking Awesome.

“Dill had a California ID with his New York address on it. I didn’t even know you could do that! “

“The most interesting things are the ones you do because you can’t help yourself,” Greg Hunt says about his photography book, Ninety-Six Dreams, Two Thousand Memories which visually documents his friendship with professional skateboarder and company owner Jason Dill. Before the advent of digital media and user-generated content, the publishing industry was not only more influential culturally but more profitable. Depending on your source,  the written word’s value is in decline or gloriously niche, leaving printed media is in a perilous position. While anyone can self-publish a book on-demand, fewer books than ever are being produced en-masse, especially with high production and quality standards. Art and photography books are even trickier as their high manufacturing costs leave little room for profit, often relegating them to what many call “vanity projects.”

Perhaps there’s no better category than for a book that follows one of skateboarding’s most divisive and enigmatic figure for 16 years. Well, how about passion project, as Hunt quickly mentions to me that he tweaked the book for over a year in his free time, working tightly with Dill to come up with a finished project that was truly captured the sentiment they intended and without a big backer behind them.

“Dill has a clear vision for how he sees things and it’s very immediate,” he says. “We wanted to make a quality photography book. A big part of that was finding a publisher who understood that. Not only do the people at Paradigm come from skateboarding, but they were willing to do it the right way to actually make it the right way. It’s a real independent, DIY project. There’s care into every page.”

More than a profile of an individual or a look behind the scenes, the book’s photography illustrates the relationship between Dill and former pro skater, photographer, and cinematographer, Greg Hunt. Hunt and Dill’s friendship began in the early ‘90s in San Francisco while they were both sponsored amateurs. Towards the end of the ‘90s, Hunt started to direct his efforts towards photography and film, eventually phasing out of his professional career, while Dill was entering his second prime of sorts. 

“I started shooting him right after Photosynthesis (Alien Workshop, 2000)—at the top of his game and really free,” he says. “Over the next few years, culminating on our working on Mind Field he was drinking a lot and not coming on trips—that lifestyle caught up to him and he almost died. By 2010, he was down to basically one sponsor and he hadn’t been in the magazines. Then he came out to Los Angeles, got sober, started skating again, turned F.A. into a board company and even got the cover of Thrasher. It’s inspiring. I spent a lot of time with him last year to really show where he is in his life now. Even as a friend it’s interesting to me.” 

Ninety-Six Dreams, Two Thousand Memories’ intention is neither to be a skateboarding book or art book but rather, a personal view into a magnetic, influential lifestyle of a creative. Fuck, that sounds pretentious, right? That’s often a word thrown around about Jason Dill—a lazy way to label, rather than understand one's thinking and process. As you drill deeper into the pages of Ninety-Six Dreams, Two Thousand Memories, you are transported into nuanced situations, where humor, poignant, irreverence, and the spit of tragedy occupy the same frame. Living room interiors, images from the road, ephemera, candids taken on a marble ledge somewhere in the US, and handwritten notes all burnished on analog film dance around the pages of the book which was mostly shot with a single Leica camera.

“None of it was made with any intention, instead it was like ‘Look at Dill’s phone number list written on the back of a chlamydia report after he got tested for STDs,’” he says. “Dill had a California ID with his New York address on it. I didn’t even know you could do that! There’s a shot of his living room in 2005, with just a TV on a milk crate, There’s a boxing match on the TV, there’s all this shit on the windowsill and there’s writing all over the walls. It characterizes Jason without him even being in the photo.”

Dill’s abridged story is relatively honest and immeasurably inspiring, almost subtle, despite how willing he is to share in interviews and in front of a camera. Born in Southern California into a broken home, where zip code and school changes were commonplace, being a nomad was almost built into him but with skateboarding as a conduit, it instilled a spirit of exploration and immersion, resulting in distinct presence, an impressive body of work, entrepreneurship, and an almost dysfunctional liver—the ups and downs of true living. The chronicle makes it obvious that nothing is phase or fad to Jason Dill; they’re all pins in the map of his life, one that Hunt says “Hasn’t been a constant by any means.” The images—curated primarily by Hunt—show visual punches thrown over the years that are echoed in his current brands Fucking Awesome and Hockey. You see consistency and evolution throughout the book that’s manifested into the success and influence of F.A. /Hockey. 

“There’s a picture from around 2007 when he was staying with me of my kitchen table,” he says. “It’s a complete fucking mess. There’s beer bottles, New York Posts, rubber stamps, pens… just this whole hamster cage on my table. He’d stay up all night, making postcards that he’d send to friends, but he makes them with old Penthouse Magazines and newspaper clippings. There’s a recent photo of his workspace now and it shows some scissors and glue and that’s how he makes all the F.A. graphics—it’s super low-tech, but it looks the same way.”

Having known Dill since the ‘90s and working with him on both Alien Workshop’s Mind Field video (2009) and later, Vans first full-length video, Propeller (2015), Hunt not only fostered a deep relationship and understanding of Dill but an equally vast catalog of images, many that never had a home. The archive simply existing was the impetus for the book, but the execution and process were important. In looking at Ninety-Six Dreams, Two Thousand Memories, what becomes apparent is the synergy between Hunt and Dill’s process and vision—the detail, refinement, and insight that informs their craft. That mutual respect leads you into a different side of someone who’s known for being boisterous and never camera shy. Stepping outside of the skateboarding world, the book lives as a highly labored over artifact, agnostic of genre or subculture.

“It’s not a book about Jason Dill, where someone collects different photographer’s images and tries to tell the story their way,” he explains. “This is about our friendship—the postcards he’d send, his drawings, the weird shit. it’s about my time with him.”

Skateboarding Is Not Progressive

Poking Holes In Perception.

SKATEBOARDING IS NOT PROGRESSIVE

Skateboarding has traditionally been a vehicle for creatives, outcasts, and those seeking subculture. While there’s always an expanding and contracting sect who view skateboarding as a sport or an activity, it's become a community and almost a religion to some. Because of its attraction to outsiders, the myth was birthed that it’s progressive. We hear this incessantly in think pieces, specifically those written over the last five years. “I was attracted to skateboarding because it’s so progressive but… “

Part of removing the “but” in these conversations is leveling things and accepting the reality that once the skateboarding industry switched from toy companies to core companies in the 1970s it ceased to be progressive. Due to the accessibility, a global community has taken to creating their own version of it, skateboarding has changed to reflect those outsider voices that perhaps combine to equal its actual majority but the infrastructure isn’t progressive by any social or even economic standards. In fact, if we view “skateboarding”—the generic term we apply to a thing so broad no one truly can quantify how large it is—through the lens of how we see society or even the political landscapes across the globe, it’s muddy, complicated, and closer to Donald Trump’s brand of Republican “values” rather than anything close to progressive.

Trump’s strategy—not platform—is to allow wealthy white men in power to remain in power and enact policy driven by economic gain. He’s vile, he mocks those marginalized, he panders to those who want “less government” but also wants more rules against the marginalized. Bootstrapping, free market, and “if you want it, come get it” are the tenets and the “love it or leave it” sentiment could easily be subbed out for “shut up and skate.” In other words, if you disagree with his faux-policy, you’re not only wrong but should be silent about it and go about your business. This mirrors dissent in the skateboarding industry.

While there’s no lack of anti-authority sentiment, it’s mostly focused outward on police and security guards. We can almost mirror that to those who hate “big government” and don’t want economic regulation or gun control for example. In skateboarding, “shut up and skate” is a simple, dismissive and antiquated slogan, invented in the ‘80s and popularized by Zorlac Skateboards. It was never meant to be used in its context now, specifically in social media, where commenters throw it around whenever any gender, equality, or political issues in skateboarding arise. 

To drill into this leap in thinking, we should break down the sectors of skateboarding’s industry composition to fully understand skateboarding’s historical lack of progressive action and thinking. This is not a referendum on those who have been progressive but rather a way to highlight those who strive to use their position to advance it and level set expectations.

ECONOMICS/INDUSTRY 

Several conservative economists do not want universal health care, universal income, welfare, equal pay or a living wage. These are the most direct lines we can make to the skateboarding industry who treat most professionals as independent contractors who have to “work to get paid fairly.” Furthermore, partially due to their size, most skate companies aren’t publicly traded, therefore we cannot access their value making their profitability trivial. 

Being an independent contractor means the company doesn’t owe you benefits, profit share or anything other than a paycheck—there is no structure other than “do this until we don’t want to pay you.”  This allows companies the freedom to cycle through riders as they deem necessary. Unlike organized sports that have unionized, there is no retirement plan for a qualified professional. Conservatives dislike unions and would rather say that the money you make during your career is yours to invest in your future and competitive balance will create the best investment, health care, and housing opportunities. They’ll also claim that the reason this isn’t entirely the case is because of Democrats pushing back on this free-market approach.

This economic model not only cripples the actual talent who propel the industry but because of the expense of producing products in the United States, takes production to China, Mexico, and other countries with less regulated labor. In a sense, not only does the industry support child labor to produce goods but by encouraging minors to forego education by enticing them with a pro model, they are taking a less than progressive stance on child labor in their employee practices. 

This splits things into “talent” (team riders) and “production workers” which is a much broader category. If we look at production as a large bucket, this can stretch as far as those working in factories to produce skateboards into the digital space where people create content for brand social media handles—it’s a massive expanse bound by a “free market” principle which is something central to the thinking of Economic Conservatives. The belief is that if an economy isn’t regulated with minimum wage, gender pay equality, or affirmative action, it will make the market competitive and reward those providing best-in-class services. While that may seem logical to some, we realize that this doesn’t work in the current economic structure in the US specifically.

We can draw a parallel by thinking of skateboarding as a cousin of the entertainment industry. Many aspiring actors, writers, producers, and set workers would work for free in order to build their bodies of work which is a massive reason why unions exist. The unions not only de-privatize pay but also ensure that “scabs” cannot take the jobs of those who pay into the unions. It’s the same thing in professional sports. In 1994, The Major League Baseball Union voted to strike, refusing to finish the 1994 season, canceling the postseason and postponing Opening Day in 1995. The owners were ready to use replacement players, dubbed scabs for crossing the union’s lines, who were willing to play for whatever they’d be compensated for.

Because skateboarding has no union of any sort, a professional or anyone employed in the industry can be paid as much or as little as their employers feel is right. This has not lead to best-in-class services being rewarded but instead, the economic disparity in skateboarding. Take a look at the Global Rankings at The Boardr. Are these the highest-paid skateboarders? Does an artist or designer at Element make more than one at Plan B or WKND? Few really know the answers.

So let’s talk about employees. No one knows the percentages or pay scale for women and LGBTQ workers in skateboarding but by scanning the landscape and speaking to activists such as Kim Woozy and Mimi Knoop, we can estimate it at less than 10% over the past 30-40 years. This also means that the majority of the product, strategy, promotion, media, team management, event production, and video content has been overwhelmingly not only male but dominated by brand involvement. 

MEDIA 

For most forms of media, corporate or at least brand interests are first. Many have joked that there is no such thing as journalism in skateboarding for this exact reason. There’s no reporting only promotion. There are no formal checks and balances against skateboarding’s labor practices or social behaviors, only reactions when behavior has gone into the red. This form of media specifically is the opposite of the free press and exactly why we as a community rarely know anything as fact in skateboarding. 

In looking at the late-Transworld Skateboarding Magazine and Thrasher Magazine as examples, they were both started by truck companies looking to promote their riders, while the defunct but beloved Big Brother Magazine was not only a vehicle for World Industries’ brands but was essentially a satire publication not a source of news or traditional journalism.

Additionally, those involved in skate media—print and digital—have historically been CIS males who rarely have the instincts to cover what’s outside their sphere of skateboarding. While this patriarchy is beginning to change, the money structure makes it largely difficult for smaller publications to secure the ad money to raise their profile.

INSTITUTIONS 

Who was the first African American to turn pro? They’re not recognized in the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, they’re not mentioned during Black History Month, and even a Google search—if you actually care enough to look—won’t produce a clear answer immediately. What’s interesting is that the only responsible bodies in skateboarding are the corporations or larger organizations such as the Olympic committees who conversely are the most dissected and distrusted. They have to be accountable whereas a core skate brand can pivot, ask for a post to be deleted or just ignore hate speech or any real controversy.

Despite the lack of inclusion in skate history, minority-owned companies are where skateboarding has fared well, especially since the 2000s but it was only in the mid-90s that entire teams were comprised of black, Latinx, and Asian skaters in the Mark Gonzales led 60/40 that was backed by John Falahee as well as the smaller scale Profile Skateboards team. Due to the industry’s historical base in California, Latinx men have been major contributors to skateboarding but their discussion has historically been agnostic of their heritage, emphasizing their on-board contributions only.

If we drill back into skateboarding’s visual history, it’s a rather shallow dive, with illustrated graphics only being mass-produced at the tail end of the 1970s. Prior to that, skateboards mostly had simple line art or bore text with a company or rider’s name. Wes Humpston and C. R. Stecyk III were pivotal in skateboarding’s new graphic direction in the 1970s, drawing from surf, graffiti, and hot rod culture to craft more illustrative board adornments.

Surf culture, specifically the Surf Nazis of Southern California had a massive impact on the Dogtown Duo’s work, where swastikas, SS-Totenkopfverbände skulls, and iron crosses often appeared in neon-repeats. Though they weren’t intended as declarations of White Nationalism, they were hardly signifiers of progression or acceptance.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Another interesting call out in skateboarding is intellectual property. Defined as “a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.” this is something skateboarding has traditionally given two shits about. Riders often have no contracts and can be stolen, graphics and logos are stolen, riffed on, and repurposed without regard to the original artist, rider or creator, and it wasn’t until videos predominantly began to live online where they’re subject to copyright law, did anyone view using an artist’s song in a video without permission as stealing? Steve Rocco once said, “Fuck you, I bought the CD at Tower Records so I own the song—sue me.” 

Not only are songs typically not used with permission but very questionable choices have been made from GG Allin and Skrewdriver to Death in June and whichever misogynistic song you’d like to include of any genre. Technically, you have to be an adult to purchase or hear these songs on internet platforms but in skateboarding you just put them in the video, without regard for what language is being used.

Furthermore, there’s no concern that minors will be consuming songs that contain racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic language repeatedly, indelibly impacting their opinions subconsciously. The sentiment is that stealing without giving credit is OK and often encouraged.

THE FALLACY OF SELF-POLICING

There is the argument that at its core, skateboarding is self-governing which can be viewed as progressive if that self-moderation was creating balance. From factory production dominance to gender pay imbalance it’s easy to argue the lack of success. 

By now we can see that part of skateboarding’s resistance to being self-aware is that of censorship but that observation is somewhat of a ruse. Those who have been “fighting” have not been promoting a progressive agenda but rather their agenda as it relates to their point of view, business model or personal interests. The base argument of regulation versus deregulation is central to the political situation in the United States and United Kingdom—big government or small government; liberal or conservative. 

Most people in skateboarding don’t want regulation—that’s not seen as progressive. We’re punk, remember? Regulation is seen as the opposite of punk and why some of his supporters view Trump as a “punk president.” Now do you see why skateboarding is not at all progressive? Instead, it’s similar to the Wild West where money is hidden under mattresses and any possible offense is met with “so what?”

There are no mandates, no structures, no bodies that govern skateboarding to ensure it survives as an industry and culture and why it has been decimated several times. Skateboarding is often vulnerable to the larger market trends as its not involved in trade policy, tariffs, or labor laws in the same way it’s not involved in social policy, charity, or reform.

The one caveat is that skateboarding and skateboarders have been vocal and active in preserving and creating public spaces to ride skateboards, often aided by brands—transparent advocacy. If fewer kids can skate, fewer kids and parents can buy products so providing places that foster the activity is a sales strategy for larger brands. 

GRASSROOTS

On the non-corporate or branded side, there has been plenty of progressive movement and even brand funded initiatives and many are meant to create community and connectivity in a positive way. That is the spark of progression but the division between those who seek progression and the gatekeepers in the industry is wide. It’s more than showing up to a skate park like Robin Hood with free product or funding a trip to somewhere that lacks a skatepark. It’s more than collaborating with smaller, trending brands to create relevancy, and it’s more than tapping into new markets because spreadsheets see their value this fiscal year. Progression is a redistribution of power and wealth for the greater good. 

Understanding the baseline—that in 2019, the industry is not progressive—is the first step in dialog and change. Ignoring this history or being ambivalent to puts skateboarding in the same position Americans are dug into politically. Skateboarding doesn’t have any Confederate statues to take down but we do have truck companies that utilize divisive icons akin to the Confederate flag.

Not understanding or allowing ourselves to challenge the establishment in counter to progress and exactly what gatekeepers want. Furthermore, it enforces the trope that skateboarders aren’t intelligent and intellectualism has no place in it, allowing inequality both socially and economically to thrive. 

Without history, reporting, organization or any governing body, skateboarding is and always has been a rogue activity but don’t mistake that for being a progressive one. This isn’t anarchy or a collective push against the mainstream, it’s marketed dissent.

In its innocence, it was a loud “fuck you” to societal norms but as we close out a decade it feels naive and lazy to cling to that salvo. Of course, we can all easily “shut up and skate” or voice our disdain in small circles but all that does is perpetuate a broken system and ultimately frustrate an entire community, regardless of how you engage in it or even view it.

Things don’t have to be broken to be fixed and improving something because you respect it and the opportunity it’s given you and presents is essentially the essence of progression. 

*Thank you to Christian Kerr for his editing help and insight.

Interview: Daewon Song

A Lesson In Longevity.

PHOTOGRAPH: ERIK GOSS

Earlier this year I interviewed Daewon Song for Highsnobiety for Daewon—a documentary about his career by adidas Skateboarding. You can peep that here if you want to catch up. Like his teammate Marc Johnson, Daewon is obsessive about skateboarding and everything tangential to it. As a pro in his 40s, he’s taken his ability to do pretty much anything he wants on a skateboard to social media, resulting in over a million followers and all the weirdly technical shit you’d expect for one of the most gifted to ever do it.

In 2017, I had a conversation with him about this new stage in his career and—like my conversation with MJ—we went into the serious minutia of skateboarding. What’s great about Marc and Daewon is that regardless of how talented they are and how long they’ve been pro, they speak to you as an equal. They speak to you like any person at a spot who loves talking skating to death.

Here’s a long one with Daewon Song.

How were the shoe and the board release this weekend?

It was good, it was definitely super fun. It’s cool to see the different vibes at shops. It's fun just watching and being around that. Pretty wild. I don't know how to explain it. It was amazing interacting with the kids and actually showing up and supporting the shops. They're so supportive. You're there to say thank you to the shops most importantly.

I was talking with someone about this yesterday. Whether you're in media or riding for a team or owning a company, people talk about “the kids” so much and then when you actually go out and see kids at an event or at a skatepark, it's so different than what everyone “thinks” kids do or how they interact with social media.

It is, it's so personal. You can be in LB shop in Long Beach—Long Beach is so local for me, it's right there but I've never been to that shop. Being able to go there and see so many familiar faces I've seen around and then going ‘Wow, I didn't even know that you were part of this shop.’

Then to see all these kids and they're locals to that shop that I've seen around all these little skate parks and stuff. You see where their heart's at, who they back. You just see all these crazy personalities. You just never know where a kid is headed or who they are. Honestly, it's all just skateboarding anyways and all these kids love to skateboard. When you just narrow it down they're just all skateboarders. Of course, we all have different personalities but to see that altogether all in one place and to see the love and feel the love and support from the shop the skaters and everyone… it's just something you can't really explain.

To me it never wears off, I was at this skate jam yesterday and I saw this kid who was probably 14 and he had such a sick style. Now you can follow that kid on Instagram and watch them progress.

For sure, there's a bunch of kids that I'll see at parks and they just catch my interest. They’re just them being themselves, doing what they love and being able to shut out what people think around them. I just had this conversation with some kids. Sometimes for me around kids—especially at demos—I'm a nervous wreck. Even in contests, my knees buckle and I'm like “Oh my God, I feel like I've never skated in my life."‘

I wish I could be like a dog—they can just walk up on a corner in public and just go to the bathroom. They're just peeing like ‘I don't care, this is me, this is what I do.’

I don't really want to do that, I'm just saying if I could just go to a park and not worry about what people are thinking and—just get in there and do my thing—I wish I had more of that.

Then you start to get comfortable. You start to say what's up to all the kids. You get to know them. All it takes is just to go up to a kid and see how they're doing and say ‘Hey, nice to meet you’ and you break the ice with everybody around the park. All of a sudden you're all at the skatepark having fun. Then I get to know these kids and I watch them and then I automatically want to find them on Instagram and start following them to see their progression through their skate career. Just to watch them develop and become their own is amazing.

We take for granted that we're still the first generation of the video era where you watch your favorite skaters grow up on video.

We had to wait like a year and a half and by the time that video surfaced and came out we were already a year and a half behind what was going on. At our local skatepark, somebody built a ramp that was completely wrong in the back and we took it, pushed it into a park and it would tip on the front end and it would cause the bottom to come up, so someone would stand behind it and hold it down. I love the fact that era that I was able to just skate and not know what was going on.

It was like a mystery box every time. By the time I saw a video I could not believe what I was watching. I'll never get that again but I love the fact that I did get that. Now something new is happening every two minutes on social media. I'm not going to sit here and be upset about that but it did take away a lot of what it was like back then. It was like watching something and getting that surprise like going to a magic show when you were a little kid and going ‘Oh my god I can't believe he did that.’

You’ve said you were really influenced by the Z Boys of the mid/late ‘80s, especially Scott Oster. Those guys aren't too documented. What did you think was cool about them? It's very different from where you ended up in skating.

It all depends on where you grew up. I grew up in Gardena, California. When people would stay at my house and their parents would be like ‘hmmm,  where does he live?’ My cross streets were Crenshaw and Rosencrans. It was known for gang violence but it's not as bad as it sounds. It just happened that I lived by some extremely popular cross streets that are known for as soon as you get out of your house somebody shoots you. It wasn’t actually that bad but everybody was gang banging or they're out there riding.

I embraced this whole idea that the Z-Boys were a family they're all bangers but they’re going to skate too . Then I seen these guys in Carson—this is later—the second generation of Z Boys were all in Carson. I would see them around and go damn these guys, I swear to God I'd seen one of them skate with a brush in his back pocket to slick his hair back.

These guys had a reputation of just doing their thing. I just liked the aggression they had. I just felt like since they grew up in Carson which was neighboring Gardena, they were like they're like me. I was just attracted to that and thinking wow, ‘The Z boys, they're all riding like those trucks—Z Rollers—the noise they make, it's just crazy!’ It really captures you as a kid!

I loved Z Boys so I wanted to be a Z Boy. I instantly went and bought the shirt, got the board. I saved money because picked flowers from my neighbor's house, sold them back to them for $5 to make money. As a kid my mom and dad bought me one board—that was it and it got stolen at a doughnut shop which is ironic, how funny. Two weeks later it got stolen so I had to go out there and find a board for myself. I ended up getting hand me downs and used roller skate wheels just to get something set up.

I'm a little obsessed with that era because there's so little out there of those guys and what you did see was really cool. Growing up on the East Coast I didn't get exposed to it, it's almost in the way that I mythologize my hometown heroes. It's like a regional thing.

What skaters from your certain generation were you really big on—who your favorites from the East Coast?

It was weird because my favorites were people I’d see skating. They were above me but felt like peers. I remember seeing Jahmal Williams in a Molotov ad and knew he was from Boston. When I first started traveling to skate in Boston, it was Jamal Williams and Robbie Gangemi—they were like my age but they were so sick. You knew they were going to be pro. I wanted to bring this up because Dan Gallagher grew up a few towns over from me. Both of you get credited for making up the hardflip.

Oh yup, Dan Gallagher, the guy who I always mention when people are like ‘You have the first documented hardflip.’ I might have the first documented one but I remember Rodney telling me that this guy Dan Gallagher did the first inside kickflip. Me and Rodney [Mullen] had talked about that so immediately we wanted to learn it.  I finally documented it for that Love Child part that had come out in 1991. It was the worst, ugliest one. In fact, they should have never slow-moded it. I looked at it recently and I was like ‘Wow, you can even tell it bounced off the ground.’

Dan Gallagher that's insane.

It was funny because there was so little information and then he'd [Dan] come back from staying and California— we knew he was getting flowed from World—and he would be like, ‘Oh I've been skating with Rodney—he’s street skating now.’ We thought he was fucking with us until Questionable came out.

I mean it in the most respectful way but Dan kind of an outcast to skateboarding because everybody was skating differently—he was skating flatground trying to do wild stuff. It was crazy, kind of like New Deal. Chris Hall comes to mind, just filming wild flatground tricks. Skateboarding has been through some crazy times with what was okay to film in a video.

Now I feel like it's opened up to where it's just like you're out there, get creative do your thing, skate a cub do something on flat, use a crack, it doesn't matter. There's no real set standard where you have to follow. You just got to let everybody be themselves and go in their own direction. If it gets them up in the morning and gets them amped and inspired and motivated to get out and just go do their thing, why would you want to take that away from them? That's what skateboarding is.

We have the luxury where we can tune in and tune out to whatever we want. It's like the really ridiculous, I don't mean ridiculous in a negative way I mean when kids do these insane combo fly out tricks that get reposted on an Instagram channel. It’s incredible but if you're not into it don't watch it, who cares?

Yeah, you don't have to watch it. I have to admit got swallowed up into social media where I even caught myself going ‘Hey, what am I doing?’ I'm swinging around like I'm some kind of circus clown. I'm going to kick my board, I'm going to kick the hell out of it. I'm going to cross my fingers and it might do something like a 540—I don't know how many times it's going to flip or I just skate some random junk left at the skatepark. 

There is a point where some of the stuff on Instagram is a little wild even for me. I give it up to them I'm like you know what they're doing their thing. There are just crazy little limits in our skate world. It's got this weird wall that people do not see that you have to like... It's in a sense to get over that wall it takes a certain thing. Then once you're over that wall you have the freedom to do whatever you want.

Still, the “industry” doesn’t accept a lot of talented kids. If somebody… if they're gifted beyond belief and they're doing a quadruple sex change flip to this and that and then they're developing a following, you’ll have people who respect that and then there are the people out there that just cannot stand it. They could be amazing but no company wants to hook them up. There are so many companies out there but no one will touch a kid with a million followers if they feel like their tricks aren’t cool.

Did you ever feel that in your career? Did you ever feel like you had to skate a certain way?

When I was growing up in the 90's skating I remember filming a whole part from ‘90 to mid-91. It was never able to be used because before Love Child came out I was watching the footage and knew to myself that those combo tricks I filmed or impossible variations were done. They're not relevant anymore, we missed the window of these tricks being relevant because we waited a year and a half. I’d film a 360 flip noseslide to crooked grind because you wanted to do the newest shit but then I realized I needed to tone it down—do it with a little more speed and just keep it relaxed. Just do a 360 flip noseslide. Forget the crooked, you don't need that to it.  

Just keep it clean and that's it. I remember some of the old footage I was sitting on had a lot of that stuff, like boardslide to 5-0 back to boardslide and come out with a body varial. People were like ‘No, we cannot use that.’

How crazy is that though? People are still judging you that way but I think people are just doing their own thing. Skating is more accepted than it ever has and everybody wants to stand out in a different way. There were a lot of pro skaters in the 90s but now there’s so many. When I was a kid buying a board there were maybe 20 pro models to choose from. In the ’90s there were like 200. Now it’s insane how many pros are out there—dudes you never heard of. 

I would hope to meet somebody who could name every single pro that's out there right now. If they could I would shake their hand and be like ‘Wow, you're on it, you know everything!’ But back to what you said, you had to skate a certain way [Back in the ‘90s]. You didn't have to but you followed a certain direction of where skateboarding was going in order to ...

You want to feel accepted and connected to it.

I remember a point where we were in a room and everybody was watching somebody's video part—I'm not going to say the name but a big name in the industry. The part was filled with late flips and shit. This was back in like 94/95 and we were like ‘He's still doing late flips? Oh my god man!’

It was just weird that we were judging. A lot of kids out there they don't know how much craziness was going on back then. Triple late flips, you had Damon Byrd doing a triple straight pressure flip off of a loading dock. I don't take anything away from that. I see late flips now and I've even filmed one for my Instagram. It's like you said, if you're going to do something you have to back it 100% and say ‘Hey, I'm doing this because I want to not because I'm trying to be somebody else—I'm trying to pick this route and I'm going to try and do late flips and make myself known from that.’ But then they go, “Shit, the late flip thing didn't work, I'm going to go all-terrain, push faster.’ You've got to let it be natural.

I was listening to an interview with him Mike York recently and it really hit something. He was talking about how he's like ‘You've got to understand at a certain point in the 90's we never even had marks in the middle of our board because it wasn't cool to do a boardslide. You wouldn't do it. Those were out, it was the nose and the tail, the middle of our boards would look brand new.’ Then he went on to say how now he doesn’t give a fuck and does what he wants but back then he wouldn’t do those tricks. 

Exactly, there's a lot of guys too nowadays that don't even count lipslides as tricks. It's almost like putting your board in a position where it's sleeping, no matter what it's going to stay up there. You really don't need any actual weight distribution as long as you're just standing on your board. Honestly, it's not like that. There's still a level of skill that's involved with that. But like you said, some tricks were illegal.

 I remember how uncool the feeble grind was. It was just like “Yikes, he just did a feeble grind on the ledge that is disgusting.’

Then, all it takes is somebody who is super cool and they feeble grind down Hubba Hideout. Well, that just got cool. Mike Carroll did that trick and he was one of the guys in the forefront of innovating at Embarcadero and when he did that, he changed things—he just made wrong right. It's wild that that can just happen.  

Pressure flips, I used to love pressure flips. Then I got to a point where I was like I cannot stand that trick. It's ruining my board. I have one side of my tail that I could completely sit there and cut a sandwich in half with it and cut my leg. It was one of the worst tricks ever. In an instant pressure, flips went out. Then we had a few people still running it and we're like “Whoa, somebody hasn't been watching any new videos.’

It's funny. Then there were guys who kept doing it, all the respect to them man, they didn't let anything stop them. That’s what I love about skateboarding now is you just get on your board, you just do your thing. 

What do you think changed so much that you can have the type of career you have or Mike Valleley could have the career that he's had or Mike Carroll or yourself? How this longevity can keep going?

I don't know, I don't know what changed. I turned pro when I was 16 and I was thinking ‘Whoa, I don't know what I'm going to be doing when I'm 20 because that's game over.’

I would hear that a pro turned 25 and think that was crazy. I was thinking at 25 I was going to be some sort of architect. I pictured myself in a workman's helmet doing some hard construction. I was ready for it, I was down… or hoping to be a fisherman on this big vessel. Skateboarding had become—in a sense it changed so much. I started riding the nine-inch board and people were asking me how I can skate it? I was telling them that it still feels skinny to me. When we filmed Love Child those boards were still over 8” and we were flipping them. I think what changed is that people realized there was more to learn than what was considered cool. What kept me motivated is I just wanted to keep learning and learning and I just didn't want to fall behind. Videos were coming out more frequently and pushing things [in the ‘90s]. Things were going bigger, getting faster, getting more technical. There was more fuel for me to burn, fuel for me to eat off of. Now you think look at the new generation. They're insane. Sometimes I watch things I can't even believe that that just happened.  

I love the fact that I see through Instagram and through social media… you see the older generation, the oldest generations and everybody—the newer generation—everybody just out there still doing it. It inspires you, it keeps you going.

Of course, there are the few that are out there that I grew up skating with that I wish they were still skating as hard as they did. Everybody has a different way of what moves them and what motivates them. For me, it's my skateboard. I still dream about it. I had a dream last night that I did something and I woke upset about the fact that I can't do it. 

A lot of people realize that as you get older you have to adjust your skating because your body can’t keep up. Is there anything that's more difficult for you now?

What's more difficult for me is I used to always skate picnic tables like there are little ledges—just get out of my way table you're so little. Now I go ‘Damn this table, I don't know whether to skate or sit down because Jesus, it got higher!’

I almost think to myself when I get to a picnic table I should have just brought a lunch down, just hang out here on the table and eat. You've got to force yourself and say ‘Hey I can still get on this table’ and you'll be surprised.

I'm hoping to find like an invisible bump on the schoolyard—a big bump to help me that you can't see on video. That and then jumping off stuff. Jumping off super big things. There was a point in my career before my first video part where I used to love skating double sets but then board smacked my face and did a lot of damage. Also, I broke my foot back in 1990 and I never got it fixed right.

I never went to the doctor after I broke it, just used crutches and I let it heal by itself. On the side of my leg, there's a bone kind of hanging out and it scares me when I jump off stuff that's too big I’m so afraid it's going to break. 

It seriously is inspiring to think that I'm not a kid anymore but I'm still here and I'm still enjoying myself and I'm still trying to get myself to just be that same kid who just wanted to jump off anything, jump over anything and jump onto anything. I don't know, you get this feeling in your heart with skateboarding—it just keeps growing and growing and growing no matter how old you get the love for it just gets stronger. It's just a little too crazy for your body do you know what I mean?

Yeah, you can't be a Zero guy you're whole life.

When I was younger I chose a different direction—the more technical type of skating, where it's not going to be so hard on my body. I felt like I could do it longer. I think it helped me to maintain and go with where I am with skateboarding. I just need to do some leg exercises to get my pop back man. I want to be able to just approach a table and be like you know what? First try, boom.

It's not like that anymore. I'm quick to admit that I've lost a lot of tricks through time but I've gained a few here and there. I can look back at how much I've lost, I can look back at how much I've learned and I can sit down and say hey you know what? ‘Why stop? Why ever stop when you can still learn and learn.’

Experience too, going to these parks and talking to all these kids and seeing how good they are and how fast they're progressing. It's so inspiring man, 

Along with being a part of that progression you’ve been able to start companies and design products, how do you approach that?

When I started Deca it was fun. I had a lot of talented friends and got to put them on. You get them in there and they get to design their own shape. They get to put their own graphic on a board. You become more in touch with what exactly you want—the specs, the size, the concave, longer tail, bigger nose, these things motivate you. It's like a personal touch that you get to put in on everything.

Putting your name on something means you have to back it 100%—there's a lot of guys out there that endorse products and they don't even ride them. That gets under my skin. It's like you ride for this certain truck company but you ride a different truck? I get it that's fine, I get it. That happens in the industry. But for me, I don't want to endorse a product if I'm not going to ride. I rode for all the weirdest truck companies. I didn't ride for any of the cool ones back then. It was like god the cool ones are like Indy, Venture, and Thunder. I was like ‘Oh I'm riding for Grind King.’

People would ask why and I’d go, “They've got these weird nuts that go in from the other side; That little indention that was supposed to lock you right into a rail.’ If you think about that lock mechanism that was terrible. I’m not putting them on blast, they were great trucks though, honestly, the designs were great, the trucks worked great. They weren't the coolest truck companies at the time but I backed it, I backed it proud. I put them on my board and people would be like ‘What kind of trucks do you have?’ and I would flip my board and I would be like ‘I have Grind Kings. They’re super light, they feel good and I really back them.’

Then I got on Tensor because Rodney and I were so close and I still ride Tensors to this day. It was all personal like ‘What do you like about a truck? What do you want?’

Rodney even took old trucks that I rode and helped me to get that same feeling—the lightness and the weight. How crazy is that to be able to just do that? From scratch from nothing. You can do it this way. We're going to make it lighter. We're going to make a truck that's lighter than the lightest truck you just had. He made a truck so light where there was a point that it was almost too light for Rodney and he would use these weights to put on his trucks. That's so insane.

That's crazy.

He would glue weights on each truck so they would feel right. You know him, everything was precise. For me, I was just like ‘Hey they're light damn it, let's see what happens.’ Being able to put your name on something and design something it's amazing. You get to be involved with what's on your board.  

Despite having such a long, involved career, you did take a break for a minute, right?

Dude, I'm telling you I had a year where I didn't skate, maybe two years because I had an injury and then I was slow to get back into it because I got into the wrong shit. If you go back and you look at my history, you watch the videos, you see me and there's a point where I'm hungry—Love Child, New World Order. Then 20 Shot Sequence, you can kind of see me and think ‘What's going on with him? He didn't even have a full part he shared a little part.’

‘96 it was just, he's gone, I was invisible, I got caught up with racing cars and hanging out in Long Beach and doing stupid stuff… dropping people's cars for them. I stopped skating.

Rodney still backed and trusted me during that time. You had all the World riders leaving to start Girl and later Chocolate. It was just me and Rodney in a sense. After 20 Shot, I just had a fire under my ass. I got up and I started filming and then I tried to do a video part and I did Trilogy. If you watch Trilogy, it's me getting back into skateboarding. People are skating ledges and in my part, I skate a curb. I'm was like, ‘I hope this kind of slides past people's eyes like a magic trick.’

That part was me trying to come back from quitting and really led to everything I’ve done after that.

I feel like social media is almost a new chapter in your career—post-video part Daewon.

It is and I get to be more involved than ever. Being able to still be out there with the kids and to progress with them. A 14-year-old kid can look at me and see me out there still skating, still slamming, still sweating, and still trying to learn something.  

I want them to look at that and think to themselves that you can keep doing this for as long as you want. Skateboarding is like a fountain of youth where you can just keep doing it and never stop no matter how old you get. Yeah, of course, you're going to be stuck with injuries here and there but don't let that bring you down, just get better, heal up and get back out there and do it.

I want kids to look at me and go ‘Hey Daewon is still out here, he's still trying to get better too.’ I want to look at that and say, that inspires me or that gets me hyped or gets me motivated. There's nothing better than that. To inspire someone… that's the best feeling.

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