GROW UP! #2 - Style
Hello everyone, and welcome to my second offering to the wonderful world of skateboarding. For this installment, I’ve chosen Style as our point of interest, and what it is that makes it important. Style is applicable to several genres, but I won’t bore anyone with the bells and whistles of all that, just our shared love—skateboarding. Now, my cup of tea may strike you as shit, just as your opinion may not tickle my fancy; and that’s ok. Let’s just shake hands, agree to disagree, and hear me out.
I wasn’t really all that interested in what skateboarding looked like when I started. If you could do anything while on a skateboard, I thought it was the greatest thing my unexperienced eyes had ever seen. My awe blinded me and led me to believe a lot of people I hold in very high regard now, really sucked at skating. One painful example that I’m ashamed to admit is Dan Drehobl. Back in the early 90’s, in my youthful opinion, if you weren’t skating ledges in fresh gear, you were a kook. Which is funny for someone who thought he was way more open- minded than most. If given the chance to Switch Tre terribly or be able to kill anything put in front of me like Dan, I did what many kids do, chose poorly. Thankfully that all came to a quick halt when I began trying to skate transition and realized there is far more to skating than Switch Crooks and dope kicks.
Some of us are more of the gap/rail persuasion, tranny ripper, line/plaza/tech or creative weirdo and all things in between in what we favor seeing on board. All of it is great in my eyes, and with today’s park ATV ripper it is apparent that the single-discipline skater of yesterday may someday soon be a thing of the past. I’ve seen kids at the park destroy everything it had there in one day but—and here is the point I am trying to get at—have you ever noticed that when you watch the average person do a kickflip on flat ground it doesn’t quite strike the same, as say, Mike Carroll’s? Or when you see someone Indy a hip it is a far cry from Cardiel’s? There are many a Nollie Heel, but very few, if any, stand up to Tyshawn’s. I think we get the idea; it isn’t what you do, but how you do it. This is the essence of what makes skateboarding beautiful to watch.
Granted, Style isn’t all finesse. Sometimes it’s the lack of it that makes for amazing shit. Watching someone hang on for dear life in a pool is just as impressive as the most effortless ledge skating. I’ve watched guys skate FDR so fast its anxiety inducing, and I’ve seen some the most spectacular ledge skating at MUNI one could ever hope to witness. Both are inspiring and remarkable. Neither are right, or wrong, but I do have a bone to pick with one element of Style I see frequently—the Imposter. We all know these folks, a light, beautiful push that often leads to an even more half-hearted endeavor. On behalf of everyone— you aren’t fooling anyone. Please be yourself, everyone else is taken.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell my personal account of the day I learned how much Style affects skating. Spunk skatepark, in the summer of 1993, I sat in awe of two unknown kids from New York who consistently and effortlessly rifled off tricks that I’d (mostly) never seen in-person before. I didn’t know what to think. And do you know who those two then-unknown, life-altering New York kids were that permanently changed my perception of what I deemed to be impressive in skateboarding? Keenan Milton and Keith Hufnagle. Keenan could do everything as if he was barely trying, just flowing around doing whatever came to mind. Huf on the other hand made everything look a foot high bouncing all over the place at phenomenal speed. But something else set them apart from many other talented skaters I’d encountered: they were approachable and nice people. Style transcends physical talent alone; it’s also how you carry yourself. That interaction has stuck with me for thirty years. Even if they were dicks their skating may have still been other-worldly but would have left a completely different impact. I could give you a list the length your arm of people that thought their skating gave them the right to treat people like shit and ended up getting clowned in the end (I’m looking at you Berra, you fucking prick). There is a reason that everyone still fondly remembers Huf and Keenan, and it’s that their presence off-the-board was just as incredible as when they were on it.
I’m going to close this up with something one of the greatest style icons in history said about the subject, Julien Stranger. When asked about Style he basically said, the more you talk about it the dumber it sounds. The guy looks like he came rolling out of the womb with the ability to make the most basic things look prodigious. I think what he is trying to say is if you worry about style, you probably don’t have any. I’m not saying I do, but for all of the Ray Barbee’s, Ethan Fowler’s, Nate Jones, Marc Johnson’s, Andy Roy’s etc. thank you for giving me something to appreciate. -Luke