Category Archives: “street skateboarding”

A skateboard review and some assorted opinions.

A few weeks ago I went to Austin for a ditch skating trip. My trip was cut short after I’d been there for about 18 hours due a a family medical thing and I had to come home, but I did get in some fun skating that Friday afternoon, and while I was there I got to meet a bunch of cool skaters, including Lew Ross, owner, operator, and head brain at Fickle Skateboards.

Fickle is one of the “craft” or “small batch” skateboard makers out there. In my mind, this really started with Danny at Factory 13 Skateboards. There are a few now. It’s rad. I usually only buy from small companies – Cockfight Skateboards and Mode Skateboards being the main ones. But I have been interested in Lew’s boards for a while. Jason Renn, who kind of reps for Lew here in Texas, had a bunch at his place, and I was able to really check them out. It was immediately apparent that Lew knows what he’s doing. From pressing his own laminate to actually designing and manufacturing the boards, it was clear from inspecting the boards on-hand that the man does quality work.

Of the boards available on Saturday morning, I purchased the Fickle “Classic” shape in its 9.1″ wide version. The South Austin Curb Service edition. Check out that link. A couple of cool things Lew does on his site. First, he gives you all the measurements you might want to know before purchase (put your pointer over the board image, and the numbers pop up). In particular, the width of the deck over the trucks — both front and rear. That’s helpful in figuring out what trucks you will want to run, since these board are not popsicles. With the curve in the 9.1, you can use an Indy 149 width truck, which is nice and responsive, and it still fits the board. Lew also gives you the wheelbase. Finally, for each of his models he has a “make this board complete” parts package, which give you a setup with the right size trucks, good wheels, and all the rest. So you don’t have to wonder if you are going to have a proper size truck.

I set this board up with Ace 44s and originally some of the new 54mm Powerflex wheels. I like the Powerflex wheels a lot. Jim Gray did a fantastic job with them. I have since switched to some 60mm 95a OJ Street Razor wheels I found in a skateshop a few years ago. I just don’t like to street skate on hard wheels. They just don’t roll that well. Sorry, they just don’t. The Powerflex are very smooth for modern hard wheels, but they still are hard on the aging skeleton. Next time I find some good 95a wheels in the 55mm – 60mm size, I’m going to buy a bunch of ’em. It’s just hard to find good ones at a moment’s notice. I know that Jim just got Powerflex going, but man I wish he’d make some 95a wheels.

Ok, back to the board. I’m riding kind of a tall setup – about 3/8″ of risers under the trucks. I don’t like wheelbite.

My first impressions when I first got on this board were entirely positive. The concave feels somewhat mellow, as it is curved rather than angular like so many boards now. This feels more natural to the foot, and in the front foot area it creates a rally nice pocket. Likewise, though the concave does run throughout the board, it doesn’t feel like it overpowers the rear foot. This board isn’t mean to be ridden like a newschool board. It has direction, and it feels really good.

Now, having read that, it should come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of steep, angular kicktails/noses.  The nose and tail of the Fickle boards are curved – not abrupt. This pleases me greatly. Because of the way I skate, I don’t like my foot to feel “locked in”. I know a lot of people like that. I don’t. I can keep my feed on the board without having them trapped, thank you very much. I’d rather be able to move my feet around with some freedom, with just enough concave to get the job done. “Not good for flicking a kickflip” you say? Well, I don’t really care. Not my thing.

The nose and tail of this board are a bit longer than I’d normally ride. I was a bit skeptical about them, even when I bought the board. I knew I’d have to run some extra risers in order not to scrape the tail too bad when doing 360s. But you know, proportion is everything in board design. Some boards look great, but the proportions are fucked up and they suck. In this case, the proportions are really good. The width, wheelbases, nose and tail lengths, combined with the curved and mellow nature of the mold this was pressed in all really work.

It feels “right”. I felt right as soon as I stepped on it, and still does. The 14.5″ wheelbase provides nice stability but is still very responsive. The curved concave feels more natural to the feet.

Lew presses these boards from true 1/16″ veneers. I think the big boys use a thinner laminate, and depend on extreme concaves to provide stiffness. So the board looks and feels slightly thicker than a typical board. But it’s not much heavier at all, and just seems to work really well.

A couple of years ago I got another small batch board from Frank Porcelli at American Waste Skateboards. Frank runs a similar operation, and the board I got from him has a really mellow concave and nose/tail angles. I really should have set it up and tested it last year, but I don’t go through board very fast. I set it up this year, but I got slightly too narrow trucks for it. It’s a great deck, and I’ll be giving it a good test when I’m done with this Fickle. I’m looking forward to riding it as well.

So there you have it. My review of the Fickle classic shape. I like it.

Here’s a couple of clips. I like doing the 1-footed tail 360s on the non-angular tail! Same old stuff I always do, but it still feels good so I keep doing it.

UFOs and Skating and Whatnot

There’s this skateboarding group on the Facebooks called NeverWas Skateboarding. It’s kind of like the old bonelessone.com site that Mike Moore and I used to run, but not as Texas. Anyway, the guy who runs it, Brian Czarski (of Baltimore Curb Stories — over in the sidebar) is putting together a video of skaters in the group, so I’m going to be collecting clips and lines and stuff to send him. I took a couple of things I filmed recently and made this thing, which has only gotten one Like on Youtube, which makes me feel diminished as a human being…

Street and Ditch skating

After months of just doing freestyle, it is time to return at least part time to the street and ditch board. Though I like an interesting shape, I find the modern popsicle to be pretty functional. And easy to find. Thing is, for me street skating involves a lot of freestyle. I just hit curb or ledge while I’m at it.

At Paderborn my run was not really that great. I think the thing that saves me, or so I am told, is that I move well on the board. Apparently I have a little smoothness. I can tell you I didn’t develop that from freestyle. It’s all from street/ditch/bank skating.

 

 

Something else I like

The skating of Mike Vallely. It does two things for me…

  1. It makes me want to go skate.
  2. Reminds me that trying to skating like someone else if folly. Even if I was younger, skating like Mike Vallely, even at a lower level, would not work for me. It’s not the way I skate. I can love it and be inspired by it, but ultimately we all skate like ourselves, and should be happy with that.

Anyway, a cool edit by his filmer/editor with some Joy Division.

A new skate spot

Last week my friend Dale found this little bank, hidden off a main street back behind some warehouses. You can see it if you look, but it doesn’t jump out at you — unless you’re a skateboarder.

We went back, scooted a parking block into a nice arrangement, and skated. We just shot a few moves on my iPhone, and here they are. Lots of fun. We’ll be going back.

Street Skating

As I’ve been working on a new zine for the last few months (Man! It takes a long time to do a good one!), and as that zine is about skateboarding on natural, found terrain (mostly) and flatland freestyle, and in particular a very non-ollie-oriented version of street skating, I’ve been thinking a lot about street skating lately.

When I started skating, most of what I did might be called “street” skating. There was no skatepark. There was our neighborhood, which consisted of sidewalks, curbs, alleys, banked driveways, and school parking lots. We didn’t even have ramps. We did have Skateboarder Magazine, and a couple of other magazines to show us what was possible, but the terrain depicted in those pages was out of our reach. We learned tricks — any tricks — on the terrain available. I was naturally drawn to flatland freestyle, as there was a big school parking lot three blocks from our house, but tended to adapt freestyle tricks to other terrains.

When a skatepark opened not too far away the summer before 7th grade, I began going there once per week. Now, that’s not enough to get good at riding skateparks very quickly. It didn’t help that for half the time between 7th and 10th grade I was on some pretty terrible equipment. Now, it was not terrible by those days’ standard, but boards didn’t really start showing advancement into forms that helped, rather than hindered, until I was at least a year into my skating life.

All that aside, once a week at the skatepark, but skating every day, makes you a street skater by default. I did freestyle, but the street was always there.

As skateparks began to die, the skateboard industry, via Skateboarder Magazine, began to push “street skating”, as well as DIY halfpipe skating. Then Skateboarder mutated into Action Now, and then disappeared entirely, to soon be replaced by Thrasher, which did a good job of covering the once again underground activity of skateboarding, which included a lot of street skating.

But street skating, really, has always been the “real” skateboarding. I say that because for most of the history of skateboarding, most skaters had only sporadic or infrequent access to skateparks. Most did their thing on the terrain available to them every day — the streets and secret spots. While the skateboard industry and media, during the boom of the 1970s, tried to transform skating into a respectable thing to do, confined to skateparks, with organizations and authority figures, that was never the reality for 95% of skaters.

As the 1980s progressed, the flatground ollie allowed skaters to go skate the streets with greater efficiency. We’d always been able to go up curbs, but now a more graceful method of getting up and down higher obstacles existed. A new generation of skaters came up, worshiping the Gods of Vert, but doing most of their skating in the streets. As the decades passed, and street skating became the most popular form of skating, vert and freestyle tricks were adapted to the street (as they’d always been). Heading in the 1990s, the impossible became the commonplace. To be a “good” street skater came to require more and more risk, balls, and injury.

But what is a good street skater?

Regardless the tricks done, I would contend that a good street skater is simply a person who can gracefully skate in the street – be it a suburban cul-de-sac,  or a New York City thoroughfare — flowing through the environment, using it’s elements, and enjoying himself/herself. It has nothing to do with hand rails, flips, or whatever. It’s about flow through the environment, and THAT is what the real beauty of modern street skating is. That is the real gift of the street ollie. It matters not if one can slide a handrail, grind a ledge, or 360 flip a 6-set. A good street skater becomes one with the environment at hand. The rest is just fluff.

End of rant.

 

Tommy Guerrero

Saw this today. It’s the great Tommy Guerrero, in some recent footage, harkening back to his segment in the old Powell Peralta “Future Primitive” video. Remember? Back when street skating was fun and not so potentially crippling? Hard to watch either of these videos and not say “fook this shit”, leave work, and go skate. So fun, so fun so fun. I’m vibrating on a perfect frequency after seeing this. Tommy G — FTW!

A short skate vid

Shot this video today, after procuring a little Zip Zinger board, from Krooked. It’s actually a fun board to ride, and the 55mm soft and resilient OJ wheels allow it to roll smoothly over nearly everything. Lots of fun.

This particular Zip Zinger is 8″ wide with a 14″ wheelbase. Its dimensions are pretty much the same as a typical newschool board, but the shape is reminiscent of boards from the mid-1970s. With the narrow Indy 101 trucks and 1/4″ risers, it really kind of feels like one of those boards (but better, since it has concave and isn’t solid oak).

It is taking a bit of time to get used to this board, but it’s fun.

Curb My Enthusiasm

Back before skaters became fixated on handrails and “going big”, curb and parking block skating was something many of us did and found quite fun. When I was in college, before and after sessions on the vert ramp near campus, we’d skate the curbs on the street next to the ramp.

So today before my friend Chris got to the hill for our downhill session, I got out my street board and started working on a few moves. On the way home I remembered quite a few others, which I’ll tape in the coming weeks.