First freestyle session of 2020

The early sunsets and temperatures of winter always suck. This is the first time I’ve been able to have a good freestyle session since October 2019. I did OK. It just takes me a couple of sessions to wake my feet up for the year. I always start the year just working on footwork, trying to get my feet moving smoothly. Afterward, as usual, I came up with stuff to work on tomorrow.

First Session of 2020 from Bob Loftin on Vimeo.

Board retired, new board built up, ready for 2020.

This is my board from the 2019 Paderborn Germany freestyle contest. After each of these trips I get all my friends who were in the contest to sign the board, plus any of them who are there but not skating in the contest (judging, taking photos, etc). This past year was especially meaningful because it was the first time my wife was over there with me, meeting my friends from the UK and Europe, and experiencing what a special event it is. Magical, really.

2019 was a hard year. This contest was in July. For the past 5 years I’ve known that any time I leave the country I may have to return at any time if my mother got sick. Amazingly, we made it through two weeks in Germany with no emergency calls from home. By mid-November, my mom would be gone. It seems likely that I will have to skip Paderborn this year, but I’m looking forward to doing a run there for my mom in the future.

Anyway, I officially retired this deck tonight and set up a new one. I’m pretty easy on boards. Rough on wheels, but my boards usually last about a year, depending on what I’m doing trick-wise.

My board from 2019, used at the 2019 Paderborn Germany freestyle contest. I got 3rd in the “Legends” (old bastards) division.

Things I obsess over #1

Over the last five years there are a number of old skate images and video I’ve been obsessed with. Things that just hit me so hard at the time I originally saw them in the 1970s or in the case of the videos just a few years ago, when they were finally put on the internet.

I’ll start with this image, from Skateboard World Magazine. The skater is Steve Day, who was a pro freestyler at the time for the Russ Howell team, and then later he skated for the short-lived Bad Company team. Steve was a top freestyler for a while, and while he is usually remembered for the handstand kickflip, this simple, beautiful image of him doing a 1-footed nose wheelie was on my wall when I was a kid, and it still hits home for me today. Steve got 4th place at this contest, the 1978 Oceanside Pro Freestyle. The results were as follows:

1. Doug Saladino
2. Matt Barden
3. Steve Cathey
4. Steve Day
5. Dan Ewell

If footage of this even evert finds its way to video I think some third eyes are going to be opened.

Why this image? Well, first it’s just a great full-page shot. His positioning on the board is superb, projected strength, balance, and control. The Howell freestyle wheels look really cool. He’s riding a flat fiberglass Howell board with a “foot stop” attached to the top of the tail to keep his foot on while spinning 360s. There is a real crowd there to see the skating. Man, it must have just been fantastic to be there.

Everyone on that list of placings was a great skater. There were lots of great images from this event. Soon I’ll be going on and on about Doug Saladino at an even earlier contest, but that’s for a different post.

Two-Footed Nose Wheelies

Sinus Infection Winter 2019 continues, which means I’ve been sitting around thinking about skating. Tonight I’ve been thinking about my favorite trick, the 2-footed Nose Wheelie. Some people call it a Hang Ten Nose Wheelie. Bad people replace the word Wheelie with “manuel”, which is of course incorrect for reasons I’ll not go into here (but words do actually mean things, so I’m not flexible on this).

Modern freestylers tend to do the trick with their feet centered on the board, while older skaters often had their feet offset or not exactly facing forward, or at least have one foot a little further up the nose than the other. The new way is better for variations like Nose Wheelie Spacewalks. I can do it both ways, but I tend to put one foot a bit farther up the nose, as I learned this in about 1979. It never occurred to me that a spacewalk might be possible from this wheelie.

If you want to learn this trick, here is Tony Gale’s tip for it on FreestyleTrickTips.com. Tony will harsh on you for moving your feet to the offset position, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a top bloke, and certainly in the top 5 freestylers in the world now.

Talking to my friend Terry Synnott (of Mode Skateboards) tonight, I was telling him that a shorter nose allows you to lift the rear wheels higher, and that I think it looks better. Terry thinks this opinion comes from the era in which I started skating. He’s probably right. Still, it looks better with those rear wheels held high. Anyway, here are some examples.

Me, Oct 2019. Photo by Joe Makarski. You can see how much less nose I really need. That long nose is actually a problem. I’m generally happy with the wheelie. Good rear wheel height.
Doug Saladino, late 70s, offset feet, great style.
Tony Alva, from cheesy Playboy Magazine video, but with great style. Very offset feet. Sometime in the 2010s.
Steve Cathey, late 70s, Jim Goodrich photo. Great wheel height and wild back arch. Feet pretty well centered.
Steve Olson, Indy Trucks ad, early 80s Thrasher mag. Again, great style, wheels held high. So cool. Offset feet.

Off to Germany

Well, I’m off to Germany in 2 days.

At this time next week I’ll be at Paderborn, watching the street contest and trying to practice and/or relax for the freestyle contest the next day.

I’ve been working on footwork sequences to string together. Seriously, besides footowork I might have five “tricks”. I don’t care. This is how I skate now. It’s what interests me.

Looking forward to being overseas for a while, especially on the 4th.

Paderborn is coming up

The annual freestyle contest in Paderborn, Germany is coming up in early July. It, quite simply, the best freestyle contest. The ground there is magical and holy. It’s a grassroots gather. No corporate bullshit, no parades. No prize money. Just a great event, like a family gathering.

I’m starting to think about my contest runs. A run at Paderborn has to mean something to me. It isn’t just a bunch of tricks strung together. Corny as it may sound, it’s my art, and I care about it. I’m not that good, but what I do out there is all mine. We all skate like ourselves. No one skates like you, and no one skates like me. So when you do a contest run, it should come from within you. It should represent you — your emotions. I don’t give a fuck what tricks someone does. A run must not be hollow. Even a run where you mess up a lot can still be a beautiful thing.

So I’m working on a list of tricks and an approach to the run that I think exemplify me, and picking some music that will mean something to me, and I hope I can make it a gift to my friends there and connect with them.

Competition sucks, but like all grassroots skateboarding events, this isn’t so much a competition as it is a celebration.

Soul Searching

Maybe Soul Searching is a little bit dramatic a term, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how I approach freestyle skateboarding this week, and about taking my own advice about always skating like one’s self.

It was percolating (I almost wrote “gestating”) just under my surface thoughts for a while, and I think yesterday’s Alva post really brought it to the conscious mind. In particular, skating my own way at Paderborn this summer, rather than emulating someone else. Truth is we can’t help but skate our own way, and when we try not to, well, the results are horrible. I have this long list of tricks I “want” to learn. They are mostly tricks that lots of other people do. Not original. A list of check-box stuff that will frustrate the hell out of me and not really make me very happy. They will be removed from the list. Going to work on my own stuff. My own ideas. That must be good enough. It is. It is more than good enough.

Yes, I probably spend a little too much time thinking about things.

Style through the decades

The other day on Instagram, Tony Alva had one of those “story” posts in which he did a 2 foot nose wheelie where one of his feet is way to the side, and as he carves around he moves it almost to a G-Turn and almost to a 1-foot nose wheel position before he finishes the move. I really like the way he does them. There’s not a lot of footage of him skating, but at this point in this dumb video from “World of Playboy” he does the move. I say dumb because they obviously wanted him to talk about being a “renegade”, and TA does his best to accommodate them, and well, it’s kind of blabbering. I really think Tony is a better than that, and the editing and questions were probably dumb. But really, the move is awesome. Here he is doing it in a Van’s video, under cramped conditions.

So I did a little interwebs research and found some other images that I really like, because they show him back the early 1970s doing it the same way, then a couple of shots from more recent stuff (including this video). Kind of cool to see him still doing this move. I like that.

All photos stolen from the interwebs. Thanks to the photographers.

 

Alva two-foot nose wheelie style from days of yore.
Logan Earth Ski days.
More recent image of the now middle-aged but well preserved Alva doing the move.

 

Detail of foot position and delightful knee style from the dreadful video linked to above.

A little skating

I managed to get some skating in over the last week. After winter I always put my foot on the freestyle board and wonder if I can “still even do this.” The first session doesn’t feel that good. I have to understand and accept that. The trick is just to get back on the board and roll, and get used to it. From November to usually March the weather and holiday decorations at my freestyle spot ( they put up Santa’s Village) conspire to keep me off the freestyle board and just skating a little street and ditch. So by the time I get back on the freestyle board it feels a bit weird at first.

After 3 session last week I finally started feeling good on the board again. Rusty, but feeling solid again. Here’s a little clip of something I do on my street board too. I call it “slide to spin shove-it”. Backside 180 slide into a fakie 360 with a 180 shove-it at the end. I like to do them rolling fairly fast. It’s a high percentage trick for me. I usually make it. Not too complex. You just have to let it flow.

Today is Tuesday. The weather is back to rainy crap, but at least I got a few session in. I’m excited for the rest of the year in skating.

Backwards Walk the Dog

I’ve been horrible at backwards walk the dog forever, but a few years ago I saw this particular cool way of getting into them in some Doug Saladino footage from 1977. So I started working on it. This stuff is from Spring 2018. Summer, as I’ve said, was rough that year. I think I was just a bit burned out. It happens. I’m ready to work on getting this really nice again.

Old Bastard Trick Tip 6: Fakie 1-footed 180 Pivot

You’ll want to be able to do an endover to a nice smooth backward roll.

I’ll explain a bit more in the video – but you get into a 1-footed tail wheelie position while rolling backwards. You take your front foot off and begin turning your body frontside. The board lags behind just slightly, as you used a little ankle control to life the front wheels. This will naturally cause the board to do a frontside kickturn as it try to keep up with your body. As the board swings around, surprise! Your front foot is already there to meet it and get back on!

Not complicated, but like all footwork tricks there is the potential for things to go horribly wrong. Don’t underestimate this move if you aren’t used to doing this kind of thing. Maybe put that helmet on until you really have it down, or may keep it on.

Old Bastard Freestyle Trick Tip 6 from Bob Loftin on Vimeo.