I went by my dad’s grave this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve paid respects. Our family accountant’s new office is conveniently located about 200 yards from the headstone, and it being tax time I was in the vicinity. I used to go with my mom pretty often, but since she is not able to go anymore it has very much fallen of my radar.
Going there always puts me in this middle-aged state of introspective semi-sadness/semi-peace existential brain-fog. My dad was a good man. When you look beyond my dad’s good-natured clowning, he was always the telling the people he loved that he believed in them and supported them. In his jobs as a coach, teacher, and administrator, he was always trying to lift students and colleagues up.That is the message I hear over and over.
A few months before my dad died, he and my mom were at our house for dinner. He knew I’d recently gotten a new downhill board. He asked to see it. It was the first time he’d ever expressed any interest in my skating. He was in the middle of his cancer treatment. He had to have known he would not be around much longer. I wonder if the reality of his situation gave him some kind of clarity with regard to me and my skating that he hadn’t had before? He was always interested in our lives. A massive supporter of both me and my wife. I feel like he must have been thinking about me quite a lot, and really reflected on what skateboarding meant to me. Anyway, that simple request to see that new board struck a chord with me. I’ll never forget it.
So when go to Paderborn, Germany for the freestyle contest this year my dad will be on my mind. I don’t care if I win or place. I want to do the run that best expresses the way I normally skate, not something a bit more formualted to get points. I want my runs to be such that if my dad were there watching he’d better understand me.
One of the things I love about being a skateboarder, besides skating, is the tradition of doing things for ourselves. Making our own scenes, creating our own publications, etc. But I really really love the art created by skateboarders. From my friends Jeremy Elder (elderhousearts.com), and Mike Moore (http://www.mikemoorestudios.com), to widely known artists who came from skateboarding like Shepard Fairey and Michael Sieben, skateboarding fosters a lot of creativity. The list is long. Anyway, here are a few things I’ve got on my walls…
A couple of years ago Lew Ross and his company Fickle Skateboards came across my radar. I think it was David Thornton’s old LuchaSkate podcast interview with Lew that got my attention. About that time there was a new group of skateboarding bloggers coming to prominence. Kyle Duvall of the Parking Block Diaries, David, and a few others were really making their mark. David would later transfer LuchaSkate to the control of Brian Czarski, who would change it to NeverWas Skateboarding. But David’s energy from both the LuchaSkate blog/podcast and the associated Facebook page helped bring some good people to my attention.
In mid-2017 I got wind that Lew was going to be in Austin, visiting and skating with Indiana refugee Jason Renn, Bryce Miller, and some other local Austin skaters. I contacted Jason and made arrangements to go down and skate and meet these guys. When I got to Renn’s place, Lew had a number of boards available for purchase. I bought his “Classic” shape, the review of which can be found here.
Since that time I had another chance to skate with Lew, Jason, and the crew at StupidFest 1, in October 2018. At the time I was riding his Knucklehead shape. As one of the admins of Neverwas Skateboarding, Lew brought me an 8.25″ version of his Bullnose shape, which I just set up and have not had a chance to skate yet as it has been winter.
But I want to show a few pictures of these setups, and say a few more words about Lew’s workmanship.
The Knucklehead (the board on the right)I have is now well-ridden. I find it to be a bit wider than the specs on the Fickle website. The board seems to be about 9″ over the trucks. I think Lew makes adjustments to this boards as time goes by?
At any rate, it’s a bit wider than I expected. I set mine up with Indy 169s, which fit it perfectly. I’ve been using 54mm Spitfires on it, and 1/4″ risers. It’s a big setup. When I rode it in some ditches in Austin I put some 56mm 87a OJ Keyframes on it and it performed really well. I normally like a slightly smaller street board that I can use 149s on, but this board is really nice feels great. It has the same great and comfortable concave as the Classic, the same nice easy curves in the nose and tail kick angles. In other words – great mold. I love it. I think Lew makes the most comfortable concaves I’ve felt in a long time.
You can see I’ve worn the tail down on one side from doing 360s and scraping the tail. So it goes. Story of my life. That’s why I’ve got a tail skid on the Mode Pool board I’ve been skating ditches on the last couple of months.
The other board is the Fickle Bullnose. It’s a pops shape with very full nose and tail. You can see the specs here. I’ve got it set up with Ace 44s and those same OJ Keyframes I mentioned earlier. Wheels may change, depending on how I decide to use it. As you can see from some of the other pics, it has the same very nice concave and mold angles as all Lew’s boards. Look at the curves of the tail – nice and ….errrr…curvy…rather than an abrupt angle. I’m looking forward to trying the Bullnose out.
Lew has his own philosophy about finishing. Actually, Lew has his own philosophy about everything, but that’s another story (a positive one). He doesn’t over-sand his boards. From what I gather, he thinks it weakens them. They aren’t rough, just not “slick”. Likewise, he doesn’t put a lot of paint or sealer on them. The graphics are distinctive, and the boards seem to have a light coat of spray sealer. I wouldn’t call them “rustic”. The finish is fine. It’s just different from what most of us are used to.
I’ll be honest. When I got the Knucklehead I thought it was too big for me. I’m a fairly large person, but it is just a lot more beefy than I normally ride. But it looked really cool, and really, it feels great. The dimensions work really well with the concave and a proper setup. It feels good, and really performed very well in Austin’s ditches, as well as in my normal skate spots. A lot of the clips in my part in NeverWas II were shot while I was riding the Knucklehead in a ditch and on flat. The others were on my Mode 8.25″ pops or my Mode freestyle board.
I finally got out last night to film some last stuff for the upcoming NeverWas II video. I’ll be honest. It wasn’t easy thinking up new stuff to do. It’s not like I’ve learned a lot of new tricks since the last one. It would be nice if I had a parking block at the little ditch where I skate, but I don’t. Oh well. I just kind of skate the way I skate. I realize now that mostly I do a lot of 180s and 360s in different combinations. That’s what I like to do. So they’ll be getting a lot of that in this upcoming blockbuster. It’s actually quite fun to get these clips together and then see what another editor does with them.
Anyway, here’s a clip I did yesterday. Just me doing the same old stuff. Have no idea if it will make the final cut on the video.
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 feet 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.
I participated in this video project from a Facebook group called NeverWas Skateboarding, a collection of older skaters who just like to ride. It was put together by Brian Czarski, of this blog right here, who is now officially a Hero of Skateboarding. There’s no pros in this. Just regular dudes doing their thing (and one woman! GASP!!!!). I am actually the oldest person in the video by two years, at the tender age of 53.
I had a good time recording my lame shit to include in this video, and an even better time watching the other guys. I feel inspired to learn some of their stuff. There should be more awesome stuff like this.
A great example of the best use of the internet. Good people producing good fun.
I’ve probably posted this before, but skateboarding legend Tony Alva recently turned 60 so I’ll post this again.
As a young skater, the whole Alva/Dogtown thing never appealed to me. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t into the whole beach-dirtbag thing, haha. I didn’t understand what it was all about, and I didn’t have a big brother to explain it to me.
Then in the late 1980s, I guess I found the whole toughguy image associated with Alva Skates to be dumb. Again – not my thing.
When I saw this video a few years ago I became an Alva fan. I like it when people grow up to be good humans. No one is perfect, and we all start in different places, with different challenges.
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.
I am not a morning person. Never have been. But today (Tuesday) is my day to work noon – 9pm at the library. So if I don’t get up early and so something, my whole day is wasted on work. So I set alarm for 6:30am, was up and getting my coffee at 6:55, and I’ll go skate from 9am – 10:45am.
We’ll see how this goes. Never been a fan of skating in the morning, but hell, I want to skate. I think that if I just go to my practice spot to skate, without a lot of expectations of learning new stuff or “really ripping”, I might enjoy it. If not, at least I was awake.
Well, my trip to the Paderborn freestyle contest got cancelled due to some family health issues. Its a bit complicated, and private, so I won’t go into the details, but everyone is OK. Or what passes for OK these days, which I really can’t bitch about too much because it could be a lot worse, and of course having your skateboarding vacation ruined is a total first-world white person problem and I’m fully aware of that. There are people in the world who are hungry every day. But I’m still disappointed, and even though I “did the right thing”, it was in fact the only thing I could do, and my spirit still kind of feels like it has taken quite a beating. The only good thing to come of this was the early return of my wife from a research trip, so she could help me, which was much appreciated. She is truly the caregiver of the caregiver, and keeps me upright when I could easily fall. I simply cannot thank her enough, or show my appreciation enough. Getting to spend that last week with her was the only thing that kept me from going nuts.
So no awesome trip with my friends in England, to the mother of all freestyle contests in Germany, to camp, skate, and forget about the world for a few days. This is kind of a big thing for me, because even though I’m a person with an easy life, a good job, a great wife, a loving mom, and good friends, I really needed some relief. Instead I got more stress, more bullshit.
Yeah, I’ve venting a little.
I finally got out to do some skating last night, a week after the whole thing started. I was tired. My “soul felt heavy”, or something like that. But I was back at my practice spot, now with another year before the next Paderborn contest, so I skated. In the summer I don’t go out to skate until about 7:30pm. It’s just too hot before that. I don’t even mind the heat, its the blazing brightness of the sun. You can almost feel every beam of sunlight blasting against you. But in the evening you just get a nice, good sweat going. I plugged my computer speakers into the outlet, plugged in my iPod, and skated. I did my best to empty my mind of everything but the music, the board, and the spot. You gotta find your shelter where you can.
OK, enough bitching. This is the last anyone will hear of this.
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.
Anyway, this video was really well done. I liked it. It is gritty and real, and the street skating is accessable. It isn’t rushed. It doesn’t try to “blow your mind”. But it did make me want to go out and skate.
Connecting with one blogger (Kyle Duvall of the Parking Block Diaries) a few months ago has resulted in meeting some good people online. I found David Thornton, and was on his Luchaskate podcast, and I’m enjoying his writing and his podcast. We’re going to trade some actual physical copies of our zines.
It’s great to be connected with some really smart new people. The artists, writers, and musicians I’ve met through skateboarding continue to blow my mind. And it’s so good to have some cool shit to read!