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.
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 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.
A couple that didn’t get used in the new video from NeverWas skateboarding. Started thinking. Instead of Fakie 360s, how about a Fakie 270 and then do something else. So this is me fiddling around with that idea. The other is a manual.
I went out to shoot some video clips for the upcoming NeverWas #2 video the other night. Didn’t get anything I thought was good enough to submit, but this screen capture image, manipulated to deal with the setting sun in the background, was kind of cool. Looks kind of like a Polaroid.
I posted this on the AlwaysWill messageboard, an oldschool forum I and some buddies set up as an alternative to Facebook and other social media. A couple of the guys enjoyed it. I guess it spoke to them. I tend to write this stuff publicly but it’s really more self-reflection. Helps me sort things out. The background — I’m working to film some stuff for the NeverWas-2 skate video, the upcoming sequel to Can You Spare Some Cutter Me Brother. So this mission has taken me back to all my old skate spots, which of course is where I skate all the time anyway, but looking through the lens of this project I realized how appropriate I think it is to go back to the old spots. It’s important to have places in your life worth caring about. Places are a big deal. Find the shittiest place you can find, and somewhere there’s a person for whom that place is sacred. The house I grew up in is 3 streets from this school. Anyway, all but one of our old neighbors have moved out of the neighborhood. Sometimes I wonder when I skate there if anyone drives by — someone who’s lived there for 45 years – sees me skating – and thinks “There’s that guy again.”
Well, yesterday the Richardson Community Band took over my freestyle spot for a Memorial Day Weekend concert of patriotic music. Of course, being a non-patriot, I didn’t go. Instead I went to my little ditch that I’ve been skating for the last 40 years and filmed a few tricks for the next NeverWas video. Then I went over to the school parking lot in my old neighborhood where I learned to skate and film a few more tricks and lines on a street board.
Going there is peaceful. It brings up some emotions. I remember being in that parking lot 40 years ago. I was the youngest of a little crew in the neighborhood. In the summer we’d skate there all-freaking-evening until the sun went down and then some. There was nothing there but flat, curbs around the edges, and a wheelchair ramp. We made do. We’d spin 360s on the little tiny ramp. Do freestyle tricks. Roll around.
A couple of years ago they tore up the little ramp and replaced it with a sideways facing one that is covered in those shitty textured concrete tiles they put all over the place these days for “safety”. I was bummed. The concrete there is starting to get kind of crusty in a few spots, just like I am. We are damned near the same age. I know it’s probably just a matter of time until they rip that concrete up one summer and redo it. That will be weird for me. There’s this one spot where there’s a circle of smoother concrete. That’s where I practiced 360s. It’s still there! It’s so strange to me to think that all this concrete is the same stuff I have ridden on thousands of times.
Yeah, my wife has been out of town for over a week, I’m a solitary person, and maybe I need some company. Maybe I’m delving too deep into this weird peaceful melancholy.
Anyway, it was fun to skate there. I’ll go back later today and film a little more, I think. Toni’s flight gets in about 10:45pm tonight. That gives me time to skate, come home and shower, then go out and get her.
I still need to get some better stuff for that video, but it is coming together.
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.
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…
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.
The skating of Mike Vallely. It does two things for me…
It makes me want to go skate.
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.
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.
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!